Annual? Well, maybe not, but nevertheless...! [Continuity note - Takes place before the Death Duck arc in _Dvandom Force_ and before the end of the Crows arc in _Misfits_.] Blue Light Productions presents: ______ _ _ _ ____ _ ____ _____ ___ _ _____ _____ | | | | / \ | | | | | | |___| | |____ \___ |BLiP| | _ | | | | | | | | | | | | | \ |Annu| | | | | | |--- | | | ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ |al | | | | | | |\ | | | ANNUAL | #2 | |/ \| \ / | \ | | | ~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~~~ FEATURING: Faq Boy -------------------------------------------------------------------------- [The cover is a face off! Faq Boy vs. Kid Pocky! A star at the bottom proclaims "Dvandom Force, the Alt.Riders, the Misfits, oh my!"] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "It's an Answer, Jim, but not as we know it." "Hello." "Who's there?" Kid Pocky twisted in a dark void, trying to see who was talking to him. "And this is what you've made of yourself?" Kid Pocky still turned around, more from inertia that anything else, but didn't reply. He did know one or two things about being contacted by disembodied beings when he was supposed to be sleeping. "Tell me, have you ever heard of Faq Boy?" Kid Pocky frowned. The name did seem a little familiar, but with the LNH Flying Moose Kid wouldn't have been out of place. "No, I don't," he replied carefully. "Oh well. Not that it matters. I know he's there. Tell me...you ever dance with the dev-" "Yes, I know that's an impressive sounding phrase," Kid Pocky interrupted. "But it's probably better if you don't finish it." "Never mind." Although there was no body, Kid Pocky got the impression of a shrug. "Drama isn't demanded when your demise is a decided destiny." Kid Pocky got as far as "Wha?", not even having time to look around for aLLiterative Lass, before the darkness swallowed him up. _-~-_ The sound of a phone ringing broke into Allen's sleep. He drowsily raised his head and stared over the body next to him to see the clock showing 3:23 on the front. He reluctantly drew his hand from where it rested on Paytan and grabbed the phone before it could wake her. "Hello?" he said sleepily. "Hello, Faq Boy. Remember me?" Although no one could see him, Allen's face paled. "What are you doing here?" "I thought I'd look up an old friend. Maybe even go the whole way with fava beans and a nice chianti." "You're sick." "You didn't think so before. We got on so well." "We all feared you. There's a difference." "Perhaps we could strike that old relationship up again." "You don't rule here." "But I will. And there's someone special I'll be dealing with before I take you. Someone very special to you indeed." Allen's reaction was instant. "LEAVE HER ALONE!" Beside him, Paytan jerked awake, startled by the shout. "What?" A green glow surrounded her hand before she had even opened her eyes. There was a pause from the other end of the line. "I see I have some catching up to do. I was in fact speaking of your other self, but it sounds like there is someone even better. Dimensional twins? ...Of course. She would be here too, wouldn't she?" "You come anywhere near her, and I will kill you myself." "We'll see. Later, Faq Boy." The voice filled the name with a derisive sneer. "Who is it?" Paytan asked, turning to Allen. But Allen could only shake in response. In anger. And in fear. _-~-_ Kat stretched as she entered the kitchen in the morning, before realising that Kid Pocky was already in there. Realising her dressing gown wasn't that all-covering, she immediately dropped her arms and pulled the robe tighter. But Kid Pocky didn't even notice. "What you got there?" Kat asked as she opened the fridge for a morning drink of juice. Kid Pocky was looking through some sheaves of paper. "Just something to control you all," was his response. Kat froze. That wasn't good. Damn, why'd she have to be out of her suit? "But," Kid Pocky continued, "yours seems to be a bit lacking. Your description, for example." Kat turned around to face him. "What are you talking about?" she asked slowly, trying to move carefully towards the door. Kid Pocky, or whatever it was in a body exactly like his, held up a piece of paper. "'APPEARANCE: Kat'...then a break and it just says 'her vehicle'," he read. "Not very complete." Kat sidled closer to the door. And to the alarm there. "I'm sure it doesn't really matter," she said, trying to be consoling. "No, it doesn't," Kid Pocky agreed. "Although I have added a line. Listen. 'Unfortunately, she spent so long in her robot form that, being so unused to her human body, she suffers from neural overload and her body shuts down. Like when anyone says the word 'human'.'" He read. But Kat wasn't listening anymore. Her body locked up, and she was unable to move. And she was so close to the alarm! The last thing she saw was Kid Pocky's hand covering her face. "Come, my dear. Join this vicious cabaret." _-~-_ It was a different phone that rang this time. It took a while to get a response, a hand reaching out from under the covers to pick up the receiver. "Er...hello?" "Barry? Is that you?" Barry recognised the voice of his dimensional twin, but there was an undertone to it he didn't get. "Allen? What's up?" "He's back." "Who?" "You've got to help me. We faced him before, and we've got to get him again before he gets Paytan. I won't lose her again." "Huh? What are you talking about?" "Get the rest of the Alt.Riders. The more the merrier." There was a pause. "Hey...where you guys been for the last year or so, anyway?" "...what?" "It's mid-1999 now. What happened to you?" That got Barry's attention more than anything else. "What are you on about? It's just turned 1998." "Er...I think you'd better get up." _-~-_ Lynk and the VAXX were relaxing watching early morning cartoons when Kid Pocky entered the room. "Ah, Lynk and the VAXX," was his opening line. Lynk looked over at him. "Hi, Al. What's up?" "'ALTER EGO: Anna Tanner. ALIASES: Rotanna.'" Lynk narrow her eyes suspiciously. "What are you talking about?" "Powers of the Gauntlet of GIF? Sounds very useful." "Just who are you?" Lynk asked, standing. The VAXX looked over at him as well. "He nice man." Lynk shot the VAXX a surprised look. "I don't think he's our man." Kid Pocky waved a hand dismissively. "Don't worry about him. He's loyal to me now." Concentrating, Lynk formed her sword of gif in her hand. "I don't know what your intentions are, but I will stop you." Kid Pocky