Campaign Dates: Nov 20, 2017 to Nov 22, 2017
- Session 1: Wed, Nov 22, 2017 – 1800 PST
- Session 2: Wed, Nov 29, 2017 – 1800 PST
- Session 3: Wed, Dec 06, 2017 – 1800 PST
- Session 4: Wed, Dec 13, 2017 – 1800 PST
- Session 5: Wed, Dec 20, 2017 – 1800 PST
- Session 6: Wed, Jan 03, 2018 – 1800 PST
- Session 7: Wed, Jan 10, 2018 – 1800 PST
- Session 8: Wed, Jan 17, 2018 – 1800 PST
- Session 9: Wed, Jan 24, 2018 – 1800 PST
- Stratolifter (aka Hercules)
- Sylph (aka Wraith)
Notable Minor NPCs:
Davis Dawes – PRIMUS Director of Intelligence
Evelyn Chambers (Former Secretary to Bernard ‘John’ Storm)
Fuse (James Rogers)
Stiletto (Lawrence Dobbs)
Session 1 – Narrative:
Following the typhoon, I saw glints of gratefulness in the eyes of the members of the police and harbor patrol who had been present during the demonic attack. Reporting the structural damage as typhoon-caused while omitting the typhoon’s otherworldly phenomena greatly simplified their paperwork. Throughout the following three weeks, repair crews worked around the clock to reinforce The Keep and repair all “typhoon-caused damage,” and things soon returned to normal.
With the Knights effectively furloughed, PRIMUS leaned heavily on its tactical teams to address issues the Knights would typically handle. In many cases, the Iron Guard experienced failures in situations where the Knights would have easily succeeded, but one would never have known it from the media. All Iron Guard successes were actively celebrated with extensive media coverage, while failures went either unreported or heavily downplayed in traditional Friday news dump fashion. Were it not for my security level and PRIMUS access, this fact might have been lost on me, as the government had wielded the media like a skilled surgeon manipulates a laser scalpel.
Unfortunately, sequestration took its own toll on the Knights. They were clearly bored, and knowledge of the media’s spin-jobs only made things worse. Emotions ran roller coaster-like as the Knights vacillated between their desires to help mutants avoid persecution and their desires to avoid persecution, themselves. An out of the blue call from Edge to Psi-Kick changed all of that. He indicated that the Mutant Underground had a group of mutants who evaded capture and needed a quick exit from the United States; apparently, their evasion of a group of ECS Agents made them high-value targets. He went on to explain that Portal was in Genowa with several other members of the Mutant Underground — meaning their usual means of teleportation was out of the question. After explaining the situation, Edge then asked Psi-Kick if the Knights could help get the group to Canada. Psi-Kick wisely inquired as to whether the mutants in question had done anything untoward, and Edge responded in the negative. That out of the way, Psi-Kick indicated she’d need to bring it to the group and get back to Edge.
A lively conversation ensued on this topic across the mind link, and everyone agreed the Knights should help the Mutant Underground with its request. However, concerns were raised that doing so while on mandatory furlough would make targets of the Knights. The MU was wanted by the authorities, after all … and aiding/abetting the MU would reflect poorly on the Knights if caught at it. I spoke up and indicated the best way to proceed would entail official permission from PRIMUS on the matter. Unsurprisingly, this suggestion met resistance; PRIMUS had as many (if not more) leaks as any other governmental agency. I noted this was exactly the point around which we should frame our request: we could request sanction for the escort mission of a group of mutants to safety based on actionable intel received from a CI that Genocide was after this mutant group, too … and use the mission request, itself, to see what later leaked from the pipeline (and where), since the mission request would have to go upstairs to the highest PRIMUS levels for approval. Webster and I already had firm suspicions as to the leak, but this would potentially confirm it — and likely indicate not only a source of the leak but its destination.
The team reluctantly approved this plan, after which I headed to PRIMUS HQ to sell it to Webster. Under cover of a conversation about his family’s Thanksgiving plans, I mentally communicated my idea to Webster, and he quickly got behind it. He also informed me of something that had not been in the news, at all: Arthur Samuels’ company, Corpsec, was now calling itself SENTRY and was responsible for handling both the round-up and containment of all potential mutant terrorists, as ECS had lost its contract. Our approach in synch, Webster and I then held the appropriate and camera-necessary verbal conversation, wherein I made my request, gave my reasons, and Webster responded by indicating he’d have to take the request upstairs while the Knights continued their sequestration.
Someone upstairs must have had a serious hard-on for the mutants Edge wanted us to help, because Webster called me with the official go-ahead within moments of my return to The Keep. I informed the Knights that we had the approval we needed and, soon after, we were on our way to meet Edge at a neutral pick-up site in the Sky Cruiser. Upon landing, Edge handed off a disheveled group of seven mutants to the Knights: Berta, Bobby, Eddie, Jack, Maxx, Sue, and Taisha. With no time for pleasantries, the cadre boarded the Sky Cruiser and we immediately headed for Vancouver in stealth mode along a flight path that deviated from the one that had been filed.
