/\/\/\/\ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ \ \ | | | | | | | | | / BLiP / | | | | | -|-- | | o | \ \ | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- / #1 / | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ \ \ | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | \/\/\/\/ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [Cover is a large silhouette of five people, four standing in a semi-circle, the fifth in front, arm raised. Quite a bit of information for a shadow, eh? In the bottom right hand corner, the question is: "Who are the Alt.Riders?" The issue number box is a snazzy First Issue star.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "All aboard that's going aboard!" Marsha looked up at the building which matched the address. It wasn't so much run down as run over. She didn't know how anyone could live here, or why for that matter, but this was the place on the card, the invitation both she and Inacoustic Kid had received. She glanced over at her companion. Inacoustic Kid was also looking up at the building, but with an interested look, as if trying to work out the story behind the building, how it came to be like this. Marsha smiled inside, appreciating his inquisitiveness. They entered through the doorway (which did not contain a door), and found stairs that took them up to the second floor, protesting at their weight. As they walked down the corridor, Marsha checked the invite yet again. Someone wanted to set a team up here? A team with them in it? Inacoustic Kid held up a hand, and Marsha looked at him puzzledly until she noticed that he was listening to something. Cocking her ear, she could just make out murmurings coming down the hall, from behind their destination come to that. She couldn't work out what was being said, so shrugged her shoulders and continued onwards. Reaching the door, Marsha put up her hand to knock, but hesitated. This was a big step. She had left the LNH because she wasn't any good as a heroine, a fact that had been drummed back into her when she had tried to take out Ninja-San. [In _Fan.Boy #18_ - Footnote Girl] And now she was thinking of joining a team? Why should she be any better in this than she was in the LNH? She caught Inacoustic Kid looking at her concernedly, with her hand half raised, and was treated to his look of trust. She flashed him a smile. Yes, that's why she was here. To start a new life. With him. _-~-_ "So, what makes you sure they'll come?" asked Rick Mansfield, previously known to some as Amorphous Lad. "If you invite them, they will come," the Phantom Walker said, without a trace of humour, then shrugged. "They don't have anything better to do. Besides, this team is supposed to be formed now." "By you?" Rick didn't really like it when the Walker got all mysterious, but since he did it so often, there wasn't much Rick could do other than put up with it. "There's no-one else." "I don't think their reception to me will be all that warm," Rick said, his mind going back to the after effects of the business surrounding another shape changer. "That's true." Rick was about to point out that sort of attitude wasn't going to help matters, when someone knocked on the door. Rick started, then paused, and looked to He Who Walks For Another for confirmation. The Walker nodded, and Rick opened the door. "You!" came a shocked voice. "Marsha," replied Rick, with a bit more delight in his voice than had been in hers. "It's nice to see you again." Marsha looked at him coldly, then over his shoulder at the Phantom Walker. Rick looked over her shoulder at a puzzled Inacoustic Kid. The Phantom Walker smiled disarmingly. "Come in, do. I'm sure you all know each other, so no need for introductions. Come in, come in." Before she was really aware of it, Marsha was sitting down at a table, Inacoustic Kid next to her, and Rick opposite her. The Phantom Walker peered out into the corridor for a moment, muttered something to himself Marsha couldn't hear properly, then shut the door. Marsha thought she saw a rather dark expression on the Walker's face, but she may as been mistaken, as now all she saw was benevolence. "If you think I'm going to team with him," Marsha said to the Walker, pointing to Rick, "you're in for a major disappointment." "You," said the Walker, looking directly at Marsha, "were raised in boarding schools and left home as soon as you got back, just to spite your mother." Marsha sat back, shocked. How did he know this? "You were transformed into a superhero, now having the body of, essentially, marshmallow, enabling you sustain direct physical damage, even gun shots, without ill effect. After joining the LNH, you found that you couldn't cut it a superhero, failing to defeat even one villain, and left. Traveling across country, you reached Sin.ci.net.ty, and was captured by Queen Enterprises. You managed to escape and found him," the Walker