This story insisted on spilling onto the Web, in a very literal way. So did a pandemic.
It started with an alien polo game on the "Planet of Apocalypse".
- This planet is the only place in the Galaxy where reality is even more mutable than on Earth. The Galactics treat it like a combination nature preserve and insane asylum. Their various languages all call the planet something like "End of All Things".
- This game is a periodic Galactic event, for those insane enough to visit Apocalypse. Earthlings have actually been involved for longer than Earth and the Galaxy have had diplomatic relations; apparently Earth residents have an advantage when it comes to mutating reality. I was in the game in 1996, and so was the alien conqueror Urr.
- After the latest alien invasion, Earthling pride was at stake. And the stakes are even higher than that. As well I know. After the game I was in, Urr used his prize to destroy an alternate Earth.
- Toward the end of this year's game, one black Earthling guy was winning. At various points in the game he looked like a cowboy, a thalidomide baby, and Johnny Carson, due to shifting perceptions. But Ted Clark put a suit of armor together and got the win. (11 Jan)
- Ted Clark with alien armor? Alien armor killed him with mind-warping! (He got better, of course. That happens in my world.). Ted won his suit in the game after mine.
- Apparently the superhuman Combine thought it's really important to keep this armor away from everyone else. It was either Ted or Julie Wolcott to wear it. They've both worn armor like this. Julie survived it better, with help from her superhuman husband (please don't make me talk about Ellipsis). But Ted was better at putting it together.
- Apparently the lead Earthling rival was Eric X himself. And the prize was the armor suit itself. Hijacked airplanes to the contrary, one of these suits was what actually blew up the World Trade Center. And that's just the start of their powers.
- When Ted got the armor home, it started showing new mind-warping powers, aimed outward for once. In particular, everyone around Ted started worshipping him.
- Julie started hanging on to Ted instead of onto her own superhuman husband.
- Ted's wife Ingrid in turn dressed up in a Ninja Turtle outfit, to be his sidekick. She thoughtfully spray-painted the outfit red, to avoid copyright infringement; she's calling herself the Raspberry Lizard. Lizards and raspberries do not have superhuman powers, but Ingrid doesn't either (aside from super-strength which every woman has since the Panlucida Incident), so she doesn't care.
- One other woman tried to handcuff herself to Ted to gain his undying love. (21 Jan)
- I got drawn in, when Ted-worship spread via Internet. I've offered to go to Rome to be his high priest when the Catholic Church inevitably submits to Ted.
- In China it's gone beyond that; they're raising Ted's banner for a new revolution. He's chosen the Evil Minions Battle Flag, only with a brighter color smiley face, and cow colors instead of checks. Boy, it looks like Vermont yuppie tree-hugging stuff. But Ted knows best. All hail Ted! (23 Jan)
- Best guess (from Ellipsis, who alone has seen the phenomenon but avoided Ted-worship) is, this is something like St. Vitus' Dance. It's a physical disease which affects those in close contact. But there's a memetic component also. The armor is mutating to spread them both. Internet geeks like myself and many people in China are particularly susceptible to the "righteous imperial world domination" meme. This explanation is perfectly logical, but I don't care. All hail Ted!
- In comic books, people like Emperor Doom take over the world, but then things magically revert after. Emperor Ted may still have work to do before he fully takes over, but I still trust that whatever he takes is for keeps - or will have to be fairly conquered back by the evil enemies of Ted. All hail Ted!
- ... As it happens, the Occulator Compuplex alien hive mind knows what to do in situations like this. They bring me out of my Ted-worship, and have me come to the basement of a certain skyscraper in Indianapolis (coincidentally near where I grew up).
- I, now living in Oregon, have some travel adventures to get there, but nothing more sinister than usual for me. Mostly I just get in trouble for making the wrong friends in a seedy Indiana lakefront resort town. Nothing to indicate the interest of Ted. (26 Jan)
- The "Total Conversion" superhuman battle squad is headquartered in Indy, and has members who have worked with the Occulator Compuplex - the same way I did.
- Ellipsis is there too, oh joy. But we can work together when we have to.
- So we start to spread the counter-meme. Others will address the disease itself. (27 Jan)
- As it happens, Ted Clark usually does not want to be an emperor. If our hive mind could break through his alien god-armor to contact him, he'd be on our side. So I get to make contact!
- Ted's meeting with an ape envoy (apes now have their own society if not a nation), at a phone company "war room" in Missouri. He finds it convenient because he once interned there.
- When I go in, I get to be Ted's cupbearer. As King of All The Humans, he has more ritual than when I knew him.
- Ted and I like each other, so I make the breakthrough. Early results are, this has apparently turned the tide.
- I'd like to say "To Be Continued", but others will have to continue it. Never mind the state of the world; I've got business! Business is the state of the world too, after all.