Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Issue 36: On the Murderer’s Trail!

Big City. Investigation Day Two, 5:00am to 6:00am

Inserting themselves into the middle of a gang war between the Five Bosses of Big City while hunting down escaped extranormal criminals, Morgue and Skin Deep, Vanguard followed a lead to Hell’s Kitchen where they hoped to find the mysterious killer of the female robot, Nanite!

It was 5am when our heroes met up and swapped what information they had. Working their wrist communicators, they contacted CHESS for additional news. NYPD’s Detective Hank Archer was patched in and said wearily:
“Vanguard, thanks for your help on this. Strike, your idea to monitor Octopus’s other locations paid off. They were already burning when we got there, but we picked up some stragglers and we’ve been boiling them in oil ever since.
Here’s what we’ve gotten outta them so far, or at least what I can make of it:
A month ago, the Five Bosses are happy as pigs in mud. Then Whisper goes missing. Whisper was Femme Fatale’s right hand, a pimp really. Got his name from a knife wound to his throat. He was the defacto head of her business. She’s an absentee Boss, blue blood jet setter, or so it’s told.
Whisper’s body was never found, but suspicions abound. Old wounds open up.
Fatale suspects Octopus for Whisper’s murder due to bad blood between them from way back but has no proof. Meanwhile, Octopus extends a tentacle into Dexter Sinister’s narcotics trade.

“A week ago, Morgue hits town and uses the rifts between the Bosses to get what he wants. What he wants mostly is to be a Boss. Stirring things up between the Bosses is how he thinks he’ll get it.

“Looks like Femme Fatale, Dexter Sinister and Morgue are linked up against Octopus.
Poker Face and The Cat are with Octopus… fer now at least. Mebbe cause they think they’re backing the winner, or mebbe cause they wanna discourage ambitious young turks like Morgue, or mebbe because bloodshed is bad fer business.
Anyway, tonight Sinister and Fatale moved on Octopus. The Octopus started hitting back an hour ago. Dexter Sinister’s drug houses and Femme Fatale’s brothels. He’s also got a price out on Morgue’s head. Bodies are piling up across the city. Some local talent, but mostly imported stock. St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, San Fran, LA, Beantown, Kansas City, Philly, Portland and Baltimore all sent delegates. These are the killers, hijackers and gunmen that have been pouring into the city for weeks. There are 27 dead right now. And another 33 banged up. Several innocents were also caught in the crossfire.”
(OOC: PC replies if any?)

Ajay had gone home to bed, but another CHESS Rook, Shep, filled Vanguard in on their progress:
“Internet chatter is starting up again. Here are the kinds of rumors swirling around:
· Through his old ties to extranormals, the Octopus called in Vanguard. They’re working for him!
· Old Paint Clemmons’ talk of a peace conference is also popular. No location or timetable. Bosses are expected to patch it up in the face of the threat Vanguard represents to them.”

At Sentinel’s request, Ajay’s team found a deed on the first “target house.” Archer reported that the owner, who has no criminal record or CHESS file, was found dead in his home by police, shot execution style at close range. There was no sign of forced entry. Detective Archer is investigating.

Shep continued in a slow drawl: “Lightning Strike, we’ve got a negative on your request on where the power drain energy was going. We can’t detect it going anywhere and that’s a big deal in some quarters around here. We should be able to see it. So, looks extranormal to us.
Here’s that list of electrical extranormals Slingshot and LS requested...”
None began with “LU” but one began with an “L.” They were:
· AC/DC: a villainous punk who was part of a secretly extranormal top rock band with the power to hypnotize audiences, first to buy their records, then to commit robberies for them. The Freedom Force broke up the act. AC/DC is still imprisoned at CHESS Castle from bad behavior.
· Electric Eel: Member of the Sinister Sea Squadron and former ally of the Octopus. Incarcerated.
· Pulsar: A former, prominent and powerful member of the Freedom Force. Missing since 1992.
· Storm Giant: Former and founding member of the Freedom Force. Could control lightning and other weather-related phenomena. Retired in 1981.
· Evil counterparts of the above two Freedom Forcers, from an evil, mirror dimension ruled by the Freedom Fighters!
· Computron the living computer! Father of Nemesis. Freedom Force deactivated him in 1991.
· Lightning Strike: founding member of Vanguard. All files of extranormals currently employed with the government are protected with a classified level higher than Vanguard’s security clearance.

