Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vanguard: Issue 81: “True” Confessions!

A Flashback Issue as Inhuman recounts his adventure among the Ani-Men!

Africa. Night. The volcanic island.

Once the final member of Vanguard had his humanity restored, Inhuman solemnly made the following statement:

"I am willingly surrendering to Vanguard as a representative of the US Government because I fear I may have inadvertently committed several, or even many, crimes in my attempts to convince the Ani-men to trust me. In all ways I attempted to deliver more disinformation than information and keep true secrets away from the Ani-men because in part I have no wish to betray anyone. At a guess from the way things fell out it wasn't the best plan but it was about as well as I could do. However I would like to look for the
escapee Snow Leopard and continue to help."

Pilot Larry Manetti was motionless. CHESS Rook Jenn Christensen's jaw fell open. The Oracle betrayed no surprise.
Inhuman knew Manetti from the CHESS Castle jailbreak. Christensen seemed like a medic, and Inhuman knew Oracle to be one of the few survivors of the long-defunct European superteam, AEGIS. (see attached image)

Instead of a flashback interrogation issue with the Primate, perhaps it's with Inhuman. I'll let Alex tell it in character, assuming Inhuman wants to answer further questions. He does have the right to remain silent.
Also, I'll start to update the website now that he's made this startling confession! ;)

Re: RearGuard: Perfect!
After a short stint in Hotsleep, or maybe Coldsleep if Symbiote gets his way ;) , you'll be all set to lead them.


OOC: Jeff, Inhuman Doesn't mind telling his story among those he considers his allies. Hope you will forgive the plagiarism, and not add it to my list of crimes! :)
IC:Inhuman paused “Well I am not certain, but some of you might remember me being dragged up into the Ship hovering over the Prison, Here is what happened after I was placed on board, in essence, kidnapped!”
Inhuman launched into the story with gusto, telling his tale with the speed and accuracy of an archer fish “The anti-gravity beam released me and I was on a steel deck of what looked like a dim hanger. I had used my water to secretly deactivate my Vanguard communicator before entering and I could not see the walls for the darkness.” He paused here. “If they had thought for a second that I purposely left it on I would be a very dead waterfowl.” Inhuman pointedly looked at Manetti “I thought that you would wisely realize by having been captured that my gear was suspect.“
“As My eyes adjusted I realized that All around me was Cockroach! Crab Man! Gator! Hyena! Jellyfish! Ratman! Slugg! and some others I didn’t recognize who were separate from the group:
One had the giant wings of a Monarch butterfly.
Another was a grotesque human centipede covered in hundreds of small writhing insect arms! The third was in charge.“ Inhuman’s eyes narrowed in pain he had hoped to let heal but could not afford to, yet.
“He was old, British and spoke thickly from under his grey feathered cowl. His eyes caught the light strangely. (OOC: Imagine Alfred Hitchcock or Tina Turner’s bald lieutenant in Barter Town in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)

‘I am the Owl,’ he said around heavy jowls. ‘All of you owe your freedom to the Primate!’ “Not that I believed him for a minute but he did command a force that was nearly palpable.” Inhuman looked over at the decaying corpse. The marks around his neck betraying the Owls death at the hands of he who he called master.
“They Congratulated themselves on an apparent easy victory with cries like: ‘He did it!’ chuckled Crab Man. ‘Nothing gets by you, Crabby’ sneered Ratman. ‘Well where is he, old timer?!’ roared Gator as Cockroach flicked his mandibles audibly.
Others were not so verbal, Jellyfish was able to stand again. She glared at Ratman but was silent. While Hyena seemed out of the loop, He listened and shut up for once.”

The Owl continued his short introduction with ‘The Primate is recovering but he will greet you personally in time. We have food for our brief journey and then you’ll be able to rest and recover from your… Wait. Who are you?!’ the Owl demanded, pointing a feathery hand at me! ‘You’re not wearing a prison jumpsuit.’
I realized then, I should have stolen one from an unconscious member of the prisoners. To late to do anything I decided to go with a strong bluff instead.”
“The crowd moved around me, surrounding me at a range of mere feet! I knew I could never take them down with brute force, time to make my brain earn its living.”

“Never seen him before,’ snarled Ratman from safely behind his comrades, their suspicion and disbelief was written large on their faces, and loudly in their words.
‘Nor I’ rasped the monstrous Slugg as he left a wet silver trail in his fleshy wake.
‘He’s not one of us,’ spat Jellyfish.
Crab Man said: ‘He tried ta talk to me during the break. Tried ta get me to join his side or something. I think he’s wid Vanguard or CHESS or something.’

Here I thought the jig was most certainly up except for the final dance on the plank, even as Ratman yelped ‘What??!’ Vanguard?!.”

“Everyone was ready to kill the inexperienced superhero where I stood when the Owl barked with unexpected savagery:
‘WAIT! You there! Identify yourself and stand down! It’s ten to one! Deactivate that water shield of yours and explain yourself or we’ll tear you into chum!
And at that moment it looked like I was more dead than alive….” Inhuman coolly collected his thoughts to make certain they were well in order.
“I lowered the whirling maelstrom I defended myself with revealing changes to my costume. No longer was my black wetsuit painted with the colors of the sea, the whirling water-storm had stripped those bare leaving only my I for Inhuman on my chest in stark contrast to the matte black of my suit, but even that symbol was giving signs of wear and tear as if it had been ripped from jagged pieces of sailcloth and then placed there. I hope you can now tell why I am in slightly different gear than you last saw me in.” as Inhuman plucked at the battered and nearly shredded ragged remains of his wetsuit, mute testimony to the horror he had faced.
“I relaxed the water forming a stable but realistic puddle still held in my implacable mental grip.”
“I am going to have to ask all of you to harden your hearts against some of what I say, for it will not easy to hear these lies I had to tell here and again later to muddy the waters. You all should be aware of the truth from your own actions and not these filleted falsehoods.” Inhuman steadfastly continued the story seeming unlikely to look at his fellow members of Vanguard, in deepening shame, casting a look of a sea urchin over his features. “I am Inhuman,’ I plainly stated lending my most scholarly tones to my speech and cadence as I fixed every character present except the Owl with a look that would leave them feeling as if they had been affixed upon a trident for being misbehaving schoolchildren ‘and though I have been accompanying Vanguard in their various exercises I have never truly felt accepted. I was easily seen in their eyes as some of the lowest of the low especially when compared to the lines of Sentinel and Kairos, even Slingshot has a more human demeanor than I do.’ I flashed a slightly more friendly grin ‘as I am sure many of you are aware of having power but no respect inevitably leads to a lashing out with that power, and perhaps that is what I am trying to do here today.’ A few sentences with which I figure I caused much pain among those present now, but a sea borne banquet of lies for their thoughts.” Then seeming shy but resolute Inhuman continued his story.“I do not owe The Primate my freedom, however during our brief discussion Crab Man did invite me along so I accepted. If you have a disagreement with me coming along perhaps you should admonish him.’ I sardonically raised my eyebrow ‘However since The Primate did just engineer an escape from CHESS facilities perhaps a bit of information about oh, say, the guys Agent Grey will send to hunt you guys down, he might find that useful enough to beat whoever makes getting that information more difficult.’ At this point I was trying to offer enough bait to make them take the hook but promise nothing, I know how it sounds but, well, outnumbered 10 to one a fight was the last way I could be useful.” Inhuman withdrew a little from the others but there was nowhere safe for him to look; among the dead, the living and the confines of the ship. Then he continued. “And if there is question of power, keep in mind I operated quite successfully while Jellyfish had me paralyzed, managing to stop Jellyfish, convince Crab Man to do my bidding and take out Gadget Girl, Unless you would like to see me dehydrate every one of the semi-liquid forms here down to dust’ as I nodded to Slugg, Jellyfish, Gator and Crab Man ‘then use that water to drown the rest, I would recommend giving me a 5 meter berth’ here I paused as if a new thought had struck me ‘better make that 10 meters, at that range I can pop out your eyes and use the vitreous solution as jelly for my breakfast toast.’ I gave my most shark-like grin as I spread my hands in as open and non-threatening of a manner as possible ‘Any questions?” Inhuman looked directly at Kairos “I suppose I have you to thank for that idea, as repellent as it is, I wanted to balance the answering of questions with a combination of threat, promise and sympathy” Inhuman looked down at the plating, then speaking softly,
“Now we again go to aboard the ship at night.” “As the Owl interrogated Me, I the aquatic adventurer scanned the hydration levels of my adversaries.
Slugg, Jellyfish and Crab Man had unusual hydration levels, due to their physiognomy.
I noted The Owl had metal devices on his person, beneath his feathery cape.
Yet my hydro-sense could not penetrate beyond the hanger-like chamber.”
“After giving what I hoped was a brave, smart and bluffing reply that ended with my most shark-like grin as I spread my hands in as open and non-threatening of a manner as possible, my ending of ‘Any questions?’ was answered.”

