Punkie Visits the Internetcursor
by Grig Larson

CHAPTER 1.0: CyberSending

"Okay, one Cyburger," said the waitress standing next to Punk. "Do you want Cyberfries, Cyberslaw, or CyberOkra with that?"

"Uh..." muttered Punk, "Do you have a CyberBakedPotato?"

The waitress scribbled on her green pad, "One CyberSpud..." and then looked at Punk's mass squeezed in the booth, "... extra butter and sour cream."

"I'll have a CyberDisk Pizza with CyberSausage and extra CyberCheese, and could I have a refill of my Latte?" asked Julie.

The waitress, with a nametag that said, "", nodded and took Julie's coffee cup.

"And can I have some more de-caff cuppachino?" asked Punk after her, but Flo had already entered the kitchen.

"Punk," warned Julie, "here the term 'd-caff' means double the caffeine. Are you sure you don't want 'n-caff'?"

Punk, already his eyeballs jittering, nodded and said, "Yes, I'll have to remember that when Flo gets back." Then he sighed, and stared at the menu trying its best to be as ultra-hip and cutting edge as a menu can possibly be in a tiny universe. "I hate this place, I can't understand a damn thing on the menu. Everything is Cyber-this or Cyber-that. I'm getting CyberSick."

Julie laughed that strange teenaged laugh of mock understanding. "Maybe you got CyberNella..." She loved being with Punk, even after he blew up at her attempted coup at Harvard University earlier in the year. She knew he'd never be really mad at her... as long as she didn't get between him and his food. One could lose a limb that way.

"Now," she continued, "let me show you how the World Wide Web works..."

But Punk was already not listening. His thoughts were drifting like castaways from a sunken oil tanker as he looked outside at the drizzle that hailed as one of San Francisco's finer weather accomplishments. After a long and grueling promotional tour in Brazil, Julie had invited him to come back to the United States for a while and relax. But she also took it upon herself to train Punk in how to use a computer, a task that was as easy as putting loose socks on an angry cat.

To make Punk feel more comfortable, Julie took Punk to a restaurant that serves food and offers you a computer terminal to connect onto the Internet. She felt that if she combined learning with eating, Punk could pick up these lessons quicker and easier. But Punk seemed pensive and unresponsive, even in "The CyberDyner".

One reason was that Punk felt he could hire someone to do computer stuff for him. Krakken was his financial guru, and used an adding machine much in the same way a piano player's fingers worked in ragtime pieces. Punk left everything up to him. Another reason was that Julie taught too fast and sporadic, and seemed to get frustrated too easily when Punk would ask what he considered very advanced questions like, "So, why to they make computers beige-colored?"

But another, subtler problem picked at Punk's innards: Julie typed too damn fast. When his Tech specialist Professor Van Strudel typed, it was the usual "clicka... clicka..." that Punk felt was a good speed for anybody, even though Van Strudel did not have the disadvantage of webbed fingers and flippers the size of serving platters. Krakken could type faster on a typewriter, making a secretarial sound like, "click click click-click... click". But Julie, with a super-powerful brain half driven by a teenage sense immortality and half by a super-intelligent extra-dimensional gem hung around her neck, typed so fast, that it sounded like someone pouring a bucket full of ball bearings on a tin roof. Her fingers roared across the keyboard like boiling tentacles, entering in text that would jam some systems with overflowing data. It took Punk almost a full five minutes just to type "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs..."

"... and sometimes... a-HEM!" Julie cleared her throat, in hopes of getting Punk to look back at the screen. "Punk, have you heard what I just said?"

Punk's brain, on autopilot listening mode, repeated its last buffer of words, "youarenotreallyloggedonbuttheysendittoyouandsometimesa-HEM!" and he continued staring out at the weather, and it was now raining rather hard.

Julie smacked Punk on the back of the head, in a loving sort of way.

"Ow!" said Punk, nursing his concussion.

"I didn't ask you to repeat what I had said, I asked you if you understood it!" said Julie, staring at Punk in frustration. Walruses, go figure!

"I'm sorry, but all this mumbo-jumbo about webs and gophers and highways is all too confusing to me. You take one perfectly good word, give it a new definition, and now instead of being a furry subterranean rodent, it's some sort of file cabinet that grabs things from other people's computers... or something like that."

"Or something like that..." sighed Julie. Her chest felt hot. She looked down at the gem around her neck, and noticed a faint glow. "Uh oh." she said. Her gem never glowed except when something very bad was about to happen, like when a nasty ultra-dimensional being was chasing her or when she got too near a car salesman.

Punk was not really paying attention to Julie tapping him on the shoulder like a game show buzzer in the final round. "I mean, if there was some way to describe this Intern-Ett thing that I could understand, my mind wouldn't wander... say, it's raining rather hard out there, isn't it?"

"Punk," said Julie, looking about in panic to see what her gem was warning her about, "I think we should get out of here--"

Julie was interrupted by a sudden flash.

Scholars have often noted that "freaks of nature" is the 20th century buzzword that replaced "acts of God" from the previous century. But argue as they may about the differences, they would have agreed at what had just happened to Julie and Punk would indeed by both a freak and an act.

Lightning, not a usual visitor to the City of Brotherly Love, struck at the Haight-Ashbury district, bent on destroying a descendant of the moron who designed Lombard Street many years ago. But lightning is a tricky weapon, and instead of frying a man named Seth who was trying on a feather boa in a costume shop, it ricocheted off of a neon sign, and plunged into a cable car rail a few blocks away. The electrical burst that followed traveled across anything metal in a zigzag dance that scared one transvestite to Christianity, broke a squashed-penny-vender's booth, and fried a computer at a stuffed animal assembly plant, causing one batch of elephants to come out with crocodile heads. The energy rammed throughout the computer systems in the Bay area, ruining circuitry like a lawnmower through a cornfield, until it burst out of a terminal in a cafe, and struck head-on onto a girl's green necklace. Seconds after this happened, a waitress named Flo came out of her employer's kitchen with a latte and swore that a customer with a pet walrus had bilked her and left a greasy pile of ash to clean up in the booth.

CHAPTER 1.1: Reality Bytes

Punk sat on the gray ground, wiping his eyes. "What was that?" he asked, but no one answered. "Julie? Julie...?" he called out, hearing his voice sound exactly the opposite of an echo.

The landscape was very dull. Jagged and gray square rocks lay scattered about in uninspiring random piles. The horizon had no central light source, but just a light gray that seemed to not care anymore about organization. The piles of rocks on the flat plain extended out for all directions. It was like looking at salt crystals from an electron microscope.

