________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #17 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [It's a tessellated image of Captain Cleanup's face.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- [This issue is dedicated to the real Maurice Beyke, who recently passed away.] "Mopping Up." The voices carried into the room before their arrival. "You shouldn't have locked her away." "No." "What has she ever done to you?" The only answer was silence as Dva stormed into the room, quickly followed by Rick, and trailed by Missy. Rick grabbed Dva's arm. "Okay, not the best question, but there's no need to throw her in the brig!" "Give me one reason why not," Dva hissed, staring directly into Rick's eyes. Rick looked away, suddenly quiet. "I can't," he whispered. Dva shook his arm free and turned away in disgust. "You wouldn't understand," Rick tried, but Dva didn't reply. "What she do?" Missy asked, but neither of them responded. "If she bad lady, she be locked up." Rick moved back towards the door. "I can't explain it. You wouldn't understand." "Try me." she said. Rick studied Missy for a moment, and saw something in the blue Chub's eyes that said that she might understand more than he could imagine. He opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted as Agent and the Net.Elementalist burst in. "Guys, you would not believe what we found," the Net.Elementalist gasped out. "I think the LNH should be told about this," said Agent, sounding not the least bit out of breath. The Net.Elementalist finally took the time to see who was there. "Hey, Morph, what's up?" "The Queen Bee is locked in our cells," Rick replied. "What?" _-~-_ "So, to summarise," said Agent, after several stories had been told, "the Queen Bee is dismantling Queen Bee Enterprises, shutting down the main headquarters here, and not letting anyone come in, under threat of Lethal Lawyers. Hmmm...interesting." "It's a good threat," replied the Net.Elementalist. "If I wasn't in here already, I wouldn't want to come anywhere near this place." "And now, through what some might call plot contrivance, the Queen Bee escaped, with Morph, and ended up in our building, and is now residing in one of our cells. Well, that should make things easier." "In what way?" asked Rick. "She hasn't done anything illegal. That anyone can prove," he amended quickly. "If she gets a call to her Lawyers, we're done for." "He does make a very good point," said the Net.Elementalist. "But while she is here, we can ask her why there are so many bodies of Captain Cleanup in the Towers." "Shouldn't you know most of this?" Rick asked Agent. "She and you are..." Agent shook his head. "I don't pry into her business affairs. Never really interested me to be honest." "What about her other businesses?" asked Dva. "Either they were shut down too," said Agent. "Or they'll fall apart when they find out there's no more Queen Bee Enterprises." "All those people, out of a job," said Rick. "It's sickening." "I don't think it's that bad," said Agent, drawing the others' stares. "The Little Man took over pretty quickly when she pulled out of Sig.ago. I expect the other corporations around will sweep in like vultures when they find out, and take over. The worst that the Enterprise did was here in Sin.ci.net.ty. A lot of the work was even respectable." [1 - See _Dvandom Force #80_ - Footnote Girl.] "So we're just going to let all the villains take control of the industry?" Rick asked. Agent shrugged. "They already have. Corporate Ame.rec.a has never been a clean business." "But the copies of Captain Cleanup?" the Net.Elementalist persisted. "That, I think, would be a question best put to her." _-~-_ The Queen regarded the Alt.Riders standing outside her cell coolly. "And why should I tell you anything? You've locked me in here against my will, holding me illegally. Kidnapping me, even." "It was an accident you ended up here," said Rick, looking slightly abashed. "I agree that we shouldn't have done this." "And yet you let them take me," she said to him. "I don't believe you," said Dva darkly, leaning towards the door of the cell, such as it was. The cell was basically three walls and a force screen for the fourth wall. Inside was a bed, and not much else. "I doubt you did come here accidentally, and I can't accept that you were dragged in here against your will." "How kind of you to say so," said the Queen. "It's most flattering to know you hold me in such high regard." "If it was left to me, I'd hold you dead," Dva snarled. "Enough," said Agent, moving to the front. "Tell us about Captain Cleanup." The Queen looked away, refusing to meet his gaze. "I'm not talking to you." The others shared a glance. Like that, was it? "I'll talk to him," she nodded at the Net.Elementalist, "and to her," she nodded at Missy. "You will not dictate terms to us," started Agent, but the Net.Elementalist put his hand on Agent's arm. "We need to talk to her. Let us do it." Agent glared at him, but stalked away. Dva glared at the Queen, who met the gaze haughtily, before turning and leaving. Rick gave the Queen a smile, which she didn't return, before