________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #19 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [The cover is taken up by an extremely large green pyramid in the middle of the desert.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Pyramid Scheme" Barry looked at the sunlight dancing on the surface of the tea. His attention drew back to the cup in his hand, then back further as he heard the traffic in the street next to the cafe they sat at, loud now as if he had been deaf before. He shook his head, and looked at Allen. "I'm sorry, you were saying?" "It is at times like this when men become heroes in their bitterest defeat," Allen said, looking into his own cup of tea. "They do what must be done, no matter the cost to themselves. Because they must." Barry ran his other hand over the pink tablecloth, smoothing it out. He felt lazily warm in the sun, and turned his face to catch the sun's rays on his face. "But although we admire those who make such a sacrifice," Allen continued, "we never really face those costs ourselves. Only a few, a... lucky few, must come to terms with decisions like that." "Doesn't sound very lucky to me," Barry commented, grinning slightly at Allen. "I didn't say it was a good luck," replied Allen darkly, the shadows hiding his eyes from view. A breeze kicked up, and Barry shivered. Clouds that weren't there a moment ago covered the sun, and he felt a sudden chill. "What are you saying?" "Have you ever seen a dog with purple fur, Barry?" Allen asked earnestly. "Its owner must do that, but no-one ever catches them at it." Barry nodded, and took another sip of his hot chocolate. Something finally occurred to him. There was something very wrong here. "Aren't you in hell or Hell or Net.Hell or Hell(tm)... whatever... at the moment?" he asked. "Yes," replied Allen, sitting back, pouring his tea into the jug of cream. "You're right. This isn't real. You're dreaming." "How do I know it's not you who are dreaming?" Barry countered. Allen snickered. "I'm not the one trying to convince myself that I have to kill me." "I'm not trying to kill me." "No, me," said Allen, pointing to himself. "That sentence wasn't easy on the pronouns." "But I don't want to kill you either," Barry insisted, gripping the blue tablecloth in his hands. "You're going to have to, Barry." Part of Allen faded before Barry's eyes. A skeleton, Allen's skeleton, sat on the chair. "You have to kill meeeeeeeee......" Barry jerked awake, heart racing, perspiring, breathing hard. He stared around the room, unseeing, as the thoughts raced in his mind. Kill Allen? What was going on? "Honey, what is it?" The sleepy voice made Barry jerk his head, startled. Alice rose on her side, uncertain. Barry wiped at his head, and his hand came away damp. "Nothing, Alice," he replied, his voice steady despite his heart hammering in his chest. "Just a bad dream." Alice moved closer to Barry, resting her head on his chest. "Are you all right?" The warmth of her body dispelled the horrid vision from his mind. He ran his hand down her long hair lovingly. "Yes, I'm fine." He placed a kiss on her head, and lay his head on the pillow. He thought sleep would be long in coming, but it overtook him quickly. There was only a lingering sound echoing in his mind. "...kill meeeeeeee......" _-~-_ Rick stared up at the pyramid before him. He didn't have too much experience with the ancient Egyptian monuments, but even he knew there was something wrong with this one. It rose before him, sides perfectly smooth in a way that was impossible for something made out of blocks of sand. If he squinted, he could make out the point at the top, far away and almost lost in the heat haze the sun generated. Being able to create a large umbrella for himself helped keep the worst of the heat from affecting him, but the dark doorway in the pyramid before him still looked cool and tempting. Light stopped at the entrance, creating a perfect silhouette in the side of the pyramid before him. Despite the absurdity of physics it represented, Rick knew it was perfectly possible for him to enter. There wouldn't have been much point calling in the Alt.Riders if there wasn't something to investigate, and how else would one investigate the interior of this object if there wasn't a door? But all such thoughts paled in the face of one observation. The pyramid was green. A uniform grass green. Every square inch of the surface. And it hadn't been here a week ago. Not that this was the most well-traveled piece of land in Egypt, but something of this size could be seen from miles away. And