[LNH/4W] Ultimate Mercenary #4

Time Warrior lord_soldeed at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 29 09:04:50 PST 2004

LNH Non-Comics presents
A Four Winds Production
Ultimate Mercenary #4:
"The Genetically Engineered Vegetables of Wrath":  The Conclusion!
Still a Flame Wars VI crossover!
by Adrian McClure

In an altered timeline ruled by the madman Apocalisp, the LNH was
destroyed and broken, but its leader, Ultimate Ninja, fought on. 
Eventually, even he was killed, but one fan survived to carry on his
legacy.  And that fan had a son.  And that son had a clone.  And that
clone had another clone, and that clone had another clone.  Finally,
that clone had a son:  Ultimate Mercenary.  After helping the LNH
avert his timeline, he joined them in protecting the present, more or
less serving as Ultimate Ninja's lackey and bootlicker.  Now, however,
he is forced to survive on his own, lost in time and space, trapped in
a mysterious destiny...

The story so far:

After finding himself 500 years in the future due to no one wanting to
write about him for all that time, Ultimate Mercenary discovered that
the world had been taken over by genetically engineered vegetables. 
He joined an embattled group of human rebels to fight the vegetables,
but discovered that no one much liked him except for the most
attractive female rebel, Varda, which caused people to hate him even
more.  However, he was given a flute with mysterious powers by Varda
(not the mysterious stranger known as the Old Man as reported last
issue, although now that she's been deleted from continuity, he's
probably the one who gave it to him in the new state of things), which
enabled him to fight off some bullying rebels once they stole his
weapons.  Shortly afterwards, Ultimate Mercenary was visited by
Masterplan Lad, a member of the Knights Temporal who is trying to
protect him, who tells him that he should leave the universe before
Masterplan Lad's enemies or the Anti-Monitor took notice of him, as
his potential posed a threat to both.  Instead, he wanted to stay and
destroy the Vegetables, and Masterplan Lad let him since to do
otherwise would be anticlimactic.  After awakening, he realized that
Varda had disappeared from the story, and the Old Man explained to him
that he had developed the power to see changes to continuity that
others can't.  He then rallied the warriors to battle (barely)...


	Ultimate Mercenary was beginning to think those infodump-style
summaries at the beginning really weren't working.  Still, at least
his battle plan seemed to be going smoothly so far.  While conversing
with Masterplan Lad in his dream last night, he had realized that the
Vegetables had probably trumpeted their victory by taking over the
former LNHQ as their headquarters, just as Apocalisp had done in his
own timeline all those years ago...  Or rather, all those years in the
future, except since that timeline had been wiped out, they hadn't
happened except to him...  Never mind.  At any rate, he had seen in
his dream that this cave was actually located somewhere in the murky
depths of the sub-basements of the LNHQ, so they could attack the
Vegatables from the heart of their power.  But they had to move
carefully as well as swiftly.  After all, the LNH consisted of many of
the bravest heroes of their world, and even they dared not under most
circumstances venture into the deepest of the sub-basements.  They
were better off seeing what lay ahead of them.

	To that end, Ultimate Mercenary had suggested that the chief, Varda's
father, who the author really hadn't considered interesting enough to
give a name yet and wasn't really going to bother since this was
probably the last issue he'd appear in, send ahead several scouting
parties to see what was ahead of them.  Now, a few hours after they
had been sent out, they were beginning to come back.  Most of the
scouting parties had discovered some very strange things.  One told of
a room with an enormous robot trapped behind an invisible wall, which
tried to attack them but could not get through.  Another told of a
room with a massive stone doorway with the words "This Way to
Alt.lantis" carved on it, which no one had been able to open.  Still
another told of a room filled entirely with rotten cheese. 
Ultimately, however, one group had been able to discover what from
their description Ultimate Mercenary and Masterplan Lad inferred was a
sort of elevator.

