CHAPTER ONE: THE KREMLIN
“You three, bring Comrade Collective to a high security cell! If he multiplies, or tries anything, kill him!” Three soldiers took Clone to be locked up in the Soviet extranormal gulag that lay beneath Red Square.
Sitting quietly in his high security cell deep below the parade grounds of Red Square, Clone tried desperately to make sense of his situation. "Artifacts of Power? Doctor X? The Kremlin? What is going on?" he thought to himself. His bewildered thoughts continued, “I feel like I know what’s going on, but I just can’t seem to put all the pieces together. It’s as if I’m seeing shadows of a movie I barely remember seeing. I feel like I should know these things, yet I can’t seem to make sense of it all.”
Clone’s thoughts of escape where quickly replaced by his angst over his recent loss of memory, “Perhaps Sentinel, Slingshot, or Symbiote could come up with some way of fixing my memory. They’re so smart, I’m sure between the three of them they could think of something.”
Then he heard footsteps.
Doctor X was at the edge of his cell, on the other side of the force field barrier. He voice was strained.
“Alexi, my son. You must return to New York. If Mystic is not there, convince Vanguard that he has betrayed us all. Tell them we need to work together now. Time is running out.
“Will you do it?”
CHAPTER TWO: NEW YORK CITY
Vanguard Vault was destroyed, incinerated by controlled demolitions, but the Empire State Building remained standing. With the top four floors completely demolished, its new zenith burned like a funeral pyre, creating a sickening, black shroud across Manhattan.
Vanguard regrouped on a nearby rooftop.
Lightning Strike said, “SKULL set the demolitions.”
Strike had lost everything long before this. He would not sit still and wonder about all he had lost.
“Time is short and we will all be losing all we know in a matter of days. War is Hell! Vanguard needs to understand that we are in a war!”
Vanguard knew that SKULL was a worldwide subversive terrorist organization dedicated to global domination. It is the most extensive, powerful, and dangerous such organization in history. They are steeped in mysticism and have access to rare technology and considerable wealth. Their legions are fanatically loyal. No SKULL agent has ever been captured alive. Vanguard first encountered SKULL when Vanguard first formed [ Issue 2! ].
They last encountered them yesterday, in 1943.
Dr. Monster gently woke Clone up.
Clone awoke; startled and confused, he had no idea where he was or who was standing over him. His fears immediately subsided when his old friends came into view, but he was still very confused and disoriented. Clone slowly made his way to feet and gasped in horror and shock at the landscape laid out before him. He couldn’t help but think to himself, “What am I doing here? What is going on? What happened here?”
Vanguard prepared to torture their prisoner again in search of answers, further heightening the weird sense of déjà vu the burning skyscraper gave them about Vanguard Omega. Vanguard saw Shelley’s broken form and remembered that she quit Vanguard when she learned that Vanguard Omega was their future selves.
Dr. Monster said, “… Stop. Please…”
Dr. Monster picked up a girder that had fallen to this rooftop from the Empire State Building and bent it around Todd’s hands to cuff him behind his back and weigh him down. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Away from Todd, Dr. Monster softly said to Vanguard, “My friends… I am… sorry… for your loss…”
Sentinel said, “And we are sorry too for your loss Adam. Thank you for bringing clarity to a moment that was getting away from us.”
He walked towards Strike getting into his personal space and said sarcastically, “And thank you for reminding us of where things stand. Certainly none of us here have felt personal loss… none of us realize that we are at war and the stakes here.” And he turned from him and walked away continuing this time sincerely, “and thank you for reminding me who I am, the man Shelley felt worthy of her love and her life. I’d seen the possibility of a dark path from here, but Strike, the man you are reminds me of the man I want to be.” And speaking to all of Vanguard he said, “When we experience a loss of this magnitude it can easily consume us. It can become all that we are. I reject that path. I’m not going to let that happen. This tragedy will not define who I am nor the man I become.”
Avatar was having a difficult time processing everything that had happened. He casually took some cover to consider options and to rest a little.
Clone stood silently in the background listening to his friends and trying desperately to make sense of what was going.
SHAKOW! Lightning Strike dematerialized and headed to his nearest safe house to research everything he could find out about SKULL so Vanguard could react asap.
Sentinel walked towards Excalibur and touching it he said to Adam, “Unless you feel otherwise, I think this belongs to you and you should guard it. The fact that you were ready to give it up for the greater good speaks measures to your worthiness in my mind. Vanguard?” And he waited for his teammates to respond.
Dr. Monster said, “…How… did you know… the location… of Excalibur?”
Vanguard told him of the Janus Chair, which had just been completely lost in the destruction of Vanguard Vault.
Dr. Monster said “…Could the Chair… be… remade?”
