________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #3 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [Cover is filled by the Net.Elementalist, fist raised, holding Lagneto by his front. The backdrop is a very torn up city. The Net.Elementalist is screaming: "I shall have my revenge! Your death!"] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "F.W.I.W." Black. A light jumps up and down as it passes left to right. Then black. The regular breathing stopped as consciousness returned to the Net.Elementalist. He held his breath while memories flooded back a moment later, then exhaled as he realised that the hurting had stopped. Slowly opening his eyes, the first thing the Net.Elementalist saw was a jumping light. Struggling to focus his eyes, he clicked that this monitor registered his heart beat. He was glad to see it still going, although he had absolutely no idea what the readings meant. The Net.Elementalist glanced around the room. He blinked a few times, then recognition hit, of a sort. It was a hospital room. They didn't change much, even across continents. His eyes alighted on a sign, No Smoking, repeated in various languages, but the top one was German. (Maybe. "Rauchen verboten" sounded German.) As he lay on the bed, not really testing himself to see how he felt, the Net.Elementalist remembered back. He had arrived in Germa.net to investigate a strange warp in the lagnetic aura around a village north of Bit.lin. Once there, Lagneto found him, and they fought. And Lagneto won. Turning his mind to other matters, the Net.Elementalist looked down, to see how bad his body was. Surprisingly, his weird outfit he had gained, along with his powers, was still there, inscrutably black. The Net.Elementalist moved a hand cautiously, nothing hurting too badly there, and felt for his visor. Still intact as well. Focusing on his face, the Net.Elementalist finally became aware of the ache in his mouth, where he had been repeatedly punch by Lagneto. Probing his teeth with a finger, he was sure one or two were just about to fall out, but otherwise fine. His nose felt rather numb, and investigation found a layer of bandages on it. Ah. That had been broken then. Ouch. A nurse arrived, as part of her rounds, and noticed his awareness. She said something in German, then left. Soon, a doctor came into the room. He contemplated the Net.Elementalist for a while, making him wonder just what terrible news he had. "You've had quite a lucky escape," the doctor said, in a reasonable English accent, giving the Net.Elementalist an extreme sense of relief. "That suit of yours protected you from a lot of the damage." "When can I leave here?" asked the Net.Elementalist, half rising. The doctor moved forward to restrain him. "Sir, you are not properly healed yet. I cannot let you out." The Net.Elementalist swung out of bed on the other side to the doctor. "Uh uh. If Lagneto does set up a base out here, I've got to tell the LNH. Flame!" The doctor and the nurse both flinched at the sudden heat. It increased as the Net.Elementalist fired a blast at the outside wall, melting it, and sending a rain of concrete and metal onto the street below. "I'll be back later," the Net.Elementalist called, blasting out of the room, leaving the two medical personal looking shocked at the size of the new hole, and the burnt leads that had been attached to the Net.Elementalist's body. The Net.Elementalist tried to hover in the air, but his skill wasn't enough to keep him stable. Landing on a nearby roof, he touched the communication bracelet, turning it blue, indicating that it was active. "Any one out there? Agent? Morph? Softcentre? Hey, Silence, talk to me. I know you don't like to talk, but give me some sign you're listening." He waited a few minutes, keeping the channel open. He wondered if the bracelet had been somehow damaged in the battle. Or rather, the sever beating, he thought wryly. Giving up, the Net.Elementalist turned his thought towards Lagneto, and revenge. _-~-_ The pool of protoplasm stirred, rippling slightly on the cold white floor, although there was no outside source of disturbance. The goo was the coagulation of the atomised bodies of three heroes, and it moved. The life-sized proton accelerator remained untouched after its short burst, no-one wanting to see the grizzly leftovers of the unfortunate victims, or even thinking that there would be any remains available. Nucleonic bombardment isn't a messy business. You need something left behind to be a mess, and generally, there wasn't. Except this time. The puddle twitched again, shapes unformed pulling out of the surface, screaming silently, then mercifully sinking again. One