"Julie??" he called out again, feeling his words eaten by the stale air. "Oh, crap... I'm in another dimension again!" he exclaimed, recognizing this kind of phenomena from an earlier adventure. Julie's powers, or rather her gem's powers (it was hard to tell the difference between the two) were unpredictable at best, and being with her was like visiting New York with a hit man that had just stiffed a major Mafia client.

Punk wandered about. But there were no interesting features, any landmarks, or points of interest. There were no Kodak moments here, just the dull gray upon gray of a dimly lit dusk sky only illuminating the landscape out of the sheer fact it had nothing better to do. Nothing even had a shadow.

The ground was soft, like a thick rubber. The squarish rocks looked ancient, and they were very lightweight, almost like a foam rubber. Punk sat for a while, and stacked them into a small pile. He kept an eye out for Julie, since she was sure to come eventually. But eventually had no meaning here, and Punk suddenly realized his digital watch had stopped.

"Julie!" he yelled. But no teenager in black answered his call. Punk wandered some more, but he grew tired and went to sleep, feeling like at least his dreams could be better. But even his dreams were in hiatus, and replaced with re-runs of "Saved By the Bell."

When he suddenly awoke during a fitful vision of character named Screech doing something completely nerdy, he thought he heard music. One pile of rocks in the distance seemed unusual, so he headed towards it. As he approached it, he realized it was not a slightly larger pile of rocks, but a huge mountain of them that was very far away. Punk walked towards it for hours, resting only a few minutes here and there to catch his breath. But as he approached the source of light and music, the trick of the limitless horizon showed it was much larger, and still a bit farther away than he imagined. By the time he finally reached it, he was exhausted, and he sat at the base of the mountain and rested.

Light was coming from the other side of the huge ridge, and the music was clearer now. It was techno music or some kind, most of it the generic bland kind heard in cheesy discotheques in Miami. The music pepped him up for a bit, so he started to climb the mountain. But even with the squarish rocks, the slope was too steep, and after a few hours, Punk was still at the base of the ridge.

"Difficult, huh?" asked a familiar voice.

Punk, unused to voices in the past day, suddenly whirled around in surprise. "Julie!" he exclaimed in delight.

She nodded with a smirk. "I was waiting for you, I was afraid you got lost in Reality for a while."

"Reality? You call this reality?" asked Punk, waving his flipper at the horizon behind them.

"Soft, square, bland, eternal..." said Julie like she was reading a checklist, "Yep, this is reality. Well, at least compared to what's on the other side."

Then Punk noticed Julie's clothes. She was wearing a long black skirt and a black sports shirt that said "NET" in huge green letters. On her head was a black clamshell that simply said "PLA." Over her left breast there was one of those "Hello, my name is" stickers with her name "JMorriso" written in block letters. "What are you wearing?" he asked.

Julie looked down at her dress. "Oh, this? You'll see. Let's go over to the other side." And she started to go.

"Wait!" called out Punk after her. "I tried that for hours, and I can't climb it."

"Use the stairs!" said Julie, pointing towards a set of lit stairs.

"They weren't there before!" exclaimed Punk, wondering how he could have missed something so obvious.

"Everything in the Internet is like that. You have to have someone show you the way, and then it seems so obvious," explained Julie in a non-explaining sort of way. "C'mon, let's go to the Land of Internet."

"Internet?" asked Punk.

Punk was answered when they reached the top of the stairs.

Sprawling before them in miles in each direction was a huge oasis of light and sound. Hundreds of dots of colored lights zipped this way and that, making whirring noises. Ribbons of copper and silver criss-crossed everywhere on a dark green background. It was alive and delightful in a land where all around it was gray and depressing. It made Las Vegas look like a miniature golf park.

But one sign seemed to sum it all up. It was green with white highway lettering for a font that simply said, "Now leaving Reality, Welcome to the Internet. Population, One more."

"C'mon," led Julie down a flight of wide stairs.

As they walked down towards the huge valley, Punk noticed a crowd of people near the edge of this metropolis, lining up like they were waiting in line at an amusement park. Hundreds of other people milled around them, giving out flyers and talking to them in the manner of time-share property salesmen.

"Hello, intelligent consumer," said one older woman with too much makeup. She was dressed in a fancy evening dress and spiked heels. "CompuSlave offers state of the art--"

"Sorry," interrupted Julie, "we already have a provider."

"But are you happy with--"

Julie dragged Punk away before the woman could finish. But another lady, dressed in clothes that would make Madonna look like Mother Theresa, staggered up to Punk in 4-inch spiked heels.

"Would you like a massage?" asked the woman. "You look tired. We here at Online With America can help you. Let me get you a nice set of clothes and some dinner. Would you like free dinner? We have a well-stocked bar and buffet for all prospective customers. No commitment! You can just use us for free food or whatever. But I think you'll find our services go beyond the four-star food cuisine. Did I mention the dinner was free?"

"I am kind of hungry--" said Punk.

"C'mon, try Online With America... we're EASY..." said the woman with the face that looked like she put on makeup with a trowel.

"Come ON!" urged Julie, and dragged Punk closer to the gates.

A bum dressed in a badly-fitting science fiction costume gave Punk a greasy flyer. "You like games? Gam-E has games..."

"Hi, I'm Ploddygee!" said a young child wearing baggy adult clothing and terribly overdone makeup. "Sick of the other providers? So are we…" Then she looked sad, "They are whipping us like errant slaves…"

But Julie dragged Punk though these people, and up to the gate where they waited in a long line.

"I hate waiting online," said Julie, tapping her feet impatiently.

"I hate my provider," said one man wearing a dunce cap. "I tried to use the web, and I couldn't get on a really popular site, so I called their tech help line and they told me that they didn't run the World Wide Web!"

"Really?" asked Punk, not having a clue as to what the man was babbling about but didn't want to appear rude.

"Yeah! If they don't run the web, then why do they advertise it? Duh! Do they think I'm stupid or something?"

An older man wearing a button that said "Remember the ARPANET!" simply sighed and shook This head. A large neon thermometer on a billboard chimed, and a digital readout that said "Internet Intelligence Gauge" dropped one degree. The old man gasped in disgust and covered his eyes.

The line moved in jerks and stops, and soon the crowd was packed into a tunnel that smelled very damp. As Punk's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw that people were getting on a log flume like ride, where a large metal carrier lowered them into a large underground river. Once in a while, a carrier would break, and the log would dump them into a chute that said, "Back to the beginning of the line." That didn't sound like fun to Punk.

