________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #34 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [The cover is a close up view of Net.York city, with buildings, parks and cafes. But conspicuously no people.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Silence about the sky." Barry Knewbee looked around as he sat down, feeling a little self-conscious. His fingers drummed nervously as he put the briefcase on the table, and he pulled the chair in closer to the table, the metal legs making horrible screeching sounds on the floor. He cleared his throat as he waited, the sound unnaturally loud. He wasn't sure how long it would take, but hoped it wouldn't be much longer. A clanking sound of keys turning in a lock drew his attention to the door on the other side of the room. The door swung open, revealing a large man, dark skin contrasting against the cream of the uniform. He stepped out of the way to let Barry see a man of moderate height, moderate weight, average brown hair. Indeed, the new man could easily be mistaken for anyone else in a crowd. Except for the deep burning black eyes. "Agent, hi, how you doing?" Barry's question only drew Agent's stare. Pointedly, Agent waddled forwards, his ankles bound by a chain that only gave him a foot of manoeuvrability. Reaching the table, he sat heavily in the chair there, and placed his hands on the table, allowing the metal bracelets to clunk omininously. "Er, right." Barry fiddled with the briefcase again. "Well, you know, if you will try to kill the president..." Barry said, trying to make light of the situation. [As portrayed in _The Alt.Riders Election Special_ - Footnote Girl.] Agent lent forward, his eyes becoming deep dark shadows. "That wasn't me," he said, his voice low, and deadly calm. "And if you try to pretend it was, I will kill you myself." In a sudden moment, Agent thrust his hands towards Barry, making him jerk back in shock. Agent didn't otherwise move from his seat, he couldn't even reach across the table, but the movement alone was enough to bring the guards in. The prison room seemed to explode with uniforms, and Agent was quickly pinned onto the table. "Secure the prisoner!" one guard yelled. "Get the stun rod ready!" "FLAME!" The room was suddenly lit in red. The guards stopped, shocked, and turned to see the otherwise mild-mannered bespectacled form of Barry Knewbee now a figure in bright red and, to all intents and purposes, burning, but without burning... "It's all right," the Net.Elementalist said. "He didn't mean anything by it. Thank you. Just, please, leave us alone for now." Slowly, the guards backed away, wondering if the right person was in jail. At least Agent hadn't threatened to burn anything down by his mere presence. Agent sat up from being pressed against the table, but didn't display any other reaction. The Net.Elementalist's flame died away, but his uniform remained, pitch black with a black band around his head, covering his eyes. "Since you've been in here for four months now," the Net.Elementalist continued, trying to act as if nothing had happened, "it was felt now was an appropriate time to reconsider the matter. See if you are ready to return to society, as it were." "Missy was alone," Agent said. "All this time." "I know," the Net.Elementalist said quietly. "They wouldn't let me visit her. Or any of you." "You should have been here during the new year. The showers were a real celebration," Agent continued. The Net.Elementalist didn't reply, although he did move about uncomfortably. "And now they have another mission for us." "I...how did you know?" Agent shrugged. "We're expendable. Even more than that, we're a threat. Which makes us prime candidates for any suicide missions that might arise." The Net.Elementalist snapped open the briefcase and extracted a folder, sliding it along the table towards Agent. "There's been an...incident in Net.York," he said. "The people are missing." Agent raised an eyebrow. "Missing?" He grabbed the folder, and opened it to reveal aerial shots of a city, presumably Net.York. "Those satellite photos are the only proof that the people have vanished," the Net.Elementalist said. "The last time anyone had contact with anyone in Net.York was three days ago. The army sent a team in to find out what happened. No-one's heard from them." "And now it's our turn," Agent completed. "I'm sure no-one would mind if we disappeared too. A win-win situation, I see." "We're all going in, me with you. I hardly think they're sending us all in if they want to get rid of us. After all, I didn't try to...I wasn't involved in that unfortunate set of circumstances," the Net.Elementalist hastily amended, still earning a glare from Agent. "So, we go in. And then we're free to go about our business?" "A full