Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Issue 45: Gangsters from Beyond the Grave!

Big City, Lonely Town. Investigation Day Two: Night.

Deep below the largest graveyard on Earth, in long abandoned, colonial catacombs, Forester and Symbiote had woken the dead: six reanimated, racketeering revenants! The undead triggermen closed decaying, skeletal hands on their tommyguns as the Vanguardians leapt into action!

Forester assumed the leadership role and calmly directed his teammates as he deftly fired at Tangle Arrow at the earthly remains of Happy Jim Hacker! The cadaverous crook was netted and bound and fell onto the floor, his tommygun wrapped tightly to his ribcage. The hellish Hacker snarled: “Get me outta this thing!”

Symbiote divided into four identical duplicates of himself! Three charged the ghastly gunmen. One missed Blue Point Vance but the two that closed on Fat Boy Clarke both struck him with martial arts blows. POW! CHOK! Astonishingly, Fat Boy was still standing, marveling to himself. “Damn. Being dead has its upside.”

Ghost took the amazing archer’s suggestion and floated between Ice House Olsen and Alphabet Shorty McCoy. The sunken-eyed, skeletal soldiers both opened fire with their tommyguns! BUDDABUDDABUDDA!
The hails of bullets passed through the intangible inhuman and tore up Olsen and McCoy! They survived the onslaught longer than any human could, but eventually the bullets just ate them up. Both zombies came apart at the seams and collapsed! Ghost was as surprised as anyone.

The Clone attacked with all five of his identical bodies in a flashmob assault! Seeing the results of Symbiote’s attack, the Russian attempted to pull the guns from the monstrous mobsters’ cold, dead hands. He (they) encountered unexpected strength but succeeded in wresting free a submachinegun from Blue Point Vance!

The thing that had been Fat Boy Clarke opened fire on the set of Symbiotes! BUDDABUDDABUDDABUDDA!
He tagged one of the three who was torn up in the grinding death of bullets. The duplicate evaporated into thin air! Symbiote was thankful that there was no telepathic link! There were three Symbiotes left alive!

The grey-skinned ghoul that had been Blue Point Vance put his worm-eaten hands around the throat of a Clone and strangled him into unconsciousness! “Don’t need no tommygun for you frails.”

The bloodless abomination that had been Oklahoma Slim Martin turned his tommygun on a pack of Clones. Dead flesh fell from his face to reveal his white skull. “I’ll ice the lot a ya!” he drawled. BUDDABUDDABUDDA! Oklahoma Slim tagged one who fell but did not evaporate. Three Clones left fighting!

Unhappy Jim Hacker put his netherworldly strength to work against Forester’s net, but did not tear it… yet.

The real Symbiote was in the rear of Vanguard’s forces when he heard a noise from the catacombs behind him! (continued below)


Earlier, the rest of Vanguard, with their captives in tow, began to ascend from the dark sewers to the streets. Lightning Strike was quiet, perhaps feeling he had said too much, perhaps calculating his next move.

They surfaced in Queens, south of Shea Stadium. Above ground, their communicators worked and they reached Agent Sam Drake of CHESS, who quickly updated them on the situation as he moved CHESS agents into their area, to contain the unconscious Hyena and Silencer. Drake was brisk:
“Zero G escaped. Forester recovered Spider Girucci’s note. It said:

“Lonely Town… Butcher and Barber… Sewer hole… Straight down… When you can’t go lower go east
There you’ll find what you want. Take him, get the hell out of town, and all this ends.”
Vanguard knew that Lonely Town was home to Big City’s graveyard. A forlorn and forgotten place.
Butcher and Barber were streets. The dead man, Spider Girucci, said Morgue was holed up there.
It was not far from where they were!

Drake continued: “Forester, Symbiote, Ghost and the Clone went to the location.
Also, the CHESS safehouse was the site of gunfire between two gangster factions. We’ve abandoned the site.
Detective Archer found little on the whereabouts of Whisper, the gangster whose mysterious disappearance triggered the current strife between the Five Bosses. Whisper was last heard investigating the rumored arrival of a new gang to Big City. We have agents on their way to you now. Please stay put.”

(OOC: Insert replies here if any)

Vanguard looked down and saw that Hyena was gone! In his place was a small, unconscious man, bruised and burned, wearing Hyena’s pants!

After ensuring that they were bound, Strike hauled the unconscious captives into an alley to interrogate them. “Let’s not have any dramatics this time,” he said to Vanguard flatly. “I promise to treat them with kid gloves.” (OOC: Replies? Anyone go with him?)

