LNH: Beige Midnight #3: Imperium Hex Part III: 'The Final Piece' (2/3)

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Mon Sep 22 19:18:10 PDT 2008

Beginning of Part II

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

Back at the secret meeting place --

"Stop Hex Luthor, Guv?  That's a question.  Now isn't that?"  Bicycle 
Repair Lad paused and poured himself a cup of tea.  He then took a cup 
of cream and poured a little in.  Then he took a lemon slice and gently 
squeezed it over his tea.  Finally, he took two sugar cubes and dropped 
them into the tea and then stirred the whole concoction till it was 
thoroughly blended.  And then he sipped the tea.  "And a Jolly Good 
question at that.  Stop Hex Luthor.  Stop Hex Luthor.  Ah.  How to stop 
Hex Luthor?  Well, only one way really.  Only one way that's ever 
worked.  And will ever work on these dodgy snakey bleeder sort (Pardon 
the language).  One way.  One way only.  The Swift Ride of --*Bicycle 
Justice*!!  Dum-de-dum!!" hummed Bicycle Repair Lad.

"The -- what?" said everyone else in the room.

"Bicycles.  Hex can't stand them.  Afraid of them, 'e is.  'Is kind 
always is.  Yes.  We need bicycles!  Tons of bicycles!  I can see it 
now!  Every member of the LNH will 'ave a bicycle!  A flying bicycle!" 
A crazed look started to pop up in Bicycle Repair Lad's eyes.  "Oh yes! 
  Flying bicycles!  Flying down from the sky!  Every one a different 
colour!!  Hahah!!  And maybe -- yes maybe -- a big bicycle!!  The 
Biggest Bicycle ever!!  A bicycle so big that people will look at it and 
say to themselves, 'No!  No Bicycle can be that big!!  It's impossible!! 
  But I'm seeing it!!  It's a bicycle!!  And it's big!!  It's a Big 
Bicycle!!'  And I will ride this Big Bicycle into Battle!!  Yes!! 
Hahahhaha!!!  Yes!!  Bicycles!!!"

"And for this -- you people rejected my whole 'Knife Fight with Hex 
Luthor' idea?" said Knife Fight Dude shaking his head in disgust.

"Look," said Fearless Leader.  "Bicycle Repair Lad's been through a lot. 
  He spent nearly four months in a prison strapped to a bed and forced 
to watch Hex Luthor's speeches.  I'm sure with a little more rest he'll..."

"No!  I'm serious!  Bicycles!!  We need them!  All of them!!  Yes!! 
Bicycles!!"  Bicycle Repair Lad started to laugh again and say the word 
'bicycle' over and over.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

The LNHHQ --

Dr. Stomper lifted his eye from the microscope and rubbed it.  It was no 
use.  He was making no progress.

It didn't make sense.  He was Doctor Stomper.  He understood everything. 
  Chemistry.  Biology.  Physics.  Mathematics.  Computer Engineering. 
Continuity Science.  Pseudo Science.  Anti-Science.  He understood it 
all.  He should understand this.  He should understand how this Freedom 
Chip worked.  But he couldn't.  It was like a labyrinth of gibberish. 
The circuits shouldn't work the way they were laid out.  Even if you 
assumed that some circuits were in other dimensions it didn't make 
sense.  How did Hex Luthor create this?  Maybe it was magic.  No. 
Occultism Kid had already looked at the Freedom Chips.  They weren't magic.

Was he ever going to figure this out?  He returned to the microscope.

"Stomper?  Making any progress?"

Dr. Stomper turned around and saw Fearless Leader.  "Not at the moment. 
  I need more time.  You see it's -- umm --It's... uh nothing."

"Well.  I'm sure you'll figure it out.  You usually do.  Did you want to 
see me about something?"

"Oh right."  Dr. Stomper got up from his chair.  "I need to get in touch 
with Ripping Dancer.  I need to tell her that I will no longer make 
potions for her because of her condition."