pardon," the Net.Elementalist replied, pulling more documents from the briefcase, namely pardons with the President's signature on them. "We'll take the job," Agent said, without another pause. "They do have you over a barrel," the Net.Elementalist commiserated. "Not at all," Agent replied, sitting back, his tone much lighter. "We're going to do this because of who we are, not because of any 'them'. "After all, we're the Alt.Riders." _-~-_ The Net.Elementalist waited nervously outside the prison gate, glancing from time to time at the main door. Any moment now... There was a thunk of unlocking keys, then the door, set into the main gate, opened. Through it stepped the same figure that the Net.Elementalist had seen before, but now completely changed. Gone was the drab prison uniform, replaced with black pants, black sweater and long black trenchcoat. The Net.Elementalist blinked. "Were you wearing that when you went in?" he asked. Agent shrugged. "It was all they had," he said, placing a black fedora on his head. "I like it." "You would." After Agent came a slightly taller man, with brown hair to match the overall brown one-piece he wore on his body. His expression was somber, although the Net.Elementalist could still detect a hint of relief on his features. "Netty," Morph said. "We've got you to thank?" "The government," Agent interrupted before Netty [Pronunciation of the diminutive "Net.E" - Footnote Girl (and a conveniently brief way to write his name - Ed)] could say anything. "They've got a job for us." Before Agent explained, the last man stepped through the door, the bleached blond hair contrasted with his light blue outfit with sound wave representations running up the sleeves. He at least looked happier to be out, but no more vocally expressive than Morph. "What's the job?" Morph asked. "Later," replied Agent, striding out onto the driveway. "We need to pick up Missy first." The being that emerged from the woman's prison was blue, fat, wearing a sailor outfit, and was otherwise the alien scientist known as Missy in all ways except for the expression on her face. There was a hint in her eyes of confusion, of sorrow, and maybe just a little of pain. Agent knelt down in front of her. "Are you all right?" he asked, his voice earnest. Missy nodded. "It nothing." "Did something happen in there?" he asked, hardness entering his voice. Missy shook her head. "No." The rest of the Alt.Riders looked inquisitively, but Missy wasn't giving away any more information. Reluctantly, they boarded the flight.thingee the LNH had provided, and took to the air, setting a course for Net.York. _-~-_ "Now, I called you all here for a reason," Agent began. "What?" Morph said. "We were in prison up to an hour ago! You didn't call us here for anything. You were released like us." Agent waved a hand. "Nonsense. We were only in jail biding time. Do you seriously expect us to believe that you couldn't have gotten free any time you wanted to?" Morph shifted a little in his seat uncomfortably. "Well, we have to set an example," he said. After a moment, he said, "Wait a minute. So, are you saying you would have broken out happily if you wanted to?" "If there was a good reason to, yes," Agent replied, with full sincerity. "Absolutely disgraceful." The new voice made them turn to see the long dark haired, dark skin of Dva. "If you're in prison, you should be considering your sins, not planning escape attempts." "We didn't commit any sins," Morph replied. "We had been brain-washed." "Again," the Alt.Riders chorused as one, before failing to look at each other again for a moment. "And I was stuck as Peter the whole time," Dva said. "I'm sure as Marsha you would have been well received in the men's prison," Agent said, earning a dangerous look from her. "But remember that Missy had no-one." This made them all glance at Missy, who was no more forthcoming this time around. "What's job?" she asked pointedly. "Glad you asked," Agent said, getting back to business. "The people of Net.York city have vanished." While Agent explained, Netty leant over and whispered to Missy, "Do you want to talk about it later?" "Maybe," Missy replied, and Netty had to be content with that. "They're hoping we'll vanish too, aren't they?" Dva said. "I'm sure they aren't ruling that out, but let's get there first before worrying about disappearing." "Be a bit late then, won't it?" Dva asked, but Morph was bringing the flight.thingee in on final approach. "Turn back," Dva said. "Turn back now!" "What?" Agent said, only half-pyaing attention. "Turn back!" Netty yelled. "We must turn back!" Agent and Morph turned to the two of them. "What are you talking about?" "Turn back, must turn back, must turn back," Netty and Dva started repeating in chorus, rocking back and forth slightly. "Mystic