clicked his fingers, and Lynk froze in position. "'An unfortunately side-effect of being a Dream Queen is the tendency to go in and out of deep sleep at the click of a finger,'" the VAXX quoted, bouncing up and down. "That's right." Kid Pocky grinned at the new 'Partner of Kid Pocky'. "Shall we roll on?" _-~-_ "Limbo? What do you mean we've been in Limbo?" "Just that. For the past year, we haven't existed." "And this doesn't bother you at all?" Barry yelled at Rick. Rick shrugged. "Happened to me a lot." "You're happy with this?" Barry asked, turning to Dva, who sat on the other side of the Waffle Palace table where the Alt.Riders had met for an early breakfast, at Allen's insistence. Dva just shrugged. "Well, I for one-" Allen slammed his fist onto the table. "We don't have time for this. We've got to get after him." "And just how do you propose that?" Agent asked, leaning towards Allen. "I...I don't know." _-~-_ "Are you ready?" Shane Boxer asked. Squidman held up his specially prepared Squidrang. "Ready." Macroman braced himself against the wall, ready to push off. Not that he really needed it, but it was the done thing. "Ready." "Go!" Macroman raced away into the large grounds the Dvandom Force headquarters resided it. Squidman paused, then threw. The Squidrang flew through the air, twisting on the air currents, tracking Macroman through the fast turns he took. While Macroman could outrace the Squidrang, it continued to follow him, and it also began to learn from his movements. Macroman turned left, then zipped to the right, but the Squidrang was already there, and it bounced off Macroman's fast moving body. "If that was armed, you'd be gone," Squidman called out. Macroman was at his side by the time he had finished the sentence. "Squidman wins," Shane declared. Before Macroman could mount a defense they heard Kid Pocky. "Uh, Squidman? Macroman? Could I talk to you for a moment?" Macroman and Squidman looked at each other and shrugged. "Okay," they chorused. Shane was left alone while they moved away, and he inspected the Squidrang that Squidman had just used. He was admiring the stream sleek lines when he suddenly heard Squidman shout "No!". He looked up to see Macroman racing out, and then freeze as he heard Kid Pocky's voice shout "Stop!" Shane thumped his chest, and his body coated in metal. Kid Pocky came out into view. "What's going on?" Shane asked. Kid Pocky just pointed his wrist at Shane. "Bazooka Pocky!" Shane was knocked back by several powerful blasts of exploding pocky. Kid Pocky looked at his wrist launchers and shook his head. "Pocky? The man was nuts." Turning to his frozen teammate, he commanded "Macroman, capture Shane Boxer!" Macroman moved forward in the blink of an eye. Shane barely saw his painful expression before Macroman landed several punches on him, knocking him back further. This confused Shane for a moment, Macroman knew that that wouldn't get through to him. It was like Macroman didn't want to capture him. Which, Shane realised an instant later, was true. Kid Pocky was the one to focus on. Regretting his actions, Shane held up an armoured arm and Macroman ran headlong into it, a grateful look passing over his face moments before he passed out. "So much for voice override on the macros," Kid Pocky muttered. "Try this." Above Shane formed a text-graphic version of a 16-ton weight. Shane threw the Squidrang he was holding at Kid Pocky and rolled out of the way. Kid Pocky ducked, but the Squidrang followed, knocking him on the head. Taking his opportunity, Shane took off, leaving his teammates behind, hopefully for a chance to come up with a defense. _-~-_ "I've asked Doctor Stomper to sit in with us," said the Ultimate Ninja, waving the newly arrived doctor to a seat. Allen nodded, but waited impatiently for the meeting to start. To his side Barry sat, still not sure on what was going on. "Now, who exactly is here?" Allen took a deep breath. "His name is the Roster King." Beside him, Barry drew a shocked breath. "He's from my dimension. I have no idea how he got here, but we have got to get rid of him. He has the power to alter roster entries. To *anything*. He could completely rewrite them if he wanted to, but he usually just adds a line or two for whatever he wants. Usually to kill them." [We have continuity! Go read _Fan.Boy #5_ - Footnote Girl.] "Thanks, Petina." "And now he's here." Allen nodded. "He rang me. To gloat. He said he was coming for me. And that he would get Barry first." "Hey, you didn't tell me any of this," Barry complained. "This guy killed us before, remember? What exactly can we do this time?" The Ultimate Ninja ignored Barry's interruption, and turned to Doctor Stomper. "Is this possible?" Doctor Stomper nodded. "Certainly. We've got List Lad, Master Roster Man, Faq Boy," he nodded to Allen at that point, "although that extent of control over the entry is unheard of. List Lad and Master Roster Man can't alter the listings like that. He can alter reality through them?" The last question was directed to Allen but Barry answered. "Yes. He killed Cleanliness Kid while I was there." "He's named the Roster King for a very good reason," continued Allen. "Cross him, and he could anything he liked to you. He ruled over all of us." Doctor Stomper nodded his head thoughtfully. "Do you have any idea how we could defeat him?" Allen shook his head. "No. If you weren't on the roster, he could add you, and then...boom." "Do you even know where he is?" asked the Ultimate Ninja. Allen shook his head again. "So, until we hear something, there's not much we can do." "You will hear about him. And soon." The phone rang. The Ultimate Ninja picked it up. "Yes?...Put him through." There was a long pause, then UN turned to the others. "It's him, isn't it?" Allen said. UN nodded. "I think so." _-~-_ "...and then I rang the LNH," Shane finished. The four in the office had moved to the larger conference room which included a video link up where needed, in this case to the city council rooms of Sig.ago, where Shane Boxer was. "Kid Pocky did this?" the Ultimate Ninja repeated. Shane nodded. "Do you have any ideas?" "This is all new to me," said Allen. "It doesn't sound like the Roster King." "But it does," replied Doctor Stomper, who was at a computer terminal, nodded to himself. "Somehow the Roster King has taken over Kid Pocky's body." "And the rest of the Dvandom Force?" Shane put in incredulously. "Yes. I'm looking at their roster entries now, and they've been