Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Issue 20: In the Power of Dr. Swastika!

Onboard SKULL’s Star Giant, the Atlantic Ocean, depth unknown.
Time until Tsunami Machine Activation: 57 minutes and counting!


Ambushed and defeated by the villainous Ubermensch (see last issue! – Educational Ed.), our heroes are now trapped, powerless, and under the control of the insidious Nazi genius, Dr. Swastika! A dozen immortality-seeking SKULL agents worshipped Dr. Swastika’s ghastly head like heretic Knights Templar around the skull of John the Baptist.

Lightning Strike, before he discovered that his powers were neutralized, tried to distract Swastika, by using his egomania against him. Strike’s gambit worked. Swastika began monologuing. It was the voice Slingshot and Strike had heard coming out of Sgt. Stone earlier; an educated, almost aristocratic English, tainted with a slight hint of German.
“What do you know of science, you foolish cretin? I have CREATED extranormals! I have studied them my whole life for they are the true Master Race.” The hatred and bile of Dr. Swastika’s voice was unmistakable, even via an electro-speakerbox.
“In my extensive study and research of extranormal brains, I have discovered that all superpower activity is centered in one part of the brain! Could your puny intellect have ever grasped such a concept?! Having located that center of the brain, it was mere child’s play to deactivate an extranormal’s powers, as you are now experiencing, witless fools. In fact, it is within my power to deactivate your powers permanently!
“But that is not my intent. Rather, I wish to use your powers. In my current condition, I require a new body… or rather, an army of bodies. That’s what this was all about. With a steady supply of extranormal subjects, I shall continue to live forever. And so too shall those I deem worthy!”

“Immortality is the reward to those who die in the service of SKULL! Serve SKULL! Sanctify SKULL!” chanted everyone in the room who had a body that was not paralyzed.

The ghastly, decapitated head continued: “You are here only because we wish it. The Tsunami Machine Plot was devised for three purposes:
One: To destroy the US eastern seaboard and with it, the Washington-based, mongrel world government.
Two: To deliver the Freedom Force to me so that I might place them and their unmatched powers and abilities under my control. That was why we created the charade of a ransom demand: to bring the Freedom Force. That CHESS has sent you instead indicates that the damned Freedom Force are truly dead, or no longer on this world. In either case, they will be unable to stop SKULL.
Three: During the catastrophic loss of New York and Washington, we shall seize control of the launch codes to America’s nuclear arsenal. Our agents are in place and waiting. Our dream of world domination has been made real! I’m pleased you are going to witness it.”

The wall-sized monitor screen read 55 minutes. “Activate!” barked Dr. Swastika.The clock jumped to 5 minutes, and continued counting down! Swastika said: “Believing the fa├žade of our ransom deadline, CHESS is waiting 30 more minutes before ordering a nuclear strike in this region of the Atlantic. As always, they will be too late!” The insane head laughed coldly.

“Help! I can’t breath!” “Hey, Aryan! Over here, pal!” Forester and Viper began shouting from their stasis tubes. Swastika’s attention was diverted. Aryan and some technicians came over to investigate the commotion, but they did not release the prisoners.

Seeing an opportunity, Sentinel began his “telepathic” plea to the Star Giant.

Then Slingshot created another diversion, heaping as much abuse as he could muster on the human fish, U-Man.

65 years ago, Karl Haupstein was the captain of a U-Boat fleet. A decorated war hero of the German Navy, he was held in the highest stature in society. Then, Dr. Swastika came into his life. With promises of further glory and honor from the German Empire, Karl enlisted into Swastika’s Project Ubermensch, and his life was changed forever. Transformed into the hideous freak, U-Man, Haupstein was the least powerful and least respected of Swastika’s Ubermensch. Still unswervingly loyal to his cruel, telepathic master, Haupstein’s reward was constant abuse and degradation, even from his fellow teammates. And now, in this new age, nothing has changed. It was he who was given over to the mongrel’s tender mercies, to face capture and torture. Still because of his ugliness and his uselessness. Now U-Man was being degraded by the schwartze mongrel prisoner. Humiliated. Emasculated. Something in him snapped. He could not take this anymore.