pointed briefly to Inacoustic Kid, "and freed him as well. The two of you traveled back here, hoping to find a cure for the strange affliction that caused Inacoustic Kid's silencing powers to be permanently extended over a large radius centered on him. After finding out that you still couldn't defeat a villain, you decided to leave, but ended up staying for a while, just for him," pointing to Inacoustic Kid again "and so, since you really don't want to be in the LNH, I'm giving you the chance to join with us and be effective. Not by yourself, but in a team." [A rather shortened version of Marsha's history, previously detailed in _Guitar Man_, _World Tales_ (nee Elsewheres), and _Fan.Boy_. - Footnote Girl.] Marsha reeled, more shocked than angered. Inacoustic Kid looked impressed. "How did you know all that?" she managed to gasp out. "I have certain... connections with Queen Enterprises," the Walker said. "It's amazing what they know." "They know where we are?" "They knew a long time ago. Your capture wasn't the controller's decision, and it wont happen again." "I'm sure that's just so comforting," Marsha said, acid dripping. "That still doesn't make me want to team up with him." The Walker looked at Rick, who merely shrugged. "I told you," Rick said. The Walker walked through the squalor of the room, bare except for the table, some chairs, and a rusty sink, and stared out a grimy window. "Rick Mansfield, a long time LNHer known as Amorphous Lad, an adept shape-changer, better, at least slightly more versatile, than Pliable Lad. However, very prone to being taken over mentally. Due to a rather nasty incident involving the Master of the Net, and," he glanced over at Marsha for a moment, aware that she didn't know of the.. certain other viewpoint as to the nature of the reality of the LNHiverse, "from a lack of attention, he decided to leave. Then, thanks, I have to admit, to me, he avoided being killed by Frank Bennington, an otherwise small time gangster, and has since been helping me. One task he did by himself, however, was to kill another shape-shifter in the LNH, named It-Star," Rick looked startled by this blatant exposure of what he did, but made no comment, "which he did for several personal reasons. As no-one else could ever hope to understand those reasons, he has had little contact with his former companions, making outside teamwork an excellent idea." [Most of the events have been chronicled in issues like _Comic Plot Device Caper_, _Pliable Lad_, _World Tales_ and _Fan.Boy_ - Footnote Girl.] The Walker moved back to the table. "You know, with both backgrounds grounded in hate and running away, and with the animosity between the two of you already, I'm surprised you're not in love." Marsha looked at Rick, shocked by the suggestion. As he looked at her in similar shock, she turned to see an amused grin on Inacoustic Kid's face. "Yes," said the Walker, following Marsha's gaze. "Inacoustic Kid. Rather a minor player in the events of the LNH, you were kidnapped last year by Queen Enterprises, although nobody noticed. Hardly surprising, given their organisation," the Walker muttered, mostly to himself, before continuing. "You were experimented on, in the hopes of finding the source of your powers, ie. the ability to control sound and flame wars, something which has been rather lacking around here. Instead of gaining control, they ruined yours, and you ended up with a permanent silencing field around you, which others tended to find.. annoying. Marsha broke you out, and you made your way with her back to the LNH, where they managed to cure you. However, you were put out by their lack of interest in your disappearance, becoming disillusioned, and so left, with Marsha, for another alternative presented to you. This team." [For some more recent parts of that information, see _World Tales_ and _Fan.Boy_ - Footnote Girl.] "And so we have someone looking for things to do, while keeping out of the spotlight," Rick was indicated, "Someone looking for an alternative to the LNH," Inacoustic Kid, "and someone wanting to start a new life, and try to be, for once, effective." Marsha. "Well?" Marsha frowned, turning over the ideas in her head. Yes, she didn't trust Rick, but she didn't hate him exactly either. He apparently had reasons, and she would be interested in hearing them later. She looked at Inacoustic Kid. He gazed back at her. "Your decision," was all he said. Marsha felt a rush of love for him. It meant a lot to her that he was willing to leave this decision up to her. "What about you?" she asked, turning to the Walker. "What's your story?" The Walker gave a tight smile. "I can hardly be objective about me. Rick, you tell them." "Me?" Rick sounded surprised. "But I don't really..." "You must know something about me." "Well-" Before he could continue, there was another knock at the door. Rick got up to get it, looking grateful for