Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vanguard: Issue 73: Symbiote SMASH!

Athens! Night!

The Pegasus craft was overloaded and compromised!
“We need to cut Symbiote loose,” said Oracle as she strained against the controls!
“He’ll kill us all,” growled Crab Man.

Flying outside it with Slingshot in tow, Sentinel directed the craft toward Athens’ city dump!

Kairos and Forester loosed Symbiote’s cable from the Pegasus! Oracle began sharply decelerating! The savage Symbiote, filled with insensate rage, plummeted to Earth!

The impact was an orbital railstrike into the dump, detonating like a small nuke! Windows shattered for a half mile around! In the junkyard, automobile husks waiting to be crushed were thrown hundreds of feet! The rumbling shockwave toppled iron mountains of refuse! Twisted steel and junkyard cranes were swallowed into the smoking crater formed by the fallen titan! Dust and dirt flew into the atmosphere, obscuring the crash site from the air!

Then all was silent. Nothing moved in the apocalyptic landscape of the wreckage yard. Then…

Symbiote’s rage-roar came from somewhere inside the smoking crater of broken earth and steel!

Oracle said, “Your friend can’t be left to rampage across Athens unchecked!”
Kairos agreed and she brought the Pegasus closer, in search of the Symbiote-Pachyderm!

Near the crater, visibility was 20 feet! Grey ash drizzled down and floated on the wind currents, a nuclear winter in microcosm. The crater was hot and smoking.

Pegasus’ spotlights revealed canyon mountains forged of the monumental waste of only one human city.
It was a stark reminder of the words of the Primate condemning mankind for devouring the Earth alive, wasting the planet faster than it could ever replenish itself. The evidence of the Primate's charge now lay all around them!
This was why nature had revolted against mankind, the Primate had said. To save itself!

There was no sign of Symbiote within their limited visibility! Sentinel detected no energy readings within his range. Vanguard continued searching as they discussed how best to stop their rampaging friend without causing permanent damage to him or his wondrous device! Symbiote would be needed in the battle against the Primate!

Suddenly, from out of the veil of ash flew the remains of an 18-wheeler oil tanker! It sailed silently, surreally, straight for the Pegasus! SKRA-VROOOOOMM!!! It hit head on, killing everyone in the Pegasus instantly!

Then reality diverged again, thanks to Oracle. The massacre was only an instantaneous flash in the mind, a reality suddenly made parallel. In this reality, she moved the overloaded Pegasus at the last instant and, at an altitude of 20 feet, the Pegasus was only torn in half, with the rear half engulfed in flames as the engine exploded! KA-BOOOOOOM! (Everyone onboard takes 12 points of damage!)
The unconscious Ani-Men fell within that fiery debris!

Forester, Kairos, Strike and Oracle abandoned ship, leaping down to the relative safety of the shifting unstable hills of wreckage and detritus! Oracle was hurt.
(OOC: I had Strike jump rather than waste 8 PP’s and an action beaming down)

Crabman and Jellyfish rode the wreckage down! KRAASSHH! The crustacean’s armor protected them, and he emerged from the crash, holding his team mate.

Sentinel and his cargo, Slingshot, flew toward Vanguard and the team regrouped!
The trajectory of the 18-wheeler revealed Symbiote’s location! Vanguard closed in! Crabman did not.

There Symbiote was. Surrounded by the apocalyptic scene of his destruction, the savage monster now stood before them. He was bigger than they remembered. More wild and ferocious. Uncontrollable. All that remained of their friend Hal was gone now, save the shredded tatters of his uniform. The Symbiote-Pachyderm saw Vanguard and roared, “RRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGHH!”

A defiant, bloodthirsty challenge! Its eyes were filled with one thought: murder.
All notion of carefully subduing this giant, of avoiding unnecessary harm to him, seemed incredibly naïve now that they were in his mighty presence! The battle began!

Kairos’ powers of morale worked imperceptibly to steel Vanguard for whatever fate now befell them!

Forester swallowed hard and charged straight into the maelstrom monstrosity! The zen trickster, the “weakest” of Vanguard’s ranks, was first to battle Vanguard’s most fearsome adversary!
The inventive archer removed his glove and placed it in the savage creature’s open, gloved hand and… Nothing happened!! Forester was stunned! The resourceful ranger had seen Symbiote duplicate superpowers before by touching his glove’s palm to a subject’s skin! Could it be as Vanguard said, that only an extranormal could trigger the harness? Could it be that there was more to activating the device than touch? His mind racing, Forester remembered Symbiote shaking hands with other heroes without duplicating their powers! He shouted his findings to his team mates as the monster roared above him!

