LNH20: Ultimate Mercenary v20 #6
mrfantastic7 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 7 17:56:34 PDT 2015
Ultimate Mercenary v20 #6
"Way Down Below"
by Adrian McClure
Ultimate Mercenary's head was throbbing. He could remember the fight on top
of the car, falling down into the water… If only he could get together and
figure out where he was. But it was hard to think. Not only did he have an
awful headache, the smell made things worse. It smelled like he was in a
That was when he remembered that he was, in fact, in a sewer.
He stirred, gradually opening his eyes, adjusting to the dim light. He was
sitting on a ledge in a tent, with the fetid river flowing outside. Someone
was sitting beside him. He tried to pull out his sword but his back was
"You're probably going to need to rest a while longer," said the man
standing beside him. Ultimate Mercenary groaned and twitched.
After a while, he fell back to sleep. His dreams were a series of
disconnected images that faded away before he could make anything out of
When he woke up, it was just as dark as it had been when he was asleep. He
had no idea how much time had passed. The man was still sitting beside him,
scribbling in a sketchbook. "Ah, hello," he said. "What's your name?"
"I'm Ultimate Mercenary," he mumbled. "I'm with the LNH."
"I supposed as much," said the man. He tapped the pencil against his lip
and went back to the sketch. "I am Professor Dean Lavigne. I've been
studying the ecology of Netropolis's sewers for quite a while, and have
been doing field work for… six months, yes, six months. So I'm used to the
smell." He was a middle aged man, unkempt and noticeably ill smelling even
in the middle of a sewer.
Ultimate Mercenary looked around. The sewers were lit by a flickering lamp
Lavigne was carrying. In the waters, he could see a blind white cave-fish
swimming by. "Fascinating, isn't it?" said Lavigne. Ultimate Mercenary
didn't really think so himself, so he just grunted. "There are so many
unusual species here in the sewers," he continued, seemingly oblivious to
the fact he had an audience. "A unique ecology, shaped by the chemical,
radioactive and mystical influences from the city above… Ah." He
scrutinized Ultimate Mercenary. "How did you get here?"
"I was trying to get back to the LNHQ, and I got attacked and ended up
here… I need to get back."
Professor Lavigne nodded. "We'll have to find a way back to the surface. Of
course, that's easier said than done. The sewers are rather labyrinthine.
Their layout shifts sometimes, not unlike your LNHQ, although on a smaller
Ultimate Mercenary grunted again..
"Hmmm," said Professor Lavigne. "Perhaps Gertrude would know."
"Ah, well." Professor Lavigne blushed a little. "You see, I've been
corresponding with another person who lives int he sewers who's been
studying its ecology. She's had some… very intriguing observations. We're
going to rendesvous soon. I'm.. well, I'm a little nervous." He blushed
slightly. "I haven't really talked to anyone in months apart from you."
"Hh," said Ultimate Mercenary. He nodded.
"We should see her within the day." He packed up his tent and provisions
into the satchel, which had apparently been enchanted to fit an unusually
large number of objects, then marched on. Ultimate Mercenary stood up and
winced at the pain in his foot.
"Ah," said Lavigne. "I'm afraid that cut is infected. You should receive
help for it soon."
"I've been through worse," grunted Ultimate Mercenary, but the pain hit him
harder than he'd expected. He must have cut his foot during the battle with
the robot. It wasn't that bad of an injury, but the weight of everything
he'd been through in the last few days was crashing on him all at once. All
he wanted was to go back to sleep and not wake up. But he was a ninja, he
told himself. Ninja didn't give up or give in. He would get back home and
prove his worth to the Legion, even in this messed-up alternate reality. He
was sure of it.
Step by step he dragged himself after Lavigne, who slowly walked down the
sewers, taking in every detail. There was something oddly peaceful about it
after a while. The pain, as awful as it was, faded away into the back of
his mind, and he was caught up in the rhythm of moving ahead one step at a
As they walked onward they started seeing vines overgrowing the walls,
glowing with a pale blue light. Iridescent insects buzzed around the
glowing flowers. More and more fish were swimming through the sewer along
with all the unpleasant things. There was life here, and Ultimate Mercenary
could see why Lavigne was so fascinated with it.
"I suspect we're nearing civilization," said Lavigne. The words startled
Ultimate Mercenary, shattering the peaceful silence.
"There are people who live here?" he said.
"Yes. The alligators."
