Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vanguard: Issue 165: The Highest Bidder

Vanguard defeated Homicide for Hire, capturing Jim Harrik, a.k.a. The Mercenary! Zero G! Skin Deep! Maelstrom! And the shattered remains of the Puppet!

Ratman, Pachyderm, and Ion, a.k.a. Lightning Strike Omega were free.

The Luddite was last seen imprisoned within the Digital Zone, in fact, within the Nemesis Entity itself!

 And Soldier and Nanite had been rescued! “Honey. Now can we go on our honeymoon?” Nan teased.
Slingshot kissed his bride.

Lightning Strike made no attempt to follow Strike Omega, and hoped that he will fight on the side of good.

Clone quietly approached the happy family and politely interrupts their reunion. He looked at Slingshot with a slight smile of apology and says, “I am most sorry comrade for breaking-up of most joyous reunion, but I am thinking that you are wanting of this.” With that said, Clone extents the blood stained tip of his battle-staff towards Slingshot and explained, “. . . it is being from Skin Deep.”

Slingshot gathered Hal’s DNA extractor and got a sample of Skin Deep's DNA!

Symbiote hugged Nanite and congratulated the Slingshot family on their reunion. He then immediately looked for a power source in the Aztechnology facility to begin recharging the Harper Harness!

In time, he had two charges ready, and copied the power templates of Skin Deep and Zero G!

Skin Deep’s DNA-based powers:
1)    Transformation: C: Shapeshifter. Disguises only. As per V&V 2nd edition
2)    Invulnerability: 8. Only works on HTH attacks and other impact/kinetic attacks
3)    Weakness: Physical Handicap: Severe facial disfigurement

Zero G’s DNA-based powers:
1)    Heightened Strength: +15
2)    Gravity Control: As per V&V 2nd edition
3)    Flight: (Maximum altitude is Gravity Control range above whatever is beneath him)
4)    Weakness: Reduced Agility: -5

Slingshot regenerated himself with the available raw materials at Aztechnology. (OOC: Your regeneration heals everything except the heat/flame based damage)

Sentinel made sure he memorized the unique energy signature of Skin Deep.

Clone inconspicuously kneeled down and picked up a small wooden fragment from the shattered remains of The Puppet. Still trying desperately to recall a memory of the mystically malicious mind-controlling marionette; Clone placed the shard of wood within a small pocket in his costume.

Over the next 24 hours:

   -Vanguard received medical treatment and Soldier was able to repair all his bionic systems.

  -Soldier has the opportunity to catch everyone up on his investigations. (see Issue 161!)

  -Homicide for Hire was interrogated:

  The Mercenary, Zero G and Skin Deep won’t talk. Imprisoned at CHESS Castle, they want their lawyer.

  Maelstrom was inclined to talk in return for a lighter sentence, but doesn’t know much, including who hired them to kill Vanguard and send Nanite, Slate and Soldier to the Digital Zone! But he will testify that it was Homicide for Hire that attacked President Taylor at St. Patrick’s Cathedral,  clearing Slingshot’s good name.

  -Aztechnology cannot be linked to Silas Caine, MEDUSA or Soldier’s father, General Steele.
  Vanguard’s investigation has reached a dead end with Homicide for Hire.

  -It was three months until Election Day, and Silas Caine was leading in the polls! The Patriot was still campaigning by his side!

Soldier was both mentally and physically exhausted. All he wanted to do was sit down with a cold beer, and analyze everything that had happened to him. But being the good soldier that he was, he knew he need to be debriefed first. As soon as he had the opportunity, he sat down and began record his memories, and have them entered into both CHESS' files, and his personal diary. As well as working on a written report of his experiences he could pass along to the other members of Vanguard. As he read over what he'd written, he felt a little embarrassed. He'd let his guard down, and allowed himself to be captured, and he was determined not to let that happen again. Once that was completed, he went to the lab to have complete diagnostic run on all of his systems, just to insure any modifications to his systems were fixed, and that they wouldn't present a danger to the team, or anyone else for that matter. As the CHESS Rooks ran their test, his mind wandered to his father. His "loving" father, the man who'd tried so hard to raise him in his image, how he'd deal with what he'd learned about him, and what he wanted to tell his teammates about him. But that could wait until morning, as now he headed to his room for what would be the first night real sleep he'd had in a very long time.

Slate didn’t let Nanite out of his sight for the 24 hours. He knew the virus was gone, but he wanted to make sure nothing else might have been done to her. He wasn’t being intrusive, but protective.
He'll also offer to check out Soldier, and ensure he has been "cleansed" of the virus as well.
Neither Soldier nor Nanite showed any effects from the Virus.

Slate observed cyberspace through Symbiote’s Digital Zone Portal. It seemed unchanged. There was no sign of the Nemesis Entity. And the voices and images that Slate had been dreaming of, stopped.

Slate wanted to study the Virus itself. None of the villains that were present would seem to have the skill set to create that kind of program, and he wanted to know who did. At the same time, he wanted to research Aztech technology, and who was behind it or at least behind the setup. The server farm itself may not have been setup to deliver the virus, but someone made modifications, the shielded room, portal, generators, etc... those things take effort to setup/network and that generally leaves some kind of paper trail... payroll, invoices, work orders, etc... Slate used his considerable hacking skills and heightened comprehension and found that all this work was done by Aztechnology itself. It seemed it was all a project of the theoretical physics lab.

Slingshot helped Slate with his thorough examination of the Virus. “Since Ion was Lightning Strike Omega and he had a vested interest in destroying the Entity, could it be possible that it was him that created the Virus?”

Slate tested this theory, searching specifically for signature coding style that matched the programming from the Omega’s Datanaut Suits. Hours later, he believed he had deduced the program’s author as Lightning Strike Omega! Slingshot’s hunch was right.

Symbiote, once back at the Vanguard Vault and all debriefing, showering, a decent meal and some rest was accomplished, stepped into his lab.
No fate but what we make. The best line in an uneven series of movies, and today Vanguard had proved it true. No fate but what we make. The team had overcome the dark future of the Omegas, and stopped the destructive apocalypse of The Entity, had prevented that awful, awful alternate world. And they'd hung on to their integrity, they had done it as a team, and as a family.

