LNH/LNH20: Hungry, Hungry Sabertooths #6

Jeanne Morningstar mrfantastic7 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 15 18:44:37 PDT 2020

"Quarantine Ninja Blues"
A Legion of Net.Heroes story by Jeanne Morningstar


"So," said Fearless Leader, speaking on the interdimensional 
communication device (the Zoom Tube) to the Fearless Leader of Earth-20, 
his counterpart and boyfriend [as of Bite-Size Tales of the LNH20 
#17-19--Footnote Girl], "How are things in your universe?"

"Well, the good news is that WHATEVER isn't running America anymore. The 
bad news is that the entire city of Netropolis is lost in space. You 
know, like Space:1999 or the original Macross."

"Well, huh."

"Yeah. But we're managing, we're managing. You?"

"Well, we're having a plague," said Fearless Leader. "A plague that 
turns people into sabertooth tigers."

"Ah, one of those LNHQ animal invasion things," said Fearless Leader-20. 
"Like the Werewolf Lemur Incident of 2014."

Fearless Leader nodded. "The problem is we're all in quarantine right 
now, and we're kind of on edge. We still haven't really processed the 
emotional fallout from the last crossover/cascade, and now there's this. 
Also, this seems like an ideal time for one or both Brotherhoods of Evil 
Net.Villains to attack, and we're really not ready. So we're both 
terrified and bored out of our skulls at the same time."

Fearless Leader-20 nodded. "I'll bet Multi-Tasking Man's OK, anyway. He 
basically never leaves his room, right?"

"Well... he's kind of stuck in the Deep Omnilooniverse right now."


"Yeah. Obviously, some of us are taking this better than others. Kid 
Enthusiastic is having a hard time. But Footnote Girl's doing fine, at 
least. There's still a ton of continuity references going on, so she has 
lots of stuff to do."

Fearless Leader-20 took a deep breath. "So, tigers huh."

"Tyger, tyger, burning bright, in the forest of the night--" quoted 
Fearless Leader.

"What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" Finished 
Fearless Leader-20.

Somewhere in the distance, Kid Poetry sighed and reset the "days since 
someone quoted Blake's The Tyger" counter to zero. The only poems most 
superheroes and villains seemed to know were that and The Second Coming.


Merissa paged around her quarters like a caged tiger, which was ironic 
because she was being caged to prevent her from being a tiger

She'd been reading intelligence briefings about the Crime Empress. 
Somewhere out there, there was an evil version of her and Merissa wasn't 
able to fight her. That was *extremely* not cool.

She needed to Do Something. That was what her whole identity as a person 
was. She was the one who Did Cool Things. Now she was supposed to 
just... what, introspect? That was not what she did!

She'd already cleaned her room. She tried been playing TTRPGs and board 
games with the other "Super Loser Squad" members, but that wasn't 
enough. She'd been kicked out of the Vampire: the Masquerade campaign 
Kid Occultism Kid had set up when she'd tried to firebomb an Antediluvian.

Merissa leaned against the wall and tapped her feet like Sonic's idle 
mode. The plot had to be starting any minute now, right?


Token Girl sighed. After the altercation with the giant sabertooth, 
which thankfully someone else was taking care of now, her team had gone 
back into quarantine until they could be tested. It had been a huge 
relief to be out and about even if she was stalking about in power armor 
under flickering fluorescent lights (the LNHQ had helpfully killed the 
lights to enhance the mood), surrounded by hungry tigers. That was where 
she'd rather be. Now she was alone with her feelings, the place she 
absolutely most hated to be.

"It's OK," said Catalyst Lass over the comms, "it won't take long for 
you to get tested.

"Yeah. Sure," grumbled Token Girl. Her voice sounded kind of... growly. 
Her skin felt itchy. Was she turning into a tiger, or was it just anxiety?

"We could play Among Us!"

"No I do not want to play another game," Token GIrl sulked.

"OK," said Cat, "what do you want?"

"I want to sit alone and be depressed--is that a hard concept?"

