______ _ _ _ ____ _ ____ _____ ___ _ _____ _____ | | | | / \ | | | | | | |___| | |____ \___ |BLiP| | _ | | | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | | |--- | | | ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ | #1 | | | | | | |\ | | | (An ACROPHOBE Imprint) | | |/ \| \ / | \ | | | ~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~ FEATURING: Phantom Walker [Cover has Roger Rescue looking on in horror as a house explodes. He is being restrained by a hand which enters from off-right.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "First Sightings." 10.40 AM. A shadow moved furtively across the lawn. It paused at the corner of the house, before ducking around the back. It moved silently to a window, and, without even pausing to see if there was anyone inside, it heaved, and the window shot up. It levered itself over the windowsill, and jumped into the room. It then made it's way, confidently, further into the house, taking something out of it's overcoat as it did so. _-~-_ 1.10 PM. A car arrived at the house, and entered the garage. A woman exited, opened the back car door, took out some groceries, then, after making sure the car was locked, went into the house. Several screams rang out, but there was no-one around to hear them. _-~-_ 1.17 PM. (Ring ring) (Ring ring) "Hello, operator speaking, what service do you require?" "Get me the police." "One moment." (Pause... ring) "Min.net.sota Police. How can we help you?" "I'm gonna kill her." "Who is this?" "I've got a bomb, and I'm gonna kill her. She should never have left me." "We've traced this call." "Good. I want the press here when this place goes. I'll teach her to fuck with me." (Click.) _-~-_ 1.37 PM Police cars cut off an area around 27 Packbeck Road. This was the house that the call had been traced to. Police officers had cordoned off half the street, keeping back public and local residents. The man hadn't made contact again, but now they were going to try to contact him. (Ring ring) (Ring ring) (Click. Silence.) "Hello? This is Chief Inspector Strafford. I want to talk to the man holding Alice Contrel hostage." "Never say that name! I never want to hear that name again!" "I'm sorry... what do you want?" "I want her dead. I want the whole world to see her die. I want her go in the same way she ended my life!" "Is she still alive?" "Yes. For now. Where are the TV people? I asked for them to be here!" "We're having trouble trying to get them here-" "Don't give me that shit. They love this sort of shit. Goes down well on the six o'clock news. 'Divorced husband murders wife.' Gets them huge ratings." "Are you... Bert Contrel?" "I'm Bert Hammil. The bitch changed her name back after she left me. But I found her again, and now she's gonna pay." _-~-_ 1.48 PM "Chief Inspector Stafford?" "Yes?" "I'm Maggie Morris, from Net.News.Network." Before C.I. Strafford stood a tall, thin woman, with thick red hair. She was well-known (at least in the Min.net.sota area) for covering major news stories. She was here now, at the request of the police for a change, with her TV squad, to cover whatever happened with this hostage situation. "Right. I'll contact the man and tell him your here." C.I. Stafford was of average height, with greying hair. Slightly on the portly side, he "ungh"ed as he reached for the phone. He picked up the receiver and dialled. (Ring ring) "Hello." "The Net.News.Network team is here." (Sounds of feet fading away. 'Click' as a television is turned on. Feet return.) "Put her on." C.I. Strafford looked at Maggie. "You ready?" "Of course." She turned to her cameraman and gave an inquiring look. He nodded. He put up his hand with all fingers splayed. "In five, four, three..." (two, one) "Hi, I'm Maggie Morris for Net.News.Network. We're here at the house of a Ms Alice Contrel, where a hostage situation is taking place. Her ex-husband, Mr Bert Hammil, is threatening to kill her, but wants to do it on television. We have Mr Hammil on line now. Mr Hammil..." "I'm gonna kill her. She destroyed my life, so now I'm going to destroy hers." C.I. Strafford stopped listening to the conversation. He considered his superiors to be supremely stupid, but wasn't going to endanger his career by saying so. If the man wanted to kill the woman on TV, why give him television coverage so he could do so? He looked around at the sound of a dispute going on at the edge of the crowd. He saw Sergeant Mandy Lock arguing with a... He did a double take. A net.hero? What were they doing here? This was beneath them, wasn't it? A mere hostage situation taking place, no major villains or anyone to hit, no major buildings to destroy. The hero was mainly white, with red markings on his shoulders, and blue markings lower down. He also wore a white helmet. The sergeant finally let him through, and he made his way over to Strafford. "I heard something about a hostage situation over the radio. Is there anything I can do to help?" "Are you sure you want to dirty your hands with our little problem? It's not as if the entire world will be destroyed if you don't or anything," Strafford said, sarcastically. The net.hero, Roger Rescue, winced. It was true. Most heroes seemed to spend more time either beating up on only major villains, or beating up on themselves. "I can't