Hal pulled up his special project file. It had been a while since he had worked on it--in part, because he wasn't sure there would be a world left in a few months, wasn't sure there was a point, but now? The project had to continue. He began running the computer simulation again, and planned....

Slingshot asked Nanite to do a surveillance job on this Patriot who was not Harrik by trying to track him down and get more information on his identity. Nan was happy to help.

Avatar rested and waited. Sitting in a dim and very sparsely furnished room, directly underneath a single ceiling light, the Spartan superhero sharpened his sword over and over again with a whet stone, just staring into the darkness waiting for the inevitable call to arms.
Avatar was uncharacteristically disturbed by how truly tough Harrik seemed to be. He couldn’t shake it. Harrik took down Avatar unarmed as an afterthought. The damage that he dealt out was monstrous for what is assumed to be a trained human.

Clone sat silently at the table in the Vault’s kitchen. Despite a fresh batch of his mother’s home-cooking spread out before him like a small Ukrainian feast, the replicating Russian sat there motionless staring at the featureless wall across the room. As if right on cue, Menagerie suddenly entered the room and broke the awkward silence filling it in his attempt to get a cold glass of water. Smelling the freshly-made batch of Ukrainian delicacies sprawled out before his friend, Menagerie turned to Clone and asks in almost coy fashion, ”Clone, any chance your mother will be making more of those tasty treats you left for me last week?”

As if snapped out of deep thought, Clone turned to Menagerie and responded in a slightly startled tone, “Comrade Menagerie? I am most sorry – I am not seeing you coming into room.” Looking at his teammate and then seeing him looking at the food on the table, Clone suddenly remembered Menageries question, “My mother’s cooking? Da, she is bringing some here to us today. Pleased to be helping yourself to as much as you are liking . . . I am seeming not to be having much of an appetite today it is seeming.” With that said, Clone smiled politely at Menagerie, stood up, waved his hand at the food as if to say ‘have at it’, and then casually exited the room.

With his door locked, Clone sat quietly at the small desk in his bedroom and stared intently at the small piece of wood he held in his hand hoping that it would spark some form of recollection in him. He kept flashing back to the very brief and ominous conversation he had with malevolent Muppet of manipulation . . .

Clone said to his nearest duplicate, “I am knowing this one from somewhere I am thinking, but I am not knowing from where it is.” The Puppet replied mockingly, “Yes, Alex. I believe you should. Hahahaha! The dear Dr. X had been a . . . client of mine some time ago. I can’t wait to be pulling your strings again! Hahaha haha!”

Clone thought to himself,” ‘pulling my strings again’ – what did it mean when it said that? What did this creature do to me? Dr. X? ‘Client of mine some time ago’? How long were Dr. X and The Puppet manipulating me? How were the two connected? Why can’t I remember any of this?!?”

Frustrated with his inability to recall how he knew The Puppet and unable to quench the fires of his uncontrollable desire to know more about the mysterious Dr. X; Clone’s thoughts began to wander. His eyes began to travel around the desk before him as he started thinking about the events of the last few days. “I can’t believe how crazy the last few days have been;” he thought to himself, “Soldier is back, Slingshot and his family have been reunited, our names have been cleared of trying to kill President Taylor, I went on a dream date with my one true love Rachael Ray, and . . .” Clone’s eyes then snapped open in alarmed clarity, “. . . oh my . . . Rachael! I haven’t called Rachael yet! I have to explain everything to her!” Picking up the phone resting next to him; Clone starts dialing the telephone number he has for Rachael as he starts babbling to himself in Ukrainian, “Oh my, I can’t believe I haven’t called her yet! I hope she picks up – I bet she’ll be so happy to hear from me! She must be worried sick about me!”

Sentinel approached Soldier, “Matt, good to have you back man.” Smiling while giving him the once over, he added, “You look like hell. After you settle in let’s grab a cold one together and catch up.”

When alone with Shelley, Kirk teasingly remarked, “So, retirement looks good on you.   I’m sure all retired personnel continue to wear their work uniforms under wedding garb.” His smile turned to a look of concern, “You doing all right?”

“I’m fine,” answered Shelley. “I just worry about Nan. Making the wedding a PR spectacle was kind of asking for trouble maybe. Just wanted to be sure she’d be okay.”

Menagerie returned to the Great Northwest Wilderness and found Pachyderm in mourning. The two friends found Snow Leopard’s remains and gave them a proper burial. The great leviathan was sad and silent.

After returning to civilization, Menagerie visited Snow Leopard’s murderer, Skin Deep, in CHESS Castle.
For security purposes, CHESS Castle Warden Jane Fahrquar and CHESS Knight Sorikawa (who both survived the CHESS Castle jailbreak) escorted Menagerie to her cell. “Higher precautions are taken with new inmates until we are sure we understand all their capabilities,” Fahrquar explained.
The cell was off Tier Three, two levels above Hotsleep. An all Iron cell with a “ClearSteel” door.

“You’re not my lawyer,” Skin Deep said, looking at Menagerie through the ClearSteel. She was in the form of Jane Fahrquar when they arrived. Then she transformed into the exact likeness of Menagerie. The twin shapeshifters watched each other for a moment. Then Skin Deep broke the silence with a scoffing laugh.

Menagerie said darkly, “I’ve just come to let you know you’ve made an enemy,” as he locked into her with his magical senses. He wanted to be able to identify her from now on, no matter her shape.

Skin Deep replied, “Really? Then that’s going to make what happens next all the more enjoyable. I’ll be watching your stupid expression as I and my friends walk out of here free. Now get the hell out of here.”
(OOC: reply if any?)

Sentinel met with Grey onboard the CHESS Omni-Carrier over Long Island Sound to discuss Vanguard’s interaction with MEDUSA Agent Valk. “How do you think I could’ve handled that better?  Also, it seems like Vanguard were treated no better as government agents than had they been independent.”