last week it hadn't been. Someone had put a green pyramid in the middle of Egypt. Rick sighed. Sometimes you knew this job would get you killed. Standing around here wasn't going to solve anything, so Rick took a step forward, and entered the pyramid. The blackness swallowed him up. Looking over his shoulder, he could see the bright landscape outside, but ahead there was nothing but absence of light. Forming his hand into a torch, Rick shone light over the interior of the pyramid. Like the outside, the inside was green too. The passageway stretched out ahead in a straight line with no turnings, or turn offs. Rick walked on, a muted crunching from his footsteps his only companion. After several minutes, Rick stopped. There wasn't any sign he had made any kind of progress at all. Frowning, he turned around, deciding that this was just another pointless occurrence, much like ten foot roll of toilet paper that appeared in Wallawalla last month. Peering ahead, Rick couldn't see the entrance at all. It was possible that he was too far away, but surely there would be some pinprick of light? Telescoping his eyes didn't help. All that was around him was the passageway he was in, and blackness before and behind him. Swinging his light, Rick strode forwards. Not that he was scared, but there was some concern over being trapped in here... The hell? Rick stared at the path before him. At the curve in the path before him. A bend? But there hadn't been any bend in the path on his way here the first time. Was it possible he hadn't noticed it? Or that he'd become turned around, and this was deeper inside the pyramid? Nonsense. This had to be something strange. He flashed his torch about, but the same green walls appeared in the light as before. Rick took a few steps past the bend, and peered ahead. Still no sign of the entrance. He looked back the way he had come. Nothing there either. With not much option, Rick continued onwards, keeping an eye out for any other changes since he had last been here. Which was just as well, as otherwise he might not have seen the figures on the wall. They were little stick figure men, chalked onto the wall. It looked like a scene from some cave painting, little men with spears hunting some kind of large animal. What the hell was this doing in an Egyptological setting? There wasn't any mention of this in that Fox special, "When Pyramids Attack!" (It was largely because he had watched that special that he had been picked for this job.) Rick moved the torch beam around, looking for other figures, but nothing appeared. Returning to the picture, a burst of paranoia flashed through him. Had the men moved? A shiver ran down his spine. Too many _Twilight Zone_ episodes... Rick put his head close to the figures and stared intently. They had moved! Very slowly, and jerkily, but nevertheless they moved! Rick took a step back, a sinking feeling in his stomach. He glanced up and down the passageway again, but still nothing. His gaze returned to the picture and it had changed again. Not the placement of the figures but in the... attitude of those depictured. How was that possible? How could the men be watching him? Or... rather... something behind him. Very, very slowly, Rick turned around, the torch following to light the other wall. On which was another picture, another man. This one life-sized, although this representation was more familiar to Rick. Someone in costume. A long blue jacket, with silver accenting. Red gloves, red cape, silver boots and a green visor. And hands that held glowing green balls of energy. Rick barely had enough time to open his eyes in shock before green energy flooded the passageway. When it faded there was nothing to see, and only laughter to hear... _-~-_ Dva rotated the board and considered her position. She slowly reached out and hovered her hand over the castle. "You could-" "No!" Dva said. "But-" "No!" "The king-" "Missy, no!" Dva sighed. "I know none of us play you because not even Agent can beat you now, but you must respect our right to stuff our own games up without any critical observations." "Dva let me help him," Missy said, about as calculatingly as she got. "He didn't, and even if he did, you aren't helping him that much either." Dva finally moved the knight, taking the bishop, and then it was Dva's turn. He pursed his lips as he considered the game. "The-" but Missy stopped at Dva's glare. She turned away sulkily. She only wanted to help. It wasn't her fault she was now good enough to defeat Deep Blue. Not that that incident had been made public. Barry entered the room as