________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #44 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [The cover would be of the Alt.Riders, sitting around a table. But for some reason, although the clothes are right, all the Alt.Riders are gorillas... (a note at the bottom of the cover reads: "More gorillas per page than in any non-ape issue!")] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Gorillas In Our Midst" "I would do anything for love, I'd run right into hell and back." - _Anything for Love_, Meatloaf. Alice stared at the bed in dismay. It was only a year ago that she had been here, and now...were they doomed to forever be in this hospital? [In fact, it was _The Alt.Riders #30_ - Footnote Girl.] Once again Barry Knewbee was hooked up to machines that monitored his breathing, his heart rate, his brain waves...but at least this time they were only monitoring him, not trying to patch his body up. Alice watched her husband's chest rise and fall, the only sign of life still in him. A deep coma, they said. Could come out of it any time. Or never. She watched him, a deep depression settling on her. And so didn't see the brain scans twitch. _-~-_ "...it is an honour for our great city of Phila.DEL.phia that it was chosen as the site for this wondrous endeavour. Long will the world hear about the discoveries here at the Phila.DEL.phia Gorilla Park, and we look forward to an enduring and lasting collaboration... "I say, are they supposed to be acting like that?" _-~-_ Marsha glared from behind folded arms at the person sitting across the table from her. She didn't see the bright sun shining down in the early afternoon, giving the other tables around them in the outdoor cafe a particularly scintillating glow. She didn't see the city of Phila.DEL.phia around her, people hustling and bustling about. She didn't see Limp-Asparagus Lad sitting next to her, who would have already been regretting agreeing to chaparonning this wee talk if he had been capable of those emotions. She didn't even see the coffee sitting on the table in front of her, cooling rapidly. All she saw was Kid Not-Appearing-In-Any-Retcon-Hour-Story, sitting across from her. And even then, she didn't see the person, didn't see him as someone who had helped during the Inhilator situation, a fellow hero. No, all she could see was the black. "Marsha..." KidN-S eventually spoke. "May I call you Marsha?" Marsha was about to say 'No' but then considered. What else could he call her? She definitely wasn't Ms Burgenstock, whatever her mother thought (although it was doubtful her mother did think of her at all), and this wasn't a time for Dva. And Softcentre gave entirely the wrong impression. But she didn't have to give in entirely. "If you must," she grudgingly said. In some ways she was surprised she was as calm about this as she was. Obviously Limp-Asparagus Lad was having some effect on her, one that would probably annoy her greatly if she could get angry enough about it, but she couldn't bring herself to feel strongly enough about that either. "Thank you. Please, call me Terry, if that helps," Terry replied. "Firstly, I'd like to thank you for meeting with me. I think we got off to a bad start, and I'd like to try again. I've asked Joshua to help," he said, indicating Limp-Asparagus Lad, "because...well...he makes a great moderator." "Because the rest of us are too emotional?" Marsha snapped out. "Well, yes-" said Terry, suddenly aware there was an abyss opening beneath him but not sure what it was. "Are you saying I'm psychotic?" "What? No...why would I say that?" Marsha snorted. "Plenty of people would say that. Especially about the two of us meeting." "Why?" "Because of who...or rather, what you are." There. She had said it. Let him deal with it, because it was definitely his problem and not hers. No matter what they said. Around them the flow of people gradually slowed. At least, in one direction. "What?" Terry looked at Joshua, confused. "She's talking about your race," Joshua said. "Some people have problems with other people of different races, and Marsha is one such person," he explained tonelessly. "Hey, I do not have a problem!" Marsha exclaimed. "We'd do a lot better if he and his kind weren't around." Clearly there was only so much even Joshua's drama dampening powers could do against deep depths of emotion. Comprehension dawned over Terry's face. "Oh, I get it...but...don't you work with Missy?" By now, there was a positive rush away from the area, people all running in one direction. Or rather, running away from a particular direction. "What?" Marsha was thrown by the question. "Er, yes...well, used to. Lillie replaced her. I guess. We're not quite sure exactly what happened there." "Then you don't like particular races then." "I'm not the one with the problem!" "But you're happy to work with Lillie." "What's she got to do with