Justice Backers: The Lichen Calls (Finale)

Monkey Girl Diary #494

(transcribed from video log)

Hello backers.  I have much to say about.  Yesterday was the day I did something about the depression.  I asked for help.

The Bay was very quiet; it was like this since the tar sands.  We train and eat in silence.  Alpha Dog mumbled about the Lichen and Pawn and Transplant and Drill Baby.  I have seen people do the dying before, but not like Baby.  I knew that Pawn have some darkness inside him, but I did not think he would ever let it go.  Maybe a little escaped every time his body broke.  I cannot say if the same thing would happen to me.  I just want them to be alright.  I want all of this to go away, but the world is calling for their blood.

I found Orb sitting in the water of the tank in his room.  He floated on top of a tiny piece of his shell, like a contact lens.  His eyes were closed.

“Hello redacted,” he say.  He only uses my real name when he thinks I am upset.  He is never wrong.  “What can I do for you?”  I did not know how to ask him.  The only thing he is ever stubborn about is telling people about his inner peace.  I have known him years and I didn’t know any of his secrets.

“I am having a depression,” I say.  It sound bad coming out of my mouth.  My English always get worse when I am upset and I did a screw-up in the first sentence.  I thought he would say to me I needed to see the therapist, but he just smiled at me.  I saw another contact lens-thing form next to him.  He say to me sit down.  I vaulted over the glass tank and lowered my body onto the lens.  At first I wibble-wobbled, but he steadied it for me.  I crossed my legs to copy him.

“Why are you depressed?” he asked.  His eyes still did not open.

“I do not know,” I say.  It is the truth.  I felt this way before the Lichen and Drill Baby, before I even came back to Alpha Dog’s team.

“If you don’t know, how am I supposed to help you?”

“I don’t know who else can help.”

“You need to help yourself.”

“So you… don’t have any ideas?

“Maybe I can help you help yourself.”

“I will take that please.”

“Alright.  Close your eyes.”

“I don’t want to fall in the water.”

“We’re about to immerse in something deeper and more cloying than water.  Relax.”

I do as he say.  He say to me I need to be careful about what I say to all of you.    He let me have a little tiny piece of his technique.  A shiny piece of lightenment.  I will be vague.  It was easy to see how this stuff can hurt people if they don’t know how to do it the right way.  Orb hummed something.  It was not really a song, but it had notes.  I peeked a little and saw beautiful ripples around his lens.  The glass tank sang with the vibration.  He say to me I need to let my feelings go.

I tried.  I let the depression fog off of my skin like dry ice.  I do not know how I knew, but I hummed with him.  I started to see things.  At first it was just colors.  I imagined myself walking forward and all the colors became things.  Trees.  Pavement.  I was suddenly blocked by a familiar door.  I looked over and saw Orb standing next to me.

“This is the lab where you were held prisoner?” he asked.

“Yes,” I say.  “I do not know why we are here.  I am free of this place.”

“Are you?”  He pushed the door open.  It creaked.  The inside was dark.  “Don’t you think there’s anything in there?”

“I guess there is.  I feel something.  Do you… do you hear someone crying?”

“No, but since you do you might want to go help them.  I’ll wait here.”

“Oh, okay.”  Orb sat on the imaginary grass outside the lab and turned away from me.  We had reached the ‘help myself’ part I guess.

It was not as I remembered inside.  Cleaner isn’t the right word; it was dryer.  Everything looked like paper, but paper I could not rip or punch through.  There were guards and scientists walking around, but they were not the people who gave me fur and a tail.  These new people had replaced them; they had settled into the monster-shaped holes those people left in my brain.  They did not have faces; there were words stretched over the skin where there should be eyes.  I do not want to type those words; I have already seen them too much.  Their clothes and flesh were gray and they ignored me even as I tapped one of them on the shoulder.  I guess they had work to do.  I thought maybe the answers would be in the place I spent most of the time: the cage room.

The scientists were more interested in mixing us with animals than keeping us alive.  After they succeeded they would forget about us and move on to the next person.  They would forget to let us out to stretch our legs or they would forget to clean our cages.  We were not allowed clothes.  The cages were stacked on top of each other and sometimes when they wouldn’t let us out to go to the bathroom, some waste from the person over me would drop into my cage.  People don’t even buy eggs when chickens are treated that way.

I opened the cage room door.  My fellow prisoners were not there, but the cages were full.  These people I knew.  They had gave me their names because they trusted me.  These people had very different cages in real life.

One of them was a girl younger than me from Nevada.  I used to talk to her on the computer and tell her life was better than what her computer told her.  We met when she asked me for help to deal with an internet jackass.  He was sending her rape threats every day; he never missed a day to make her feel worse, like an anti-vitamin.  She wanted to know how I handled it.  I know it’s funny hearing a monkey say to you ‘hang in there’, but that was all I had to say.

All of the cages had friends from the internet.  While I standed there, some of the word-faces came in and stared at them like zoo animals.  They pointed and laughed even without mouths.  The words on their faces flashed and throbbed.  The caged people weeped and scrunched into the corner.  The word-faces reached out and rattled the metal cages until their victims cried out.  I couldn’t help them because they weren’t real.  I could only help me.

I moved to my old cage.  A twin of me was inside it, just as scared and weepy as the rest.  She had no clothes.  I could see the burn marks on her skin from the cattle prods because she was completely shaved.  Her naked tail was wrapped around one of the back bars, trembling.  Her mouth was open; she was baring her teeth to scare the word-faces away.  You can’t scare them away, because they’re not really there.  They are far away, typing.  Sitting alone drinking your pain because they don’t want anybody else to see them do it.  For some reason, people let them run the lab.  They let them run a prison.

I tried to open my twin’s cage, but a word-face grabbed my wrist.  The words on its face changed so it say ‘we’re not happy if you’re happy’.  I yelled that I don’t care and fought him off.  They’re mostly hims.  Others grabbed me.  It is my brain so I don’t know why it’s so hard to get rid of them.  I say to myself over and over again that I don’t have to keep them there.  They did not move.  They pulled out batons and prods and hit me.  It felt very real.  They hit me until I died.  My ghost did not rise to heaven.  It sank through the floor.  Cold darkness.  I wasn’t breathing.

I forced my eyes open and realized I was sinking into the tank.  I was already a few feet under the surface.  I felt sick and crushed and scared and I just wanted Orb to help me.  I saw his disk floating like a lily pad.  He did not jump in to help me; I had to swim even though I felt like I was going to faint any second.  I grabbed his disk and pulled the top half of my body into the air.  I gasped like a bigmouth bass.  He still sat there, legs crossed and eyes closed.

“Why didn’t you help me?” I choked out.

“I told you that I couldn’t,” was all he had to say.

“It didn’t work.  That was the worst I ever feel.”

“Do you know why you felt it?”

“I… hmm… yes…”

“Then it did work.”

“It is all the stuff on the internet.”  I spit out some more water.  “It’s too much.  Too much poison.  It puts me back in that cage like I never left.”

“Have you heard the adage ‘everything in moderation’?” he asked me.  I say yes.  “People don’t realize that applies to the word ‘everything’ as well.  There are only so many things people need to spend their time with.”

