Monday, July 25, 2016
Vanguard: Issue 215: Horror From the Past!
Avatar, barely conscious, looks at his grievously wounded team mates and his pupiless eyes land on Slingshot. He says with the godly intellect of Athena: “Our only hope is that the puppet masters be stopped. Brainwaves are electrical impulses. We must jam the transmission. If Lightning Strike or Symbiote were here, perhaps they could do it. Since, they are not, I have no recourse but to try!”
With the powers of Zeus, Avatar electrifies the air with everchanging modulations in an attempt to locate the frequency the puppetmasters are using, and jam their bioelectric transmissions! Lightning arcs from his flesh as he cries out from the mental and physical effort! SHA-KA-KOW!
All the Vanguard communicators short out!
Soldier’s bionic systems and arrows in Forester’s quiver begin to spark and flare!
All electrical equipment in the room that is powered, shorts out!
All the Vanguard reservists suddenly go limp in midair, like puppets who have just had their strings cut!
But Avatar must continue to concentrate, must continue to jam the bioelectric transmission (i.e.: spend every action doing this), or else the puppetmasters will regain control!
Suddenly, everyone crashes to the floor as gravity is restored! Lightning Strike and Symbiote are powering the Omni-Carrier engines with their own electrical blasts (and must continue to do so) while Nemesis and Nanite, interfacing with the ship’s mainframe computers, have ordered the engines to re-activate!
Power comes back on across the ship, except for the Meeting Room (M-1) where Avatar’s EMP shorted it all out!
It’s 4:17am EST.
Avatar concentrates with all his might to continue to jam the puppetmasters’ transmission! (costs his action and 4 PP to do this for 15 more seconds, during which, this transpires…)
Another minute and a half of this exertion and Avatar will be dead! (see Current Conditions!)
Sentinel ponders the possibility of some magical or technological virus that could follow the ‘mind control transmission’ back to its source, and infect it. He and Menagerie know it would require time to develop, study, and invent. They’re not yet sure how long such a thing could take to create, or even if it would be possible. And could it be done while Avatar was jamming the transmission?
As they consider that, the golden age hero tries to awaken the limp, unconscious members of the Vanguard Reserves to question them.
Slingshot instinctively turns to his son Aperture to ask him for advice and aid, and suddenly realizes he’s gone, and so are the Artifacts of Power! (see last issue)
He tries to raise him on his communicator and discovers it was fried by Avatar’s electromagnetic pulse!
The malleable man of might absorbs some console plastic that was also slagged by the EMP of Zeus’ power (gains 2 hit points), as he considers his next move!
Clone absorbs his unconscious duplicates, and searches the Vanguard reservists for devices that could be controlling their minds. He starts at the back of the neck and finds something right away! A small steel implant, at the base of the neck, on every reservist!
Sentinel succeeds in rousing Viper, who suddenly reels, surprised to find himself where he is. The big, brawling roughneck automatically grabs the back of his head and looks with pain and terror into the eyes of his former allies as he croaks, “… Body… farm!…”
Sentinel and Slingshot remember, even though they wish they didn’t.
Flashback! From Vanguard: Issue 19!
In their first mission together, Forester, Lightning Strike, Sentinel, Slingshot and Viper had been defeated by the Ubermensch, aboard the colossal cyborg Star Giant!
Darkness. And then the grey twilight sense of slow awakening and dawning realization.
Our heroes awoke in tube-like booths of clear glass. The tubes were human sized and each held one hero. The room was vast and filled with more of the anachronistic, fantastic technology. Arrayed in a circle, the heroes could see each other, and that there were dozens of other booths as well! One held what appeared to be the superhero Aquon, who was motionless and silent, almost sleeping.
Another booth held the supervillain Ratman, one of the fearsome Destroyers, now motionless as if in hibernation.
Another booth held someone that Sentinel recognized: Miles Hudson, also dormant.
There were other booths as well. One held a US senator!
But Sgt. Stone and Agent Grey were not immediately apparent.
