The gavel smacked down onto the Judge's wooden desk.
court is now in session. Mr. Signore, please read the charges against the accused."
Christopher picked up a sheet of paper
from his own desk, then cleared his throat. "J. Alaric, you have been accused of willfully leading a rebellion against the
administrators and moderators of the land, an act of treason in the highest degree. How do you plead?"
I looked at the
Council, making sure every one of them was watching me. "Guilty."
"You have refused the right to a defense attorney, is
"It is. I don't think one would do me any good."
"And you refuse to defend yourself?"
"My actions are
clear for all to see. All I can defend are my principles. And if you were interested in those, we wouldn't be here."
Judge leaned further towards me. "I see. Then we have nothing further to discuss. Even if the accused were to deny his guilt,
the evidence is undeniably incriminating. I must thank you Mr. Alaric for sparing us all from wasting our time."
at the Judge, my eyebrows lowered. "No problem...Mr. Healy."
Ryan Healy, at one time a friend of mine, leant back into
the shadows. "In that case, I see no reason why we should not immediately commence our judgement."
A defendant needed to
get a majority of votes from the council in their favour to be found innocent. Staring into the crowd of faces before me,
I knew instantly what the outcome would be.
Jim522 was the first to cast his vote. "Alaric, the evidence is irreputable,
and you even admit to your own guilt. Therefore I can do nothing less than consider you..."-His arm was put forward, his thumb
sideways on-"...Guiilty" And his thumb went down. Ever a flair for the dramatic, I noted.
Kate669 was next. "Alaric, although
you acted with what you no doubt thought was the best of intentions, you went about it all the wrong way. You should have
talked to us. We could have worked something out."
I wondered f it was worth telling her that I'd tried that. I decided
"As my colleague has said, there can be no mistaking your guilt. So it is my duty to cast you as...guilty."
thought I detected a hint of sadness in Kate's voice. From the look on her face, I was wrong.
Peckett was the next to judge.
"Guilty," he said. And nothing more.
The Halford was next. "Alaric, I...I...guilty," he shook his head, knowing there could
be no other way..
Now it was Old Square Wheel's turn. He didn't speak. He just stared at me for quite a while, before
finally showing thumbs down.
"We have heard from the moderators," said Ryan. "Now let us hear from our assistant administrator."
walked out from the shadows. He was the only one of the council who had not taken a seat. Ever a showman, he waited until
the whole of the court had their eyes on him before he spoke.
"Your Honour, I wish to abstain from voting."
of gasps filled the room. One of them came from me. This was certainly unexpected. By all rights, the vote against me should
have been unanimous. The court descended into mutterings.
Ryan banged his gavel. "Order! Order! Ciremi, though of course
you have the right to abstain, you must provide an explanation."
"Certainly, your Honour," said Ciremi, and I could swear
I saw him hide a smirk. "Although the defendant is clearly guilty of the crime he has been charged with, I cannot with good
conscience consider it necessary to punish him. Who knows? I may have found myself in his position at one point or the other.
Therefore, I cannot take part in this hearing."
Without waiting to be dismissed, Ciremi turned and headed towards the door.
As he passed by me, he uttered something, although I couldn't quite make it out. It was either 'Sorry' or 'So long'. I hoped
it was the former.
Ryan smacked his gavel once more. "Very well then. It's not like it does much to change matters. J.
Alaric, you have been found by a majority of your peers to be..."
Ryan stuck out his thumb. It pointed straight down.
one was surprised by the outcome, least of all me.
"Although the act of treason is inexcusable, in light of your good record
we are willing to reduce your..."
"Give me the full sentence, Mr. Healy!" I cried, predicting what he was going to say
next. "It's what I deserve."
And what I want, I thought to myself. I'd had it with this place.
Ryan nodded. "Very
well. Then I sentence you, J. Alaric, to exile from SiF for the duration of your life. Effective as of when you are escorted
from our borders. Such is the fate of all traitors."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," I smirked.
"Baliffs, take this
man into a holding cell until we are ready to deal with him. Court dismissed," Ryan smacked his gavel on the bench a final
three times. As soon as the final blow had been made, two baliffs released my chains from the floor (Chains? What did
they think I was capable of?) and carried me away. I made sure to give the Council one last glare before I left the room.
Just to show them how much I cared.
The trip to the cell must have been short, because the next thing I knew I was being
thrown inside. As the door slammed shut behind me, I crawled over to the small bed attahced to the wall and sat upon it. Without
even realising, my mind went back to the beginning of all this, and to why I was here in the first place.
I don't think there was a single event that had caused me to do
what I did. It was more likely a multitude of reasons that just built up over time, until I had no choice but to do something
about it. I've always been liberal-minded, at times even anarchistic, which might explain my tendency to distrust those with
That was never really the case here, of course. The people in charge had all seemed nice people, dealing with
problems in a firm but fair way. Usually their actions were understandable. They kept the peace, and did a fine job doing
it. Made the place run as smooth as clockwork.
And maybe that was the problem. The problem being, there were no problems.
should have realised this when I came here. Maybe then I would have come to terms with it sooner, and then I wouldn't have
ended up where I was now.
Think about it. Do you know how many people dwell in the SiF? At present, two hundred and sixty
one, including the evaluators, mods and admins. Yeah, it may be small by some standards, but taking into account that there
are only ten people to look after two hundred and fifty one, you can see the problem. How do you keep such a large community
of people in line?
With rules. Strict rules that need to be followed and enforced at all times.
It's not the best solution
by any means. But I'm a realist, so I knew it was the solution that had the best chance of succeeding without everything turning
to chaos. I'm sure that, if it weren't for the complete enforcement of the rules, then SiF would not be the prosperous place
it is today. I'm sure it would have descended into madness long ago, with flame wars and meaningless spam being commonplace.
In fact, I've seen an example of a place where this happened, and to be perfectly honest, it scared me. I would never want
to belong to a place like that
So we've established that I had no problem with the rules. But what did rub me the wrong
way was how the enforcement was carried out.
What's the punishment for posting something inappropriate, or spamming? You
get your post deleted. Fair enough. So how come we get n amount of people every week asking why their posts keep getting deleted?
My guess is, it's because they don't understand that what they did was against the rules. And I'm sure we'd reduce that number
of people to 0 if whoever deleted the post just gave a quick PM explaining why it was deleted.
