______ _ _ _ ____ _ ____ _____ ___ _ _____ _____ | | | | / \ | | | | | | |___| | |____ \___ |BLiP| | _ | | | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | | |--- | | | ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ | #9 | | | | | | |\ | | | (An ACROPHOBE Imprint) | | |/ \| \ / | \ | | | ~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~ FEATURING: Amorphous Lad [The cover shows Amorphous Lad hiding behind a man with a sword, who is guarding Amorphous Lad against something off left.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Events that shape us." Amorphous Lad looked around the reception area of the LNHQ. Where was everybody? The place was deserted. He dragged his suitcase over to the reception desk and looked over it. He saw scattered papers, and pens lying about, but nothing gave away the secret of everyone's absence. Amorphous Lad sighed. This was typical. First, nobody writes him, and then all the other LNHers forsake him as well. He at least expected Neon Lad or Reverb Boy to show up to see him off, but they were as much visible as everyone else. Amorphous Lad looked up. Wait a minute. Someone was writing him. Hmm, could be good, could be bad. He'd wait before deciding. Sighing again, Amorphous Lad picked up his one suitcase, pathetically light, and walked out of the LNHQ, to no fanfares or goodbyes. He managed to get one street away before something happened to him. Brick dust showered him, shrapnel from the wall above, which was peppered by machine gun fire. Amorphous Lad ducked down, and looked around wildly, trying to find the manic shooting at him, seeing no-one. He lessened his upper body, and lengthened his legs as he ran for a nearby alley. More bullets ricocheted around him, one even nicking his upper arm. Amorphous Lad moved the damaged section away from the surface, further inside him, and ducked into the alley. Amorphous Lad flattened himself against a wall, his breathing rapid and broken. The machine gun had stopped, but he wasn't sure that the danger was over. Extending his eyeballs, Amorphous Lad grew eyestalks and sent them out towards the street, trying to spot the sniper before the sniper spotted him. "There's no-one there now. They'll try again later." The voice interrupted Amorphous Lad's concentration, and he snapped his eyes back. Turning around, he found a well dressed man standing beside him, gently tapping a sword on his shoulder. "Who're you? What do you know about this?" The man extended his left hand towards Amorphous Lad. "My name is Thad Ritchards. I've been keeping an eye on you." He gestured towards the street with the sword. "This is your past come back to haunt you." Amorphous Lad slowly shook Thad's hand. "But, what did I do?" "I'll explain, but we have to get away from here first." Thad strolled out of the alley, looked about, then motioned for Amorphous Lad to follow. "The way's clear. They'll be back, but later." Amorphous Lad walked out. "Where're we going?" "To the heart of the problem. Which is currently in Housto.net." "And how are we going to get there?" Amorphous Lad asked. "In that." Thad pointed to a sparkling red Ferrari. _-~-_ The car left Net.ropolis and roared out onto the state highway. In the drivers seat was Thad Ritchards, resplendent in a formal business suit, which contrasted with the sword that lay beside the seat. In the passenger side, his hair blown back by the wind force, Amorphous Lad sat thinking about this turn of events. He finally decided that being in a story was a bad thing. Whereas most of them were warm and fuzzy, or at least funny, this one was taking a turn for the acraphobic. Amorphous Lad's outfit was not his normal one. He had changed his LNH costume in for light informal wear: slacks, comfortable shoes, a light shirt. It made him feel different. In fact, it finally made him feel as if he had left the LNH. "Do you have a name?" Thad inquired, disrailing Amorphous Lad's train of thought. "Huh?" "You aren't really Amorphous Lad anymore. Do you have a real name?" That was true. Now that he had left the LNH, he didn't feel like a hero. That was why he had left anyway, because he wasn't a hero. Time to return to a few basics. "Rick," Rick said. "Rick Mansfield." "Okay, Rick. Have you seen serious action before?" "What do you mean? I've been in the LNH. How disastrous can things get?" Thad was looking in the rear view mirror. "I don't mean deadly like laser pistols and world dominating crackpots. I mean, have you been under a deadly hail of bullets? Watched as a bomb ticked off beside your captive body? Been in a car when it was hit by missiles fired from helicopters behind it?" Rick twisted his neck around. To his surprise, there were helicopters following them. Heavy armed too. And