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[META] CBFFA 2003: Best Vertigo and Best Series

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  • mike_p_smith2002
    [PRESENTATION] The 2003 CBFFA s: Best Vertigo and Best Series edited by Mike Smith send questions/comments/whatever to mike_p_smith@prodigy.net or head on over
    Message 1 of 1 , May 28, 2003
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      [PRESENTATION] The 2003 CBFFA's: Best Vertigo and Best Series
      edited by Mike Smith
      send questions/comments/whatever to mike_p_smith@...
      or head on over to the CBFFA Discussion Board at
      http://www.b2g4.com/boards/board.cgi?&user=cbffa

      Disclaimer: This narrative features numerous fictional characters
      which none of us own, unless stated otherwise. Our use of them is
      unauthorized, and no profit is being made on this by us. The stories
      referenced in this work are all copyright of their resepective authors.

      ***************************************************************************=
      ********************

      Dr. Banner returned to the stage and cleared his throat. "Our next
      award..."

      The audience booed hims as soon as he opened his mouth. Banner did a
      double-take and looked at them with eyes wide open. "Ah, our next
      award..."

      Same response. Banner shook his head, wiped his brow with a shaking
      hand, and administered a couple of little yellow pills that were
      sitting on the podium for him. After a sip of water, he steeled
      himself to try again.

      "I know it's late, but let's move on," he pleaded over the din of the
      crowd. Clearly, he was getting nowhere, so he decided to cut to the
      chase. "Please welcome, from the city of Metropolis, Superman--and
      from the limits of the human conception of existence, Death itself."

      He noticed as he left the stage, the audience was suddenly very happy
      to see him go.


      The 2003 CBFFAs
      17. Best Vertigo Fanfiction
      Presentation written by: Mike Smith
      ***********************************

      "--still don't recall ever meeting you before," he said on the way to
      the stage.

      "I wouldn't worry about that," she assured him. "Sooner or later,
      everyone does anyway."

      "People of Earth," he said with a booming voice once he'd reached the
      lectern, "This is SUPERMAN. I just want to start out by saying what a
      pleasure it is to be asked back to present the CBFFA's. As a
      connessuir of writing, both professional and amatuer, I consider all
      of you winners, nominees and acutal winners alike!"

      "Um, well that's nice to say," Death shrugged. "Ten years ago, DC
      Comics began an imprint of their line of mainstream comics. The
      intent was to provide a niche for a different flavor of storytelling,
      with characters posessing a bit more... what's the word I'm looking for?"

      "Subtlty?" Superman asked, striaightening his bright red cape from
      where it hung from his blue leotard.

      "Well, that might be it," Death replied. "Whatever the distinction,
      the imprint carried on to this day, and the fanfic soon followed. So
      then, did this award."

      "Personally, I never felt that the Vertigo line was so terribly
      different from the rest," Superman admitted. "Ultimately, all good
      fiction deals with the same elements of conflict, human emotion,
      personal growth--" He stopped in midsentence and held his open palm
      over his ear. "Great Rao, that giant radioactive bear sounds like he
      plans to eat New Orleans!" He looked back to his co-presenter. "I
      should really go take care of... well, you know."

      "Sure," she nodded. As he readied himself to take flight, she added,
      "Anything I can do?"

      "Not if I can help it," he smirked. And with that, he was gone,
      leaving only a sonic boom in his wake. Alone on the stage, Death
      fumbled the silver ankh amulet that hung around her neck, and after it
      became clear he wouldn't be back right away, she adjusted the
      microphone to speak.

      "I like him. He's fun," she said with a grin. "In the meantime, the
      nominees for Best Vertigo fanfiction are:

      "The Dark Passion of Cheerleader Dildonics" by Simon Field

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      Now the cheerleaders clutch at the sheer fabric of their t-shirts. The
      crowd goes wild. The camera zooms. A ripping forth, proud thrusting,
      jutting nipples. And oh sweet lord in heaven!

      The Beasts face upon each of those perfectly formed breasts!

      This is a dark passion thrust upon us. I look twice. It is no
      hallucination. I have no alternative. Explosive projectile vomiting
      has suddenly become the only sane and viable option available to me.

      I knew the filthy assistant could move fast, but I never appreciated
      just how fast. She's half-way across the room before I've even started
      with the dry-heaving. How could things get this badly out of control
      so quickly? My mind spins. On-screen, the cheerleaders have paired
      off. I don't want to know where else The Beast might have anointed
      them with His image.

