LNH20/Repost: Ultimate Mercenary v20 #2

Adrian McClure mrfantastic7 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 24 05:57:13 PDT 2012

Ultimate Mercenary v20 #2:
"Settling In?"
by Adrian J. McClure


Ultimate Mercenary didn't sleep well that night. He had intense,
terrible dreams which seemed to last forever, yet he couldn't make
himself wake up no matter how hard he tried. There were fleeting
moments of beauty, too. Sometimes he thought he heard some strange and
joyful half-remembered song.

After many hours, in the middle of fighting some kind of monster, he
felt a hand poking him. He leaped out of the bed and drew his katana,
ignoring his aches and pains. Something was in the room with him,
hiding in the darkness. He leaped out of bed, drew his sword, and
slashed at it. Then the lights flickered on and he saw it was Kid
Enthusiastic. He looked away and sheathed his sword. "Uh, sorry," he
said. "I didn't know it was you."

"It's OK," said Kid Enthusiastic. "I can't die for real anyway.
Fearless Leader wants to talk."

"All right." He begrudgingly pulled himself out of bed, wondering how
long it had been since he'd taken a shower. Probably not since 1998 or
so. What was he thinking? Ninjas didn't need showers. He tried to
screw up his confidence, although after everything he'd been through
he wasn't sure how much he had left.

"Hello again," said Fearless Leader once they'd reached the lobby. It
was almost empty at the moment except for the receptionist, busy and
aloof as ever. There was also January Frost, Kid Enthusiastic (now
wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans, streaked with red and blue
speed lines radiating from his chest, and a purple domino mask, along
with a backpack crammed full of stuff) and an unfamiliar woman in a
1930s-style suit with bobbed hair. Doc Nostalgia was noticeably
absent. "Ultimate Mercenary, this is Flashback. Flashback, Ultimate

The dark-haired woman shook his hand. "Nice to meet you. Another new
member, huh?"

"Well, new to us," said Fearless Leader. "He says he's part of the LNH
of another timeline. We're hoping you can figure out how he got here."

Flashback grimaced. "One of those, huh? I hate alternate timelines. My
life is complicated enough already. No offense."

"None taken," said Ultimate Mercenary. "I'm tired of them too. I've
been jumping back and forth between different timelines for as long as
I can remember, not that I can remember much, and I want to get home."

"OK. Let's see." She looked into his eyes and blinked, and to his
horror Ultimate Mercenary found himself in the dank and dismal cave
complex where he'd grown up. He was thirteen years old, and his father
was watching him try to walk across hot coals for what must have been
the hundredth time. He made it about halfway through before he started
yelping and ran away. His father grunted disapprovingly. "No!" he
said. "Let's get out of here."

"OK." Flashback blinked again. It was a few months later, and he was
walking through the ruins of Net.ropolis looking for a place to bury
his father. She blinked again. He was chained to a desk at the high
school, trying to finish a test in the nude. She blinked again. He was
filling out mountains of paperwork for Ultimate Ninja, while he stood
by and grunted disapprovingly. She blinked again. He was standing in
the lobby of his own world's LNHQ, trying to work up the courage to
ask out Manga Girl as she flirted simultaneously with Fuzzboy and
Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Better Lad. "Could we... could we not do
this?" he said.

"Geez, I'm sorry. It shouldn't be this hard, there's something wrong
with your brain..." This wasn't the first time he'd been told that, he
thought. "Wait, was that the Ultimate Ninja?"

"You--you've heard of him? I thought he didn't exist in this world!"
For a moment he felt a twinge of hope.

"Well, he doesn't. Not outside those movies."

"What movies?"

"We weren't going to mention them," said January Frost. "Things are
complicated enough for him already."

"What movies? I have to know!" shouted Ultimate Mercenary.

