Based on the Musical of HG Wells "War of the Worlds", I posted this on URP in April 2001 (go to Part Two, or Home)

War of the Newsgroups (Part 1)

(go to Part Two, or Home)

The Eve of the War

No one would have believed in the first years of the 21st century, that URP affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of Usenet. No one could have dreamed we were being scrutinised, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few URPers even considered the possibility of life in other newsgroups - and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably more demented than ours regarded uk.religion.pagan with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.

At midnight on the twelfth of August, a huge mass of hot gas erupted from alt.mad.martians and sped towards us. Across two hundred posts, invisibly hurtling towards us, came the first of the missives that were to bring so much calamity to URP. As I watched, there was another jet of gas. It was another missive, starting on its way.

And that's how it was for the next the next ten nights. A flame, spurting out from AMM - bright red, drawing a red mist behind it - a beautiful, but somehow disturbing sight. Carl, the faqmonster, assured me we were in no danger. He was convinced there could be no living thing on that remote, forbidding newsgroup.

"The chances of anything coming from alt.mad.martians are a million to one" he said.

The chances of anything coming from AMM are a million to one - but still they come!

Then came the night the first missive approached URP. It was thought to be an ordinary post, but the next day there was a huge crater in the middle of the General Discussion Area, and Carl came to examine what lay there: a post, 85 characters across, glowing hot... and with faint sounds of movement coming from within.

It seems totally incredible to me now that everyone spent that evening as though it were just like any other.

From the Mornington Crescent thread came the sound of shunting trains bringing the rumbling, softened almost into melody by the distance.

It all seemed so safe and tranquil.

The Flame War

Next morning, a crowd gathered on the newsgroup, hypnotised by the post. Two luminous, disc-like eyes appeared above the rim of the sofa. A huge, rounded bulk rose up slowly, it's mouth quivered... and snake-like tentacles writhed as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated.

A few young lurkers crept closer to the GDA. A tall story rose, then an invisible ray of heat leapt from man to man and there was a bright glare, as each was instantly turned to fire. Every thread and post became a mass of flames at the touch of this savage, unearthly Troll.

People clawed their way off the thread, and I ran too. I felt that when I was on the very verge of safety, this mysterious urge would leap after me and strike me down. At last I reached the "Hugs and sherbet lemons" post, and in the dim coolness of my home I wrote an account for my LiveJournal before I sank into a restless, haunted sleep.

On the Flame-war thread, the trolls continued hammering and stirring... sleepless, indefatigable, at work upon the posts they were making. Now and again a light, like the beam of a warship's searchlight, swept the newsgroup - and the flaming was ready to follow.

In the afternoon, a company of URP netcops came through and deployed along the edge of uk.religion.pagan to form a cordon. That evening, there was a violent crash and I realised with horror that my thread was now within range of the AMM's flamewar. At dawn, a falling star with a trail of red mist landed with a flash like summer lightning. This was the second troll.

Thunder Child

The hammering from the trolls and the pounding of netcops grew louder. My fear rose at the sound of someone creeping into thread. Then I saw it was a young Netcopper, weary, streaked with blood and dirt.

DJNW: "Anyone here?"
Spyder: "Come in. Here, have a sherbet lemon."
DJNW: "Thank you."
Spyder: "What's happened?"
DJNW: "They wiped us out. Hundreds spammed - maybe thousands."
Spyder: "Mmm. There was another Troll came last night."
DJNW: "Yes. It looked bound for "[FLUFF] Daft cats..."
Spyder: "Daft cats?" Trin! I hadn't dreamed there could be danger to Trin, so many posts away. "I must go online at once."
DJNW: "And me. Got to report to URP HQ... if there's anything left of it."

For three days I fought my way along threads packed with the angry, the confused. All that was of value to me was in "[FLUFF] Daft Cats", but by the time I reached the little thread Trin was gone.

Fire suddenly leapt from post to post, the URPers panicked and ran - and I was swept along with them, aimless and lost without Trin. Finally, I headed for the Virtual Camp Site, and my only hope of survival - a boat out of URP.

As I hastened through Covent Garden, Blackfriars and Billingsgate, [Mornington Crescent having not yet been reached] more and more people joined the painful exodus. Sad, weary women, their children stumbling and streaked with tears, their men bitter and angry. Kro'dog snarled and whined, his thread lost in bits of Flame... and here and there were wounded geek, as helpless as the rest.

A vast crowd buffered me towards the already packed steamer. I looked up enviously at those safely on board - straight into the eyes of my beloved Trin! At sight of me she began to fight her way along the packed deck to the gangplank. At that very moment it was raised, and I caught a last glimpse of her despairing face as the crowd swept me away from her.

The steamer began to move slowly away - but on the landward horizon appeared the silhouette of a Troll. Another came, and another, striding over posts and threads, plunging far out to into the VCS and blocking the exit of the steamer. Between them lay the silent, grey, ironclad 'Thunder Child' - M@. Slowly he moved towards shore; then, with a deafening roar and whoosh of spray, he swung about and drove at full speed towards the waiting trolls.

The AMMers released their snide sarcasm, but M@ sped on, cutting down one of the trolls. Instantly, the others raised their flamings and melted the Thunder Child's valiant heart.

When the smoke had cleared, the little steamer had reached the misty horizon, and Trin was safe.

But M@ had vanished forever, taking with him man's last hope of victory.

URP belonged to the Martians.

To be continued........