Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Issue 75: Pattern Recognition

AEGIS Spire, Athens, dawn.

The world was ending and Forester felt marginalized and oddly detached by events that seemed to dwarf him. Onboard the Manta Craft in the AEGIS Spire’s gloomy hanger, the heroic hunter searched the CHESS database for the last known whereabouts of the Freedom Force. He found it.

A few years back, the Freedom Force faced overwhelming odds against the S’Korian invasion of Earth (S’Korian is pronounced Suh-Core-ee-un). The evil space-faring alien empire was apparently a progenitor race of mankind and may have been responsible for the technological wonders and religions of the ancient age, ala Chariots of the Gods. They were back and now led by the time-traveling black celestial, Eon the Eternal, who used a black hole as his power source! The Earth appeared doomed to enslavement, like so many worlds that had fallen to the S’Korian Empire. The Freedom Force, Earth’s greatest champions, made desperate preparations to battle for the fate of mankind.

Meanwhile, in the AEGIS Spire, Vanguard made desperate preparations for a final assault on the savage Primate. Kairos again withdrew into aloofness as was his custom when not in the thick of battle.

The Freedom Force (Dynamo the uncanny two-fisted leader, Nemesis the hyper-intelligent android, Pathos the alien empath, Onyx the stealthy cyborg from Earth’s future, and the clone of the deceased Paladin the armored guardian of the galaxy) allied with a time traveling superhero named Anachronism. He led them to a galactic superweapon that could enable them to stand toe to toe with the unimaginable cosmic power of Eon the Eternal.

Through the static and jumps of a bad connection from a war-torn bunker, Vanguard shared information with Doc Rocket, the aged British Einstein of World War II. Today he looked his age.
“The device can dampen the broadcast transmission in a local area of about 100 meters. The battery pack is worn on the back. It should function eight hours before a recharge from the Manta Craft or another power source is needed. I’ve no way of knowing whether a machine or the Primate is the primary source of the animal revolution.”
Doc and Interpol were alerted to the saucer ships’ role in the transmission.

Through the jumpy connection Sentinel implored: “Are you saying what I think you’re saying here Doc? We know Vanguard as a government agency is authorized like Chess to use lethal force when necessary and that in this dire situation we need to do whatever is necessary to stop this madness, but we aren’t executioners. As bad as this all is, and it’s as bad as it gets, you can’t be telling us to embark on this mission with the intent to put Primate down permanently if it isn’t necessary to stop his rampage.”

Doctor Clark Rocket was quiet a moment. Shelly wiped blood from her forearm. Doc exhaled wearily and said without pleasure, “Son, I’ve fought against fascism in Europe and Japan. I helped invent the atom bomb. I fought against Joseph Stalin and the S’Korian invasion of Earth. And I’ve never seen a threat as grave as this. Mankind could be extinguished today. Forever.
“So what am I telling you? I’m telling you to do your duty to safeguard the future of the human race. I’m telling you that sometimes the luxury of one’s personal morality comes at too great a price for mankind. I’m telling you that your unusual abilities have placed a unique responsibility upon your shoulders that call for sacrifice... real sacrifice. Perhaps even the sacrifice of your own conscience.
Am I happy to have built the bomb? No. Would I do it again? Yes.”
Clark Rocket’s hand was trembling, completing the portrait of age and infirmity.
“I’m telling you that school’s out, son. I’m telling you that it’s high time you’ve grown up.”

Symbiote jumped in to defuse the situation but the connection to New York was soon lost.
Those were Doc Rocket’s final words on the matter.
The Freedom Force found allies in their war. A secret haven of alien refugees on Earth joined the cause, sending their champions, including the original Paladin’s widow, Venus.