part of the gloop bulged, and separated, splattering into its own being, the source now settling again. A few moments passed, nothing happening, before the offspring jerked, and grew, stretching, taking on a form eventually recognisable as a human being. Further warpings occurred until someone finally stood, aware and intelligent, a someone who currently went under the codename of Morph. Morph looked down at the pool, sadness creasing his face. He turned, not able to look any more. He could feel tears creeping onto his face. "I'm.. I'm sorry, guys," he whispered. He sniffed, his now red eyes staring at the ceiling. "You will pay for this," he vowed quietly. A groan startled him, and he spun around to see that the pool was no longer there. Instead was... Softcentre! Morph jumped to her side, helping her sit up. "Softcentre.. Marsha, are you all right?" "What?" she asked, putting a hand to her head. "What happened?" "I'm not sure," said Morph. "How do you feel?" "Like... I don't know," Softcentre admitted, and Morph could see that she was genuinely puzzled. She patted her body. "What happened to us?" "High burst of protonic radiation," Morph babbled, trying to distract her from something he had just realised. "Accelerated particles smashed into our bodies, ripping our molecules apart, and sending them flying through an ether until they collided and solidified, or at least, liquefied, onto the floor." Softcentre looked him, as if through a haze. "What?" Morph shrugged. "I dunno. Doesn't sound pleasant, but what we went through wasn't pleasant, so it certainly fits there." Softcentre looked around. "Where's Silence?" she asked. Morph winced. This he had hoped to put off for a bit longer. "Umm," he started, unconvincingly. "Where is he?" Softcentre asked more forcefully. Morph gave way under her heavy gaze. "I don't know," he admitted. "I don't even know how you lived. I think I only did due to my inherent malleable morphic field." Softcentre wasn't listing, but was looking around wildly. "Where is he?" Marsha cried. "Silence!" Morph blinked a few times, but still hardly believe what he witness. Now, sitting in front of him, was Silence. _-~-_ _Silence!_ _I'm here. Marsha?_ _...Silence?_ _Yes._ _Where..? What..?_ _Our minds. We have.._ _Combined?_ _Yes, but I don't know how._ _You're a lot more talkative like this._ _This isn't talking._ _Combined? What do you mean 'Combined'?_ _Marsha.. our bodies.. our minds. They have joined._ _Joined?_ _Two people. In one body._ _But... I don't feel like two people._ _Neither do I. I'm not exactly sure about this. Wait a moment please._ _-~-_ Silence looked up at Morph. "You see Silence?" Morph nodded slowly, not too sure what was happening, though he had seen it, and not sure what his reaction was. Before his eyes, the transformation occurred again, this time in reverse. Silence's hair lengthened slightly, his features becoming more feminine, his skin darkening. His clothes flowed from the dark body suit he wore into demin overalls. Silence's body was now Softcentre's. "That's going to take some getting used to," said Morph carefully. "What is?" Softcentre asked innocently. _-~-_ _Morph? Morph?... He can't hear me anymore._ _He can hear me._ _Is he saying something, Marsha?_ _Yeah, he's talking._ _I can't hear him either._ _Meaning what?_ _I think we are two minds in one body, two souls, linked telepathically, but able to shape that body to be either of us._ _That sounds really scary._ _...I know. I don't think there's much we can do about it. I don't even know how we got like this._ _I am glad about one thing._ _Oh?_ _Yes. We'll always be together now. I love you._ _I know._ A pause. _Silence?_ _Yes?_ _What's your name? You never told me, and I can't keep calling you Silence, not now._ _...Peter. Peter Gregory._ _That's a nice name._ _Thank you._ _-~-_ "You all right?" Morph asked. Softcentre had been quiet for a few minutes now, and Morph begun to worry. Softcentre smiled. "Just talking to Peter." "Peter?" "Silence," Softcentre said. "Ah. You must tell me all about it sometime then," said Morph. "But first we should get out of here." Morph stood up, and stretched out, until he was pressing his hands against the roof. Turning a metallic colour, he solidified himself into a column of steel. Straining, he expanded slowly, cracking the ceiling, and covering Softcentre in bits of white. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Trying to..." said Morph, extending a pair of lips to talk with. "Smash our... way out," he added, his voice showing the effort he was putting in. "Why didn't you do that before?" "Didn't... exactly... have... time..." "Ah," Softcentre nodded, and moved out of the way of falling roof, still coming to terms with her new self, and watched with misgivings as the floor underneath Rick cracked. _-~-_ The Net.Elementalist had his eyes closed while he pulsed. Slowly, carefully, he sent out bursts of lag, creating enough signal to be noticed from Pluto. Pulse. Pause. Pulse. Pause. Continually, constantly. It was the only thing he could think of. "I suppose you must be calling me," came a voice. "Because heroes don't do that sort of thing for fun. And I can't imagine that the people down there would like it. If they could ever really tell what you were doing." The Net.Elementalist opened his eyes, and saw the man who had so easily beaten him before: Lagneto. "Don't be so quick to judge me as a hero," said the Net.Elementalist. "Were you around when Net.Ropolis was trashed by a being that the LNH couldn't stop? Completely ruined the city so the LNH was too busy dealing with the damage to deal with him?" Lagneto looked up from his study of the citizens of Bit.lin and the effects the Net.Elementalist's lag had had on them. "I heard about it," he said carefully. "That was me," said the Net.Elementalist, glossing over several facts. [In _Fan.Boy #16-19_ - Footnote Girl] "Does that sound like the work of a hero?" Lagneto raised an eyebrow. "Then why were you so resistant to the idea of me setting up shop around here? Why did you think so little of my ability?" Lagneto stepped closer. "Why did you agree to being a cursed LNH member." The Net.Elementalist smiled, making it look forced. "To see how you'd react. You're not the only one performing tests around here." "You?" Lagneto was unable to keep the surprise out of his voice. "Test me?" Lagneto lent further in. "I beat you, little boy." "I let you," said Net.Elementalist. "You never stood a chance." "A rematch, eh? Make me enforce the fact that you deserve so little the power you waste?" "A rematch? How about a team up? I just said what I did in Net.Ropolis. You saw what I did here. I didn't want you to bring the Brotherhood of Net.Villains here, because then I'd have to beat them up to show how much more worthy I am." Lagneto looked him over carefully. "I don't think so. You were too quick before to claim your hero status, and now it sounds like a classic con. Goodbye, little boy." Lagneto turned away, obviously preparing to leave. "One last point... Laggy," said the Net.Elementalist. "Did you look over this building before you came?" Lagneto snorted. "What of it?" "I often wondered, at least in the past hour, about something," said the Net.Elementalist, repositioning himself slowly. "Heat can destroy magnetism, after a point. So what would a ten story building full of gas canisters and petrol tanks, all carefully arranged by me, of course, do to a lagnetic being?" Lagneto was already in flight, reaching back to lag the Net.Elementalist, but his was too distracted by panic to do a proper job. The Net.Elementalist shouted "Flame!", then directed a fireball through the roof below him. The explosion took out the surrounding blocks. Rising out of the devastation, on a column of flame, a red-suited figure spun round and round, exulting in the feeling of flight. The Net.Elementalist slowed his ascent, and looked around him. Seeing a patch of flames moving more slowly than the rest, he headed for it. Standing near the edges of the flames, keeping them back with forces of lag, Lagneto glared at the mess he was in. He had his back to a building that was burning harshly, and all around him was also aflame. While he could keep the flame from reaching him with his lag, he couldn't escape, as if he concentrated on stopping one area enough to pass, the rest of the fire would reach him. Flames couldn't be held back by lag, more just cropped up from every direction. He glared at the Net.Elementalist, as the latter landed amidst the inferno. "Happy now?" he spat. The Net.Elementalist looked around proudly. "Yeah, I got you good. How do you expect to get out of this?" "Like this!" Lagneto trust a hand towards the Net.Elementalist, slowing him down. He then grabbed the Net.Elementalist's head, and moved it toward the ground again. The Net.Elementalist's suit became white, and he managed to get his hands onto the ground before his head could make contact. Lagneto grinned to himself. The Net.Elementalist stood up, his angry gaze firing at Lagneto. "You can't get me like that again." "I didn't intend to." Stepping away from the Net.Elementalist, Lagneto relaxed his power. The Net.Elementalist reflexively threw up an arm, flinching back from the heat. He erected his own lag barrier, but could see the fire eating away at it. "Not very