LNH: Beige Countdown #9 (7/9)

EDMLite robrogers72 at gmail.com
Fri May 24 15:12:20 PDT 2013


                      Chapter Seven:
             The Created Against the Damned


     "You want to undress someone with your eyes, hero?"
Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Boy said, driving a tremendous uppercut
into Substitute Lad's jaw.  "Well, here's one hundred
and ninety pounds of NAKED FURY coming your way!"

     "That... doesn't make any sense," said Substitute Lad,
rubbing his jaw and rising to his feet.

     "You want to steal my woman... mock me behind my
back... and belittle my choice of metaphors?" Obnoxious
Ame.rec.a Boy said, his face a mask of quivering rage.
"Well, in that case, it's time for me to open up a Battle
of Yorktown on your armored @%^&!"

     "I've never made fun of you.  I don't care what
comparisons you make.  I'm not interested in Skunk Girl,"
Substitute Lad said, dodging and weaving as Obnoxious
Ame.rec.a Lad unleashed a barrage of blows.  "And wasn't it
the French navy that actually played the decisive role in the
Battle of Yorktown?"

     "GRAAAAAAAGYGLLLLAH!" Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Boy said,
charging blindly into Substitute Lad's midsection.

     "Boys," Cynical Lass said, shaking her head.  "Can
you believe Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Boy called you his 'woman?'
You'd think he, of all people, would actually be familiar
with the Fourteenth Amendment."

     "It's all my fault," Skunk Girl said, shaking her head.
"It's these damned pheromones."

     "How do you mean?" asked Cynical Lass, as Obnoxious
Ame.rec.a Boy smacked against Substitute Lad's kinetic
energy-absorbing armor and fell down, frustrated and furious.

     "They have the ability to influence emotions, and they
have a... particular effect upon men," said Skunk Girl, nodding
at Girlwatcher, who stood, entranced and staring, a few
feet away.  "Usually I have some control over them, but...
well, I haven't had a chance to change out of my spacesuit
since we landed on this planet, and I guess they're a little
more potent than usual."

     "I just can't believe that Ultimate Ninja and Innovative
Offense Boy would let something like this go on," Cynical
Lass said, as Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Boy threw a handful of
gravel in Substitute Lad's face while muttering something
about the Battle of Trenton.

     "From the looks of things, I'd say Innovative-Offense
Boy is doing everything he can to keep Ultimate Ninja from
getting us into a war with the robots," Skunk Girl
said, glancing at where the two men were confronting the robot
leader at the base of the entrance to the Collection.

     That entrance -- a portal into the great subspace
vault within the planet -- looked like the result of a
weekend fling between the Great Pyramid of Giza and the
Sears Tower.  Its sleek triangular sides, polished to
black mirrors, met at the base of a small observation
turret that included two massive antennae and a Starbucks.

     "I am going to ask you one... last... time," the
Ultimate Ninja said, his voice like a drawn razor.
"Where is Steak-and-Potatoes Man?"

     "The Collective is not responsible for the
disappearance of your teammate," said 10LZE, two of her arms
crossed in front of her.  "If the Ultimate Ninja is unable to
keep his personnel from meandering away, it is not the business
of this designate to correct him."

     "Tin Lizzie's goading you, boss.  Just like they
all are," Innovative-Offense Boy said.  "The robots have
a @#$%^&*ing death wish.  We don't need to be a part of it."

     "On the contrary," the Ultimate Ninja said.  "I
have always been willing to accommodate someone who
wishes to die."

     "Please," Obscure Trivia Lad said, placing one
silver hand on 10LZE's upper thorax.  "None of us
wants to hurt you.  Why are you doing this?"

     The robot shook off Obscure Trivia Lad's hand.

     "But the Obscure Trivia Lad has already hurt
Designate 10LZE, more than the weapons of the Ultimate Ninja
ever could," she said.

     "I find that unlikely," Ultimate Ninja said.

     The robot turned her compound eyes from the ninja
to Innovative-Offense Boy before resting them on Obscure
Trivia Lad.  "The Ellenache believes itself to be on a
mission to protect the universe, and yet it does not
recognize the Collective as a part of that universe,"
she said.  "To you, we designates are all the same...
an undifferentiated mass of machines."

     "Well, you do call yourselves the @#$%^&ing
Collective," Innovative-Offense Boy said.