“Yes,’ the Owl said skeptically. His eyes were as sharp and deadly as surgical instruments and backed by a will ready to use them. ‘I’ve questions. Plenty of them. You say that today you’ve just decided to end relations with Vanguard? How serendipitous for you. You’ll understand if we’re less than trustful. However, you do seem useful. Come. Prove your treachery to us. Tell us all about the so-called superheroes that CHESS will send against us. And, by the way, you can relinquish that communicator to me now. I’m sure it has no value to you, seeing as how you’ve no loyalty to Vanguard anymore.’ He smiled sardonically at me, however I was by no means done yet , I too knew that the Communicator would be relinquished either willingly or by my unconscious body. There was no choice now, but there might be chances later” Inhuman stated defiantly.

“The other nine villains watched us closely. The tension was palpable. No one spoke. No one moved, except Slugg, Jellyfish, Gator and Crab Man who did take a half step backwards. Marking one of my first victories in this marathon bout of mindgames.” Inhuman Paused here before progressing on.


Inhuman merely sat, registering no surprise as the tangler arrow engulfed him. (assuming I can still talk, if necessary I'll grab a bit of moisture and cut a hole big enough to speak through then continue speaking).
“I then resumed my verbal fencing, pointing out the logical as well as easily defendable actions I had already taken to prove my trustworthiness to the others. ‘I have already made several peaceful overtures, specifically by making certain my communicator is not broadcasting my location since from before I left the prison yard’ I began undoing the strap to the communicator by hand ‘In addition I was planning on using this to communicate my severance of employment with CHESS, after all, no one can serve two masters.’ I casually held the communicator out to the Owl ‘If I don't sever such a connection with them under my own volition they may be more aggressive with others of our group’ Inhuman gave an eel like grin here ‘or in our persecution than if I do, it should aid our cause, transfer attention from others to myself, and after all there are niceties to be observed even in our league’ I made my eyes glitter with anger ‘besides you should be concerned with my turning back to them, if I resign that will make it far less likely.” Again Inhuman paused in his description of the war of shadows and words he had fought with the second in command of the Ani-men, struggling with his desire to tell all the truth and sparing others pain. “As far as Vanturds information goes,” Inhuman went on “letting my face slip back to a more 'normal' look ‘I'll only release some information about them, after all that is one of the advantages I am selling. You don't trust me and that isn't going to change for a while, I'm not such a fool that I think that you will give me credit for giving all my information to you and then not have me killed or overlook my contributions.’ my gaze narrowed ‘No. Sorry, Vanduds information is worth much more than that, I think I'll have to negotiate directly with Primate over that information not one of his lieutenants, he doesn't gain access to my expertise until he agrees to my needs being met.’ I leveled a direct gaze at the Owl ‘As far as the communicator goes, I really don't care just so long as you allow me to resign in some way, I think it is a wise move to do it my way but if you have a better suggestion by all means, let us do that instead.’ Again, simple yet harmful twists making truths into lies.” “I paused then went on ‘I haven't asked for trust here, merely pointed out the advantages, I also have several benefits to individual members of your crew that even they aren't aware of. Since Chess is more than a collection of superpowered thugs with badges no matter how Vanguard behaves." “I cast a surriptious look around that definitely included Ratman, having recalled something from Vanguards past actions that could be of help to form a wedge that could be driven in to divide them. ‘It’s just that this is really not your business, it is Primates at best and even then maybe not his. But if Primate is the way I think he is, he will be, displeased that secrets were broadcast, even if they seem to serve no purpose. If Vanguard can question any of you as to what I told the Primate then they can put that to use. Simply put I am following the percepts of Sun Tzu’s Art of War for the Primate until he and he alone gives me reason to do otherwise.’ A simple dissemble that bought me more time, in addition I had an inkling that more was to come from this collection of dangerous criminals, some of us aren’t as straight as an arrow, and I think history has already proven me right.” Inhuman looked at Forester meaningfully, “There are events one should be in position for, a single arrow in the right pace at the right time can do more than thousands of carelessly loosed bolts.” Inhuman then continued on with his tale ignoring the restraint."I then told the Owl ‘I know Vanguard will be busy for a while cleaning up the prison, and I disliked that my call for teamworking was completely ignored, but this is but a small part of my current displeasure with them. Crabmans offer and my subsequent 'removal' from the scene were indeed fortuitous but my decision to leave is based upon Vinescurds actions, not yours.”"I continued ‘Now then, I think I should not say any more with this many witnesses, but perhaps I could be induced to share a few tidbits of things to improve my standing in your eyes, Owl....’
“I thought furiously and then realized that I had met others of his kind before, there were ways of dealing with antagonistic scholarly personalities that could sway them to others sides, if played with more carefully than a sea snake. Using the Owl’s personality type against him, I took pains to show that I am intelligent and that I had respect for the Owl’s intelligence. I tried to exhibit humility and pride in all the right doses. Meanwhile I detected water vapor beneath my feet, outside the ship’s hull. To judge from its motion, I estimated the craft’s speed at hundreds of miles an hour! Further and further away from any hope of easy rescue.” Inhuman looked down again at the deceased “there are points at which desperation can forge a more dangerous weapon than the vaunted nuke.” “As I spoke, the Owl scrutinized my face and body language for any sign of deceit. Finally the Owl said, ‘I’ll take that,’ as he removed the Vanguard communicator from my open hand. ‘There is no need to broadcast your intentions to Vanguard. Best to keep them in the dark as long as possible about your new allegiances, don’t you agree? I know Sun Tzu would approve.’ My heart fell slightly at that point, there is little else I could think of to do that would keep me where I could do much good and as little harm as possible, a difficult balance with eyes on my every move.” “The Owl then Continued ‘I must admit your requests to get the Primate alone rouses suspicion in me. However, the need for discretion in these matters is not unappreciated,’ the Owl said with a sidelong glance at Ratman, a sure sign that the forces were acting better than I had any right to hope.” Inhuman shook his head “I don’t think I know how that part really played out” “The good news is that I won’t kill you yet. The bad news is that I’m afraid I must isolate you for a short period from the others until such time that the Primate or I may meet with you privately. Don’t be alarmed. You won’t be harmed during your isolation.’ A very small comfort to me as I was forced to leave behind my sole defenses for the moment.”
“I was then politely escorted to my cell. The ship was obviously a work of highly advanced engineering. Inhuman saw the cargo bay, a hall and then his cell. It was steel with a cot and a big automated door. ‘I shall return as soon as I’m able. Please make yourself as comfortable as the circumstances permit,’ said the Owl to me. “I detected water moving through pipes in the walls and floors. I found no engine, but noted the direction the water flowed in, I had a plan to crash the ship if I could work out where the engine was but there was little nearby to work with.” “Time passed and food came, delivered in silence by Slugg who seemed insulted that he was on food detail. The meal was vegan and it was delicious.” “Hours passed and in that time the ship seemed that it may have stopped and then began moving again. I may have dozed, having little to do since I was a prisoner during this time.” “Then I suddenly developed a powerful migraine headache. Inside the headache I heard a voice roar: ‘Rise up my brothers! Now is the time!’ Eventually the headache abated. I assume this is when the attacks began I also had no inkling that there were other communications being passed along, that something inside of me resists the call of the wild.” “More time passed and the Owl returned to my cell, with Ratman, Cockroach and the grotesque human centipede. They had a small laptop computer with them. Wordlessly, they opened it. A BBC website appeared on the screen. They clicked on a video icon and a video played: The face of a great silver-backed mountain gorilla with fiercely intelligent eyes and a great, dignified bearing. The background was flat white. Inhuman noted the BBC time stamp said 10:00am GMT.The great ape was speaking French! Then he began in English: “Humans of this world, I am the Primate. Your cruel stewardship of Earth is ended. A new era has begun. No longer will you be permitted to destroy this planet, threatening all the life forms upon it with your shortsighted and insatiable avarice.No longer will you murder my brethren for sport or pleasure or fashion. No longer will we be your slaves. No. Your time here is ended. “Homo sapien will be pruned away. A new world is dawning. A green world where the harmony of nature is restored. “One year from now, you will all be dead. Your empty cities will be reclaimed by The Green and by the rightful masters of this world, the Animal Kingdom. “We have no demands. We just wanted you to know why your civilization is being undone; why your sins have come back upon you. Today marks the end of your blight upon this world.’ Then he began in German. The video ended. The Owl and his companions closely watched my grey-green face as I learned of the disastrous events that rocked human society which I assume you are aware of. I watched helpless as panic seized the waking time zones of the world. The planet appeared to have turned against the human race. The video ended and the Owl played another, this time from Timestamp 9:54am EST. A Washington anchorman reported that the BBC was off the air now. The video stopped and The Owl calmly searched my face for any _expression at all.
