______ _ _ _ ____ _ ____ _____ ___ _ _____ _____ | | | | / \ | | | | | | |___| | |____ \___ |BLiP| | _ | | | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | | |--- | | | ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ | #4 | | | | | | |\ | | | (An ACROPHOBE Imprint) | | |/ \| \ / | \ | | | ~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~ FEATURING: The Ultimate Ninja [Cover has the Ultimate Ninja on the left, facing off against the Phantom Walker on the right.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "HAM ON RYE, HOLD THE MAYO." A hand reached out and tested a door handle. It sometimes worked. You never knew. The door remained shut despite the quiet rattling. The thief took his hand back and sighed silently. Back to the normal then. He withdrew from the doorway and followed the wall of the warehouse. He often wondered why people bothered to lock anything away. It just gave him and his ilk something to do on dark nights like this. He found another doorway on one side. This one looked like it would be easier to pick than the main front door, which he suspected was barred from the inside. He gave the door his usual obvious test, but it had also been locked up. He crouched down, brining the lock to eye level and withdrew his picks. Carefully he examined the lock and selected his best guesses for picking it. The thief slowly inserted the picks, not wanting to break them off in the lock. He wasn't worried about the alarm systems. He left that to deal with if he ever came across them. He had enough to worry about right now, and it was easy enough to run away if he heard any loud noises. He turned the picks and heard an internal latch fall. He twisted the handle and, this time, the door gave. He pushed it open slowly and stayed crouched while he surveyed the passageway behind it. He couldn't spot any sort of light beams or surveillance cameras and decided that it was safe enough to venture in. He stood and crept in, always listening out for any sounds that might lead to his discovery. As he sidled down the corridor, he took in the salient points. The passage was dusty and grimy. The carpet looked old and he could swear that someone had relieved themselves somewhere along here. He came to a door, old and warped, and gave it a push. It creaked far too loudly for his tastes, but swung open to reveal the room inside. There was a bed, consisting of a mattress on springs and a washbasin stained with old water. To his surprise there were also signs of recent habitation. A worn down candle was positioned by the bed and a book lay beside it, well thumbed in its time. The thief glanced at the title. It was _Lord Foul's Bane_. There had been no word on the street about anyone dossing here, so what did this mean? What he had heard lead him to believe that this warehouse had been recently evacuated by some big company and was now relegated to a simple holding premises. He had come in the hope of easy pickings. There was certainly no mention of the possibility of someone actually living here. He quickly departed the room and continued down the hall, passing more doors, aged and battered. He ignored them all, wanting to find out more about who was living here before he gave anymore signals of his presence. He turned a corner and saw another long hallway stretched out. But, even from his position, he could spot something different about the door at the end of it. The thief ran lightly through the corridor and stopped by the door. It was metal. Everything else so far had been wood. There was also a faint light streaming out from underneath it. He put his ear up against the door and listened intently. Remembering something in his pockets, he pulled out a stethoscope, put the ends in his ears, and applied the amplifier to the door. There were faint noises, as if made by something far off. He continued to listen for a few moments, but eventually decided that it was safe to enter. He tried to pull the door towards himself and it gave way. He poked his head out and took quick darting looks. The corridor beyond was brightly lit and he was forced to squint his eyes. It was a proper passageway, well made and well lit. He spotted other doors leading off it, and it connected to other passageways at either end. Feeling rather daring due to his curiosity, the thief tiptoed out and shut the door behind him. Straining his ears, he detected louder noises coming from his right so he went left. At the T-connection, he choose right this time and soon came upon stairs leading up. He climbed them and could hear sounds from the destination above him. He slowed and flattened himself against the stairs and crept upwards. At the top he peered over the last stair, keeping his body flat against the stairs. What he saw was a rail. What he heard was the sound of a major distillery factory, complete with bubbling sounds, hushed conversations and strident orders for little things to be changed. He crept forwards, arm over arm, and lifted himself enough to peer over the rail. He looked down and broke out in a sweat. Right now, he wanted to be very far from here. The rail guarded the view down into a very large room. It was full of chemical distilleries, purifying plants and production equipment. People walked around, testing this and adding bits to that, and carrying large casks and crates around. Guards stood in various places around the room and watched the proceedings, coming down hard on anyone