________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #18 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [A man, flanked by two soldiers, has his back to us while looking at the entrance to Queen Bee Towers. Under this image is the impression of a figure with wings.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "HOME INVASION." The soldier watched carefully as the convoy of army jeeps and trucks approached him. He nodded to his partner, then stepped out into the middle of the road. As the convoy came closer, he raised a hand and brought them to a halt. He walked to the lead jeep, and saluted the captain who was driving it. "Sir," he said. "We can't allow you to continue. This city is strictly off limits." The captain held up a piece of paper. "I think we are allowed," he said mildly. The soldier examined the document. It looked like Presidential Orders allowing them access to Sin.ci.net.ty, but he wasn't going to let them just drive on through. "I have to authenticate these orders, sir," the soldier said. The captain nodded. "Please stay here." The soldier took the orders and returned to the small temporary hut that had been erected. He handed the paper to his partner, while he remained outside keeping an eye on the convoy, and one hand on his rifle. A minute later, his partner said "Cleared." The soldier nodded. "Lower the barrier." The concrete partition that blocked the road slowly descended into the ground, freeing the road for use. The soldier waved the convoy on, and the captain smiled genially at him as the jeeps and trucks passed him. As the last truck passed, the barrier was raised again, and the soldier returned to his observation post. Ten minutes later, the call about stolen army vehicles came in. _-~-_ "What an amazing age we live in. All around us, people clamour for just one thing. Power. This is easily seen from the sheer number of superheroes this planet is inundated with. Power to fly, power to destroy, power to...resemble a limp asparagus, but none the less, power. It's a Freudian paradise, if you go in for that sort of thing. "But for many of us, power is not enough. It is merely a means to an end. And that end is control. And the best example of that is the Queen Bee. She holds all the power and has control over everything. And yet...even her power wasn't enough. The Y2K bug proved even too much for her systems. Although between you and me, I say she did it herself. That is not the popular view, of course, so it's not one that you would want to share too readily. "Nevertheless, one way or another, she is now without power, and thus without control. It is said that power corrupts, so maybe this is Acton Lord's work. Some petty revenge or another. Who knows? We haven't seen anything from him since that over-hyped Century Pact fiasco, so who knows what he has been doing. "As I said, I think she did this herself. Why? That, of course, is the tricky question. I personally think she became bored. Due to...private resources, I've learnt that she's been doing this for around 70 or 80 years now. Surprising? Not really. When we live in a world where there's an LNH that boasts a member called Easily Discovered Man Lite, we are truly in a world of wonders. "For whatever reason, and from whatever cause, the Queen Bee is no longer around, and Queen Bee Enterprises, and all those wonderful things it did, are there for the taking. "Which brings the topic of discussion to us. We shall take, and then we shall have power. And control. I am forced to admit that I am not that ambitious, but others are, and we must pander to their needs. But I am curious. And so, we are here." The captain merely nodded, only half listening. Frank Bennington had developed a tendency for talk, so he had developed a tendency not to listen too hard. The captain swung the jeep onto the main street of Sin.ci.net.ty. He could already see their destination, Queen Bee Towers, looming above them, though it was halfway down the street. As he drove along, he could hear gunfire far off. He frowned. Surely there couldn't still be monsters left after this long? Something crashed onto the street directly before them, and the captain slammed on the brakes, making all of them jerk forwards into their seat belts. "What the...?" he heard behind him. "Quiet, sergeant," he ordered. "It's dead," said Bennington dismissively. "Just drive around it." The captain wasn't entirely surprised by Bennington's cavalier attitude, but still had to restrain himself from glancing at the corpse as they went past, putting on a show that he wasn't bothered by this strange thing so close. The captain finally pulled up in front of the towers, and saw Bennington look