Slingshot leapt into action! Using Kairos’ idea, he unfurled his flexible form to cover the bestial behemoth, forcing Symbiote’s palms to touch his extranormal epidermis as he pulled Slingshot away from his head! The malleable man of might believed that only a superbeing’s DNA could trigger the Harness! His ploy worked and the savage Symbiote pulled Slingshot from his head and… nothing happened!! They now knew there was more to activation than palm contact! But what?!

Kairos watched helplessly as Plan A failed. Loath to damage the Harness, the avatar of the ages used his steel staff to pole-vault himself up to the grey goliath’s level and then swung the staff around in mid-air, hitting Symbiote in the skull in a desperate attempt to knock him out! K-TANG!
The fated fighter struck true but the blow had no effect upon the crazed colossus!

The Symbiote Pachyderm roared! It grabbed hold of Slingshot and pulled him hard, gripping, pulling, re-gripping and re-pulling until Slingshot was painfully over-stretched beyond his maximum length! (OOC: 35 points of damage, Slingshot! 8 to Invulnerability. 7 to Power Points. 20 to hits!)

Sentinel’s heart sank at this unexpected turn of events! He raced to the side of Forester, reforming what remained of his battered energy shields to defend the amazing archer as best he could! And then Kirk tried to contact Hal! Reaching out telepathically, the beacon of liberty found the Symbiote-Pachyderm’s surface thoughts, while not in the grip of the Primate, filled with rage and violence!
Kirk spoke to his lost teammate with passion, sincerity and conviction, trying to talk him down! Sentinel sensed that progress was being made, anger and rage were turning to bewilderment and confusion!
But it seemed that the lethal leviathan was still unstable and threatening!

Lightning Strike was afraid of entering the Harper Harness in electrical form! No one knew what would happen if the Harness was damaged; Symbiote could be trapped in that form forever! Instead, the high-voltage vigilante attempted to gain control of the harness from outside of it… and succeeded!
The scientific superhero discovered there was a cybernetic control to the Harness that triggered activation! Not wanting to damage or short circuit his teammate’s invention, Strike went with the simplest solution. He activated the Harness!

Symbiote’s palms were touching Slingshot’s skin and VMMMMMM the Harness activated!Symbiote suddenly transformed into the Slingshot version of himself and collapsed to the ground hard. He lay there, wasted, exhausted but conscious (imagine Bruce Banner after being Hulk).

Forester’s plan worked out after all, although not quite how the troubleshooting trickshot had envisioned! It was over. All was quiet. In the distance they could hear Vanguard’s Manta Craft circling the city.

Actions please! Let me know what your plans are for the next several hours.

Please assume you are able to signal the Manta Craft.
Lightning Strike has the coordinates to Primate’s home in Congo.
And Vanguard soon confirms that the animal attacks have ceased in Athens!


Current Conditions: (directly after battle)
Forester: Hit Points: 11 Power Points: 43
Kairos: Hit Points: 19 Power Points: 39
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 9 Power Points: 22
Sentinel: Hit Points: 5 Power Points: 29 Energy: 58 Shields: 37
Slingshot: Hit Points: 19 Power Points: 64 Invulnerability: 0
Symbiote as Symbiote: Hit Points: 13 Power Points: 46 Charges: 8


IC: Hal immediately rolls over onto his stomach and empty's the contents onto a mound of refuse.

He takes a few moments to compose himself, still retching. "I'm...sorry," he says. "I thought it was the best way to take him down, plus give everybody else time to evacuate the airship. I'm sorry." He gasps, shaken beyond belief.

He looks towards the general direction of the Mediterranean coast. "For what it's worth, I know how to beat him if we run across him again," Symbiote continues. "Hit him in the stomach, or just get him to roar. Then Sentinel, create a transparent bubble around his head, almost skin tight and definitely airtight. If you can't do transparent at least do it as pale as possible, the same color as the ambient surroundings. He can probably hold his breath for hours, but only if he remembers to do so and he's none too bright. Take it from personal experience." The Humbled Hero shudders. "Get him to empty his lungs, throw that airtight bubble around his head, the rest of us keep him too distracted to realize what's going on...he'll probably pass out from lack of oxygen quick." (OOC: I"ve seen this trick work at least twice against the Hulk, hope it'll work against Pachy if we meet him again).

