[WARNING/REMINDER: This is an ACRAPHOBE Imprint. It ain't warmfuzzies.]

Blue Light Productions presents

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|#11 |  | | | |   | |\    |     |   |        (An ACROPHOBE Imprint)
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~~~~~~  ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~      FEATURING: Rick Mansfield
       [On the left of the cover is an incredibly young girl, her 
        face torn in panic. On the right, is a very old woman, her 
                     face contorted in fright.]
        "All irregularities will be handled by the forces 
        controlling each dimension. Transuranic heavy elements 
        may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights 
        are available: Gold, Mercury, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium,
        Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been 

Part 3:
Rick Mansfield looked in horror from the aged body of Skeal to the
prepubescent form that was Starfire. 
        "Help us," asked Starfire again. 
        "H.. how?" Rick stammered. He knew that, although he possessed
fairly formidable powers, shape-changing wouldn't help here. 
        "Get us out of this building, away from that thing." 
        Stepping carefully, Rick heaved up the body of Skeal, and found
him surprisingly weighty. Entwining his arms around Skeal, Rick backed out
the door, turning his head around to see his way. Starfire slowly followed
        When Rick turned towards the lift, Starfire grabbed him. "No, not
that way." 
        "What? You want me to take Skeal down by the stairs?" Rick asked
incredulously. He frowned at Starfire's nod. One idea occurred to him, but
he was hesitant to use it, but could see no other choice. 
        From his waist, Rick spread himself out, becoming like a large
table. He left his arms out and his head sticking as a kind of prow.  With
a bit of tricky maneuvering, Rick managed to get Skeal on top of him. 
        Wrapping his arms around Skeal to stop him sliding off, Rick
walked down the stairs, a table on legs. He only hoped the manager
wouldn't see him. 
        Rick could feel his breath starting to go as they reached the
ground floor. Starfire motioned them on quickly as they crossed the lobby
floor. Fortunately, there was no one about at the moment to see Rick in
such an unusual predicament. 
        Outside, Rick stopped and started to reform. 
        "What are you doing?" asked Starfire. 
        "We're outside now," said Rick. "You should be safe enough." 
        Rick saw Starfire shiver. "Not here. Further away." 
        "The bottom of the hill? I'm supposed to go there anyway." 
        At Starfire's nod, Rick set off, making his lungs slightly larger. 
        Down at the bus stop, Rick helped Skeal sit down. The distance
must have helped, because Skeal looked around, seeking someone. 
        "Starfire?" Rick winced at the voice. It was almost a croak. 
        "I'm here, Skeal," said Starfire, taking Skeal's hand. 
        "It beat us, Starfire." 
        "I know." 
        "It beat _me_." 
        "Rest, Skeal." 
        "Can you take time back, Starfire? Take it back before it did this
to us?" 
        "No. I.. It took away..." 
        "Oh, Starfire.." 
        Rick caught the look Skeal gave Starfire, and wondered how deep
Starfire's loss was. 
        "Any ideas, Skeal?" 
        "Rest. Just.. rest..." Skeal's voice fell away as Rick saw him
fall asleep. 
        Starfire withdrew it a distance, and Rick followed her. 
        "What happened?" he asked, noting that she continued to look at
Skeal, not him. 
        "It beat us," she said simply. 
        "What did? How?" 
        "It was waiting for us, trapped us on the eleventh floor. And then
it hit us. Accelerated Skeal and receded me. And then us go." 
        "The eleventh floor?" asked Rick. "I thought you were looking for
the twelfth?" 
        "You have to go to the eleventh before you can get to the
twelfth." Rick felt slightly foolish in the face of this obvious point. 
        "Is there anything you can do now?" he asked. 
        Rick saw loss etched plainly on Starfire's face. "No," she
whispered. "Nothing." 
