LNH: Beige Countdown #10 (3/4)
robrogers72 at gmail.com
Thu May 29 22:12:28 PDT 2008
"Londonbroil, I'm bored," Barrage said, idly smashing a
pair of asteroids together with the flick of a paw.
"You don't say?" said the thin man with the flamethrower,
watching through the vast stained-glass window as the little
silver dot of the heroes' spaceship weaved its way through yet
another shower of planetary debris. "And here I thought the
whole picking things up and knocking them to bits against each
other was what you enjoyed most."
"Oh, I enjoy it; of course I enjoy it," Barrage said,
rolling onto his back and twirling his two front paws around
in circles as the starlight made kaliedescope patterns in his
belly fur. "I haven't had this much fun since I was a
kitten. But I don't usually chase anything this long. My
instincts tell me I should let them go for a bit, lie in
waiting until they've got their confidence back, and then
pounce. What do you think, Londonbroil?"
"I'm afraid we're all out of Londonbroil for the moment,"
said a high, cheerful voice. "Would you settle for a pound
or two of getting your ass kicked?"
Barrage spun around, leapt to his feet and stared, wide-
eyed, at the most perfect thing he had ever seen.
It was the size of a bear. It was dressed, uncomfortably,
in a black spacesuit. It was hovering above an unconscious
Londonbroil, its two front paws folded one over the other,
looking pleased with itself.
And it was a hamster.
Barrage paused for just a moment -- he knew that the
heroes were getting closer, and he had learned how dangerous it
was to leave any of his foes unattended. But then the giant
floating hamster wiggled his pink nose and Barrage forgot
everything in the world but the joy of trying to kill it.
He started with the chairs, lifting them one by one from
the various tables and consoles around the room with his mind
and flinging them at the hamster, which swooped and dodged and
flew around the room in wide, delicious loops. Barrage's tail
swished back and forth as he tore monitors from their couplings,
lifted computer banks and a rotating globe (Mynabird had said
it was important, but Barrage felt he could always put it back
after he had finished crushing the rodent) and launched them
through the air. Yet the hamster ducked and wove with super-
cricetidean dexterity, finally blasting the globe in half with
a flash of light from its eyes.
Barrage reached out with his mind to tug at one of the
shelves from an adjoining room, but the hamster was already on
top of him, pinning him to the ground with one clawlike hand.
"Time to put this cat in the bag," Captain Rat Creature
"Oh please," Barrage said, staring up at the hamster with
wide, unblinking eyes. "I'm just a little cat. A little gray
cat who never meant to hurt anyone."
"Tough luck, Toonces," Captain Rat Creature said. "That
Hello Kitty routine only works on humans."
"I see," said Barrage, narrowing his eyes and staring at
one of the remaining computer consoles. A green light
flickered on its instrument panel, and doors on either side of
the chamber slid open to reveal dozens of almond eyes.
"More cats?" Captain Rat Creature said, staring from door
to door as felines slunk, crept and capered into the room.
"Couldn't you have at least hired some henchpeople? You could
have dressed them in cat suits. Or would that have been too
Andrew Lloyd Webber for you?"
"Allow me to introduce the Meow Meow Gang," Barrage said,
as the cats formed a circle around Captain Rat Creature.
"Like me, they were the subject of a cruel human experiment,
genetically modified and enhanced with nanotechnology by the
master criminal Darkheart. Of course, that was the first
generation. Since then, they've been growing...multiplying...
"Upgrading?" Captain Rat Creature said, noting the
metallic gleam in the eye of a Siamese. "These kitties run
The roomful of cats raised their fur and hissed.
"No one in their right mind would upgrade to Vista,"
Barrage said. "These cats created their own operating system
years ago, then sold it to Apple as Tiger, Leopard... I believe
they're currently working on Cougar..."
Captain Rat Creature's ears pricked up as a roomful of
paws unsheathed long, jagged claws, circular saws, tiny plasma
jets, particle-beam cannons and chainsaw blades.
"Easy, kitties," the hamster said, as the little green
light on the computer turned red and the doors of the room
clamped shut. The cats crept closer. "Nice kitties..."
An orange-and-white tabby cocked its head and blinked at
Captain Rat Creature.
"Mj30w?" it said, and pounced.
This was the part Captain Continuity always hated. Not
bursting into the enemy stronghold; Captain Continuity had
always been very good at bursting into things. What bothered
him -- what always bothered him -- was coming up with something
to say as he crashed through the bulkheads that the person on
the other side would find both witty and authoritative. It was
one of the many reasons he turned down requests from the camera
crews at "COPS" to report on his work.
