________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #16 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [A signpost saying "Welcome to Sin.ci.net.ty." Nailed to the bottom of it is another sign "Keep out by order of the Loonited States of Ame.rec.a"] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Return to Paradise." The first rays of the sun, spreading over the city on its first day in the new year, highlighted the building in the centre of the city. Some buildings were dark, their systems failing in the wake of computer problems. Others were fine, having taken the millennium bug into account long ago. But the building in the centre was dark, still. Its appearance was all the more dramatic because for the past week it had been covered by a brightly glowing force shield. That was now gone. Any signs of life inside were now gone. Something did stir, up on the roof. Something stretched its body in the sun's new light. Something dark and twisted. And it howled in the air like a nightmare gone mad. _-~-_ Agent lowered the binoculars as he finished surveying Queen Bee Towers. "I...wasn't expecting that," he admitted. "What's going on over there?" Barry asked. "It's," he glanced at his wrist and then remembered he didn't wear a watch, "...evening, so whatever's going on has had a while to go on." "Computer problem?" asked Missy. "Not her," Dva replied. "She wouldn't let that happen." "So what did?" Barry inquired. Dva shrugged. "I don't know about you, but I'm going to bed. We've been up...I have no idea any more. Nothing's going to happen now, and we need sleep." "You do remember Rick's in there, right?" "Right, and has been for the past week. He can take care of himself, probably far better than we could." "Yes, go to bed," said Agent, absently. "I'll keep watch." Barry frowned, but it turned into a yawn. "Perhaps you're right. Rick's probably not even in there anymore, anyway." _-~-_ Rick was in the company of the Queen herself, and neither of them were very happy. Rick wasn't happy with the Queen because she had a force field installed to trap people who tried to break in, like he did. She wasn't happy with him because he broke in and tripped the force shield while she was inside, and she was the only one who knew they were inside and that the shield had to be switched off. However, more than that, neither of them were happy about the fact that now, due to every system failing after the Queen deliberately rehacked the computers to fall for the millennium bug, neither of them could get out. Rick paced the luxurious penthouse suite like a caged lion, fitting the description even more aptly as he paused from time to time to snarl at the Queen. The Queen sat on one of her sumptuous couches, looking very regal, but her eyes followed Rick back and forth. "You certainly know how to build a fortress," Rick said, more just to say something than to drag out another conversation on the same theme. "Impenetrable, inside and out." "I do make a good fortress," murmured the Queen in agreement. Rick glared at her, but continued pacing. "And so what happens when there's a power outage? The penthouse is sealed off by blocks of null matter, so nothing gets in or out. Not even me. Just as well we have our own air generator and power supply, isn't it?" "Just as well," agreed the Queen. This time Rick did stop pacing, and faced her. "Right now I can't think of any reason why I shouldn't-" A loud bang form the door interrupted the ensuing argument, and they both turned their heads to stare at the large bump that formed in the door. "We're surrounded by null matter, yes?" The Queen nodded, but Rick wasn't even looking at her. "Which nothing on earth can penetrate, yes?" The Queen nodded again. "Then whatever is out there is not of this earth," he concluded as another thump and bump crashed into the door. The Queen sighed. "I guess we'll just have to evacuate by the transporter then." Rick swung around to stare at her. "What *is* it with you?" The Queen met his stare full on. "One, no-one is supposed to be able to get in here." Another sizable lump formed in the door. "Two, the end point is just as secure as this place. Three, there's nothing to stop them following us anyway." Another thump made the door shudder on its hinges. "Right now, I think we should take that risk," Rick said. Nodding, the Queen stood, and closed her eyes, just standing for a moment while the door shook again. Gracefully raising one hand, the Queen pirouetted clockwise a full three-sixty degrees. Lowering her hand, she raised the other, then pirouetted again in the opposite directed for another three-sixty degrees. Lowering that hand, sparkles began to surround her body. Reaching out, she quickly snagged a surprised Rick, and pulled him close. The sparkles of light increased exponentially, until they were completely covered. Then the sparkles drifted and faded away, until nothing was left, taking the Queen and Rick with them. The door exploded inwards, the force from outside proving too much, and something nasty tornadoed into the room. Rick blinked his eyes as the lights faded away, and he found himself in a rather bare, austere room, not much bigger than a hall closet. He also found himself tightly pressed again the body of the Queen. Whilst not, by any means, an