Cthulhu was coming. And with him, the end of the world.
Vanguard had undertaken a desperate quest. Earth’s greatest heroes had seven days to secure nine artifacts of power, else all would be lost.
The Mystic, Archimedes and Oracle would blindgate Vanguard to each of the artifacts. Once there, they would have up to an hour to secure the artifact before the gate could be re-opened to return them.
The first artifact lay hidden somewhere within the Lost Laboratory of Dr. Swastika, behind the Iron Curtain!
Dr. Swastika was a mad Nazi scientist with a heart as twisted as his name. Creator and leader of the nefarious Ubermensch, Swastika conquered science itself to create the Over Man ideal.
Slate discovered a journal in the lab that revealed Swastika’s fascination with sorcery, especially the Cthulhu Mythos. There was an amazing illustration of the Star Giant, penned in Swastika’s hand.
The journal covered the Nazi expedition to the Lost Lands of Antarctica, wherein lay the Temple of Terror. There were illustrations of the Dinosaur Men, and of temple hieroglyphs depicting the race of Inhumans. Next to that, to Slate’s surprise, was a depiction of a creature that resembled his father, Slingshot! Slate was jarred from the book by the sudden sound of rending iron!
Slingshot pulled the fire door from its hinges as quietly as he could and Vanguard peered into the dark stone hallway that lay beyond it.
Menagerie and Sentinel detected the emanations of the artifact of power coming from the north.
Sentinel prepared to create a construct to trigger any traps that lay in their path when suddenly the air shifted! Somehow there were now more people in the lab! Even in the poor light, Vanguard recognized them!
The Soviet Super Soldiers!
- Mother Russia! Strong, invulnerable and courageous!
- Polar Bear! The ursine abomination!
- Hammer and Sickle! Experienced, ruthless super-agents!
- Siberian?! Vanguard knew the frozen fiend was in custody in CHESS Castle!
- The Collective?! This man looked like the Clone when Vanguard first met him in the Lost Lands!
- Proletariat and Revolution! Vanguard knew their appearance and names but no more, despite the fact they had researched the Soviet Super Soldiers earlier that day!
Vanguard had been on site for only ten minutes.
Both super-teams were equally prepared for trouble, so neither got the jump on the other.
The Soviet Super Soldiers were 100 feet away from Vanguard on the other side of the dark, abandoned lab!
The air here was bad, almost dangerous.
Mother Russia shouted in Russian, “Super Soldiers, Go!”
Avatar, ever the battle tactician, said softly to his team mates, “We must keep in mind that we have several of these things to secure. We can't expend ourselves on any one if we can help it. "Snatch and grab" rather than brawling should be our goal on each of them. This is a fight we wouldn't likely win without serious depletion of our resources.”
Menagerie quickly asked Sentinel "Do we fight or go for the artifact?"
Sentinel concurred with the demigod of destiny, "Our objective is the artifact. It would be best to avoid any conflicts that we can, but that decision may not be ours to make here."
Vanguard had arrived just moments ago, Sentinel thought. With our earliest possible retrieval being almost an hour away it seemed that a conflict with the SSS was inevitable. They couldn’t just grab the artifact and depart.
“Mother Russia… Tatiana. Stop! Whatever you’ve been told, this conflict is unnecessary. Vanguard’s sole purpose here is to prevent the total destruction of Earth’s inhabitants including those under your protection. Surely that objective is in harmony with the goal of the Soviet Super Soldiers.”
Kirk voiced the words waiting to see the response; was there free will on her part and was she misinformed or was she a puppet being controlled and manipulated against her desire?
And then suddenly it all began to come together in his head, and if he was right, it didn’t paint a pretty picture. Vanguard has already seen at the Embassy that their enemy had the means to confound their extra sensory perceptions… the SSS appearing here at this very moment was no coincidence. They came in response to Vanguard triggering an undetected alarm system. And the SSS wasn’t here to retrieve the artifact… no, it was already in the possession of the one sending them here. They were sent to protect it until the exact time it was needed.