	They were now about to set out.  The army was gathered together, and
Ultimate Mercenary stood to the side with Masterplan Lad and the Old
Man by his side.  The two cosmic beings stood apart, sizing each other
up cautiously   "Are you going with us, Old Man?" asked Ultimate

	"No, I am not," he answered.  "I have accomplished what I intended
to, for now.  I made you aware of your power, and once Varda was
erased for the story, I took her place in the timestream as the one
who gave you the flute.  I have other things to attend to now."  He
walked off into the shadows of the cave, and seemed to become one with
them and dissipate.

	"Who is that guy?" said Ultimate Mercenary to Masterplan Lad, who he
somehow instinctively trusted more than he had the Old Man.  "Is he
one of your enemies?  What's he all about?"

	"He's not one of the particular faction of enemies I was worried
about.  I can't tell you anything else yet."  But there was an
uncharacteristic note of uncertainty in his voice.  Ultimate Mercenary
wondered whether Masterplan Lad genuinely didn't know.

	Nonetheless, he had a mission to fulfil.  Leading the large number of
rebels, which had somehow vastly increased from when Ultimate
Mercenary had first arrived, probably to create more striking visuals,
Ultimate Mercenary trekked across the cave to the elevator, ignoring
the skittering things that lived in the cave's depths.  When they
reached the elevator, they found that it didn't resemble the Kirbytech
that Stomper had designed for the LNHQ's upper elevator system as much
as something P. Craig Russell might draw.  This wasn't at all
surprising, after all, Stomper himself had probably never gone this
deep.  Long before it was the headquarters for its world's most
prominent superhero team, the LNHQ was a major Net.tropolitan hotel. 
What it had been before that, no one was really sure  Authorities
disagree as to whether or not it had become a dimensional nexus as a
result of energies stimulated by all the extradimensional beings who
joined the early LNH, or whether it was always that way.  Some say
that the sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-basements had always been there, and
there had always been more than those who used the building knew
about, so this particular high-tech (high-magic?) elevator system
would have been around long before the invention of Kirbytech.

	The elevator swished open as they approached.  Some seemed reluctant
to enter what they feared was the mouth of a demon, but Masterplan Lad
assured them that this particular elevator didn't seem to be demonic,
although there were probably some that were.  Some didn't find his
testimony particularly reassuring, and perhaps even evidence that it
was demonic, but their dedication to their cause impelled them on. 
The elevator closed not at all ominously when everyone had entered. 
It swished up--it seemed to know exactly where its passengers wanted
to go.

	After far too long, the elevator came to a halt.  The doors swished
open, revealing an awe-inspiringly large, sterile white room with
hundreds of shelves covering the walls.  Small paper objects flew
through the sky like rectangular butterflies.  The warriors stepped
uneasily inside once they noticed that whatever spirits were moving
the objects did not seem to take any notice of them.  "What are
those?" whispered Ultimate Mercenary to Masterplan Lad as they stepped
near.  As the objects flew through the air in a line, plastic sleeves
appeared out of nowhere and the object slipped gently into them.  It
then wafted toward a drawer, which opened for it.  "I think they're
comic books of some sort," said Masterplan Lad.  "You know more about
this place than I do.  How do you think this collection got here?"

	"Well, I don't know.  There are lots of people who collected comics
in the LNH.  Mainstream Man, Old Comics Man, Comics Snob Boy, although
I think he kicked the bucket at some point...  I don't know much about
comics myself.  But I don't think any of them had collections this
large.  Where do you think these comics came from?  I mean, as far as
I know, the world was completely devastated by the Vegetables."

	Masterplan Lad frowned.  "This room has to be from an alternate
timeline.  As I said, the timelines are beginning to converge around
the LNHQ."  He pulled at a drawer's handle.  It almost knocked him
over, sliding open with eerie efficiency.  As if on cue, a comic
descended into the drawer.  He picked it up and carefully disinterred
it, turning its pages reverently.  "Do you know anything about this?"

	Ultimate Mercenary greedily grabbed the comic out of Masterplan Lad's
hands, making him wince.  "Um, I think it's the end of the Dark
Phoenix Saga in Uncanny X-Men, except...  Except Jean Grey's alive!  I
think this collection is getting comics from alternate realities!  So
what's doing this?  Some kind of computer, maybe?"