up. "Magnificent," Bennington said. "And all ours. Quite literally. I managed to acquire the property deed, so this is perfectly legal." The captain managed to keep his face straight. "Deploy the men," Bennington added. "Corporal Bell, establish a perimeter. Sergeant Benton, take the rest of the patrols inside. We'll set up the main base in the lobby and coordinate from there." Bennington gave him a smile. "Just marvelous how you do that. Come on, Captain Yates. Let's go shopping." _-~-_ A man in army fatigues crashed the door open, and two other men rushed in behind him, sweeping the room with their guns. "Clear!" one shouted. Captain Yates and Frank Bennington entered the room, and Bennington rubbed his hands together appreciatively. "The main security control room." Bennington peered at a monitor. "Operating on back up power, it looks. Either that or someone's been in here already." "The Alt.Riders, sir?" Yates asked. "I hope not, but even if they have been, they can't have gotten everything. And we don't need to worry about them interrupting, they're busy at the moment." Bennington didn't elaborate, and Yates didn't ask. "Benton, secure this floor," Yates ordered. "Sir." Outside, Benton motioned for the men near him to spread out. He lead one group, a man splitting off every now and then to check rooms and side passages. He reached the end of one corridor without encountering any problems. "Right, fall back. Nothing to worry about here." As they moved back, they heard a rattle from one of the rooms. "I checked that one, sir," one of the men said. "It was clean." "Right. I'll check it out. Get back to the captain." Benton entered the room, sweeping the place with his eyes and his gun. It looked like a class room, with desks spread out, and a larger desk at the front and a board for writing on. The rattle sounded again, and Benton looked up to see a grate on the ceiling vibrating slightly. Cautiously, he walked over and peered up into it, making sure not to place himself directly under it. The grating rattled again, and Benton circled the area, picking his way through the desks. Another rattle. Suddenly, the grate popped open, swinging down on a hinge on the side now opposite him. Something came out. Benton squeezed the gun trigger. The small squad of men burst into the room, guns covering every angle. All they saw was Sergeant Benton standing over a huddle on the ground. "Just a freak. It's dead now," Benton said. "Sir, I thought we were supposed to take anything we found alive." "Unless it tries to kill me, then I don't care." A few of the men grinned. They knew how it was. "Come on." Pushing through the men rather brusquely, Benton led the way out. _-~-_ The push was on for floor 27. Bennington had found something, but he wasn't telling any one else. The captain led the charge, as it were, and the men swept up through the levels as quickly as they could. However, there was a problem just after floor 12. "Sir, there's no floor 13," Benton reported to Yates. "What do you mean? There has to be a floor there, even if it's labeled 14." "There's nothing, sir. Just...nothingness." "Let me see." Yates pushed Benton aside and opened the stairwell door for the 13th floor. A void gaped before him, threatening to suck him in with its emptiness. Yates grasped the side of the doorway as something like vertigo swept over his body. Benton pulled him back, and Yates stood there for a moment, just panting and getting his breath back. Yates looked around, but there wasn't any more stairs leading up. "There must be some way around this," Yates said. "Presumably people worked on the upper floors. They wouldn't have had to deal with this." "Perhaps it's only just happened. Sir," Benton added belatedly. "Some kind of security measure the Queen instigated to stop anyone from getting higher." "In that case there should be something very interesting above us," Yates mused. "How about the lift shaft?" "All the lifts are non-functional." "I didn't say the lifts, I said the lift shaft. Come on." Leading the way back to the 12th floor, Yates entered the floor and looked around, quickly locating a pair of lift doors. "Open that." Benton in turn nodded to the men accompanying them, and two of them stepped forwards, and slowly pulled the doors apart. Yates leaned through the increasing gap and stared upwards. "It's clear to the top. We go up this way." "Yes, sir," replied Benton, giving Yates a cagey look, before motioning for the ropes to be brought up. _-~-_ They were at level 20 when the next strange thing happened. One of the men was in a room when he called out. "Sirs! Come here quickly!" Benton and Yates entered to see the room dim. Which was strange as