“Are you say that I need to stop going online?  A lot of my friends are there.  I need to do my diaries.”

“All I can say is that I find the ability to detach extremely useful.”  I held on and kicked the water with my feet for a few minutes so I catch my breath.  I got all the coughing out.  I waited for Orb to say something else, but he didn’t.  I guessed we were done.  I won’t lie; I was hoping it would be easier.  I wanted him to take away my pain.  Now I know that is not the key to inner peace.  If I wanted that I would have to give something up.

When I was dry and had changed clothing, I went to talk with the other Backers.  I saved Alpha Dog for last.  I say to them that I will be leaving the Justice Backers after the Lichen business is done.  I wasn’t sure myself until about the fourth person I tell.  They were mostly very understanding.  You probably know how it is to leave somewhere, hugs and crying and blubbering.  I got a nice handshake from Tin Soldier.

Of course Alpha Dog thought he could talk me out of it.  He say he could put up better filters on our websites for all the harassment.  I know they would find a way around it.  I have stopped a lot of bad people in my time in the Backers, but I can’t stop them.  I say to him it is time for me to be happy.  Eventually he accepted it.  I hope maybe he can get Sportfish or Armigo or Sacred Queen to join the team in my place.

I don’t know what I will do after yet, but for most of you this is one of the last times we will talk.  I’m sorry if this makes you sad.  I don’t know how long until the Lichen shows up again, but we have until then.  These diaries have been great for me and the support here wonderful.  Thank you all so much.  I’m sure I will do at least one more and I will do goodbye questions then.  For now let’s pretend we’re back to normal and do some silly questions.

Fatkiwi9Is there going to be a Justice Backers movie or video game ever?  Because I will buy them both.

Oh I hope not.  I think our videos are close enough to a movie already.  People will get even more tired of us if they have to see us all over the big screen.

ManlystudfinderWho would win in a fight between Tin Soldier and three of the doggies?

I have a real answer for this one: Tin Soldier.  That is because I know the dogs are designed to fight real people without hurting them a lot.  A metal man definitely has the odds in his favor.

JesustakethefeelsHave u tride new website where it use your webcam and micorphone to listening to your conversations and then the wheel it points to a color and tells u what evereryone in the room be feeling like?  (Sry for grammer)

If you mean moodswinger.com, yes I have tried it.  I put their app on my phone and for fun I held it behind my back during our meetings (I was still with the western Backers).  I do not think it is very accurate because it say that Archive is always mad and that when Impala was saying about Loved One that she had a crush on him.  I think maybe it just say that people have feelings for each other randomly to stir in drama in people’s lives; that is why it is so popular now.

Don’t worry about your English; it will get better with practice.  I hope you are not a native speaker…  I got in trouble for saying someone from Alabama had worse English than me.

MentaurI am a mentaur, half man and half role model.  (My mother was a civil rights attorney horse)  Will you join me on a magical journey across the lands of awkward social interactions and red solo cops so we can live happily ever after in a small cabin constructed from my beard trimmings?  I will buy you all the honeydew melons you want until you get extremely melon-fat.

Okay, I think the internet is starting to be a little too internety today.  Don’t worry everyone; this is not goodbye yet.  I have a few more heroic things to do.

The Five Worst Justice Backer Moments

(Downballot.com)

I know everybody’s been busy kissing the Justice Backers’ asses lately, so I thought I’d give them a good paddling instead.  The whole world just saw them get destroyed and held on their knees while their traitor Pawn killed Drill Baby.  Some people were shocked they couldn’t stop a bunch of worms and mushroom-people, but if you actually look at their track records there are all sorts of failures and shortcomings that people just gloss over because oh my god superheroes aren’t they so wonderful with their god complexes and physical deformities and black people-exterminating robots that we treat like people because we gave five hundred dollars to get some Backer T-shirts and pretend we actually do this stuff too.  Let’s look at them with a critical eye for once, shall we?  Maybe that way you’ll be less disappointed when the Lichen or an angry mob finds them and kills them.

5. Those Lichen ‘Proxy’ Bitches

 This all happened before the Lichen actually showed up.  The only evidence that even suggested it was real was Transplant and Pawn both saying they were attacked by it.  The people calling themselves ‘proxies’, mostly girls for some reason, were just a weird cancerous outgrowth of the preheroes who were themselves just a weird cancerous outgrowth of the Justice Backers who were themselves just a weird cancerous outgrowth of people being afraid of getting shot by their own police.  Wow, that’s a lot of cancer right?

Since the Backers aren’t directly involved I put this one at number five, but they were still the inspiration for it.  All these proxy girls wanted to feel special, so they started making up stories about how they were chosen by the Lichen to do his bidding and would eventually be rewarded with super powers and his love for their devotion.  While most people with a brain at least the size of a pistachio knew they were lying, it took the appearance of actual people infected by the Lichen to shut them down.  Before that happened, they were really quickly growing out of control.

They went from innocently talking about recruiting other people into their fake hero circle to talking about people the Lichen wanted them to kill.  Then they started making up rules about how the Lichen required a willingness to spill human blood before it would actually give you powers.  Enter Patricia Hobar and Sarahiel (yeah I don’t know how to pronounce it either) Fawkes.  Patricia was fourteen at the time and Sarahiel (you know what I’m ignoring her stupid made-up name and calling her Sarah from now on) was eleven.  They were also complete social outcasts everywhere but a few chatrooms and completely bonkers.

These two tween geniuses compiled all the ‘evidence’ on the Lichen from the other proxy stories around the internet and formulated a plan to appease their greasy globby god by capturing, torturing, and killing an unbeliever.  They lured a twelve-year-old female classmate out into the woods and then punched and kicked her into submission.  Then they brought out a set of tiny pumpkin-carving knives and saws with orange plastic handles; you guys remember those right?  They wanted to carve a jack-o-lantern face over their victim’s, but her struggling mostly messed them up.  Still, she now has permanent scars all over her face.  The brave girl saw an opportunity to run while the proxies were washing her blood off their hands in a stream, and she escaped.

The proxies became desperate because their sacrifice had failed.  They were worried that the Lichen would be so disappointed that it might kill them.  Patricia took matters into her own hands and stabbed her friend Sarah more than thirty times in order to complete the sacrifice.  When the police found her she was perched over her friend’s mutilated body, blood all over her, chanting in a made-up language.  She’d shoved clumps of moss and small clover plants into all of the corpse’s wounds.

I think she’s worse than the real minions of the Lichen because you can at least tell them by sight.  Patricia has grown into a wild-eyed teen prisoner who receives frequent visits from other eager young women who want to know what it was like to be a proxy of the Lichen (which she isn’t).  This should have been way more of a lesson to the Justice Backers.  Even if you’re the real deal, you have to know that starting anything radical pulls loopy people out of the woodwork and gives them a mission.

4. Archive totaled the diamond car

Here’s one where the Justice Backers are without question one hundred percent guilty.  Archive, after trespassing on a movie studio and looking into someone’s private property, spilled script details online and derailed an entire movie.

