LNH/LNH2/FWVI: Ultimate Mercenary #5

Adrian James McClure lord_soldeed at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 22 19:19:49 PST 2006

	As the Headhunter grew closer to Ultimate Mercenary, everything
started to feel more and more unreal.  The cave around him seemed
blurred, the sound of Masterplan Lad's shouting seemed muted.  The
Headhunter's footfalls were as loud as a thunderclap.  Its breating
roared like a jet engine.  Its deaths-head skull was as clear as the
night sky.  "Judgement," said the Headhunter, with a cruel, dark,
strong voice.

	Ultimate Mercenary could see his life pass before him.  Perhaps this
was cliched, but when you're faced with a creature of multiversal death
and destruction, being original isn't your biggest concern.  He felt as
if he had passed beyond time.  He could see from outside the moment of
his creation, all his struggles in high school, his brief time in the
LNH and futile desire for Manga Girl's love, his being taken out of
reality by a Producer to star in one of his movies, his brief meeting
with and equally futile desire for Varda, the cosmic beings like
Masterplan Lad who argued and fought over his destiny.  And dim flashes
of what might have been, terrifying and repugnant and yet thin and
ungraspable as dreams.  None of it seemed to matter now.  The
Headhunter's eyes seemed filled with pure hate, and he deserved it.  He
was worthless and stupid and deserved to die.  He felt and odd kind of
peace at this.


Ultimate Mercenary #5:
"A Bunch of Random Crossover-Related Events Trying to Masquerade as a
Still a Flame Wars VI crossover after what, 3 years?
by Adrian James McClure

In an altered timeline ruled by the madman Apocalisp, every member of
the LNH was killed except one:  Ultimate Ninja.  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...


	As his mind detached from time, he saw another impression, not of his
own future but of another's.  He saw, as if from a distance, a tall and
beautiful Asian woman.  He knew her face was in his memories somehow,
but he couldn't attach a name to it.  As if struggling against a
current, he dove back into the world of his memories, finding himself
trapped in an uncomfortable pattern of desire and loss.  The girl...
He didn't want to remember her, but it seemed so urgent somehow...  Her
name was Varda.  She had been trapped in the movie with him, she had
given him that weird flute, she had treated him like a human being even
though they'd only known each other for a short time...  She was gone
now, taken by the Producer (or the Author?) back out of his story.
Because she didn't care about him.  Nobody did.  Perhaps it was better
in the darkness.

	He could see Varda in the future again, he wanted to ignore her,
but...  She was not dressed in the skimpy primitive clothes he'd seen
her in.  She was dressed in a white, flowing, dignified robe that
followed the curves of her body.  It seemed to suit her better somehow,
although the sword in the bejewelled scabbard which she held, hands
open, palms held up.  She was walking toward something, but there was
something about the way she was walking that was unlike her.  Her eyes
were closed, and she seemed stranagely serene, half asleep, or half
dead.  He saw that she was walking to another woman, tall, majestic,
alluring covered from head to foot in a dark veil.  Varda presented her
sword to the woman.  She lifted a pale arm from beneath her veil.  The
veiled woman took the sword from its jeweled scabbard, revealing a
cruel obsidian blade.  Varda seemed almost ecstatic as the veiled woman
plunged the sword down to take her life...

	"NO!" screamed Ultimate Mercenary.  The scream was feeble, but it
pulled him out of the darkness.  He could see behind him another light,
and wrenched himself towards it.  It was Masterplan Lad, struggling
against the bonds of torture chair he had been imprisoned in by
sentient vegetables during the movie, desparately trying to open the
umbrella that seemed to be the source of his power.  Ultimate
Mercenary's effort must have somehow given him the strength to open it.
 The umbrella shot open, now glowing with radiant light.  The
Headhunter thrust its claws toward him and he narrowly avoided them.
There was another light, or something reflecting light, glowing faintly
nearby...  The Flute!  He lunged for it, missing narrowly the
Headhunter's cruel claws and the darkness in its eyes...  He had it!
Grasping the flute, feeling its contours in his hands, he put it to his
lips, keeping his eyes fixed on Masterplan Lad, still struggling,
trying to stay aware of the Headhunter while not being pulled into the
current of darkness...  What would he play?  He tried to think of
something, keeping his eyes fixed on the light...

	<Sometime's the light's all shinin' on me, other times I can barely
see, lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been.>

	Maybe not the best song for the occasion, but it rang through his head
with the insistence of a battering ram.  It was an alternative to the
darkness...  He played it nimbly, the sound absurdly cheerful in the
dark, another memory grasping him, boring music classes, will they ever
end? but he was thankful now...  And there was another current, a
current stronger than the dark, pulling him upward, to the light, while
the Headhunter screamed in futile rage...

