Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Vanguard: Issue 89: In Search of Nanite!

The Manta Craft came apart around Vanguard and that was that. Icy wind cut through them. Vanguard was plummeting to their deaths over the mountains of Antarctica. Shelley Harper too.
Her mind turned to how she came to this place, this death. It had all started with Nanite.

Nanite didn’t know she was a robot. Doc Rocket had to tell her. Just think about that for a minute. She was struggling, trying to make sense of it, getting her feet back under her when she was targeted for murder by the lunatic Luddite just because she was a living machine.
Now she slept beyond life or death.

The relentless rubber hero, Slingshot, who Shelley liked despite his creepy physiognomy, detected a transmission of sorts emanating from her still form, along a rare frequency spectrum. It wasn’t a message. More like a tone.

Scott shared his findings with Doc Rocket and Vanguard. In a day they were detecting the silent tone from all computers.

In a month, CHESS orbital satellites were scanning for it. The largest center of the transmission, by far, came from an unexplored region of Antarctica!

The spooky one, Lightning Strike entered the exact coordinates into the CHESS database and found confidential records marking the region as a low-priority ‘area of interest.’
No man had set foot in this remote expanse of Antarctica. (see map)
Satellite imagery showed the coordinates lay within a valley permanently shrouded in white mist.
Satellite magnetic resonance is impossible, due to the proximity to the magnetic pole.
Flights that happened to pass nearby reported unusual instrument readings, perhaps due to that magnetic interference.

This information was shared in an extended team briefing in Vanguard HQ. Shelley stood in the back.
Larry Manetti said, “Between the mist and the instrument failure, CHESS recon would be flying blind into that valley.”

CHESS Director Grey wanted Vanguard to go, and not just for Nanite. “Find the source of that silent signal. What if that crackpot Luddite was on to something?”

Shelley saw her chance. She volunteered to join the mission as scientific/technical support. Due to her brother Hal’s urging, Doc Rocket was taking things easier so he’d stay behind. And, also due to Hal’s urging, Shelley’s spent the last few months assisting with Nanite! She was now the most qualified CHESS scientist for the job and Shelley was thrilled!

When Hal cornered Grey on this topic he fairly snarled, “You’re the one that bucked fer the promotion that placed her in Vanguard HQ in the first place. Now she’s not the one for the job?!”

Vanguard made thorough preparations for extreme temperatures and set out in a Manta Craft modified for long range travel and extreme conditions. Shelley practiced with the subzero protective clothing, and was thrilled to briefed with the team by kindly old Doc Rocket, via radio early in the trip, about the deadly environment they were entering:

“Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent and is surrounded by ocean. Larger in size than the continent of Europe, about 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that is one mile thick on average.

“Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 8 inches along the coast and far less inland. There are no permanent human residents but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive there, including penguins, seals, mosses, lichen, and many types of algae.

“Antarctica has no government and belongs to no country. Its status is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and other related agreements. The treaty was signed by twelve countries including the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and the United States. It set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and environmental protection, and banned military activity on the continent. This was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. The valley lay in a barren mountainous region that was not claimed by any nation.”

“In Antarctica it is late summer. The average temperature inland is -10 degrees Fahrenheit and there is daylight for 20 hours a day.”

It takes over 24 hours to reach inland Antarctica, with a refueling stop onboard the U.S.S. Truman, an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. Forester noted that there will be a quarter moon.

They were flying over it now. Shelley looked out the window at the beautiful, empty continent of ice and water. Clouds deadened the midnight sun and snow was falling deep inland as Vanguard, Manetti and Shelley Harper closed on the mysterious valley in the modified Manta.

“Instrument readings are out, as expected. Communications too,” Manetti announced matter of factly. He planned to land outside the mountain range that formed the valley of mist. Then Vanguard and Shelley would disembark and make their way over the icy mountain range and down into the enigmatic valley.