Julie stuffed him into a log and said, "See you on the other side, Punk!" before her voice was lost in the sloshing sound of the water around him. The carrier Punk was on strained under his weight, and he feared losing carrier, but he got into the river without mishap, where a mermaid strapped a seatbelt on him and said, "Just checking connections, Hon," and then gave him a handshake.

The log bumped this way and that, bumping into other people in logs, and the rough walls of the cavern. Then the din of people murmuring became overshadowed by a rushing sound. The sound of rushing water, and then screams of people saying, "Oh my God!" and then screams. Amid the screaming that was reaching a crescendo much like the Beatles song, "A Day in the Life", Punk saw the water grow turbulent, and then...


...ll ... ing


The log crashed into a huge cavern of turbulent water, and suddenly Punk found himself swimming. Or NOT swimming, as the case suddenly was. Punk was not used to drowning, he had been a great swimmer all his life, but now he was flailing, sinking, and gulping water. He was about to go down for the last time when suddenly a small hand pulled him to the surface.

"There you are!" said a familiar voice. Julie grabbed the collar of his black leather jacket.

"Glub!" was all Punk could say, spewing water. "I was actually drowning!"

"It's because you were thinking to much... you know, 'think or swim?' Haw haw haw..."

Despite the weight of that pun, Julie was somehow holding him afloat, and swimming towards the shore at the other end of the cavern. People around them were swimming, drowning, or being pulled onto boats by their providers. One large cruise ship with a rope ladder was handing the wet victims warm towels and beer. On its side was "Online With America." Other less impressive boats were hauling people onboard, and some were just tossing books at the swimmers, yelling "RTFM!", whatever that meant.

"Why don't we go on the OWA boat?" asked Punk.

Julie just laughed again. "What, and miss all the fun? No way, Jose. We're going to do something much better and quicker."

Punk and Julie made it to the shore, and stumbled over the half-drowned bodies flailing on the beach like grunion spawn on Valium. Some people with hats were yelling at them to get up, that they were wasting their CPM time.

Julie took Punk to a little beach booth lit by Tiki lights. There were hundreds of little booths like these, some more impressive than others.

The most impressive one was like a huge marble temple, where scantily dressed women were helping their OWA boat passengers off towards the buffet table filled with colorful fruits and steaming meats of every imaginable taste and texture. It made Punk's mouth water just to watch it. Great fires in huge cauldrons lit amazing neon displays that directed anyone who cared to go anywhere, just where that anywhere would be, and what to do when you got there. The only thing that didn't seem so great was that every passenger had to wear a neon green tee-shirt that was one size too small and a frilly pink tutu. And before they could eat, they were handed huge paintings with ornate bulky frames that they were forced to carry around, until they could find a place to put them down. A huge bronze statue of a Greek athlete stood atop the vaulted roof with a neon display that would have dimmed out Las Vegas. It simply said, "Online With America -- Welcome!"

Next to it was a darkened mansion labeled "CompuSlave", where respectable ladies in evening gowns coddled older people and told them that they would be taken care of. And in the shadows, a slum of a building, crumbling and propped up with cheap support beams and overgrown with weeds said, "Ploddygee."

Some providers were only dark booths, manned by geeks who yelled at their customers. Julie took Punk to a booth was unattended and partially collapsed.

"Great!" said Julie, in a voice that made it sound like it wasn't. "It's down!"

"Maybe we could put it up?" offered Punk, trying to set up the booth, but it was no use.

"It's no use," said Julie, echoing what the narrator just said, "we can't do this remotely. We have to find another provider."

Punk and Julie prowled the beach. "I had an old account at Harvard, but it was a pretty restricted account."

Punk noticed the odd dress of people milling about. Some in ratty tee-shirts, some in blazers, some in suits, and a few were so ethnically dressed, they reminded Punk of those old travel films made in the 50's. Most were wearing headgear of some sort that said "mil", "gov", "com", "net", or "org". The ones wearing "mil" were in stiff military uniforms that looked like a bunch of evil hotel doormen with a sense of importance that did not seem appropriate. The "gov" people looked like the "mil" people, only less interesting. The ones that said "com" were wearing blazers of some sort, but the ones from OWA were wearing the strange costumes of a purple blazer with their green shirts and tutus. And there were a lot of those, or maybe it just seemed that way. Others that said "org" and "net" wore whatever they damn well pleased, ranging from nice polo shirts to silk button-downs and pocket protectors. Then there were the "edu" people who looked like refugees from an all-night party. They had torn tee-shirts, ratty sneakers, and a mortarboard perched in atop their heads in that pompous French chapeau look that suggested arrogance was merely a cover-up for their lack of raw intellect, not that the author of this story is bitter, mind you.

"Aha!" said Julie, taking Punk to a booth labeled, "Harvard.Edu". She went up to the bored-looking professor there and said, "Jmorriso at oberon dot Harvard dot edu!"

"What's the password?"

Julie whispered something in the ear of the professor that caused him to grimace. "Password correct," he said, slapping a sticker onto Julie's chest. Julie's cap suddenly turned into a mortarboard. Her blazer turned into a gown.

The man looked at a clipboard, flipping page after page until he said, "Gees, Jmorriso, it's been ages since you have logged on!" The professor then handed Julie a huge sack. "Here's your mail."

"Jesus!" exclaimed Julie under the weight of the sack, "Damn listservers... I still wonder why I ever subscribed to them."

"Listservers?" asked Punk.

"Your name, sir?" asked the professor.

"Uh..." Punk stammered.

"Plongsto at titania dot harvard dot edu!" said Julie quickly before Punk could answer.

"What's the password?" asked the professor, looking at Punk with a suspicious eye.

Julie whispered, "Tell him your underwear size."

"What?" asked Punk.

"Password correct," said the professor. Then he pulled out a huge page of his clipboard. "Well, Plongsto, you are already logged on to this system."

Julie stammered, "She's running jobs."

A mortarboard and a gown suddenly adorned Punk.

"She?" he asked, shocked at the pink tassel.

"C'mon Punk," said Julie, dragging Punk past the booth and into a small gray room. "Listen, in order to get in, you're logged on as another user. Luckily, Pippi always leaves her terminal logged on so I can see her password. But if anyone asks, your name is Pippi, and you run the entertainment web site at Harvard."

"What?" asked Punk again.

