Vanguard Roll Call!

Vanguard Roll Call!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vanguard: Issue 131: The Gathering Storm.

Months have passed since the diabolical designs of the Dark Avatar were defeated by Vanguard.

Hank Archer still awaits trial on Riker’s Island. Sentinel’s telepathy detected the psionic trace of Black Bat in Archer’s mind, perhaps explaining his downturn, depression and attempt on Silas Caine’s life. Hank Archer believes Caine was behind the murder of his nephew, Steven, and his wife. Unbeknownst to Archer. Steven survived and became Lightning Strike.
Detective Archer is separated from the general prison population for his own protection. Symbiote and Zephyr’s father, Hank’s former partner in the NYPD, visits Hank regularly to keep his spirits up.
Will Sentinel reveal his telepathy to the public in an attempt to clear Detective Archer’s good name?! And is telepathic evidence even admissible in court? It has never been attempted before.
The Primate is still imprisoned in Hotsleep beneath CHESS Castle, the maximum security penitentiary for extranormal criminals. Hotsleep is a classified procedure that places a subject in an indefinite dream state. The process has been recently audited by CHESS and the US Government, and determined to be flawed enough to warrant transfer to a new process, yet to be determined. Several firms are submitting proposals now. It would be a delicate matter, transferring the most dangerous extranormals in captivity. In the meantime, Doc Rocket, Symbiote and Zephyr have assisted with the creation of support technologies such as telepathic signal jammers in Primate’s cell, under the watchful eye of CHESS Castle.

The Supreme Court reaffirms that beings, creatures or entities that are deemed sentient and possessed of human-level intelligence or higher are recognized as equal to human beings by the United States, with all equivalent rights and responsibilities.
Nanite had followed this case closely and seemed relieved with the outcome. Nonviolent but vocal protests erupted nationwide in reaction to the extended definition of “human.” Silas Caine spoke at several. Inhuman, former member of Vanguard, spoke at counter-protests!
The Court furthermore ruled that the Constitution does not extend to the federal government the power to ‘devolve’ prisoners or otherwise render them nonsentient, as a punishment for crimes committed.
If anyone were to end the perceived threat of the Primate, it would be done without the consent of law!

Hugo Chavez is overthrown by a people’s uprising. Democratic elections produce a new, pro-American President. Venezuela soon privatizes its oil resources in joint ventures with Exxon Mobil and Future Systems, a Silas Caine subsidiary.

Silas Caine has enjoyed increased donations toward his still undefined political action committee since the attempt on his life. Lightning Strike’s investigations intimate that Caine is no longer involved in organized crime in Big City, aka New York.

Nanite enters her fifth month of pregnancy. Created by the Entity (a.k.a., IT or It) as a living hybrid bridge between his Digital Zone and our flesh and blood one, she is completely compatible with humanity, as her delicate condition can attest. She is happy, healthy, nervous, tired and decorating a nursery in Vanguard Vault. Slingshot is never far from her side.

REACH blossoms. Donations pour in along with mostly positive press coverage. The organization does good work; helping people and changing lives.

Lancaster Gerard talked with Sentinel, Symbiote and Doc Rocket in his study, before a crackling fireplace. “The Mystic? Hm...” His pale eyes were far away and he smiled. “Miles could never stand him.”
Doc Rocket grinned, “’Dr. Mysterioso,’ he called him.”
“He was completely undependable,” said Lancaster. “Mercurial. Secretive. Arrogant even.”
“Pulled our fat from the fire on more than one occasion, I don’t mind telling you,” said Doc.

Soldier makes discrete inquires with former military buddies and CHESS personnel he trusts about the activities of his father, General Steele, in Venezuela. After the fall of Chavez, few will talk. Two, in fact:
One, Lance Robinson, Soldier’s old Army Buddy from Iraq, said he heard vets and other soldiers of fortune were pouring into Venezuela before Chavez went down. Lance had nothing connected to Soldier’s dad, but did hear talk that the Mercenary, aka Jim Harrik, leader of Homicide for Hire, was in Venezuela.
Another friend, Sam Drake, agent of CHESS, who gets on with Soldier due to their similar pasts and philosophies on discipline and training, took pity on Soldier over a beer one night and said, “Matt. Look. Between us, your father is rumored to be connected with MEDUSA.”
Soldier had never heard of MEDUSA.
“I know,” said Drake. “Above your paygrade. Military Espionage Division, United States of America. CHESS is the cards the government will show on how they work with and on extranormals. MEDUSA are the cards the government holds to its vest. Two different agencies, two different approaches.”
Drake took a drink of his beer. “Fyi, Dr. Ashe recently transferred to MEDUSA.”