In the hotel, on the sixth floor, the lift doors opened, and a bulky
trolley rolled out, followed by a maid. The lift doors closed behind her,
taking another maid with a similar trolley up to the seventh. They had
been instructed to clean the floors. This happened every so often.  Even
though the floors weren't used, that was no reason to let them get dusty. 
        The maid, Mabel Pugh, pushed the trolley along, reaching in her
pocket for the key to the first room. She liked this job, although some
parts of it spooked her. Although Mr. Rendshaw disapproved of even talking
about such a thing, Mabel had heard her share of the rumours about the
hotel being haunted. And had her own first hand experiences. 
        Mostly they were feelings, feelings of being watched, feelings of
time going by. She often berated herself for letting fanciful ideas
getting away with her, but late at night, when there was no-one else
around to enable her to fool herself, then the doubts crept in. Those
nights usually passed slowly, too slowly. Last night had been worse than
the rest, though. 
        As she reached forwards to put the key in the lock, a shiver ran
down her spine, almost making her convulse with its intensity. Mabel spun
around quickly, her heart accelerating, and her eyes darting around. If
she had seen someone, it was likely that she would have died of fright. 
        As it was, there was no-one there. "Gladys," Mabel called out, the
name of the maid supposedly working above. "Gladys, is that you?" 
        Mabel hoped it was just Gladys looking for her. In fact, she could
do with a bit of company right now, even if was a silly girl.  (Although
Mabel was 40, and Gladys 35, Mabel though of anyone younger than her as
girl or boy. And Gladys's habit of uncontrollable gossiping didn't mature
her in Mabel's eyes.)
        However, Gladys, if she was there, didn't answer. 
        Mabel shook herself. Just letting the quiet get to her. The fourth
floor, which she had done before this one, was as silent as this one.
Still, that was only two floors from decent habitation. 
        Mabel took a deep breath, then returned to the door. Put the key
in the lock, and tur-
        The wind came upon her suddenly, billowing her clothes around her,
blowing her hair in to her eyes, and knocking bottles and cloths from the
trolley. Mabel heard them hitting the floor despite the whistling of the
wind in her hair. 
        Mabel scrabbled against the door, letting out little whimpers. 
Her mind whirled with the storm around her. What was happening? How could
there be a tornado in the hall? Did someone leave a window open? 
        And yet, as the wind buffeted and pushed at he, Mabel felt changes
coming over her. Strength came to her limbs, and she could see wrinkles in
her hands fading and her skin tone became stronger. 
        Mabel felt her whole body straighten, and stood up, a new force
against the wind. She looked down at herself. Wow, she hadn't looked this
good for years. Even with the wind trying to knock her over, Mabel danced
along the hall, feeling a new thrill enter her, a thrill she had last felt
when she was twenty, the thrill of being young and loving it. 
        A tiny spark of reason flared in her consciousness. What was going
on? What was happening to her? 
        She danced along the hallway, and came to the stairs. She tripped
lightly down the first few stairs, but noticed something that sent a flare
of panic through her. She was getting smaller! 
        Within moments, her body was that of a twelve year old, and yet
she was still going, still getting younger with each passing moment. 
        "Gladys!" Mabel screamed, but was unable to say anything more. 
Her body was too young. Four, three, two... 
"Gladys!" Gladys heard, just coming out of her first room, and gave a gasp
of surprise. That was Mabel! Gladys had also heard the rumours about the
building, and had invented a few plausible ones herself.  Still, that only
made things worse. 
        She stood frozen in panic, her imagination working overtime. Was
this it? Had a ghost finally come out, and was killing everyone? 
        She took a few steps away from the direction of the stairs, unsure
what was happening, when she was knocked over by a blast of wind.  Gladys
lay on the floor, her hands over her face, sure that whatever it was had
come for her. But, when nothing worse than the wind shook her body, Gladys
finally opened her eyes. She pushed her hair out of the way, and stood up,
using the wall beside her to support herself. She didn't know what was
going on, but she was quite sure it wasn't caused by any window being left
        She ran for the stairs, wanting to get off the floor as soon as
possible, and not trusting the lift to arrive in time. As she ran, she
stumbled, and collapsed on the floor, barely able to put her arms up in
time to stop herself. 
