______ _ _ _ ____ _ ____ _____ ___ _ _____ _____ | | | | / \ | | | | | | |___| | |____ \___ |BLiP| | _ | | | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | | |--- | | | ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ |#13 | | | | | | |\ | | | (An ACRAPHOBE Imprint) | | |/ \| \ / | \ | | | ~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~ FEATURING: The Queen Bee [At the bottom of the cover is the Queen Bee, trying to hold off an avalanche of skeletons that is overwhelming her. But among the skeletons is Coppermane.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Continuity note: This takes place during _Dvandom Force #77-79_. - Footnote Girl] "Inside the minds of madmen and bees." "Where is Adam?" the Queen demanded into her intercom. "I'm afraid she can't be found, ma'am." The Queen thumped her fist onto the desk, then cursed herself. She was getting too angry these days. Ever since he had disappeared. Damn him! The Queen stood, driven to needing to do something, or go crazy while no-one told her anything. She walked out of her office. The secretary squeaked when she emerged, and she quickly popped out of her desk to keep up with her queen. The Queen Bee stomped through her tower, drawing respectful, and frightful, glances from workers around her as they scampered to the sides of the corridors to get out of her way. She strode into Susan Adam's office, and went directly to her desk, where she pulled out drawers and searched through papers. As she suspected, the Queen found reports she hadn't received. Who the hell did Adam think she was? "May I help you, my Queen?" asked a voice, but the Queen didn't bother to look up. "Sit down, Adam," she snarled. The Queen gathered all the various reports up, then sat at Adam's desk, and carefully read them all, ignoring Adam all the time. She finally looked up, directly at Adam, straight into her eyes. "Why?" "Why what, my Queen?" Adam asked calmly. "Why the hell did you not launder those companies properly?!" "It was an automatic process. Some times things slip through the cracks." The Queen narrowed her eyes coldly. She had suspected that her company she had built up for the past 80 years was beginning to tumble and this was the first sign. Before now, they would never have had cracks for things to slip through. "Coppermane is back. And this is exactly the sort of thing he wants." Now Adam did show a reaction, and widened her eyes in surprise. "Back? How?" "I'm not sure. There's something going on here, new net.heroes springing up, and new anti-hero groups, going on about ordered societies and rubbish. Coppermane's body has been enhanced, and I'm sure that's a part of it. My resources are not what they once were when I can't find out the factor behind it all." "He must be operating through some other agency-" The Queen rolled her eyes. "Of course he is. A cyborg would not a good public relations man make. Have you at least tracked those companies that have made these allegations?" "Of course. They were all independents." The Queen sat back, looking at Adam with something approaching sorrow in her eyes. "What happened to you, Adam? Why have so become so...inept?" Adam looked affronted. "My Queen? I always serve you to the best of my ability. I always act in your best interests." "I'm not sure you know what my best interests are, any more. Leave me, Susan." A confused expression on her face, Susan Adam rose and left, giving one last backwards glance which the Queen met with a masked expression. Once she had gone, the Queen lifted the phone. "Derrik." She waited a moment until the connection was made. "I have a job for you," she said, her eyes still on the door Adam had left through. "Extreme prejudice." _-~-_ One hour later, she was ready to leave. The Queen scratched at her wrist, her fingers rubbing a new scar, as she entered the lobby of Queen Towers. The receptionist ran up to her. "I'm sorry, ma'am. You can't go this way." "Why?" she asked in a dangerous voice. "The entrance is underwater. Sin.ci.net.ty is flooded." The entrance? That high? But that would also take out...she swallowed her annoyance. She'll just have to buy more fruit and vegetables. "Tell my helicopter that I want to leave by the time I get to the roof." "Yes, ma'am." _-~-_ Coppermane stood overlooking Sig.ago. But he wasn't on Scenes Tower. Not yet, anyway. But the city was still spread below him. And it would be his again. "Boss! Hey, boss!" Coppermane turned slightly to see Vinnie Goth running up to him. "Boss, have you heard?" "Heard what?" Coppermane asked, burying the urge to bury the oaf. "The Queen Bee isURK." Vinnie looked down at the hand holding his up by his shirt. "Do not say that name," Coppermane hissed. "She.. she's coming here, boss," Vinnie wheezed. "Here? Sig.ago?" Vinnie nodded vigourously. "So, she has been drawn in. Giving me a perfect opportunity." Absently, he dropped Vinnie, who rapidly loosened his collar. "What about them, boss?" Vinnie asked. "Them?" "Nano-boys." Darkheart and Steelwind. They wouldn't approve of any actions of