who was dawdling in their tasks. He recognised the kind of operation going on here, having been caught up in it before. It was a drug factory, manufacturing hallucinations and happy times, and death, in liquid form. Sweat rolled down his forehead as he slid down the stairs. He knew if he was caught he would be killed without any second thoughts... or even first thoughts. As soon as he hit the bottom of the stairwell he was off and running. He sprinted down the corridor and swung into the passage containing the door in it, and the way out of here. The first door he opened was the wrong one and lead to a broom closet. The second one was the right one, but as he pushed it open he spotted two figures from the corner of his eye. "Hoy! Stop!" Gunfire rattled down the corridor, but the thief was already through the door. He ran down the decrepit hallway, arms and legs pumping and he heard the guards enter the passageway as he rounded the corner. A bullet tore its way into his leg and he fell against a wall, nearing collapsing on the floor. He scrambled for his balance, and managed to keep upright. He saw the door at the end, his salvation, and also saw that it was closed. He prayed that it wasn't locked. As he reached the door, bullets tore up the hallway. He yanked on the door and almost smacked his head against it as it opened. He leapt through, nearing ripping his hand off as he pulled the door closed, slamming it behind him. He reflexively covered his head as the door behind him exploded into small shards of wood as bullets exploded into it. By now, he was up to a speed that saved him from any danger. He tore through the streets, eager to put as much distance between himself and death as possible. He was in a small connecting alleyway when he finally tripped and collapsed on the ground. The pain from his leg caught up with him and he bit his tongue trying to muffle the scream as his leg burned. He doubled up and cradled his leg protectively against himself, waiting for the pain to subside to a bearable level. A >chink< made its way into his ear and he looked up in time to see something black drop towards him, something glittering flicking towards his head. This time he did scream. A hand clamped his mouth shut, and his terror stuck in his mouth. "I would like you to tell me about the warehouse," said the figure with the sword. _-~-_ The shadow flittered across the tops of buildings, bouncing off roofs and jumping over intervening alleyways. Something in it glittered as it passed through moon light, but the actual shape hid itself well. Although there were only two people in the group that could tell of the Ultimate Ninja's presence, it was only Kid Kirby who was actually looking at him when the ninja arrived. The ninja touched down beside Parking Karma Kid and brushed PKK's arm to alert him to his presence. "Gaah!" PKK was, to put it one way, mildly surprised. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" "Not yet," replied UN. "Did you track that person down?" asked Cheesecake-Eater Lad. "Of course. He was just bubbling with information when I dropped in on him." "I registered him as hurt," intoned Kid Kirby. "Did you aid him?" "I told to find a good hospital." "Geez, Ninj," said Sarcastic Lad, rolling his eyes. "You're all heart. Well, what did you scare out of him?" "It's a drug factory. People are living there, and mass producing death," the ninja spat the last word out. He looked at the last member of the group. "What do you say to that, Walker?" The Phantom Walker continued to stare down at the building as he spoke. "Of course it is. I wouldn't have brought you here if I hadn't known what it was." "And just what do you mean to do about it?" "Stop it." The Walker stepped forward, off the roof and dropped down to the ground. Cheesecake-Eater Lad looked over the side and saw the Walker calmly walking towards the bullet shattered door. "Um, guys, did you hear that?" he asked. "What?" "I think he muttered 'After all, I started it'." The ninja sighed. Somethings just didn't get any easier. He motioned Kid Kirby off to one side, away from the others. "What do you know about him?" he asked the Kirbian. "I do not know much about him in particular, but I have heard of Walkers before," replied the Wielder of the Power Kirby. "They work for another... race. Some of them become bored with their duties and decided to interact with those that they watch over. As their own presence would be rather noticeable, they create the Walkers to do their jobs for them. I must admit, this one is more bitter than most I've heard of." "Create? You mean he isn't human?" "Not as such, but he is a LoonivEarthling." "Hey, Ninj!" called Sarcastic Lad. "Are we just gonna sit here all night and watch the Walker invade this place?" "No," replied the Ultimate Ninja, unsheathing his Ginzu Katana. "We will put a stop to this as well." _-~-_ Mabel flicked her eyes around, checking on the positions of the guards, then lent over to Evelyn. "And then he had the gall to say that it was supposed to be that shape." They both giggled at the idea, which attracted the attention of an on-looker. "Here, be quiet. You'll just get into more trouble carrying on like that." Chastened, Mabel looked guiltily at the nearest guard, who took no notice of her, then turned her full attention back to glassware she was cleaning. She liked this job. It paid well and she had free board here while she needed it, even though her quarters