	The light hit his eyes.  He felt himself fall to cold, wet ground.

	"Are you okay, brother?  You look like you just had a bad trip."

	Ultimate Mercenary clutched his head, now throbbing painfully, and
tentatively opened his eyes.  Standing between him and a sky that was
flawlessly blue was a genial, slightly hyperactive man with a beard
that looked like a ragged bush.  His shirt was an explosion of color.
It made Ultimate Mercenary's head hurt even more.  He looked by his
side, and there indeed was Masterplan Lad, looking even worse for wear
and moaning loudly.

	"Um, yeah, I guess," said Ultimate Mercenary to the strange man, not
daring to look at his shirt.

	He pulled himself closer to Masterplan Lad.  "Where are we?" he

	"I don't kn--ooooooh, my aching consciosuness," he groaned irritably.
He rose, clutching his head painfully.  Ultimate Mercenary, too,
unsteadily pulled himself up.

	The sky around them was an endless blue without a single cloud.  All
around them was an endless flat field of incredibly green grass.  There
were people, thousands of them, caught in a strange chaotic rhythm,
wearing clothes vibrantly splattered with color--those that were
wearing clothes at all.  Some of the bodies on display were quite
impressive, while others...  were not.  There was an odd, vibrant sense
of community everywhere.

	At the center of the crowd, Ulitmate Mercenary could see a small band
playing guitars in ragged harmony.  They were dressed in tie-dyed
superhero costumes.

	"You think this is in Net.Tropolis?  I don't see any buildings
anywhere near here," whispered Utimate Mercenary to Masterplan Lad.

	Masterplan Lad said something in return, but it was drowned out by the
music.  It seemed impossibly loud even from twenty feet away.  The
music was quite good, although there was something about it that
Ultimate Mercenary found both intriguing and unnerving.  Maybe it was
some rhythm in the music that was hard to pin down.  Or maybe it was
the fact that the lead singer had enormous devil's horns and a large
"666" painted on his forehead in red blood.  "Judging by what I know of
your world's history," said Masterplan Lad, "this would be an alternate
version of the Legion of Net.Hippies, the net.heroes who guarded
Net.ropolis in the 1960s and who were lead by a demon.  And although
I'm not sure, I'd strongly suspect that we are still somewhere within
the LNHQ.  At any rate, we'd probably get out of here soon, before the
Legion of Net.Hippies' leader Anti-Christ Lad notices us.  There are
many dimensional rifts here as a result of the Anti-Moderator's
activities, and I can use my Device to guide us to the nearest one."

	But this wasn't nearly as easy as he thought.  Somehow, the chaotic
crowd of net.hippies seemed ideally placed to impede their progress.
Ultimate Mercenary started cursing at them.

	"Hey, brother, let's make love not war," said a net.hippie whose beard
was probably larger than the combined non-drug-damaged brain cells of
everyone there.

	"I'm a ninja.  Making war is what I do."  Ultimate Mercenary then
proceeded to attempt to eviscerate him, but the dirty net.hippie dodged
him far quicker than he seemed to be able to.  A whole bunch of
net.hippies closed in, bashing at Ultimate Mercenary with large
hookahs.  "For a bunch of hippies, these guys sure are good at making
war," said Ultimate Mercenary.

	"Run for it!" shouted Masterplan Lad.  A pulse of light bursted from
his umbrella, blinding the hippies.  The sky was now a swirling red
inferno.  The music was still ragged and joyful, but its beat was
darker and more insistent.  Ultimate Mercenary followed Masterplan Lad,
doing his best to dodge the raging hippie hordes.  Crimson bolts shot
down from the sky, as Ultimate Mercenary followed Masterplan Lad...

	Then, with no warning, they found themselves in the hallway of the
LNHQ.  Ultimate Mercenary crashed into someone and slammed into the
floor.  He pulled out his dagger and looked up.  The man who he'd
collided with was a large Mexican man wearing a horribly ugly
Liefeld-esque costume who practically exuded machismo--obviously Master
Blaster.  Except that instead of one of his typical guns which weighed
twice as much as he did, he carried an equally large and phallic
plastering trowel.  The... being... standing next to him was something
else entirely.  It was dressed in a costume that looked like a pathetic
imitation of Ultimate Ninja crossed with Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
 Its top half was that of a bird, and its bottom was that of a fish.