nice, is it?" said Lagneto. "What's your point?" asked the Net.Elementalist shortly. "You can only resist me when you're in command of lag, and when you aren't..." Lagneto left the painful alternative unstated. The Net.Elementalist coughed, and realised that the fumes were building up to dangerous levels. He hadn't noticed it before due to the bandages that clogged his nostrils. "So, we both die then?" "Not at all," said Lagneto, trying to stifle a cough of his own. "We have to combine our power in order to get ourselves out." "Why a team up now?" asked the Net.Elementalist, suspicious. Lagneto spread his hands. "Purely for survival interests. Well?" One of the upper floors of the building collapsed, sending debris raining down on their lag shields. It didn't get through, but it became just a little harder to keep the shields going. "We don't have much choice," said the Net.Elementalist finally. "Which way?" Lagneto pointed upwards, away from the building. Concentrating together, they slowed the flames in their intended flight path down to nearly stationary, and managed to keep the others at bay. Together, they flew skywards, and were soon taking grateful breaths of fresh air. "Will you leave me alone, now?" asked Lagneto. "No," the Net.Elementalist growled, and smashed bodily into Lagneto, speeding himself up, as Lagneto had done to his punches last time they met, sending them hurtling through the air. Lagneto struggled in surprise, but was unable to extract himself. Although he cut down their velocity, he couldn't affect their mass. Both of them felt the impact as they crashed through a window, and then the multiple hits as they smacked into dividing walls that indicated their arrival in an office building. They heard gasps of shock from the workers, but then they exited through another window. Their course was off, so Lagneto's head knocked against the top of the window frame, stunning him. With that retarding force removed, gravity played a vital role, but the Net.Elementalist didn't get to see much, as his head was buried in Lagneto's stomach. He felt the sickening drag, and tried to slow them down. Unfortunately, he had to reverse his own speeding effects first. He heard the smash as they went through something, then the hard impact as they crashed into ground level. Several large items came crashing down on top of them, and blackness followed, sweeping out consciousness. _-~-_ Having finally created a hole upwards, Morph swept up Softcentre, wrapped her in himself, creating a hard exterior, then, after forming jets below, blasted upwards, using a mixture of surprise, speed, and brute force to shoot through the floors inbetween their current position, and escape. Morph thought he spotted a shocked Bennington, but didn't stay to check. Once in the air, he picked what he hoped was the correct direction, and poured on full power to reach the LNH HQ. The roof of the LNH building had sustained several attacks, and gone through several repairs. However, there was not much more than a few cracks when Morph, after many hours of self-sustained flight, collapsed onto it. He drew himself off Softcentre, and painfully reformed himself. Flying had taken a hell of a lot out of him, but he had to make sure that Softcentre got help first. He looked down to see Softcentre's normally dark skin deathly white. His mind froze in panic until reason asserted itself, and he realised that she must have passed out during the flight due to a lack of air, or not being able to get enough air into her lungs at that speed. He checked her pulse, and found it weak, but still there. He heaved a sigh of relief. "I told you the radar spotted something. First time it's actually managed to pick something up." Morph's head jerked up at the voice. Someone was coming onto the roof! He backed away slowly. Whoever it was, it was doubtful they would be friendly to him. A costume came into sight, and Morph recognised the person as Cannon Fodder. Good, not someone with a definite grudge. However, the next person was someone who might definitely hold something against him. Morph easily recognised the Ultimate Ninja. The ninja master also spotted him. "What are you doing here?" he asked, in a low tone. "Get her inside. She needs help," Morph explained, pointing to Softcentre. "Why, what have you done to her?" "Nothing, but she's been through a lot." Morph reached the edge of the roof. "Take care of her." He jumped off. At ground level, a large rubber ball hit the sidewalk, and bounced. It continued bouncing, even bouncing higher than previous bounces. It carried on this strange distortion of physics, away into the city. "What did he say?" asked Organic