LNH: Beige Countdown #9 (1/9)
robrogers72 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 11 06:34:25 PDT 2013
[Cover: Mynabird and Kid Kirby reach toward each other
across the backdrop of a swirling void, in an homage to
Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Man].
The Infinite Leadership Crisis was only the beginning.
After more than a year in exile, the Legion of Net.Heroes
has returned to find a world in ruins, a vast army of enemies
rising against them -- and a Beige Clock Tower, whose
appearance heralds the return of an ancient evil, casting its
shadow over the heart of their shattered city.
Framed for a murder he didn't commit, the ULTIMATE NINJA
has stepped down as team leader. Gathering a small group of
the team's most powerful members, he has launched a desperate
mission into deep space to prevent the mysterious criminal
mastermind known as MYNABIRD from freeing the desperate captives
of the universe's most dangerous prison -- the ULTIMATE BLACK
HOLE -- and leading his LEGION OF NET.VILLAINS against
The first battle between the two forces ends badly for
the heroes, with the majority of the team marooned on an alien
planet and their strongest allies scattered to the four winds:
-- The mighty KID KIRBY has been stripped of his powers
and hurled to his doom by Mynabird...
-- The incredible DEJA DUDE -- able to do anything that
has ever happened in a comic book -- has been trapped in a
universe where comics have never existed...
-- The indefatigable MINORITY MISS remains lost in the
depths of space following her battle with the nefarious
-- The invincible CAPTAIN CONTINUITY is likewise lost
in a world of dreams -- one in which he believes himself to be
crusading reporter Marie Sioux, girlfriend of the world's
[See the one-shot "Betterman's Last Flight" for more
information -- Footnote Girl]
-- And the powerful CAPTAIN RAT CREATURE has been pinned
down by the MEOW MEOW GANG aboard Mynabird's stolen starship,
cut off from his allies and any hope of rescue...
Now, with their spacecraft gone, their team in tatters
and their mission all but lost, the Legion of Net.Heroes
discovers that the empty planet holding them prisoner
is the former battleground of the FLAME WARS... and that
an entirely new challenge may be waiting for them...
[B E I G E
[ C O U N T # 9 D O W N! ]
They reached the lip of the crater just as the sunlight
was beginning to fade. Frank drove, with Jack beside him
staring through binoculars. Steve let his arm hang out the
back window, every bump and rumble of the six-wheeled Jeep
taking some of the ash from his cigar, while Mark leaned
forward between the front seats and pleaded with Frank
to turn around.
"We said we'd be gone an hour or two at most," Mark said,
glancing over at Jack for confirmation. "I was right in the
middle of something. I think I'm really getting somewhere
with this story."
The air around the crater burned a little with the smell
of rotten eggs. Behind them the heavy haze made the image of
the city twist and shimmer, as though it was hiding behind a
plastic shower curtain.
"This is as far as we can go in the Jeep," Frank said.
Mark cleared his throat. "I just think it would be nice
to finish something, that's all," he said. "To have something
to show for all the time we've been here."
"Maybe we'll have a meteor," Jack said, swinging himself
down from the passenger seat.
Mark opened his mouth to speak, but Steve placed a hand
on his shoulder. "Relax," he said. "It's not like we're on
deadline. That's the whole point of us being here, isn't it?"
Frank lit a cigarette, using a match though the Jeep's
lighter was just inches away. "Felt that thing when it hit
this morning," he said. "Whole bathroom shook. Probably a
piece of the planet's ring."
"Don't think so," Steve said, opening the winch cover
and unwinding the heavy metal hook. "Most of that ring was
dust and ice. Whatever hit had to've been pretty solid."
"Guess we'll find out," Jack said, hitching the end of
the winch to the harness around his shoulders. "Lower me
"You sure you want to do this?" Mark asked. "Frank or I
"Don't volunteer me for this," Frank said.