this?" "She's an alien." "So?" "...as am I," Terry finally added. "...you're an alien?" Marsha couldn't keep the surprise off her face. This moment of revelation was rudely spoilt by a roar. It was a deep roar, echoing off the windows of the shops around them. It wasn't dampened by any people being in the way, and came from the direction the people had been running away from. Slowly, with a certain sense of narrative inevitability, Marsha turned in her seat to peer down the street, Terry and Joshua already looking that way. Only a few stores away, they saw them. Large black beasts, covered in fur, but conveying a sense of menace, and raw power. Three gorillas stared back at the heroes, and snarled. "Oh, crap," Marsha said. The gorillas charged. _-~-_ Alice sensed someone nearby and lifted her head from the bed to see Agent standing near the monitors. "Agent? What...?" She looked at the monitors and saw that the brain activity readings were extremely active. "Is he...?" "No," Agent replied bluntly. "There's something else..." He turned and started walking away. "What do-" Alice started following Agent, but heard Barry starting to stir. "Barry!" She quickly refocused on him, but Barry wasn't doing more than just moving slightly on the bed. She looked back at Agent, and saw him pinching the bridge of his nose. He finally turned to her and held out his hand. "Alice Knewbee, come with me if you want to live." "What? Barry-" "That's not Barry." "What?" Agent took a step forwards and grabbed Alice by the arm. "Come on," he insisted, pulling her. Alice was jerked up and out of the chair, but twisted around to look at Barry again. And gasped as she saw him sitting up in bed. Grinning. His eyes glowing purple. _-~-_ The gorillas scattered as a blast of power from Kid Not-Appearing-In-Any-Retcon-Hour-Story blew a large chunk of the road away. They each took a different path, but quickly crossed ground, knuckling their way along. KidN-S and Limp-Asparagus Lad quickly took to the air, but Dva yelled after them, "Hey, not all of us can fly!" KidN-S ducked back down, but Dva scowled at him. Deciding that now was not the best time for furthering harmonious interplanetary relationships, he backed away while LALad flew down, all of them keeping an eye on the incoming gorillas as they did. Which meant that KidN-S didn't see the gorilla launching himself from a nearby store top, landing with a heavy thump on KidN-S' back. As KidN-S was flying at the time, and as this came as something of a surprise, he quickly became overloaded, and both of them took a dive into the pavement. Fortunately they weren't too far above the ground, but getting face-planted into concrete wasn't good news from any distance. By this time, the other three gorillas were upon them, and with ferocious snarls they leapt upon the other two heros. Dva took a swing at one with a chair, but the other two took feeble swipes at LALad without seriously getting into a fight. The one facing Dva reached out, grabbed the chair as it passed by, then simply brought it down straight onto Dva. The chair knocked Dva down, but otherwise didn't harm her, although it did leave an impression in her. KidN-S knocked the gorilla on his back away. He didn't particularly want to get involved in animal cruelty, but the gorilla wasn't leaving him with many options, and he definitely wasn't going to kill it. The gorilla tumbled down the street, but quickly rightened itself, and sprang back up, charging at KidN-S again, who once again took the simple precaution of taking to the air. Which put him in a perfect position for the next two gorillas that launched themselves from store tops. LALad held his hands up placatingly. At the moment his drama-dampening field was keeping them from easily picking him up and throwing him around like a toothpick, but that wasn't going to last, and wasn't a good solution anyway even if it would have been permanent. He looked around in time to see KidN-S being sent into the street again, under two gorillas, who hooted in triumph. The gorillas facing LALad growled back, and suddenly seemed to come aware of their situation, and both lunged for LALad. "They're communicating with each other," he suddenly realised, rising into the air as he flatly expressed himself. However, he didn't move quickly enough to avoid being snared around the ankle. And then it was basic physics of momentum and hard pavement. Dva threw another chair at her gorilla, who batted it aside. She heard LALad's supposition, and knew exactly how to test it. A moment later, silent nothingness of sound spread out from Dva, quickly encompassing all the fighting around him. The gorillas stopped from their various hero poundings to look at each other in puzzlement, their mouths working but nothing coming out. They looked around, and saw Dva... As they did, their gazes became more focussed, more purposeful. Pausing