changed, mostly to incapacitate them. For instance, Squidman's entry has 'His weapon of choice is, rather stupidly, the 'back-fire'-rang, which entraps the one who throws it.' I suspect that explains the shout of 'No!' you heard." "We can't change it back?" "No, only the Writers have that ability." Everyone stared around warily, as if daring a Writer to pop up at that moment. It passed. "So he controlled the others, but how did he create that weight? He only has power over Pocky." Barry joined Doctor Stomper, and opened Kid Pocky's entry, studying it. Yep, no mention of any powers like that. He opened the associated gif file. "Lynk has some of the Gauntlet of GIF's abilities," Doctor Stomper said, indicating her entry. "He's taken her powers for himself." "Now that I definitely didn't know he could do," said Allen. "Although there's no reason why he couldn't, I suppose." "So why was Shane exempt?" asked the Ultimate Ninja. "He doesn't have a roster entry," replied Barry. Allen frowned. "Then why didn't he create one?" There was silence for a moment before Doctor Stomper said slowly. "That could be his weakness here. Not being from this dimension, he can't add new entries, only alter the ones in existence." "Then here's the plan," said the Ultimate Ninja decisively. "We need more information on him. You," he pointed to Allen, "are going back to that dimension of yours to get it." "I'll need help." "Then take the Net.Elementalist here and the rest of his team." "Gee, thanks," muttered Barry. "And until we come up with some way of getting rid of him, we have a strike team stop him. Who do we have that isn't on the roster?" "I can think of one name," said Barry, looking over the list. "But you are not going to like it," he said, looking over at Allen. "No way. Not her." _-~-_ Paytan folded her arms across her chest. "There's no way you can stop me," she said. "There's no way I'm letting you go!" returned Allen. "It's not your decision," the Ultimate Ninja barked. "There's not many people we have we can put into this, and neither have many of them faced down forces from hell. That's a qualification I can't overlook." "Not exactly something I want to be reminded of," muttered Paytan, "but I'm still going." Allen looked away, disgusted. At her or at himself, he didn't want to know. The Ultimate Ninja looked around the team he currently had assembled. Weirdness Girl, Out-Of-It Lass and Paytan (he had learnt the hard way not to call her Perdition) were the front line force, Master Blaster there for armament, and Doctor Stomper for on-hand analysis. Innovative-Offensive Boy sat in to provide a plan. There was one person left to arrive. "Well, well, well. Long time, no see," a voice spoke. "Although in my case, that last part isn't exactly your fault." A vague presence moved past the UN to sit down. "Fuzzy will be the strike team leader. She has the most experience of those not on the roster, having been in battle before, and having worked with you three," he nodded his head towards the three women, one of whom was brushing a plush fish. He blinked, but moved on. "And what a pleasure it is to finally meet up with you again. Remember me?" Fuzzy asked. Paytan and Savannah looked away a little guiltily at never keeping in touch with their assigned mentor. Brittany just waved in Fuzzy's general direction. "Right," said the Ultimate Ninja. "The Alt.Riders are about ready, and they need you for the final calibration for the dimension transfer." Allen gave the UN a sullen look, but stood. He glanced at Paytan, but she wouldn't meet his eyes. He walked to the doorway and gave her one last look. She did look up, and the look they shared was for them alone. With Allen gone, the Ultimate Ninja moved to one side. "Innovative-Offensive Boy will now give you some plays to use against the Roster King." "All right, you %^&*^%&*, listen up, 'cos you can't ^*&^&*% up once..." _-~-_ "I'm sure she'll be all right," Barry said, patting Allen consolingly on the shoulder. Allen snorted. "And would you not worry about it anyway if you were in my place?" "Keep still," ordered Agent, attaching another wire to Allen. "We have to get this quantum signature resonant frequency thingy right." "Frequency thingy?" put in Morph. Agent shrugged. "If the sci-fi shows could ever agree on a name, we'd be set." Allen sighed. "Can we just get this over with?" Missy studied the readouts a moment longer, then printed something out and gave it to Agent. He glanced at it, then said "Okay, got it. Let's go." Moving up to the co-pilot seat beside Dva, Agent punched the reading into the dimension.thingee computer. He nodded to Dva who started the flight.thingee up, and moved up out of the hanger bay, and pointed them towards space. "Do we have to be off the planet to use this?" asked Morph. "You want to come out of whatever-warp this is and maybe get a building in the face?" "Fair enough," said Morph. "Whatever-warp?" he muttered to himself. Missy helped Allen remove the wires. "What this place like?" "It's been a few years since I was there, but basically it's a rather tyrannical version of this LNH. The LNH rules the world, and the Roster King rules the LNH." "Now engaging dimensional transference," announce Agent. "Starting special effects sequence." The stars out of the front cockpit window spun crazily, leaving trails behind as reality warped around the craft. Colours blurred past, then parts of the spectrum that shouldn't have been seen became visible, tearing at the brain like a bad acid trip that was usually needed to see them. Time and space melted together, and flowed in oddly disturbing patterns, never quite sure if time was moving up, or space was getting younger. Radiance bright as the core of a black hole filled the senses, and washed out all perceptions... "Wow," said Morph when something approaching normalcy took them over again. "Stanley Kubrick, eat your heart out." "It wasn't like that the first time," pointed out Barry. "Let's just be professional, shall we?" said Agent. Dva turned the flight.thingy around, and pointed back towards the city. "It's pretty obvious where we're going," said Allen. In the middle of the sprawling mess of this Net.ropolis was a large castle, bigger than a city block, complete with moat surrounding it. It was also the source of the white blast that disabled all the craft's systems and knocked out all those within. _-~-_ Shane watched the flight.thingee land next to him and the door open. The