Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Issue 37: If Ya Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Outta Hell’s Kitchen!

Big City. Investigation Day Two, 6:01am

In the basement of the abandoned factory that served as the home of Nanite’s killer, an alarm clock on a mountain of dynamite ticked 5… 4… 3… 2… and Vanguard leapt into action.

Sentinel prepared his vast, impossible abilities that manipulated energy itself in case the explosion could not be prevented! The beacon of liberty grimly hoped that his shields could withstand the concussive force, for all their sakes and the sake of Hell’s Kitchen!

Lightning Strike discovered that his deduction was correct: the alarm clock device had no electrical components! The master of electricity was powerless to stop the apocalyptic explosion!

Slingshot stretched his malleable mass into the pitch dark cellar to act! He pulled at the wires to discover they were fuse cords and bailing wire. If any stick of dynamite exploded, they would all go!

Forester deftly fired a single arrow. The acid within it entirely disintegrated the alarm clock activator, eating away its face and innards, preventing the dynamite from igniting in the first place. The one member of Vanguard that was most human, the least extranormal, saved the day!

Sentinel illuminated the cellar with his energy constructs and under closer, less rushed inspection, the beacon of liberty’s light revealed that dozens of floor planks on the main floor were mechanical triggers to start the now-defunct alarm clock time-delay trigger. The building’s occupant must weigh nothing or else be good at hopscotch!
Slingshot also noted that much of the dynamite was sweating nitroglycerine. They were as unstable as their owner. They’d best depart as soon as possible, his experience advised.

Vanguard evacuated. (OOC: Any quick actions on your way out?)
CHESS bomb squads and forensics agents would soon swarm over the site. CHESS couldn’t leave the building alone to wait for its occupant’s return. Its danger to the neighborhood was too great.
It was a bad break. A dead end, and their quarry would be tipped off!

The rain finally gave it a rest as Vanguard called in the outfield. The sun was shining when they collapsed at the CHESS safehouse. Grey, Lamb, Drake and Ajay were among the CHESSmen present. Kairos and Forester were given temporary membership and communicators from Agent Sam Drake. They saw a high tech computer “war room” manned by a team of six CHESS Rooks.

The morning papers were there, screaming headlines in four colors about Big City’s all-out gang war and Vanguard’s arrival to stop it and crack down on the city’s organized crime. Photos of the team putting out fires, arguing with police detectives and dragging unconscious thugs to justice!

Vanguard and CHESS read the madman’s diary as quickly as possible. It had a coded sequence with which to read the pages that, when followed, permitted a chronological read. Strike’s super-intellect cracked the code. The team learned:

· The deranged author is, or believes himself to be, an extranormal: “…through my abilities, I have been chosen, blessed and cursed…” His powers seem to include some sort of way to detect ‘technology’ and he hears the “unceasing frequencies leaking through the gaping portals of computer screens that threaten to drive me mad!”

· Some passages would suggest he also has the ability to drain, absorb or somehow negate energy. If this is true, it might explain the power shortages surrounding his presence at Nanite’s murder, as well as the nature of her death!
· The tome covers the author’s last five years or so. Often, months pass without an entry. It did not mention an origin event. He apparently had extranormal abilities at the volume’s inception.

· The writer seems to have a mysterious benefactor, known only as “my Mentor.” This benevolent figure empathically and intimately understands the author’s quest to save the world, and often helps him with valuable information of where to best act. The author writes about him with reverence and respect. The beginning of their relationship predates the diary.

· Once he broke the chronological code, Strike quickly turned to a date that was important to him. Unbeknownst to the other members of Vanguard, Strike found that the journal’s author was seemingly involved in the tragic death of Strike’s wife! Cryptically, the author wrote on that fateful date he “acted to stop another dangerous breakthrough in technology that would further alter the world and ultimately enslave it by the secret masters.” Strike noted that the writer’s mysterious Mentor alerted him and guided him to this target, as he had dozens of times before.

· There was an entry under the night Nanite was murdered. The madman’s Mentor did not guide him to take this action. The writer’s ability to detect unusual technology drew him to “this artificial machine-human, a glimpse of the future of mankind that must be thwarted…” He “drew her accursed soul from her synthetic form,” and intended to discover how she came into being. Was she a herald? A traveler from the future? Created by the government? Or created by Them?

· Quote: “Every silicon chip is another bacterium that invades and infects this dimension. Every computer screen is a portal through which they can see. And humanity is building these infectious portals as fast as its fingers will allow.”

· His physical condition is somehow abnormal. He is obsessed with his “cursed state of otherness.”