"Rumor has it there are quite a number of communities of mutant animals,
outcasts, and that sort of thing living under the sewers. The largest and
most organized one is a city of alligators who were flushed into the sewers
and transformed by their techno-cosmic mutagens. They aren't terribly
friendly to humans… Although I can't entirely blame them for it,
considering we abandoned them. Not to mention what a mess we've made of the
world in general."
"Wait." Ultimate Mercenary tensed. There was something walking toward them
through the sewers, a large hulking figure in a cloak. Ultimate Mercenary
put his hand on his sword grip, but Lavigne pushed him back, showing a
strength that belied his scrawny form. The cloaked figure came to a stop.
It towered above the two of them. In the dim light, Ultimate Mercenary
could see its green scaly skin and large snout. It bent its head down and
looked Lavigne in the eye. "Dean? Is that you?" it said.
The alligator then grabbed him, took him in her arms and hugged him
fiercely, pressing his face to hers. "It's good to finally see you."
Lavigne chuckled. "It's good to see you too. What are you doing here? I
wasn't expecting to meet you so soon."
She gently put him down on the ground. "Well, I heard someone had seen the
Gnarligator in this area."
"The Gnarligator?" said Ultimate Mercenary. The two turned around,
startled—they'd forgotten he was there.
"Well, ah," said Lavigne, "the Gnarligator was a mutated alligator who was
one of the most wildly popular heroes of this city in the 1980s. He showed
up after the Network disbanded in 1985, when hope seemed scarce. He was so
popular, in fact, that countless families in Netropolis bought pet
alligators. But then, when raising them took more effort then they
expected, they flushed these alligators down the toilet, where they were
themselves mutated by the sewers…"
"And we formed our own civilization," said Gertrude. "Some of see the
Gnarligator as a hero, a savior. Others see him as a devil and blame him
for our miserable condition."
"And you?" said Lavigne.
"I was hoping to find out," said Gertrude. She looked him in the eye and
brushed her hand across his face. "I can't believe I've finally seen an
actual human. You weren't what I expected." He frowned. "I—that's not a bad
thing at all. You—You're not afraid of me, are you?"
"No! Certainly not! A-heh." He blinked. "Well. I must say, I am perhaps a
little nervous, as I've never encountered one of your kind in person
before, but… I've always been fascinated by other forms of life. Some of
the life that exists down here is certainly dangerous, but some of it is
very beautiful indeed…" Gertrude actually blushed. Ultimate Mercenary found
himself smiling, although no one saw it beneath the mask.
Then he saw a dark shape moving through the waters.
He pushed them out of the way just as two green scaly tentacles whipped out
of the water. One grabbed him by the neck, the other by the waist. He drew
his sword and struck at them, but the hide was too thick to cut. A creature
burst from the water—a cross between an octopus, a crocodile, and a shark.
The crocosharktopus snapped at his foot, clenching at it with his jaw.
Ultimate Mercenary screamed angrily and kicked at its throat with his other
foot. He felt himself blacking out, slowly succumbing to exhaustion. He
couldn't die, not like this, down in the sewer where the Legion wouldn't
even know. But he knew he couldn't hold on for much longer.
And then, just as he was about to black out, another figure came racing
downt he sewer tided—an alligator with shades riding a surfboard.
"COWABUNGA!" he shouted, punching the crocosharktopus on the nose. [Was
this too obvious a reference? Probably—ed.] Ultimate Mercenary felt scaly
arms grip him before he blacked out.
He came to on a cool table in a brightly lit room. He still felt sore, but
his head wasn't fogged up anymore—he felt like he was waking up from a long
"Hey!" said a rough voice. "He's coming to!" It was Pantra.
"What happened?" groaned Ultimate Mercenary. He opened his eyes and saw
Pantra and Professor Penumbra standing over him. The infirmary, which had
been empty earlier, was packed now, with LNHers on every bed. Kindle was on
the other side of the room, trying to help as many people as she could.
"There was an alien invasion!" said Pantra. "I got to kill some giant
tomatoes from space. It was really cool." She grinned.
Ultimate Mercenary groaned in frustration. An epic battle to save the world
and he hadn't been around for it? (There was something weirdly familiar
about the tomatoes too… Why couldn't he remember?)
"It was a mess," said Professor Penumbra. "So what happened to you? I heard
you were brought here by an alligator on a surfboard…"
"Yes," said Ultimate Mercenary. He then explained everything he'd been
through, while Professor Penumbra nodded. "Well," he said, "you maybe
should have been a bit careful…"
Ultimate Mercenary winced.