Talon mostly makes himself scarce, loner that he is.

Menagerie settles into life at Vanguard Vault. He contacts the Canadian Park Service and finds that Pachyderm and Snow Leopard are well. Months pass when they are unseen, and then spotted again.

The Owl, in captivity at CHESS Castle, is the only Animal Revolution member willing to speak to Menagerie. The former lieutenant of the Primate entered the visitation room in safety orange coveralls, fierce intelligence and pride burning in his large eyes. The echo of the disturbance in the natural order flared around the brilliant birdman. Without his technological wonders, the Owl was a low security threat, elevated to medium due to his past associates, and was cuffed and escorted by a CHESS Knight.
“Who?” the Owl said to Menagerie, “… are you?”
The Owl was not looking for a mentor, at least not one currently detained in Hotsleep.

Gadget Girl, also a medium level threat at CHESS Castle, is happy to kill time during Symbiote’s visits. She’ll help him improve the Harper Harness in exchange for an official statement from Symbiote as to her good character, with the intention of reducing her remaining sentence. Her first mods, executed during her attempted heist of the Harper Harness were gratis, just the first free taste of how she could help, she explained with a playful smile.

Avatar broods on the recent revelations at the city of the lost gods. In time, he shrugs their weight from his shoulders and thinks, “What is in the past might matter but what is in the future is the only thing that can be controlled. Time enough to consider these things in the dark of the night when sleep does not come.” John sees that he has a duty, a purpose, and is determined to take hold of his destiny. With a renewed sense of purpose, he returns to training.
KTANG! FLANG! Avatar’s sword caromed off Sgt. Stone’s rocky hide in the training room. “Holy cats! What the hell’s gotten into you?” Stone smiled, during a particularly energetic sparring session.
John hires a friend to run his store after CHESS declines to. (John, let me know who this is. Thanks.)

Lightning Strike’s alter ego, Sparks, infiltrates Big City’s underworld. His sources tell him Whisper runs Big City now. Yup, the same Whisper who was the lieutenant of Femme Fatale. The same Whisper whose sudden disappearance sewed suspicion and mistrust among the Five Bosses, eventually allowing Morgue to bust his way into them. Morgue was an agent of the Black Bat, and Strike suspects Whisper is too.

Clone seems withdrawn and distant. Sentinel and Doc Rocket reach out to him to make sure he’s handling the adjustment all right. His family also takes notice.
“Alexi, is everything okay?” his father asks, probably at the prodding of Alexi’s mother.

Zephyr divides her time between Nanite, and serious training with Sarge, Avatar, Soldier and Sentinel. When Zephyr gets knocked down, she gets back up.

Symbiote joins his father’s visits with Hank Archer. He also continues to assist Nanite with her pregnancy as best he can. He'll carefully monitor the Digital Zone for changes or anomalies. Hal finds nothing related to Nanite’s condition. One night, after a Vanguard team meeting, Hal visited the wall sized screen inside the Vanguard Vault that let him see the Entity’s dimension, to begin another observation period.

That universe was black with billions of glowing chrysalis gossamers that formed shapes, landscapes, cities of glowing, pulsing data. The gossamers connected to billions of diadem screens. (Imagine Tron, the Matrix, Neuromancer, etc.)

One electric blue screen showed unusual activity. Several man-shaped figures were walking through it… entering into the Digital Zone!

Symbiote alerted Vanguard, who were still in the Vault from the team meeting.

Vanguard burst into the Computer Lab. The gateway to the Digital Zone was a titanic, wall-sized portal (ala Jack Kirby). There was a forcefield across its surface.
Through the portal they saw that nearly a dozen explorers were crossing the Digital Zone. Monofilament energy tendrils connected them back to their screen of origin, like virtual lifelines. By the time their black protective suits were visible, it was clear the data-nauts were headed straight toward Vanguard!

OOC: Actions?
And replies to any of the above?
Everyone’s conditions are at full.

Have fun.


