______ _________ _____ ____ ____ _______ _____ ___ ___ | | | | / _ \ | \| | | /\ \ / _ \ \ \ / / |BLiP| | |~~~~~ / / \ \ | | | | \/ | / / \ \ \ | / | | | ~~~~~| | ~~~ | | | ____ | / | | | | | | |#17 | | |~~~~~ | ___ | | | | | | | /\ ~| \ \ / / | | | | | | | | | | | |\ | | | | ~~ / \ ~ / | | ~~~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ [Marsha Burgenstock and Inacoustic Kid grace the cover, while the Ultimate Ninja seethes in the background.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- The LNH cafeteria was, for a change, quiet. This wasn't due to lack of LNHers. The place was bursting with them. It was due to one particular LNHer. Inacoustic Kid looked around the room. Everyone seemed happy enough to see him, but in the back of his mind, he knew that no-one had felt particularly compelled to seek him out. Inacoustic Kid had gone missing over a year ago. And no-one had noticed. It was only because an ex-LNHer had come across him while he was trapped in Queen Towers in Sin.ci.net.ty, that he had managed to get away. And that had only been an accident. Not that he was bitter or anything. The woman who had found him, Marsha Burgenstock, previously known as Marshmallow Lass, stood by him, looking uncomfortable. She had left the LNH for personal reasons, and it was because of him that she came back. She hovered around like she wanted to leave immediately, and Inacoustic Kid couldn't blame her. The unintentional hypocrasy around him was acid in his stomach, and Inacoustic Kid grimaced behind his smiling exterior. Marsha finally got Doctor Stomper's attention, and she pulled Inacoustic Kid away, and motioned upwards. They were finally away to the Med Lab, where he could be examined and his problem hopefully remedied. _-~-_ _-~-_ Doctor Stomper scanned the man in front of him and frowned. 'Kid' wasn't exactly applicable anymore. Inacoustic Kid had been in the LNH for a long time, and after his recent experiences, he was most definitely a man, but no-one knew anything else to call him. He kept his private life quiet, and couldn't exactly speak out about it now. Inacoustic Kid's powers were over sound, and, particularly, the element of Flame. He could dampen sound and flame wars, giving Reason a chance to assert itself. But now, thanks to the intervention of Queen Enterprises, Inacoustic Kid, who previous could control his powers and silence whatever he wanted to, now had his silencing field permanently extended from his body, in all directions, for 20 meters. Doctor Stomper took Marsha's arm, and guided her out of the Med Lab, leaving a fretful Inacoustic Kid behind. "How much do you know about what happened?" Doctor Stomper asked Marsha when he finally could. Marsha shrugged. "Only what's he told me, really. I found him in a tank, surrounded by all sorts of equipment, but I didn't understand what any of it was for. And he doesn't either," she said. "All he knows is that experiments were run to try to recreate his natural powers artificially. To do so, he was experimented on personally, with the result you can see. Or can hear. Or not hear." "That's not a lot to go on," replied the doctor. "All I can guess is that his powers resulted from some organ in his body, presumably in the aural tract, and this part was enhanced by Queen Enterprises externally, until it got beyond his control." "Can you reverse it?" Marsha asked, getting to the nub of matters. "Possibly. If I can find the organ that is causing the trouble. If there really is such an organ," he added. "How long?" "It depends. On finding the organ. Diagnosing the problem. And then organising some form of treatment. With Organic Lass's help, I might be able to get somewhere pretty quickly." "Where is Organic Lass, anyway?" "She's attending to another problem," said Doctor Stomper, somewhat evasively. Then he changed his mind. "Actually, you might be interested in this. It has to do with Queen Enterprises as well." "It-Star?" Doctor Stomper looked at Marsha, surprise obvious on his face. "Paytan told me about her.. him.. it, when she was walking us here," Marsha explained. "Ah. Right. Yes. It-Star," confirmed the doctor. "It was... a present, sent from Queen Enterprises, from what we can gather. Ultimate Ninja seems to know a fair bit about it, but he isn't saying anything to us. Due to an unfortunate incident, It-Star died, right here in the Med Lab. We've