     "The Ellenache merely suspects the Collective of
plotting to destroy them.  The Collective knows -- as a
matter central to our programming -- that the Ellenache
will bring about the destruction of our world.  Yet we
have chosen to assist you in your effort to make contact
with the Collector," 10LZE said.

     "Because it serves your own @#$%^&ing goals,"
Innovative-Offense Boy said.  Turning to the Ultimate
Ninja, he added, "She's stalling.  Trying to keep us
from reaching the Collector until he has time to
prepare the @#$%^&ing welcome wagon."

     "The Ellenache was surrounded by six divisions of
the Collector's most experienced warriors three days
ago," the robot leader said.  "Why would the Collector
wait until the Ellenache is at his very doorstep to
launch an attack?"

     "Maybe he likes to @#$%^&ing watch," Innovative-
Offense Boy said.

     "Enough," the Ultimate Ninja said, drawing his
sword.  "Let us see what the Collector says when we
put these questions to his..."

     The ninja, the robot and Innovative-Offense Boy
jumped back as something shattered in front of them.
They looked upwards to see two figures standing in
what had previously been a window of the observation

     "Report!" the ninja said.

     "It's an old man... and some kid in a helmet,"
said Skunk Girl, borrowing the field glasses that
hung around Girlwatcher's neck.  Girlwatcher, for
his part, slumped against the heroine's body, looking
as though he could not believe his own good fortune.

     "The kid is holding something above his head..."
Skunk Girl continued, before she was cut off by the
voice of the young man above them.

     "ROBOTS OF THE COLLECTIVE!" the young man shouted,
his words ringing out loud and clear above the rocky

     "That's Kid @#$%^&*ing Kirby!" Innovative-Offense
Boy said, as the young man in question let the long
plastic box above his head drop.

     The item fell for hundreds of feet before it was
retrieved by a foursome of flying robots, who lowered
it gently to the ground.  The four began a low steady
hum that grew in intensity -- a buzzing that quickly
spread to the other robots surrounding the entrance
to the Collection.

     "This... is not within defined parameters," 10LZE

     "What is it?" Obscure Trivia Lad asked.

     "That object... is the central processing unit
of... an entity which claims to be the Collector,"
10LZE said, as the noise and excitement
of the robots surrounding her increased in volume.

     The first attack came seconds later, as several
of the assembled robots tore into each other with a
ferocity that impressed even the Ultimate Ninja.

     "I thought your Second Directive said your people
could never hurt each other," said Ordinary Lady,
dodging the bits of burning metal as a wounded, toaster-
sized robot exploded a meter or so from her head.

     Obscure Trivia Lad pulled 10LZE to safety just as
another battered robot slammed into the ground beside them,
sending springs, sprockets and bits of wire in every
direction.  Each piece of debris was seized, fought over
and greedily consumed by other robots, who announced their
upgrades to the world with a satisfied series of pings.

     "All of the Directives depend upon the existence of
the First: that the designates of the Collective serve
the Collector," 10LZE said, as if in a trance.  "With the...
apparent demise... of the Collector, some designates of the
Collective have chosen to believe that the other Directives
no longer apply."

     "Meaning that all of us are now in danger," the
Ultimate Ninja said, using his katana to cleave a falling
robot neatly in two as it clattered in front of him.

     "Only a third of the Collective is so ignorant, and
superstitious, as to believe that the rules governing
civilized behavior are justified only by the continuing
presence of our creator," 10LZE said, as Obscure Trivia
Lad gently released her.  "However, that third of our
population includes a very large number of individual

     "@#$%^&**((!" Innovative-Offense Boy said, expressing
the thoughts of nearly everyone present.  "Guess your
@#$%^&ing prophecy was right, then.  We're in the middle of
a war zone, with no place to run and no place to hide."

     "It is considerably worse than that," said 10LZE,
drawing weapons with two of her arms and disintegrating a
writhing, mechanized centipede that had reared up in front
of them.  "Should the warring factions succeed in breaking
open the subspace vault containing the Collection, the entire
planet is likely to implode."

     "Good," Innovative-Offense Boy said.  "At least now
we know what we're @#$%^&ing defending.  Legion of Net.Heroes!
Form up -- two phalanxes on either side of the entrance!
Don't let anything that flies, rolls or crawls get to that
@#$%^&ing door,  or the whole world is @#$%T^ed!"