Sentinel’s energy sense was soon overwhelmed and impaired by a massive magnetic disturbance, seemingly emanating from the valley! Soldier could feel it too, but was not injured by it… yet.

Manetti began his final approach to touch down on a level stretch when the magnetic disturbance increased and the Manta Craft literally disintegrated around them! Coming apart in mid air into its component parts with no visible cause!!

Vanguard, Shelley and Manetti were suddenly hurtling through mid air, exposed to the freezing arctic elements at an altitude of five hundred feet, plummeting down to certain death!
The ship had disintegrated from back to front over a second’s time during the hard turn before final approach and the centrifugal force splayed Vanguard out away from each other like panicking paratroopers under fire! Sentinel was too far out of range to simply energy-bubble the team!

Shelley went numb. Snowflakes adhered to her face and did not melt. Her adventure, her life, was ending before it ever started. She looked in her brother’s direction as he fell through the icy sky to his death.

To be continued!


Actions? You each have one action to save yourselves and/or each other before impact!
You are 200 feet away from the nearest team member (see diagram).



Jeff: Can I summon a pegasus into existence beneath me? Or does the power work differently than that?


IC: "Crap. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap!!!" Hal thought to himself. He remembered his father's stricken face when his mother died, the years of mourning. He couldn't imagine the agony the old man would go through if either--much less BOTH of his children died in Antarctica.

But he only panicked for a moment. He reached out with his arm towards Slingshot. "Scott!! Tag me so I can help parachute the others down!" Symbiote yelled over the polar winds. If the Malleable Man of Might can hear him and complies, Hal will do the human parachute trick and grab up as many of his falling comrades as he can. His priorities will be as follows...

1) Shelly.

2) Manetti

3) Soldier.

His reasoning is as follows: Sentinel and Talon can fly, Slingshot can form into a parachute himself, Avatar can probably use one of his godly powers to fly or somehow get to the ground safely, Forester has a parachute arrow, Lightning Strike can turn into a lightning bolt and actually transmit himself into Soldier's cybernetics or Hal's own Harper Harness (a tactic we might want to use for stealth purposes in the future, BTW. Lightning Strike can be something of a Trojan Horse, hiding himself inside our equipment). He'll pick up Manetti before Soldier because he figures between the two of them Soldier has the better chance of actually surviving the fall if it comes to that, though he hopes one of the others will be able to rescue the Bionic Battler first.

OOC: In the immortal words of The Joker, "..and here...we...go!" A great start to another adventure!

Viva Vanguard,



500 feet from the ground, Forester couldn't afford to waste this action.

So many arrows, so little time...

A boomerang arrow probably wouldn't help. His new garlic arrow was out of the question. And a sonic arrow didn't sound like the right choice either.

What's this?! Oh, his trusty parachute arrow! Yes, that would probably be the best choice under the circumstances!

OOC: If push comes to shove, can Forester perform a "special attack" and fire two arrows at once? He did that once, many moons ago, when facing the Swastika guards (firing a cable arrow and smoke arrow

If so, Forester will fire his cable arrow to snag Shelly to slow her fall while also opening his parachute arrow. If Talon or someone else has already caught Shelly, then Symbiote or anyone else nearby who can't fly would be his next picks.

If it turns out a double-action isn't possible, no sweat--just had to give the idea a shot.


Greg nicely summarized my priorities and assumptions too. Given Kirk is nowhere near Shelly and that Shelly is closest to Talon who also flies and Avatar with the luck (and powers) of the Greek Gods, she is covered.

Having seen Slingshot's extreme capabilities in action Kirk has no doubt he can reach and empower Symbiote and then they both have those far reaching abilities.

If Kirk currently has his shields up (you didn't specify), Kirk flies towards Manetti immediately to catch him safely and by using his energy and flight speed he may be able to also lend an energy assist to Soldier (you'd need to figure that out but I think it would work if needed).