      "Off." I manage to gasp the word, and the screen goes suddenly,
      mercifully blank. But the image I fear shall be forever burnt across
      my retina. I have been in some bad craziness in my time, but nothing
      has ever crept up on me like this. My defences down. I was open.
      Unprepared. "Assistant!"

      "Nuh-uh!" She backs off, "He who spewed it, gets to clean it up."

      "No. Dammit! This simple vomit is nothing compared to the obscenity
      being carried out upon the virgin grass of our national playing
      fields! The Beast is rutting Channon, do you not hear?"

      "You mean those cheerleaders? Well, I wasn't really watching. So."

      "YOU WEREN'T WATCHING!"

      "That was, totally the wrong thing to say, wasn't it."

      "HOW COULD YOU NOT HAVE BEEN WATCHING!"

      "Spider, they were cheerleaders with dildos. I'm not a guy, I have no
      penis. You do the math."

      "The Beast has chosen to declare war upon that which I hold most dear."

      "Cheerleaders?"

      "No!"

      "It's not dildos is it?"

      "For fucks sake no! I mean football!" A terrible calm comes over me, I
      know what I must do. "Fetch me the telephone. We no longer have time
      for a subtle campaign of terrorism. This is war. He will rue the day
      he sought to turn my glorious game into his political meat-grinding
      machine. The telephone Channon, that I might have my vengeance."
      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "Death and the Art of Pyramid Selling" by Rossi

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "I kept a lot of Chrissie's stuff after she was killed," Kingston was
      saying as he led Constantine and Michaela down a series of winding back
      streets to a row of lock-ups behind the main street of the town.
      "Marjorie thinks it all went to Oxfam, she wanted it gone, so the kids
      wouldn't have t' see it, but I couldn't. I thought they might want to
      know more about their mum one day, so I rented this lock up and stored
      it all here. Marjorie hasn't a clue." He pulled out a keyring, selected
      one and opened the heavy padlock.

      "Seems to me there's a lot Marjorie hasn't got a clue about,"
      Constantine said, pulling his collar up against the growing chill in
      the darkening evening air; the nights were definitely getting longer,
      it was only five-ish. Kingston scowled at the implied insult, but
      didn't say anything. The change in the man from the defeated pensioner
      of the previous day was amazing, and Constantine was willing to bet
      that part of it was being out of the house, acting like a man and not a
      whipped dog. He'd had Kington's wife pegged from the start -- a control
      freak from way back; there was no doubt who ruled the roost in that
      rose-festooned cottage.

      "Are you sure you can find what we need in all this?" asked Michaela,
      eyeing the stacked boxes and bags inside the small space suspiciously.
      "We could be here all night."

      Kingston shrugged and pulled the cord hanging from the single globe
      hanging from the ceiling. Immediately it clicked on, illuminating the
      crowded space. "Bit of an exaggeration, guv. It'll take a couple of
      hours, but we've got the time. This thing doesn't start until midnight
      -- bloody stupid if you ask me, having a midnight ceremony, it's a dead
      give away they're into something. What's your rush?"

      "She's got a hot date waiting for her," cut in Constantine before she
      could reply, winking at her suggestively.

      "You wish," she retorted, realising as she did that she sounded like a
      teenaged schoolgirl and hating him all the more for it. What made it
      worse was she had actually been toying with the idea, in the back of
      her mind.

      "Now, now, children, behave or there'll be no supper for either of
      you," Kingston said, his tone clearly mocking. Constantine merely
      grinned and lit another cigarette, but Michaela flushed briefly red.
      Ignoring the two of them, she walked into the small shed and lifted
      aside a small box.

      "I, for one, don't intend to be here any longer than I have to," she
      told them crisply. Kingston shrugged and joined her.

      "Come on, John, give us a hand. Sooner we find what we're looking for,
      the sooner we're for the pub," he called over his shoulder. Constantine
      took a few more drags and tossed away the butt of his cigarette.

      "Right you are, then."

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "God Slave, the Queen" by Dex

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "—and from there, I hooked up with John Bull and he got me out of England
      on the quiet." Stridewide Al sipped his beer from the amber bottle. He
      rubbed his thumb in the beads of condensation on the side of the very cold
      bottle and sighed. "Makes for a nice vacation."

      "Kind of the point, isn't it?" King Mob said, sipping his own beer and
      smiling. "What happened to the rest of your support structure in Midland?"

      "That's the issue," Stridewide Al said. His eyes went vague as he looked
      out over the grounds. "We've been marked."

      "You?"

      "Yes."

