Steel City

Episode 6: Interlude, With Monster

First, James’ fact-filled and Vieno-centric rendition.
And then mine, charmingly fact-free, and short, because the session was one long fight against the monster

Episode 6: Audition Interlude, With Monsters

That’s big, thought Izzy as she flew nearer. Both arms and the head were out of the ground now, and half of the train tracks across the industrial landscape had snapped like guitar wires. They had already emptied the train and were going to put people on it, but the train would have to back up.

How long does it take a train to stop? Two kilometers? Three? So if they back up fast and there’s another train coming in already slowing down because this is a Just In Tine facility…crunch

She could see two security guards, both elderly. The tall moustached one was getting people on the boxcar—it had held something like electronic components—The stocky one was bravely about to fire his pistol at the monster.

Bet it has no effect, she thought.

Huitzil had suggested she go ahead and start distracting the monster so people could get clear, but she wasn’t sure that was the best thing she could do. The train couldn’t back up safely, and everyone on it could be hurt. No, the car was almost full now, and the other two cars were filling fast, and with a minimum of jostling. The sight of the monster coming from the ground probably didn’t hurt, or the digging talons, each as long as a limo.

“You and you!” she called. “Uncouple the car. I’m going to carry it.” She swooped down, hoisted the car easily, and took off with it.

∗ ∗ ∗

Huitzil arrived in time to see Izzy—er, Canadian Lass—flying off with a railway boxcar, so presumably Izzy had some plan… Huitzil wanted Ninety-Nine Percent there to re-establish their mental link, so everyone could “talk” again.

The monster’s thighs were still in the ground. Huitzil decided not to wait. This might just be a confused calf-monster separated from its monster mother instead of a rampaging beast of destruction, but why take chances?

Also, the glowing sigil on its chest indicated that someone owned it. Or that was its name. Huitzil didn’t recognize the sigil.

Cock arm and—

It was like slapping an office building: the monster never noticed.

I could ram its eye and it wouldn’t blink.

A bullet from a security guard’s pistol whistled past. “Hey!”

“Sorry!” he called. “Trying to get the eyes. Vulnerable.”

It tunnels through rock; I’m not sure the eyes are any more vulnerable. But Huitzil moved to the non-city side. Best to lure the monster off in the less-populated direction.

Huitzil’s next blow might have had less effect. Great. That probably made it stronger. %Ninety-Nine? Your turn.%

%On it.% Ninety-Nine Percent had a clear view of the monster, now. Humanoid, check. Fifty feet tall, check. Knee deep in land as it crawls out, check. Glowing sigil on its chest. Check. I’ll bet that’s our boy. She cast about for the monster’s mind—

—and found it too slippery. %Too alien,% she said. Or three days practice isn’t enough. Nah, too alien. Probably has two brains, like a sauropod.

Volt gunned the engine and swept around the monster in a wide circle. There was a way of changing the taser so it was like an electrical straitjacket, and he used that. It held the beast in place—

—and then the beast shrugged, shattering the ionized paths that held the electricity. It swatted at Huitzil, missed, and knocked over a locomotive, sending the thing flying to the edge of the island.

%Great technique,% said Huitzil. %Can you immobilize it after it moves so we can take advantage?%

Izzy came back and saw that the second railway car was full, but the security guards were still there.

“Jack,” she said, reading the man’s name tag, “Get on the train.”

“It’s our job to stay and protect the place.”

“For me?” She did her best to look cute and appealing.

Jack melted under the onslaught of cuteness. “Well…when everyone else is out.”

“Great. Go stand by the third car, there.” She lifted the second car.

Huitzil looked at the thing stepping out of the hole and dive-bombed its foot, tripping it and sending it sprawling into one of the factory buildings. There was a huge crash as the center part of the building collapsed, and a cloud of dust. Concrete shattered, wires hissed, and the area was invisible for a moment.

The monster punched the ground, making the island shake. None of the heroes were affected—they were in the air—but all of the bystanders were knocked down, unable to keep their feet, and the force of the thing’s punch was enough to knock them unconscious.

%Well,% said Volt.%That’s bad.% He wove the taser snare again. The beast was immobile and prone, so both Izzy and Huitzil dove to attack.

%It’s the dim humanoid shape in the dust, right?% said Izzy.

%Just hit!% thought Huitzil.

As near as they could tell, their blows had no effect. In the distance, they heard screams and the sound of thudding metal as the shockwave propogated down the railway track and derailed a train.

%We should help,% said Huitzil.

%We’re kind of busy,% said Izzy. %Have to be emergency services’ job. Hit it again!%

Volt saw the monster shatter his taser snare again, and managed to get the hoverbike between him and the enormous paw before it hit, sending him tumbling through the air toward the border. Fortunately his seatbelt kept him with the bike, which hissed and spat as parts gave up under the tremendous force.

%I can’t go to Canada!% he screamed. The hoverbike slowly settled to the ground. It wasn’t going to rise again. Volt got off, slightly shaken.

%I can’t seem to get hold of its mind, like it’s being mentally controlled, or something,% said Ninety-Nine. %Maybe if I can make it more vulnerable to mental attacks—%

%Will that help?% asked Izzy.

%Can’t hurt,% said Ninety-Nine.

“What if we hit it at once?” asked Huitzil, out loud.

“If it hits us, it’ll squash us,” said Izzy.

“Do we have any other choice?”

%Let’s do it,% thought Izzy. %Huitzil, on your signal.%

The thing shrugged off the taser snare again and lurched to its feet, but mindful of his teammates, Volt wove the snare back up.

At Huitzil’s signal, both drove hard into the prone monster, hitting it so hard that they knocked the beast over, all hundreds of tons of it. Its eyes rolled up and closed.

The monster fell, as if in slow motion, onto the other manufacturing building, which supported its weight for a quarter of a second, and then collapsed with the sound of thunder, sending another cloud of dust into the air.

When they could hear again (predictably, Huitzil was first), they heard the sound of one person clapping.

A middle-aged woman stood there beside a yellow SUV, clapping. She had an oxygen tank in her car, and a tube ran to her nose. Other than that, she looked healthy.

“Good job!” she said. “Atlanteans will know better next time, though.”

“Who are you?” asked Izzy. “And are you sure it was Atlanteans?”

“Sigil is Atlantean. I don’t read it, but I can recognize that.” The sigil on the thing’s chest was fading. “Grace Kitteen. Formerly Bastion. Came to see the new team, maybe lend a hand if I could. You don’t follow through quite enough. Takes power away when you need it.”

“And it was under some kind of mental control,” said Ninety-Nine. “I could sense that much. Mystic, of some kind.”

Grace nodded. “That sounds Atlantean.”

“What do we do about this thing?” asked Huitzil.

“No idea,” Grace said. “We dealt with mostly killer robots, psychopaths, vampire cabals, and regenerating fiends from the future. It was the times.”

“But I might know someone who does know,” said Ninety-Nine. “Hold tight.” She gunned the hoverbike and headed toward the city.

Izzy said, “You were a member of the last Sentries?”

“That I was. Me and Roy the only ones left in town.”

“Can you show me how I should be punching?” asked Izzy.

“Sure, as long as it doesn’t take me away from the soup kitchen work. Roy’s got a chunk of land he never uses any more, we can use that. I got the keys.”

“What do we do with the monster?” asked Volt.

“Just a second,” said Huitzil. She called Palmer and asked.

FEMA,” he said. “Once the governor declares a state of emergency for the area.”

“Has the governor?”

“Well, not yet. The mayor is probably trying to get through to him right now.”

“What do we do with it in the meantime?”

“Well, I have some PDFs they provide—let’s see, natural disaster, nuclear attack, here it is, giant monster. You want me to send it to your phone?”

“Please,” said Huitzil.

“What about the other train?” asked Volt. “We can’t leave the monster here.”

“We’re the only ones who can handle it,” said Izzy.

“Oh, I remember these talks,” said Grace.

∗ ∗ ∗

Once she was out of sight of the others, Ninety-Nine called home. Her father answered. “Who do we know who reads Atlantean?”

He didn’t ask why; he just said, “Know people? Nobody, I think. We mostly steered clear of the mystic types. Oh, we know of someone. Koschei the Deathless.”

“The mobster?”

“No, the original. But he won’t talk to you unless you have the Serendipitous Ruby, and that’s in a vault that the Confederacy of Justice keeps.”

“Great,” said Ninety-Nine.

“Had a plan once to steal some of their tech—it was for your mother; her birthday was coming up and she always liked some of their stuff—let me see if I have it around still. If you can get in, I still have a duplicate. Signature won’t fool Koschei or I’d suggest you give that to him.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I guess I’ll head back.”

∗ ∗ ∗

“This PDF has a number for FEMA,” said Huitzil, and called.

A bored-sounding man answered. “Nature of the emergency?”

“Giant monster. About fifty feet tall.”

“Radioactive or toxic? Breath ray?”

“I don’t think so. It burrows.”

“What we normally do with those is, we airlift them and drop them in the Marianas Trench. Unless they’re aquatic. Is it aquatic?”

“I think so.”

“Then what you want to do is get a hundred repulsors, fasten them, and lift the thing into low earth orbit.”

“Won’t that kill it?”

The man chuckled bitterly. “Oh, no. Those things never die. They might look like they’re dead, but they never die.”

“We don’t have repulsors like that.”

“Well, we got some Sikorsky models we can… Is there an official request yet? Okay, then unofficially, what we can do is send some up for maintenance. If they have to move the giant monster to land, well—”

“Can you do that?”

“You want to wait until the governor manages to declare a state of emergency?”

Huitzil said, “Good point. Tell them to home in on this phone.”

The monster’s eyes flickered open.

“Oh, god,” said Ninety-Nine. “Places!”

But instead the monster rolled over and began digging. Soon it was gone, with only a layer of disturbed earth and wrecked buildings and train tracks to show it had been there.

“I gotta get back to the soup kitchen,” said Grace. “I’ll phone you, we’ll set up a time.”

“Thanks,” said Izzy.

They were waving goodbye when Ninety-Nine returned. “How’d you get rid of it?”

“We’re that good,” said Izzy.

The radio on Ninety-Nine’s hoverbike came to life. “Agent Gonzalez here. How you doing with that monster?”

Huitzil flew over. “All done. Another problem dealt with.”

Volt muttered, “Delayed is more like it.”

“Good. Because you know all those Stormers we’ve been locking up at our facility? We’re under attack. Somebody’s trying to break them out.”

“On our way,” said Izzy.

“Does it ever let up?” asked Volt as he mounted to sit behind Ninety-Nine.

“No,” said Huitzil. “They don’t want us to make lasting social change with our powers, so they keep us busy with threats like this.”

“Who?” asked Ninety-Nine. “The bankers?”

“The establishment,” said Huitzil. “The man. The one per cent.”

“It’s also the day we’re presented to the public,” said Ninety-Nine. “Every group that wants to make a name for themselves is going to do something today to show us up.”

“Staged arrival or all together?” asked Izzy.

“You go ahead and scout,” said Ninety-Nine. “If I’m right, there’ll be more of these today.”

Episode 5: Auditions, Early Tryouts

You’ve seen the fact-filled version that James did. So have a fictionalized version. Comments are possible, so feel free to leave corrections.

Episode 5: Auditions

Izzy pushed aside the offered costume. “I’m not wearing that.”

The hawk-nosed woman from the city was offended. “They worked all night on that. There isn’t time to get anything else,” she said snarkily.

“It’s ugly. And look at it: it looks like regular cloth. What if I get into a fight? I’ve already been naked in one battle, I don’t want it to happen again. Where’s the Uberwear?”

“Underwear. The bra and panties are Uberwear. If you’re in a fight, this costume will tear.” The woman said conspiratorially, “Battle damage tests well.”

“I passed along the sketches of what I wanted. This looks like the outfit of a janitor who moonlights as a stripper!”