I've had talks like this
with my friend Chris, an evaluator. He argued that the mods/admins/whoever could be too busy to leave an explanatory PM. I
disagree with him. How long could it possibly take to do something like this? All they would have to do is essentially write
'Hi, I deleted your post/thread in the *Insert topic/section here* because *Insert reason here*'. Surely that's not a whole
lot to ask.
Maybe they do that already. I don't know. If they do, I've certainly never seen one.
Another thing that
irked me was that discussions rarely evolved. Confined to the limitations of their subject matter, they may never tread new
ground outside of their original intention. It's not always like this, I'm not saying it is. But when it does, it's the exception
rather than the rule.
That's how I felt. The accuracy was debateable, but it didn't matter to me if it was true or not.
That was the way it seemed to me at the time.
But, like the obedient dog I was, I respected the laws unquestionably without
fuss, without noise, letting the highers-up do their thing while I did mine. Those paths didn't cross often, and when they
did, it was usually done with quickly and silently.
Until that one time where I couldn't stay silent any longer. A time
where I knew that I had to do something or else go insane.
Whilst my visit to the SiF Tower didn't change anything about
our society, the change it brought in me would have devastating effects.
From the outside, SiF Tower is one of the
most beautiful buildings imaginable. With stunning architecture based on a mixture of designs intended to bring to life all
that is good about, coloured in all the colours imaginable and then some, it falls just short of being gaudy and manages to
bring a range of positive emotions to the fore with just a glance.
But this is merely a disguise, for inside it is very
dark, very unimaginative, and very expansive.
This was my first time in the Tower, and I was understandable nervous. I'd
arranged to meet with one of the 'highers up' in order to ask some questions. Questions that had only recently started popping
up in my mind.
I'd been having some sleepless nights prior to this meeting. I'd been getting headaches of the severely
painful variety when trying to sleep. Which was weird, because I usually only got headaches when it was hot, which it hadn't
been since last month, and even then they weren't as bad as the ones I'd been getting.
It wouldn't have been so bad except
for the fact that with these headaches came some strange thoughts. Thoughts that I really shouldn't be having. Thoughts that
were...well, not very pleasant, let's just leave it at that.
SiF Tower was a big place, and without a guide, I wasn't going
to risk looking for someone. I could have been lost for days before someone found me. No, I was just going to sit tight and
wait until I was seen to.
I turned around and nearly fell out of my chair. Ryan, head administrator for SiF,
had appeared from seemingly nowhere.
"Geeze, Ryan, you scared the life out of me," I said, coming back to my senses.
smiled. "Sorry about that."
"S'okay," I shrugged. It occurred to me that I shouldn't be sitting down in the head admin's
presence, although I'm not sure why. Sure, Ryan was the guy in charge, but he was also my friend, and to stand up in reverence
of him seemed a little...silly.
"Listen, Ryan, I wonder if you can help me. I was..."
"Looking for a mod?" he answered
"Actually, yes. How did you know?"
"I make it my business to know these things," he said, and I had no idea
if he was being serious or not. "Well, I'm afraid everyone's kinda busy at the moment, Al. We're experiencing an influx of
spammers at the moment, and all the mods are on deletion duty. Sometimes I miss the 'Account Verification' process."
fair enough. I'll come back then. Sorry to bother you," I turned on my heels and headed for the door.
"Hold on," Ryan called
after me. "I'm not doing much at the moment. You can always talk to me if you want."
I stopped in my tracks. "Well, I don't
"Oh come on. You said you wanted a mod. Well, I'm one better," he laughed.
"Yeah, but...well, no offense,
but...you're an admin."
"Well, it's kinda intimidating. I mean, a mod's a mod, but you and Ciremi...it's kinda
like talking to a judge instead of a policeman. There's a whole new level of intimidation. Like, you're here," I put my hand
above my head, "And they're here," I put my other hand level to my chest.
"Suit yourself. But remember, I'm always here
to talk if you want it," Ryan turned to leave.
Suddenly I experienced another headache. "Arghhh!" I cried as the pain drove
me to the floor, my hands grabbing my head in agony.
"Al?" Ryan turned back, saw me in pain, and went to my aid. "What's
wrong?" he asked as he helped me to a chair.
"Oh, nothing. I've just been getting these headaches recently. They come and
go, you know?"
"Can I get you an aspirin or something?"
"No, it's fine. It's already going."
And then the strangest
"Actually Ryan, I think I'll take you up on your offer."
"No, your earlier offer.
I think I will talk to you after all."
"OK then. Step into my office."
As Ryan led the way, I began to wonder why I'd
changed my mind. Had the headache had something to do with it? It seemed my visit was producing more questions than answers,
which was why I hoped that my talk with Ryan would clear some things up.
It cleared them up alright, but not in the way
"Take a seat," said Ryan as he led me into his office. This was
my first time in here, and I took a quick look around. The office consisted of a desk, two chairs, a water cooler, a mini
fridge, a potted plant and a ceiling fan. It was...surprisingly ordinary, I thought.
The fact that there were only two
chairs made my choice an easy one. I sat on the visitor side of the (mahogany?) desk, whilst Ryan took his comfy chair.
what's on your mind?" Ryan asked., leaning back in his seat.
"Oh, excuse me. Where are my manners?" Ryan
got out of his chair and headed for the fridge. "Can I get you something to drink?" he asked.
"Oh, no thank you," I waved
away his offer. Whilst he poured himself a glass of something, I took the opportunity to inspect his desk. Most of it was
covered in papers, pens and other stationary, except for one area in which two phones occupied. One of them. a white one,
was an ordinary touch-tone phone. The other, a black telephone, had no numbers, only buttons with letters on. I guessed that
it must be connected to an inter-tower network, for quick communication between departments.
"Impressive," I said aloud.
that?" asked Ryan, following my gaze. "It's less impressive than it looks. You wouldn't believe the amount of cross-connections
that occur. One time I was trying to call Kate, ended up phoning half the building before I reached her. Even meself," he
I joined him in laughing as he sat back in his chair. He placed the glass on an empty part of the desk. It contained
a clear, fizzy liquid, which I figured was either sparkling water or lemonade.