only to stomp on LALad's and KidN-S' head one last time, as one they moved in on Dva, who backed away uncertainly. He would have said something strange was going on, only he didn't say much, and by now that was extremely redundant. With silent growls, all the gorillas converged on Dva, who momentarily disappeared under several pounds of fur, only to be hoisted into the air, one gorilla per limb. When LALad and KidN-S were next able to lift their heads, they found the street deserted, not only of gorillas, but also of Dva. _-~-_ Lillie stared solemnly up at the display before her. There was a range of possibilities, so many choices, so many potential futures spread out before her, possible waveforms that would collapse into existence, a concrete reality, at the mere pointing of a single finger. The entire nature of existence could depend on this moment, and she wondered how those around her could make such blithe decisions as she had seen here already. With due consideration, she eventually raised her hand and indicated her choice. Rick grinned at her. Turning to the man behind the counter, he said, "That'll be one triple-swirl strawberry delite, and I'll have the nut-fudge sundae please." Lillie watched as the two requested ice-creams were thus constructed. An easy move of the wrist conjured up a scoop of the strawberry ice cream, sugar and colouring and milk combining to create an explosion for the senses, positioned delicately on a flimsy structure of a wafer cone that nonetheless held up to the challenge. She tried not to blink, daring the confectionery to continue existing, concentrating even more so as Rick finally placed the finished product in her hand. She stood there, looking at it. On one level, she understood that it was a food product, there to be consumed, and yet there was something about its icy perfection that defied her to defile it by the mere act of tasting it. "Come on, Lillie. We'll sit over there so the other customers can get their ice creams." Rick manoeuvred Lillie over to one of the tables, aware of the looks they were getting. Which wasn't due to the sight of a little girl not eating an ice cream, which was weird enough. No, it was because the said girl was deep blue in skin colour, a sight unseen in even today's multicultural communities. "Eat it up, and then we'll go and check on Barry," Rick said, trying to make conversation, but not really sure if Lillie could actually understand him. Even when he spoke in French (which was as close to her native language as could be approximated by an Earth tongue), she didn't reply. She could make Peter seem like a blabbermouth in comparison. Lillie dutifully sat down, but continued to stare at the ice-cream in her hand. Already she could see a teardrop of warmed milk gather at the edge of the cone, threatening to spill over and then drip down onto her hand. She slowly lent forwards, then tentatively poked her tongue out, and gradually brought it towards the ice cream. Rick smiled indulgently, already several spoonfuls into his sundae, watching as Lillie was about to experience one of the few truly pleasurable experiences on this planet. However, his peace was shattered, along with one of the walls of the ice cream store, as gorillas smashed their way into the shop, sending the people inside into an immediate panic as plaster and dust rained down among them. Rick immediately jumped up, his hand coming up, reforming. Taking aim, he shot several darts at the gorillas, all of which thudded home. Unfortunately, the tranqualiser dosage obviously wasn't enough as the gorillas easily shook the effects off, and then they turned their attention to Rick. He took a step back, bumping into the table, at the sudden concentration of attention. Looking back quickly, he saw that Lillie was still focussing on her ice cream, then turning back he saw the gorillas charging at him. With a quick breath, Rick spread out, forming a thick wall around Lillie, one to easily defeat the charge of the gorillas... One that would stand up to the pounding of the gorillas... One that better be reformed quickly because those damn gorillas were... Rick felt himself shatter under the force of the continual blows. As he fell to pieces, he drew himself together as best he could, and reformed himself in time to see Lillie offering her ice cream to one of the gorillas. The gorilla gently reached out, and lifted the ice cream from her fingers, before casually crushing it and throwing it aside. Lillie looked at the fallen mess, barely seeming to notice as the gorilla picked her up and slung her over his shoulder. And then staggered back as Rick's hardened fist punched into him. Rick quickly disappeared beneath a mass of gorillas, but they separated again to find no sign of him. They hooted at each other, then metaphorically shrugged, and left the ice cream store, not caring about the other