Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Issue 38: Double-Header Double-Cross!

Big City, Queens. Investigation Day Two, 4:00pm to 7:00pm

Forester said: “Leaping Luddites!” and Director Grey wrinkled his brow and said: “LU-,” which Nanite wrote with her dying hand. “…Luddite!” Grey discovered CHESS had no files under that code name.
Likewise, the trickshot trickster found no leads in the Luddite’s journal that suggested mysticism or the Enemy. But upon re-entering the Luddite’s lair, newly emptied of dynamite and newly full of CHESS agents, Forester’s keen eyes discovered a piece of paper that the CHESS forensics team had not yet found! It was a receipt for the purchase of dynamite that included a delivery address in Staten Island!

Sentinel continued making inroads with CHESS personnel. He learned Ajay and his team of specialists were called Rooks in the slang of CHESS. Kirk sensed no anti-extranormal bias among Drake’s men.
Due to the stealthy nature of this assignment, only one Knight was at the safehouse: Nathan Lamb, the Knight who allowed Slingshot to disable an Omni-Carrier nuclear missile. Lamb was ex-NYPD and was working undercover with Archer’s men, tracking leads and information without his powered armor.
Ajay began searching for online leads to the Luddite and his philosophy. “This’ll take time, Sentinel.”

Slingshot shot Drake a challenging look; a challenge Drake didn’t take up.
CHESS tracked the dynamite purchases, looking for security camera footage, but most sales were conducted through the mail. For those that weren’t, CHESS gets news from some sellers that their cameras malfunctioned that day. Others had mysterious, unexplained power shortages!
Grey, Drake and Archer don’t stop Slingshot from meeting Spider and CHESS is on standby for Morgue!

Lightning Strike’s suspicions were correct. After pouring over the Luddite’s journal and correlating the dates with CHESS crime files and technology related articles, he found one pattern right away: The Mentor had the madman strike technological corporations, inventors and concerns at times that were critical to their development. Each time, the madman sabotaged a major technological advance and each time, a company was destroyed or set back many years. A stock trader with this inside information would have made a killing over the last five years.
Strike automated the search so that he could review the final results for more patterns later.

Kairos was briefed on the rights and responsibilities of being a member of Vanguard by Agent Drake.

That was as far as Vanguard got when Spider Girucci called Slingshot at 6:35pm. Once he hung up, our heroes raced against time to Northern Queens to meet the murderous thug who promised them Morgue on a platter… all for the benefit, of course, of Girucci’s boss, the Octopus.

Sentinel’s online map (see attached map. Red burst is meeting location) showed the lay of the land. To make it on time, Vanguard flew there, thanks to Sentinel and his constructs. Coming in from the air, Vanguard saw Grand Central Parkway and Roosevelt Ave, their meeting place, and that:

· Roosevelt Ave had an elevated train track running the 7 line above it at 20-30 feet high.

· Northeast of the meeting place was Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. The second game of a double header against the Philadelphia Phillies was underway!

· North of Shea Stadium was a harbor that opened into Long Island Sound. Adjacent to the harbor was LaGuardia International Airport and Riker’s Island Prison.

· South of Shea was a large train yard. South of that was Flushing Meadows Park, including the National Tennis Center, currently quiet, and giant futuristic structures from the 1964 World’s Fair (including sci-fi-looking observation towers and the Unisphere, as seen in the film, Men in Black).
· Grand Central Parkway was a highway, packed with rush hour traffic and game traffic.

· West of Grand Central was some commercial and residential space, including a huge, functioning car wreckage and junk yard at 41st Ave and 114th Street.

· A full blown construction site, where a new 70 story office tower was going up, sat near 48th avenue, west of 111th street and east of Grand Central. It was all steel girders and cranes.

· The sun was setting. No rain.

· Sentinel detected no unknown extranormals or strange power sources within his range.

Slingshot and Sentinel approached the corner on foot in civilian guise. Nearby, hidden and laying in wait, the rest of Vanguard watched closely. Undercover CHESSmen were still on their way. CHESS satellites were moving into position.