Only our heroes seemed to be awake, but even they could not move. Each was paralyzed from the neck down! An insidious, green energy beam emanated from the back of the stasis booth and touched their spines at the neck. (They could see this beam in every other booth but their own of course.)
The heroes also felt weak. But they could speak if they desired.
In the center of this large circle of stasis booths was equipment that connected the booths all together in a central nexus hub of futuristic technology and equipment. Atop that nexus was a final stasis tube, smaller than the others and in that, a human head floated in clear liquid. It was the head of Dr. Swastika! The head was alive!
Swastika was not alone. A swarm of SKULL technicians, scientists and soldiers with Baroness Von Zero, Panzer, Aryan and U-Man (the last two visibly injured and angry) were present in the great chamber.
The Nazi super-scientist looked at the heroes and said: ‘”Ah. You are all awake. Good.” Wires sprouted from the head’s bald pate, and its voice was transmitted through a speaker in the nexus hub.
“Soon you will be prepared for your final purpose… to service me forever with your likenesses and your formidable powers!”
The heroes were trapped in the body farm of Dr. Swastika!
Viper groaned, “…Dr. Swastika is alive!... He’s using his Body Farm technology to have SKULL agents controlling us…. I’ve been controlled for years!
“And that isn’t all… Swastika’s placed his own mind inside the body of the Mystic!
“Help us, Vanguard…. Help…”
Avatar: Hit Points: 8, Power Points: 15, Manifestation: Hermes, Athena, Zeus
Clone: Bodies: 4/1, Hit Points: 1/6, Power Points: 64/67, Hit Point Pool: 13 (7/6) (Stats: NYC/Russia)
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 23, Power Points: 63: Electrical form
Menagerie: Hit Points: 16, Power Points: 62, Form: Man
Sentinel: Hit Points: 7, Power Points: 50, Creation Points: 100, Shields: 72%
Slingshot: Hit Points: 3, Power Points: 65, Invulnerability: 8, Damage that can’t be regenerated: 64!
Countdown: 43.5 hours until the End of the World.
OOC: Holy crap..
Can't leave any loose ends.. they all seem to come back and bite you in the ass!
I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't I got to talk about it. Hopefully this is enough warning.
Does anyone remember how to destroy those devices? I think cutting them out will be too slow and will hurt the hosts but I could be wrong.
I keep raking my brain but I can't think of anything Menagerie's powers can help with.
Here is the best I can come up with. If anyone can think of something different or better let me know.
Jeff, what is Menagerie's Luck Point total? How long to invent a new spell or a variant of a previous one shot?
I am thinking of the opposite of my Teleportation barrier spell. That spell blocked unnatural movement. This spell would do the opposite it would expel unnatural items from the body. Hopefully none of these Skull captured heroes have pacemakers too.
I would pay triple the costs of the spell in PP to accelerate the casting process.I open to anything, appearance of Archimedes' ghost, lost of powers in the attempt, gaining of weaknesses, sacrificing Menagerie to save Avatar, Vanguard, and the World! (Of course, I would want to roll up a new character).
I am thinking of this as a one shot Hail Mary spell attempt. Let me know what kind of wiggle room to make this a one turn attempt.
Whatever GM Madness you can think of .
Loving this issue and storyline. It is fantastic!
OOC: Hi Tom,
Unfortunately, Menagerie is down to 0.5 Luck Points, having spent his last full point in Issue 206.
He can't invent a spell to get him out of this one.
What else you got, my friend? :) :D
OOC: Whatever we do, people, we better do it fast! Avatar is about done through accumulation of injuries and exhaustion from PR expenditure for various things. Need some time to rest.
OOC: I think I have this but wanted to post in character with Kirk's reaction to this revelation and this situation. This is yet another blow to hit him hard. Frankly I don't see Kirk surviving this mission at this point even if we somehow pull this off and if so he will be forever changed and not for the better.
Bottom line is Kirk is doing surgery here and now. We know the devices were removed by Chess last time around, he hopes that Swastika hasn't changed them so that removal kills the victims or that his method of forceful removal will do that.