	"Maybe.  Or maybe the collection itself has somehow become sentient."

	"This is creeping me out.  Let's get on with this so I can kick some
veggie butt."

	They moved silently through the room, immensely relieved when they
reached the hallway.  It could not be more unlike the sterile but
well-maintained room they had just left.  It was dark and dingy, with
flickering lights and an open cieling through which could be seen
snaking wires and pipes.  At the end of the hallway, oblong green
objects were hanging forebodingly in the air.  The warriors tightened
their grips on their weapons.

	"Watermelons!  We shall destroy them!  Hai-keeba!" shouted the chief,
breaking the thick silence.

	"No!  Wait! We need to use stealth!" shouted Ultimate Mercenary, but
the loud battle cry, into which the whole tribe had joined, drowned
him out.  He might have slapped his forehead in exasperation if it
wouldn't have sent him off-balance.  He would have been crushed if
Masterplan Lad hadn't opened his umbrella and yanked him out just in
time, flying off into the sky.  Disoriented but undeterred, he pulled
out his Ginsu Katana and sliced up the watermelons that were speeding
off into the air after the two heroes.  "Take that!  Now your'e sliced

	"Could you please minimize the pathetic attempts at tough dialogue? 
Maintainign a feild that will support you is hard enough."

	Ignoring him, Ultimate Mercenary exuberantly sliced the vegetables,
sending juice flying through the air.  But the battle below, whose
overall movement he could pick out almost subconsciously with his
ninja training, didn't seem to be going so well.  A few humans were
slicing the watermelons to pieces with their knives, while a few
others were dissolving them with their blasters which, he noted,
weren't producing nearly as spectacular an effect as the first time. 
But for every watermelon who fell, ten humans fell with it.  The
silent, sinister watermelons were mowing down the human rebels.  In
fact, there seemed to be more dead than he had thought had been part
of the rebels for the first place.

	As he watched the tide of battle turn, he was so intent that he
didn't notice a watermelon shooting toward them.  "Look out!" shouted
Masterplan Lad, but it was too late.  The flying watermelon whacked
him head-on, and his world faded into blackness.


	Her head pounding, Varda returned to wakefulness.  As she opened her
eyes, she saw that everything around her looked slightly blurry and
indistinct.  She didn't know if that was because her vision was blurry
or because that was the way things really were.  She could see that
she was in a low-tech metal spaceship room, from one of those Star
Trek shows, that might have once been glorious and futuristic but now
looked dilapidated and run-down.  Standing over her bed was a girl and
an armored man.  She realized that she was groaning.  Standing over
her was the same girl who she had seen earlier.

	Where was she? she wondered.  For that matter, who was she?  She
searched her mind and felt panic well up within her as she realized
that she couldn't remember anything from before she found herself on
this bed.  Not a whole, coherent memory, anyway.  She had a few
memories, but they were scattered and almost dreamlike.  She
remembered a man with a stony, pitiless face.  She remembered a horde
of brutish men and stupid women.  She remembered another horde of
brutish men and stupid women, and sleeping on an uncomfortable stone
bed.  And she remembered a boy, better than the others but not all
that much, wearing the costume of a ninja.

	Then, she remembered something else.  "The flute!" she shouted.  It
was as if the memory had grabbed her by the throat.

	"You're alright?" said the girl.

	"Yes, I am," said Varda, now feverish.  "This is very important.  Was
there a jade flute shaped like a dragon on or near me?"

	"Um, no.  What about it?"

	"I have to find the flute!"  She searched through her pockets, felt
her strangely skimpy clothing, leaped out of bed and tore through the
covers, but to no avail.  The girl stepped back somewhat.  "Someone
stole it!"  She grabbed the startled girl by the shoulders.  "Where
did you put the flute!"

	"I didn't find any flute on you," said the girl, trying hard to be
nonchalant.  "Your timestream was just damaged and you're suffering
the aftereffects.  At least, that's what the Knight told me, I still
don't quite trust the guy.  Believe me, I'm as lost here as you are."