weren't the most posh around. She knew full well what was going on her, and that she, in her own small way, contributed to the downfall of many, but she had already rationalised it. They didn't have to do drugs, did they? They wanted to feel good, wanted to feel accepted. Anyway, she needed the money and didn't need morality to get in the way. Mabel looked up at Evelyn, and was about to add another comment when she heard the crash. She, as well as the everyone else in the room, turned to see a ragged figure beside a pile of broken glass that used to be used to test the quality of their product. The man had several bullet wounds, and blood was flowing, but not as much as that much damage should have caused. He was carrying a gun like the ones that the guards had. Mabel could quickly guess that he must have got it from one of the guards. "This is a bust," the man yelled. "This operation is coming down." He turned and sprayed a shatter of bullets into a large vat of refined drug, causing it to splatter over the floor. As one, the people in the room turned on him. Mabel felt anger run through her. How dare he! This was her life, her livelihood. How dare he come in here and try to stop her from surviving? With others around her doing the same, she surged forward, intent on deadly rebuke. The man brought the gun down to face the oncoming mass, but didn't pull the trigger. The expression on his face was a strange one, and part of Mabel's mind, the part that wasn't forcing her to protect her job, was puzzled by it. He looked resigned, even happy, that this reaction had happened. Like he wanted it to happen. The blast that exploded between the man and the mob momentarily froze them. A flicker of annoyance passed over the man's face as he turned his had to watch several superheroes enter the room. Superheroes. This shocked Mabel. What the hell were they doing here? This was Net.York, not Net.ropolis, or, as she and her co-workers usually referred to it, Spandex Central. Superheroes didn't come out here. It wasn't right. The crowd's anger changed. It flowed into fear and self-preservation. Now chaos hit the room as people, finally realising what was happening, decided to exit as soon as possible to save their own skins. Spandexed figures appeared in other doorways, blocking the rush for safety. By either force shields, or sword waving, or just by hitting people, the exits were held and people were kept in the room. Soon there were four groups of people, centering on the doors, all jostling and vying for some way to escape. "Stop!" The cry rang across the room, causing everyone to freeze and look upwards at the new entrant. Mabel let her breath go in relief as she recognised the figure on the balcony, the person who over-saw this operation, the Queen Bee. The Phantom Walker spun around and his eyes were riveted onto her body. The other superheroes also glanced up, but not as suddenly as the Walker had. Mabel saw the superhero with the sword shake his head ever so slightly. _-~-_ The Ultimate Ninja looked up at the Queen Bee and fretted. He knew how she affected some people, with only her presence. He glanced over at Sarcastic Lad and wasn't surprised to see him panting. He passed his eyes over the group of people in front of him, those who had tried to pass his way. There was no way he could leave these people and attend to the Queen, but she had to be stopped. He checked the other doors and saw that Cheesecake-Eater Lad and Parking Karma Kid were guarding the same door. For some reason, CEL didn't seem too disturbed by the Queen's presence. He called out. "Cheesecake-Eater Lad. Leave them to Parking Karma Kid and get up there and arrest her." He pointed to the figure on the balcony. "No," said the Walker. Although the word was quiet, it carried through all in the room. It was full of potential menace, and it paused CEL in his tracks. CEL looked uncertainly at UN, unsure what to do. "You can only take her over my dead body," the Walker continued. The ninja considered his options. The Walker was definitely someone to be careful of, but he didn't have any time for pussyfooting around. He couldn't let the Queen get away with this. "CEL," he called. "Take him out." CEL nodded and moved forward through the crowd by his exit. As he reached the clear middle of the room, the Walker turned to face him. "Don't take me on," the Walker warned. "You haven't a chance." "We'll just have to see about that," said CEL, rolling up his sleeves. He reached for his cheesecake dispensers and mentally reached for his powers. The Ultimate Ninja became worried as nothing happened. CEL panicked. "I can't do anything. I can't create cheesecakes." The UN got a horrible suspicion about what CEL really was. There was no time for theories as CEL, abandoning his powers, leapt forward, squirting cheesecake mix at the Walker. The Walker dodged, but slipped slightly on some spilled drug. CEL, pressing the attack, moved in, into arm's reach. Taking advantage of the momentum of the slip, the Walker grabbed CEL, fell backwards, and threw CEL over him and onto a table full of glassware, smashing it all. CEL's body lay still. The Ultimate Ninja became very stilled. There was no way that the Walker could now get away with this. This was now personal. "Right, if that's the way it must be." Raising his voice, he commanded. "Let everyone go." Parking Karma Kid gasped. "What? Are you sure?" Turning his anger to PKK, the ninja