"Excuse the mess," said Ryan, indicating
his desk. "I've had a rush of paperwork recently which has been hell to get through. I'm still trying to...Al? Hello?"
snapped back to reality. For some reason, I had been gazing intently at the drink. I have no idea why. It was as if I had
been transfixed by the bubbles...well anyway, I turned my attention to Ryan.
"Hmm? Oh, sorry Ryan, I don't know what came
"No matter," the head admin smiled. "Now, what did you want to talk about?"
"Well, I was just thinking...you
know...that maybe...the rules..could do with changing?"
"Changing? In what way?"
"Well, not the rules as such. More
like, how the rules are carried out."
"How do you mean?"
"I dunno, it's just...well, don't you think the way the rules
are enforced is a bit too...strict?"
"Strict?" Ryan looked puzzled. "Well, we have to be a bit strict, don't we? Otherwise
nobody would listen to us."
"Oh yeah, no denying that. But don't you think sometimes you get a bit more strict than is
"Not really," Ryan shrugged. "Someone does something against the rules, we give them a warning. Simple as that.
They do it too many times, we ban them. I think we're all fair but firm, you know? It's what keeps SiF running as smoothly
as it does."
"But don't you think it could run just as smoothly if there were more leeway?"
if you...I don't know, set in an 'Honour System' or whatever it's called. Where people need to be good on their own, without
"Oh yeah, that's really likely, isn't it? Come on Al, I mean, sure it would be nice to do something like that,
but do you really think it would work?"
Maybe," I answered lamely.
"I doubt it. We'd have a riot on our hands. We'd
end up like some of our neighbouring forums. Total anarchy."
"Not necessarily," I argued, unconvincingly.
you know as well as I do that it would. At least under our system we can keep things peaceful, stop the ignorant masses from
getting above their station."
"Excuse me?" I asked, not believing what I'd just heard.
"I said we can keep things peaceful."
Ryan frowned. "I didn't say anything after that."
Now I frowned. "You didn't? But I'm sure..."
you feeling OK?"
"What? Yeah, sorry."
Ryan got out of his chair and headed for the window. He sighed as he stared out
"Look, I admit our system isn't perfect. But would you rather we let those people out there have any free will?"
I got up to confront him.
"Would you rather we let those people live in fear? Fear of being deluged by spammers, trolls
He noticed the look on my face. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, I just...it sounded like...oh,
We both sat back down.
"I'm not saying the rules aren't important, Ryan," I continued. "All I'm saying
is that if you and your team keep enforcing them in this harsh manner...there's gonna be a revolution."
Ryan looked stunned.
"A revolution. The forumers won't take this forever, you know. If this keeps up, they're gonna rise against you.
And they'll win, Ryan. They'll win by sheer numbers alone if necessary. And I don't want to see you, or anyone here, get hurt."
sat back in his chair. "I don't think you have to worry about that, Al. They wouldn't dare turn against us. They don't have
the creativity for such an act. And even if they did, they couldn't take us. The power we have over them is far too much for
it to ever be a fair fight. We would crush them like..."
I stopped listening at this point. I hadn't called Ryan on anything
he'd said because I'd noticed something strange about him.
His voice didn't match his lips.
Although I was hearing
his voice, I wasn't hearing it coming from him, at least not directly. It was as if the words he was saying were being replaced
by something else, but what?
Good God...was I hearing his thoughts?
Was this what he really thought? Was the caring
admin look just an act? Did he really think of us-his forumers- in such a way? I didn't want to believe it, and yet, in a
weird, twisted way...it made sense.
I became aware that he'd stopped talking. I also realised that I had been staring at
his face the whole time.
"Al? Al? Alaric?"
I tried to regain my composure. "Huh? Oh, yeah, er...I see now."
you don't look well," Ryan said sympathetically. "Go home. Rest up for a while. That's an order," he grinned.
return his smile. Just like before, I didn't know if he was being serious.
I got up without a word and saw myself out.
From the time I left the tower to the time I got back to my flat, only one thought went through my mind.
What the hell
was that all about?
As I sat on my bed staring into oblivion,
snatches of my meeting with Ryan kept flashing in my mind. By my count, I had heard every one of his words-his real
words-approximately 27 times. It didn't help that each word was punctuated by a pang of pain that sent my whole head reeling
Just what had happened in that office? Could that man be the same Ryan I'd met just last year? Could those
words have come from the same person whom I'd grown to respect, even admire at times? Could that man I met today really be
the same Ryan I called friend?
No. I decided it couldn't be. There was just no way the Ryan I knew and the Ryan I'd met
were the same.
It was obvious to me what had happened. Ryan had gone mad.
What other explanation could there be? Why
else would he have said what he said? I don't claim to know Ryan all that well, but I know for sure he isn't a fascist. He
didn't consider people to be ignorant sheep, who needed culling and putting in line.
So, the main admin of the SiF had
gone mad. OK. That was bad. Still, in the long run, I had nothing to fear. I mean, surely Ciremi or one of the mods would
find out sooner or later. Then Ryan would be forced to leave his post, and if we were lucky, he'd get the help he needed.
In the meantime, someone else would look after things in his absence, however long that was.
Oh dear. Oh dear
oh dear oh dear.
What if Ryan wasn't the only one?
What if his madness had spread? After all, he was in quite a position
of power, and with that power came influence. As in influence over the whole of SiF Tower, perhaps even beyond.
That was the key to it all. After all, as th old adage goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Oh, why
didn't I see this coming? In retrospect, it was so obvious.
OK then. The law-keepers of SiF were corrupt. Fine. So we were
all in trouble then. I mean, who knows where the line would go? How far were we from being considered criminals for simply
stating our opinion? Let's face it, we forumers of SiF were going to become uniform-thinking mindless drones.
Or were we?
was a solution.
Take them down.
Yes, when I thought about it, it was so obvious. All that was required was for someone
to remove the administration from power. Get them the help they needed. Yes...yes, it was a perfect solution. But was it possible?
course it was. Anything is possible, if you put your mind to it.
A smile came on my face. I consider myself to have a certain
flair for the dramatic, or at least I recognise that certain moments need an appropriate mood.
I stood up, and walked over
to my computer. After searching through some folders, I found what I had been looking for. A music file. The Sex Pistols.
Anarchy in the UK.
