Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Issue 19: The Tragedy and the Triumph!

Time: Unknown.
The Prison Sector, Onboard SKULL’s Star Giant, the Atlantic Ocean, 18,300 feet below sea level.

Time until Tsunami Machine Activation: Unknown!

The Ubermensch were organized, experienced, efficient and ruthless. They continued their attack as our heroes bravely held their ground!

Viper moved first again! The human serpent insulted and taunted Panzer, trying to bait the mechanical juggernaut into following him toward the cellblock. When it was clear that Panzer would not follow, the emerald avenger suddenly leapt back upon the human tank, fists flailing. Viper connected with a hard right cross into Panzer’s helm. K-TANG! Rubbing his sore knuckles, Viper saw that he dented armor’s surface but did not get through it. “Ha ha ha!” laughed the Panzer through his PA system speaker. “Zis armor iz impenetrable!”

Forester fired two high tech arrows with pinpoint accuracy. One released clouds of black smoke that quickly engulfed Baroness Von Zero and the three remaining SKULL soldiers. The second arrow strung a cable, ankle-high, across their paths.
“Verdammit! Vas is dis?” called one of the soldiers at his sudden loss of vision.

Aryan shook off the effects of Viper’s hypnotic gaze, now that the three-ring rebel had turned his attention elsewhere. The Nazi super soldier was filled with rage at the events of the last 15 seconds. “RAAAAAHH!” he yelled as he leapt over the computer console at the Forester. The perfect man punched the arrow-ic archer across the jaw and followed up with an acrobatic flip kick to his midsection! KRAK! POW! The Forester fell to the floor unconscious!!Aryan stood over him and unholstered his Luger. His lip snarled back to reveal his left canine. Likewise, his eyes were like those of a wild predator. Aryan leveled the pistol at Forester’s head when…

Lightning Strike assumed control of the control room’s defense systems. Unable to transmit his own electrical power through them, the electrical avenger activated a ceiling-mounted laser cannon and opened fire on the unexpecting Aryan! BZATT! B-KOW! Red energy beams strafed the Nazi super soldier, scoring black burn marks across the swastika emblazoned on his chest. Aryan flew backwards and crashed to the floor. His pistol fell out of his hand and he was motionless.
Then the lights went out, courtesy of Lightning Strike! The only illumination in the darkened room was the low lights of the computer consoles and screens, Sentinel’s golden energy creation, and the hell-red glow from Panzer’s eye slits.

Before Sentinel could move, Baroness Von Zero acted. Still calm and collected, the icy heiress generated a cold front. Chilling the air at ground level, she forced warmer air to rise, taking the smoke cloud up to the ceiling. Her view cleared, she spied the glowing Sentinel and smiled. “Ah. There you are.” Her pale hands extended again, this time projecting a white beam of blizzard ice. The ice went through Sentinel’s shield and struck him (OOC: Your armor roll of 34% failed). The beacon of liberty fell and his energy shield and staff were extinguished!

Leaving sight of Sgt. Stone, Slingshot stretched his elastic, ebon frame out the hall, looking to loop around Panzer and slingshot the human tank down toward the cellblock. Perhaps still dazed from the granite fists of Sgt. Stone, Slingshot failed in his attempt! (Missed yer roll.)

The three SKULL agents moved on Viper to grapple with him for fear of accidentally striking Panzer with their energy rifle fire. All three tripped in the dark on the ankle-high cable, cursing, taking damage and losing their actions.

The human tank finally went. BKTT! A massive headlamp mounted to his shoulder suddenly activated, illuminating his path like the front of a freight train. Panzer looked down at Viper and Slingshot. Then he brought his terrible iron fists down upon them both and beat them into unconsciousness!!

Lightning Strike, in cyberspace, witnessed the fall of all his valiant teammates. Suddenly, there was something with him in cyberspace. The same presence as before, the same sense that it was not an electrical apparition but perhaps a mental one. Only now the presence had a face. It was the face of Dr. Swastika!
Filled with perfect hatred, the face screamed and Lightning Strike felt his mind under attack! He was submerged into unconsciousness and there was no more.