The 7 train rattled by on the elevated tracks, overhead. Spider Girucci had been on it but had left the train at the 111th street station and walked the two blocks to Slingshot and Sentinel, his smile spreading with a crocodile’s grace. He lit a cigarette and laughed his lungs empty of smoke.
“Two of you? Big bad extranormals scared of ol’ Spider, huh?”

A sealed white envelope was in his hand. “The Octopus sends his regards. Here’s where you can find that friend of yours. Shouldn’t be too hard. He thinks he’s safe.” His eyes shifted. “The sooner the better. If Morgue is out of the picture, the peace conference will go better for my boss, you follow?”

Suddenly, Spider’s eyes widened and slid upward, above Slingshot and Sentinel who suddenly detected extranormal energy behind him! “What the hell kinda double-cross is this?!” Spider yelled as the sidewalk near him exploded. KABOOOM!! Sentinel’s shields instantly surrounded himself and Slingshot!
Pedestrians on the busy game-day sidewalk screamed for their lives!

All of Vanguard quickly looked up and saw them: Homicide For Hire! A publicly known supervillain team of extranormal hitmen! They hovered high over the departing 7 train!

The envelope still in his panicky hand, Girucci dropped his cigarette and ran… and for good reason. Homicide For Hire’s infamy preceded them… mostly by design. Notoriety earned top dollar for these extranormal executioners. Without looking at CHESS files, Vanguard already knew who they were:

The Mercenary! aka Jim Harrik, a seasoned professional and Homicide’s leader. A non-powered human who made his living taking down extranormals, he was a trained military strategist and weapons expert who worked for the highest bidder which in the past included Intercrime and SKULL (where he was partnered with disgraced FF hero, Tornado a.k.a. Blue Comet! -Educational Ed) to name a few. The Mercenary sported a mic headset, like the rest of his team. Although he has fought the Freedom Force on many occasions over many years, Harrik has never been captured.

Silencer! a new addition to Homicide For Hire, replacing Shockwave, whose sudden and mysterious disappearance was explained deep in the Body Farm of Dr. Swastika. Silencer wears a suit of armor whose sonic weapon generated powerful concussive blasts, like the one that just tore open the sidewalk. It could also lay down “silence fields” where all local sound is nullified, lending incredible stealth capabilities to this heavy hitter’s repertoire!

Zero G! an assassin who used gravitational force to crush his victims, this former Intercrime soldier did 20 years in CHESS Castle after the Freedom Force took them down. Been out of jail 6 years now.

The Hyena: A mocking jackal of a killer, whose wit was almost as deadly as his razor-sharp claws. He said to Girucci: “Nuh uh uh! You know the rules. ‘No one talks to Vanguard.’ This ain’t gonna turn out well for Ocky.” Then the beast man wrinkled his nose, sniffed, and looked sideways at Forester who had been hidden. “Coyote?” he murmured to himself through a wide, fanged smile.

Penumbra! A spooky, cold enigma rumored to walk between the spaces we know. She uses mists of darkness and teleportation to transport her victims into deadly situations. Kairos felt some strange, unnatural bond with this one. The facial features that were visible indicated she might be Greek, but that wasn’t it. She must’ve felt it too because she looked directly at Kairos, who had been hidden!

The Atomic Brain! Not a member of Homicide For Hire at all, the Atomic Brain was an ingenious American scientist dying from radiation exposure in 1946. He placed his brain into an indestructible robotic body and subsequently went mad. His plans for world conquest were always foiled by the Liberty League. After countless humiliating defeats at their hands, the Brain gave up trying to take over the world and now works for money, as a common killer, to the chagrin of his megalomaniacal ego. Crooks call him “Doc Bot,” just another insult he must suffer thanks to the Liberty League! His hatred for them festers in the atomic furnace where his heart should be!
Sentinel knew from his granddad that the Brain’s body was made of Odinium, could fly, had an atomic forcefield, a death ray that ate through matter and disrupted flesh at an atomic level, and that after each defeat, Brain upgraded his robotic body so that he would never lose the same way twice.