        Raising herself up seemed to take all her energy, and Gladys
looked in horror as she saw her hands wrinkled and spots growing on them.
She managed to stagger to her feet, and started moaning as she saw how
much her hands were shaking. 
        Unsteadily, she made her way to the stairs, but collapsed on the
first step. She was unable to move and she saw her hands grow older and
older, the bones outlined by thin, almost transparent skin. 
        Before she knew anything else, Gladys aged past death. 
Rick sat in the bus shelter, fidgeting. Skeal was asleep, pretty much
since they got here, and Starfire was concentrating all her time on him. 
If there was ever a time he really wanted help, it was now. This sort of
thing was totally beyond him. Unfortunately, he had alienated himself from
the LNH, and he didn't think they'd be too willing to let him back without
some comment. 
        Still, perhaps there was just a chance. Maybe Occultism Kid would
be willing to come anyway. Or maybe Kid Kirby. Rick never really got to
understand Kid Kirby, but the Kirbian seemed just distant enough to come
without considering Rick's past actions. 
        Rick stood up. "I'm going back to the hotel, just to make sure
nothing else has happened to anyone." 
        "All right," said Starfire, without looking up. "Just as long as
you don't call for help." Rick reacted guiltily, but Starfire didn't see
it, or comment if she did. "We will be able to handle this. We just need
time to think." 
        "Er, yeah," said Rick, wanting to get away. "I'll be back." 
        Walking hurriedly, Rick left the shelter behind, and started up
the hill. Halfway up, he remembered that he went there to meet someone,
and perhaps he should have asked Starfire to look out for him, but decided
that he couldn't face them again without some better idea about what to
do. Their helplessness made him feel helpless. 
        And yet, there should be something he'd be able to do. Couldn't he
just fly up to the ninth floor? Just become a star and explode his way in?
Just become aged like Skeal and lie impotent on the floor? 
        'Self-defeating' was the word that came immediately into Rick's
mind, and he gave a wry smile. 
        Rick entered the hotel and found George Rendshaw pacing the floor.
"Mr. Rendshaw," Rick said. "What is it?" 
        "Ah, Mr.Mansfield. No need for you to worry," said Mr. Rendshaw,
his eyes betraying the his mouth's platitudes. "Just a little management
difficulty. It'll soon be worked out." 
        Rick could spot the lie easily enough, but didn't know what to do
about it. There was no way he could help without more information, and
Rick wasn't going to force it out of him. 
        "Right, then. Just going up to my room. Maybe make a few phone
calls," Rick said, heading for the lift. 
        "Ah, not that way, please," said Mr. Rendshaw, coming after Rick
quickly. "I'm afraid the lift is currently out of action. Part of the
problem. We are dealing with it, but if you wouldn't mind taking the
stairs up to your room?" 
        Ah ha, now this was more interesting. "What's the problem?" Rick
        "As I said, we have matters in hand," said Mr. Rendshaw, and Rick
saw that he wouldn't be able to push the matter. "But, ah, tell me, Mr.
Mansfield. Those two friends of yours. Have you seen them recently?" 
        "Er, why?" asked Rick carefully. 
        "No real reason," replied Mr. Rendshaw. "If you do see them, tell
them I'd like a word with them." 
        Rick could imagine Skeal's response. "Do you really think they'd
come?" he asked, a smile hinting at his lips. 
        Mr. Rendshaw shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not," he admitted. "Still,
it'd be nice to know the answers." 
        "It'd be nice to know some of the questions," muttered Rick to
himself as he left for the stairs. 
        Upon reaching his floor, Rick turned down the corridor to his
room, but didn't start walking. He felt a strange sensation come over him,
like his skin was crawling. 