I set it playing, and headed over to the window. The big one, the one that overlooked the city. I looked
down at the forumers below, and realised what I had to do.
I had warned Ryan that a revolution was coming. And it looks
like I was right.
I would have to lead it of course. No one else would understand the measures that were needed. Oh, no
violence, of course. That wasn't our goal. A simple dethroning was in order, that was all.
Yes...it was all coming together
in my mind. I went to my kitchen, pouring myself a drink. Though red wine would have been most appropriate, I was merely having
blackcurrant juice. One needs to keep a clean head, after all, when one is planning rebellion.
Still, no reason why one
could not plot a revolution with fruit juice in a wine glass. And as I swished the drink around in the tumbler, the first
requirement sprang into my mind.
The first thing I needed was allies.
I knew there would be some that wouldn't help me. There were those, like
Flying Scotsman or Skarloey, who would fight in favour of the Establishment (as I had come to call them). These two
in particular wre what I considered the unofficial mods, all of the attitude with none of the powers. Was it in hopes to advance
their own careers, or simply bourgois attitudes? What did it matter?
Others would follow the Establishment out of a simplistic
sense of loyalty, like frightened sheep. Understandable. I could not fault them on this, they were only human after all. I
just hoped that after the revolution, they would learn the folly of mindless devotion.
There were the ERS Evaluators too
who would not be suitable. Which was a shame. I considered myself good friends with Chris and the Old Bean, and although I
didn't know Christopher as intimately as the other two, he'd always struck me as a pretty good person. But they were too closely
linked to the Establishment, and as much as it pained me to admit it, they were also just as likely to rat me out as join
However, there were those I hoped would stand at my side, fight for my cause. My friends.
The first of these
Jim had been my first friend when I'd joined Skarloey's forum. He'd taught me the ropes when I'd been
a newbie, showing me what was what and who was who. It was thanks to him that I became acquainted with the majority of my
friends in the early days. He'd always stood by me, as I had with him. I hoped this would be another time he did so.
was why I asked him to meet me on the outskirts of the forum, away from the hustle and bustle of the main boards. There was
a hill there that overlooked the city. I often went there to think, in the quiet seclusion of the trees and grass. Nobody
ventured here much, at least as far as I knew, so it would be perfect for our meeting.
I could of course have told him
at his house, or over the phone. And then instantly have been taken away by the Establishment, who had bugged the house or
tapped the phone. I wasn't going to take any chances.
I didn't have to wait long for Jim to arrive. I greeted him as he
climbed up the hill. After a bit of small talk, I told him why I'd asked him there. I told him everything, from my feelings
from before the visit, to the visit itself, to the revelation I'd had last night. As I explained things to him, I saw how
his face changed from initially curious to sympathetic, then to confusion, then to shock as I told him of my plan.
you serious?!" he asked when I'd finished talking.
"Deadly," I nodded.
"Well I gotta tell you Al, this is...this is
pretty dangerous," said Jim,scratching the back of his head. "I mean, a full blown revolution?"
Jim started pacing around one of the trees.
"Come on Jim, you've got to admit the laws around here are enforced way too
"No I don't. I think they work just fine. Better than the chaos surrounding those other forums. And besides,
strict is one thing, but they way you talk, it's like you're saying they're, I don't know, Nazis or something."
"Well that's how it sounds to me."
"Well that's not how it is," I turned to look at the forum, SiF Tower sticking
up in the middle like a sore thumb. "Look Jim, I'm not saying Ryan and that are evil or anything. They're just corrupt, that's
"Oh, and that's nicer, is it?"
"No...but it's true. And if we don't show them the error of their ways right now,
then they'll just keep getting a tighter and tighter grasp on the SiF until we end up in a totalitarian forum, with its people
being led about like mindless automatons, told what to think, what to say, everything."
"OK Alaric, you're starting to
scare me now."
"I'm scared too Jim. I'm scared of what's going to happen if we let that future happen. Which is why I need
help to put a stop to it as soon as possible."
I turned back to Jim, noticing the fear in his eyes. "I'm not going to make
you join me, Jim. It's entirely up to you. But I hope you'll be at my side on the battlefield."
an expression. You know I'm not violent. Just...please. Join me."
We stared at each other for quite a while, until Jim
shook his head. "I'm sorry Alaric, but I can't join you. The way you're acting, the words you're saying...you're not the same
Alaric that I made friends with."
I gave up. It was no use; Jim wasn't going to change his mind. "Fine. I won't stop you
from leaving. All I ask is that you keep this between you and me. No telling the Establishment."
"Yeah, fine, whatever.
Look, Alaric..." Jim put his hand on my shoulder. "Get some help," were his final words to me before he set off back down
the hill, leaving me on my own.
"That's what I'm trying to do," I whispered into the wind.
"A revolution? Ha ha! Sounds great,
"So you'll join?" I asked excitedly.
"Yeah, sure," replied Stepneydude. "You can write me in."
in? I don't...oh, wait. You think this is a story?"
"Well yeah, isn't it?"
"No Step, I'm serious. I..."
Alaric? Now there's a rare thing!"
"Come on Step, hear me out. I..."
Oh, sorry Al. I gotta go. See ya later."
crossed Stepneydude's name off my list. I couldn't believe it. Everyone from A for Assassin to S for Stepneydude had either
assumed I was making a joke or writing a story. Darthboco even offered to collab on it. That meant there was just one other
person to call, and if he didn't join me, then...I would be alone.
"Hello, Tom628 here."
"Tom? Hi, it's
Alaric. Listen, I have this idea..."
"For a parody?"
"No, listen. I'm planning a..."
I sighed, and turned my phone off. Well, that was that. The great revolution of SiF, over before it even had a
chance to begin. Looks like Ryan had been right. Well, so much for my example. And after I'd even got a new mobile, to decrease
the possibility of the Establishment finding out about things. Wasted. Just like my efforts.
And the worst thing, the thing
that annoyed me the most, wasn't that the forumers didn't want to rebel. It was the fact that they didn't think I'd been serious
Was this what I'd become? I mean, I like to think I enjoy a certain reputation as a funny guy. I like to make
people smile, to lighten the burden on life through humour. And yet...had it gotten to the point where I could no longer be
taken seriously? Was that all people saw me as now? A clown? Someone whose sole purpose was merely to amuse? No...I couldn't
accept that. These people were my friends...they knew me better than that.