one wall was full of windows opening out onto the street. Something was falling past the window. A big something, taking a lot of time. No details could be made out, just a vague impression of hugeness, then the windows were clear again. Rushing to the window, they looked out and down...but there was nothing there. "Where is it?" asked Benton, mostly to himself. "It disappeared sir," the soldier exclaimed. "Enough talk. If it isn't here, it can't bother us. Come on," Yates ordered, and they continued on their way, casting glances back to the windows as they did so. _-~-_ Once they had gained floor 27, they had to wait for Bennington to arrive, performed a quick recee of the floor while they did so. Apart from empty rooms and locked doors, which the other floors had consisted of, there was nothing here of interest. "So whatever he wants is locked away," Benton said quietly. "And probably for a good reason." "It's ours now," Yates said sharply. "And don't forget it." "Yes sir," replied Benton, after a pause. Bennington came through the door, wheezing slightly. Benton gave a small smile, but stopped under Yates glare. "Rather invigorating, isn't it?" Bennington panted. "Twenty seven floors with no lifts..." Bennington drew his breath. "Right then. The room we want is listed as TTT. Find it." One of the soldier's saluted. "Already have, sir. It's this way. It's locked." "I'm not surprised." As they walked Bennington indulged in his new predilection for verbosity. "Mankind feels a need to poke it's nose into everything. Every crack must be opened, every hidden fact must be brought to light, good and bad, to be inspected and considered. If it is judged useful, it is used, taken and possessed now as mankind's forever until eternity. Reminds me of the possession rules of babies in a way. "The important thing about this is that it doesn't matter if it is a good thing or a bad thing. It is only the use of it that matters. What then of the things that can't be used? If it is a fact, it is ignored. If it is something made, it is unmade. If it is something discovered...well, maybe it can be hidden again, but some things are not to be tucked out of sight so easily. Sometimes forces can get beyond our control. These are the times chaos come upon us, and nothing good comes from that. "I believe this to be one of those things. I don't know what, exactly, but nevertheless..." Bennington trailed off as they stopped in front of a door marked 'TTT'. Bennington gestured. "Open it." "How, sir?" the soldier asked. Bennington sighed exasperatedly. "Shoot it open," he ordered. Under a hail of bullets, the door promptly game way. Beyond the door was a short corridor, that opened out into a large circular room. Around the edge of the room were scattered consoles, now all dark, deactivated. In the middle of the room was a tall cylinder of blue light, reaching from the ground to the ceiling high above. Bennington stepped close to the shaft of light. "Interesting," he muttered, and peered intently into its depths. Something seemed to jump out at him, making him jump back in surprise. "What the...?" he yelled, but nothing came out of the shaft. "What is it, sir?" Yates asked. "There's...there's something in there." Bennington looked at the shaft uncertainly. "I think." The shaft itself was made of streaming pulses of blue light, like electric discharge. It hummed and flickered, a complete barrier to whatever was inside, but gave no sign of what that might be. "Are you sure, sir?" asked Benton. Yates gave him another look, and Benton moved over to one of the consoles to be out of the way. "Yes, yes...we must find out all we can. Captain, with me." Together, Bennington and Yates moved to one of the consoles, a different one to Benton's, and started trying to get some response from it. Nothing happened. Unlike the security room, there appeared to be no back up power for these computers. "And yet that barrier is still working. A completely independent system," Bennington mused. "Whatever is behind there must be something powerful indeed. And something we must therefore have." There was a definite gleam in Bennington's eye. Yates thumped the computer, but despite many years experience, the computer still failed to come online. He looked around in frustration, and spotted Benton reading something. Walking over to him, Yates waited until he was almost at Benton's side before asking "What's that, Benton?" Benton visibly jumped. He turned, half-heartedly trying to hide the document behind him. "Just some technical papers. Sir. Nothing useful." "Let me see," Yates ordered, putting out his hand, and Benton reluctantly handed over the papers. Yates flicked through the pages. "I