     He looked up as the various heroes took their positions:
Skunk Girl somersaulting and slicing her way through the
riveted copper hide of a cybernetic dinosaur, Drabble Girl
using a discarded robot arm as a flyswatter against a swarm
of drones, and Obnoxious Ame.rec.a Boy, Substitute Lad
and Cynical Lass working together to bash a herd of animated
mannequins that had formed a flash mob in front of the
Collector's citadel.

     "Hope you know what you're @#$%^&ing doing, Kid
Kirby," Innovative-Offense Boy said, delivering a
roundhouse kick to what appeared to be a crawling
mechanical stomach whose bladed tentacles whipped the
air.  "Because right now this doesn't seem like much of
a @#$%^ing plan."

     Several dozen stories above Innovative-Offense Boy's
head, Jack was, in fact, uttering similar statements to
the hero in question.

     "Not that I'm criticizing," Jack said.  "It's just
that, you know, next time you feel like destabilizing an
entire civilization, you might want to talk about it

     "I believed I was bringing truth to a world forged
in lies," Kid Kirby said, staring with unbelieving eyes
at the carnage unfolding below him.

     "I get that.  I worked with Ditko, after all.  The
question is, now that you've done it, what are you going
to do about it?" Jack said.

     "Do?" Kid Kirby asked.

     "You're Kid Kirby, right?  Of the Legion of Net.
Heroes?" Jack said, lighting a cigar.  "Then go out
there, Kid Kirby, and save the goddamned world."




     "What d'you suppose the old shriveled prune wants now?"
Plum Master asked, as he and Downyflake followed the stream
of villains into the yawning cathedral of the flight hangar.
"Can't be another prison 'liberation;' we've done them all
by now, haven't we?"

     "Twenty bucks says he wants to show how mighty and
powerful he is by traumatizing another cat," muttered
Downyflake, the many pockets of his uniform whispering
against each other as he found a place near the stage.

     "Surprised to see you up and around," he said to
Doctor Duodecahedron, who stood fiddling with the glowing
prism of his replacement eye.  "Sheepshagger and Vapid
Veterinarian are barely walking after what that Drop Bear
did to them."

     "I was lucky," Doctor Duodecahedron said.  "Rolled
a 15 just after the attack.  Jump-started the healing

     "Awful dark out there," Plum Master said, nodding
toward the row of portholes.  "You don't suppose...?"

voice of Mynabird, startling the crowd, which had grown
accustomed to the armored master criminal leading up
to major announcements with a fanfare of heavy-metal music.

     "Thank you for joining me in what is to be our
moment of greatest triumph," he continued, causing
Plum Master and Downyflake to roll their eyes.  "Some of you"
-- he nodded at Downyflake, Vector Prime and the other members
of the Surreptitious Seven -- "have been with me from the
beginning.  Some of you have joined us along the way..."

     A cheer rose up among the considerable crowd of prison
escapees, with the loudest and most obscene shouts coming
from those who had fled the military dungeon of Ashkyyax.

     "All of you came together for this moment -- the
moment when the assembled might of a thousand worlds in
a hundred systems casts our eyes toward that dreaded
portal whose very name has caused even the most intrepid
souls throughout the known universe to wet themselves
in terror.  I give you... the ULTIMATE BLACK HOLE!"

     The lights in the hangar dimmed, and the eyes --
or their nearest equivalents -- of everyone in the hangar
strained to make out details in the blackened abyss.
The lone exception was Barrage, who, being a cat,
continued to noisily clean himself in a corner of the room.

     "I don't see anything," Plum Master said at last.

     "EXACTLY!" Mynabird crowed.  "No light -- no trace of
the visible spectrum -- can escape the crushing grip of the
Ultimate Black Hole.  Even here, at a distance of thirty
light years, its all-consuming maw has devoured the sky.

     "Yet I assure you it is there, and that the only thing
standing between it and us is an undetermined mass of
super-giant anti-stars forged of dark matter.  Undetectable
by any instrument, they nevertheless emit a form of radiation
so potent that no armor, no force field can provide a shield
from their deadly rays.  Invisible, invincible, inevitable
-- it is for this reason that these bodies have become known
to legend as the NINJA SUNS."

     "Ninja Suns, my plasma-producing keister," muttered the
Sun, standing with his fellow members of the Pencil Rain
at the back of the room.  "Those things aren't even real

     "Yeah?  Well, neither is Kim Kardashian.  And you've
seen the kind of damage she can do," hissed Rabid Child.