customers inside. And not noticing that there was now an extra gorilla among them. _-~-_ Alice had spent quite some time with the Alt.Riders over the years, for one reason or another, but it wasn't until now that she realised just how little she knew about Agent. He pulled her out of the hospital, nearly wrenching her arm from her socket, and only once they were clear could Alice free herself from him (although it was probably because he let her go). "What the hell do you think you're up to? What's happened to Barry?" Agent stared upwards, looking at the window corresponding to Barry's room. "That isn't Barry up there," he repeated. "Oh, I'm sure he's in there somewhere, but he isn't in control." "Then...who?" "The Inhilators." That one word chilled Alice. She had heard about the attacks in countries around the world, about the battles the LNH had fought. She had seen the planet in the sky above her head, and had seen for herself MoreCuteAs, otherwise known as the spokesperson for the Inhilators. But known to her as Barry, her husband. [See _War Without Worlds_ for details - Footnote Girl] "They're...they're still here?" "What remains of them. They must have taken up residence in Barry's mind right before the planet...whatever happened to it. And now they want out." "What...what can we do?" "For the moment...DUCK!" Agent pulled Alice down as the window he'd been watching shattered. A figure in white streaked out of the room, taking off for somewhere else in the city. Alice shook Agent off as Barry disappeared. "We have to go after him," she said, running out onto the street in the direction he had gone. She was brought up short as Agent grabbed her again. "No we don't. I do. You, we get somewhere safe." Alice's eyes blazed as she glared at Agent. "You are not leaving me out of this, this time. That is my husband, and I'm going to get him back." "What would his first reaction be if he thought you were going into danger?" "He'd want to protect me," she said. "Exactly. I pulled you out of there because he'd want you safe, and I don't want him annoying me because I let you get into trouble." "You let me...? Listen to me, Agent. He wants to protect me, fine, but I also want to protect him. And you'll need someone who can get through to him, and that's me!" Agent stared at her a moment, then shrugged. "Fine. Whatever. I don't really have time for this right now. What we need is..." Whatever Agent was going to say faded away as he looked past Alice. Alice slowly turned, and gasped as she saw a group of gorillas lumbering down the street. It was obvious that they had spotted the two of them and were headed right for them. Agent glanced around. "Quick, into the car!" he yelled, and ran to a sleek BMW that was parked in front of the hospital. Alice quickly went for the passenger side door, but couldn't open it. "It's locked," she said, looking over at the oncoming gorillas. "And that's a problem?" Agent asked, and she heard a clunk, then the door opening. Looking down, she saw Agent unlocking her door, and quickly scrambled inside, sweeping her long hair out of the way as she slammed the door closed. Turning her attention back to the front, she hissed, "Those gorillas are going to be here any moment now." "Just a moment," Agent grunted, and Alice glanced sideways to see Agent with his hands underneath the dashboard. "This isn't your car? You're stealing a car??" "No time for pleasantries," Agent muttered. There was a spark, then the car hummed into life. Hearing this, the gorillas lumbering into a faster pace, now close enough for Alice to see the drool dripping down from their teeth. Forgoing moral obligations, Alice said, "Back. Back is good." With a jerk, the car started moving, and the gorillas quickly fell out of range as the BMW shot backwards along the street, swerving wildly from side to side as Agent tried to steer it while looking out the back window. Alice scrabbled for her seat belt, and barely clicked it into place before she was thrown against it as Agent spun the car around. They both breathed a sigh of relief as the gorillas soon shrunk away in the rear view mirror. "I realise this might seem normal for you," Alice said in a forced calm voice, "but why were there gorillas coming after us?" Agent shrugged as he drove. "Why not?" "Why gorillas?" Alice returned. Agent swung the car around a corner, and then they were both thrown forwards into their seat belts again as Agent slammed on the brakes. "Perhaps you could ask them," Agent suggested. The street before them were crawling with large furry beasts, clambering over cars, breaking shop windows and howling. However, as Agent and Alice watched, a strange calm came over them, and all the gorillas turned to look at the couple in the car. "Back. Again, back is good," said Alice. "They do seem rather determined to have a few words with us," Agent commented mildly. Alice