"Yeah, that is a rather lame password, isn't it?" Julie surveyed the room. "I need to find a crack, start looking for a hole in the floor."

"What?" asked Punk.

"Stop shouting your password!" Julie started combing the stone floor with the eyes of a seasoned Cyber-veteran.

The room looked like any boring school classroom might. A lot of people in caps and gowns were milling about, reading scrolls, and chatting to each other. Harsh fluorescent bulbs hung from a ceiling made of crumbling asbestos tiles and lit the room with an eye-painful glow. Chairs with convertible desks folded non-neatly at their side lay scattered about in patterns that suggested a free-spirited thinking mind had laid them there, and that that very same spirit went to a party right away and puked on his girlfriend.

"Where might I find a hole in the floor?" asked Punk.

"SHHH!" hissed Julie. "Not so loud!"

"Hey, Pippi, what's this about a hole I heard?" asked a rather overweight and pimply young man. "I can tell you there is no hole here. I wish. Say, what are doing for the dance tomorrow? Me and some friends are going to sneak some beer and get drunk. Will you date me?"

Punk, not used to people flirting at him with the subtlety of a flying mallet stammered, "Uh... no?" Even his groupies had tact... and washed their face once in a while.

Julie smirked. "That's the spirit! You'll find it's really difficult being a woman online."

"Hey Pippi!" screamed another student in such a way that gave heterosexuality a bad name, "You're really cute!"

"Pippi, will you look at me?" yelled yet another, "I look at you a lot... from a distance... when you jog... when you dress..."

"Eww!" said Punk.

Julie let out a sound that sounded like both a laugh and a sneer and shook her head. "Cyber-freaks," was all she had to add.

A young man with a Tom Cruise haircut and a gold sequin blazer removed his shades and said, "Hey, Pippi, look, I know, like you are so dissed by this drag show waving their salami like it was mating dance. I understand. Yesterday, I was just posting to my own web page, and I thought that my e-mail would explode from the sheer volume of text ASCII serial interface, and when I had COM port shift, I said, 'Hey, why are animals on the InterNet?' You know? So I booted my hard drive and interfaced floppy scuzzy to my momdemic cabling, and eff-tee-peed over to the highway and cruised the phone lines to find what my existence soul was paraforming--"

Julie stood up and asked in a manner that was both rude and confrontational, "Do you even have a computer?"

The young man's posture suddenly deflated, and the Pabst beer in his hand shook, "Uh... yes? I have, uh, a Pentium Mac with, uh, a 28.8 hard drive and two floppy disks, and... uh..." then he sucked on his cigarette very hard suddenly.

"I thought not," said Julie with a triumphant smile. "Get off the school machines until you have mastered a typewriter, and, oh, while you're at it, take your Philosophy 101 attitude and jam it up your Psych-for-Jocks knowledge. Your putrid filth is the antidote of a social lubricant, and smell worse than your laundry that you take home to mother at Spring Break."

There then followed applause by every person in the room as the Lounge-Lizard fetus scrambled back the security of his high-school fantasies.

"You tell him, James!" said one guy.

"James?" asked Punk.

"You don't think for a minute I would let anyone here know I was a girl do you?"

Punk looked at the male faces suddenly refocusing on him like a pride of lions contemplating dinner, and suddenly felt like a dancer in a cheap strip joint on the edge of a Middle-eastern city.

Julie dragged Punk to a table. Behind the table was a hole. "See? Gophers. I knew they wouldn't let me down. Now if only I knew where to send one. I have to remember..."

A small furry head popped from the hole. It blinked in the harsh florescent light, and turned its head. It looked like a cheap puppet, only Punk couldn't see the hand behind it.

"Yoomich, testing department, please," said Julie quietly. The gopher vanished beneath its hole.

"Hey, Pippi... you have mail!" sqwuaked a parrot.

"Should I read it?" asked Punk to Julie.

"YES!!" chorus a bunch of male teens.

"No...!" whispered Julie. "You'll never want to log on again, trust me. A month of showers wouldn't clean off the grease you'd get from reading some of Pippi's mail..."

The gopher came back with a huge treasure chest. It was so big, Punk wondered how it fit through the hole in the floor. Julie balked as she opened the lid, "Uh! Man, I'll never find it. Uh, gimme only the gadgets that have small rubies."

The gopher dug through the chest, and threw out a lot of stuff. But just as much stuff still seemed to be in the chest.

"Rubies with phones," said Julie again.

The gopher tossed more things out of the chest until there were only a few phones left at the bottom. Julie started picking up the receiver of each one and dialing. "No..." she would say, and hang up. "Nope..." she said again.

"Hey, Pippi! I sent you some mail," said another teen rubbing Punk's shoulders. "Some guy flamed you in Usenet, but I defended you. I know how you think and feel. You and I are a lot alike..."

"Get off!" said Punk, wiping the cold, greasy spot where the young man had put his hands. Suddenly he understood while Julie had said a month showers.

"Aha!" said Julie. She picked up a jeweled phone that looked like it once belonged to Liberace. She dialed some buttons, and suddenly, the room changed. It looked like a coffeehouse and a cheap discotheque all in one.

"Love that Telnet," she said.

"Password?" asked a waiter who suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

"Tell him your hygiene problems," said Julie.

"No way!" said Punk.

"Password accepted," said the man.

Julie whispered something to the man, and suddenly, both of them were wearing a blazer and a cap that said "Net".

"Why did the room change?" asked Punk, wondering where the man vanished to.

"Because we haven't actually left Harvard. Telnet brought the room to us. You'll find that the Internet isn't exactly the way it looks. But come, I'm going to show you the information superhighway..."

Punk swallowed hard. That didn't sound good to him.

CHAPTER 2.0 -- The Misinformation Superhighway

Punk tried to lean back, but the car seats groaned in protest. "How come this car is so small?" he asked.

Julie looked in her rear-view mirror. "It's not much, but it will get us where we want to go. But first we have to get this vehicle off the exit ramp."

The "vehicle" was a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, beige in color, and certainly not a fast car. It had trouble enough getting out of the garage, and the small side streets of the Internet were pocked with potholes. The cheap roof over Punk's head was dented in the shape of his skull, and the cap he was wearing was crammed down nearly over his eyes.

The "exit ramp" was supposed to lead to a "superhighway", but traffic was terrible, and they barely had moved an inch in the last few minutes. And it wasn't the car's fault.

"Damn it!" screamed Julie, with a tone in her voice that suggested that nothing less than a full damnation was expected.