first person out was literally glowing green. "Where is he?" "Back at headquarters. Probably working out why he's there and not Net.ropolis." "Let's go then," she snarled. "I hope you're not forgetting the plan already," someone, Shane couldn't tell who, said. "Of course not. Brittany, Shane and I distract him while you set up the defense, then we stop him from ever getting anywhere near Allen." The someone sighed. Fuzzy, Shane realised. "Why me?" she muttered. *KACHUNK* Master Blaster walked out carrying something last seen carried by Dot Matrix in the last episode of Season 2 of ReBoot. "I'm definitely not missing out on this," he growled. "Isn't that awfully heavy?" Doctor Stomper asked. Master Blaster shrugged. "The bigger the better." "No, no, no, no, NO! We stick to the plan. Paytan, get back in there. Master Blaster, you're not going anywhere near him. Give that thing to Shane and let's go." Master Blaster grudgingly passed the overpowered rifle to Shane, who, despite having enhanced strength in his metal form, staggered for a moment under the weight. "New plan," said a voice, which Shane recognised immediately. "NO!" he yelled but it was already too late. A blur streaked in, grabbed Master Blaster, then zipped off again. At the same time, the gun Shane held melted away to nothingness. "Hey," Brittany yelled. "You're not supposed to do that!" "Somehow, I don't think that's gonna bother him," Paytan grimaced. "New plan," said Fuzzy. "We run like hell." _-~-_ Allen groaned as consciousness returned. He opened his eyes, and the first thing he saw was...himself. "Hello, Faq Boy," his doppelganger said. "What happened?" Allen asked, not quite with it yet. "Not the most original question, but I'll let it pass," his other self said. "The Roster King said someone would probably come looking for some answers here. I didn't know that it would be you, though." "Aren't you...I...dead?" Allen asked. Faq Boy, for he certainly wasn't Allen, for one thing he hadn't worn his costume for a long time, smiled. It wasn't pretty. "Just one of my...our...many amazing abilities." "Try it now," muttered Allen. "I dare ya." "I think not. But we have plenty of time for conversation. You're not going anywhere." With that, Faq Boy turned and left Allen in what he now saw to be a cell. He recognised it. It was the kind they had in their LNHHQ. At least he was close. Allen got up and moved to the door. There was a small barred window with thick glass. The door itself was steel, and the bolts were sturdy. And the walls were very solid. Not the easiest thing to get out of, he knew. Next door, they weren't coming to the same conclusion. "Yeah, I can get us out. No problems," said Morph, carelessly. "I could too," Dva said, in return. "Probably." Agent examined the door carefully. "Air tight sealing. Morph wins." "Right then," said Morph, standing and rubbing his hands together. "What do you want? Acid? Battering ram? Bazooka?" Agent held up a hand. "No. Not yet. I want to wait a while. If they try anything we can easily get away then, but I want to see what they have planned." "Why don't I like the sound of that?" And further next door, there were introductions happening. "Missy, meet Gumperson Lord," Barry said. "The living incarnation of Gumperson's Law." "What Law?" "'The probability of a given event occurring is inversely proportional to its desirability,'" Barry quoted. The old man looked up to see the newcomers. "Do I know you?" he asked in an irritated voice. "Well, you did once. We met a few years ago, and I've changed a bit since then," Barry replied, looking down ruefully at his black outfit. "You sound like you've changed yourself." "What's he do?" Missy asked. "Not much," Gumperson Lord spat back. "I've been stuck here for years. They treat me like some kind of joke." Missy lent close to Barry. "We're not taking him with us, are we?" Barry shook his head. "I don't think so, no." _-~-_ "We are not just running away!" exclaimed Paytan. "We're not," replied Fuzzy, guiding the craft. "We're performing a strategic withdrawal to regroup our forces." "He's still Kid Pocky," said Savannah. "I had a good look at him." Shane raised an eyebrow, but didn't question her. "What is Kid Pocky defenseless against?" "Wait a minute," Shane interjected. "I don't think Kid Pocky would be happy to get a broken body back!" There was silence as everyone glared at him. "Well, he wont." "But," said Paytan, trying to get back to the point. "We're already down one member, and haven't even touched him." "Fine. Shane, Brittany, you're up. We'll park and prepare the defense...further away this time." "Why is it I'm in the front line again?" Brittany asked. "It's either you or Savannah," Paytan replied. Brittany considered for a few moments, then nodded. Paytan gave Shane and Brittany a push towards the airlock. "You've both got force shields. Turn them up and get going." Shane opened the door and looked out. The landscape below was very far away. "Are you serious?" Brittany asked, staring down the distance, turning the force shield control to maximum. Shane shrugged, doing the same with his shield. "Try falling from a Skysaber sometime." "Just go," Paytan said. And pushed them out. "Iiiieeeeee...." Paytan listened to the scream as it descended...then jumped out after them. Some distance later. A groan rose out of a hole in the ground. From another hole right beside it, Shane pushed himself up. "Are you all right?" he called out. "No," replied Brittany, as she got up. "I think I flattened a daisy." They looked up as they heard a buzz and saw Paytan float to the ground surrounded by a green halo. "Hey, you were supposed to help build the defense!" "Life's a bitch, and so am I!" "I think I heard that somewhere," said Shane. "As long as it works," put in Kid Pocky. "Yeah, I'm with him," said Brittany. There was a pause while they all ran the conversation through their heads. "Are we in trouble all ready?" Brittany asked tentatively. "I don't think we were ever out of it," Paytan came back. They all turned to look at Kid Pocky. "You I know," he said, looking at Paytan. "I think I saw you in bed once." A green blast flew towards him, but Kid Pocky zipped backwards, out of the way. He stood back up and shook it off. "Testy, aren't we?" "I'm not her," Paytan snarled. "But this revenge will be for her as well." "You know, I might just have to cut this short." Kid Pocky...or rather, the Roster King, produced a small but powerful weapon and