"Age before beauty," Jack said, backing up to the edge of
the crater. He looked up at the Jeep and scowled. "Don't let
Steve smoke all my good cigars before I get back."
"Can't promise anything," Steve said, and then Jack leapt
backwards into nothingness.
He fell for what seemed like minutes, though he knew it
was only an instant; fell through sulfur and steam until the
rope caught and his feet touched the bottom of the crater and
he saw what he thought at first was a crack in the ground
but turned out to be the exaggerated outline of a man.
He shook his head, convinced the smoke was getting to him,
and then the outline splintered, and the blackened metal slag
Jack had assumed was the man's skin blistered open and the man
-- the boy -- staggered out.
Jack's instinct was to back up, or at the very least to
throw up his hands in a gesture of self-protection. But the
boy teetered on his feet and before he knew what he was doing,
Jack reached out his arms to catch him.
"Easy, son," Jack said, helping the boy who had fallen
from the stars to his feet. "You're among friends, now.
Don't suppose you speak English, but..."
"All... wrong," the boy gasped. "Power... gone. No
longer am I worthy... even to call myself... Kid Kirby."
Jack nearly dropped the boy, but held his arm steady.
"Kirby, eh?" he said. "Funny. That's my name, too."
Beige Countdown #9:
"The Created and the Damned"
by Rob Rogers
The Boy Who Fell From the Sky
Robots spilled through the canyons and arroyos of
the rocky gray planet like the first light of the morning
sun, a cascade of copper and steel that surged over mesas
and down ravines, covering every available space except
for the little outcrop manned by the Legion of Net.Heroes.
"So what d'you think these will turn out to be?"
Girlwatcher asked, staring through field glasses at the
swarm of metallic creatures scrabbling, rolling, unfolding and
jerking their way across the dusty gray landscape.
"Helpful, lovable WALL-E type-robots?" he asked. "Nasty,
grabby Cybermen-type robots? Or seemingly-dangerous but
actually inept-type robots, like the battle droids from Episode
"$@#$%^! it, Legion!" shouted Innovative-Offense Boy, his
face purple beneath the visor of his helmet. "Quit standing
around like a bunch of @#$$%ing targets! Compass rose
formation, with You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough-Lad at
"I know what I'd choose, if I was the Collector," said
Gaffer, falling into place in the second row of heroes as the
scraping and pounding of the robots' feet drew closer.
"The robot Darryl Hannah played in 'Blade Runner?' " asked
Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Lad.
"Or the one Ling Bai played in 'Sky Captain and the World
of Tomorrow,' " Gaffer replied.
"Steak and Potatoes Man, you and Substitute Lad take the
wings. Skunk Girl, you and Drabble Girl are the @$%^&*ing
artillery. Jean -- Ordinary Lady -- you and Ultimate Ninja
keep a tight cordon around Obscure Trivia Lad. He'll be the
primary *&@#$%^ing target."
"Why will Obscure Trivia Lad be the target?" Obscure Trivia
Lad asked, his clipped metallic voice ringing with concern.
"Because you look different from the rest of us," Ultimate
Ninja said, placing one hand on his katana and taking up a
position in front of Obscure Trivia Lad. "You have a metallic
cover. To the Collector, that makes you a variant edition."
"Why would the Collector need so many robots?" asked
Ordinary Lady, shielding her eyes from the blue-white sun as
she stared out at the endless tide of moving metal. "There
are so many of them... and even with all of us here, we've
still lost Kid Kirby, Deja Dude, Captain Continuity..."
It was impossible to tell through his mask, of course,
and nothing about his posture or tone of voice changed.
Yet Ordinary Lady would have sworn that the Ultimate Ninja
was smiling as he stared down at the silver tsunami.
"There is no such thing as too many robots," he said.
While Innovative-Offense Boy shouted at Steak-and-Potatoes
Man to "act like a *@#$%^& super-hero and provide some
*&^%$ing air support," Cynical Lass turned with some
confusion to the heroine beside her.