it said something that he could make out weapons at this distance. It said: "We're here to kill you and we don't care who knows it." "Why?" Thad flicked his gaze from the road to the mirror and back to the road again. "I told you. It was something you did in your past. Really pissed some people off. And now they're here to collect." Thad stood up, grabbing the sword. "Take over," he ordered. Rick barely had time to extend his limbs to take the controls before Thad leapt into the back seat. "Let the helicopters get closer," Thad yelled over the wind. "I'll take care of them, you get away from here." Rick slid over into the drivers seat. "How will you catch up?" "Doesn't matter," Rick heard. "Just don't die!" Rick barely had time to wonder about why Thad cared so much, before he heard "Hard left!" Rick swung to the left, nearly smashing into the barrier that run down the middle of the highway. To the right of the car, something streaked by, before hitting a truck in front and exploding. Rick gripped the wheel tightly as he fought to keep the car from ploughing into the burning mess, trying hard not to think about the death he just caused. "Slack off the speed," Thad ordered. "Let them catch up." "They'll hit us," Rick called back. "Then keep moving!" Slowly Rick let the car's speed drop, and watched fearfully as the 'copters grew in the mirror. He saw sparks fly off the highway tarmac, then heard the whine of the bullets that missed. "They're aiming for the tires!" Thad called. "Keep swerving." Rick swung from left to right, and back again. In the back, Thad held on grimly with one hand, the other keeping a tight grip on the sword, as he watched the 'copters get within jumping range. Rick felt the car rock slightly as weight left it, and looked back to see the back seat empty. He quickly scanned behind him until he saw Thad hanging off one of the 'copter's legs, sword waving madly. The bullets now bit into the leather behind him, and Rick concentrated on accelerating away from the danger. He ducked around cars, just trying to get away. He heard an explosion behind him, and looked in the mirror to see a column of smoke rising behind him. Rick could now only see one helicopter, which didn't look like it was coming for him. Rick shook his head wearily, and put his attention on the road. _-~-_ Rick rose and stretched as only Amorphous Lad could. He had spent the night in a motel, and was now ready to continue his trip. He left his room, and headed for the car, and stopped as he saw it in the morning light. The seats were ripped from bullets. The paint work had blistered from where he had passed the exploded truck... Yes, there was also that. What had he done that had incurred such retaliation? Rick had to admit that so far, he only had Thad's word that he had done anything, but events supported the excuse. Even so, there must be a better way than this. To mindlessly kill people just to get one man? A horn interrupted his revie, and he turned to see Thad waving to him from the front seat of an old brown Dodge. Rick waved back, and went to the Ferrari to retrieve his gear. He was about to open the boot when a hand clamped down on his arm. Rick looked to see Thad holding him back, slowly shaking his head. "That would not be wise," Thad commented. "Why's that?" Thad pulled Rick away from the car, then picked up a large rock. He threw it at the Ferrari, and it bounced off the boot, shaking the car slightly. Rick was knocked backwards as the Ferrari was engulfed by a fireball. He heard Thad saying something, but his voice was blocked by the ringing in his ears. Rick shook his head, and the sound faded. "I said, I told you to watch out. These people are trying anything to kill you." "Then why didn't they kill me in my sleep," Rick asked. Thad shrugged. "How should I know? I'm not the one trying to kill you." Rick thought that something sounded odd in that line, but Thad had already returned to the Dodge. Rick walked to the motel office, and paid for the room. He also had to pay for the car to be taken care of. When Rick sat in the car, the sword by Thad's side caught his eye. As Thad drove out of the motel, and out of the city, he picked it up and studied it. Rick admired the workmanship that went into it, but somehow felt uneasy holding it. He almost heard someone whispering to him, but it was below audible levels. "What's the deal with the sword?" Rick asked. "That's Dirmawr. A demon, who is currently locked in the blade. I wouldn't suggest you allow yourself to be cut by him. I've been a bit too lenient on who I let Dirmawr possess recently. He seems to have a fondness for mages though." Thad's eyes fickered to the sword for a moment, as if distracted by something. Rick fancied he could hear