going himself. "Now we can have a quiet chat," the Queen said. "I still remember It-Star," the Net.Elementalist said abruptly. [From _Fan.Boy #8_ - Footnote Girl.] "Good. That'll help," said the Queen, uncaringly. "It-Star was one product of a project of ours. Like most corporations, although they don't want to admit it, we wanted our own pet superpowered humans. They're ten-a-penny around here, so that shouldn't have been to difficult. But it was. I think the only people who ever got it working was the QER. And so our thoughts turned to cloning." "Cloning?" put in Missy. "What that?" "Replicating another being, growing it from a sample of DNA. Like flowers, sheep, people," said the Queen, rather dismissively. "A cheap resource." "With many ethical questions," said the Net.Elementalist. "Hardly surprising then that the Questionable Ethics Research establishment would be involved," he muttered under his breath. "Sounds interesting," said Missy. "How work?" "I'll fill you in on the technical details later," offered the Queen. "But for now... We decided to try cloning an existing superhero, just to see if it would work. We finally got an opportunity with-" "Captain Cleanup!" the Net.Elementalist interjected. "How could you?" The Queen shrugged. "As I said, opportunity. It worked. We have, or rather had, on file DNA samples from most of the LNH. Unfortunately, we couldn't get some of the best. I would have loved to get my hands on some DNA of Kid Kirby..." the Queen looked into the far distance wistfully for a moment "but never mind. One thing we tried was combining the samples, and creating a clone. That was It-Star." "Not just LNHers, but some villains too," said the Net.Elementalist. The Queen just shrugged again. "So why are you telling us all this?" "Because...I don't care any more. I'm fed up with the whole thing. It was fun, but not any more," replied the Queen. "Don't worry, I've stopped the worst from being put to use, but the rest of it..." "All those people..." "They'll be fine. The Conspiracy Corporation will probably grab most of it, they are number one now with me gone. I'm sure the government will grab a large piece, but I have stopped even them from getting in here." "Little Man, Frank Bennington...I'm sure they'll leap in too," said the Net.Elementalist. "The Little Man is called Coppermane now," corrected the Queen. "As for Frank...well, as I said, I've stopped even him from getting in here." "So what do we do with all those Captain Cleanups?" "I don't know. Kill them?" the Queen suggested casually. The Net.Elementalist gaped at the Queen, unable to believe that she could just say that. In disgust, he turned away and left. Missy remained, and leaned closer. "Tell me about cloning." _-~-_ The Net.Elementalist paced the room where the others were sitting. "We've got to get Captain Cleanup here. He'll want to know about this." Rick watched the pacing. "Have you slept recently?" he asked. "Who has time for sleep?" the Net.Elementalist replied. Agent stood, but Dva grabbed him. "Don't," Dva growled. Agent looked at her, then sat down again. "Get some sleep," Rick said. "I'll go get him." "He'll be in the LNH," pointed out Dva. "It'll be best if I go get him. We can also arrange for them to take care of the Queen Bee too." "Why don't you just call them?" Agent asked. "I tried before," said Dva. "Our phone's been disconnected." "Probably the whole town has," said Agent. "Transporters it is then." At the transporters, they found another surprise. "The code for the LNH doesn't work," Dva said. "We've been locked out," replied the Net.Elementalist, looking over her shoulder. "Hmm...try..." He reached past her, and tapped a different code in. The transporter began a start-up hum. "I can still get to my house. We can call from there. Come on." The Net.Elementalist moved towards the transporter, but he had to pass Agent. As Agent moved aside, he brushed something against the Net.Elementalist's arm. "What was-" Agent caught the Net.Elementalist as he collapsed. "Will you stop doing that!?" Dva cried out angrily. "He needed sleep," Agent replied evenly. "Just like you did." "Fine," Dva sighed. It was too late now. "I'll take him through. Alice can take care of him, and I'll call the LNH." She stepped into the transporter, holding onto the Net.Elementalist, and a rising note sounded as the transporter took hold of them, and transported them. Rick looked at Agent. It was just them now. Even so, he moved in closer, and whispered. "She told me. I know now." Agent just looked at him. "Fine," was all he said, then moved away and left. That wasn't exactly the reaction that Rick expected, but then Agent never was too emotional. Rick smiled. He still had plenty of time to really get to know his father. _-~-_ Several hours later the transporter hummed again, bringing with it Dva, Captain Cleanup and his nephew Squeaky Clean. "I'm not sure about this," said Squeaky, stepping off the platform and glancing around, already spotting many places that would fail the white glove test. "We aren't even allowed to be here." "It sounds like something we should be looking into," replied Captain