CHESS Director Grey said, “Welcome to government work, kid. You think there aren’t inter-departmental rivalries here? MEDUSA and CHESS are as competitive as the FBI and the CIA. How could you’ve handled that better? You might consider complying with other government agencies when they’re investigating presidential assassination attempts committed by folks disguised like Vanguard! Not reading the minds of said government personnel might be another good pointer for you. You got caught and then it became a pissing match and neither of you would back down. On the plus side, you discovered that MEDUSA has a way for its agents to detect telepathic “attacks,” as well discovering the MEDUSA AEGIS armored division.”
(OOC: replies if any?)

24 hours after the Aztech assault, the Mercenary’s lawyer, infamous supercriminal attorney Stanley Argo (brother of hapless super villain, Ray Argo), phones Vanguard and CHESS Director Grey: “My client wants to make a deal. In exchange for a full pardon for him, Zero G and Skin Deep, he’ll reveal the name of his employer. In court.”

Slingshot said he wasn’t particularly interested in the pardon. Although, he thought, they’ll break out soon anyway. And there was a good chance that Silas Caine commissioned HFH for this one. So getting the employer may give us the ammunition to knock down Caine… maybe.

Menagerie said, “Better escaped convicts on the run where merely seeing them, Vanguard has the right to attack them in order to recapture, than for them to walk around free without any warrants on their heads. Also,  I believe Caine knew that HFH was going to fail so he didn't hire them himself but had a flunky, or setup a fall guy, for it.”

Symbiote, recalling his father’s law enforcement experience, said, “I've learned that a lawyer NEVER asks a question in open court unless he already knows the answer, and particularly in criminal proceedings a prosecutor doesn't offer a deal unless he knows exactly what he's buying.”
Overall, Hal was opposed to taking the deal. "We know who really hired him, and we know, with absolute certainty, that he'll never ever tell the truth. Caine's got him too well trained," he says. "It'll be a red herring. Or something that in some way incriminates us again, or one of our allies. Or maybe he's trying to send us on a wild goose chase after somebody else Caine wants out of the way--Black Bat, perhaps--hoping we'll destroy each other. Mercenary's been around causing trouble for how long? It's time he sat in cell for a while."

Slingshot said, “Out of three that have spoken, we are all against it. Mostly, because we don't trust him or his boss.” Turning to Symbiote, he added, “Since you mention that lawyers never ask a question they don't know the answer to.. Let's tell him it's no deal unless we know who, and then we get to get it officially in court. I've never been interested in signing blank checks, which is what this deal amounts to.”

Clone listened to the immediate chorus of ‘No’s’ that fill the room and then hesitantly makes a suggestion to the contrary, “Perhaps this will be good thing for us, comrades – perhaps we should be agreeing to this I am thinking.” Realizing that most of the team is against what he is suggesting; before they can voice their opinions about what he has just said, Clone continued, “My grandmother is once telling of me - it is better to be strike at the hive, then at the bees. Maybe it is not wrong that my grandmother is being correct here, maybe we should be taking out of this employer and not of clients.”

Seeing that his friends are giving him his chance to speak, Clone expanded upon his opinion, “Even if the agents of Hom-in . . . Homm’n . . .” Clone then turned to Sentinel and says, “I am sorry, I am not knowing how it is that I am saying this correctly . . . Hom-in-side?” Frustrated with his lack of skill in the English language, Clone doesn’t wait for Sentinel to help him and just turned his attention back to the main group and said, “. . . Hom-in-sides For Hire, are not to be telling of truth at trial, perhaps their employer will be hearing of their willingness to be talking of this and trying to ‘wack them off’ before this is going to trial – then we are having him!”

As the members of Vanguard struggle with trying to understand what it is that Clone was just suggesting, Clone turned to Sentinel once again and says with a look of complete joy on his face, “Are you not liking this use of American slang that I am using? ‘Wacking’ – I am learning of this from true American movie classic of ‘The Godfather’. My English is getting better I am thinking – no?”

A phone call was arranged with infamous supercriminal attorney, Stanley Argo, and Vanguard laid out their position.

Argo said: "Hey! Hey! Hey! Slow down. I'm sure we can come to a completely equitable solution for all involved. In exchange for the aforementioned pardon, my client is prepared to reveal his client's name to you immediately, and then yes, also on the record, officially in court."

Then, softly enough to barely be heard over his tie, "Prosecutor? No need to involve them just yet. My client represented to me that Vanguard and CHESS Director Grey are uniquely situated to best appreciate the importance of this exchange; certainly better than would the prosecuting attorney. And also, that time is of the essence. I understand that this information's expiration date is in less than 3 months. I assure you, I don't know what that means, but my client said that you would understand perfectly, and could convince the prosecutor that this is the best for all involved... in fact, the best for the entire country."

Argo paused long enough to punctuate that last part with a greasy smile.
"So! Gentlemen! Have we got a deal?"

Slingshot said, “One moment,” and muted the phone.

“Sure thing,” said Argo. “Talk amongst yourselves! Think it over! Take your time.”

Slingshot grumbled, “I'm more inclined to listen and see if that information is valuable to us. If the information is what we need, then I'm interested in the bigger fish. Even if it irks me to let them go, and I feel dirty all the same. How about you Vanguardians? What do you think?”

Menagerie said, “I will not agree to a pardon for Skin Deep. I will relent for Harrik and the other person who is of no consequence to me.”

Slingshot said, “I'll listen to Harrik and his deal. I want to know who it is, only then, if it is Silas Caine, I’ll be ok with the pardon, but only on his actions regarding the event at the Aztechnology facilities. And he will get his pardon only when he testifies in court. When he does, we nail him for the death of Spider Girucci. Not a word of anything to anyone about this. I'm not interested in letting Skin Deep go, but with a DNA sample, we might be able to rig a detector/indicator of some sort.”

Symbiote agreed. “If he gives us usable, independently verifiable information that we can check out before his court date yes, we support the idea of a pardon for the Aztechnology affair. Otherwise, he can play drop the soap at Chess Castle.”

Slingshot and Symbiote unmuted the phone began to lay out the pardon deal for the Aztech crimes.

Argo interrupted, “Hey! Hey! Hey! What do you think, I’m a coed law student you can just feel up on our first date? Boys! Come one! Let’s get serious. Full pardons. All three! Now, do you need to mute the phone again?”