During those brief seconds I thought about what I could do here, in the center of the action as opposed outside on the edges I also considered that there was a feeling of something else afoot. I had to try to find out the next step and break this group apart or else face that we might not win if I only managed my escape. I consciously chose to stay in order to save millions by holding my hand now and sowing the seeds of destruction later.” Inhuman nearly cursed that he had no need to ask for water as a deliberate break would be meaningful.
“I watched calmly as the world came to a bloody end. I recognized the newscasters. It was all happening. As far as I could tell from my prison cell it was all real.” “I said to the Owl: ‘The reason why he took us from the prison break and now you are showing me this points in only one possible direction, this is merely part one of a multi part plan. So that means the real question is....’ I paused as my face adjusted itself to become more barracuda like ‘What does Primate want us to do?’ The Owl’s large eyes didn’t blink often enough. He said: ‘The Primate sees us as his kin, despite our more human attributes. He welcomes us to join in Earth’s new future.’ Here I could tell he was still playing with his cards close to his chest. Time was racing away out of my grasp as our little match of words continued“ “Wait outside,’ he said to Ratman, Cockroach and the writhing human centipede. The three left the cell with the laptop and shut the door, locking the Owl in with Inhuman. Outside in the hall, they were easily within earshot of a cry for help. The Owl said softly, ‘You are earning our trust, Inhuman. And I bring an opportunity for you to earn more. Tell me about Vanguard and CHESS, especially their vulnerabilities.’ Here I knew I had finally hit pay dirt but I had to be certain it wasn’t a trap, so the games continued as my mind raced... ‘Hmmm,’ I looked at the Owl ‘listen, give me a moment to incorporate this information so I can give you most relevant information to the current situation’ "Yes, yes...’ my lips pursed as I began to slightly resemble a lionfish ‘Well I wish I had been able to confer with our esteemed Primate before he set this plan of his in motion, And you do still want their weakness? Fine, the biggest weakness of the members of Vanguard and CHESS is that they are targets of the Black Bat.” Inhuman refused commentary and pushed on. "Primate and yourself of course understand the implications but just in case I would be looking for anomalies around Big City and in the Asiatic countries, specifically with the classics you would expect...’ A bit of a red herring, but also an attempt to suggest a disastrous alliance and divide attention, forcing more strain on Primate in the hopes he might overload himself chasing after ghosts, so to speak.” “I continued ‘The other major concern I wish to share with you will have to wait until I am assured certain associates are on the far side of the ship....’ I looked pointedly at the Door ‘there are some you can never be too far away from.’ Again a sowing of the seeds of mistrust while cultivating my own worth in their eyes." “The Owl scrutinized me carefully. ‘Very well,’ he said. He rose and left the cell, locking it behind him. I heard some sort of discussion in the hall. Then The Owl returned and sat down again.” "Ratman is gone. Please continue with your other major concern as well as additional vulnerabilities Vanguard possesses, as individuals and as a team.’ The Owl grew quiet, making room for my words, unlike others.”“I looked long and hard at the Owl before I spoke, ‘I still need credit with Primate, tell you what, I'll release what I know so long as you get a link up with Primate, so he knows I gave you the information, I suppose that will have to do.’ "Team?’ my face became a mask of indignation before I snorted my derision ‘Ha! They couldn't Bowl together. Now then, individually we need to keep our numbers focused, Don't let them draw it into a one on one because that is what they are best at, if you can, assign one per target to keep them tied up in individual combats and then have the rest focus on another and pull them down individually while we act like a pack.” "Individually I have some real problems with them, Sentinel seems to be hearing things, frankly it seems to be as a result of his encounter with Dr. Swastika's machine. Which leads to why I don't trust Ratman he was exposed to the Detestable Doctors machines far longer, if he begins sneaking off or mentioning hearing voices... well he may be suffering from exposure to the machines’ I wearily shook his head ‘sad really but when you are exposed to uncontrolled experimentation well sometimes side effects happen.’ The Owl listened to my information on Sentinel and Ratman. Then he agreed to granting Inhuman an audience with the Primate!” I was taken from my cell by the Owl, Slugg and the centipede monstrosity and escorted through the clean, high tech corridors of the craft. It was a marvel of advanced engineering. During the trip I got a closer look at the Owl, whose wing-cloak was no longer closed (see attached image). I was brought before the Master of Beasts! The Primate was a powerful figure. The simple but sturdy chair that the massive mountain gorilla graced was transformed into a throne just through the silverback’s regal bearing and terrible dignity. I was hard pressed to resist his overwhelming intellect and charisma, but resist I did. The room of our meeting was filled with machines, computers and technology beyond my ken. The Owl and the others quickly fell silent in the presence of their leader.” “I tilted my head to the side as a new thought struck me. ‘Forester and Lightning Strike are manifesting problems from the same encounter in different ways themselves. Forester can't seem to realize when he is in danger or how to use every arrow to his maximum benefit and Lightning Strike is worse than before with moods of dark depression, I wouldn't be surprised to find him hanging off of lightning rods brooding in the middle of the city, again things to be used against them." "Then there is the rubber headed idiot Slingshot, write him off like you do Crab man and just keep in mind he is strong and flexible but not that tough, if you can hammer him with a lot of little attacks to keep his attention.” "Kairos is tough for a popinjay but his prettiness may be useable as a weakness against him perhaps by seeing if Jellyfish can attract his attention. Since he can't even go to a seafood house in costume and keep from flirting with the wait staff.’ I half quirked a smile of disgust that made me look more like a Kraken than ever before ‘Then that may be the path we want to go down with holding him off long enough to free up others." “Symbiote and the harness well there is a pretty puzzle,’ I frowned in false concentration ‘the best thing to do is to play keep away for five minutes until his suit runs out of juice for that image and keep in mind whatever weaknesses his target has he has so we need to know our teams weakness so it can be countered’ I gave him a speculative predatory gaze over the Owl ‘but like most technological triumphs strip off his gear and he is much less effective. Though I won't make the mistake of assuming him helpless without his toys.” Carl Broke his recitation of details to exemplify his use of deceit “Note how I am exaggerating some things, and being scrupulously honest on others. Lies, seasoned with some truth to keep them swallowing, however too much truth and I betray, again a difficult balance.” "The only other person running around With Vanguard itself last I saw is Sam Drake of Chess though he may be there to get them under control or stop them if he has to. If you can with Sammy-boy drop the powered costumes and just go for 'we are normal people vs. the freaks you are working with' he dislikes the costumed crusaders and that can be used against him to split him from the others. He doesn't even realize that at Berkley U running around all day in a wet suit with some paint on it was considered more normal than a lot of the other tenured professors! But then we don't really need a gun toting maniac who acts like he never heard of fire control, do we?’ I thought that throwing that in would be useful, forcing either an overestimation or a division of forces looking for those darn specters." "Now then I have verbalized a lot of the information but some of what I have learned about them can only be really used by training so if you really expect them to pay us a visit then we should begin training, otherwise we will defeat ourselves by letting them fight their way not our way." I rather stiffly bowed toward the Primate "With your permission Primate, that is what I recommend."
“When I finished and bowed, the mighty simian spoke. “I believe your words, Inhuman.” He paused. “The world is changing. And your unique physiology earns you a place by my side. You will be released and accepted by The Pack.’ Then the Primate’s dark, intelligent eyes looked directly at me. “But I warn you. Just as trust will be rewarded with trust, treachery will be rewarded with treachery. Betray me at your peril, friend. Mercy is a decidedly human trait; it has no place in my Animal Kingdom.’ So warned I left.”