Vanguard entered the tomb-like hall of AEGIS’ fallen members. Quietly, respectfully, Vanguard dressed themselves in the sacred raiment of Europe’s dead heroes for whatever small advantage it might provide.
Symbiote became Professor Fahrenheit of Sweden, the ingenious ice master!
Kairos became the Chevalier of France, the sword wielding paladin of justice!
Slingshot became the Monolith of Germany, a titan made of black rock!
Sentinel became the Lion of Britain, the acrobatic, two fisted, Union Jack-wearing champion of England!
Forester became the Centurion of Rome, a weapon master who carried a bow, cestus, net and bolas!
Lightning Strike became Dr. Monster of Romania, the mysterious, dark, cloaked creature of myth.
Oracle of Greece joined them.
AEGIS was reborn.

For the ruse to work, they would take AEGIS’ long range jet, the Phaeton One (imagine the Avengers Quinjet). Oracle could pilot it. Manetti would follow in the Manta Craft just in case.
Like men grasping at straws, the Freedom Force methodically studied the Enemy for any weakness to exploit. They found none. Their choices were quickly narrowing.
Symbiote researched Professor Fahrenheit’s notes and found that Simon Simian had no signs of extranormal powers beyond the intelligence his “creator” granted him through experimental surgery.

Armed as best as they could manage, the Freedom Force set out with the odds hopelessly stacked against them. They rocketed toward their enemy’s orbital stronghold, and certain doom.

The Phaeton One and the Manta Craft launched, rocketing toward their enemy’s African stronghold. Super-scientist Symbiote sequestered himself in private with his amazing Harper Harness.

Hours into the flight, familiar smoke plumes marked the human cities of sub-Saharan Africa.
Two hours before target fall, CHESS Rook Jen Christiansen instructed Vanguard on the CHESS stimshot. She recited from memory: “This is an experimental, emergency patch system, for use only in extreme circumstances. It will give you a quick shot of adrenaline and painkillers (OOC: two Healing Rates toward hit points. A Luck Point will double that.) but you’ll come down hard in about 6 hours (lose half Power Points). Using more than one could be fatal.” Making herself useful let Christiansen stop thinking about where her husband and children might be right now. Or her parents. (OOC: Administer stimshots now? Save them? In combat, they take one full action to apply.)

CHESS records were spotty from this point on. The Freedom Force were last seen hurtling toward the S’Korian flagship in high Earth orbit. They were never heard from again.
The S’Korian invasion withdrew and Eon the Eternal disappeared. CHESS assumes that the Freedom Force’s assault was successful but that they did not survive it. They went unhesitatingly to their deaths.

The Freedom Force were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration. The sacrifice of these lost champions of Earth will not be forgotten.

Forester looked up from the files and Vanguard were now one hour out from the lair of the Primate.
Midnight cloaked the viridian jungles of Africa.

OOC: Actions?

What is your approach? Do you land the Phaeton? What is your attack plan? Who will wear Doc Rocket’s Transmission Disruptor? (It looks like a futuristic Jack Kirby flamethrower, complete with back- pack, except the barrel has a radar dish on it.) Thanks!

Current Conditions:
Forester: Hit Points: 13 Power Points: full New quiver
Kairos: Hit Points: 21 Power Points: full
Lightning Strike: Hit Points: 11 Power Points: full
Sentinel: Hit Points: 7 Power Points: full
Slingshot: Hit Points: full Power Points: full Invulnerability: 8
Symbiote: Hit Points: full Power Points: full Charges: 13

Happy Armageddon, er uh I mean, Holidays!


GM, Private to Symbiote:
Symbiote believes that his formula is successful, but has no way to test it.


Symbiote, Private to GM:
Well then, we'll test it in the field, Hopefully.

Don't suppose I was able to mix any sedative in with it? I'd like to get some in there, unless I believe it will reduce the effectiveness in which case I'll do without. My sincere hope is to do this on the Q.T., the other won't know about it...until our "down-time" issue after it's all over, wherein I have an idea for an interesting conversation between Doc and Hal. Assuming it works. Or I get the chance to use it at all. Or we don't all die.

If it comes down to either using it publicly on the Primate or letting some of the others kill him, he'll use it right in front of them. Hal was particularly inspired by Doc Rocket's speech, especially the bit about the Manhattan project, and tends to believe the group actually executing another sentient being will be too hard on everybody, Sentinel particularly.