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 supervillian 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. But first, technician, what was that power fluctuation we experienced? A failure on your part?”

A SKULL agent, one of a dozen manning the massive techno-engines, cried: “No my Master! The machines are working perfectly as ever! It was not our fault. It must be something else!”

“Silence,” said Dr. Swastika quietly. “You know the punishment for incompetence.”

“No Master! No! I have always been your faithful servant! Immortality is the reward… to… all… th…” The agent stopped talking and grabbed the sides of his head. “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” he screamed as blood flowed out of his mask’s eyeholes and earholes. “Master… please….”
Then the agent’s head imploded in a wet cloud of blood and gore. The headless corpse fell to the steel floor with a dull thump. The remaining technicians and scientists worked faster.

“Where was I?” said Dr. Swastika. “Ah. Yes. Before you are made ready, you will be able to share in my latest triumph.”

A large clock counted down the seconds. It read 58 minutes and counting.

“It would seem I am victorious,” said Dr. Swastika. Then the decapitated head laughed without mirth.

The room burst into a chant of: “Serve SKULL! Sanctify SKULL!”

Replies, everyone! You each seem to be paralyzed from the neck down. Even if you weren’t, you are each in a very weakened condition (see below). However, you’ve been unconscious for hours, allowing all your Power Points to heal, except for Lightning Strike whose Super-weakness prevents him from healing normally. Furthermore, Forester has lost his Heightened Sense abilities, and needs to meditate for 45 minutes to restore them, as per his weakness.
Here’s everyone’s current condition (Youch!):
Viper: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 85
Forester: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 66
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 34
Sentinel: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 60
Slingshot: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 90

Best,-Ye Ever-lovin’ Ed.


When Aryan gained his composure and attacked, Forester felt blind-sighted. While an expert daredevil at distance attacks, he had no sense for boxing or kung-fu fighting. And yet, as his grass-hopping mind fell unconscious, he still had ...

OOC: Jeff, the flashback below makes real the basic origin ideas we went over a few months back. Thanks for indulging me. -James

Always trying to enhance his act, performer Fred Knobel looked forward to his opening show at the annual Renaissance Faire. Today on stage, the "Amazing Archer" planned to unveil two trick arrows he had developed during the off-season. But only moments into the show, two frightened teenagers ran out from the cluster of nearby trees, shouting to the crowd that they had seen a monster. Convinced this was only a ruse, the improvisational archer assured the audience that he would ward off the medieval beast. With a rehearsed air of confidence, Fred sprinted into the surrounding woods .. just long enough to lose his sense of direction.

A loud rustling sound startled the archer. As the noise got louder, Fred realized this wasn't a joke. He pointed his bow in the direction of the rustling sound and fired. The tip of his new flare arrow erupted against the side of a tree, splatting a phosphorescent chemical all around, like agiant-size firefly that had just been smushed. But the burst of bright light didn't help the situation. As the rustling continued, Fred tried firing his new boomerang arrow to scare off anything threatening. The arrow bounced from tree to tree. With almost comic timing, the boomerang effect dislodged a storm of branches, which rained down around Fred. He jumped out of the way, half-looking, and fell face-first into a pile of leaves.The hand of a solitary figure reached down to help him up. That's when Fred Knobel met the Marksman.

Having been beaten to a pulp, the tree-hugging troubleshooter feels groggy as he awakens. Still collecting his thoughts, the resourceful ranger plans his next action:
• Abandoning his original identity, the hawk-eyed hero transforms into a powerful goliath and uses his giant-size, avenging strength to break out of... the delusion that he now his growth powers.
• Down but not defeated, the forest-green archer discreetly summons a speedy young sidekick to rescue him from this titanic ... misconception that this idea had any chance of working even if it were possible.