something screaming, but if he could, it was at the edge of hearing. "Details, details," said Thad irrelevantly. "Where'd you get it from?" "Lets just say that it misfit the person who last had it. I had a better use for it, and took it." "Any particular reason why?" "It does me good to be associated with it." "Huh?" "Style," said Thad. Rick glanced at him, and saw a smile twitching at his lips. "You know," said Rick, "you should team up with the Legion of Occult Heroes. You're weird enough for the three of them." Thad's lips twitched. "_Three_?" he commented, more to himself. "That hasn't happened yet. Must remember to look in on them sometime. Can't risk damaging the timeline." Rick looked at Thad strangely, but Thad gave no explanation. Rick put the sword down carefully, and turned his attention to more important matters. "So, tell me what I did to cause all this." "It was a while ago. You left the LNH on extended leave. During that time, you came across a warehouse of goods and destroyed it for pure pleasure. Those goods were used by one Frank Bennington, and put a major crimp in his organisation when they were destroyed." "I don't remember that," said Rick, thinking back. Then more memories came back to him. "That was when I was taken over by the Master of the Net, then forced to assume a position as an evil Pliable Lad." [Back in the Dark Pliable Lad Saga, during Pliable Lad #19-23 - Jamas.] Thad nodded. "That's right. This is before then, when the Master was gaining control over you. He practiced by taking out Bennington's commodities, but used your form. Bennington found out who was responsible, who, according to eye-witnesses, was you. Bennington had to build up his power base, but he's finally able to extract revenge." "But, it wasn't me," protested Rick. "I didn't do it!" "I don't quite think you'll be able to sit down over a cup of tea and discuss it," Thad said. Rick's mind whirled. How could this happen to him? Unfortunately, he couldn't remember what happened over the time when he was controlled, and had only found out afterwards that he had been controlled, so was unable to deny Thad's explanation. Still, it did give some reasons to what was going on. "What's your role in this?" Rick finally asked. "Why did you decide to take up the position of the Good Samaratian?" "I just want to make sure that Bennington is dealt with before he can kill those responsible, to whit, you. On the other hand, if you quite fancy the idea of dying for something you never did-" Thad screeched the car to a halt. "Get out now." A car horn sounded behind them, startling Rick. Geez, this guy was a manic. But, unfortunately, he was right. "Okay, drive on already." _-~-_ It was the end of the day. There had been a dangerous moment when a Mac Truck tried to squash them between a hill and itself, but Thad's skillful driving kept them safe. Now, they were only one day away from Housto.net. Thad pulled into a motel, and parked the car. He went to book a room while Rick hung around, looking for suspicious people. A minute later, Thad came back out with the key to unit 6. He opened the door to the unit, and jumped backwards to avoid the spray of bullets that erupted from within. He hit the ground, and rolled out of the way, as bullets traced his path. "Get Dirmawr," Thad yelled, his voice sounding slurred to Rick. Rick found himself seeing everything in slow-motion, and watched his hand, pulling at the car door, and it not opening. "Get it now!" Rick turned to see Thad crouched below the window of the unit, glass crashing down around him. Turning back, Rick formed his hand into a hammer, and smashed the car window. Reaching out, he grabbed Dirmawr, and, with sword now in hand, turned to see what Thad was doing. Thad had his hands above his head, protecting it from the glass shards. "Get in there! Use Dirmawr!" "I wont kill!" Rick shouted back. "You wont. Just nick the person inside, then let them touch Dirmawr!" Rick faced the door, and saw the stream of bullets heading, swinging towards him. He hardened his chest, but still winced as the bullets bounced off. He walked forward, feeling the air like glue, making his way to, and then through, the doorway. Inside, he faced a man, his eyes squinting as he attempted to aim the automatic in his hand at Rick. Rick reached out with Dirmawr, and extended his arm, growing enough length to allow him to swipe at the man's leg. Red blossomed on the blade, but it soon disappeared. Rick flowed his hand across the sword, and was soon holding it by the tip. "Here," he said, handing the sword, hilt first, to the man. In a defensive gesture, the man reached out to bat the sword away, and grasped the handle. The man stiffened immediately, the machine gun silencing, then dropped