By Moe Lane


It all went down like this.

Media doesn’t like to talk about it, but there’s a little problem with imposing your Will on the market: actually, you can’t, quite. Sure, you can saturate, infiltrate, dominate - but at the end of the day you’ve got to give the people what they want, or you’re history. Nybbas is very, very good at convincing people that ‘what they want’ is ‘what the Prince of the Media feels like showing them’. Unfortunately, he’s young for his position, and like all youngsters is just a tad too ready to believe his own hype. If he survives the next few centuries, he’ll learn better - but for now, Nybbas will still always try to force a trend rather than riding it.

And that’s why there’s still decent stuff to watch on the boob tube and the big screen, why there’s still kick-ass music on the airwaves and why you can still get truly righteous games for the PC. He’d rather that you used the tripe that he pushes out - but it’s because he pushes it out that the good stuff exists. Humanity hasn’t lost free will yet, you see. Force them to consume junk, and at least some of them will go looking for stuff that isn’t junk. The harder he pushes, the more they look. True, this means alternative communications channels, for the most part, but there’s still people even in the mainstream that like producing quality. Sometimes they even get a shot at doing so.

All of this leads us eventually to Pandemonium.

At first glance, this particular animated television show looks like precisely the sort of thing that Nybbas would be all for: it’s the serialized adventures of a sanitized Pan in the modern world, complete with dreadful liberties with Greek Mythology, relentless buffoonery and a catchy soundtrack that claws its way into your cerebral cortex and refuses to let go. It is, naturally, a hit with the Saturday morning crowd, and the first wave of merchandising is well under way. The formation of an ethereal cartoon Pan was likewise a foregone conclusion. Everything’s hunky-dory, right?

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

There’s some problems, you see. First off, well, the show doesn’t suck. At all. Irreverent? Sure. Wacky? You bet. Cheerfully insane? No question about that. What it isn’t is trite, insulting to the intelligence nor devoid of any and all moral sense. The kids love it - but, frighteningly, so do the adults. The college crowd has already adopted this show wholesale; they started watching it for the snappy dialogue and stayed because the scripts manage to be relevant without being preachy and clever without being self-indulgent. The TV critics routinely praise the show - when one of the Media’s trained seals tried to spoke Pandemonium’s wheels his numbers dropped ten points in a week, and Nybbas can take a hint. This baby is bulletproof for at least the next two seasons.

This is not a problem, per se. Nybbas can manage these sorts of problems away, given time - unfortunately, he may not have time. There’s an acute crisis ahead, you see. The ‘new’ Pan is sufficiently different from the ‘old’ Pan that he’s got a distinct personality - and the two don’t like each other at all. Cartoon Pan doesn’t think that drunken debauchery and rape is very nice, you see. In fact, he thinks that it’s disgusting. He also thinks that he’s currently getting a lot darn more freely-given Essence these days than the incumbent (this is perfectly accurate, incidentally), and that it’s time for the incumbent to accede to the wishes of the people and step down, not to mention wink out of existence. In other words, it’s time for a bit of Assumption combat.

Now, Nybbas is certainly not about to let this happen, if he can help it. Not because he cares a flying leap for some old drunken bugger with goat legs and the inability to hear the word No, of course; he doesn’t, and doesn’t care who knows it. What he does care about is making sure that nobody ever, ever thinks that they can just whack one of his slaves without first getting the Prince of the Media’s express permission. Nybbas doesn’t like it when people show disrespect, and Cartoon Pan has difficulty showing anything else when dealing with a certain type of authority figure. This is completely unacceptable, and should have resulted in the elimination of the annoying little bugger, except for the third problem.

It’s called Heaven; more accurately, Michael.

Not that Mike gives a flying leap about ethereals, either. What interests him, though, is the idea of watching an old thorn in Heaven’s side go down in metaphorical flames - especially if it can also result in making a Demon Prince look like an incompetent idiot. All the Archangel of War has to do is make sure that nobody interferes until the two Pans throw down, and trust that youth and energy will defeat age and treachery (given that Michael sees no reason not to cheat, it just might). He’s even got Laurence going along with this program, albeit reluctantly; watching the Archangel of the Sword balance the evil of temporarily fostering an ethereal (JUST this ethereal, mind) against the good of eventually watching one of the Church’s oldest enemies cough out its lifeblood was entertaining to see. Dominic still doesn’t approve of the whole bloody thing, but then, does he ever?

So, there’s the situation: plenty of work on both sides, really, in any permutation that you care for. Both angels and demons can find themselves either hindering or helping this operation; bear in mind that not everybody likes either Nybbas or Michael. Indeed, they’ve got some impressive enemies, and some of them are quite capable of working effectively in the Marches. Also bear in mind that Cartoon Pan in any scenario is almost certainly not going to enjoy a long existence, even if he wins: even those giving him assistance will stop caring about his well-being once he’s no longer useful - although, bizarrely, some of those opposing this operation might. It’s a shame, really; this particular Pan is all right, in that special animated chirpy oblivious cartoon way.

If only he’d stop playing those bloody pipes.


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