If his shields aren't up yet, Kirk flies to catch Manetti while creating his his shields and then once securing Manetti will fly towards and try to extend his energies towards assisting Soldier. (don't think reaching Soldier would be possible in game terms if Kirk's shields aren't up already, but he'd try - or else immediately fish him out if no one else managed to reach him in time either).

Once everyone is safe and accounted for if any equipment survived the 'attack' Kirk would try to retrieve it before it is lost or destroyed. Kirk would also try to get anyone within his shields to protect them from exposure (hopefully we can retrieve our protective20gear in that respect) as they regroup and figure out what to do next.

Hey, maybe we can get early shipping on the next issue



Now if we were back in the early Silver Age, I'm thinking Sentinel would save us all by creating a giant trampoline!


Good thing that I posted a last minute update AFTER the turn came out. Can you tell that the guy is swift or what?!

Slingshot has a 900+ feet stretch and has a 465 square feet stretch. Obviously, it's not about being able to do it, but the amount of time it will take to do so. I will be able to reach everyone (or bring myself to the center enough to stretch myself from there). The question is "Can I realistically before we go splat"?.

So assuming the answer is no (GM?), I'm stretching to Hal and lending my powers to him. I also want confirmation that I heard him over the comm link.

Now I'm not dumb either. Whatever this power did, it disintegrated the Manta craft. Will it nullify any other tech powers? (i.e. Symbiote's?), so I want a contingency plan that would bark out the moment I notice Hal's replication powers do not work (and the time question's answer is still a no).

Assuming that Hal's powers work:I'll stretch to him, pull myself to him and lend him my power then, "push" him towards Soldier/Manetti, while I take Shelley and Avatar. All the others have built-in areal safety systems. Forester, I can just as easily get you if you want to save your arrow, but that's up to you to communicate, cool?

GM: I need a call to see if there's enough "time" for us to grab all these people and safely deploy parachute form.

Assuming Hal's powers don't work and comm does:

I'll stretch to Hal, pull myself to him. Call out to Sentinel to reach and get Manetti, call out to Talon to grab Shelley, grab Avatar and Soldier.

Assuming that Hal's powers don't work and comm is down:

(I'll assume that with the Comm down so is the rest of the tech). I'll gesture to Sentinel to get Manetti. Go to Hal, test powers. repeat the above assuming that Talon sees my gesturing. If he doesn't or time is limited I'll use the following technique: instead of using parachute, I'll grab all people, and since there are more people, it means that there's less time at landing: I'll grab as many people as I can. Keep them behind me at "arms length" (say 30-40 yards) and at an angle of about 30% and I'll be crash-landing while the others are safely landing.



I'd thought of trying to create a 'safe' landing for everyone but actually checked my character sheet (yes, what's this world coming to) and realized I only had 150 feet of area with my creation - figured adding flight speed I might be able to get close enough to intercept two. Then I checked Slingshot's sheet and saw his 900 feet and realized he was the man for the big job here. I thought perhaps he could use Kirk's energy creation as a springboard to slingshot himself since our current momentum is away from each other but figured he could reach you without it.

Naturally, Kirk is open to any adjustment in his actions to coordinate with anything else he sees happening and to do the most good.

Jeff didn't take much time to put Shelly to good use to torture Hal here, did he?

By the way, is the team over death freezing water or body crushing glaciers as we're plummeting?



OOC: Your ranges are pretty much on par for most V&V powers and they were made in such a way that you won't have a real limit during most fights, except in this case... my "range" is absolutely monstrous, I hadn't realized that when I made my character concept. I just loved the whole strong guy concept that could slingshot himself.


GM Replies 1:

Avatar wrote: Can I summon a pegasus into existence beneath me? Or does the power work differently than that?

GM Reply: You do not control where it comes into existence. But Avatar thinks the supernatural steed’s speed should be fast enough to save John's lucky hide.

Forester wrote: If push comes to shove, can Forester perform a "special attack" and fire two arrows at once? He did that once, many moons ago, when facing the Swastika guards (firing a cable arrow and smoke arrow simultaneously).