his this early. Well, they would just have to deal with it. "Don't concern yourself with them, Vinnie. Just keep listening to me." Vinnie nodded earnestly, knowing what was best. _-~-_ The receptionist looked up from her book when the lady walked in. She paused her gum-chewing for a moment, surprised that anyone looking like that would come in here. "Who is in charge here?" the lady asked. "If you want to see the manager, you have to make an appointment," the receptionist whispered, awed by the power this lady exuded. "Me? I own this place. Do not dictate to me." "Own?" repeated the receptionist blankly. "Do you know who I am?" the lady said, leaning closer. The receptionist shook her head. The lady sighed. Reaching into her purse, she drew out identification and showed it. The receptionist's eyes widened. "The Queen Bee?" The Queen nodded. "Now. The manager." The receptionist nodded quickly. "He's one floor up. I'll just get him for you." The receptionist got out of her chair, and headed for the lift. "Actually, I'm glad you're here," she said confidentially. "We've been getting all these strange death threats if we continue to work for you. And you hear what happened to that futures place?" The Queen nodded, her fingers running over her wrist. All employees jailed. The place had been a front for money laundering. More inadequacies in the Queen's business practices that had gone on too long. "And now we've got people threatening to expose us," the receptionist babbled as she pushed the button for the lift. "I mean, we aren't doing anything illegal, but they've been some very bad threats." The lift doors opened, and the receptionist stepped forward, still talking to the Queen. The Queen saw that the lift wasn't there, but couldn't say anything in time, and the receptionist fell. The Queen made it to the doors in time to hear the sickening thud. No expression passed over her face as she stared downwards. _-~-_ In her hotel room, the Queen lay on her bed, mind wandering. Had she really gone so far that a single death no longer mattered to her? If so, could thousands, millions of deaths come to mean just as little? Although Coppermane had been the trigger, there was no way any of this could be blamed on him. He just wanted his businesses back. Businesses that she had taken automatically, in her daily routine of running the world while it was busy. She was tempted to damn everything to hell and just hand those same businesses back to him. They were far more trouble than they were worth. But the damn principle of the thing counted in the business world, and her giving in would be a sign of weakness. The fishes were already starting to swarm, and the sharks were smelling the promise of blood. As she inspected her feelings, the Queen found that she didn't care in the slightest about any of this. It was suddenly wearisome, a weight she no longer wanted. She had entered the business world because she could, and it was something women didn't do back then. She had made her business one of the most powerful -- hah, THE most powerful in the world, but now the world had moved on, and she was getting fed up, ready to let the concept of supply and demand take a running jump. But again, she couldn't give in so easily. She owed it to the people she employed to fight for their existence. The Queen Bee expressed surprise. The people she employed. She didn't know any of them, they didn't matter enough. And yet...and yet she felt a responsibility towards them. Like a captain to her crew. Like a queen towards her subjects. She smiled at that. The Queen Bee. She had styled herself for that image, the center of a busy hive, with workers to protect her and males to provide luxury. But now that she had earned it, she had to keep paying for it. And this was one part of that. And yet...her mind kept turning to that death in the elevator. The Queen felt herself falling down that same shaft. She almost wished it was her. Falling...falling...falling...and only peace and contentment waiting at the bottom. Peace...contentment...no need for any more decisions.... It tugged at her mind deceptively, pulling her in with its siren call of peace and happiness.... The Queen Bee didn't even realise that she fell asleep. _-~-_ Coppermane overlooked the insertion of the last piece. He heard Vinnie come up behind him, and spoke without turning around. "You know the place?" "Yeah, boss. Jurgen Hotel. That real fancy place." "Very well. Make sure no-one comes here. I have to fetch our guest." _-~-_ The Queen looked up from her position behind the counter. She heard the bell ring, but didn't see anyone. She frowned, then shrugged, dismissing whoever it was that had changed their mind. She got back to work checking over the recent inventory when she froze. At the very edge of sound, half-way between this world and the next, there was a ragged breathing. She looked up sharply, but still couldn't see anyone. She stepped around the counter and through the low aisles formed by the tables that the fruit and vegetables rested on. She turned her