"It's over, Mynabird," he began, then shook his head.
Saying that would only prompt the leader of the Legion of Net.
Villains to assert that it wasn't, in fact, over, and might even
make him feel obligated to fight it out in order to prove the
point. Captain Continuity wasn't opposed to fighting -- most of
the time, he preferred punching someone in the face to arguing
with them -- but he had embarassed Mynabird in their last
encounter, and in his experience super-villains rarely allowed
themselves to be embarassed more than once.
Captain Continuity sighed and drummed his fingers against
the armored wall in front of him. A pair of security robots
rounded the corner and began firing lasers into his back, but he
paid them no attention. He couldn't very well say, "Your reign
of terror is over, fiend," because Mynabird hadn't had the
opportunity to reign over anything, and he couldn't say "This
time, you've gone too far," because that would only help to
reinforce the villain's sense of megalomania, which was exactly
what Doctor Phil was saying heroes weren't supposed to do
whenever he had them on his show...
To hell with it, Captain Continuity thought, and barreled
his way through the doors.
"Mynabird!" he shouted. "It's time to bring this ship
into the shore...and throw away the oars...forever!"
He regretted the words as soon as he had said them, but
there was nothing to be done. His predecessor in the Knights
of Continuity, the mighty Continuity Champ, had warned him more
than once of the dangers of rushing into battle with an REO
Speedwagon song stuck in his head.
But Mynabird seemed not to notice. The villain sat in
the middle of his throne room, a vast chamber designed by
the koalas who had created it to look like a forest grove,
with the twisted trunks of artificial trees curving away
from the cup-shaped throne at the center and the octagonal
observation panel beyond. His back was turned toward the
hero, which struck Captain Continuity as rude, given the amount
of trouble he had gone to in order to reach him.
"Turn and face me, monster," Captain Continuity said, then
hesitated. "Unless you're doing something private over there.
In which case... finish up, and then turn and face me!"
The throne rotated around. Instead of the armored
Mynabird, however, Captain Continuity found himself face-to-
face with a man in an impeccably-tailored Italian suit
saluting him with a glass of wine.
"Captain Continuity," the man said. "How wonderful it is
in this day and age to meet someone like yourself, whose vast
abilities are yet exceeded by his good manners."
"Arthur E.L. Presence?" Captain Continuity gasped. "So
you're the one inside the Mynabird costume?"
"Good heavens, no," Presence said, placing the glass of
wine on the arm of the throne as he rose from his seat. "Not
that I hold anything against those who choose to go the armored
route; it's quite flattering on some people, and you can tell
Mynabird I said so. Those of us who can alter what you think
of as reality on a whim, however, find that kind of
accoutrement a trifle extraneous."
As he spoke, Arthur E.L. Presence made a slight gesture
with his hand, and Captain Continuity found himself inside a
long copper cylinder, staring at Presence's smiling face
through a single riveted window. He raised his fist to smash
the glass, but found movement to be painfully slow -- it
seemed to take a whole minute for his mental command to reach
his arm, and when his arm finally did move it felt as though
he was pushing it through Jell-O, or slow-setting concrete.
"Well yes of course I can believe it will hold you, since
it's my belief that put you there in the first place," Presence
said, resting an elbow on one of the artificial tree trunks
surrounding the throne. "To be perfectly honest, Captain --
and I truly don't wish you to take this in the wrong way --
when Mynabird called to offer me a contract, I was convinced
he'd ask me to eliminate someone like Deja Dude or Opinionated
Lad... someone who would be a real challenge, even for a person
of my particular abilities. Killing you didn't strike me as
all that interesting."
me..." Captain Continuity gasped. What was happening?
It felt a little like fighting Lagneto, except that he found it
difficult to stay focused on what he was doing. The more he
willed his arms and legs to move, the more his mind flooded
with things he hadn't thought about in years... memories of
growing up, of his years with Generation Y, of the planets he'd
saved, the people he'd known...
"You've always been a straightforward, stand-up kind of
guy, Captain, which I'm sure makes you delightful to work with,
but gives me very few options as a writer," Presence said.
"In some ways, you're a bit of a throwback. A good-hearted,
clean-souled fellow just trying to do his best for the universe.
That sort of thing mostly went out with the Silver Age."