Dva made his move, looking around as if for anything out of place. "Has anyone... er... heard from Allen recently?" he asked, trying to appear casual. Dva looked up. "Well, he did send you that lovely 'See you in hell' note," she replied. "But nothing other than that. Why?" "Oh, nothing really," Barry replied, non-chalant. Dva and Missy shared a look. "So, where's Morph?" Letting Barry get away with the change of subject, Dva replied "He was checking out a new pyramid." "Rick's missing," announced Agent, striding into the room. "Dva, I want you out there to find him." Dva looked up from the game, cocking an eyebrow. He pointed a hand to himself questioningly. "Yes, you. I have other plans for the Net.Elementalist." "What about me?" asked Missy. "Haven't seen pyramids before." Agent considered for a moment, then shrugged. "Okay, but just help with the researching. I don't want you going anywhere dangerous for now." Missy frowned, but Dva got in before she could say anything. "I am trying to play a game of chess here," she pointed out. Agent glanced at the board. "Mate in seven," he said, dismissively. "Six," interjected Missy. Agent glared at her, then at the board, and nodded his head in mock defeat. Dva scowled and stood up. "Next time none of you are invited." As she led Missy out to the transporter room, Barry looked to Agent. "So what's this big important mission?" "We're going to the Safe. Someone very powerful escaped." "And we're going to hunt them down?" Barry asked. "Oh, no," replied Agent, smiling innocuously. "We're going there because that's the one place he wont be." _-~-_ Dva looked out from under his pith helmet. The bright sun baked the landscape, making him squint to make anything out. Although the pyramid before him was very easy to see. He glanced back at Missy sitting in the shade of the jeep, although in many ways she was just as hot. Dva wasn't sure if Death Valley was worse or better than here. Either way, Marsha tended to go gooey in the heat, so it was entirely up to him. He sighed and peered deep into the same doorway Rick passed through before. Like Rick, he couldn't make out anything inside. Not that Dva knew anything about what Rick had experienced. Turning back to Missy, she passed him a heavy duty torch. Switching it on, a beam similar to an airplane signal burst out. Dva directed it at the pyramid, illuminating the green passageway inside. He nodded to Missy and picked up a walkie-talkie. "Check," he tested, his voice coming at the same instant out of the companion unit Missy held. Turning to face the pyramid full on, Dva took a breath and plunged inside. Instantly darkness engulfed him, showing him only the patch of passageway lit up by the torch. Shining the torch before him, Dva thought he saw the passageway open up up ahead, and entered a large room. The room was square, three times as wide as the passageway. From each wall a new passageway led away. Dva shone the light down each passage but couldn't see anything to distinguish the possibilities. Taking out a piece of chalk, he scrawled an arrow pointing the way out, then selected the left hand door. There was another room at the end of that passage, with another three new passages. Marking the exit, Dva took the left hand passage again. There was another room, with more doors, and again he selected the left hand passage. Logically, he should be crossing his own path by this point. Illogically, as he shone the torch ahead, he thought he saw something flash back at him. Continuing on his way he walked into a room inspired by the grandest Hollywood movies. The room inside was larger than most houses, the torch barely picking up the edges. The walls were covered with hieroglyphic figures, which meant nothing to Dva, running up and down in tight columns. In the two corners near the doorway were two statues, of the same figure. A figure in some kind of costume, arms raised as if receiving benevolence from above. Dva wasn't sure but it looked like they were made from pure gold. But they weren't the main attractions of the room. On the opposite wall to the door was a much larger statue, of the same figure in the same pose. Where as the corner statues were man size, this one reached to the ceiling, far above. The name of the person was picked out in relief below, but Dva still couldn't read hieroglyphs so had no idea what that name was. Again the statue was made of gold, which would explain the flashes he saw as the light reflected. Turning to the middle of the room, Dva examined the main feature. It was a sarcophagus, made from stone, the top