Snarling, U-Man leapt forward at Slingshot’s glass booth, looking to kill him with his bare hands. SKKRAAASHH! U-Man got his green, webbed fists through the glass tube.

“Karl! No!!” cried Dr. Swastika.

U-Man grabbed Slingshot around the neck and threw him out of the tube and across the floor. “I’ll kill you, you ugly, inhuman freak!” U-Man growled. Breaking connection with the insidious green beam, Slingshot was no longer paralyzed. And his powers were functioning again!

Aryan’s Luger was in his fist. Cursing in German, he raised his pistol and fired. BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! Clutching his bleeding chest, U-Man fell. Karl Haupstein was dead. Aryan spat, “He vas never von ov us.”

Suddenly, Slingshot stretched his arm into two of the other stasis booths, targeting the beam projectors! SKKRAASH! Forester and Viper were no longer paralyzed!

All hell continued breaking loose. “Master, another power fluctuation is coming! Like the one before! Only stronger!” shouted a technician.
“Vhat iz the cause?” snarled Swastika.

Sentinel detected the presence, the same one from before… and a distinct sense of affirmation.The lights dimmed and flickered. Suddenly, a surge of power erupted across the computer consoles. Technicians shielded their eyes against the sudden flare of sparks and fire.

Alarms sounded! All the stasis booths lost power, and all their green beams shut off! Red, auxiliary lights activated. Booths were opening and subjects were coming out, awakening. But the clock still counted down. 4 minutes now!

“What have you done?” Swastika said to Sentinel. “Ah... No matter. The Tsunami Machine has its own power source! This changes nothing,” snarled Swastika. Then, to the Ubermensch: “Recapture them!” But the Ubermensch were caught flat-footed, so sudden was the unexpected turn of events!


OOC: Actions!
None of you are paralyzed and all your powers are working again. Lightning Strike and Sentinel can detect an energy surge building up, and its direction.
Here’s everyone’s current condition:
Viper: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 85
Forester: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 66
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 34
Sentinel: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 60
Slingshot: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 90
Furthermore, Forester has lost his Heightened Sense abilities, as per his weakness.

Dr. Swastika’s Body Farm holds these 19 awakening individuals in the stasis tube field:
Aquon: One-time Freedom Forcer and king of the seven seas.
Ratman: Sneaky rodent SOB, one of the fearsome Destroyers. Wanted by the US government.
Sgt. Stone: The WW II legend with granite skin and a heart of gold! Slingshot saw him from his vantage point, rubbing his baby blues with his big rocky mitts.
Shockwave: a known mercenary supervillain who had been hired by SKULL in the past. His armor can create effects akin to his name. Wanted by the US government.
Skin Deep: a villainous female shapeshifter. Wanted by the US government.
Morgue: A black-hearted killer for hire whose touch means death. Wanted by the US government.
The Ghost: a young fledgling superhero who could see through, and walk through, walls. He went missing years ago.
Hip Hop: More a media event than a superhero, this flashy young teleporter could "hop" anywhere on Earth. Went missing from his reality tv show, and was presumed to be in rehab.
The Clone: a Russian super-student of Polar Bear’s. Can create duplicates of himself.
2 unidentified costumed individuals. One a fierce, black birdman. One a woman in silver.
A US Senator.
An elderly Caucasian male, in good health. Sentinel can ID this individual as Miles Hudson.
6 civilians that are not identified. 4 male, 2 female.

Also in the room are Dr. Swastika, Baroness Von Zero (without her ice armor), Panzer (in his armor), Aryan (see map for their positions) and 12 SKULL agents: 6 technician/scientists and 6 soldiers, not shown on the crowded map, but positioned evenly throughout the chamber. Thanks! -Ye Ed

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Forester:
Forester fires his parachute arrow directly above Dr. Swastika, so the cloth will completely cover the malevolent mastermind.

Low on technical skills, Forester relinquishes the spotlight to Lightning Strike, Sentinel, and any other heroes better suited to locating and deactivating the Tsunami Machine. And under the circumstances, powerhouses like Slingshot, Viper, and Sgt.Stone will fare the best in battle against the bad guys. As time allows, Forester directs the attention of the Senator and and the six civililian-looking types, steering them them clear of the chaos.