Eyeing Dr. Swastika, the hideous "head" of SKULL, Forester's emotions rising closer to the surface than usual. The hero finally acknowledged the hatred he felt toward these nihilists and the Nazi heritage they held so dear. Knowing that his mind is now as vulnerable as his physical form, Forester realizes that meditation is important. But first he tries to grasp a general sense ofhis surroundings.
1. Does Forester still have his bow with him? How about his quiver and any remaining arrows?
2. What is the current status of the Destroyers? At far as we know, did they still consist of the original six members (featured in the "Death Duel"module and "The Elementals" comic)?
3. Is Rat-Man in costume? Including his high-tech tail?
4. To the best of Forester's knowledge, did Marksman or any students at Haven demonstrate true superhuman or paranormal abilities, outside of superior skills? Does Forester know of any other students who left Haven?
Jeff, my action may depend on the answers to some of the above questions. Thanks. –James


OOC: See, I told you we were destined to lose that battle :)
I didn't even get to try my actions -- but you can keep the description for the next time I'm desperate ... which may be in my next email.

OK, questions: Are any of the missing original Freedom Force in these tubes? If so, is Pathos around? How about anyone else I recognize as a higher end telepathic type? I want to use my energy sense to learn as much as I can about the layout of their computer systems and energy systems. Do I know where the main CPU unit is located? Can I figure out which unit controls the "firing" mechanism of the tsunami machine? Can I figure out which unit controls the beams keeping us paralyzed? Do I sense where the energy unit that feeds the tsunami machine is located? Stuff like that. Roll good for me, we're in deep trouble here :)

And just so I understand here, other than the fact that even if a goon lands a punch (since we all have two measly hit point) we're all unconscious again, we're at full power (other than Lightning Strike) right?


A few OOC questions.
1- Did the green beam rob me of my power of elasticity?
2- Where is the beam originating from? inside the cell? outside the cell?
3- if we are seemingly sealed in, can I tell if there's any venting system? I've got more questions, but I'm short on time today.


OOC GM Replies:
Replies to Forester:
1. Does Forester still have his bow with him? How about his quiver and any remaining arrows?GM: All his gear is with him. Quiver and remaining arrows on his back. Bow is at his side, leaning against the glass tube.

2. What is the current status of the Destroyers? At far as we know, did they still consist of the original six members?
GM: No. Nor were they affiliated with Dr. Apocalypse (who does not exist in this world), or the events of the "Death Duel" Module. In this world The Destroyers were/are a vicious team of supervillains out for personal gain and power:
Orion: An alien killer with the power cosmic. Exiled on Earth by the S'Korian Empire, he is currently at large.
Demolisher: A gigantic, monstrous powerhouse with cyan skin. Imprisoned.
Ratman: Sneaky human-rodent S.O.B. At large, or so it was thought.
Vampyra: Female vampire who turned the FF hero "Black Cat" into the FF anti-hero/villain "Black Bat." Now dead/destroyed.

3. Is Rat-Man in costume? Including his high-tech tail?
GM: Yes.

4. To the best of Forester's knowledge, did Marksman or any students at Haven demonstrate true superhuman or paranormal abilities, outside of superior skills?
GM: Yes. Marksman could “see” in the dark and he knew if you were lying. It was rumored at Haven that he could catch bullets in his bare hands and hold his breath underwater for hours.

5: Does Forester know of any other students who left Haven?
GM: Yes. The warrior whose totem was the Dragon, and the warrior whose totem was the Panther. (They did not leave Haven together.) Neither are present, unless they are costumed.

Replies to Sentinel:
1) See, I told you we were destined to lose that battle :)
GM: Yes, yes, you're very smart. Seriously, why did you fight what you thought was a losing battle? Why not flee? Your true goal aboard the Star Giant had nothing to do with defeating the Ubermensch, although it might have been a goal of young Sentinel. Hmmm. ;)

2: Are any of the missing original Freedom Force in these tubes?
GM: No.