contacted Queen Enterprises, so they can reclaim the body if they want, but they are denying all knowledge of it. Or rather, they can't find anyone who knows anything about it." "Oh, they know all right," said Marsha. "They know about a lot of things." "Yes, that would seem to be the case," agreed the explainer extrodinair. "When Deductive Logic Man and Fan.Boy investigated them a while ago, they certainly knew a few tricks about mind altering. Although we do now know some of what happen, we don't know what the cause was exactly." Seeing Marsha's incomprehension, the doctor smiled. "It's not that important," he grossly oversimplified. "Anyway, Organic Lass is currently preparing It-Star's body for preservation. We'll keep it for a while in case Queen Enterprises suddenly finds out their responsibilities, or in case we can actually take it apart ourselves. The doctor realised his words might sound rather clinical and cold, but he had never personally met It-Star, and the theory of such a morph fascinated him from a scientific viewpoint. "Can I talk to Organic Lass?" Marsha asked. "Certainly. You might be able to help her to sort out what to do. She's upstairs, in one of the storage rooms." Doctor Stomper considered distances. "You should be outside Inacoustic Kid's range." Marsha thanked him, and left, and the doctor wandered back into the Med Lab, his thoughts turning toward the usage of optical fiber to investigate Inacoustic Kid's inner ear. _-~-_ . _-~-_ In her haste, Marsha wasn't looking up the stairs, but at her feet, and so crashed into someone coming down them. They tumbled onto the stairs, and after a few moments of confusion, Marsha found herself helping Bladed Lad to his feet. "Hey, you all right.." Bladed Lad's voice trailed off as he saw who he was talking to. "Marsha? Have you come back? Hey, you look great." Marsha smiled, but her insides squirmed. Andrew, aka Bladed Lad, was one of the few friends she had made during her short stay, but right now, she hoped to get through this visit without meeting anyone with whom she had been close. "Hi, Andrew," she said, feeling her smile wobble. "No, I've just come back to bring Inacoustic Kid back." Her hand waved in the general direction of Med Lab without any real purpose. "Er. Yeah." There was an awkward silence. "So, is Guitar Man around?" Marsha asked finally. "Not really. But Fan.Boy said he was happy, wherever he was, so that's pretty much it." Another pause. "And you're doing all right here?" "Sure, fine," said Bladed Lad. "The only real work I've done is cook these guys' dinner. They didn't appreciate it much." "Oh. Right. Well, I was off to see Organic Lass," Marsha said. "Oh, right. Well, I'll let you go. Nice seeing you." "You too." Marsha watched Bladed Lad walk away, then returned to her quest, not feeling that much better. _-~-_ . F F Fan. _-~-_ Downstairs, the Ultimate Ninja considered a threat to the Net itself. As threats went, it was pretty powerful. And there wasn't much he could do about it. Fan.Boy had gone cosmic, and now ruled over Net.ropolis with an absent fist. He wasn't doing much, but then again, he didn't need to. He had already crippled the city more than it could stand. Blowing up the Net.ropolis Power Station was a move designed precisely to tie up the LNH in a rescue and cleanup operation. In which it succeeded admirably. Most of the LNHers were out either clearing up rubble, or rebuilding what had been destroyed. Mainly to maintain public image, the ninja thought to himself. The LNHQ itself was well off, having its own power supply. If you could call having the top corner of your own building spread over nearby buildings well off. Fan.Boy had exited the Peril Room in a... dramatic fashion, and it was taking a while to repair the damage. The building, in many ways, repaired itself, but a hole this big needed help. While these were perfectly fine defensive measures, the ninja itched to do something offensive. And preferably deadly. Option One: Nothing. Leave Fan.Boy alone, wherever he was. No sensor could actually detect him, but they knew he was there. But, if they did nothing, he would hopefully do nothing. Whatever, or whoever, had taken over the Net wasn't being dictorial, hadn't provided any demands or protestations of power. In many ways, it was like the Net wasn't being controlled at all, but the Ultimate Ninja knew that it