In a short time, Strike emerged with his two captives, both awake now. Strike reported angrily:
“Homicide for Hire was contracted by Morgue to kill Vanguard for $5 million.
The Five Bosses are now united against Morgue. They had been infighting, but the arrival of Vanguard into Big City forced them to unite against common enemies: Vanguard, and Morgue who brought Vanguard to Big City in the first place.
So the Five Bosses had Spider Girucci send Vanguard against Morgue to kill him for them. The Bosses figured that once we got Morgue, we would leave Big City to their tender mercies again.

“Meanwhile, Morgue got wind of this and hired Homicide to take out Vanguard first. His hope is that with Vanguard eliminated, the Bosses would return to squabbling amongst themselves, which would make his position stronger. The “Peace Conference” already happened hours ago with both sides fixing to double-cross each other. These two don’t know what happened at the conference because they were busy tracking us.”
(OOC: replies, if any?)

A big, black CHESS Hovervan arrived on the scene. CHESS Knight Nathan Lamb and four rooks got out with extranormal containment units for Hyena and Silencer. “Glad to see you folks,” Nathan said easily. “Looks like you caught some more. Great work.” When the captives were safely secured inside the armored carrier, Lamb said: “We also secured the Odinium body of the Atomic Brain.”

One of the Rooks was a medic. “This is an experimental, emergency patch system, for use in extreme circumstances. It will give you a quick shot of adrenaline and painkillers (two Healing Rates toward hit points) but you’ll come down hard in about 6 hours (lose half Power Points). Using more than one could be fatal.”
There was one for each Vanguardian, and enough to carry for Forester, Symbiote, the Clone and Ghost.
(OOC: Administer them now? Save them? It takes time to successfully apply them.)

The CHESS Hovervan brought Vanguard to the corner of Butcher and Barber, allowing them to rest if only briefly (OOC: see Power Point gain at bottom). Lonely Town was a desolate and decaying, smoky, forlorn spread of ancient slums that encompassed Dickensian slaughterhouses, tenements, poorhouses, workhouses, bars, wharfs and the graveyard.

Butcher and Barber was a gutter crossroads of broken cobblestones. A full moon limned the ground’s mist with pale milky light. It was too quiet. They heaved the iron sewer cover aside and the heroes descended into the underworld with flashlights from the CHESS Hovervan. They lost communications almost immediately.

Dark, dank and foul smelling, the sewer eventually gave way to drier, more roughly shaped tunnels that served as catacombs, extensions of the world’s largest cemetery, dating back to Dutch colonial times. Cobweb-shrouded crypts and sarcophagi of proud families long forgotten, it felt like the Old World.

Following the dead man’s instructions, the men went down as far as they could. It took time. Then they turned east. It was a warren at this point, close and claustrophobic. Beyond their flashlights lay absolute darkness and rows and rows of the dead. The rocky necropolis seemed without end. Our heroes were cut off and alone. Suddenly, they heard: BUDDABUDDABUDDABUDDA! Tommygun fire! From up ahead!...


The real Symbiote was in the rear of Vanguard’s forces when he heard a noise from the catacombs behind him! He turned, ready for more of the unquiet dead, when suddenly appeared the rest of Vanguard, shocked at the sight of the dead gangsters they saw last night at the burning tenement, now “alive”!

Angry cries erupted from the dark behind the haunted hoodlums as another wave of undead monsters surged forward!! Among them were many of Big City’s infamous dead:

Alfred Bath: Big City’s first serial killer, hung in 1824, he decomposed his victims’ bodies in acid!
Dutch Nelson: Infamous gang boss and killer, given the chair in 1934!
Dr. Edward Guinness, the infamous serial killer and cannibal, killed himself in 1983 to avoid capture!
Maryann Wournos, a prostitute sent to the electric chair for poisoning seven of her johns!
John Manchester, the famed traitor, hung in 1780 for acts of treason against America!

It was as if Hell had opened its gate and released its upper echelon! Dead killers and madmen, these ruined skeletal travesties of mankind still held fierce undying hatred in their eyes.

The sheer number of combatants, due to the duo of duplicators and the legion of undead, made for a chaotic battlefield. At this point, ranged attacks stood a chance of hitting friend or foe alike!

The undead mass murderers surged forward, intent on dragging Vanguard back down to Hell with them!