the excuse. He opened the door and stepped back, surprised, revealing a man of about average height, with black hair and glasses. He was in civilian clothes, but then again they all were. However, very few people had ever seen this person without his costume on. The people gathered at the table knew him, although pretty much only by sight. "Fan.Boy," said Marsha, putting a name to the newcomer. "What're you doing here?" The new arrival looked embarrassed, unsure of himself. "Well, I got an invite to come and join a team..." he said, half-heartedly. "Exactly," put in the Walker, reminding everyone of his presence. If he wasn't talking, he tended to fade into the background. "Come in. Sit down. I've got a package for you somewhere." Somewhat self-consciously, the latest potential team member took a seat. "Well, actually," he said, awkwardly. "I don't really go by the name Fan.Boy anymore. Since I got rid of my powers, I.. well, I'm still a fan of all you guys, but there's nothing really special that separates me from any of the other fans now. I'm just Barry Knewbee, now." Barry stared down at the table, and Inacoustic Kid put a comforting hand on his shoulder, rewarded with a brief smile. [Due to events in _Fan.Boy_ - Footnote Girl.] "Yes, Barry Knewbee," said the Phantom Walker, giving Marsha another jolt. She kept forgetting he was there. "Another member late of the LNH. Arrived from another dimension, and soon managed to annoy most of the other members. But, was recently possessed in an attempt to take the world, more or less, and was forced to rid himself of his powers or let that, and other things, happen again. You, I have something special for, if I can find it..." Patting various pockets of his jacket, he came across a large lump, and pulled out the cause. It was a brown package, without any immediate value. "What is it?" Barry asked, intrigued. "First off, are we going to become a team or not?" asked the Walker. "I don't fancy putting all this work in only to find out the hard way that it isn't going to work." Rick stared at Marsha. "I'm happy to join, but there might be problems." Marsha stared right back at Rick. "Fine. I'm in. For now. At least this way, I can keep an eye on potential problems." "Good," said the Walker. "Rick, Marsha.. Inacoustic Kid has already agreed... Barry, how about you?" "I.. suppose. What are we going to do, anyway?" "We're going to be the forefront that tackles dangers before they get too near any place we care about. In some cases, that may mean going out into space, in others, it may just be a short trip across the country.. sometimes some _other_ place. We intercept the problem, and assess it. If we can't deal with it ourselves, we'll let the big guns know about it. We are, to use a rather antiquated term, adapted for our situation, Alt.Riders." There was a moment of silence as they pondered their new group. "What is this thing?" asked Barry, turning the package the Walker had given him over and over. "You should probably recognise it," said the Walker. "I was given it to give to you. I was told you'd know what to do with it." Barry opened the package with trembling fingers. Inside was a box, and he carefully opened the lid and peered inside. "What happens now?" asked Marsha. "In some traditions," said Rick, "to signify our break from the LNH, we should take on new names, somewhat better suited to ourselves. Hardly any of us are what we once were, and I think we've outgrown our names by now." "Wow, is that what I think it is?" said Barry, a hint of his previous endless enthusiasm creeping back into his voice. "It looks like it could be.. the Rung of Revamp!" Both Rick and Inacoustic Kid recognised the name, but Marsha didn't. "What?" she asked. "It.. redefines superheroes," said Barry, now somewhat breathless. "You think of what kind of powers you'd like to have, and the Rung revamps you. Best if it's only done once though." A frown appeared on his face. "I thought is was lost in a volcano or something." [The Rung of Revamp was last seen during Jungle Cheesecake, _Ultimate Ninja 7-9_. - Footnote Girl.] "You going to use that?" asked Rick. "I.. it would give me new powers." Barry reached in tentatively, but stopped just before touching the Rung. "Do I really need this, though?" "That's something you'll have to decide for yourself," said Rick. "While you think, I'll go first. I've given my new name a bit of thought, and from now on, call me Morph." Marsha blinked. Oh yes. A new name. Sounds like a good idea, but what? She saw Inacoustic Kid move, and turned to him. There was a hint of irony showing on his face. "Silence." Very droll. Showed that he was no longer a Kid, as well as summing up his abilities, and, she thought soberly, expressing his bitterness at the LNH, although she was probably the only one who noticed. She liked it. For herself.. Marsha thought back over her life. What she wanted