All of the following will take place prior to Vanguard entering the computer room:

Soldier, intrigued by his conversation with Sam Drake, becomes determined to find out exactly what MEDUSA is, and what they do. He’ll begin combing through old case files, intelligence reports, and anything else he can get his hands on looking for information on them, and their activities. He’ll also be tracking events as they unfold in Venezuela, seeking if he can find any connection between Silas Caine, his father, and MEDUSA. He’ll also be keeping tabs on his family, namely his father, as he knows he’s tied into the events in Venezuela, he just can’t prove it. If possible, he’ll see what info he can dig up on Mercenary, and the other members of Homicide for Hire (does CHESS have files on them?).

While he’d like to share his theories with his team mates, he wants something a little more solid than gut feeling and hunches to go on. In the event he does manage to dig up anything, he’ll compile the information into a file, and keep it stored on a secure lap top in his quarters. He’ll continue to see what information Sam Drake can provide him, but he doesn’t want to push him too hard, as he’d like to build up his relationship.

When not busy, with the team (as per my last notes on the training program he’s undertaken), he’ll spend his spare time checking out a few local eateries, as he loves a good steak, as well as looking over a few historical sites, and checking out some of more upscale night clubs.

Soldier’s actions/comments in the computer room:
Upon viewing the screen – IC: “Anyone have a clue as to who hell these guys are?” As he does so, he’ll begin scanning the screen to see what his sensors can pick up, and moving into defensive position that will allow him have a clear field of fire, and some sport of protective cover, just in case a fight breaks out.


OOC: Interesting.
If I understand my character sheet correctly, I have power templates for most every metahuman I've copied so far stored in the computers at Vanguard Vault but not in the Harness itself. So I can copy stored powers directly from the computer while at the Vault, or by touching a metahuman while in the field. Is this correct?

On to the adventure...

IC: Hal orders the computer to put the Vault on whatever would be the equivalent of Star Trek's "yellow alert," warning Vanguard and CHESS personnel alike. He speaks into the intercom: "Vanguard, please report to the computer lab. It appears we are about to have...visitors," he says. While the rest of the team reports (and even for some time afterwards, if necessary), Hal works furiously at the computer, laboring to isolate the lab from the rest of the building and the rest of the world. If these datanauts are creatures of IT or some other form or carrier of malevolent programming he doesn't want them infecting the rest of the building (or the rest of the world's!) computer systems. He'll enlist the computer skills of Sentinel and Zephyr if necessary once they arrive.

If I'm correct about being able to copy powers from the computer, Symbiote will copy Mother Russia. If not, he'll copy Slingshot once he arrives. He'll then suggest a wait-and-see position. If our visitors try to signal us from the other side, I suppose we can let them in and see what they want once the computer is quarantined. If they stop to study the gateway (indicating that they weren't expecting to find it and are here on some mission unrelated to us), I suggest we wait awhile and observe, see if we can figure out their intentions. If they try to attack the gate...let's get ready to rumble.

Viva Vanguard,


OOC Replies:
Everyone: Symbiote and Soldier both said something akin to, “If it looks like a fight, I’ll get ready.” Please give me a little more if/then detail on those actions, on the outside chance of that possibility. J

Soldier: Thanks. CHESS has files on the Mercenary and Homicide for Hire, mostly created from an encounter they had with Vanguard a while back (Issue 39 to be exact!).
Further investigation will have to wait until after the Datanaut encounter.
Re: ‘night spots’: did Matt have another date with Kelli Riker, the CHESS field agent he dated in Issue 108?

Symbiote: The Harness Telemetry is in the Special Projects Lab on the 84th Floor. The Gateway to the Digital Zone is in the Computer Programming Lab on 82nd floor. However, I expect Hal keeps the Harness ‘loaded’ as SOP.

Telemetry may be uploaded from the Projects Lab at a cost of one hour per set of powers, and one charge.
Example: You want to load Morgue. It takes an hour, and you now have 13 charges in the Harness. Activating Morgue’s powers costs another charge.
You can still copy powers in the field as you always have, at the normal costs.

Who is currently loaded in the Harness, please?


OOC: Let's say he has Mother Russia loaded, and Symbiote will activate that template before the door opens (or is blasted open). With that particularly meta's ability to absorb damage it's a logical choice. One of my favorite moments from a Legion of Super Heroes story: Some villains are going to blow up a building Ultra Boy is in, thinking themselves clever because it's a surprise attack and he presumably won't have his ultra invulnerability activated. The building goes boom...and Ultra Boy comes walking out, unharmed, and start wailing on them. "How did you know we were here?" they ask in dismay. "I didn't. But I never turn my invulnerability off, in case of just this sort of situation," he replied.