· The dynamite was purchased semi-legally from construction firms looking to unload it once it became obsolete. The author posed as a buyer in Mexico, where its use was still not uncommon. His abnormal physical state of being somehow protected him from its danger. How is unclear. The dynamite was one of many “precautions” the paranoid author took against his enemies. He speaks of working on several “special projects.”

The team was exhausted. They crashed and slept awhile. Forester meditated. The day wore on and with it came scant new information from Ajay’s team. As of 4pm:
· Still no response to the cyberspace beacon calling out to Nanite.
· NYPD Bomb Squad was successful at the Hell’s Kitchen abandoned factory. Also, CHESS Forensics recovered several sets of fingerprints, none on file with the US Government or Interpol. It’s not impossible that some prints date back to when the factory was still in operation.
· Ajay reports there is some chatter on the peace conference of the Five Bosses. Some rumors say it might have already happened. Some say it was about to happen. Still no whereabouts.

CHESS Director Grey didn’t like that last part. Neither did Sam Drake who muttered: “What did investigating Nanite’s murder have to do with apprehending Morgue and Skin Deep?”

Detective Hank Archer radioed this in:
· Spider Girucci and the survivors of Octopus’ crew from the first target house were back on the streets. They claimed self defense against the Molotov cocktail throwing arsons and the heroes who broke into their home, whom they mistook for other attackers. After 18 hours, they had to be charged or released.
· Old Paint Clemmons and The Shivering Kid, the two rats from Octopus’ crew, ended up dead in their cells while awaiting transfer. Apparent suicides. Archer knows it stinks something rotten. “Internal Affairs is on it,” he said wearily.
· “Our undercover men aren’t getting much for their efforts. Mouths began shutting when Vanguard started making headlines in the Bronx,” he said without accusation. “Like your man said, the Bosses are circling the wagons against extranormal interference. The gang war is slowing down. You gave them a common enemy to unite against.”

Rested and refreshed, Vanguard went back to work on the investigation.
(OOC: Assuming you crash from 10am to 4pm to stave off sleep deprivation please let me know what your characters are doing between 4 and 6:30 pm. Any new angle you want to attempt? )

It was 6:35pm when Spider Girucci called Slingshot. Patched through a speaker at the safehouse, they could hear him smile like a snake that just found an egg.
“Told you I’d be back on the streets soon enough, Stretch. I see you made the papers. Nice picture. Look. My boss, the Octopus knows how youse extranormals work. He knows the Five Bosses have done well for themselves thanks to a lack of visible extranormals in Big City’s underworld. It’s kept out goody two shoe superheroes from sniffin’ around. And it’s kept out CHESS. For years.
Now Morgue comes to town with Vanguard on his tail and screws all that up.”

Ajay attempted a trace as Spider continued being the life of the party: “We’ll get you what you want: Morgue. We’ll give him to ya on a $#@%&* platter. Then you can be on yer merry way, outta Big City. With Morgue gone, the Gang War is over, so the bloodshed stops. You want that, right?”

“He’s somewhere in the South Bronx… keep him on the line,” Ajay whispered as he closed in.

Spider said: “Be under the Grand Central Parkway at Roosevelt Ave in 20 minutes. Don’t be late.” Click.
Ajay couldn’t finish the trace. “He was calling from the South Bronx, I don’t know where exactly. The meeting location he just gave is in Queens. It’s… possible he could make it there in 20 minutes.”

To be continued!

Actions, responses to any and all of the above!
The members of Vanguard who weren’t at the safehouse for Spider’s call were quickly notified via their communicators by Drake and Grey. The tape of the call was played back to them by Ajay.
Thanks everyone.


"Leaping Luddites," Forester says. "Our explosive assailant most clearly qualifies as criminally insane."

After Strike deciphers the code, and Forester meditates to keep his senses sharp, the arrow-ic hero uses the available time to re-investigate the half-empty building and leaf through the five-year journal, looking for additional clues and mythical/mystical allusions. Forester suspects that the unidentified benefactor mentioned in the journal is more than a delusion and perhaps the same nameless nemesis (possibly connected to "Cat") who Marksman had warned him about only days ago.

OOC: Can Forester restock his quiver, replacing the two normal arrows and the corrosive arrow he shot since returning from sabbatical? He suspects he may need them in the days ahead.


After waking up from crashing, Kirk takes a few moments to hit the mess hall for some grub and hopes to spend some time with the Knights he knows now to hear if there are any other rumors or thoughts going on about everything. He’d like to know if any of them saw or heard anything out of the ordinary in the dynamite clear-out and further investigation of the building. He’d also like to know how Drake has been prepping the Knights regarding the whole situation. If none of the Knights are around he’d look for others he knew, which would likely be members of the info/tech team of Ajay.