was a name from her past that would show how far she had come. She could only come up with one idea, but after giving it suitable thought, decided that it would do. "All right then. From now on, I'm Softcentre." The new Silence reached out and squeezed her hand. She returned the gentle pressure. Barry took a deep breath. "What have I got to lose?" he asked no-one in particular. Closing his eyes, he brought his hand firmly down on the artifact. _-~-_ In her area of the LNH, All-Knowing Last-Chance Whiner Destiny Woman looked up in shock. "No, don't touch that!" she cried, her eyes not seeing what was physically in front of her, but some other, much worse, horror. But it was already too late. The RACCelestial Madonna flew through the skies, relaxing in the carefree feeling of pure unfettered flight. Something jolted through her body and she cried out in agony. Something had just shaken the very core of the LNHiverse, and, as the living anchor of LNH in RACC, her as well. Feeling displaced, the Madonna quickly landed, and sat heavily on a nearby rock. A light-headed feeling flooded her, and she waiting a few minutes while the world seemed to whirl before her. Closing her eyes and breathing deeply, the sensation settled, and she reached out with her abilities to probe the beyond to see what force had caused this. Surprised, she could see nothing wrong with the universe as she knew it. Uncomprehendingly, she could find no explanation for what happened to her. The Dvandom Stranger paused in his wanderings through the universe. He knew exactly what had happened, and was also very surprised. It was the first time he had ever seen that occur. However, he also knew there was nothing he could about it, although he wouldn't have done anything even if he could have. Tapping his Editorial Staff in thought, the Stranger continued on his way, knowing that things had just become that much more difficult. The Queen Bee grimaced as the pain flashed through her, and was left feeling disjointed. Although there was nothing physically wrong with her (as many people would have quickly assured her), she did feel as if a part of her was ripped out. Having been told that this might occur, she reached out to expend her industries in the search of someone she knew could now not be found. And she dreaded that consequences of that idea. _-~-_ Barry's arm involunteerily spasmed, and his leg kicked out. He opened his mouth to scream, but his mind swamped with unending pain. His whole body was alive with a thousand pins pricked into every nerve. His bones were smashed and reknit millions of times a second, and his flesh was flayed from his body, and his raw body was then rubbed with sandpaper. It all ended an eternal second later, with Barry splayed out in his chair. He could still feel his body, and tell that everything was where it was supposed to be, but things were different. His body felt more responsive, more alert to the signals of nature that surrounded him. Most of all his mind was bright with the feeling of POWER! "Barry, are you all right?" A female voice. Must be Marsha's. Or Softcentre, as she was now called. New names. New body. New powers. "Have you got a mirror?" someone else, a male, asked. "Are you assuming just because I'm a female, I have a mirror?" Softcentre asked. "No, I was wondering if you had a bigger one than me." Barry managed to focus his eyes enough to see Rick.. Morph handing him a small mirror. With a strange feeling of perfect sight, Barry gingerly took the mirror, and froze. His arm! It was... black? Some non-reflective surface. Barry stared at his hand for a while, peering deep into the black material. He wasn't sure what it was. He couldn't feel anything strange on his hand. On his whole arm. Barry's gaze traveled over his arm, and then onto his body. His whole body was covered with this weird stuff! Barry stared deep. Was it just him, or could he see stars in there? "Barry?" The voice snapped him back. That's right, the mirror. Barry brought it up to his face and gasped. His glasses were missing. Replacing them, covering his eyes, and.. Barry turned his head this way and that. There was a kind of visor there, looking to be of the same material as the rest of the outfit. It continued around his head in a narrow band, completely seamless, and joined in a perfect circle. He reached up and touched the band. Weird. There was something there, but it felt.. odd. Nothing like he had ever come across before. It fitted perfectly into his head, and he could hardly tell where it ended and his own bone began. "What kind of powers did you want?" asked Morph. "Power over the elements of the Net. You know, standard absolute control stuff." Barry heard his own voice speaking, but it sounded too calm to be coming from him. "And people thought you were a munchkin before." "I dunno," said Barry, still trying to come to terms with this situation. "I'm