“It’s the mayor’s design.” She waited while Izzy fastened the bra in front. “Besides, we can’t afford Uberwear. The lingerie was a gift.” The woman glanced at the clock. “The press conference starts in five minutes.”

Izzy grumbled. “At least I already gave them a name.”

∗ ∗ ∗

The mayor spoke, and the length of the speech indicated he was going to run for re-election. He proudly introduced them: “Hooey—how do you say that?”

“Huitzil,” said Huitzil. “It’s Nahuatl for ‘Hummingbird.’”

“Are you Na-whatsit?”

“No, but my title search showed there was already a ‘Hummingbird.’”

The mayor nodded, still smiling, but sweat was starting to appear on his face.

“The whole package…or at least Ninety-nine Percent!” Ninety-nine Percent might have smiled (with the mask, you couldn’t tell) but she waved.

“The live wire of justice himself, Volt!” Volt looked too disgusted by the mayor’s words to wave.

“And our very own immovable mountain of right, Isabel Traynor.”

“That’s Canadian Lass,” she said.

The mayor covered the microphone. “Later.” He smiled to the reporters. “These brave men and women are hooked into the police radio system, and can respond wherever evil—”

“Excuse me?” said Ninety-nine, tapping her watch. “We’ve got a hijacking downtown right now and costumed supers seem to be involved. We have to go.”

“Thank god,” said Volt, sotto voce.

“A hijacking in the middle of our press conference? What a coincidence,” said Huitzil.

“The roof,” said Ninety-nine. “That’s where we parked the hoverbikes.”

“Meet you there,” said Izzy, and she took off, with Huitzil following at half her speed.

∗ ∗ ∗

From high above, Izzy could see the basic situation: An overturned semi, a black SUV that ran into the truck, and at one end, two men in skintight uniforms moving boxes intothe back of a minivan. How odd, thought Izzy. That minivan won’t hold everything the semi has. Also around the truck were two steampunkish figures, a three-headed woman, and what looked like a termite mound made of oil. She wondered if maybe she could hear anything down there.

“I hate these uniforms,” said one of the men carrying boxes.

“I hate how it looks on me,” said the other. “I’ll bet Hendrick wants us to wear them just because he looks good in his.”

A dinosaur—sorry, a humanoid alligator…or something—was carrying three boxes out of the trailer. “So, this mook thing?” he asked in a bayou accent. “Does it pay? I don’ fit in to tractor cab no more.”

The steampunk woman with the parasol looked up, and Izzy got the impression of being looked at. “Company,” she said. “Remember the plan.”

“If followin’ the plan get me a job—”

Plan? thought Izzy.

“Good luck,” said the man as he lifted his big metal glove. Lights played up and down the sides and behind a wire grating sat clockwork gears that began to spin.

%Hi,% thought Ninety-Nine Percent in her head. %Now that I can see everyone, I’ve set up a mental link. I’ll be on that roof over there, Volt’s landing across the street.%

%Because we can’t use our phones,% thought Huitzil.

%No deeper!% thought Volt. %This is an invasion of privacy.%

Izzy circled around again. She could see the others approaching, so time to interfere with the criminals—

“I’m on it,” said the three-headed woman, and she shot into the air.

The street was lined with parked cars, as Izzy zoomed by them. No pedestrians; good—they’d all hidden. The oily mound started to grow taller and wider but thinner until it was a sheet two storeys tall, but Izzy concentrated on the people. She wanted to get the edge of the mound, bring it down&mdash

—when the man tagged her with his glove, and her clothing disintegrated.

“Hey!” she said. “That was a new uniform,” Ugly, but new. At least her underwear was Uberwear. She angled up, up, up—and a blast of golden radiation hit her with the force of a flamethrower. It might as well have been a warm summer’s day, as far as Izzy was concerned.

“Someone to rassle,” said the alligator. He dropped the crates he was carrying, cracked his knuckles, and moved so that he wasn’t in a direct line with the other three. “Come to Jean-Louis, mon petite—”

Huitzil also flew the length of the street. Huitzil hit a glancing blow to the man with the power glove, but didn’t seem to hurt him. The woman with the parasol and top hat said, “That car exploded,” and pointed at one of the cars—

—that erupted into a ball of flame. Huitzil twisted, managed to avoid the ball of flame, and thought at the others, %Someone check for innocents!%

%I checked,% Izzy assured Huitzil. %We’re good.%

%She couldn’t have known that. She endangered people. Concentrate on her.%

Ninety-Nine got the hoverbike settled and took up a position kneeling behind the wall, so she could see everything. Volt settled for street level, but set his hoverbike down just around the corner, and ran through the building.

Huitzil was lower and slower, so made another pass, trying to hit the woman but missed. Meanwhile, the man had assessed them and apparently realized that being able to destroy non-living material was pointless against this group. Instead, he trotted over to a manhole cover in the road, knelt, and touched it with his right hand. It disintegrated, like Izzy’s clothes.

The woman looked up, noticed Ninety-Nine Percent, and said, “That wall crumbles away, so she has no place to hide.” Sure enough, the wall fell in a sheet of gravel, leaving Ninety-Nine to stretch herself prone on the roof. The gravel plunged three storeys and pinged off the sidewalk, like a tiny hailstorm.

Blaster shots blossomed in the sky from the thugs two buildings over from Ninety-Nine. One shot caught Huitzil in the leg, and pain blossomed there, followed a second later by the smell of burnt cloth and flesh. %Ow. Ow ow ow.% Huitzil thought. %Not as bad as falling a mile, but that smarts.%

Izzy dived at her, screamingly fast—only to stop suddenly as the humanoid alligator got her arms, as if he’d been waiting. He was heavier or stronger than she thought, because she spun around and dragged him only a few meters. The tarry thing touched her toes, and that made her nervous.

Golden plasma rained down on her again from the flying woman, but it had no effect. Am I immune to it or just lucky? Izzy wondered.

“Hey!” said Volt. “You have to pick on someone who’s been grabbed, Tarball? You can’t hold your own against one man? Like me?” The tarry thing wavered. He shot a bolt of energy at the tarball but missed. %Damned nerves,% he thought.

Ninety-Nine looked at the woman in a way meant to crush her ego, but the mental blast just slid off. %Of course,% she said to the others. %If she can impose her will on reality…%

Huitzil was coming around again and from this angle recognized both the steampunky man and the two mooks who were carrying crates. Huitzil suddenly thought, Can I hit a client? Or an ex-client? Because two of them had been clients of hers: The mooks had been part of a class action suit against a supervillain for promised employment benefits; the firm had lost that one.

Distracted, Huitzil missed the woman handily. The upper-storey mooks had no such distraction, and opened fire again. Blaster bolts bloomed again, and avoiding them shocked Huitzil back into the fight. Pay attention to everyone, not just the target of the moment.

“We need better cover,” said the man, and traced a circle on the truck, making a portal they could enter. “Then the mindraper up there can’t see us.” He stepped inside.

Before stepping through, the woman said, “Shame she got tangled in some power wires,” and Huitzil felt the wings stop, all tangled up, though the power lines had been nowhere near. Huitzil had enough time to say, “I reject your binary gender norm—” when the roof arrived. Huitzil bounced three times before coming to a halt against the opposite corner of the building.

%Huitzil?% asked Izzy. There was no response.

Then: %Ow ow ow ow. Why don’t they make rooftops out of rubber?%

Content, Izzy thought, %Ah. He’s pressing here.% Izzy knew the wrestling hold, so she twisted just like so and threw the Alligatorman into the tar blob, freeing her while knocking it off her feet. The golden woman shot as Izzy again, but Izzy had her back to the woman and didn’t notice.

Volt hit the tar blob without worry; the Alligatorman was invisible from his viewpoint, and Ninety-Nine Percent concentrated on crushing his mind. The tar thing collapsed into a puddle around the alligator-man, who was struggling free.

A barrage of blaster bolts hit Volt, who had been trying to be easy to hit for the tar thing, and all of them connected. He went down on the sidewalk, with the smell of phosphorus around him. His familiar crackling shield disappeared.

Huitzil judged the distance: she could make it just by jumping, and then she could go through the hole that the man had made. She didn’t need the wings for that. She leapt down, ricocheted off a street light straight into the semi, right into position to feint at the woman.

The man swiped at her wings, and the harness disintegrated. The wings themselves, as alive alien biotechnology did not, and they tumbled to the ground.

The woman looked at Huitzil and the fallen wings and said, “All this fighting has weakened the ground so there’s a hole into the sewers right under you,” but Huitzil was too fast to fall in.

Huitzil grinned and unleashed a flurry of attacks on her, deliberately focusing on her at the cost of being nearly defenseless to the man. She fell to her knees on the edge of passing out—which is when the man said, “Remember Captain Oblivion and Epiphany Jones,” and jumped in the hole.

Huitzil was going to follow, but remembered that the others were outside. Isn’t there a monster in the sewers here?

∗ ∗ ∗

Ninety-Nine Percent recognized the SAT agent closing in on the SUV. Agent Gonzales. Her mother had quizzed her on the current law enforcement types starting when she was twelve. He was advancing in a standard two-by pattern with some woman, and he’d made it to the SUV with the three thugs hiding in it.

They looked like they were going to leave because Gonzales hadn’t quite got his gun trained right and—

—Oh. She wasn’t needed. Izzy had just ripped the rear off the black SUV.

Neither of the two remaining villains had been particularly effective. She couldn’t see the agents from this angle and they couldn’t see her, so she thought hard about the golden woman, who was in a position to actually blast her.

The golden three-headed woman flew away. Calling it a bad job? wondered Ninety-Nine. Or something else?

When she looked back down, the alligator-man was gone, too. But—oh, this was interesting—the agent in the car had just handed over a briefcase to Agent Gonzales, who passed it to the other agent. Ninety-Nine couldn’t resist. She broke the mental connection (all the other crooks were gone, anyway) and looked in the briefcase. There was enough light from the crack where the halves met that Ninety-Nine could make out a vial of silver dust, in foam.


Izzy was talking to Gonzales now, and she could hear:

“Protocol,” said Izzy. “Do you mind showing me identification, because I don’t know your partner.”

“Good job. This is Agent Groh. Groh, Traynor,” said Gonzales as he showed his badge. “Are you going to do anything about those guys up top?”

“Huitzil will.” Ninety-Nine couldn’t see Huitzil, but the shooting had stopped. Ninety-Nine moved her remote senses over so she could see Huitzil as well—ah, she’d used what looked like parkour to go up the side of the building and disappeared into the open window. Izzy had called SAT headquarters. “I see.” To Gonzales, she said, “Hands up. You look like Gonzales, but—”

The woman with the briefcase started to grow. Ninety-Nine wondered about that. What was she going to do? Run away? It’s not like people wouldn’t notice a thirty-foot woman with a tiny briefcase, and she couldn’t get somewhere to shrink back. Really, some people didn’t think about the implications of their powers— An out-of-towner, for sure.

Gonzales’ face had melted, in the process of changing to someone else. See, that would have been effective, done elsewhere, Ninety-Nine thought, and shut him down.

∗ ∗ ∗

“We were mind-controlled!” said one of the thugs to Huitzil. Racks of gowns stood near them in the dress shop, and Huitzil could smell mothballs and a covering layer of something artificial and floral.

“Totally duress,” said another, and all four of them nodded. Racks of gowns stood near them in the dress shop.

“Can you take our case?” asked a third.

“No,” said Huitzil. “For two reasons. First, I’m not a criminal lawyer. Second, I might be called to testify against you.”

“We could sue the city,” said the fourth, hopefully.

“Oh,” said the first, “if we roll over on the boss—”

Huitzil said, “That’s not a career path you want.”

“We got the idea from the Demons’ Union.”

“You’re unionized?”

“Not quite. We’re in the process,” said the third one, almost guiltily.

