Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Issue 21: Gotterdammerung Now!

Onboard SKULL’s Star Giant, the Atlantic Ocean, depth unknown.
Time until Tsunami Machine Activation: Less than 4 minutes and counting!

The lights failed again as yellow flames roared atop sparking consoles. Shadows leapt and grew amid the thick, choking smoke. Tearing free of rubber life support tubes and hoses, the unfortunate subjects of Dr. Swastika’s body farm emerged from their stasis booths as if awakening from a long, dark nightmare. Fire, sirens, sparks, yelling, smoke, sweat, heat.
A digital screen counted down to the destruction of America’s eastern seaboard. Less than 3 minutes, 45 seconds left.

Before anyone could act, Viper pounced with cobra-like speed. He crashed a big fist into Baroness Von Zero, refusing to give her time to rebuild her gothic ice armor. KER-POW! Viper connected hard and the ice queen was out cold!

Aryan, the perfect Nazi, smoothly slid his Luger sights from U-Man, his dead former ally, to Slingshot. “You’re next, verdammit schvartze,” he snarled as he unloaded the firearm pointblank into the chest of the malleable man of might! BLAM BLAM BLAM!

Try as he may, Slingshot couldn’t stretch out of the way of the bullets. One bounced off his rubbery hide and he rolled with the others. Slingshot was still barely conscious!(18 points of damage! Your 8 points of invulnerability is spent for the turn, you took 9 points off Power Points and 1 off Hit Points. You have 1 Hit Point left and 81 Power Points.)

Forester covered the grotesque, cursing head of Dr. Swastika with a well-placed parachute arrow. Then he herded the civilians to the relatively safety of the far side of the chamber. “Thank you, son,” said the Senator. Forester organized Hip Hop, Clone and Ghost into a search party.

Hip Hop took Sentinel’s suggestion and planned on teleported straight up in an attempt to find the CHESS Omni-Carrier. Hoping for the best, he called above the din, “Good luck, people.” Then he was gone, leaving a momentary ripple in space.

Clone shouted, “Da,” to Forester and divided himself rapidly, mildly disturbing the minds of those who watched. Suddenly there was ten of him. They ran, leaving the chamber and fanning out.

The young, white-costumed Ghost yelled, “Blue Comet. Blue Comet is missing!” pointing to an empty stasis tube. Then he walked right through a wall.

Forester and Sentinel urged the heroes and villains to attack their former captors. Sentinel appealed to their sense of public duty. Forester to their more vengeful urges. Whichever they were reacting to, many of the subjects turned toward the Over Men and made their hands into fists. But Ratman was not among them. “That doesn’t quite sound like a Presidential pardon to me,” he chided smarmily. His metal Whiplash Tail flicked pensively.

Sentinel forged a new energy shield that brightened the room as he flew near Sgt. Stone with words of encouragement. Stone shook the cobwebs out of his skull. The granite goliath held his cinderblock of a head. “Yeah, yeah, Lancaster… gimme a minute, willya? I left my St. Joseph’s baby aspirin in my other suit.”

Lightning Strike evaporated in a burst of white electricity that grounded out into a computer console. He was gone!

Slingshot, breathing heavy now, made a last ditch effort against Panzer. Unfurling his elongated form around the human tank, ‘Shot anchored his hands and feet, stretched and pulled with all his strength. Slingshot slammed his center into Panzer and slungshot him across the chamber right onto Aryan! Slingshot estimated Panzer’s weight at half a ton! KER-RASHH! Still nursing wounds from the first battle, Aryan was crushed into unconsciousness!

Panzer’s armor had some cracks in it, but the mechanized monster still stood. “It vill take more zan zat, mongrel,” he laughed.

“Oh yeah? Then howzabout this?!” said Sgt. Stone with a big right hook. POW! His rocky fist slammed into Panzer, staggered the Nazi back. Panzer was still conscious but part of his armor was cracked wide open. “Sweetums, you better call yer tailor,” smiled Stone, “and mach schnell.”

Angered, Panzer roared forward. He towered over the sergeant and the two crashed together-KRA-POW! -locked in battle, a clash of giants! Panzer drove Stone to one knee with a devastating body blow, but Stone fought on!

Meanwhile, among the emptying stasis tubes, the grey-costumed Ratman skittered up a wall on all fours and disappeared into a ceiling vent.

The armored mercenary supervillain Shockwave fired waves of force from his gauntlets into the backs of two SKULL soldiers. Both were knocked out.