     "Vector Prime," said Mynabird, turning to the statuesque
red-headed woman who stood beside him.  "What are the
current odds against surviving a passage through the field
of ninja suns?"

     "Nine hundred billion to one," the woman said, with the
cheerful insouciance of someone announcing the evening's
winning lottery number.

     A tumult of gasps and shouts filled the chamber.
Hundreds of feet above the stage, on a narrow catwalk
overlooking the hangar, the warrior koala known as the Drop
Bear turned to his companion, the giant hamster called
Captain Rat Creature.

     "That's if he's lucky," the Drop Bear said, his face
ashen.  "No one -- nothing -- could survive getting within
light-years of a ninja sun.  Even trying to describe a
ninja sun has destroyed a generation of astronomers."

     "I thought you said it was the decision by the
Christicantthinkofagoodname Empire to allow orbiting
neon billboards that destroyed a generation of
astronomers," Captain Rat Creature said.

     "Different generation.  It isn't easy being an
astronomer in the Christicantthinkofagoodname Empire,"
the Drop Bear said.  "Now listen up.  The enemy is about
to reveal his last major plot complication."

     "I hope," Downyflake said, his voice shaking, "that
this is where you reveal your brilliant plan for taking us

     "Why Downyflake," Mynabird said, his voice deep and
rich as last year's molasses, "surely you've studied enough
theoretical physics to know that simply making the decision
to press on through means that at least one version of
ourselves, in one alternate universe, will eventually

     "But nine hundred billion other versions of ourselves
-- at the very least -- will fail," Downyflake said.  "And
there's nothing to guarantee that the version of us in this
universe will be the one that survives."

     "Quite so," Mynabird said, sounding, Plum Master
thought, entirely too pleased with himself for someone
who was about to ordain an act of mass suicide.  "If only
it were possible for us to bring all of the alternate versions
of ourselves -- or at least, say, nine hundred billion and
one of them -- into this universe.  But that is quite
impossible... at least, for a human..."

     Barrage looked up, his amber eyes narrowing to slits.

     "Cats, on the other hand, have always been able to
pass between alternate universes, and to substitute
alternate-universe versions of themselves," Mynabird
said.  "It is one of the reasons why their moods seem
to change so suddenly -- and why they seem to appear,
and disappear, from our homes without any explanation."

     Barrage bolted, but was caught in mid-leap by
Vapid Veterinarian, who held the screeching, yowling
cat by the scruff of his neck.  The ship creaked, and
its deck pitched to starboard, metal undulating in waves
as the frightened creature lashed out telekinetically.

     Mynabird raised an arm.  The ship righted
itself, and Barrage fell slack, though his eyes still
glimmered with rage.  Vapid Veterinarian carried the
cat forward, finally placing him in the waiting, gray-
suited arms of Arthur E.L. Presence, who strapped
Barrage into a kind of cradle surrounded by a seemingly
infinite number of wires.

     "Some scientists believe that by extrapolating
from the natural ability all cats have, it might be
possible to bring our alternate selves from other
dimensions into this universe," Mynabird said.

     "Vee's vright, voo vknow," Vapid Veterinarian
whispered to Downyflake.  "Vhere ees a lot of vresearch
vunding in ze kitty-schplitting."

     "Those same scientists have theorized that using
a cat for this purpose would not only be unethical, but
would require a level of power beyond anything that could
be measured by the mind of man," Mynabird said.

     "Naturally, neither of those problems is an issue for
me," he added, opening his fist and striking Barrage with
the full force of the Power Kirby.

     The room -- the whole world -- seemed to shift
and refract as the cat screamed, his gray body quivering
at the center of cascading bolts of red energy.

     Plum Master handed Downyflake a twenty-dollar bill.

     "Don't do this!" Vector Prime pleaded, as identical
versions of the stolen spaceship and its crew began
popping into existence in the empty space that surrounded

     "I know what it's like to create copies of
yourself -- and then to watch them die!" she cried.  "You feel
every death as though you were the one experiencing the pain!"

     Behind the shield of Mynabird's helmet, the tiny figure
of the Easily-Discovered Bran Mite rested one of his hands on a
framed photograph of a female mite and her swollen egg

     "You think _I_ do not know what it is to feel a million
versions of myself dying before my very eyes?" Mynabird said,
his pulsing visor glowing red.  "Woman, you do not know me."

