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*** ‘Who was that woman?’ Vix Vulpi asked his receptionist through the speaker phone as he regarded the security camera of the outside corridor. He watched the tall blonde female and her escort in the trench coat disappear through an exit portal. ‘A one, Detective Fischer, Chief Video Maker,’ his receptionist’s voice buzzed back. ‘What did she want?’ Gemin Confrater asked with narrowed eyes from the other side of the conference table as he straightened his cravat. ‘She sought an audience with the Guild over a matter she would not discuss with me.’ ‘… I wonder …’ Leo Rudo said, patting his lip. ‘A thought is occurring to me.’ ‘Makes a change,’ Stella Mont snorted, placing down her pen. ‘Now, now, Stella,’ Lumen Alacritas chided. ‘What are you pondering Leo?’ ‘Aside from the hours until lunchtime,’ Pullus Silhouette said under his breath. ‘Do you suppose they are here with matters concerning The Buster Bot?’ Leo Rudo said quickly. The Guild of Video Makers considered the point in their own individual way. Vix Vulpi, the Chief Video Maker stepled his fingers and rested his forehead on the tips before raising his eyes to his fellows. ‘This could admittedly be a problem,’ he said finally. ‘The Buster Bot seems to be causing trouble for everybody concerned.’ ‘So long as it’s hampering the movements of those leeches,’ Stella Mont said stiffly. ‘And possible threat to us is acceptable.’ ‘Any threat to us is non-existent,’ Gemin Confrater shrugged. ‘Might I remind you of how exceedingly well protected we are. It would take an army to enter this sanctum without our bidding.’ Vix Vulpi rose from his high-backed chair and strode over to the large window. ‘I grow weary of this irrelevant matter,’ he said coolly. ‘What of our current dilemma?’ ‘The papers are ready,’ Stella Mont said stiffly. ‘Our courier is preparing to depart as we speak.’ ‘Great!’ Leo Rudo said bracingly, pounding a podgy fist on the table. ‘Things are going well!’ ‘It bodes well, indeed,’ Pullus Silhouette grinned. ‘We are having an excellent month my fellow Video Makers.’ ‘First the Video Lords blow themselves to kingdom come, The Buster-Bot appears spreading mayhem amongst the leechers and now we have everything we need to annihilate our latest adversary,’ Stella Mont sat back in her chair with a satisfactory smirk on her face. ‘These Mercury Rooms will be gone before the day is through.’ *** Glaring looks greeted the smartly dressed man that strode unceremoniously into the Moderator’s and Administrator’s section of the Mercury Rooms. He gave a disdainful look around the dark grey walls and seated himself behind the largest desk without being asked. Mooney’s eyes narrowed. Though Fink would never sit in that desk until he could fully cross into this dimension, it was still Fink’s desk. The newcomer waved a dismissive hand at this when Mooney mentioned it. ‘I’m not here to bow and scrape,’ the man tutted in an agitated fashion. ‘Quite the reverse,’ he snapped open a briefcase and laid a set of papers out on the desk in front of him. ‘This,’ he said, motioning to a thick set of documents. ‘Is an order direct from the Guild of Video Makers demanding the closure of this community.’ ‘On what grounds?’ Red rose from his seat.