head carefully, trying to pin-point the source of the breathing. That's when a thought struck her. She was the Queen Bee. Here, in the Produce Corner. Where she was always Veronica Summers. A discrete cough drew her attention. She resisted the urge to whirl around. Instead, she turned slowly, dignified. But what she saw caused her to nearly jump out of her skin. Before her stood a corpse, a decayed skeleton that still held a few rags and strips of old meat that clung to the bones. Despite the appearance, the Queen recognised it immediately. "Carmille?" The skeleton nodded. The jaw creaked open, and, despite any vocal cords, lungs or larynx, a voice issues forth that was deep, thick, and as rich as she remembered. "I never wanted to leave you. _Queen_." The last word positively dripped with derision. "What? You didn't leave me. You never left me." "I died. And I couldn't be with you anymore. _Queen_." "That wasn't your fault," the Queen said, puzzled by this turn of conversation. "What happened to you, Carmille?" "No. I wasn't my fault. I died. I left. But you never leave, do you? _Queen_." "Carmille, why have you come back? And why aren't you calling me Veronica?" "But you're not Veronica. You're the _Queen_. The _Queen Bee_. The head of everything. The one who is always in charge. The one who never leaves!" Carmille took a step forward, and slapped the Queen with her bony hand. The Queen's hand automatically rose to her stung cheek, but the Queen forced it back down before it got there. She faced Carmille, accepting the mark on her. "I am who I am," the Queen said. "You are dead. Leave." "No rest for the wicked," replied Carmille, before grabbing the Queen's head, and forcefully kissing her. The Queen jerked back in revulsion, her eyes closing to shut out the nauseous sight. When she opened them moments later, her surroundings had changed. Now she was on a black plain, with a black sky overhead. The only thing which gave the place definition were the hundreds of people surrounding her. Carmille stepped back. "Come and meet your adoring fans," she hissed. The Queen slowly turned around, seeing the faces around her, and recognising them all. They were all people who had left her...all people who had died...for her.... The Queen let out a terrible wail of anguish. _-~-_ The window shook once, then disintegrated completely, showering the floor in a fine powder. Coppermane pushed the curtain to one side, and looked upon the slumbering form. Huh. Didn't even bother to undress for bed. As Coppermane stood over her, his hands itched to just reach out and squeeze, his muscles ready for the easy task of breaking her neck. But not yet. He had to extract some other kind of entertainment out of her first. Quickly, though, he ran his scanners over her body, making sure she didn't have any hidden devices, or tricks. The scan revealed nothing, so he was able to proceed. But there were anomalous readings here. Coppermane frowned over the information his sensors fed him. He performed a self-diagnostic, but everything was working normally. And yet...the body of the woman in front of him wasn't reading as human.... Deciding to puzzle over this later, he picked her up gently, so she wasn't woken -- yet -- Coppermane left as quietly as he had arrived. _-~-_ *Slap* "Now, now," said Carmille, to the person who had slapped the Queen. "Take your time, plenty of her to go around." The Queen blinked as the pain faded. She recognised the skeleton in front of her as Albert Duarte, one of the leaders of one of the gangs she had taken over early in her career. One of the many who had loved her. One of the many she had left.... "Out of my way. That bitch is mine." The Queen recognised the voice, but was unable to turn, her body transfixed by whatever forces had brought her here. Still, her heart sunk. "Adam?" Susan Adam stepped into sight. She looked just like how the Queen had last seen her, except her flesh was now red and her lips blue. "You bitch. You had to kill me. You just couldn't let me have one mistake. No, you had to kill me!" She slapped the Queen, hard. The Queen refused to rise. "You were becoming unstable. You were making more than one mistake," she said coldly. "And so you killed me? Did I really offend you that much? That all our years together meant nothing in a momentary decision?" Adam slapped the Queen again. "Hey, get in line," said Carmille. "We've all got grievances with her." Adam looked the skeleton over. "Who the hell are you?" "I worked for her during the war, and after. And we were damn passionate lovers." "If you loved me, why are you doing this to me now?" asked the Queen. Carmille snapped her head around, then her hand. "Because you wouldn't die!" "I couldn't help it!" the Queen finally wailed. "I am who I am! I had no other choice but to leave you!" Carmille gripped the Queen's chin in too bony fingers. "Showing remorse, huh? All those you left behind. All those you used then tossed aside. Did you ever care about any of us." A tear rolled down the Queen's cheek. "I didn't want to," she