      "I've seen you step sideways across London. A group of tech geeks in
      Birmingham made you?" King Mob said incredulously.

      "We're not just dealing with a group of chemical engineers, like we
      thought."

      "Considering the legionnaires, no."

      "It's beyond even that. I know of a genetics lab in Brazil that's been
      pulling the same ingestable power spunk cocktail using the embalmed testes
      of Saint Absalom." A gust of wind stirred the leaves, drawing Al's glance.

      "Funny word for it: cocktails. Like in a highball glass with ice and a
      little umbrella. In fact, the whole thing is just that; a cock tale." King
      Mob drained his beer, a wicked light in his eyes. "A cock tale about high
      balls."

      "There's a lot more to this than just the sperm from long dead Roman
      balls."

      "I'll be honest," Lord Fanny appeared suddenly, silently from the woods
      near the pool. She held a carafe of clear liquid and a net bag of limes in
      her hand. "With you boys, no matter how much ceremony you cloak it in,
      it's
      still about balls."

      "I thought it was about dick size?" King Mob joked.

      "That's politics. Secret societies are solely about semen. Darling, don't
      be a beast. Get some ice." Fanny winked as she poured the glasses of gin,
      using a fingernail to pare away the rind of the limes and squeezing the
      tart pulp out into the glasses. King Mob reappeared a few minutes later,
      with a silver bucket full of ice. Stridewide took a sip and smiled.

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "Heels Britannia" by Dex

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "Piss off." John said. "What do you want this time, Fanny?"

      "Just a little help for the Unseen majority." Lord Fanny smiled. She was
      referring to the Invisibles; an anarchists cell which pitted itself
      against
      extra-dimensional forces seeking to control the Earth. John referred to
      them as the Conservative party.

      "Buncha fuckin' wankers with a head full of garbage more like. Ooh, we're
      hard-core anarchists, so in our fight against order, we'll organize
      ourselves into tightly regimented units secretly hidden from the world.
      Like Maggie Thatcher could be running the whole thing, for all you know."
      John snubbed out his cigarette angrily. "And tell bloody King Mob his
      books
      are shite."

      "Darling, such hostility. We aren't asking you to join again. Although, if
      you're interested in getting another inside look..."

      "Christ." John put his head in his hands.

      "There there, John. No, I'm not here for that adorably underfed and wasted
      body of yours. I need something from you." Lord Fanny patted him
      lightly on
      the shoulder.

      "No."

      "Oh, but darling, I simply have to have it."

      "Don't pass that up, mate," Said the barman as he passed by, winking at
      John.

      "Sod off!" John snarled. The barman took several well advised steps back.

      "John--"

      "No. I'm not bloody well getting involved with you lot again."

      "Well." Fanny pouted. "I thought we could switch it for a deFleuresque
      chain we found a few weeks ago."

      "Authentic?"

      "Would I lie to you, darling?"

      "Yes. Authentic?"

      "All thirteen links intact." John's eyebrows went up. A deFleuresque chain
      was the creation of a French alchemist from the fourteenth century. He
      made
      six of them before he was burned as a heretic. Each link of the chain was
      of a different element, from platinum to a black crystal that still
      remained unidentified. By moving down the chain, chanting the glyphs
      enscribed along the links, a magnus can bind any entity into Limbo. Two
      were in the possession of the Vatican, and two others had been broken into
      pieces. The pieces still had power, but no where near that of the whole
      chain. The other two were still lost, according to the arcane underground.

      "Why would I want that?" John feigned disinterest.

      "Because, dear boy, plenty of things are still hunting you, and I know
      you'd love a way to close out some old debts with them," Lord Fanny
      replied, sipping the last of her drink. "Don't lie to me, John. I know
      what
      you've riled up in the underworld over the years."

      "Point. I'm interested," John said. The barman put another drink in front
      of Fanny with a smile.

      "Compliments of the establishment, Miss," he said.

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "*nvisibles" by Lise Williams & Kate Bolin

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      It was going to happen eventually. Urban legends about bands develop
      slowly, and over time. *NSync was so big that it had to happen. They
      had reached the critical mass and it was only a matter of seconds
      before someone would tell someone else that Justin had died, that
      "*NSync" stood for "National Satanic Youth Nazi Coalition", that they
      were part of a huge underground conspiracy to subvert the worldwide
      paradigm.

      They'd point to the cover of "No Strings Attached" and tell people
      that if they looked closely, they could see little white pins on their
      jackets. Those pins meant they were part of a group -- a secret group
      -- that worked to create anarchy, that worked to prevent
      homogenization, that was going to change the world for the better, or,
      at least, more chaotic.