Inhuman continued his detailed coverage of events “After a shower, I joined the Pack. The Owl gave me a tour of the amazing Saucer Ship as I tried to memorize its layout: Bridge, cargo hold, sleeping quarters, engines, projects room. I met most of the others onboard and then was given free time, albeit on a short leash. Over the next few hours I quickly learned the inner workings of my new allies.” Inhuman sounded bitter at this utterance like a signal for a pain to be put behind “they were Like a wolf pack, there was a strictly enforced social hierarchy, a hard and cruel survival of the fittest. There are constant challenges in the middle and lower ranks, in order to confirm status and dominance. There were no challenges to the upper ranks.” “The Primate is obviously at the top of the order.He is the alpha male and the lawgiver and none dared to challenge his rule. His inner circle was fiercely loyal to him, and the newly freed prisoners owe him their freedom. If there were any doubts of his authority, they were quickly squelched after his terrifying assault on mankind through his mastery of the animals of Earth! His return from the chemical dungeon of Men is seen as nothing short of miraculous. He is Christ resurrected, the Phoenix reborn and Osiris returned from the Land of the Dead!’ Hmm, there you go, that may be a problem with the vaunted Hotsleep it could be that Hotsleep is seen as too impossible to have survived that should one escape, it is like granting messiah status“ Inhuman mused for a moment then continues. “I didn’t see the Primate again until the island and heard he is often occupied at this point, apparently concentrating his efforts on leading the animal kingdom against humanity. Directly beneath the Primate was his inner circle: The Owl is the circle’s leader and intensely loyal to the Primate and is his right hand. While not physically threatening, the Owl is hyper-intelligent and a master of technology; he designed the Saucer Ship and more! It is whispered the Owl was the first one to be mentally contacted by the Primate when the Primate was held in CHESS Castle. The Owl has worked tirelessly since then to free the Primate and make preparations for his coming! I noted that the Owl is the most human of the Pack, his wings are cybernetic, but he is clearly an Ani-man since Primate contacted him telepathically. The Owl questioned me about my scientific background, eager to speak to someone of intelligence while The Owl was more than happy to talk about his devices. Intellectual pride was his weakness, I guessed correctly. His wings and the cybernetic systems within are comprised of an ultra light plastic, which is why my hydroscan did not read them as metal. The Owl said, “I attended Oxford and then Cambridge, if that matters now,” indicating with a nod of his head the porthole and the smoking continent that lay beyond. I have some other inventions, for my personal defense, rest assured. But I can’t give away all my secrets just yet.”I secretly wondered why the braggart resisted the urge to spout off about his other gadgets. Web is the Owl’s lieutenant and like many in the inner circle, can navigate the Saucer Ship. A cunning and quick spider hybrid, he said little in my presence, perhaps due to suspicion of myself. Pachyderm has not been seen yet by me. But I guess you guys know far more about him than I do, He is not a true part of the hierarchy due to his low intelligence. But no one messes with him because of his incredible power. It sounds like the Primate uses him as an awesome weapon (dropping him on CHESS Castle) and loves him as one would a slow child. I know that pachyderm is a biology term encompassing elephants, rhinos and hippopotami. Monarch is the butterfly man. He seems vain, self important and proud of his ability to fly. Perhaps he is now more likened to Icarious of Greek legend now that his story is told. Centipede is the ghastly and writhing multi-limbed human centipede. He is loathsome, alien and otherworldly in appearance and personality. Directly beneath the inner circle are the newly released prisoners of CHESS Castle: Jellyfish is the only female in the group and is using all her wiles and cunning to maintain her social position. She has Crab Man wrapped around her little finger and uses him as her muscle. She has an evil streak, tinged with sadism and gleefully teases Inhuman about having paralyzed him. Crab Man is the crustacean powerhouse. His personality is surprisingly regular for such an extreme appearance. He is loyal to Jellyfish, perhaps due to their alma mater, the Sinister Sea Squadron! Gator is a tough, street smart customer. Black sense of humor, hard boiled, mean. Cockroach was a deranged American cold war scientist, studying the cockroach’s ability to survive even nuclear Armageddon. Believing that humans would need to evolve to survive massive levels of radiation, he transformed himself into what he believed was the perfect species. Slugg is a lazy, slothful, messy monstrosity. He had worked with Gator and Cockroach before they were all captured by the Freedom Force. They are sticking close to each other. Hyena is a mocking, leering jackal of a killer. A member of Homicide for Hire, the extranormal executioner was captured by Vanguard and there’s no love lost there. He is something of an odd man out now, in that he has no pre-existing allies here. Ratman is a sneaky, tricky little twit. He’s working hard to curry favor with the inner circle, to increase his position in the Pack. Ratman has the proportionate strength and speed of a rat and his claws enable him to walk on walls, leaving marks wherever he does. Inhuman catches Ratman watching him more than once and Inhuman sees that Ratman has possession of his cybernetic Whiplash Tail again. I sensed my social status is lower than the escaped prisoners right now. I didn’t know if there are other extranormals working for the Primate but I had detected none on the ship. I don’t know where mundane animals would fall in this twisted social hierarchy. During this time, I looked out portholes and saw that we were over a Europe covered with black smoke plumes! Part of me plummeted at this sight, but I tried to console myself with comparisons of this to World War Two, As much as the destruction of Europe harmed those fighting the evils of others they carried on, trying to bring about peace through their actions.