whispered. "I love you. But I was never given a choice." A new voice entered the scene. "Out of my way. I have more right than any of you." The voice sent a chill down the Queen's spine. This person was the one who had brought everything to a point for her. The woman stepped out. Her whole body was twisted, broken. Her jaw was in two pieces, moving obscenely as she talked. "I died for you. Just another number who served your cause. And just another number who died because you didn't care." "I did care," the Queen said. "I didn't want you to die for me." "And how does that help me?" The woman struck the Queen, and like a signal going off, all those around her struck, blow after blow, on her face, her stomach, kicking her legs, pinching her arms, overwhelming her in pain.... Veronica stepped outside herself. All of her that was human, that felt emotions others understood, that cared for people in a way they could respond to, her memories, good times and bad, what people thought of as her soul, all that remained in the vicious circle, beaten and tortured by those that she had loved and cared for. But what she really was stepped outside that human body. She looked on the scene with different eyes, found herself looking down into ice, and saw the demons that had trapped her. Demons. Beasts. Not her past friends. Although 'friend' was a tricky concept for her like this. She was deep in a pit. The name 'Infer.net' came to mind. She walked, rising with each step, and as she walked, she paused as she saw someone who didn't fit in this surroundings. Frowning, trying to access memories that belonged to someone she wasn't right now, Veronica finally clicked and realised what she was looking at was a superhero. The heroine paused in her task to wave at Veronica, and she returned the wave uncertainly. She didn't know which superhero it was, but it didn't matter at the moment. Still, the mere presence of superheroes told her that this was no ordinary dream. The being best known as Veronica looked over the rest of the landscape once she exited the pit. Above her rose the slopes of Purgatori.org. Turning her back on her human part, Veronica set out for the peak of that mountain, knowing that in the center lay what was really going on here. Veronica walked quickly over the landscape, and started up the mountain. The sins that each level supposedly represented, pride, envy, greed, etc., were all human concepts, and as such meant nothing to her. And so she came to the top of the mountain, where heaven dwelt. For humans. In front of her was a large featureless plain, but when she strode out onto it, it dissolved, leaving her standing on a balcony in front of a man. A fairly normal man at that. There was a look of concentration on his face, and as Veronica moved around, he took no notice of her. As if she wasn't there. Which, she supposed, she wasn't. In a way, she was still in that dream. But that didn't mean she couldn't do anything. She reached out to caress the man's mind, and then destroy it, but stopped. Superheroes. If there were superheroes in there, they would most likely be the ones to deal with this. After a moment of thinking, Veronica remembered Dvandom Force. Of course, Sig.ago. Should have realised that earlier. That must mean that Lynk was the one she had seen. Still, she could still do something. In her non-corporeal state, Veronica drifted through Scenes Tower, and saw thugs nearby, ready to leap to their employer's aid. Veronica smiled to herself. Here was something she could deal with. She returned to the man responsible for her dream, and reached into his mind, diverting some of his tentacles of power. Being so close to the thugs helped, as she didn't think she'd be able to put them into dreams straight from wakefulness otherwise. In moments, the guards were sleeping, caught up in dreams of their guilt, and dreams of superheroes running rampant. Veronica frowned at the latter. More attempts to discredit heroes. While that didn't concern her overtly, it would affect her plans later. Well, that was something she would have to work around when it happened. A noise distracted her.... ...and suddenly she was back in her body again. The dream had ended, throwing her into the real world, wrenching both parts of her beings together. Then she found that the nightmare wasn't over. _-~-_ "Welcome. Welcome to your nightmare," the figure of Coppermane boomed before her. Veronica slowly stood up, brushing off her clothes, and looked around her, reflexively rubbing her wrist again. What she saw was herself. Reflections of reflections of reflections. Mirrors galore. And, in every image, Coppermane stood behind her, gloating. "You have caused me much distress, my Queen," he said sardonically. "You took my businesses when I was down. And you wont let me take them back. That offends me. That really does." "Van Runt. *Little Man*," said the Queen. "That is who you are, isn't it?" "It's what I was," said Coppermane. "But now I am so much more." "A cyborg. A construct. A less than man," she sneered. Coppermane