"Where'd you pick up that language?" asked Punk, noting a Truck that said, "Technowizard Express: When it absolutely, positively, has to be under-explained in ten thousand words or less."

"Windows '95," said Julie, dating the time this story was written. "Once you have to fool with an O/S that was written by an infinite group of drunken monkeys who were supposed to write Shakespeare--Ah, here we go!"

The car jolted forward, and then began to move at an acceptable pace. They rambled along the small road, picking up speed, until Punk felt a little uncomfortable with the scenery turning into a blur.

"Aren't we going a little bit fast?" asked Punk.

Julie just laughed; a laugh that would have spooked Dennis Hopper.

Suddenly, the car seemed to accelerate to the point of structural breakage. Then it came into view... the vast speed of mass accreting in one direction, the huge chaotic ballet of data, the horror of the gross volume of information all moving together like the spray of a roman candle.

"Yaaaaauuughhh!!!!!" screamed Punk, "This is TOO MUCH!"

"Welcome to the Information Superhighway..." said Julie with an evil sneer. It was apparent to Punk that she was enjoying this simply WAY too much.

The highway was unlike those in Iceland, or even Los Angeles. It was hundreds of lanes wide, and the traffic was moving at speeds so fast, it suggested Einstein really had no clue about anything quantum. Cars and Trucks of all sizes zoomed past each other, cramming into spaces between other vehicles in such a manner that was not only unsafe, but made New York City driving look like a carousel ride. There were no lines in the middle of the road, and lanes changed direction faster than the blink of an eye, not that you dared blink an eye, or you might miss your exit. Exits whizzed past them so fast, they created their own breeze. The windshield wipers blew off and over the roof, and the side view mirror started to dent backwards.

"Where are we going?!?" Punk yelled over the roar of the poor rear-mounted engine that sounded like it would die of asthma at any second.

"Uh... good question. No one's asked me that before when I've been online..." Julie narrowly missed a huge truck jack-knifing into a large steamship on wheels. "I just sort of... you know, just found someplace."

The roof of the car suddenly ripped off and vanished behind them. The wind was incredible, and Punk's forehead began to burn from the friction. "Find someplace soon!!" screamed Punk.

"Yippiee! We've gone Cabriolet!" giggled Julie with sadistic glee. "Look above us, Punk. That's the World Wide Web!"

Punk looked above them at the only thing that was going perceptively relatively still, a strange tangled mess of silvery lines where high-speed cable-cars hug from them, zipping this way and that, stopping often to view what looked like billboards.

"We're going to try and get on there if we can, but first I want to --AAUGH!"

A huge pink tour bus with "OWA" written on the side suddenly cut them off. Julie screamed. Punk screamed. OWA members laughed as they hung out of the windows and spilled their drinks. Some just screamed "Wooooo!" while holding aloft some sort of cheap Americxan beer.

Punk and Julie's Beetle smashed into a median strip and flipped over an embankment retaining wall. They smashed to the ground, and tumbled end-over-end in a rolling frenzy like cheap roller skate shot from a howitzer onto a crumbling parking lot, leaving leaping debris behind them like tiddlywinks. The main mass of the wreckage smashed into a huge parking garage and tore in two, flinging both parts across the upper level until they skidded to a smoking halt a few yards apart and lay still.

"Wo-ho-HO!" shouted Julie as she pried herself from what was left of her bucket seat, "That was COOL!"

Punk simply held onto a sliver of dashboard and ignored the half of a tire that was around his neck.

Julie smoothed her hair. "I love this place. It makes the whole online experience so in-your-face!"

Punk simply held onto a sliver of dashboard and ignored the half of a tire that was around his neck.

Julie found her missing shoe and put it back on her scraped foot. "I wonder what that ride would have been like if I got a T3 engine? Punk? Punk...?"

Punk simply held onto a sliver of dashboard and ignored the half of a tire that was around his neck.

"Oh, you'll be ok," said Julie, walking up to Punk and removing the tire. "Everyone's first online experience can be a little bewildering. But remember, none of it can hurt you if you don't let it."

Punk would not let go of the dashboard. "I saw my life go before my eyes..." he said to the damp air.

Julie smiled that sunny kind of smile that any child gives when they've shocked an adult to numbness. It beamed from ear to ear and squinted her eyes in a look of pure, "Sowhat'djathink?"

"I saw my life go... and realized... I'd done everything I wanted to and now have nothing to live for..."

"How depressing, Punk. I'm sure Nietzsche would have been proud, and then spit on you for being so rich. Anyway, let's go exploring." Julie skipped around, still shaking off her near-no-carrier experience. "C'mon... what are you staring at?"

"Oos... oosen... oosen-ett," said Punk, squinting.

Uh oh... thought Julie, He's dithering and been unkerned by this whole experience... Then she saw what he was looking at.

CHAPTER 3.0 -- AbuseNet

"That's 'Usenet', Punk!" Julie made a face like the mother of a kid who wanted to go into a bland toy store, "I guess we can go there."

"We have no choice, we have no car!"

"We'll get another," said Julie. Then she smiled. "Maybe we'll find a way to get a faster one!"

The huge building off the parking deck was a color so bland, it was hard to describe. It was a dirty brown-gray kind of color that had pockets of burnt black and slightly built in the manner of the Taj Mahal with too many onion domes and less towers. Upon closer inspection, it seemed to be made from paper-mache.

"Will we get a better car at Oosinet?" asked Punk as they walked towards the building.

"Usenet isn't actually a place where one can get anything useful, but we may be able to get some ideas on how to actually get out of this Internet Land. I think the experience is too intense for you." Julie sounded disappointed, she really enjoyed this dimension.

"Can't we just take a Log out?" asked Punk, actually reaching the ceiling of his knowledge.

"I tried logging out, but I just got back to that bland reality again. So I waited for you, hoping that the two of us could come up with something. I don't know how we actually got here in the first place, so I don't know how we could get out."

"Maybe this Usenet has the answers," suggested Punk.

"Right!" said Julie, laughing. "And maybe the Commodore may make a comeback in the mainframe industry..."

"What?" asked Punk.

"If you shout your password one more time, I'll smack you!"

The paper-mache building loomed before them. It was even larger than they had once thought. The building material looked like hundreds of newspapers, billboard advertisements, and those strange flyers that people glue on abandoned walls and other surfaces all over major cities.

"Why is this building made of paper-mache?" asked Punk.