The Captain... no, not the Captain... his name was Chet
Wiggins... and he had a puppy as a child, Mr. Flopsy, and he
and Mr. Flopsy used to wrestle on the living room rug while
listening to R.E.O. Speedwagon records...
Captain Continuity shook his head. Mr. Flopsy? Where
were these thoughts coming from? He had to concentrate, to
focus on getting those few steps closer to the window...
"And that's when it occured to me," Presence said,
making another gesture and causing the glass of wine to vanish
from the throne and appear in his hand. "What would happen if
one were to take a stalwart old soul such as yourself and
rapidly expose you to all the storytelling conventions of the
modern world? That's what prompted me to build my masterpiece
-- the Bronze-age Emotional Necessitator and Decompression
Implementation System. Think of it as a kind of reverse
hyberbaric chamber -- it forces you to become decompressed."
Chet Wiggins remembered the junior high dance where he'd
finally worked up the courage to ask Tiffany Sloan for a slow
dance -- but before he could say a word, his friend Matt Danlan
(who wasn't even a close friend but just someone he sort of
knew) had asked for his help because something he'd done had
pissed Doug Waters off and the older boy had stuck gum in his
hair... and he had wanted, so badly, to stay on the dance floor
long enough to hear what Tiffany had to say, even if it was no,
but Matt insisted he come to the men's room to help him out...
"Not only does the BENDIS slow your perception of time --
forcing you to take several issues to accomplish something you
would normally have completed in the space of a few panels --
but it requires you to experience rapid characterization,
flashing back to events of your past whether or not they have
anything to do with the situation at hand," Arthur E.L.
Presence said. "You'll find it all but impossible to resolve
your current plotline -- but you'll also live your life more
fully than someone as two-dimensional as yourself could ever
Wiggins knew he was in a trap. But he also knew he had
never fully explored the relationship he'd had with Continuity
Champ. Did the Champion see him as merely an enthusiastic
young companion -- the way Chet had once seen Mr. Flopsy?
Or had he recognized that Chet had the potential to live a full
and meaningful life on his own, but forced him to accept the
service the Knights of Continuity required -- just as that
damned Matt Danlan had dragged him away from Tiffany?
Presence raised his glass to toast the captured hero.
"You can leave any time you like, of course," he said.
"You simply have to want to get out more than you want to learn
the deeper truth about yourself. Personally, I think you'll go
barking mad, but I'm trying to stay objective about the whole
thing. I expect it will be a fascinating demonstration. I'd
suggested to Mynabird that he might want to join me for this,
but he said he had something more important to do. I can't
imagine what that could be. Cheers."
Although he would never have admitted it to anyone but
himself, years of serving as the conduit of the Power Kirby had
taken their toll on Kid Kirby's personal life. The people who
had once been his closest companions had become friends, then
colleagues and were now merely acquaintences. Even the most
powerful members of the Legion of Net.Heroes found it difficult
to avoid looking at their wristwatches whenever Kid Kirby
described what it was like to try to prevent a collision between
galaxies, or to forge a peace between the Elder Gods of ARPANET
and the Cute Continuum.
As a result, Kid Kirby spent a great deal of time talking
"Must it ever be so?" he mused, the residual energies of
the Power Kirby swirling around his armored fists in the form
of several spinning dots and a stream of crackling energy.
"But why? Why must the evils of an earlier age ever be
exhumed by the rising generation? Is it true, then, that only
that which is good be allowed to rest in peace?"
He stared at the swirling patterns of starfighters above
and sighed. After his first devastating assault, the robot
pilots had formed themselves into smaller and smaller groups,
making it more difficult for him to eliminate large numbers of
them at once. Those few fighters that had survived both his
power surges and Captain Continuity's assault on the carrier
were either the cleverest or luckiest of all, and picking them
off was proving difficult.
"Even as I destroy you, I pity you, robots," Kid Kirby
said, lashing out with another blinding flash at a group of
dive-bombers. "To have aped humanity and not to have
savored it... to have chosen instead, the path of senseless
destruction is nothing but..."
"Familiar?" said Mynabird, as something heavy and hard
clamped down on Kid Kirby's back, causing his arms and legs
to convulse with pain.
"Can you hear me? Good," Mynabird said, as a storm of
blue-white energy surged from Kid Kirby's twitching body through
a pair of wires Mynabird had attached to his own armor. "I'm
broadcasting on every imaginable frequency. It's my belief
that when your world is being torn apart it's only fair that
the one doing the tearing should let you know what's happening,
and why. God never seems to get around to doing that, but I
plan to improve upon His model."