...But were they my friends? I mean, out of
all of them, who did I really know? Really, who was there? And out of all of them, how many knew the real me? Not the charade
I put on for their amusement, not the actor, but the human? And when I thought about it like that, it became obvious. None
of them. No one knew Alaric the man; they only knew Alaric the comedian.
I've never seen the opera Pagliacci, but
I know the jist of it. There's an actor, a clown, who's part of this travelling troupe. And he's worried that the woman he
loves is seeing someone else. And this naturally upsets him, so he confronts her. But he does it while they're performing
a show. And the poor guy, he's desperately trying to find out if its true, and the woman just tries to get on with the show.
And the audience, they think it's all part of the show. And they start applauding the guy, shouting out what a great show
he's putting on, while all the time he's pouring his heart out trying to reconcile his love life.
In that moment, I felt
like that clown. People think that, just because I'm an entertainer, that I don't have real feelings, that I don't suffer
the same problems they do. I hoped, I prayed that wasn't true. But right then...it certainly felt like it was.
full of crucial points. Points where one decision changes the future forever, the whole world changing depending on what the
outcome of that decision is. This was one of those times.
I could have given up now. I could have just packed in, gave
up all thoughts of revolution, and just got on with my life. No one would have been hurt, nothing would have changed, and
I wouldn't be where I am now.
But I didn't. I didn't give up. I decided to fight.
Not by myself. That was suicide by
any stretch of the imagination. But if I couldn't get voluntary assitance...then I would have to settle for force.
against everything I believed in. But I realised that, everything I used to believe in, I didn't anymore. I gave absolutely
nothing for my former values. So what if I made people fight? They'd forgive me in the end, once they saw the results. The
end now justified the means.
The time for softness had passed. It was time to get tough. If I wanted peace, I was going
to have to prepare for war. If they wouldn't join me willingly, by God would I make them join me now. I could see it in my
mind's eye. A whole army of forumers with which to attack SiF Tower, show the Establishment the error of their fascist ways,
and establish a new order. And did that image look beautiful.
Alaric as an entertainer was dead. Alaric as a leader was
The comedy was ended.
It wasn't easy, but I managed it.
My first problem was how to get the majority of members
into one place at one time. Rounding them up one by one would be time-consuming, and it would certainly look suspicious. No,
rather than going to them, I needed them to come to me. Luckily, there are a number of venues around the forum that can be
used for private parties. I simply booked a hall under the pretense of holding an awards ceremony for the forumers. Hopefully
this would be incentive enough for them to come.
Next I sent a message to all SiF members, excluding the Establishment
and the Evaluators of course...as well as Jimbob. He'd been the only one to take me seriously; I felt I owed it to him to
respect his wish not to be involved. Besides, if all went well, I would have plenty of recruits to make my demonstration.
What was one forumer more or less?
The message was an invitation to the First 'Successful' SiF Awards Ceremony, basically
telling people where and when to go, and what categories would be fought over. Best redub, worst member, that sort of thing.
After a moment's thought, I decided to add that food and drink would be provided. Anything to persuade people to come.
set the date for the night after next. That gave me the whole of tomorrow to put the second part of my plan into action.
wonder what Bobwinkle was thinking as he walked home that night. He most likely considered it just to be the end of another
day. I very much doubt he knew the fate that was in store for him.
"Hello Bob," I called out to him.
Bob jumped in surprise,
looking around to see where the voice had come from. I chose this moment to step out of the shadows.
"Oh, it's you Alaric,"
said Bob, a look of relief flooding his face. "You really gave me a scare."
"Sorry," I smiled.
"What re you doing hiding
in the shadows anyway?" he asked, his body becoming noticeably more relaxed.
"Oh, you know, nothing much. Just threatening
people to join my army," I replied, reaching into my pocket.
"Heh, good one," Bob smiled. The smile quickly disappeared
when he saw what I pulled out of my pocket.
"I'm not joking," I grinned, pressing the button that revealed my weapon's
"Alaric..." said Bob nervously, his eyes darting between the knife and mine.
"You see Bob, I'm planning a little
battle. Oh, nothing serious...I'm just going to bring down the Establishment and establish anarchic rule," my hand moved closer
to his body, and I tilted my head towards a nearby alley. Bob got the message, and I followed him down it until we came to
a dead end. Just as I planned.No chance of him running away now.
"Now, you're a smart guy Bob. I'm sure you realise that
I can't do this by myself. Which is where you come in."
I'l say this for Bob, he held up pretty well under the circumstances.
He knew exactly what was expected of him; to stand perfectly still and not say anything until I was finished talking.
see, I need a few followers for the moment, Until, say...two days time. Then it'll all be over, and you can go back to your
normal life. Well, except that you'll no longer be under the tyrannous grip of the Establishment.
"Oh, don't worry. You're
not the only one I've given this offer to tonight. I've already gained two members of the People's Army already. I think you'll
know them. Elizabeth and-what's his name again? Ah yes-Bocodiseasel. They were quite willing to join up. I hope you will too.
of course you don't have to join up. No, this is entirely up to you. But I'd think carefully about my decision if I were you.
I mean, once the revolution succeeds...well, let's just say I'll be keeping tabs on the people who didn't want to take part.
"So then, Bob...what's it going to be? Will you be a revolutionary...or have you grown tired of
living?" I laughed humourlessly.
"When you put it like that, I guess I don't have much choice, do I?" said Bob.
at him. "I knew you'd see thing my way. Now, I just have one more thing to ask you."
I pulled out a cloth from my coat
pocket and gave it to him.
"Would you mind just putting that over your nose and taking a deep breath?" I asked.
gave me the dirtiest look I had ever seen, but he did what I told him to. And a few second slater, he was out like a light.
Chloroform, what a wonderful chemical.
I slung Bob's lifeless body over my shoulder, and took him away to meet his new
comrades. As I did so, I couldn't help but smile. Tomorrow night was going to be an event no one would ever forget.