The villainous female shapeshifter, Skin Deep, formed her index finger into a garrote and strangled a SKULL soldier that was caught unaware. With her victim at her feet, she instantly transformed herself into the spitting image of Aryan, and left the chamber without a word.

Aquon, former Freedom Forcer and king of the seven seas, leapt over the body of U-Man and threw his shoulder into Panzer! SMASH! Aquon stood alongside Stone against the human tank.

The masked, silver-costumed female slowly approached the injured Slingshot. “I thought you were very brave,” she said quietly as she gently touched his arm. A bullet wound closed and bruises disappeared (gain 7 hit points, Slingy)!

The unidentified fierce, black-feathered birdman let out an inhuman cry “SKKRAAA!” spread his large wings and hurled toward Panzer. Razor-sharp hand talons raked the Nazi’s armored face and dislodged his helmet, revealing thick, fleshy features beneath a blond buzz cut. The features were red and fearful now.

The tall, dark killer known as Morgue calmly stalked forward. With a face as hard as a silver dollar he removed his right glove and clamped his big hand onto Panzer’s newly exposed face. Panzer screamed with all his might. Morgue withdrew his hand and Panzer was dead! There wasn’t a mark on him.

Stone growled: “Why’d ya hafta go and do that for, gruesome?! We had him on the ropes!”

The big man replaced his glove and said: “Because no one messes with Morgue and lives to tell about it.” Then his black eyes slid toward the covered, silent support tank that held Dr. Swastika.

Meanwhile, the eerily disembodied Lightning Strike tracked the power build up and located the Tsunami Machine at the center of the Star Giant’s cyberspace! None of the alien, non-Euclidean technology was involved with the Tsunami Machine, thankfully! Because all the alien technology was reeling from power surge after surge. Strike was seconds away from the Machine when suddenly he heard a voice in his mind. It was the voice of Dr. Swastika!

“No! We have not labored so long to be undone now by the likes of you! Our legacy shall never fade! The glory of the Nazi dream shall be realized!”

Strike could envision Swastika’s ghastly visage within his mind. The head screamed and Strike was under a psionic attack! Searing hate and pain washed over his unprotected mind. Swastika was attempting to control Strike’s mind! Strike resisted with all he had, with the full force of his super-intellect and personal willpower. He drew inner strength he did not know he possessed, and survived the attack! Strike was still in control of his mind! Swastika cried, “Nooooo!” in impotent rage. (But lose 10 power points, Strike!) Exhausted from Swastika’s mental onslaught, Strike moved on toward his goal. Swastika could not yet follow, having expended his energy in an attack!

Strike had but one chance and then Swastika would be upon him again! The electric avenger reached the Tsunami Machine and desperately attempted to drain it of all its power. BZZ-ZZZATTAKOWW!! He felt energy rushing back into him (gain 20 power points)! The Tsunami Machine was dead! Then something happened… KRAKA-BOOOOMM!!!

The booby trap that Doc Rocket had warned of (way back in Issue 7! –Ever-helpful Ed.) detonated! From cyberspace, Strike couldn’t sense the power of the bomb or the extent of the damage but electrical systems were evaporating all over the Star Giant. More than half were gone in an instant! But the systems of Swastika’s Body Farm were mostly unaffected. They must have been a high priority for Swastika.
Meanwhile, three seconds ago, in the Chamber of Swastika’s Body Farm, the digital clock stopped counting down to Armageddon. Sentinel detected the energy build up had stopped. The Tsunami Machine was deactivated! Strike must have succeeded! A cowering SKULL technician stammered, “M-master,” and reaching up, removed the white cloth from Dr. Swastika’s support tank revealing his lifeless head! “He’s… he’s dead!” cried the tech.

Then, KRAKA-BOOOOMM!!! A massive explosion was heard from beyond the chamber. Alarms sounded as the Star Giant listed 40 degrees. People fell over. The walls shook violently and a ceiling beam crashed down onto a flaming console. Everyone’s ears popped and icy water came rushing in from the chamber’s entrance.

The Ghost phased through a wall, reentering the room. He was carrying a beaten, bloodied and unconscious Agent Grey. Ghost called, “Forester! I found this prisoner… and some escape pods! I can lead you to them.”

Shockwave said: “Where are they?!”

OOC: Actions, everyone!

Forester, the Ghost found no sign of Agent X or Venus.
Slingshot, in reply to your last post where you listed 2 actions: Each “issue” of combat in this game is really one half of a V&V combat turn. So, we cover one action for each character (save those with Heightened Speed). The reason for this is that things change so rapidly in these fights that it didn’t make sense to ask for two sets of orders in one email. Your second set might be moot by the time we get there. In keeping with V&V combat rules, I subtract 1 power point every ‘issue.’ And Invulnerability renews every other ‘issue’ of combat. Hope this all makes sense. Thanks.