"So you th-think yourself a god?" Kid Kirby said, as
power flickered and flowed from his armor like liquid
lightning. "You d-d-dare..."
"Most people would be flattered," Mynabird said, the
blackness of his helmet silhouetted against the pulsating
waves of energy emanating from Kid Kirby. "I stole a
spaceship. Drove it halfway across the universe -- and that's
with gas at $4 a gallon. Hunted down your friends and threw a
planet at them. Let you sit here and play Galaxian against my
army of robot duplicates.
"All so I could get close to you, Kid Kirby," Mynabird
said. "It was all for you."
With a supreme effort, Kid Kirby wrenched one wavering
hand toward his back, but Mynabird slapped it away before it
could make contact with the cable he had clamped there.
"You know what the hard part was?" Mynabird said.
"Finding a pair of these things... what are they called?
Oh, yes... Barnardian jumper cables, capable of taking energy
from any source, such as you, and transfering it to any other
source. Like me."
"You... you can't... you're not worthy..."
"Here's what I've learned about life," Mynabird said,
shuddering as his armor absorbed the last of the Power Kirby.
"Those who are given the power over life and death hardly ever
deserve it. You know how that goes, don't you, Kid Kirby?
It's like... if you have a milkshake... and I have a straw...
and my straw is longer than yours... not that I'm compensating
for anything, it's just that I happen to have a really long
"The power... I must... not... allow..." Kid Kirby said.
Ripping the cables loose from Kid Kirby's back, Mynabird
spun the motionless hero around with one hand.
"And my straw reaches your glass... you know what happens
then, Kirby? Can you guess?" Mynabird shouted, his hands
beginning to pulse with a dull red glow. "I... DRINK... YOUR
Clasping his fists together, Mynabird bashed Kid Kirby
with a two-handed wallop, sending the armored Legionnaire
spinning end over end through empty space. He opened one
palm and blasted Kid Kirby with pure cosmic energy,
launching the hero backward in the direction of the gray
"YEEEEEHAAAH!" Mynabird said, pumping his fist. "The
feeling -- it's incredible! Like being drunk and on a
waterslide and running into your seventh-grade crush and having
them say you look like a rock god while at the same time you're
listening to a jam session of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, the
guy from AC/DC and Alex Lifeson -- but more so. Much more so.
Kirby, how did you ever restrain yourself from doing things
Holding his red, glowing fists in front of him, Mynabird
twisted each hand in the opposite direction.
Hundreds of billions of light-years away, in a high school
classroom somewhere near the center of Net.ropolis, Easily-
Discovered Man Lite gripped his arm and screamed in pain.
"Hector Lopez!" said a tall woman with a clipboard.
"Please pick up your number two pencil and return to the test."
"I can't explain it," Lite said, "but somehow... someone
just gave me an Indian burn."
"I've heard enough of your excuses, Mr. Lopez," the
teacher said, ignoring the laughter of the other students. "No
force on earth is going to keep you from completing this state-
required standardized placement test... not your headache, or
your arm falling asleep, or phantom ailments, or...
"Holy mother Christmas!" she exclaimed, as an unseen hand
lifted Easily-Discovered Man Lite into the air by his underwear.
"That's... quite a wedgie."
"YES!" Mynabird cried from the other side of the universe.
"And now... the dreaded 'purple nurple'..."
"...come in, Mynabird," whispered the voice of Vector
Prime. "Are you finished with the Kirbian yet? Your troops
are ready for the final assault on the Ultimate Black Hole."
"Fine," Mynabird said, firing an offhand blast at the
still-drifting Kid Kirby that sent him spiraling down toward
the planet below. "Farewell, Kid Kirby. May you make a more
interesting crater than you did an enemy."
"Something's wrong," Linguist Lass said.
"Really?" Parking Karma Kid asked. "Because I thought
with all the rocks and spaceships and energy beams coming at
us that we were all doing spectacularly well."
"It's Kid Kirby," Linguist Lass said. "He's... he's
"And we haven't heard from Captain Continuity, Captain
Rat Creature, or Minority *@#$%^& Miss," Innovative-Offense Boy
said, shaking his head as he and Ultimate Ninja walked past the
rows of Legionnaires standing at attention in the ship's
"Kid Kirby knew what kind of a mission this was," the
Ultimate Ninja said, his face unreadable beneath its hood.