I know my opinion here won’t be super popular on the internet, but screw you internet.  It doesn’t actually matter how bad you think Diamond Car is.  I hate it too.  A cartoon designed to sell sparkly plastic cars is not illegal.  The makers weren’t doing anything wrong according to our actual laws, and didn’t deserve having this happen.  People will excuse this by saying the movie was still in preproduction, but if you look at all the pieces the Hollywood reporters wrote about it, you’ll see it’s clear that tens of millions of dollars had already been spent setting everything up.  The movie was eventually going to have a budget of more than a hundred million dollars!  Do you know what that means?  That means a lot of people from actors and extras to special effects guys and assistants were not getting paid.  Is that worth it to prevent a bad movie?

And while we’re on the subject remember that whether or not a movie is bad is entirely freaking subjective.  People say that everybody hates Diamond Car, but if you’ll notice it’s still on the air.  You and I know that if that movie had come out it would have grossed a zillion dollars, which means that somebody out there does like it.  They’re just as entitled to enjoy what they watch as you are.

Archive screwed with people’s livelihoods and cost that studio millions.  She should’ve gone to jail for that and her sentence should have lasted at least until the Diamond Car movie’s planned release date

3. Did you forget one member of the Justice Backers is brainwashed?

Seriously, did you?  It’s Paladina.  If you read some of that woman’s diaries, they can seem really scatterbrained.  She often claims she has four extra people living in her head.  It doesn’t look like she’s ever sought actual professional psychiatric help.  No, a dream-hopping undead Freddy Krueger telepath doesn’t count as a licensed professional.  What’s worse, she may never have had the chance to get the help she could very well need; Alpha Dog and the Justice Backers saw to that.

They let every other victim of Game Master’s mind-meddling go to the hospital, but for some reason they judged her condition (which basically granted her useful super powers) too severe and swept her away to the Backer Barn, leaving her husband and children thinking she was missing for way longer than they needed to.  (That kind of sounds like a violation of their no prisoners policy to me.)  Yes, she eventually thanked them and joined their team, but did we even know if that was the real Paladina?  What if her mind was completely altered by the process?  Which of the four new personalities is in control of that body at any given time?  Things get a lot more suspicious when you think about how much her personality seemed to change.

Previously Paladina was a happily married office drone who seemed content with her life.  After the events in question, she became a danger-loving superhero obsessed with dropping the elements of her old life, including her double D breasts and her husband.  Her now ex-husband actually did an interview with one of the other Downballot writers, where he said this:

“The woman I knew was gone.  She was always talking about her dreams coming true, dreams she had never mentioned to me in decades.  I don’t want to sound shallow, but her breast reduction really was a big red flag.  She had basically never complained about the size of them before and obviously I never did either.”

‘The woman I knew was gone.’  That sounds pretty scary to me.  As far as I’m concerned the Justice Backers ripped that family apart and are to this day prolonging that woman’s mental anguish, whether she knows it or not.  The Justice backers are big into that whole ‘any mentality can be healthy’ thing with all of them having problematic backgrounds, but sometimes crazy is just crazy and it needs a special kind of jacket to straighten it out before more people get hurt.  While I’m at it, turning a tsunami around doesn’t make you a stalwart monument to mental health either Act-of-Goddess.

2. They destroyed Coinhat

Yes I am aware that Coinhat still exists, just as you are aware that it doesn’t have anywhere near the power it used to in the crowdfunding world.  Five years ago everything from independent movies to video games to research projects to charities went to Coinhat for their crowdfunding.  I own like five games that started there myself.  Even though it’s been largely replaced by PDBank and Hypefront, I still think Coinhat has always had the best interface and customer service.

So why is it a crumbling shell of its former self?  Because Alpha Dog, that’s why.  His campaign, which violated basically all of their terms of service, got them in deep trouble with the feds.  They were stuck in an extremely expensive lawsuit afterwards for more than two years.  The government ripped the company open looking for any shred of evidence with Backer stink on it that could lead them to the vigilantes.  Not only did they fail, but they just left Coinhat to bleed to death afterwards.

Why do people ignore this?  Would it take the Backers literally lighting the Coinhat headquarters on fire to get people to care?  The digital destruction was just as bad as that, and the smoke from it just as obvious.  Are you guys noticing a pattern here with this and the Diamond Car thing?  The Justice Backers don’t give a shit-and-a-half about business owners and employees.  If you add to these examples all the property damage they have never paid for, you get a destructive force that destroys livelihoods.  Oh but don’t worry, they didn’t make any innocent people bleed, so they’re not bad at all.  That’s a childish way of looking at the morality of a set of behaviors, but how could it not be?  You have to put yourself in a child’s frame of mind just to look at the idea of superheroes in colorful costumes operating outside the law as a good idea.  They’re supporting an infantilization of morality itself, a process that is sowing just as much unhappiness and invisible tragedy as it is solving, if not more.

1. The Lichen

Of course their current failing is their greatest one.  The entire world is standing on the precipice of a threat to our brains.  At least it looks that way from the videos they have posted.  The Lichen is an ancient monster intent on enslaving us to save forests or whatever, and its hybrid offspring were living among the Justice Backers literally the entire time they have existed.

I was thinking about this list even before all this stuff started happening, and I was going to put Alpha Dog’s theft of the dogs and jet at the top.  Then they helped kill Drill Baby.  Was he breaking environmental laws?  Probably…  That’s not a crime that any civilized country would execute somebody over as human life simply matters more than an oily beach or an unusually hot summer.  I don’t feel like I need to say that their participation in his death again reeks of a dehumanizing and disrespectful view of business owners and employers in society.  I know they’re enjoying their perfect boss-less existence, but the rest of us don’t actually want them to die.

My condolences go out to Drill Baby’s family.  Yes, the big bad industrialist had one.  He had a wife and a daughter and two nieces he helped raise.  He had a dog, a giant schnauzer named Ruffian.  A former Justice Backer shoved his entire arm down his throat and choked him to death.  Is that justice?

I’m in the reserves.  I’m seriously considering getting back in if I can join one of the upcoming Lichen task forces.  If I should find myself in a situation where I’m face-to-face with a Justice Backer, I will do everything I can to apprehend them.  I won’t kill them, because murder is the kind of thing I leave to vigilantes.  I’ll drag them into court and rip off those stupid masks and make them whimper with their real faces in front of the whole damn world.

I’m getting tired of devoting so many button presses to the lousy Justice Backers, so I’m going to go do something else.  If you want more Backer-hate for your rage boners you can check out these other pieces I found:

Why Sleeping With Monkey Girl Counts as Bestiality

How Many People has Loved One Devastated in Public?

I was Woman’s Touch’s Assistant, and Now I’m Unemployed

Could Act-of-Goddess be Causing the Disasters She Prevents?

The Justice Backers are Less Effective, Per Dollar Spent, than Your Local P.D.

Wallflower’s Autism

Alpha Dog and Anonymous Hazing

Golden Boy Might be an Engineered Fighter for White Power, Like Tin Soldier

Did the Western Backers Withhold Quadkiller Evidence?

Wing King may get His Own Reality Show

See the Sweatshop Pumping out… Justice Backer Mousepads?