OOC: Jeff, if a character loses all of his hit points, will a stimshot revive him?
Either way, Forester will pass on taking a stimshot. Dressed as the fallen Centurion, the woodsman feels oddly rejuvenated, as a call-to-action penetrates his on-and-off sense of detachment.

Forester suggests that one of his teammates with more technical expertise carry the Transmission Disruptor.


OOC: Jeff, Before starting to read the postings on the issue, just wanted to compliment you on the great storytelling layout; you could see the visuals of the panels on one side telling the Freedom Force back story and Vanguard's current parallel actions. Very nice.Hopefully our outcome will be better than Chess assumed outcome for the Freedom Force.Seth


OOC: Yeah, I noticed that too. Very "Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons" transitions. Liked it.
Jeff, what do we know about Oracle? What are her powers other than precognition?
Hal recommends that we fly in low, under the radar, hoping that the Ape doesn't know we're coming since he presumably lost contact with us in Greece (with his animal control signal stopped and since we're no longer wearing the compromised communicators). We should be prepared for bird bombardment, however. At that point Sentinel should shield us, and we'll try out our dandy new signal jammer, see if it keeps the birds off us 'til we land. Oh, and Kirk should do another sweep of both aircraft, see if we have another rat some similar spy on board.

Once on the ground...Kirk should scan the electrical system of Primate's stronghold. Assuming there's nothing unusual about it (i.e., anything that might scream "booby trap") I recommend that Lightning Strike and I enter electrically, looking for Inhuman, the off switch for his broadcasting equipment, and generally the best way to hit the building.

I recommend Sentinel carry the jammer. Forester and Kairos both need both hands free to use their weapons. Slingshot is a brawler, he needs his hands free to hit people and things. Lightning Strike may need to turn into electrical form and won't be able to carry it with him if so. I'll probably have either Slingshot or Lightning Strike's powers, with the same drawbacks of both. That leaves Sentinel, who has technological skills and (I assume) doesn't actually need to use his hands in order to project energy.

IC: The first quiet moment on the flight, Hal sets down with CHESS agent Jen Christiansen.
"I know you're worried, Agent Christiansen. But there's something that's bothered me about this entire situation since it started. Maybe you can help me with it."

"According to Professor Prometheus' notes, Simon Simian had superhuman intelligence, yes...but that was it. Nothing else. No animal control abilities at the time of his capture, at least, and no psionic abilities of any kind. No long range telepathy.

"Yet he had Pachyderm and at least four or five other animal-powered metahumans ready to inact his escape plan. He had that airship coordinated, ready for pickup. And within a day he had this entire broadcast system, ready to contact and control every animal on the planet," Hal says.

"How did he do that if he was in hotsleep for years beforehand?"

"Somewhere, something broke down, didn't it?," Hal says. "Whether it was with the hotsleep system or human error, something happened. Or there's something about hotsleep itself the rest of us don't know."

"Agent Christiansen, I'd like to say that I don't want you to reveal anything classified, but that'd be a lie. If you know anything about what's going on...about the hotsleep program, about how Primate was able to coordinate an escape and an attack on the world while he was supposedly in a chemically induced's the time to tell us. Even if you're violating a security protocol. Tomorrow, security protocols quite probably aren't going to be important, because if we don't succeed tonight there'll be nobody left to keep any secrets from."

Hal finished with a hard gaze. "If you don't know the answers, if it's above your pay grade and you were never told, so be it," he concludes. "But for the sake of our families--yours, mine, everybody's--if you know something, tell us."

Note, also, that while Hal is choosing a quite moment to have this discussion with Christiansen, he's not necessarily trying to do it in private or out of earshot of the rest of the team (this would presumably be impossible in a crowded jet anyway). Anybody else who wants to be involved or has a question, step on in.


GM Replies:
OOC: Thanks Greg and Seth, I only steals from the best. ;)
Actually, thanks to James/Forester for the inspiration.