It looked as if everybody who was anybody had
attended the First 'Successful' SiF Awards Ceremony. The hard part had been keeping it incognito whilst also making it seem
like a big event. Thankfully I'd scheduled it in a hall that was a good distance away from SiF Tower, decreasing the odds
of any mods dropping by to check out what was happening. I was too close to success to allow anything to go wrong now.
about 240 people showed up. A good percentage of SiF's population for me to work with. And this was of course minus the 5
people I'd managed to convince to join me. That included ATKTrains, Bobwinkle, Bocodiseasel, Elizabeth and Nanaki. From my
position behind the main curtain, I could see my willing colleagues now, doing exactly what I'd told them to do. Surprising
how cooperating people are when faced with the pointy end of a knife.
I had my fellow anarchists handing out hors d'oeuvres
to the crowd. Each one covered a fifth of the room, and their mission was simple. Make sure every person in that fifth took
one of the delicious nibblets that were on their trays. This was vital for my next move, and I watched each of them intently.
Not only was this to check that they succeeded, but also to remind them that I was still there, and still ready to punish
them if they should try anything. And they knew the price of failure.
After I was confident that at least the majority
of people in the room had eaten, I signalled to ATK to attend to the lights. He nodded in comply, and with a look of reluctance,
went to the light control box and switched the main lights off. After a few seconds of darkness, during which time people
took their seats and I opened the curtain, he switched on the spotlight that was directed at the podium on the stage. I smiled.
My time to shine.
I walked onto the stage to a loud applause, which I pretended to revel in. I slipped back into my old
character for a bit, lapping up their appreciation until I grew bored, then signalled them to stop.
countrymen, lend me your ears," I pretended to read from the podium. "I come to bury Ceaser, not to...oops, wrong script!"
came from the crowd. Nice to know I still had it.
"But seriously friends, if I may get serious, we are here tonight in
honour of a very special occasion. I wonder if anyone can guess what that is? Anyone? Anyone at all, don't be shy now."
laughter, and some people raised their hands.
"No, no, I won't waste your time. I doubt any one of you could guess it.
Well, maybe five of you, but I've already told you so you don't count. My friends, I have something to confess. This isn't
really an award show. This is actually a recruitment drive. As of right now, you are all members of the SiF People's Army.
No, we're not Communists. We're Anarchists. And in...ooh, a few minutes time, our first act will be to go over to SiF Tower
and show that fascist Establishment the door. That's right friends, tonight is the night when SiF begins a new era of a people's
rule. No more rules, no more dictators telling us what we can and cannot do. This, my friends...nay, my comrades, is the night
we shall forever remember as...the night of the Revolution!"
As I'd been talking, the crowd had become nervous. As I finished,
they started clambering for the exits, desperate to get away.
"It's no use trying to escape, friends. I made sure the
doors and windows were all locked as soon as the last of you arrived. There's no getting out of here until you're all willing
The crowd turned back to me now, shouting out various comments and abuse. Someone-I think it might have
been Penguin-called me insane.
"Insane? Me? Forgive the cliché, my friend, but I'm possibly the only sane guy left. Which
is why I implore you to join me willingly, while you still can. Don't force me to use the explosives."
That shut them up.
that's made you think, hasn't it? Didn't you wonder why my staff insisted you have one of their tasty treats? Baked inside
every one of those delicious snacks was a small amount of plastic explosives. Too small to be detected by taste, but certainly
enough to, say, blow a small hole through your bodies."
I held up a detonator, causing some of the crowd to gasp. "Don't
worry, I only intend to use this if someone goes and upsets me. Of course, there's no way I can determine which bomb goes
off, so I've rigged it so that every bomb will go off. That's right, if even one of you steps out of line, then you all
get blown to kingdom come."
"You're lying!" came a voice. I looked over to find Bono standing on his chair, pointing at
me. I was genuinely surprised. I didn't think he had it in him.
"Are you sre about that?" I replied, my thumb getting closer
to the button. "Do you want to test me and find out?"
For what seemed like a lifetime, we stared at each other, neither
one of us daring to so much as blink. Finally, the boy saw sense and sat back down. Intimidation can be better than a weapon
sometimes for convincing people.
"Now then, would anyone else like to make a statement?" I asked. I got no response.
I grinned, and signalled to ATK to turn the main lights back on. Once it was bright enough, I jumped off the stage and headed
for the main door, unlocking the large padlock that prevented anyone from getting out.
"Now then," I turned back to the
crowd. "If you'll all kindly follow me."
Not daring to risk a possible group murder, they grudgingly complied. I mentally
congratulated myself for the idea of putting them all in danger. Whilst I was sure some of them would gladly have put their
own lives in danger to help their friends, none of them would want to be responsible for getting everyone killed. Of course,
they were in no real danger...but they didn't know that.
The final phase of my plan was in progress. Lead my new army to
SiF Tower...and then show the Establishment who was going to be in charge from now on.
I felt magnificent.
I realise at this point that I was arrogant. I could have lead the crowd
directly to the tower. But no, I had to be so wrapped up in the leader role that I took the long way round. I was getting
a big power boost from this whole ordeal, I realise that now. Still, for that walk at least, I was on top of the world.
I walked behind the crowd (to keep an eye on them, of course), I noticed Elizabeth was near the back. She, like most of the
crowd, was looking miserable. And yet...somehow I felt I could cheer her up.
"You know, I'm doing this for your benefit,"
I approached her.
"MY benefit?" she glared at me.
"Well, not yours specifically. But for all the oppressed forumers
that make up this city."
"And how, exactly, are we oppressed?"
There was something odd about the way she asked that
question. It was equal parts contempt and curiosity.
"I think the fact you don't even realise how oppressed we are speaks
volumes," I answered. I then went on to ask her something that had been troubling me for some time, longer even than the revolution.
was part of a very rare group of this community, a group known as 'females'. Sad as it was, the male to female ratio was very
much in favour of the former. And you can imagine what happens in that situation.
I'd heard tales, of course. I don't
think anyone hasn't heard some rumour or another about somebody or other stalking a female member. Always away from the eyes
of others, obviously, but it happens. And if the rumours are to be believed, it's always...less than civil.
I am not one
to believe in rumours, but the events of the past few days had opened my mind to a lot of things. Perhaps my curiosity over
the subject could be sated by someone who had experienced it first hand. If she wanted to speak of it, of course. I realised
she may be a little uncomfortable.
As it turned out, she wasn't afraid to speak about her encounters with some of the worst
examples of my gender. I learned a lot from her...and I didn't like what I learned.
