______ _________ _____ ____ ____ _______ _____ ___ ___ | | | | / _ \ | \| | | /\ \ / _ \ \ \ / / |BLiP| | |~~~~~ / / \ \ | | | | \/ | / / \ \ \ | / | | | ~~~~~| | ~~~ | | | ____ | / | | | | | | |#18 | | |~~~~~ | ___ | | | | | | | /\ ~| \ \ / / | | | | | | | | | | | |\ | | | | ~~ / \ ~ / | | ~~~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ [The cover has Marsha on one side facing off against.. the Ultimate Ninja? In a restaurant?] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- _Fettucini's_ was a very, *very* expensive restaurant. To even be considered for a table near the kitchen door, you had to have a bank account that gathered a million dollars in interest. Per day. Marsha Burgenstock is in there, sitting at a table, about to start a meal. Her date for the evening: Rick Mansfield. Sometimes known as Amorphous Lad. Then again, Marsha had once been known as Marshmallow Lass. But that was a long time ago. Marsha had no idea why she was here, other than having been sent an invitation. On the other hand, neither, when it came down to it, did Rick. But he wasn't letting on. [I'll just break the narrative flow here, and say something about their upcoming meal. I have absolutely no idea what really expensive food is like, and, for the purposes of this story, it doesn't really matter. So, for those of you who do care about details like that, I'll leave you to draw up your own menu of entree, appetisers, main meal, second course, and desert, with as many syllables per word as you feel fit to cram in. Not that it really matters, as I said, as they'll never make it to the second course.] "So," said Marsha, placing her napkin over her lap, and starting. "Why?" Rick smiled. "Why what? Why this? Why you? Why me? Why are any of us here?" "Don't be obtuse," said Marsha. "I don't take kindly to obtuse people." "Of course not," said Rick. "That's part of your charm." Marsha felt herself blushing slightly. Stop that, she told herself, I'm acting like a school girl. "Why me?" she asked, once her calm had restored itself. Rick shrugged. "Call it a whim. I like to go out with beautiful women. Gives me pleasure." "Been out with a lot of women, have you? Have trouble with steady relationships?" Marsha saw Rick's smile waver as he struggled to suppress a laugh. "Point," he conceded. "So, why me?" Marsha asked again. Rick placed his elbows on the table, and leaned forward. "Because you're beautiful, sexy, have the mind of a genius, and because men would kill to go out with you." Marsha didn't have much experience with this sort of flattery, and not much defenses either. "Who did you kill?" she asked. "All of them," Rick whispered. "Just to go out with you." Marsha decided it was the wine making her giddy, even though she had only had a few sips. Struggling to make her head clear, she sat back, a sign she wanted distance, and said "You don't know me. I've never met you, or even remember seeing you. Why go to all these lengths?" Rick sat back. "I know why you came back to Net.ropolis," he said. Warning bells went off in Marsha's head, but she tried to keep her voice still as she said "Where did you hear that from?" "I have a friend, rather powerful. He knows a lot of things. He was the one who got us this table." Marsha's eyes narrowed. "Are you threatening me?" "Me?" said Rick, projecting innocence. "Never. But, as I said, I know why you returned." "And why is that?" "Queen Enterprises," was all he said, but that was all she needed to hear. Marsha sat upright like a jolt of electricity had passed up her spine. Which wasn't that far from the truth. "What do you know about Queen Enterprises?" she asked. Rick shrugged. "Not much," he said, taking a sip of wine. "But I have come into contact with an... agent of theirs." Agent? "I think you've seen it by now. I suspect that you would have chased it up as soon as you heard about it." Marsha's mind raced, going over recent events, and finally came up with a suspect. "It-Star?" "It-Star," Rick confirmed. "I just wanted to say my side before I was painted as a blood-thirsty, heartless killer." "You?" said Marsha, her mind shocked as the connection was made. "You killed it?" "For certain reasons, yes." "And that's why you brought me here? So you could try to get me to side with a murderer?" Marsha's voice rose, but a sharp look from Rick brought it back under control. Something happened, in Marsha's peripheral vision, but she was too incensed to worry about it. "I will never trust you," she hissed, throwing her napkin down, and moving her chair back. Rick lashed out, and grabbed her arm. Marsha thought she had been too far away, but he still held her in his grip. "You had to kill, didn't you?" he said, and Marsha flinched. "Yes," said Rick. "I've heard about that too. Why did you kill?" "I didn't mean it," said Marsha, almost pleading. "It was an accident." "So, why did you do it? What made you capable of hurting them, even though you must have known that killing them was a possibility?" "Let me go," said Marsha. "I don't have to answer to you." "Your life was threatened, wasn't it? It was you or them, and you weren't going to let it be them." "Let me go!" Marsha