Menagerie magically transformed into the form of Man. Turning toward Dr. Monster, he said, "I am not sure if we can build another chair or not. I will assist as best as I can."
Sentinel said, “To your point Adam, perhaps we need to take a step back and think differently about our situation. We were concerned with securing all of the artifacts because any could be used to summon Cthulhu. At this point, given Mystic’s disappearance, I think the question should be what happens if all the objects are used together. And perhaps it’s time to check in with our Russian ‘comrades’ since they are the only other known players to have an artifact in their possession and they were in pursuit of others. We’ve lost our gateway to the other artifacts even if we can locate them. Maybe since we have Excalibur, Mystic or whoever was using or working with him comes to us.”
Vanguard now possessed only Excalibur, from Broceliande.
Menagerie and Sentinel knew the exact locations of the remaining artifacts (but not what the artifacts are):
-The Nevada desert
-Moscow (This is assumed to be the Spear of Destiny, in possession of the Soviet Super Soldiers)
Vanguard didn't know where the following artifacts are:
-The Splinter of the True Cross, from Black Bat's penthouse vault.
-The Sacrificial Dagger of the Maya, from the Crimson Coven's U-Stor locker.
-The Stone Idol of Cthulhu, from the Ruins of Remorse in the Lost Lands.
-The Ring of Eon, from the Liberty League in the mid-Atlantic circa 1943.
American fighter jets hurtled by in formation to get a visual on the Empire State Building.
Sentinel said, “At this point virtually the only people I trust are on this roof. Be ready for anything.” Kirk extended his energy senses the scope of the area to try to ‘read’ all incoming signatures and check for extranormals.
He hit his communicator and said, “This is Sentinel of Vanguard. We are in need of assistance. As we returned from our mission our base exploded due to an act of terrorism by the enemy organization known as SKULL. We have taken heavy casualties. Please report your sitrep and ability to assist.”
Kirk clicked off the audio transmit of the communicator briefly at that point turned to Vanguard and said as if knowing things were about to get worse instead of better, “And here it comes…”
And he waited for their reply hoping for the best and expecting the worst.
Symbiote stepped away from torturing the hapless cultist. For now.
He looked towards the jets flying overhead. Like Sentinel, he's not sure if they're friend or foe. But he's ready--almost hoping--for foe at this point.
Clone stepped forward slowly and said to Sentinel in a somewhat sheepish tone, “Comrade Sentinel . . . perhaps it is that I am knowing that I am not knowing of many things. Is it maybe that what we are now needing to know what it is that I am not knowing? Of this, I am not sure.”
Clone sounded just like his old self again! Alexi had returned!
“Roger that, Vanguard,” a fighter pilot responded through the Vanguard communicators, his voice cracking with raw emotion at the sight of the Vanguard Vault destroyed. “We stand ready to provide assistance. We’ve contacted CHESS. A medical team is in transit. Help is on the way!”
Symbiote said, “After our deceased are transferred from here… we can go to my lab at the university to begin
work on rebuilding the Janus Chair.”
Slingshot nodded, “We could use the chair to divine the location of the ceremony.”
Then Scott turned and unceremoniously stripped Todd and searched him. He found a dead cell phone on him and handed it to Symbiote. “Not sure how stable communications are at the moment, but maybe we could use it to find where my father is. I'll assume that he's at the main event.”
Scott looked at his brother, shook his head and started laughing, not quite hysterically, but definitely at his brother's expense. Todd recognized the laugh, having heard it many times during their childhood.
"You silly little man. Don't you understand? Don't you know? This is the third such "great convergence" that Vanguard has faced in so many years. One was the animal kingdom was taking over. The other was the technology was taking over, now it's a magical threat to take over the world… again." Scott almost yawns, bored. "We beat them all, we will beat your little pansy plot too. Cthulhu will keep sleeping.
"I know what will get you going... I'm your big brother, after all. I know all your choice tickle spots. You will break." And so Scott proceeded in tickling him senseless.
Todd resisted it for a while and then started laughing uncontrollably, to the point of being unable to breathe.
Suddenly Todd vomited. He was convulsing, and his eyes rolled back in his head. “Cthulhu fhtagn!” he rasped.
“…Serve SKULL… …Sanctify SKULL…!” Before anyone could act, Todd’s body slackened. His mouth was agape. Scott saw a false tooth in the back of his jaw that was open and empty.
Scott remembered the briefings: “No SKULL agent has ever been captured alive.”
CHAPTER THREE: THE DIGITAL ZONE
Slate used his powers to delete the code, so that IT could no longer force them to create the gateway. At the same time, he copied the two halves of code to create a portal partially from Nemesis, and partially from Nanite, and adopted the code into his own digital form! [A one shot invention that succeeds with the help of Slingshot’s Luck Point!]