      Anarchy for the masses -- on sale now!

      Most people scoffed, of course. A boyband? Against homogenization?
      They were the dictionary definition of "homogenization" -- slick
      processed pasteurized lyrics up against robotic beats, five precious
      little white boys in designer rags doing synchronized movements with
      utterly blank expressions on their faces.

      But a few, only a few, and usually not their usual teenage girl fans,
      but the ones that listened, and understood, and created their own
      little worlds around them, held their CDs to their chests, drew little
      circles with whiteout on their posters, and dreamed of a universe
      where everyone could get exactly what they wanted.


      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "Muscle and Bone and Feathers" by Gunbunny

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      Jenny's had her own dreams, the mad, bad, crazy ones, but they mostly
      got taken off at the kneecaps by the reality she could see, the fact
      that most people are utter wankers. They can't help themselves. Seems
      to be wired into their DNA. Lets her fingers trace down Shen's spine,
      the feel of the vertebrae underneath banishing the skittering
      depressive thoughts to the back of her mind for a few seconds, so they
      can seethe quietly on their own. Lightens the touch even more, so it's
      just the very fine hairs she's touching. Dips into the hollow of her
      lower back, tracing circles and spirals and strange archaic symbols;
      comforting and arousing at the same time. Shen just shivers and hums
      slightly. It's a definite pleased sound, human equivalent of a purr.
      Pretty.

      Jenny pauses to shift the angle she's propped up at, so she can
      relieve the stiffness in her shoulder before it starts. Staying in one
      position too long's never been a strong point of hers. Moves her
      fingers from the hollow to skitter down Shen's bum, back and forth
      across the skin there. From her bum to the top of her legs, across a
      tiny scar Shen has no idea how she got. Jenny's asked, and the only
      thing Shen can think of is that she got it somehow as a kid, sitting
      on something sharp. Jenny's buggered if she can think of any better
      reason. She's got scars in a couple of odd places herself that she
      can't account for. They're in the minority to the ones she can,
      though. Pushes those thoughts back to where they came from, promising
      them decent whisky later. Maybe Teacher's. She hasn't had that in a
      while, be good to have something that doesn't start with Glen- or Mac-
      whatever the pissed Scotsmen came up with.

      Back of the knees now, which is as far as Jenny can stretch from this
      position. Tickles them, and there's the faintest *whuf* of breath from
      Shen. Yeah, definitely ticklish, and Jenny knows all her hot spots.
      Stops the torment, traces back up the inside of the legs to find
      another ticklish spot, but instead of tickling, she decides just to
      trace round the area for now. Likes the laziness of this extended moment.

      Moves her fingers back up to the one of the unbelievably sensitive
      spots that Shen's wings sprout out of. If Jenny pinches the skin, or
      digs her fingers with their bitten nails into that spot at the right
      moment during sex, it sends Shen right over the edge. You'd think
      there would be a scar there, something to denote that massive fucking
      wings that have no place on a human sprout from there. But no, not
      even a bit of skin a slightly different shade.

      Jenny still can't figure out where all that mass to create the wings
      comes from. Muscle and bone and feathers, and it's a fucking lot,
      because those wings are bloody massive, bigger than Shen's petite
      frame. The others on the team don't change, their power's something
      fucked up in their muscles and hind-brains. Shen just grows these
      wings and then drops them when she no longer needs them. Memory
      intrudes of a time Shen was trying to melt them down in the bathtub of
      some nameless hotel in a city full of coppers with superpowers, and
      just the image makes her smirk. Beat 'em to death with the wet ends.

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      "Sacrificial Angels" by Amanda Sichter

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      He was in a diner in a town best described as Bugfuck, Idaho, when he saw
      her for the first time. He didn't know where he was. He didn't know where
      Cassidy and Tulip were either. All he was doing was a following a trail
      long cold and wishing he'd walked into that diner how many months ago
      instead of walking away. Sure, saving a town from a mad meat-fucker
      and his
      Hitler-worshipping dominatrix lawyer gave a guy a warm feeling, but if
      he'd
      played it right he could have been with Tulip instead and she was a girl
      who *really* knew how to give Jesse Custer a warm feeling.

      He was mulling over where to go next when he saw her. Him first. Him, who
      walked into the road as calmly as could be and placed himself very
      squarely
      and very deliberately in the path of the bus, a bus going from
      Somewhere to
      Somewhere and therefore going very fast through Bugfuck, Idaho indeed. In
      the moment before the bus hit, Jesse saw her.