	"What Knight?  Who are you?  Where is this?"

	"Um, I'm Lydia Forward.  I used to be a superhero, although not for
long.*  The Knight...  I don't know.  He says his name is Frederigo
D'Honaire, but from what I've heard, that's not his real name. 
Apparently..."  She hesitated.  "There's something bad going on on a
multiversal scale.  My universe...  The Knight told me that he wasn't
sure if it was destroyed or just..."  She hesitated, as if searching
for just the right word.  "Revised, but I...  fell out of it.  He's
finding people from universes that were destroyed or who got knocked
out of reality, like  us.  I don't really know where he's taking them,
but he talks about this Sanctuary a lot."  She took a deep breath. 
"OK.  Do you remember anything else about this flute?"

[*She was the main character of my extremely short-lived series
Sentry, from 2002--Ed.]

	"I...  I remember...  I remember the ninja boy, talking to him about
the flute, I...  I gave him the flute!  God no!"  Then, her head
started throbbing, and she fainted again.


	Time is a funny thing, especially in superhero comics.  It's a known
fact that, even in the world most of us consider real, time is
relative.  Thus, even when you take the car to a short trip to the
grocery, your timestream is slightly out of synch with those you left
home.  In universes with many superheroes and supervillians, where the
timestream gets changed, ripped apart, and twisted into knots on a
regular basis, time is something almost organic in its fickleness and
perversity, like a Windows computer.  Thus, you could say in a very
real sense that meanwhile, as Varda fainted in the mysterious ship,
Ultimate Mercenary awoke strapped to a chair 500 years later.

	It was a large, menacing, grey metal chair, designed to make the one
sitting in it feel as intimidated and uncomfortable as possible. 
Since it usually took a lot more than a chair to intimidate Ultimate
Mercenary as far as material objects went (although with social
situations, he tended to have more difficulty) and he was already
about as uncomfortable as he could possibly get, it didn't have much
effect.  He was more worried when he woke up and saw the entire tribe
of warriors, or what was left of them, strapped to similar chairs and
screaming in agony.  Masterplan Lad was also strapped to a chair next
to him and was apparently unconscious.

	He saw three huge blobby red things floating toward him.  They were
the tomatoes, red and bloated, with faces like malevolant babies.  
One tomato was leading the other three.  "So.  You are the human who
these foolish rebels claim will be their savior, hmm?  Pathetic," said
the leader tomato.

	Ultimate Mercenary said nothing and kept his face carefully
impassive.  This tomato, like many of the foes he'd encountered in the
past, was clearly quick to underestimate him because of his youth,
height, and lack of imposing presence.  They didn't realize that he
was a trained warrior who had been through this kind of situation many
times before, both in Apocalisp's prison camps and in high school
detention.  He could use this to his advantage.  On the other hand, he
wished that people would stop underestimating him, but this would have
to do for now.

	"You won't speak to us?" said the tomato.  "What a shame.  Now we
shall make you know the real meaning of pain."  The chair began to
buzz.  Ultimate Mercenary felt a vague discomfort and a liquid running
down the sides of his head.  "What's this liquid?" he asked them.

	The tomatoes were rather concerned.  They huddled together and
muttered at each other.  Finally, the lead tomato spoke.  "Er, it's
blood.  Your blood!  Hahahahahahahahaha!  Ha."

	"No it's not.  I'm not feeling any pain."  He felt a trickle near his
mouth and licked it.  "This is ketchup."

	The two tomatoes which were flanking the leader blanched.  "N-no it's
not!  It's blood!"  He turned toward the others and scowled. 
"Clearly, this one requires special treatment.  Er,
Hahahahahhahahahaha!"  They floated off into the darkness.

	The others were still tied beside him in their jagged black chairs,
emitting painfully overwrought groans.  By now, they were sounding
somewhat unconvincing somehow.  Ultimate Mercenary wriggled around in
his chair in annoyance.  There had to be some way for him to escape
it.  As far as he could tell, though, there was no way he could get
out of the locks on this chair.  He had wriggled out of some pretty
tight spots before, both metaphorically and literally (not that he
thought in metaphors particularly much), but this one was new to him.