As he did this, IT attacked Slate again with the vast avalanche of data! [18 points of Power Point damage]
Slate weathered the attack, his identity still holding.
Slate said, "IT, why would you want to enter the physical world, true you were created there, but here you have perfection?" Slate sent images of the world as he left it, ravaged by storms, people huddling in their homes, in darkness. He sent feelings of fear, anxiety, and distress, "That is not the world to be in, it is why we have come to you."
IT screamed: “I/We wish to be free of me/Nemesis! I/We must send me/him home!”
Slate struggled with the onslaught from IT, but he felt no malice in it... where others would see an attack, Slate saw frustration and even fear, but it was overwhelming. Slate reached out to Nemesis and Nanite. He had to get them out of here, he had to do more. Slate began to pull on the resources of the Digital dimension, pulling together code to create what he wished, a portal to another world. He felt something inside him tear, an innocence lost.
Slate created a disk beneath them, surrounded by a bubble of protective code, and activated the code he had copied from his mother and Nemesis, tearing a hole in the fabric between the digital dimension, and home.
Small at first, growing in size... a digital Aperture.
CHAPTER FOUR: NEW YORK CITY
Slate, Nanite, and Nemesis stepped through the portal, into the burning rubble of the Vanguard Vault. The portal behind them snapping shut with a "BOOM", as air rushed in to fill the digital vacancy.
From their nearby rooftop, Vanguard saw them!
Taking in the devastation around them, Slate looked around them in a shock his masked face did not reflect, as the fire danced in his metallic eyes he was changed.
Slate's physical body and mind forced to adulthood by the onslaught in the digital zone. He looked larger, and moved with a confidence he had lacked before. This was not the boy who had run, but a man ready to take his place in the world.
Gone from his chest was the blank slate, in its place, a symbol of his true connection to both this world and the digital one.
To be continued!
It’s just after 1pm in New York City. Less than two days and 11 hours until the End of the World.
CHESS will arrive soon and help you. Then what? Consensus on a plan of action, please, encompassing the next 3 to 12 hours!
This concludes Part 2 of the Doomquest of Great Cthulhu saga!
1) If you wish to leave the game for whatever reason, now is a pretty good time in terms of our story. But I sincerely hope that none of you will leave. Those that stay, please continue:
2) Experience Point Time!
Experience is awarded for:
-Battling and thwarting 2,000 Dino-Men at the Ruins of Remorse in the Lost Lands! 750 points
-Securing the Stone Idol of Cthulhu from the Ruins of Remorse! 250 points
-Battling and thwarting the Ubermensch and the Japanese Imperial Guard in 1943! 750 points
-Securing the Ring of Eon from the Liberty League! 250 points
-Battling and thwarting the Crimson Coven schism splinter group in Broceliande! 750 points
-Securing Excalibur from Broceliande! 250 points
-Slate’s adventures in the Digital Zone! 1000 points
The new totals: Current XP XP Gained New XP Total Your Level
Avatar: 27,500 3,000 30,500 7, no change in level
Clone: 20,500 3,000 23,500 6, no change in level
Lightning Strike: 30,500 3,000 33,500 7, no change in level
Menagerie: 16,500 3,000 19,500 5, no change in level
Sentinel: 30,500 3,000 33,500 7, no change in level
Slate: 6,000 3,000 9,000 4, a new level!
Slingshot: 31,000 3,000 34,000 7, no change in level
Symbiote: 27,000 3,000 30,000 7, no change in level
Only Slate gets a level advancement, already factored into Aperture.
Also, please note: Slingshot still has one previous Level Advancement saved (see Issue 165).
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, within reason. Up to you. See advancement rules attached below.
Aperture: Hit Points: 13, Power Points: 21
Avatar: Hit Points: 21, Power Points: 18, Manifestation: none
Clone: Hit Points: 6/6, Bodies: 1/1, Power Points: 58/65, Hit Point Pool: 23 (Stats: NYC/Russia)
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 33, Power Points: 37
Menagerie: Hit Points: 24, Power Points: 48, Form: Man
Sentinel: Hit Points: 7, Power Points: 29, Creation Points: 58, Shields: 58%
Slingshot: Hit Points: 41, Power Points: 89, Invulnerability: 8, Fire damage that can’t be regenerated: 38
Symbiote: Hit Points: 18, Power Points: 67, Charges: 13, Activated: Accelerator
OOC: Finally found time to read.
Awesome Issue! I love it Jeff.
Menagerie wants to go to Symbiote's lab to help rebuild the Janus Chair.