"Sorry.  I'm no longer on speaking terms with -- Wait.  What condition? 
  She's -- Is she pregnant?"

"Pregnant?  Hmm.  Not that I know of.  She hasn't told you about her 

"No.  She hasn't told me a lot of things.  So what is it?  What's wrong 
with her?"

"Hmm.  I'm not sure I should be discussing this with you if she doesn't 
want you to know about it.  Can you tell me how to contact her?"

"No.  But I can get you in touch with people who can contact her.  As 
for potions, it won't matter.  She's already found someone in the LNV 
that can duplicate the potion for her."

"She's still with the Legion of Net.Villains?  I thought her mission was 
finished when Bicycle Repair Lad was free?"

"I thought so too.  Dancer had other ideas."

Dr. Stomper shook his head with a worried expression.  "This is not 
good.  She can't keep using the potions!"

"Why, Doc?  Why?  What's wrong with her?  Tell me."

Dr. Stomper sighed.  "I suppose you'll find out sooner or later.  Very 
well.  She has cancer."

Fearless Leader stepped slightly back and hesitated before speaking. 
"Cancer?"  A beeping sound came from one of Dr. Stomper's machines.  Dr. 
Stomper went over and switched it off.  "Cancer?"  Dr. Stomper took a 
flask of liquid out of the machine and poured another liquid into it. 
"Why didn't she -- why didn't she...?"  The liquid turned into a bright 
assortment of colors.  Dr. Stomper stirred it a few times and turned his 
attention back to Fearless Leader.  "Cancer?  How -- how long?"

"It's hard to say."  Dr. Stomper took off his glasses and wiped a spot 
off of them with his lab coat.  "She was diagnosed a few weeks ago. 
With proper treatment and a little luck, she could last a long time."

"And if not?"

"Well, if she doesn't get any treatment and keeps using those potions. 
Maybe two months at the most.  It's hard to say."

"Why didn't she -- why didn't she...?"  Fearless Leader rolled up his 
hand into a fist and punched the wall.  A large hole formed in the wall. 
  "Damn it!  Damn it!!"

"Do you know why she's still with the LNV, Fearless Leader?"

"No.  I mean -- yes.  She told me.  Love.  She said she was in love.  In 
love with someone.  Someone.  I don't know.  She fell madly in love with 
someone.  Just like that.  A few weeks and she falls in love.  Goddammit."

"Hmm," said Dr. Stomper as he cogitated about this.  "That does seem 
rather quick.  Falling in love that rapidly.  Hmm.  Would Romanic 
Innuendo be with the LNV by chance"?

Fearless Leader's eyes blinked.  "Romantic Innuendo?  Of course.  Why 
didn't I think -- Why didn't I -- that has to be it!  That has to be -- 
they've got her brainwashed!  They've got her -- I've got to -- I've got 
to..."  Fearless Leader looked back at Dr. Stomper.  "Got to go, Doc. 
Got to go and..."  Fearless Leader rushed out of Dr. Stomper's office.

"Wait!" Dr. Stomper said trying to stop Fearless Leader before he left. 
  But he was too late.  He hoped Fearless Leader wouldn't do anything 
foolish.  He could be wrong about Ripping Dancer.  Maybe she was in 
love.  A real love.

He looked at the flask.  The colors were all gone.  It was one color 
now.  Beige.  Dr. Stomper looked at the flask and then at the hole in 
the wall.  Oh well.  He couldn't do anything about it.  He needed to 
work on stuff that he could fix.  Like this Freedom Chip.

Sooner or later he'd figure it out.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

LNV Headquarters --

Vector Sublime looked at the sleeping form of Dr. Virus Love. 
Completely asleep.  Something she never had to do.  She looked over the 
room she was in.  She could hear something.  Something that no one else 
could hear.

Voices.  Voices in a frequency of sound only she could hear.