yelled, ripping her arm free, standing up in the process. But her shout went unheard in the sudden screaming. "Ladies and gentlemen," said a voice, loud enough to get over the screaming. "May I have your attention please?" Rick stood up too, and looked in the direction of the voice. "Oh, puh-leeze," he said, after seeing the person who had spoken. Marsha looked carefully, and spotted the figure too. It was the Ultimate Ninja. No, wait, it was someone who looked a lot like the Ultimate Ninja. But, this man was thinner, for a start, and slightly taller. And didn't have the sheer presence that the LNH leader possessed. Like the ninja of fame, this man was also dressed head to foot in black, with only a slit for his eyes. He also held a sword, but Marsha could see the grip was tense. "Ladies and gentlemen!" the man shouted again, glaring at the screaming woman. Someone else quietened her. "You kill one man, and the world has a vendetta against you," Marsha heard the man mutter, his voice carrying over the silence perfectly. "Ladies and gentlemen," said the figure again, this time in a much quieter voice. "I am... Ninja-san. And, unless you hand over all your purses, jewelry, et cetera, I shall be forced to kill someone else." "Is this guy for real?" Marsha heard Rick whisper. Ninja-san moved from table to table, taking what people gave him, and always keeping his sword at the ready. "I can take this guy," said Marsha, mostly to herself. "He's got a sword," said Rick quietly, standing beside her. "Swords can't hurt me," Marsha said. "Much." "I thought you said you weren't with the LNH anymore." That was a good point. And it was because she couldn't defeat a second-rate villain that she had left. That's why she had to try again. And this guy looked about as second rate as you get. Marsha moved carefully. This guy was still dangerous, but she had to feel confident. Taking a deep breath, Marsha leaped out. "I'm with the LNH. Think twice," she said, wincing inside. Had she really just said that? Ninja-san turned to face her. "Ah, so we have someone foolish enough to tackle a master of the Orient." "I have to say, this is the first time I've seen an Oriental with white skin," Marsha commented. "Shut up!" Ninja-san roared, throwing himself at Marsha with a flying kick. Marsha barely got out of the way in time. Ninja-san brought his blade around, and started weaving it back and forth, creating a web of steel in front of him. Marsha circled him carefully, just keeping out of range. Then Marsha tripped slightly, and Ninja-san lunged, his sword piercing Marsha's body and exiting the other side. Marsha staggered back, and slipped off the sword. She sat down on the ground heavily. "Hey, that hurt" she said. Ninja-san backed off, eyes wide. Around her, she heard astonished whispers, saying that she should be dead. "A girl's gotta have powers to be in the LNH, doesn't she?" she snapped. Marsha stood up, her skin visibly healed behind the rip. "Now you're asking for it." Ninja-san jumped back in close, and feinted with his sword. Marsha fell for it, and moved to the right. Ninja-san kicked out, and Marsha went toppling over. Ninja-san kicked again, this time hitting Marsha's stomach. Marsha collapsed on the ground. Even having a marshmallow body didn't soften the pain of blows like that. Lying in pain on the floor, Marsha looked up to see Rick standing over her. "You really ought to treat a lady better than that," he said. Marsha's eyes must have blurred then, or something, because she thought she saw Rick's arms join and form a pile driver that smashed into Ninja-san. Ninja-san flew off and fell to a crumpled heap on the ground. Around her, Marsha heard cries of "Call the police!", "Call the LNH!" Marsha focused on a hand, and grasped it. Rick pulled her to her feet. Marsha sagged against him, the pain abating, but still bad. He helped her to a nearby chair. "Hey, where's he gone?" Marsha looked up, and saw someone standing where Ninja-san had landed. There was no sign of him now. "Guess he had more ninjitsu that I thought," Rick said. "You'd better tell the Ultimate Ninja about him." Marsha put her arms on the table, and sank her head onto them, and burst out crying. "Hey," she heard Rick's voice. "Did he hurt you?" Marsha shook her head, but was unable to speak. Rick held her, and finally her sobs quietened. "Again," she sniffed. "Just like last time." "What?" "That's the problem. I can't defeat anyone. I'm still no good." "Is that why you left the LNH?" Rick asked. "Because you couldn't defeat a villain?" "The last time it was that Inflatable Glow-in-the-Dark Villain, or whatever. Guitar Man defeated him many times. Bladed Lad took him out without a thought. I couldn't even dent him. "And now this guy." Rick held her, but didn't say anything. There wasn't anything to be said. Far in the distance, Marsha heard sirens. "I have to go," Rick said. "I'm not exactly a popular figure at the moment." Marsha felt him leave, and finally looked up. He must have moved quickly, because she couldn't see him anymore. Marsha wiped at her red eyes, and left for the LNHQ. _-~-_ Where the hell am I? Fan.Boy opened his eyes. And was