        On a whim, he held his hand up before his eyes. He shivered as he
watched the flesh move by itself. Rick shut his eyes quickly, and cleared
his mind, calming himself. Opening his eyes again, he looked at his hand,
the skin inert as much as it always was. Sometimes being a shape-shifter
let morbid thoughts slip into reality. 
        But, it looked as if making calls would have to wait. He wasn't
totally positive if he would have actually made any calls, but at least
now, he could put off that moment. There was something strange going on. 
The lift was just a symptom. Rick ran up the next flight or two, coming to
rest on the fourth floor. Now his skin really did feel like it was living
a life of its own. Rick wanted to scratch himself, but tried to resist.
This wasn't a normal itch. 
        Fifth floor. Was he fooling himself, or could he hear wind blowing
violently above him? He looked up the staircase carefully.  Everything
looked all right. Better than normal, in fact. Everything was spotlessly
clean, the carpet never looked better, no holes, and the wood was a rich
quality that it hadn't had for years. 
        Rick extended his hand up stairwell. He could feel the wind
passing over it, and odd sensations coming from it. He withdrew his hand
quickly, and inspected it. It looked healthy enough. He compared it with
his other hand. Looked even healthier than that. Odd. Very odd.  Still,
the best way to investigate this would be to go up there, but Rick wanted
to try another way than the lift. 
        A thought entered his head that perhaps he should get Starfire, or
at least tell her, but he wanted to prove that he could do something
        Moving through the fifth floor, Rick came to the lift shaft, and
forced the doors open. Looking up the shaft, he converted one hand into a
torch, and shone it upwards. The lift was there, two floors up. Rick
played his beam over it. There was something odd. The lift had holes in
it, but not from normal damage. It looked like it had been corroded for
fifty years, but that was impossible, wasn't it? 
        Letting his hand fall back to his original shape, Rick decided on
a plan of action. He had to get up there, but wasn't sure that it would be
too healthy for him up there. The only way to go was speedily. 
        Rick wrapped a hand around each of the two lift cables, changing
them to wheels that would run up the cables and pull him up as fast as he
could go. He jumped into the shaft and accelerated up. 
        The force of the sixth floor hit him in an instant, forcing his
hands back to the shapes they hand been before. Rick managed to grab the
cables, nearing burning his hands in the process and gritted his teeth
against other changes, but it was already too late. 
        The aged cables attached to the lift gave way under the sudden
weight, and they, and Rick, plummeted seven floors straight downwards. 
Part 4: 
Rick could have changed into a bird, but it was more than likely that the
downward force would break his wings. That thought didn't appeal to Rick,
so he went for the next best option. 
        He changed into a large beach ball, and bounced, quite hard, off
the bottom of the lift shaft. 
        He floated up and squeezed through the lift doors on the ground
floor. Luckily, no-one saw him do that. Peeking out, Rick saw that Mr. 
Rendshaw was still pacing in the foyer. Not really happy with what he was
about to do, Rick took a deep breath, then changed into a sparrow, and
flittered out of the lobby, attracting attention as he went. To play it
safe, Rick flew away from the hotel in the opposite direction to the bus
station, then circled back once he was sure he was out of sight. 
        Changing back into human form, Rick stepped out from behind the
bus shelter. Rick gave a sharp intake of breath when he saw Skeal's
condition. It seemed to have deteriorated even over the short time he had
been away. 
        Starfire obviously saw his worried look. "He'll live for a while
yet," she said, quietly. "We're not that easy to kill off. Why did you
come back?" 
        Rick suddenly remembered why he had left. To call the LNH for
help. Looks like he wasn't going to do that after all. 
        "Whatever it is that's in there, it's done something else." 
        Starfire quickly turned to Rick, shocking him with her intensity.
"What is it?" 
        "On.. on the sixth floor. Something.. some kind of," Rick had no
idea how to explain it. "It's like time's flowing oddly, changing things
at a pace totally different to normal." 
        "Which way? Forwards or backwards?" 