<<Have you delivered the Virus Maker, little one?>>

<<Yes,>> thought Vector Sublime to the voice in her head.  <<No one 
suspects.  Mynabird is too obsessed with his vendetta to think about the 
consequences.  And everyone else is too greedy for power.  They don't 
know.  They don't understand.>>

<<Good.  You will be well rewarded when we wake.>>

<<No.  I don't want a reward.  Just revenge.  That's all.>>

<<Don't worry little one.  We will satisfy you.>>

The voices went away.

Vector Sublime looked at the sleeping form of Dr. Virus Love.  She 
wondered what being asleep would be like.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

An Apartment Complex in East Net.ropolis --

The door burst open and a number of bullet-vested agents with guns came 
through it.

Dizzy Collar swiveled his chair towards the pointed guns and dropped the 
bag of wReamos he had been chowing down.  "Whoah!  This about all that 
internet music on my drive?  Cuz I can explain..."

"No," said a man who looked exactly like President Hexadecimal Luthor as 
he passed through the wall of armed men.  "This is about your artifact. 
  Where is it?"

"Damn!  You're a dead ringer for the President!"

"See this man here?  He'll shoot you in the kneecap on my order.  Show 
me the artifact.  I don't have patience.  Show it to me."

"Oh.  You must be talking about the fragment of the Cosmic Plot Device I 
have.  Interested in buying it?"

Hex Luthor shook his head.  "I am not here to buy stolen property."  He 
turned to one of the men with guns pointed at Dizzy's kneecap.  "Shoot him."

"Whoah!  Whoah!  Wait!" said Dizzy quickly getting out of his chair. 
"I'm getting it!  I'm getting it!"  Dizzy rushed over to his closet and 
took a shoebox off the top shelf.  "Here it is!  Honest!"  Dizzy handed 
the box to Hex Luthor.

Hex Luthor opened the box up.  There it was.  Immersed in crumpled 
newspaper.  Was this it?  It looked so ordinary.  Hex's hand trembled 
slightly as he picked it up.  He put the shard in his pocket.  "Arrest 
this man."

"What?  Hey!  I did what you said.  What am I under arrest for?  What?" 
  One of the bullet-vested men handcuffed Dizzy.

"Selling stolen property.  Now shut up."

"Wait!  What about my rights?  I got rights, don't I?  I want a lawyer!"

"Rights?"  Hex Luthor laughed.  "Okay.  Here are your rights.  You have 
the right to shut up.  And if you don't -- if you keep blabbering away 
-- then these men right here are going to do a whole lot worse than 
simply put you in jail.  A whole lot worse.  You understand?"

Dizzy nodded his head.

Hex Luthor, Dizzy, and the rest of the gunmen quickly walked out of the 
apartment room.

A few minutes later in the empty apartment, a dimensional crack opened up.

"Dude!  That was wicked!" said Dizzy Collar coming from the crack. 
"Hope my webcam got all that!"

Occultism Kid followed him and held his comm.thingee wristwatch up to 
his mouth.  "Decoy has been taken.  Phase II: Complete."

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

Back in the Middle East...

The fight was short as these things went, and only finished with the 
bloody murder of one of the combatants.  It also ran nothing like what 
the Al-Qaeda Amerika net.ahumans were expecting.  Unlike their attacks 
on ground troops of normal humans, their hit-and-run tactics gave them 
no significant advantage against the Bicycle Liberation Front's ability 
to predict and neutralise their abilities.  Had they been paying proper 
attention to the BLF's progress over the previous week they would have 
realised this and planned accordingly, but it seemed that Retcon Lad's 
injunction that the BLF's opponents would overlook this basic tactic 
matter was holding firm despite the known presence of another reality 
manipulator on the other side.

No sooner had Fourth Wall Lass said her words of warning than Twitter 
was off and running.  Once she was alerted to the danger her own 
telepathy allowed her to home in on her enemies' location, and her 
hyperactive impulsiveness made it inevitable that she'd run in straight 
away.  She actually managed to take out two of AQA before the one called 
Sahar, the 'Evil Eye', jinxed her with a badly sprained ligament and 
brought her down screaming in agony.