Lass, as the Ultimate Ninja and Cannon Fodder brought Softcentre into the medical bay, and explaining how they found her. "Just that he hadn't done anything to her, and that we should take care of her," said Cannon Fodder. "I'm surprised he cares," Organic Lass replied, a hint of bitterness in her voice. But she still remained professional, and after Softcentre's body was placed on a medical bed, she swung the scanner over it. "Interesting," she commented, after studying the readings for a minute or two. "Her average mass density has increased." "What's that mean?" asked Cannon Fodder. "Her body has more mass in it, but not in any one place, which would indicate a lot of eating, or... pregnancy, nor in any muscle groups, indicating work outs, but over her entire body." Organic Lass retrieved an oxygen unit, and strapped the mask over Softcentre's face. "She also has a mild case of asphyxiation, but she'll soon recover from that." "What caused the mass increase?" asked the Ultimate Ninja. "I have no idea. I hope she can tell us when she wakes up," she said, looking down with worry in her eyes at Softcentre's body. _-~-_ _Softcentre? Softcentre?_ called Silence. No response. _Marsha?_ _Murr? What? What's happening?_ _You passed out. I couldn't do anything about it. I didn't even know where we were, or what was happening to us. Not that I know now, either._ There was a pause. _We're back in the LNH,_ said Softcentre. _In the medical bay. Organic Lass is asking how I am. She wants to know what happened._ _I can think of one way of showing her._ _You sure?_ _May as well. They'll find out soon enough._ _-~-_ "Just a moment, Ori," said Softcentre. "I'll show you what happened." "What?" said Organic Lass, anxiously. "Were you hurt?" Softcentre shook her head, then the movement blurred. Organic Lass, the Ultimate Ninja and Cannon Fodder looked on in shock as Softcentre's body became Silence's. "What?" cried out Organic Lass, leaping to the control panel to check the readings. "What happened?" Silence smiled. "Long story," he said. "One which I'd very much like to hear," said the ninja. In terse, short sentences, Silence explained about Bennington, the partical accelerator, and the result. Organic Lass chewed her lip. "How you ended up like this is obvious, but what happened to you psychologically is harder to say." "Start with the physical," said the ninjitsu master. "When all their molecules mixed, Amorphous Lad.. Morph must have left some of his molecules in their new genetic structure. I'll have to run detailed tests to check." Organic Lass moved to carry those tests out now, but the Ultimate Ninja stayed her with an impatient gesture. Organic Lass obligingly continued. "With most of their bodies blasted away, what remained of Softcentre and Silence joined in order to survive, also joining their minds. That part I'm not to clear on. Doctor Stomper could probably come up with something. And so, now their... souls, if you like, inhabit one body, which can change from one to another, due to that part of Morph's abilities they now possess." "Can they be unjoined?" asked Cannon Fodder. Organic Lass sighed. "I don't think so. I suspect that either one of them would be destroyed, or go mad, or something just as disastrous." The Ultimate Ninja looked down at Silence. "Welcome to your new life," he said. _-~-_ "Hier. Unter hier." The voice aroused the Net.Elementalist, bringing back also all the aches and pains of the rubble that had hit him. Once again, his suit had protected him from most of the damage, also protecting Lagneto who lay underneath him. But still, neither of them would be entering the decathlon soon. Bright light shot into his eyes, and the Net.Elementalist threw up a hand to shield them. Hands grabbed him, and pulled him out. "Sie sind jetzt sicher," someone said. The Net.Elementalist blinked, and his eyes came to rest of a figure of authority. "You haf caused us serious damage," the man said, waving a piece of paper about. "You are banned from efer entering Germa.net again." The Net.Elementalist gaped at this, but still managed to hear a scuffle behind him. He turned around to see Lagneto shaking off his helpers, then take to the skies. The Net.Elementalist let him go, knowing that, although he didn't beat Lagneto, he at least matched him. "Look at me!" the man roared. The Net.Elementalist turned guiltily back. "We shall escort you to the airport, and make sure you are on the plane vich vill take you back to the States. Good riddance, sir." Big men in jackets grabbed the Net.Elementalist again, and hauled him away. The Net.Elementalist called out as he left "Don't know what you're complaining about. You could just call it... what's the phrase... 