Ten Ways the Justice Backers are Prejudiced Against Christians

U.S. Foreign Policy and the Justice Backers

The Justice Backers are Bankrupting the Comics Industry

Diamond Car Fan Movie Fills the Diamond-Encrusted Void in Our Hearts

Pentazar Could be the Key to Curing Cancer

Hostages Taking Hostages: How the Backers Created Black Market Robots

A Woman’s Touch: A Villain’s Secret Relationship with a Crusader of Good

What Happened to all the Secret Shuffle Cards?

Transsexual, Transhuman, Transplant

A Memorial for Drill Baby

Opossum Player Railroaded an Innocent Man

Has Dreamweaver been in the Head of the Head of State?

A Psychiatrist Examines Monkey Girl’s Vlogs

Tin Soldier’s Fourth Directive: Harassing Minorities

The Media Frenzy around Baby Sugarcane

One Hundred Patents Ruined by Alpha Dog

‘Impala Broke my Arm’ and other Backer Survivor Horror Stories

An Avalanche of Gibberish: How One 911 Dispatcher was Overrun with Calls

Do-it-Yourself Justice and its Consequences

Seven Ways Monkey Girl is Destroying Online Feminism

Islander Ferried a Rapist to the Civilized World

Act-of-Goddess Accidentally Created an Invasive Species

Senate Advances Crowdfunding-Regulation Bill

A Primatologist Looked at Monkey Girl’s Vlogs

Daye Janus’ Hidden Army

The Backers had a Party; You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

Early Signs there was Something up with Transplant and Pawn

Sacred Queen’s Panel at Precon: The Internet Cringes for Forty-five Minutes

Three Girls Injured at Lichen-Proxy Slumber Party

Paladina’s Ex Tells All

Internet Feminism is Collapsing… and Paladina’s to Blame

This Week in Monkey Girl Meltdowns

Golden Boy Ignores a Lymphoma Patient’s Plea

Prehero Leaps from Tall Building, Thanks Justice Backers in Note

Does Justice Backer Cosplay Glorify Their Actions?

The Internet Civil War Caused by the Justice Backers

Opossum Player’s Doctorless Abortions

Wallflower’s Bruises… is Archive the Latest Villain?

The Justice Backers: an SJW Plot

Poll Says Juries More Likely to Convict if the Accused were Captured by Backers

Sexual Harassment in the Superhero Workplace

Backer Barn Discovered!  You Won’t Believe What They Left Behind!

Three Times Swagglerock69 was on to Something

Deckard Nearly Dies in Prison from Lingering Hand Infection

We Can’t All Grow up to be Heroes

Orb is Technically an Illegal Immigrant

The Lichen’s Human Infiltration

Is Littering the Way to Honor Drill Baby?  People in this Community Think so

Monkey Girl’s Fictitious ‘Harassers’

Tin Soldier Diary #61

(transcribed from video log)

Hello financial backers and welcome to Tin Soldier diary entry number sixty-one.  Today I will be recounting our most recent mission and all of the new information that has come to light.  I estimate this entry will be 6,173 words long, so please budget the appropriate amount of time to read it based on your individual reading speed.  If you need to test your reading speed, click here and follow the listed instructions.

I think that my record of these events may become the most historically significant.  As a mechanical free individual, I did not face the threat of the Lichen’s mind control, giving me the ability to detach myself from the situation and observe it critically and objectively.  I assure you that nothing written here is colored by emotion or exaggerated.

In the first part of this entry I will describe the events immediately preceding our final confrontation with the Lichen and how we developed our plan to counter its actions.  It all started while several of us were enjoying each other’s company in a common room of the Bay.  I was using a rag and a bottle of polish to clean the hundreds of attachments that came along with my rifle.  I could have easily done this in private, but the presence of my friends puts me at ease even while I’m doing something as simple as maintenance.  They are kind enough to allow me to whistle various big band melodies while I work.  I was seventy-eight percent finished polishing the machete attachment when Alpha Dog slid into the room with several hounds.

“I figured it out!” he exclaimed.  “I know where it’s going down; I know where the Lichen is going and we have to get there first.  Hell, we might already be too late.”

“Take a breath,” Orb suggested.  Alpha Dog sucked in air as fast as he could and explained himself.

“The things.  The stupid cryptic prophecy-sounding things the Lichen said when it had us eating dirt.  I know what it meant.  I know it seems weird that it would tell us anything, but I guess it thought there was no way I would figure it out but of course I did!”  We all stared in anticipation.  “Okay, here goes:  The Lichen said those Svengali-seeds take years to cook up and that people had been living around them and admiring them the whole time.”

“Yeah, so?” Golden Boy asked.

“Well what freaky plant showed up in the last few years that people really like?  That’s how I figured it out; we have a hundred pictures of it lying around this building, all over pillow cases and postcards and the rest of our garbage.  The Justice Juniper!  The mind control seeds are in the Justice Juniper!  We have to get to them before the Lichen does. For all I know they’re on some kind of biological egg timer and might even activate without it!  I’ll send some dogs and supplies in advance to start locking down the site, but I want us to be wheels up in four hours.  The good news is that I don’t think it has started yet.  That kind of thing would count as a natural disaster, so you’d be able to feel it, right Goddess?”  He looked at her expectantly.

“Uhm well, perhaps.  Possibly,” she said with hesitation.

“Good Enough.”

“Are we going to cut it down?” Act-of-Goddess asked.

“No, not right away.  We don’t know if cutting into it will release all that powdered seed stuff.  The Lichen might even want us to do that.  We have to get to it, find a way to hermetically seal it off from everybody, and then immolate the damn thing until even Satan won’t take the ashes.”

“I doubt the temperature at which ashes were created would affect Satan’s opinion of them,” I pointed out.

“I’m just being figurative,” he fumed.

“I know.  I completely understand figurative language,” I said.  It seemed he had forgotten.  “Satan is a relatively consistent fictional figure.  He has never shown an aversion to the products of particularly intense fires.”

“Never mind that.  We’re pulling out all the stops guys.  I’m calling Impala; they’ll join us on site to help us fight off the Lichen and anything else that shows up.  I’m bringing in Sportfish, Sacred Queen, and Armigo, the whole Justice Backers collection.  Monkey Girl I want you to call up the Unfridgable Girl and have her hook us up with some locals around the tree who might have access to large quantities of herbicides and fungicides or fire trucks.  If it starts to release those seeds we can spray the hell out of it and hope for the best.”

“Okay,” she agreed and stood up to perform her task.  Paladina interrupted her exit.

“Are we going to alert the army?” she asked.

“No,” Alpha Dog immediately answered.  “Their first instinct will be to bomb it and end up spreading its gunk even faster.  If they show up they won’t listen to anything we tell them and I guarantee that thing will go off.  They don’t have the ability to stop those plant monsters.”

“We don’t have the ability to stop them,” Orb said.  I believe the others had been thinking the same thing.  “They’ve defeated us twice.  We need a stronger plan of action.”

“This is all we’ve got!” Alpha Dog said, arms flailing and voice cracking.  “You choose now to tell me my plans are no good, after all these years?  We can’t give more than we’ve got.  I know it’s a bad plan but…”

“Act-of-Goddess has a better one,” he said.  We all turned to look at her.  She looked like she regretted everything she’d ever said to Orb.