	"Oh man!" said the Master Blaster lookalike.  "Not more of those damn
demonically possessed hippies.  I'm gonna have to call in an
exterminator, if I can find one that hasn't been erased from

	The bird/fish thing pulled out what looked like a dwarf Ninja bush.
"Stop!" it chirped bombastically.  "You don't stand a chance against...

	The net.hero and the mysterious cosmic being looked at each other.
Then, Ultimate Mercenary burst out laughing.  A chuckle escaped even
Masterplan Lad's mouth, before he composed himself.  "Er, hello," he
said.  "I take it this is the Oddball LNH universe?"

	"That's what you people call it," said Ultimate Mer-Canary
suspiciously.  "Seems normal to us."  He flapped his wings and hopped
over to Master Plaster.  "You had better finish plastering up that
dimensional rift or Penultimate Ninja will have your hide!"

	"Yeah, yeah, whatever."  In a flash, a coating of plaster had covered
the area which Ultimate Mercenary and Masterplan Lad had come from.
"Let's report back."

	"So what's going on?" asked Ultimate Mercenary.

	"We're not really sure yet," said Master Plaster.  "All these people
from alternate universes are appearing out of nowhere and--"

	"That's classified information!"  Ultimate Mer-Canary whacked Master
Plaster with his ninja bush.

	"Why?" asked Ultimate Mercenary.

	"That's classified information!"

	"Why are you a half-human half-fish, anyway?"

	"That's classified information!"

	"Is there any information that's not classified?" asked Masterplan Lad

	"That's classified informat--MGHNMGHPH!!"  Ultimate Mer-Canary's beak
had been skillfully plastered shut by Master Plaster.  "Boy, what a
loser," he said.

	"Yeah, I know," said Ultimate Mercenary.  "And his costume is so
ugly..."  Master Plaster burst out laughing.  "As it happens, your
costume looks almost exactly like his," said Masterplan Lad.  Ultimate
Mercenary cringed.  Did he really look that stupid?  Well, never mind.

	"So what IS going on?" asked Ultimate Mercenary.  He turned to
Masterplan Lad.  "You seemed to have some idea of what these
Headhunters were all about.  Maybe you could explain that?  Not to
mention why half the universe seems to be trying to kill me?"

	"Not here," whispered Masterplan Lad.  He turned to Master Plaster.
"Do you have a restroom anywhere near here?"

	He nodded.  "It's right there, to the end of the corridor to the
right.  You'd better come back."

	They walked off, the others observing them cautiously.  "So what is
going on?" said Ultimate Mercenary.  "You--oh no."  He had realized as
he approached the bathroom that, due to the fact that it hardly makes
riveting drama, he hadn't taken a leak for all the time he'd been in
the evil Producer's movie.  "I'll, ah, be gone for a moment.  Ninja

	"If you have to urinate, that's fine.  Just try not to be pulled into
another dimension warp."


	Varda didn't know how long she'd been travelling on the ship.  Like
everything else here, time tended to fade into a blurry vagueness.  Or
was that a vague blurriness?  She found using words hard here as well.
She knew that she'd slept more than once, but couldn't remember how
many times.

	Some of the time she'd spent alone trying to explore the long and
winding empty corridors of the ship.  But the more time she spent
alone, the more she felt that she was losing her coherence, her sense
of self.  So she ended up spending most of her time trying to converse
with the other people on the ship.

	They were a diverse lot, of all ages and coming from all backgrounds.
But the one thing they had in common was the despair that weighed on
them.  Their memories also seemed to be as constantly shifting and
difficult to grasp as hers.  It made them nearly impossible to talk to.
 Sometimes, the shadow of a terrible ecstasy passed over them, and
Varda always drew back in fear.  In those moments, weird images entered
her mind, which she could not or chose not to remember.

	The only exception was Lydia, the woman she'd met earlier.  Lydia
seemed to have it more together than anyone else in the ship, and also
to have clearer memories.  Maybe it had something to do with whatever
powers she'd had in her own universe.  Lydia had been a normal human,
highly intelligent and imaginative but somewhat socially withdrawn,
until she'd gotten involved in a conflict beyond her own understanding.
 Then she'd been yanked out of that conflict and ended up here.  Yet
she seemed to be holding together much better than you would
expect--certainly much better than Varda had.  Varda's past before
she'd ended up in the Producer's movie seemed impossible to even get an
impression of.  Sometimes it seemed as repellent as the movie had been,
sometimes it seemed almost perfectly beautiful.  She found herself
clinging to the memory of her life in the horrible movie.  She'd hated
it, but at least it was something she could grasp and understand.  And
the ninja boy, Ultimate Mercenary, had been the best part of it.  Which
admittedly wasn't saying much, but...