"Well, that's certainly something that
needs to be corrected," I said. I explained to her my plans of how, once the Establishment had been taken down, we would start
righting the wrongs that had been going on past their notice. All would be allowed the opportunity to bring to light past
transgressions, where a majority of peers would decide the guilty party's fate.
I could tell this intrigued her, so I
started to talk about how, in the SiF of tomorrow, there would be no need for bannings or warnings, as people would learn
to take full responsiblity for their actions, and that everyone would learn to respect each other. My explanation was cut
short by the abrupt stop of the crowd. We had arrived at the tower.
"Excuse me, please," I bowed to Elizabeth politely,
and started making me way to the front of the crowd.
"There is our target!" I called out, pointing at the wretched building.
"There is where we make our stand! There is where the new SiF will..."
"Stand down, Alaric!" came a voice behind me. I
turned around to see who would dare to interrupt me. When I saw who was there, I went pale.
Assembled before me was the
Establishment, fully armed, with back up from what appeared to be all the forumers I'd missed, with the same arsenal as their
No. This couldn't be true. No one could have mobilised that fast unless they knew in advance. But how? I'd been
so careful! I thought I'd covered my tracks so well. There was no way they could have known!
"Tell me," I snarled, "How
did you know?"
"I told them, Alaric," said a figure emerging from behind Ryan. Upon seeing him, I was stunned. Speechless.
Jimbob had sold me out.
I was paralysed. So many emotions were welling up inside
me-rage, sadness, fear, sorrow-that I could barely move, could hardly speak. Jimbob, the one I'd trusted above all others,
the person I'd first revealed my plans to, had betrayed me. Betrayed my trust in him. I felt numb all over.
managed to croak out. "How...could you?"
"I had to," Jimbob replied. "Alaric, your plan was...is insane! I couldn't
just stand by and watch you go ahead with it."
"No, listen! You see where your scheme's taken you? You're herding
all those innocent people to take part in some crazy plan to scare your friends into being less strict with their rules? Does
that even sound remotely like what a normal person would do?"
"Shut up! It's for their own good!" I argued. "They'll
thank me once it's over!"
"Oh will they?" Ryan stepped in. "Answer me this, Alaric. Just what is this meant to achieve?"
is meant to restore some sense to this world of madness, my dear admin," I practically spat the word. "Your ways are
decadent. They need replacing with better methods. My methods!"
"Listen to yourself!" Jimbob shouted. "You can't
even remember why it is you're doing this!"
This took me aback. "What?"
"You've just given a whole different reason
to Ryan than the one you told me before."
I shrugged it off. "So what? The reason may have changed, but the outcome will
be the same. And we'll be happier for it. Trust me."
"I can't trust you any more," Jimbob shook his head. "You're
not my friend anymore. Hell, you're not even you anymore."
"Look at yourself. You look like you haven't
slept for days. And you're wasting away. Have you been eating anything these past few days?"
I looked away from him. "I
don't have time for those things right now. This is too important."
Jimbob sighed. "I used to think I knew you..."
never knew me!" I screamed at him." None of you knew me! Stop pretending you did!"
I got to my knees, fighting to keep
the tears from escaping my eyes. "This wasn't supposed to happen like this. I was gonna lead us to happiness. Why did you
have to spoil it? Why...why did you ruin me?"
"I wasn't trying to ruin you," said Jimbob. "You did that to yourself. I
was trying to save you."
"OK, this has gone on long enough," Ryan intervened, stepping in front of Jimbob. "Alaric, as
head administrator of SiF, I order you to stand down and surrender immediately. I have big plans for these peons I've culled
over the years, and I can't have you ruining them now."
"There, you see?!" I shouted, rising to my feet. "You hear what
he said?! Did you?!" I turned back to the crowd. From the look of puzzled faces from all around, it was obvious that I was.
I whispered, falling to the floor, little caring if I cried or not now. "Please...please...tell me I'm not the only one who
"Alright, enough of this."
I turned back round to see Ciremi walking towards me, stun gun held out. The Establishment
are only allowed to carry non-lethal weapons when dealing with massive crowds. One of Fat Hatt's first rules.
do that if I were you," I warned him.
"Oh no?" Ciremi smirked. "And why not?"
"Because I hold this," I grinned, and
showed him my remote. "One step closer and I press this button here. And when that happens, all these people get blown sky-high."
admin stopped in his tracks.
"That's right," I nodded. "No one wants to get anyone else hurt, do they now? Just keep away
from me now. Don't do anything you'll regret."
I turned-too late-to see Bob, ATK, Nanaki and Bocodiseasel
jump at me. Seconds later, I was trapped beneath them, my limbs pinned down under the weight of four forumers.
you think you're doing?" I shouted angrily.
"Stopping you from using that remote!" Bocodiseasel answered.
from his hand!" cried Nanaki.
Bob pulled at the remote, trying hard to free it from my grip. But I was determined not to
let go. We struggled over it for what seemed ages, until a blow to my head from ATK forced me to release it. Bob pulled too
hard, and the remote flew from our hands onto the floor.
Button side down.
It was so silent you could have heard a pin drop. No one dared
to move, paralysed with fear. Everyone seemed to be waiting for the inevitable. All except me.
I forced my former colleagues
off me, darted past Ciremi and grabbed hold of Ryan. I pulled my knife out from my pockets and held it in front of his neck.
nobody move!" I shouted. "Nobody move, or your leader here gets it!"
It was as if they'd come out of a spell. There was
a mixture of amazement, relief and then fear in their faces.
"Oh come on, how stupid can you be?" I asked, my voice filled
with contempt. "Do you really think I could get access to explosives in this place? And then actually introduce it into your
systems without you noticing?"
I had to laugh. Long and hard. "It makes me wonder if you people are worth saving."
Alaric, just take it easy..." Kate669 approached me from behind.
"Oh no you don't!" I swiveled around to meet her, turning
Ryan in the process. "You just stay away from me...all of you!" I swung back round at my once-loyal comrades.
Alaric. All we want to do is help you," Kate continued. She's always strong in a crisis, is that woman. Never lets fear get
in her way.