I couldn’t get near Pachyderm. He was resting in sickbay from the battle at CHESS Castle. On this, the Owl was adamant. Using my extra normal powers, I succeeded in making an Ally out of the crustacean criminal, Crab Man! ‘All right, I’m sweet on her,’ Crab Man admitted about Jellyfish. ‘So fishface, yer sayin’ we have to get away from all this? Yer right. We haven’t had a minnit alone together since we busted outta stir. Once things quiet down, I think we’ll take a powder. This whole big takin’ over the planet thing never works out. We tried it and the Freedom Force sent us up da river.’ I knew Crab Man was referring to the Sinister Sea Squadron when he said ‘we.’ Later, I stood up to Jellyfish and insulted her gravely in front of others who did not include the Owl or Crab Man. Jellyfish smiled hatred. She had the meanest mouth Inhuman had ever seen. ‘That’s one,’ she purred. ‘And one is all you get. When you end up belly up at the top of the goldfish bowl, everyone will know why. Except for you, bottomfeeder.’ She sauntered off to lay her plans for my demise. I asked Cockroach which aquatic species would best survive the coming nuclear Armageddon? The immense insect thing spoke in a surprisingly human voice! ‘Those that dwell the lowest, I expect! However, the poor air and lack of sunlight from nuclear winter could start a die off of plankton and algae which would trigger a chain reaction in the foodchain!’I then asked if he believed nuclear Armageddon was still a certainty, thereby questioning what the mad scientist had done to himself. The hideous bug man gazed at the hairy, greasy, black carapace of its right claw and did not answer. I offered Hyena an alliance and the jovial jackal accepted. ‘We’ve got each others backs,’ he agreed. ‘These @#$%&* freaks!’ the hirsute hyena man barked without irony. Like all untrustworthy people, Ratman trusted no one. Least of all I. But when I mentioned mental side effects of imprisonment in the Body farm of Dr. Swastika, the renegade rodent was all ears. Before long, the Owl announced that the Saucer Ship will soon divide in two; the top level can separate from the bottom level.The top level will take the Primate, the Owl, Ratman, Monarch, the Centipede, Slugg and myself to the Congo to prepare for “Phase Two!”The bottom level will remain in Europe with Web, Jellyfish, Crab Man, Gator, Cockroach, Hyena and Pachyderm to handle Vanguard and then rendezvous in the Congo! ‘Report to your saucer halves immediately,’ ordered the Owl.
When I advised Owl that they should train for their encounter with Vanguard, he said with certainty, ‘Vanguard will be ambushed and killed. If they survive the day, then you will train us in Congo. But I do believe it will be unnecessary.’ After the announcement that their forces were dividing, I got Crab Man alone and told him if he ever wanted to be alone with Jellyfish, he should surrender to Vanguard and CHESS if the opportunity presented itself, even if he had to subdue one other Ani-Man. He should then tell Vanguard everything he knows, and they would go easy on him, especially if he helped them in the combat.Crab Man nodded agreement. ‘Sounds like my best chance for us to get outta this mess. Good thing, I met you, fish face.’
Then we two parted. The ship was chaotic as everyone reported to their assigned saucer halves when suddenly… Slugg oozed out impossibly from a thin crack in the corridor wall and stood in my path! The loathsome horror was over six feet tall, slimy, brown, spotted and had alien eyestalks, two arms and a legless lower body that exuded a mucus slime! Oddly, it reminded me of an old illustration I once saw in a college book. We two were in an empty steel corridor, five feet wide and 10 feet tall. From my earlier exploration, I knew the pipes that moved along the ceiling carried water. ‘Jellyfish says hello,’ the grotesque gastropod groaned and then he prepared to kill me!”
Inhuman interrupted his detailed coverage of events “Drat, I nearly forgot I advised Crabman that I was attempting to ally with Hyena and Suggested that if it is three left vs. difficult odds then subdue the third and tell Hyena ‘It will be okies, Inhuman has his back just like he promised’ now I shall carry on with the story.
Well, Slugg’s ambush worked! I was surprised long enough for Slugg to strike! I felt his strength… and something more! The slime that he exuded burned. There was also a sensation like suction at the point of contact!
"All right you Messy Mollusk," I rattled off as I prepared to square off against the Slippery Slugg "it's time to…” then abruptly I whirled away from the greasy gastropod! I broke loose and ran! My memorization of the ship’s layout paid off. I raced to the empty kitchen, turned on the oven and the stove top burners, and opened the pantry door. The lone, one pound canister of salt was in my webbed hand when Slugg finally caught up to me and oozed into the kitchen! The kitchen was 10’ x 15’ and modestly stocked, like a ship’s galley. It had two exits, and Slugg now blocked the one that Inhuman used to enter the kitchen. The pantry was a 2’ x 5’ shelved alley off the kitchen.
Slugg moaned, “Where do you think you’re going, minnow?”
I flipped on the sink faucet and secretly seized control of the water pouring from it, via my alien hyrdro-kinesis. The range of my mental power extended through the faucet to the ship’s 100 gallon drinking water tank!Then I looked at where Slugg had touched me. The burning sensation was abating. I suspected it was an acid. Then I as the scion of the sea growled, ‘Last chance to quit this Slugg, or else we play the desiccation game....’ as I poured a one pound canister of salt over my body, in effect making myself poison to the touch for Slugg! Slugg gasp-groaned, ‘Very clever, small fry.’ The muscular mollusk monstrosity grabbed hold of the kitchen counter and tore it out. Then he hurled it at me with a thick grunt of exertion the corner of the heavy missile hit me! To judge from the direction of Slugg’s ghastly eyestalks, the refrigerator was next!
I took the water I controlled hydrokinetically and forged it into a whirling waterspout around my body to defend myself from Slugg’s attacks! The circular, roaring waterfall washed the salt from his body and into the cascading shield!Then I fled the kitchen, trying to climb upward into the top saucer half! The engine room was beneath me, so I could not descend to it without hurting my chances of boarding the saucer destined for Africa! Slugg lifted the refrigerator into his wet hands and hurled it down the corridor at I! KRA-SMASSHH! The deadly missile shattered against the steel wall, missing me by millimeters! My abhorrent adversary slithered forward, stalking his prey! I evaded and raced on, desperately trying to make my way to the top saucer level before separation was initiated! I passed no one, dashing my hopes of being able to convince two villains to fight and disrupt the social order more! I realized everyone else must already be in position for the procedure! I came to a separation point: A double airlock system that would let me pass up to the higher level. I frantically worked the security keyboard! Slugg finally caught up to me at the airlock! It wasn’t opened yet and the loathsome horror moaned gaspingly, ‘Nowhere left to run.’ The muscular mollusk monster hurled a steel rod that I recognized as a stairway banister he had passed. The ends were misshapen from acid! The rod was deflected by the vertical whirlpool that surrounded me! I turned and fired a jet spray of salt water from my roiling aqua-shield! Then I retrieved the water, leaving the salt to coat Slugg who stiffened spasmodically and let loose with a bloodcurdling scream! The pain must have been unbearable! His skin was drying and wrinkling! He fell to the ground and writhed in complete agony! I completed the keyboard sequence and both airlocks opened! An automated voice on the PA began a 60 second countdown to separation!!
I thought that Slugg would survive without immediate medical attention, yet he may not lose consciousness.
I had seconds to make a choice, one part of me wanted to rejoin Vanguard. But then I realized I had to go to ‘Africa’, I believed I could do more there. According to Sun Tzu do not give any information to your troops you don't want the enemy to know, I did not know if the trip to the Congo was a truth or a lie. If it was a deception, then perhaps I could leave a clue to Vanguard to let them get closer quicker than without my aid.