“Sentinel??!” his electronic voice barked. “But how?? I can’t believe it. Harrik was right! I shall flay the flesh from your accursed bones, Liberty Leaguer!!” If Harrik did bring the Brain here to deal with Sentinel, then it was just another of Harrik’s brilliant tactical moves.

Transported here on the Brain’s flying force field platform, Homicide for Hire planned an ambush sneak attack on Vanguard. However, Vanguard’s vigilance prevented that, and it would now be a fair fight, although our heroes were outnumbered and perhaps outgunned!

Harrik calmly said: “Take them.”

To be continued!

Actions?! And happy second anniversary!


OOC: This should be good! Looks like fun for all of us...hurtful fun, but fun, anyway.

IC: Kairos will charge Penumbra, moving evasively while throwing chakrams at her until he gets within hand-to-hand distance (if he gets that far). If he can close the gap, he'll try to take her down with his staff. Since we're outnumbered, he'll try to keep track of other villains, too.

(OOC: Although I don't feel all that good about immediately charging the only female of the opposition, they ARE the opposition and we might as well get to the heart of the matter. Since she noticed me and I noticed her, it might as well begin there. In addition, and most importantly, if her M.O. is sending people out of immediate combat to face danger elsewhere, better Kairos, whose powers are not as overtly damaging or as useful as those of some of the others. Also, she is most likely the weakest of the foes physically and might drop quickest, thereby evening the odds.)


Forester ignores Hyena's prompts, at least for now, and fires his newly replaced Corrosive Arrow at Silencer. He says nothing.

Although the two heroes have barely met, Forester admires Kairos for having the courage to face the only female in the opposition--rather than objectifying or underestimating this deadly opponent.


Kirk hadn’t known what to expect, but he had been ready. He quickly accessed the situation. Knowing the rep of the Mercenary and the fact that he’d successfully encountered the Freedom Force and hadn’t been captured showed Kirk where the true threat lie, despite the powers of the other members of Homicide For Hire.

The Mercenary's mistake, however, was in preparing too well. The inclusion of The Atomic Brain, just for Kirk, meant that he’d done his homework; he may have some inside track on them and prepared for contingencies based on their personalities and methods of operation. That meant Kirk needed to ignore his first impulse; which was to take out the Mercenary.

He noticed the interaction between some of the members of Vanguard and Homicide for Hire, likely planned by Mercenary. He was impressed by the courage and immediate reactions of his teammates; but again, it likely what Mercenary was expecting, the normal hero versus villain melee.

Kirk’s energy shield began to morph outward changing into a smoky black and grey color as it rose above the heroes enveloping the area and beginning to hide himself and Slingshot from HFH above. Since he had been prepared and had encircled Slingshot within his shields with him he tapped Scott on the shoulder, and calmly held up one finger to him gesturing to give him a moment before taking action.

Kirk then spoke into his Chess communicator to Vanguard, “Mercenary likely has a sparring partner specifically planned for each of us to put us at a disadvantage, think twice about whom you engage," and Kirk added with emphasis in his voice, "remember why we’re here.”

Growing out of the smoke, in a golden age fashion to enrage The Atomic Brain further and perhaps throw a curveball at the Mercenary a humongous angry menacing giant ape encompassed the area with its massive arms and fists coming down to bare against the platform with The Atomic Brain in its view, but with The Mercenary as its target.

Kirk continued speaking into the communicator,
“Ajay, we’ve got a military strategist and weapons expert with high tech as well as a teleporter here. Scramble our communicators' frequencies to be sure they remain secure and get a location fix on each of us as best you can, Sentinel out.”