'Einsturzende Neubauten'." _-~-_ "...and in international news, Germa.net has instigated a surprising policy, a complete banning of all superhero activity. Any superhero action will be met with the most strongest of resistance from local forces, their military claims. "Sources say that this may be due to the damage caused to the city of Bit.lin when the Alt.Riders member, the Net.Elementalist, fought a supervillain, resulting in the destruction of four city blocks, and also including several other buildings, including the hospital where the Net.Elementalist was taken to recover after being dropped on the autobahn. The sources state that the Net.Elementalist called the supervillain, Lagneto, leader of the Brotherhood of Net.Villains to the city for a rematch, thereby directly initiating the carnage that followed. "The Alt.Riders were unreachable for comment, but the Ultimate Ninja, leader of the controversial Legion of Net.Heroes, issued a statement disavowing any responsibility for the Alt.Riders. He said: 'Let them be buried by their own messes.' The LNH has offered aide to the Germans, but have received no response. The LNH also said that they will obey the superhero restriction, other than assisting in this case, but only if asked. "And on the international market, cheesecake still proves to be a valuable commodity..." _-~-_ Agent switched the TV off, a rickety old thing, but it still looked more advanced than the decrepit room the Alt.Riders found themselves in, the same one they used when they first formed. Agent looked at the Net.Elementalist, who was unable to meet anyone's gaze. Instead, he stared at the table, and gingerly touched his nose, still hurting though the bandages had been removed. "A good start," said Agent, after an embarrassing pause. "One member gets all superheroes barred from Germa.net, and two others are fused into one being." "Hey," said Softcentre. "It wasn't our fault." She sat back in a huff, and changed into Silence. He glanced around and shrugged. "If you're going to keep doing that," said Agent. "You're going to need a new name. One that both of you can answer to." Silence raised an eyebrow, but didn't look negative. "Duet, Duo, Couple.. rather tacky..." Agent said thoughtfully. "I know. Something short, yet poignant. Dva." He smiled. Silence nodded acceptance. "Anyway, we need to get out of here. We have a place to go for what shall be our first assignment," said Agent, gaining the immediate attention of Morph and the Net.Elementalist. "It's not around here, so I've been organising transport for all of us." Agent stood, and went to the doorway, taking out a thin black rod from somewhere as he did so. He fixed it to the top of the doorway, then, like a blind, pulled down a sheet. It was completely black, absorbing light. "This is a kind of gateway. It'll get us there, and back. Well?" "Does it work?" asked Morph, eying it carefully. "Of course." Agent looked around at the disbelieving stares. "All right. I'll go first then." There was no sudden rush of disapproval, so Agent straightened up, faced the doorway, and boldly stepped through. He was immediately swallowed up by the darkness. Morph and the Net.Elementalist looked at each other, then both gestured for Silence to go first. Silence smiled, and stood up. Tentatively, he stepped through, and was gone. "Looked painless enough," said the Net.Elementalist. "So is falling asleep due to frostbite," said Morph. Neither said anything for a moment, just eyeing the doorway. Nothing happened. Eventually the Net.Elementalist stood up. "Here goes nothing," he said, stepping through. Morph stood up. "And here goes someone." He disappeared into the dark. _-~-_ Ring ring. Ring ring. "Hello. You have reached the Legion of Net.Heroes Headquarters. If you want to apply for membership, press one. If you are a supervillain looking for someone to defeat you, press two. If you wish to take over the world, press three. If you wish to speak to an operator, press zero." *Beep* "Hello, LNHHQ. Fred speaking. How can I help you?" "Hello, yes. Can you put me through to my husband please?" "Certainly, ma'am. And who is he?" "Barry Knewbee, the Net.Elementalist." -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Wow, an actual mission! On a far away planet, disaster hits a community, destroying the only way of life they know. Can the Alt.Riders help? Find out in _The Alt.Riders #4_! Credits: -------- Cannon Fodder is public domain (I think). Ultimate Ninja is wReam's. Organic Lass is Rebecca Drayer's. Lagneto belongs to Jef Kolodziej, okayed by Martin Phipps. Rest are mine. Notes: See notes for #2. :)Back to the Index.