The newcomer puffed. ‘I don’t think you heard me,’ he said, flashing his teeth angrily. ‘This is a demand direct from the Guild of Video Makers. I am Vix Vulpi’s head assistant! That’s Vix Vulpi, The Chief Video Maker for Twentieth Century Fox, head of the Video Maker’s guild. His will is law in the matter of Video management. This site will be closed immediately without delay.’ ‘Ah,’ Freaka-chu nodded. ‘I see. The Video Makers claim to be the authority in Video Management now?’ ‘They claim nothing that isn’t fact,’ Vulpi’s assistant retorted. ‘That’s not completely right though, is it?’ Freaka-chu shot back. ‘The Video Lords are the final word on matters of this nature. I think you’ll find that this site stays open.’ ‘The Video Lords are dead,’ Vulpi’s assistant snorted. ‘Their dusty old ways are obsolete. The Video Maker’s Guild is now the authority. You video thieves are under our jurisdiction now.’ ‘What did you call us?’ Elion’s head snapped up. Vulpi’s assistant straightened his tie. ‘I called you thieves!’ He cried! Thieves is what you are! You steal the Videos made by my seniors and distribute them illegally.’ ‘OUR SITE DOES NOT DO THIS,’ Fink cut in. ‘INDEED,’ Vatex boomed. ‘OUR LINK HUNTERS MAINLY PINPOINT THE LOCATION OF THE VIDEOS ON THE HOSTING SITES. WE ARE WITHIN THE LAW.’ Vulpi’s assistant sneered. ‘Your little loophole will only stand up for so long. Once we have the laws changed we’ll be taking you over by force. Do yourselves a favour and give up now, before The Guild deems it necessary to press formal charges against you.’ ‘You bastard!’ Jason scowled. ‘What the hell is the matter with you? You see something that works, a community with hundreds of people interacting happily under a united banner, and all you worry about is a dip in your profit margins!’ ‘They are cowards,’ Totoro observed. ‘I have heard of their efforts to destroy the Video Hosting sites. They have so far failed.’ ‘So they’re picking on our site for a petty victory?’ Beakedbard asked through a plume of smoke. ‘That’s a bit lazy … That’s really lazy! Hippo Lazy … have the Guild party got Hippo relatives?’ ‘Enough of your foolishness,’ Vulpi’s assistant said evenly. ‘This site will be closed within the day, or you will face the consequences.’ ‘YOU CANNOT MAKE SUCH A CLAIM,’ Vatex said warningly. ‘WE HAVE DONE NOTHING LEGALLY WRONG.’ ‘SO TAKE A HIKE!’ Krizzo said scornfully. ‘You will pay for your arrogance,’ the assistant scoffed, straightening his tie. ‘I don’t think we will,’ Freaka-chu said. ‘You have no power here. The Mercury Rooms are under the rule of the Video Lords. The Video Makers can go back to making the content; your policing days are over.’ ‘The Video Lords are dead,’ the assistant said angrily. ‘Any jurisdiction they had is gone. Besides, they would agree with what The Guild is doing here. It was the Video Lord’s job to prevent this kind of thing from happening, places such as your Mercury Rooms, which is why it has only recently become possible. The Guild aim to end it.’ Freaka-chu folded his arms and nodded. ‘The High Council of Video Lords has the authority to change its stance on the usage and distribution of electronic content. The High Council itself requires only the presence of the Grand President of Betamax, which can be any Video Lord native of the planet bearing the mark of Raljex gaining more than fifty per-cent of the vote of the entire Video Lord race,’ Freaka-chu fished under his shirt and produced a necklace with a silver pendant, bearing an odd mark that shone as if independent from the metal into which it was carved. ‘Since I’m the only one here, I vote for myself as Grand President …’ Freaka-chu looked over his shoulders at the assembled Moderators. ‘Any objections?’ ‘Not a one,’ Elion replied. ‘Good,’ Freaka-chu said, licking his top lip. ‘I win by a landslide. Thusly, for my first act as Grand President of the Video Lord race I, Freaka-chu, formerly known as The Dr., hereby declare The Mercury Rooms a protected community of the Video Lord’s High Council.’