to the floor. Rick gasped in shock at the reaction, and heard Thad enter behind him. "I don't care," he was saying for some reason. "You've get better fare later. Put up with it." "What happened to him?" asked Rick. "His soul just wasn't in it." _-~-_ Rick woke up cautiously. These past few days had lent a paranoid air to his life, and it was getting rather annoying. Fortunately, they would arrive in Housto.net today, so he would finally stop running and start fighting back. After breakfast, Rick and Thad let the motel room, and prepared to leave. Rick looked at the car carefully. "Y'know," he commented. "I'm surprised the car's still in one piece." Thad paused. "You're right. Stay here." Keeping Dirmawr raised, Thad circled around the car, inspecting it. He stopped in front of the boot. Using Dirmawr as a crowbar, he prised it open. Looking inside, an expression of disgust crossed his face, and he let the boot close. He stomped off in the direction of the motel office. Puzzled, Rick walked to the boot, and opened it. Inside was the body of a man he had never seen. Rick let the lid fall, and looked up to see Thad coming out of the office. "What does this mean?" asked Rick, gesturing to the boot. "It means someone is trying to frame you. Bennington." Thad started towards the street. "I've organised another car for us, but we have to walk." On the way to the car lot, Rick saw police cars scream past them, heading for the motel. "They're after us?" "They soon will be." "Couldn't we talk to them?" Thad stopped walking and looked at Rick incredulously. "Haven't you learnt anything yet? Bennington is not just gonna let you say 'Hey, you got the wrong guy.' He wants you out of the way. He tried killing you, but that didn't work. He's now trying something more lawful, but I doubt he'll keep it up. If you want to help him put you away, fine. Walk back to the motel, but keep away from me." Thad stomped off without looking back. Rick extended an arm and wrapped it around Thad's arm, stopping him. "Hey, I do appreciate your help, it's just... it's just that this is all rather sudden," Rick said. "So I've got some crime lord outraged at me. Fine, I should be expecting things like that. But never has anyone tried to blow me up, or straight out and out shoot me. Sure, I've been possessed and tied up and whatnot, but things like this don't happen to me. And now, you say I've got the police after me as well. How am I supposed to cope?" Thad took a breath, then turned to face Rick. "You can cope by trusting me and doing what I say." Rick looked at Thad carefully. "Okay. I trust you." Thad turned away too quickly for Rick to see the expression on his face. "Good. Then you can start by picking up your pace a little." _-~-_ Housto.net. A small stone's throw from Cape Ca.net.tral, where the non-meta humans try to develop a space program. Housto.net. Home to Frank Bennington, crime lord. A small fish in Am.rec.a, a large fish in Housto.net. Housto.net. A city which now contained a certain blue car, the passengers being an ex-LNHer, and a man of unspecified (but definite) origins. The driver drove through the outskirts and into the centre of town, heading for a specific area. He slowed as the goal was neared, a large building resembling more a warehouse than anything else. The car stopped and two men got out, one carrying a vicious looking sword. "So. What's the game plan?" Rick asked. "I thought we'd stroll up and knock on the front door," replied Thad, walking towards the front gate. "You WHAT?" Rick ran to catch up. "After what we've been through, is that even slightly wise?" "We're on his ground now. He'll think he's safe. Don't worry. He wont be dealing with us that quickly." Thad turned to the surveillance camera covering the gate, and waved. _-~-_ "Hey, boss! Look at this!" The heavy set man attracted Frank Bennington's attention, and Bennington walked over to see what was so fascinating. He let the fax he had been brooding over fall to the ground. It read: "The End has begun. Be prepared." Bennington wore an immaculately tailored outfit, that had cost hundreds to create. He wore it with a sense of pride that only the truly richly dressed could have. However, he wore it on a body that had long since given up attempts to be fit and trim, and had started bugling in unattractive places. Fortunately, Bennington paid his employees enough so they didn't stand around making sartorial comments. Not that they would know a blouson from a cravat, anyway. Bennington peered down at a monitor screen, and saw two figures in the middle of it. His face paled as recognition set in. "It's.. it's him." Bennington waved a shaky finger at one of the men. "Alert all sectors. He's back. That freakin' manic is back." Thick