Aperture saw Vanguard, and looked to Nemesis and Nanite. “They need help. Mother, I’m sure your healing ray would be beneficial. Nemesis, any aid you can provide would be beneficial.” Putting his own needs on a back burner, Ethan will try to help in any way he can.
In his mind Slate replayed the conversation he’d overheard before he’d last left the vault. Was this the contingency, or was there something else?
Not a lot for Avatar to do. I'll offer up the use of Cosmic Awareness if there are any yes/no questions that would help us out. Otherwise Avatar will rest and try to regain some Power Points.
Kirk notices what is going on with Clone and tries to explain what happened to him and the team once they get a moment to do so. Perhaps after they are picked up.
If at all possible Kirk will try to locate Lancaster. It seems appropriate that he would turn to him after his loss and also to inform him of the loss of his friends.
If you need me on anything more specific let me know otherwise I think most of what will happen next is going to be determined in the next issue anyway.
If he can apply some first aid he will do so and he must find an hour to rest (ie regenerate power points) before the next mission.
Strike will take it to SKULL and disrupt all of electronic transactions of theirs in the hope to trace them. We need to take the fight to them and he will go it alone if necessary.
Slingshot will embrace Nanite. Looking at Aperture, and especially Nemesis, he turns to Nanite,"Your brother, here? Do we have a more problems than we already have?"
[I expect explanations, including what happened to Slate]
He'll embrace Aperture in his new state.
I would like to come up have a brainstorming session with the new arrivals.
We have very few avenues to pursue:
1) I see the Janus Chair as one
2) Since our world was being overly computerized and that allowed IT to "attack" from a parallel universe, I see this as pretty much the same, but from a magical universe. I would like to see if we could use technology, as a way to attack and repel this magical incursion. Maybe something like an anti-magic ray of sort. Would this be feasible avenue to pursue? (I'm not sure what this would cost)
Menagerie was in shock. Archimedes was dead, the sacred woods were being burned all over the world, and the Vault was destroyed. He looked to his other teammates, the members of Vanguard, in bewilderment.
"How has this happened? What is this SKULL and are they capable of interacting with magical forces? I saw now sign of that we we battled them in the past. No I don't mean when Vanguard was founded but when we time traveled into the past."
"I am troubled by that whole experience, but now I am beginning to be trouble by this whole quest. We have faced all our old foes as they were protecting an artifact. The only exception is the Crimson Coven which we have faced directly and indirectly."
"I have seen them burning sacred woods in New York and in Germany, both times I had to let them go for the greater good."
Menagerie's voice took on a darker, angrier tone.
"Now one who ran with them originally but left them is missing. Sentinel did not report finding Mystic's body. I ask again; from your experience would SKULL have the ability to setup bombs that went off based on a magic portal?"
"I know Mystic could."
"What about how to use the artifacts? Would SKULL know how. Mystic would!"
"I don't know SKULL and their part in this but Mystic has to be involved! He has access to the relics we secured and blowing up the Vault will hide his escape!"
"SKULL had nothing to gain by exploding the Vault. The leader had to know that at least a few, if not all, of Vanguard would survive"!
Menagerie looked a Lightning Strike with the same stone cold deadly stare as Strike was wearing.
"SKULL had to know that the bomb wouldn't kill you and that you would kill all of them for what they did to Vanguard!"
"SKULL is not who benefits from this. SKULL is the bait, a diversion."
"Mystic benefits. He takes out his superior in the magical realm by eliminating Archimedes. He eliminates the one person in Oracle who can see his plans. Only he could defeat Oracle, no way SKULL could plan a bomb without her seeing but Mystic could mask from her with magic for a short time. He causes Warlock to lose face with Crimson Coven members by having Vanguard remove the relic. Mystic gains close to half the relics."
"That has to be what this is about. Destroying the Vault gains nothing expect pain and distraction with us. The relics were even kept there. Mystic had them."
"We have to build a new Janus chair. We have to know where any remaining relics are. We have one but we need to get to the others so we can find Mystic and stop him."
OOC: I really struggled where to go next. This is where I landed. I hope I was able to write something showing that Menagerie believes Mystic not being with the others that died in the Vault was significant and not for the best. I did my best to keep what I knew as a player about Russia out of this. If I didn't handle well enough, let me know and I will work it out with you.
I can't see how Menagerie would believe that SKULL could capture Mystic and torture him into providing the relics. While Sentinel would believe that Mystic wasn't really Mystic but Dr. Swastika, Menagerie would not. He believes that mind swap/possession would show whenever Mystic tried to use his magical abilities. Dr. Swastika and SKULL are dabblers in sorcery, not masters like Archimedes and Mystic (again Menagerie's opinion).
Let me know if you need anything else.