If Swastika was the one behind this it fit his MO. It followed what he did with the Star Giant in their first encounter. If not him then surely the same insane thought pattern; they think they have the means to summon and control and harness the power of Cthulhu!
Sentinel called out to the man who now called himself the Collective! "Alex. What is going on here with you? The one thing that I do know is that at your core, the very center of your being, you would never willingly do anything to endanger a single innocent... let alone all of them! Help us to help you. Help us to save the world again."
Slingshot thought, Damnit! Sentinel was right, they may have the same intent as we do. He added to what Sentinel just said, "Clone! Polar Bear! Wait! We are here to save the Earth from certain doom! We have had a glimpse of the future and if we do not do our duty, everyone will die..."
The Soviet Super Soldiers ignored Vanguard’s plea, instead conferring further in terse Russian barks. Then they divided their forces with practiced precision and leapt into action!
With the recent loss of Lightning Strike and Soldier, Vanguard had lost some of its speed.
Avatar, like a Spartan general, assessed the field of battle. (OOC: delaying his action)
Sickle raced out of the room, headed north, with incredible speed and agility.
Polar Bear fell to all fours and bounded after her.
Revolution glowed with white light and flew after them.
The Collective exploded outward, impossibly forming 22 selves! The one man search party joined Sickle, Revolution and Polar Bear in the race north, through the nearest fire door, into the lab complex!
Flashlights, and Revolution’s energy signature, illuminated their way through the dusty, cobwebbed, dark complex. They triggered no booby traps… yet.
The Collective knew that Revolution could detect energy sources, Polar Bear had highly developed senses, and Sickle had a handheld scanner. But he had 22 pairs of eyes and ears searching the abandoned mega-bunker! He spread out, had one duplicate stay with each SSS member, and used his
eerie telepathy to coordinate
their efforts to maximum efficiency!
He could feel the effects of the bad air in this claustrophobic subterranean warren!
(OOC: Rules time. Normally, instead of charging 2 Power Points for your second action as per the rules, I charge 1 PP for every action. But in this bad air, it will cost 3 PP per action for any character that needs air.)
Menagerie suddenly transformed into a large Siberian tiger! “ROAR!” He bared his teeth with ferocity and waited for the remaining members of the SSS to charge!
Slate was shocked to see his friend Clone looking so different. He slid back against the wall he was standing near... He was aware of the Soviet Super Soldiers and knew that they had fought a larger Vanguard group almost to a standstill in the Lost Lands from his studies of Vanguard’s mission reports.
Staying behind his team, Slate used his disintegration powers on the wall beside him, away from the door, to get around any mechanical traps Dr. Swastika might have set to. ZARK! He left the rest of Vanguard delaying the SSS, and tried to find the artifact so they can get back home.
As soon as he sees Menagerie shifting, he will attempt to let him know telepathically what he is doing... he'll try to do the same thing with Sentinel, but he's not sure how exactly this works... he's received thoughts from Menagerie before, and thinks it will work, at the same time, he'll ask if Menagerie has a "sense" of the direction/distance to the artifact. He received no telepathic response!
Avatar spied Slate’s action and knew this was the better path. He joined Slate and manifested the power of the sun god, Apollo, illuminating their way through the darkness! The hunt began!
Avatar and Slate had no supernatural senses to locate the artifact, and so tried to continue north as best they could; following their last instructions from Menagerie and Sentinel.
The competing search parties found ancient machinery, bunkers, offices, storage facilities, war rooms, all abandoned and frozen in time beneath a layer of grey dust. Neither team had found the artifact yet!
(OOC: More rules! In this PBEM, I halve your movement rate to determine how far you can move in one issue (Two issues = one full combat turn). When searching in dark, tight corridors, that movement is halved again!)
Sentinel, Slingshot and Symbiote, seeing Avatar and Slate leave to search for the artifact, joined Menagerie and (held their actions and…) faced off against Mother Russia, Hammer, Proletariat and Siberian, waiting for an attack!
The Super Soldiers did not charge Vanguard. But they were now ready to respond to their pleas.