very, very surprised. _-~-_ Marsha found a very subdued LNH when she returned. The cleanup effort was more taxing than people thought, and most of the LNHers had collapsed into bed without much resistance. But, the Ultimate Ninja's office was still lit. Marsha headed that way. The Ultimate Ninja was waiting for her. "Sit down," he said, and she did. "Tell me about Ninja-san." "There's not much I can say. I didn't exactly have time for a heart-to-heart," Marsha said. "He looks like a ninja, and acts like a ninja. Have you heard of him?" "Possibly," said the ninja. "I think he's supposed to be modeled on me." "What? When did you go around robbing restaurants?" "It's not quite like that," Ultimate Ninja said. "I know a lot about the ninjas in this world, and I've heard about him. He hasn't been seen much." Marsha waited, but the leader didn't continue. "Well?" she prompted, her interest pricked. "He grew up on ninja books," said the ninja, more to himself. "He practiced the art of ninjitsu, although he wasn't very skilled at it. When he heard about the LNH, about me, he came to study me. That was, unfortunately, during a rather bad period when Master Cliche had taken over my position. Temporarily," the ninja assured. "However, during that time, Ninja-san saw that I beat up LNHers, or rather, that Ultimate Ninja bet up LNHers, and thought that this was the way a true ninja acted, understandable taking me as a role model of the perfect ninja. And so, emulating me, he went up against the LNH, and got beaten in about five seconds, hardly worth mentioning. But, since then, he's been a villain, as I was then." Marsha eyed the Ultimate Ninja suspiciously. "You're not sinking into angst, are you?" "I hope not." Marsha stood up, but the ninja held up a hand. "How did you defeat him?" "Ah," said Marsha. "I didn't. Rick Mansfield did." Marsha saw the ninja's eyebrows rise. "Amorphous Lad? What's he doing back?" "He wanted to tell me why he killed It-Star," said Marsha, hoping to shock the ninja further, but saw that she didn't. "You knew?" "We had suspicions, but no proof. He was disguised as Pliable Lad at the time." "Are you going to go look for him?" "What would be the point? How do you find someone who can look like anyone or anything." "Good point." Marsha made to leave again, and the ninja didn't stop her. "Good night," she said, departing. _-~-_ High above the city, Barry contemplated further action. His diversion had been effective, and the LNH hadn't tried anything against him, but there was a need for something else. Just to make sure. Parting space, Barry fell towards earth, rocketing down, aiming himself for the LNHQ. Without concern for inertia, Barry stopped himself just short of the LNH roof. The hole he had created had been hurriedly patched over with a thin boarding, and, as Barry watched, he could see the walls thickening slowly, very slowly, but repairing themselves nevertheless. He considered ripping the boards away, just to be a nuisance, but felt that that was just being childish. Cloaking himself, Barry jumped off the roof, and into the Hanger Bay. He saw Kismet sleeping there, still looking uncomfortable in the, to her, confined area. Barry passed on without looking at her again. Barry instead turned his attention to the various flight.thingees and net.thingees that were around. With them, the LNH could possibly either attack him, or depart to other newsgroups to attack his other selves. Barry put a hand up and touched one flight.thingee. From his hand entropy spread, consuming the thingee, turning the insides to rust, making it nothing more than junk. Quietly, he passed from craft to craft, performing the same maneuver over and over again, until everything was ruined. Unfortunately, it wasn't permanent. Kid Kirby could easily be able to come up with something to reverse the problems, and he and others could still travel to other newsgroups, but this lessened the number of people who could possibly go. And, as an added bonus, it also slowed down the cleaning operation they were performing during the day. Without flight.thingees, they would be taking far more time just getting from place to place, and not have the flight.thingees' grunt when they got there. Barry smiled to himself. This was kind of fun. He was sure his other selves would agree. Barry walked to the edge of the Hanger Bay, and looked out. A faint noise sounded far away, and Barry watched as a flight.thingee hovered its way home. Right, said Barry, mentally cracking his knuckles. This one he would have fun with. Stepping off the edge, Barry reached out with his mind and took hold of the flight.thingee, then accelerated upwards. As he flew spacewards, he realised that the only occupant was Cannon Fodder. Damn. Oh well. As he grabbed the flight.thingee, Barry had dropped his invisibility, but left so rapidly that the winged girl that tore after him in rage didn't have a hope of catching up to him. Which was a pity considering how much fun she would have been to play with as well. Barry rose out of the atmosphere, and into space. He looked around and picked a perfect target. "Batter up," he said, ignoring such problems as no air