"So... this Collector," the golden-haired girl began.
"What... exactly... does he collect?"
Linguist Lass looked up, startled.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Are we doing exposition now?"
"Sorry," Cynical Lass said. "It's just that we left
Kid Recap back on Earth, and I can't get any service bars
on my Android. Different Android!" she added, as Obscure
Trivia Lad swiveled his head around.
"Right," Linguist Lass sighed. "Well, the Collector
and the Speculator were two semi-cosmic beings the LNH came
up against during the first Flame Wars."
"Hang on," Cynical Lass. "Semi-cosmic in the way that
wine coolers are 'semi-alcoholic,' or semi-cosmic in the way
Paris Hilton considers herself a 'semi-actress?' "
"Capable of bending reality to their wishes, but still
unable to get their hands on a decent copy of 'Giant-Sized
X-Men #1,' " Linguist Lass said.
"Big minds, small imagination. Gotcha," Cynical Lass
said, shielding her face from the updraft as Steak-and
-Potatoes Man took to the air. "And I take it the
Collector decided he wanted to add flesh-and-blood
super-heroes to his collection?"
"Not exactly," Linguist Lass said. "He and the
Speculator came up with a plan to split the LNH into
two teams and convince them to go to war with each other.
He even brought in Pointless Death Man, in hopes that some
or all of us would be killed."
"Their version of reality television?" Cynical Lass
"The two of them thought it would make that issue
of _The Flame Wars_ more valuable," Linguist Lass said.
"This was before Geoff Johns and Mark Millar, you
understand. Big, messy battles in which friends and
teammates began brutalizing each other for no apparent
reason were something of a rare commodity in those days."
"Like copper! Or tungsten!" said Obsessive-
It took Cynical Lass a moment to understand what
Obsessive-Compulsive Boy had just said. This was
partly because of his Alt.stralian accent, partly because
she had rarely heard the word "tungsten" come up in casual
conversation, and partly because Obsessive-Compulsive
Boy's mouth -- and indeed, the entirety of his face
-- was directed towards the dirt beneath his feet.
"Are you staring at the ground?" Cynical Lass asked.
"Oh, yes!" said Obsessive-Compulsive Boy.
"When there's an army of robots converging upon us
from every direction?" Cynical Lass asked.
"It's fascinating, isn't it?" Obsessive-Compulsive Boy
said, beaming at Cynical Lass as though there was the
remotest possibility she shared his interest. "There's
carbon... lots and lots of nitrogen... quartz and silica...
a strong trace of phosphorus..."
"The robots are... carrying something," shouted
Steak-and-Potatoes Man, the lack of a breeze causing his
cape to droop down like a curtain. "I can't see what it
"...clay, all sorts, nubbly bits of broken ceramics,
red dust like the rubber you find at the end of an
eraser, wonderfully twisty spindly thingies that might be
plant roots, or a worm, or a deposit of delicious,
delicious calcium..." Obsessive-Compulsive Boy continued.
"Fascinating as that might be," Cynical Lass said,
"I find that when there's rows upon rows of little metal
scrabbling creatures crawling up to poke and prod me, I'm
somewhat less interested in whether I've ingested my daily
dose of essential vitamins and minerals."
"But that's just it," Obsessive-Compulsive Boy said.
Knowing that she would almost certainly hate herself
for doing so, Cynical Lass sighed and asked, "What is?"
"Minerals," Obsessive-Compulsive Boy said. "Metals.
Beautiful, shiny metals. The robots are all made of them,
and yet there's not one, not a single, not any, not a
solitary trace of metal of any kind in any of the soil or
rocks we've encountered since we landed. So where are all
the robots coming from?"
"Probably mail order," said Gaffer, stuffing smooth
sheets of printed cardboard into the hands of Cynical Lass
and Obsessive-Compulsive Boy as he passed.