"It doesn't matter." But the scene had changed to one of Flashback's
own memories. She was sitting on a couch beside Kid Enthusiastic and
an unfamiliar black woman with bright red hair. They were laughing
together. On the screen was a grainy, poorly filmed scene in a quarry.
A man in what looked like papier-maiche armor painted in loud,
clashing colors with a cape held up what looked like a cardboard box
with colorful plastic bits stuck to it. "I, Professor Emperor, will
unleash my ultimate monster against the Earth!" he said in a loud,
booming, rather hammy voice which wasn't even remotely in sync with
his lips. "Soon it will overcome all the heroes!"

"I, Kid Enthusiastic, will go get some more popcorn!" said past-Kid

The black woman, whose name he somehow knew was Kindle, laughed. "Hey,
there are actually people who talk like that now, you know. Can you
believe what this world's coming to?"

The armored man waved his hand and a creature which resembled a human-
sized bowling ball with ant-like eyes, jaws and antennae appeared in a
flash of smoke. Suddenly, a gong rang out. The camera zoomed in on a
man standing on a hill in a garish red outfit. On his forehead was a
headband with the word "Ninja" written on it in English. "No,
Professor Emperor! You cannot stop--the Ultimate Ninja! The warriors
of the dead Planet Ninja float through my veins!" Present-Flashback
started laughing again, and Fearless Leader didn't quite manage to
suppress a chuckle.

The Ninja engaged the bowling ball-ant monster in a prolonged battle
which Ultimate Mercenary had to admit was pretty impressive. Professor
Emperor waved his staff, and the monster grew to giant size. The red-
clad ninja pressed a button on his wristband. "Oh man, you guys," said
past-Kid Enthusiastic, "this part is  great!" Then he made a dramatic
pose and shouted in unison with the screen: "Go Ninjaguar!" A giant
robot that vaguely resembled him, which also had "Ninja" written on
its forehead, burst out of the earth. Past-Flashback and Louis burst
out laughing. "Doesn't look too stealthy to me," said Louis.

Ultimate Mercenary stared at the screen, too shocked to even be angry.
He thought they hadn't heard of Ultimate Ninja, but it was even worse.
On this world, he was a joke.

 "Sorry. Didn't mean to do that..." said Flashback sheepishly. "OK, I
think we're almost there."

They were on the streets of Net.ropolis as Ultimate Mercenary was
fighting a horde of warriors from all times and places, alongside a
highly attractive Asian woman in a white robe wielding an obsidian
sword. Then they saw him standing in a circle with a large group of
other net.heroes. They seemed to be about to start a ritual. Then he
heard the weirdly beautiful song he remembered from his dream, which
was growing steadily louder and louder. He took out a jade flute in
the shape of a dragon and joined in the song...

Then there was a burst of some kind of crackling black energy, which
sent white-hot pain shooting into him. And then they were back where
they started. For a moment, the world seemed to be drawn in a simpler
and dynamic style, with distorted figures. "Yeeowch!" said Flashback.
"That hurt!" Then everything was back to normal.

"Huh," said Fearless Leader. "Wasn't expecting that."

"I think it's about time we called in Professor Penumbra," said
January Frost.

"Well, I'm out of here," said Flashback. "I need to recover a bit."
She stumbled woozily out of the room. Good riddance, Ultimate
Mercenary thought. January Frost drew a star-shaped talisman out of
her pocket and tapped it three times.

"Professor Penumbra's our occult expert," said Kid Enthusiastic to the
sullenly silent Ultimate Mercenary's unspoken question. "He's a pretty
cool guy. This thing is starting to look more and more like magic, so
we figured..." Then he realized they weren't alone in the room.
Standing next to them was a lanky dark-haired man with an odd grey-
beige-ish skin tone wearing a trenchcoat on top of a three-piece
suit.  Ultimate Mercenary hadn't seen him walk in.

"Oh, hi Adam!" said Kid Enthusiastic. "How are things?"

"Frustrating and exciting as always," said the man. He had an accent
that was hard to place; probably he traveled a lot. "So what would be
the problem?"

"We have an LNHer from an alternate universe and we can't tell how he
got here," said January Frost.

"I'm Ultimate Mercenary," said Ultimate Mercenary, who was getting a
little tired of introducing himself.