      Wings. White wings and glorious. Wings that made you believe. No more than
      that - just a suggestion of mass and darkness behind wings that would make
      you weep for their beauty. Then the wings enfolded him and wrapped him
      tight, fell through him as the bus hit, snagged something free of the body
      and were gone.

      Jesse Custer knew he had just seen an angel.

      Jesse Custer hated angels.

      * * * * *

      The second time he saw her was in a larger town with another name, a place
      where Jesse was spending his time trying to find out whether the guy who'd
      had his throat ripped out in a bar-brawl had really had it taken out by a
      broken beer bottle or whether he'd met America's only living Irish
      vampire.

      He hadn't even been in the middle of it, which considering Jesse's history
      was kind of surprising. Skeeter had loped around the corner and barked
      wildly and by the time Jesse had followed it had nearly been over. The man
      holding onto the gun and the woman was wild-eyed and sweating and the cop
      facing him was much the same and shaking like a leaf as well. Jesse
      went to
      draw breath and use the Word but before he could say a thing, he saw her
      again.

      Wings like silk and fire, wings as all-encompassing as pain. Dark mass
      inside and belief, beckoning belief. For a moment the man's eyes widened
      and then he flung the woman sideways, aimed at the cop and was dead before
      her wings swept through him and were gone.

      Jesse had seen angels before. Chained angels, changed angels. She -
      she was
      something different. Not the Angel of Death because the Saint of Killers
      had said that angel was male. Not a corporeal angel, walking the earth by
      the Will of God. But an angel nonetheless and if he could catch an
      angel it
      just might know where the Lord God was hiding his sorry ass.

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      and "Ye May Yet Believe" by Suzene Campos

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      'I know the situation now. I knew it when I first returned.'

      "Aren't you special." His coat slapped against his ankles as he
      turned
      to look up at the moon. "I really didn't expect to see you again. I
      should have known it, of course, given the circumstances... but I didn't
      expect it."

      'You are not accustomed to hope.' A pause, then a soft question.
      'Am... am I truly the only one?'

      "No fauns, beavers, or talking horses made it out, if that's what
      you're asking. So far as I know, you're the only one."

      There was silence, complete as the quiet of a dead world, painful as
      a grief beyond outcry. The chirping of crickets fell still and even the
      heavens seemed, for a moment, to dim.

      The moment passed, and it was only the city glare that made the
      stars
      seem so washed out.

      "By all rights, I should call someone to take you up to the Farm."

      'You know I do not belong there.'

      "You're nothing special now, Leo. You're just another refugee
      legend.
      You're not entitled to the royal treatment."

      'Then why have you come here alone?'

      "I wanted to see for myself, maybe." The uncaring mask did not
      falter,
      the guised wolf did not turn, but his companion did not have to see his
      face to know that something faltered.

      'Did I lie when I said you are not accustomed to hope? I think not.
      If one can return across the boundary of death, is your dream of
      returning
      to the home and hunt so far from the realm of possibility?'

      ***************************************************************************=
      ******************

      Just then, Superman streaked back into the building and onto the
      stage. His cape was tattered and torn, his once colorful blue costume
      much greyer now from all the soot and ash. He coughed twice, and
      pulled an evelope from a hidden pocket in what remained of his cape.
      "I thought you might be needing this," he said nonchalantly.

      "Thanks," Death said, taking the parchment from him and working the
      seal apart with one of her pale thumbs. "Everything went all right?"

      He raised the numerous strings of beads around his neck to illustrate.
      "As well as can be expected." He took the contents of the envelope
      from her and read them aloud. "And the winner for Best Vertigo
      Fanfiction is--"Death and the Art of Pyramid Selling," by Rossi!
      Congratulations, and on behlaf of..."

      "What is it?"

      "Why would they mount helicopter blades on a tank like that?" Superman
      wondered aloud as he stared off into space. "That _can't_ be part of
      the parade. I'd better check this out..."

      As he rocketed off once more, Death snickered to herself, waved
      goodbye to the crowd, and made her way for the nearest exit.

      ********************************

      "All right, all right," Bruce Banner groaned as he tried to talk over
      the boos and catcalls. "I just had a very _pleasant_ conversation
      with management, and _they_ seem to think that you people actually
      like the Hulk's performance better than mine so far. They actually
      think I should transform into the Hulk _deliberately_ now, just to
      please the crowd. Well, that's ridiculous, and I--"

      He was cut off when the crowd began to cheer. "What?" he demanded.
      "This is _insane_. You can't actually _mean_--"

      And then the crowd began to chant. "GO, HULK, GO!" they chanted.