fired. "Get down!" Shane yelled, pushing Paytan out of the way, and catching the blast himself. Fortunately, his body could take it. "That's not nice!" Brittany yelled. "Binky bless!" She accurately beaned the Roster King with a plush fish. "That is starting to hurt," muttered the Roster King to himself, shaking his head to clear it, and glad of Kid Pocky's helmet. "Right then." Dispersing the gun, the Roster King called forth a larger model, and fired this time at Brittany. Although it knocked her back, it didn't knock her down. The gun exploded in the burst of green fire. "Is that the best you can do?" "Not at all. Pocky blast!" Pocky exploded around the three as the Roster King blanketed the area with high-powered detonating baked goods. When the debris cleared, the Roster King wasn't in view. But they did see a large mounted cannon/blaster with blast shield, big enough to hide several men, pointed in their directed. "As he didn't quite say 'There's always a bigger gun.'" The three were sent flying through the air at the front of the blast force. _-~-_ Agent kept his face as close to the glass as possible, trying to see up the corridor outside. "They're just ignoring us," he decided. "So, can we get out then?" Morph asked. "In a minute. They're taking Allen." Agent watched as two LNHers formed a guard escort for Allen and they moved away up the passage. "Something quiet, I think. A thermic lance?" "Right," said Morph. "Stand back." Morph walked up to the door while Agent and Dva moved to the other end of the cell. Morph held up one arm which extended slightly, thinned, and then grew hot. Very, very hot. He pushed the lance into a door, and it melted easily through the thick steel, burning a path up, over, down, then back over. With a dull crump it fell outwards onto the floor beyond. "Nice work," said Agent, leading the way out. "If you can get it," Dva added. Being careful to not touch the sides of the door, they exited, and Dva moved up, being silent in the way only he could be, and kept an eye out. Agent and Morph knocked on the other cell door. Barry looked up, and grinned. Finally! "Flame on!" he shouted, and his burst flared red. Holding an arm out, he fired a concentrated blast and melted the door from its frame. When he stopped the flame, a very singed Morph and Agent were revealed. "We were trying for subtlety," Morph pointed out. Barry shrugged. "Whatever works." Agent poked his head into the cell. "Who's he?" "Gumperson Lord." "And I can speak for myself," Gumperson Lord said. "You're staying here," Agent ordered. Gumperson Lord snorted. "Not likely." "We don't have time for this." "Fine, you go then," said Gumperson Lord. "While they're chasing you, I'll get away." Agent stared at Gumperson Lord. "That's a very nasty plan." "Fair enough though," said Barry. "As you said, we don't have time for this. Let's go." _-~-_ Meanwhile, Allen was strapped down in a large chair opposite the desk behind which Faq Boy sat. "Is this really necessary?" Allen asked, looking at people who had previously been his friends. Pistol Whip and Sponge Lad just glared at him, finished their business, then left. "I run things now. Me. And I'm not you," Faq Boy said. "No, you're not. I'm counting that as an asset too." "Awfully cocky for someone who's going to spend the rest of their life in captivity." "Just how long do you think you're going to get to run this place when the Roster King returns?" Faq Boy lent closer, conspiratorially. "He's not going to return. One way trip." "I returned." "Yes, but I do have the means of stopping him from ever returning. He swapped over, and I know I destroyed that machine. You seem to forget something that our very existence is based on. Knowledge is power." "And power corrupts. The Roster King is proof of that." Faq Boy shrugged. "I have everything now. I don't care about that." "No. No you don't have everything," Allen said. "Payton." A wince twisted Faq Boy's face, before anger over took it. He leaped over the desk, and smashed Allen across the face. "Never mention her name again," he hissed. "Payton," said Allen deliberately, looking Faq Boy in the eye. Faq Boy just stood there, fist raised, eyes glowing. "Pah," he turned away. "You're not worth it." "I got her back," Allen said, freezing Faq Boy in place. "Well, close enough. That's something you don't have." Faq Boy turned to face Allen slowly, his face an expression of deep thought. "So? I can have anyone else I want." "But not her. And don't try to lie to me. We both know she was the only one who ever mattered." Faq Boy looked out the large window behind his desk which looked out onto the front lawn of the LNHHQ. After a pause, he said "Do you really think that changes anything?" Allen tried to study his other self's face. "One of us has a chance to be with her. You don't really want this. Give one of us a second try." Faq Boy looked into Allen's eyes. "*One* of us?" _-~-_ Paytan winced and groaned as she came around. She shook her head, and opened her eyes. Not to a very pleasing scene. She was obviously tied down somewhere. That didn't worry her too much. She would easily be able to break free. The Roster King was nearby, watching her, and grinning madly. That didn't worry her too much either, she'd soon wipe that smile off his face. What did worry her was that Brittany and Shane were in similarly prone positions as her, but they showed no sign of being awake. Lifting her head slightly, she could see she was tied to a table in the middle of a field. She could see a large building close by, but didn't know it was the headquarters of Dvandom Force. The Roster King came over to her and stared down into her face. "I thought it best we have a little chat. They," he indicated the other two with a dismissive wave of his hand, "won't be joining in for a while." "There isn't much I have to say to you," Paytan spat at him. The Roster King reached out a hand and gently stroked it down her cheek. Paytan jerked away reflexively, but otherwise didn't react. It was best to play for time at the moment. "So much fire. Not much like the one I know. Faq Boy made such an interesting choice with you. Like the horns. Kinky touch." Paytan narrowed her eyes. "What is it with you guys and horns?" The Roster King grinned again. "Primitive symbolism. But as much as I'd like to discuss anthropological meanings with you, I think it best we get on with this. You see, you're going to die. Painfully. To, I admit, basically teach