Huitzil said, “You know that contracts made with supervillains can almost never be enforced.”

∗ ∗ ∗

The radio on the hoverbikes crackled into life. “Um, Izzy? There’s someone to see you.”

Izzy said, “Gilly? What are you doing there?”

“Can we talk? Also, there’s a woman here to fix the computers. A Ms. Fanshawe. F-A-N—No? How do you spell it? F-E-A-T-H-E-R-S-T-O-N-E-dash-H-A-U-G-H.”

A huskier woman’s voice said, “It’s a British thing. My parents were British.”

Ninety-Nine did not share that the woman sounded like her mother.

“Okay, here are the four,” said Huitzil, down on the ground. “Apropos of nothing, Ninety-Nine Percent, reading their minds without their consent would be a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.”

“I promise not to read their minds,” Ninety-Nine said. Because I already did. So the Grandmaster is bringing in out-of-town help. Interesting.

Izzy said, “Gilly, take this woman to lunch while we—”

“I can’t. I kind of hoped you would take me to lunch. See, I have a proposal for you.”

“I have a sandwich,” said the other voice. “I can wait. Have to charge you for the time, though.”

Izzy sighed. “I’ll be right there.” She looked at the others. “Can you guys wrap this up? And someone help Volt.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Huitzil called the city. “You can’t spell ‘fight’ without massive amounts of paperwork,” she told the others.

The recording started. “All our offices are closed for lunch from noon until one. If your need is urgent—”

Huitzil thought about it. She knew someone’s cell at the city offices.

∗ ∗ ∗

“So I was thinking, you could help me get my green card because there’s no way I can get my thesis done by the deadline.” Gillian looked down at her salad and tried to spear a cherry tomato, which rolled away from her fork.

“Gilly,” Izzy said, “I don’t even have a green card yet. I’m doing this on spec right now.”

“I can work the radio.”

“How did you get in, anyway?”

Gilly shrugged. “Wasn’t locked.”

“Security system is computer controlled. Right.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Now in the headquarters, Huitzil said in the phone, “Is this Featherstone-Haugh person yours?”

“No,” said Palmer. “I talked to the guy who does Windows 95 repairs for us, and he said he couldn’t do it. So I called the CoJ and got the name from them. They’ve moved on from the same hardware we have, but I figure that’s about as good a recommendation as any, right?”

“It’s a Windows 95 AI?” asked Huitzil.

“I don’t know,” said Palmer. “I was in advertising in those days. Had nothing to do with the city.”

“But she’s legit?”

“I called her, said she should repair the computers, check for the whatsit that whozit might have put in or taken out, and not to turn on the AI without your permission.”

“All right.” Huitzil looked over at the woman, who had a paper napkin on her lap while she ate a thick sandwich on a crusty bun. Huitzil’s stomach rumbled. “He says you’re good. You can start.”

“When I’m done eating.”

“By the way,” said Palmer, “to make up for your absence, the mayor promised one on one interviews with each of you to the journalists attending. Our office should be contacting you shortly.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Huitzil said, “You know the dog had a prophecy about Thornbird?”

“I think she has the powers, and is projecting them onto the dog,” said Volt.

“Who?” said Ninety-Nine Percent. They were in the kitchen, gathered around the counter island. “And what’s in your coffee, Huitzil?”

Huitzil explained about the dog, Augie. “And this is chicory. I’ve sworn off coffee.”

“Let me investigate,” said Izzy. She moved over to the computer. “So we know she’s called Thornbird. And we know that I have level 5 security clearance since I got powers.” She entered her credentials into the UNTIL database.and pulled up the file. It was heavily redacted. “That’s odd,” she said. “At level 5 I should see most of this stuff. There should be only light redaction.” She skimmed the slight amount of clear text. “Chaos ray, Doctor Prometheus, and Robert Murcheson. That’s not much.”

Gillian said, “Call your folks.”

Izzy said, “Sure,” and left the room for some privacy. When she came back, whe was wearing an odd expression.

“What?” said Gillian.

“My mother—who so far as I know doesn’t even have a security clearance—said she couldn’t tell me until I was level nine.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Two days later, Izzy still hadn’t managed to get Gilly home. She called a meeting of everyone in the group…the Sentries. They met in the main foyer; Izzy hauled the robot receptionist to a closet so there would be enough seating. Ninety-Nine Percent was there (Does she have no home? thought Izzy); Volt was reading an old—in his words, vintage—manual. Huitzil took the seat the robot receptionist had been in. Gillian was there.

Izzy said, “She can’t focus on her thesis because she’s obsessed with Eve Online. And, since she’s spent her half of the rent money on this stuff, it affects me, too. But I’m not authorized to give a job here.” Gillian stood to one side and looked ashamed. “She’s got enough time, barely.”

“In some dimensions, I’ve read that time runs faster,” said Huitzil. “So she could finish the thesis in what seems to us the blink of an eye.”

“I think only the hell dimensions are like that,” said Ninety-Nine Percent. “Makes the damnation last longer.”

“According to the manual,” said Volt, “the security vault has a pocket dimension. No instructions on how to access it, though.”

“Focus, please,” said Izzy. She shrugged. “Which is what Gilly lacks.”

“Is that all?” said Ninety-Nine. “I can fix that. A little tinkering with the gray matter and she’ll have focus.”

“Really?” asked Gillian.

“It’s a bad idea, Gilly.”

“You’re not touching me,” said Volt.

“You can do that?” asked Gillian.

Well, I’ve never done it before. I’ve only had these powers for a few days. “Sure,” said Ninety-Nine.

“Don’t do this, Gilly.”

“But it has to stop once I have my degree,” said Gillian. “A limit like that will make it fine,” she told Izzy.

“Sure,” said Ninety-Nine, who had no idea if it would or not.

“Sounds good to me,” said Featherstone-Haugh, who had slipped in without anyone noticing.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” Volt asked Featherstone-Haugh.

“I’ve got another three minutes on my break. Take it easy; this job is going to take days.”

“Go ahead,” said Gillian.

“Gladly,” said Ninety-Nine, her hands glowing with psionic energy.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” said Izzy.

There were a number of “Hmmm” and “Oh” and “Move this” mutterings from Ninety-Nine, but finally she lifted her hands away from Gillian’s head. “Done.”

“How do you feel?” asked Izzy.

“I feel fine. But you know, if I’m going to be done on time, I’d better get started on my thesis.” Gillian left, smiling.

Izzy sighed. “I’m going to call my folks, make sure someone checks on her every four hours.”

There was a blaring sound and a flashing light on the receptionist’s panel.

“What the—” said Huitzil.

“Hell,” said Volt.

“Troubalert,” said Featherstone-Haugh. “At least, that’s what I call it.”

“Part of your testing?”

“No, it’s hooked into the 911 system.” Featherstone-Haugh touched a button. “You play the message like this.” The speakers blared static, and then:

“St. Claire University. Quad. Three police officers down. Suspects identified as Atlantean. 911 recording follows.”

There were the sounds of battle. “We need backup!” came a male voice, and in the background, a woman saying, “Do you not recognize the Staff of Treating? We want only our son!”

Volt said, “I’ll stay here and monitor.” He looked at Izzy. “Now that Gilly can’t.”

“She wasn’t even qualified—Ah, forget it.” Izzy flew up.

“Thank goodness my wings are back from the shop,” said Huitzil.

∗ ∗ ∗

Izzy saw the rubble at St. Clare College first: a building near the quad had been burned down, and she assumed the Atlanteans had done it, but the presence of KEEP OUT! tape indicated that the damage there had been done days ago. The quad at St. Claire College was bounded by buildings, a green sward with four trees, bounded on all sides by buildings. The spaces between the buildings were partially blocked by three SCPD police cars and one overturned campus police car. Several policemen were lying there, and Izzy checked first to make sure they were all right. “They just…_fell down_,” said one cop while he was reloading."

“Leave it to me. Rather, leave it to us,” said Izzy, because she could see the others arriving.

A couple that she assumed was Atlantean huddled under one tree. The man was deflecting bullets that were fired at the woman. Confident that she could stop the bullets, Izzy landed.

%We’re here,% said Ninety-Nine in Izzy’s head.

“Are they mad? We hurt no one. We have the staff of treaty!” said the man.

“You’re the one who turned over the car?” said Izzy.

“It was in my way, and the people had left it!” said the man. “I am” and the name was a series of clicks and whistles that Izzy couldn’t even memorize. “This is my wife,” and more clicks and whistles. Izzy thought she recognized a glottal stop, too. They hadn’t covered Atlanteans in her courses; that was situational training.

%Checking that out,% said Ninety-Nine.

“We want our son,” said the woman. She looked over at one of the cops and he fell over.

%Mentalist; I felt her using that,% said Ninety-Nine.

“Stop that,” said Izzy. “We can’t convince them you mean no harm if you’re knocking them out.”

“He meant to harm me. I read it in his mind.” Izzy held up a hand. “All right. But he didn’t bother to wear a telepathic shield. If you don’t do that, you’re inviting someone in.”

“!Moek’kar has sent a great monster to destroy the city, and we must get him out,” said the man. “He refuses to go until he finished his exam.”

Prompted by Ninety-Nine, Izzy said, “We can have them let him write the exam later.”

“Excellent. It is Diplomacy 423, his last class. He is writing the exam now.”

“Oh.” %Can someone find out where Diplomacy 423 is being written?%

%On it.% Ninety-Nine dipped into a few minds. It was wrong, she knew, but it was also fast. She relayed the building and room. %Right in front of you.%

“Let’s go,” said Izzy.

∗ ∗ ∗

Ninety-Nine knocked, because Izzy wasn’t sure she wouldn’t break the door. A skinny bearded man in his twenties cracked it open. “Yes?” All of them were there, as well as a police officer, Officer Nolan.

“We need one of your students. Family emergency.” The woman clicked and whistled. “Right,” said Ninety-Nine. “The Atlantean.”

“Kevin?” The man turned back to the class. “Kevin Atlantis, please come up here.”

“Oh, god, it’s my parents. I’m just checking the paper over now. Be there in a minute.”

“Why is this !Moek’kar guy going to destroy the city?” asked Izzy.

“You are in violation of the treaty. You dump toxic things in our water.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Ninety years.”

“So it’s not new?”

“No. But !Moek’kar is ruler now, and he has vowed to take action, so he summoned the monster.”

“Who is already surfacing,” said the woman.

“Surfacing where?” said Izzy.

Kevin handed his paper to the proctor, then turned back. “Hey, Brittany, see you at the kegger on the weekend, okay?”

“We must rush!” said Kevin’s mother.

Where?” asked Izzy again.

Kevin said, “Let’s go, then. It’s like you want to embarrass me.” To Izzy, he said, “Zug Island.”

Ninety-Nine got that far-away look. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s there. It’s big. I mean, really big.”

“Don’t worry about us,” said Kevin. “I guess the People Mover is out. We can get a cab.”

Izzy said to Nolan, “No one got hurt, and I’m sure the Atlanteans will pay for the car that got damaged. And we’re going to need all of you for the evacuation if we don’t manage to stop it.”

Nolan looked at her, then at the Atlanteans, whose gill slits were now flapping. “All right, go. I gotta call this in.” He shook his head. “I am so screwed.”

But the heroes were already gone.

Episode 4: Reforming the Band
Enter the Mole(s)
James’ version


Chiclet dreamed she was wrapped tightly in her blanket, and tried to turn over but couldn’t. This pushed her to wakefulness.

Not her bed. Not a bed at all: She was in a box, lined with some cheap foam padding and with what felt like fresh corn husks all around her.

Well, this is an exceptionally crappy coffin. Last I remember is the Occupy rally.

Her parents had always taught her to assess the situation first. She could hear street noises. Okay. Someone swearing—that sounded like Uncle Jerry. Uncle Jerry was a stand-up guy, but he could have been paid to kidnap her. Money was its own loyalty in his circle.