Oracle's known powers are:
1) Precognition
2) The ability to place images of the future into others' minds (if you remember your 'deaths' and the 'death' of human civilization)


They were incredibly strong words to hear from someone Kirk admired and respected his entire life. They might have cut a lesser man to the core. But Kirk was privileged to come to know Clark Rocket himself in recent months, apart from the legend, and understood him. The response in Kirk was that he hoped the world in some way appreciated the ultimate sacrifice this man made for them, and that someday Doc Rocket would find the peace within himself that he so deserved; the peace that his mind tried to give by reason, but couldn't reach his soul.
And he thought of his friend Hal, so much like Doc in so many ways; including in conscience he perceived, and he hoped he could prevent him from ever being haunted in the same way.
He wanted the chance to reassure Doc they would get the job done, but with the transmission suddenly lost, that opportunity was lost to him.

Symbiote said: "Guys, I'd say one thing at a time. First we have to find him, then we have to beat him. What we ultimately do IF we get both of those accomplished should depend on what the situation is like when we get there."

“Agreed. This is a discussion for another time.” But Kirk sensed that Doc’s reference to his youthfulness might call to mind some of his teammates concerns of his ‘naivety,’ and there was no room for doubt on anyone’s part in the here and now.

Kirk turned from the screen his head downward for a brief second gathering his thoughts and girding his determination for what lie ahead. Then his eyes locked with those of Vanguard and he said with firm conviction, “In those desperate times of past Doc spoke about, the Sentinel was there and fought the good fight. He reconciled his conscious with what needed to be done and the world bestowed on him the titles of ‘beacon of liberty’ and ‘harbinger of hope’. That Sentinel shaped the man standing before you today.”

As Kirk spoke, unconsciously a bright aura of energy flickered around him, as if the universe itself were punctuating his words and determination.

“The world once again finds itself in desperate times and the Sentinel stands ready to do whatever is necessary for the preservation of life and victory,” and Kirk repeated it again slowly emphasizing each word “whatever … is … necessary!”
And then he added, “Make no mistake my friends; this battle and this day belongs to Vanguard. We will not fail!”

Hal recommends that we fly in low, under the radar… Once on the ground...Kirk should scan the electrical system of Primate's stronghold.

Kirk is on board with all of the above. Hopefully with the device, if we encounter any birds we can pilot out of the way and keep Kirk’s power at full going into battle since with his current physical state, he needs it. Kirk will begin scanning the energy readings of the complex as soon as he is within range and throughout, if he picks up anything of value he will relay the information to his teammates.

Hal recommends Sentinel carry the jammer.

Kirk would leave the choice up to the team. The only thing he would want to be clear about is whether it would project through his shields or not. Perhaps if necessary he could adjust his shields to allow the pulses from the device to project through them. I’ll leave that to our ‘real’ scientific types and our GM to figure out what is necessary in that regard. Although I’d think that the device should be designed to work ‘hands-free’ once turned on, no? If we run into issues with this perhaps we can have Oracle carry the device since she doesn’t apparently have offensive powers; she could fall back to a defensive area (evading) and hopefully keep the device within an effective distance but at a safe range from the battle.

Note, also, that while Hal is choosing a quite moment to have this discussion with Christiansen, he's not necessarily trying to do it in private or out of earshot of the rest of the team.

Since Kirk had already established a relationship of sorts with Christiansen, Kirk would certainly check back to see how she was doing; he’ll follow Hal’s lead this time and since he had some=2 0suspicions of his own previously and with the world at stake, this time he’ll employ his ‘surface thought read’ power on her while Hal leads the discussion. If it started to yield results and she didn’t come forth honestly with the info, Kirk could interject things like “We already know about …" and repeat what she’s just said or thought to lead her mind down the path needed. Again, Kirk would only do so if Hal’s lead wasn’t taking things in the right direction because she wasn’t giving him all the Intel.