"Look. You're my friend. If there's anything I can do for you..."

Token Girl sighed deeply. "I was hoping this would be my year, OK, I was 
hoping I could go out and properly get my life in order and maybe have 
some real dates, and now i'm stuck in here while there's a crossover 
going on and I can't even be part of it anymore!" She started crying.

"It's OK," said Cat, holding out her hand to brush her hair and then 
remembering she wasn't there. "I'll let you sulk for a bit, sure." She 
laughed and waved goodbye.

Token Girl looked into the viewscreen where her best friend's face had 
been. She sighed, yet again.

She'd known for a long time she wasn't straight. She'd known ever since 
the Island, ever since Gracemora. She'd had a few reminders in their 
outer space adventure which would hopefully be finished someday. [Chicks 
in Space, in LNH Comics Presents Flash!--Footnote Girl--see?] She'd 
known that she had Feelings about her best friend at the very least 
since they'd been in space together. She was not ready to deal with 
that. The way that all her past relationships had ended could be 
compared to a nuclear plant meltdown, and left behind the same kind of 
long lasting toxic fallout. She had hoped to go on some dates that 
wouldn't work out but didn't really matter, not potentially wreck her 
relationship with her best friend. But that was fine. She was used to 
ignoring her feelings.

She walked over and collapsed into her giant Totoro plushie, hugging it 
angrily. She thought about her journey to outer space with Cat and 
Merissa to get it back from the cosmic knights of the Universal Church 
of Totoro.  She thought about the shopping trip where she'd picked it 
up, with Cat, New Look Lass, Sim Sorceress, Leviathan Lass and the rest. 
Way back in the day she'd had a tiny crush on Leviathan 
Lass--Kirsty--who'd bought the other Totoro from that comic shop. 
[Legion of Occult Heroes #2--FG] That shop had closed long ago, and many 
of the people she'd gone with weren't around anymore because their 
writers had dropped out or moved on. It just wasn't fair. Nothing was.

"Phooey," she said as she sank into the Totoro.


And the Ultimate Ninja sat alone amid the rock garden and bonsai trees. 
To any of the LNHers, things would have seemed perfectly normal

There was just one problem

She wasn't actually Ultimate Ninja, not really.

Nina Yamashiro was the niece of Ultimate Ninja. Her father was a 
tokusatsu stuntman who'd fought alongside Ultimate Ninja in an adventure 
against one of those monster-creating crime syndicates that Japan was 
full of, and became his blood brother. Her mother had been a 
high-ranking member of the League of Net.Assassins, hired to assassinate 
Nina's father by a powerful Yakuza boss who hated all the new toku 
series and thought the genre had died in the 1980s. But she'd fallen in 
love with him instead, and Ultimate Ninja had helped them escape to 
Net.ropolis and solemnized their marriage. (He was an ordained minister 
in the Church of Count Dante.)

Her father had become a professor in world cinema and her mother had 
become an artist. She'd been raised a ninja, but had been largely 
non-practicing. Ultimate Ninja had come to visit every now and again and 
taken her to see the LNH. She'd first met them as a child, but since she 
wasn't really a net.hero or a regularly appearing character she aged in 
more or less real time and had gone to art school to work in animation 
by the time Catalyst Lass, Fearless Leader and Cheesecake-Eater Lad 
called her up to tell her that her uncle had... not exactly died but not 
exactly *not* died.

She remembered it like it was yesterday...

She stood around the viewscreen in the LNH meeting room, preparing to 
watch the footage of Ultimate Ninja's passing. There were Fearless 
Leader, Catalyst Lass and Cheesecake Eater Lad, just as she remembered 
them. CEL was the first man she'd ever had a crush on and Catalyst Lass 
was the first woman she'd ever had a crush on. It was strange, and a 
little disturbing, to see these larger-than-life people who'd done so 
much to shape her sense of self, who seemingly hadn't changed at all 
while she'd changed so much. It was like some kind of metaphor for being 
a superhero comic reader.