Faq Boy a lesson. I suppose at this point I'm supposed to say that I won't get any pleasure out of this, that I'm doing this for business, but we both know that's not true." The Roster King turned back to something Paytan couldn't see, but Paytan had other plans in mind anyway. It was time to act. Now, what would be the best way to get out of this? Break the ropes? Zap the Roster King? Summon a demon to help? ...why couldn't she think of something? The Roster King was having similar trouble. He should be doing something now, something...something... A noise made him jerk his head around, and he saw others approaching. One overriding thought filled his head. Survival. With another thought he was gone, speeding far away. Paytan stared around muzzily and spotted Fuzzy, Savannah and Doctor Stomper as they arrived. "Sorry about that," Fuzzy said, as Paytan's head slowly cleared. "It's an area effect thing." "Hey, I was about to get him, but you made him run away!" "She saved you," interjected Savannah. "He was going to kill you." As Fuzzy untied the ropes, Paytan sat up, and looked back to see a video recorder. "I wouldn't have bet on it. Don't you trust me? I could've handled him." "Did you find out anything?" Doctor Stomper asked. "Yeah, he's out for Faq Boy, and wants me dead to taunt him. Payton and all that." "All that?" "It's a long story. Come on, we'd better get the others free. I might tell you later." _-~-_ An eyeball on a stalk slowly peered over the edge of the top stair, surveying. Below, Morph told them that the way was clear. "What are we looking for, anyway?" he asked, keeping his one eye out. "Something on the Roster King. We need to look around for something, without being seen." Morph sighed. "Fine. I'll go look. Although...if the Roster King is in our dimension in Kid Pocky...who's here in his body?" "Good question," said Barry. "Quite possibly Kid Pocky, in fact. If they swapped minds, instead of him just pushing Kid Pocky's out, then we could be going very well. "So, what does he look like?" "Well, if you're looking for the Roster King, then think of a thinner Brian Blessed. I think he changed his description to something he liked." "Nice image. Okay, hang tight guys." Morph shrunk rapidly, and formed himself into the body of a fly. Buzzing annoyingly, he zipped away. "Do we have a plan then?" asked Dva. "I think we'll keep it simple," Agent replied. "If Kid Pocky is here, the Net.Elementalist goes and grabs him. In the meantime, we'll get back to the flight.thingee." "Oh. I just 'go grab him'. How?" Agent studied the ceiling. "Doesn't look too flame proof." "Ever heard of subtlety?" Agent shrugged. "I said simple." The fly returned and quickly reformed into Morph. "Fast," said Dva. "Someone is in the main cafeteria, tied up. Surrounded by what looks like the entire Legion." "Someone?" "He isn't the Roster King. He has a brown outfit, and quite muscular. And a Dvandom Force belt." "That's Kid Pocky!" "If that's Kid Pocky," Dva said. "Then who have we got?" "He must have swapped bodies with him!" "And happens to look exactly the same?" "He can change his description, remember? Looking alike wouldn't be hard." "Fine," Agent said. "We grab him and go. He might know something important." "Still keeping it simple?" asked Barry. "Yep. You're still going up. Draw them away. Then we can grab him." Barry rolled his eyes. "Fine. Flame." The others stood back as Barry's outfit turned red again, then a blast of corrosive fire blasted upwards, punching a way through the floors above. Alarms sounded, and fire sprinklers sprang into life. Barry flew up on a tail of flame, and look a hard left, smashing out another wall, alerting as many people as possible to where he was. The others gave him a moment, then raced up the stairs in surreal silence. They peered out of the stairwell to see LNHers streaming past them and towards the noise. When the way was relatively clear, they sprang out. There was one person still there, who opened her mouth to scream for help, when Morph's long arm took her out. Agent nodded to him, then led the way to the cafeteria. He opened the door, and they looked in to see who must be Kid Pocky tied up, still with guards. Then Faq Boy entered, causing them to duck back. Dva switched the silence off so they could here. "You. Get out there. They obviously aren't here." "You said to stay here no matter what," Pistol Whip returned. "Get out there." Faq Boy then muttered something they couldn't here, and Pistol Whip and the others nodded, then left. As soon as they were out Agent and the others entered. Faq Boy spun, looked surprised, then recovered himself. "Hi guys." Morph wrapped a hand around Faq Boy's throat. "I don't think so." "No, wait," Faq Boy said, struggling to speak. "It's me. I took his costume so they'd think it was me." "Let him go," Agent ordered. "We've got work to do." Morph released him, but eyed him suspiciously. True, he did just order the others out, though... Kid Pocky was quickly untied, and he moved about trying to get circulation back into his limbs. "That wasn't very nice." "I don't think they were trying for pleasentries here," Morph said. "You know who he is?" Agent asked Kid Pocky. Kid Pocky paused, then nodded. "Yes. I think so." "Can we go now?" asked Dva. "Hang on," said Kid Pocky, retrieving his pocky launchers and helmet. "Right, ready." "Where's our flight.thingee?" "On the roof," Faq Boy replied. "I...heard him talking about it." "Really? Let's go anyway. What?" Agent asked this last to Missy, who was eying Kid Pocky. "He look familiar." Kid Pocky returned the look. "Where from?" Missy shrugged. "Don't know." "Then let's go." "Go...some...other...way," a voice said, strained. They turned to see Barry at the door, his outfit white. "I've...got...the...place...lagged....Go...out...side..." Agent nodded and pointed to the kitchen. Exiting out the back door, Morph quickly gave them a ride to the top. "So, how do we get Barry?" Dva asked, as they buckled themselves in. "We'll go down and pick him up. We should have a few moments to act when they unfreeze." Dva flew the flight.thingee down and parked behind the building. Morph stuck his head out and through the corridors to yell "Now!" The building sprung back to life, then Barry flew out and straight in through the door. "Let's go!" As they lifted up, Missy spotted someone coming out onto the roof. "Wait!" "What?" "Get him." Barry looked out. "Gumperson Lord?" "We need him." "Why?" "Not