"As did each of you when you signed on for this trip."
"Excuse me, please, but I'm not sure that I did,"
Obsessive Compulsive Boy said. "Although I think, that is I'm
pretty sure that I remember that Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Boy told me
it would be a lot like Battlestar Gallactica without all the
Ultimate Ninja scowled at Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Boy, who
shrugged. "Contempo Weapons Lad gave me $20 to take him
along," the Chauvinistic Crusader said. "Can't turn down
scratch like that, even if it is in Alt.stralian dollars."
"We may have lost our heaviest hitters... but we still
have You're Not Hitting Me *@#$%^&ing Hard Enough Lad,"
Innovative-Offense Boy said, nodding to the excited-looking
hero on the transmat pad. "We still have Jean," he added,
stealing a glance at his wife, the warrior known as Ordinary
Lady. "Drabble Girl is as tough as they come, and so is Steak-
And-Mother@#$%^&ing-Potatoes Man, and Substitute Lad, and..."
His voice trailed away as he stared at Girlwatcher.
"Well, we have Deja *&^%$#@ing Dude, anyway," he finished,
turning to Linguist Lass. "Tell that @#$%^& to get up here if
he's finished sweet-talking the @#$%^& computer."
"Duty calls, my dear," Deja Dude said, transforming his
smoking jacket back into an LNH spacesuit. "I only wish I
could stay here forever listening to your dulcet tones."
"Do you really mean that?" the starship's Mother-In-Law
Box asked, as Deja Dude picked his way through the cluttered
"Absolutely," Deja Dude said. "There's nothing I'd like
more than to go someplace quiet, just the two of us. Perhaps,
when all of this is over..."
He closed the hatch to engineering, smirked, and snapped
his fingers. Nothing happened. He snapped them again. To
his surprise and frustration, nothing continued to happen.
"Fine," he muttered, breaking into a brisk jog and
climbing the two ladders and three sets of stairs required to
reach the transmat chamber. "Ultimate Ninja, everybody, sorry
He looked around at an empty room.
"Can't believe they started the attack without me," he
said, squinting at the chamber walls. "That's funny," he
added, shaking his head. "My X-ray vision doesn't seem to be
working. Maybe Minority Miss really did beat it out of me.
"I'll try the old magic mirror trick," he said, looking
down at one of the reflective tiles on the transmatter pad.
"Mirror, mirror on the mat -- show me where my friends are at!"
The tile remained silent, even after Deja Dude had kicked
it twice. In desperation, he sought out the computer monitor
mounted above the door.
"MERIS?" he asked. "Sweetheart? Uh, where did all the
other LNHers go?"
"I sent them away," the computer said. "Just as you
requested. I'd do anything for you."
"Then bring them back," Deja Dude said, folding his arms.
"But Deja," the computer said, sounding hurt. "You said
you wanted to be alone with me. I even went to the trouble of
transporting the ship to another universe... someplace without
any comic books or super-heroes, so those powers of yours
wouldn't get in our way."
"You've taken away my powers?" Deja Dude said. "Listen,
MERIS, without my powers, somebody could get hurt. Me, for
instance. You need to bring those back right away."
One of the tiles on the transmat pad -- the one Deja Dude
had kicked, in fact -- began to hum. A pair of Mary Jane shoes
appeared on the pad, followed by a pair of legs in white knee
socks and the body of a young woman, dressed in a Japanese
"But we haven't even had time to get to know each other,"
the computer said, as the young woman's head appeared, her
bright-pink hair cut into bangs. The girl stepped down from
the transmat pad and ran her hand along Deja Dude's cheek.
"And I'm really looking forward to that."
Deja Dude swallowed. "Listen, MERIS, I may have given you
the wrong impression earlier," he said, pointing to the wedding
band on his hand. "You see, I'm a married man."
The girl put one hand over her mouth and giggled.
"I haven't been entirely truthful about myself either,"
said the girl, her voice coming simultaneously from the
computer monitor and her own well-glossed lips. "You see, I'm
really less of a computer and more of...well, I guess you could
call me a virus."
"Okay," Deja Dude said. "Not the worst thing a woman has
ever kept from me, but close."
"And my name's not really MERIS," the girl said, sliding
both of her arms around Deja Dude's neck. "It's Merissa. And
I'm your biggest fan."
NEXT: The Legion finds itself in an all-too-familiar place...
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