Fearless Leader turned on the screen. *Wait*, thought present-day Nina, 
*is this a flashback -within- a flashback?* She tried to stop 
flashbacking but it was too late--

Occultism Kid stood on the planet Neme.sys with the LNHers he'd 
gathered--Ultimate Ninja, Catalyst Lass, Fearless Leader and Merissa. 
They watched the ghostly presence of the RACCtre, Usenet's spirit of 
divine justice, hover in the air.

They'd gone to the planet, which of course had been a 1950s suburban 
dystopia not unlike A Wrinkle in Time, to free the RACCtre from its 
imprisonment there. Merissa had defeated the power within Neme.SYS in a 
battle of wills, keeping it from taking over her mind by reciting every 
Pokemon from memory. And now Occultism Kid was communing with the 
RACCtre. The other net.heroes waited quietly by to see whether 
everything they'd done had been for nothing.

"So, is it possible to just... undo all this?" said Merissa. "The way 
the RACCtre did with 9/11? [Limp-Asparagus Lad #55--FG]"

"I'm afraid," said Occultism Kid, "we can't just wave our hands and make 
things all right. There has to be some kind of narrative cost. That's 
how magic is, after all. All the so-called rules of magic are a metaphor 
for the balance of the narrative."

"The planet Neme.sys is but a shell," said the RACCtre, "a narrative 
manifestation of an idea. The Combover-Thing is merely a symptom of 
deeper systemic oppressive forces represented by Neme.sys, but Neme.sys 
is itself naught more than a representation of these forces. I could 
remove the election from reality, destroy the planet Neme.sys, yet it 
would not resolve the narrative tensions underlying this story. The 
fundamental problem is in the Real World."

"Which means," said Occultism Kid, "one of us will have to go to the 
Real World to fight it there."

"You mean--the actual Real World? Not Real World Minus One?" said 
Catalyst Lass.


"But, uh, I'm pretty sure that's not possible."

"I mean in the imagination. That's where superheroes live in the Real 
World. That doesn't mean they're not real, though. What keeps them from 
being real is the forms they're trapped in--corporations and cinematic 
universes and brands. But superheroes can live outside of that. The 
superhero represents someone who becomes a force of transformation, who 
breaks through the rules of the world they're given and creates 
something else. That's what magic is. That's what imagination is. The 
fascists understand that they don't have to play by the rules, that to 
win you have to create the reality they want, while their institutional 
opponents are trying to play by the  rules. But they're not the only 
ones who can do that. One of us can enter into the subconscious of the 
Real World, to release all the energy that's been held back for so long. 
To open the floodgates of imagination."

There was only one of them, they knew, who represented the pure energy 
and force of will to do this, to become an idea. In many ways he'd been 
one already. They all looked at Ultimate Ninja, and he nodded.

"It's time," said Occultism Kid. He fished around in his capacious 
pockets and took out a particularly shiny bus token, one he'd held onto 
ever since he first put his trenchcoat on and hoped he'd never have to 
use. "This is a token for the Cosmic Bus," he said.

"The Cosmic Bus?"

"You know, like being Put On A Bus. Ever read TVTropes?" said Occultism Kid.

"TVTropes? Wow, that brings me back," said Merissa.

"Time sure passes, huh," said Fearless Leader. Everyone was quiet for a 

"Never mind," said Occultism Kid. "The Cosmic Bus is the embodiment of 
all plot devices that allow the same kind of narrative closure for a 
character as death without actually killing them off. Like the way every 
Doctor Who companion leaves now."

Ultimate Ninja silently took the token from Occultism Kid's hand. 
Occultism Kid hitched this thumb upward in an arcane gesture and a big 
red bus with rocket engines and Kirby-esque patterns engraved on the 
side descended slowly from above.

Occultism Kid was a sorcerer who faced down unspeakable things every day 
and had faced death and failure more than once. Fearless Leader, too, 
was used to loss. Cat was Cat, always trying to put a good face on 
things. Only Merissa reacted.