      Banner shook his head and pounded the podium with his fist. "You
      people are _animals_," he shouted. "You have no idea what kind of
      menace the Hulk is! You think it's all a game, a toy for you to
      switch on and off for your own amusement! Well you're WRONG! You're
      all--!"

      And his ravings soon devolved into wordless screaming, and in moments,
      he was swept up in the transformation once again. The crowd actually
      clapped this time, and when all trace of Banner was wiped clean from
      the stage, they began to hoot and holler with approval.

      "RAARRRRRGHHHH! Hulk want more beans!" the Hulk shouted. "Stupid
      audience watch strong men present awards now! Men strong, but not as
      strong as Hulk. Hulk strongest one there is!"

      "GO, HULK, GO!" the audience chanted.

      "Anyway, here come man with hammer and yellow hair and hat with wings.
      And other man... uh... Other Man have beard and talk funny, too.
      Hulk hate when men talk funny!"

      And he stomped away, oblivious to the adoration of the public.

      The 2003 CBFFAs
      18. Best Fanfiction Series
      Presentation written by: Jim Smith
      **********************************

      "Have thou a care, bestial Hulk," Hercules declared as he took the
      podium, "lest thou incur the wrath of two champions who could each alone
      lay thee low!"

      "Heed him not, proud son of Zeus," Thor chided, "for the time has come
      to present the award for Best Fan Fiction Series! Aye, and there be
      none better to recognize such creative feats than we. For since the
      days when men worshipped the gods of golden Olympus and fabled Asgard,
      the storytellers have spun tales too epic in scope to be contained in a
      single work. From Homer's songs of Odysseus and the stirring sagas of
      the Norsemen, we now look foreward to the epics of today!"

      Hercules slapped his friend on the back. "So be it!" he concurred with
      a smile. "And if it dost please the son of Odin, allow me the honor of
      proclaiming the nominees."

      "Say on, O Lion of Olympus," Thor nodded.

      "Then gird yourselves, you mortal wordsmiths! For I tell you--and it is
      certainly so--the hour of your reckoning is at hand! The nine Muses
      look down from the heavens, casting lots wagering among themselves as to
      which of their favored bards shall take the prize! Glory to you
      all--for though only one of you may triumph, there is naught but anguish
      for those who could not share in this noble contest!"

      Thor blinked. "Thou need'st not lay it on so thickly, Hercules..."

      Hercules rolled his eyes as he went on. "The nominees for Best Fan
      Fiction Series are...

      "'Everyone Says I Love You' by Mice..."

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      "That's not my mother," Bobby accused to his father in his dream. "That
      is not my mother."

      "Son, I can explain..."

      Bobby went up to the bed and grabbed the dark haired woman, his Aunt
      Hollis, by the hair and out of the bed. "You are not my mother!"

      Hollis's attention was divided to the two immediate tasks of freeing
      herself and covering herself up. "Ah can explain!"

      "There is nothing to explain. This is my father, this is the bed he
      shares with my mother! And you are not my mother!"

      With that, Bobby threw the woman across the room. It was good to be a
      super hero.

      William Drake stood frozen and naked in his room. He watched his son
      stand over his sister in-law. "Bobby, please, don't hurt her..."

      Bobby turned to his father. "There are things, Dad ... there are things
      you don't know about this woman...!"

      "Son, I know you're angry, but--"

      "Don't look at me, Dad, look at him. He's the one who needs help."

      William turned to look where his older son was pointing. There, he saw
      his younger son collapsed on the floor, completely blue. Bobby looked,
      too, not completely aware of the moment. "The hell? I didn't get my
      powers until years later..." He and William went up to the boy and found
      various bruises on his body, along with deep cuts and gashes, though
      that wasn't the disturbing part. That was left up entirely to the
      designer belt tightened around his throat.

      That's when Bobby Drake woke up.

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      "Ahh, Iceman," Hercules noted. "A most staunch ally. Where was I...?
      Oh yes...

      "'Wings and Dreams" by Mitai..."

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      His knees cracked sharply on the floor, and Cable bit the hiss back,
      tightening the muscles of his throat so no air could leave him, no
      sound. It was important not to make a sound.

      "Is this all that is left of the great Dayspring, my destroyer?"

      No sound.

      He could feel the footsteps through the floor. Heavy. Measured.
      Carrying a dense, maybe eight foot frame steadily towards him.
      Consequence coming steadily towards him.