3: How about anyone else I recognize as a higher end telepathic type?
GM: No, but you can't see all the tubes from your vantage point. In looking around, you do recognize:
a) Shockwave: a known mercenary supervillain who had been hired by SKULL in the past. His armor can create effects akin to his name. Wanted by the US government. Appears unconscious.
b) Skin Deep: a villainous shapeshifter. Wanted by the US government. Appears unconscious.
c) Morgue: A black-hearted killer for hire whose touch means death. Wanted by the US government. Appears unconscious.
d) The Ghost: a young fledgling superhero who could see through, and walk through, walls. He went missing years ago. Appears unconscious.
e) Hip Hop: More a media event than a superhero, this flashy young teleporter could "hop" anywhere on Earth. Went missing from his reality tv show, and was presumed to be in rehab. Appears unconscious.

4: Do I know where the main CPU unit is located? Can I figure out which unit controls the "firing" mechanism of the tsunami machine? Can I figure out which unit controls the beams keeping us paralyzed? Do I sense where the energy unit that feeds the tsunami machine is located?
GM: To his dismay, Sentinel discovers that his energy sense is NOT working! He cannot get the answer to any of those questions via his energy sense, and visually, he's not even sure that the Tsunami Machine is in this room. This chamber's purpose seems to be tied up in this field of bodies in stasis tubes.

5: And just so I understand here, other than the fact that even if a goon lands a punch (since we all have two measly hit points) we're all unconscious again, we're at full power (other than Lightning Strike) right?
GM: Yes and no. You are all at full Power Points save Lightning Strike.Normally, this enables Sentinel to bring his energy shields up at full strength(!), so no goon's punch will drop him right away. Also, for those without energy shields, every character in V&V can "roll with" an incoming attack that they are aware of. It means they can reduce the incoming damage by the ten's digit of their current Power Points. They then take that damage off their Power Points. So, the short answer is that it'll probably take more than one goon's punch to put any of you down.

Replies to Slingshot:
1- Did the green beam rob me of my power of elasticity?
GM: You are currently paralyzed neck down. Then, when you try to stretch your lips or eyes, they do not stretch! This beam is also negating your powers!

2- Where is the beam originating from? inside the cell? outside the cell?
GM: Inside the cell. There is a beam projector on the back wall of the booth, directing the insidious green beam at the base of your spine. Again, you can't see your own projector, but can see it from the other booths near you.

3- if we are seemingly sealed in, can I tell if there's any venting system?
GM: Yes. And in looking for ventilation systems in the other booths, you see that the dormant subjects in neighboring tubes are actually connected to tubes and wires, perhaps life support!


Depleted of his meditative edge, and too immobilized to use his bow and incredibly shrinking supply of arrows, Forester is keenly aware that he is basically a normal human. A normal human who knows how to put on a good show.Though generally confident himself, Fred Knobel has seen his share of performers plagued by stage fright over the years. He draws on those memoriesas he appears to have a panic attack.
"Help!" the archer hollers in apparent agony. With his eyes widening and face turning reddening, he continues. "I can't breathe! Get me out of here! There's not enough air. I'm going to die!" His shouting continues to shout and tries to feign that he is hyperventilating.

Forester's goal is simple: to distract the Over-Men and SKULL operatives so the other heroes might perform their actions discreetly. Since the SKULL database had no entries for Forester or Slingshot, the archer hopes that ignorance will make his cowardly outburst all the more convincing.


Since the only the only movement that Scott was able to do, he looked around him. He noticed the machines and the green rays that held his comrades, and presumably himself. He looked for a ventilation system. Looking up, he say that there was indeed one. This will be easy, he thought. Being elastic, he was used to doing extremely weird things. He attempted to pull an “exorcist” and turn his head 180 degrees. He noticed that he couldn’t. He tried the samewith his tongue or his nose, nothing. A whispered “Damnit” escaped from his mouth. This reduced his capabilities hugely. In fact, he couldn’t think of anything that _he_ could do. Others, such as the German freaks, on the other hand could do something…

A smile came across his face. “Hey U-Boat! Yeah.. you, fish boy. It’s obvious that the only way you can handle any one of us is if we are already tied up. How’s the head? I hope it still pounds nicely. It surely reminds me the last time that I was pounding your mo..” Then proceeded in make extremely off color comments about U-Man parentage. “..that’s when I told her that when you go black, you can’t go back..”.All of which was to entice his enemy in attacking him.“..sharks. You know you remind me of this sheepherder I know. You know what they say about sheep and sheepherder, you can tell me.. How about them sharks?” He winked at him. He continued his berating of U-Man. Slingshot wasn't able to tell how he was affecting he object of his tirade, but he did his best to humiliate him into doing something drastic.