	She had found herself staring off into the endless void.  It looked
like a desert, but that could be her own mind's futile attempt to
rationalize it.  Lydia was away, off trying to explore the ship.  Maybe
with her more definite grasp as reality (to the extent that you could
say there was "reality" here), she would do better.  Varda didn't want
to go deeper into the ship anymore.  Outside, she'd already felt the
loss of herself, the dissipation into muddled emptiness.  But in here,
she felt as if there was something else, lurking on the edges of her
mind, trying to impress itself on her.  And she didn't like it.
Abrupty turning her thoughts away from it, she found herself thinking
of Ultimate Mercenary.  The sharp anxiety she felt about the flute
seemed less urgent and less real now.  The fact that he was one of only
two people Varda could remember that she'd formed any kind of human
connection with loomed far larger.  She wondered whether he had wond
the battle, and where he was now...


	Ultimate Mercenary pointedly ignored Masterplan Lad's comment as he
stalked into the bathroom with as much ninja stealth as he could
manage, which considering everything that had happened to him in the
last few days wasn't too much.  He quickly and efficiently took care of
his business and stalked out of the bathroom.  A dimensional portal
opened at the toilet which disgorged two samurai who resembled
Sarcastic Lad and Dr. Killfile, but luckily this was only after he'd

	Masterplan Lad was playing with a yoyo once Ultimate Mercenary walked
out, but then hastily put it away and assumed a dignified appearance.
"OK," Ultimate Mercenary said to Masterplan Lad, "it's about time for
some explanations.    This series has been going on for almost three
years now and I still don't know what your motivations are.  Who are
you, what is that thing that was trying to kill me earlier, what was
that ship it destroyed, and why am I suddenly so important now after no
one wrote about me for years?"

	"All right," said Masterplan Lad, "You might want to sit down, because
this may take some time...

	"I am a member of the Knights Temporal.  We are a religious order that
protects and watches over the timestream, but it goes far deeper than
that.  The timestream is not an impersonal process but a story.  This
is one of the things that gives it its meaning and power.  This story
is shaped by writers from another continuum, just as their world
perhaps is itself shaped by greater powers.  The act of writing is
sacred because it channels the divine creative forces that underly the
universe.  What the highest power which lies behind them is, the
Knights Temporal do not know.

	"The enemies I was trying to save you from were operatives of the
Evolved, who are among our most powerful enemies right now.  They are
inhabitants of a parallel earth who are trying to reshape history and
conduct genocidal experiments in order to create the perfect human
species.  They worship beings from their own future, the Hypothetical
Gods, which they believe are the ideal they are trying to attain.  We
placed their world under an interdict, preventing them from traveling
through time or to other universes.  But they have managed to establish
a presence on other worlds using psychic and memetic weaponry.  We
don't know how their alternate universe came about because they've
managed to conceal a part of their own past from us, but we have reason
to believe that their universe developed from a potential future of
yours.  The ship that was destroyed was one of theirs.

	"The thing that destroyed it was something entirely different, a
Headhunter.  The Headhunters were created from the souls of a dead
world by the Anti-Moderator, the repressed judgmental side of
rec.arts.comics.creative's Moderator, who is seeking to destroy all the
universes he regards as unworthy of existing.  They have become
single-minded elemental beings of death and destruction.  The
Anti-Moderator doesn't realize it, but the Headhunters have the
potential to become more powerful than it is.

	"As for why you are now important, well, I don't think you're putting
the question in the right terms, as if someone was important for what
they do rather than their intrinsic worth.   However, it's certainly
true that more people consider you important now than before...    We
know you're important because of the prophecies written down shortly
after the founding of our order by the Anchorite, who laid down its
precepts.  The Evolved stole a copy of one of the books of her
prophecies, the one that pertains to your period of history.  You are
mentioned in the book of prophecies, but the reasons why you are
important are not fully spelled out.  However, you do now know that you
have the ability to sense changes to the story, which would allow you
to be more aware of their activity.  The prophecies say that you will
face a difficult time in your life and have to make choices that are
far from simple.  I was sent to guide and protect you as much as is
possible.  However, in the battle that's coming ahead, you will have to
face the most difficult times alone.  We are supposed to deal with
history with as light a touch as possible, as our goal is to help
others, not to impose ourselves on them.  You'll have to be the one who
makes the choices that matter.  I'm just here to advise you to the best
of my ability and ensure that you're alive to make them."