painted in a stylised image of whoever the statues depictured. At each corner of the tomb, a pillar rose to the roof. Dva swung the torch about, highlighting various parts of the room, but received no mental illumination. Dva had no idea who this was the tomb of... just as he had no idea what he was to do about it. Although there was someone who might have a far better idea that he didn't. "Missy," he called, using the walkie-talkie. There was no response, so he tried again. "Missy-" Dva swung around, darting the torch light out. Nothing was caught in the beam, but Dva remained poised. There had been a noise. He could swear it. But there was nothing here now. "Missy," he hissed, but didn't listen for an answer. Then, as he spoke, that's when something moved. Hearing a scrabbling sound behind him, he spun about, torch dancing, but nothing. Carefully, he turned again, the patch of light playing a steady path over the room. He remained silent, as only he could, straining his senses for the slightest noise. Something slithered, the torch light shot out, and there! Something had been caught in the beam. Just for a moment. Just so he could get an impression of there really being something there. Just so he really knew he wasn't alone. Dva realised that he still hadn't heard anything from Missy. "Missy!" he tried. "Missy!" Nothing. Putting the radio away, he decided on the only sane course. Get the hell out of there. The bang resounded around the room, causing a slight vibration through everything. Dva froze. Although his imagination threw up many possibilities, only one he knew with certainty had happened. Moving the beam like a man afraid of his fate... which he was... Dva focussed the light on the doorway into the room. The only doorway, and hence the only way in or out. The doorway which now had a large stone blocking the entrance. The block fit perfectly, made to seal the exit. Dva ran to the stone, and thumped it. Heavy, very heavy. There was no way he could ever move it. Dva put his back to the new wall, feeling panic rise in his stomach. Was there enough air in here? Was something else going to happen now? Was-? Another sound made him jump, the torch lighting nothing but a nearby statue. His mind gibbered the realisation. He was trapped and he wasn't alone wasn't alone wasn't alone wasn't alone wasn't _-~-_ "Dva!" Missy tried again, but still nothing. Perhaps a more powerful resonator? Missy fired the multi-phase laser gun she brought along at the sand, fusing some of it into glass. Picking the piece up, she inserted into the tangled mess of wires, circuits and previous fused sand she had turned the walkie-talkie into. She managed to pick up some interesting transmissions coming from the moon, something about a cyber-invasion fleet, but so far not a peep from Dva. She looked over at the pyramid. There was still no doorway, which had vanished just after Dva had stepped through it. Even the laser gun couldn't make a mark. Missy considered the possibility of denotating the power cell of the laser, but radiation fall-out would probably kill her and Dva before they made contact anyway. She'd wait another hour or two before she tried that. Returning to the problem of converting the radio into a sonar and teleporter, Missy failed to notice the tires on the jeep turning green. _-~-_ "It's really not so bad up here," said Allen as they walked through the clouds. Barry nodded moodily. He stared at his feet. The clouds were making a mess of his shoes. "Where are we, anyway?" Barry suddenly asked, looking up and around him. "Heaven," Allen replied, shrugging. "Quiet, peaceful. Yeah, go ahead and kill me. This isn't so bad." "I'm dreaming again, aren't I?" Barry said, mostly to himself. "Look, I don't know what's going on here, but I am not killing you!" "You're going to have to. Me mate. Me chum." Allen put his arm around Barry's shoulders. "Me old sport. It's one of those things you just have to do!" "I don't want to!" Barry pushed Allen's arm away. "Go on! Look at what's on offer for the other side!" Allen threw his arms wide, indicating the empty sky around them, with patches of cloud. "But I don't believe in heaven! You're me, so you don't believe in it either!" "I'm not you," hissed Allen, suddenly up close, his face an inch from Barry's. "I'm not you, and you'd better understand that. I'm not you, and you have to kill me." Allen took a step back, and everything changed. Flames roared up around them, heating baking them. "Is this it? You don't want me in heaven, you want me here!" Barry gasped in horror as Allen caught on fire. Skin