[slingshot's actions: Verbally harass U-Man. If Aryan coming into the mix, I'll go into it with a few YM jokes and explaining how effective elongation is for sexual prowess.The goal: Get one of these hot heads to attack me and break my cage.I'll withhold my actions (I can't have any) until such a time as I can act. If I can, I'll alternatively and in order of preference:- break out of my cell- break other's cells- attack Swastika (attempt a slingshot move on him)


OOC: As I see it, we're quite stuck. Is my Hypnotic Gaze working? If it is, I'd like to try it out on one of the wandering Techs to see if I can get him to deactivate the devices. Viper thinks back to when he'd been in a tighter spot. He was having troubling recalling a tougher fix until he remembered that night. The one with the Fat Lady. He learned his lesson after that one. Never fall asleep NEXT to the Fat Lady. A normal fella woulda been crushed to death. Viper only escaped with a sore rib cage and a story to tell his friends. Ok, maybe this is worse than bein' crushed by the Fat Lady. Panzer's rush put a hurting on him... Viper tried to run his jaw but couldn't get to it.

Viper held back a chuckle at Slingshot's insults. Thinking to himself, 'After we get out of this, I'll need to help him out a bit with his insults.' Viper stayed low key and waited for a Tech to get close enough to him that he could Hypnotic gaze. He'd have to keep the instructions short and effective. Yet what could he have the tech do that wouldn't alert Swastika? Whispering to the others while Slingshot is creating a diversion, "Is this how Swastika takes control of us? Seems his brain there is hooked up to each of us. If I could get one of these techs to shut him off, that might free all of us. Even if I can get him to sever some of his connections to us he might be alerted so we'd have to be ready. Any other ideas?" Viper waits a bit for any input. He'll bide his time for a distraction before he uses Hypnotic Gaze on a Tech. Ideally, he'd like to get the tech to shut off Swastika, but he'd settle for setting a few comrades free.


Additional questions:
(1) From your wording, since you said I can't sense any energy, can I also assume that my powers are also not operating? Can I not form any constructs?
(2) Have I ever had a situation where my energy sense or manipulation abilities have not worked?
(3) Am I aware of the golden age Sentinel ever facing a situation where his powers were not working? (and the reason why?)
(4) In examining the room we are in, when peering closely, does everything seem the way it should be? Given that we are dealing with a psychic type here, is it possible that this is merely a mental projection or we are in some sort of astral of psychic realm here (powers are not functioning, weapons and technology have been left with people when they would have easily been removed, etc).


GM Replies:
1) (cue dramatic music...) NONE of your powers are working!
2) Nope.3) Once, way back in Issue 62 (1944), the Sentinel lost his powers! They were stolen by an magical imp creature, Remarc-Ynot, from the Eighth Dimension! He used them to invade and dominate the Seventh Dimension. When super-genius Doc Rocket got the imp to say his name backwards, Sentinel's powers returned and the imp was banished! Things were simpler in the Golden Age.
4) Everything seems normal, except for gear being stored with each subject.


In his best interview voice, Viper says."Excuse me. Ummm. Mr. Swastika? It appears I've chosen the wrong side here, in this fight, and was wondering if you're taking on any new recruits. I really only just met these folks and honestly... (Viper is finding it tough to speak without having hand gestures and movement) ... I was just looking for some excitement and a better paying job. You know, circus performer doesn't exactly pay well. Not to mention, freaks have trouble getting dates. It's only so long without the company of a woman that the bearded lady starts looking good but..." (Viper stops, Cursing himself that a floating brain isn't going to be able to relate to his BS. "Anyway, lets shake hands and let bygones be bygones. It couldn't hurt to have a Viper around, you know. "


Lightning Strike:
Lightning Strike shrugs off the cobwebs and surveys the room. After seeing that the other heroes are ok but in the same predicament as him, he tries to determine if there is a way out of this tube. He probes to see what if any power source is keeping him immobile. If it is electrical in nature, he will attempt to slowly siphon some power to recharge himself but keeping it slow so as to not trigger off any sensors. In addition, LS will attempt to sense the power surge that Dr. Swastika mentioned when he killed the tech. In order to distract the techs and Dr. Swastika from what he is doing, he speaks to them.