Cleanup, making his own cleanliness judgment. "I'm not sure what exactly is going on here, but it does look personal," Dva said. "I'll fetch Agent. You can wait in here, I wont be long." Dva left them sitting in the cafeteria, and was only away for five minutes getting Agent, but when she returned, the room was gleaming, sparkling with whiteness, and yet both heroes were still sitting in the same place. "How'd they do that?" Dva asked, mostly to herself. Agent ignored the fresh state of the room, and went directly to the duo of dirtlessness. "Glad you could come," he stated briefly. "Did you know anything about being cloned?" Captain Cleanup shook his head. "News to me." "I'll take you there. Missy will come with us. She's just creating a medical scanner at the moment." "Creating?" repeated Squeaky. "From scratch." Agent grinned. "Dva, why don't you go get Missy?" "Yes, sir," she muttered under her breath, and left on the errand. After fetching the scientist, Dva made sure to come back just so she could see the expression on their faces when they saw the little alien. And she wasn't disappointed. "Wha...?" "Meet Missy," Agent introduced. "A Chub from the planet...what do you call your planet anyway?" "Home," Missy replied succinctly. "And there you have it," Agent added wryly. "And now, if you'd like to come with me, there's no reason why we can't do this right now." _-~-_ He stood out of the way and just listened. He could hear her breathing, in and out, slowly, slowly. It was odd. Even her breathing sounded different to him now. There was a catch, and he strained his ears, but she had stopped breathing for a moment. "I can hear you," she called out. There was a rustle of movement, and Rick stepped forwards to see the Queen sitting up. "Hello...son." "There's still some doubt about that," Rick said. "Agent doesn't seem to ready to take up a parenting role." "And you really expected he would?" Rick shrugged. "Maybe not." "So why have you come?" "What do you want?" Rick asked. "After what you've done to your employees, I should just turn you over to the authorities." "Go ahead," she replied. "Works for me." "What do you intend to do now? Ruin more companies?" The Queen shook her head. "No. I...want to leave this planet. Go out there, go exploring..." "You can do that?" "There are ways." She looked directly at him. "As long as I'm not in here." "I can't break you out." "Did I ask you to?" "But...if you are my mother...I can't leave you here." "Indeed. If. This is what it comes down to." Damn. She wasn't going to make this easy for him. "Damn you," he muttered, and moved towards the controls for the cell. "Don't," a voice commanded. Rick turned to see Dva standing there, hands on her hips. She didn't look pleased. "So that's it." "How long have you been there?" Rick asked guiltily. "Long enough. Your mother, huh?" She gave the Queen a look, but the Queen was sitting back with her eyes closed. "You really believe that?" "Yes," Rick replied. Did he? "It's a means to an end. She knew what she was doing when she came here, and she using you to get her free. I already know what she's like." "But she's changed. She wants out now. She's trying to make a new start." "She's trying to dodge her responsibilities! We're going to hand her over to the LNH. I've already talked to them, and they have a nice cell waiting for her back at LNHHQ." "I will not see my mother in a cell any longer!" The vehemence in his voice surprised both of them. "She's changed! Can't you trust me on this?" "No. I know what you're like too. I know about you and It-Star." "Oh." _-~-_ Captain Cleanup and Squeaky Clean gaped at the room full of Captain Cleanups. Captain Cleanup shivered. "This is extremely eerie." Agent was beside Missy who was scanning a nearby body. "Read human," Missy said. "Take time full scan." "Right then," said Agent. "Let's see how far this room goes." Agent led the way deeper into the room. Captain Cleanup and Squeaky Clean followed him, pausing every now and then to look at a body, but they were all exactly the same. "What's that?" Agent asked, mostly to himself, but the other two heard, and looked to see something in the middle of the room up ahead. As they drew closer, they could make out a raised platform with a body on it under glass. They formed a loose circle around the dais. The body preserved there was, like the other bodies in the room, Captain Cleanup. Squeaky asked the obvious question. "Why is this one singled out?" "Perhaps it was meant to be my replacement," suggested Captain Cleanup. "Possibly," agreed Agent. "But also possibly, it's the other way around. Missy!" he yelled out. "Come here!" Missy came running along with short strides. "What - oh." "Have you finished your scan yet?" Missy nodded and handed a piece of paper with the readout on it to Agent. Agent studied it carefully. "Do a scan of this body. Let me know if there's any differences." Missy nodded, and pointed the scanner at the body under glass. They waited impatiently for the scan results, but no-one talked, the atmosphere too tense for loose discussion. Finally a piece of paper ejected itself, and Agent