Symbiote looks at his shredded costume, including, presumably the mask. "I, uh,...I guess the time for secrets is over. Especially since you guys have seen me at about my absolute worst now," he says, removing what's left of the mask entirely. "My name is Hal Harper. Dr. Hal Harper, though I'm usually only arrogant enough to make my students call me that. I'm a genetics professor over at New York University. Maybe...maybe I should have stuck with that instead of trying to save the world." He pauses, then continues. "Kind of wanted to keep things a secret for at least a while longer because I have family to protect. A father whose retired. A sister who you may end up meeting eventually anyway. She's just as good as I am at science, though a little headstrong." Hal looks at the destruction around him. "Though it's going to be a while before I throw any stones through that particular glass house.

"Again, I'm sorry. We never appointed a leader--no matter how much they begged us to--but if anyone wants me to step down, either now or after this mission, I'll do so."

Assuming nobody asks him to resign, presumably the topic will get around to the fact that birds didn't attack the Aegis aircraft. Hal brightens slightly. "Holy--you don't suppose Doc Rocket got the countermeasure to work, do you?"

(OOC: Hal's action for the next few hours...

1) He proposes that he copy Lightning Strike's powers and that they transmit themselves back to Vanguard headquarters through the transatlantic cable. Check to see if the countermeasure really is working, and see if Doc needs any further help with it either way. Get new wrist communicators for everybody, with a radio and GPS frequency the Primate won't know about (and inform CHESS that the old frequencies have been compromised). Grab a new bow and a refill quiver of arrows for Forester and a fresh costume for me if possible, I have no desire to go into battle in Bruce Banner torn pants.

2) In the meantime, I'd suggest that Crabman and Jellyfish be fully debriefed about the Primate--where he is, what his stronghold is like, who or what else we might be facing and, perhaps most importantly, what's up with Inhuman.

3) Upon returning, Hal would like to take a few minutes in Aegis Spire to access Professor Fahrenheit’s files on Sam Simeon/the Primate, if possible. See if there's any weakness there to exploit. He'll bring a laptop or PDA type device from Vanguard headquarters to download the info and study on the trip to the Congo.

4) He also might cannibalize some parts to do a full repair to the Harness (or as full as time allows) on the way to the Congo. He'll recharge the harness on the way as well. During this trip he'll be polite but he'd really rather be left alone. Got a lot of thinking to do. /OOC)

Viva Vanguard


Symbiote, Private to GM:
I'm going to try to figure out a way to reverse Primate's intelligence, if possible. Ideally, I'd like it to be in the form of a serum that can be injected through a small hyperdermic or, better yet, a transdermal patch that he'll keep in his tool belt until the time is right. I see him discretely doing this after Primate is beaten into unconsciousness (assuming that's how all this is resolved), though maybe I could add in a sedative of some sort and try to tag him with it while he's still up and active.

Again, not telling the others about it, though he will share any unrelated information about Primate or any blockbuster revelations that come to light ("Great Scott!! According to these notes he's not an ape at all, but some sort of alien!!"). I'll work quietly in the back of the Manta Craft on the way to the Congo, if anybody gets suspecious Hal will just say he's diagnosing/repairing the Harness. Part of this is the fine Reed Richards tradition of not telling teammates about the big brainy plan until it's already executed, part of it is that he knows some teammates--particularly Sentinel, probably--would object. Hal feels the Primate is too dangerous and too evil to allow anything less than a permanent solution.

And the "Lightning Trap" idea? Now isn't the time, but it is in the back of Hal's mind....

Viva Vanguard,


Forester is overjoyed that Symbiote is restored to his reasonable self. Though schooled in the outdooors, Forester does not deify nature or envy the life of an animal, especially a rampaging animal.

But what of the archer's own fate? What of the recurring taunts from Hyena, and even Marksman, that Forester himself is predisposed to become subdued by primal instincts or the influence of evil? He meditates privately to rid his such disturbing possibilities and his thoughts on the situation at hand.

After meditating, Forester will look for the closest arboreal area and practice is oft-forgotten skill of blending in with nature. Does he observe anything unusual about the animals? Anything uncharacteristically intelligent, suspicious, or contrived?