Meanwhile there was a briefest moment's gap while the Net.Elementalist 
swapped from the powers of flame to lag.  In this moment attacks could 
have gotten through, but Fourth Wall Lass opened up small holes in the 
threshold of the fourth wall to intercept and whisk away the energy 
blasts of the two AQA who had ranged attack powers, while Retcon Lad 
used his abilities to cause jamming failure in the weapons of those who 
did not.  However, Anal-Retentive Archive Kid's warning about the 
Iron-Fisted Imam, the Al-Qaeda reality manipulator, was weighing on 
Retcon Lad's mind.  If he were able to undo the net.hero's retcons then 
a lot of the Bicycle Liberation Front's advantage would vanish like 
morning mist.

As the Net.Elementalist lagged the super terrorists and their incoming 
attacks - and mercifully used the stasis to nullify the pain of Twitter 
until medical help could be brought to her - Retcon Lad called to the 
others, "We *don't* want a fight scene anywhere that might set off that 
chlorine trifluoride.  FaWL, take us all to the other side of the fourth 
wall.  Netty, drop the lag so she can grab the bad guys, then be ready 
to lay it back on as soon as we're all on the other side."

The Net.Elementalist nodded.  "Dropping lag in three, two, one... now," 
he said.  Fourth Wall Lass opened up her portals, and everyone that she 
could sense (including those still up on the mountainside) toppled 
across the threshold.  Then the lag slammed back into effect.  The 
shapeshifter known as Menagerie - one of the few AQA operatives that 
Retcon Lad was able to recognise straight off - was fast enough to react 
in the interim, beginning a transformation into something horrible while 
in mid leap at the net.heroes.  Then the Net.Elementalist's lag caught 
him again, and Menagerie was frozen just like most of the others.

Yes, most.  As Retcon Lad had feared, the Iron-Fisted Imam had somehow 
made himself resistant to the Bicycle Liberation Front's super powers. 
No surprise there; opposing reality manipulators soon learnt that 
undermining an enemy's impositions with conditional exceptions was just 
as potent a weapon as a direct physical assault.  With each passing 
instant the grip of the lag field on the IFI grew weaker as he brought 
more of his power of faith to bear against it.  "I believe!" the Imam 
thundered.  "Your devil-spawned powers will not hold me."

The Net.Elementalist tried to focus more lag against the Iron-Fisted 
one, and Retcon Lad tried to reinforce it.  But even before the 
Net.Elementalist called out the warning, "It's not going to hold him!" 
Retcon Lad knew the IFI would break free, and the net.hero began to 
steel himself for another head-to-head reality war.  He was sanguine 
about this; he'd come a long way since his first battle against Retcon 
RACC.coon when he'd had his butt handed to him.  However Lenny launched 
himself at the Iron-Fisted Imam before Retcon Lad could make his move.

The Iron-Fisted Imam was both angry and disdainful.  "I believe.  Burn 
in the fires of Hell," he ordered the squirrel-shaped yabon.  He had 
enough time to be surprised when the squirrel blocked his attack, and 
then Lenny was upon him.   He scrabbled across the Imam's face, then 
over his shoulders and onto his back, leaving scratches in his wake. 
These were distractions, nothing more.  Bound as he was to this material 
form, Lenny's physical attacks were absurdly weak compared to his 
spiritual abilities, and he needed physical contact to begin true 
spiritual combat.

Lenny - or Lundji, to use the non-anglicised version of his name - was a 
Dreamtime equivalent of an Abrahamic angel, and knew true spiritual 
power when he encountered it.  The Imam was not some random net.ahuman 
whose powers derived from science or pseudo-science.  Nor was he a mage 
using personal power hidden behind the pretence of the name of his god. 
  The Imam was a true priest wielding real miracles.

And in a universe of four-colour superheroics, where every pantheon of 
world mythology and more beside were real and rubbed shoulders with one 
another, that made the Iron-Fisted Imam just another powerful but 
generic cleric.