answer for the others, but I try to help out where I can." "Right. Well, the man, Bert Hammil, was divorced by Alice Contrel. This drove him mad, so now he's threatening to blow her, and himself presumedly, up." Roger looked over to the house, then spotted the N.N.N team in front of it. "What are they doing here?" he asked. "Bert said he wanted to blow her up on TV. So, my superiors decided to provide television coverage so he could." Roger could hear the disgust in Strafford's voice at this idea. "So, hero, what can you do?" Roger looked over to the house, and considered his options. He could try to beam in there, and disarm the man, but he also might not have enough time to do so before the man activated the bomb in panic. He could try to beam them out, but unless TODD (his AI computer) could establish a proper lock on them, he might not be able to get them out alive. "I'm going to have to beam in, and try to establish a proper lock on everyone so I can get them out of there safely. Is there anyone else in there apart from those two?" "Not that we could ascertain." "Right." He was about to get closer to the house, when Maggie Morris spotted him. "Excuse me, net.hero? I'm Maggie Morris for Net.News.Network. Are you here to try and rescue Alice Contrel? Could we have a few words, please?" "TODD," Roger said quickly into his wrist computer (which was connected to TODD), "get me out of here." Before Maggie was able to reach him, the familiar feeling of the transporter washed over Roger, and was beamed away. _-~-_ Above, in his airship, Roger rematerialised. Stepping off the platform, he immediately began issuing orders. "Get a proper lock on that house, and approximate locks on the people inside. I'm going down there so you can use the wrist computer to get a better fix." "You can't do that." Roger whirled around. He was up here alone, and he knew what TODD's voice sounded like. That wasn't it. He saw a man in the corner, watching a monitor that TODD had tuned in to observe what was happening below. He stood at average height, but gave the impression that could tower over you if he wanted to. He wore a green shirt and black trousers, and basketball boots. He looked up from the monitor. "I can't let you save those people." "Why not?" asked Roger angrily. "Do you have something against them, or do you just like people dying generally?" The man looked back at the screen, not wanting to meet Roger's eyes. "I just do what I must. And I must stop you from saving those people." "Who are you? How did you get here? And where do you get off telling me that anyone must die?" The man sighed. "I am now known as the Phantom Walker." The man could feel Roger about to say something, but forestalled him. "No, nothing to do with... Strangers." He spat the word out. "I get my orders from another place. And those orders tell me that you are not allowed to save those people. As for how I got here... well, you have a lot of shadows here, don't you?" This was true, but Roger failed to see any significance. "I don't much care about you or your orders. I'm going to rescue those people whether you, or anyone else, want me to or not." With that, Roger moved back to the platform, after checking the co-ordinates of the house were set properly. The Phantom Walker quickly moved over to Roger and grabbed his arm. "No, you cannot." Roger tried to shake the hand off, but the grip was firmer than he suspected. "Let go. I don't want to have to hurt you." The way Roger was now feeling. that last part wasn't necessarily true. <<Roger>> said TODD. <<Listen to this.>> The sound on the monitor was turned up. "Police have unable to make any progress towards saving Alice Contrel," Maggie was saying. "Bert Hammil has just said that he will detonate the bomb in twenty seconds, of which ten have already gone." The camera focused on the house, awaiting the explosion. Roger's eyes widened in shock. "TODD, lock onto those people. Lock onto them now. Beam them out of there." <<I don't have a full->> "I don't care. Get them out of there!" As the transporter pad lit up, on screen the house exploded, throwing fragments everywhere, captured forever on tape and in Roger's mind. He turned to the pad, to see the swirling of transport still there. He waited expectantly, but the swirl faded, revealing no-one. <<I'm sorry. A full lock was not established. I was unable to transport them out>> reported TODD. Roger became aware of the hand still on his arm. He looked at the Phantom Walker. "I suppose you're happy now." The Walker's face was grim. "I had no choice." Roger turned away, and shook the hand off easily. "I don't care. Just get out of here. If I ever see you again, I'll kill you." When Roger turned back, the strange man wasn't there. He stared into the shadows around him, seeing the house explode over and over again. _-~-_ [This next scene, although extremely well-drawn, is in black and white.] In Sin.ci.net.ty, a tall tower loomed over most of the city. It was called "Queen Towers," but more usually known as "The Queen's Castle". The woman who owned it, and Queen Enterprises, prefered to be called "The Queen Bee" and liked her servants/subordinates to use "Queen" and "ma'am" or "milady" when addressing her. She did have a real name, but very few knew what it