Anyway, with Mother loaded up Hal is willing to stand in the middle of the room, directly in front of the door. If the datanauts are friendly it won't be a problem, if not he is now among the team members most qualified to "take the first arrows." He'd recommend that Sentinel join him (with shields up, of course) since as team leader he should make first contact (and his energy scan will help us determine what's what).

Viva Vanguard,


Hank Archer: Looks like we won’t be dealing with this in the current story arc, but Kirk will have discussions with Symbiote and Strike regarding this situation and ultimately with Grey and Drake. He will occasionally accompany them on visits to Archer both out of concern (he had a genuine respect for Archer and friendship developing) and to check for further influence of the Bat. Kirk would inquire as to whether Chess could pull some strings to resolve this situation for Archer quietly. If Caine is the one preventing it, perhaps scheduling a personal conversation with him about it and other things is overdue. (Note: Kirk would NOT do this alone)

If it ends up revealing his limited telepathic abilities would legitimately aid Archer then the decision to come forward is an easy one for Kirk. While he certainly sees the value of having them secret for Vanguard and Chess, maintaining that advantage at the cost of a good man’s life and reputation it too high a price. It’s not a difficult decision for Kirk and there is no hesitance. (ie I think this attitude goes right along with his character and ‘weakness’)

Gadget Girl: Kirk would voice his concern about giving Gadget Girl further access to his tech… how much will she learn from it for her own use? He knows that Hal will keep a close eye on her while she is working with his systems, but suggests always having another scientific eye on hand at all times. While he knows Hal will check everything she does to be sure she doesn’t install anything to turn the tech on him or be able to take it over herself, he feels ultimately that is her goal here. He states that although he knows most of Hal’s tech is beyond Kirk’s understanding, if any of Gadget Girl’s modifications involves computer tech or programming, he’d be happy to try to double-check things for Hal too. He suggests having Shelly review everything after Hal’s initial checking of things. Hopefully the extra eyes would prevent GG’s getting by whatever tampering she is planning.

Datanauts: Kirk summons his energies and zooms towards the Computer Room. Upon entering, he finds Hal already doing exactly everything that went through his mind to do to secure the Vault. As he enters (assuming Hal hasn’t finished securing things) he immediately begins assisting him, his energy shaping extra hands if needed to multi-task. Kirk’s energies also immediately flow from him at floor level as he forms them into a translucent shield of his energy over the technology driven force field covering the gateway to the Digital Zone. If this is IT on the attack, we don’t know how quickly IT may assume control of the Vault’s tech and if they are going to be attacked hopefully Kirk’s shields will absorb the first blows and prevent Vanguard from being caught unaware. IT may be able to disable the technology driven force field, hopefully not Kirk’s shielding.

Kirk’s head raced through the possibly scenarios for the data-nauts. Their last image of the Zone was the battle between IT and Nemesis, but they didn’t know the outcome. Nothing definitive like seeing the Temple collapsing in ruins like on their last mission.

Kirk used his energy sense to get a fix on the room. Of data and energy flow in and out so that if the data-nauts got in, he’d know if they got out of the room. He then begin to focus towards the gateway to see if he could get any reads on them as they approached closer. Did all of them appear the same? Were they of the same makeup? Were some of them ahead or closer than the others? Were they moving at different speeds or in synch? Did it seem possible some were being pursued by the others?

Kirk turned to Slingshot and Strike and said, “If this is an attack and they breach this room, our priority is Nanite.” He knew Scott would be there without a thought and that Strike could get there quicker than anyone. “And frankly, even if this ends up appearing to be an emissary mission of some sort, in my mind, it’s still all about Nanite, we don’t let our guard down in that respect.” He looked for some nods of agreement with the team.

Kirk made direct eye contact with Scott and said to him, “We’ll protect them Scott. We’ll protect them both.”

He noticed Soldier poised seemingly in control of the entire area and scanned the room noting all of Vanguard ready for action. He shot a last glance to Hal at his side as if to say “ready” and see his affirmative nod and then he spoke.