"Ah. I see. Interesting. I've visited several alternate universes now,
but I've yet to encounter another version of the LNH. Let's have a
look." He rummaged around in his pockets and pulled out what looked
like an ordinary plastic kaleidoscope with glyphs painted on it. He
turned the kaleidoscope and looked at him from several angles.

"That can't be right," he said. "It seems like you're from another
universe, but you're also from here... And there are strong residual
traces of Godflame--that's what scientists call the Kurtzberg Effect.
I haven't seen this great a concentration of it before outside the
shrines of the gods of @lantis. Hmmm." He paced around for a few
moments. "I'll have to perform a Rite of Continuity Scrying. That can
be very tricky. But--ah! I have just the thing." He pulled a book out
of his pockets which seemed too large to fit in. "This is a first-
edition copy of the Squadron Supreme trade, with Mark Gruenwald’s
ashes mixed into the ink. I've been saving it for just such an
occasion. The rite will take some time to draw up, though. Maybe you
should find something else to do for a few hours."

Then Doc Nostalgia burst into the lobby. He had obviously been through
a long and grueling battle--his t-shirt was torn and stained by a
hideous green liquid that might have been the blood of some creature.
He looked at Ultimate Mercenary and scowled. "Have you been tested
yet?" he said.

"What do you mean," growled Ultimate Mercenary.

"We test new members for their worthiness to serve among the world's
greatest net.heroes by having them fight a battle with one of our own
in the Peril Room!" said Doc Nostalgia.

"My LNH does too," said Ultimate Mercenary. "I passed that test years

"How do you know your Legion is up to our standards?"

"You wouldn't say that if you knew who we were. We had some of the
greatest heroes who ever lived. We could defeat any enemy, no matter
how powerful. Heroes like Sister State-The-Obvious, Cannon Fodder,
Cheesecake-Eater Lad..."

"Cheesecake-Eater Lad? Cheesecake-Eater Lad? What are his powers
supposed to be? At least that's better name than 'Ultimate

"He's our cook, but he's also a trained ninja. He was the Ultimate
Ninja's best student."

"Good lord! Choke! Your cook... was a ninja? Was every single person
in your Legion a ninja?"

"What's wrong with being a ninja?"

"You--you're killers! How do you not understand that! Ninja exist for
one reason and one reason only--to kill! The ninja is nothing but
death and crime and the *rage of a beast*!"

"Hold it!" screamed Fearless Leader. Doc Nostalgia stared, evidently
seldom having heard him that loud before. "We are not putting him
through any fights until we can figure out whether we can send him
back home or not, OK?"

"And this wouldn't be a prudent time anyway," said January Frost.
"He's just arrived here and is still adjusting. We should give him a
chance to adjust. Also, he has to participate in a magickal ritual
soon, and those can be quite strenuous. Isn't that right--" She turned
to Professor Penumbra, but he had left without anyone noticing.

"No!" said Ultimate Mercenary. "I'm ready. I saved the entire
universe... somehow... so what makes you think I can't take on one

"Then it's settled!" said Doc Nostalgia. "But who would you be up

Just then Pantra walked into the lobby and grabbed Ultimate Mercenary
by the arm, oblivious to the rest of the team, and led him off into
the LNHQ. "Ohai UM! You had a chance to see the Peril Room yet?"

"No. I'm ready to prove myself." With considerable effort, he managed
not to flinch, clenching his teeth.

"So you think you can take me?" Pantra bared her teeth and made a
point of licking her lips. "We'll see about that. I promise not to
hurt you too much..." She chuckled. He wanted to run for his life, but
it was too late to back down now.

"So you'll face her in the Peril Room!" said Doc Nostalgia.

"I don't think--" said Fearless Leader, a little short of breath.

"I'm afraid those three have one thing in common--once they've decided
on a course, it's very hard to sway them from it," said January Frost.
"It's probably best to let them get it out of their systems."

The four of them reached the Peril Room. It opened up to reveal a vast
jungle, which stretched out far beyond the bounds of the room, and
Ultimate Mercenary was hit by a dizzying array of sights, sounds, and
scents. Pantra leaped exultantly into the room and bounded among the
trees. "This is my favorite setting!" she said. "Don't worry, nothing
here can hurt you. Not permanently. Heh heh heh."