The Iron-Fisted Imam quickly strengthened his spiritual defences against 
Lenny's unexpectedly proficient attacks on his soul.  Unfortunately for 
the man Lenny's tens of millennia of existence in the Dreamtime included 
a lot of experience in spiritual combat.  The Imam's counter attacks 
were the psychic equivalent of physical assaults from lightning blasts, 
weapons fire, explosions and swords and death rays, but these were too 
clumsy and lacking in subtly to seriously threaten the yabon's soul.

Then, amidst the frenetic fighting, the Iron-Fisted Imam realised what 
Lenny was.  He almost laughed out loud.  So *that* was what the evil 
creature had tried to keep the Imam from discovering with this all-out 
assault.  The squirrel was in fact a spirit creature who had not 
submitted to Allah.  In other words, a devil.

No more skirmishing then.  A full-force banishment by the power of the 
Name.  "In the name of God the All-Powerful, begone from this place 
servant of evil!"

Nothing happened.

Except that Lenny had the opening he had been waiting for.

The yabon had seen something like this once before.  More than twelve 
hundred years ago, as mortals measured time, the Archangel Uriel had 
declared the non-Abrahamic pantheons to be impure and had launched an 
assault to destroy them all.  A host of angels had entered Alcheringa 
with the intention of razing it.  Uriel had made the same 
if-you-aren't-with-us-you're-against-us mistake that monotheists were so 
susceptible to, and believed that all spirits not of Yahweh were 
inferior demonlings.  Uriel had still believed that right up until the 
moment that he had tried to smite the powerful guardian spirit Mulunga 
with his flaming sword, only to see the sword snap in two.  Mulunga had 
used the instant's worth of surprise to catch Uriel off-guard and bite 
the archangel in half and swallow the pieces in one gulp.  Thereafter 
the only Abrahamic angels who had survived were those who had retreated. 
  Lundji himself had been involved in the battle that day, and had 
inflected final soul-death on one of his opponents.

Lenny had been waiting for the same moment of shock and hesitation in 
the Imam.  It was not a wavering of faith, but rather a half second's 
worth of WTF reaction as he tried to think of what to do next.  It was 
an instant when the Iron-Fisted one's defences were weakest, and Lenny 
used it.  With ruthless efficiency the yabon began ripping into the 
human's spiritual being in the manner most likely to cause permanent 
damage, violating the Imam's immortal self and critically maiming his 
soul.  The Iron-Fisted Imam screamed and tried to resist.  It was too 
late.  Lenny was already past his defences and wreaking havoc.

The Iron-Fisted Imam quickly collapsed insensate.  As far as the Bicycle 
Liberation Front could see there were only a few scratches on him, but 
they were only seeing physical damage.  "So you've knocked him 
unconscious?" asked the Net.Elementalist, who was ready to try and lag 
the Imam again as soon as Lenny moved away.

Lenny rolled his eyes.  It was only out of courtesy that he kept to 
their superheroic code of 'no killing unless necessary'.  "His body is 
not dead, if that's what you mean," the yabon began.  But before he 
could continue with his brief explanation that he had maimed the man's 
soul, there was an energy blast from off-panel that vaporised the 
Iron-Fisted Imam's head, sending Lenny flying away from the force of it 
and splattering gore all over the place.

"Then if he is not dead, he should be dithpatched with all due speed," 
announced ApocaLISP, lord of the programming languages.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

Back at the White House --

"Hold all calls.  No one is to come into the Oval Office.  No one!  I am 
not to be interrupted for the next 15 minutes.  I don't care what 
happens.  If nuclear war breaks out, I don't want to know about it. 
Nothing!  Do you understand me?!  Do you!?  That will be all."  Hex 
Luthor hung up the phone and then disconnected it.  And then he went 
over and locked all of the doors to the Oval Office.  And finally he 
walked over to the Abraham Lincoln painting and dumped it on the ground. 
  After retrieving the Cosmic Plot Device fragments he had in his safe, 
he walked over to his desk and placed the very cracked somewhat fixed 
piece on his desk.  And then he took out the piece he had in his pocket 
and held it up.

