Slate secretly monitored his personal computer to check its progress decoding the hieroglyphs found in the
Lost Lands. Before the two days ended, it had found something. The creature engraved in the Lost Land
temple that resembled his father, Slingshot, was identified in the hieroglyphics as a “Spawn of Nyarlhotep.”
Via the internet, Slate found an image of Nyarlhotep, a black shapeshifting deity, a twisted image of his father.
Nyarlhotep, the crawling chaos, was said to be an evil, mad god of the Cthulhu pantheon. He told his father
what he had found.
Slingshot looked at Slate and at the image of the mad god. He looked back at Ethan with such love. He noticed that his father's facial expressions tended to become slightly exaggerated, borderline cartoony, when he was highly emotional. He smiled at his son.
"I feel like I need to tell you at story. There was this man who became more than a man due to a freak accident. He decided he needed to do something with himself. Something good. He tried his best but he was a rookie and imprisoned. During his ordeal, he met this incredible woman. She was as shy as she was beautiful. They took it slow. Fate had other plans. They were separated by their enemy. She was pronounced dead, but the man persevered and found a way back to her. Their reunion wasn't without hardship. Unbeknownst to any of them, she was the child of one of mankind's greatest enemy. He didn't give up. He was able to find a way around this prophecy. Then they were with child themselves and that child was to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. At this point, even their most loyal friends were doubtful. That this child would bring us all ruin. The man never doubted for a minute. His belief in their union, his love for his unborn child, his faith in that goodness will conquer all, kept him going against all odds. That child not only didn't bring destruction, but was an integral part of the solution to saving mankind." Scott hugged Ethan.
When he let go, his eyes watery, Scott continued, "You know our story. Your story. This" he pointed at the image, "Is yet another twist and turn of our story. I'm not sure what to make of it. We need to understand what this means and take the precautions that we must. Forewarned is forearmed, after all. But here,” Slingshot pointed to his son's heart, “you cannot give up."
Slate nodded. "Maybe we'll learn something when we go to the Lost Lands.”
Vanguard voted once more to determine their next move in their desperate Quest against the coming of Cthulhu and the ending of the world.
Clone, Slate, Slingshot and Strike voted for North Jersey.
Menagerie, Sentinel and Symbiote voted for the Lost Lands in Antarctica.
North Jersey was next!
One hour of intel on the location was all they needed to learn almost everything about it.
The North Jersey location was a large, exurb, public storage rental facility called “U Stor.”
Avatar and Symbiote knew the location immediately. It was where Avatar’s collection of antiquities had been stored by the mysterious unknown buyer who had purchased it from the Sotheby’s auction.
Symbiote had created a GPS tracking device and hid it deep among the books, crates and packages that were Jon’s collection. It had been at the storage facility since the auction.
The owner was a Philippino immigrant with no criminal record. He was a franchisee owner, and had run five locations in the tri state area since 2005.
It was after midnight. The owner did not answer his phone.
A map of the facility was available online, as well as interior photos:
The CHESS warrant arrived.
2 days and 23 hours until the end of the world.
Vanguard manifested their powers. Slate was carrying exploration gear and wearing an Indiana Jones fedora.
Teleporting there would not exhaust the Mystic, and would save over an hour of jet prep, flight time, and return. The three magi, Soldier, Doc Rocket, Sgt. Stone, Shelley, saw them off.
The Mystic cast a magic spell. Egyptian hieroglyphic equations of otherworldly geometry formed in midair in bright lines of gold and blue. An all-seeing eye, not unlike that which emblazoned Sentinel’s chest, grew within an expanding circle that then cut into physical space itself. The circle glowed bright as the sun and the air shifted as static electricity built up within the room.
“Fare well Vanguard! May the higher powers watch over you all!” called the Mystic over the wind and white light that blasted from the gate!
Vanguard advanced into the light.
Suddenly all went dark! The light, the wind and the noise were gone!
Vanguard stood near the storage facility, adjacent to a large wooded area. “U Stor” was a two story warehouse surrounded by an empty parking lot, whose perimeter was lined by a chain link fence with barbed wire. It was 1:00am and a steady rain fell from the overcast sky of the world storm.
Symbiote’s tracker placed Avatar’s collection within the two-story warehouse-like facility. The left center of the first floor.
Menagerie and Sentinel could detect the third artifact of power within, near the center of the building’s first floor. The two heroes also detected many other sources of magical power inside, near the third artifact. They were all less powerful than the artifact they sought. Neither hero detected anyone inside.
Lightning Strike detected electrical systems that weren’t out of the ordinary, including computers, alarm systems, and internal and external security cameras. The telltale systems of an office were near unit 3032, across from the building’s main entrance, in its southwest corner.
Vanguard was not currently in view of any external security camera.
Vanguard shared what info they had just learned. Then they quickly and quietly conferred.