roared. "Do you dare to question me!?" PKK took a step back in shock, then vacated his exit. Sarcastic Lad and Kid Kirby did the same. Streams of people left, more concerned with getting out of the room more that getting out of their predicament. "I, Kid Kirby, have alerted the police," the Kirbian said, but UN took little notice. He was focused on the Walker. As soon as he was free, Sarcastic Lad strode forward. He addressed the Walker. "You might have dealt with Cheesy, but you still have to deal with me." The Walker was unimpressed. "You think you can do any better, demon boy?" "Wrong group," replied Sarc. "He's in the Legion of Occult Heroes. I was given powers by a demon, and now I'm gonna use them to kick your butt." "Oh yes, them. Don't worry, I'll be taking them out later." "It's you that should be worrying." "And what can you do to me?" "Oh, I'm just so helpless, aren't I?" said Sarc, turning his sarcasm on full blast. "I'm just a wilting flower under your oh-so-awesome power." "Oh no," returned the Walker. "I'm been hit with sarcasm. I feel so inadequate. Whatever shall I do?" Caught in backlash, Sarc was unable to stand under the pressure and keeled over backward onto the floor. Parking Karma Kid was more direct. "Why, you..." He ran towards the Walker, grabbing a large metal wrench from a nearby table as he did so. He swung it around his head, and charged the Walker. Timing himself perfectly, the Walker hopped to one side as PKK went passed, and grabbed PKK's out-stretched arm. Hauling it backwards, even the Ultimate Ninja winced as he heard bones snapping. Still holding onto the arm, the Walker threw PKK into the air, then drop kicked him over to Kid Kirby's feet. Kid Kirby gazed down at PKK and quickly assessed the damage. PKK would survive, if he could get to a medical center quickly enough. First, though, there was the Walker to take care of. Even through the Wielder of the Power Kirby understood the drives of the Walkers, he could not let this go unaccounted for. He paced forward, gathering power as he did so. It manifested as a glowing ball of energy on his left fist, getting hotter and brighter all the time. When he was within a few metres, Kid Kirby raised his hand and let fly. The Walker calmly put up a hand and caught it. He swung his arm around and threw the energy back towards the Kirbian, but not at him. The energy flew past Kid Kirby and he turned to see a large hole forming in reality. ***B*O*O*O*M*** A BOOM tube opened up and its mouth engulfed the Kirbian. The Ultimate Ninja watched in wide-eyed shock as Kid Kirby was sucked from this dimension. The others had attacked the Walker one-by-one, and now it was the ninja's turn on the bandwagon. He glanced up at the balcony and was not wholly surprised to see it empty. That would have to wait, though. Holding his sword in front of him, the ninja circled around the Walker, looking for an opening. The Walker stood in a posture of defense, hands slightly raised. This might prove to be something of an actual challenge, the ninja thought. Attempting a trial attack, the ninja stepped into range, and brought the sword down. The Walker reached up and grasped the sword's blade as it flew toward his head. He held it. The ninja could see blood where the blade cut into the Walker's hands, but they were managing to hold his katana at bay. The ninja brought the handle down, meaning to free it. However, the Walker flicked the sword sideways and out of the ninja's hands. He threw the katana over to a wall. It flew end over end before embedding itself in the plaster. The ninja's eyes narrowed. Now was the time to finish this fight. No more mister nice ninja. The Ultimate Ninja took one step forward and tapped the Walker on the forehead with one finger, then stepped back and smiled. "That is the Finger of Bushido. It will cause-" Before the ninja could react, the Walker reached out and tapped the ninja in exactly the same way. "Oh yes? And what will it do to you also?" The ninja swallowed carefully. Although he could bend the rules of ninjitsu when he needed to, there were some he couldn't change. He had to back down from any lethal option. "It will cause," he continued, without showing his surprise, "paralysation for one hour." "Oh," was all the Walker said as he fell onto the floor, unconscious. ***B*O*O*O*M*** The ninja turned to see the reappearance of Kid Kirby. He knew he had little time left. As he collapsed forwards, he hoped his last order was "Secure him well." _-~-_ The first thing the Ultimate Ninja saw when he opened his eyes was Sarcastic Lad grinning down at him. Sarc opened his mouth, but the ninja got in first. "One word and I shall have to kill you," he said pleasantly. For once, Sarc didn't challenge him. The Ultimate Ninja sat up and took stock of the situation. Kid Kirby obviously had things in hand. Cheesecake-Eater Lad was bandaged, but up and about. Of Parking Karma Kid, there was no sign. The Phantom Walker was tied with metal bonds, and had been placed in a corner. He was still unconscious. "I have dispatched Parking Karma Kid to the nearest hospital," said Kid Kirby, noticing the ninja's visual sweep for the downed LNHer. "Later, I will move him the the LNHQ." The ninja nodded and stood. He remained still while a wave of dizziness washed over him. Locating his katana, he walked over to the wall and pulled it out. It wasn't easy. There were remnants the of the Walker's blood dried on it. He looked