	Ultimate Mercenary frowned as he took this all in.  He was as still as
stone.  "How do I know you're telling the truth?" he said.  "The
Evolved might not be as bad as you say they are, if they even exist.
And isn't a lot of what that prophecy says appliciable to my life no
matter what happens?"

	Masterplan Lad initially looked angry, but then relaxed, although he
still seemed uncomfortable.  "Those were sensible questions to ask, and
it's good that you ask them.  You are learning to think through your
situation.  I will give you evidence later, but right now my main goal
is to keep you out of the hands of the Headhunters.  And I did leave
out some of the more specific details of the prophecies to keep you
from drawing false conclusions.  On the other hand, it is important to
remember that you will face many of these problems throughout your
life, as will your whole world.  It's just that sometimes they will be
more dangerous than others."

	Ultimate Mercenary was silent.  He was more excited and afraid than
he'd ever been since he first began his ninja training.  He'd always
wanted to have the chance to do something important, to really
_matter_.  Now it looked like he'd get that chance.  And he wasn't sure
that he liked it.  His mind was full of a torrent of questions, but the
one he asked was, "What about Varda?"

	"I don't know.  You may see her again or you may not.  The important
thing is to get you to safety, so that--"

	"Halt!" said a majestic and cold voice.  "You were not authorized for
a bathroom break!"  Something floated into the room that looked like
one of Kid Kirby's Kirbybots, but with darker colors and an unnervingly
militaristic design.  Another Kirbybot floated into the room and
Kirby-dots began to crackle around their hands menacingly.  "Get out of
here!" shouted Masterplan Lad.  "Those are Kirbytroopers from the Evil
LNH universe!"

	Masterplan Lad opened his umbrella again, which began to glow faintly.
 Some of the Kirby dots bounced off of it but some of them ripped
through and hit him, making him grimace.  Ultimate Mercenary dodged the
Kirby dots and shoved his ginsu katana into the eyes of one of the
Kirbytroopers, and it slumped to the floor, dead.  But the Kirby dots
kept coming faster and faster, and Ultimate Mercenary was hit by more
and more of them, until he was about to scream.  "Use the flute to get
us out of here!" shouted Masterplan Lad.  "I can't fight off the sheer
creative energy of Kirby, even in a corrupted form."  Ultimate
Mercenary fumbled for the flute, but it was too late.  As he fell to
the ground, unconscious, his only thought was "not again."


	Several hours--or days, or months, or years--later, Lydia returned
from the corridors of the ship.  Varda had spent all this time sitting
by one of the windows, staring at the world outside.  But outside there
was nothing but a constantly shifting desert, which stretched off into
infinite nothingness.  Looking at it made her feel as if there was a
great leaden weight on her soul.  Inside the ship, on the other hand,
there was an excitement she could feel like a physical heat, a crackle
of energy.  But there seemed to be something feverish and unhealthy
about it.  The more she looked out the window, the more she longed to
leave it and go speak with the people here, who seemed consumed by the
energy here.  But she dared not move.  She felt as if she were being
stalked by a predator and had to stay absoultely still so it would not
see her.

	When Lydia emerged from the corridors of the ship, some of her fear
left her.  She didn't have to face this alone.  But when she saw Lydia,
she became afraid again.  Lydia seemed haggard and burned out.  She had
lost some of her earlier confidence.  Her eyes darted fearfully arund

	"Did you find anything?" asked Varda hesitantly.

	"No," said Lydia.  Her voice was low and flat.  "The corridors didn't
seem to lead anywhere.  They just twisted around and turned back on
themselves.  And I thought I heard something laughing at me from the
shadows wherever I went."

	Varda was about to respond when she saw that the scenery outside the
window was finally beginning to change.  The crowd on the ship began to
huddle around the windows.  The desert now began to shift like an
ocean.  They could see a city stretching up ahead of them as if through
thick summer haze.  And to the side of that city they could see what
looked like a walled garden.  In spite of herself, Varda felt a thrill
of excitement pass through herself as she saw it.  Lydia, however,
looked even more troubled.

	The ship slowed down as it approached the garden, finally coming to a
halt above it.  The armored figure which Varda had seen earlier, and
several other weapon-bearing men, began to herd the crowd through the
ship's corridors to an off ramp.  Varda felt a growing excitement as
she came to the exit, but she also noticed the rusty dinginess of the
corridors more and more.  All around her were signs of decay.