was. The Queen Bee switched off the TV and laughed. She had been watching the murder of two people in Min.net.sota, and had enjoyed it immensely. It was good to see others out and about, creating a nuisance of themselves. It made less work for her to do. A discrete knocking drew her attention to the door. Oh good, a distraction. "Come in." A man walked in and bowed. "Ma'am." "What is it, Kenneth?" "The Fribith is finished, madam. You said you wished to be advised immediately." "Indeed I did, Kenneth, indeed I did." The Queen stood, and moved over to the door. As she passed Kenneth, she paused as said, "Have Charles sent to my quarters tonight. I feel sultry." "Yes, madam," was Kenneth's only reply. _-~-_ The train shot through the tunnel, rocking slightly from side to side as it did so. Maurice Beyke held tightly to the strap above him, and put a hand out to steady Eugene Clean as he nearly fell over. "Easy there, lad." Eugene smiled his thanks and waited for the ride to be over. It was his idea for him and Maurice to get away for a while, so he couldn't really complain. But he was sure that it never took this long to get to Con.net.i.cut. Perhaps it was because Net.ropolis kept moving around, he thought to himself wryly. After recent events, Eugene "Squeaky" Clean had decided that his partner and mentor, Maurice Beyke, better known as Captain Cleanup, was due a nice holiday to relax for a while. He could also due to get away himself, especially as the boys had been hassling him recently about him and Mouse, although he wasn't exactly sure why. ["Mouse", really a morphing being in the shape of Mouse, had been found sleeping outside Squeaky's quarters in _Fan.Boy #3_ - Footnote Girl.] Anyway, Eugene had asked Maurice to go to Con.net.i.cut, and to relax at his cousin's place. Maurice had agreed, and, after (eventually) getting the Ultimate Ninja's permission, they had left. Eventually, despite Eugene's fears, they did manage to arrive at Con.net.i.cut, and grabbed a taxi over to his cousin's place. It was an apartment, about halfway up a large block of them. The lift crawled up, and Eugene had trouble opening the front door, but soon they were unpacking their suitcases. As Eugene entered the kitchen, he spotted an envelope lying on the bench. It was obviously a piece of mail collected a while ago, but his cousin had left over a week ago and, the strange thing was, it was addressed to Eugene personally. He ripped it open and found two pieces of paper inside. They were tickets, for a ball being held tonight at the 'Krell House'. It started at 7pm, and was fancy dress. Eugene checked in the envelope, but found no explanatory letter. He shrugged. Might as well go. It was something to do anyway. He left to tell Maurice that they were going to a ball. _-~-_ Krell House was a large building towards the outskirts of town. It housed Krell Corporation, a subsidiary of Queen Enterprises. It also housed the Fribith, but this wasn't to be revealed until later tonight. A taxi cab pulled up in front of the building, and two spotlessly clean figures got out. Captain Cleanup and Squeaky Clean looked up at Krell House... for quite some time. It was a very impressive building. It was the 10 foot statues at the top that really gave it ambience. They heard a discrete cough and looked down to see a doorman patiently holding one of the glass doors open, obviously waiting for them to go through. They reddened slightly in embarrassment, then walked in through the door into the lobby. The lobby was as large as their entire apartment. Wide swaths of carpet covered the lobby floor, and the entire back wall was one long desk. There were one or two others there, one dressed as a swashbuckler, another as a cave-girl (she was very popular), and so on. They were making their way through a medium sized door, showing tickets to a butler. Cleanup and Squeaky got their tickets out and approached the door. Once there, they saw that there was a barrier across the door, obviously to stop the wrong people getting in. Luckily, they knew they were the right people. Squeaky showed the tickets to the butler, and waited for the barrier to go up. However, it stayed right where it was. Squeaky looked at the butler for an explanation. "Who is you host, sir?" "Who?" "Who invited you here? This party is attendable by known guests or their guests if they are here to vouch for them. You are not known, therefore, who invited you?" If the butler really talks like that, thought Squeaky, he must really pull a lot of weight around here. Squeaky opened his mouth to explain that they had only received tickets, and they had no idea who sent them, when a voice spoke up behind them. "I invited them." Squeaky and Cleanup both whirled, and nearly jumped out of their skins when they saw a man completely dressed in black (with only eyes showing) and wearing a long sword at his side. The next moment, they realised that this was not the Ultimate Ninja, and, in fact, they had no idea who is was. The butler obviously did though. "S..sir," he stammered. "I had no idea. I..if I had known, sir,..." "Just show us in, Irvine." With rapid motions, the butler got the barrier raised. As Squeaky and Cleanup were ushered through by their new companion, he turned and continued to Irvine. "And