They muted the phone.

Menagerie repeated his position: “All three pardoned? No. No pardon for Skin Deep. The other two can get the pardon. Even Caine isn't worth all three walking free.”

Slate was asked for his opinion and like most organic children, he had the opposite response as his father, “One in the hand is worth two in the bush... put them away, no deal.”

Avatar said, “I would rather NOT see pardons for these men but there's a greater good here that might be served if their information is worthwhile.”

Lightning Strike was unequivocal on the subject.  "We should never accept a plea bargain from these scum.  They will simply roll over on someone else and be back on the streets.  Plea bargaining is a lazy way to avoid conducting the investigation ourselves and I want no part of it.  If we give in to this, we will be no better than them and are responsible for every crime they commit.  Let them rot in jail for all I am concerned."  With that, Strike will go back to investigate the conspiracy the old fashioned way… with shoe leather and gumption! He left the room.

Symbiote said, “If it's all or nothing, I suppose we take the deal.  As my dad used to say, "catch you later."
I'll go along with all three getting a full pardon IF we get the info before court day and IF we can test it and it proves to be good. Giving them the pardon and then finding out in court?  Nuh-uh.”

Sentinel said, “Not only does this seem like something Harrik would never do but we really aren't in a position to make this call anyway.  This could easily be spun against us.  Vanguard doesn't have the governmental power to cut deals. At this point I'd say Kirk doesn't trust Harrik or this situation and thus no.”

Soldier said quietly, “No deals for these guys.”

Slingshot said, “I vote yes, if it's Caine. If it's not Caine, no deal.”

Sentinel unmuted the phone and asked, “So, you expect Vanguard to believe that Harrik, who has spent a lifetime building his rep, is going to throw all that away by selling out his employer the first  time he gets caught?  That the man whose contingencies have contingencies best plan for getting out of jail was rolling over?  That’s what you’re telling us here?”

There was a long, awkward silence.

Then Argo said, “Oh. I’m sorry. I thought you were asking a rhetorical question. Yes. The answer is, yes! I expect you to believe that.”

Sentinel said, “We’ll contact the prosecuting attorney with our recommendations.”

“Perfect!” said Argo. “Great! Nice working with you boys! And look, if you ever need legal representation… divorce, drunk driving, sexual harassment, whatever… you’ve got my number.”

Sentinel hung up the phone and said to his teammates, "I don't think Harrik has any intention to actually reveal his employer in court and I think that this is simply part of his contingency plan to escape ... his transport to the court actually giving him the best opportunity for whatever he has planned to happen in the least secured place he could arrange."

Then Sentinel said to Slingshot and Slate, “We should have some time here before we have to make any decision.  Personally I want them all to pay for what they have done.  But I think that Scott’s threats during the battle make a good strategy here afterward. You spoke about Harrik’s money and that is all that he cares about and having the Entity drain his accounts… it IS all about the money with him.  Let’s use that against him."

Sentinel didn’t lay it out further because it dawned on him that Vanguard was nearly split on the decision to pardon. Nearly.

Avatar, Clone, Slingshot and Symbiote wanted to recommend the pardon.

Lightning Strike, Sentinel, Slate, and Soldier were against the pardon.

Menagerie was for it, but only for Harrik and Zero G. It was 4 and 2/3 to 4.

Grey was for the pardon, as much as he hated it. “Silas Caine, your criminal mastermind archenemy… President of the United States. He would be my boss! He would be your boss.
Harrik knows we know who hired HFH. And he knows we have more on Silas Caine than anyone. That’s why Harrik wants us to sell it to the prosecutor.”

Grey notified the prosecuting attorney, explaining everyone’s position and concerns.
Prosecutor William Doyle (the senator’s son) brought it before his superiors who brought it before theirs. It stopped before going to the Justice Department to keep President Taylor, Caine’s opponent in the election, from coming into the loop.

Two days later, Vanguard watched the prosecutor and Harrik in an interrogation room at CHESS Castle, through a one way mirror. Stanley Argo was present as Harrik’s attorney.

“Silas Caine,” said Harrik conversationally. “Silas Caine hired us to frame Vanguard for the attack on the President and to kill them.”

“My client can prove it,” Argo offered. Skin Deep had it on video, which is why she was going to be pardoned along with Harrik and Zero G, after they testified. Also, it turned out that Harrik was one of three men who were the Patriot.

Prosecutor Doyle said to Harrik, “One thought that gives us pause, Jim, is how can this be legit? How come you’re so quick to roll over on your boss?”

Harrik looked at the one way mirror. “I’m the Mercenary. I go with the highest bidder. Right now, you’re bidding my freedom. Hell, my life. Not to mention a clean record.” He smiled. “I’m going to enjoy that.
“More importantly, Caine broke the terms of the contract first. He wasn’t my real employer. After that, it was all null and void.”

“Excuse me?” said the prosecutor.

“Caine is being run by someone higher up,” replied Harrik.

“What? Who?”

“Silas Caine is working for the Black Bat. He tried to keep it from me, but that’s pretty hard.”


“Yeah. Can you believe it? The Black Bat. A filthy extranormal running the White House. Can’t let that happen. You better get on that right away. So… when do I walk?”

Harrik had no way of bringing the law to the Black Bat as “the bloodsucker initiated all contact with Caine.”

Silas Caine was arrested two days later. Word got out that his bodyguard, the Patriot, that symbol of American, and human, ingenuity was really hired assassin, Jim Harrik, and Caine’s poll numbers plummeted. His party withdrew his nomination and tried to draft retired General Steele (Soldier’s father). Steele (who Vanguard knew was Silas Caine’s Vice President in the Omega-verse) declined to run and President Taylor would sail to re-election.

Prosecutor Doyle told Vanguard that Caine will be charged within 48 hours of his arrest for conspiracy to murder President Taylor, frame Vanguard for the murder, and murder of Vanguard, among other charges.

Caine pled the fifth and prepared to mount his defense. His wealth would ensure him the best legal defense that money could buy, but his political career was over.