The assistant’s eyes widened. ‘This is a joke,’ he sneered. ‘You can’t be … There are no … You should be …’ ‘I should be a lot of things,’ Freaka-chu retorted, advancing upon the suited assistant. ‘But right now, I’m quite angry. Angry that you and your little band of inconsequential minions have taken it upon yourselves to try to replace my race before they’re even cold in the ground.’ ‘You tell ‘em,’ Vash nodded. Freaka-chu reared up to his full height and snarled at the assistant. ‘With the Administrator’s permitting, I would very much like to perform my first banning. ‘PROCEED!’ Krizzo shouted back giddily. Freaka-chu took out the strange tool device he had used while fixing the Black Hole and aimed it at the briefcase. The tip of the device lit up, a buzzing noise erupted and the briefcase exploded into tiny fragments, atomizing the papers inside it. The Video Lord’s deep-set eyes rose to meet those of the startled advocate of the Video Makers. ‘I think you’d better go now,’ Freaka-chu said warningly. ‘Tell your masters that the Video Lords aren’t dead yet. They’ve got a good few thousand years of me left before they get to set up shop.’ The assistant balled his fists and tore over to the door. ‘You shall sorely regret this, all of you.’ ‘Too many things to regret already, sunshine,’ Freaka-chu said sternly. ‘Take a number.’ ‘And don’t let the door hit you on the way out!’ Danny called after the suited man as he disappeared out into the Index. ‘Now, now, Daniel,’ Vash said calmingly. ‘Let’s not be undignified in victory … even though we just completely kicked arse there!’ The Moderators settled back around the table, all aside from Freaka-chu who remained standing, returning the device to his pocket. ‘I thought you didn’t use weapons,’ Elion said with narrowed eyes as the device disappeared from view. ‘It’s not a weapon,’ Freaka-chu replied. ‘It’s a tool. A Bionic Screwdriver. A gun is a weapon and a weapon alone. It’s made to kill, to destroy, and while my Screwdriver can be utilized to do harm, it’s also handy for putting up cabinets.’ ‘WELL, ON THAT NOTE,’ Mooney said, his wings flapping furiously as he rose from his chair. ‘I THINK WE SHOULD GET SOME ACTUAL MODERATING DONE. WE’VE CELEBRATED ENOUGH FOR ONE WEEK.’ ‘Killjoy,’ Beakedbard observed. ‘No, he’s right,’ Jeebus said, taking his boots off the table, grabbing his gun and Waldo. ‘I haven’t done any Link Hunting recently and it’s almost time for the new Lost links to appear … plus, there must be more pigeons than can be imagined swarming all over the internet.’ ‘God forbid,’ Elion said, rolling his eyes as he followed Jeebus out of the room. * Vulpi’s assistant marched down the Internet highway. He could not return empty handed, he simply could not. He had come too far! He would lose his job and if the Video Maker’s Guild had anything to do with it, he would never work again. He cursed the Video Lord that had been lucky enough to escape the extinction of his own kind, from the deepest recesses of his soul he cursed The Dr., or whatever ridiculous name he was also using. He had to make a plan. There was absolutely no foreseeable circumstance where he could return to the Guild without bearing news of ALLUC’s closure. ‘You seem troubled friend.’ The assistant stopped to regard at a pale-looking man dressed in black who stood against an information booth. ‘Do I know you?’ the assistant asked unsurely.
‘Oh, we have met before, Doriath,’ the man said with a sly smile. ‘In a different life and certainly under different circumstances, but yes, I know you … and I know your master, Vulpi.’ ‘All know of the Video Makers,’ Doriath replied sharply. ‘Quite so,’ the man in black said with a brief bob of his head as he fixed Doriath with a piercing stare. ‘I would very much like to meet him.’ ‘Well, you can’t,’ Doriath said, resuming his brisk pace. ‘I think I can,’ the man said as he followed the assistant. ‘I have a most interesting proposition for him.’ ‘Then you can put it in writing and submit it via the regular channels,’ Doriath said rudely. ‘Now, if you don’t mind-’ ‘But what if I do mind?’ the man in black retorted. ‘I assure you, that what I have to say will be of much interest to both you and your master.’ Doriath shook his head. ‘I don’t care what you’re selling-’ ‘But everybody needs something,’ the man replied with a grin. ‘What would you say if I were to tell you, that what I am selling is an end to your troubles?’ Doriath stopped in his tracks and laughed loudly. ‘Drugs?’ He chuckled. ‘You think I want drugs?’ ‘I didn’t say drugs,’ the man retorted. ‘I said that I would put an end to your troubles.’ ‘Oh, really?’ ‘Yes, really,’ the man said sharply. ‘But I’ll need an audience with your master first.’ ‘Not gonna happen,’ Doriath said assuredly. The man brought a hand to his chin; assessing the information he had been given. ‘Oh well,’ he said, fixing Doriath with the same mesmerising glare. ‘I respect that your master wishes to retain his privacy. But allow me to do what I can for your worries right now, as a token of good faith between us.’ There was a flash of blue light from the man’s eyes, and Doriath knew no more. * ‘Haven’t seen you guys around here before,’ Jimzac said to a group of new members wearing almost identical suits as they meandered through the Index. ‘No,’ Tommy replied. ‘We only just heard about The Mercury Rooms and decided to see what all the fuss was about.’ ‘Well, I can assure you,’ Jimzac smiled. ‘It’s not over nothing. Let me show you around.’ ‘Thanks,’ Tommy smiled widely as Jimzac led them off towards the main forum areas. ‘I think we’d all appreciate that.’ ‘I know I would,’ Oscarb said happily. The band filed past the Off Topic Section where a group of people were sat in heavy debate. ‘I’m telling you it’s the truth!’ a member with a Welsh accent wearing a black and green striped top and a hat worn at a jaunty angle, argued. ‘The Poddington Peas were the greatest!’ Steffman said loudly. ‘You can’t compare The Poddington Peas to Thundercats!’ Ato-Blade replied, almost mortified as he took his bare feet – with which he had been showing off his party trick of making the “peace” sign with his toes – down off the table and sat further forward. ‘It’s just not done!’ ‘All of you are clearly ignoring the earlier works like Ulysses31!’ Sleezecore said determidly. ‘Not to mention Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors!’ ‘Now I know you’ve been hit on the head,’ the creature known as Ganjanaught said as he used his unsurpassed mimicking ability and morphed into a replica of Leonardo. ‘You can’t beat the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The best by too wide a margin to even measure! There’d be no point!’ he declared, morphing back into a small green dinosaur that looked at the other people in the discussion with contempt. ‘Look at them all,’ Manhunter said quietly from an alcove nearby. ‘They have no idea how close they came to complete disaster.’
‘I think its best that they never do,’ Vash said quietly. ‘Not just because of the PR disaster that would be of course.’ ‘They’re just happier in their ignorance,’ L96A1 said sagely. ‘Too true,’ Danny nodded. ‘I know I would be.’ ‘I wonder what tomorrow will bring …’ Totoro mused as they looked out upon the vastness that The Mercury Rooms had become. * ‘It’s Doriath, Chief Video Maker,’ the receptionist’s voice buzzed through the speakerphone. ‘He says he has good news, shall I permit him entry?’ ‘Yes,’ Gemin Confrater said quickly before Vix Vulpi could deny the assistant entry. Confrater gave a mock shrug of apology as Vulpi looked up to glare at him. ‘What?’ Gemin said with a snort. ‘Don’t you want to hear the actual words? Don’t you want to hear them straight from the horse’s mouth?’ Vulpi sighed reluctantly. ‘Send him in.’ The golden doors to the giant office swung open to permit Doriath entry, but he was not alone. A pale man in a black suit marched beside him with a cold expression on his face that turned into a malicious-looking grin as he approached the giant table. ‘Doriath!’ Stella Mont shouted angrily, rising to her feet. ‘You permit entry to an outsider?’ ‘Oh, don’t blame him,’ the stranger said, his grin persisting. ‘I’m very persuasive.’ ‘Who the hell are you?’ Pullus Silhouette thundered. ‘This is a private guild, you have no business here!’ ‘On the contrary!’ the stranger said, dancing over to where Vix Vulpi sat. ‘I have some extremely important maters to attend to, namely, the destruction of The Mercury Rooms.’ ‘So, they are gone,’ Leo Rudo said with a happy smirk. ‘No such luck, fatso,’ the stranger glowered. ‘No, it appears your efforts will no longer gain you ground there. They have a Video Lord with them and he is protecting their little enterprise, so your assistant tells me.’ Vulpi shot a glare over at Doriath. ‘Is this true?’ Doriath shrugged and nodded. ‘Pretty much, yep,’ he replied. ‘Don’t worry though,’ the stranger said. ‘I’ve got a plan already in motion that will bring them to their knees!’ ‘What interest do you have in the destruction of ALLUC?’ Lumen Alacritas asked quizzically. ‘Why, it’s what I was programmed to do’ the stranger said, spreading his arms wide as he approached Vulpi, leaning over the arm of the huge red leather chair at the Chief Video Maker. ‘Isn’t that right … Daddy?’
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