	Then, he heard tapping footsteps in the darkness approaching him.  He
felt graceful, slim hands unlocking his bonds and helping him up. 
"Varda?  You're back in the story?"

	"Story?" said the woman, slightly confused.  She had a deep, husky
voice and an incredibly sexy and exotic accent.  Ultimate Mercenary
wanted to let loose and explain the whole thing to her, but then was
suddenly overcome with fear and a sense of the essential wrongness of
it and said nothing.

	"Never mind," he told her.  "Varda was a girl I liked, but she's gone

	"That's too bad.  You're a good man, not like those veggie bastards. 
I'll let you go."

	"Who are you?" asked Ultimate Mercenary.

	"I don't have a name in human language.  I identify myself through a
complex scent.  I'm an infiltration vegetable bred to help conquor the
humans and I can mate with them.  But now I've fallen in love with you
and turned against my masters."

	Ultimate Mercenary had pulled himself out of his chair now.  His
muscles were aching.  Still, he was feeling seriously turned on,
although confused.  "Thanks, I think.  I guess we can join together
and kill those things."  He was nervous and confused, but excited. 
His pulse was pounding, but for the first time in some time it was in
a good way.  Still, for some bizarre reason, he found himself wishing
it was Varda here.  He shrugged it off.  What a stupid thing to think.
 Maybe she'd given him the flute, but she still had ignored him, just
like every other girl he'd met.  Was it because of his ninja skills?  
Ultimate Ninja never had very many women interested in him, and he
never seemed to particularly care.  Ultimate Mercenary sometimes, in
spite of hismelf, found himself wondering if he really wanted to be
like that.  But on the other hand, he was a ninja, and he didn't want
to not be one.

	"I'm going into heat!" the vegetable woman suddenly shouted.  She
fell on the floor and started writhing around in a way that emphasized
her large, perfectly formed breasts.  "Please pollinate me now!"

	Well.  That was rather sudden, Ultimate Mercenary thought.  He was a
bit taken aback for a few seconds.  No woman had ever asked him that
before, or even anything somewhat analogous.  Still, this was great! 
He could pleasure her.  After all, ninjas were legendary lovemaking
machines.  His training with his father and Schtick had never included
that aspect, unfortunately (although the latter had taught him a few
interesting Tantric techniques, although he hadn't really gone into
them in depth), but since he was a ninja he could probably handle it. 
He would probably get the hang of it instantly.  He pulled up the
lower half of his face mask, Spider-Man style, and fidgeted nervously
for a few seconds.  "Wait," he asked her.  "Won't the guards hear us."

	"No!  They won't!  Um...  they're asleep!  Please pollitnate me now!"

	"OK."  He was going to do it now.  He could probably handle it.  He
would probably get the hang of it instantly.  He fidgeted nervously
for a few seconds.

	"Wait, I though it was flowers that were pollinated and not

	"Look, forget that and just do her already!" shouted a voice ringing
out through the cave.  Ultimate Mercenary pulled out his ginsu katana
and whirled around, trying to find its source.  His eyes narrowed. 
"This is a trap, isn't it?"

	"No!  It's not a trap!  It's part of the plot!" said the voice
nervously.  If it were possible for a voice to sound greasy, this one
did.  A man suddenly blinked into existance next to Ultimate
Mercenary.  He was every bit as greasy and squalid as he sounded,
wearing a somewhat shabby business suit.  "Come on, don't you want
some action?" he said, nudging him with his hammy elbow.

	"Alright, what the hell is going on?" said Ultimate Mercenary.

	Masterplan Lad suddenly snapped to awakeness.  "That being is one of
the deadliest and most powerful realtiy-warping beings in the
omniverse--a Producer.  He's not as powerful as the one that Trux and
Spite Grrrl faced about a year ago in your universe, and his power
isn't linked to that of the Unholy Wood although he wants it to be,
but he's still very powerful and dangerous."