"You're just letting him go?"

Ultimate Ninja nodded. "Because they know it's time."

"But--But I was going to fight it out with you to prove of us was really 
the awesomest!" She started crying.

"Someday, we will," said Ultimate Ninja. He looked around and took a 
deep breath. "I will come back. I don't know when, Maybe in a year, 
maybe in a hundred years. I just want you all to know--" He took an even 
deeper breath. "I'm proud of you. I'm proud of everyone in the Legion. I 
learned to be more flexible and think on my feet faster because of 
leading you. I wanted to test you, to force you all to become something 
better, but you did the same for me." Then he fell silent.

All the LNHers there were stunned. This was the most that Ultimate Ninja 
had ever talked about his feelings for the entire time they'd known him.

Just then, Merissa rushed in and hugged him, almost bowling him over. He 
hugged her back stiffly and said nothing. He pulled himself loose, and 
Catalyst Lass put her hands on Merissa's shoulders. The Cosmic Bus's 
speakers started blaring out "May it Be" by Enya. Then Ultimate Ninja 
turned around and stepped on board the Cosmic Bus and the door closed 
behind him. There was a loud humming noise, and it went up, up, up into 
the stars.

Then Nina saw an image from the Real World. In 2016, right after the 
election, a right-wing media personality had been bloviating when a man 
dressed in a black mask rushed in an punched him. He struck swiftly and 
was gone. Like a ninja.

The screen turned off.

Nina didn't know how to feel. Frustration, anger, grief, and numbness 
all hit her at once. She laughed, because it was all she could do.

"So... what am I doing here?" she said.

"The Ultimate Ninja set up a contingency plan in case of prolonged 
periods of absence or... death," said Fearless Leader. "No one outside 
this room, except for Merissa, knows the Ultimate Ninja is gone. The LNH 
has many enemies, and if they knew they'd be ready to attack all at 
once. So he wanted to set up someone to take his place, at least for a 
while." He took out a small silver box and slowly opened it. Inside it 
was a blocky bracelet that looked pretty much exactly like the henshin 
spider-bracelet from toku Spider-Man. "This is the Super Ninjamorpher 
from Planet Ninja. It will allow you to transform into the Ultimate 
Ninja and, in times of dire need, to summon the machine god Ninjaguar."

"So... I haven't talked to him in years. Ever since I made it clear I 
wanted to live my own life and not just be a version of him. And now, 
after he's... dead, he wants me to just... be a version of him."

Catalyst Lass nodded. "I totally understand if you want to turn it down. 
But... He was very definite that his first choice to wield the Super 
Ninjamorpher was you. I think that was because he trusted you. Maybe 
that was actually because you were someone who could stand up to him, I 
don't know."

Nina looked down at the Super Ninjamorpher. Obviously, the thing to do 
was to tell the LNHers to fuck right off and never have anything to do 
with ninja again. And yet. She'd been feeling strangely blocked as an 
artist. She needed something more in her life. Something involving 
fighting net.villains and aliens, maybe.

"We'll pay your tuition for art school, of course," said Cheesecake 
Eater Lad. "I mean, ah, we can do it anyway if you turn us down, in 
honor of your ninja blood-uncle..."

Nina nodded, picking up the cold bracelet and turning it over in her 
hands. "How do you use this thing, exactly?"

"Put on the bracelet, thrust your arm up into the air and say 'Go Ninja, 
Go Ninja, Go,'" said Fearless Leader.

"Well okay then," said Nina. She snapped the bracelet onto her arm, 
thrust it up into the air and said "Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!"

The costume shot out of the Super Ninjamorpher and formed around her 
body. A sword which flashed with a blue glow descended from from the air 
and landed in her hand. She suddenly felt an energy and dynamism and 
fluidity in her body she'd never known before.

She was the Ultimate Ninja.