"You know, at first I thought it was an allegory about how the Usenet is a wasteful and flimsy structure that is likely to collapse under its own weight or catch fire. But the sad fact is that looking at the type of paper and glue used, I think that this Usenet is just made entirely out of posters."

A large double door opened, followed by wisps of smoke, and a man came up to them holding badges. "Here's your nwrsc, it will let you into most of the user groups. If you need any help, please don't hesitate to ask the geek sitting across from you, but DON'T ask anyone in this building. We're overflowed with information as it is. We can't just go around generating more of it, now, can we?"

"I guess," said Punk, and both him and Julie went inside.

Julie was under the impression that the Usenet building would be filled with hundreds of rooms all alphabetically labeled and categorized. She was wrong. What lay before them was one huge room, perhaps the size of dozens of football stadiums, with a high ceiling and lumpy walls constantly being redone by people slapping posters on the ever-thickening walls and gluing them in place.

The huge auditorium was filled with thousands upon thousands of tables were groups of people clustered about them talking, shouting, and when smiling, turning their heads to one side. Every once and a while, someone would shout at a table, some people would shout back, and then for no adequately explained reason, the table would burst into flame. A few people would try to put it out, but some people actually poured fuel into the flames, causing the whole table to be a huge blaze until people either left, or the fire put itself out. Sometime the fire would even spread to other tables.

"Wow..." said Julie. "It's so..."

"Big?" offered Punk. "Huge? Chaotic?"

"...ugly," finished Julie, with a lilt in her voice that suggested she had always had a feeling it wasn't pleasant to watch, but seeing it without the usual rose-colored terminal to filter it, the word "ugly" seemed darker and more perverted.

"Call out 1-900 sex chat line!!!" some guy screamed into Julie's ear from a megaphone. He smelled like cheap pork luncheon meat.

"Ugh!" said Julie, "Spammers!"

Quite a few of these Spammers were milling about, advertising free cash, time share units, and 1-900 sex phone lines. Sometimes people were so mad at these Spammers, they would set fire to their tables, or each other, but the Spammers seemed gleefully immune in their asbestos suits.

"On second thought," said Julie, "let's try another gopher hole. Nothing can be gained from this place."

"My brain feels like cheap syrup," said Punk.

As they left, Julie said, "No wonder they say Usenet is candy for the mind..."

CHAPTER 4.0 -- Gopher Your Gun

"But it was ruined!" gasped Punk, looking at their car which was obstinately looking like nothing had happened to it.

"No, we were just dumped off by OWA traffic. As long as we're still on the Internet, we'll always have this car, or at least, until we get a better one."

Punk and Julie crammed into their car and drove off to a less-crowded section of the highways.

"I want to find some loopholes, and who would know holes better than gophers?" said Julie, reading the highways signs that said "Gopher:// next right, http:// must remain in right lane..."

They turned off at a large exit that tapered down to a small road that tapered down to a dirt path. At the end of the path was a large mansion with a beautiful garden that looked like it was right out of a pre-war Europe. The grounds were also littered with holes with mounds on top of them. The air was filled with the sounds of scraping, digging, and squeaking.

Julie stopped the car at the circular driveway in front of the main entrance, and she and Punk got out. The walked through the open door and entered a large foyer.

The mansion was beautifully decorated with exotic furnishings from all over the world. Antique furniture blended nicely with black lacquer pieces of art, silk tapestries, and pictures of Asian scenery. A large portrait of a panda was on one wall with a black sash draped across the top and a birth and a death date under it.

Once in a while, a gopher would streak across the polished floor, its claws scrabbling, and disappear into one of the many doorways that promised to lead into more interesting things. A huge stairway led up to even more doors and rooms.

"Yeash?" asked a servant, entering the room from a small door marked "Dungeon."

"Uh, is your mistress at home?" asked Julie, bowing politely.

The deformed servant, a man who made the Hunchback of Norte Dame look like Fabio, thought for a second. "I dunno. Maybe I coulds help you wish you qwesht. My name is WAIS. I ushed to be qwuite populaar..."

"Uh, thanks but--"

"WAIS?" called a voice from the top of the stairs. "Is someone requesting my services?"

WAIS cringed. "Yesh, mishtresh..." and he quickly ducked down and disappeared behind the dungeon door again.

"Hello..." said a silky baritone voice. Both Punk and Julie looked up at the top of the stairs. A slender woman dressed in silken finery stood at the top step holding aloft a long and slender cigarette holder. Her long black hair hung neatly from her angular face that was accented with the maximum that makeup would appropriately allow before becoming too much. "My name is Veronica," she introduced before stepping down the stairs in a graceful fashion.

But suddenly, a gopher zoomed up the stairs and accidentally snagged on Veronica's robe, causing her to trip and plummet down the stairs. She tumbled end over end like a sack of potatoes until she collapsed in a heap at the bottom of the stairway. Without hesitation, she jumped up, steadied herself, and smoothed her hair in an act that suggested that she had meant to do that.

"I always knew Veronica was clumsy," said Julie under her breath.

Veronica reached out her hand to Punk. "Such a charming user. It is a pleasure to meet you, Pippi."

"Uh..." Punk was wondering what to say, but he was saved by the fact that Veronica tripped on a rug and collapsed into Julie.

"Veronica," said Julie in a forced polite tone while helping her up, "we need to find a way out of this Internet Land without getting back to bland reality."

"Well, I can see your predicament. What is it you exactly want?"

"To get out?" repeated Punk.

"Get out? Outhouse, Outer Limits the TV Show, Outdoor Adventures, the 1991 Gay Outing of America, Outer Space, Outperform your Macintosh Performa, Out--"

"Out of Internet," said Julie. "You have to be very specific," Julie whispered to Punk.

"Outing the Internet, The Internet Outdoors, the Internet Gay Outing of 1993, The Outer Limits of the Internet, the..."

While Veronica babbled, a busload of OWA users drove over their car and emptied their passenger cargo. Hundreds of people in green tee shirts that said OWA and pink tutus with florescent pink caps on their heads pushed into the mansion and started knocking over furniture shouting "Hello? Hello?"

WAIS came from his doorway and said, "yeash?"

Some of the OWA people started shouting at WAIS. "Quickly, I want some nude pictures of Cindy Crawford! Sound clips of the Simpsons! Dirty stories! Pictures of sports cars!"

"... the Inter-Out Network, the Network of Interconnected Outhouses, the Outerware of the Internet Catalog..." continued Veronica with the OWA people screaming at her for more dirty pictures.