GM Reply: Yes. Forester may attempt a double attack as per the rules, meaning if he misses one roll, then both attempts fail and the parachute arrow would be fouled. The selfless superhero would be risking his own life to save another! (cue dramatic inspirational music! prep funeral dirge. ;) )

Sentinel wrote: If Kirk currently has his shields up (you didn't specify),

GM Reply: Kirk doesn’t usually ride in the plane with his shields up, even for Manetti’s landings. ;)
(So one action to create shields. Flight movement as per the rules: one “inch” equals five feet.
Grabbing hold of a willing subject who is in your range costs 1/3 of your full movement, as it represents time more than feet moved.)
So you cannot fly to both Manetti and Soldier.
It also requires an Agility save on d20 to catch a willing, falling target. Oversized hands or catching constructs can add up to +4 to that save.

Slingshot wrote: Slingshot has a 900+ feet stretch and has a 465 square feet stretch. Obviously, it's not about being able to do it, but the amount of time it will take to do so. I will be able to reach everyone (or bring myself to the center enough to stretch myself from there). The question is "Can I realistically before we go splat"?.

GM Reply: It IS a matter of time. See above for the rules on this.
Also, morphing into a parachute shape takes 1/3 full movement.

Slingshot wrote: I also want confirmation that I heard him over the comm link.

GM Reply: Nope. Communications are out as per Issue 89.

Slingshot wrote: Will it nullify any other tech powers? (i.e. Symbiote's?),

GM Reply: Won’t know until tested, but your multiple contingencies all have you touching Hal, so you’ll be able to react once you find out. Your thorough orders are clear. Thanks!

Sentinel wrote: By the way, is the team over death freezing water or body crushing glaciers as we're plummeting?

GM Replies: That would be the body crushing glaciers. :)
(Please see the continent map. You are deep inland. The mysterious valley is nestled within the Transantarctic Mountains. )

Also, Sentinel's energy sense reads the magnetic interference as completely different and unrelated to the silent signal Slingshot discovered.



Of course Forester would risk his life to save another. The agile archer will delay his action until the other Vanguaridans have responded--but still safely within the turn.

If there is anyone left falling--and in archery range--Forester will attempt a "multiple attack" to catch the other person with a cable arrow (be that Shelly, Manetti, Avatar, Strike, any of the heroes with names beginning with the letters S, Talon, or even Taylor the Latte Boy) while opening his parachute arrow. If he misses, they both go ker-PLATT.

On the other hand, if everyone else is safely flying/riding safely, Forester will open only his parachute arrow and enjoy the view.


Avatar will go ahead and summon a pegasus, then, and hope that it catches him. As soon as he is safe (assuming that it works), he will attempt to go after someone else, though the time involved virtually guarantees that he will not have the opportunity.


Talon will fly to the closest non-flyer and instruct them to "hold tight". If his flight speed and agility allow him to slow the descent of another, he will use a free hand to direct that person toward Slingshot or Symbiote, so that their human parachute plan will bring them to safety.

Viva Vanguard,


OOC: Crap is right Greg.

Greg: Look at Jeff's responses to me (GM replies 1) and look at the map. Shelley is polar opposite to Manetti. I'm just saying. So when you tag me and it works, I have no problem "pushing" you towards your sister instead of my going there, but then we swap targets (shelley/avatar) vs Manetti/Soldier. It takes 1/3 movement per person. By the time I get to you, I've already used up a third.

This means that I can only pickup grab 3 people and crash or two and parachute.

Furthermore, we must have a contingency plan where your powers don't work.

[Option - Harness is a dud]What I propose is that once we know this to be, then I have to grab Soldier and Shelley and crash. All three of you will be protected and I'll take the brunt of it.

This leaves out Manetti and Avatar: In my commands, I've already flagged Sentinel to help with Manetti and Talon for Avatar. I'm assuming that I can communicate verbally when close and some basic gestures when far.