Well, her circle, too.

Sentries HQ, the computer room

A chill fell on the room, and Izzy was dimly aware that the translucent one, probably a ghost, was scarier, but the adrenaline going through her system was more than enough. From the corner of her eye, she saw Volt hesitate.

When Izzy saw the demonic teen walking toward her, she pursed her lips, and blew. The sudden torrent of air passed through the ghost, not surprisingly, but the force was so great that the demon fell down and back into a huge piece of Kirbytech. From under the console came the helpful comment, “Magnetic grapples. Always useful if you’re doing work you don’t want to be yanked from. Remember that, kids.”

The demon grabbed the tremendous block of equipment and threw it at Izzy. She managed to catch it—just—and wondered how strong this guy was. She wasn’t sure she could throw it—and the demon was standing again.

How did he do that? she wondered.

She could see Vieno leap forward and try to catch them with a leg sweep. As if Vieno had learned nothing by watching, the ghost was unaffected but the demon went down again and Vieno bounced across the room, dodging back and forth in an attempt to be hard to hit.

Volt fired, but his aim seemed to be off, or the room had sophisticated anti-electric shock mechanisms. His bolt fizzled.

Suddenly there was another man in the room: a ninja or something. His spear sliced through Vieno’s T-shirt and scratched her side, but her wound healed almost instantly, and he was gone again.


A false bottom. The crate was in a false bottom, so Chiclet got the lid off (quietly), and wriggled free of whatever was holding her legs (she couldn’t see) and crawled out of the box. She was in a minivan. She had helped her mother load and unload this kind of van when they needed to get something to or from Canada without the border guards knowing about it.

She paused beside the crate and listened intently. It was like she was standing outside, though she knew she was lying in the van.

Uncle Jerry leaned against the side of the van, pretending to read a newspaper The van was one of theirs. There was a middle-aged Hispanic man talking into his phone—she shifted her attention to him for a second.

“Villains. Fighting. Can you get it on the security cam? It would position them well— Yeah, Four to three, but one’s not fighting.”

Hmmm. How high could she move her “eye”?

Up, up, up—at least to the top of the building. And inside. She saw the fighting, knew of over half the combatants….she knew the ghost and demon were children of friends of her parents, on the other side was a woman she had met at the Occupy rally. She didn’t know which side to try to help.

Sentries HQ, the computer room

The ghost was still scary but not doing anything else. It seemed too much for Volt, who sank through the floor. Izzy mentally shook her head.

Izzy staggered over to the demon and kicked him solidly, then dropped the heavy Kirbytech machinery. It happened to fall on him. She flexed her arms, willing a little feeling back into them.

Apparently in irritation, Hellteen heaved the Kirbytech device back up at Izzy, who backhanded it aside. It shattered into a dozen pieces when it hit the floor, each probably only a ton or so. The floor didn’t even tremble.

Vieno took another swat at the demon and missed but flipped over him in order to get their back to the wall, to make it harder for the invisible ninja—


Chiclet moved her attention. No one behind the van, and the people on the street seemed to be staring at their phones, watching the fight. “Why don’t they do something about that ninja guy?” said one man to his companion.

Who’s streaming it? And so the guy is only invisible to people, not cameras?

Having finished what she came to do, Thornbird crawled out from under the console and saw that almost everyone was standing. She snorted in irritation, and lifted her arm to fire at Izzy, who was briefly illuminated in actinic light. Izzy was unharmed…but her clothes were destroyed. She moved her hands to preserve some sense of modesty.

Eclipse flickered into view, held his hand out so they looked to him like they were around Vieno’s head, and pinched. Vieno hesitated for a moment as sharp pain shot through her head.

Izzy grabbed the prone demon, who started wriggling to get free (and looking with great interest at parts Izzy was forced to reveal). Reminiscent of a poltergeist movie, a ton of shattered Kirbytech slammed into Izzy and staggered her for a moment, enough that he managed to squirm out of her grasp.

“You’re not supposed to look,” chided the ghost, Immaterial Girl.

Hellteen sighed, stood up, and exhaled fire. The flames passed through Immaterial Girl and hit Vieno, Izzy, and Eclipse. Izzy tried to protect Vieno from the worst of the hellfire.

As the flames guttered out, Izzy looked dazed. Eclipse might have taken advantage of that, but he too looked dazed, and only managed to flicker out of sight.

Vieno was only lightly on fire, and tumbled through the air to avoid the invisible ninja and possibly put out the flames, heading across the room so that the demon couldn’t hit both of them.


Carefully, silently, Chiclet slipped out of the van. She did have to pay attention to where she was going, even stopping “throwing her sight” to move. She looked around. The sidewalks were full of people, but none of them seemed to notice her. She stepped onto the sidewalk, spotted Uncle Jerry, was torn between running forward or back.

A man bumped into her and didn’t apologize. Another walked past and stepped on her foot. I’m invisible, she thought, and then, Sweet. She had been waiting all her life for powers: when both your parents have them, it seems unfair not to have any yourself.

“Miss? Would you move?” said a tourist taking a picture with his cellphone. He glanced from the viewscreen. “Where is she? My damn camera must be broken—”

She dodged back behind the van. Like the ninja guy, Hikaru. Right, Eclipse. Psychic invisibility.

Maybe she had mental powers. She “threw her sight” back up to the computer room—

Sentries HQ, the computer room_

Chiclet picked someone at random. Hellteen. She concentrated on him, and he winced as if he’d been hurt. Score! thought Chiclet.

Rolling her eyes, Thornbird fired off a volley of plasma blasts as beautiful as they were ineffective at Izzy and Vieno. Unfortunately for Izzy, Eclipse collected himself enough to brain-crush her: Izzy was completely surprised to find herself lapsing into unconsciousness.

Volt, having collected himself, reappeared at the doorway and firesda bolt of lightning across the room at the ghost. He missed, but he had her attention—the Immaterial Girl grabbed him with telekinesis and threw him into a wall with a heavy thump.

“Sorry, mother,” said Hellteen as he stood up, and opened his mouth to exhale fire again—opening himself to a flying kick to the head from Vieno. He fell to his knees.

Chiclet thought about him again, and he fell over.

Vieno shrugged off Eclipse’s next head-crushing attack and spun out of the way of Thornbird’s next plasma blast.

Volt sucked on his lower lip in concentration, sighted down his finger and sent a blinding bolt of lightning through Immaterial Girl. This time he connected, and trailing ribbons of ectoplasm, she floated to the ground and did not move again.

Thornbird said, “You gotta know when to fold’em. We’ll be back for the kids if they don’t escape on their own. Dear?” She blasted out of the room, flying on something gravitic.

Perhaps Eclipse was gone; perhaps not.


Seconds later, a woman showed up at the back of the van. She was carrying an attaché case. She gazed and talked to a spot several feet to Chiclet’s left. “Ah, dear. You got better. My husband says you’re here.” She smiled. “We did get you this far, so your parents owe us. We might need that soon. Now, we have to be going.” She walked up, past Uncle Jerry, who sputtered for a moment, and she drove off in the van.

Chiclet had no idea what was going on. She decided she needed to talk to her folks. She rose from the ground. Extra sweet! She could fly! Ten storeys should be enough.

Her father answered. She identified herself. “Chiclet, sweetie, I’m glad you’re better. Where are you? Windsor?”

“No, outside the Steward Reed building.”

“Oh, crap, not that thing again. When will she let go?”

“Dad, I have powers!”

“That’s wonderful, sweetie. Stretching? Strength?” Those were his powers.

“Some kind of mental things.” She gave him a quick rundown, and then said, “So what’s been happening? My phone says it’s Saturday.”

“You got hit at the Occupy rally, you got powers, a hundred people got powers. The Chamber’s essentially done, the mayor is talking about reactivating the Sentries.”

Chiclet swore.

“Actually….see if you can get on that team. You have no record. They’re in disarray. Join’em. It would be good for use to have someone on the inside.”

“Now? I can’t…you know…come home first?”

“Strike while the iron is hot. While they’re disorganized.”

“All right.” Chiclet levitated up, found an open window near the headquarters, and headed in, trying not to brush against the bum standing by the window. She found a rag and fashioned a makeshift mask. It smelled terrible and it was stiff in places. Who knew what was on it.

She thought for a moment and Excellent! shields appeared. Then she floated into the old headquarters, through the open door and to the computer room. She knew where it was.

There they were: the naked woman, now clothed in the man’s shirt, which reached halfway down her thighs; the other…person (Is that a boy or a girl? wondered Chiclet) in his leather jacket; the man, now shirtless and surprisingly buff.

The androgynous one was talking into the phone. “I know you have only one power damper, but we have two villains. Choose wisely.” She—he—no, they listened for a moment. “And what did she say before she escaped with the only working power damper?” They ended the call. “Honey Badger escaped. Said it was mind control that she attacked us but she liked the violence, changed her mind about paying her dues to society. And she took the only working power damper.”

“Let me see. There’s a lot of stuff here and it might still be useful,” said Volt.

“Can I see your phone for a moment?” asked Izzy, the one that Chiclet had met. Izzy took a picture of the shirtless Volt and mailed it to herself. “Thanks,” she said as she passed back the phone.

“The camera might not be great. I had to find one of the older ones I had lying around, because the fall yesterday destroyed my new one.”

But Izzy was already under the console, her legs crossed, trying to see what Thornbird had left or removed.

“Uh…Introductions. Izzy, I’m Vieno, and that was Volt who left, and that’s Mr. Palmer, from the city,” as the Hispanic man walked in.

Palmer said, “So? You see we need a team of heroes.”

“I’ll join,” said Chiclet. “That’s why I came. I got the one guy, the demon guy, and I thought I could be a help.”

“Excellent,” said Palmer. “There will be forms on the website by Monday. Application forms. Rigorous testing once we get all that in place.”

“Your name?” asked Vieno.

“You can call me Ninety-Nine Per Cent. Because I figure I’m part of the 99% and maybe that’s how much of my brain I use.”

Izzy slid out. “I can’t figure out what she did, if anything.” She shook Chiclet’s hand. “You know that’s a misconception, the ten percent of your brain thing.”

“Still true for the Occupy thing. And we all met there.”

Volt came back into the room. “Found them. Had to jigger the armory door. They seriously need to upgrade the security system. Mark three power dampers. And the batteries still work. They made these babies to last.”

“Will they hold the ghost and the demon?”

“Mark twos wouldn’t, but mark threes will. And the chunky look just adds to the charm.”

Palmer looked around. “You broke things.”

“I know,” said Volt. "I think that’s a quantum Wheeler-Everett device there that split up.

“The AI would know how to fix it. We could power it up—”

“No,” said Izzy. “Someone’s been tampering with the computer system, we’re not starting any AI until we know it’s clear.”

“And,” said Chiclet, “we should contact the remaining members of the Sentries and get their permission to use the name.”

“The city owns it,” said Palmer.

“Still,” said Chiclet. “We don’t want hurt feelings.”

“Are they still in town?” asked Izzy.

“Two are,” said Chiclet. “One owns a limousine service and the other helps out in a soup kitchen.”

“She’s not well,” said Palmer. “I think she can barely lift a pickup truck now.”

“And contact the two heroes known to be working in town,” added Vieno.

“Hero. We’re not sure about the other one,” said Chiclet.

“So. You’ll join,” said Palmer.

“I’ll ask about it. I’d like to, but…I’m Canadian…there might be legal hassles,” said Izzy.

“Hey,” said Vieno, “if you found power dampers… We saw a meeting room, meet me there.” They ran throughout the headquarters and finally found a room with scraps of Uberwear and costumes, though little that was complete. Gathering a bundle, Vieno went back.