OOC: Actions?
Current Conditions:

Forester: Hit Points: 21, Power Points: 60
Kairos: Hit Points: 20, Power Points: 56
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 18, Power Points: 54
Sentinel: Hit Points: 12, Power Points: 32, Creation Points: 64, Current Armor: 17
Slingshot: Hit Points: 18, Power Points: 58, Invulnerability: 8
Symbiote and his 2 duplicates each have: Hit Points: 2, Power Points: 8



OOC: what sort of energy comes off the zombies ... is it different from normal humans/extranormals? If so, how many more of these are within Kirk's range? Any other extranormals within his range currently? Figure on Kirk paying attention to this as they precede, and yes, I know my current range might not be normal range due to the walls, etc as explained last issue, but I'll take whatever info to use I can glean.

Will reply to other stuff shortly.


As much as he'd like to impress the crowd of costumed champions, clones, and corpses, Forester discerns that an unexpected stunt arrow would only aggravate the situation. He decides to evade, for now, until the slugfest thins down.

While keeping an eye on the action, the meditative merryman considers the ethics of fighting once-dead men, such as Happy Jim Hacker.

"How are you here?" Forester asks the grappled ghoul. "What are you trying to gain? What do you need from the living?" The archer's tone is steady, and his inflection shows concern.

Then Forester steps away from Hacker and signals for Ghost to float toward him. Away from the action, Forester says: "My friend, if there is a paranormal aspect to your powers, do you have any idea what's happening here with villains coming back from the grave? Anything that might help us get a handle on the situation?"
Forester adds: "It looks like Symbiote and Clone still have their hands full, and the rest of Vanguard can handle the remaining revenants for now. Any chance, my friend, that you could scout ahead for a few seconds to see who else might be headed our way? Maybe outmaneuver them by floating through a wall ... then return here to let us know what lies ahead. The team needs your help to forge a strategy."

OOC: Does Forester's own knowledge of mysticism, or his arm's-length training with Marksman, offer any insight into the revitalized villains? Do zombies usually travel in packs? Is superhuman strength a standard? Do they have any common fears or vulnerabilities? Are there any known ceremonies or substances that might return them to the grave?


OOC GM Replies:
Forester wrote: Does Forester's own knowledge of mysticism, or his arm's-length training with Marksman, offer any insight into the revitalized villains? Do zombies usually travel in packs? Is superhuman strength a standard? Do they have any common fears or vulnerabilities? Are there any known ceremonies or substances that might return them to the grave?
OOC GM Reply:Forester’s knowledge of the occult tells him that these hideous monstrosities are not truly zombies.
A zombie is a reanimated human body devoid of consciousness. In contemporary versions these are generally undead corpses, which were traditionally called 'ghouls.' Stories of zombies originated in the Afro-Caribbean spiritual belief system of Vodou.
These creatures in the catacombs are clearly conscious and aware. They are more likely revenants: a mythical, visible ghost or animated corpse that has returned from the grave to terrorize the living!
The word "revenant" is derived from the French, revenir, "to return". Belief in revenants emerged in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. Revenants share a number of characteristics with folkloric vampires, like inhuman strength and durability, and destroying them often requires some form of decapitation, burning, and/or removal of the heart.
Those who return from the dead were invariably evil in life. As to why they have returned from the land of the dead, folklore offers at least two reasons:
The first is that the deceased’s desire to complete a goal (usually to avenge its death) allows it to return from the grave as a creature vaguely resembling an intelligent zombie. These revenants often act alone, unless they died together.
The other possibility is that a powerful sorceror (warlock, witch, demon) has returned a man from the grave. Such a revenant may be just as intelligent as it was in life but its will is usually bound by the one who summoned and controls it. These revenants are more likely to exist in a group.
Various forms of walking dead exist in the myths and legends of nearly every civilization dating back to earliest history.

Sentinel wrote: what sort of energy comes off the zombies ... is it different from normal humans/extranormals? If so, how many more of these are within Kirk's range?

OOC GM Reply: Yes, a negative energy, and there are others in the darkness, behind the ones you can see. The crowd makes it hard to count them. At least five more!

Sentinel wrote: Any other extranormals within his range currently?

OOC GM Reply: No.


OOC: Sentinel would likely have powered up the shields to full upon reentering the tunnels since he'd have to do it once they ran into a problem and waiting to do so wouldn't benefit him any, so he'd have done it sooner. A 54% chance of his shields working are bad enough but a 17% chance make them pretty useless.

Since Kirk can sense that packs of only these things are ahead, what's the odds of him sending tendrils of energy passed his teammates and forming a whirling slice and dice type wall just passed where they are engaged to start dismantling some of these zombies and prevent them from coming forward further into range of attacking his teammates --- since he can "animate" his constructs could he do something with lots of whirling blades to shred these things? He could do a "wall" type construct with whirling blades to mow down through the tunnel, or perhaps a large "top-like" bladed whirling constructs which would cover most of the tunnel area moving beyond the heroes.