burned away, pieces falling off, still burning. Skeleton Allen capered in front of him. "You want me to stay in hell!" Allen suddenly reached out and slapped Barry across the face. "Wake up." Another slap, but there was something wrong. That wasn't Allen, that was someone else. "Wake up!" Barry caught the arm before the third slap could land, and glared at Agent. "I'm awake." Agent jerked his arm free. "You'd better be. This isn't something you can sleep through. We're the most dangerous people involved here." "Well, I know we're pretty powerful-" "We're the most dangerous people, as in the greatest liabilities! We're the worst threat to any possibility of catching this guy!" "What? What are you talking about? Who?" "Come on." Agent strode away, leaving Barry to play catch up. They walked through the halls of the Safe, where the worst criminals on the Looniearth were incarcerated. Well, the ones that aren't caught up in other stories, that is. "Who escaped?" Barry asked. "Stop being so bloody mysterious and tell me!" "At the moment, the point isn't who, but how. The last I heard he was a vegetable." "Gaah!" Barry had to restrain the urge to thump Agent. "Are you Agent?" a bespectacled man in a white coat asked. Agent nodded. "We're here about the escape." "We've already informed the LNH, and they've alerted all their people," the man said. "I have reason to believe that one of our team has already encountered him. *I* want to know all there is. I need a complete threat assessment break down," Agent ordered. "Very well," the man replied stiffly. "I take it you already know of his abilities." Agent nodded again. "The last report I had was that he couldn't even control his own mind. How the hell did he get out of here?" "If I might interrupt?" asked Barry, before pushing on anyway. "Just who are we talking about here?" The man frowned at Barry. "You don't know?" He sighed. "Here, read this." The man thrust a folder at Barry. Barry took it, and read the name on the front. It didn't mean too much to him, although it struck a bell somewhere. He opened the file and glanced at the first page. That was enough. "Oh cruk, smeg, and Belgium." _-~-_ _Peter, calm down._ Marsha's thought passed through his mind, cutting through the rising terror. He wasn't really alone in his own head. Right now that thought couldn't be more comforting. _We're trapped,_ he thought bleakly. _And there's something in here with us._ Peter panned the light across the room again, but there was still nothing to see. He could sense Marsha shrugging mentally. _We've been in worse situations. At least we're together in this. Tell me more about what you see. There has to be something here we can use to help us._ _As I said, there are three statues of the same person here,_ Peter explained as he crossed over to one. He tried tugging on the upraised arms. _I'm checking to see if there's some kind of hidden lever._ _What about the hieroglyphs on the wall? I had a few courses in Egyptology in school. Perhaps I might be able to read them._ Peter stopped what he was doing in surprise. _What? Really??_ _No,_ he heard Marsha laughing, an odd mental tickling sensation. _No convenient plot twists here._ Peter continued pulling on the statue. _Thanks. You're really helping._ _Can you describe the statue? It might be someone we know._ _I don't recognise him._ _Well, I might-_ _Marsha, I have been in the hero business for quite some time,_ Peter thought, slightly more harshly than he meant to. _If we knew him, I would recognise him._ _Sorry. I didn't mean..._ _No, it's all right._ Peter sighed. _This is getting to me._ _How cool is it in there? Do you want me to have a look around?_ Peter considered. It was cool enough for Marsha not to have any problems, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to expose her to whatever was hiding in here... on the other hand, he hadn't heard anything for some time now, and *he* could be harmed a lot easier than she could... _All right._ Marsha looked around the room, taking in the statues, the pillars and the coffin. She directed the light into the face of the nearby figure. _No. I have no idea who that is._ Peter didn't comment. Marsha turned her attention to the sarcophagus. _Have you tried to look inside?_ _Inside what?_ _The tomb here. There might be something important inside._ _There could be a mummy inside._ "Better someone else's mummy to mine," Marsha whispered under her breath. She crossed to the structure, and examined the lid. It looked very heavy. _I'm going to try opening it,_ Marsha told him. _Are you sure that's wise?