Vieno handed Izzy a shirt and a pair of panties. Chiclet got a mask. “There were a lot of glue-on animal ears, I don’t know why, but at least it will replace the mask.”

“Thank goodness,” said Chiclet. “It smelled.” She took the mask, turned so the camera couldn’t see her face, and swapped masks.

“We’ll have you measured,” said Palmer. “Uniforms.”

“If I join,” said Izzy, “I have some ideas. I want to be called Canadian Lass.”

“Really?” asked Vieno.

“You’re kidding,” said Volt.

“You’re named Volt,” Izzy replied.

“Point,” he conceded.

Chiclet felt a vibration at her hip. "Excuse me. " She turned invisible, confident that people couldn’t hear her phone call then. It was her mother. “Just heard a rumour. The Chamber’s fallen apart. FOE and the others are going to be holding auditions. You’re going to be busy.”

“I won’t come home, then.”

“Not for a bit.”

She hung up and turned visible. “We’ll need an anonymous tip line, too,” she said. Soon, I hope; I plan on calling it.

Surprisingly, the supervillains didn’t make their move until Tuesday, during the press conference.

A Rules Clarification

James was asking about chaining advantages. I don’t see anything about not being able to use series of advantages.

tl;dr version: I think the RAW strongly implies you can combine maneuvers and advantages. If someone is being abusive about it (and there’s a fine line between “clever” and “abusive”), we house rule it away because it’s not true to the style of game we want to play. If you’re not abusive about it, we celebrate your cleverness. GM gets to decide what “abusive” is.

The problem seems to be Maneuvers, and specifically All-Out Attack and Power Attack, and oh, the discussions on the Green Ronin board.

I thought I’d come at this another way, and ignore the Advantages, which I think confuse things, and just think about the maneuvers listed under Maneuvers (pages 196-199 of the Heroes Handbook).

All of these maneuvers are optional, of course (it says so on p. 196). The maneuvers are:

Name Effect
Accurate Attack Trade up to +2 effect for the same amount to hit.
All-Out Attack Trade up to +2 on active defenses for the same amount to hit.
Defensive Attack Trade up to +2 to hit for the same amount in additional active defenses.
Demoralize Use Intimidation as an action to Impair an opponent until the end of your next turn, though the “standard” action is reduced if you take a -5 to the skill before you roll
Feint Use Deception as an action to make an opponent Vulnerable to your attack in the next round, though the “standard” action is reduced if you take a -5 to the skill before you roll.
Finishing Attack If the target is defenseless, hit without rolling; if you roll and hit, it’s considered a critical
Power Attack Trade up to +2 to hit for the same amount of additional effect.
Slam Attack Use your speed as damage, but you take half of it
Surprise Attack Someone surprised is Stunned and Vulnerable for a round (p. 183).
Team Attack Everyone with the same general type of attack can increase damage if they all attack together.

Demoralize and Feint are each defined as a standard action, so you can’t mix them, and they aren’t attacks, so any maneuver that says “When you make an attack” can’t go with them.

Two of the other maneuvers (Surprise Attack and Team Attack) are more about the circumstances surrounding the attack than the way you choose to fiddle your character’s numbers.

Surprise Attack and Team Attack could probably be combined with almost any of the other attacks: a surprise slam attack, for instance. I don’t think many people would have a problem with a surprise team attack where everyone has increased their attack with Power Attack…it’s one of those things that teams do when assaulting the Big Bad Evil Dude who can shrug off any of their attacks. So those two maneuvers might reasonably be done with almost other maneuver.

So I don’t think the intent is not to combine some maneuvers.

Finishing Attack has a pretty specific requirements (target defenseless) and also is defined as a standard action. However, I can see adding (say) power attack to it because the target has an awfully high Toughness, for instance.

Slam Attack is also a pretty specific maneuver, but I can certainly see someone adding, say, Accurate Attack because they don’t want to miss. That turns (for instance) Speed 10 into Damage 8, or damage 9 if you moved full speed….but you’re less likely to miss.

That being said, the following are … let’s say abusable. They modify how you do an attack (“When you make an attack you can…” is what they all say).

  • Accurate Attack
  • All-Out Attack
  • Defensive Attack
  • Power Attack

Some of them are contradictory and there’s no point to using them together, like Power Attack and Accurate Attack. They max out at changing the relevant bonus by 2, can’t improve something by more than double, and can’t take anything below +0, so you can’t make yourself (say) more vulnerable than Defenseless. I don’t see anyone talking about what the results might be when you add +4 to an attack bonus (which almost certainly doesn’t double it for any PL7+ game) by combining Accurate Attack and All-Out Attack.

The biggie seems to be All-Out Attack and Power Attack. Your attack bonus stays the same, your defenses go down, your effect goes up. It’s the equivalent of a haymaker. I don’t see a big problem.

I would say you can combine maneuvers, if the description allows and it makes narrative sense.

However, as pointed out before, when someone has the Advantages, things get sticky, because the advantages let you shift things for essentially a degree of success. Like precognition or postcognition, this is a combination that can knock a GM’s careful plan into the trash.

I haven’t seen anything in the rules that says yes or so. I don’t really have the problem with my players (when they do something like that, we call it clever playing, and I account for it in the future; must be our wargaming roots).

But you can’t limit the number of advantages or combat advantages in a turn to one, because then characters with Improved Initiative can never use their Taunt advantage, and that’s clearly not true to the source material.

So you can chain them and combine them, and if we see that it’s ruining other fun (like, I don’t seem to be able to come up with a villain who can last three turns), well, I’ll outlaw it. GM gets to decide what’s appropriate (it says so, in the rules).

Episode 3: Misunderstandings Galore

Well, you’ve seen James’ version, so have one that’s fictionalized with lots of dialogue I made up.

Izzy threw herself in front of the huge slab of concrete and spread her arms and legs. She thought she could lift it easily—

The weight slammed into her and pushed her backward, back towards the Hightecher employees who had gathered in the quad. She didn’t want to push hard against it, because if it broke—

The huge chunk of path pushed against her, and she tried to slow it down, but these powers were still new to her. How strong could she push? How fast could she fly to resist it?

She felt something—some one! —against her back. Push harder!

Six seconds ago.

“Parker, we knew we couldn’t trust you,” said the archer as the concrete-coloured man set down the glowing platform. On it were the archer, a cloaked young woman, and a man in tights and goggles.

Izzy whispered to Vieno, “Who are they?”

“Confederacy of Justice. Quarrel, Gramarye, Urbanity, Ricochet. Seriously? You’ve never heard of them?”

“I’m Canadian.” Actually, she did remember them. Sort of. Her father had mentioned them.

“There were three groups in the sixties who unified, though I think the ‘Confederacy’ part was just to get traction in the south—”

The concrete-coloured man screamed, “Get out of my head!” and ripped up a huge chunk of the concrete path, threw it at Everett Hightower. Urbanity’s teammates stared at him agape. Then Ricochet said, “One of them must be a mind-controller, take them down, I’ll get the innocents out.” And he was gone.


Vieno strongly suspected this was all some kind of badly thought out hazing but if not, then taking the crazy guy down fast was more important than avoiding being hit. They surged to Urbanity and walloped as hard as they could. Despite connecting well enough to stun a tank, this had absolutely no measurable effect.

The archer saw this, shrugged and said, “My thought too. And I can guess who’s helping, ,” as a bow appeared in his fist, and he launched an arrow at Vieno, who suddenly found themselves wrapped in a bolo.

“Hey!” Vieno said. “We’re the good guys!”

Volt had finally walked over from the parking lot, rounded the corner and saw…Izzy holding up a deadly slab of concrete, Vieno bound by a…bola?… and several dozen innocent bystanders, along with Hightower. They’re like children, he thought. Get two together and there are fights. He willed his protective aura into being.

“They all say that,” said the cloaked woman. “By the shining shackles of Sitakreon, I command you to be still!” Bands of glowing red light, looking like improbable Christmas ribbons, flew from her gesturing hands and immobilized Vieno, who toppled to the ground.

Vieno saw that neither of them did anything about Urbanity, which suggested A: hazing, B: They’re all trying to kill Hightower, or C: jerks. Vieno shouted again, “Hey! Clowns of Justice! We’re the good guys.”

The bystanders vanished as Ricochet carried them away.

Urbanity sank into the ground. Then concrete-pale hands appeared around Hightower’s ankles and pulled, as though trying to force him through the pavement. Hightower’s eyes widened as if he were suddenly in great pain, but he managed to gasp to his communicator, “Shut down Athena and Hephaestus now!.” But whether his words were heard or not was unclear; the noise from Izzy tossing aside the pavement blotted some of them out.

Quarrel darted to the grass and said, “They mocked me for having an explosive arrow—let’s see if this slows Urbanity down for a second. Concentrate on the brick at range.” He fired so that his arrow sank into the ground, under the path. The explosion buckled the pavement and threw up dirt.

At least Hightower wasn’t pressing against concrete any more—Izzy wasn’t sure if that was better.

And how did that help? thought Vieno as they tried a concrete-shattering blow against the shining shackles of whomever. Hightower’s hurt, so I guess it’s not a hazing. “See if Hightower’s super,” she grunted but no one heard her.

Volt thought, Mind controller? Okay, needs to be near here. Mental powers are usually line of sight… He started scanning the rooftops and upper windows, looking for someone suspicious. Hmmm…some kind of weird electrical activity…tingling…from this building. “Something in here,” he called, and adjusted himself so that he moved through the wall.

Gramarye held off for a moment, visibly trying to decide between the fellow crackling with electricity and the brick, like she had been told.

Ricochet darted in and feinted at Izzy, hoping that the shot would set up the brick for a shot—but instead the ground flowed around Hightower and he fell down. Izzy darted forward, heedless of how open she was, and grabbed Hightower around the chest. She started to pull up, gently at first: she didn’t want a human taffy pull. She shot up with Hightower and with Urbanity dangling from the man’s twisted ankles.

“I’m taking him out of range,” she shouted. “If you do anything against me, I am going to be very mad!

Vieno hit the shackles again to make them fall off; then they popped up, ready to defend. Definitely jerks.

Inside, Volt found a security guard watching two technicians shut down a piece of equipment featuring a large torus.

“Supervillain attack outside,” said Volt. “Get them to safety.”

The guard said, “Hey, you’re that guy who helped at the park. Saw that. Procedure in a fire is that I’m supposed to make sure they shut this down and then escort them out.”

“Security center?”

“Hall, left, through two doorways.” He watched Volt pass through the wall and muttered, “We have got to upgrade the hardware if there are people like that around.”

Quarrel looked at the three disappearing figures. He remembered the crosswind and fired the net arrow that would string across the two buildings. “Gramarye? I can’t fly.”

“I’ll watch,” she replied and started to rise. She wasn’t as fast as the other woman, but she kept an eye on them. The group stopped at five hundred feet above the earth, hovering over the building that Volt had gone into.

The security center was unguarded. Volt laid a hand on it and felt what it had recorded.

No; no one suspicious had gone in, though he noted that the mayor had been in to visit Hightower early that morning. He left a back door in case he needed to get back in. He did notice that the security computer was kept separate from the computers that controlled things like the experiments.

Vieno said to Ricochet, “Why move the bystanders? Why not move Hightower to the other side of the world?”

Ricochet said, “Because my teammates can’t move that fast, and I didn’t need a possibly-mentally-controlled Urbanity moving through the earth trying to reach him. I was pretty sure that…Hightower?… could take care of himself.”

Vieno filed that hesitation away for future reference.

Urbanity shook his head and let go of Hightower’s ankles. He floated there.

“You okay now?” asked Izzy.

“I think so.” Urbanity fingered his communicator. “I seem to be clear now. I’m going to stay here until you give me the signal.” He frowned. “I’m—I’m sorry. Tell them that, too.”

Izzy couldn’t resist. “Well, they couldn’t have gotten through if you didn’t have such a weak mind.” She set Hightower on the roof, and he buckled and almost cried.