Slingshot said, “Why don't we enter at the second level? Sentinel or Menagerie can pinpoint the exact location where the item is and Slate uses his ray to punch a hole through the floor. I’ll stretch an arm in and grab the item beneath us? We could also have some of us on the first floor, outside the storage unit’s door.”
Sentinel said, “I say all of us that can, scan as we approach. If nothing is suspicious, we proceed into the facility. Maybe a storage facility is just a storage facility... but we still have to be extra cautious. Slingshot's approach sounds fine. Scott, perhaps with Slingshot's architectural skill you might spot an area in the structure via the roof or walls that seems an ideal entry point for super-powered beings to make an entry that normal beings wouldn't easily use, although that could be a trap too if the storage facility isn't a normal storage facility. Maybe Slate can just vaporize part of an entry wall or roof area with little damage and if off ground level shouldn't make easy access for anyone else to take advantage after we leave.
“If there are other magical artifacts that seem to be of a level that could be of use, perhaps we can retrieve them too.”
Slingshot replied, “That's a good catch,” as he reviewed the blueprint again. He found no hidden access corridors, or alternate empty spaces. But he identified the best approach to minimize damage and effort.
Slate would go along with the plans of Slingshot and Sentinel. He agreed that having Lightning Strike check out the security systems would be a good idea before they go busting in.
Avatar would back up Sentinel for now, in whatever he does. The demigod of destiny had manifested the power of Hermes, and was ready to act.
Symbiote would also follow Sentinel's lead. The Harper Harness had activated the power template of the slacker of speed, Accelerator. “Since we've more or less agreed on "hit and run" tactics, I’m definitely ready to provide the "run" half of the equation.”
Menagerie said, "If they are smart enough to set a trap at the door why wouldn't they extend the trap to the walls, floor, and roof?
"I like the idea of Lightning Strike scouting ahead. Maybe Sentinel can carry Slate above the warehouse. Slate makes a double hand size hole in the roof and Slingshot stretch into the hole to see what it looks like?"
The totemic titan would support whatever was the team's decision is on how to enter the warehouse. Unfortunately he was unsure of the best way to do that himself.
Clone would also follow Vanguard’s lead on this search.
Lightning Strike nodded and, without a word, transformed into sentient, living electricity! SHAKOW!
Via the power lines, the electric avenger entered the facility, searched its electrical systems and scanned its interior via the security cameras. After finding nothing out of the ordinary, he deactivated the security system.
SHAKOW! He rematerialized in human form next to Vanguard. “Looks clean. No one home. But I assume there will be much more to this place than meets the eye.”
Vanguard advanced, approaching the facility’s western wall, at Slingshot’s direction.
Lightning Strike, Menagerie and Sentinel scanned as they approached, and detected nothing new.
Vanguard flew up to the second story. The western side there was a wall of windows. Everyone could see the floor was empty and illuminated by security lights.
Slate cleanly disintegrated a hole with a 7 foot diameter into the center of the window wall.
No alarms blared. Menagerie, Sentinel and Strike still detected no change.
The team hit the second floor running.
Lightning Strike detected no new activity in the security system or the building’s electrical grid.
Sentinel and Menagerie pinpointed the Third Artifact of Power, and told the team: “3219!”
Avatar and Symbiote raced with inhuman speed down the floor’s central east-west corridor, toward the storage unit directly above the unit that held the Third Artifact of Power!
Symbiote glanced at his tracker and saw that Avatar’s collection, which had been auctioned off by Sotheby’s, resided one floor below them, near unit 3226.
Sentinel and Menagerie detected multiple objects of magical power were stored in this humble facility. They were in units one floor below them, in the center, around and between units 3226 and 3212.
“Someone is stockpiling magical artifacts here,” Menagerie murmured to himself.
Some of the team began to head for the southwestern stairwell.
Clone split up into four duplicates just in case something unexpected should pop up.
Then something unexpected popped up.
Sentinel and Menagerie saw it first with their metahuman vision. But only Menagerie saw it for what it really was.
“Wait!” Menagerie cried, knowing full well that it was already too late. And worse, that he was partly to blame.
It was a spell, a ward, designed to lay dormant until a magical being passed through the borders of this seemingly mundane structure. Avatar and Menagerie must have activated it, and now the ward was no longer dormant. It was waking up, and growing exponentially. Its magical acceleration made it impossible to cloak any longer. Sentinel and Menagerie could now “see” it expanding, surrounding Vanguard like a noose.
Menagerie knew it was a doom insidious and certain. Once fully formed, the death spell known as “Soul Strangle” would kill them! They all had a matter of seconds left to live.
Sentinel saw the energy of the spell building without understanding its implication. The beacon of liberty could only control energy he himself created. He was powerless to stop the spell from occurring!