PPS: Here's The Scorecard:
The Dead: Dr. Swastika's head, Panzer, U-Man, some SKULL soldiers

Unconscious and in the Body Farm Chamber: Agent Grey, Aryan, Baroness Von Zero, some SKULL soldiers

Conscious and in the Body Farm Chamber: All the PC Heroes except Lightning Strike, Sgt. Stone, The Ghost, Shockwave, Aquon, Unidentified silver costumed female, Unidentified fierce, black bird-man, Morgue, All the civilians from the stasis booths, A few SKULL technicians

Not in the Body Chamber right now: Lightning Strike, Hip Hop, Clone, Ratman, Skin Deep

Never been seen on the Star Giant by any PC: Agent X, Venus, Doc Rocket, Blue Comet

COMBAT ACTION: Forester fires his Extinguisher Arrow at the base of the nearest/fiercest fire, to help reduce smoke inhalation, especially among the civilians. (At this point, he will have 3 normal arrows left. That's it.)
If a SKULL technician is nearby, Forester will make this a multiple attack. Holding his bow crossbow style, he'll direct the Extinguisher Arrow at the fire and a normal arrow at one of the SKULL agents (leaving only 2 normal arrows left in his quiver.)

DIALOG: Forester calls out to Ghost: "That was great work. The man you rescued is Brian Grey. He works for the CIA, and he's on our side."
Turning to the silver-clad medicinal maiden, Forester asks, "Can you help him?" Then the ancillary archer continues: "Let's give Hip Hop and Clone another minute to return before heading to the other life tubes. As for Blue Comet, SKULL has him captive off-site. They'll be time to help him later."
With the nefarious Ratman and the shape-changing Skin Deep now on the prowl, Forester heeds Lightning Strike's advice [from Issue 20] and tries to keep everyone together. Also, Forester doesn't want Ghost taking a wild card like Shockwave anywhere near the other life tubes. Surely Sgt. Stone, Sentinel, Slingshot, Strike, the serpentine Viper, the sea-faring Aquon, or some other super-type will take action and defeat the mercenary Shockwave and the murderous Morgue. Without knowing which side the avian avatar is on, Forester hopes that the avian avatar in the midst doesn't turn out to be a villain too.

As the super-battle continues around him, Forester stays near the Senator and civilians, trying his best to appear calm. "I'm Forester, by the way," he says the the small crowd. "We're doing everything we can to get you home safely." As one of the most ordinary-looking costumed adventurers on site, and the least combat-ready at the moment, Forester maintains his position as crossing guard and hospitality director. Looking over the civilian group for any visible signs of wounds, he asks: "Were any of you injured? Is anyone in pain?" If Hip Hop and Clone return, Forester will signal them over to play catch up and join his sideline jamboree.

OOC: Does Forester know anything about the Senator? His name? What state he's from?
OOC: The elderly man that Sentinel seemed to recognize (Miles Hudson) … did he join the Senator and other civilians now gathered by Forester? If not, where is he now standing?

TO VIPER: Forester steps toward Viper and quietly says: "A while back, I asked you to prompt Grey to spill the beans, so to speak, in case he'd been withholding information from us. I want to apologize for that. I was wrong to suggest that you intervene that way, based solely on my own suspicions." The archer's conscience has been killing him. And seeing the injured agent doesn't help matters.

TO SENTINEL: Noticing Sentinel's power shield back in place [from Issue 20], the archer says, "You know, Sentinel, some day you're going to have to tell us where those energy objects of yours actually come from. Do you pull them out of another dimension or just mutanagentically generate them yourself? What type of energy is this anyway, and where does it go when you're through?" Forester sincerely hopes Sentinel will reply. And while he has his illustrious ally's attention, Forester tilts his head toward the man Sentinel knows as Miles Hudson, hoping he might tell everyone who this man is.

More OOC questions:
1. Ghost noted the empty chamber with Blue Comet's name on it. Did all of the occupied chambers have names as well?
2. Does Forester remember if images of either the silver-clad healer or man-bird appeared on the computer screen he eyed a few issues back?

OOC GM Replies:
Replies to Forester:

OOC: Does Forester know anything about the Senator? His name? What state he's from?
GM: Senator Henry Westphal, the tough, popular senior senator of Pennsylvania. A veteran of two wars, he serves on Senate Committees for Defense and Intelligence.
OOC: The elderly man that Sentinel seemed to recognize (Miles Hudson) … did he join the Senator and other civilians now gathered by Forester?
GM: Yes. All civilians are together.