“We have,” he said, “have a first responder set up…building 3…until the ambulance gets here. I have something to say.” Izzy scooped him up and flew off.

Volt poked his head out of the building wall. “I don’t feel it any more. The electrical disturbance…it’s stopped.”

Still, thought Vieno, the mentalist has to be near here. Vieno spotted the blind woman and her guide dog walking across the parking lot; Vieno bounded over to meet them. Vieno stroked the dog absently.

“Who is it?” asked the woman. Vieno identified herself. “Oh, good! Just who I was looking for.”


“Augie had a seeming. I had to tell you. Someone in a metallic suit, laying waste to things. None of you has a metallic suit, right?”

Gramarye swooped down. “Miss? Tell your dog to get out of my head.

The compulsion to pet the dog went away, like a lightswitch had been flicked.

“Nice dog,” said Vieno carefully.

“Thank you,” said the woman. What had she said her name was yesterday? Richards, Richardson, something like that? “Since yesterday, people have been so kind to Augie. It was traumatic, that storm.”

Meanwhile, in the emergency care room, the hypo hissed as it injected sedatives into Hightower’s arm. “I don’t have much time before the drugs… I’d like to fund a superhero team. I want to set up a trust independent of me. I don’t want them to say that I’m influencing the team. I’d like you to be on that team. All three of you. Bruno has the paperwork the lawyers drew up. And, uh, annnnd…” His eyes rolled back in his head.

“Lawyers? You should spray for those,” but he was asleep.

Two paramedics came in to take him. “I’ll fly the ambulance there,” Izzy said. “It’s faster.”

“Sisters of Mercy General is the closest,” said the one. “On three…one, two, three.” They transferred Hightower to the cot. Three minutes later, she was back. There was a jet there now, parked in the little quad.

A masked woman in a dark cloak greeted her. “Isabel? I’m Corbie. Thank you for handling the situation.”

“A situation your team created.”

“And we’ve apologized.” She half-smiled. “Your father and I have corresponded. I’m glad to see his daughter is doing well.”

“How did you know we were here?”

“Vieno’s Facebook status. You should tell her to put a handle on that.” She turned to the other members of the Confederacy of Justice. “We should go.”

And within seconds, it was just Vieno, Izzy, and Volt. “Security Center?” asked Volt. “Maybe three pairs of eyes will catch something that one didn’t.”

Bruno returned with paperwork, and Vieno asked him. “Sure, you can look, but you’ll have to sign these releases and NDAs. Security footage includes corporate secrets.” Vieno scanned them. In case of criminal affairs, they could speak of that matter, though they had to notify the corporation before notifying the police.

I think that’s unenforceable, thought Vieno, but standard. Interesting that they were prepared for the question.

They chatted about the offer while reviewing footage.

“I don’t want to be beholden to anyone,” said Volt. “I’d rather not work for the city.”

“Except that no matter what, we’re beholden to somebody, pointed out Izzy. “This way, we get police powers.”

“They can fire us,” said Volt.

“If they don’t hire us, they can sue us. At least with a legal relationship to the city, they have to jump through hoops if they want to do anything other than fire us.”

“I suppose…” He looked at the paperwork that Bruno had provided. “Maybe a membership service relationship?”

Vieno had some thoughts on that.

∗ ∗ ∗

Mr. Dion Palmer met them outside the Stewart Reed building. He was wearing a suit, even though it was Saturday, and his head gleamed like it had been freshly shaved: he looked Hispanic for some reason. “Well, if it will help make up your mind, we can tour the Sentries headquarters.”

“It has squatters,” pointed out Vieno. “The city only owns it because of a tax dispute.”

“But we intend to keep it. And there are no squatters on the first floor. We’ve managed to rent that. And the headquarters on the top floors of the building are padlocked and you need a special passcard to take the express elevator there. Fortunately, I have one.” He slide it through the card reader and the elevator started to move. “I’m sure that as soon as people know you’re in the building, rentals will be easier.”

“Really?” asked Izzy. “What if we get attacked?”

“Insurance is covered in the lease agreement, and there is a certain prestige to being near the city’s super team.”

Izzy nodded but didn’t believe.

They rode up to the twenty-fifth floor. “Odd,” said Palmer. “It should take us to twenty-six. The Sentries headquarters is on twenty-six through thirty.”

Volt looked at the card reader. “Don’t bother. It’s been tampered with.”

“I’m sure it’s because the security system is being brought out of mothballs. There’s a stairwell, I have a key for the lock.”

The chains that held the lock were dangling.

“Stay here,” said Volt. He walked through the door and up the stairs. In the foyer of the headquarters, he could hear someone…maybe a teenage boy…singing a Britney Spears song. He couldn’t tell which one; they all sounded the same to him. He kept walking until he could hear someone else.

“That’s in the way. I think it’s an AIM Reactor. Can you move that, sweetie?” came the electronically filtered voice. There was a scraping sound, as of something massive being moved.

Volt backed out of the headquarters. Palmer screamed he reappeared..

“Sorry,” he said. “Nerves.”

“Why don’t you wait downstairs?” asked Izzy.

“I think I will,” he said, and left.

“Thanks to that, they’ve heard us,” said Vieno. “Let’s go.”

“Look at this stuff,” said Volt. “It’s like in mint condition for nineties tech.”

Just before they came around a corner, they heard the filtered voice say, “I’m not done yet. Can you handle them, hon?”

They walked around the corner into a huge room illuminated by blocks of lit plastic, and with several massive pieces of Kirbytech scattered about. An armoured figure was lying on the floor, elbows deep in a computer panel. Between the battlesuited figure and them stood two people: a glowing translucent girl of maybe fourteen, and a teenage boy with red skin and big ram horns.

Vieno sighed and wondered, Did I ever tell the others about the dog’s prophecy of doom? I don’t think so. Too late now.. “She’s not touching the ground. Immaterial girl, I presume?”

“I thought you were supposed to file down the horns, fella,” Izzy said. “They tell me that’s the routine.”

Volt said, “None of this is going to be mint in five minutes, is it?”

The figure on the ground said absently, “I could tell you it’s all a misunderstanding, but I don’t think you’d believe me. Take them down, kids.”

Episode 2: Aftershocks

Present: Izzy and Vieno.

Lights up on a park still filled with the carnage left after the Silver Storm. Both Izzy and Vieno are helping to the best of their ability; this takes the onlookers by surprise because neither of the two masks in town are particularly helpful (in their defense one is an unpowered crime fighter whose range is limited by all the retired supervillains in town and the other seems to be a sewer-dwelling muck monster).

Volt is nowhere to be seen. Of course, it is easy enough for him to vanish: turn off the aura and he looks like a regular person. Lucky for him he did this before the press arrives or he’d be stuck with the Fame complication like Vieno and Izzy.

Sadly, not only is Vieno’s worst suit a write-off, their BlackBerry died in the fall :( Oh, well, they wanted a Q10 anyway. (How do other supers manage not to have to buy a new cell phone every couple of days?)

Both Vieno and Izzy talk to reporters, though Izzy is busier doing things like lifting ambulances into the area and lifting them out again. Vieno sees no reason not to talk frankly with the reporters. Or any reason to do the whole secret ID thing at this time. This will never come back to haunt them, I am sure.

A little later, while loading the chrysalises onto pickups (stacked two deep, ten to a pickup), to be taken to the hospital, Izzy notices a beat up looking guy watching the goings on. Whoever he is, he disappears about the same time one of the trucks full of people who ended up in a chrysalis drives off. This seems to be coincidence, not causality.

Cohen of Ytterby and Cohen, or as Vieno knows them, Boss 1 and Boss A, drops by to give Vieno the day off and to drop Vieno’s wings off so they can get home, on the theory that they will be mobbed otherwise, because Vieno’s new face is all over the news.. A conversation about how all this will affect Vieno’s workload ensues; someone just got to be lead on the pornstar—er, adult performer—case instead of Vieno. That will never affect their chances of a bonus.

Cohen is very insistent that Vieno get a medical check-up. Vieno has clued in that they had an Origin but because they cannot see themselves cannot tell how much they’ve changed.

In fact the paramedics are giving all the changed people a quick once over, although in Izzy’s case they cannot take blood because the needles break on her skin and it’s not something she knows how to turn off.

While Vieno is waiting their turn, Vieno happens to be seated next to the aggressive old lady with the tazer, who now has spines. The spines are at elbows, backs of hands, spine, knees, with spurs on the heels as well, and have small but visible droplets of some oily substance on them. Vieno touches a point with their finger, as one does, and their finger goes numb. Since the last person to do that was “incapacitated”, the paramedics check off “immune to poison” for Vieno.

The paramedics (Priya “Bolllywood” Shankar and Mike Hamner) are annoyingly keen to whisk Vieno off to the hospital, at least until Vieno offers to sign a waiver releasing the paramedics from any responsibility if Vieno suddenly liquifies.

Vieno has a conversation with a blind woman who claims her seeing eye dog can read minds now. It isn’t clear if the dog can and only communications with her master or the blind woman is delusional but someone is able to pick fairly obscure facts from Vieno’s mind. Unfortunately because they are caught up in the whole thrill of the afternoon, it doesn’t occur to Vieno to warn the woman not to tell everyone about this. Oh, well. I am sure that will never come back to haunt Vieno.

Izzy overheard Det. Nicholson telling one of the beat cops some salient details:

  • The van was in fact a Hightecker van.
  • The driver looks to have been dead before the explosion.
  • The van was carrying storage tanks, all of which are now empty.
  • Hightecker is owned by Everett Hightower, who is not officially a person of interest in the case…unless they come up with something bulletproof.

The Storm affected other parts of the city, but nowhere as severely as the park.

A surprising number of black SUVs show up. Some of these are FBI. Others are Homeland Security. There’s another fracture line along experience: while the younger people are excited at prospect of sudden career advancement looking before them, the upper ranks all picked Steel City because nothing ever happens there and they are not happy that this has changed.

Special Agent Marwick of the FBI seems friendly and as it turns out he knows Izzy’s dad. Marwick gives Izzy a heads up about issues vis-a-vis her being Canadian and Homeland Security. and their powered-armor minions SAT (aka EAGLE) are around.

(There used to be a US government agency called PRIMUS that got disbanded because they turned out to be run by people who were disturbingly fanatical by the standards of the Bush minor Administration. SAT got expanded, and then absorbed into Homeland Security. PRIMUS had the philosophy “make our own supers” and SAT had “powered armor and big guns will do.”)

Sure enough, Homeland gravitates to Izzy. Vieno gets Izzy to hand them a dollar as a retainer and vows to protect Izzy’s rights. This would be mean more if Izzy actually had rights in the US, which of course she doesn’t.

Marwick tries to give them a heads up about Izzy’s father but gets blown off. None of the Homelanders are aware enough to notice how smug Marwick looks.

Homeland is very insistent that Izzy spend the night at their HQ in the special cell. Vieno offers to tag along, which causes a problem because it is clear both Vieno and Izzy are boosted and as it happens, only one of the two power nullifiers the Homelanders have in Steel City actually works. (“I want to talk to Tompkins when we get back, because this is unacceptable.”) Izzy is reluctant to put on the nullifiers but happily it doesn’t come to a head because Vieno convinces the Homelanders that since the pair are cooperating, there is no need for the nullifiers at all.

If the paramedics were around, they might check off “superhuman levels of persuasion” for Vieno.

Because it seems like a good idea to get the pair checked medically and they decide to send Vieno and Izzy off to the hospital before bringing them to HQ. The unlucky Agent Gonzales is assigned to baby-sit. Only one agent, because the two are co-operating so far; frankly, their entire fleet of powered suits is not going to work against these two (they’ll have to get more shipped in); and what powered suits they have are being used to help in the clean-up.