      "I must say," the voice rumbled impassively. "I am gravely disappointed
      in you, Askani'son."

      The odd tone baffled Nathan, and he looked up before he could stop
      himself.

      A powerful hand came from nowhere and struck him, sending him flying
      into the wall before the flight even registered. He crashed into the
      joint of floor and wall with something that sounded sickeningly between
      a clank and the dull thud of flesh, and he found he could not move,
      could not breathe for the pain.

      It hadn't just been the pressure. The pain of the virus gleefully
      crawling all over him, the pain of infected flesh surrounding every
      encroachment. He hadn't felt this pain since he had learned to contain
      the T-O as a boy, never felt it to this extent. His head ached from the
      damage he and Stryfe had done to it, and his frame screamed from the
      beating it had received at the hands of Dark Riders in battle and the
      insect woman.

      Pain was his friend, his guide. He let it course out of him until only
      emptiness remained. He took a calming breath, feeling the air pour in,
      run through him like a stream of clear water in a desert riverbed.

      "You have wasted time, and now time has wasted you."

      He sensed the foot coming, it had to be with telepathy, he brought up
      his T-O arm and Apocalypse's foot mercifully connected with it, leaving
      him rattled to the teeth but without broken ribs and internal damage.
      With a vicious swiftness the backhand came into play again, this time
      battering Cable against the wall and ricocheting him back into the open
      floor.

      "Was this not to be your final glory, Dayspring? The finest hour of
      Xavier's children as they defeated me, making it so your future was
      reduced to a memory?"

      Cable squinted, clenching his eyes shut as they stung with blood. Where
      was he bleeding? He wiped them frantically against his arm, blinking
      them, trying to get a fix on those inexorable footsteps.

      "And here you lay, a broken man. At my feet, in the very heart of my
      fortress. Helpless." The rumble was as relentless as those footsteps.
      "Did your Prophecies forsee this, Askani'son? Did your precious
      sister send you to your doom?"

      Cable managed a dry, cracked laugh, and the footsteps faltered, slowed.
      He continued blinking, trying desperately to see anything more than an
      indistinct blur. "She sent me to yours, Nur."

      ***

      Hercules fumed at the clip. "Base fiend! Mighty Cable shall feed thy
      bones to Cerberus! But hold, I forget myself. The next nominee is...

      "'Special: The Genesis of Cyclops' by Minisinoo..."

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      "You look *fantastic*."

      Uttered in another tone, or with a less open smile, it would've been a
      come-on, but Warren had always shown a remarkable ability to be wholly
      straightforward. He meant exactly what he said; no more, no less. He
      could play games of innuendo, but preferred to avoid them. It was why
      I'd felt so drawn to him from the outset. As astonishing as it seemed to
      me, Xavier had been right. Warren liked me for me -- plain and simple.
      This was, I thought, the way it ought to be, this was what 'normal' felt
      like, and he'd always have my loyalty for teaching me friendship. I'd
      force myself past my own discomfort, because Warren had earned it.

      "Let's go find the lady," he said now, double-checking his own tie in
      the mirror.

      Following him out, I asked, "What do you think of her?"

      "Who? Jean?"

      "No, the fucking housecat! Come on, who'd you think I meant?"

      His smile and sideways glance were sly. "I think Jean is very nice. And
      I think you're jealous."

      "I am not."

      "Yes, you are."

      "I am not, dammit! It's just . . . she waltzes in here after being off
      at school for months, and takes over the whole fucking place! Little
      Miss Perfect."

      "Nope. You're not jealous in the least."

      "Blow it out your asshole."

      He laughed, then sobered. "She's not perfect, Scott -- not any more than
      I am. She just wants people to like her, so she does her best to be what
      she isn't. I understand that."

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      "The housecat..." Hercules chortled uncontrollably. "Hahaha...Rhea take
      me! Most clever, fair Minisinoo, most clever indeed. Ahem...forging
      ahead, we have...

      "'Zaynah's Story' by Stormfreak."

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      "You're always away, Ororo. According to the papers, Dr. Xavier's
      getting more ass from you than I am."

      "Oh, that is just not fair," Ororo fumed. "You believe the papers now,
      over your own wife?"

      "I just said I wasn't making accusations-"

      "Then why bring this up? To annoy me?"

      "No! I just..." Bishop sighed loudly. "Sorry, babe. I don't know what I
      was thinking."

      "You weren't. But that's okay." Ororo tucked her legs underneath her
      dressed. "We have been over this, but I'll say it again. I love you,
      Bishop. I love you with every fiber of my being…please believe me."
      Ororo reached out and took Bishop's hand, kissing the outside. "There is
      no other man for me, now or ever."