And she'd been the Ultimate Ninja for four years now. Right now, it was 
mostly Catalyst Lass, Cheesecake Eater Lad and Fearless Leader who were 
in charge of the LNH. But they needed an Ultimate Ninja. They needed 
someone to fight people in the Peril Room as an initiation, intimidate 
their enemies, train the new recruits, glare at Bad Judgment Boy so he 
wouldn't bring invasive extradimensional man-eating plants into the LNHQ 
again, even if he was the President now. And that was what Nina had done.

She'd stepped into the whole situation expecting that it'd be over 
pretty quickly. The Ultimate Ninja was a popular character who had a lot 
of merchandising, she'd thought, so he'd probably be back and everything 
would be the same. But it was four years and he showed no signs of 
coming back.

For the last four years (four years of the LNH Timeline, anyway, how 
long that was in terms of actual life was sort of vague now that she was 
actually a character in the core LNH) she'd been balancing her life as 
Ultimate Ninja with her job and her friendship with her fellow artist, 
Zoe Zimmer, with whom she shared an apartment and a confusingly 
homoerotic relationship. She also had to deal with a ton of weird gender 
feels the whole situation had unleashed. But at least before she'd been 
able to duck out of being Ultimate Ninja when it had gotten too 
stressful, most of the time.

Now, though... Now she was quarantined, until whenever they could get 
Dr. Stomper out of the Deep Omnilooniverse and he could develop an 
antidote. She had a time-sensitive meeting in the next few days over a 
young adult graphic novel proposal with Random Homepage, which could 
really make her career. She had a scheduled movie date with her roommate 
where she'd been planning to talk about her feelings, but then again, 
maybe if she hadn't been quarantined she would have just had another 
excuse not to do that. But this time she was sure she could have done it.

Ultimate Ninja sharpened her sword, and waited, and waited, and waited.



When I started this issue, I thought it was going to be a shorter, 
lighter, more character-based issue which would maybe hint at some 
ongoing plot stuff (like setting up the stakes for Merissa vs the Crime 
Empress) but not really focus on that. Then, when I sat down to write 
it, I realized that now was finally the time to explain the Thing with 
Ultimate Ninja. Drew had hinted at it broadly in WikiLull: EXHALE, and 
I'd figured I'd drop the reveal whenever the Brotherhoods finally went 
to war, and now that's happened. So here we are.

This was one of the things that I had been planning with Drew for years, 
which was supposed to go in my original plans for LNH v3 and instead got 
chopped up and put into various cascades when that didn't work out. UN's 
departure would have gone in v3, then it was put into WikiLull--the 
flashback scenes would have been the end of my part of the cascade--and 
now it's here. And yes, every UN appearance that comes after WikiLull on 
the timeline was actually Nina.

Some bits of Nina's personality and life situation were drawn from Wendy 
Watson in The Middleman, which is a very LNHy show I've been watching 
lately. She was named after Takuya Yamashiro, the 70s toku Spider-Man. 
(As opposed to Yu Komori, the 70s manga Spider-Man, which is also A Lot 
but in a  completely different way.) And her occupation also resembles 
Mike Grell's 80s creation Jon Sable Freelance, a masked mercenary who 
moonlighted as a children's book artist, though I didn't realize it 
until after I'd written that. I don't know why my brain keeps dedicating 
so much space to comics of highly variable quality from before I was 
born but there you go. Maybe she has an agent who knows about her 
net.hero identity like Jon Sable did.


Fearless Leader [Classic]: Dave Van Domelen
Fearless Leader [20]: Dave Van Domelen and Jeanne Morningstar
Gracemora, Kid Enthusiastic, Deep Omnilooniverse: Drew Nilium
Kid Poetry: Theron Ross
Merissa: Saxon Brenton and Rob Rogers
Footnote Girl: Saxon Brenton
Multi-Tasking Man: Jeff Coleburn
Catalyst Lass: Lis Riba
Token Girl: Tara O'Shea
Planet Neme.sys: Jeanne Morningstar
Occultism Kid: Josh Guerink
RACCtre: Matt Rossi
Ultimate Ninja II: Tom Russell

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