Mother Russia spat defiantly: “Dr. Swastika has ever been the enemy of the Soviet Union!
In 1945, after we defeated the Nazis at great loss to our people, America rescued Nazi scientists from justice and recruited them by the hundreds to gain a scientific advantage in the coming Cold War!”
Sentinel, one of Vanguard’s two resident historians, knew this to be true. It was called Operation Paperclip.
(OOC: It’s true in our world too!)
Mother Russia continued, “How can we trust those, who have allied themselves with Nazi scientists, to stop Dr. Swastika? And how can we trust your corrupt, compromised government? Your politicians are bought and paid for by capitalists. We have seen it with our own eyes! If a billionaire wanted to own the artifact we seek here today, your craven politicians would turn it over. There is nothing that money can’t buy in America! Your culture is infected with the sickness of greed. And that greed overrules all other considerations, even mankind’s survival! The world lies in the balance! There is too much at stake! This is OUR task! Stand down, Vanguard!”
OOC: Replies? Actions?! One round worth of orders, please.
Avatar: Hit Points: 38, Power Points: 67, Manifestation: Apollo
The Collective: Bodies: 22, Hit Points: 1, Power Points: 39, Hit Point Pool: 22
Menagerie: Hit Points: 21, Power Points: 66 (62), Form: Tiger
Sentinel: Hit Points: 29, Power Points: 61, Creation Points: 122, Shields: 100: Held Action
Slate: Hit Points: 35, Power Points: 71
Slingshot: Hit Points: 50, Power Points: 92, Invulnerability: 8: Held Action
Symbiote: Hit Points: 55, Power Points: 91, Charges: 13, Copied: Zero G: Held Action
IC: Following Avatar's lead, Slate stayed to the center of the hall way's peering into musty rooms and chambers, still utilizing his comprehension skills to try and figure out what each of the rooms was for, and if anything looked out of place, or if he say anything that might indicate a hidden room or trap.
At the same time he kept reviewing the illustration from the journal, and the hieroglyphs, what could they mean... could the illustration have been from when Vanguard was catapulted through time, or was it something else? Knowing Avatar's background and more than a little nervous, Slate asked, "Avatar, back in the forgotten lands at the Temple of Terror, did you ever get a look at the Hieroglyphs?" He figures Avatar's had a lot more experience translating texts that he has. With time and access to the web, he's confident he could do it, but maybe Avatar can get the gist of the illustration.
IC: "I didn't. Not really." John's reply is a bit hesitant. "Look, Slate, we need to find this artifact fast. I'm going to go ahead and run through this place fast and see if I can find it. Hopefully it's obvious and I'm not going to run headlong into any traps but we have to make this fast."
John waits a moment for any reply that Slate might have but will then activate Heightened Speed and take off through the complex looking to see if he can find something obvious. If he sees an enemy, he'll try to flash them and blind them with Light Control or, better yet, maneuver around them at super-speed and continue his search. Without more direction he feels a little foolish but there's no time to waste. He remembers that the stats for the Cthulhu mythos "gods" in the old Deities & Demigods book are better than those for the Greek gods.
Kirk didn’t miss a beat and replied, “Tatiana, I can’t truthfully deny that there are those with money in the United States that have used it to further their personal agendas any more than you could truthfully deny that in your country there aren’t those that have worked their way through your political system to further their own ends at the expense of the working class. What I can tell you is that this isn’t a United States mission, this is a Vanguard mission. Our government didn’t bring the facts to us, we brought it to them.
“Also, you know where I choose to spend my personal time and efforts. It’s furthering the REACH program. And the REACH program is about people, not governments, and it knows no borders.
And no one has more contempt for that filth Swastika than I do.” And Kirk realized that she had just identified Swastika as being currently behind this threat.
“The only people I trust are my team. And right now one of them stands at your side. What I know about you firsthand is you’re stubborn once your mind is set; I admire that. But I also bet you hate being played as much as I do.”
