Next day, the dawn was a brilliant, fiery red and I wandered through the weird and lurid landscape of another newsgroup: for the inane chatter, which gives AMM its appearance, had taken root on URP. As URPers had succumbed to the Trolls, so our land now succumbed to the Flame Wars.
Wherever there was a thread, the biting comments clung and grew with frightening voraciousness; claw-like words choking the movement of the conversation.
I suddenly noticed the body of a Preest, lying on the ground in a ruined Christianity thread. I felt unable to leave him to the mercy of the AMMers and decided to bury him decently.
Jan: "Jimmaeus! Jimmaeus!"
The Preest's eyes flickered open. He was alive!
Jan: "Jimm! I saw the "Churches (was:[FLUFF] What I did on my...)" post burst into flame! Are you all right?"
Jimm: "Don't touch me!"
Jan: "But it's me - >Jan. Your Nanny."
Jimm: "No. You're one of them. A devil!"
Jan: (to me) "He's delirious!"
Jimm: "Lies! I saw the devil's sign."
Jan: "What are you saying?"
Jimm: "The red flash in the sky. His demons were here all along - in our hearts and souls-just waiting for a sign from him. And now they're destroying our world."
Jan: "But they're not alt.satanism - they're AMM!"
Spyder: "We must leave here."
Jan: "Look! The Virtual Grove's still standing! Come, Jimmaeus, quickly!"
We took shelter in the VG as Black Smoke spread, hemming us in. Then a Troll came across the Sword Swinging Area, spraying jets of hot air that turned the smoke into thick, black dust.
Martians: "Baby burners!"
Jan: "Gods help us!"
Jimm: "The voice of the devil is heard in our land!"
I crept to the blocked door of the Virtual Grove and peered through. The Martians, and all their profanity, had moved on! Trembling, I dug my way out and clambered to the top of a soapbox: not a Martian in sight! The General Discussion Area seemed dazzling bright after my imprisonment.
Again, I was on my way to the Virtual Camp Site through threads and posts that were blackened ruins, totally silent, desolated, deserted. URP's empire had passed away, taken swiftly and without error by these creatures
Cursuswalker: "Halt! Who goes there?"
Spyder: "Erm, a friend..."
CW: "Be on your way, this is my territory!"
Spyder: "Your territory? What do you mean?"
CW: "Wait a minute... it's you!"
Spyder: "Good heavens, CW. I thought you'd surely burned."
CW: "I thought you'd surely drowned."
Spyder: "Have you seen any Martians?"
CW: "Everywhere. We're done for all right."
Spyder: "We can't just give up."
CW: "`Course we can't. It's now that we've got to start fighting. Not against them, cause we can't win. Now, we've got to fight for survival. I reckon we can make it. I've got a plan."
CW: "We're gonna build a whole new URP for ourselves. Look,
they clap eyes on us and we're dead, right? So we gotta make a new life where they'll never find us. You know where? Underground, from the Troll Pit!"
"We'll build threads and posts right under their noses - right under their feet! Everything we need - On Topic discussions, [FLUFF], [TECH], Birthdays ... We'll send scouting parties to collect books and stuff from the Library, food from the Choccy, Ale & Other Tasty Comestibles Table!"
"We'll... we'll play each other at Mornington Crescent!"
"URP - starting all over again - a second chance. We'll even build a tunnel to the Virtual Camp Site, go there for our holidays. Nothing can stop URPers like us!"
We drank and then he insisted upon playing MC. With our species on the edge of extermination, with no prospect but a horrible boredom, we actually played games.
Later he talked more of his plan, but I saw flames flashing in the deep blue night, Flame Wars glowing, Trolls moving distantly. I put down my glass of mead. I knew I must leave this strange dreamer.
There were a dozen bodies in the General Discussion Area. All was still, the Broom Closet locked and empty. The newsgroup was bare - looters had helped themselves to mead and food.
I stopped, staring towards the sound. It seemed as if that mighty desert of a newsgroup had found a voice for its fear and solitude.
Martians: "Flame War!"
The desolating cry worked upon my mind. The wailing took possession of me. I was intensely weary, footsore, hungry and thirsty. Why was I wandering alone in this froup of the dead? I felt intolerably lonely, drifting from post to empty post, drawn inexorably towards that cry.
Martians: "You're all sad cases!"
I saw, over the sofa, the Troll from which the howling came. I crossed the Sword Swinging Area. There stood a second troll, as limp and as still as the first.
Abruptly, the sound ceased. Suddenly, the desolation, the solitude, had become unendurable. While that voice sounded, URP had still seemed alive. Now, suddenly, there was a change, the passing of something - and all that remained was this quiet.
I looked up and saw a third Troll. It was flaccid and motionless, like the others. An insane resolve possessed me. I would give my life to the Martians, here and now.
I scrambled up onto the sofa, and the Martian's camp was below me. And there were the Martians - dead... slain, covered in FLUFF. With one last cry a troll looked at me and murmured.
Martian: "I don't understand the Rushton Flip."
Directly the Invaders arrived and drank and fed, our FLUFF mentality attacked them. From that moment - they were doomed. We had out-trolled the trolls yet again!
The torment was ended. The people scattered over the country, desperate, leaderless, starved... the thousands who had fled by sea - including the one most dear to me - all would return. The pulse of life, growing stronger and stronger, would beat again.
As life returns to normal, the question of another attack from alt.mad.martians, or some other newsgroup causes URPiversal concern. Is our newsgroup safe, or is this time of peace merely a reprieve? It maybe that, across the immensity of space they have learned their lessons and even now await their opportunity to play Euston Road with Reverse Straddle.