barrier?" Missy said, looking at them carefully. "Keeping people away," Agent said. "Hmm. Very useful. Morph, keep us going." "So why isn't it affecting us?" "...must turn back...must turn back...must turn back..." Agent shrugged. "Probably part of the mental conditioning they gave us in prison. President's orders." "What? I don't remember anything like that!" "...must turn back...must turn back...must turn back..." "Really? I'm sure you signed a waiver for it." "No! I-" "Hey, what in the hells just happened?" Dva asked angrily. "Through the barrier," Agent observed. "Take us in." "What just happened then?" Netty asked. "There's a few things I'd like to know more about myself," said Morph, giving Agent a glare, before turning back to his flying. "I'll take us in over the streets," he said. "Give us a visual of the city before the land." The grid-like structure to the city served them well as they flew through the empty streets of Net.York city. Around them grew structures of brick and metal, buildings crowding them in, with only brief glimpses of small park areas scattered about. The streets were blocked with cars, some with horns and alarms ringing out loud. Traffic lights flashed from green, to amber, to red, but the cars didn't move. Litter blew through the streets, wind tossing it about, being the only movement visible. Although there were signs of human presence, the city itself was a testament to that, let alone the empty cars and open stores, there were no people to be seen. Indeed, even the animals had disappeared, no cats meowing, no dogs barking, not even a pigeon to dirty the windscreen. All in all, it gave the Alt.Riders the creeps. "Land there," Agent ordered, pointing. Morph swung the flight.thingee around, slowing speed to give him more precision. No-one spoke as they stared out the windows, Morph concentrating on landing more than the situation, and was glad for the distraction. With a final touch of the controls, Morph brought the flight.thingee down, then deactivated the power. A tense moment passed, but then they let out a sigh of relief as they failed to disappear. "Right then, is that enough drama over with?" said Agent. "Let's go." The door swung open easily, letting in the sunlight, but the lack of sounds gave an eerie quality to everything. Agent was the first out, striding about as if he expected everything to be as he wanted it, the others slowly following. Dva looked up as she exited the craft. "Did you have to pick here?" "What's wrong with here?" Agent asked. "The One Tower?" she replied, giving the nick-name that had become associated with it. "Do you think it's another attack like that one three and a half years ago?" [See _Limp-Asparagus Lad #55_ for details about the LNH version of the September 11 attack. - Footnote Girl] Agent shrugged. "Could be. I doubt it though. This feels more mystical, and that attack was physical." "Mystical," Netty muttered. "Great. You realise we don't actually have any mystical abilities in this group? Hells, aside from my powers, we don't even have any magical powers either, and mine are purely attack-based, unlike, say, Occultism Kid. Hey, perhaps we should get him in on this?" "No," Agent replied brusquely. "This is our job, we'll deal with it. Always have before." "Until we get our minds taken over again." Agent spun and raised a finger towards Netty, but eventually let the moment pass without comment. "Split up. Standard search by grid pattern. Go." As Agent strode away, the others scratched their heads. "Do we have standard search patterns?" Morph asked. _-~-_ Since the remaining group of four didn't look to be moving any time soon, the figure decided to following the moving form of Agent (although he didn't know that it was Agent). Launching himself from one building to the next, the figure was a dark moving blur, hiding in shadow even in the bright sun. The figure only followed Agent for a few blocks before deciding that Agent wasn't going to be threat. Leaving him, he set out back for the One Tower, needing to find out where the others had gone. As he did, he suddenly stopped, then ducked out of sight. Nearby flew the white form of the Net.Elementalist, using lag to fly. The figure could feel himself slowing down slightly from the wake, but wasn't otherwise effected. Once free to move again, he set out, but soon had to duck back again, this time as he spotted a large bird, an eagle, soaring through the air. No animals had entered Net.York since *it* had happened, so either this was some pet of theirs or the bird was taking a risk. Deciding not to trust the latter explanation, the figure waited for the eagle to leave. Although the eagle ducked and weaved through the buildings, sometimes stopping to perch, its head kept moving this way and that, making the figure