"C'mon," said Julie. "We're not going to find anything useful here."

"Why are they wearing pink tutus?" asked Punk, finally unable to contain his curiosity anymore.

"Yeah, anyone from OWA is usually not taken seriously on the Internet. Now you know why I didn't want to go with them."

"FILES! Get your red-hot files!" barked a man with red hair and a striped vendor's shirt.

"Ugh, Archie." said Julie. "I never did like anything I bought from that man. C'mon, let's unflatten the car and try something else."

CHAPTER 4.1 -- Opiate of the Masses

"Sick! Perverted! Filthy lies against the moral fabric and grain of our society! These horrible disgraces of the wicked and insane of evil demons shall not be allowed!" screamed Reverend Fitch Thumpforker, fondling his microphone in a manner that was suggestive in itself.

"Very good," said an older man, subtly suggesting that it was not. He hit a key on his Mac and another shape appeared on the screen. He turned the monitor to the red-faced and overweight man. "Now, what do you see in this inkblot?"

"Two... oh my GOD! Two... I can't even say it. Homosexuality of the worst kind. Sodomy! Disgusting perverted bile pouring out of orifices like red hot oil in an orgy of sex, dirty dirty sex, dirty bad naughty boy shouldn't watch his mother with other men..." the huge man suddenly broke out in sobs.

The psychologist watched him with a cold stare reserved to those patients who had a one-way ticket to the loony-bin. "Reverend, perhaps we should conduct this at a place more suited for making you feel better," he dialed a number and asked his receptionist for some "friends."

"Sex is bad, wrong, dirty dirty bestiality, filthy bastards must die... kill kill kill..." said the patient banging his microphone on the computer's keyboard. "You keep showing me these dirty pictures and it upsets me... it upsets GOD... it is the upsetness of these unholy pictures that makes my own manhood shrivel into my body cavity..."

"It's ok, Reverend," said the psychologist as he looked out of his office window at the Golden Gate Bridge across the city, perhaps dreaming of going home to his studio and sculpting in plaster and bronze. He hoped his "friends" would be here soon so he could get on with his day. This last patient was several steps beyond any hope of psychological repair, and he hoped that locking him away where he couldn't hurt anyone innocent would in some subtle way make the world a better place. He made a mental note to remember where his escape route would be in case the man behind him became violent. But all he was doing was crying through gritted teeth.

"They must die. God HATES sex, dirty kill must slap the hand that rapes the sheep... kill kill ki--"

The salivated speech made by Reverend Fitch was cut short by a sudden burst of light that came from the computer monitor. The psychologist whirled around just in time to see the huge man's form dissolved into a pile of greasy ashes on the edge of his leather couch.

"Oh dear," he said, looking at the dwindling smoke. "I hope I can recover my game save files on my hard drive..." He really hoped that he wouldn't have to replay his high score on Tetris.

Fitch, on the other hand, was suddenly in a land that looked like it was built from old Tetris debris from a Nintendo Game Boy.

"--KILL!!" he finished, when he suddenly realized that his reality had altered slightly. "Doc?" he asked to the cold air. "Doc?" he asked again, suddenly panicking.

"Are you looking for something?" asked a deep voice from a black cloud clinging to the surface of the ground around Fitch.

"Someone..." answered Fitch. "Who are you? Where am I?"

"Oh... a friend..." said the voice with the nonchalance of an evil cartoon character. You could just hear the voice doing its nails with a metal file, smoking a fat cigar, and wearing a small black derby.

"You are evil! Satan!" screamed the terrified preacher.

"Why would you say that?" asked the voice.

"Anyone who listens to disembodied voices and believes them is the work of Satan!"

"How would you know?"

The preacher stood tall. "God told me!"

Somehow, you could just hear the voice smirk. "How did he tell you?"

"In a vision of glory! He told me of the evil and treachery of Satan, Lord of the Black Lies, Prince of Darkness."

"Why do you fear him?"

"He lives by the faith of lies, gives people false hope, and uses them to perpetuate his own gain."

"How can he do this?"

The preacher started to sweat, and his piggy face grew red with rage. "He takes the forms of temptations, to lead men and women to follow blindly into his evil cult of sin and misdeed. He can be anywhere at anytime, ready to pounce on the unwary."

"Let me get this straight," said the voice, closing in on the small fat figure, "this Satan can take any form, tells people what to do by visions, controls others' deeds, and is all knowing and all seeing?"

"Yes!" said the preacher.

"Then," and the voice paused to let his conclusion linger in the stale air, "... how is he different from God?"

The shock wave silenced the preacher. The voice continued: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leadeth me to green pastures, to give me false hope, yeah in the Valley of death he keepeth me, a dark place, where he can slaughter me for food, wear my skin to keep himself warm, and rapeth me when his wife does not comfort him in the manner of impulsive monkeys. I live for the Lord, because I have no choice. He is the master. He can kill me, for I am nothing but a sheep."

The preacher stood silent.

"You worship Satan like a God, Reverend. You give him power to control your deeds, in the name of temptation of an afterlife that, for all we know, is false..."

"You can't--"

"Isn't that what you accused Satan of doing?"

The preacher collapsed to his knees, and held his head in pain. "Oh, my God... my brain is cracking..."

"Yes it's called an open mind, and it will do that. But don't open your mind so far your brains fall out... Oh dear, too late..."

The preacher had fallen unconscious and lay still in the fetal position while a black smoke curled around him. It entered his mouth, and suddenly his eyes opened.

"At last! A human form! This body never knew evil, but now it breathes they very power it craved all along! I am invincible now..."

It looked towards the glow on the horizon. "I finally have a way to control the minds of all of humanity... A place of open minds and fools... the Internet!"

CHAPTER 5.0 -- Bare in Mud Where You Are...

"The AKROPOLIPSE?" asked Punk, as they stood in the muddy grass in front of the gate.

"It's a MUD, Punk." Julie half-explained.

"I noticed, "said Punk, looking at his messed-up flippers.

"No, not that..." said Julie. "Multi-User Dungeon. It's one of the places that my friend Stu runs from his work at IsoLabs. It's one of the better ones. Most of these places are medieval-only, but Stu combines wonderfully elements both of SF and Fantasy, adds a little bit of CyberPunk and Horror, and mixes it with tons of mods."

"Welcome to the Akropolipse, my friends," said a hawker in a toga by the gate. Pick your characters well, death is afoot in the form of a stray virus that randomly kills everything in its path."