Later that night, Clone found himself tossing and turning in his bed as he tried desperately to get a good night’s sleep. Frustrated and upset, Clone stared blankly into the darkness for a moment before quickly reaching for the lamp resting peacefully on the night stand beside him. As the light clicked on, Clone sat up in his bed and says aloud in Ukrainian, “I can’t take it anymore . . . I have to find Dr. X!”

Down the hall, Slingshot quietly emptied his pockets as he readied for bed, so as not to wake his wife and son. A photo on his dresser caught his eye. It was the picture of Nanite when she gave birth to Ethan, that Scott took in this universe.  She was holding Ethan. A baby swaddled in a blanket. Nanite was completely overcome with joy.

The end

This concludes the Blessed Event Horizon Saga.

OOC: Thanks everyone!

Please now answer the following 3 things:

1) If you wish to leave the game for whatever reason, now is the perfect time in terms of our story. But I sincerely hope that none of you will leave. Those that stay, please continue:

2) Please let me know any major things you’d like your character to do immediately as well as over the coming weeks/months. Remember, your actions help steer this mighty, unwieldy saga! (and it is mighty unwieldy) Your characters’ lives sow the seeds for future adventures.

3) Experience Point Time!
Experience is awarded for:

Battling and Defeating Homicide Unlimited! 1500 points

Battling and Defeating Homicide for Hire! 1500 points

Saving the Digital Zone from the Virus: 500 points

Stopping Silas Caine and saving the country from his presidency: 500 points +1 Charisma point

Some of you gain a level, mostly the folks that didn’t gain a level last story arc. If you didn’t gain a level, but still want to add a new ability, you may do so by losing an existing ability, or gaining a new weakness. Up to you. For those that did gain a level, see the house rules on the game blog for what that means.

Once I get all this, in two weeks, I’ll modify your sheets, have you approve them, and then begin the next thrilling adventure arc in our senses-shattering saga-rama!



OOC: It was as much torture to read it as it was to debate. I hate giving up anything to the bad guys. Amazing story arc!
Now I have to think on the next move.


OOC: Amazing well put together conclusion, Jeff! Terrific ending to a great story - well done!


OOC: Thanks guys.
Torture to read? Assembling it wasn't much better. :-)


OOC: I’d like slate’s character sheet to be updated with the skills we’ve discussed.  I’d like to save his level advancement at this time.   Here’s some plans/feelings Slate has, hopefully a few plot strings… as well as some character interaction points…

 IC: Slate is very curious about the state of the Digital Zone… almost fixated.  The experience has changed him, and he wants to know more about it.  He’ll often be found observing cyberspace through Symbiote’s Digital Zone Portal.  He will question his father, Symbiote, Sentinel, and his mother extensively about their knowledge and experience regarding the Zone.  Did they feel what he felt, what was Nemesis like?  He’ll study the datanaut suits to see if he can figure out how they worked for the Omega team. 

If he’s not studying the portal, he’ll be with his mother… He desperately wants things to get back to “normal”.  He’ll get back to home schooling trying to learn everything he can, especially studying the history of supers, specifically anything he can find about the Black Bat.

Speaking of studies… he has been going around barriers, and sneaking into servers in the Citadel, but at this point he will request internet access.  Argument points, he was able to save the Digital Zone, and he did figure out Homicide was after the President.  He has done nothing to display malice, or to cause concern… PLEASE…

After viewing the code created by Omega Lightning Strike his opinion of him, and by default, Lightning Strike has certainly expanded.  He’d like to ask him some questions about his powers… what does it feel like when you go into a machine?  How do your senses work, can you see in there, smell, feel?   Does it hurt when you change forms? LS and his father/mother are the closest thing to Slate, each of them being not totally human, and Slate desperately is looking to be like someone else…

By getting back to normal, he’ll return to working out with Stone and Nathan, but he’s not nearly as excited to leave the Citadel as he once was… this place is home, this place is safe.  He’s actually growing a little agoraphobic…He’ll happily hang out with clone at the Citadel, but is not interested in visiting his family…  He’d love to have pizza with Sentinel, but let’s have it delivered.



Uncharacteristically, Clone spends almost none of his ‘down time’ in The Vault or with the other members of Vanguard. Through the occasional visits from the members of his family, Vanguard finds out that aside from Clone sleeping at his family’s house, they haven’t really seen him around much either. Even the charitable organizations he volunteers his time with and the other members of his church congregation have commented on Clone’s lack of presence.

Answers to the ‘Three Questions’:

1) If you wish to leave the game for whatever reason, now is the perfect time in terms of our story. But I sincerely hope that none of you will leave. Those that stay, please continue:

 Nope, I have no plans on leaving.

2) Please let me know any major things you’d like your character to do immediately as well as over the coming weeks/months. Remember, your actions help steer this mighty, unwieldy saga! (and it is mighty unwieldy) Your characters’ lives sow the seeds for future adventures.

 Jeff; aside from what we’ve already discussed, Clone won’t be seen much around The Vault much during this next round of ‘down time’.

3) Experience Point Time!

 Since Clone didn’t ‘Level’ I’m going to leave his abilities the way they are.

 Talk to you all soon,
 - Kev


Skin Deep replied, “Really? Then that’s going to make what happens next all the more enjoyable. I’ll be watching your stupid expression as I and my friends walk out of here free. Now get the hell out of here.”

“You don’t understand. You have no value other than as bait. Through you we will capture a true predator.

Odd that someone without their own expressions would call another’s stupid.

You are a prey which mimics true predators in order to survive. Laugh all you want little mouse while you are protected soon you will be back in the wild. Will you be able to hide from the predators again, now that you are known?”


I will be continuing. No way I quit.

He will continue his magical training with his teacher.

He meditates on Slate's role in this adventure and asks Nature about his significance to the Natural Order.

He will check on Snowball and make sure to make time to play with her.

He will search for Ratman.

He will ask the Spirit of Nature if there is a Quest for her Champion to perform.

He will befriend any wild animal that is living near Vanguard Vault.