        "Umm, backwards?" he ventured. 
        "That takes a lot of power." 
        "That's not all," Rick said. "Above it, on the seventh floor, the
reverse is happening. From what I saw of the lift, it was incredibly
        "Ah," said Starfire, nodding. "Balance. Take time from one area
and return it in another." 
        "Yeah, maybe," agreed Rick hesitantly, "but what do we do about
        "What would you suggest we do?" Starfire asked. 
        "Couldn't you, umm, reverse everything, or something?" 
        "How? Remember, I don't have any of my powers anymore." 
        Rick winced, hearing the pain in her voice. 
        "But, there is something that we might be able to do. Is the time
field dangerous?" 
        "It could be," Rick said, uncertainly. 
        "Well, you'll just have to survive it." 
        "What? Me? Isn't this more your area?"" 
        "Yes," said Starfire. "But we aren't exactly at our best, so you
will have to help us." 
        With this argument in front of him, there wasn't much Rick could
do other than agree. "Okay," he sighed. "What do we do first?" 
        "Skeal should be feeling a bit better now he's had time to rest
away from the hotel, but he'll still need your help getting back up the
        Rick smiled. "I think I know how to arrange that. Just don't tell
Mr. Rendshaw how you got there." He turned away, but then clicked his
fingers as he remembered something. "By the way, Mr. Rendshaw wanted to
talk to you when he saw you next." 
        Starfire nodded, but said nothing. 
        Rick walked out onto the road, and stretched. He had apparently
done this before, but couldn't remember it, as he couldn't remember
anything of the time he had been taken over by the Master of the Net. 
With some feelings of discomfort, Rick grew into a slick, almost bestial,
black car. 
        Starfire gently woke Skeal up, and helped him walk over, and get
into, the car. Once they were safely inside, Rick accelerated away, and
rapidly covered the distance up the hill to the front door of the hotel. 
Mr. Rendshaw came out as Starfire clambered out of the car. Rick didn't
stay around to hear what she said, as once Skeal left, he took off so he
could change back to normal without Mr. Rendshaw seeing. But, when he got
back, he found Starfire and Skeal waiting for him, and no Mr.  Rendshaw.
Whatever Starfire said, must have been good enough. 
        Taking Skeal's other arm, Rick helped Starfire guide him inside. 
"We'll have to go up the stairs," said Rick, "since the li-" 
        Rick was cut off by a devastating crash coming from the lift
shaft. Mr. Rendshaw immediately appeared from his office, running for the
shaft. Rick left Skeal, after making sure Starfire had him, and followed. 
        He found Mr. Rendshaw outside the lift doors, unable to do
anything. Rick quickly moved past him, and slid his hands between the
doors, forcing them open, making sure his body was in the way so Mr. 
Rendshaw couldn't see exactly how Rick managed to do that. 
          At the bottom of the shaft, where Rick had not too long ago
fallen himself, lay the remains of what Rick could only guess was the
lift. Hardly much of it was identifiable, only the supporting struts, made
of much tougher steel than the rest of the lift, but even that only needed
a delicate touch to disintegrate it. Most of it had disappeared on the
final impact. 
        "What the-?" breathed Mr. Rendshaw. 
        "I think it would be best if you left now. Get the other guests
and the rest of your staff and leave." 
        "I can't," replied Mr. Rendshaw. "Mr. Kinsley, and Mrs. Aspire can
barely move out of their rooms, and I'm missing two maids." 
        A bell of panic set off in Rick's mind. "Where were they working?" 
        "They went up and dusted off all the rooms in the unused levels. 
I still like them to be clean. I do have a reputation to maintain," Mr. 
Rendshaw said proudly. 
        "I think you sent them to their deaths," said Rick quietly, then
turned away from Mr. Rendshaw's broken expression. 
        "Well, stay down here, anyway," said Rick, trying to cover the
oncoming silence. "Don't let anyone above the second floor." 
        Rick left hurriedly, not daring to look behind. 