	When she stepped off the ship onto the ground, it was very different,
or at least it seemed very different.  The garden was choked over with
trees of all kinds, and flowers of a riot of colors.  The air was
filled with intoxicating scents.  Animals scurried over the ground.
The place seemed to be full of life.  For a moment, Varda lost all her
doubts and was overcome.  "It's beautiful!" she shouted.

	Lydia shook her head.  "No  No it isn't."  But she didn't say anything
more.  Varda could not bring herself to speak to Lydia, but she set her
mind against the spell of this place, even though she was no longer
sure why.

	THe crowd parted and its hubbub quieted as someone stepped through.
Unase entered Varda's mind again, even though she was so tired of
trying to resist.  It was a tall, dignified, infinitely beautiful and
infinitely terrible woman clothed in a black veil...


	Once again, Ultimate Mercenary groggily opened his eyes.  The cell
around him seemed much cleaner than the one he'd been imprisoned in
earlier that day--almost inhumanly so.  He saw a shadowy, misshapen
figure standing over him.  He pulled out his ginsu katana and was about
to attack, when the figure above him started speaking, or rather
cawing:  "What are you doing here?  You look suspicious!"  Oh no,
Ultimate Mercenary thought.  Not him again...

	"Shut up," said another person sitting in the jail cell.  He looked
very similar to Ultimate Mercenary in height and build and was wearing
a more streamlined version of his uniform.  "Your dialogue is boring
and old-fashioned.  It's not realistic.  Mine is.  I've won awards for
it.  Blah blah blah blah blah snarky pop-culture reference blah blah
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah..."

	Masterplan Lad then whacked him over the head with his umbrella and he
slumped to the ground.  "Why did you do that?" said Ultimate Mercenary.

	"He was giving off Bendis Energy," said Masterplan Lad.  "It slows
down the story to a crawl to make room for the dialogue.  That would
allow the Headhunter to catch up with us."

	"You're not authorized to be here!" shouted Ultimate Mer-Canary.

	"Given that we're in a jail cell in the Evil LNH universe, I rather
think we are," said Masterplan Lad.  "Who exactly was that person I
just hit?"

	"That was Ultimate Patriot, your counterpart from the Society of
Net.Heroes universe," said someone else who was brooding in the corner
of the cell.  He had a deep, booming voice but spoke with a wry,
detatched quality.  Ultimate Mercenary could only just make him out in
the shadows.  "He has an origin similar to yours, only with no
alternate timelines involved--as he comes from a 'realistic' version of
the Looniverse, where 'realistic' means being depressing and having
massive government conspiracies instead of alien invasions and
long-winded dialogue which no actual person would actually say instead
choppy exclamation-point-ridden dialogue that no person would actually
say.  The man he was cloned from became a hero in secret after the
apparent death of Ultimate Soldier, his universe's version of Ultimate

	"So who are you?" said Ultimate Ninja.

	"It's a long story," said the other man.  He was wearing what at first
looked like a ninja outfit with white dots on it.  But as he came to,
Ultimate Mercenary realized that they were glowing faintly.  His
costume resembled a star field.  "I come from one of the more possible
possible futures of your world, what some would call the LNH2 universe.
 My name is Penultimate Savior."

	"So are you another one of my alternate universe counterparts, or
what?" said Ultimate Mercenary.

	"It would probably be better if I didn't tell you," said Penultimate
Savior.  "I--"

	Then, two Kirbytroopers floated up to the side of the room, and the
door swished open.  They threw a pink-haired woman wearing a very
garish costume into the room.  She was bound up in Kirbytech chains,
but from the fierce look in her eyes it she was full of undaunted inner
strength and barely restrained energy.  She was also very, very
beautiful, with Asian features and bright blue eyes, and equally bright
pink hair.  There was something extremely familiar about her.

	Penultimate Savior, who had remained carefully emotionless, actually
smiled when she entered the room.  "Well.  Manga Girl.  I didn't expect
to see you show up."

	She grinned a broad, exuberant grin.  "Hi William!  Would you mind
getting me out of these chains so I can slip into something more

	"That comment was a little out of line, given that you are my sister."

	"It's called having a sense of humor.  You should try it some time."

	"I do have one.  It just involves a certain amount of subtlety.  _You_
should try it some time."