Menagerie had no power to dispel magic. He could almost feel unseen hands upon his throat. And upon the throat of his soul.
It was over. Then, with desperation, he tried the only thing he could.
He cast the energy-draining “Essence of Life” upon the death spell itself!
Catching it in its early, transformative state, Menagerie leeched the deadly spell of its energy, depriving the magical chain reaction of the fuel it needed to take effect!
(OOC: Menagerie spends 10 power points)
ZAM! The death spell died of starvation. The ward was broken.
Only Sentinel had any idea that something had happened.
The rest of Vanguard stood still, staring at Menagerie who had just implored them to wait.
Menagerie regarded his friends, whose eyes could not pierce the invisible world around them. “Um. Never mind. We’d better hurry.”
But it was too late.
Down the hall, ahead of them, space was rending itself apart!
There was a small thunderclap and the familiar shape of a teleportation gate opened before them!
Except this one was blood red.
“Ai! Ai! Fhtagn!” called a voice from within the gate!
Then: “Thief! Who dares steal the property of… the Warlock!”
The Warlock strode through the gate like a conqueror, and behind him were Superstition, Mirage, Demonoid, the Witch, and a black robed man that Vanguard did not recognize. The gate remained open.
“Don’t you mean the property of the Crimson Coven, mate?!” corrected Mirage sardonically.
“Vanguard?!?” exclaimed Demonoid, leaping forward with eager glee as he licked his lips with a long tongue.
“Perhaps zey can be reasoned weeth,” whispered Superstition.
“Silence,” the Warlock spat. “Vanguard! Your souls will suffer an eternity of agony for this! I swear it.”
To be continued!
OOC: Abridged map of the second floor:
One round of combat actions please! Both sides were equally ready for trouble, so neither side is ambushed. Thanks!
Viva Vanguard, Jeff
Avatar: Hit Points: 58, Power Points: 68, Manifestation: Hermes, Duration: 20 minutes remaining
Clone: Bodies: 4, Hit Points: 6, Power Points: 63, Hit Point Pool: 23
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 48, Power Points: 73, Lightning defense activated
Menagerie: Hit Points: 26, Power Points: 52, Form: Man
Sentinel: Hit Points: 30, Power Points: 59, Creation Points: 120, Shields: 100
Slate: Hit Points: 35, Power Points: 71, carrying exploration gear
Slingshot: Hit Points: 79, Power Points: 92, Invulnerability: 8
Symbiote: Hit Points: 43, Power Points: 81, Charges: 13, Copied: Accelerator
OOC: Never a dull moment!
IC: Slate seeing the Crimson Coven for the first time, feels a battle of epic proportions building, which he knows they do not have the time for.
If no one has entered storage locker 3219 by the time Slate's action comes he moves forward with the plan, he created an opening using his powers, but larger than he had planned, large enough for a man so that anyone on the team can get into the room.
If someone has already entered the room, or if their is some space between the two teams, He'll try to disintegrate along the lines of the ceiling of the hallway, then directly across the hallway, letting whatever is above fall, hopefully blocking the hallway between the coven and Vanguard. If he is aware that there is nothing above that section of the ceiling, he'll leave it connected on one side of the rectangle, like a partially opened can, so that the ceiling itself will be blocking the hallway.
If someone on his team gets to the Artifact, he'll provide cover fire, disintegrating anything that comes for them, even if that just means giving them a disintegration defense.
I think you know this but just want to make it clear for all:
Everyone is on the second floor. The artifact is on the first floor.
Also, Avatar and Symbiote, you have two actions this turn due to your Heightened Speed.
OOC: I had forgotten, was looking at the map...
So would we need to go into a unit on this floor, and then down? If so, instead of a hole, a tunnel through.
Actions for the Coven should still work either way.
OOC: Great issue! Menagerie was so cool, thanks!
Would a cheetah be considered to have ht. speed?
Glad you liked it. I was afraid I was being too presumptuous.
In creating a death trap that the Coven would devise, I soon realized that Menagerie would be the only one with a realistic chance of solving it. Rather than spend an issue and two weeks on something 90% of the PCs couldn't affect, I just moved it forward.
Cheetah wouldn't give Heightened Speed but would increase Agility and ground movement, which might still be advantageous on this large battlefield.
Slingshot turns to Slate and says: "This will not work. We do not have the time to had a large fight and we are not in a position to do a smash and grab. This was supposed to be done without fight. I need you to focus on the artifact. I'll handle these, but it won't work for long."
[OOC] This is where I curse my slowness. He will do one of two actions.
1)Assuming the badguys, except for Demonoid holds their positions because they are spell caster. He will reach out and down, grab a large part of the concrete ground a little farther than 3219 (should be able to extend that far)and lift it up to block the corridor and give us some time to get to the artifact.