For level advancement I would like to increase his Intelligence and Charisma. I checked the website which shows Menagerie as level 3 so he is advancing 2 levels right, so he could increase Intelligence by 5 and Charisma by 4 points, is that right? If it is not, let me know. I am interested in someday getting a paralysis or devitalization spell. If you think getting one of those would be better let me know. If you have any other ideas I would like to hear them as well.

Via Vanguard


Hi Tom,
Sorry. The game site was incorrect. Menagerie was 4th level and has graduated to 5th level.

He has 4 points to add to any one stat.
Dividing those points among stats cost 1 point per stat beyond the first.
So Menagerie may add 4 to Intelligence, or he can add 2 to Intelligence and 1 to Charisma.

Paralysis venom could be had with the right predator shape.
Devitalization Spell could be cool. Do you see it as absorbing the life essence from a target?



OOC: Okay, I was surprised to see he wasn't 4th but I figure that was the case, but I had to ask.

Devitalization Spell could be cool. Do you see it as absorbing the life essence from a target?

Yes, Like he is calling nature back to himself. It could be useable in multiple forms. I am wanting something to help silver age him so it isn't always fangs and claws.

Menagerie will also help with finding Black Bat. Including consulting his spirit guide and the spirit of nature about him and what should be done.



OOC: OK, Tom.
Fyi, a Level Advancement is 1/4 strength of a full blown superpower.
I'll make a ritual spell out of it so that it isn't as tough as the power.



Okay, sounds good to me.


OOC: Wow. Went easier than I thought (disrupting Caine's presidential plans, at least). Though I have the feeling we've not heard the last of him.

With no advancement Hal doesn't do too much during this time, but here's a few items.

1) He continues to work on his secret project.

2) He still wants to find Hank Archer, and is ready to play out the cabin-in-the-woods scenario if we're going to continue that.

3) He'll "try out" Skin Deep's powers a few times, trying to learn to mimic actions and voices as well as appearances as best he can. He wants to be ready to go undercover to help find Doctor X when the time comes.

4) He'll vote for allowing Slate access to the internet. He's earned the team's trust, as far as Hal is concerned.

5) He'll approach Menagerie. "I keep saying someday I'm going to study the properties of what we call magic. I'm still convinced it's merely science we don't yet understand, but whatever it is, you seem to be our resident expert," he says. "Black Bat. He seems to be a creature of magic, and, more than that, as a dead thing brought to life through dark magic and a creature that feeds on life itself I suppose he'd be an abomination to the Natural Order. In a world full of nature, as something that doesn't fit in I'm guessing he would present a contrast, like a piece of filth on a clean white sheet.

"With that in mind--do you think you can track him?"

Viva Vanguard,



OOC: Well, we're 4 out of 9. J
I've gotten IC replies from: Clone, Menagerie, Slate, and Symbiote.
I still need replies from Avatar, Lightning Strike, Sentinel, Slingshot and Soldier.

If you realistically find you can no longer commit time to the game, the perfect time to withdraw is now, between story arcs. You can even withdraw temporarily, if that's what you need to do. Up to you. :-)



My level advancement will be saved for later use. The munchkin in me thinks about minimizing my vulnerability, but I'm also thinking of furthering my "One-celled-ness". So depending on the story arcs, I'll keep some advancement aside for this.

What do I do next?

Short term:

1- Follow up on the skype/portal idea with Cyberspace. Since we have befriended IT, the best thing is to keep the communications going and stay friends. If amalgamation is what happens when you stay in the cyberspace, too many things have gone in that shouldn't, so we need to keep an eye out for it. I'll also talk to Nanite and see if she's ok with this, as I'm sure I would like to see Slate understand his origins and become his full potential as the missing link between technology and nature, if he so chooses to be.

2- A little honeymoon, even if it's a weekend would be nice.

3- Continue the work with REACH.

4- He would also like to continue research on his nature with Dr Rocket and whomever is willing to assist.

Jeff: I agree that I've been slipping in my response rate and I can only blame myself. So I apologize for my late response and I'll myself up with reminders to promptly respond from now on.



OOC: Sorry that I've become one of the delinquent responders in recent times. You deserve better from us.  I hope to do better and want to continue assuming you allow it.

Kirk’s stuff:
(1) Relationship stuff with Shelly - at some point needs to ask if Shelly's activity in the recent mission was one-time due to circumstance or if her 'retirement' plans have changed.

(2) Visit with Lancaster (as he does after each big mission completion and perhaps for some insights on developing problems and Black Bat)

(3) Aid fellow Vanguardians in their efforts as Kirk is aware ... he has tried to keep their spirits up and will try to do so as he sees Slate and Clone seek isolation

(4) Per Kirk's unfinished statements ... he is interested in both assisting Slate with information and analysis of the Digital Zone (and everyone else involved) and with Slate accessing the Internet.  This is something Kirk would advocate with Slingshot and others and would work closely with Slate as approved by all both to monitor effects and help Slate and also for Kirk to learn more from him that can assist both of them.  Until now Kirk had been the team's best in this regard ... he sees that Slate has the potential for so much more and as is his personality wants to see it pursued for the benefit of all.  Perhaps this working closely together can be used to prevent Slate from becoming so withdrawn.  Slate would be drawn into their efforts and as they discuss it, Kirk would use it as an occasion to 'get him out'... not every time... but enough to prevent his withdrawal.

(5) Not checking notes right now to get this out, but Kirk would want to pull up the background on the agent he has issues with  (the head agent) to determine if he has an anti-hero history or is mislead.  Since he avoided Kirk after the incident and gave him no courtesy Kirk would try to mend things if possible.  Scheduling a 'meet' and indicating his good working relationship with their Chess liaisons and that he wants to avoid 'misunderstandings' in the future... and stating outright in their line of business they have enemies that will seek to discredit them ... what does Kirk need to do to ensure that in the future he and his team can get the benefit of the doubt to pursue their investigations if something does come up?  How can both agencies cooperate to a greater extent... perhaps we can play this out if it happens and given what Kirk finds out about him would help to determine how he would go about that conversation.

(6) If he does notice Hal's withdrawal and his 'secret project' (seems like Kirk would see his obsession) Kirk would at this point ask outright what was going on and if he can assist.

(7) Continued REACH activity.