Slingshot says, "Ouch."He'll gather petroleum/plastics destroyed objects and will proceed in regenerating some hitpoints while the group formulates a plan of attack.


Kirk went to Hal’s side as he regained his composure; at first bending down, and then offering an extended hand to help Hal to his feet when he was ready. He reassured his teammate and friend.
“You accomplished what you intended. We got safely from the ship, and you stopped Pachyderm from killing the lot of us. And Athens is still in one piece. Although things got more complicated than you intended, you made your best choice given what you knew. And at the end of the day, that’s all any of us can do. You were heroic. Don’t doubt yourself further.” And then Kirk added, “Although you certainly owe Scott a ‘round’ once this is all done. Scott, you holding up? I’m not sure if the ‘gutsiest move in a team battle award goes to you or Forester this time around…”

Kirk would continue the conversation briefly if the others added to it trying to relieve the stress of the past few moments with some humor and to bond them for action despite some of the doubts they might be having personally from what transpired.

After Symbiote’s revelation about his identity and family – which I think we can properly assume was not within earshot of anyone other than Vanguard (ie Crabman, etc), Kirk reassures him.

“We can certainly understand your concern for your loved ones and you hesitancy. The danger is real with the path we’ve chosen. But I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’ll strive to protect them in the days ahead as if they were our own.” As Kirk spoke the words he remembered the emptiness and pain he felt over the loss of his own parents; he vowed within himself to do everything within his power to prevent that for these men that stood beside him against the darkness.

Much of Kirk’s thoughts for action mirrored the suggestions of Symbiote including immediate first aid and getting the team what they need to be battle ready again ASAP. Finding out the status of the world and the animal attacks – has it stopped all around or is it localized to specific areas or is only Athens clear? It would seem going back to Aegis Spire would be the best place to accomplish all of this. Hopefully they still have their med lab operational and perhaps supplies as needed by the team. We could use their computer systems to access the world situation and try to communicate with Chess. Kirk could certainly try to access things with their computers and his skills in that regard and this would also give him a chance to rest and regenerate his power since he sorely needs that. If things weren’t working immediately he could spend some time trying to get the systems to work to try to find out what is happening globally.

Trying to get strategic info from Crabman is sound and definitely along the lines of Kirk’s thoughts too. He would also want to try to encourage him towards thinking about reforming. He has already taken actions along those lines. Even if he has no desire to be a super-hero, Kirk would want to encourage him from falling back to his prior ways. His actions current actions could be enough for a new start for him and Jellyfish. And he would certainly try to figure how sincere he was with things - a surface thought 'read' would certainly be employed to be sure he knew the true direction of Crabman and to be sure that he wasn't planning to switch sides again back to Primate and attack them with their defenses down.

While Hal was checking into Professor Fahrenheit’s files on Primate, if there was time, Kirk would compliment his efforts by researching primate behavior in general and the Congo area to see if there was something that might help further (assuming we’ve got the internet up and running again). Given the current overall condition of Vanguard (ie battle-damaged) we need every possible advantage to cope with whatever else Primate has in defenses (ie more Ani-men? Or who know what else?) and perhaps info about the area and Primate’s bestial original nature may offer some insight.

About the only thing raised in strategy thus far that Kirk would question is Symbiote and Strike returning separately from the team. Unless information is turned up that truly warrants it, splitting up the already physically depleted team doesn’t seem to be the wise course to him, it would seem prudent to remain together to ‘have each others backs’.

I guess that's it until we get additional info from our initial intended efforts.Thanks all.Seth


GM Replies:
Seth / Sentinel wrote:
About the only thing raised in strategy thus far that Kirk would question is Symbiote and Strike returning separately from the team. Unless information is turned up that truly warrants it, splitting up
the already physically depleted team doesn’t seem to be the wise course to him, it would seem prudent to remain together to ‘have each others backs’.

GM Replies:
1) Symbiote (and Strike) any thoughts?
2) Also, Symbiote mentioned getting a new quiver of arrows for Forester while at Vanguard HQ in NY.
fyi, Forester already has a back up quiver on the Manta Craft in Athens.


I suppose my position on zapping ourselves back to Vanguard Headquarters will depend on what Doc Rocket has to tell us, and how we communicate it to him. First, we'll need to make sure we can talk to him outside of the CHESS communication frequencies we've been using (the ones that have been compromised by Primate). I'll assume that Aegis Spire has some sort of viewscreen that probably uses more conventional fiber optic lines or a satellite signal different from a CHESS signal. If not...hell, let's go find a pay phone if that's what it takes.