shields fell into place around the main room, and guns were deployed to all in the building. Only then did Bennington feel safe enough to actually open the door. _-~-_ Rick leaned with his back against the gate. "So, when do we get captured?" "You're rather cynical about this, aren't you?" Thad was examining the gate, and the compound beyond it, looking for any signs of activity. "Cynical? You're the one that told me I had murderers on my tail. You're the one who finds dead bodies in cars. You're the one-" Thad waved him into silence. "They're coming." Rick turned to see guards crossing the compound, heading straight towards them. They were large, and so were their guns. One of them activated a control that opened the gate. The others trained the guns on Thad and himself. "Follow me," said one of them gruffly. "Certainly," replied Thad, strangely cheerful. "Just lead the way." "First, I want you to hand over that sword." The guard pointed to Dirmawr. Rick expected Thad to run the man through, just to show that he could, but Thad handed over Dirmawr peacefully enough. The guard then lead the way towards the main entrance, and soon Rick was walking through long metal corridors that made up the buildings of Bennington's base. He gazed around as he walked, but all was sterile and barren. No clues as to its purpose anywhere. The lead guard stopped outside a large door. "Through here," he said, motioning with his gun. The door was opened, and as Rick passed through, he noticed how worryingly thick and airtight it looked. Inside was a bare room, with the only exit being the one they came through. There were a few chairs, uncomfortable things, scattered around. Thad pointed, and Rick looked up to see a camera in the top corner of the room. Thad waved. "We're here," he called. "Are you?" _-~-_ Bennington studied the two figures on the screen in front of him. One he had recognised immediately. The other, he had no idea. He waited for them to sit down before opening a communication channel. "One of you I am already acquainted with, but who else is this? Introduce yourself." One of the jumped up immediately. "I am Thad Ritchards, and as you already know, this is Amorphous Lad, aka Rick Mansfield. I just thought that we should carry the fight to you. After all, did you not want to see us?" "I want death, that's what I want. A simple contract sufficed to initiate events, but it seems that I shall have to do it myself." Amorphous Lad stood up. "Hang on here. You can't blame me for what happened back at the warehouse. I was possessed at the time. I'm not responsible." "That?" said Bennington. "Oh, I'm over that wee incident. But, I've got a nice power base back again, and I'm not going to let anyone tear it down again. Certainly not someone who destroyed it before." "But I'm not responsible," he heard Amorphous Lad plead. "You're going to die anyway." Such a shame in many ways. His adversary had certainly been effective, but now it was time to take him out permanently. Bennington pulled a switch, and watched as the two captives realised that air was being sucked out of the compartment. Soon, decompression. Messy, but effective. The group of guards that had collected to prisoners entered, and Bennington turned to watch as the lead guard approached him carrying the sword. Bennington frowned as he saw a distracted air on the guard's face. Confound the man. This was important, not something to dawdle over. "Come along, get on with it." The guard realised that he was being addressed and snapped himself to attention. "Sir," he said, extending the sword toward Bennington, then he stopped, confused. "What is it?" "Can you... _hear_ anything, sir?" asked the guard slowly. "No." "Not like, someone shouting in your ear from a long way away?" "What is wrong with you? If you're feeling a bit delicate, perhaps you should go home to mommy." Bennington saw the other guards grin at this, and frowned at them until they stopped. "Sorry, sir. Must be imagining things." The guard extended the sword again, and Bennington snatched it impatiently. "Get out of my sight," ordered Bennington, and the guard retreated hastily, taking his patrol with him. Sighing at the world in general, Bennington turned back to see how the captives were faring. By now, they should be reaching the eye-bulging stage. "Shit!" The room was empty. Just chairs. Bennington hit an alarm. Sirens echoed through the building. "Get a squad over there now." He watched the room carefully, waiting for the team to arrive. He reversed the air system. No sense in killing his own men. The picture wavered slightly near the top, which showed a wall, but it settled down as Bennington watched. Where were they? What was... What? ... Bennington looked around. Someone was