"Help me?" I snarled at her. "Help me?! I'm not the one who needs help here! It's all of you that need it,
and I was gonna be the one to do it! But you...!" I pointed at the crowd with the knife. "You just couldn't accept it, could
you? You just couldn't pull the wool from your eyes to see the help I was giving you! And you!" I now pointed at the five
I'd first recruited. "You traitors! You turn on your friend at the drop of a hat! After I tried to help you all!"
one of them looked guilty.
"Help us?!" asked ATK incredulously. "You threatened and kidnapped us!"
I growled at him.
"I only did what was necessary to save you."
"Let Ryan go Alaric, and we'll go easy on you," Jim522 cut in. Jim, ever the
man of duty, trying to get hold of the situation.
I turned back to the mods. "Weapons down...NOW!"
Slowly they lowered
their weapons to the floor.
"Good. That's real good. Just keep that up and I might not have to use this," I indicated the
I looked at my captive. Ryan had looked better, but he was still holding up incredibly well under
"Think about what you're doing, Alaric," Ryan continued. "What's this all going to achieve?"
cruelly. "The end of your dictatorship, that's what."
"Do you really think that, Alaric? Do you realy think I'm
like a dictator?"
"But of course. I 've heard what goes on in your head, Healy. I've heard what you really think about
us forumers. Those thoughts you keep in that twisted head of yours."
"Then tell me about them. Because I don't know what
you're talking about."
"You know perfectly well what I'm talking about! I've heard you, Ryan! I've heard you compare us
to sheep, wanting to use us in some master plan of yours. Well you should have checked your flock more carefully, 'cos this
wolf ain't gonna stand for it."
"Alaric, I've never thought anything like that in my life."
"Don't lie to me, Healy!"
that what this is all about? Some thoughts of mine you think you heard?"
"Yes...no...I don't know! I don't care!"
you hear them anyway? What are you, psychic now?"
"Stop talking!" I screamed. "It's hard to think when you won't stop talking!"
one last thing Al. Would you really use that knife on me?"
"In a heartbeat if I have to."
"Then I guess I have no choice."
I remember next is getting some sort of shock, and then I blacked out. I realise now that the shock must have come from Ryan's
stun gun. In my excitement, I'd forgotten to remove it from him. A mistake that cost me everything.
When I woke up, I
was in a cell. The Halford and Peckett were doing some sort of scans on me. I felt dizzy and light-headed. No doubt they'd
pumped me with sedatives or something. I soon went back to sleep again, and when I woke up next, I was awaiting trial.
of which lead me to where I was now, trapped in this holding cell. Soon I would be cast out of SiF forever. But that's OK.
I've had it with this place anyway. Ingrateful bunch of peons can lead themselves to ruin. I won't try to stop them again.
it's you. Come to gloat, Ryan?
Wait...what are you doing?
What do you mean I know too much?
Kate? Where'd you come
Jim? Halford? Peckett?
How'd you all get in here?
Get away from me! Get away!!
You can't do this to me!
I won't let you!!
Stay away from me!
Oh God, help me!
Someone, help me!!
Oh God, let me out!
Let me out!
Ryan sat at his desk, hands buried in his face. Where had he gone wrong?
the majority of SiF he was known as a fine, friendly guy who was always on hand to help with a problem and always tried hard
to make SiF a fun place to be in. But to the outside forums, he'd gained a reputation as a bully, a tyrant...an ogre. All
because he tried to defend the forum from slanderous remarks made by some ignorant people. But he'd withstood these claims
at his person, because he'd always had his friends to stick up for him. He could always rely on them to tell him the truth
At least, until today.
He'd dealt with this sort of thing before, back when he'd been a mod. Someone
had tried to get rid of him through insidious methods, based on some personal vendetta. Fortunately the matter had been dealt
with before it could succeed, but it had still shaken him. True, he'd never really been on the best of terms with the ex-mod
in question, but to try and uproot him like that...
Ryan took his hands from his face and gave a deep sigh.
seemed to have a habit of repeating itself. Only this time, it had been a good friend that had tried to get rid of him. Was
this a sign? Did he really act like a...a dictator? He didn't want to believe it, and if it had been anyone else he would
have instantly dismissed the thought. But this was someone he knew personally, and that made him consider it. Was it his own
fault that Alaric had acted like that? Had he somehow been responsible?
And what Ciremi had said in the trial worried him
too. He counted on Ciremi-in fact, all of his team-to keep him in line, to stop him from abusing his power. But could Ciremi
really ever think of him as Alaric had? And if he ever did, would Ryan be able to stop him? Would he have the right
to stop him?
His hands were beginning to tremble.
The only consolation he had was that he knew Alaric had been insane.
But it didn't really do much to help him.
He'd suspected as much since that fateful night of his arrest. But suspicions
didn't hold in court, so he'd had to treat him like any other criminal. Oh sure, he'd put up a brave face for the trial, as
stony-faced and emotionless as he ever was in those situations. But inside, he'd been just the opposite. That was why he'd
tried to reduce Alaric's sentence, something he wouldn't normally have done unless he felt some good would come of it. But
Alaric had refused, so he'd had no other choice.
It was only a few hours after the trial had concluded that the results
of Alaric's scans had come back, showing the abnormality that had grown in his brain. Ryan had been somewhat relieved to find
that, as not only did it confirm his suspicions, but it also allowed him to render the sentence void. Now they could keep
Alaric on in a padded cell, and hopefully could treat his condition.
His phone rang. It was Square Wheels. Time to move
Ryan had decided to personally taken charge of the transfer, wanting to see what state Alaric was in. When
they arrived at his cell, they found Alaric lying prone on the floor, eyes wide open, bits of blood covering his head as well
as the floor around him. Had he been trying to escape? Ryan could only assume so, though it looked like he'd been trying to
bash his brains out. He quickly checked for a pulse. It was there, a little slower than normal, but it was still strong.
move was relatively easy. Alaric's unconscious body put up no struggle. It was weird; Alaric looked wide awake, yet he acted
like he was asleep. He was assisted into a straitjacket and placed in a new cell, one with three padded walls and one made
of glass for observational purposes. Still he didn't move, but he looked like he was watching them. Staring at them. At their
Ryan couldn't take it for much longer. He told Square Wheels to give the orderlies their instructions, and then
headed back for his office. As he left the prison, he felt the wind touch his face. It seemed just that little bit colder