at the blood thoughtfully before turning and issuing his orders. "Kid, I want you to take Cheesecake-Eater Lad and Sarc back to the LNHQ, and pick up Parking Karma Kid on the way." "But," started Sarc in protest. "I want you out of here. I've got a bee to de-sting, and I don't want you in the way." Sarc looked ready to protest anyway, but Kid Kirby rested a hand on his shoulder. "Come," said the Kirbian. "I will need your help." Sarc gave in. CEL motioned to the Walker. "What about him?" The Ultimate Ninja turned to Kid Kirby. "How safe is he?" Kid Kirby paused, thinking, before responding. "He will be as much a tool when he awakes as he was before." "I'll say he a tool," muttered Sarc under his breath. "He has a strange relationship to that woman though. I do not know how this will affect him." "Leave him here, for now. We can come back for him if we need to. Get the rest to safety, first." The ninja turned away, and headed out of the building. _-~-_ The Ultimate Ninja jumped from rooftop to rooftop. It was all very possible that his quarry had left the city, but he doubted it. She was probably vain enough to stay and see how things developed. There was one place that he could think of that the Queen would most likely be found. He had heard that a woman rented the place for about $15 million a week, or something like that, but he had only half been listening to _Secrets Revealed_ when it was on. He landed and looked up at the building. Trump Towers. Now, he only had to get up to the penthouse on floor 68. He decided on the direct approach. He drew his sword and made for the reception desk. Three minutes later, he was whizzing up the building in an elevator, a pass key in his hand. It was amazing how receptive some people could be at the end of a sharp point. The elevator stopped and the UN got out. He eyed the potted plants by the front door with distaste. Decorations were slightly overdone, he thought. He opened the front door without bothering to knock and went in. Once his eyes adjusted to the size of the apartment inside, he found the Queen Bee sitting on a couch, quietly sipping from a champagne glass, and watching him. The ninja walked up to her and bowed. "Madam." "I prefer 'Majesty', myself," she said calmly. The UN raised an eyebrow. "I could always change to 'Sushi'." The Queen waved her hand, dismissing the matter as irrelevant. "And, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" "I have come to arrest you, for charges involving illegal manufacturing of drugs." The Queen lent back on the couch and snuggled herself against the cushions. The sight was not unpleasant. "I could find many people who would say that I have nothing to do with it. Many _influential_ people." "I somehow thought you'd say that." The ninja drew his sword. "That is why I have decided to kill you now." The Queen looked at the sword, and blinked. "I guess that I'll have to die now." _-~-_ "VERONICA!" _-~-_ The Ultimate Ninja was unphased by her coolness. He excepted nothing less from her. "Whenever you're ready. As long as you're ready now." The Queen rose from the couch. "Give a girl a chance to prepare herself, will you?" She walked passed him and into a bedroom, closing the door behind her. The ninja listened carefully, but could hear no sounds of escape. He waited a minute, then started forward. That was enough time, even for a Queen. A hand stilled him. "I think this is for me." The UN turned his head and looked at the man who had appeared beside him. It was the Phantom Walker, this time looking very solemn. "And why should I trust you now?" "Because I shall kill you if you don't. There are somethings best left to close ones to do." The Queen came out from the bedroom. She had changed into a ballgown, and had a small, glittering tiara on her head. She looked from the ninja to the Walker and back again. "Well?" The ninja could sense undercurrents in the air, and knew that he wasn't a part of whatever was going on. He sheathed his sword, and motioned to the Walker. "Be my guest." The Walker, looking only at the Queen, approached her, and the ninja watched as something very strange happened. The Walker and the Queen were glowing, and the glow increased as they got nearer. He started backing away, not really sure what was happening, but knowing that it was not going to safe around here. the Walker and the Queen stood face to face. "This is what has to happen," he whispered. "I know," she replied. They kissed. The ninja had only just got behind the table when the room exploded in light. He kept his eyes shut until the radiance died. He opened his eyes and peered over the top. Most of the room where they stood had been obliterated. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: First, check out _System Corruptors #22_ for one or two clues about what just happened, and for the story of the Queen Bee. Then, in the next issue, something totally different, as I show what I can do to a superheroine when I have a free hand. -------- Credits: Kid Kirby belongs to Harith Jameel al Khafiz, still used with permission. The Ultimate Ninja belongs to wReam, who probably can't remember telling me I could use him. :) Sarcastic Lad belongs to the Saint, still used without permission, but I didn't get yelled at for doing this last time, and needed him again. :) Cheesecake-Eater Lad and Parking Karma Kid are Public Domain. The Phantom Walker and the Queen Bee were created by me.Back to the Index.