unpleasant experience, the situation demanded somewhat different behaviour, and he quickly moved away, feeling himself flush as he did so. The Queen's smile indicated that she was aware of his reaction, but didn't comment on it. Instead, she moved to a side wall, and sat down against it. "Where do we go from here?" Rick asked her curiously. She shrugged. "We don't. We hope someone finds the beacon in the next fifteen hours." "Why? What happens then?" "Our air runs out," she said, simply. "Nice escape route." "It is only for emergencies." "Where are we, exactly, then?" The Queen shrugged. "It's a random location. One time it was in Paris, another time in the Pacific Ocean, not far from Rarotonga. We could be anywhere." "So you have used that before." "Accidentally. I was found quite quickly each time." "What's so different this time?" "No one knows we're here." "Ah...you couldn't have just gone for a simple push-button teleporter?" "Where's the fun in that? This was more...interesting." "I doubt whoever broke in would be up to repeating a move like that." "No, I guess not." The Queen smiled again in amusement at the idea, but the smile only reached her lips. Rick studied one wall. "Do you think I could burn our way out?" _-~-_ Dva crept as quietly as she could towards the darkened building that was Queen Bee Towers. Despite her tiredness she hadn't been able to sleep, thinking that Morph might still be trapped inside. Besides, the cool night air helped pick her up. And the shadows that moved when she wasn't looking exactly at them also helped. As she approached, she wondered how she would open the doors. Even with no power, they could still be physically locked, or just too heavy. But when she arrived, she found that that wasn't going to be a problem. Something had already come out of the doors, by the brute simple method of ripping a huge hole in them. Swallowing, Dva peered inside, but couldn't see anything. Stepping inside, she switched on the powerful torch she brought along, and played the beam over the foyer. Something had been in here, had been angry in here. Desks were overturned, some of them ripped up from the floor, displays were knocked over and strewn about, and there were deep gouges in the floor. "Hello?" she called out, cautiously, not sure if she wanted and answer or not. But there was a reply, a low growl. Dva swung the torch around, and something skittered through the path of the beam. Darting the torch around, she finally pinned the creature down, and stared at it, shocked. It was some kind of dog, a cross between a chihuahua and a rottweiler. A literal cross. It was the head of a rottweiler on the body of a chihuahua. Dva felt her stomach lurch at the sight. The thing growled again, baring its teeth in an unsettling manner. It took a step forward. Dva took a step back. Before anything could happen, something dashed through the beam, picking the dog-thing up. The something looked Giger-esque, and Dva didn't really want to know more. There was an odd whimper, then a brief crunch of bones. Dva turned around and dived out through the doors. Whatever was in there could stay until she could get the army in here to clean it out. _-~-_ The Net.Elementalist tossed and turned in his bed. Someone was calling to him, but he couldn't see who, or make out what. Finally, he gave up on sleep, and got out of bed. Having decided to stay at the Alt.Riders headquarters rather than return to Alice so late, he padded over to stare out the window into the sight of Sin.ci.net.ty at night. He stared out at the remaining lights for a while, seeing his own ghostly reflection over them, then shook himself as he realised he was in danger of falling asleep standing up. Eschewing the temptation of sleep, and the strange dreams it was bringing, he opened his window and jumped out, using the ten storey fall to turn on his flame powers, and then soar up into the air on a stream of fire. He flew through the air, feeling the warm air beat on his face, and lost himself in the easy feeling of power of flight. It was only when he heard voices yelling that he realised his fire was probably waking other people up too. Switching to net powers, and flying by lag, he looked down into the city, and that's when he heard the screams. Flying down quickly, he raced towards the sound, and ended up in an alleyway. Two teenagers, more kids than maturing adults, huddled at the other end, both screaming at the sight before then and putting paid to the idea that only the woman screamed at times like that. Between him and them was a tall dark shape. The Net.Elementalist couldn't make out anything more than that. Whatever it was, it devoured light, and now it wanted to devour something more substantial. Foregoing the subtle approach, the Net.Elementalist switched back to fire, and sent a blast at the thing. It lit up a shadow, no more than a cut-out against reality, but still deadly for that. The creature reacted to the flame, but lashed out at the source. The Net.Elementalist ducked, and the claw bit into the building beside him. It didn't tear a hole out, but simply wiped the bricks and mortar from existence. "Right then," muttered the Net.Elementalist to himself. Taking a breath, he poured on the flame, aiming it at the creature's head. It lurched backwards, thrashing about