LNH: Beige Countdown #9 (2/9)
robrogers72 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 18 10:48:31 PDT 2013
Death in the Void
"It may have escaped your notice," Mynabird said,
his massive armored arms folded behind his back as he
strolled through the ruined walkways of the
astrogation chamber, "but we are on a spaceship."
"Are we?" Barrage yawned, stretching out his soft
gray paws. "I suppose that explains all the lovely
shiny things going by on the other side of the window."
"A spaceship that we did not build -- that, in fact,
utilizes a level of technology our species has not
yet evolved to grasp," Mynabird continued.
"Speak for your own species," Barrage said. The
dozen or so members of the Meow Meow Gang surrounding
him on the deck sniggered, their tails flicking this way
and that. "Cats have always gotten along with technology
Mynabird paused in his pacing, though the pulsing
yellow light in his visor never stopped moving back and
"Cats are supposed to be good at catching rodents,
too," Mynabird said. "And yet you allowed Captain
Rat Creature to slip right through your claws."
Barrage shrugged. "Who would have thought a
thing big as him could slip through a hole the size of
a quarter?" he said. "Apparently giant space hamsters
are just as compressible as the little ones on Earth."
The chorus of cybernetic cats exchanged smirks.
"Your battle with Captain Rat Creature almost
completely destroyed our navigation equipment,"
said Vector Prime, her red hair spilling across
the back of her vinyl catsuit. "We now have no clear
idea of where we are, or where we are going."
"Fortunately, it turns out that the largest black
hole in the universe isn't all that difficult to find,"
Mynabird said. "But all it would take is one chewed-
through cable... one crushed coupling... and that half-ton
hamster could turn this ship from a dread scourer of the
stars to a giant floating coffin."
"I suppose I'll have to catch him then," yawned
Something crackled in the atmosphere of the chamber.
An observer with particularly keen eyes might have noticed
a subtle shift in the hue of Mynabird's visor, from bright
yellow to a shade of yellow-orange.
"And that's all you have to say for yourself?"
Mynabird said. "After failing at your mission... and putting
the lives of everyone aboard this ship in jeopardy?"
"I'm a cat," Barrage said. "We don't really do shame."
Mynabird's fist opened and closed. Before he could
say anything further, however, Vector Prime placed one
hand on his shoulder. She nodded to a sign on the wall,
one Mynabird had ordered installed on every deck of the
stolen star carrier shortly after his Legion had seized
control of the ship.
DAYS SINCE INCOMPETENT CREWMATE TOSSED FROM AIRLOCK: 16,
the sign declared, in sharp red digital letters.
Mynabird sighed. Within his helmet -- behind the
glowing visored visage he presented to the world -- the
tiny creature known as the Easily-Discovered Bran Mite
switched off his broadcast microphone, rose from his control
chair and activated a dial on a nearby console.
A hatch in the floor irised open, and a crystal chamber,
identical to the one Christopher Reeve had used to slough off
his super-powers in _Superman II_, rose through the opening.
The Easily-Discovered Bran Mite waited until the chamber had
fully emerged from the floor before stepping inside its
sculpted walls and sealing the outer door shut.
For the next two and a half minutes, his six tiny fists
battered against the walls of the chamber as his mouth
spewed forth all of the curses in all of the languages,
human and arthropid, that the little creature knew.
Moments later, the walls of the chamber still vibrating
from the force of his profanity, the Easily-Discovered Bran
Mite emerged from the crystal room. As the chamber
retreated back into the floor, the little arachnid stretched,
poured himself a wheatgrass smoothie, and returned to his chair.
"Less like Vader, more like Thrawn," he chirped, taking a
sip of his beverage. "Less like Vader, more like Thrawn."
He switched the microphone back on.
"I want everybody to gather around," he said, the rich,
deep bass of Mynabird's voice echoing throughout the vaulted
The dozen or so villains milling about on deck -- most of
whom had been waiting, some with bets on the line, to see what
punishment Mynabird would mete out to Barrage and his fellow
cats -- formed a small semicircle around the master criminal.
"As all of you know," Mynabird said, "we are now a mere
matter of days from the Ultimate Black Hole, the greatest
concentration of pure evil in the known universe, with the
possible exception of the American Crossroads political action
"We have thus come farther than any human, cat, living
virus, gestalt robot or..." he gestured at a shaggy member of
the Pencil Rain "...whatever Mammal is. In doing so, we have
also achieved more than any collection of beings that ever
dared to stand up to those self-appointed guardians of
sanctimonious humanity, the Legion of Net.Heroes."
The crowd began to thin, as several villains who had
heard this particular speech before drifted away.