He will use his heightened energy senses to focus on the line between where the aura of the hero and the aura of the device meet as his guide. He will endeavor as best he can to use his energy construct to follow that line and in essence, cut around the device. Once encircled by his energy he will either crush that device or remove it. His energy can cut through the skin following directed by his energy sense and then it should be strong enough to crush it if necessary or remove it. Whatever works. I pictured him closing his eyes and his body in almost meditative stance as he concentrates to get this done. Sight isn't going to matter here... concentration and focusing his unique senses and his will guiding his energies will.
Sadly I doubt it will be as precise a job as he'd like because he has less than a minute and a half to get this done on all of the heroes because they cannot become active again under Skulls influence. Vanguard won't survive in their current state and the world dies after they do if this isn't done.
It is the best chance we have of saving the Vanguard Reserves that I see. If anyone else has any means to remove the devices please do so. Only other option I thought was if Aperture were around he could teleport them to the other side of the planet for the time being to buy time, but they'd just be back and he isn't here. At least this gives them and Vanguard a chance to survive.
And it has to be done before Avatar makes the ultimate sacrifice here which even that wouldn't matter if they revert back to their controlled selves.
If anyone else has other alternates that we can work in the next minute I'm all for it, but Kirk is starting to move immediately on this.
I hope to write it up in character.
And to emphasize this is comments of Seth the player here and not Kirk in any way especially from here on:
Seth totally out of character comments on this mess:
Jeff - if Kirk doesn't have a shot at this I see no other option myself here that will even remotely allow Vanguard to continue operating as heroes (ie we simply cannot allow the reserves to be taken over again - if it happens Vanguard will be beaten by them here and now and the world dies - the only option would have to be for the reserves to be killed in their current state or beaten to the point of death so that they were incapacitated - not even remotely the act of a hero - it would be a horrific act of evil no one could ever recover from even if they could bring themselves to do it out of necessity).
1) I'm thinking along the same lines as Sentinel.
I'm an engineer with robotics and computers background. There are two ways of getting around this, rip the whole thing out or just disable the comms part of it. Right now we are blocking the antenna/comm links through Avatar.
If Sentinel can "see" more details and he's sharing his thoughts about his actions, if he focused on disabling the antenna parts, without ripping out the whole thing and potentially hurting the heroes.
I'll do my best to assist as well - If there's anything I can think of to disable the comms (is there an antenna?) or help rip them out in as human way as possible?
2) I'm still struggling to understand how are these things working with the world wide storms taking any communications being down. Does it mean that they are close by (the controllers?) or does it mean that they have a special configuration to avoid the comms problem?
Can I roll some form of skill to see what I can come up with. Depending on the results, I'm willing to use up my last luck point on this.
Menagerie will stay in Honey badger form. He will assist in ripping out antennas or entire devices as he can. He is all about saving Avatar. He will get them out in a quick and dirty manner if he has to.
"I helping get these things out. Hang on Avatar!" Menagerie thought sent to Vanguard. "Let me know who I should remove the device from first."
Didn't get to pen the 'in character' response by the deadline... which is too bad. But Kirk is more than willing to cooperate with Slingshot or anyone else that can make this process work better and/or less evasive/dangerous. That was why I thought perhaps encircling and crushing the devices within via his energies might be an option as opposed to blunt ripping them out... and I figured at least Kirk using his energies could remove in the least traumatic way. But I am open to whatever will work here.
OOC: Blame Jeff kiddies (for the extension that allowed this)...
A long overdue 'in character' Kirk posting with the inner angst, revelation, and long-windedness you have grown to love (or is it hate... I know for sure which one with Tony!).
Word document version also attached which might be easier to read. I recommend using it as it makes the thought separation clearer.
The big, brawling roughneck automatically grabs the back of his head and looks with pain and terror into the eyes of his former allies as he croaks, “… Body… farm!…”
Before the rush of memories with those two words... he knew! He knew, and it was far worse than anything he had imagined. He had tried to prepare for Swastika’s return, looked for his presence… to the point of no longer discussing it because he feared his teammates would think him obsessed (and he knew some did anyway) but even he had never thought it was this far. That Swastika was still using a Body Farm and even worse that it involved their own.