Kirk tapped off his communicator for a moment in case they were being monitored by The Mercenary and said to Scott; “Ok, here’s the real plan. We need that envelope that Spider was about to deliver to us,” and as he pointed at Spider Girucci fleeing down the street at that moment Scott realized that Kirk now had them flying picking up speed hidden under the smoky image above them, “we’re grabbing him and getting that envelope and we’re getting the hell out of this highly populated area.”

As HFH is distracted by the smoke and giant ape about to pounce on them, Kirk picks up top speed flying with Slingshot, and the bottom of his creation morphs further into a small jet for two, about to become three, as jets out from under the giant smoky cloud and ape heading towards Girucci. Kirk isn’t that fast a flyer, but he’s a lot faster than a scared witless thug on foot.

OOC: Ok Jeff, you’ll have to figure out scope-wise how this will work regarding how much of this image Kirk can maintain how long and how distracting it will be, but Kirk will want to keep the smoke covering and giant ape going as long as he can to hopefully distract and startle HFH and get them to waste their next turn against the giant ape. The real plan is that he and Slingshot grab Spider and get the envelope. He can do this by just expanding the jet to encircle spider (who likely won’t even see it coming at this point), or if necessary by having Slingshot use his expanding powers to grab him. If he’s still running scared with the envelope in his hands and we can just get the envelope easier, we’d do that too.

I’m figuring my “attack” is grabbing/ensnaring Girucci at this point and that my giant ape will simply vanish without actually getting to “attack” the villains. If somehow it works out that Slingshot can ensnare Girucci and the physical scope of my powers allows us to get within range of Girucci while the ape is still within range of the villains, then he would actually try to smash The Mercenary (I don’t figure the range of my “creation” would be big enough to do both, but will let you decide).

If for some reason Slingshot doesn’t want to be a part of this it would be easy enough to just fly off without him, but Kirk really wants him along because between the two of them should absolutely be able to ensnare Spider and between the two of them they should be able to get the envelope.

If they are successful in ensnaring Spider and/or the envelope, Kirk will head towards the Harbor area. If they can safely drop Girucci somewhere that he won’t be an open target for HFH along the way (after they get the envelope) Kirk would do so, although he expects that HFH will be hot on their tails as soon as they realize they are on the move with the envelope. If either of them can read the location on the envelope they will do so and tell the other hero, and relay the info to Chess if Ajay states the line is secure.

I would think this is the most I can do in this turn (and perhaps more) ...
If any of this is unclear or not possible, let me know.

Wow! A two year anniversary! Thanks for putting up with us Jeff! And thanks to everyone else for adding to the thrill of the ride!

PS: Hey, why do they look all mean and nasty and our images look all cartoony and cutesy!
I mean, gee whiz, we can be tough guys too! Gosh darnit.


OOC: Here's an evaluation of what I'm seeing:

The Mercenary:
A threat but not as immediately deadly as some of the others. Probably going to coordinate the attack and pick off heroes and help his people as necessary.

Got armor and is an energy projector. A threat but I think that others are priority.

Zero G
I think Slingshot is the only one who wouldn't be harmed much by this guy. LS might be able to get away from him and Sentinel would probably still have his powers available but would be taking damage. I think that Forester and Kairos would be immediately neutralized by this guy. He needs taken out quickly, I think.

The Hyena
Probably a good fighter but not the threat that some of the others are.

Another one who can take someone completely OUT of the fight, I'd bet. Maybe even multiple someones. I'm trying for her because she's probably less physically able to take punishment and might go down quickly if she can be reached and fought.

The Atomic Brain
This guy scares me. He sounds like he's awfully tough. Probably need to take out multiple other villains and then team up on him.

I wish Sentinel and (maybe) Slingshot weren't going away. That leaves Forester, LS, and Kairos against all six if they so choose. I understand getting the envelope and I considered doing that but I think that we're in a fight whether we like it or not.


OOC: Two orders of the day:
Numero Uno: Spider. He's my informant and he's got Morgue for us. We need him to give us the info and leave quietly. This also means taking out Penumbra. So I agree with Sentinel about his assessment not necessarily his methods. More on that IC talk.