“Well what is it?” Alpha Dog demanded.  “We don’t have all day.  I wanted you to be down there five minutes ago Goddess, building a lava moat to keep them from reaching under us and snagging it by the roots.”

“My plan… is to appease the Lichen,” she said.  Alpha Dog was aghast.  I was eager to hear her plan.  As I’ve said, I think I understood our long odds the best.  I did not harbor any hope that a sudden spark of human solidarity or ingenuity would save us from a creature so practiced in the arts of survival and biological manipulation.  If anything had a chance at combatting it, I would put any monetary wagers on her elemental manipulation.

“And how exactly do you propose we do that?  You want to bring it a bushel of organic pears and tell it we’re going to replace everybody’s cars with tandem-flipping-bicycles!?”

“I propose we appease it by protecting the environment… permanently,” she said.  “I… I have been thinking a lot about storms on other planets lately.  You know about the red spot on Jupiter, but there are others.  Icy ones, hot ones, ones that come in pairs, and even one shaped like a hexagon.  They’re enormous and powerful and their lifespans can last hundreds of years.  I’ve read all about them.”

“So!?”

“So I think I can create an Earth equivalent.  I think my powers can channel wind, moisture, and magnetic energy in such a way that I can create storms like that.  They can act as barriers.  A delicate environment can remain safe inside the eye of the storm, while its dangerous elements keep human beings out.  I can create storms around everything the Lichen wants to protect: rainforests, reefs, anything.”

“You want to put up giant storm fences that keep our own species away from valuable resources?”

“To protect them,” she said, “and to protect everything in the long run.”

“We can’t do that!”

“Why not?” Orb asked.

“That would change the entire world!”

“Is that not what we set out to do in the first place?”

“People will hate us!  We don’t own those lands.  I don’t have a deed to the everglades.”

“Does anybody?” Goddess countered.

“I’ve thought about that too,” Monkey Girl said.  “How does a person buy a forest in the first place?  How do they take it from the rest of us?  Earth is for everyone.”

“Oh my god!” Alpha Dog shouted, smacking his temples with his fingers repeatedly.  “Have you all gone completely insane?  Now is not the time to discuss this liberal arts college Indian concept of ownership garbage.  We have to go kill a giant-ass weed.”

“I vote for Goddess’ plan,” Golden Boy said.

“Seconded,” Paladina added.  I cast my vote as well.  To me the compartmentalization of the planet seemed the soundest strategy.  I did not have confidence in our ability or the U.S. army’s to prevent the catastrophe.  Everyone except Alpha Dog approved.

“We’re not dictators,” he insisted.  “We can’t make an executive decision for the entire world!”

“Our job is to protect everyone,” Goddess said.  “There is only one way to do that now.  I don’t mind being reviled if we can protect both the Earth and its people.”

“This is what we will do,” Orb said.  He’d given an order.  Never in his capacity as co-leader of the Backers had Orb given such a concrete order.  I’ve long suspected his warm façade hid an objectivity that neared my mechanical perfection.  Orb is human, but he understands better than any free individual the precise limits of his species.  You are not infallible, and pride cannot always win the day.  Alpha Dog had been outvoted by both the team and his partner.  We were going to act with or without him.

“I guess I’m going down with the ship too,” he relented.  “I’d argue if we had the time, but we really really don’t.”

“I need something to help me create the storms,” Act-of-Goddess said.  “When I moved the Bay I treated the walls as if they were an extension of my own body.  I can’t do that with such large areas.  I’ll need some sort of antennae, something to focus my abilities through or I’ll never be able to generate enough energy to make the storms self-sustaining.”

“I’ve got an idea for that,” Alpha Dog said, seemingly pacified by his ability to contribute.  “Come with me Goddess.  The rest of you, wheels up in four hours.  Prepare for battle.  Possibly death.  A cataclysmic disaster at the very least.  Should be a blast.”

So we set ourselves to the task of preparation.  I finished oiling my attachments and painstakingly selected the ones I deemed most appropriate for the situation: flamethrower, machete, shears, chainsaw, and a few others that made me look more like a gardener than a soldier.  When he had a spare moment, Alpha Dog presented me with a new hat to replace the one I’d lost to the jaws of Venus Man-eater.  It was an exquisite piece decorated with a leather flower; something fit more for a general than a soldier.  I will cherish it always.  Though I have been told to avoid ‘spoilers’ in my diaries, I don’t think you will mind learning my hat did in fact survive the bloodshed ahead of us.

Alpha Dog activated every dog he had at his disposal, including the incomplete ones from the workshop that lacked full paneling and paint.  He even strapped a few legless ones to the helicopters that could be placed on their haunches and used as both scanners and automated turrets with nonlethal ammunition.  The puppies were conscripted as well.  I believe he might have thawed out the Pentazar specimens and marched them into battle if they had seemed obedient enough.

Everyone donned the thickest and most armored versions of their costumes.  The others excused themselves for a few minutes each; I suspect to record farewell messages to loved ones in the event that they did not return.  I thought doing something similar might assuage my own fears, so I wrote a message to all my friends of color, telling them that should I die I wished them the best in their efforts to attain the privileges other have long enjoyed.  Several of them were nice enough to get back to me almost immediately.  A few were rude.

In the second part of this entry I will describe the confrontation itself.  When the four hours were up, Chomp and Bit rose out of the Bay into the sky.  The helicopters hovered as Act-of-Goddess, propelled by a powerful cyclone beneath her, ascended to join us.  I noticed the mechanical gauntlets on her forearms and hands.  She lifted her arms into the air.  A pair of giant hands appeared alongside her, casting off rivulets of water from the tank where they’d rested.  The old ordinances of Woman’s Touch would act as her antennae.  It is incredible both that Alpha Dog found the time to reinstall their inner workings and that he found the time to give them a quick coat of paint in the color scheme of our logo.  Act-of-Goddess clenched her fists and the giant machines responded with a sound like two vault doors applauding.

“Give her a hand everybody,” Alpha Dog could not resist saying.  We began our journey to the national park where the Justice Juniper was located.  Act-of-Goddess would build her first storm there in the hope that if the Lichen showed itself, it would refrain from activating the seeds long enough to see the efficacy of Goddess’ tactic.  That was what we all hoped for.

Our arrival at the tree created another flurry of activity, this one significantly larger in scope.  A township of sorts composed of small businesses that treated the tree as their patron saint had, over the years, filled the field with small buildings and big signs.  The Juniper was such a beloved symbol that the boundaries of the national park had been altered slightly to allow the existence of such buildings.  Though the tree was their livelihood, the people who lived here had a respect for us and our work that facilitated our current goals.  Local backers provided us with a fire truck and several pressure washers filled with herbicides.

One man, a member of their fire department, delivered himself along with the truck.  He told us he wanted to stay and fight alongside us.

“Well since you brought your own costume, sure,” Alpha Dog said.  We’ll call you… Fire Chief.  Welcome to the Justice Backers.  You understand we might be about to die right?  It’s not looking great for us.  We appreciate the sentiment but you can still turn around and go home to your wife and kids or whatever.”

“All I have to go back to is some microwaveable spring rolls,” he said.  “I’ve always admired you guys.  I wished all the time to have a chance like this.  I think a lot of backers would kill to be in my position.”