in pain, then turned and leapt *into* the building, somehow slipping through the wall without leaving a mark. The Net.Elementalist quickly stopped himself from burning the building down, then turned to the frightened kids. "Get out of here," he yelled, motioning them with his hand. The boy clung to the girl as they both scrambled past the Net.Elementalist, and fled for home. The Net.Elementalist scratched his head in puzzlement, and staring at where the creature had disappeared. This wasn't good. "Netty! What are you doing?" A voice called to him, and the Net.Elementalist, aka 'Netty', turned to see Dva standing at the end of the alleyway. "There was a creature," he called back, waving his hand at where it had gone. "It's the Queen Bee. All their creatures must have gotten loose or something. They're tearing up the Tower," Dva said, breathing heavily from having run when she heard the screaming before. A loud crash sounded nearby. "I'll go check that out," said Netty. "You go get help." Dva nodded. "Time to call in the marines." "If you can't get them, try the LNH," Netty said, heading for the crash. "Only as a last resort," Dva called back as she left. _-~-_ Dva found Agent on the roof of their headquarters. "What are you doing here?" she asked by way of opening. "I could use some help." "I've been up here," Agent replied, looking out over the city. "What do you want?" "I've been trying to get the army or someone to come in here. Er...you do know something's going down here, don't you? Something's happened to Queen Bee Towers." "No power. No force fields. Nothing keeping any of the experiments in check." "And they all escaped and the ones that got loose from the Tower are terrorizing the city!" Agent shrugged. "And?" "And??! We need reinforcements in here! We can't take care of this by ourselves! The military said they'll send someone in on Monday. Tomorrow." "And the LNH?" "There is something very strange going on there. As soon as I mention Sin.ci.net.ty, they say that can't come. And I can't get through to the Ultimate Ninja. You might be able to. You seem to have contacts the rest of us don't." Agent finally turned away from his view. "I'll try. But it sounds to me like someone else has already been pulling more strings than I can reach." _-~-_ Missy slept. She was tired. _-~-_ Rick sat, legs crossed, and tried not to breath. But he had to at times. And the hot air burned his lungs each time. To be fair, she didn't keep going on about it. No, he could do that well enough himself. She could have told him that this place was also surrounded by null space, which could only be turned off from outside when they were located. Then at least he wouldn't have tried cutting into the wall, and end up only heating up the air. With no circulation in here, the air didn't cool down quickly. Rick could feel the perspiration running down his forehead. What the hell was he doing here? "Bah. My life. Anyone else want it?" he muttered, bitterly. "What?" The sharp word cut into his thoughts. For a moment, he had forgotten about her. Rick snorted. "My life. No real beginnings. Turning up here and there. Finally end up here, in here, with, no offense, you. Not exactly how I ever pictured my life turning out." "Just because you're in a sticky situation is no reason to start bemoaning your entire life," she admonished gently. "It's not just this!" Rick said, more loudly than he had intended to, waving his hand around the room. "It's everything. No parents. No known creator. No steady appearances. And now I'm living out that Chinese curse about interesting times." "You're still alive, aren't you? That's more than most people could say." Rick sighed and lent back against the wall. "As I said, they can have my life if they want it." "Be careful. There are some that would take you up on that." Rick sighed again. "You're hardly one to speak. Your life has been better than most people could ever dream about. And now you're closing down Queen Bee Enterprises on a whim. So, tell me more about your great life. I'm just dying to hear about it. Start with your wonderful parents." "I never had parents." Rick looked up at her, suspiciously. "No, I'm not going to say that I had a scaring childhood, and worked my way up from rags to riches. It doesn't quite work that way for me. No, my story isn't like any other. But I know about your story too. As I said, I have a special interest in you." Rick shook his head. "Uh-huh. And I bet you can tell me who my parents are too," he challenged sarcastically. "Of course. I should know. I was there." "There when?" "When I gave birth to you." _-~-_ When Missy left her room in the morning, she heard the sound of cursing. Following the sound to its source, she found Dva and Agent in the main cafeteria, Dva pacing around, yelling loudly, while Agent tried to talk into a phone. Seeing Missy, Agent gave her a sign, and pointed to Dva. Missy nodded, and popped out of the room, returning a few minutes later. "...and then, when *we* try to do something to help," Dva was saying. "When we're just trying to do our *bloody jobs* here, what happens? Nothing! Less than nothing!" "I am trying here," Agent tried to say, but Dva wasn't listening. She sat down on a chair, still talking to Agent. "We just want a little back up. There should be more than