His heart started to beat faster as he looked at the piece.  It was so 
unremarkable.  Just a brownish piece of pottery.  He wouldn't be 
surprised if it didn't work.  It looked like a fake.  But he had to try 
it out.

The last piece.  The final piece in the puzzle.  He placed it carefully 
right in the spot it was supposed to be.  He had glued the rest of the 
parts, but he had a feeling that he wouldn't have to glue this one.  And 
he was right.  Something was happening.  A bright light started to fill 
in the cracks.  It was molding together.  This was it.  This was the 
real deal.  It was whole.

He picked it up and held it in his hand.  On some level it was like a 
jewel.  A piece of crystal.  It was also a metal like gold.  It was like 
everything.  He could see everything in it.  It was becoming like a 
liquid.  Fluid.  He could shape it into anything.  He stopped looking at 
the device and began to look at the world around him.  It had changed. 
Things that he had never seen before became completely obvious.  He 
could see colors that only gods could see.  He could hear sounds only 
gods could hear.  He could smell scents only Gods could smell.

He started to float in the air.  It was amazing.  He could do anything. 
  Anything he could imagine.  He was beyond everything.  He looked at a 
fruit basket on his desk and willed one of the apples to come into his 
hand, which it did.  He looked at the apple and then dumped it on the 
ground.  Then he gazed at the apple and said, "Let there be life."  And 
the apple sank into the carpet and a small tree started to grow from it. 
  In a few seconds, it became a nice sized tree filled with apples.  The 
perfect apple tree.

Hex plucked one the apples from the tree.  Perfect.  The Perfect -- 
Wait.  What was this?  There was a hole in the apple.  He looked more 
closely at the hole.  Something was coming out of it.  Oh god!

Hex dropped the apple on the ground with a disgusted look.  It was some 
kind of worm.  A two-headed worm that was incredibly pale.  The heads of 
the worm looked slightly human and they were staring at him.  What the 
hell was it?

And as if to answer his question the worm started to speak.  xXx 
Greetings, President Hexadecimal E. Luthor III.  I am an emissary from 
the Lords of Bryttle.  They have sent me to ask you if you will have an 
audience with them when they awaken.  They are prepared to offer you a 
very generous gift if you should choose. xXx

"A gift?  I'll bet," laughed Hex Luthor.  "Tell your masters that the 
Looniverse has room for only one God."  Hex Luthor then gazed at the 
apple using the Cosmic Plot Device and set the apple aflame.

The worm looked slightly amused by the fire.  xXx  Very well.  You 
should know, however, that my Masters' gift was that you would be 
allowed to live after Beige Midnight.  But I will tell them that you 
have chosen death instead.  Good day, sir. xXx  The worm vanished 
leaving just a blackened smoldering apple.  Hex Luthor scowled.  He 
focused the power of the Cosmic Plot Device on the tree and apple 
causing both to vanish completely.

They were afraid, thought Hex to himself.  They had to be.  That's why 
they wanted to talk to him.  That had to be the reason.  But what if 
they weren't?  What if they were so powerful that the Cosmic Plot Device 
was meaningless to them?  No.  He wasn't going to think about it.

Don't think about it.  Just be happy.  You're so close now.

He shifted the shape of the Cosmic Plot Device till it resembled a gold 
pocket watch with a gold chain.  And then he stuck it in his pocket.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

Juliet Valentino looked at the notebook in her hands.  The paper in it 
was so brittle.  Even barely touching her pencil to the paper caused it 
to flake away.

She looked over at her patient lying on her couch.  Her patient was an 
obese man by the name of Romeo Inman.  He was dressed in a type of Don 
Juan costume.  He had delusions about being a supervillain.

"You need to let it all out, Romeo.  I need to know everything.  All 
your secrets.  How your powers work.  I need to know why you do the 
things you do Romeo if I'm going to help you.  We need to get to the 
root of these problems.  These problems of yours.  Don't be afraid."