paranoid. Right, time to take the bird out. He readied himself, and waited for the perfect moment. It came as the bird flew down to another perch, and settled down. No sooner had it done so than a sliver of metal flew through the air. A flash of light, reflecting off the metal, caught the bird's eye, but it had no more time to do anything other than emit a surprised squawk before the metal lodged itself in the bird's head. With no more grace than a rock, the bird fell through the air, until it disappeared behind a building. The figure was pleased with his aim, but he had better things to do than take out animals, and there were still three intruders unaccounted for. Forgoing the trip back to the One Tower, the figure dashed over the roof-tops, crossing distances as quickly, and as covertly, as he could. Soon, he was back at his destination, the Net.ropolitan Museum of Art (NMA). However, as he arrived, he spotted a woman in overalls entering the museum's east entrance. He spent a few minutes watching, admiring her body, until she disappeared from view. Well, he decided, although she was very attractive, she would have to go. Leaping across the street in a single bound, he landed on a windowsill and set about making himself another entrance. _-~-_ Marsha shivered as she entered the Net.ropolitan Museum of Art. The street had just been so...empty. It shouldn't have gotten to her like that, but it did. Inside the museum the silence seemed, well, still unnatural, but bearable. Silence and museums went together. This wasn't her first time in the NMA. One of the too few benefits of growing up in an expensive school in Sweden [See _World Tales Annual #1_ - Footnote Girl] was trips to places like this. But although she was now grown up, the empty museum felt bigger than before. Rationalizing a course of action, she decided to visit the Gift Store, hoping to find a paper or something that might hold a clue. Admittedly, that was far away in the Cloisters, but it was something to aim for. Crossing the floor was a surreal experience, the sound of her shoes on the marble creating an odd echoing sound that didn't fade away quickly enough, giving the impression of someone right behind her, following her. Marsha shivered again, and wondered why they always had to split up to search places. Yes, it might cover more ground, but what about safety in numbers? About a city's worth would feel about right. _Peter?_ she thought. _Yes?_ _This is freaking me out,_ she thought. _Well._ There was a long pause before Peter added. _I'm here. Do you want me to take over?_ Marsha sighed. _No. I'm sure I'll be all right. Just... perhaps I might try and turn the lights on. Doesn't the Net.ropolitan Museum have search lights or something? Maybe they'll attract whatever is around here._ _If that's a good idea,_ Peter thought back. _But I'm not sure if they have any._ _Oh well, it's an idea._ On the way, Marsha spotted a large mirror, and paused to look at herself. Her hair still looked good, which was important, and there were no signs of winkles on her face. Yet. Give it another ten years, and who knows what she'd look like? Her clothes were rugged, more suited to exploring and adventuring than visiting museums, but they would do for a while yet. She was fit enough, she thought, but maybe should think about losing a pound or two. Sharing a body with Peter was one thing, but there was no reason to let herself go. When Peter was out, she wasn't sure if she technically aged, but as it was the same body, she guessed so. Huh, if she got cosmetic surgery, what would Peter say about that? And speaking of sharing the same body, what was the deal with their clothes? Why were hers different from Peter's? Surely they should end up wearing the same outfit? (These weren't new thoughts, merely familiar and irritating thoughts as neither of them had answers to them.) And what about- Her thoughts were interrupted by a sound from upstairs. Did something fall? she wondered. "Hello?" Marsha called out. "Is anyone there? I'm here to help." Unfortunately visions of large beasts sprang up in her mind, which was exactly her opinion of what had happened in the city anyway. Build a city over a couple of entrances to hell, and what did you expect? Cherubim stroking harps? Several large stairways led upstairs, so Marsha started up the nearest. "Is anyone there? Can anyone hear me?" Another sound occurred, sounding distinctly like something large being dragged over the floor. By tentacles?, she had no idea, but didn't want to know. Reaching the second floor, she entered an area that displayed items of war, from the latest fighting tactical outfits back to more primitive forms of armour. As she walked, something appeared to move in the distance, making her suddenly want to spin and run out of