or anything. A gigantic baseball bat appeared in his hand, and Barry focused on the flight.thingee. "And the pitcher steps up to the plate. It's a tight finish, folks, as it's the bottom of the ninth, and the Knewbees have two outs already. Barry needs to hit this for a home run if they want to win," the commentary ran. With a sudden change in velocity, the flight.thingee roared through space towards the end of the bat. Barry swung. "He swings, he hits, and the ball soars through the air." Indeed, the 'ball' did soar, but through space, and this one wasn't going to end up in a carpark. "The Fans go wild as Barry jogs over the plates. The game is won. The Knewbees have one-nothing over the LNH. That ball is outta here, heading for the sun." And, a few minutes later, it hit. _-~-_ It was explainable, Fan.Boy thought. He had to go somewhere. After his mind had been displaced, he went bouncing over everywhere he knew, trying to find a new home, but the Net was out. Every Barry there had been taken over by something, and his mind wasn't getting a look-in. And so, he had come here. _-~-_ Marsha sighed as she climbed the last step. She was feeling very tired, but there was someone she had to look in on before she went to bed. She turned into the doorway that led into the Med Lab. Organic Lass was standing there, and Inacoustic Kid lay on a bunk, sleeping. Marsha touched her shoulder, and Organic Lass span around, obviously frightened by the the suddenness of Marsha's arrival, but calmed down when she saw who it was. Organic Lass motioned to go outside, out of the 20 meter silencing field that Inacoustic Kid now permanently projected. "Well?" asked Marsha, as soon as they were out. "How is he?" "Doctor Stomper and I managed to trace the source of the silencing field, of all his powers, to a strange combination between his pituitary gland and his inner ear. Right now, we're taking tests to see if we can establish some kind of control over the field. As the interaction is nothing like anything we've seen before, we're not exactly sure what does what," Organic Lass said ruefully. "Can you correct it?" "If we can find the right place, very probably. Although, there is a slight chance that, if we correct the problem by changing the areas concerned to human normal, he will lose his powers completely." "He might not see that as a bad trade," said Marsha, thinking of all the people who had been inconvenienced by Inacoustic Kid's presence, and the pain that had caused him. "I'm just waiting for some results to come in," Organic Lass said, turning back to the Med Lab. "I'll see you later." "I saw Amorphous Lad tonight," said Marsha, stopping Organic Lass in her tracks. "Oh?" said Organic Lass, but Marsha heard a quavering note in her voice. "He wanted to explain why he killed It-Star." There was a pause. "Did you believe him?" Organic Lass asked. "He never got to tell me. We were attacked before he got to it. I think he was referring to some threat to life at the time, though." Organic Lass spun around, and Marsha was shocked by the look of violence on the normally peaceful LNHer's face. "It-Star was no threat to him, or anybody else. He had no right to kill her. No right at all!" Marsha backed away slowly, holding her hands up. "If you ever see him again, tell him if he *ever* comes anywhere near any of my patients again, I'll kill him." Organic Lass turned and stormed back into the Med Lab, leaving a worried Marsha behind. _-~-_ The Ultimate Ninja looked up as Cannon Fodder stumbled into the room. "What was it this time?" Cannon Fodder flopped down into a chair. "It's not so much that someone has to die," he said. "But why does it always have to be me?" The ninja waited for him to get to the point. "It was Fan.Boy. He grabbed the flight.thingee when I was coming back from patrol, and took me up into space, then used the craft to play baseball. I flew right into the sun." "Fan.Boy? Back here? Where did he take you from?" "Um," said Cannon Fodder, as he struggled to remember. "I think he was standing near the Hanger Bay. Four floors off the ground in mid air," he gulped as he realised. "The Hanger Bay," said Ultimate Ninja, musing. "What..? Damn." The ninja was out of the door before Cannon Fodder got a chance to chance to say "What is it?" The Ultimate Ninja bounded up the stairs, foregoing the lift for a chance of some form of activity. He had stayed in his office too long. Four flights later, the Ultimate Ninja opened the door to the Hanger Bay and looked in. "No!" he cried out inadvertently. The entropy had really taken affect by now, making the flight.thingees look like metal balls slumped in heat. The ninja barely noticed as a winged girl departed the Hanger Bay for the roof, for some peace and quiet. The ninja flicked the lights on, flooding the bay, and saw the full extent of the disaster, and waking Bicycle Repair Lad up at the same time. Ultimate Ninja thumped the door and left, and walked slowly back down to his office. Was this really it? Had they finally come up against a force too powerful? Dammit, he was sinking into angst. No, he refused to give up. The driving force behind the Looniverse was entirely