stared at him. "Are you kidding me? Those are gorillas. They aren't intelligent. They are hardly likely to ask us around for a cup of coffee and a danish!" "Actually, gorillas have proven to possess amazingly high mental acuity," Agent started. "In many ways, they could be considered to be children, comparable to human mental states..." Agent trailed off again, his face becoming thoughtful. "Um, Agent, the gorillas are still coming for us," Alice pointed out. She looked from Agent to the oncoming horde, going back and forth, wondering if a decent slap might get a useful response out of Agent. "Are there any gorilla sanctuaries around here?" Agent asked. "What?" "Any gorilla parks? Zoos with a large number of gorillas?" "Yes, there was a new gorilla preserve opening just outside Phila.DEL.phia today, but what has that got to do with anything?" Agent turned and grinned at Alice, in a rather disturbing way. At the same time, he put the car into reverse and gunned it away from the approaching gorillas. "Because that, my dear, is where we'll find your delightful husband and hopefully deal with the Inhilators for once and for all." Alice stared at Agent in disbelief as the latter spun the car yet again, then rocketed it away for the edge of town. _-~-_ Kid Not-Appearing-In-Any-Retcon-Hour-Story and Limp-Asparagus Lad were flying over the city, trying to find some sign of where the gorillas had taken Dva, when they saw a distant figure in white flying away from them. Cupping his hands, KidN-S shouted "Net.Elementalist! Hey, Net.Elementalist!" The figure slowed (and not because of the lag he was using to fly with), then he turned and headed in the direction of the two heroes. As he drew closer, they could see that it was indeed the Net.Elementalist, and they waited for him to come nearer. "Do you know anything about this gorilla situation?" Limp-Asparagus Lad asked. "They have apprehended your teammate Dva, which we were unable to prevent." "Sorry about that," KidN-S said. "But these gorillas seem oddly organised. Almost like there's a controlling intelligence or something." "Although we have encountered talking gorillas before," LALad pointed out. "So an organised group of gorillas isn't unreasonable (at least, in a comic based universe context), but these do not seem to be otherwise exceptionable primates." The Net.Elementalist grinned at this, but didn't say anything. "Net.Elementalist?" KidN-S asked. "Are you all right?" The Net.Elementalist's suit went from white into purple, and he held up his hands, palms up. "Purple? What element is that controlling?" LALad asked, knowing full well the usual correlation was white for net, red for flame, brown for keystroke and blue for thread. "We know you," the Net.Elementalist hissed, his voice oddly guttural and full of echoes, as if many people were speaking at once. "Um...Barry?" KidN-S said, getting a sinking feeling from the figure in front of him. "You-" the Net.Elementalist looked at Limp-Asparagus Lad, "were there fighting us in your Las Vegas. And you-" now he was looking at Kid Not-Appearing-In-Any-Retcon-Hour-Story, "were in space, trying to attack us directly." KidN-S paled (as much as he could) as he realised what was going on. "Oh no. The Inhilators." The Net.Elementalist curled his fingers together, and the two heroes could feel the sudden tight grip of psychokinetic powers suddenly grasp them. "The Net.Elementalist would appear to still be under the control of the Inhilators," LALad said, unperturbed by this change in events. "I'm sorry Joshua," said Terry. "This is going to hurt." Far above the street of Phila.DEL.phia, purple light flared as psychic energies exploded. _-~-_ Dva stared around him, hardly able to believe his eyes, and tried hard not to breath through his nose. He had been carried to the Gorilla Park, and into a large clearing. Now he was at the centre of over a hundred gorillas (and he wasn't sure he was exaggerating), all looking directly at him. There was a disturbance that rippled through the gorillas, and eventually a path was opened in them as a gorilla carrying Lillie pushed his way into the centre, placing her on the ground beside Dva. Dva helped her to her feet, but she didn't look too disturbed by the experience. "Are you all right?" he asked, but she merely looked around at the gorillas surrounding them. As Dva's gaze roved over the nearly human faces before him, curiosity rose in levels to equal his fear. Why had they brought the two of them here? Was there a more nefar- Dva doubletaked, and peered again. Surely...? Yes, one of the gorillas had winked at him! As he watched, the gorilla's eyes changed from brown to blue to red to pure white, then back to brown. Dva nodded once, then moved on. It wouldn't do any good to give Morph away. A movement in the air caused him to look up, and his eyes widened in surprise as he saw a familiar figure