Then he makes an appeal to the prodiginous Clone, Ghost, and Hip-Hop: "The three of you are the best scouts we have. I need your help searching the area. A handful of other heroes are still missing. Steer clear of any fighting, and check back with me in five minutes." Forester directs Clone, Ghost, and Hip Hop to attempt to free any captured heroes they find while surveying the area. Although he doesn't tell the super-scouts this, Forester is especially concerned about the safety of Venus and, yes, Agent X. According to Grey, Agent X died. But given SKULL's fascination with body snatching, mind control, and resurrection, the surprisingly suspicious arrow-slinger worries that the corpse of Agent X may have become fodder for one of SKULL's ghoulish schemes.

If more conversation is allowed, Forester will direct Ratman and the other released villains to attack the Over-men and SKULL operatives--in case they are uncertain who captured them. Pitting both sets of villains against one another should work to the heroes' advantage. With bow still in hand, Forester points in the direction of Panzer, the Baroness, and the other Over-Men and SKULL operatives. "Hey, they're the ones who captured us! C'mon everyone. It's time to get even!" Forester draws from the most sinister Shakespearean roles he has ever played to sound convincingly vindictive as he serves as he beckons the other villains.

Meanwhile, Forester sincerely hopes that his colleagues (especially, those with super intelligence and technological skills) will see this as an opportunity to discreetly duck out of site and deactivate the Tsunami Machine.

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Sentinel:
OOC With apologies to Forester, I had come up with Sentinel's plan of action before his supplemental posting which had many of the same ideas but did not have time to post it. I'm going ahead with what he intended to do originally since I can't see him not taking these actions and the Jeff can sort out how we supplement each other (and it appears we will since Sentinel only has a "public" knowledge of most of these characters and Forester seems to actually know them). Evidence of great heroes thinking alike.

Sentinel's concentration was broken as all hell broke loose, and he couldn't have been happier. He knew he had made contact and the disruptions in the computers systems was proof, both that he was right about the Starfish creature earlier and that he had not imagined his earlier "contact"; it wasn't some sort of mind game of Swastika. It also meant they had a powerful ally and that they needed to help "him" too. A sense of euphoria flowed through Sentinel as his "energy" senses returned. Things were right once again. And with their return a further sense of calmness and focus returned to center him.

Sentinel knew the odds were still grim. There was little time left and his team, although freed, were far worse for the wear than their opponents. And he knew that they weren't the important thing, the most important thing was the mission because it meant the lives of millions! The tsunami machine needed to be stopped. He let his energy senses flow and tried to read their "systems" as best he could, trying to "map" things so that he knew the directions of the device and also how he could best disrupt the systems. Thankfully the source of the power to the device was so powerful its direction was easily apparent. Sentinel knew that if he sensed it, certainly another in their group had an even keener sense. In the commotion his first action was to move towards Lightning Strike and make sure he had the "read" and was able to begin to act.

OOC: Jeff: As much as possible, Sentinel will continue to "fan out" with his senses to understand their systems and setup and you can let me know as he discovers more pertinent intel knowing that much of his attention will be divided among direct actions also.
Sentinel could see in his Strike's eyes that he felt their systems too. "Strike, you know what's at stake here and that you've got the best shot of tracking their systems and getting out of here before Swastika and the Uberman can prevent it... I know you don't want to run from this battle, but you've got to! Go man! Go now! We'll try to follow if we can."
Accessing the situation further it was as if a voice begin to speak into Sentinel's mind giving him some needed guidance, "Remember when you're with a team, don't try to go it all alone, the sum is always greater than the parts." and "Son, we need to lead the way, we can inspire others to greatness."

Not knowing the actual mental status of the other long-term captives and their coherency and memory at this point, but recognizing some as heroes and some of villains, Sentinel summoned his battle armor and staff and glowed brightly, clearly rising from their shattered prison cells, a beacon of light, amidst the chaos. His armor formed a mouthpiece to amplify his voice above the commotion, he said;
"Fellow captives, I know this can't be easy for any of you. I know some of you have fought the good fight, and some of you have been motivated be less honorable motives, but know your common enemy here and now. The man that stole your life from you, some of you for decades, and manipulated you, is that evil headless Swastika and his henchmen, the Uberman. He is responsible for your pain. He's about to destroy much of the world in the next few moments unless he is stopped. For most of you, I know that's enough to take action; for those that its not, then surely you've got loved ones left behind, spouses, parents, children ... strike now against Swastika to help us to save them all!"

