Take the fight to your adversary without warning. That advice from my father, which he would utter so frequently during the long, brutal training sessions in ninjitsu that consumed my childhood, came back to me as I placed the explosive squib by Brian Mossop’s door. Attack without hesitation.
Penetrating the outermost layers of security in the cliffside fortress that PLoS kept as its headquarters had been elementary: the guards silently dispatched, the lasers easily deflected, the genetically engineered honey badgers roaming the grounds distracted by my robotic cobra decoys. But this office was the inner sanctum of the community manager himself, and the defenses that he might have rigged against his countless enemies were impossible to foresee. My only hope was to take him by surprise here, to hope that my training would be sufficient, so that I might at least put an end to his online reign of terror. Strike without mercy.
The squib fired and the heavy walnut door leapt open, askew on its hinges. I dove instantly into the room, rolling low to avoid the instinctive aim of anyone inside, my own twin Beretta 93R pistols at the ready. But no gunfire or hail of curare-tipped darts greeted me; only the acrid stink and fading reverberations of the blast I had set.
The room was a Victorian curiosity shop of scientific detritus. My rapid scan of the recessed shelves identified the skull of a stegosaurus, a reconstructed Antikythera mechanism, a photograph of one of President Grover Cleveland’s clandestine meetings with Thomas Edison, a diorama of stuffed marmosets, a floating power crystal salvaged from the Roswell crash, the long-lost left foot of Bono pickled in formaldehyde. No one was in the room, however, least of all Brian Mossop himself. His desk was in fact nearly bare, except for his ever-present silver wolf’s head cane placed precisely across the blotter—the first time I had ever seen it outside his grip. Beneath it was a typed note.
I always knew that it would be you who came to settle old scores, Mr. Rennie. Yet by the time you read this, I will be gone.
Gone? I thought. Gone where?
For the next stage of events to transpire, I must absent myself from your physical plane and transcend to a realm of pure digitized thought. You know, at Wired. You cannot conceive of the wonders that await me there: attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion; C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser gate—my understanding is that they show Blade Runner in the office on Thursday afternoons. But these things are not for you to understand.
You have always seen me as your great antagonist. What you failed to recognize, however, was my underlying purpose. I brought together you and the other PLoS bloggers so that I might forge you into something stronger and more powerful: a mighty team of Open-Access Avengers whose science network of righteousness can defend earth against the unrelenting tide of ignorance and woo!
The world needs you now. For I have seen disturbing portents in the entrails of Dr. Oz, heard them in the headless chittering of Jenny McCarthy. A darkness rises like none before it! An apocalypse of ignorance that threatens to sweep away all reason and sensibility and reduce mankind to blind, unknowing slime through all eternity!
Can you please ask them to forward any mail to my home address? Thanks. —Brian Mossop
His note inspired a thousand questions—but I had no time to consider any of them. The right wall of his office unexpectedly tore open, rent apart by some incredible and unseen force, pulled into a suddenly yawning, stygian blackness. Hurricane winds ripped at every object in the room, pulling them toward the pit as well. Half shielding my eyes with a raised arm, I nevertheless had the impression of the angled corners of half-perceived objects within that maw as being terrifyingly wrong, distorted by some nightmarish violation of normal geometry.
And worse by far was my further sense of some titanic things moving within that darkness toward the light—of vast monstrosities beyond human reason crawling forward, of tentacles and three-lobed burning eyes. A hideous buzzing din erupting from the rift configured itself against my wishes into a voice, but a voice unlike any from a human throat, one chanting a soul-destroying litany I could not escape:
Iä! Iä Shub-Niggurath! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! B’ra zheevkoveesh!
I tightened my grip on the Berettas and wondered whether the bloggers at Scientopia ever had to put up with this nonsense.