flying through the air, although his outfit was a very unfamiliar purple. The Net.Elementalist landed, and for a moment the two usual teammates stared at each other without recognition of the bond between them. "The two of you were there, at the end," the Net.Elementalist hissed. "We saw you, but you disappeared." "Inhilators," Dva veritably spat the word out. "As you know us," the Net.Elementalist acknowledged. "But in this body, call us MoreCuteAs, for we have taken our herald for ourselves." "The others will come," Dva said. "Good, we want them to," MoreCuteAs replied. "We would gather those who would dare to challenge us before we take this planet as our own. We have already dealt with two others. They will not bother us again." Dva's heart sank as he realised the two people MoreCuteAs had to be talking about were Kid Not-Appearing-In-Any-Retcon-Hour-Story and Limp-Asparagus Lad. "More will come," he promised. "And we will deal with them. Already our influence spreads," MoreCuteAs said, spreading his hands out to indicate the primates surrounding them. "All your power...and you can only control gorillas?" Dva pointed out. "You would do wise not to mock us," MoreCuteAs snarled. "We can-" What he was going to say was interrupted by a large crash, and they all, gorillas included, spun to see a BMW coming through the park gates (which were now twisted open), steam escaping from under the hood, the front partially mashed from the collision. It spluttered to a halt and died, but already the two inside were escaping. One on side, Alice stepped away from the car, and gaped at the sight about her. On the other side, Agent strode from the wreckage, his attention focussed fully on MoreCuteAs. "Inhilator," Agent announced. "You have been defeated. Surrender. You have failed." "We have done no such thing," MoreCuteAs hissed. "Your forces are destroyed. Your home planet is a scattered nothingness across the entirely of the universe." "Do not speak! We shall rise again!" "You have no superiors, no inferiors. No reinforcement. Ho hope. No rescue." Agent kept walking, demanding MoreCuteAs focus only on him. "You are lying. We shall rebuild ourselves!" "You're trapped, billions of years from a disintegrated home." "No, no, you are wrong!" MoreCuteAs was actually holding his hands over his ears rather than listen to Agent. "I have defeated you. You no longer serve any purpose." "No! Will not listen!" Agent picked up a handful of dirt, and let it fall from his fingers. "Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust." "No!" MoreCuteAs reached out and a blast of purple power slammed into Agent, sending him flying backwards. However, Morph took the opportunity to act, having spent Agent's speech as time to get closer to MoreCuteAs in his gorilla form. With one leap, he jumped on MoreCuteAs, then quickly spread over him, surrounding him and imprisoning him, solidifying, trapping him. But another purple blast shattered Morph's bonds, raining pieces of Morph over the gorillas and the park. MoreCuteAs glared at the others, daring them to do anything, and then set eyes on Alice. "You are not known to us," MoreCuteAs whispered. "But our host knows you. You will not be spared." MoreCuteAs started walking towards Alice, who stared at MoreCuteAs like a deer caught in lights. "No!" Dva shouted, running at MoreCuteAs, but three gorillas tackled him from the side, taking him out of the picture in an extremely effective manner. MoreCuteAs stood in front of Alice, reached out and stroked the hair from her face. Alice flinched back, the gesture too familiar to what Barry did, too intimate. MoreCuteAs drew back his hand. But whether to strike her or do something else went unknown, as MoreCuteAs found his arm held in the firm grip of a blue girl. Turning his head, MoreCuteAs looked down at Lillie, met her eyes- F@*H O*R* ONFHEIFH48UC*$H*($YF*Huobfuh48fh4n8o*C4h8N*O 8 o8 f84hf -MoreCuteAs stepped back, looking around wildly, uncertain, his purple outfit flaring as power crackled around him, but the target was uncertain. The Net.Elementalist stood in front of Alice, his black suit a symbol of his defiance. He spared a glance at Lillie, who was giving MoreCuteAs the same look as she had given her ice cream, but turned his attention back to the real problem. "What happened there?" MoreCuteAs hissed. "Doesn't matter," the Net.Elementalist replied, ignoring the sudden change in events. "Your time is over." "No. We will have our revenge, starting with you and your woman." The Net.Elementalist's voice dropped several degrees. "Do not threaten Alice," he warned. "We threaten who we like," MoreCuteAs returned. "For that, she will die first, before your eyes!" "No!" the Net.Elementalist yelled, anger evident in his voice. He ran for MoreCuteAs, as purple power erupted around the figure. Although it surrounded him, it didn't deter the Net.Elementalist, but