"And why have we done this?" Mynabird asked.
"Because 'oo wants to put the hurt on Easily-Discovered
Man Lite," Londonbroil muttered.
"WRONG!" boomed Mynabird, in a manner that would have
made Kevin Spacey swell with pride.
"Because you hope to become the absolute master of
space and time?" asked Uma Thurman, the actress temporarily
posing as the Waffle Queen.
"WRONG!" Mynabird replied.
"I... I hope... hope it isn't... to impress Taylor
Swift," said the Plum Master, his forehead beaded with
sweat. "Because I... well, that is... I had always felt..."
"This has nothing to do with Taylor Swift," Mynabird
said. "Had I wanted to accomplish those goals... even
something as pure... as beautiful... as gradually strangling
Easily-Discovered Man Lite over the course of a week..."
"...or gently massaging Taylor Swift's feet," Plum
Master whispered. "I mean -- I mean -- the Plums. Yes,
the Plums want to do that -- not me. The Plums want to
massage each sweet, sweet, luscious Taylor Swift toe of
magical wonderment. Over and over again. The Plums!
Yes, the Plums! Not me. Never me! The Plums! Always
the Plums! Really."
"...I would have done what any lesser criminal might
have done: set up a headquarters and hired a team of
musclebound minions who would never have seen fit to
question my genius," Mynabird continued.
"And yet no one aboard this ship is a minion," he
said. "None of you is a henchman, a flunky, a chained
dog to be loosed on our opponents... unless that is, in
fact, what Mammal is. No! The Legion of Net.Villains
is a gathering of equals... a brotherhood... a fraternity
of power among those who would not merely bring all of
creation to heel but actually re-make it in our image..."
The crowd, which had re-formed following
Mynabird's first "WRONG," began to disintegrate again.
Several members of the Meow Meow gang started cleaning
themselves, while one began to slink toward the galley.
Mynabird sighed. He raised one of his gauntlets,
the palm of his hand crackling and pulsing with the
red glow of the Power Kirby. As the robotic cat
continued to walk away, Mynabird made what appeared
to those around him to be an unusual and highly
The sound of a toilet flushing rippled throughout
the room. The cat, which had been on the verge of
escape, looked up just before his lower body began
to spin, whirling around as though caught up in some
Clawing and screeching, the cat lashed out with
his paws as the speed of its spinning increased. He
stared in goggle-eyed terror as his body jerked
...and then, with a harsh, gurgling sound,
the unfortunate creature disappeared into nothingness.
For the next several seconds, the only sound or
movement in the crowded chamber came from the orange
light coursing back and forth across Mynabird's visor.
"Dismissed," he said, and the circle of villains
evaporated, each rushing to some just-remembered task
of vital importance.
Vector Prime remained, alone and silent on the
deck. She nodded at the digital sign on the wall,
which now read: DAYS SINCE INCOMPETENT CREWMATE
TOSSED FROM AIRLOCK: 0.
"What are the chances," Mynabird began, "of
my finding a team of musclebound minions out here
in the blackness of space?"
Vector Prime smiled.
"Better than you might expect," she said.
For the third time in as many minutes, Apoena
Goulão reached down into the asteroid beneath her
and plunged her fingers into the rock.
She closed her hand, lifted it, then released
her fingers, watching the little cloud of gravel
and dust drift away in all directions, flecks of
quartz and mica glittering in the light of some
The starscape that surrounded her was completely
unfamiliar to Apoena, though that was hardly surprising.
Unless the Legion's spaceship had passed through the
area in the last few days, it was entirely possible
that hers were the first human eyes ever to gaze
upon this particular cluster of stars.
Which was, she thought, a romantic way of saying
that she was hopelessly and completely lost.
She heard the ticking sound again and glanced at
the register on her wrist. Four minutes until the
amount of carbon dioxide overwhelmed the rebreathing
device in her spacesuit's tiny ecosystem.
And then what? Could she survive without air
in the vacuum of space? The thought frightened Apoena
almost as much as the possibility of slowly suffocating
Apoena had always been more than a little jealous
of those super-heroes who came into this world
with specific powers. She had heard, of course, of how
frightening and confusing it could be when those powers
manifested themselves in adolescence -- it was one
reason why super-powered teenagers tended to join
groups like the Legion.
Yet they, at least, had the comfort of knowing
what their abilities were, and the opportunity of exploring
where the limits of those powers lay.
To Apoena -- whose power gave her access to abilities
held by any three beings in her world, or any four in any
world -- her whole life felt like an extended adolescence.
She was constantly discovering new and sometimes disturbing
powers, each of which made her feel a little bit less human.