"So are you ready to fight?" said Ultimate Mercenary, drawing his

"Yeah, sure, just give me a minute to look around! This place is so
cool!" said Pantra. He looked around and tapped his feet impatiently.
"I'm ready any minute now!" he said.

"Uh... sorry," said Pantra from the trees. "I just saw this really
pretty bird. I'll bet it tastes great!"

Ultimate Mercenary waited around for what felt like another minute or
two, then decided to leave, his shoulders drooping. But then he smelt
a very familiar deep and musky scent nearby. He barely ducked out of
the way of Pantra slashing at him from the shadows. He pulled out his
sword and struck a glancing blow at her arm as she leaped past him
into the jungle. A trickle of her blood now coated the edge of his

"Good job, kid," she growled from the branches of a tree. "You drew
the first blood. Let's see who draws the last." His heart was
pounding, and he was happy for the first time since he'd come here.
This, at least, was something he knew how to handle. He had to find a
way to take control of the situation, to be proactive. Moving slowly
enough not to startle her, he picked up a rock and saw her tense in
the shadows. He threw the rock into the bushes and then leaped in the
opposite direction. Pantra jumped down from the branches and stood
still for a moment, confused. That gave Ultimate Mercenary an
opportunity to strike. He leaped on top of her and wrestled her to the
ground. He could picture himself holding his sword to her neck, making
his victory clear.

Then she started tickling him.

Ultimate Mercenary, to his horror, fell to the ground and started
laughing as Pantra pressed him to the ground. "Hey! Ahahaha! Stop!
That--haha--that wasn't the deal!"

"I thought you were a ninja. Aren't ninjas supposed to fight dirty?"
She put her right hand over his heart and dug in her claws just enough
for him to feel them without breaking his skin. "If I were in a bad
mood right now, you'd be dead," she said, smiling and licking her

Ultimate Mercenary was shaking with rage, sorrow, and helplessness as
Pantra got off of him. He wanted to cry againm but he had to at least
hold on to small part of his dignity. That was all he had left now.
The jungle faded away to a smooth, round grey room, and Doc Nostalgia
walked in. He had a stern look on his face. "I'm sorry, Ultimate
Mercenary" he said, "but we cannot admit you into our net.hero club!
Your poor performance in the battle proves your ninja skills are too

Ultimate Mercenary didn't even look at him. He stared at the Peril
Room's grey walls. He wasn't worthy to join this LNH, and if Professor
Penumbra couldn't help him, he could never get back to his own.


Next: Can Professor Penumbra get UM back home? Next issue, we'll
actually answer that question! Also: the return of a menace you
probably never expected to see again, and a look behind the scenes of
Earth-20's foremost super-science cartel! And be on the lookout for
Classic LNH's Ultimate Mercenary #7, as soon as I get certain things
sorted out with certain writers, and LNH20 Comics Presents #15, as
soon as I figure out how to handle Andrew's plot twists!

Notes: Geez, writing short issues sure is hard. This issue was
supposed to be the second part of issue one. The stuff that would have
gone in the end of this issue will be carried over to the beginning of
the next.


Ultimate Mercenary created by Tom Russell, reserved by me, usable with
permission. (At least until I've sorted out how he got here, which
will be during Flame Wars Final.)  All other characters in this issue
are General Use.
Fearless Leader created by Dave Van Domelen and me
January Frost created by Tom Russell and me
Doc Nostalgia created by me
Kid Enthusiastic created by Andrew Perron
Pantra created by Lalo Martins and May Fonseca (sorry I forgot to
credit her last time)
Professor Penumbra, Flashback and Louis Allen created by Lalo Martins
And on the Classic LNH end of things, Cheesecake-Eater Lad was created
by Matthew Jotham Millheiser, ApocaLISP by Tom Russell (which I forgot
to mention last time) and Ultimate Ninja by the incomparable wReam.

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