Kirk’s doing this has a three-fold purpose; first in his mind he does view the Knights and the rest of Chess as an extension of his own team and wants them to feel the same way so he’s trying to keep the rapport with them open; second, sometimes observations or hunches or seemingly “minor” details don’t get into major briefings so perhaps something useful might be brought to Kirk’s attention; third, Kirk is still trying to get a feel for Drake, he knows he’s the consummate professional and wants to get the job done, but is still trying to determine if he is fostering and “us” versus “them” attitude with his leadership; which comes first to Drake the mission or following his personal prejudices? If anything does come up that seems off to Kirk, he will downplay it in casual conversation just making a mental note.

Assuming nothing comes up during the meal to warrant Kirk’s further investigation or time, he would next check in with Ajay and his team to see if he could lend a hand in their efforts of the investigation.

While there, he’d set up a search to find “anti-technology” references and in particular he’s use the key words or phrases from the journal that Strike decoded, looking in particular for entries that refer to strong or bizarre personalities involved with such ideas especially someone “odd” or “off” or “bizarre” in appearance. Although it would be unlikely their assailant would have anything to do with the internet, he’d likely be spouting his philosophies to others to warn and convert them and they’d likely be blogging up a storm. If we find multiple references in a particular blog we may be able to actually find a solid lead or area that he frequents. As Kirk set the parameters he mused to himself and wondered if these “other dimensional invaders” liked cats…

Spider said: “Be under the Grand Central Parkway at Roosevelt Ave in 20 minutes. Don’t be late.” Click.

As the call from Spider came in, Kirk began to pay attention to the details of the call rather than his research; as soon as the address was given his fingers quickly deployed messages through the keyboard and it seemed like images from the system were coming impossibly fast. Satellite images of the target location came to view as Kirk muttered, “Anyone know if the Mets are playing tonight?”

“The location is right outside Shea stadium. Should be tons of activity around this time of the night and impossibly overcrowded if there is a game.”

As some of the members of the IATs (information and technology, Jeff let me know the Chess terminology for Ajay’s team) team gathered around to check the current images of the area, Kirk got up and suggested to them that they get some of the high tech satellites pulled up and check thermal images and then backtrack the logs in three hour intervals over the past day to see if there was any unusual activity.

Kirk turned to Ajay and the IAT team members, “Let’s keep the target area monitored so we get a heads-up on the activity of what’s really happening here. It’s a good cover story, but we all know there has to more to it. Thanks guys.”

As Kirk approaches the target area he will do his best to do energy sweeps for unusual readings/devices for the area and coordinate with Ajay if they spot anything in real-time or from things planted in previous hours in the area. Once individuals arrive in the “target” area he would do his best to try to determine if any are extranormals.

Since Kirk has no idea what to expect at this point, whether they’re going to find an incapacitated Morgue delivered to them, Morgue showing up expecting someone other than Vanguard, or some kind of other “meet,” these would be the actions Kirk would pursue unless information dictates otherwise. How they would approach the exact target area would depend on the balance of intel obtained (ie, en masse, Slingshot alone, or with another member or two directly entering the area and the others observing from a distance, etc)… also given that this is Slingshot’s “lead” Kirk would likely defer to his desire to proceed for the “meeting” unless Kirk felt it was really off.


Sam Drake muttered: “What did investigating Nanite’s murder have to do with apprehending Morgue and Skin Deep?”

At that, Slingshot simply looked at Drake with an air of challenge. Scott always gave people the benefit of the doubt, but Drake was getting on his nerves.

[Between 4:00 and 6:30] After a much needed rest, Slingshot was raring to go. The maniac needed to be stopped. He knew this wasn't on the to-do list as Drake so aptly pointed out. The maniac needed to be stopped, but more importantly his "mentor" needed to be found. Who knows how many more followers he did have.
So he turned to CHESS once more to see if they could get some video footage or some picture from the dynamite transaction. Slingshot means to get CHESS to talk to the company who sold the dynamite and see if they would have any surveillance footage from the time of the transaction to identify who it was.

[OOC: Slingshot will be otherwise available to help out with any other tasks]

[quote] Ajay couldn’t finish the trace. “He was calling from the South Bronx, I don’t know where exactly. The meeting location he just gave is in Queens. It’s… possible he could make it there in 20 minutes.” [/quote]

Scott turns to the group. "So what do you want to do about this? Should we just accept and be on our merry way?"

Assuming that Archer/Drake/Grey don't override anything, I'll show up at the rendez-vous point. We'll need Chess on standby to incarcerate Morgue.
I would like to have anyone of Vanguard on hand. Possibly Lightning Strike could follow Spider after the drop off in electrical mode (jumping from wire to wire) maybe try and find Octopus, by following a phone conversation even.
Anyone else who can disguise themselves could be anywhere in the park to keep an eye on things.
I'll be able to keep one man overtly with me, more than that might be an issue with Spider.