“Glad to hear it,” Alpha Dog said as he clapped his hand on the man’s shoulder.  He told him to go man the firetruck.

“Are you really letting him stay?” Monkey Girl asked him quietly.

“I don’t see why we can’t let a backer put his money where his mouth is.  Plus, that’s one more person who can dilute some of the blame after this is over.  Golden Boy is the only other person here who can drive a firetruck anyway, and he’ll be too busy plucking petals from those daisy chains.”

Fire Chief convinced the neighborhood watch to quietly help evacuate everyone in the immediate vicinity of the tree.  Not a soul, among hundreds, reported us to the media or the authorities, so we were free to prepare our defenses.  I hoped the attitude would prove an accurate cross-section for the rest of the world.

Act-of-Goddess installed a volcanic moat that no worm or root could cross under.  We set up the dog turrets and the fire truck as defensive posts.  The truck’s extended ladder made an excellent watchtower for one of the dogs to climb and observe the horizon.  We were only half-finished when Impala’s team and the independent Backers arrived.

It did not take long to brief them.  There were very few objections to Act-of-Goddess’ plan.  They all knew her and trusted in her abilities; after all, many of their lives had been saved by them repeatedly.  No one felt the need to explicitly say how such an action could easily spell the end for the Justice Backers.  We all knew it was the kind of action that could set armies and mobs upon us.

That was the first time I’d met Armigo or Sacred Queen.  Their abilities were unusual.  Thanks to the almost worshipful nature of the locals regarding the tree, Sacred Queen had plenty of residual positive energy to work with.  The radiance her skin created was unlike anything I’d ever seen, sort of like two flashlights, deeply in love, calling to each other with their beams on opposite sides of a panel of stained glass.  Can you believe Alpha Dog forgot, even for a moment, my mastery of figurative language?

Armigo’s demonstration was equally impressive.  I watched as the mechanical tendrils of his suit tore apart a lamp post, a mailbox, and a traffic light to create a powerful suit of armor around him.  The traffic lights flashed erratically on his shoulders and chest, but I assume that was an unintentional side effect.  I quickly shook his hand and made him my newest Hispanic friend.

“Who’s that?” Impala asked Alpha Dog, pointing at Fire Chief.

“New Justice Backer.  He volunteered five minutes ago,” our leader said, flashing a smile that suggested if the entire world was going to fall apart his standards were allowed to as well.

“I’ll go give him the oath,” Impala said with a sigh.

“You guys have an oath?  Why didn’t I think of that?” Alpha Dog asked himself.

Impala had brought another unexpected soldier to fight with us: Salt Shaker.  Most of us were quick to embrace her and welcome her back into the fold.  Alpha Dog’s tolerance of our decisions continued to creak under the immense strain.  He managed to keep his tone semi-civil rather than overtly venomous.

“I thought you were on your baby daddy’s side.”

“I’m on both sides.”

“How does that work exactly?”

“I know he’s doing what he thinks is right; I just don’t entirely agree.  I know that you guys need my help, so I’m here to help.  I won’t hurt Pawn or Transplant but I will keep them and their soldiers away from the tree.  It’s not that complicated.”

“Your boyfriend is worshipping Audrey three and he’s about to blow a load of mind-controlling spores all over everyone; it is kind of complicated.  And where’s Sugarcane?”

“My mother has become an even better babysitter since the last time you asked.  Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll take my complicated self to the other side of the tree so you don’t have to worry about me.”  She walked off.  I have missed her sass.  Though I lack the sense of taste, I often use my mastery of figurative language to interpret our situations with meal and food analogies.  The spice Salt Shaker offers makes that so much easier.

That was how we all came together.  Every available Justice Backer from the inception of our crowdsourced idea stood around the tree, ready to lay down their lives to defend the freedoms of individuals around the world.  It was a beautiful image, darkened only by the shadow of a powerful army and the knowledge that our uniting was more of a sunset than a sunrise.  These are the men, women, and machines who did their best to protect you that day: Alpha Dog, Impala, Monkey Girl, Golden Boy, Archive, Wallflower, Orb, Act-of-Goddess, Salt Shaker, Electric Eel, Opossum Player, Paladina, Sportfish, Sacred Queen, Armigo, Fire Chief, and Tin Soldier.

Goddess, upon completing the moat, immediately began the process of creating a perpetual storm.  She would have to circle the entire boundaries of the park, and in doing so would not be able to significantly contribute to the battle.  This was another disadvantage for us, but it was a privilege to see her work.  The giant metal hands moved fluidly as she guided them through the air in wide sweeps.  Wind sucked in and out.  Some of the loose leaves in the air vanished, spirited off to whichever corner of the globe she was siphoning the weather effects from.  A horizontal cyclone of black and blue clouds grew between the hands.  She pinched its edges and whipped the spiraling phenomenon across the sky.  Thunder and lightning crackled inside the tube, but the forces at play were so powerful that no bolt escaped and every crack of thunder was muffled as if one of the layers of atmosphere between us was a giant quilt of insulation.  The colossal metal fingers raked through the tube and pulled the dark swirling chaos in a curving line away from the tree.  It was difficult to pull our eyes from her work as she flew away, but the rapidly approaching army of floral creatures demanded our attention with even greater force.

“Here they come!” Alpha Dog shouted.  Everyone dropped into their positions.  “We don’t have any way to signal them do we?  Crap, crap crap… we don’t have a projector or anything.  Uhm… Try and talk them out of attacking if you get the chance,” he said weakly.  “The top priority, at all costs, is to prevent any of them from laying a green thumb on that damn tree.  Justice Backers, brace yourselves!  Brace each other!”

I spotted Transplant leading his force’s charge with my binocular vision.  He was perched atop a great spike of twisted wood, leaning forward and propelling the plant through the shallowest layers of soil like a plow.  He was flanked by many gargantuan earthworms, ridden by the other lieutenants of the Lichen and most of their green soldiers.  A few flew above them on fibrous seed-membrane wings.  They approached at such high speed that I knew there would be no time to discuss anything.  I shot first.

My rifle has a longer range than any of our turrets, so I targeted their airborne units and punched holes in their wings until they were forced to return to the ground.  Only two of them were incapacitated by the time they entered the turrets’ range.

Sportfish and Orb flew into action as the dogs fired upon their foes.  Orb sped through buildings like they were made of toothpicks, bowling over hordes of plant men as they dismounted their worms.  Sportfish’s concussive blasters held the tide at bay for mere moments before she was swarmed by the remaining airborne enemies.  I was going to pick them off her as best I could, but they were upon us.  A worm rose from underneath me and wrapped around my leg.  I clipped it in half with my bayonet shears and repeated the task to free Archive.  She returned the favor by knocking a milkweed-man away from me with the beanbag shotgun she’d brought.  She peered through the flesh of all the worms and told me the location of the lieutenants.  I took it upon myself to reach and disable them, in the hopes their minions would scatter without leaders.

I signaled some of the dogs my plan of action; three of them ran in front of me and joined to form a dogsled.  I hopped on and fired my rifle repeatedly as they pulled me closer to my targets.  All the while I witnessed my team in the full glory of cooperation.