Assuming that Doc has no immediate need for me or Strike to help with the countermeasure (whether it's actually working or not)...OK, I guess there's no need to go back. Forester has spare arrows here, and Lightning Strike or I could presumably reprogram the wrist communicators to a new frequency (everybody who threw down their communicators in disgust, try to remember where you left 'em!). That leaves the problem of my torn costume, and I have an interesting idea about that...

I remember a Captain America comic book from the '80s or '90s, when the bogus Bucky from the 1950's Cap/Bucky team was attempting to infiltrate the stronghold of the supervillainess Viper (there's irony for ya! Just can't trust anybody with that codename!). S.H.I.E.L.D. dressed this fake Bucky up as Cap's old secondary identity Nomad, because Cap-as-Nomad once dealt Viper a crushing defeat and S.H.I.E.L.D. psych profilers believed seeing an opponent in the Nomad costume would have a detrimental psychological effect on her.

If I gotta have something to wear...well, I wonder if Primate's old "master" Professor Fahrenheit left any costumes lying around, and if they would fit me along with the harness. Have to believe it would seriously unnerve/enrage the big ape, seeing the image of his former mentor/owner coming at him...


GM Replies:
Crabman didn't wait around to watch you guys fight with the Symbiote-Pachyderm. He took off with Jellyfish in his arms (claws?). The unconscious Ani-Men had not been located yet either. But a quick search for Crabman and Jellyfish finds them; Sentinel detects them with his energy senses. They are about to bolt from the massive wreckage yard. Crabman wasn't interested in joining the fight against the Primate.

He said: "I already did what Inhuman wanted. If you want more info outta me, I wanna full pardon fer me and Jellyfish. Otherwise, get outta my way!" Jellyfish was waking up.
Crabman and Jellyfish each had a few years left in their sentences. Charges included assault, robbery, piracy, attempted murder, with original sentences increased due to use of extranormal powers while committing the crimes.

Best, Jeff


I don't want to do anything to them. There are bigger fish (or primates) to fry.Kairos will assist others with their injuries, if necessary.I guess that we need to get transportation and head to Africa, even though we're mostly weak.


I'm also of the opinion that if they refuse to help further there are more important things than to pursue this now. Thankfully their crimes don't include actual murder, which makes it easier to stomach.Kirk would still give them the same sort of discussion outlined before, trying to encourage them to use this as a 'new start' on the right course. He'd tell them that as long as they don't return to their life of crime once this situation is resolved he would speak with Chess on their behalf regarding their situation, but it was disappointing that given their seeing the direness of the current situation they couldn't look beyond themselves for the moment to help the world at large... that it's moments like this that define the true mettle of an individual and separate a mediocre self-absorbed life from that of someone who makes a difference in this world. He hopes this will touch something positive within at least one of them, that has likely been trampled down due to hard knocks, and will motivate them to offer assistance.

Either way, Kirk will try to assist them once this is done as long as they don't use the events to return to their life of crime and make sure they see his sincerity in that regard. They should see that despite the direness of the situation he really is trying to help them (although their reaction could certainly be 'what a sap' either outwardly or inwardly - but at least they'll know that there are people like Kirk out there, that really believe in the good in others).


I'm more or less in line with this. I assume Vanguard doesn't have the authority to just pass out legal pardons, but we can ask the appropriate authorities for one on their behalf, and we can promise that we personally won't go after them as long as they commit no crimes in the future.

Although one "stick" we might add to the "carrot" of a provisional pardon: We should remind the Nautical Nabobs that it is very much in their own self-interest for Vanguard to defeat Primate now. If Vanguard wins the battle to come Crabman and Jellyfish have the option of retiring to some nice, peaceful cove on the Mediterranean coast and be left alone as long as they commit no new crimes. If Primate wins, and becomes lord of all creation? Well...I suspect he won't look too kindly towards any surviving sentient beings who turned traitor on him. It's definitely best for them to share any useful information they have...

One final note: As I recall you gave statistics for my normal human form at the end of the last issue, but that I'd absorbed Slingshot's powers. After my conversation with Sentinel but before my ten minutes run out I'd like to find some oil/plastic within the junkyard and absorb it to regenerate, as Slingy did.