“Greetings. We wish you peace. My name is Sentinel. I speak in behalf of Vanguard whose gateway you are now approaching. We’d request you stop your approach at this time and identify yourselves and your intentions.”

If Kirk senses anything happening with his senses he will inform the team immediately. He hopes if it is an attack that the force field holds, but if not that his shield will protect the team initially and make sure they are fully aware and prepared to take action on the intruders. If datanauts intentions are immediately hostile, at this point, we don’t know what form they will take on our side (ie energy forms or physical forms) so it’s hard to give you scenarios here. If Kirk’s shields are blown totally away allowing them to breach the room, his first action would be reforming them. If he still has them and they are physical forms he would batter them with his construct, perhaps back towards the gateway to see the effect on them if they are forced back into the data world. He would do his best to prevent any from infiltrating the Vault.
Looking forward to catching up on the last mission :)



“Who?” the Owl said to Menagerie, “… are you?”

“I am Menagerie; I am an agent of the Natural Order. I have come here to understand what the Animal Revolution’s purpose is.”

“How do you plan to maintain the Cycle of Life and preserve Nature in a way that mankind does not?”

“Why do you still consider yourself an animal? You walk and talk like man?”

“It appears to me you are a hybrid animal/man. Are you the qualities of the best of both or the worse?”


Vanguard burst into the Computer Room. On the wall sized monitor they saw that nearly a dozen explorers were crossing the Digital Zone.

Menagerie looks at the Digital Zone in shock, “What is this? How does it represent a threat to us?”

[OOC] Menagerie will use his heightened senses to figure out what is going on. He will position himself in the back to support the team. He will maintain his human form unless he is told to change by Sentinel, Symbiote, or Avatar.



To Sentinel on Gadget Girl: "Believe me, Kirk, the last thing I want is to give a woman who tried to kill me a few weeks ago free, unfettered access to our tech, " Hal says over coffee, perhaps even just before the Digital Zone alarm. "I've been thinking about safeguards. I'd like to talk to the Castle warden, see if I can get her furloughed here to work with me--obviously after a thorough search and scan both by Castle personnel and our scanners. Once she's here, I'll work with her and I'd like to have Doc here as well. I'd also like you and Shelly here--incognito, disguised as lab techs so GG isn't son on guard. Between your computer expertise, your telepathy, your energy scanning power and me, Doc and Shelly's overall sharp eyes, hopefully we'll keep her under control."

Before the conversation goes much further, however, the D-Zone alarm starts blaring. If we survive we'll take this up further.

Sentinel wrote: “He shot a last glance to Hal at his side as if to say “ready” and see his affirmative nod and then he spoke.”

Liked this line. Has a very "Kirk and Spock" mojo too it.

OK, bring on the Datanauts. I'm sure they're a friendship expedition.

Viva Vanguard,



John is training at the time, covered in sweat and dirty from a long Olympian Crossfit-style workout. He grabs up his weapons and runs toward the trouble.


As always, Nanite's safety is priority one. A couple of questions.

"Vanguard burst into the Computer Room." = We are all there? Me included? Nanite as well? If she isn't there, where is she?

If she's not there, does the PDA work? or is there no signal?

Do the Datanauts look armed? are they walking out like a battle unit or more like a bunch of bewildered scientists? (Having had that tactics training, I should be able to tell).
Are they identical? size/shape/behavior? Do they have a clone-like quality or robot-like quality? I'm just trying to see if they have individuality or not.


Assuming I'm there…

Soldier Says: "IC: “Anyone have a clue as to who hell these guys are?”

Slingshot says to the group, "For those that are recent, this is a gate to the Digital Zone. We narrowly stopped an invasion from The Entity into our world a year or so ago. We lost a few people to the Digital Zone. Nemesis was left battling IT while I wasn't able to grab Cosmonaut, a Russian Hero."

In a moment of realization, Scott turns to Clone and says "We may need your Russian. Be prepared."

- Assuming they are not moving tactically, otherwise I might change my move -
He takes a step to the fore, putting himself in front of the others protectively (if Nanite is there, especially her), his fists slowly growing in anticipation of a fight and speaks:

"Explorers, You have entered a different dimension. This gate is guarded by Vanguard. Who are you and what are you doing here."


OOC Clarifications: (IC stuff will occur later.)