Kirk looked at Clone and said, “Alex knows I will use every means to my disposal to uncover the truth and will do the right thing to protect innocents, just like I know that is exactly what Alex would do.” **
(** in game terms, trying once again as done last round to trigger Clone’s ‘weakness’ into giving him additional attempts to break free or fight any control of influence being exerted on him, if there is any)
And at that moment after, after in effect, choreographing to Alex what he was about to do, Kirk triggered a mind read of Clone in hopes of him being able to reveal what was going on here.
“Tatiana I suspect you have some doubts about things here too, otherwise you wouldn’t have held your team back just now. So how about it? Alex is the bridge between both of our teams so let us hear what he has to say. ‘Alex, why did you leave us so suddenly without even talking to any of us? And if you feel your mission here is right, and ours off, talk to me. Convince us. You know we’ll do what is right.”
If Kirk’s mind read becomes a detected issue (hoping not like last adventure) instead of being an undetected move he will say something along the lines of, “Alex knows exactly what means I have at my disposal and I’d just told him I was using it.” (or anything along those lines)
If a fight breaks out despite their efforts at detente he will encourage Menagerie to go for the item since likely a foe will follow him anyway to prevent it and he and Kirk have the best shot to locate it for now.
OOC: Hey Jeff,
I thought a Clone was with Mother Russia since you had mentioned him pairing off with a duplicate being with each SSS member for communication via his telepathy…wouldn’t one stay with Mother Russia to update her on the progress and if they find the artifact?
If yes, then what I wrote is fine. If not then it will have to be reworked to perhaps see if she will call one of the Clones back or communicate with him via communicator. Let me know.
If the battle ensues if Vanguard can separate from the SSS to pursue the artifact that would be preferred but he won’t leave his remaining teammates to be terribly outnumbered.
As told in the now-classic Vanguard Issue 172, the Collective left the lab to search for the artifact.
Please give me an if-then statement in case Mother Russia doesn't re-direct one of the duplicates from the search effort.
And don't forget that you (and Symbiote and Slingy) need to give me orders for two actions this time, since you saved your actions last ish.
Menagerie will snarl and growl to warn the SSS that their views of America does not apply to Vanguard. He will then run off after the artifact to secure it. He will dodge and weave to keep from being followed. He will mind speak to Avatar in an effort to guide him to it quickly.
After John does his Heightened Speed power activation, he'll try to cover a bunch of ground looking for this object that we're supposed to get and hoping that it's obvious.
Listening to Sentinel, Scott nods. [If Tatiana needs more convincing] "Vanguard tries to be true. We have bested greed recently. Silas Caine thought his money was able to let him do anything, but that is not the case anymore."
"Last time, we were at odds, it had to do with the Entity. You were present there yourself! Did we not do the right thing? We are looking for the artifacts to keep them away from the opposition that would want to raise this ancient demon and lead us to world destruction. Let's work together to find the items."
[if she doesn't let go.] "We have access to ways of hiding and protecting the artifacts. What is your plan?"
[side note - anyways to contact the mystics? I would like to ask them if there is any chance that the introduction of SSS is something new and changes the future? Or they are part of the vision and they simply failed at this hunting?]
[assuming that the mystics respond that they are part of the mission and they fail] "Tatiana, the mystics are telling us that their vision includes your attempts at gathering the artifacts and somehow, these demons get summoned. Help us!"
If SSS is still threatening us, I'll stay as a diversion and as muscle. My response to attack is the same as before, since all the muscle is here. I'll play Slingshot Bowling Alley. I'll try to tie them up that way. I will not attack, only if attacked.
If SSS relents and leaves us be, then I'll use my high move rate and flexible nature to help with the search. I'll spread as far and as wide as possible. I will ask sentinel/menagerie what it looks like.
IC: As Slate watches Avatar's form, and his source of light vanishing like a torch dropped down a hole, he stares into the darkness, contemplating his next move... "This was a mistake," he thinks to himself. He turns, and using his photographic memory of the path that led him here, moves back to the hallway, and the rest of the team in the dark.
OOC: Hi Jeff.
Will continue to do best to avoid conflict. If it can be avoided, will take off in pursuit of object using senses if situation makes sense to allow it.