was, and that irked him. The Net, unimaginably large as it was, shouldn't be something that could be controlled. Option Two: Take out Fan.Boy. He was obviously the key to it all, but taking him out wasn't going to be that easy. After all, they couldn't even locate him. And, as a cosmic entity, he had access to a tremendous amount of power that would take some defeating even if they could find him. The ninja also has a nagging suspicion that, even if they could kill him, he would come back to life again immediately. That was one of his powers. Admittedly, he could only do that if the Peril Room was running, which presented an easy enough solution, but turning it off wasn't an option. They had lost control of it somewhere during that fiasco of choosing another side kick for Writer's Block Woman, and had sent Fan.Boy in to investigate. Which had triggered everything off. Since then, they hadn't been able to affect any part of the Peril Room systems. The ninja sighed. As much as it pained him, it looked like Option One was the winner. Even if he could find Fan.Boy, he didn't have any LNHers spare to attack with anyway. All thanks to the city wide disaster Fan.Boy himself had generated. The Ultimate Ninja had also heard that Censor Girl was involved, who was currently protected by the Junior Brotherhood of Net.Villains, but until some kind of firm connection could be established, the ninja wasn't going to send any crack teams in to investigate. Perhaps he'd ask those girls who had found out about it to check it out further. They were... minor enough. Who were they again? That's right. That weird girl who, very sensibly, worshiped Binky, and her friends, who didn't. He'd put them onto investigation duty. Above the city, Barry Knewbee saw all, and was... satisfied. For now. _-~-_ Fan. Fan. Fan. .... Fan.Boy. _-~-_ Marsha finally found Organic Lass amoung the many storage bays on the third floor. She was bent over a large container. It was big enough to hold a person inside, and had a glass lid. Marsha walked up and looked inside it. There was a body inside, a white humanoid thing. An androgynous body, neither male for female. Organic Lass looked up and saw Marsha. Marsha noticed a tear in her eye. "Oh, hello, Marshmallow Lass," Organic Lass said, discretely wiping the tear away. "I didn't know you were back." "I'm not," said Marsha, staring into the chamber. "I brought Inacoustic Kid back." "Oh, was he missing?" "Only for a year," said Marsha, now actually able to say that without sounding bitter herself. "Has anything happened to him?" "You should talk to Doctor Stomper about that. He said he'd like to talk to you. He's in the Med Lab." "Oh, okay." Organic Lass turned away. "Is this It-Star?" Marsha asked. Organic Lass turned back. "Yes," she said quietly. "I've put her in this stasis chamber until Queen Enterprises comes to collect her." "Queen Enterprises," repeated Marsha. "Queen @*@(ing Enterprises." Sudden rage filled her. "They ^&*(ing kidnapped me!" she shouted, anger burning in her voice. Organic Lass took a step back, shocked. Marsha thumped the capsule. "They experimented on me! They cut my hand off!" Marsha held up her hand as evidence, then stared at it. Her hand was there, uncut, and absolutely no scars or marking of any kind. "Didn't they?" asked Marsha, uncertainty causing her voice to waver. Organic Lass put her arm around Marsha. "You've been through a rough experience. Have you had much rest since then?" Marsha shook her head absently, still staring at her hand. "I've been on the run too much to sleep." Organic Lass helped Marsha to a nearby spare room, and fetched a glass of water. Concentrating, Organic Lass changed some of the dihydrogen oxide to a fast acting sedative, and gave it to Marsha. She helped Marsha to drink some, then pushed her back onto the bed. Marsha dozed off for a few seconds, then jerked in her bed. "No," she cried out. "Don't touch me!" "Shh," said Organic Lass, stroking Marsha's hair, and Marsha fell into a deeper, more healing sleep. Organic Lass gave her one last look before leaving. Queen Enterprises had a lot to answer for, but Organic Lass knew that she wasn't going to make it pay. _-~-_ Fan.Boy. Fan.Boy. I Fan.Boy. I I I Fan.Boy. _-~-_ "Mail? Mail?!" The voice interrupted the Ultimate Ninja from his musings. He looked up to see an irritated Fuzzy. "First non-existence, then