here. But, like the hero she was supposed to be, she kept going. That didn't stop her from letting out a long breath of relief as she saw a display of knight's armour scattered out on the floor, clearly having fallen off its hooks. Well. That's all right then, she thought. As she studied the armour, another thought occurred. What about the dragging sound then? As she turned to look around, she saw something flash out of the corner of her eye, then the sword cut deep into her neck. _-~-_ Missy sat in a park, just letting the sunlight fall on her, and observing the peaceful movement of the leaves in the wind. There hadn't been a lot of sunlight in prison, and she hadn't realised how much she missed it when she couldn't get it. She had spent weeks at a time in her laboratory, but had always been able to simply walk outside if she wanted to. But not in prison. She clasped her arms around her stomach, thinking about what happened inside. Not anything bad, indeed she had either been avoided as weird, or involved in discussions about her home. It wasn't like she had enemies or anything, and the gangs had left her alone after that incident with the knife that the warden said hasn't her responsibility. But now, she sat, thinking about her future. There weren't many options, and the one realistic one filled her with sadness. Missy heard rather than saw Barry land. She felt his hand on her shoulder, and looked up to see the black band fade away to reveal his normal glasses. "May I sit?" he asked, and did so when Missy nodded. "I saw you while flying around. Do you want to talk about it?" "Not sure what to say," Missy said. "Did something happen in prison?" "Why everyone ask about prison?" Missy asked. "Well, er, generally..." Barry said hesitantly. "Generally stays in prison aren't like stays in holiday camps or anything. There are a lot of nasty people in prison, and generally experiences can be quite, er, nasty. So I understand, anyway. Why? Did you like being in prison?" Missy shook her head. "No. But have been in worse places. But why prisons? On my planet, criminals stay with families, reintegrate into society." Barry shrugged. "I doubt anyone would fancy that too much here. Lack of trust, and all that." "Right," said Missy, although she still didn't comprehend, but decided not to follow it up now. Silence fell for a while, companionable, but Barry could tell there was more to be said. "You used to be...more open," he said eventually. "I...realised something in prison," Missy said. "Which is?" Barry prompted. "Not sure of words. Your language still problematical." Missy considered, then said it the only way she knew how. "Je suis enceinte." Barry shook his head. "Sorry," he said. "I don't speak French." [That French is the closest representation to Missy's native language was introduced in _The Alt.Riders #4_, as well as Barry's inability to speak it. - Footnote Girl] "Is there anything I can do to help?" Barry asked. Missy shook her head. "How goes job?" Barry sighed. "Not at all successfully. This is just too big of a city. We have no idea where to look." "What about mystic detectors?" "Um, what mystic detectors?" "We used last time in Net.York. Looking for you." "Last time in...Oh, yeah. Well, sort of me, anyway," Barry said, eventually remembering the time when the wave packet copy of him fought in Net.York. [Back in _The Alt.Riders #25_ - Footnote Girl, who is considering asking for raise.] "Where are they?" "We had them in van," Missy said. "Not sure where van is now." "Could you make another one?" "Would have to take flight.thingee apart." "It's our best chance so far. Let's go." _-~-_ "Ow," yelled Dva, slapping her hand to her neck. "That's really...ow!" She glared at the figure that, in return, was staring at her in surprise. At least, she guessed it was surprise, from what she could see of the figure's eyes. "What the hell was that for?" Dva could feel her neck reknitting itself, but the pain wasn't vanishing quickly enough for her. "Why aren't you dead?" the figure asked, sword raised for another strike. Something about the figure struck a cord of familiarity in her mind, but she couldn't quite place him just yet... But this probably meant that the chap in front of her in the black pyjamas wasn't just a normal burglar or anything. "I'm Dva," she said. "With the Alt.Riders. And you're in deep trouble." "I'm the one with the katana," was the reply. "So I think you're the one in trouble." "That wasn't exactly an entirely successful attack there," Dva pointed out. The figure simply lunged forward, thrusting the blade into Dva's body, withdrawing it again. Dva's wince was all that was needed to prove his point. "Fine. What do you want? Why did you get rid of all the people in the city?" "That wasn't me," the figure replied, shaking