Then Doc Rocket replied to Slingshot’s questions about Nanite. “The recovered memory file showed the mysterious stalker of Nanite near the Hell’s Kitchen address at 4am. There was only one incident recovered.” Doc promised that he and CHESS would do their best to repair Nanite’s body.

Meanwhile, Forester thought back to his days at Haven. He thought about two students who had left Haven, one who studied the Panther style of combat, one the Dragon. Forester never met either of them. They left years before Fred met the man known as Marksman. Infamously curious and persistent, Forester asked many questions while at Haven and had learned:
· The Dragon student was an Asian female, hence the use of a classic Asian totem at Marksman’s dojo, one that trained in North American animal totems.
· Fire is often tied to the Dragon spirit but Fred did not hear of any fire techniques the mysterious female student might have mastered.
· “Panther” was a Chinese man and Fred heard much of him. He was deadly fast, faster than Marksman! But he was also power-hungry, lazy, undisciplined and greedy. Ambition was his flaw and it led to his shame and exile from Haven.
· “Panther” had a scar beneath his eye given to him by Marksman.
· Fred does not know if “Panther” is “The Cat.”

Via his wrist unit, and with Shep’s help, Sentinel accessed Nanite’s CHESS file, looking for details about her captivity under Dr. Swastika. The report was written by Agent Sam Drake.
Excerpts of interest:
· “Nanite had been held captive by Dr. Swastika for approximately 35 months.”
· “Nanite’s abilities were used by Swastika to program and sabotage computers, including those of CHESS and other government branches. She will not be charged with these crimes…”
· “Nanite suffers from acute memory loss… similar to other Dr. Swastika victims. See Blue Comet, Agent America, etc.”
· “Nanite is unsure of her origin… believed herself to be human.”
· “Swastika likely knew Nanite was a synthetic construct… he could disable her body as he did his organic prisoners.”
· “Red Flag: Dr. Swastika’s mind control techniques apparently extend to artificial intelligences. Note to Grey: We need to talk.”
· “Dr. Clark Rocket’s report indicates she was not created by Dr. Swastika’s technology.
· “Nanite is deemed to be non-hostile but disoriented. Recommend weekly contact / check ups.”

Sentinel said to the split-masked Lightning Strike: “Your sudden appearance in the newspaper headlines along with your scientific expertise that I’ve seen you demonstrate indicates a high probability of a scientific event or accident as the origin of your powers … if that is the case, is there any chance someone else might have developed the same abilities at that time – was there anyone that went MIA after the incident that caused your powers?”
(OOC: Reply Lightning Strike?)
Sentinel flew around the structure again and performed a more complete scan. Still nothing.

It was 6:00am when Forester headed to the eastern side of the abandoned manufacturing building and fired one arrow at a second-floor window and one arrow at a first-floor window to let in light from the rising sun. The impetuous archer found boards behind the glass. They gave with some pushing, revealing rows of rusty nail points. Forester cleared a hole and hopped inside. The rest of Vanguard followed, crossing over meters of broken concrete covered in tall weeds, tin cans and ancient newspapers. Kairos quickly scaled the building, accessed the roof and served as look out.

Inside the abandoned building, disuse stood out all over. But someone was living there. Seven foot high stacks of old books and newspapers formed a musty maze that covered the dirty wooden floor.
Book and article subjects included history, economics, sociology, science, futurism, mostly of a radical nature. There were Marxist manifestos from Vietnam to Cuba, the Anarchist’s Cookbook, the writings of the Unabomber and other extreme works on the ill effects of technology upon society.

Sentinel levitated and Slingshot stretched his rubber neck to guide the others through the library labyrinth. From their vantage point, Sentinel and Slingshot quietly reported the dark, silent building was one large room with 30 foot ceilings. Both levels of windows had been boarded up.
Beyond the data maze was a pile of rusting machines - the building was a dead tool and dye works. Beyond that, a living space was found: a cot, a few chairs and more books and newspaper clippings, piled in heaps. Melted candles dotted flat surfaces. There were no computers, phones or even lamps. Lightning Strike sensed the building had no electrical power. Forester noted a complete absence of food or things required to prepare it. Nor was there a working bathroom.