The name she had originally chosen for herself -- the
Not-So-Original Crusader -- reflected the person she had
wanted to be, just another teenager with weird abilities in
a world that seemed to be full of them. The name that had
been given to her, Minority Miss, seemed more and more
applicable with each passing day.
Joining the LNH had allowed her to put aside the
question of just what it was she was capable of doing;
she was surrounded constantly by people whose powers both
demonstrated what she might be capable of and made it less
likely that she would ever have to use those abilities.
Here in space, however, there was nothing and no one to
stop her from really cutting loose.
If only she knew where she was.
She had thought about teleporting back to the ship
-- or even all the way back to Earth. But any form of
teleportation she understood required her to know both
where she was and where she wanted to go.
The question of "when" was also a problem. The Legion
ship had been traveling at relativistic speeds, something
that had not seemed an issue when Kid Kirby or Deja Dude
had been around to explain it to her, but that now meant she
could be billions of years in the future or past of the
planet Earth, and that the planet itself might be someplace
far removed from where she had left it.
So she thought, and concentrated, and tore large
chunks out of the asteroid while mentally scrolling
through her vast array of powers, wondering why none of the
super-heroes she had ever met seemed to have the instinctive
navigational abilities the gods had given to a Canada goose.
Or perhaps they had. One of the consequences of
constantly developing new powers over the course of her
life was that Apoena often thought about those abilities
differently from those people in whom they had first
She was surprised, for example, that other beings with
X-ray vision often faltered when their eyesight was blocked
by a rare element. Didn't they know how easy it was
to use sound to create a three-dimensional image of an
object, richer and deeper than any X-ray image could hope
to be? People, she supposed, got used to being special in
particular ways, and rarely took the time to pull and tug
at the boundaries of what they could really do...
Of course, she thought, climbing to her feet so
quickly she almost lost her footing on the asteroid.
It took two whole minutes of scanning -- her irises
expanding and contracting beneath the visor of her spacesuit
as she skipped from X-ray to telescopic to infravision
-- before she finally found him, a rapidly cooling little mass
splayed out against one of the larger asteroids.
She landed beside him, listened for his pulse, and
marveled, again, at his toughness. Several dozen asteroids,
each large enough to have wiped out an entire epoch of
dinosaurs, had smacked into him, and yet here he was:
unconscious, yes, but still breathing, and mostly intact.
Thank the gods, Apoena thought, whispering a silent
prayer to the makers of the skies. She needed Plummet
to be alive and awake for either of them to stand a chance
On Earth, Plummet had seemed a minor annoyance:
the man with the power to fall faster than any other
In space, that power should have limited him to
moving toward whatever object had the greatest
gravitational pull. And yet he had chased Apoena across
hundreds of millions of miles, passing by objects
-- asteroids, planets, distant stars -- whose specific
gravity was much stronger than hers.
To Apoena, that suggested Plummet somehow had the
ability, instinctive or otherwise, to home in on a
particular gravitational signature and propel his body
toward it at incredible speeds.
And that, she decided, was the next best thing to
knowing where you were.
She shook his arm -- gently, at first, then less so.
She poked at him, prodded his magenta suit, stamped
in the gray dust beside his body. Still nothing.
"Damn," she muttered, then facepalmed her visor:
what had she been thinking? She had tried to wake up
a powerful and potentially homicidal super-villain
without any idea of how she could communicate an idea
as complex as using his gravitational powers to find
the lost Legion spaceship.
How could she talk with him without knowing what
radio frequency the Legion of Net.Villains used to
relay messages? And could she talk with him at all?
No one, as far as she knew, had ever heard Plummet
say anything. He had seemed more a mindless, malevolent
brute than a human being.
Telepathy, then -- but as Apoena well knew,
there was telepathy and then there was telepathy.
On the one hand, there was that high-level form of
mind-to-mind communication with which psychic beings
(each of whom always seemed to insist that he or she
was the most powerful telepath on the planet) did
battle on the astral plane.
And then there was the form that Apoena had
used the previous summer to carry on a short but
useful conversation with an anaconda, an older form
that depended more on the sharing of emotions and
place memories than anything that could truly be
How did it go? ++Alone,++ she imagined.
++Much much alone far away from home. Cold.
Plummet sat up.
++Friend?++ Apoena broadcast into the void.
The little man's eyes widened, his eyes locking
on to hers with a mixture of fear and unrelenting
++Lost. Need find,++ Apoena began, before her
message was cut off by the force of Plummet barreling
into her midsection, his enraged flight sending the
two of them hurtling off the asteroid and crashing
through the center of two others.