if I catch you being disrespectful to anyone ever again, I shall personal make sure that your life becomes... interesting." Squeaky could actually see Irvine swallow in supressed panic. "Y..yes, sir," Irvine gasped. They entered the ballroom proper and Cleanup and Squeaky gasped at the sheer size of it. The room was very brightly lit, not only by the chandeliers, but also by the floodlights pointed towards the ceiling. Drapes hung on every wall, red plush curtains, there only to show that whoever decorated this room had money, and a lot of it. There were tables scattered here and there, piled high with food and drinks. Chairs were available at the sides for those party-goers that had spent too long standing up. Music filtered through the air, light, pleasant stuff, with no substance to it what-so-ever. And the people... There were just too many to take in all at once. 'Crammed' was not a word to use, when 'sardine-like' was available. The variety of costumes crossed all periods of time, and quite a few of space. Squeaky thought he spotted one or two outfits usually seen in the LNHHQ, but he was sure that their usual occupants were not here. He turned from the explosion of light and sound to interrogate his 'host'. "Who are you?" The man sighed, then answered "Although I am known as the Phantom Walker, some have called me 'Shadow Walker', others 'He Who Walks For Another,' and to others as simply 'Walker'. Which do you prefer?" Squeaky just blinked a few times. Cleanup turned from his surveillance of the room. "So, Phantom, why did you invite us here?" "Bait?" Walker asked innocently. Now, it was Cleanup's turn to blink. "Excuse me, please, gentlemen," Walker continued. "But there's a lady I must see." Walker moved away from the surprised net.heroes, and made his way into the crowd. Weaving about, he passed from group to group, not looking at any of them, but seeming to track down a prey of his own. It was one of the larger groups that she harboured in. By stint of being the most beautiful woman in the universe (at least, in Walker's opinion, but also supported by one or two hundred adoring hangers-on), she was the centre of attention for almost every man in the building, and quite a few women as well. Those that knew they had no chance to see her were the ones that made up the smaller groups. A passageway formed in the group, and out of it came the vision of beauty that caused Walker's heart to ache. The Queen Bee saw him, which wasn't hard given that she had appeared right in front of him, and went to him. The Queen Bee was 5 foot 6 in height, and was one of the most fine examples of an 'unblemished' woman that could ever be found. She was costumed in a typical French aristocrat outfit that accentuated her far too much. They drew themselves into a slow embrace. The Queen Bee unpeeled the mask from Walker's face and they kissed deeply. "Darling," said the Queen Bee. "I know that you're not here for me, so what is it you're up to this time?" "I am here for you," Walker responded. "The fact that my job is also here is only a co-incidence." The Queen laughed. "You got a leash on you tighter than any of my chains. If it wasn't for the fact that he can't always pull it tight, you wouldn't even be able to be with me at all." "I will _always_ be able to be with you." "Of course you will. Now, why are you here?" "Just to make sure this little 'unravelling' of yours goes to plan." "Why, how delightful. For once we both want the same thing. But would you have to be sure of anything?" "There are others," his gaze flickered in the direction of certain guests of his, "which I had to bring. They will stop you. I just had to make sure they were here to stop you." "What makes you so certain anything could stop me?" "Actually," Walker confessed. "I don't know. They could be here so you can kill them." He shrugged. "It really doesn't matter to me." "You know something?" she asked. "I believe you." The Queen withdrew from their hug, and led the Phantom Walker over to a particular table by the wall. On it was a box with a button set into it. "As you're here to make sure everything gets under way," she said. "Perhaps you'd like to kick it off?" The Walker wagged his finger under her nose, and the Queen playfully tried to bite it off. The Walker didn't withdraw it, however. "You know I'm only supposed to make sure things happed, and not to cause them myself if I can help it." The Queen pouted. "Please. For me." Walker looked at her longingly. "For you," he conceeded. "Anything for you." He drew her into another kiss as he put out his hand and pushed the button. Other than a door opening, nothing else happened. That was until someone's head flew from their shoulders. A trail of heads flew across the room, leading in one direction. At the end of the trail was Captain Cleanup and Squeaky Clean. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Well, I guess we'd better see if Captain Cleanup and Squeaky Clean can get out of this one. What are two janitors suppoed do to? -------- Credits: Phantom Walker, The Queen Bee, and Queen Enterprises are mine. Roger Rescue belongs to Mike Escutia, used with permission. Captain Cleanup and Squeaky Clean are public domain. Others I made up, and probably will never use again. :)Back to the Index.