It happened again. And this time ON HIS WATCH. TO HIS TEAM.
While others might have gloated in the revelation, had some sense of satisfaction or feelings of vindication in being right when no one else believed, there was nothing.
Instead, if he had even the slightest hope of undoing all of this, of righting the course of events and saving the life they all knew, it dissipated with those words.
He couldn’t understand how Oracle would not have seen this. Until now her being dead didn’t matter… he felt she could have pulled them back before she died giving them the opportunity to do things differently this time, as she had last time. Or they would have found some other way. They always did. He thought they always would.
But somehow, now, that had changed. His sense or heroic lore and the pathways of the heroes that he knew from his childhood onward, second to none, now told him it was done. He had seen the patterns as this crisis began… how everything from their first mission onward seemed to be entwined in the current happenings as if heading to a final resolution or universal change, all the players returning for one final appearance before the final act. As if some universal force, some master of the game called life was pushing them in one direction that none of them had the power to alter.
And he knew something else, whatever was to come, he couldn’t be part of a world that removed free will and as long as he existed, he would fight that with all of his being. The entity they knew as Swastika, whatever he truly was, with his agenda could not, would not, stand. Not as long as Kirk had any life, any conscious existence left. The Sentinel simply would not allow it.
“Jake my friend, I am so sorry. We didn’t know! So sorry we failed you and let this happen. There is so much to say, but we have no time. In less than a minute and a half my friend Avatar will die and you and the Vanguard Reserves will fall back under the sway of Swastika and SKULL. If Vanguard falls, the world dies in less than two days. I’m going to remove the control device. I swear to you; I won’t let him control you again.”
And he added, “and I promise you that the threat of that blight against all existence will see its demise too.”
He knew that Viper wouldn’t want to continue as a puppet, a helpless observer as his body served another. He hoped Viper would grant him a signal that he agreed to what he was about to do. Sadly, he knew that whatever Viper’s feelings, the device and the control of SKULL had to come to its end. And that had to happen for all the Reserves, and before Vanguard lost Avatar.
And he said to Vanguard, “No matter what, those devices have to be out of the Reserves before we lose Avatar… NO MATTER WHAT.”
As Kirk was speaking he assumed the lotus position, hovering and concentrating on the form of Viper. He closed his eyes as if his sight was a distraction and began to map the area surrounding him, perceiving it from the view of his sixth sense, his energy sense. At an exacting level he was mapping where Viper the man ended and where that damnable device began. At a microscopic level he saw where they were interacting and when he believed (hoped) he had it, on that same level he used his energy to begin encircling the device, performing surgery, cutting a path around it, separating it from his friend. Once he had the device, felt exactly where it was and weaved his energy around it, he began to exert his power against it. He hoped to crush that horror out of existence or if necessary extract it. However, he could do it, it would no longer be controlling his friend.
Kirk will move on to the other RESERVES to assist them as needed if his teammates need him to do so.
Hearing Sentinel’s heartfelt apology to Viper, Clone looks down remorsefully at his old friend Talon and bows his head. Making the sign of the cross upon himself, he begins to softly recite The Lords Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . . *Yank*! With one quick motion, Clone had pulled as hard as he could on Talon’s SKULL implant device.
[OOC: From the replies, I only recall Sentinel and Menagerie attempting to remove a SKULL implant – if need be, any of the other three Clones will remove any others that need to be removed. The duplicate(s) will act in unison with Clone (e.g. kneeling, praying, etc.)]
Looking at the fires in the distance, Aperture takes stock of the objects of power, fingering the orb in his pouch, the dagger at his waist. Copying Soldier's nanotech, he changes his power to regeneration, and rests, getting his strength back.
If he can do this with his saved action, all the better. Once he is up to full strength, he'll switch his power to flight, and shoots into the sky like a comet, using his enhanced comprehension to calculate the location of the hover carrier, based on it's previous location, speed, and direction.
He'll head that way scanning as he goes, prepared to rejoin his team mates, or to destroy their enemies.