	"Wait a minute, Manga Girl?" said Ultimate Mercenary, utterly shocked.
 Manga Girl was the net.heroine who'd helped him defeat Apocalisp all
those years ago in the future.  She was the one he'd been in love with
for all the time he was in the LNH.  She was the most wonderful, fun,
amazing woman he'd ever known and even after he'd met Varda the one
thing  he'd been hoping for most is that he'd see her again.  This
girl's face looked like a real person rather than a manga character,
and her costume had a few cyberpunk accoutrements, but it was
definitely her.  "You?  Huh-wa-how--"

	Her reaction was even more surprising.  "Dad?" she said.

	"Perhaps I should explain," said Ultimate Savior.  "Manga Girl--the
third to bear the name--is my sister, and you are our father."

	"Bu-ha-whaa?"  Ultimate Mercenary was totally at a loss for words.
The idea of him actually having children made his mind boggle.  THe
idea of him actually undergoing the activity that would lead to having
children made his mind boggle even more.  "Uh-guh--Who was the mother?
Did Manga Girl finally come to love me?"

	Penultimate Savior and Manga Girl III looked at each other uneasily.
Sadness briefly passed over both of them.  "Um, it's complicated," said
Manga Girl III.

	"So you're the third one?" said Masterplan Lad.  "I'd been briefed on
the first one, becuase of Ultimate Mercenary's connection with her, but
I didn't know there was another one."  Given what that connection was,
he decided to suppress any of the more pointed comments he would have
about this.

	"Um, there was," said Manga Girl III.  "I think she joined just after
you did.  As I said, it's complicated.  And I know that the Tom Russell
Manga Girl series was a steaming pile of crap, but the second one was
actually--no, never mind.  You'll find out soon, I guess.  Don't want
to start any time paradoxes..."  She turned to her brother.  "So did
any of the other Saviors of the Net get here?"

	"Only Mood Arrow and Needy, Dr. Netropolis, and
Man-Creature-Scary-Disturbed-Very.  What about the WildA.C.R.O.N.Y.M.?"

	"Jenny made it here, but she was the only other one.  I guess that's
for the best given what the last time our teams met was like..."

	"So we'll have to get out of this on our own then?  That shouldn't be
too hard.  And we might even be able to put that idiot there to our

	"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing," said Ultimate Mercenary, who
was really hoping he'd get out of here and into a plotline that he was
actually supposed to understand.  "He could drone out the Kirbytroopers
with his boring monologues.  But how do we wake him up?"

	"I could awaken him using my Device, using its power over
consciousness" said Masterplan Lad.  "Then he could counteract the
Kirbian creative energy with his Bendisian banality.  But we'd need
earplugs in order to prevent his monologues from affecting us..."  He
dug around in his pockets and pulled out one pair of earplugs for each
of them.  "Here you go," he said.  Penultimate Savior, however, turned
him down.  "It would be of no use to me," he said.  "My powers of
cosmic awareness would prevent me from tuning out his monologues,
though they would also prevent my mind from being dulled."  The others
all put the earplugs in their ears.

	Masterplan Lad's umbrella began to glow again.  He waved it over
Ultimate Patriot's head, and he leaped up and started monologuing all
over again.  Through the clear plastic door they could see the
Kirbybots outside began to start fidgeting frantically.

	"NOW!" shouted Penultimate Savior, loud enough for the others to hear
him even through the earplugs.  He assumed an elaborate martial-arts
pose and blasted the door off with a burst of cosmic-looking energy.
The other heroes all streamed out and started atacking the Kirbybots.
Their reflexes were slower now, and the heroes actually started wearing
them down.  Ultimate Mercenary found himself distratected in the middle
of the fight by the beauty and grace of Manga Girl's fighting
technique, then belatedly remembered that she was actually his daughter
from an alternate future rather than the love of his life.  The shock
of this made him almost not notice a blast of Kirby dots winging toward
his face.  He ducked at the last moment and kicked the head off the
Kirbytrooper that shot it.  Yes, being a superhero could sometimes lead
to some odd social situations...

	Suddenly, the room was filled with heavy metal music that was so loud
it actually disintegrated the earplugs.  An enormous laser blast
knocked out all the heroes except for Masterplan Lad, who shielded
himself and Ultimate Mercenary at the last minute.  Ultimate Patriot
was still monologuing when the blast knocked him out.

	The floor shook as a hideous, heavily armored figure stomped into the
room.  Based on his costume, he was another alternate universe version
of Ultimate Mercenary, probably his Evil LNH counterpart.  But if
Ultimate Mercenary's costume looked like something Jim Lee would draw
on one of his off days, this man's costume looked like something Rob
Liefield would draw while taking acid during a Gwar concert.  His
enormous bulky armor only made his scrawny form look more ridiculous.
His shoulder pads were actually bigger than his head.