refused to be goaded. "Try more than human. Far more than anything you'll ever hope to be." The Queen wasn't being goaded either. "Human? Me? What a funny idea." "I don't think you'll stay so amused. Later. My Queen." Coppermane bowed, then vanished. The Queen turned around, sighing. She was still feeling the effects of the dream, guilt washing over her, and didn't want to play games at the moment. Taking a few steps forward, she reached out, encountering glass straight away. She glowered at nothing, feeling anger taking over her guilt. First her mind was invaded, and now she was kidnapped by some egotistical, trumped up little.... With more than a little irritation, the Queen realised she was drumming her fingers on the glass. She smacked her fist against the mirror, but it only shook. Coppermane's laughter echoed with the vibrations. She took a step back, knocking against another mirror. Determinedly, she struck out in another direction, this time clear. She turned around carefully, but couldn't see anything other than her own self. Taking a deep breath, she announced, "Van Runt. You want your businesses back? Take them. Take them all. I don't want them anymore. I never did." "What are you talking about?" Was that just a hint of uncertainly she heard? "You took my businesses from me! You took everything I had!" "Hah! You think I wanted them? What possible use could I have? I already own most of the planet-" she was interrupted for a moment by Coppermane's snort "so why would I bother with you? It was an automatic process. Those businesses became available, and Queen Enterprises took them. Do you really have such an over-inflated opinion of yourself?" "I don't know what you hope to gain by your lies, but even if you were telling the truth, this is too much fun. You took over my life before, like it is worth nothing, by what you say. Well, now I'm doing the same to you." "You would throw away a chance to get your life back, just because of revenge?" "I will get my life back. My own way. But this way, I get yours as well." "IDIOT!" the Queen screamed, only to be met by Coppermane's laughter again. "Show yourself! You want to defeat me, show yourself!" The Queen scratched her wrist again while she waited. "Very well. You shall look upon the true face of your master." The Queen struggled to not snicker at that. And then Coppermane was standing before her. Over her. She didn't show any sign of being impressed. "That will not fool anyone. Switch that thing off before it rusts." With a click, the holographic image of Coppermane disappeared, and then he really was standing in front of her. "You have good eyes," he admitted. "I see a lot," she said. She looked over him carefully. "And so you have sacrificed your humanity for power. I've seen that before. It never works. Entropy always wins." "Do not spare any pity for me," Coppermane snarled. "You'll need it all for yourself." Coppermane reached out to touch her, and the Queen put her arm up, and snapped her hand off. The skin parted around the surgery mark, revealing the implanted scan-protective sheath of the mini-cannon. A small *pfft* heralded the object that struck Coppermane. Coppermane grabbed the object. "What is this? You think you can harm me?" He made to throw the thing away, but was unable to open his hand. Then unable to move his arm. Then his whole body. The Queen watched, amused as Coppermane froze, then was unable to move. "No, it wont kill you. I don't need another death to be used against me. It's an electronic inhibiter. A special of my company. You think I would come here without some kind of precaution?" said the Queen, stepping around him, holding her broken wrist. "I offered you a chance. You didn't take it. Your mistake. Yes, I pity you, _Cornelius_. You are just like me in so many ways," she continued, surprised at her own realisation of that fact. "We both grew up so long ago, building our businesses up. You're like a small scale version of me. What you did in Sig.Ago, I did to the entire world. I did have an advantage over you. You were human. I was never that hindered. But now you are so much less. A little tinker toy, vulnerable to whims of technology." She indicated the inhibiter still in his hand. "It's a shame. You could have been so much better, but you were just a product of your environment. I picked my environment to play in. I could have licked the cream of society from the first, but that wasn't fun. Are you still having fun, Cornelius? You still want your businesses back? We'll see. "Goodbye... Cornelius." The Queen smiled sadly, kissed Coppermane of his cold cheek, then vanished, leaving Coppermane to suffer her plans that he had just finalised. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Credits: -------- The Queen Bee and her demons were mine. Dante and Coppermane are Dvandom's. Notes: That's it? What kind of ending is that? It's not an ending. It's just another episode in an ongoing saga. Keep your eyes on _Dvandom Force_ and _The Alt.Riders_ and maybe even _World Tales_ for more.Back to the Index.