think this is very important. Next time, tell us immediately." Benton merely nodded, and Yates turned away dismissively, and towards Bennington. "What is it?" Bennington asked. "Printouts of readouts," Yates replied. "Energy readouts. Whatever's in there requires a lot of energy. Although I haven't seen energy patterns like this before." Bennington took the readouts, and examined them. "Neither have I." He looked up at the energy shaft. "Oh, I just have to get in there." "If we can find the power source..." "Spread out," Bennington called out. "Find the power source. Might need to check the floors above and below this one. I want whatever's in there, and we're not stopping until I'm in." _-~-_ Sergeant Benton lead a team through floor 26, looking for the power source. Another team was checking 28, but he had a feeling it was down here. Something about the way the energy moved told him it was coming from below. "Sir, it's behind that wall," one of the men reported, his eyes on a small tracker unit. The wall looked study. Not something they could break through. "Circle around. Find an entrance." It took time, but finally they found a way in. The power source was some kind of moving generator, a tall column that rumbled in low, almost sub-sonic tones, making the floor vibrate gently. Benton had no idea how it worked, or why it was still working when everything else wasn't, but it was definitely more preferable than allowing whatever was inside to get out. "I think this is the main control, sir," one of the men called out. "I'm not sure that it can be easily switched off, but we can probably deactivate it just by shooting it." "Good idea," replied Benton. He brought up his stun gun, and shot the man in the chest, and the soldier collapsed onto the ground. "Sir! What are-" another man asked, in shock, but didn't get any further as Benton shot him too. He managed to fire a burst at another soldier, there were still two others left, but one of them had their gun up by now and was firing at him. Benton dived out of the way. "We can't let them deactivate that thing!" Benton cried out. "Whatever's inside should stay there!" "We have orders. You aren't one of us," a soldier called back, and fired another burst at Benton's position. Raising his hand slowly, Benton looked out over his temporary protection of a fallen cabinet, and sighted the two remaining soldiers. One was moving for the door, the other was near the machine. Damn. Rolling out from behind the cabinet, Benton fired a shot, nailing the man going for the door, but was hit in turn by the gunfire from the other soldier. Cursing, Benton rose and fired the stun gun at full charge. The soldier was knocked back forcefully, colliding into the machine. There was a shower of sparks, and something went *clunk*. The central column stopped spinning. Benton looked in horror. Despite his best attempts he had turned off the barrier anyway. Turning, he ran for the room, hoping nothing too disasterious was happening in the room above him. _-~-_ Benton ran into the main room to find the last of the blue lights fading from view to reveal...a skeleton? In the air was a large skeleton, over two meters tall, arms hanging down, and two large skeletal wings stretched out to either side. The head was hanging down, as if asleep. Although there was no sign of any support, the body hung in the air, and remained connected. "Beautiful," Bennington breath. He glanced over. "Thank you, Sergeant." "You stupid, stupid moron," Benton snarled. "What?" Bennington watched in shock as Benton's face began to melt, then his entire body dissolved into a fluid mass that reformed into something instantly recognisable. "Morph! Kill him!" Morph's hands lashed out on long arms to grab the guns from Captain Yates and the other soldier present. "Don't bother. You can't." "We'll see about that-" Bennington started. "Shut up," Morph growled. "I don't care about you, only what you've just unleashed." All heads turned reflexively to look at the skeleton, which chose that moment to raise its head and scream. The sound was beyond hearing, it was a force that rippled through the building around them, and smashed through their minds. They immediately all collapsed to the floor, holding their heads. *TRAPPED. FREE. ME. FREE! ME! FREEEE!!!! MEEEE!!!! FFFRRREEEEE!!!!!!!! MMMEEEEEEEE FFRREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!