        Rick caught up with Starfire at the bottom of the stairs. 
        "You're going to have to get us up," she said. 
        "Okay," he said. "I'm ready." 
        Rick stood on the first stair, and concentrated. From his ankles,
little boards flared and grew, soon becoming little platforms on which
Skeal could stand. Starfire helped Skeal onto the platforms, and Rick
wrapped his arms back and around him. Thus prepared, they set off up the
        Starfire lagged a few steps behind, waiting to catch Skeal if
anything happened, and so Skeal was able to whisper to Rick without being
        Rick heard Skeal's dusty voice in his ear, saying "Whatever
happens, get Starfire clear. If something happens to me, someone else will
come to help, but make sure she's still around to be helped." 
        "Others?" asked Rick. "Why haven't they come now?" 
        "We are extremely busy, and we are expected to be able to cope on
our own. Others only come when their special abilities are needed. We
don't tread on each others patch lightly." 
        Rick thought that they could do with some heavy treading, but kept
the thought to himself. 
        Soon enough, they gained the edge of the sixth floor. 
        "Yes," said Starfire, shivering slightly. "Yes, you are right. 
Time is flowing strangely here." 
        "What now?" asked Rick. 
        "How fast can you move?" asked Starfire. 
        "Wait," gasped Skeal. "Do you really think this will work? What if
there's more than you think?" 
        Rick didn't understand that, but the question wasn't for him. 
        "It would take a lot more than what's here to outdo us, Skeal," 
Starfire said, "but we have to try either way." 
        Skeal said nothing more, so Starfire turned back to Rick. "How
fast can you move?" she asked again. 
        "In here?" Rick eyed the stairs thoughtfully. "If I change my legs
into part rocket pack, fast enough." 
        "In that case, take Skeal and myself up, drop Skeal off on the
sixth floor, and me on the seventh, then, quickly, get up to the eighth
        "What?" said Rick, as the plan sunk into his head. "But, that's
        "It's the only way. Now, get on with it," Starfire ordered. 
        Swallowing the sudden lump in his throat, Rick stared uncertainly
at the alien pair, then did as she said. His bottom half turned into a
firey inferno that supported him, and gave him force to work with. 
        Starfire hung unto his back, and Rick picked up Skeal in his arms.
Moving before he could think twice about it, Rick ascended, trying to
think about only what he was doing right now, not the consequences of it. 
        Forces tore at him as soon as he passed the halfway point between
the stairs. He could feel the wind tearing at him, trying to make his form
revert to what it had been before. 
        "Concentrate," Starfire whispered in his ear. "Keep your mind on
the job at hand. Don't let yourself be distracted by the outside. Keep
yourself inviolate." 
        On the sixth floor, Rick gently, as slowly as he dared while still
speeding. Turning away carefully, he rocketed up to the seventh, and
Starfire dropped away. 
        "Go," she cried. 
        Rick did, although he nearly toppled over under the sudden weight
of years pressing down on him. He had no idea how either of them would
        On the eighth, Rick could finally stop and catch his breath,
realising that he had being holding it all that time. He glanced down the
stairwell, but took rapid steps back when a primal scream wrenched his
        Gods, what was happening to them? he thought. 
        Another scream prompted Rick to take a step towards the stairs, to
see if there was anything he could do. Then he thought about what he had
gone through to get up here. Maybe that wasn't a good idea. 
        Well, maybe there was something else he could do in the meantime.
He was just one floor below where the entrance to the eleventh floor was. 
        Knowing that he was putting himself in extreme danger, but not
really caring, as he could get away from the screams, Rick climbed to the
next floor. Cautiously, he made his way to room 911, and pushed the door
        Rick entered, but couldn't see anything that looked like a doorway
to another floor. As another scream reached his ears, Rick shuddered and
closed the door. 
        He turned around slowly, scanning the walls carefully for any sign
of an extra-temporal portal, although Rick had to confess to himself that
he had absolutely no idea what such a thing looked like. 