his head. "The city was like that when I got here. The only thing I did was secure the place." "'Secure the place'? As in kill those army groups sent in to find out what was wrong," she realised. "I am a deadly master of the art of the ninja. And they were in my way. You may call me Ninja-san," he added. That's it! Ninja-san! She had met him before, but obviously he didn't remember her. Dva didn't know whether to be insulted or relieved, but decided to just go with irritated and annoyed. [She met him back in _Fan.Boy #18_ - Footnote Girl] "If you didn't get rid of the people, what are you doing here?" "I've come for the sword of Fudo Myo-o," Ninja-san replied. "Is that one of the exhibits here?" Ninja-san nodded. "The statue of Fudo Myo-o is here, of which one part is the sword. That's what I came for. The lack of people is just an added bonus." "So, no-one's stopping you," Dva pointed out. "Take the sword and go." Now Ninja-san looked uncertain, raising certain suspicions in Dva's mind. "You can't find it, can you?" she accused. "I...this place is pretty big...bet you couldn't..." Ninja-san stammered. "Humph. At least I know how to read the maps here," Dva said. "You've been here before?" Suddenly realising that revealing this knowledge may have unforeseen circumstances, Dva slowly nodded. "Good. Then you lead the way." Ninja-san raised his sword to head-height, leaving no uncertainties about what he would do if Dva refused. _-~-_ Agent was standing in Central Park, glaring at the empty city around him, when Netty landed next to him. "We've got a few leads," Netty said. "We've run a mystical scan, and there are some hot-spots to check out." "Where's the largest?" "That's still the spot where we, er, fought Karmic Death," Netty replied. "But there's one spot I thought you might like to check out with me." "Oh?" "The Statue of Liberty." "You're right. Let's go." _-~-_ "How much longer will this take?" Ninja-san asked. "If you're asking 'Are we there yet?', I shall turn around now and we can go back," Dva replied. "We've been walking for over an hour! It can't be that far away." "Can and is," Dva said. "The NMA is a very big place. Treasures from the world over. Including a particular statue of interest." "So you do know where it is?" "As it happens, it's in the next gallery over," Dva said, before adding, "As long as I'm reading the maps right." "If you aren't," Ninja-san replied, "We get to see just how much damage you can take before you don't regenerate anymore." "All right, all right, geez, let's get this over with," Dva said, leading the way into the next room. Given the number of Japanese artifacts in the room, this has to be the place. Amidst the iconography, they spotted a large statue of hardened clay that bore a plaque saying that it represented Fudo Myo-o. The statue was just over a meter and a half high, and bore a sword in one hand that was about half the height of the statue. As Ninja-san stared at the sword, Dva took the information on the plaque in, then burst out laughing. "What is it?" Ninja-san hissed. "Fudo Myo-o is fighting against evil doers in the name of enlightenment," Dva read. "And, matey, you're exactly the kind of person he wouldn't like." "Well, that's just too bad, because that sword is now mine." Dva spotted something approaching out of the corner of her eye, and leaned back to get a better look. "I wouldn't count on that just yet." Ninja-san sighed. "If you think-" However, before he could critique what Dva might think, something large and orange and rocky, and would otherwise be referred to as a Thing rip-off in a less copyrighted comic, crashed tackled Ninja-san with all the force of a speeding freight train. "Score one for enlightenment," Dva commented. _-~-_ Using the power of net, Netty lagged himself and Agent through the air over to Liberty Island. Immediately they could see something interesting in front of the Statue. There were chairs lined up in front of a podium on a stage. Without needing instruction, Netty landed them gently on the stage. "What was happening here?" Netty asked. "I've been in prison," Agent replied. "I haven't exactly been able to keep up with the latest events." Netty blew air out in an attempt to contain his frustration. "Fine, but this is the last time you get to use that excuse." "It's hardly an excuse," Agent said, examining the podium, before casting his eyes about. "Probably there was some ceremony here. It's a common event, but maybe this wasn't a common ceremony. See if you can find any papers or anything." The two of them searched, not finding anything useful until Netty thought to look in a nearby trash can. "Here's something," he called out to Agent. "'Peace ceremony to be held on Liberty Island'," he read. Scanning the article, Netty continued. "Peace