OOC GM Replies:
Hi James. Thanks. By the way, the definition of revenant fits Morgue's description pretty well.
Forester had been searching for an occultic angle to this investigation. It might have been staring him in the face all along!
PS: The Ghost might also fit one definition of revenant.

Sentinel: Whirling blades of death construct. While gruesome, this is possible. When attacking multiple opponents, there are 2 rules sets:

1: "Multiple Attack:" this means that you roll separately for each target.
(The number of targets depends on the attack type. A big wall of blades could probably attack any who are near it.)
Each target beyond the first costs an extra 2 Power Points for the attacker and in some cases a d20 agility save for the attacker (this is Spider-Man leaping around hitting a bunch of goons, or Cap bouncing his shield around a squad from HYDRA).
But, you must hit ALL of them successfully, or the entire attack fails and no one is hit! However, if you succeed, you can roll your damage against each target separately.
Also, the targets should be near each other. Targets that have "spread out" make this kind of thing tough.

2: "Area Attack:" This is like knocking a wall onto a group of heroes. In this version, you roll to hit every target in range of the attack separately. However, missing any of them does NOT negate the entire attack. The people you missed just got out of the way of the attack.
Then, you roll your damage once and divide it among the targets you successfully hit.
This approach is easier to succeed at but you do less damage per target and has no Power Point upcharge.
The first way is hard to succeed at, but you do good damage to all involved if you succeed. Pretty much an all or nothing approach.

Obviously, both versions are best used against low-level targets that are easy to hit (goons, normal people, etc.) Kairos executed the first version against Hyena and Zero G when he finally got back to the battle, and used a Luck Point to pull it off.
Sentinel and Slingshot used the second version on the already beat-up Homicide for Hire in the sewer tunnel.

And again, the type of attack often decides the method. A normal person can't do an area attack with his fist. But Slingshot could.

If you do the blade construct, I'll need to know your preferred method, since I think either could work in this case. I'll also need the number of points put into the construct, of course.


"What?! They attacked our HQ?! ..and they expect us to leave after we get Morgue?"

Scott's fists tightened, the sound of rubber rubbing was clearly audible.

He saw 'Strike looking at him in disgust. "It may be an emotional response, but it's not the wrong one, if we are to be taken seriously."

[quote]After ensuring that they were bound, Strike hauled the unconscious captives into an alley to interrogate them. "Let's not have any dramatics this time," he said to Vanguard flatly. "I promise to treat them with kid gloves." (OOC: Replies? Anyone go with him?) [/quote]

"You are welcome to them."

OOC: Stimshot, I'll take it now.
[moving into view of the others in the tunnels]

He heard the tommy guns shattering the relative silence. The sound was thunderous! Without fail, he moves to a forward position. Scott stepped towards the lights from the gun muzzles, as he did so, he passed Symbiote. As he did so, he nodded his recognition of him. While he took only one step, he seemed to flow more than walk, flow along his legs. He turned to the green archer and said, "That was an amazing catch with the note. You are such a stud!" He continued on. Forester noticed that Slingshot took a severe beating, but was still going forward. The Malleable Man of Might arrived just before the clones. He looked at a Symbiote clone, looked back and again. Shrugging, he looked at the mass of undead monstrosities and said, "I think it will be a good thing to rid ourselves of this Morgue." With that he heaved a growing fist and threw it at them from over the heads of the clones.

OOC: Move up to just behind the clones and throw in an enlarged fist into the mass of undead citizens. (I'd hope to hit two-three, depending on how tightly packed they are).


On second thought ...
While still exchanging words with Hacker and Ghost, Forester reconsiders his combat strategy this turn and decides to attack this turn.

"I always thought a Flaming Arrow would be too unwieldy for combat," the woodsman says to Ghost or any other heroes in earshot. "Yet when it comes to dead-less corpse-men, fire might be just what we need."

"But instead of playing artful dodger," Forester says, "I'll trying using their modus operandi against them."

Rather than evading, as originally planned, Forester faces Dr. Edward Guinness, the infamous serial killer and cannibal who killed himself in 1983 to avoid capture.

"Here's something to chew on," Forester says as he fires a Scented Arrow at the decomposing doctor, aiming to coat the ravenous revenant with musky oil designed to lure even the most crass carnivores.

Despite the risk of accidentally hitting a hero, Forester reasons that the walking remains of Dr. Guiness will attack Vanguard no matter what cologne they happen to be wearing. From that perspective, the archer has nothing to lose by tempting this revenant into devouring himself.