You still didn't confirm if it was Clone via his energy signature but assuming it is Alex, if we don't fight and he encounters one of the Clones he will attempt to determine what is happening with him.
If battle cannot be avoided, Kirk will engage as necessary. He also wouldn't throw the first blow.
If he can use senses to determine if there is additional influence on SSS that would be helpful. Either they are unwittingly in Swastika's control (assuming their intel about him being behind this is correct) or else we can likely expect to encounter a 'third party' here too on Swastika's behalf (or whoever is trying to get the object for the summoning). Also someone or something from them has been giving himself and Menagerie issues with their senses so either it is one of their new new members or again, that other influence (Swastika?). He will keep his senses alert for anything that would indicate outside sources or the source of their blocked powers.
At this point Vanguard is going for the artifact and Menagerie can likely figure out location as well as Kirk, so if he can determine what is really happening here and ALL the players involved is now becoming more of Kirk's goal than the object. If he can somehow determine who via energy senses may be their teleporter (if present) that would be another good goal so they don't disappear with the artifact if they retrieve it.
Here's what I wrote (in Issue 171 reply) about scanning the Collective:
"Sentinel, the Collective is within your range. Scanning him takes some of the Movement segment of your Action. I'm happy to give you the results now as they'll affect much, but wanted to confirm with you the following:
During an Action, a player may Move and Attack in whatever order they choose, but can only do each of these segments once. No one can Move, Attack, Move, for example.
So scanning now means you're choosing to use your Move segment and then your Attack segment this issue, in that order. Is that what you want?"
I don't think I ever got an answer.
OOC: Sorry about missing that Jeff. Yes, we need to try to determine there here. Let me get my 'reads' and that intel may further help actions.
I suppose physical movement could be added to the 'read' if the actions of others dictate it prior to any 'attack'.
Clone/ The Collective:
Private to GM:
Jeff, I'm assuming that the Soviet Super Soldiers were somehow teleported into the lab and have team communicators. Based on those assumptions I think I have a half-way decent battle plan for them.
While 'The Collective' army scrambles through the rear portions of the lab with Revolution and Sickle, the four duplicates in front of Polar Bear could split off from the search ( along with Polar Bear ) and use that tunnel/corridor that they're currently running through to attack Menagerie, Sentinel, Slingshot, and Symbiote from the rear/side. Hammer, Mother Russia, Proletariat, and Siberian would then follow suit and charge into battle against them as well. This assault on Vanguard wouldn't actually be meant as an attempt to destroy them, but rather a way to draw Slate and Avatar back to the main group and provide Revolution, Sickle, and the remaining Collective duplicates with the opportunity to search for the artifact on their own without competition. If they're successful in finding the artifact they would all simply teleport out.
If they can't teleport out - I think its still a half-way decent plan . . . it'll just have a slightly more involved 'exit strategy' attached to it now. lol ;)
The Collective doppelgangers will of course use their battle-staves in combat. If possible, they will attack Symbiote's harness directly in an effort to take him out of the fight quickly.
Talk to you soon, Jeff
Symbiote will again hold his action. After Sentinel speaks to the SSS, he'll also speak to Mother Russia.
OC: "He's right, Tatania," Hal said, keeping his hands to his sides and speaking in a neutral tone. "I won't try to debate history, economics or politics with you here today, if for no other reason that none of us have the time. Cthulhu's coming
"But if you don't trust our government--and believe me, sometimes I don't either--can you at least trust US?" he asked, earnestly. "I think Vanguard was more than fair to your team during the Lost Lands incident, and afterwards, when some of you defected--or at least seemed to. And I think you've had some positive experiences with both Talon and Me. Do we really seem like the kind of people who want to turn the power of Cthulhu over to government--any government? We're working with some mystic powers who hold no allegiance to any earthly government. Please trust us. It'd be a great waste of resources if our teams fought while the house burned down">
If the Bolshevik Blockbuster listens to reason, Hal will continue to stand down. If not, he'll try the increase gravity/reverse gravity trick we discussed last issue.