Numero Due: Collateral damage: This means Zero G and Silencer. The others will be handled one at a time. I think that Mercenary is a serious threat. The others are henchmen. Mercenary will make it personal if he leaves the scene.

There's little I can do about number 2 right now, hope you guys do.


OOC: “I wish Sentinel and (maybe) Slingshot weren't going away. That leaves Forester, LS, and Kairos against all six if they so choose. I understand getting the envelope and I considered doing that but I think that we're in a fight whether we like it or not.”

The below is from my post:
"remember why we’re here.” he expects that HFH will be hot on their tails as soon as they realize they are on the move with the envelope.

These guys are here as hired guns to prevent us from getting the intel and/or to take us out of the picture ... that is the reason they are here and attacking - we are the targets! This is not a battle to stop a crime or prevent world domination.
Also, likely they were told to take out Spider for going to us (He said to Girucci: “Nuh uh uh! You know the rules. ‘No one talks to Vanguard.’ This ain’t gonna turn out well for Ocky.”.)

Since Sentinel and Slingshot are getting the intel, they become the primary targets. Kirk is betting that once they grab Spider, whoever is not already engaged with the rest of Vanguard will likely take off after them... and The Atomic Skull is insane and sees his old enemy, who in his mind caused every failure and problem in the world for him; he doesn't care about anything else at this point other than taking out Sentinel; the rest of the world doesn't even exist for him now.

The Mercenary's key element here is "strategist". He planned the battle for this area and setting. By trying to take them out of the element he prepared for, we remove that advantage (not to mention the fact that this is a heavily populated civilian area, especially at this time of the day).

It's unlikely that he planned for this immediate "run" tactic and likely doesn't know what to expect from Kirk at this time or what is on his mind. Again, this is NOT what Kirk would have done normally, which is why he is doing it.
And if they get the envelope and no villains follow, Kirk can simply turn around on the next turn and fly back into the fight instead of toward his intended destination.
Also, FYI, it simply would not be possible for Kirk's character to leave you outnumbered this way, particularly knowing the intent of HFH for Vanguard, he couldn't do it period.
Hope this clarifies my post and reasoning a bit.

Of course, the GM may see much of what I've said another way and I could be off on some of this; but this is the way Kirk sees it and has to act accordingly.

And I count on the GM to have The Mercenary act based on Kirk's apparent fleeing and not my clarifications of everything going through his head just now (I just screwed myself, didn't I :) -- be fair now Jeff. Hey, did you figure out where the battle's going if they follow and if we make it that far???

OOC Reply to Slingshot: We can certainly handle it in character, but even in my post I was giving you the opportunity to not come along for the ride. Since we both want Spider and the letter if you want "off" once we've got the location that's fine.
If your concern is about Mercenary (and rightly so) then be confident he's coming after us - (1) he's going to want to prevent us from getting the Intel and (2) he's on the platform of the Atomic Brain who was already ranting upon seeing Kirk and confusing him with the original from the 40's and the "gorilla" attack just confirmed it for him ... now that "that coward Sentinel" is running scared from him, he's not going to let him escape -- vengeance and payback are his!

I was envisioning some cool zooming through the buildings team-up stuff before getting them to a location of our preference, but Kirk wouldn't force Slingshot along if he felt he had a better strategy.

I've got to think anyone who doesn't jump off the Brain's platform is following Kirk whether they want to or not.


OOC: I can't come up with the write up right now and time is ticking, so we can talk strategy OOC and write it up after.

Here's what I was thinking. I'm pretty durable and I can move fast due to my elasticity. I can also slingshot myself and be airborne, fairly easily. There is simply _no way_ that a normal on foot can escape my reach in one turn. So I'm not worried about my losing Spider.

So I'm thinking that I simply take off with Spider, get his letter in the process, make sure his escape is done (and make sure he knows he owes me for saving his unsavory behind, I will come collect one day).