ripped it off before Missy could look at it. "Scan him," ordered Agent tersely, indicating Captain Cleanup. "What? Why?" Cleanup asked, but there was no answer coming, just Missy pointing the scanner at him. Squeaky tried to move around and look over Agent's shoulder, but all he saw was a list of letters. "Just what is going on here?" Cleanup tried again, but with a similar lack of response. Missy grabbed the piece of paper first, and studied it. "Same," she said, puzzled, as Agent took it from her. "What mean?" Agent studied as well, and nodded meaningfully to himself. "As I suspected." "What?" chorused Squeaky and Cleanup together. Agent hesitated. "There isn't an easy way to say this..." He waved to indicate the room around them. "These are all clones, yes?" They all nodded. "According to these results..." He looked straight at Cleanup. "You're a clone too. This body here is the original." _-~-_ "You killed It-Star, didn't you?" Dva challenged. Rick was unable to meet her gaze. Or lie. "Yes," he whispered. "Bastard," Dva hissed. Whether it was directed at him or just a general curse, Rick didn't know. "Why?" That Rick couldn't answer. The reason was pure selfishness. And he couldn't admit that. "It-Star had to be killed." Rick snapped his head up, and looked at the Queen, who had spoken. "It wasn't stable. Before long, it would have broken down and gone psychotic. Rick did what had to be done." Rick remained silent. On one hand, he could go with that explanation, give himself a defense. Not a great defense, but it was better than the truth. On the other hand, there was the truth... "I didn't know that," Rick said, quietly, before Dva could say anything. "It may have been necessary, but that wasn't why I did it." "Why then?" Rick shut his eyes. He didn't want to look at anyone while he said this. And he knew no-one would want to look at him afterwards. "I did it...because I was jealous. Pliable Lad had recently left the LNH, so I was the only remaining 'morph. If anyone wanted a 'morpher, they had to come to me. Then It-Star turned up. Although we didn't know it at the time, but it could replicate almost anyone perfectly. Due to having their DNA no doubt. But it was found out. That left me out of a job. Impersonator? Don't bother with Amorphous Lad and his not exact perfection, go for the best, It-Star. So I did what seemed reasonable at the time. I restored the status quo. I killed It-Star, so that there was only me again. I could say that it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn't really that. It just seemed...natural, at the time. And it didn't do me any good, either." Rick finally opened his eyes. He turned to see Dva looking away, her expression unreadable, then turned to see the Queen with a similar pose. Without saying another word, he simply walked away. _-~-_ "I'm...I'm a clone?" said Captain Cleanup incredulously. "According to these results, yes," Agent said. "But...that's impossible!" "How can you tell?" asked Squeaky. Agent held up the pieces of paper. "These are DNA readings. All three contain the DNA of the original, but these two," he held up two particular pieces, "contain extra DNA. Junk DNA. Obviously the process wasn't quite as perfect as they'd liked." "That's ridiculous," said Captain Cleanup. "I'd know. Wouldn't I?" Agent shook his head. "Um," said Squeaky, drawing their attention. "Captain...do you remember that holiday we took in Con.net.i.cut, and that party we went to? You were attacked by a monster, and, well...you were killed. At least, that's what I thought. You showed up, and I got Kid Kirby to check you out. He say you had junk DNA then." [This was in _World Tales #1-3_ - Footnote Girl.] Captain Cleanup was aghast. "I...I don't remember that." "She probably needed the original to make a proper copy," Agent said casually, belying the shock of the moment. "And she certainly wouldn't have the clone remembering the original's death." "How can you say it like that?" cried out Squeaky. "Like some kind of abstract concept. This is real!" "Am I really me?" the Captain asked. Agent shrugged. "As much as you want to be." Missy spoke up. "These clones," she said. "Can come alive too." "What?" "Wake them up. They go," she said. Agent looked around. "So there's nothing wrong with these clones? They could be brought to life, just like him?" Captain Cleanup was too distraught to notice being referred to just one of a pack. "Yes." "So, now what do we do?" asked Squeaky. _-~-_ Rick sat on his bed in his room. It wasn't much of a room, just a bed, a dresser, and a wardrobe. He didn't have any use for two of the three things. He felt like he should make the noble gesture and leave, but couldn't bring himself to make the decision. He wanted to stay here, but didn't think he'd be allowed to. It was the gutless thing to do, but right now that suited him. He heard someone come into his room, but didn't look up. "I'm not going to absolve you of your sins," he heard Dva say. "You murdered someone. It's as simple as that." There was a pause. "But you've also done good. Although this is probably a mistake, I'm not going to turn you in. You're on