I crossed over to the ‘go to Africa’ side and takes Slug along for the ride carrying him via Hydrokinisis, i will report to the upper level and request the villain gets restrained. I decided I will cite that I have suspicions that this is a part of a bigger plot against the Owl.
Just in case he decided to attack again I was watching him very closely, prepared to evade any attacks by him. I considered reabsorbing the salt into my water system, but I delayed and warned him I WILL do it again if he makes one move I don't like.
I reported to the top deck of the Primate’s Saucer Ship. I entered the high-tech bridge with an incapacitated and anguished Slugg in tow, being carried by animate water. There I faced the hyper-intelligent Owl, Monarch the butterfly man, Centipede the writhing ghastly multi-limbed horror, and Ratman the back-stabbing little twit. None of them looked happy to see this situation.Monarch spoke first saying, ‘What have you done to Slugg?’Centipede rasped, ‘Looks like he’s killed him!’Ratman smirked, ‘Inhuman is still working for Vanguard.’ Dead in the black, I thought I was done for if anyone believed him. ‘Silence,’ said the Owl with cool authority. ‘Ratman, watch Inhuman. Monarch and Centipede, help me finish the procedures for saucer separation. Then we’ll get to the bottom of it!’The three Ani-Men returned to their navigational controls.Shortly, the lower saucer was away, racing Web, Pachyderm, Hyena, Gator, Jellyfish, Cockroach and Crab Man to ambush the unsuspecting Vanguard! But with hope for them in the form of cracks and fissures in their order and secret problems. The upper saucer headed due south to Congo, the Primate’s home, 12,000 miles away.After the separation the Ani-Men turned to the Owl to witness his ‘justice.’‘Now,’ said the Owl to me. ‘What did you do to Slugg and why?’ Dangerous water I was treading here so I bought precious moments.I washed the salt from Slugg’s skin, easing his pain and salinating the water I controlled hydrokinetically. ‘He attacked me under orders from Jellyfish. I suspect there is a larger plot afoot,’ I said to the Owl with a knowing gaze, hinting at larger problems and bringing down a hammer like blow to the fragile bonds of trust they were building.The Owl turned his baleful oversized eyes at Slugg and said menacingly, ‘Is this true? You’ll have one chance at the truth with me. One.’Slugg hesitated and then groaned wetly, ‘Jellyfish wanted to put a scare into the fresh fish. Teach him his place. That’s all. I wasn’t going to kill him.’The Owl considered things for a tense moment. Then the judge, jury and executioner smiled slightly. ‘I guess Inhuman taught you a lesson then, didn’t he? They’ll be no more of this. We have work to do. Inhuman, release that water into a sink somewhere.’
An hour into the flight, Monarch said: ‘Owl, I’ve lost contact with the other saucer!’ Owl and Centipede joined the human butterfly. They tried to raise the other ship without success. A hush fell over the bridge as I contained my dance for glee, maybe I had made a difference.Then the Owl said calmly, ‘Inhuman, you said that you were willing to brief and train us how to combat Vanguard? I think that time has come.’ Leaving me ever closer to success while further from any signs of safety, hopefully Vanguard would only be an hour behind me, if not closer.
Inhuman carries on, however it soon becomes obvious that he is trunctuating his commentary and description of events. “I traveled to the Congo with the Ani-Men: the hyper-intelligent Owl, Monarch the butterfly man, Centipede the writhing ghastly multi-limbed horror, Ratman the back-stabbing little twit, and Slugg the grotesque gastropod. I hadn’t seen the Primate since boarding. I looked at the varied _expressions on my associates; I knew this wasn't going to be easy; however it had to be done. ‘I have to know the Strengths and Weaknesses of you guys’ expecting an immediate show of resistance the Fishy Fighter hurried on ‘If Symbiote, who may be the most powerful of the Vain-Guard, duplicates any one of you guys a less difficult way to bring him down when he has the powers and weaknesses of you guys may be necessary.’ I received the reaction I expected. Owl quelled the rebellion and the calls for my head with: ‘If such an event should transpire, the one whose powers were duplicated shall immediately inform the others how to take down Symbiote. Fair enough?’ The Ani-Men grudgingly accepted this, but glowered at me. So much for that particular plan. I looked directly at Owl ‘The faster I can get an inventory of what we have at the base that I can use trap-wise as well as a base layout the better, assuming you guys are ready to share’. The Owl said proudly, ‘Very well. Once we’ve arrived, I can give you a tour of the construction. You will find it well defended.’ When I gave my breakdown of Vanguard, and my recommendations for preferred targets, the Ani-Men listened closely. Not that I thought for one moment it would do them any good. Hours later, Sub-Saharan Africa was beneath us. Smoke plumes marked the human cities, just like Europe. During the flight, I overheard the following: • Ratman was sowing dissent to Slugg without knowing that I could overhear. ‘I tell ya, Vanguard wiped out the advance force. How soon before they arrive here?!’ Slugg was noncommittal, but the two were the only CHESS Castle escapees left. • The Owl designed the Primate’s base. • Monarch said quietly to Centipede, ‘Europe is down. After we defeat Vanguard, we’ll need to return.’ The Centipede replied: ‘Or else, move directly to Phase Two.’ • The Primate’s family was murdered by Men in Congo. • There were other Ani-Men at the Primate’s base. I didn’t hear who they are. The Owl had a short description of the area around the base; I presume you gentlemen had a similar synopsis. I however will add that it seemed to me a very bad idea to stay in an area that constantly reminds you of the darkest parts of man without either interfering or becoming as corrupt. A constant play of the darker sides of man, not a show I would enjoy watching.
I continued to talk to the Owl while receiving medical attention in the ship’s sickbay I dug for details about the Ani-men’s powers and their base such as the missile defense system has auxiliary power source that is good for 4 hours, should main power be cut.
The saucer craft reached the Volcanic Island and began a vertical descent. From the portholes I saw the viridian jungle cloud forests that covered the volcano chain surrounding the massive inland lake. The volcanic isle was in the north of the lake and wild gorillas were visible on its slopes. There were no signs of man this deep into the wild. The saucer lowered into a waiting hangar bay that was a marvel of modern engineering. Inside was another Ani-man, Snow Leopard, a ferocious woman with amber eyes. The Primate disembarked, and it was the first time he had been seen in hours. He appeared weary but defiant and proud. ‘The last hours of mankind is upon us, brothers,’ he stated and I’ felt that amazing charisma and force of personality wash over me again. I used my senses on the base looking for weaknesses, I pointed out the connecting power cables on the jungle defense systems and suggested a surge detector with cable cutting attachments connected to a small mine on a 3 second delay. (simply put the surge from presumably LS/SB is detected, the cable gets cut then 3 seconds later BOOM the mine goes off). Of Course the surge detector would have to be battery/solar powered but it could make them more cautious, unless they are really over confident, then it could be downright deadly.... I found the secret passageway from room 11, while looking for signs of lava tubes to allow close access to the base that do not appear to have been monitored.” “I was in some ways torn.” Inhuman looks deeply saddened “I don’t know if any of you guys have ever been undercover but you have to understand that in order to pass as a friend you have to try to be a friend, soon I came to a point where I felt Like I was having two friends who seem to fight no matter what, I see a possibility for Good in both of these, as well as a terrible potential for Evil in both. Perhaps I could come up with a resolution that is satisfactory for both. I ran several mental simulations with certain focused outcomes. I do not see true good coming from mental simulation one or two. Though if I could not succeed at three I definitely lean to 1, but will change the selling of 3 as a more merciful option than a pure Result 1.