"Ooh!" said Obsessive-Compulsive Boy, gripping his card
with obvious delight. "Are we playing Science Fiction Cliche
"Indeed we are," the full-figured engineer said.
"We've already covered 'Mysterious Alien Planet That Is
Nevertheless Similar Enough to Earth to Make Things Easy
for the Writer' and 'Faceless Robot Horde.' Now it's
just a question of whether they execute the 'Dalek
Extermination Zone Blitz' or the 'Buck Rogers Surround
the Troops and Take Them to Their Leader' maneuver."
"I'm voting for the latter," Linguist Lass said.
"I have it right in the middle of my card. Also, I
tend to like not being exterminated."
"I don't suppose," said Innovative-Offense Boy,
turning around and speaking through clenched teeth, "that
any of you *@#$%^es actually has any @#$%^&8ing insight
into the situation that you'd like to contribute?"
"If years of skimming out-of-date science fiction
novels have taught me anything," said Obnoxious Ame.rec.a
Boy, "it's that all alien planets have a single political
system, governed by an hereditary monarchy -- usually
consisting of a dictator and his beautiful daughter."
"And everyone speaks a language that sounds like
English, but with lots of apostrophes," Gaffer added.
"Actually," Linguist Lass said, "that robot on
the ridge across from us -- the one that looks like a
praying mantis -- seems to be communicating with the others
through a repeating pattern of flashing lights."
Innovative-Offense Boy turned to stare at the
robot in question, who stared back at him through a
pair of unblinking orange photoreceptors.
A burst of colored lights cascaded down the robot's
thorax, a pattern pulsing in rapid succession that was
quickly picked up and repeated by all of the other
robots in the vicinity, spreading from one to another like
a crowd performing "the wave" at a baseball game.
"Nice catch," Innovative-Offense Boy said, turning
back to Linguist Lass. "Any $#%^&*(ing idea as to what
it might be saying?"
The Concupiscent Champion of Communications shook her
head slowly. "I've tried... but it's conveying information
at a rate that..."
"She," said Girlwatcher, his binoculars focused
on the robot leader.
Every heroic head (with the exception of Obsessive
Compulsive Boy, whose attention was divided between
the ground and his bingo card) turned to stare at
" 'She?' " asked the Ultimate Ninja.
"She's definitely female," Girlwatcher said. "I
haven't had much experience reading robot body
language... but I think she's telling the other robots
to stand down. She doesn't want them to..."
"They're pulling out weapons!" hollered Steak-
and-Potatoes Man, as each of the robots withdrew a
small white cylinder from whatever chamber or
container was available to it.
"Wait! Wait!" Girlwatcher cried, as swords flew
from sheaths, claws sprang from outstretched hands,
liquid metal shifted into a variety of wicked curves
and Parking Karma Kid did his best to convey the
impression that he was someone who was fully prepared
to run down any and all opponents, if only he happened
to find himself behind the wheel of a car.
"Those aren't guns," Girlwatcher said. "Those are
"They could be candle-shaped guns!" Steak-and-
Potatoes Man warned, just as the robots, en masse,
placed the now-lit candles on the ground, forming a
vast, flickering circle of light around the heroic
"Maybe they think we're afraid of fire. Or
potpourri," Cynical Lass said, waving the scented
smoke away from her visor. "Actually, I am a little
afraid of potpourri..."
A drone -- a deep, pulsing burr -- emerged
from the depths of the robot ranks, something that
began as a kind of mechanical growl before resolving
itself into what was, unmistakably, a chant.
"ELLEN-ACHE," the robots moaned. "ELLEN-ACHE!"
"They... they're worshipping us," Obnoxious
Ame.rec.a Boy cried. "They think we're gods!"
"Bingo!" Gaffer said, raising his card in
"Actually," said the mantis-like robot, in a clipped,
carefully-modulated and distinctly female voice, "it's
considerably more complicated than that."
NEXT WEEK: Someone dies!
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