	"Turn, fools," he said, "and face the wrath of...  ULTIMATE
EXECUTIONER!"  Another loud guitar riff filled the air.  Ultimate
Mercenary was subdued, but not in the way that Ultimate Executioner had
hoped for.  He fell down on the floor laughing.

	"You will die for this!" shouted Ultimate Executioner.  "Ultimate
Emperor will surely reward me when I deliver him your head!"
Masterplan Lad flew through the air to strike at him, but he started
playing another riff on his massive sword, which doubled as a guitar,
and Masterplan Lad fell from the air screaming.  Ultimate Mercenary
only just managed to pull himself off the floor, but his head was
throbbing and he wobbled on his feet.  He was slammed to the floor by a
blast from Ultimate Executioner's axe/guitar/laser blaster.  Ultimate
Executioner started laughing and was about to behead him when someone
else walked into the room.

	He was wearing a costume that made it clear that he was yet another
alternate universe counterpart of Ultimate Mercenary.  That costume,
however, also revealed an enormous amount of chest hair and large, oily
muscles.  He looked at Ultimate Executioner, and a large bulge in his
pants made it clear that he was very, very happy to see him.

	"Hey baby?  How would you like a date with Ultimate Gigolo?"

	Ultimate Executioner screamed and ran out of the room, pursued madly
by Ultimate Gigolo.  Ultimate Mercenary and Masterplan Lad stood up
groggily.  "Well, that was close," he said.  "Where the heck did he
come from?

	"The XXX Looniverse," said Masterplan Lad.  "Don't ask.  We need to
get out of here now.  The alternate worlds are slowly converging as the
coming battle approacheds.  The LNHQ is the worst possible place to be
now.  We have to--"

	Then, both were silent.  Because they heard once more the breathing of
something dead.  "No.  Not again," said Masterplan Lad.  The Headhunter
walked into the room with the deliberate slowness of something that
knew there was no way its prey could escape it.  Masterplan Lad and
Ultimate Mercenary were both tired now, and felt all the energy drained
out of them.  The breathing of the Headhunter filled their minds.

	And then, everything went white...

NEXT:  Amalgam!

Author's notes:  Well, after two years, I finaly managed to write this
issue.  And it kind of sucked, didn't it?  That's the problem with
writing stories that are linked to crossovers.  The up side is that it
can provide a fun creative springboard and allow for a greater sense of
creative community.  The down side is that if you get behind, you'll be
stuck dealing with the plot convolutions of a story that's three years
old.  That said, the next set of plot convolutions (the RACC
parody/amalgam stuff) should make for a fun story, and it's a shame
more LNH series didn't do stories tied into that.  But I won't be
resetting the plot to where it was in issue 2.  I can only go so far...

	I'm also rather tired of this story arc having gone on for so long.
As soon as I finish it, I'll be moving this series (and I'm fairly sure
it will be a regular series now) in a direction where it would involve
mostly single-issue stories, although I'll also lay some seeds that
would allow me to pick up the more ambitious storylines I was
considering when I'm ready.

	Anyway:  Some of the LNH2 stuff is foreshadowing for plot developments
that will be occurring in this series or other LNH stories of mine very
soon.  The Mood Arrow alluded to here is the original Mood Arrow, but
the Dr. Netropolis, as per what Arthur Spitzer said, is not the
original Dr. Netropolis.  Or rather, not the one who appeared in the
Saviors of the Net cascade, because this Dr. Netropolis was around
earlier.  (And will be appearing in present continuity soon.)  I'll
write a story explaining what the deal is with the 2020-era Saviors of
the Net when Arthur Spitzer writes his promised Saviors of the Net #18,
IE, probably never.    And isn't it kind of odd now that I think about
it that I post a story involving alternate versions of both the Legion
of Net.Hippies and the Saviors of the Net the very week that Arthur
Spitzer comes back?

Ultimate Mercenary created by Tom Russell and reserved by me.  The
original Manga Girl created by Tom Russell.  The Oddball LNH universe,
Master Plaster and the Evil LNH universe created by Jameel al-Kahlifaz.
 The Anti-Moderator, the LNH2 universe, the SNH universe and the XXX
LNH universe created by Martin Phipps.  Headhunters created by Jesse
Willey.  The Legion of Net.Hippies, Mood Arrow,
Man-Disturbed-Scary-Creature-Very, and the original Dr. Netropolis and
Saviors of the Net created by Arthur Spitzer.  Everything else is mine.

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