enough military thugs to overwhelm anything in this town! Hell, this is the kind of action the army loves! Get people in, and get them shooting! We should be trying to keep them away, not beg them to come in here!" She looked up as Missy put something against her arm. "What the hell's that?" she asked, then collapsed bonelessly onto the table. "Thank you," said Agent, then returned to the phone. Missy put the hypodermic spray down, and listened as Agent nodded his head, and replied "Uh-huh" several times. He sighed, and hung up the phone. "Nothing. There's a blockade on this city. Someone has already made sure no-one's getting in here. People can leave, if they want, but no-one can come in." "We stuck?" Missy asked. "We can leave," replied Agent. "But do we want to?" "All our stuff here," Missy pointed out. "Exactly. I don't see any problem with that." "Who did this?" Agent raised an eyebrow. "Few people could, but I'm going to guess the Queen Bee. Why, I'm not exactly sure yet. Come on, help me with Dva." The pair lifted the unconscious woman up, and carried her to her room. "She really needs the sleep," said Agent, closing the door quietly. "What you do now?" Missy asked. "I think it's about time we gathered our team. We know where one person is," he replied, nodding his head to the closed door. "Just two more to go. How about you?" "Hmm." Missy pondered her options. "I know. I make etheric beam locator." Missy saw the puzzlement on Agent's face. "Why? What is an etheric beam?" "Not sure, that's why I want find one. Find out." "Of course," Agent replied wryly. "Well, good luck." _-~-_ Netty ducked as a blast of electricity arced over his head, splattering against the concrete, burning it off. He raised his head, eying the glowing ball above him, and fired off another burst of flame. The electric ball, which he had been fighting with for the past half hour, flew out of the way, again, and pounced towards him. Netty jumped, but a tendril of energy shot out, and struck him, flinging him through the air and knocking him into a wall. Netty picked himself up groggily, and shook his head to clear it. He fired multiple bursts, trying to contain the thing for a direct hit. Around him, he could hear gunfire of automatic weapons, as the gangs in Sin.ci.net.ty fought turf wars against creatures that didn't care about things like property, ownership, or even life. Netty finally nailed the electric ball with a direct hit, but the energy in the ball flowed back through the flame, and grounded itself through him. Netty collapsed onto the ground, feeling more than crispy. Someone ran past him, firing at something, but he didn't even have the strength to roll over, let alone get up. A hand grabbed his shoulder and flipped him over. Netty stared straight up, unable to move his head, so the figure had to step over him to be seen. "Have you seen Morph?" Agent asked. "Ow," replied Netty as he tried to answer. "I see." Agent was about to say something more when a large shape lumbered by. Agent disappeared from view for a few moments, accompanied by an odd grunting sound, then reappeared, covered in some kind of green goo, although he didn't seem to notice. "It appears that we have been left to our own devices by our great government. This city has been declared a 'No Go' area, and even the LNH has been ordered to stay out, under threat of Lethal Lawyers." Netty would have shuddered at the concept had he been able to. "It's best that we regroup for the moment. Try to sort out some kind of strategy, but I can't find Morph." "Ow," said Netty, agreeably. "This really is rather negligent of him. He is..." Agent finally became aware of Netty's rather unenthusiastic responses. He sighed. "Come on." Reaching down, Agent hauled Netty upright with one hand. Netty felt an intense flare of pain run through his body, and he staggered, barely managing to catch himself before falling down. He glared at Agent, then realised he was moving. Hey, he was moving! And he didn't feel as well cooked as before! "Hey, I'm all right!" he exclaimed. "Up with people," agreed Agent absently. Netty shook his head to sort himself out. "Did you try Queen Bee Towers?" "What?" "Morph. You remember he was left in there, right?" "Oh yeah," replied Agent, looking as if this was a previously unimportant fact that might actually be worth something. "It's worth a try. You want to come?" "Uh...okay..." replied Netty slowly. A bullet-ridden creature lurched out of a side alley, and fell onto the pavement before them. "You first," Netty added. _-~-_ "There's no way I'm ever going to accept that claim," Rick stated. The Queen shrugged. "Accept or not. It's still a fact." "You? My mother? In what way is that even slightly possible?" "Why not?" she looked affronted. "Why shouldn't I be your mother?" "Because it's like something out of a bad soap opera!" Rick exclaimed. "'After a long life of abandonment,'" Rick declaimed in a bad impersonation of an announcer's voice, "'poor Rick discovers that his unknown mother was a rich successful business woman, and they are at last reunited.' Bah!" "You really are being over-dramatic about this. Son." "Don't call me that! What do you take me for? I'm not some schmoe born yesterday. You? My mother? It doesn't make sense. So who's my father then?" "There is only