A couple of things regarding the Black Bat situation and conversations in mind as well as character advancement that I will try to pen later in the day as I did this several hours ago and hoped to finish now but have to run out ... but wanted the majority of stuff sent.

Again, sorry for the lateness.



OOC: Further Stuff:

Anything happening with Caine revealings that can be used to clear Archer?

Black Bat being revealed behind all this is a major concern.  Particularly since that means he was able to subvert the will of Caine, and we knew from the Digital Zone experience that Caine's will and power was particularly strong.

Kirk will approach teammates separately to discuss this so they can each think about possible solutions to be prepared for their encounter and defense... Bat was able to subvert the will of half the team to attack Caine ... what can we do to prevent him from taking over their will in the future?

(1) With Avatar, in addition to voicing concerns over the Bat he want to thank him for his efforts in their recent battle ... his engaging Harrik in head to head combat, being capable, willing, and single-minded enough to do that really got them the victory.  Without him having been constantly in his face Harrik likely would have picked off each member of Vanguard.... regarding the Bat, does Avatar have any tricks in his gifts from the Gods that might assist them in warding off his mental control?  What are his thoughts regarding strategy?

(2) Menagerie - Be sure to prep him in the events of their encounter with the Bat - Kirk explains that the Bat was an affront to the Natural Order from his energy senses.  What can he do or prepare to be ready for him?  He was able to assert his influence over half the team - anything Menagerie can have in store to prevent that.

(3) Slingshot/Slate - Assuming Slate gets internet access, what he can find out about the Bat's activities, aliases, etc.  In a direct encounter, Slate is literally 'wired' differently than the rest of his, can that be used to our advantage?  Seemingly he would want to take out Slate early in an attack since he can likely resistance his influence ...

(4) Soldier - Pure tactics.  How can we best be ready?  Does he feel that his nanobytes can assist in rejecting Bat's influence?

(5) Strike-Symbiote: We've got our magic guys Avatar and Menagerie thinking on things ... anyway we can use the make-up of Soldier-Slate to our advantage to protect them team?

(6) Clone seems to have almost a connection to the supernatural of which he isn't aware ... any stories from his mom from the past that somehow help with the Black Bat?  ( wouldn't be surprised if he knew some folk tale of an encounter with a mysterious creature passed from generation to generation that might have some clue of information to help us)

Rather than be taken unawares lets be ready so that the Bat can't turn one half the team on the other half with a wave of his hand in battle.

Kirk is 'in' if Clone is going off on a mission, no way he lets him embark 'solo' knowing he hasn't been 'right'... and especially anything that rings of a connection to Swastika.

Level Advancement: Jeff, don't know if this is possible but on the mental angle, can Sentinel develop a psychic mind blast?  Would you allow it.  This is a non-physical form of attack that the team really needs to have in its arsenal.  I don't see him employing it regularly, but it was sorely needed in back when he was dealing with the energy siphoner and no one on the team could touch him and would be a great asset against the Bat ... not to mention Swastika.

Reasoning is simply and goes with future character development in store for Kirk (at least from my perspective, though you may have other ideas) - in my mind, although Kirk doesn't know it, his energy is 'universal energy' - his current usage of it in a physical way is because it came naturally to him that way ... that was how Lancaster used it and taught him.  With his tuning into his mental abilities it would only follow that the next way he would learn to use the energy would be as a mental energy, on that level.  Again, that's my reasoning on it.  Naturally it would be your choice whether he could do this and this would be the explanation knowingly or unknowingly.

Other possibilities if no go on the mental blast: really hate that Kirk is the last to 'go' in the bunch.  Don't expect to be the quickest, but having him the slowest doesn't seem right either ... can we get him to go quicker (physical training on speed)

Also: Open to your suggestion, open to holding off for now as others have done and having an ability generate in the future, perhaps mid-adventure because its needed... whatever you think.

If I've missed something glaring that needs Kirk's actions or my comments, please let me know.

Again, my apologies for real life delaying many of my replies in recent times... 



OOC: Jeff is there anyway I can take a two issue break, and then work my way back in? I'm running behind in pretty much everything I'm doing and won't catch a break until next month. I'd appreciate it. As far as Soldier's actions go, can you roll with this response.

Soldier, still reeling from everything he'd been through, and hurt by Vanguard's decision to cut a deal, approached his fellow team members, and asked for a meeting. Gathering his thoughts, he chose his words carefully as not to offend them.

"Gentlemen...I've asked you all hear because I've come to the conclusion. I need to take a leave of absence to deal with some personal matters. I'm not resigning, but I do need to take a break and resolve some issues that I'm dealing with. If you need to contact me, you can leave message with CHESS, and I'll respond as soon as possible." With that, he waits for any comments they may have. If there aren't any questions, he'll leave the conference room, pack his bags, check in with CHESS, and leave them a contact number.


Lightning Strike:
Lightning Strike was strangely aloof following the revelation that Caine was behind everything.  He should be happy that Caine would not be president and would hopefully spend time in jail but instead all he felt was numb.  The fact that Black Bat was still out there pulling the strings gave Strike more resolve than ever that the decision to allow these pardons was wrong.  There was always going to be another rock to lift up and uncover more slime.  Finally, unable to keep these feelings to himself he called a meeting of Vanguard.

He stood up and spoke to the assembled heroes.  “As you all know I have been with Vanguard and fought alongside you from the very beginning.  I am a man of few words and not given to speechmaking that comes easily to some of you.” (OOC: Nods to Sentinel).

He continued, “The events of the past few months have led me to do some serious soul searching and I have finally come to a conclusion.  Effective immediately, I will be taking a leave of absence from Vanguard.  I feel in my heart of hearts that granting those murderous scum a pardon was the absolute worst decision we could make.  The blood will be on our hands should they commit one more crime.  The ends do not justify the means in our case.  Vanguard should represent the best that mankind has to offer.  We should never compromise our principals.  It is a slippery slope that I am not willing to go down.  I do not condemn anyone for deciding in favor of the pardons as I think getting Caine out of the presidency was of paramount importance, however, I do believe we would have found the evidence in due time. “

“I also feel that our missions have become more cosmic and of a grander scale and I for one wish to get back to fighting crime on the streets.  We have an obligation to every man, woman and child in this city and our country as a whole to make them feel safe and protected.  I want to be that man on the streets looking out for them in ways that perhaps Vanguard as a whole cannot.  My friends, this is not goodbye.  If ever the need arises, I will come back to Vanguard and serve with you again.  It has been my honor and privilege to have fought by your sides and we have accomplished great things and will accomplish more in the future.  I have my ways of finding out if I am needed and will be at your sides in the blink of an eye.”