trying to talk to him. No one was near him. Bennington shook his head, and turned his attention back to the room. 0 The door was already half-open. Guards entered, guns covering every inch. The leader looked up at the camera and shook his head. Damn! Bennington opened the full speaker system. "Intruders in the building. Kill on sight." Bennington threw a last despairing look at the screen as the last guard left. The far wall rippled and shrunk, revealing the true wall behind it, and Thad Ritchards. As Bennington watched, Thad threw himself at the guard, and, using the body as a shield, he fired the guard's gun into the group in front of him. _-~-_ Rick drew himself up into his normal form, hardly being able to believe his eyes. Thad had just brutally murdered a group of men. True, these same men were quite happy to see him dead, but it was still a shock. Thad moved out of sight, and by the time Rick exited the room, he was already down the other end of the corridor, and disappearing from sight again. Rick ran to catch up, but on reaching the other end, found no-one in view. He ducked back quickly as a spray of bullets spat towards him, and he saw the sparks of ricochet as the bullets missed him. These guys were serious. It was time he got serious too, but on his terms. Rick didn't like guns, and so he was had to use his own brand of weapons. Rick melted onto the floor, and rippled along, keeping an eye extended for vision. He saw a man with a machine gun, firing wildly down the corridor. Obviously, this was the man shooting at him. Rick flowed across the floor, and, before the man could react, flowed up the man's legs and rapidly stretched himself. There was a wet snap, and a cry of pain as the man fell unconscious on being split in two. One down, many to go. _-~-_ Bennington walked paced in panic, tapping the sword against his leg. The place was in an uproar, thrown in disarray by _him_. Again. Things were out of hand, and it was time to get out. He turned towards the back exit to discover Thad in the doorway. "Uh uh," said Thad. "You aren't going to get away that easily. Besides," Thad motioned to someone behind Bennington. "I think he wants a word." Bennington went for the quick draw on his gun, but Thad reacted faster. "Dirmawr, attack," Bennington heard before felling something bite into his leg. He looked down to see a gash in his leg. He glanced at the sword, and felt it twist in his hand. It leapt up and cut at his other hand, forcing him to drop the gun. Bennington managed to drop the sword before it do anything else to him. "Now. Behind you," ordered Thad. Bennington slowly turned around to see a ragged and bloodied Amorphous Lad. Amorphous Lad reached out, reached out with impossibly long arms, and grabbed Bennington by his lapels, and dragged him in close. "You blame me for something I had no control over," breathed Rick heavily. "And you try to kill me. You failed. You failed big, mister." "I.. I.." said Bennington, rather ineffectually. "Save it for round 3." The last thing Bennington saw was a too large fist slamming into his face. _-~-_ Rick regained his normal breathing, and dropped Bennington, then leaned against a wall. "He'll get out," Thad said, indicating Bennington as he walked over to reclaim Dirmawr. "Undoubtedly. He'll go after me again. I'll be waiting for him." "Come on," Thad slapped Rick on the shoulder. "We'll alert the police, and they'll take care of this." "Aren't they still after us?" Rick asked. "The man in the car was his. They'll find that out, so we'll be cleared. Come on. You with me?" "Yeah. I'm with you." "You bet you are." _-~-_ Outside Thad paused beside a garbage dumpster. He held Dirmawr up. "I don't think I'll be needing you anymore," he said, addressing the sword. "Why not?" asked Rick. "You can handle yourself all right," Thad said to Rick. "And I'm sure I can find some use for those powers." "What do you mean by that?" "I mean I can help you find work. You want to do good, don't you?" "Yeah," said Rick. "I suppose." "Well, then. There's an LNH member I think you should know about, but first." Thad pushed the dumpster's lid open, and threw Dirmawr in. Thad and Rick continued walking, but Thad paused as he seemed to listen to something. He looked back at the dumpster. "Yeah I am," he said, to one Rick could see. "More than you could know." The Phantom Walker guided Amorphous Lad away, leading him all the way. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Credits: -------- Phantom Walker belongs to me. Amorphous Lad, according to the Roster, was created by wReam, but was also developed by Mike Escutia. I'm now reserving him. Dirmawr belongs to Mistlock, and she can get him back. :) Bennington and co. were created by me.Back to the Index.