"Careful Doctor, good help is hard to find. Hardly worth killing someone over your incompetence. I am amazed this operation has gotten this far given your lack of attention to detail. Obviously the harmonic resonances of the Tsunami device are causing sympathetic electrical signals that are generating these fluctuations but I am sure you knew that already. I can only imagine that it will get worse as you begin to power up the device. This ship will blow itself apart long before any wave of destruction can be generated. Perhaps you should have investigated your stolen technology a little more carefully."

Of course this is total BS but I am hoping it sounds convincing enough to buy us a little time and keep him talking or whatever he does. I'm hoping for the critical egomania flaw that all villains possess to expose itself.


Sentinel slowly struggled his way back to consciousness and was not surprised as he groggily opened his eyes to find himself imprisoned and restrained. As he tried to move and found his body not responding from the neck downward his agitation increased, but he was not overly concerned.

The surrounding equipment was his main concern as he tried to focus, but he did spy that the room had many “guests” beyond his covert team. Knowing that the tsunami machine being stopped was his primary objective, he didn't focus on the others. His plan was simple; they could incapacitate his body as much as they wanted too because he was about to become a force of nature; he would destroy all their computers and their components from the inside out before these fools knew what was happening or could respond.

Fully regaining consciousness he began to reach out with his senses to access the flow of the energy and the computer systems so he would know where first to manifest his powers. Then he realized something was dreadfully wrong and his heart began to pump faster. He couldn't sense the energy; he felt nothing. At first he hadn't realized it; at normal levels the cascades of energy were subliminal to him. It was always there, but heed learned to ignore it the same way that others wouldn't think about breathing, but continue to breathe anyway; you know you're doing it but its an automatic function.
It was understandable he'd miss it at that level, particularly after what heed been through this day. But now it hit him like a ton of bricks, his energy sense simply wasn't functioning. This had NEVER happened before. It was as if out of nowhere someone opened their eyes, knew their eyes were open, and couldn't see a thing.

His heart beat quicker and his breath quickened and he knew this feeling … panic… and panic leads to fear… two things he hadn’t experienced in as long as he could remember…

His mind flashed back to the last time he felt these things… so many years ago. Gramps had come to pick him up which was normally a wonderful thing; time with Gramps meant adventure and excitement… except his parents were supposed to come for him today and Gramps didn’t greet him with his normal warm smile and happy demeanor that lit up the room anytime he was around Kirk. He took him aside.

“Kirk, there’s no right way to say this to you and if there was anyway I could make it different you know I would with every fiber of my being… your parents, there’s been an accident. They’re gone.”

He knew what Gramps meant and this same feeling began to consume him; the feeling of dread and panic and absolute loneliness. He felt as if there was no way out for him and no hope. Fear would have consumed him if left unchecked and Gramps knew it.

He knelt down and hugged him and dried his tears and said to him with a loving and protective gaze, “Son, as long as I live and breathe you have nothing to fear. You will never be alone and I will always be here for you. You’re coming to live with me.”
As they walked away young Kirk looked up at his grandpa and knew he had nothing to worry about; “it was time to grieve” Gramps had said, but Kirk knew everything was going to be all right, eventually. Kirk thought about all the newspaper clippings he’d read from the scrapbooks and the nickname they had given Gramps years ago in his hero identity, “the beacon of hope.” At that moment, with all of his heart, he knew why. To him, as to so many others, he was the living embodiment of hope.

Kirk remembered something else Gramps told him soon after. “Kirk, we’re not like all the other people out there, we’ve been granted a special gift. When we use our gift the right way we can help others in so many ways, and in doing so inspire them to greatness. But to do that, we can never let fear take control of us and determine our actions. If fear ever begins to take hold of you, remember that within you is the strength to conquer that fear. You’re special Kirk, and not just because of the gift.”