Vast clouds of rock and dust flew up into the
void as Plummet drove her shoulders through miles of
iron ore, the rock beneath them splintering like
windshield glass and flying away in half-molten shards.
++Friend Not Hurt Please,++ Apoena thought,
but her frantic transmissions only seemed to drive
Plummet into a further fury. Apoena gasped, not
so much from the pain -- though the attack had
come upon her like an avalanche -- as from the
realization that the villain's frenzied charge
was carrying the two of them farther and farther
into the unknown.
Fine, she thought. If he's going to behave
like an angry toddler, I'm going to treat him
+++STOP!+++ she commanded, flooding his
mind with images of herself -- grown to titanic
size -- thrusting an open palm at his face.
Apoena imagined a version of herself at her
most menacing, a scowling, black-visaged
Colossus staring down at Plummet with the blocky,
harshly-lit features of a Soviet propaganda poster.
+++FIND SPACESHIP NOW!+++ Apoena demanded.
Then she fell back, startled, as the first
sketchy image from Plummet's mind entered her own:
the gray silhouette of a spaceship outlined
against the stars, everything looking black and
white and slightly out of focus, like the picture
on a very old television set.
+++YES! OBEY!+++ she repeated.
Plummet turned, and Apoena had just enough
time to grasp his shoulder before he launched
himself in another direction.
Apoena gasped. She had seen the view through the
portholes of the starship _Jefferson,_ the fastest
vehicle ever conceived, when the ship was traveling
at several times the speed of light; when the stars
around them had blurred to starlines and then to
pulses of energy that her enhanced senses struggled
to process long after her optic nerves had given
up and taken themselves on a well-deserved holiday.
Compared to the speed at which Plummet was
now carrying them forward, however, Apoena's
previous journey through space might as well have
been on the back of an aged, apathetic camel.
She felt, rather than saw or heard, objects
passing by in the nanoblink of a neutrino's eye
-- great smoldering quasars, bubbling masses of
dark matter, the illuminescent cascade of shining
dust that marked the outer edge of a nebula.
And then they stopped, and everything inside
Apoena lurched and heaved; whatever ability Plummet
had to resist inertia, it was evidently something
Apoena did not share.
It took a moment for her visual cortex to
re-adjust to seeing something at a speed and at a
distance it could properly comprehend.
In that moment, and in the light of a blue-
white star, Apoena saw the outline of a spaceship.
It was not the _Jefferson_. Nor was it the
city-sized carrier the Legion of Net.Villains had
hijacked for their raid on the Ultimate Black Hole.
This was a much smaller ship -- too small, she
thought, to have traveled this far into deep space
on its own. It was, she thought, roughly the same
size and shape...
...as an LNH flight.thingee.
And that, she realized with growing amazement, was
exactly what it was.
How had it come to be here? Had the Legion sent a
mission to rescue her? (And if so, how had they found her?)
Was this a second, secret mission, sent to secure the
Ultimate Black Hole while her own group fought the LNV?
A dark thought crossed her mind. What if her group
had failed, and the monsters inside the Black Hole had
been unleashed? What if the Bryttle Brothers had awoken,
and destroyed the Earth? It was entirely possible that
the little spaceship in front of her contained the
last survivors of her planet.
"Minority Miss to Legion spacecraft," she said,
speaking into her helmet's radio. "Please respond."
There was no response. Apoena repeated her request.
Still nothing. Perhaps the radio in her suit had been
damaged by Plummet's attack.
She guided the little man to a hexagonal opening on
the side of the ship, grateful that this was, after all,
an LNH vehicle, and thus came equipped with an airlock
designed to accommodate flying humans.
The outer doors irised shut behind them. Apoena
placed her gloved hand against the palm reader on the
airlock door, as Plummet shuffled around behind her
like an anxious terrier.
There were no lights inside the airlock -- even the
emergency lights had gone dark -- but Apoena felt the
caress of sound waves emanating from the palm reader,
cascading over her hand and reading her biometric
information through the layers of her glove.
The door hissed open.
Standing in the darkness of the hatchway was a tall,
wild-eyed, bearded man carrying a sword. The man had
dark, curly hair and was exceptionally well-built, something
Apoena could not help but notice, since he was also
<<Well,>> he said, in a language she recognized as
Greek. <<Aren't you a sight for sore eyes?>>
There was a slight popping sound as Apoena removed
<<I am Minority Miss of the Legion of Net.Heroes,>>
she replied. <<Who are... wait... I know you...>>
Apoena's eyes widened with recognition, and shock,
and then pain, as the man plunged his sword completely
through her body.
NEXT WEEK: A hero appears! An ancient enemy of the
Legion returns! And Kid Kirby goes out for pizza!
More information about the racc