"No, Juliet.  You don't want to help me.  You just want these powers for 
yourself.  You want to destroy me.  And you already have.  This is the 
past you're looking at.  I am already destroyed."

"What -- what do you...?"  Juliet looked at her notebook.  What was 
Romeo talking about?  It was no use.  She couldn't use this notebook. 
It was flaking away into nothing.  Did she have another notebook?  "I'm 
not sure what you're talking about, Romeo?  Why do you believe I'm 
destroying you?"

"That already happened Juliet.  It was love that destroyed me.  My love 
for you.  And now you are Romantic Innuendo.  But you will be destroyed 
someday too."

"What?  Who?  Who is going to destroy me?"

"Love.  It destroys us all.  The curse of being a Romantic.  It will 
destroy you Juliet.  Someday, when you least expect it.  Now you need to 
wake up."

"Wake?  What do you...?"

"You need to wake up.  You're in danger.  Deep danger.  Wake up.  Wake 
up.  Wake..."

"Wake up -- Innuendo."

Romantic Innuendo opened her eyes.  The lights of her room were on.  And 
she could feel a cold hard metal touching her head.  A familiar feeling. 
  A gun with a silencer attached to it.

"Look at me."

Romantic Innuendo's heart started to beat faster.  How concerned should 
she be about this?  Did Homage send someone?  Was this it?  The end? 
She turned her head around to see who it was -- and once she saw whom -- 
a contemptuous smirk made its way across her face.  And she started 
thinking of ways to control the situation.

"Ooh -- baby, baby."  She licked her lips.  "How'd you ever guess, 
Fearless Leader?  My biggest turn on?  A psychopathic hero breaking into 
my room?  With me -- all alone in my bed -- wearing only a tiny pink 
see-through nighty for protection?"  Romantic Innuendo pulled the sheets 
covering her down.  "Of course I always imagined him as looking like 
Antonio Banderas.  Oh well.  You'll do."

"This isn't a joke."

"Oh.  I hope not.  I do so hate a tease.  So.  What can I do for you -- 
Fearless Leader?"  Romantic Innuendo batted her eyelashes.  "Need a 
pretty girl to fall in love with you?"

"You know why I'm here.  Ripping Dancer.  Stop it.  What you're doing -- 
stop it.  Stop messing with her mind."

"Ripping Dancer?"  Romantic Innuendo's fingernail traced her lips as she 
pretended to think about the name.  "Oh, right.  That young pretty 
thing?  Right.  Have I done something to her?"

"You know what you did.  You made her fall in love with someone."

"Oh?  That?  That's what this is about?  Her falling in love with Thread 

"Thread Bear?  That's -- that's who you... Thread Bear!"

"I think they make an adorable couple.  I can see the wedding bells 
already."  Romantic Innuendo let out a small giggle.

"You think I won't use this on you?"  Fearless Leader pointed the gun at 
Romantic Innuendo's face.  "Do you!?"

"Well, to be honest -- no."  Romantic Innuendo looked straight into 
Fearless Leader's eyes.  "Your type of super-dooper-boy-scout heroes 
can't really even hit a lady -- much less blow their brains out.  So you 
might as well put down the..."

"No.  You're wrong.  You're very wrong.  Haven't you been paying 
attention?  Haven't you?  Haven't you noticed that the world's been 
changing?  That everything's changing?  Look outside!  Look at the sky! 
  Night's not black!  Day's not blue!  It's beige!  Beige!  24 hours a 
day.  Beige.  The world's changing, Romantic Innuendo.  And I'm 
changing.  And you're changing.  And everyone's changing.  And it's not 
the good kind of change."  Fearless Leader shook his head.  "No.  It's 
the bad kind."