The Datanauts aren't carrying weapons. They aren’t marching in formation or with any kind of tactical precision. Their speed is moderate; viewing the area with interest; not charging, but not wandering aimlessly.
Their suits are identical. They are one group; no faction is chasing, or otherwise at odds with, another.
But they move like individuals. Different gaits, paces, body language. There are variations in size and build.

Nanite isn't a Vanguard team member. She doesn't burst into the Computer Lab. The rest of you do, at the sound of the alert.
Nanite is in the building, on the 83rd floor, in her quarters. (The Computer Lab is on the 82nd floor) She may come down out of curiosity to see what the alert is about, but not as the first response team reacting to potential trouble. She may be reached via PA or communicators before Symbiote locks down the room.



Re: Gadget Girl: Too funny. Would you believe I forgot that Kirk could monitor her thoughts while the work is being done. So what distraction will Jeff come up with that will require our immediate attention and her being left with your tech ... :)

Symbiote wrote: “Liked this line. Has a very "Kirk and Spock" mojo too it.”

Thanks. Usually I run the 'scene' through my head as to what's happening and why and it seemed to work with that you'd already set up. Would be cooler with all hell breaking loose in the next 'panel', but I'm not thinking its going that way just yet either.

Slingshot: Thanks for the above explanation to the newer members of the team. I was about to explain too with Menagerie's question making me realize that not everyone on the team was present for that encounter (though you'd think my brain would have got it with Soldier's post - oh, well).

And we're off to this year's adventure! Viva Vanguard!



Just to finish my entry here's my OOC list of entries:
I'll wait to see if these guys are actually hostile. I'm going to assume that they are somehow descendants/followers of Cosmonaut, which is why I asked Clone to get his Russian ready. I know that Cosmonaut wasn't a friendly, so I'm waiting to judge if not hostile whether these are friendlies.
1) If they attack, I'll defend and beat up the biggest.
2) If they do not attack, I'll keep looking for anything that might betray them as being tools of IT and be very suspicious if they try to get to/talk to Nanite.


Kirk turned to Slingshot and Strike and said, “If this is an attack and they breach this room, our priority is Nanite.” He knew Scott would be there without a thought and that Strike could get there quicker than anyone. “And frankly, even if this ends up appearing to be an emissary mission of some sort, in my mind, it’s still all about Nanite, we don’t let our guard down in that respect.” He looked for some nods of agreement with the team. Kirk made direct eye contact with Scott and said to him, “We’ll protect them Scott. We’ll protect them both.”

A moment later three of Clone’s duplicates ran out of the computer room just as one of the duplicates turned to face both Sentinel and Slingshot and said in a tone of determined certainty, “I will be protecting them with my lives, comrade.” The remaining duplicates took defensive positions at various points around the computer room and readied themselves for a possible attack.

Clone will have split up into as many duplicates as possible. If the situation turns ugly he will do what he can to keep the fight within the computer room – blocking exits with his duplicates, etc.If the three duplicates that ran off to guard Nanite run into any trouble they will immediately relay any information about their situation to the other duplicates within the Clone collective.
Talk to you all soon,


Hello Vanguard,
Talon sneers at the monitor as he tries to understand the coming threat. "'s about time we got some action around here. Aint nothin' to do but eat, sleep, and read Symbiote's comic books." Talon raises an eyebrow and looks at Symbiote. "That stack you keep hidden in the bottom drawer of your desk is WAY better than the one's you gave me, by the way."
As the rest of the group prepares for the oncoming fight, Talon spreads his wings, bares his claws, and growls. "Give me some room, fellas. I'm gonna roll out the welcome mat for these things!"

Best Regards,


Symbiote turns to Talon, outraged. "Those were in mint condition!! They'd better be back in the mylar..." he begins.

"HAL, FOCUS!" Zephyr snaps.

"Sorry," he says, turning back to the gate.


Lightning Strike:
Steven Archer regrets the fact that his uncle is in jail facing a trial for attempted murder that he prevented but knowing that Black Bat manipulated Hank into doing it gives Lightning Strike the impetus to dig deeper. Why would Black Bat want Caine dead and if he did, why not do it himself or have one of his underworld lackeys do it? It was time to follow the money trail. What company would benefit most from Caine's death? Who was his principal competitor? Strike would investigate some of the mob fronts, their legitimate businesses used to most likely launder money. Perhaps one may be a Caine competitor in which case that could lead Strike to Black Bat and perhaps a way to clear his uncle.