* 'Not good,' Morph thought, as much as he could through the screaming pain. The skeleton raised its arms up, and the ceiling above it bulged downwards dangerously. Morph stared upwards while his mind calmed down, then widen his eyes in shock. Reaching out long arms, three of them, he snagged Yates, Bennington and the soldier, and leapt from the room, dragging them behind him. Behind them, the ceiling came crashing down in a mixture of mortar, cement, steel, electronic equipment from the floor above, and bodies of the men who were above trying to find the power source. Morph collapsed in the corridor outside, letting Bennington and the others fall to the ground while he got his breath back. "What did you do to it?" Bennington gasped out. In a flash, Morph had Bennington held up by his suit lapels and slapped against a wall. "It's what you did, you smug bastard," Morph hissed. "You released whatever that thing was, and now we're all going to die." "Put him down." Morph felt something press into his head, and didn't need to look to know Yates had a gun, gotten from somewhere, against his head. Morph let Bennington drop. He wasn't worth it. "Kill him," Bennington gasped from his position on the floor. Without giving Yates a chance, Morph's head expanded, and clamped around Yates' arm like a snake striking. The gun was pulled from Yates' hand, and his hand was ejected. The gun arrived down in Morph's hand. "I said don't try," Morph said, before turning back to see what was happening in the room. All he could see was debris and dust floating down the short passageway between them and the room proper. But sounds were coming out, tortuous sounds, like rending metal and scraping stone. "What did you do with Benton?" Yates asked. "He's having a little nap," Morph replied distractedly. A shaft of light burst through the rubble. "Get down," Morph yelled, diving out of the way. The light exploded in intensity, eating up all around them. A high pitched noise cut through them, making them all curl up in agony. It continued for an eternity before finally dying away. When Morph looked up, jerked back reflexively as he saw a large hole before him. After blinking his eyes, he realised that what he was looking at was a large spherical cut made into Queen Bee Towers. It was as if a big ball had expanded from the figure in the middle, eradicating everything it touched. If it had increased any further, that would have included him. As for the figure in the middle.... It was the skeleton, now coated in the debris it had pulled down on itself. Or rather, herself, for the figure was decidedly feminine. But the actual body.... The head was encase in metal, giving it an evil gleam, with two organic eyes looking out eerily. The torso was concrete, molded into a feminine form, arms made of plastic and electronic circuit boards. The hips were in metal, and her legs were organic, but not made from legs. Morph saw arms and hands, feet and internal organs, all joined together in a mash that made him sick. The figure was now also over three meters tall. The wings were largely plastic, with metal and concrete reinforcing, and now spread out two meters on either side of the body. They beat lazily in the air, but whatever was holding this creature up, it certain wasn't wings like that. *WHERE ARE THE ONES WHO IMPRISONED ME? ME!* "What? Who?" Morph tried to think, as much as he could at the moment. "What are you talking about?" *I WAS CAPTURED, RIPPED FROM MY HOME. I WILL HAVE MY VENGEANCE.* "Whoever captured you...they're long gone...we freed you!" Morph said, in an attempt to be on the creature's side. *THEN I SHALL GO BACK AND HAVE MY VENGEANCE!* The figure started flickering, and Morph had a sudden intuition as to what the creature meant. No, it couldn't be! Launching himself off, Morph hardened the outer shell of his body, rocket powered himself a boost, and crashed into the creature. As he did so, he tried to expand, to surround. The momentum carried them on, crashing into the far wall, and crashing through the far wall. Morph felt an eerie sensation as he wrapped himself around the thing, like his hair was standing up, someone was walking over his grave, and he could hear screeching of fingernails on a chalkboard, all at once. He could barely see the Towers as they passed it by. He got the strange idea that if he could see in, he would be able to see himself as Benton as he watched something fall past the building some time ago. The creature under him writhed, and suddenly he was flying upwards. Pain ripped through his being, and his body spasmed, making him let go, barely able to keep himself together. Something knocked into him, and he groaned. Raising himself slightly, he saw he was on the roof of Queen Bee Towers. The creature hovered above him, looking down at him like one would examine an insect. *THAT WAS UNWISE!