Fearless Leader stepped back and looked at the gun in his hand.  "You 
know -- I've been having dreams.  So many dreams.  Every time I go to 
sleep they come.  They tell me what I should do -- and what I shouldn't 
do.  And they all end in death.  That's how they end.  They all end with 
me failing.  That's how they end.  And for the past few days I've been 
hearing -- heh.  Voices.  Voices.  And I'm wondering if I'm -- I'm going 
crazy.  I must be going crazy.  Only crazy people hear voices.  But I 
can hear them.  They're telling me -- they're telling me to kill.  Kill 
all the evil people.  That's the answer.  The answer to defeating the 
Bryttle Brothers.  Kill enough evil people and they'll disappear.  And 
I'm trying -- I'm trying to resist the voices -- because -- because I 
think the voices are lying to me.  I think the voices are trying to 
destroy me.  But -- I don't know.  I don't know the answer.  I don't 
know how to stop the decay.  Do you?  Do you know the answer?"

Romantic Innuendo's heart started to race.  She shook her head.

"No.  I guess you don't.  And you don't know what I'm capable of.  Do you?"

"You're not capable of murder, Fearless Leader."

"Maybe.  I hope you're right.  But -- no.  I don't know anymore."

"Look.  Blowing my head away isn't going to solve anything.  You know 
that.  Sit down.  Put your gun down.  Let's discuss this like..."

"What?  What is there to discuss?  You're going to stop using your 
powers on Ripping Dancer.  There's nothing else to discuss."

"It's -- it's not that simple.  Stopping this love -- of hers could be 
-- could be -- well, bad.  Are you aware that she has cancer?"

"Of course I'm aware!  That's why she needs to come back to us!  So she 
can get help!  Get treatment!"

"Oh, she's getting treatment, Fearless Leader.  The best treatment 
Mynabird's money can buy.  Lagneto is lagging her cancer."


"Yes.  Lagneto.  She'll die of old age before her several tumors can 
kill her.  But I guess you could take her back.  I'm sure Dr. Stomper 
could whisk up a cure for cancer for her.  Couldn't he?  Doesn't he do 
that?  Cures for cancer?  Oh wait.  No.  I forgot.  He doesn't do that 
-- does he?  The LNH doesn't do cures for cancer.  They just stand by 
while all of the cancer patients in the world beg for help -- and watch 
them as they die.  That's what they do.  Isn't it?  That's the LNH way 
of dealing with cancer."

Fearless Leader shook his head.  His eyes were filled with anger.  "No. 
That's -- that's not..."

"Oh.  That's completely fair.  And you know it.  You know Dr. Stomper 
and Organic Lass aren't going to save Ripping Dancer.  No.  At best 
they'd just lengthen her death sentence."

"No.  You're not... you're not going to..."

"Save her?  That's what we've been doing.  Saving her.  Yes, Fearless 
Leader.  It's for the best you know.  She has a place here.  She can use 
her potions without worry.  She's got someone she's in love with.  Here 
she has hope.  Really, it's for the best.  What could you offer her?  A 
couple of months of hugs?"

Fearless Leader was silent.

"I can see the emptiness in you, Fearless Leader.  I can taste it.  I 
could fix that.  Any woman you want.  Any.  Just name her.  I'll make 
her love you.  Anyone.  And I'll make you love her.  And you won't care 
about the dreams.  Or the voices.  Or the beige skies.  You'll just care 
about her -- and she you -- and nothing else will matter.  Anyone."

Fearless Leader shook his head.  "No.  Wouldn't be right.  Wouldn't be 

Romantic Innuendo laughed.  "Love is never right.  And real?  It always 
feels real."

Fearless Leader pointed his gun back at Romantic Innuendo.  "She will 
not be hurt.  No.  Never hurt.  If she is hurt -- If she is -- I will 
kill that person.  And I will kill you.  And I will kill.  And I will 
kill.  And I will kill.  Understand?"

Romantic Innuendo nodded her head.

"This is not over."  Fearless Leader then touched a button on his belt 
and teleported away.

"Oh, it never is."  Romantic Innuendo felt a chill.  Romantic Innuendo 
pulled her sheets over her.  And clutched at her pillow tightly.

The world felt cold.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

End of Part II

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