beginning to like it." "So, what do you call yourself, then?" asked Morph. "I am.." the perfect name appeared in his mind. "I am the Net.Elementalist!" "Of course. Why did I ever think this would ever be conducted in any sane terms." _-~-_ Marsha continued to stare at Barry's new body. One minute, normal clothes like they were wearing, the next.. this black thing that sucked the mind in seductively and twisted it at odd angles. "So, that's settled then," came a voice across her mind, and Marsha jumped. Damn, forgot about him again. "Morph, Silence. Softcentre. The Net.Elementalist. Call me... Agent." Marsha looked at Agent, and thought something was slightly out of kilter. She couldn't place her finger on it, and dismissed the feeling as effects of the shock of seeing Barry transform. "I don't have a base of organisation set up yet, so why don't the three of you," Agent motioned at her, Silence and the Net.Elementalist, "stay at the LNH for now. Rick and I can make other arrangements. In fact, it would be helpful if one of you was a permanent contact with the LNH, just so we can keep tabs on each other. Softcentre, would you be willing to do that?" Marsha was caught out by the reasonableness of the request. "Um, yeah, sure." She turned back to Barry. "You sure you're okay?" The Net.Elementalist put the mirror down. "I feel wonderful. Like I've been born anew." "Do you have any idea how to use those new powers of yours?" asked Morph. Barry opened his mouth, then stopped. "No. No, absolutely no idea." He shrugged, the material not even creasing. "Suppose I'll find out. Let's see. Just name the element? Flame!" A burst of red exploded from the middle of the suit, quickly spreading out and washing everything, including the visor, in a bright shade of red. Silence and Morph quickly moved back. Even Marsha could feel heat radiating from him. Barry turned, and aimed a hand at the door. Concentrating, a burst of flame spat out and engulfed the door. With a yelp, Agent jumped up, and pulled off his jacket, then started beating at the door. Marsha saw Silence also concentrating, and the flames quietened down enough for Agent to easily put them out. Barry looked at them sheepishly. "Perhaps I should have gone for Thread or something." With the door not taking up her attention, Marsha had time to realise something. "Flame? Thread? What's that got to do with anything? What about fire and water?" Morph, Agent and the Net.Elementalist all shared a glance, while Silence shared one with her. "Ah, well, that's rather difficult to explain," said Morph. "It's like this," said Agent. "You know of the 'Net, right? Newsgroups, email accounts, web pages, etc.?" Marsha nodded, not sure where this was going. Silence seemed to have an idea about this already. "Imagine that one of those newsgroups, for example, one of the creative newsgroups, depicted an actual reality. Say that alt.drwho.creative really related to an actual Doctor Who universe, and the stories written there were reflections of what really happened." "Okay," said Marsha slowly. "Have we been writing stories like that?" "Not exactly. We are stories like that." Marsha blinked a few times. "What?" "There is another universe, a lot like this one, but without the superheroes and all the silliness. Well, a different kind of silliness. Anyway, they have a 'Net, and two newsgroups on it are alt.comics.lnh and rec.arts.comics.creative. The people we call Writers," Marsha could even heard the capital W, "post stories there, and those events they write about really happen." "It's quite possible that this right now, us here together, is a part of a story," said the Net.Elementalist, and did Marsha detect a hint of guilt in his voice? "I originally came from a universe that affected this one, albeit in a slightly different way. Most of the events in my life since I arrived were stories on the newsgroups. Yours were too," he added quietly. Marsha was, understandably, having trouble believing this. "What do you mean?" "Take, for example, your adventure with Queen Enterprises," Marsha would have called it something other than an adventure, but let him continue. "It was posted as a five-part story, saying what happened, how you reacted, what others were doing..." "And it was a reflection of what was happening here?" "Not exactly. What happened here is a reflection of what was written. The stories cause the events to happen, and people to act in the way they do." "Act? Some person decided how I should react? Dictate my life for me?" The Net.Elementalist squirmed under her look. Morph took up the conversation. "Opinions are divided on the matter. Most of us prefer to think that the Writers cause the events to happen, but we still react normally, and they can somehow sense how we react, and write that in. Not everyone gets it right. It was largely because no-one was writing for me that I left." "So, someone