	"Oh God, not one of you.  Why can't you damn Knights Temporal ever
leave us alone?  You're so elitist."

	"Elitist?  You warp story to your twisted, exploitative ends, you
treat people as objects, even the sacred Writers themselves, and you
dare call me elitist?"

	"Wait a minute, weren't you supposed to be unconscious?" said
Ultimate Mercenary.

	"I wasn't," said Masterplan Lad, slightly breathless.  "The Knights
Temporal exist in a state of continuous consciousness.  It's not
possible to render us unconscious."

	"Then why didn't you just--"

	"I was curious as to how you'd react in this situation."

	"See?  Elitist.  Elitist and stupid."  This remark from the Producer
drew a venomous glare from Masterplan Lad.  "Merc, baby, don't you
want to be a star?  You'll never get anywhere if you follow him.  The
only superheroes anyone cares about anymore are ones who have their
own movies."

	"How did this turn into a movie all of a sudden?"

	"He pulled you out of reality.  He wanted to make a superhero movie
because of the recent box-office success of similar movies and chose
you because you were a hero whose absence no one would particularly
notice."  Now it was Ultimate Mercenary who gave him a venomous glare,
but he ignored it.  "He warped time and plot to create this cliched
alternate future.  The vast majority of inhabitants were creations of
his own power, although a few--such as Varda--seem to have been pulled
from outside and given false memories.  I don't know where he got the

	"Cliched?  What do you mean cliched?  Genetic engineering is a very
real problem in society.  This is a thought-provoking story about the
possibilites of evolution.  And the vegetables?  Well, I pretty much
blew my effects budget on the first battle*, so I genetically
engineered them myself..."

[*see issue 1]

	"You think genetic engineering is dangerous and yet you genetically
engineered vegetables yourself?" said Masterplan Lad, livid with rage.

	"Hey, a man's gotta make money somehow."

	"Speaking of which," said another voice in the distance, "what about
me?"  Another person entered the room.  It was none other than Thomas
Russell Jr.  "Am I getting any money from this?  I mean, I'm the
author who created the character."

	"No.  Go away."  The Producer pulled out a gun from his pocket and
pulled out a gun.  Thom Rusself, Jr. collapsed the floor instantly. 
He turned his head and saw that the vegetable woman was still moaning
in sexual frustration.  He shot her as well.

	He turned toward Ultimate Mercenary, keeping his gun steadily aimed
at him.  Ultimate Mercenary instinctively steadied his dagger in
response.  "You know, if you're going to be so damn ungrateful, maybe
I should just kill you and make a movie about someone else.  Maybe
Nudist Man.  I could try to get Orlando Bloom to play him, that would
bring in millions of teenage girls..."

	Then, he stopped talking.  He whipped his head around.  Ultimate
Mercenary, filled with urgency and fear, turned his back to the
Producer and his sword to the noise.  Masterplan Lad's eyes went wide
with fear  Not far from the cave, they could hear a loud, insistent
noise.  It was like breathing.  It was like the breathing of something
that was dead.


	Beside the Thoughtship, the Headhunter seemed to be moving
excruciatingly slowly, yet with the swiftness of a bird of prey.  It
had almost entered with this reality now.

	"He's going to do it," said T-483.  "He's gonna kill that bastard
once and for all.  We can move on.  Let's get the hell out of here
before that thing notices us."

	"No," said T-487, his voice steely and determined.  "We are going to
stay here and kill him.  We made the mistake of letting him get the
Flute, so he could escape the Headhunter.  But he can't escape a
level-twelve devastator pulse."  He grinned wickedly as his hand
reached for the controls.

	"No!  Are you crazy?  If we do that, the Headhunter will notice that.
 Even an Apollyon-class ship on maximum power can't even singe one of
those things.  We don't stand a chance.  And we sure as hell can't
outrun it once it notices us.  Only a metahuman can stop those things,
and I haven't yet met one that's powerful enough to kill it."

	"Than stop it, T-487.  You're the metahuman.  You can attack its

	"But that's only useful against normal humans!  I don't even know how
that thing's mind works!"