As soon as Strike hears about the datanauts he transmits himself to the Digital Zone. Seeing them approaching on the monitor he speaks to the others. "If this is an attack, it does not strike me as particularly subtle. Perhaps their intentions are benign but we should stay alert and look to the safety of those in the vault."

Strike will stay ready with the others but does not necessarily believe this is an attack.

That's all for now.

Off to bed!


Soldier finds nothing on his father or Silas Caine yet but the star-spangled superhero’s early investigations into MEDUSA quickly begin to remind him of what astronomers call dark matter.
Like dark matter, Soldier cannot detect the existence of MEDUSA, but can only infer its existence from its invisible, gravitational pull on visible objects and systems.

Whatever MEDUSA is, they seem big, organized and entirely covert.


Menagerie said to the Owl, “How do you plan to maintain the Cycle of Life and preserve Nature in a way that mankind does not?”

The Owl raised an eyebrow and quizzically regarded the animal in man’s skin. Then calmly and reasoned, he said, “By eliminating Man, for all our sakes. Mankind cannot preserve Nature. Man threatens all life forms on Earth, the entire Natural Order, with his shortsighted and insatiable avarice. He alone murders the animal kingdom for sport or pleasure or fashion. His path can only lead to ruin, and not for himself alone. He will take the world down with him. And all the creatures upon it. Man reigns from atop the most Unnatural Order.”

Menagerie said, “Why do you still consider yourself an animal? You walk and talk like man? It appears to me you are a hybrid animal/man. Are you the qualities of the best of both or the worse?”

The Owl replied, “Best and worst are decidedly human concepts. The world will change. It must. And those of us with unique physiology may earn a place by the Primate’s side. They cannot hold him forever.”

The Owl turned to look at the bars of his cage. “When the war comes, between Nature and Man, you will need to choose a side."


Lightning Strike followed the money trail and could find nothing that led back to Black Bat! Frustrated, he started over, reconsidering the original mystery: ‘Why would Black Bat want Caine dead and if he did, why not do it himself or have one of his underworld lackeys do it?’

Then the answer struck him (with a successful detect hidden). This wasn’t so much an attack on Caine as it was on Detective Hank Archer. Why target Hank Archer? To get at Lightning Strike.
Thinking back to that tragic night, Hank Archer tried to convince Strike to join him to murder Caine!
(Flashback to Issue 112!)

Lightning Strike reviewed the case file of his own murder in a dark alley in Big City with Detective Archer who said, “It’s likely our suspicions are the same. In fact, I think I know who you really are.”
The big tired man exhaled wearily. “Or at least I thought I did.”

He indicated the case file with his bleary eyes. “You know the victims were my nephew and his wife… my only brother’s only son. Their killer was that Luddite freak, but we all know Silas Caine was pulling the strings. I read the classified CHESS reports at the end of the Five Bosses Massacre. Says Black Bat put you in front of Caine, with the perfect out. You could have killed that bastard Caine and gotten off scott free. But you didn’t.”
“It was then I figured maybe I didn’t know who you were.
“Anyway, you just said yer willing to bring the guilty parties to justice. Any way necessary. Beyond any official capacity. I’m interesting in hearing what that really means, mister. Because I know where Silas Caine is right now.”

Strike pauses after listening to what Detective Archer has to say. Then, "If you know where Caine is at the moment and you have suspicions that he is engaged in criminal activity, then I will go and see what I can find. I want to see him brought to justice but I will not be a vigilante. He will be brought before a jury of his peers and he will be exposed for the vermin that he is. If I can make that happen, then perhaps your nephew can rest in peace."

Detective Archer said, “You know that Caine’s wealth will make sure he never sees the inside of a court room.” The big man checked his wristwatch. “I know Caine’s whereabouts but he is not currently ‘engaged in criminal activity.’ So now I know where you stand. Sorry to have wasted your time, Lightning Strike.”
Detective Archer retrieved the case file on the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Steven Archer and left the alley.
(End flashback!)

This was all done for Strike’s benefit. This isn’t the first time the Bat tried to encourage Lightning Strike to give in to cruel revenge and start down a path to darkness. The Bat knows Strike’s secret identity!
Black Bat doesn’t want to kill Caine or Archer or even Strike as much as he wants to seduce Strike to succumb to his most evil tendencies! And he sees the death of Strike’s wife as the way it will be accomplished!