_ _We'll see,_ was her only reply. Bracing herself, Marsha took a grip on the lid as best she could, and- Marsha's head shot around. Something in the darkness, near the large statue. Picking up the torch, she shone it on the monument. Nothing to see. She was beginning to understand how Peter felt. She contemplated the statue for a moment, but didn't see anything too noticeable. Returning to the coffin, she took her grip again, and- Marsha whirled around, the light stabbing out. As she stood there, something flashed across the beam, too quick for details. Marsha frowned, starting to get a suspicion. She reached back, and placed a hand on the lid. Immediately, something crossed the beam again, pausing a little longer, leaving only the impression of... drool... saliva dripping from fangs... Marsha stepped away from the sarcophagus, sweeping the torch around slowly. Nothing. _It's the sarcophagus. There *is* something important inside. Whatever is here is trying to distract me from opening it._ _Really? Do you think you can open it?_ _We'll see,_ Marsha repeated. Placing the torch back on top of the lid, Marsha resumed her grip. She heard something behind her, but she just grinned and ignored it. Gathering her strength, she heaved- And something large thumped into her, knocking her to the floor. Marsha threw up her hands to protect her face and something powerful knocked into her midsection, pushing the breath from her body. Blows pounded into her, but didn't cause any damage due to her softened body. The only sense of size she got some as whatever it was eclipsed the torch light as it shone into the room. After a devastating punch into her stomach, the presence just as suddenly left. Marsha curled up on the ground, getting her breath back. _Oh yeah. There is definitely something in there we gotta see!_ _What is it? What happened? Are you all right?_ The questions flooded her mind, and she did the best she could to block them while she got her senses back. _I'm fine,_ she returned. _Just knocked around a little._ _Knocked around? What happened?_ _I was trying to open the coffin, and something hit me. A lot. Didn't really do anything to me, though,_ Marsha grinned into the darkness. Rising to her feet, Marsha returned to the torch. She considered how best to proceed. Opening the tomb wouldn't be easy with that thing slamming into her every time she tried. As she stood there, she became aware of a new sound. A drip... drip... drip... Turning slowly, she aimed the torch in the direction of the sound. All that was there was one of the statues. She watched for a moment, then frowned as something didn't look quite right. She closed the distance, and peered closely. Drip, drip, drip. There, the left arm. As she watched, a drop of gold formed, and fell to the floor. Drip. _The statue... the statue... it's melting..._ _It's what!? We should change back, now!_ _Oh, I don't think that's going to do much good,_ Marsha thought. As she watched, the dripping increased in speed, and soon there was a flow of gold pouring off the figure onto the floor. Under it was revealed a man, the man of the statue. Under Marsha's torchlight, a figure in a blue jacket with silver trimmings, red gloves, silver boots and a green visor slowly came into view. The last of the gold flowed off the figure onto the floor. Slowly, so slowly, the figure lowered his arms and looked at Marsha. Then grinned. "Greetings. Allow me to introduce myself, your capturer." _-~-_ "And you let him escape?" Barry raved. "We didn't *let* him do anything," the man bit back. "He was incapable of acting on his own. As far as we could tell," he added. "So what happened?" asked Agent. "As you know, the original host was capable of assuming different personae, as a decoy, I believe it was. He... er..." here the man seemed almost embarrassed. "He was pretending to be himself. Instead of blocking his true powers, we only blocked his powers that he was pretending to have." "So he really could have walked out any time?" Barry exclaimed. "Not really. Something had to kick him out of his... 'pretending mode' into his true form. We're not quite sure what that cue was." Barry looked again at the folder in his hand. He withdrew the picture of the man in red, silver, blue and green. Name of Charlie Risk. Used to be the Human Decoy. Now the new Acton Lord. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Rick gone. Dva captured. Missy under threat. Agent and Barry not getting involved. Guess things can only get worse, huh? Credits: Acton Lord belongs to Dvandom. The rest to me.Back to the Index.