        His clothes suddenly pressed against him, and Rick turned around
to face a powerful blast to his face. Using his hands to shield him, Rick
peered out to see a doorway being ripped into the fabric of the wall
opposite him. It was like a light tearing away part of the wall, outlining
that area the door would occupy. 
        Rick had to shut his eyes to protect them from the abrupt increase
in luminescence. When the outlined doorway filled with dazzling
brilliance, the light seemingly passed through his hands and eyelids to
pierce his eyes. 
        When the pain decreased, Rick blinked his eyes open, and found
himself gaping at a new door. A door to the eleventh floor. 
        Hesitantly, Rick stepped closer, and put his hand out to touch the
door, verifying its reality. The wood was firm under his hand, not
distorting in any weird spatial-temporal manner. 
        Rick let his hand drop to the handle, turning it slowly, and
gently pulled the door open. Behind it was a flight of stairs, innocent in
its simplicity. 
        In a sense of awe and wonder, Rick passed through the doorway and,
almost reverently, climbed the stairs. 
        Behind him, the door closed all by itself, then vanished without
any fuss. 
Skeal stared down the main stairway from the eighth floor. "That was a
very dangerous risk," he said, his voice sounding deceptively calm, back
to its normal tones now that Skeal's body was now back to its proper age. 
        "It had to be done. Besides, I knew I could trust you." 
        Skeal looked at Starfire, taking in her black dress and long brown
hair. "You know I don't like you doing that." 
        Starfire smiled, highlighting her blonde hair and blue outfit.  "I
just wanted to treat myself." 
        "You obviously aren't as hampered as you made out." 
        "Now that that's over with, I can tell now that I'm being blocked,
not negated. I can affect myself, but that's about it." 
        Skeal's stern expression didn't change. "And now we're trapped." 
        "But," Starfire pointed out, "we're back to ourselves." 
        "You wouldn't be if I hadn't rescued you. You're very lucky I
wasn't affected." 
        Starfire's attention was now somewhere else, casting their recent
dilemma into the past. "Where's Rick gone?" 
        A cross look flashed over Skeal. "He's around here?" 
        "He was supposed to wait for us here, after he deposited us." 
        "Did you really think he would wait? You know how impulsive they
        "Where do you think he's gone?" 
        "There's only one place of interest around here." Skeal looked up,
his gaze almost seeing through the floor boards. "Quickly." 
        As if he hadn't just spent over twelve hours as an old, Skeal
jumped up the stairs, passing over two at a time. Starfire followed close
on his heals. 
        Skeal's foot met the door into room 911 before the rest of his
body, throwing it into the room beyond. 
        The silence was in stark contrast to the nervous tension of the
two agents. Apart from the shattered door over the floor, there wasn't
anything out of place. 
        With a less impressive display, the door to the eleventh floor
        Skeal moved towards it, but Starfire stayed him with a hand on his
arm. "Wait," she said. "There's something wrong." 
        The door opened, creaking all the while. Beyond it stood Rick, at
least, his body stood there. If Rick was in there anymore, it didn't show.
Rick's eyes were firey, filled with something not normally found in any
human world. 
        In a voice not his own, a statement issued from Rick's mouth:  "We
meet again, time elementals." 
Notes and stuff:
        The characters in this story are all mine. Still. Any relation to
real events or people should be taken as sign of a nervous breakdown. 
        Well, it looks like this will be six parts overall. I suspect that
I started doing this story too early. Next month I'll be getting all the
_Sapphire and Steel_ videos, and will be really thinking in that mode. Hey
ho, I'll just have to do another story featuring them :)
        A sort of meta-point now, the reason I put "This ain't warm
fuzzies" in the title is because people keep reading my stories and saying
"That wasn't very funny." _World Tales_ is Acraphobe. It's not supposed to
be funny. It's supposed to be serious. That is the point of Acraphobe,
isn't it? 
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