* "What are you?" The creature drew itself up. *I AM DIANA, THE TEMPORAPHILE. I LIVE OUTSIDE THE NET AND FEAST UPON TIME INDEX. SOMEHOW I WAS DRAWN HERE AND THEN TRAPPED, UNABLE TO BE FREE, UNABLE TO TASTE THE TIME INDEX. I WAS POKED AND PRODDED, UNABLE TO FEAST, AND SO I WITHERED. AND THEN I WAS LEFT ALONE, AND I STARVED. NOW I AM FREE AND NOW I SHALL BE WHOLE. AND I SHALL TAKE VENGEANCE ON THOSE WHO TRAPPED ME.* "But they've gone! The person in charge has left! There's no one to take vengeance against! There's no need for vengeance at all!" *THAT DOES NOT CONCERN ME. I SHALL GO BACK UNTIL THEY ARE THERE. YOU CAN NOT STOP ME.* "If you can go back...then why don't you free yourself? Or stop yourself from being trapped?" *I...THERE ARE SOME THINGS...IF I DID, I WOULD DESTROY MYSELF NOW.* "And if you went back, you would destroy the others, though?" *I WILL.* "But you don't! There was no record that you did that. There's no evidence. Go back," Morph said. "Go back but watch! See if you come back and destroy them. If you don't, then you can't!" *THEN YOU SHALL COME WITH ME.* _-~-_ Flying through the ether, seeing the net in its entirety below. Laid out in all its glory, evolving as I move along the time index, growing larger, joining more places, more people. Becoming ever more an entity in its own right. But to me, it's a banquet. I dip into it, sucking up part of the time index as the net experiences it, causing lag to begin with, then entire portions of the net disappear as I feast on its temporal existence. Connections are broken, sites are down, but none of them know it is me. And there. A beacon, calling out to me, drawing me in. Feast upon me, it calls, feast and be sated. Not that I can be sated, but I took up its offer. Now I see from outside, see myself intersect the reality, start to feed. And then trapped! Sucked in bodily, my multi-dimensional nature curbed. I long to go to my aid, but I can not, for then I would not be me, that I am now. I touch lightly, seeing what follows. I am trapped and tested by their machines, although they have not the knowledge or the ability to fathom even a small fraction of myself. Once more I long to go to my aid, rip apart those who trapped me, take their existence, their entirely, and use them to awaken my hunger more so I may feed more fully. However, I do not. For I do not. I see myself trapped, tested, left alone, and then freed. Not once do I appear there again. So if I did, I would deny that which I am now. There is a personal time disjoint from the time index of the net that I can not violate. So I do not seek my revenge. Not then. _-~-_ Morph gasped as he came back to himself. He wasn't sure what just happened, somehow he experienced what Diana saw. He saw her captured and tormented. Just another day at Queen Bee Enterprises, wasn't it? What else have you done, mom? *I WILL NOT GO BACK FOR MY VENGEANCE. INSTEAD I SHALL TAKE IT NOW. MY PRISON SHALL NO MORE EXIST.* Morph didn't know what she meant, but knew it couldn't be good. Diana flew higher, then hovered in the air. As she flapped her wings gently, she began to glow. It took a while to happen, but then Morph noticed that the roof was beginning to glow too. Taking a cue from Diana, Morph evolved wings, and flew into the air. From this new perspective, he could see that the entire Tower was glowing. And somewhere far below, a jeep was pulling away, and driving off. Morph let them go. The glow around the building increased until no more of it could be seen inside. This is what the force shield must have looked like. But then it started shrinking. The top of the glow dropped, but none of the building emerged. Slowly, at the rate of a floor every ten seconds, the building was being eaten up. Nine minutes later, there was nothing left but a large hole in the ground. Morph looked over to Diana, and gasped. Gone was the metal, concrete and plastic body. Now she was whole, as she had been in his vision. Her body was whole, normal, looking like a very well built woman in metal armour. On her head was a helmet that hid everything but her lower face. And her eyes. And her wings were now long white feathers. She was looking directly at him. *I KNOW YOU. YOU DID NOT MEAN TO FREE ME. YOU WANTED ME TO STAY INSIDE. WE WILL MEET AGAIN.* And then she was gone. Just disappeared. Slipped away in the moment between now and now. Morph hovered in the air, uncertain as to what her words meant. He looked down onto the vacant remains of Queen Bee Towers, and shuddered. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: The next arc, maybe? CREDITS: All mine. Notes: There are three distinct (albeit related) references to _Doctor Who_ in this story. Most people should get the obvious one. A little work should get the second one. The third I doubt many people will get at all.Back to the Index.