Vanguard and Sentinel get to tie up the Merc's misfits. The only one I'm immediately worried about it the teleporter but the other is Harris. Since the Brain has a thing for Sentinel, your gorilla idea is perfect to enrage him to the point where he would not listen to Mercenary and you could lead him in _another direction_.

What do you think (or anyone else for that matter?)


This is fine with me and along the lines of one of the possibilities I thought and the fact that you'd be sure to grab him and not miss him if we did it together in case somehow I was unable with the rest of what I was doing.
I was hoping we could actually secure the Intel and share it before separating so Vanguard's goal for this "meet" is accomplished no matter how the rest of the melee goes.

Secondly I think the two of us taking off and changing the environment location of the battle so abruptly isn't an action that The Mercenary planned for and gives us advantage.

I had two plans assuming we got that far. I'll outline them assuming counting on Jeff to be fair in having HFH act without knowing them.
(1) As we're zooming through the buildings, at one point in the chase, we'd take a sharp turn around (like a 90 degree angle turn) and Sentinel would back up his energy force into a huge translucent wall and hopefully the HFH team in pursuit would smash into it unexpectedly and at full force and that might take some of them out of the battle or at least damage them, stun them etc
While I'm attempting this, it might be a good time for you to deposit Spider off on a building or some other area you spot or if necessary slingshot away with him to do so (knowing that any 'thinking' members still after us will likely pursue you rather than me since you've got Spider if they notice (ie not the Brain).

(2) If we managed to stay together and had a reasonable number of them following I was figuring that I would try to plunge us into the river. Kirk knows you were able to manage down there without a problem from the last adventure and he would have his shields. Hopefully that would put HFH at a total disadvantage and I don't think there's the slightest chance Mercenary would be prepared for an underwater battle since none of our team's "powers" are water based.

On The Atomic Brain, I'm quite worried about how to deal with him and what could take him out. I was hoping that if we ended up in the water it might somehow give us an advantage against him and perhaps his immediate gear wouldn't be prepared to protect him properly ... either way I figured from his description my shields and your impervious "hide" would be the best bets to survive an encounter with him (I guess Strike would also be included in electrical form) as opposed to our teammates ... and here's hoping that I don't blow any of my "armor" roles against him since Kirk's shields quickly become "potluck" protection as the battle goes on and without them he's the physically weakest on the team (ie least hit points).

Again, there are so many variables open here and all of this may be moot depending on how Kirk's initial gambit plays out and if he really does catch the Mercenary off guard here.

Jeff - assuming Kirk makes it to the next round, anything else usable that Kirk would know about the Atomic Brain - is there a good chance that his gear might be unprepared for the environmental change into the water? How tough is his suit and the metal that comprises it? Do I know anything more about his "brain" chamber connections and protections? Any known documentation on what is needed to keep his brain operational or in a physical way how it is linked to the suit -- has he been captured and examined so we know any of that stuff?


Lightning Strike:
LS takes a break from the computers to respond to the summons to join the rest of Vanguard. Before he leaves, he encrypts/password protects his search so that hopefully nobody can access it while he is gone. LS is still not convinced that Chess is clean. There still might be a mole. If possible, LS will try to program trace threads so that if anyone accesses the program while it is running, he will be able to see what ID and what PC it was hacked from.

Anyway, when it comes to Homicide for Hire, LS agrees with the team splitting up slightly and having Slingshot (I think if I remember my e-mails well) go after Girucci. LS will focus his efforts on attacking the most electrically powered (I.E. not natural) villain which on his initial review would be Silencer! So LS will attempt a Special Attack on Silencer attempting to short circuit his armor, hopefully disabling him and taking him out of action. His second target would be Atomic Brain but we can save that for the next action.

Ideally, LS would use the overhead electrical wires for movement to position himself for future attacks but I am again unsure of the rules around turning back and forth from human form to electrical form. I don't know if that takes an action or simply movement. The goal would be attack, change to electrical form and rematerialize at a different point for another attack.