Although Kirk loathes the use of the stimshot, he is in the worst shape of everyone and the team and the world needs him. Kirk will wait until they are ready to move into direct battle and will apply the shot and use a luck point (this should get him six to seven hit points if I understood things – if not, please let me know as it may affect my decision). Kirk will check the time so he can know when the six hours are up.

Other possible thoughts: We know from the layout Intel where the main power generator is located and that it’s tied into the volcano; do we know the setup used to harness the power? I guess what I’m asking is would nuclear energy be involved or anything that harmful? If not, although none of our crafts have offensive capabilities, perhaps we should have a discussion of the possibility of the ships being used to blow up the machinery being used to harness the energy and set up a chain reaction to blow the base up in the event of battle problems (could the pilots set the course for ramming and eject at the last moment?). Would the explosion of the craft be powerful enough to set up such a series of events?


GM Replies:
Symbiote wrote: Hal recommends that we fly in low, under the radar... Once on the ground...

GM Reply: Just for clarity, is the plane landing in this scenario? If yes, where? Thanks.

Sentinel wrote: We know from the layout Intel where the main power generator is located and that it’s tied into the volcano; do we know the setup used to harness the power? I guess what I’m asking
is would nuclear energy be involved or anything that harmful?

GM Reply: From Interpol's satellite magnetic resonance imagery, it appears the volcano's energy is powering the island installation. There would be no need for nuclear power.

Sentinel wrote: Would the explosion of the craft be powerful enough to set up such a series of events?

GM Reply: Unknown. The jets will be low on fuel after the 16 hour flight, which would reduce their explosion a little. But flying an unmanned jet into the mouth of the volcano certainly wouldn't be good for those inside. Speaking of which, that might include your "undercover operative," Inhuman!
But locking in the course and ejecting is possible, not to mention really cool.



OOC: Just a thought and not even related to my character, but...I wonder if Symbiote could get DNA from the costumes and items of the heroes whom we are impersonating?


OOC: Hmm...the ultimate call on the idea will be Jeff's, of course. But there's a precedent for it...

If Jeff approves I would propose that Hal can do this one time from any secondary genetic source (such as a costume, a hair clipping or from other "genetic leavings," examples of which sickos like Harold have probably already thought of). After that one use the metahuman potential is drained from the source. Thus, Hal can do this once with each of the costumes. This would allow the trick to actually work without overbalancing the game in Symbiote's favor by allowing him to absorb any metahuman powers from any villain or hero's costume (or hairbrush or whatever) at any time.

If Jeff does allow this I'll probably go ahead and enter the base with Lightning Strike's powers, but once we confront Primate I'll switch to Professor Farenheit. Bet it'll seriously unnerve the ape to see somebody with his old master's costume and his old master's powers coming at him...


GM Reply:
OOC: Very inventive, Harold! But I'm gonna say no. Sorry. The power write up says you need to touch an extranormal subject. The whole "DNA" thing is actually a limitation that prevents Hal from copying skills, magic, psionics, etc. However, if Hal wants to use a level advancement to work on recovering powers from DNA for one time use, that's acceptable.
Ye Grinchy GM


OOC: I'll definitely keep the "secondary DNA power absorption" thing in mind for level advancement...four levels from now. Already got the next three planned.

As for landing the ship vs. not landing, here's what I propose (everybody throw in counterproposals/modifications/different ideas if you have them). Assuming the Phaeton has VTOL capabilities we land about a mile and a half from Primate's base and try to approach from a position of stealth. As I say, Lightning Strike and I will go in electrically first, assuming Sentinel doesn't detect a trap with his energy sense.

Assuming he has enough fuel Manetti will circle the area at a distance and serve as our doomsday option. If things seem hopeless, if there's no other way of stopping Primate, any of us can broadcast to him a code word or phrase ("Manetti...'Operation: Spank The Monkey' is a go!") and he then aims the manta craft down the volcano, hopefully bailing out just beforehand.


GM Replies:
OOC: Greg: you said Hal proposes to land or hover the Manta Craft a mile or so out and hike to the lair of the Primate.
As his lair is on a volcanic island, you'll be crossing water as part of the approach. Just an fyi.