out in another universe is saying how I live. Fine," she said in a disbelieving tone. "What's that got to do with Flame and Thread?" "Because this universe comes from a newsgroup, and ultimately the 'Net, a lot of the basic concepts are also from the 'Net. In this case, the four elements of the universe, fire, water, air and earth are, respectively, flame, thread, net and keystroke. It's rather hard to explain it properly, mainly because we can't confess to being absolute experts in the area ourselves. We just muddle along as best we can." Marsha looked at Silence. "You know about this?" "Heard things," was the response. "So now I have to get on with my life, knowing that some bastard could drop a building on me because he felt like it?" "Um.. yeah," replied Morph. "But it doesn't happen very often. Most Writers, after spending some time developing a character, are loathe to suddenly kill them off." "Sometimes," said the Net.Elementalist in a quiet voice. "I feel so much better now," said Marsha, although no-one believed her. "Anyway," said Agent, hoping to break the tension. "We'll need some way of keeping in contact, so I can call you. These should be common enough to raise no undue questions." Agent tossed them all a bracelet. After inspecting it carefully, Marsha put it on her wrist. It tightened a bit, until it was snug against her skin. "If the bracelet glows," said Agent, touching his and causing all the others to go from their normal black to a bright blue, "that means that someone is using it. Just touch it, and you will be able to hear and talk to the others." He made motions with his free hand, and they, with some signs of trepidation, touched their bracelets. "It's DNA-coded," said Agent, his voice sounding odd as it came from him, and issued from the other four bracelets, "so, no-one but you will be able to use them. Simple, eh?" He released his bracelet, and so did the others, the bracelets turning back to black as the last person let go. "I think that's about it, so, unless you want to go at each other's throats for a while," Agent looked at Morph and Marsha for a few moments, but they didn't move. "In that case, I'll contact you in a few days. I'm setting up a mission, but I've got to make sure we can get there. In the meantime, keep an eye out for anything suspicious." "Like?" asked the Net.Elementalist. "Birds flying backwards, building suddenly exploding, your friends vomiting over you for no reason, that sort of thing." "And now we try to continue with our lives?" asked Marsha. "As much as we ever can. You should take some time getting to know each other properly. You may not trust the person next to you, but you're going to have to know what they could do. It could become vitally important. And, Barry.. keep practicing, but somewhere safe." Barry nodded ruefully. "Right then," said Agent, clapping his hands. "In that case, I declare our team created. In celebration, as leader, I guess it's up to me to shout dinner tonight. Let's all go to _Fettucini's_." Agent missed Marsha's wary glance as he led the way out, but Marsha didn't miss seeing Agent pick up the package containing the Rung of Revamp, and put it away somewhere, not even leaving a lump in his pocket as evidence of where it ended up. And as they all walked out, they all missed the flicker by the window. _-~-_ The new team exit the building, and walk out into: Splashpage: The five of them brilliantly lit up by the sun. They just so happen to be standing in the pose silhouetted on the cover. Left to right, in the semi-circle: Silence, Softcentre, the Net.Elementalist, and Morph. In front of them, hand raised defiantly, stands Agent, yelling "We are the ALT.RIDERS!" -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Next Issue: Well, something better happen as nothing did this issue. Morph catches up with an old acquaintance, with Silence and Softcentre unfortunately coming along, and the Net.Elementalist finds a very interesting place, watched over by a well-known enemy. All here in Alt.Riders #2! Credits: -------- Phantom Walker/Agent, Barry/Net.Elementalist, and the Queen Bee created by me. Marsha created by Campbell March, now owned by me. Inacoustic Kid was Public Domain, Silence isn't. Amorphous Lad created by someone... Rick and Morph are created and owned by me. All-Knowing Last-Chance Whiner Destiny Woman created by wReam. RACCelestial Madonna created out of VAMMO Woman by some sick people involved in Retcon Hour (a nasty thing that happened to Contraption Man). Dvandom Stranger created by (surprise, surprise) Dvandom. Notes: Okay, so not exactly exciting in the action stakes, but I had to explain who everyone was, and set the group up... group dynamics up... Anyway, now that everyone knows who's involved, I can get on with my Plan(tm). MUAHAHAHAHA! Appearantly there was a character called Morph on an X-Men cartoon. News to me.Back to the Index.