sure. Just know we do." "Yes..." said Kid Pocky slowly. "I think we might." "Fine," sighed Agent. "Get him." "I can do this," replied Barry, going to the airlock. "Hey, Gumperson Lord! Come along with us?" "Are you crazy? The last thing I want is to go with you!" With a flash of light, Gumperson Lord was inside the craft. "It's too easy with him," Barry grinned to himself. "Hey, let me out of here!" "Just because we might need him doesn't mean we need to hear him. Morph!" "On it." "What the hell-" Gumperson Lord collapsed as the spray Morph injected into him took effect. Morph strapped him into a seat. "Shall we go now?" The flight.thingee accelerated upwards as the engines flared. Then stopped. "What happened?" yelled Agent, thumping the panel in front of him for answers. The side of the flight.thingee slowly peeled open like the skin of a fruit, and they looked outside to see Allen standing on the air, hid body crackling with power. "Come here!" he roared, and suddenly Faq Boy was jerked out of his seat to be held up in front of Allen. In a quieter voice, Allen said "You're so used to the influence of power you've forgotten how to wield it." "What?" "I control the FAQ, and by that Faq Boy is omnipotent. And I'm Faq Boy too. And, Paytan is *mine*." The last thing Faq Boy saw was Allen's fist before it crashed into his face. As Faq Boy dropped, Allen flew into the flight.thingee and settled down. The side of the flight.thingee moved back into place, and, ignoring the stares of those around him, Allen said "Let's go!" With that, the flight.thingee flew into space. _-~-_ Fuzzy and her team approached the Dvandom Force HQ to contact the Ultimate Ninja and try for some kind of update. Shane was just entering the entry code when the door opened and something came barreling out, knocking into him, and carrying him away. "Hey, bring him back!" Fuzzy yelled. "I think that was the VAXX," Doctor Stomper said. "He's also controlled." Shane dug his heels into the ground, and only succeeded in overturning him and the VAXX so that the VAXX was on top. "Bug go squish now!" the VAXX yelled, bringing both fists down into Shane's stomach. "Oof!" A green bolt and a plush fish hit the VAXX square on, knocking him off Shane. The VAXX rolled over, but got up again. "It's cabering time!" "Doesn't he mean 'clobbering time'?" Brittany asked. "Not when you're using trees! Move!" Paytan pushed Brittany out of the way and dove as a large tree came crashing down on the spot where they just were. "Get him at the bottom of that TV set thing on his head," Savannah called out. "It looks vulnerable." "I hate to have to do this," said Shane to himself as the VAXX ran towards him again. "But I don't really have a choice." Just as the VAXX was within reach, Shane placed a powerful punch at the bottom of the TV set thing, right at the neck. The VAXX flew backwards, thudded into a tree, and slid to the bottom. "Telly bye-bye," he said softly, before falling unconscious. "...at that's the size it," Fuzzy said into the videocom to the UN. "Dvandom Force is in some kind of coma, and he's also got Master Blaster somewhere." "And you can't bring them out?" "I think it's related to the fact that he's using their powers," Doctor Stomper put in. "Get rid of him, and they'll be all right." "I've just heard from Allen. They're back, and I've sent them out your way. They should be arriving soon, and hopefully finish this. LNH out." _-~-_ "How about this? I was the one who told you that your wife rang you after you got back from Missy's planet." Barry looked relieved. "Okay, it is you." "Can't believe you think that guy was me." Agent broke in. "Now that that's cleared up, can we move on? Have we really learnt anything?" "Well...I know who he is," said Kid Pocky, looking rather uncomfortable. "Well?" "I'd rather not talk about it." "We aren't offering choices here." "Umm...are any of you Writer Characters?" "I am," replied Barry. "Such as we have WCs anymore." "Then I'll talk to you. You probably know on some level already." Agent closed his eyes. "This is getting messy. Fine, go talk some place. What about him?" Agent jerked his thumb at Gumperson Lord. "He's him," replied Missy, nodding towards Kid Pocky as he stood at the back of the craft. Morph frowned. "Are you sure?" "He's him," Missy repeated. "I can see it." "Which means...what?" "Dimensional twin?" Dva put in. "Another one?" "Perhaps special kind." "Gah! Will someone just tell me what's going on?!" Agent ranted. "Makes a change, doesn't it?" Morph grinned. Barry and Kid Pocky returned. Barry gave Allen a strange look. "You knew. And you helped." "What?" Allen asked. "So where does he come in to this?" Barry asked, looking at Gumperson Lord. Dva lent over to Barry and whispered something in his ear. Barry's eyes widened. "Of course. And that gives us a way of getting rid of him! If we can get him back in his body." "Coming up on Dvandom Force HQ," Dva said as a beeping drew his attention. "This is it." _-~-_ "Will this work?" Paytan asked. "We haven't got any better ideas," replied Barry. "That isn't the answer I was hoping for." They stood in a line. Fuzzy, Shane, Brittany, Paytan, Allen, Barry, Morph and Kid Pocky. Behind them, out of the way, was Doctor Stomper, Savannah, Agent, Missy, Dva and a struggling Gumperson Lord. "And yet the idea is to just hit him with everything we've got." "As someone said, it's simple." And then the Roster King was in front of them. "Well, isn't this nice? A showdown. And I see you brought second place along." "Hey!" cried out an annoyed Kid Pocky. Allen leveled his gun, pointed directly as the Roster King. "This is my place now. Leave." "And yet, I'm not going to." "Enough talk. Let's get it on!" Confusion, fish, green, bullets, flame bursts and pocky flew through the air, all directed on the Roster King. Who had moved back, but left a gif of a wall to take the blasts. It shattered, revealing the Roster King with a automatic laser rifle in each hand. Pulling the triggers, he swept them along the lines, heroes diving out of the way. Morph sprang out, in front of them and covering them. His new reflective surface redirected the beams, but the heat was causing him some discomfort. Something lifted off from behind the screen, then the Roster King was baked in flames. Roaring, the Roster King moved out of the way, abandoning the rifles for something with more pack. The napalm arced through the air, falling down onto those behind the screen