	"Do it.  It's an order.  Or I'll disrupt every molecule in your

	"Alright."  He rolled his eyes and then closed them, sitting in his
chair with the fateful slowness of one condemned.  His mind harmonized
with the Headhunter.  He saw the world through its eyes and
experienced its thoughts.

	He went immediately insane.  He was lucky.  He didn't feel his body
torn apart by the multiversal currents as the Headhunter ripped the
Thoughtship in two.

	Unnoticed by the Headhunter, the Thoughtship's backup routines sent a
log of the ship's and crew's memories transmitted on a frequency the
Headhunter could not percieve.  Even if he did, he could not
understand it, for the Evolved coded their transmissions in subtle
codes, rooted in omniversal chaos theory, which even the Knights
Temporal hadn't cracked yet.  And once they did, the scientists from
Center's future would just send more sophisticated technology to its
past.  They would never pick up this transmission either.  It would
reach the Center eons in the future, and then, as per instructions in
its programming, automatically be bounced back to its present.  The
Evolved would then learn that the crew it had sent had underestimated
both the progress of the Headhunters and the development of their

	Their next expedition would be more careful.


	In the cave, the Thoughtship being torn apart only a few leagues
outside the world made no sound.  But since it was an abstract
concept, they could percieve its destruction.  It filled them all with

	"What was that?" asked Ultiamte Mercenary, awed and terrified.

	"That was a ship of the enemy I was worried about," said Masterplan
Lad.  "It was destroyed by a Headhunter!"  He closed his eyes and
concentrated, and his dark green umbrella shot into the room, landing
in his hands.  He winced with pain momentarily.  The Producer didn't
seem to notice, he was whimpering and blubbering with fear.

	"Wait, what's a Headhunter?" asked Ultimate Mercenary.

	"I don't have time to explain!" said Masterplan Lad, irritated.  "You
have to grab on to me now, before it's too late!"

	Then, reality rippled around them.  Something emerged from the
ripples.  The first thing Ultimate Mercenary noticed about it was its
eyes.  They were red embers of flame, burning with hate.   The
creature was seven tall and vaguely human-like, looking like a walking
corpse.  Yet it seemed to be breathing.  Ultimate Mercenary looked at
the cave mosses around it.  They were yellowing and shrivelling up. 
It was as if it was breathing in their life.

	It turned toward the producer first.  He seized up in terror as he
looked into its eyes.  "No, please don't kill me!" he shouted.  "Say,
you know, I could get you a movie dealAAAGH!"  Ultimate Mercenary
looked instinctively away.  There was a sickening wet sound like a
gourd hitting a wall.  He wanted to keep looking away, but he found
his eyes irreisistably drawn back.

	"The flute!" shouted Masterplan Lad.  "Use the flute!"  Ultimate
Mercenary fumbled with the flute in his belt.  But he couldn't take
his eyes off the creature's.  He felt the flute fall out of his hands
and fall to the ground with a clink.  The Headunter smiled.


Author's note:  Well, my first LNH story arc is now over.  And it took
me only, what, a bit over a year?  At this rate, it will probably be
at least half a century before all my plotlines are resolved.  I'm not
even done with the Flame Wars VI-linked storylines yet--this series
will still be involved with FWVI for at least another 6 issues. 
Still, the other LNH series that are currently being written are still
involved in the aftermath of Flame Wars IV...

You'll notice that this is no longer leading into "The End of
History."  That would have been a story arc that would have looked at
the effects of Flame Wars VI on a galactic scale.  However, the
storyline is now going in a somewhat different direction.  But the
effects of FWVI on galactic politics will indeed play a role in
upcoming issues of the series.

Ultimate Mercenary was created by Thom Russell, Jr. and reserved by
me.  Ultimate Ninja was created by wReam.  The Anti-Moderator was
created by Martin Phipps.  The Headhunters were created by Jesse N.
Willey.  The Producers were created by Mark Friedman.  Everything else
is mine.  This story is (c) 2004 Adrian McClure.

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