[OOC - Everyone - food for though or maybe inbetween story down time. Scott would not know the whole gammut of military hand gestures. I think the only one who would is Soldier, with us all behaving as rank amateurs. and we have been in enough situations now where our communications have been disrupted that we should teach it to ourselves. Obviously I'm looking at Soldier to provide that and I'll initiate it with him when we get back. I think we should have a bunch of training sessions as a group and only to provide silent/non-comm group commmunication techniques. It's not going to stop us from running around with our heads-cut-off , like we usually do. But at least if someone does a fist, he can expect you to know what it is. Expecting you[or me] to listen is a different discussion. ;)]

[OOC to everyone: I've read GM responses, I [Player] know that Avatar can fly through the pegasus, but I'm not sure my character knows as Avatar hasn't displayed that power yet and I'm assuming he doesn't]

Greg: What say you? I just want to workout the plan and then, assume that's all talk back and forth between us as I tag and bring myself to you (and we deal with the reality of the situation (powers/no powers, parachute/crash]. Cool? We can work on the harness working option in the following emails, I have no problems swapping Avatar/Shelley for Soldier/Manetti. I'll defer to your wanting to save your sister.



Not sure that Jeff will allow this to be a known thing right now but, in the future, let it be the understanding between us all that Avatar should be about the last guy to concern yourselves about in a "save" situation like this one. Trust in the expenditure of a luck point or two, at the worst, to save his life. Remember that one of my powers gives increased Charisma AND doubles the luck points from it, so Avatar will always have the option of spending luck points more lavishly than others.


GM Reply 2:
Avatar wrote: Not sure that Jeff will allow this to be a known thing right now but, in the future, let it be the understanding between us all that Avatar should be about the last guy to concern yourselves about in a "save" situation like this one. Trust in the expenditure of a luck point or two, at the worst, to save his life.

GM Reply: That is fair, excepting the new team members.
In fact, I seem to remember that there was once a situation where Kairos (aka Avatar) needed help and a Vanguardian said Kairos didn’t need to be helped what with his insane luck. Maybe it was Forester?
A genuine original Non-Reward to the lucky player who can find when it happened!
-Generous GM Jeff


Fair enough, but Scott isn't wired that way. He's not going to let Avatar plummet to the ground because he's got insane luck.


Lightning Strike:
Strike doesn't have a problem with it :).

Anyway, here is his action for this turn. Strike will attempt to determine the nature and origin of the force that destroyed the ship and then turn into electrical form and attempt to trace the source. Given that the force and interference seems to be electrical or magnetic in nature, Strike is taking a chance that he will be disrupted in this form and could be screwed up. Of course it is hard to see how he could be worse off since he is plummeting to a near certain doom.

Given that communications are out, Strike will motion to the others not to go after him and save other non flying characters but since nobody mentioned him as part of their plans it may not matter.

OOC: Finally got a baby sitter last night and went out to see Star Trek. Although it wasn't Trek like I remembered I thought it was entertaining nonetheless and set up well for several sequels to come. Finally watched Iron Man on DVD and although I thought it was good, it didn't seem to measure up to rave reviews.

Take care all,


Hey Jeff,
At no point has Forester simply left Kairos to die simply because he has more luck points that the rest of us.

In Issue 70, the team faced falling from a great height. Forester looked for a passenger to take with him as he readied his parachute arrow. In that issue, Forester thought that Sentinel might be most vulnerable because he couldn't fly and because Kairos had "heaven on his side." But that didn't mean in wouldn't help Kairos.

As it turned out in issue 71, Forester did take Kairos along for the ride, rather than Sentinel.



GM Reply 3:
James, it wasn’t my intention to impugn the valor of the selfless slinger of arrows! And I never said that Forester would leave anyone to die. But that was the incident I remembered incorrectly, and your bonafide Non-Reward is on its way!