The Daring Duplicator determines that now is not the time for anything fancy--just a war of attrition against an implacable foe. His remaining clones will continue to attack the Cadaverous Criminals he hit last round, trying to whittle down their unholy life force. In the meantime, the original Symbiote will extend his hand to Slingshot as he enters the fray. "Don't suppose you'd be willing to give me another boost, would you?" he asks. "Could use that tough skin and endurance right now."

(OOC: Assuming Slingshot allows me to absorb his powers again, I'm hoping that my clones will get the opportunity to get a shot in before they presumably dissolve as I drop Clone's powers and switch to Slingy's. Then I'll hopefully be able to attack much more effectively with Slingshot's powers next round).


Too many heroes, too many villains, too little space. I'm going to stay out of the general melee right now, reasoning that my presence in the middle of it might impede the actions of some of my comrades who might be doing area attacks.

Instead, I'll watch our back and flanks and keep an eye on the situation in front, too, in case I see an opportunity to act.


OOC: I will forego the slice and dice attack, although it goes along with the zombie motif which is what I thought about initially, it would be a more gruesome than what Kirk would normally do. If it was a scenario with genuine undead where the slicing and dicing helped and decapitation is necessary, I could see Kirk doing it out of necessity, but since that isn't the case here, figure the same sort of attack with Kirk's sending the energy forward by two tethers or so along the side of the walls passed his teammates and then erecting a wall/battering ram type construct to hopefully smash a number of them up from the front of group and throw them back towards the oncoming troop.

He'd likely retract the energy after the attack since he needs all the points for his shields he can keep intact unless something else happens along the way that I don't know yet where it would be imperative or extremely advantageous to Vanguard for him to do otherwise (if Kirk was at full power he'd leave the wall up to absorb their attacks, if he tries that strategy now, he'd likely have no power left by the time we get passed them).

This would have to be the less energy intensive attack where damage is split, but hopefully in addition to taking out a few of the front-runners of the pack it will mess up the attacks and throw others off balance, etc.

We should get a feel for how tough these guys are this round so we can decide if we can take them in their numbers at our current power level. Hard to know what to do with energy levels so low and no idea what lies ahead still. Too bad none of us carry a rocket launcher :)

OK, a few other comments:
To Nathan Lamb on the capture of the Brain.

"You only found the body? No sign of Brain itself? Did scans or forensics of the area indicate escape of his organic makeup? I know Doc will have a field day with the body to better prepare us if he returns, but I'd hoped we'd had him captured and stopped his destructive rampages permanently!"
If Kirk has a moment to go near the area to see if he can sense anything if they indicated the Brain's escape, he'd try to do so if there is time. (which I realize he might now have)

On the "patch" kits, I assume that there is a small carrying case in some form a strapable pack or something along those lines; if no one else wants to carry them, Kirk will do it in case anyone wants to take a shot later (assuming we have the opportunity and need).

I'm also assuming at this point that we can get some sort of portable lights to carry since we know what to expect in the tunnels -- does Chess have any mission packs pre-prepared for this sort of thing. You would think they'd have gear ready for hostile or unknown terrain that includes stuff like that, if so Kirk will suggest we take advantage of them and let us know what else we have along with us (rocket launcher :) ) ...

Guess that's good enough for me at this point.


OOC GM Replies:
Bookkeeping: Lightning Strike and Slingshot are the only ones who have administered the stimshot so far. The emergency system comes in a small, portable package.

CHESS’s “mission packs” includes things like passports and pistols for their undercover agents. Not much use here. CHESS Knights have gear built into their powered armor.
But CHESS did provide flashlights for your descent into the catacombs.

The Atomic Brain’s actual brain has not yet been located. “It was a wreck in there. It’ll just be a matter of time,” said CHESS Knight Nathan Lamb.
Seth, I’m not sure Sentinel had time here to return to the Shea Stadium battle site and search. CHESS was rushing to get him and the rest of Vanguard to find Forester, Clone and the Ghost.
You said: “Kirk would have accompanied the rest of the team as they went to catch up with the others, so it was right to include him and count as you did.”
Also, CHESS deploys scanner teams in extranormal mop up sessions.
Sentinel re-created his shields, at a cost of 8 power points.

Re: Sentinel: ‘Rocket launcher:’
Harrik has a power called “Heightened Attack” which adds one point of damage per level of Harrik’s experience, to all attack damage.
The Marvel villain, Bullseye has this, which is why anything in his hands is a deadly weapon.
If that wasn’t enough, Slingshot has a Weakness: Vulnerability to fire or heat that doubles all damage he takes of that nature. The grenades Harrik was launching were thermobaric (heat and concussion).
Bad combination.