In the waiting room at the hospital, they see both lots of their own action, captured as video; news reports asking if they will be the new Steel City Sentries, and interview clips with Hightower, who claims that he’s as baffled as the rest of them, it’s not related to any work they were doing, but he’d love to thank the new heroes in person.

While waiting to be checked out, Vieno remembers that there used to be a local group of supers, now disbanded. An amusing idea for a career change occurs to them. After getting clean bills of health, the trio head over to be interrogated/debriefed or they would have except at this point Vieno gets very, very insistent that they stop for a quick snack at the Chinese restaurant they are passing.

Izzy and Gonzales snack. Vieno has seven servings from the all you can eat buffet before reluctantly stopping.

When Gonzales gets up to use the washroom, the staff offers to cover Vieno and Izzy’s escape. When Vieno turns this down, the restaurant offers a favour from the Gentleman’s Imperial Trade Association — a completely legitimate group of community-minded businessmen — because the grandfather of the owner was in the park and the owner appreciates that they are not now going to a funeral.

Once the group gets to the local Homeland/SAT HQ, Vieno and Izzy get to pretend their enhanced senses don’t let them overhear the heated discussion between agents. The place isn’t designed to handle people like Izzy because Steel City is supposed to be a city that does not have people like Izzy (the building is a repurposed IRS building). Without nullifiers, all bringing her to their HQ does is make it easier for her to take it apart from the inside.

Because he is low enough rank to get stuck with the blame, Gonzales is put in charge of baby-sitting Izzy. To avoid expensive damage to the building, they decide the budget will stretch to getting her a hotel room (“A Red Roof Inn! Nothing expensive!”). But first, the questioning.

The debriefing consists mainly of softball questions about affiliations and powers. Unfortunately for them neither Izzy nor Vieno can answer most of them. Even the ones about powers are answered mostly with conjectures because there has not been time to do a proper assessment.

Eventually one of Izzy’s answers reveals that her father is a high ranking UNTIL officer. They immediately release Izzy; all talk of keeping her in the US is dropped. Izzy, being careful to stay legal, takes public transit back across the bridge to Windsor.

Vieno straps on the wings, flies home to their home, which is in a converted warehouse in the Abandoned Warehouse District. Real estate is practically free there and the only disadvantage is the near total lack of services (although the utilities have no yet crumbled in that part of the city). Only part of the building is habitable as such; it’s a fixer upper.

Vieno updates their Facebook status to reflect that they had an Origin. About five other people do the same. I am sure there is no way that will come back to haunt any of them.

Izzy heads back to Canada to work on a paper that’s due. The border guard recognizes Izzy from the news. A pleasant chat ensues, during which Izzy is questioned about her new powers; the border guard informs her that Canada requires visitors to declare lethal powers at the border and also tells her to call her MPP if there’s an issue. Because Canada.

Once she gets across the border, Izzy has a long phone chat with her father about powers and all that jazz. Being a conscientious dad with Connections, he sets up a battery of tests for Izzy that night, selecting Doctor Specks as the person lucky enough to lose their Friday night to this because Traynor doesn’t like him. (There was apparently an incident at the last Christmas party.).

Izzy gives her dad the sample of the mysterious silver dust she collected after the Storm. UNTIL analyzes it.

Similarly, Vieno explores their own powers: they are fast, strong, incredible agile and they heal quickly enough that it’s actually hard to do damage faster than they heal. On the minus side, the hunger is almost unending and kind of bothersome; a couple of cartons of Ben and Jerry’s is OK before bed but in the morning they are ravenous. Luckily for Hightower’s minion Bruno Lorring, he shows up after Vieno has finished a couple of breakfasts, what Vieno had set aside for lunch and also dinner.

Lorring has an invitation from Hightower. Hightower wants a chat with Vieno and Izzy and since it seems like Hightower might know something despite what he has claimed, Vieno wants a chat with him. Vieno calls Izzy on the number Vieno got from Izzy the day before to pass on in the invitation and discuss strategy.

As it turns out, while Vieno is barely competent at digging stuff up, Izzy is good at it and she turned her skills on Hightower. He and his company take care to have good PR: Hightower and his company claim to be green, socially conscious and all that crap.

An interesting tidbit Izzy came across that I don’t think she shared is that Hightower used to be named something different and his old name is sealed by court order.

As soon as she gets across the border, Izzy gets this sort of phone call from her father. “I have the results from last night.” “Yeah, Dr. Specks told me the powers thing.” “The other thing. We’ll talk about it when you get back to Windsor.”

Despite it being Saturday the Hightecker complex is hopping. The employees don’t seem to be there because they are required to be but because they genuinely enjoy what they do for a living.

Alas for the meeting, the supervillains who live in the area are very concerned about the whole “mass origin” thing and they’ve sent a team of specialists, the Fraternal Order of Evil 1 to have a quick chat with Hightower to make sure he really does not know more than he is letting on. Vieno, who hears the chatter at the criminal justice buildings, knows that the FOE is a loose organization of criminals run by The Big Brain. “Membership” means they help you out on jobs, or pull you in to help someone else out on jobs.

The group that FOE sends consists of Tempus (master of time and I think space), Gargantua (he gets big!), Cannon (some kind of cyborg), Cyberknight (a woman in powered armour, I think).

It’s not impossible this could have taken the form of a tense but comparatively violence-free conversation except for two things: the bad timing they have in showing up at the same time as Izzy and Vieno and the misjudgment that Gargantua’s raw power justifies bringing him along.

The plan was probably for Tempus to teleport them in to grab Hightower and then teleport back out. Sadly, Gargantua is aware that his grow-biggery is only useful outdoors but he doesn’t want to be left out of the fun so after growing to full size, he rips the wall of Hightower’s office out. It is just this kind of subtle misstep that can toss a plan into a cocked hat.

Vieno tells Hightower to leg it and then feints.

Gargantua grabs Hightower.

Cannon takes a shot at Vieno, misses, and totally kills Hightower’s desk.

It’s really hard to miss Gargantua so Izzy decides to be careful about where she hits him, aiming for the funny bone. This is successful(ish) and probably for the best Gargantua doesn’t drop Hightower from three stories up.

The armoured woman is considerate enough to make it clear that she is the group’s leader and also provides Izzy with a chance to show off her truly phenomenal defenses.

Izzy tries actually talking to FOE. It does not work any better than Vieno’s attempt to talk Squidly down the day before.

Tempus opens a hole under Vieno who plummets down it like their player rolled a 1 for acrobatics. Once Vieno is safely contained one floor down, Tempus closes the hole again.

Vieno takes the time to tell the woman whose office they have just appeared in to evacuate the building, then breaks the office window, pops the wings and flies back up one story. Since Vieno didn’t have the wings yesterday, there’s no reason anyone would expect them to do this.

Oddly the building completely lacks a super-villain attack protocol so the woman just pulls the fire alarm before demonstrating a turn of speed that shows why you should wear running shoes or at least flats to work.

Gargantua didn’t get the memo about hostage value so he carefully places Hightower back in the remains of his office so Gargantua can use both hands to swat at Izzy. This does not actually help Gargantua hit any more effectively but it probably saves Hightower’s life.

It seems reasonable to assume the woman one floor down learned by example because Hightower turns out to be even better at running away than she was.

Spotting the leader of the group, Izzy makes a grab for Cyberknight. No luck. Cyberknight in contrast manages to curl Izzy’s hair with a well-aimed zap (One of the recurring themes this week was Izzy is much easier to hit than Vieno and a toughness of 14 isn’t as good as it sounds if the player gets bad rolls].

Since he has absolutely no idea Vieno can fly, Tempus has no reason to worry about them flying in though the hole in the wall or giving Tempus some free retrophrenology, which is probably why it works so well (From Vieno’s point of view, away).

[Actually, it worked horribly so I spent a hero point to reroll, then rolled a 20]

Gargantua and Izzy get into a slap fight. Izzy gets smacked silly, which probably explains why she missed someone the size of a building.

(Cannon is doing something during all this but I never found out what.
As soon as the chance comes up, Hightower runs away. Yay! One less squishy to worry about.)

While barely conscious, Tempus is aware enough to fight defensively. Doesn’t help against another critical. Tempus, the means by which FOE gets around, falls over. At around this point Cyberknight decides the job has gone sour and she starts trying to organize a retreat.

Cannon decides to see if someone as nimble as Vieno can dodge a grenade. Not as such, as it turns out. It’s a good thing Vieno heals so quickly.

Probably because they know she’s a brick, Izzy comes in for an excessive amount of attention: Gargantua smacks her around and Cyberknight manages to hit her with a pathetically flimsy net. Izzy gives Cyberknght a long, hard stare for that last but sadly what was left of the Rothko on the wall suddenly bursts into flame. Ah, it was probably a print. Or at least insured.

The sprinkler system works. Yay!

Vieno has a lot of experience at smashing their hot, sweaty body into other people’s hot, sweaty bodies in confined, poorly lit spaces and so it’s easy enough to parkour over to Cyberknight to lay her out with two well aimed blows.

Gargantua is smart enough to grab Cyberknight so he can run off with her but not smart enough not to put her right back down when Izzy taunts him about running away. Vieno’s ear drums have grown back so they hear Cannon’s audible sigh of frustration at this. Cyberknight is out of Cannon’s reach but Tempus isn’t so Cannon grabs Tempus, runs out of room into the office complex and despite Vieno’s attempt to chase them down Cannon and his cargo escape.

Vieno wastes a certain amount of time trying to work out if the elevator is empty or full of invisible people. They conclude “empty”. Probably for the best they don’t know the security camera in the elevator caught them multiattacking an empty room.

Izzy and Gargantua proceed to pound each other into jelly; Vieno ruins the game by clipping the big G in the head or rather Gargantua does by rolling really badly on his toughness role (It’s good thing for Vieno nobody seems to have high levels of impervious). Turns out Gargantua reverts to human size when he is out cold, which is handy.

Less than a minute and a half has passed since the wall came down.

While Izzy’s powers of recuperation are not in Vieno’s league (4 levels of regen versus 10), they’re pretty good so she soon heals back to full.

Vieno does wonder if all this was a set up but the cost of the damage to the building, and the risk to the genuinely terrified innocents makes it unlikely. Vieno calls calls SAT in. SAT gets to decide which of Cyberknight or Gargantua get the nullifier cuffs 2. Not that it really matters when there’s a teleporter running around free but SAT might have managed to keep the two prisoners for a few minutes longer.

Hightower seems sincere about not not responsible for the Silver Storm or for this. He guesses (correctly) that the local villains may have wanted to talk to him about the Storm.

Interesting bit of gossip: one of the trucks taking the victims in chrysalises to the hospital just up and vanished.

A group of out-of-towners calling themselves the Confederacy of Justice shows up. One of them manages to say, “We knew you’d be up to no good,” (but to whom?) Vieno barely has time to think negative thoughts about someone using a term way too close to “Confederacy” for their liking before Urbanity is mind-controlled by person or persons unknown and goes berserk.

1: Because marketing is a dead art. These guys seem more mercenary than evil and also at least one of them is a woman.

2: The sensible thing to do is to put the working ones on the smart woman and the broken ones on the dumb guy who may well accept the lie that his powers have been nullified at face value.

Characters mentioned

Episode 1: Stormwatch!
The Origin, With Origins

Written by James.

April 30: The storm

There are between eight hundred and two thousand people at the Occupy Steel City movement. (Not only do estimates vary by who’s making them, but people come and go.) It’s a Friday afternoon late in May. Because of the news media and the general air of civil disobedience, the SCPD has closed off some of the streets, but not all: Traffic is reduced but not eliminated.