"…but I understand being really overwhelmed. We've never had anyone like
you before, someone from another universe."
"Huh. We had them all the time where I was from," said Ultimate Mercenary.
"Anyway," said Professor Penumbra, "you were pretty resourceful, and it
looks like you've uncovered some valuable information. I'd say you've got
potential." He grinned. "So what are you going to do now?"
"Yeah!" said Pantra, poking him in the shoulder. "You're part of the LNH!
You survived the sewers! How are you gonna celebrate?"
"Celebrate? I—hmm. Pantra, I'll face you in the Peril Room again!"
"Uh," said Professor Penumbra, "maybe you should rest a bit longer…"
Pantra cackled. "You think you can take me, ninja boy? You'll end back up
here soon enough!"
"We'll see about that!" Ultimate Mercenary leaped up and followed Pantra to
the Peril Room.
Professor Penumbra sighed, picking a stick of gum out of his pocket and
thoughtfully chewing it. "Hey, at least there probably won't be any more
catastrophes this week," he said…
Daniel Ellis looked out over the city at night. With the new cybernetic
implant in his right eye, he could see far more—the stars that were
normally hidden by light pollution, the flight patterns of birds in the
sky. He was thankful for it, in the end, even though it gave him a weird
buzzing feeling sometimes. Hopefully when he'd established himself in his
new career he'd be able to afford an upgrade from a better quality
The last time he'd been on a rooftop, his car had just blown up, paralyzing
him in one arm—his left arm, the one he used for drawing—and blinding him
in one eye. His career as an artist was almost certainly over before it
begun. Even if he was able to retrain himself, the surgery he could have
gotten from reputable channels would have been expensive enough he couldn't
live in the city and keep paying the bills for art school.
And anyway, he was done. Done with struggling to pay bills, done with being
expected to draw for free, done with his family making fun of him for
choosing to be an artist instead of doing a "real" job, something that was
practical. Well, he'd show them. His career as an artist was over. He was
getting a new job as a net.villain.
He already had a name. According to Cyborg Bob, the hypertech scavenger
who'd given him the surgery, the eye implant came from one Cybyrstrykyr, a
member of the cyborg mercenary team from the 90s, Excessive Force. It was a
name with some brand recognition already, even if it had a few too many
y's. So he'd build on that and make a name for himself, and then he'd take
revenge on everyone who'd wronged him—MEGA, whoever had hired them, the
asshole clients who wouldn't pay for art… and of course, that teenage ninja
who'd wrecked his car…
Author's notes: Well, this is the last pre-Spoon of Destiny issue of UM
v20. One of my goals this year is closing all my narrative gaps, so that's
Anyway, this issue in particular was, like the last one, built around ideas
from a stand-alone piece I didn't have time to write. It was inspired by
rereading the Archie TMNT Adventures, a comics run that was a huge
influence on me as a kid. It was written by Stephen Murphy, author of the
once acclaimed indie comic Puma Blues, and carried over a lot of that
series's weird apocalypticism and environmental themes. Anyway I think it
held up a lot better than other environmentalist works from the 90s since a
lot of it was about exploring strnage and wonderful natural environments
rather than just the evils of pollution. Originally there was going to be
much more of that here, as well as a couple other elements that echoed that
series, but I'll probably get around to those later… Dean Lavigne was named
after Dean Clarrain, the pseudonym Murphy used to write TMNT Adventures,
and Steve Lavigne, another Mirage staffer, who lettered many TMNT comics
and created the inimitable Cudley the Cowlick.
After this, I'm going to work on Evil's Last Stand II, an epic tale
spanning the Infinite Leadership Crisis issues with the UM v1 cast, and
then team up with Andrew Perron for the long-awaited end of Just Imagine,
the climax of the first act of my LNH writing, which will finally reveal
how Ultimate Mercenary got to Earth-20! I'm also going to write Spoon of
Destiny chapter 19 if no one else beats me to it, probably next month, and
not until after Andrew has had a chance to finish JAC #13 as it'd be unfair
to have to write two climactic issues at once. :)
The post-Spoon issues of UM v20, wrapping up 2012 on this series's
timeline, will pick up after that. They'll have Nerf Girl, the continued
machinations of WHATEVER and Acton Lord, more social awkwardness, and yet
another parallel universe, so don't miss it!
Oh, and all the ideas and characters I created for the last two issues are
General Use, except for Cybyrstrykyr, who's Ask Before Using.
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