before Morph could cover. A few screams rang out, then Morph was on it. Fire rained again, but this time the Roster King fired a concussion grenade at Barry. It exploded, knocking Barry out of the sky. But his place was quickly taken by Paytan, who rose into the air on a green trail. However, that did mean that the only thing she really could do was launch herself at him. They collided, but the Roster King easily had the edge. He rolled her over, then formed a gif of a knife over neck, just touching it. "Move, and you kill yourself." "Get away from her," he heard Allen say, then his hand flared in pain as a bullet tore through it. The Roster King glared up at Allen, and was moving again. But before he could get to far, something crashed onto him. Shane pinned him down so he couldn't move. "Got him," Shane snarled. "Not enough," the Roster King growled. "I've always held back, but I don't really see any need to now. It won't have as much finesse, but I'm willing to forgo that now." "Give it up, Roster King," said Allen, helping Paytan up. "There's nothing else you can do." "Wanna bet?" The Roster King closed his eyes, then opened them to see a piece of paper floating before him. "No!" said Allen. "Stop him!" He tried to move, but was hampered by Paytan, also trying the same thing. Morph, Brittany and Kid Pocky were too far away, there was nothing more Shane could do right now, and Barry was out of it. Fuzzy concentrated, but it was too late. "When all else fails," the Roster King intoned. "I become omnipotent. Like now." They all stopped. With a brief thought, the Roster King easily sent Shane flying through the air. "And now, it ends." "You're so right," said Allen, straightening up. He concentrated for a moment. A flare of light surrounded the Roster King, and Allen turned to see a similar halo around Kid Pocky. The light flared, blinding them for a moment, then the two bodies dropped to the ground. "It worked," said Fuzzy, who had stopped pretending. "Of course," said Barry, who hadn't been pretending, as he slowly picked himself up. "The FAQ says no omnipotents in the LNH, and I simply enforced that," said Allen, the Faq Boy. "Then he was out of the LNH." "And he could only affect those in the LNH," said Doctor Stomper. "So, being out of the LNH in this dimension, he lost all the abilities, including swapping places." "Was never a possibility in my LNH as there wasn't anything in the FAQ about omnipotents, so we couldn't chuck him out," said Allen. The body that should be the Roster King slowly stirred. "I-" "Are we sure that's him?" asked Paytan. "Only one way to find out," said Barry. "I've always wanted to see what would happen." Dva swung around Gumperson Lord until he collided into the Roster King. Another dazzling intense light burst from the Roster King's body. This one flared up higher than human sight could take, bright even behind closed eyelids. "Iiiiaaaeeee!!!" The scream pierce through them all, and then was cut off. Everyone blinked, waiting for their eyesight to return. "Woah. Nasty," Barry said. "Now we know," said Dva. "Know what?" Missy asked. "What happens when an Oddball counterpart touches their original." Morph gaped. "He's an Oddball?" he said, pointing to Gumperson Lord, who sat there, shell shocked. "Of his LNH, yes," Barry said. "I thought he was the alternative version of Acton Lord," said Morph. "So did I." "But that means the Roster King was...so that means that..." They turned to look at Kid Pocky. Kid Pocky was cradling his head. "That return trip's a killer. Hey, Shane, get off me already!" "Oops. Sorry," Shane said, rising. "We'd better get him inside," said Doctor Stomper. "What about him?" asked Agent, pointing to Gumperson Lord. "Hey, Gumperson Lord," said Barry, squatting down beside him. "Want to go back to the cells of that LNH?" "What? No, of course I don't want-" He vanished in a flash of light. "Those Oddball counterparts are *so* *dumb*." As most of them went inside, Paytan held Allen back. Barry held back too. "I thought Acton Lord was a bad guy. Now you're saying he's Kid Pocky?" "Long story," said Barry. "Although please don't tell anyone." "Fine," said Paytan, shaking her head warily. "I'll see you inside." Barry held up a hand, to stop Allen from going inside after her. "What?" "You knew. You knew he was the variant of Acton Lord all the time," Barry accused. "Of course. I had to help him hide the bodies." Barry gaped. "You're proud?" "Not proud, but you've seen what it was like. I never had a choice." "And what happens to List Lad and Master Roster Man, or whatever their names were? You just let them die?" "They're not dead. Just like the Dvandom Force isn't. They were in some kind of suspended animation. They'll be waking up about now, with him gone." "Geez, I can't believe you," Barry said, shaking his head and walking away. "What? I never had a choice..." _-~-_ Inside, everyone, including Dvandom Force and the kidnapped Master Blaster, was sitting around, getting themselves back together. "I see now," Doctor Stomper was saying. "It all pointed to Acton Lord all the time. Corrupting others powers for himself. Corrupting the roster. It's so obvious." "Missy saw it," Barry pointed out. Missy smiled, proud. "But he wasn't as immune to the corruption power as I was," Kid Pocky put in. "But I do ask that you don't go around tell people who I was. I'm not him anymore, but would be considered close enough for some people to come after me." [The Roster King was a variant of Acton Lord I, who became Kid Pocky, thus Kid Pocky was the best candidate for the transfer. - Footnote Girl] Everyone nodded. "I'm just glad he's finally gone. One less shadow to hang over me," Allen said. "I can see why you were glad you left," Paytan said. "No, if there's only one thing I'm glad about, it's that I met you." They shared a kiss...but then showed no sign of breaking it off. Hurriedly, amidst much coughing, everyone else found something else to do. Some things never changed. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Credits: I've lost track, but either mine, Dave Van Domelan's, Jennifer Whitson's, or Public Domain's. I think Author's notes: Does this mean I'm back? Not really, but this was a story I wanted to tell, and wasn't sure how much time I had to tell it in (considering what Jenn's doing...). I'm still being majorly distracted with my thesis, but I have other stories to write, so I might try to pen some more things yet.Back to the Index.