looking after newbies, and now delivering mail!" she complained, slapping a large bundle down on the ninja's desk. "Someone has to do it," said Ultimate Ninja, privately amused. Fuzzy snorted. "I think there are better uses for my talents other than as postwoman." In one smooth movement, the Ultimate Ninja stood, swept his katana out of its sheath, and swung the point around to just short of Fuzzy's throat. At least, what he hoped was Fuzzy's throat. Even his ninja's sensed couldn't penetrate the distorted aura the woman of confusion wore. "How about an elevation to the status of moving target?" he asked brightly. Fuzzy snorted again, but this time not in disgust, but derision. "Ha," she laughed. "Ha. Haha. Hahahaha." Fuzzy left giggling. The ninja stayed in position for a moment, sword still raised. He really must be losing his edge, he decided. He was just glad that Easily Discovered Man Lite wasn't there to see, or say, anything. Ultimate Ninja put his blade away smoothly, then spread the mail out. Three threats, two Ame.rec.an Card ads, a bill.. Hah. Now that was funny... and an envelope personally addressed to him, complete with gold edgings. His interest piqued, the ninja slit the letter open with a letter-opener and shook the contents out. There was a smaller envelope and a small note. As he read the note, the Ultimate Ninja's eyes widened. _-~-_ I Fan.Boy. I.. Fan.Boy I am ..AM! I AM! I am... Fan.Boy. I! AM!! FAN.BOY!!! _-~-_ "Marshmallow Lass? Marshmallow Lass?" Someone was shaking her, but Marsha didn't want to be woken, and rolled over. "Marshmallow Lass? The Ultimate Ninja wants to see you." The Ultimate Ninja? That sparked something, and Marsha sat bolt upright. Her hand reached out for something, and it took her a few moments to realise what for. Her costume. The one she hadn't worn for a year. Because she had left the LNH. Marsha rubbed her eyes. She had only been asleep for a few hours, but it had done her a lot of good. Now, if she could only stop yawning. "Here, eat this." Something was thrust into her hand, and Marsha stared at it muzzily for a while before her brain told her it was a piece of cheesecake. Giving a mental shrug, she took a bite. And leapt off the bed, ready to run a few laps around Net.ropolis. A hand stayed her, and her body buzzed for a few minutes as she turned to look at Cheesecake Eater Lad. "Careful," he said. "That's nearly pure caffeine cheesecake. I only make it on special occasions when we really need extra energy." "I can tell," said Marsha, trying to stop herself was shaking to bits. She handed the rest of her piece back to Cheesy, and waited until she was back under control. "What was that about, again?" she asked. "The Ultimate Ninja wants to see you," Cheesy explained. "Well, 'demands' is closer to the truth." "Er, yeah," said Marsha, still quite prepared to run down the intervening stairs. But she had another question first: "How's Inacoustic Kid?" Cheesy shrugged. "There's been no response from the Med Lab for the past few hours." "Okay." Perhaps it was too much to hope for. "Well, I'll be off." Cheesy grinned as Marsha raced out and "WAHOO!"ed as she sped down the stairs. Downstairs, less than a minute later, Marsha walked, somewhat more sedately, into the Ultimate Ninja's office. "You wanted to see me, sir?" "Yes. Have a seat," the Ultimate Ninja replied, waving to a chair. Marsha sat down. "I'm not coming back," she said, before the ninja could speak. "I only came back to bring Inacoustic Kid back. Just to make sure nothing happened to him." ".." the ninja said. "But, I'm not coming back. I know a lot has happened to me, but I still don't think I could face what goes on here every day. Queen Enterprises made that clear. I only got away through sheer luck, and I don't really want to keep counting on that luck to get through." ".." the ninja said. "And are you ever going to do anything about Queen Enterprises? They kidnap one of our.. your own heroes. Not that you even noticed, but he was one of yours. They experimented on him. Altered him for their own purpose. And what are you going to do? Nothing, probably. Just sit there and take it, and watch as it probably happens again." ".." the ninja said. There was a pause, and the ninja realised that he would be able to get a word in. "Do you know what happened to this city?" he asked. Marsha shrugged. "I heard that the power