With that, Lightning Strike exits the conference room and collects his belongings and moves on to the next phase of his life (OOC:  It better be that Lightning Strike limited series!!!)

The Old Order Changeth!!!



OOC: Yikes, didn't see that coming.


John nods at this. He, too, has had thoughts of leaving Vanguard but has decided to stay for the time being.

"We'll definitely miss you. I understand what you mean about street crime but there's a never-ending supply of villainy out there at all levels. Don't forget about us and keep in touch. We're always here to aid you if you need it."


Hearing Soldier and Lightning Strike's decisions, Scott is intent on his hands with a dour look to his face. He looked up, clearly unhappy. "I understand how you feel. Damnit. I wanted Harrik, that bastard, to pay. Skin Deep too! But you were all there! You were all in the Omega Universe. You know what would have happened if Caine made it to the presidency! We still have to deal with MEDUSA. Steven.. Matt.. I know exactly how you feel." Scott didn't notice that he managed to crush his armchairs as he did his small rant.


Lightning Strike:
Strike counters, “I have my doubts that what we saw was what would have happened in our universe. There are a myriad of permutations that could have ended in a practically infinite number of outcomes. The fact that we were shown one outcome, means no more than seeing a clairvoyant on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. We controlled our circumstances and the fact that we prevented that one particular outcome means that we happened to drop the pebble in the right place in the pond and our ripples went the way we hoped. Once again, the ends do not justify the means.”


OOC: Jeff; depending on how you think it will better affect the story/next issue, please have Clone either 'mia' or uncharacteristically' silent during any such group meetings or discussions.


At the meeting:
Kirk listens to the replies of the others and then says, "I know that we are all unhappy with the deal made with Harrik, and that half of us were totally against it. I'm among them. But this isn't on us. Vanguard doesn't have the legal authority to cut deals. And what's happening here makes it even more clear to me. This was orchestrated.

"I didn't believe Harrik would roll over the way he did and sell out his benefactor for his ticket out of prison. He said he was for sale to the highest bidder... he wanted us to believe it was 'they system'. I don't buy it. How about Black Bat pays more. He eliminates his competition in Caine. He has Harrik come to us, when we have no authority to cut a deal, to splinter his other biggest threat, Vanguard... us. And you're playing into it.

"You need some time to clear your heads, you take what you need. We're all entitled to that. But don't let Harrik have the satisfaction of knowing he got in your head... and don't let that egomaniac Black Bat fracture you into going totally Lone Wolf so he can pick you off easier and make us weaker."

After the 'meeting' breaks if Strike fails to indicate that this is anything more than a short break, Kirk will follow him to his room as he gathers his belongings alone. Out of the earshot of everyone else he says, "Stephen don't do this. (Kirk uses his name here, he never does this. He has always referred to him as Strike) You are the only other one that has been here from the very beginning, from that first night on the roof. We need you. As much of a pain in the ass you can be your lone wolf approach to our missions is unique and invaluable and provides us with an edge. We won't be the same. And you need Vanguard as much as we need you. I fear for you off alone. We keep you grounded. I'm afraid you will go too far off into a dark place without us. Stephen, tell me you aren't quitting here."



Menagerie was concerned about the pending departures. He offered any support to Soldier that he would take. "The phrase 'A little birdie told me so' has a much broader meaning and implication for me."

Menagerie told Lightning Strike that he agreed with the distaste of allowing Harrik and Skin Deep walk but this isn't the answer. "The pack is always stronger with all its member. Going it alone invites disaster."

Viva Vanguard


Lightning Strike:
Strike responds to Sentinel once confronted in his quarters. "Kirk, if you come here seeking forgiveness for what Vanguard has done, you obviously don't know me well enough. If you feel palming off what was done on the government and that assuages your guilt so be it. You and I know the feds would not have acted without our consent."

Strike continues, "I am not some kid fresh off the streets who needs his nose wiped. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself on the streets and you can beleive I will be keeping an eye on the affairs of Vanguard. I find your choice of words interesting. As a man essentially made from electricity, explain to me why I need to be grounded. That being said, I am sure this will not be our last conversation."

Strike continues to pack and will leave as soon as possible.

Take care all,

PS I look forward to next issue and my upcoming comic Lone Wolf Lightning Strike!!!


“I'm not seeking your forgiveness. Or that of any one else. Each member had an opinion on the matter. I happened to agree with you on this one. It didn't go our way ... but ultimately I disagree with you on who made this decision. I think final decision on cutting this deal lies with those who have the authority to cut deals and that isn't us.
"And my words were out of concern for you. It's not that you can't take care of yourself regarding the villainy out there. You've more than proven it time and time again. And I'm sure you will in the future, with our without us. No, I'm afraid you'll lose yourself to what is within you ... or perhaps lacking within you. Since Caine took your wife you've cut yourself off from others... even from close family that cared like Archer. You cut yourself off from him and you see how it turned out for both of you. We keep you in touch with your humanity ... I'm afraid one day you'll enter that electrical form and never choose to return. That would be a tragic loss.
"Stephen, I know you're angry. But don't stay away long. You really do need us as much as we need you."



Lightning Strike:
Why not just say I double dog dare you to come back!!
You are a pain in the ass!! Stinks playing with someone who knows you for over 25 years!!

Anyway, here is my in character response.

“How typical of you to assume that I have failed to take care of my few remaining family members. The fact that I take care of my own in ways you can’t understand supports my decision. Don’t try to stop me on this one Kirk and feel free to lead the team as you see fit.”


Lightning Strike:
OOC: This must be a record!! I am responding to almost every e-mail.


OOC: "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it." -Shakespeare