1. The Primate Fails and CHESS wins. a. Since it is now determined impossible to keep the Primate in any form of prison the next easiest answer is to kill the Primate, his cronies spend years, if not the rest of their lives in prison. b. In addition his allies, especially those in the outer reaches of humanity are summarily executed. This is BAD because it exacerbates the precarious ecological situation Earth is in. Man may have been inconsiderate before but this is NOTHING compared to outright war humanity can wage even unto the point of Pyrrhic Stupidity. 2. CHESS fails: The Animen wina. Humanity falls beneath the blows of Phase one and two, though there are attempts to reverse this, the cataclysmic aftershocks (and humanities ultimately futile attempts to resist their death scene) could easily spiral out of control. As Humanity though removed from the animal world is at least an outgrowth of it. Fear could cause less responsible individuals to use nuclear weapons indiscriminately etc…b. Both Cambridge and Berkley (beloved of the Owl and myself) their loss mirrored in hundreds of thousands of educational establishments instead of containing ever flowing founts of wisdom instead lay forgotten crumbling ruins to reason, thought and learning that is now lost forever. 3. I Interfere with the intent of stopping the war long enough for ideas to grow.a. To CHESS: I agree the easiest solution for dealing with Primate is his death. However there is another concept in law that may provide benefits to both sides. Exile. This would remove a level 5 threat from the planet. I. There has been 6 'interesting items' spotted from the planet Earth that may be capable of supporting life. By giving Primate a reason to ignore this dangerous war and start fresh with a whole new planet he would have little reason to come back and great reason to leave/stay away.II. I have a plan to gain financial support from the industrial community. III. This would provide a safe haven for the threatened ecology of the Earth, few disasters are so large that they could destroy both locations in a single blow. IV. Should humanity/aliens ravage this planet past the point of no return something of our hearth and home would survive. And should a necessary item disappear/become extinct it may be found there even when it cannot be found on our planet. b. To the ANIMEN: Victory over Humanity is easy from here, however this is just the beginning. Cleaning up the planet after this calamity is not the easiest task on the planet to perform. The earth has been ravaged to the point of near worthlessness. Instead I propose that we leave here, by converting our technology to get us to one of the six 'interesting items' in space and take an Ark to convert one of those to a new Eden. I. We could negotiate for peace with CHESS and the World for enough time and resources to leave with say 1% of the necessary animal data as well as our allies.II. For Some of us leaving behind all the evil of Humanity even the memories is a good thing. In addition it prevents us from destroying the few good things humanity has done and that we may love.III. This is a new challenge that serves our planet even better than trying to clean the junked mess of our previous home. a new regime on a new planet with no history is the best possible thing.IV. It prevents unnecessary waste as well as minimizing the risks to ourselves and our allies. Though it may not have been coming out recently, I still believe that "You are no higher than your basest argument" and few things are baser than murder.
I was intending to sell this plan at the upcoming meeting, I was willing suggest a show of power from the Animen by offering mercy to humanity and sell it to CHESS as part of his attempt to negotiate leniency for the escaping metahumans that cooperate. Should this world go too far despite my best efforts and destroy itself I would try to flee there. My reason for staying would be that I can make sure the humans keep their end of the bargain with the Animen, fight my problems, and try to protect the species of Earth. Since no one knows how long Archeuletius live, I may have a dramatically longer lifespan than most humans, thus I need to keep the world going as best I can and having a back up plan in case Earth goes to crud. Another Eden is not a bad idea. I see a better chance for a truce from the prisoners of CHESS rather than the other way around. However I MUST gain as much trust as I can from the Animen in order to get this radical plan to float. Keep in mind, if Human society is destroyed it does terrible things to the odds of getting off planet. I recognize my low Charisma really hinders my attempts. However I think that since CHESS is probably more trustworthy (as well as having better reasons to 'get rid' of the Animen) the Animen are slightly less trustworthy (Evil seems like it will betray us even at a greater cost to themselves). I am no fool; I am unwilling to be a frog that carries either scorpion across the river. I have little chance of succeeding without being able to bring both sides to the negotiation table. If at all possible I will try to get the lines of communication open, without being a traitor to either side. I still try to walk a narrow tightrope of fraying silk over chasms of fate, willing to die but not betray. Just a synopsis of how I felt and what my plans were a that time’ Inhuman seems a little moody at this point.
After the tour of the facility, Centipede brought Inhuman to the island’s Laboratory, as instructed. The Owl met him at the door and agreed with Inhuman’s plan for surge detectors and timed mines. Then he and Inhuman entered the immense laboratory and found a chamber of awe inspiring technology (see inspirational art). If the Owl designed this facility, he was an even greater genius than Inhuman had imagined.
Present in the lab were the Primate, the Owl, Monarch and Snow Leopard. The feminine feline just finished a status report to the Primate on the readiness of the island facility. It was 100% operational.
The Owl joined Monarch in operating equipment that I did not fully understand.
‘The Owl said that you are to be trusted,’ the Primate said to me. The great ape’s weariness was palpable.
‘Control of the animal kingdom cannot be maintained indefinitely. Nor was it ever meant to be. It was only Phase One. Designed to throw mankind off the trail, As was my bombastic broadcast.’