Kairos will go into the meeting with a trenchcoat or some sort of civilian clothing over his costume as a disguise and will be waiting for any confrontation which might occur.


Kirk takes note of the interaction between Drake and Slingshot. Kirk had to bite his lip not to respond, but figured a confrontation over the comment wouldn't accomplish anything positive at this time and that if finding a hideout of a nutcase with enough firepower to decimate the area wasn't a worthy use of time to Drake, there was nothing further to discuss anyway.

On the "meet", again without knowing what they are about to find its hard to determine what Kirk will do, but he will absolutely be within a close enough distance so that he can immediately assist if this is a trap. He would likely try to expand his shielding around Slingshot for any initial attack against him if either Slingshot meets him alone or if it is Kirk and Scott out in the open.

If one of the others who are invulnerable/bulletproof want to accompany Scott for the outward meet, Kirk would play close backup and would likely be able to use his powers better to monitor the area and intercept a sneak attack or the arrival of other hostiles (or hostile devices), whereas if he is with Scott, he'd likely be a bit more distracted and less likely to detect such things (let me know if I'm right on this). However, if it appears that Scott would be outnumbered and/or others are unable he won't let him do the "meet" alone and would accompany directly instead of from nearby.

OOC: By the way Jeff, for us non-rule types, is there any defense against death touch? Is actual physical contact with flesh required? Would uniforms be a protection? Would my shields be a defense? Would Strike be immune in electric form? Is it a psychic as well as physical attack?
I guess in all fairness you would also need to separate understanding the rules versus Kirk's working knowledge from Morgue's use in the past and other known info from Chess files and history.


Lightning Strike:
Strike pours over the journal, trying to find hints of the mysterious man and his "mentor". LS decides that it might be easier to track the mentor and looks for patterns in the dates and activities of the madman. Strike correlates the dates with CHESS crime files as well as technology related articles. If he has time he might automate the search so that he can review the results later. It is likely that the "mentor" is using this madman to further his or her own ends.
The mentor could be using him to thwart other technology advances while developing his own. LS will see where this investigation leads.

In terms of Spider Girucci, Strike is willing to act as surveillance trying to follow him after the meeting.

OOC: Again, it is probably my ignorance of the rules and the limitations of my powers but I believe that Strike simply goes point to point so that I could emerge at the other end of a phone call or electrical line but I would not be able to adjust to Spider's movements on the fly. In theory, I could control my electricity down to a point where I could store myself in a portable device like a cell phone or laptop but that would seem dicey as well.


OOC GM Replies:
Reply to Forester: The trickshot trickster can restock his arrows.

Reply to Lightning Strike: Your assessment of how Strike’s powers work is correct.

Reply to Sentinel: Kirk don't know nothin' 'bout no rule books.
However, Sentinel witnessed Morgue's deadly touch, first hand! (pardon the pun)
Way back in Issue 21, aboard Dr. Swastika's Star Giant in the now-classic "Gotterdammerung Now!" and I quote:
"The unidentified, fierce, black-feathered birdman let out an inhuman cry “SKKRAAA!” spread his large wings and hurled toward Panzer. Razor-sharp hand talons raked the Nazi’s armored face and dislodged his helmet, revealing thick, fleshy features beneath a blond buzz cut. The features were red and fearful now.
The tall, dark killer known as Morgue calmly stalked forward. With a face as hard as a silver dollar he removed his right glove and clamped his big hand onto Panzer’s newly exposed face. Panzer screamed with all his might. Morgue withdrew his hand and Panzer was dead! There wasn’t a mark on him.
Stone growled: “Why’dja hafta go and do that for, gruesome?! We had him on the ropes!”
The big man replaced his glove and said: “Because no one messes with Morgue and lives to tell about it.”

Nothing in the CHESS files gives more detail than that.

OOC: Okay, I guess players are permitted access to the rules.
Here's the entry on Death Touch:
"The character can kill by simply touching another life-form. This requires a successful Hand-to-Hand mode attack. If contact is made, the victim is allowed two saving throws on 1d20: once vs. his Endurance score and once vs. Agility. If both saves are made, the victim resists the Death Touch effects totally and the attacker spends no Power. If only one save is made, the touch is partially successful and the victim loses all of his remaining Hit Points, at a cost to the attacker of 10 Power points. If neither saving throw succeeds, then the victim is killed dead and the attacker is charged 20 points of Power. Superheroes should be allowed to reroll this power, or have it modified into something less lethal if they don't have enough other powers to fall back on, using Death Touch only when absolutely necessary."

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that Morgue's Death Touch works this way.