PCs present are:

  • Vieno Lipponen: Lawyer! Who is at the rally to make sure the Man cannot hammer down on the protesters more than legally allowed (of course, this is the US, where not falling down fast enough after being tazed is resisting arrest). Vieno understands the power of costumes and so is wearing their least good power suit, the one they’d least mind getting blood on. At one point they were described as “Patrick nagel-esque”.
  • Volt, old enough to have graduated university — just — and whose real name I didn’t catch so we’ll call him ProtoVolt until the change is there with his crush, Sonia Jameson, doing volunteer stuff. It’s the second date.
  • Isabelle “Izzy” Traynor came over from Windsor to play tourist, a break from Grad School. Her dad, a high ranking UNTIL agent, picked Windsor because it and Steel City have no supers to speak of. This was the same reason he and his former partner Murcheson picked Concord 30 years earlier. Let’s see how well that all works out for him. (Murch and Traynor were characters from a campaign in the 1980s, with enough bad luck to be where the action was and enough good luck to survive it).

Things go more or less as Occupy rallies do but before the usual egregious violations of constitutional rights, a Hightecker van explodes. The crowds panic, a number of people exercise their 2nd Amendment rights, the cops start tazering people and a determined looking old lady pulls out a stun gun but cannot find anyone to zap.

A vortex of silver emerges from the van, surprising enough that everyone stops what they are doing and watches in mass silence. Then the screaming and the running starts anew. Vieno watches all this calmly, recording it with their phone camera, because they suffer from a crippling inability to become concerned just because they might be about to die.

Then the lightning starts.

Some people die when they get hit; some of them later turn out to be people who had activated powers (Steel City being where super-villains retire to, there are a bunch of them). Others change.

One guy grows tentacles and acquires a rather cthuloid mien. Others are hit and become encased in chrysalises. The portapotties explode as lightning hits them; shame about the people in the long lines…

Izzy is blown off her feet by a bolt of lightning, landing so hard she makes a crater twice as wide as she is tall. Strangely, this does not turn her into grad student stew; instead she stands up, unharmed.

One women is struck and immediately begins ranting “No longer a meek victim of circumstance!” before levitating a bus for the evilolz. She does announce what she wants to be called but manages to get the name order wrong. It doesn’t matter because nobody was listening — explosions and stuff — so the PCs just hung their own name on Fridge Magnet.

ProtoVolt gets hit; where everyone else was cut down by a moment of electricity, his lightning just keeps going and going. He feels feel… tingly. Sonia screams and tries to help Volt. Luckily for her, his electrical aura of hurtful painfulness is not activated. Once she’s assured that he’s okay, she starts applying first aid to those who need it, and he determines to make sure she’s safe.

As body parts fly past, Vieno decides to go down trying to save people, moving quickly across the crowd with their fairly impressive acrobatic and athletic skills. They manage to parkour into a lightning bolt (rolled a 1) while trying to help a Goth guy who gets hit anyway and who also turns out to be a total jerk. As Vieno hits the ground rolling, they notice suddenly they’re faster and more agile; apparently they just had some kind of origin. Cool beans!

The tentacle guy starts grabbing people because … actually, that was never determined. Vieno has people skills (insight 8, persuasion 7/12) but instead they decide to try to calm things down by planting both boots in tentacle guy’s face, missing wildly. Tentacle Guy is put out about this and decides to squeeze a hostage to death. Happily it turns out he’s as crap at that as he is articulating his purpose.

As Volt and Sonia try to flee the carnage, the Goth guy proclaims he’s Lord Etheric and starts levitating before exploding a cloud of vaporous insects at the innocents around. Presumably a lot of people get cut down at this point but the insects just bounce off Izzy (which Volt notices but Vieno, focused on the tentacle guy, does not). I think Volt’s blast shadow protects Sonia; he himself is untouched. An insect almost slices off Vieno’s ear but the wound heals so quickly they assume they weren’t hit.

Izzy runs over to help tackle Tentacle Guy but her attempt at a flying tackle misses. This may be because Izzy didn’t expect the flying tackle to be literally a flying tackle; she won Flying Brick in the superpower lottery.

Annoyed, Volt chides the floating Goth. The little SOB ignores his helpful advice. Frustratingly, the goth is just out of reach but in the effort of trying to hit the kid somehow Volt discovers he can generate what we will call a tazer field of stupendous power. Better to find out by nuking a creep than during a good night kiss, I guess.

Squidly squeezes his victims and smacks Izzy, to no effect because Izzy is roughly as frail as a tank now (and I think also has the cute disadvantage, FWIW).

The tentacle guy suddenly turns into three tentacle guys but the lightbender who is responsible for this isn’t used to their abilities so it is obvious it is an illusion, although not obvious which is the real one.

After another futile attempt to clock the guy, not helped by the fact they lost track of which was the real tentacle guy, it occurs to Vieno to use their words, asking tentacle guy what it they want. They never get an answer to this because Izzy grabs and squeezes tentacle guy and in this way discovers her strength is now at the bend steel girders level. Maybe he survives.

Volt is distracted from the goth when he gets tackled by a furry clawed thing like a humanoid honey badger. The badger woman is fierce and violent but also cannot get through the force field that Volt has learned to turn on, so he stays prone and runs another few million volts through the goth.

The tentacle guy duplicates vanish, replaced by illusions of the badger woman.

Vieno looks around and notices a floating woman — Fridge Magnet — levitating and tearing apart a bus. Wishing they’d thought to bring their wings, Vienoses a convenient lamp post to get up to the level of Fridge Magnet, then jumps onto her shoulders — since they are only 20 or feet off the ground Vieno isn’t that worried about falling.

Assuming the woman they are wrapped around won’t have any trouble hitting Vieno, Vieno decides to end things as quickly as possible with a flurry of well aimed blows. This manages to annoy Fridge Magnet enough that she decides to drop the bus — yay! especially since Izzy thought to catch it — and fly straight up one mile — less yay!

The badger woman, who hardly seems lucid, gets Volt’s attention with more futile attacks. In turning to pay attention to her, Volt’s field of view takes in the trail of bloody victims the badger lady left in her wake; she makes the top of his to-do list.

More interesting discoveries: he can go insubstantial, which makes the badger woman pretty much ineffective against him (although not Sonia, but she is off first aiding someone).

Sadly for Volt, he is visible which means light is interacting with him and that includes light amplified by stimulated emission of radiation. Happily the laser doesn’t manage to do serious damage to him and even better, it shows him where the light bender is standing.

Meanwhile, a mile up Vieno is still hammering away at Fridge Magnet; the idea bouncing around the back of their head is that since Fridge Magnet is armoured, maybe Vieno can ride her unconscious body into the ground like a surf board. That would totally keep Vieno from becoming paste. Maybe. Doesn’t matter because Vieno cannot seem to connect well.

Fridge Magnet on the other hand doesn’t have any trouble hitting the person clinging to her. For an instant the tatters of Vieno’s face flutter around Vieno’s skull like ribbons in a hurricane (really crappy toughness check but not a critical failure) but then the flesh flows back into place like mercury flowing into a depression (I remembered Vieno has Ultimate Effort (Toughness checks) and spent a hero point). Vieno figures that once again they got off lucky and rolled with the blow. Somehow.

For reasons I don’t recall, Volt decides maybe the people going berserk are being mind-controlled. Volt decides that one of the chrysalises looks … off … and points it out to Izzy (who Volt consistently calls Power Girl all through the session; presumably Izzy will pick something less trademarked).

The light bender decides it would be a good idea to confirm Volt’s suspicions by creating a flock of illusions around the mentalist. This does confuse Volt, which would have been a lot more effective if Volt didn’t have abilities that could fry a whole area and, as it turned out, all the city electrical infrastructure in the area.

A mile up Vieno manages to feint before driving a knee into Fridge Magnet’s temple. This (technically knocks her out but the GM tossed me a hero point) hurts her enough that she drops at full speed before reversing her vector of thrust, flicking Vieno off like snot off a finger tip. Freed of her passenger, Fridge Magnet flees.

The badger woman turns out to be easily provoked, as Izzy finds out by comparing her to a furry cosplayer. Luckily, Izzy is invulnerable so she ignores the lesser annoyance the Badger woman offers and heads to the sizzling shell of the suspected mentalist. Cracking the shell open like a cantaloupe, she finds a nest of writhing worms; she decides that maybe caution is better than a face full of mind worms and snaps it closed before flying off to the nearest UNTIL base.

A couple of seconds later Izzy remembers A: the nearest UNTIL base is in Windsor (there was this thing during the Bush years and now UNTIL is barred from the US), B: crossing the border without going through customs is five grand a pop plus maybe jail time as well, and going through customs seems like a bad idea C: the UNTIL base is 120 game rounds away. She then uses plan B, which is to dribble the shell on the ground like a basket ball. This seems to be effective.

The light bender decides to fight another day and legs it.

A half a mile up, Vieno ponders their options while regretting again their decision to leave the wings at home. They try to maximize air resistance while aiming for a spot of ground that doesn’t have a person on it. It occurs to them maybe Occupy should start having Bouncy Castles.

(Vieno never saw Izzy fly and anyway is pretty sure they can get out of this with only life-altering injuries.)

Volt zaps the badger woman. Perhaps trying to distract her opponents long enough to escape or perhaps just driven into an animalistic rage, the badger women turns on the local (elevated train), doing enough damage that it will definitely collapse once the train arrives. The train arrives.

Izzy attempts to multitask and snag the badger woman while holding up the tracks long enough for the train to pass. She fumbles the first but not the second, which is much better than the other way around. As the badger woman scampers away, Izzy shouts after her to make better life choices.

Volt has a slightly different idea. He sends a bolt of lightning to her.

The badger woman bounces a few times before rolling to a stop. She manages to stagger to her feet (rather annoyingly, I noted that Volt rolled a natural 20 on his attempt to intimidate the badger woman but not what the result was). She turns herself in when asked. (Medical care might have had something to do with this.)

As Izzy is holding the trestle up, another changed person flies up and offers to support the train for her. Although the fellow talks like he came out of an old RKO Radio Pictures serial, he’s very convincing so Izzy takes him up on the offer. Unfortunately while he is super-convincing, his conviction that he is also super-strong is more of a delusion than it is a power. Izzy realizes this before disaster can strike. He may also have super-self confidence in the mix because even though he failed abjectly to support the train, he still asks for Izzy’s number.

Since all the bad guys are either out cold or gone, people begin trying to help the vast number of injured people. As they get started, they hear a dopplering lookoutBELOW, followed by the sound a body makes when it hits the ground at about 180 kilometers an hour. A moment later, Vieno sits up, still looking slightly scuffled as their bones and flesh flow back into place with wet, clicking sounds, pleased that their cunning plan worked. Next time, though, Vieno is definitely bringing the wings.

Izzy does take a sample of the silver dust from the storm to pass to the UNTIL labs back home. She can probably pass it through her father. Ugh; what will she tell her father?

There are over a hundred of those chrysalises, maybe a hundred and twenty, plus injured or dying people, plus people who — like the PCs — could walk away from their origins.

Because the GM misunderstood how experience is doled out we got 2 experience points.

The Set-Up

You are all at the park for the Occupy Steel City movement. There are between eight hundred and two thousand people there. (Not only do estimates vary by who’s making them, but people come and go.) It’s a Friday afternoon. Because of the news media and the general air of civil disobedience, the SCPD has closed off some of the streets, but not all: Traffic is reduced but not eliminated.

To quote the version of Wikipedia in the campaign world: “The region offers mass transit with bus services provided jointly by the Steel City Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) through a cooperative service and fare agreement administered by a Regional Transit Authority. Cross border service between the downtown areas of Windsor and Steel City is provided by Transit Windsor via the Tunnel Bus.1 A monorail system, known as the People Mover, operates daily through a 2.9 mile (4.6 km) loop in the downtown area.”

It’s lunchtime on a fine late May day. People are rushing to eat, to run errands, and to check out this movement, which is as much attraction as protest.

Welcome to your campaign!
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The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

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