     "Eight hundred and twenty billion... eight hundred
and forty billion," Arthur E.L. Presence said, examining
a readout on the side of the captured cat as more and
more spaceships filled the void.

     "He's playing with the very fabric of reality itself!"
the Drop Bear said, no longer even bothering to whisper.
"By merging all of alt.ernity into one universe, he could
cause a cascading effect that could wipe out all that is
... all that has ever been... all that will be, or could be!"

     "Lord knows the last thing this newsgroup needs is
another cascade," Captain Rat Creature said.  "Let's take
him out."

     The doors on either side of the catwalk opened.  On one
end, an armored hunter and an enormous, bearlike creature
lumbered on to the thin metal walkway.  On the other, the
scurrying figure of Mammal and a clown on a unicycle blocked
any avenue of escape.

     "Boba Fudd to Mynabird," the armored hunter said.  "We
huh-huh-have them."

     Mynabird, however, paid no attention, as he waited for
Arthur E.L. Presence to finish his tally.

     "Eight hundred and ninety-five billion... nine
hundred billion and... one!" the gray-suited assassin
said, as Barrage emitted a blood-curdling wail.  "We now
officially have almost as many alternate versions of
ourselves in this universe as Spider-Man has in his."

     "I thought we agreed to never, ever speak of the
Clone Saga," Mynabird said.

     Arthur E.L. Presence shrugged.  "I thought if we had
taken up torturing cats to shatter the space-time
continuum, everything was on the table."

     "An interesting point," Mynabird said.  "Let us
table that discussion for now... and go forth to claim
what is rightfully ours!"

     "I actually didn't think the Clone Saga was...
hrrrrrk!" Plum Master said, as the starship lurched forward
and he felt his body -- and everything around him --
melting away in the searing heat of a ninja sun.

     Then that image disappeared, and Plum Master had
just enough time to breathe a sigh of relief before a
burst of X-rays from the Ultimate Black Hole flash-fried
every member of the Legion of Net.Villains into a
silhouette of ash.

     Then Plum Master felt himself disintegrate, as the
starship _Cinareus_ collided with a hidden planet.

     Then Plum Master -- who was beginning to feel, as
never before, deep and profound sympathy with the character
Bill Murray had played in _Groundhog Day_ -- saw his hands
and feet elongate, wither and lose sensation as some strange
wave of radiation transformed his body into a substance
not entirely unlike melting taffy.

     Then he felt the weird horror of recognition as the
starship collided with another starship on which another
version of himself screamed in identical horror...

     On and on the ship shuddered forward through death
after horrific death, with Plum Master experiencing the
moments between each demise as the rapid, and thoroughly
unpleasant, expansion of his consciousness.

     He saw glimpses of worlds beyond his own twisted,
distorted and finally pulled apart; felt seconds stretched
into decades and entire lifetimes compressed into moments;
heard the screams and moans and dying gasps of his fellow
villains peppered with the mindless laughter of those
who reveled in the cycles of destruction.

     He saw strange, alternate versions of himself created
and destroyed in an instant.  The Plum Master who had
launched a fruit-hurling swath of destruction across the
stagecoach routes of the Old West.  The Plum Master who
had replaced the kindly greengrocer in a diverse, puppet-
populated urban neighborhood.  The Plum Professor who had
murdered Mr. Boddy in the billiard room with the lead pipe.

     He saw an anime pony Plum Master, a Plum Master robot
who transformed into a plum, a suit-wearing sadist who
showed a young woman what "fifty shades of plum" really
meant -- all of them ripped apart by the vengeful fingers
of a universe that was more cruel and unusual than any
version of Plum Master had ever allowed himself to imagine.

     Each death brought new horrors, new revelations, new
sensations of pain.   Had Plum Master's consciousness not
already been circling the drain of insanity, it is likely
that the experience would have driven him quite mad.

     Then everything stopped.  The ship was still, and alone.

     "Mynabird," gasped Downyflake, when he was able to
speak.  "Where's Mynabird?"

     "Oh, him," giggled Doctor Duodecahedron.  "He's with
Vector Prime and... hee, hee... Arthur E.L. Presence, I

     "And where are they?" Downyflake asked.

     "With Mynabird!" Doctor Duodecahedron gasped, before
collapsing on the floor in a fit of laughter that spread
rapidly throughout the crowd.


     NEXT WEEK: Beyond the Black Hole!


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