station blew up..." "It was blown up," the Ultimate Ninja said, "by an LNHer gone rogue. One of our own, as you said. He's still out there, and we don't know where. We're still not even sure of why. But what he has done has taken us out just as surely as if it was a direct attack on us. I've got LNHers out there clearing up the destruction the explosion caused. They're fixing buildings. They helping out in hospitals that are finding themselves overtaxed due to insufficient energy reserves. They're stopping riots from breaking out, as people try to rob stores now that the power is gone from the security alarms. They're trying to stop people from robbing stores because their fridges have run out of power, and they need food. "One LNHer has brought this city to the brink of chaos, just one, and it's all we can do to stop it going over the edge. And you don't want to know what's happening in the slums, in Hovel Homes. Without power, they're worse than Net.York on a moonless night. "Do you really think I'm not concerned about Queen Enterprises? They've had their way for a long time, and they have one hell of a power base, but they're quiet about it. Only recently have they started becoming noticeable. They took an LNHer, yes. And we didn't notice, yes. Do you know how easy it is to run this place? We can't keep track of who's here and who isn't. We don't know from one week to the next if we have ten new trainees, or five dozen, or none. We can't even tell if some of our main members are still alive or not. "So, an LNHer was taken. That's too bad, but that's the way it is. We can't tell, and as we can't tell, there's not a damn thing we can do about it. If you can organise this place better, go for it. "But that's not the killer. You want to know what the killer is? We're all gathered together in one place, all the superheroes, so if the villains attack, they attack here, saying "Take us on," and we do, and we win. Because we've set ourselves up as surprisingly strong, and we make damn sure we have the plot on our side. But, in all the times we've been attacked, in all the times the LNHQ has been destroyed, replaced, gone missing, in all that time, Net.ropolis itself has been safe. Safe from major destruction, major take over, major villainy, because we've been here to protect it. "And now, one man, one LNHer, one man who was *one* *of* *us*, has taken us out of the picture more effectively than anything any supervillain has ever tried. How? By not attacking us, but attacking Net.ropolis itself. And that, my dear *Marshmallow Lass*, stinks more than any petty problem you have with us, or with Queen Enterprises. "But, that isn't why I called you here." The abrupt change in the ninja's manner left Marsha hanging over the edge of a cliff, desperately trying to grasp something to hold on to. "What? You've called me here, ranted at me as if everything was my fault, then you changed the topic like it was an everyday occurrence?" "The only reason why I 'ranted' at you," said the Ultimate Ninja, "was because you brought it up. I only wanted to talk to you about this." The ninja threw something across the desk, and Marsha caught it reflexively. She looked down and saw that she held a small envelope, with her name sketched in beautiful handwriting on the front. The envelope had gold along the edges, and there was a fine sheen to it, as if a far lighter gold had been threaded through the fiber of the envelope. It was, in its own way, a masterpiece of art. Marsha turned the envelope over, and popped the wax seal. She took a small card out and read it in surprise. "What's _Fettucini's_?" she asked. "Apart from being a pasta, it's a rather expensive restaurant a few blocks over to the east, why?" "I've been invited out to dinner. At _Fettucini's_. Seven o'clock. Table 37." The ninja took this stoically. "Any idea who sent it?" Marsha turned both the card and the envelope over in her hands. "No, no names. Why?" "Because I was sent that envelope and told to deliver it personally to you," said the Ultimate Ninja, and Marsha could hear the indignation in his voice. "And I would like to know who did that." "I'm afraid I can't help you," said Marsha. She considered the card. "Do you know who's at Table 37?" "I rang the restaurant, but they refused to tell me," said Ultimate Ninja, is a voice that suggested sharp objects and skin would soon be