      "I'm going to hold you to that," Bishop warned playfully.

      "Then hold me tight," Ororo whispered, smiling. She draped her arms
      around Bishop's neck, planting a kiss on his lips.

      Bishop wrapped his arms around Ororo in return, bringing her close as
      his lips met with hers. Ororo moaned, melting into Bishop's arms as she
      propped herself against his large oak desk to keep from sliding to the
      floor. Ororo tilted her head to the side as Bishop carefully picked
      Ororo up and sat her on the desk. Bishop buried his face in the crook of
      her neck. He inhaled deeply, and his senses were assaulted with the
      scent of fresh oranges. "You smell so good," he half whispered in her
      ear, bringing her earlobe into his mouth.

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      Hercules tugged at his headgear, as if to let some steam out of his
      ears. "Zounds! I am overcome with a...goodly desire for some oranges.
      Let us see...the final nominee is...

      "The 'Pantheon' series, created by Alicia McKenzie."

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      Sam watched him curiously - letting him squirm, Nate thought balefully -
      and then shrugged again, his gaze shifting to the window far too
      casually to be anything other than a sudden reluctance to maintain eye
      contact. "Ah wanted to find an excuse not to send you on that mission,"
      he murmured, and Nate flinched at the tangle of guilt and sadness that
      underlaid the words. "Ah really did."

      "I know," Nate said, managing to keep his voice absolutely neutral this
      time. Only it was the wrong tone, because his father gave him an anxious
      look, as if detecting some condemnation in his voice. Nate forced
      himself to smile, and went on a little more gently. "But it would have
      been the wrong thing to do, Dad. You know that."

      And though he'd spoken to reassure, the truth of his words suddenly hit
      him. If he hadn't been there, would Clare have gone back after Stef
      herself? His mind was already subtracting himself from the events of two
      days ago, calculating variables and possibilities and not liking the
      picture that emerged at all.

      "Ah'm not so sure," Sam said, breaking Nate's train of thought. He
      looked at his father concernedly, wondering at the sudden self-directed
      anger he was sensing. "Ah wish the rest of us could remember it all."

      "Why?" Nate blurted, astonished. He'd been so relieved to discover that
      none of the people his other self had encountered on his trip through
      time remembered the events the paradox had created--well, he wasn't
      positive about Sulven, but he knew better than to think he'd ever get
      the truth out of her.

      The look in his father's eyes were bleak and very old all of a sudden.
      "If ah remembered, maybe ah'd understand why ah let it go on until you
      wound up dead."

      "Dad," Nate protested, not having any idea what to say to that. It had
      happened, there was no way of getting around that - he knew that better
      than anyone, he'd WATCHED himself die - but he was here, wasn't he?
      Alive and well. There was certainly no reason for his father to blame
      himself for any of it. "The memories I got from the other me are getting
      a little--weird, but I don't think you had much of a choice."

      "There's always a choice," Sam said harshly, and Nate shifted in his
      chair as the guilt he was sensing from his father rose a few notches in
      intensity.

      ***************************************************************************=
      *********

      "Most perplexing. This excerpt had scarce to do with the hallowed
      Olympian Pantheon at all...mayhap I should have read this series from
      the beginning ere now..."

      "'Tis simple, old friend--the Pantheon series is set in a possible
      future, in which the newest generation of mutants hath organized an
      international peacekeeping force known henceforth as the XSE. Young
      Samuel Guthrie, the Cannonball, has grown into a man and sired a son,
      named for his mentor Cable."

      Hercules stared at Thor in disbelief.

      "Avengers monitor duty would be most tedious, Prince of Power, save for
      my subscription to OTL." the god of Thunder explained. "But softly, for
      I must now rend the envelope and speak the name of the winner! The
      Comic Book Fan Fiction Award for Best Fan Fiction Series goeth to..."

      "Hooves of Pan, I'm so nervous..."

      "Minisinoo, for 'The Genesis of Cyclops!'"

      Hercules applauded. "So shall it be written in the annals of history!
      And now, mighty Thor, if thou wilt create a dimensional vortex with thy
      hammer Mjolnir, let us away to Olympus, and offer...consolances to those
      fair Muses who lost their wager..."

      "Pray tell," Thor asked as he swung his enchanted mallet, "are the Muses
      not thy half-sisters?"

      "Verily!" Hercules said as the two gods vanished from this mortal coil.
      "That is what maketh it so nasty..."




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