OOC: Any of the civilians injured?
GM: Several fell over when the Star Giant listed after the Tsunami Machine booby trap bomb detonated. Some are crying, but no one seems terribly injured. However the water is rising quickly and the smoke in here is dangerously bad (before you fired an extinguisher arrow, that is. I have to say, I've seen gimmick characters played before, including Hawkeye in Avengers tournaments, and I've never seen anyone use every type of gimmick in one adventure, and each in a situation where it made sense. Pretty cool).

OOC: Ghost noted the empty chamber with Blue Comet's name on it. Did all of the occupied chambers have names as well?
GM: No. The Ghost never indicated a name plate. When asked, the fledgling hero will say he just remembers Blue Comet was always held in that tube, right near the Ghost's tube.

OOC: Does Forester remember if images of either the silver-clad healer or man-bird appeared on the computer screen he eyed a few issues back?
GM: Yes! A successful detect hidden roll means Forester remembers their faces as thumbnail images on that screen along with a hundred other extranormals. He didn't have time to click on them all of course, so doesn't have their info... yet.
In-character replies to come in Issue 22.

As the after effects of the explosions faded, Slingshot looked at his disapeared injury, then genially at the silver clad woman. "Thank you. I am Slingshot. _You_ can definetly call me Scott." Looking over her shoulder, he sees the water rising at an alarming rate."I've got to stop this." He says, sotto voce, almost to himself. He squeezes her shoulder gently. "Be careful, there are lots of bad guys here."

He looks for Ghost. "Ghost!" when he has the attention of the insubstantial hero, "Have you seen the hole? How big is it? Can you get me there?"

Before he leaves for the hole, he calls to Viper, "Viper. Make sure the head comes with us, I don't believe he's dead. I'm going to try and do something about the Star Giant's leak." With that he follows Ghost.

OOC: Depending on the size of the hole, Slingshot's going to try and use his body to plug it. He'll use his engineering knowledge to come up with a configuration that will fix this with the least amount of strain on himself.About the actions: I'm fine with that. Thanks for the clarification.

As Sentinel prepared to unleash a fury of energetic fire upon the Baroness he was amazed at the speed of which the battle turned and that it was finished before it seemingly started. He immediately “felt” that Strike had succeeded and was relieved that the most important thing had been accomplished; the world at large was safe! However, things here were far from over.

A cowering SKULL technician stammered, “M-master,” and reaching up, removed the white cloth from Dr. Swastika’s support tank revealing his lifeless head! “He’s… he’s dead!” cried the tech.

Sentinel heard the stammering tech and replied, “I don't believe that, not for a second”.
Although it would certainly be poetic justice for the Star Giant's attack to have ended the evilness that was the life essence of Swastika, after being shocked by his survival in the 40’s and coming to conclusions about his manipulations of people and events since that time, there was no way he would believe his existence extinguished that quickly and efficiently.

Sentinel thoroughly believed that he must have had some fail-safe in place, that his consciousness was transferred either to someone here or it had been transferred to another place. He had kept his senses especially trained on Swastika and had picked up a strong energy surge, but nothing that confirmed his fears. He again cursed his lack of psionic senses and the fact that they had lost contact with Venus, their telepathic connection. He wondered if perhaps once this was over and with his new contacts it might be possible to view schematics of some sort of technical device that was sensitive to mental energies which could be recreated by him should they be in a situation in the future where they lacked the support of a psionic ally.

In the meantime, they had to make due with their current situation and the powers at hand. Sentinel was pleased to think that the Star Giant was finally free of the manipulations of Swastika, but wanted to know if that was totally the case and if there was anything they could do to aid the creature further.

Having observed the masked, silver-costumed female heal Slingshot (and figuring that at least one of Swastika's prisoners would likely have telepathic powers to have boosted his abilities in the “field”) he hovered near them and said to her, “Miss, much thanks for helping my friend here. It’s been my observation that many times with the power of healing, other empathic and telepathic abilities are gifted to that person, any chance you have any of those abilities and could use them here?”
If she indicates that she has those abilities and is willing, Sentinel would quickly explain about the Star Giant’s having been enslaved like the rest of them and his aid and sacrifice in their effort for freedom and that he wanted to make contact to see if there was anything that could be done to assist the creature further now and determine what it’s wishes were for itself.
If she indicates no such power or willingness, Sentinel would once again try his attempt at “speaking” with the creature knowing it has had the ability to understand his thoughts, even though it thus far has been unable or unwilling to really contact him directly.