based on plot, and in every single plot, the good guys won. Maybe just by the skin of their teeth, and maybe not a convincing victory in some cases, but they still won. The ninja suspected that if it really was the end, they'd either be in an alt.ernate universe, or the end would have happened by now, no wishy washed ending taking forever to play out. There still had to be some hope. And where there was hope, there was a plot with the good guys winning. He just hoped the author knew which side the good guys were. _-~-_ Organic Lass looked down at the results of the most recent tests, and gave an inaudible sigh. The tests were promising, but not wonderful. The problem of Inacoustic Kid's permanent field was reversible, but currently it looked like the only way to do so was to operate and revert Inacoustic Kid's inner ear to the human norm. But, this would definitely have the effect of totally removing his powers. Possibly. Around this place, you could never tell. It might just give him different powers, and turn into some kind of rampaging bull. She'd have to wake for the anesthetic to wear off, and then she could ask him if he wanted to take the risk. That decided, Organic Lass left the Med Lab for the night, and walked back to her room, and back to Poc. It wasn't until she was halfway there that Organic Lass realised that she wasn't anywhere near her room. She knew where she was subconsciously heading. Back to the third floor, and back to It-Star's stasis chamber. Damn Amorphous Lad. Damn him. How dare he come back again. And 'explain'. Like she could believe that one. There was never an explanation for taking another's life. There was only rationalisations. Organic Lass entered the storage area where the chamber was stored, and saw a light on. A frown settled on her face. Organic Lass slowly and carefully stepped into view. Her jaw dropped as she recognised Amorphous Lad. "Don't bother calling for help," he said, not bothering to look up, but instead studying It-Star through the clear canopy. "You know I can get away with ease." "Come to see your conquest?" she asked, her voice bitter. She stayed by the doorway, not trusting herself to enter. "I'm not happy about it," said Rick. "But it had to be done." "Don't think you can justify yourself to me. I trusted you to help me," Organic Lass said. "You thought I was Pliable Lad then," Rick replied. Organic Lass finally entered. She moved to the other side of the chamber, and checked to make sure he hadn't done anything else. Not that it mattered now, but the dead had a certain sanctity. "Can you live with yourself?" she whispered. "Knowing that you have taken a life from this world?" "I have killed before," Rick said quietly. "And since." "Is that supposed to make me feel better? Are you telling me it gets easier to take from others that one precious gift you struggle to hold onto yourself?" "It's because I want to hold onto it that I'm forced to take it from others. Tell me," he said, finally turning to face her gaze. "If you knew of a doctor that was performing vile experiments, that perverted everything he touched, and you held in your hands his death, and there was no other way to stop him except death. Would you take his life?" "Are you saying that It-Star perverted life?" Organic Lass cried. "A harmless being, who didn't even have a sense of self. What could she do?" "You saw for yourself. It could become other people. Heroes. Villains." "And so you killed it for what it might do? Some possible evil?" "Would it satisfy you if I said 'yes'? If I might possibly have some motives that could be judged good from some far distant light? No. I killed it because it might do some possible good." Rick turned away, and walked off, leaving Organic Lass alone with her thoughts. _-~-_ Rick Mansfield walked out of the LNH lawns and stepped up to a waiting car. He had spent a lot of time in cars, he mused. "I tried to explain to Marsha, but some kid called Ninja-san interrupted," he told the driver. "And there's no way Organic Lass will ever understand. Are you sure this what I'm supposed to be doing?" "Positive," the driver replied. "We're going to become a team whether they want in or not." "We aren't going to stay here, not while I'm such a revered figure, are we?" "No," said the driver, looking upwards out of the front window. "Not exactly safe around here, anyway." "Where to then?" "There's building in Sin.ci.net.ty I want your opinion on," the driver said. "So that's where we're going. Although just anywhere out of Net.ropolis would be good right now." The driver started the car, and it slowly drove off into the night. _-~-_ Fan.Boy was home. Splash page: Fan.Boy is sitting, in civvies, in a perfectly normal lecture room in the Victoria University of Wellington. In his own home universe. He is home. "They say you can never go back." by Jamas Enright. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: This is it! The big one! We find out who is behind everything! Bwahahaha!!! Don't miss _Fan.Boy #19_: "Can you say 'help'?" Credits: -------- Ultimate Ninja belongs to wReam. Organic Lass to Rebecca. Kismet to Jenn. All others are mine.Back to the Index.