"What is it this week," asked Julie with a smirk, "A Cyborg Dragon? A gigantic sentient storm cloud? A Piano with fangs? That one was my favorite!"

"No this one is much more evil... we call it system software..." said the man with a wink. "We may go down more that a 25 cent whore while you're on. If you get thrown out, just remember where you were, and send up some e-mail."

There was a rumble in the sky above them, the silvery lines that made the world wide web quivered slightly.

"What was that?" asked Punk.

"I don't know..." said Julie.

"It's never done that before..." said the gatekeeper. "Then again, with the volume that poor thing has had to deal with lately, it's a wonder it's up there at all."

The huge latticework above got lower, or maybe it just seemed that way. Julie shivered, and the gem around her neck glowed slightly, and then dimmed. Unfortunately, no one noticed.

"I want in, give me my wizard clothes," said Julie.

"Sorry Medusa," said the man, shaking his head, "Stu gave too many people wizard access, and he had to cut back."

"But I gave him that damn Sirrus server! He owes me big time!"

"That stupid Cray wanna-be is what has been causing us problems all week. Why not try Aqquis?"

Julie gagged. "I'd rather die than go there again! I heard they went pay last year! Anyway, that I didn't hear him complain about the Sirrus when he was all Unix! It's not my damn fault you tried to update the System Software...!"

"Sorry, Medusa. Doctor's orders. I can still give you Warrior status."

"Oh, puke!" said Julie, "I don't play MUDs to win, I play them to mod, you know that."

"Of course. You liked the Vampire Piano and the Pregnant Wooly Mammoth Samurai Gun Squad, why does that not surprise me? Did you mod that buggy Luxor area?"

"Julie," suggested Punk, "Our non-technical readers are nodding off, I suggest we advance the plot before our antagonist gets the better of us."

"Hey, people liked the Yugo Nanobots! Stu made me wizard not just because I could do that thing with my hips and the gag ball..." Julie suddenly looked at Punk, who thankfully wasn't paying attention, "Uh, I mean I could really program!"

"Was it true about the strobe dildo?" asked the gatekeeper in a hushed whisper.

"Only if it will give me my wizard access back..."

"Sorry, Medusa... even that text file won't help, as entertaining as it might be. Just put on the warrior costume and enjoy the new mods and IGM's..."

Julie sighed, and put on the huge furs. "C'mon, Punk," she said, "I'm sure we can find a way out through here. I know this place like the back of my--"

There was a sound like a buzzing insect and then a flash.

"--hand..." ended Julie. They were back in the classroom.

"Hey, there you are, Pippi!" said a small geeky male. "I'm surprised you're online today, I thought you had finals."

"SHIT!" screamed Julie, holding the jeweled phone in her hands.

"What happened?" asked Punk, ignoring the geek staring at him and drooling.

"Damn Akropolipse bombed... at the GATE! Talk about a bad place to have a bug."

"How'd we get back here?" asked Punk.

"Well, actually we never left. That's the advantage of Telnet. Instead of going to the places, we bring them to us. But we have to get back on the Highway, and see if we can't find a--"

"TELNET!" screamed the geek, very loud, and suddenly it was all that Punk could do to not get run over as hundreds of geeks rushed to the phone, and in a mad attempt to dial numbers, tore it apart until a man in a cap and gown took the remaining pieces away from them.

"Well, it seems like we've found a hole. I've always wondered why people suddenly liked the University of Michigan..." said the man in the cap and gown.

"Thanks a lot!" screamed Julie at the crowd of geeks.

"Hey, you found it first. If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have been in all this trouble, Mr. Hacker! It's people like you that corrupt us to do evil things."

Julie stared in a shock that seemed to reek of chutzpah. "I see..." she said, all too clearly. "What-EVER!"

"That's something a girl would say..." said another geek.

"No offense, Pippi," said another, staring at Punk in such a way that reminded one of toddlers staring at the ultimate toy.

Julie sighed. "C'mon, Punk. We're going to do something you've always wanted to do... go on the World-Wide Web."

"I have?" asked Punk.

"Yep..." Julie sucked in a breath that surrendered all that was good and decent in her world. "We're going to Online With America..."

CHAPTER 5.1 -- Jesus, Party of 13... Your Table is Ready...

The scum of the Earth. The Bane of the Modern Thinking World. Evil and Vile Cretins of All Shapes and Sizes.

Even these type of people would not associate with the crowd that assembled beneath a newly built Church that was built from the refuse that even Usenet deemed as worthless.

Reverend Fitch stood at his pulpit and looked at the huge array of ignorant beasts that roamed the InterNet, including a large about of OWA and CompuSlave users. Spammers of every shape and form stood drooling over large piles of money that threatened to be more interesting than they were.

"My children…" spoke the evil Reverend. "My dear, dear children… are you ready to exploit the freedom of information just like this body exploited religion?"

The answers from the crowd came as loud grunts and hoots. Guttural noises that made these slimy mutants' languages dribbled from their orifices that made their minds and mouths. Money. Sex. Greed. These were their goals, and damn anything else that got in their way.

"So go do that voodoo that you do so well… on the Internet!"

The masses nearly fell upon themselves in their eager lust to do nothing but satisfy their ugly and perverted desires. They walked, crawled, flopped, and oozed their way around the Internet, making their way into tiny cracks and crevices to do their dirty deeds.

CHAPTER 6.0 -- The End of the Internet

"Oh… so disgusting!" moaned Julie.

"I never knew what online frottage was until this moment," added Punk, his last remaining spark of innocence and goodwill being crushed by the echoes of thousands of age and sex checks.

"What a mistake this was," commented Julie, removing the last of the party streamers from her torn tutu. "The Internet is doomed, let's go home."

"Okay," said Punk. "The problem with stories like these is that they tend to outdate themselves rather quickly."

"Agreed," said Julie.

"This story had such promise," bemoaned Punk.

"I doubt anyone remembers Gopher, Panda, or WAIS. It's 'Web this' and 'Web that,' people don't even know the history of anything. They think the Internet is the web. And who would have guessed CompuSlave would have been bought out by OWA?" Julie leaned on a Pine tree. "At least there are some quiet places we can go where old friends are always reliable. Where point and click is still a forbidden domain."

"Yeah… reality isn't so bad after all, is it?" asked Punk.

Julie powered down the monitor. "You have made your point, Punk. I only hope the Internet can survive the same evils reality has."

"Are you going to pay for that?" asked Flo.

Punk looked at his 20 cups of coffee scattered about. "Boy, am I ever."

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