‘Vanguard shall soon be at our doorstep. A last desperate assault before humanity is finished. We shall offer a token resistance so that they suspect nothing. They will be permitted entrance to this facility. And then they will be exposed to this.’
The super-intelligent simian held up a simple, sealed glass vial. ‘Phase Two. The most powerful ani-man of all. An airborne, infectious micro-organism. It will transform humans into apes by activating their dormant DNA and devolving them back into what they once were. Mankind shall become the very thing it despises most: a member of the animal kingdom. Then shall Man, and this world, know peace at last.’
‘The Owl said that you possess training in biology. We would have your assistance now in the preparation of the delivery of the ani-man.’
I Turned to the Primate attempting to sound like I was babbling to buy more time ‘I thought a great many things, this... this... was definitely not one of them, an Animaliculum. However there are several questions I have about and some possible challenges with this plan if I may just point out what I see. The Primate and I discussed the fate of the Earth. Our mental chess game for mankind was played in front of the Owl, Snow Leopard and Monarch in the island’s futuristic lab.When I talked of exile on an alien world, Primate’s face grew serious.‘The S’Korian invasion proved life on other worlds. I expect CHESS has salvaged alien technology from the war. I offer an alternative to your thoughts, friend: As victory is clearly ours, why not propose to the human resistance that THEY leave Earth? Cast out of Eden, and perhaps wiser for it, they may take better stewardship of their new home. But they have forfeited the right to this one. Also, I could never leave any of our kin in the animal kingdom to the tender mercies of their butcher, homo sapien! Nor, I hope, could you.’ The Primate during our Discussion did suggest that CHESS was not aware that my communicator was compromised. Soon it became obvious that I had turned the Owl and no others the tension was growing. Monarch and Snow Leopard were ready to act against this open defiance, and were clearly suspicious of Inhuman’s request to meet with any member of Vanguard alone.
The Owl looked deeply disappointed.
With Vanguard’s communicator held beneath his beak-like nose, Inhuman was quickly running out of options. He explained a brand new alien threat, even worse than mankind!The Primate grew angrier with every second that his direct instructions were ignored by me.‘Some animals’? Meaning you would leave the rest, the vast majority, to a cruel fate at the blood-stained hands of Man. Or to this new alien threat you’ve just pulled from your hat?!I would leave none of my brethren to that fate.But I wonder why you don’t propose taking ‘some’ humans to your new world, warmed by the hope that their species will survive? Certainly that would be easier than transporting some of every animal species on Earth.’ His voice was deliberate, mocking, throwing Inhuman’s words back in his face. “And would we not be likewise endangered by these ‘new aliens’ on your new planet? Perhaps more so as we struggle to understand a new environment?” I tried hard to counter argument with argument but my anger and beastial side arose ‘As soon as others learned of this option there would be others, there are many that would join you; however your attitude belies that you would not want them anyway so why should I offer? As for the Aliens, if we don't stop them here I agree hope is small but better some than the none YOU offer’ I tried to place the Owl between myself and the others, but Snow Leopard followed him me a bemused _expression on her face, like a cat toying with a mouse… or a fish. I finally demanded, ‘I was brought back from the dead. Do you have anyone who can match that power? Or Primate, are you just planning on sacrificing others like you did the Ani-men who faced off against Vanguard?’ That did it. ‘Enough!’ the Primate roared. ‘You’ll not deride the sacrifice they made for their beliefs, you who sacrifice nothing and whose beliefs are as mercurial as fish skin!’ ‘Silence him!’ he barked savagely to his Ani-Men. Snow Leopard was ready. Eager even. With dazzling speed, the terrifying tigress raked razor sharp claws across my chest! Leaving wakes of pain rippling across my body and mind!She chuckled playfully.The Owl visibly hesitated! He did not act against me! I was the slowest combatant in the room! In one last desperate gambit, I yelled, ‘Betrayers! Follow the Path of Fools will you?!!? While you may think you can win against the Aliens and their army of Henchmen I shall have to prove bodily why that will never happen. I Call upon the Law of the Sea! I Challenge you, you mangy dumb ape to a battle for control of the Ani-men!! When I win, all shall obey me!’ The Primate powerfully charged forward on all fours with surprising speed for his mass! The true might and savagery of the super-intelligent simian were at last revealed! ‘A challenge, eh? Very well!’ he growled.The great ape pounded his massive fists mercilessly down upon the fish man with brutal rage! I was savagely beaten into unconsciousness before I could hydro-kinetically seize any water, especially that containing the Animaliculum. As the last glimmers of consciousness faded, I heard voices, as if in a twilight dream. Monarch said, ‘Just like Ratman said.’ His voice was coolly unemotional. The Primate said, ‘Yes. I had sensed it also.’ Then his voice became a snarl: ‘You’ve failed me! You said he was one of us.’ The Owl pleaded: ‘He was! He gave us useful information against Vanguard. I’m sorry, master.’ The Primate said, ‘Enact the defenses he recommended against the human ‘superheroes.’ And do not fail me again.’ I felt hands on me and the sounds of footsteps and voices faded away.Then my mind fell into a nearly dreamless darkness until I was awoken by Forrester.” Inhuman bitterly smiles at Forrester.
“Unfortunately With the death of The Owl and the later reactions of the Primate I don’t see my plan as nearly as feasible as I once thought it was. I also realized that I wasn't receiving information from the Primate, like the others obviously were.” Inhuman scans everyone in the room meeting all their eyes except the Owl and the Primate.
“‘I however will plead the fifth on any attempt to list my crimes, I have to be judged upon the sum of my actions and intent rather than any false dichotomy of what I think I did wrong.” Inhuman stares depressingly at the Owl. “I Don’t think I can truly be made accountable for Some results, as I would have never condoned someone else sacrificing themselves before myself, as much as my heart may disagree. “ Inhuman shakes himself “Manetti, do you have any idea on how many hours it has been since the Vanguard attacked the Saucer over Europe, as well as what time it is now?”
“And can anyone tell me were there attacks by creatures of the Sea also? And does someone have an accounting of the fates of all of the Animen? And I still think Symbiote should absorb the powers of Primate while he is asleep if for no better reason than we may find a weakness that will help keep him bound. And perhaps among the other Class five individuals also when we have a chance.” Inhuman glances around the Room.
“any Questions you would like me to answer?”