OOC: Well then...if we can't hit him stealthy, I vote we hit him hard and fast! Oracle does a flyover and we bail, using Sentinel's force bubbles, Slingshot's human parachute trick and Lightning Strike's ability to electrically transmit himself into the facility (assuming Sentinel's energy sense detects no traps) to get to him before he knows what's happening.

Anybody who has another idea, PLEASE speak up. It's not a great plan, but right now I can't seem to think of another one.


OOC: How about we let Lightning Strike enter their systems and try to cut out ALL power and turn off ALL systems? Or even have LS be a "ghost in the machine" and control their own traps and stuff and use it against them?The rest of us can charge ahead AFTER LS takes out defensive systems (or, even better, begins to sow chaos by using systems against them). Maybe Symbiote can take Slingshot's powers and we can have TWO strong, invulnerable, regenerating guys spearheading our attack with Sentinel overseeing the fight and helping where help is needed while Forester and Kairos, who seem to work well together, target foes as needed. Not sure that Oracle needs to come with us into the fight, though that's her call.


OOC: Not bad at all, though as Harold and I just discussed on the phone, I'd still suggest Sentinel scan the system first and make sure there are no traps within the system itself specifically for Lightning Strike's electrical form (or mine, if I go in that way).


Lightning Strike:
OOC: You guys have read my mind. Given my relatively low current hit point total, engaging the villains directly would probably not be in my best interests.

Strike would enter their systems at the earliest possible moment and then disable/take control of the following systems in priority order:
Disable animal control devices thereby preventing further loss of life.
Take control of defensive systems and turn them on Primate.
Release any prisoners being held in complex.
Disable communications so that any reinforcements can't be called in.
I guess that takes care of it for now. I doubt I could do much more than that (if even that much) in one game turn.

Take it easy,
Tony (Donating his Gall Bladder for the good of the team)


OOC: Looking forward to checking out the site further when I get a few moments, but looking good from my quick scan!On the meeting room, I like the dogs playing poker and Elvis, but the sad clowns freak me out ... but no reason to transfer my disturbed psyche to Kirk.

On the attack; water certainly wouldn't be an issue for a stealth maneuver with Sentinel and Slingshot to navigate the waters for the team; although I'm not sure we'd get any further advantage with a stealth approach as opposed to the hit him fast and hard approach here.

And given the state of much of the world, ending the animal control sooner rather than later would be weighed in.Kirk would do his best to 'scan' energy sources, but I wouldn't count on his ability to pickup any traps, etc unless he got a real lucky roll. I would think given the time frame and the distance involved, we'd be doing good just for him to get a general feeling of areas where greater amounts of energy are contained verses lesser amounts. I wouldn't think he'd be able to pick up any 'energy traps' Primate might have in place to catch Strike trying to enter their systems, but Jeff could answer that one better. With his scans I was hoping to pick up the main energy source powering the place (which we kind of determined is the volcano already) and hopefully another main concentration or two (perhaps whatever Primate is using to empower/telecast the mind control or some other main systems he had) - I would think for him to start to get more than a general layout with greater power levels 'sticking out' to him it would require more concentration/time/focus and his getting closer to the systems... at least that's how Jeff seems to have played it out in game rounds.
I've got nothing better to suggest on the plans than what has been proposed with what we know so far.

Enjoy the weekend ... and a continued speedy recovery to you Tony.


GM Replies:
OOC: Sentinel wrote:
'Kirk would do his best to 'scan' energy sources… but Jeff could answer that one better. '

GM: Strike's range is 180 feet. Sentinel's is 100 feet for his energy sense.
Then that's reduced when "scanning" through solid objects like rock walls.
So you're right, this will be tricky from a moving aircraft.

Given the map, what direction are the non-electric members of Vanguard coming from? Thanks.


OOC: If Kirk gets a 'read' of where they think the transmitter is located (if there is one) an approach closest to that system to take it out would seem the prudent course in his mind (in case electric entry heroes encounter problems).