Redirecting his attention, he flew towards Sgt Stone, knowing that if his own words couldn’t get the job done, there was no greater source of inspiration in their presence than the Sergeant! No one could rally the hearts of men to action like Stone … no one! If Sentinel had been the beacon of hope for the Liberty League and the Nation during its time of crisis in WWII, then Stone had been its motivating heart! Not knowing how much he remembered to this point or where his mind was after Swastika’s meddling he flew nearby so Stone could identify his familiar colors and said, “Sir, I know you’re a bit battle worn here, but Swastika is up to his old tricks again, and we’ve got to take him down! With your help I know we can do it!” and with that he fired off a salute to him and shouted the Liberty League battle cry, “Liberty Lives!” as he flew by.

Sentinel couldn’t help but feel awe in his presence. He knew this was what it was all about … saving lives, inspiring others. But here he was in the good fight with the greatest of them all! Stone wrote the book on heroism.

OOC
Additional thoughts: Sentinel here will be trying to weigh how things are going and depending on how much he learns from his energy senses he will be trying to figure out how he can best assist in taking out the tsunami device without abandoning his fellow heroes. If the tide turns and it appears they can hold their own against the Uberman and Skull without him, he would try to follow Strike to take out the device. If Strike should not make it out of the room he would try to assist him to do so and if Strike was taken out then his first priority way above the rest would be to get out after the device.

As a final thought, if there was time and opportunity and it appeared that he had his senses and was holding it together in the situation he would say to Hip Hop,
“I understand that you have teleporting capabilities, when we arrived here there was a carrier in the air above the waters we are in now. There was a scientist, a hero named Doc Rocket aboard that knows how to stop Swastika’s doomsday device. If it is within your power to get him here, do so.”

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Slingshot:
Slingshot didn't have any time to be disturbed by how summarily U-Man was dispatched by his compatriot. As he stood, he was battered and hurting. He didn't know how long he would stand. He knew he would have to make the most of it and make sure he got them as busy as possible while his team did their thing.

He stretched out to Panzer. "Hey tin can. Ever heard of bowling?"

[ooc] Actions:
First Action: Same as he attempted to do with Panzer last time. Slingshot move into the direction that will disturb the most people. Hopefully, I'll hit as many of them as possible.
Second action: Haymaker to anyone threatening Sentinel or LS, otherwise haymaker to the Baroness (assuming I'm not engaged with anyone else)

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Viper:
Viper realizes that there are forces helping the team that he doesn't understand but takes notice of Sentinel's comments to Lightning Strike. Strike has the best shot at stopping the Tsunami machine. We're all half dead. Viper's not sure what to do with a floating brain so he takes aim at the Baroness.

"Well Fellas!" Viper calls out to the freed heroes. "I'm Taking a shot at the Baroness! Someone take her unleashed pet, Panzer!" (Viper will leap over the consoles and charge towards where Panzer and the Baroness are standing. He's attempting to clear a path for Strike or Sentinel to head out the door. If Viper has a choice, he will attack the Baroness with all his might, hoping that Panzer focuses on Viper's attack. Just before he hit's her, he yells: "Hey Panzer, Baroness! Thanks for the chilly reception before! This bondage scene with the tubes and floating brain is not our style though!"

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Lightning Strike:
Even before Sentinel's urging, Lightning Strike knew that the key to this mission was not in this room. "Keep everyone busy and confined to this area as much as possible. Swastika's the key. Get his rotting skull out of that device that is keeping him alive. The others will fall into place once he is down. We can't afford to let him take control of us or use our powers."

He quickly switched to electrical form and entered the ships systems, tracing the power surge to its source. His plan is similar to the giant flying robot, simply to locate the tsunami device and suck all the power out of it and into himself.