for Net.York City... Encourages everyone to believe in a vision... Together we can make it happen." "Yes, I think they did," Agent said. "You don't mean...?" "Yes. They believed, and so there was peace. The only kind of peace a city like Net.York could have," Agent confirmed. "The peace of nothing existing in it." "No genies in carpets needed," Netty muttered. "How do we get them back?" he asked. Agent opened his mouth to announce a plan, but nothing came out. After a moment, he admitted, "I'm not sure we can." _-~-_ Ninja-san slammed against a wall, his breath knocked out of him, and maybe even some ribs cracked. Swapping out his katana for long slim daggers, he pried at the rocky exterior, but nothing was giving. The pressure eased, allowing Ninja-san to take in deep breaths. However, this was just to give his opponent some more manoeuvring room. Ninja-san slammed into the wall again, with a quick fist followed up to his head. Blackness came quickly. "Whatever did he do to you?" Dva asked as Morph returned to his more normal form. Morph gingerly touched the back of his head, although there was no sign of any mark there. "He got me in the head before. Kind of pissed me off." "Head shots seem to be his trademark," Dva replied. "How did you find us?" "I got back to the flight.thingee, or what remains of it." Dva raised her eyebrow at this, but otherwise refrained from comment. "And found Missy running a mystic scan. The Net.ropolitan Museum was showing up as a hot spot, so I decided to check it out. Fortunately, it was the right place to find him." "And any answers to the missing people problem?" Morph shrugged. "Not here. Perhaps Netty and Agent have had more luck." _-~-_ "If we could contact them, we could get them to not believe in peace for Net.York," Agent said, staring up at the Statue. "That should bring them back." "Peace or existence. Seems a harsh choice," Netty replied. "Anyway, we've done our bit. Found out what the problem was." "Except for what happened to those armies." Agent shrugged. "Probably caught up in residue of this mystic event. Anyway, we let the LNH know, and leave it with them." Netty looked around. "That's it? That's how we end this?" "Anything more is a bit beyond us. As you said, Occultism Kid would be better suited to sorting this out. Should be able to do so pretty easily once we report back. Come on, we'd better get back to the flight.thingee." "Um...about that...." _-~-_ Much later, after apologizing to the LNH for losing yet another flight.thingee, back in the Alt.Riders' headquarters in Sin.ci.net.ty... "The LNH have Ninja-san in custody," Marsha reported, "And Occultism Kid should have the Net.Yorkers back any day now. Wrapped up nicely." "More or less," said Agent, looking at Missy, who was still more reticent than usual. "Unfortunately, you couldn't be more wrong." The voice came from the door to the dining area, and they all turned to see a woman entering the cafeteria. She wore silver and blue armour, and a sky blue cloak. Marsha, Rick and Barry recognized her as Rotanna of Dvandom Force. "And what is your business here?" Agent asked. "As the guardian of Harnegu, what happens there is my business. And not too long ago you were there," Rotanna replied. "Oh, that," said Agent. "Um, what?" Barry asked. "Happened while you weren't here. There was this whole nightmare circus thing. Should have realised it took place in the dreamlands," Rick supplied. [He's referring to _The Alt.Riders #23_ - Footnote Girl] "Indeed, and it took me this long to trace you down. Something entered the dreamland from outside," Rotanna said. "And then escaped into this world. Inside one of you." The Alt.Riders looked among themselves. "We're fine," Rick said. "No problems here." "And yet there is a parasite among you," Rotanna insisted. "And I think I know who it is," she said, staring at one in particular. "Not me," said Missy. "Not infected. I..." "What? What is it?" Agent asked quickly. "Is this what you were trying to tell me before?" Barry asked, shushing Agent with a gesture. When Missy nodded, he said, "Just say it like before. Someone's bound to understand now." "We don't have time for this," Rotanna said. "If this is about your parasite, this is exactly the time," Agent said. Missy looked about at the Alt.Riders, before staring at the table as she whispered "Je suis enceinte." Rick and Marsha both reacted to this, but Marsha got there first. "YOU'RE PREGNANT???" -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: The soap opera cranks up a gear... CREDITS: The Alt.Riders and Ninja-san are mine. Rotanna belongs to Dvandom, and used with permission. NOTES: I have to admit this issue wasn't as satisfying as what I had hoped. Definitely a weaker issue. But still, it is setting up events...Back to the Index.