“Star Giant… my friends and I … and our world thank you for your help this day in freeing ourselves and stopping that madman, Swastika. We are deeply sorry for what happened to you all this time and for the cost of your great sacrifice today. Are you totally free of his influence? Can we do anything to aid you now? Is there anyway we can assist to prevent this destruction from consuming you? Please, if we can, help us to help you…”
As he does this he would continue trying to sense the situation with the Star Giant and what all the destruction of the man-made systems is doing to it. He believes from Forester’s arrow attack that the creature has the ability to regenerate but wants to see if what is happening now is too much for the Giant and if they can aid it to survive.

If Sentinel makes contact with the Star Giant and it wishes assistance, he would likely do all within his power to help the creature unless something didn’t seem right.

Once this was done (and there’s a good chance that all of the above yields no actions) Sentinel’s next objective would be to assist in getting the place evacuated.
Sentinel would keep a firm eye on their “questionable” allies at this point who are still present; knowing how another melee could easily escalate here, to be sure that there would be no further problems and be prepared to take them out if it became necessary. To try to head that off he would say something along the lines of:
“It appears that those who orchestrated our imprisonment and this situation have been, nodding towards the fallen villains, ‘dealt with’ if anyone has any other ‘issues’ with anyone else here, it would be wise to put them aside for now… we should concentrate on getting off this station alive and getting the civilians to safety.”

If he gets the chance to reply to Forester in the midst of things he says regarding the man he noticed Forester noticing him noticing, “He’s Miles Hudson, the short story is you’re in the presence of one of the greatest heroes of the golden age of heroes and its biggest betrayer: Agent America of the Liberty League. Except after what we’ve learned here today I’m beginning to think that his title of “betrayer” wasn’t earned or warranted.” Sentinel also makes a mental note of Forester’s ability to notice the small details (Sentinel’s recognition of and glare towards Hudson) during chaotic events.

Mumbling to himself..."Take the head, TAKE the HEAD, he says. What am I? The lion tamer's
cage cleaner!"

Still mumbling, Viper takes the white sheet that was covering Swaz's head and in it, wraps up the head. Swinging it over his shoulder like a Burlap sack, he walks over to where Ghost, Forester and Sentinel are standing.
[The Ghost phased through a wall, reentering the room. He was carrying a beaten, bloodied and unconscious Agent Grey. Ghost called, "Forester! I found this prisoner. and some escape pods! I can lead you to them." Shockwave said: "Where are they?!"]

Viper put his hand on Shockwave's shoulder, then quickly pulled it away. "Hey, we'll get to them soon enough. Right now we need to stay together and see who needs to use the pods. I know you want to help with that."

To Ghost..."How many pods, will everyone fit?” Depending on Ghost's answer, Viper will do one of two things.

1) Everyone fits: "Sentinel, Forester.... we'll need to split up the occupants so that we can keep an eye on the ones in trouble." Viper makes a subtle nod in the direction of Shockwave. "There are some here, I wouldn't want to leave alone." Viper, head in tow, will lead the group to the pods. He'll suggest, strongly if need be, that they board the pods in an order that leaves a trustworthy hero, with suspect ones.

2) They don't all fit. "Ok, here's what we do. Anyone that can make it to the surface with their powers, we'll lead to the escape hatch we came in or use a closer one on the way. If we still don't have enough, we have our stowed equipment where we came in. If it doesn't look like you're going to be able to fix the hole, then maybe we can use that underwater bubble trick you did with us to save some of our troupe here. Either way, meet us at the pods. (to the assembled crowd) We're taking a slow walk to the pods while some of us are going to buy time fixing the hole. Live together, or die alone. I suggest the former. (waving the group to follow) Follow the snake guy with the bouncing head in a sack."


Lightning Strike:
Strike realizes quickly that although he seems to have disabled the Tsunami device, the ship seems to be totally disabled. Although he may be able to find a way to the escape pods via the electrical system, something clicks in Strikes' mind.

Swastika informed them that he had located the area in our brains where extranormal power generated from. It seems likely that this creature that has become his ship is under a similar control but perhaps via electronic means to amplify Swastika’s power. LS will attempt to contact the star creature and hopefully trace the electrical signals that are controlling it. LS would like to send a rudimentary signal to the star creature that it is OK to rise up to the surface so that everyone can get out, assuming that there are more people on the ship then there are escape pods.

Hope that fits in with what everyone else wrote.