2) assuming that not too many Vanguardians are in front and Scott has a clear view, He'll reach out a little farther than 3219 grab a smaller than option 1 slab of contrete and throw it down the corridor at the mages, hopefully scattering them.
All of the above are for two reasons, 1) Stop/block the mages from doing us any damage 2) if I lift/break the right concrete slab I can uncover the floor below, optimally opening the cache itself, so Vanguard can go in an server themselves and leave on the next turn.
Menagerie will turn into a cheetah. He will sprint through whatever hole to the lower floor. Leaping toward the artifact.
Menagerie is planning to be the "grab" part of the smash and grab strategy.
I can't remember if Willpower defense requires an action. If it doesn't he will turn it on otherwise he won't. I meant to have it on when we teleported but forgot to write it.
I will submit dialogue later.
OOC: Everyone activated their super power defenses before entering the portal.
Menagerie stared at the Coven members who appeared. "I should have known the trap was your handy work Warlock. Over the top as always. So what is so important that you have to lay this kind of trap but can't keep it in a safer locale. Never mind, I don't care. I came to save the world from "He who's name should not be mention" not put you in your place again."
"You can thank us later"
Menagerie turned into a cheetah and ran through the new opening created by his teammates. He will direct those faster than him to the artifact with his mind-thoughts. If the Crimson Coven interferes with the faster members of Vanguard he will get the artifact himself.
As soon as Vanguard has the artifact he will contact Archimedes to get them out of there pronto.
"Should've known these Coven morons would be involved in this sort of thing," Symbiote thought to himself. "Ah well...let's get busy".
With the lightning speed of The Accelerator, Symbiote rushes forward to The Witch and strikes her straight in the chest, palm first, transferring all of his inertia into her. The idea is to send her flying across the hall, into the far wall...hopefully to splatter there.
A superhero fight in a narrow corridor should be interesting! Avatar bolts forward at maximum speed, aiming for Demonoid with the intent of plowing into him with a shoulder and carrying him back or knocking him back into and along with as many members of the Coven as he can get. He does this without regard for damage to himself. If Demonoid steps out of the way, he continues on until he slams bodily into some other Coven member. With all of them in such a narrow corridor, he's bound to get SOMEONE.
His next action is contingent on what happens after that but, if possible, he'll probably use his speed to disentangle from the melee and go north or south a little and then activate Light Control in preparation for his next actions.
The exchange between Superstition and Warlock rang in Clone's ears . . .
“Perhaps zey can be reasoned weeth,” whispered Superstition.
“Silence,” the Warlock spat. “Vanguard! Your souls will suffer an eternity of agony for this! I swear it.”
Clone and his duplicates began to run back down the corridor from which Vanguard had just come down and shouted out, "Lets go Warlock! this fights between you and me! Lets end it!"
Clone wants to get the Warlock away from the main body of the Coven in hopes that Vanguard and the Coven can maybe work things out and form some kind of truce - doubtful, but its worth a shot in his mind. He would think that Warlock is only pushing the issue of a fight because of the 'bad blood' between him and Clone.
Clone and his duplicates will head down the corridor like I mentioned and try to make their way towards storage locker #3125 - if movement allows, making it obvious to Warlock which way they're traveling.
If Warlock Takes the Bait -
The Clone's will use an action to Evade; and If they get more than one action for this turn, they will save it in order to mount a solid counter-attack to whatever Warlock attempts.
If Warlock Doesn’t Take the Bait -
The Clone's will continue their push towards the Coven, and then Evade / Save as mentioned above.
Sorry again for the lateness, Jeff - even though it shouldn't be, work is just nuts at the moment!
Talk to you soon,
OOC: Hi all,
Here is my action.
Lightning Strike looked at the coven with disdain. He knew they were simply another obstacle that needed to be overcome and that they clearly were pawns in this cosmic chess game.
He spoke to them, “You clearly know why we are here and what we want. Hand over what we want and we will let you keep the rest of your petty hoard. We do not have the time to waste beating you senseless once again. You are smart enough to know that you can’t defeat us and will end up losing more than what we are looking for now. Walk away with what little dignity you have left.”
Should they show the slightest indication that they won’t listen to us and be reasonable, Lightning Strike will let loose a blast at the closest coven member. An extended battle is not in our interests so we want to clear a path and then get the object and get out.
Since we have a large contingent of people trying to get the coven to be reasonable and since I move late, if the coven hands over the item of power or will agree to do so, before it's my turn, then I'll hold my move.
If the coven wants to brawl, then I'll rip the floor, hopefully uncovering the cache below.
1) if no vanguardians are in melee with the Coven, or I can block the hallway from a good portion of them without stranding any of us, I'll do so.
2) If I cannot do so without stranding some vanguardians, then I'll keep the slab of concrete and use it as a mallet (assuming I can), potentially taking down one of the heavy hitters (Demonoid?).