meeting. "Wouldn't this place be shut down, with the power down and all?" "I doubt it. That place is exclusively for the over-rich. I wouldn't be surprised it they had their own generator as well. A mere city-wide black out isn't going to worry them." "In that case, I don't suppose you could direct me to a dress shop? May as well go in the proper fashion." The Ultimate Ninja looked like he was about to say something, then changed his mind. If Fuzzy could laugh at him, why couldn't Marsha ask him for a dressmaker? "See if you can find New Look Lass. She should be able to help you," he said finally. "Thank you," said Marsha, getting up and leaving without waiting for permission, studying the invitation as she went. Behind her, the ninja considered a long vacation somewhere gratiously violent. _-~-_ I AM FAN.BOY!!! Where the hell am I? _-~-_ Marsha curtsied slightly to the doorman as he held the door open for her. Marsha entered the restaurant and gasped. It was magnificent. Chandeliers glittered from the ceiling, and tables shone in the light. As a concession to power problem, the restaurant was only using candles, but that only enhanced the bouqueted luxurity. A subtle cough beside her altered Marsha to the presence of the maitre d'. He looked askance at her, as if considering whether to ask her if she really thought that she was worthy enough to be in here. But, she knew that he would have to concede that she looked the part. The dress that New Look Lass had created for her fitted better than perfectly. The bodice hugged her body tight, while widening slightly as it went down to give just enough room to allow her to walk properly. Ruffles surrounded the top, a delicate blue that went well, she had to admit, with her own black skin, and the dress itself shimmied slightly as she moved, giving it that extra touch of elegance. A slit down the side gave tantalising glimpses of the shapely legs within. The first test passed, the maitre d' asked, "Can I help madam?" in that voice that only those who considered themselves above everyone else possessed. "I believe I'm expected," Marsha said, although she was sure of no such thing. She mentally cursed herself for having such a crass sounding voice next to his, but chided herself for actually bothering to notice it. "Table 37." The maitre d' looked at her for a moment, saying only with his face that *anyone* could say that they were expected at a table, then turned to look in the black bound reservation book. He read something for a moment, then turned back, his manner now diffident. "Yes, madam. One moment, please." He cast his eyes about the room, and snapped his fingers at a passing waiter. The waiter instantly changed direction, and bowed as he reached the maitre d'. "Take Lady Burgenstock to Table 37. Quickly." Marsha was slightly shocked to hear a honourific used, but recovered as the maitre d' turned to her. "If you would follow this gentleman, he will take you to your table." Marsha followed, her head whirling. Lady? Her? She had no idea who wanted to meet her here, but whoever it was, they certainly knew how to get respect out of a place like this. The waiter pulled her chair out for her, and Marsha sank into it gratefully, as gracefully as she could. The waiter bowed and left. The table was set for two, white silk used for the table cloth and the napkins. The plates were a fine white china, and the cutlery gleamed. Marsha glanced around discretely, and saw that the patrons were every bit as refined as the table settings. As Marsha looked, a flicker out of the corner of her eye drew her attention to someone standing beside the table. Turning, she saw a pair of legs clad in spotless black pants. She looked up and saw her date for the evening. Splash page: Marsha is on the left, sitting down, and is looking up in surprise at a man who is decked out in an extravagant tuxedo. A man who goes by the name of Rick Mansfield. "Making Amends." by Jamas Enright. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Rick? Wasn't he responsible for...? Nyaah, must just be my imagination. And will the real Fan.Boy please stand up? Be here for _Fan.Boy #18_: "How much is that It-Star in the window?" Credits: -------- Fan.Boy, Marsha, Inacoustic Kid all mine. Ultimate Ninja is wReam's. Organic Lass is Rebecca's Kismet is Jenn's. Doctor Stomper and Fuzzy are Public Domain's.Back to the Index.