one man who I ever loved," the Queen replied frostily. "HIM??? Agent is my father?! Now I really have heard everything." "I don't think you quite understand. He-" "No, no, I don't want to know. You know, that really is sick. I don't want to talk to you, or even look at you any more." Rick turned away, leaning against the wall. "I-" "No!" Despite himself, Rick felt his heart beating fast. Was this possible? No, it couldn't be...and yet...It would explain why Agent, or rather the Phantom Walker as he was then, tracked him down. Why they had shared a bond. The Phantom Walker helping him with Frank Bennington. Them house hunting together, and forming a team. The secrets they shared that no-one else would ever know... Rick could feel a traitorous tear running down his cheek, as he heard the Queen speak anyway. "I suppose it is rather hard to believe. You have no idea who your parents are, you stumble into Queen Bee Towers accidentally, then end up here, locked in a box with a woman you've never met claiming to be your mother. And yet, it's true. Why didn't you know? Why did I abandon you? ... You don't live in the world I do without making enemies. You probably already guessed that my business isn't the most...legal there is. I couldn't keep you, and he had other duties. You may have already found his rather odd sense of priorities. But I have kept an eye on you. As I said before, you are here, alive. That's more than some could say, but I made sure you could say it." More tears had joined that first one now. Rick hid his face, unable to look at her, unable to bare the concept. But, finally, he did. "Mom?" _-~-_ Dva stalked into the laboratory Missy was working in. "That wasn't nice," he growled. Missy looked up from soldering a wire in place. "She not sleep." "Even so," Dva replied tersely. Missy shrugged. "Agent said." Dva peered at the contraption Missy was making closely. It looked like a TV remote, but now it sprouted wires like a hedgehog. He frowned at it. "Etheric beam locator," Missy explained. She put the solder gun down and picked up a screen and plugged it in. Pressing a button, the screen lit up. Missy peered at it. "Etheric beams," she said. "That good?" Dva asked. Missy shrugged again. "Depend on what etheric beam is." She swung the device around a little, then pointed it downwards. "Down there. Below us." They both looked down, but saw nothing but floor. Missy held the device carefully, and walked slowly out of the room, Dva following. They walked to the lift, and Missy pressed the button for the basement. In the basement, they followed the scanner until they found a door. "Don't remember door there," Missy said. "Emergency escape pod," she read. She and Dva shared a glance, then Dva reached out and pulled on the door handle, a large handle much like the ones on meat freezers. There was a clunk, and a hum, then the hum died. Finally, the door swung open. They both stared in surprise at what was revealed. Against one wall was a stunningly beautiful woman Dva recognised instantly as the Queen Bee, fear and hatred washing over him. But those emotions were immediately replaced by surprise at the sight of Rick with his head in her lap, and her stroking Rick's head. Missy scratched her head. "Don't remember them there either." _-~-_ Despite not having any sleep, Netty felt fine. Yes, he had a little problem focusing his eyes, and a tendency to bump into things, but other than that everything was fine. He followed Agent as the latter picked his way carefully through the Queen Bee Towers. Agent seemed to know where to go, but was forced to backtrack on occasion as the way forward was blocked. "Where are we going?" Netty asked, a little dreamily. "Environmental control systems. If there are any human presences in here, that's where we can track them." "That's nice," replied Netty. Agent glanced at him, then snagged his arm. "Come along." Pulling Netty after him, Agent managed to work his way up several floors, though piles of remains and debris, and finally to the room he wanted. It was large, looking more suited to hosting many people trying to guide a rocket rather than control the environment of one building. Sitting Netty down, Agent activated the backup power systems, and brought rudimentary computer control on line. Flipping through screens, he froze on a particular image. "That's...interesting." "That's nice," said Netty, his head falling onto his chest. Agent sighed, reached under the console, and pulled out a needle and jabbed Netty in the arm, unnecessarily hard. Netty spasmed, then jerked upright. "Ow. What was that?" "Caffeine hit. Don't use too many though. Come on." Netty eyed Agent suspiciously as they made their way through more of the Tower, ending up two floors below ground level, outside a door. "What's in there?" Netty asked. "I'm hoping you can tell me." Agent opened the door, and Netty followed, and gasped. Before him was row upon row of sleeping berths, small covered alcoves set into the walls, three high, and stretching as far back as he could see. All containing bodies. And all the bodies were the same person. Netty recognised him. What the hell was thousands of copies of Captain Cleanup doing here? -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: More bad soap opera! Credits: All mine.Back to the Index.