Slingy: OK, ya big-hearted lug.

Strike: The electric avenger knows that the disturbance is magnetic, not an electrical wave or transmission that he can ride. His plan will almost certainly not succeed. You may send new orders if you wish.
Or you may try it anyway and risk grounding out. Spending Luck Points may help to alter the laws of comic book physics, but they offer no guarantee at success here, and may put you in a worse situation than you currently are. You’ve been warned.



We seem to have a sufficient number of people who can at least make it down safely on their own, if not carry somebody with them. Let's not overload ourselves.

If our own electronics had been scrambled by whatever this pulse wave was I suspect Jeff would've told Soldier that his bionics weren't working. Assuming I'm right, Slingshot, I'll grab Shelly, you grab one of the other non-fliers/parachuters/turn-into-electricityers. I imagine Talon and Sentinel will be able to grab one or more of the others. Lightning Strike, you're more than welcome to catch a ride down with me in electrical form, inside the Harness.

Disturbing...this whole thing reminds me of the infamous Count Nefaria issue of X-Men, in the early days of the new team. The one where they started out with the Blackbird getting shot out from under them and they had to figure out how to safely get everybody to ground, while falling in mid-air.

Thunderbird died at the end of that one.


Lightning Strike:
The following is an extract from one of the many websites discussing electricity and magnetism. The bolded line is the key one. Since this is definitely a non-natural source of magnetism, it must be generated from something or someone. Since this may be being sent by an individual, this person would be giving off some sort of electrical discharge or building up current within themselves. Hopefully the master of electricity can detect this electricity and home in on it. If not, then I will beam into Symbiotes device and piggyback a ride down. I will take great care to not short it out.

'All atoms contain negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons along with (with the exception of hydrogen) neutral neutrons. If there were no way to separate these charges there would be no such phenomena as electricity or magnetism. Static electricity consists of an unbalance of positive and negative charges. An abundunce of electrons produces a net negative charge, and an abundance of protons (or a deficiency of electrons) a positive. If charges flow through space or along a conductor, an electric current results. Electric currents produce magnetism.'


OOC: Fair enough and no argument on Kirk not having his shields up at the moment. I’m a bit surprised about the agility save (they always make it look so easy in the comics

About the only other thing I thought of that may help a little is if Kirk can’t actually reach anyone else then he may be able to create a construct to push the air (a giant fan or turbo of sorts) and buy a few more seconds before someone or something hits the ground (updraft) or perhaps use the wind force to blow someone towards a save by a teammate that might be just out of reach otherwise… just an extra thought if it somehow can work towards our advantage here.



GM Replies 4:

Tony: Hey! What are you doing bringing real world science into this!
This is comic book science where lightning control is a different power than magnetic powers! :)
A least until your next character advancement, I expect.

Seriously, your quote says the generation of magnetics requires electricity, so Strike might be able to detect its source.
But that's different than riding magnetic waves to the source.
You can attempt the first. You can't attempt the second, on magnetic force waves anyway.


Lightning Strike:
OK, so what Strike will do is attempt to locate the source of the transmission via detection of the electrical source and then piggy back on Symbiotes device to get down to the surface. Once we are all safely down to the surface, Strike will rematerialize and inform the team where the magnetic beam came from.

That should do it!!


Soldier will use his enhanced senses to try to scope out a good spot to land, if he's got time, he'll also try to get a quick fix on the others as they fall. He'll then try to brace himself for impact, and roll with hit when he lands. Once he hits, he'll take a few minutes to get himself together, assess any damage, and get his bearings. He silently thinks to himself "This is why I wanted that tracking implant installed". Once that's done, he'll head out in the general direction of whoever was closest to him on the plane. While he moves quickly, he's cautious as he's not sure what's going on.


OOC: Great Krypton...Odin's Aunt May's pacemaker battery....are we all actually done? Not only on time but EARLY????

Any chance we'll get early delivery, Jeff? Pretty please?