This was the closest to fear he had come to since the day he lost his parents and Gramps had pulled him back. He vowed to himself he’d never come closer again.

Since Sentinel’s energy sense wasn't operating he’d shifted gears and began to scan the room with his eyes to determine his best course of action. When examining the technology he got the distinct feeling that the most important thing, the tsunami device, was not in sight or related to things in this room. He also began to notice some anomalies regarding the other “guests” … heroes AND villains and others … technical gear and weapons left with the prisoners … it didn’t make sense… and then he saw him.

Miles Hudson! That treacherous betraying bastard! What was he doing here?

Contrary to his usual demeanor, a sense of anger and even a bit of hate welled within the young Sentinel and if his powers were functioning he might have lost control and smashed that cylinder containing Hudson without thinking before regaining his composure and control.

And then the burning anger in his gut turned into a feeling of sickness. It all clicked. He got it! And the world changed for the better and for the worse. And that burning anger … the anger and resentment he’d carried for Miles Hudson all these years was transferred to Swastika. He was amazed that after all this time he could feel pity … and outrage for poor Miles Hudson. He deserved better. They all did!

A mole in CHESS? Ha! What a joke. If only that was the extent of it. No this was all far too cruel. Nothing was as it seemed since the Big One! It was all too clear now … Swastika had gone into hiding back then when the “master race” lost the war. And with Uncle Adolph gone he put his own schemes into action. Hudson must have been one of his first victims. He somehow took control of him and used him to betray the others … to end the age of heroes back then so that Swastika could work his way into positions of power using the people he commandeered as drones without the resistance of the heroes or their figuring out what was really happening.

But as Swastika made his maneuverings into politics and big business over the decades, even he couldn't permanently squelch the spirit of heroism in mankind. In the 80’s individuals who believed they could make a difference once again stood up, and the Freedom Force was born, and with it, the second age of heroes! Swastika knew that now freed once again, this spirit was too great for even he to contain, so he began to prey upon the supers that appeared, both heroes and villains alike, adding them into his arsenal of drones for future plans… that was why the heroes he saw imprisoned around him were mostly inexperienced and lesser known players.

“Swastika!” he muttered under his breath.

In his state of “blindness,” he saw it all clearly for the first time.

But there was still hope – Grey and Stone were unaccounted for at this time, they were free (at least as far as Sentinel could see). But what could Kirk do?

And he thought about what all this equipment was for … if Swastika can use all of this to take mental control of others then perhaps this device could be a conduit to work against him. He cursed not having more training in the telepathic arts. But he reasoned it all comes down to a flow of energy and when it came to energy flow he was an expert. Maybe he wasn’t an expert in this form of energy, maybe it was different from his own special form of energy and the one and twos that made up the most basic components of the flow of the computers, but he seemed to have had some success earlier … with the star creature. He sensed its presence and gratitude.

But if Swastika is a master telepath … what hope do I have of making contact without him being aware and preventing it? I’d take him on in a battle of wills in a second if that was all it took, but I just don’t understand this telepathic “energy” enough yet.

And then it happened, a huge commotion coming from Forester’s holding cell! This was likely the best distraction he would have; Sentinel began to concentrate as he had earlier and follow the path he followed then. Hopefully with the earlier successful experience and with being hooked up to this device he would have an even greater chance of success this time … because if they were all being imprisoned this way, likely the largest prisoner was too!
“Starfish creature … I know you’re there and can sense me. I’m hoping here we can communicate better, that this device that captures our wills and tries to enslave us to that evil dictator Swastika can be used against him. I know that you don’t wish to be used this way and that you long to be free … that you are an innocent victim in his schemes. If you have any ability at all in this, if you can control his bending your unique power to his wicked ends in any way, now is the time to use that power. Help us to break free of this device – deprive him of your power, upset his controls. If you can help us break free to stop Swastika and his destruction of innocents, I will do all within my power to free you of his influence! So I swear!”