In the living area, Lightning Strike discovered a large, hand made journal. It read like the diary of a madman. The densely packed and relentless handwriting encroached upon itself, like the scribblings of a paranoid schizophrenic. It was 300 pages thick and not in any logical order. Strike quickly leafed through and read these random passages aloud:

“…over the last 90 years an insidious invasion of what is benignly called technology, most dangerous of all the so-called internet revolution, is in actuality a malignant and guided transformation of human nature itself, preparing it for its dark fate…”

“…through my abilities, I have been chosen, blessed and cursed to stand alone against this secret enslavement of mankind… all technology is my enemy now…”

“… the unwitting, deluded and seduced millions do not understand that I labor to save them and so, mind controlled by their secret masters, they are all directed against me…”

Strike held onto the book for now and rejoined the breathless searching.
A door to the basement was found and opened. The four heroes were shocked at what they found there. Dynamite. Sticks and sticks of it, in piles that covered the entire basement floor. Hills of it. Slingshot had construction experience and said, almost to himself, “Dynamite is almost completely out of use now… replaced by Water Gel explosives… There’s enough here to blow up this whole neighborhood!”
That wasn’t all. It was all wired together to a Victorian-looking piece of equipment bolted to the basement ceiling. In the center was an alarm clock. The second hand was 5 ticks away from midnight. Did the basement door activate the timer? Or one of the creaking floorboards upstairs? Five seconds until the building and everyone in it was atomized and the surrounding neighborhood reduced to ash. …5… 4… 3… 2…

OOC: Actions?


Kairos will stand atop the building, blissfully unaware of what is unfolding beneath him.


Forester fires a Corrosive Arrow at the alarm clock.


With Slingshot's background in construction, he might have some in demolition as well.
Can he glean something easily from the apparatus, such as ripping out the cable delivering the charge to the dynamite? He'd like to try to pull out the cables delivering the changes to the dynamite. Assuming he can grab them all and do so in time.


Kirk took in all the facts that they had so far about the gangland war and additional data about the leads or dead ends that it produced. He still felt that the war between the bosses was ultimately the distraction, the physical evidence of something far bigger in motion; like the debris tossed about in the wake of a tornado, he didn’t want to be so busy dodging the pieces so as to be sucked into the maelstrom unaware.

As the heroes searched the warehouse, he found it hard to believe that the paranoid mind that collected all of this together and written those words Strike had read aloud to them could possibly have known about Nanite, known about her being back in New York after her having been missing, and had the power to track and destroy her.

As he was thinking those thoughts his mind recalled the old adage … “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you.”

Kirk’s first reaction was to envelope the whole of Vanguard and to get them the hell out of the building but the words of Slingshot burnt into his thoughts, “There’s enough here to blow up this whole neighborhood!”

As Kirk began to act himself, he was amazed at the speed of mind and body displayed by his teammate as he saw Forester fire an arrow towards the alarm clock, undoubtedly the mechanism to cause the initial explosion that would ignite the whole of the dynamite. Kirk’s personal shield of energy seemed to take on a life of its own as it seemingly abandoned him, jumping off his person in all directions downward at once towards the whole of the basement area of the building.

Kirk thought about his “studies” regarding “super-hero” history and the exploits of the Liberty League and was actually “glad” that dynamite had been a mainstay of criminal activity back then; otherwise he might not have known the basics of how it worked. Hopefully Forester’s arrow would stop the initial “spark” explosion that would set off the chain reaction to ignite the dynamite, but if not, Kirk’s energy field would serve a two-fold purpose.

First, his hope was that by expanding his shield to envelope and cover the whole of the basement area, if the initial explosion did go off, the dynamite would be shielded from the effects of that explosion; Kirk’s construct would not allow the normal flow of oxygen and other gases into that area and thus there would be no gases and concussive force to set off the balance of the dynamite; a dynamite explosion being based on both of those things escalating in size and scope to cause the detonation of the remaining load.

Second, if somehow that failed and it did go off, the whole of Kirk’s fully powered construct would hopefully be enough to contain the blast or at least cause the damage to be minimal.
If the blast somehow still does occur despite the combined efforts of Vanguard, and the force is enough to cause the building to begin to collapse, Kirk’s next action would be to immediately reform his protective shield and try to envelope it around his teammates as well as himself to protect them all as best as possible from the destructive force of collapsing building and to get them out of it (but hopefully it won’t get that far).

As all of this occurred Kirk hoped things were as they appeared to be and that they were indeed only facing the peril of the dynamite explosion, a scenario from decades past, and not something far more sinister.

Lightning Strike:
Although Strike has attempted to drain power (see giant robot from early issues), this level of fine manipulation has not been done. Also, if this is a mechanical clock then there may be no electrical triggers whatsoever and given the anti-technology stance of this psycho this seems likely but Strike will attempt to determine if there are any electrical impulses in the device and if so attempt to reroute them like the camera's in the sub (see another back issue).