I know there is a taboo against revealing a person’s salary, but given that these events represent a culmination of all our prior missions, I feel obligated to emphasize the true strength of our commitment with hard data.  Before I was a Justice Backer I was literally sold at auction.  I had been appraised and given a concrete value.  Since then I have strived to achieve a value that no adhesive can keep a price tag on.  I have added each Backers’ average yearly salary (given sufficient data) after their names to show you not how much they are worth, but how little money it takes to persuade us to fight for righteous causes.  Many think us wealthy beggars, but I must remind you that most Backer funds have always gone to equipment, utilities, insurance, and occasionally bribes before they get to us.  I will also remind you that many funds were contributed to individual Backers rather than the team.  Even those of us who proved unpopular were prepared to die for our contributors.

Salt Shaker’s (19,000 USD) mineral darts knocked a clover-woman out of the sky.  The clover-woman landed on Paladina (16,000 USD) who skewered her through the navel with a spear and tossed her back.  Unphased by what would be a mortal wound to a human, the clover fiend tried to engage Paladina again, but Electric Eel (21,000 USD) landed a slimy connection between her and a reed-man and shocked them both to their knees.

Fire Chief (insufficient data) blasted a creature with grasping roots all over its body off his truck with a high pressure hose, protecting the distracted Armigo (insufficient data).  He hopped in the truck’s cab and tried to pull it forward, but the back wheels were stuck in some loose earth.  Golden Boy (26,000 USD) grunted and rammed the vehicle with his shoulder from behind, sending it into motion.  The truck flattened plant creatures left and right, creating a window for Monkey Girl (6,000 USD), Impala (26,000 USD), and Sacred Queen (insufficient data) to regain their footing and assault the next wave.

Sacred Queen stood behind the two other women and unleashed a wave of light to blind the plant people.  Impala leapt into their midst; each kick sent one flying backward.  Monkey Girl produced a similar effect by jumping onto their shoulders and then flipping them forward.  Even so, the fiends’ numbers were too great.  The women were quickly buried under a pile of nine writhing bodies.  I pulled a lever on the dog sled, which broke it up and allowed the three dogs to go and assist the women.  The last I saw of that fight was the dogs sinking their teeth into a few bamboo ankles and dragging them away from the pile.

Without the support of Alpha Dog’s (4,000 USD) hounds, my chance of stopping the lieutenants’ advance was slim.  Still I tried.  I completely emptied my rifle into Pawn, which turned him into a useless pile of sand for exactly twelve seconds.  A worm the thickness of a bridge cable slithered by and knocked me over.  Rot appeared above me and slammed his palm onto my chest.  Bubbling purple mold grew across my metal skin and threatened to root me in place.  A fist struck Rot in the face.  I saw the imprint of four knuckles in his putrid cheek.  My mechanical eyes do not fall for Wallflower’s (14,000 USD) illusion, but Rot had not seen her coming.  The two fought while I wrenched myself out of the rapidly rooting muck.  Rot was about to gain the upper hand when Tin Scout, my loyal pup, appeared beside me.  He yipped eagerly.  He is an excellent animal ward, eager to please and defend the world.  I tossed the mechanical scamp like a football; he latched onto Rot’s face and dug at his eyes with his teeth and claws.  He bought sufficient time for Wallflower to vanish and me to get my feet back under me.

I attached my flame throwing canister to the end of my rifle and sprayed Rot with fire.  His skin hissed and steamed and blackened.  Scout retreated.  I thought perhaps I could win the fight, but the other lieutenants were not far away.  Venus exploded out of the dirt under me and snapped my rifle in half with her jaws.  I had fallen for her tactics a second time.  I realized a little too late that perhaps the creature’s botanical composition gave her a more intense hatred for a machine Backer than any of the others.  I sensed the fury of a billion trees felled by chainsaws.  She saw me as the chainsaw in this analogy.  If I had recognized this earlier perhaps my original hat could have been spared.

I was certain I was doomed as another set of her jaws crushed my leg.  I deliberately accessed my memory and flashed my life before my eyes in preparation, but I was saved at the last moment by an old friend.  A second before a six inch bright red thorn pierced my eye, a cage of roots closed around me and locked me to the ground.

“He’s done,” Transplant said from atop his leafy spire.  “Move on Venus.”  The man eater snarled and snaked her way closer to the Juniper.

“Wait a minute,” I called after Transplant, but he was already gliding away.  “We’re protecting the Earth.  Act-of-Goddess is protecting it as we speak.”  He glanced over his shoulder but did not slow.  I was helpless; the roots held me so tightly that I could not reach any of my sharp implements.  All of the dogs and puppies were destroyed or occupied with more life-threatening situations.  All I could do was watch as our valiant defense collapsed and crumbled under the Lichen’s army.

I saw Transplant skewer Opossum Player (20,000) USD on a branch and leave her there.  Rot glued Alpha Dog to the side of the overturned fire truck.  Pawn smashed his forehead against Electric Eel’s, knocking him unconscious and sending a whip of electric slime falling back to the ground.  Venus bit Golden Boy’s shoulder.  He cried out in agony and blood ran down the front of his uniform.  It dripped to the ground where one of the Lichen’s soldiers eyed the crimson puddle curiously.  It dabbed its finger in it like paint and, deciding the shade was unpleasant, wiped it on the pale ribbed side of a passing worm.  The sky darkened, but the determined lieutenants of the Lichen did not notice.  They continued their assault.  Dry Worm’s pets squeezed Orb (31,000 USD) until his shell shattered and then Transplant hung him in a tree by his wrists.

Archive (18,000 USD) and Wallflower were buried up to their chests in soil.  Both of Archive’s eyes were swollen shut from an injury I had not witnessed.  Wallflower could only reach far enough to touch one finger to her partner’s shoulder.  Each young woman was a picture of a distinct anguish, the kind of image that would have tortured the minds of Renaissance painters if they dared try to interpret it on canvas.  Trapped further from the battle than the rest, I was left out of the portrait of our defeat.

Transplant reached the molten moat.  He stepped from his tree and onto a worm so large it had no problem arcing a section of its body over the glowing liquid rock.  He held out his right hand.  The worm gently moved him closer and closer to the surface of the Juniper.  One touch and man would be irreversibly changed.  Pacified.  Dulled.  Individuals, but certainly not free.  His hand did not tremble.

“Wait!  Wait goddamn it!” Alpha Dog screamed.  “Wait you son of a bitch!  Listen you…”

“It’s okay,” Transplant said, turning towards his former leader.  “You can’t control yourself.  You can’t admit you need help.  You can relax now. We’ll do it for you.”

“Just wait!  The storm!  We’re doing you dirty work for you so just stop!”

“There’s no point in arguing,” Transplant said over him.  “Even if you had stopped us here, there are a hundred other batches maturing.  I left a plant behind on every mission remember?  In a few days another will be ready, then another, and so on.  It’s over.”  His hand moved forward again.

A burst of energy blasted a layer of bark off the tree and caused Transplant and his worm to recoil.  Sportfish (insufficient data) swooped in on a final attempt to separate him from the Juniper.  I could see her suit was ripped and her helmet cracked.  The battle had taken much from her, so much in fact that she’d neglected to monitor the water levels inside her jet pods.  She tried to regain altitude but the pods sputtered and she tumbled through the air.  She was seconds from colliding with the ground when a churning roaring waterfall appeared out of nowhere.  She passed through its stream, refilling her pods just enough for a controlled descent.