probation. The entire LNH already thinks of you as a murderer, but as long as you don't go near any of them, they're willing to let you go. Most of them know that things are never black and white, and that there are external forces at play. But if you do anything like that again, I'm not going to look the other way." Rick couldn't bring himself to speak for a while, and when he did, his voice was husky, as if he was crying. "What about the Queen?" "I...let her go." Now Rick did turn to look at Dva, who was looking away. "She's in the past now. Queen Bee Enterprises is over. There's no need for a vendetta." Dva shrugged. "As she said, giving her to the authorities is just giving her to people who can help her get away anyway." "What about Peter?" "He just wants to be rid of her too." Rick looked down, not sure of what words to say. Finally, he managed "Thank you," but when he looked up as he said them, Dva was already gone. _-~-_ "What do you mean, 'retire'?" Squeaky asked Captain Cleanup in a hushed voice. He glanced over to the stone slab, where the original lay, and where Agent and Missy stayed while they went to talk. "I know you've been talking about it, but..." "One of us should, in honour of him." "But *you're* him," insisted Squeaky. "You aren't a clone to me." "Fine then. I'm retiring, and all those clones of me are taking over. Either way, there's no need for me anymore." Captain Cleanup cast his eye over the many, many copies. "We'll wake them up, explain things to them, and they can take over cleanup duties. There's more than enough mess for all of us. And I get to retire, like I always wanted to. It works out rather neatly." "What about..." Squeaky nodded his head towards the first body. "We'll bury him," replied the Captain, with a determined expression. "But we'll do it. No need for the rest of them to know. It's only proper." Squeaky sighed. "I can see that I'm not going to win this. And to think I was going to step into your shoes one day." "It'll take a lot of dead man's boots to get my job," replied the Captain in the same forced light tone Squeaky had used. "But don't worry about it. With all of us cleaning things up, that leaves you free to be with your friends." "But I like cleaning! I'm good at it!" "Then you can help me by cleaning this place up. This building is a mess!" Squeaky just shook his head. He wasn't 100% percent happy about this turn of events, but it was the Captain's choice. "And what are you going to do?" "I've been thinking about my own business some place. A dry cleaning service, maybe." "Sounds like you. Come on then, let's get this underway." _-~-_ "You let the Queen Bee go?" gasped the Net.Elementalist, now fresh after a good sleep, and back with the rest of them and caught up on events. "How could you?" "She's got Lethal Lawyers," replied Dva. "What else could we do?" "Where is she now?" Agent put in. "Last I heard, she was heading towards Cape Canaveral. Something about their new deep space research program." "I should have stayed in bed," muttered the Net.Elementalist. He rubbed his forehead. "And we've also got our own Captain Cleanup now?" "There's more than enough to go around," said Agent. "He's already gone through three levels cleaning everything in sight," said Dva, impressed. "So, we're stuck in a city no-one else wants to be in, with dangerous creatures running loose, the person responsible for which is lost in space, and we've got a cleaning staff. Uh huh. Yep, this is the Looniverse all right," sighed the Net.Elementalist, leaning back. "I think most of the creatures have been cleared out by the gangs," Rick said. "Or the other way around," said Agent. "So how exactly are we better off than we were before?" the Net.Elementalist asked. "No more Queen Bee Enterprises," Dva said. "A definite advantage to me." "What happens now?" A bleep startled them, and their attention was drawn to a nearby video phone. Dva got to her feet and answered it. "Hello?" The Ultimate Ninja appeared on screen. "Ah, Dva, there's something I'd like you to check out. A strange report of mirrors eating people." Dva frowned. "I thought we were ex-communicado, living in Sin.ci.net.ty, and all." The Ultimate Ninja blinked in surprise, as much as he ever did. "You can still travel in and out of the city with the transporters, can't you?" "Well, yes." "Then fine. This is in California." "Ah, okay." "I'll send the details and expect a report by tomorrow." The screen blinked out and Dva turned to the others. "Business as usual?" the Net.Elementalist asked. "As much as it's ever usual around here," Rick said. "Right then," said Agent. "Dva and the Net.Elementalist, you check out this thing in California. Rick, I want you and Missy...where is Missy?" "She said the etheric beams she found could help her with her platinum problem." Rick shrugged. "Then it's you and me on city watch. Okay, people, let's go!" -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Business as usual. And not for just the Alt.Riders. Credits: Mine except for the ones that aren't. Notes: I've got three (at last count) major arcs to get through, and that was one.Back to the Index.