the purple energy continued, blocking the two combatants from sight behind purple glare. The gorillas also moved, forming a blockade around them, and soon only flashes of purple light could be seen between gorillas, but nothing else could be made of the battle within. Agent slowly picked himself up from where he had been thrown, an annoyed look on his face. He made his way over to Lillie and Alice, but didn't try to intervene in the battle. Dva was also freed as the gorillas were now elsewise occupied. "What now?" he asked, joining the others. Agent shrugged. "We wait and see." "What? You have to help him," Alice ordered. "How?" "Well, you could..." Alice's voice trailed off uncertainly. "Perhaps we could help?" A voice from above drew their attention up to see Kid Not-Appearing-In-Any-Retcon-Hour-Story and Limp-Asparagus Lad arriving on the scene. "Took your time," Agent commented. "We encountered the Inhilator," KidN-S replied. "It would have been worse if not for Limp-Asparagus Lad's drama dampening field," he said, nodding thanks again to LALad. "What happened?" Morph asked, gripping his head as his various splintered pieces finally coalesced into a whole. "MoreCuteAs and Barry were...er...split, somehow," Alice said, glancing at Lillie, but now not sure if even the girl was involved. "Then MoreCuteAs threatened us, Barry charged him, and now..." She waved a hand at the primate bodyguards. As they watched it was evident that something was happening. One by one, the gorillas would start to lose their intense focus: they would walk off, some would drop to the ground, sit down and start playing with the grass, some would sleep, others disappeared into the park, some started cleaning others...slowly the gorillas drifted back to their normal routines. In the middle was revealed a bright purple glow, those inside it still unable to be discerned. But then there was a streak of brown in the purple. Then one of blue. And red and white. Slowly more and more of the purple was replaced by other colours, spikes of the Net.Elementalist's power shattering that of MoreCuteAs'. And then there was an explosion. Purple light overwhelmed everyone's senses, forcing them to look away. When it died down, and they could finally see again, they saw two figures. One in black, standing, panting. The other in purple, lying on the ground, unmoving. Alice started to move, but Agent grabbed her. "Barry? Is that you?" he called out. The Net.Elementalist turned, and for a moment they saw the pure power of fury in his eyes. But as he took them in, saw Alice there, his anger faded, his expression softening. He ran towards her, and Agent let Alice go. They met, grabbed each other, holding the other as tightly as they could. The others (except Lillie) looked away discreetly as they shared a kiss. "It's over," the Net.Elementalist finally reported. "All that's left is a shell, and it's broken. Whatever presence the Inhilators had here, it's gone now." "I should take the body back to the LNH," KidN-S said. "I'm sure the Ultimate Ninja would like to know about this. Make sure there are no other hidden Inhilators anywhere." He looked over at Dva for a moment, hesitating. "Tell Marsha that perhaps we could continue our talk some other time?" Dva nodded in response. As KidN-S passed by the Net.Elementalist he couldn't help overhearing the latter whisper to Alice, "No matter what happens, I'll never let anything harm you. What ever it takes, I will protect you." For a moment, KidN-S felt a shiver go through him. He had a fair number of powers himself, and MoreCuteAs demonstrated another level again. But if what he saw showed what the Net.Elementalist could do... He looked over and caught the eyes of Limp-Asparagus Lad, who nodded, obviously thinking similar thoughts to his own. Love was indeed a powerful force, but it could also be an extremely destructive one as well... -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT TIME: A woman enters the lives of the Alt.Riders, and nothing will ever be the same again... (Note: At least, this is the next major story planned, although I reserve the right to add in minor stories before then...) CREDITS: The Alt.Riders belong to me. Kid Not-Appearing-In-Any-Retcon-Hour-Story and Limp-Asparagus Lad belong to Saxon. The gorillas belong in the Phila.DEL.phia Gorilla Park. NOTES: Yes, it's an ape issue! I was needing something else aside from MoreCuteAs in this issue, and the ape inspiration came at exactly the right time. On a more important note, I'm going to take a break for a while so I can concentrate on some other projects. I will be back (hopefully not having a three year lull like last time), might write the occasional one-off issue, and who knows? Given the speed I can write these, you might never notice I've left. But I've got three major arcs to go, and the next one is about to start...Back to the Index.