I followed the waterfall to its origin, the palm of one of the mechanical hands.  Act-of-Goddess was returning.  I saw her soaring in from the south, one hand held out in front to provide the waterfall, and the other dragging dark clouds and tangles of lightning between its fingers.  She brought both the hands back together and completed the circle of aerated sky.  The air above us rumbled and quaked and darkened further.  It started to sprinkle.  The dark clouds grew down towards the ground and sped up.  Bright blue bolts rippled within them like fish darting around under the surface of a disturbed river.  Roiling thunderheads swelled and smashed into each other.  Act-of-Goddess hovered in the midst of it all, four hands raised triumphantly.  She clapped the metal ones and created a shockwave that ran through everything.  I felt every bolt in my body rattle.  Leaves fell from the creaking Juniper.  The clouds absorbed the wave and settled into a rhythm.  The storm was born.  The deed was done.  Man could no longer reach the interior of the park without exerting the incredibly expensive effort of breaching its elemental defenses.  We could not even see beyond the wall of dark clouds.

“You see?” Alpha Dog yelled, being the first to recover his senses.  “We did it!  This park is protected!  You don’t have to scramble anybody’s brain!”

“What is this?” Transplant asked, his palm now turned up to the sky.  Raindrops dances across it.

“It is a permanent storm,” Act-of-Goddess boomed as she descended into the crowd of mortals.  “It is a barrier of protection that will last hundreds of years, well beyond my own death.  I will put them up wherever the Lichen needs them.”  Venus hissed at Goddess and spat out all the rain that had gathered in her top maw.  If I had to translate the sound I would say she was accusing her of lying.

“It’s the truth,” Transplant practically whispered.

“I’ll show you where to put the others,” Pawn said.  Act-of-Goddess nodded.  He seemed pleased with the solution.  Transplant released Salt Shaker from a tangle of roots and Pawn shared an embrace with her that I won’t claim to understand.  It was as if the conflict hadn’t even driven the smallest of wedges between them.  They walked, hand in hand, into a portal created by Goddess.  The three of them, and the hands that changed the world, disappeared.

Transplant reached out and pressed his palm against the Juniper’s raw wood, right where Sportfish had blasted the bark away.

“No!” Alpha Dog screamed.

“You need to learn to relax Eben,” Transplant said.  The Juniper moaned.  Purple husks emerged from the wood all over it and fell to the ground.  They dried up in the air and crumbled into dust.  “Now the tree is harmless.”

The minions of the Lichen freed us from our bonds just as the moat was blackening under the rain.  They offered to treat our wounds, but we declined.  Wallflower would not release her arms from around Archive, and the tears streaming down her face seemed mightier and more permanent than the waterfall we’d just witnessed.  Golden Boy was wheezing.  The hound that would normally bandage his chest at times like this was destroyed.  Fire Chief helped Alpha Dog salvage what he could.  I must admit I wanted the lingering creatures to leave us so we could lick our wounds in peace.  Had we done what was right?  There is no telling.  Right cannot be manipulated like clouds or trees.  If we did wrong it will cause havoc in our souls for the rest of our lives and there will be no separating it from the rest.

Transplant walked up to Alpha Dog as the Lichen’s army prepared to depart.  He handed him a notebook, a diary I believe.  Alpha Dog took it silently.  They looked at each other for the longest time, angered and hurt by the complexity of the forces at play.  They weren’t the flat comic images that had inspired them.  None of us were.  Perhaps that is why many people think us inevitable failures.  No goodbyes were said.  The seeds of a revolution sank back into the ground, their sprouting narrowly avoided by the actions of a few brave individuals and the goddess among them.

In the final part of this entry I will not answer questions.  There is only one question on my mind.  Will it be possible to continue?

This is the conclusion of diary entry #61.

Backer Update #172 (The Poll)

I’m Alpha Dog and I’m still here.  I know a lot of you don’t want that.  You want to jump on the bandwagon and hunt us alongside your politicians and your militaries.  You want to slap that ‘ecological terrorist’ label on us the same way the media has been doing.  It’s not as simple as all that and if you’re smarter than you were in fourth grade you should know that.

I’m the first to admit it wasn’t the perfect solution, even environmentally.  Those storms screwed up plenty of migration pathways and things like that.  I don’t believe anyone who says it wasn’t worth it.  We can’t get to some juicy rainforest wood or the coal under a few mountains; so what?  If you were a fan of Drill Baby you should remember that he said there was nothing stronger than human ingenuity.  We can find ways around it.  Wetlands, reefs, forests… some fishing spots… they’re out of our reach.  Some people have lost the careers associated with this land.  Some families have lost access to the bush meat that fed them.  I’m sorry, I am, but our hand was forced.  The Lichen was unstoppable and the Justice Backers are the only reason you weren’t turned into a grass-munching black-eyed cow of a person.  Would you rather have that?

These events have changed us just as much as anyone else.  We’ve lost Pawn and Transplant permanently.  The diary Transplant gave me explained, in detail, every event leading up to the Justice Juniper.  It talked about how the Lichen offered them new lives for their service.  That thing is real good at doing whatever it wants to your body.  It offered them new faces so they could start over.  Pawn chose to stay with the Lichen in case it ever needs another human representative.  So did Rot and that Venus monster.  Transplant and Dry Worm took the offer.  Obviously the new face would be pointless if he told me where he was going or what he was planning to do.

The muckity-mucks of the world want their heads and our heads so badly that Salt Shaker can’t live out in the open anymore.  She’ll be rejoining us, whether or not us is still a service the world is interested in.  Sugarcane will be here too; now she has no choice but to grow up amongst superheroes.

Monkey Girl is done.  She’s taken the social media part of her life, put it in a box, put the box in the attic, and then burned the house down.  A bit drastic if you ask me but the girl has made up her mind.  She’ll be unplugging permanently and joining Islander in his continued refugee operations.  The jackasses of the world might have scared the mask off her, but she’ll never be done being a hero.

Since the team is shrinking and the search for us growing more intense, Impala and I have decided to merge our two teams back together.  Act-of-Goddess will move us around to different eyes of the storms she created frequently to avoid detection and interference.

Dreamweaver was returned to us one night.  I think the Lichen slithered under our home and let her escape to the nearest mind.  She’s alive, but completely traumatized.  There’s a spot in Orb’s mind, a tiny dead spot from the time Rot deprived him of oxygen, where she prefers to stay now.  She says it’s quiet and she needs that.

So here we are.  Maybe we broke too many rules.  The surface of the Earth now has some beautiful blue acne courtesy of us and it’s not going away for hundreds of years.  I still think we can do good in this world, the good that most official bodies ignore.  I started the Justice Backers with little more than a dream.  You brought it to life.  Now are you going to cut off our air or let us go on living?  As always, I’m leaving it up to you backers.

 

Should the Justice Backers Continue?  (This poll closes in two days)

 

Yes – 47%

 

No – 53%

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One thought on “Justice Backers: The Lichen Calls (Finale)

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