About an hour after takeoff the Sky Cruiser suddenly lurched to one side as if caught in something, and twin Genocide Minuteman Mk V drones were spotted behind us. Clearly, they could see through our stealth mode, and obviously, our flight plan deviation was of no consequence; they had some other means of tracking us. Worse, whatever beams they were using were powerful enough to have brought our craft to a dead halt in the sky. As the group we were escorting began to panic, I barked for them to shut up, informed them that both they and the Knights were bait for precisely this sort of attack, and ordered them to work together. They complied as I thought, “Welcome to mutant boot camp, bitches…”
As we hung in the sky trapped by the twin drones, one of them announced over a PA system that we were being detained and were to cease/desist all hostile activity. TK Kid, Hardcore, and Amber responded by exiting the Sky Cruiser. Amber and Hardcore remained on opposite wings while TK flew halfway between the Sky Cruiser and the PA-using drone. The Kid then telekinetically hurled Hardcore at the drone, with Hardcore successfully landing on it and tearing off one of its arms. The drone responded by opening fire on the Sky Cruiser and blowing a hole in the aft section of it. Its twin also fired and blew off one of the engines, yet the Sky Cruiser remained suspended in the air by the tractor beams of both robots. Hardcore smashed his drone again and TK followed up with a telekinetic haymaker, rending it into a non-functional ball of falling junk – but not before it got off a shot at TK that stunned him and sent him plummeting toward the earth.
Hardcore leapt from the disabled unit to the Sky Cruiser and turned his attention to the second drone as the Sky Cruiser lurched to one side due to the loss of one of the tractor beams. Meanwhile, the second drone shot out the Sky Cruiser’s remaining good engine while Eddie did something that restored the aft cabin to its original, unmolested state. Psi-Kick ordered me to take the plane’s stick and hold it steady as she leaped out of the pilot’s seat and exited the Sky Cruiser. I halted my preparations for a crash and did as she ordered while she single-handedly shredded the remaining drone in a triple-shot from her psi weapon. As the Sky Cruiser fell toward the ground, I pulled hard back on the yoke to try to level it, but it continued its nose-dive. Psi-Kick, Amber, and Hardcore piled back into the cabin, and Hardcore took up the pilot’s chair using all of his strength to level out the craft. TK recovered from his tailspin and flew after us.
The inevitable crash came, but it was relatively controlled and as uneventful as a crash into an open field could be. With only bumps and bruises, we exited what was left of the Sky Cruiser and took stock of our situation: everyone was alive, yet we were only an hour from L.A. and would soon have company. Eddie couldn’t restore the missing engines from the Sky Cruiser, and remaining in place was a non-starter, so we’d need to get moving. Just as we departed on foot, a portal opened and from it, a female in grey fatigues and goggles appeared and confidently said: “Come with me if you want to live.”
She immediately opened another portal to a heavily forested area, and we all piled through it. I went last, removing my earpiece and crushing it with a rock just before doing so. I pocketed its remains on the other side as we were greeted by cooler weather and a darker sky – Vancouver, no doubt. A fat, robed guy, a robed, white woman whose face was obscured, and a huge charcoal individual stood before us. The charcoal one spoke first: “I am Onyx. It is great to finally meet the esteemed Hollywood Knights. Thank you for getting these people to safety. The US Government is certainly keeping us busy up here of late. I hear that Genowa is also experiencing a bit of a population explosion. Please allow us to have you over for dinner tonight. I know that many of you are associated with the Los Angeles chapter, but I can show you what it is that we are doing up here.”
At Onyx’s suggestion, another portal was opened by the goggled militaristic woman, and we passed through it into a run-down building. More formal introductions were made by the mutants we had done our best to assist, and we learned that Eddie was a forger who could assist MUV (Mutant Underground Vancouver) with new IDs for refugees. The facility was staffed by ~20 mutants of various abilities and housed ~50 U.S. refugees, with ever-growing numbers due to recent goings-on within the United States. As Onyx continued to share MUV-specific details, I began to separate myself from the group – aware that the less I knew, the better off they might be. As I did so, the robed, white woman cryptically stated: “I have once before sensed such a tide rising against the mutant community. We stemmed that tide by relocating the Storms. We must talk John.”
She looked right at me as she said it, and her words somehow struck a chord with me. I knew she was not talking about regular storms; she meant my family. As I moved away from the group she followed, asking if I could spare a few minutes. As I nodded to her, she said: “I don’t quite know how to tell you this John: you have been living in the dark your entire adult life. There are so many things you do not know. What do you know about the fate of your parents?”
I briefly recounted finding my mother’s cold body on the kitchen floor and learning of my father’s death from my grandfather. To this she responded: “For reasons that should be apparent, I have no knowledge of your parents’ whereabouts, but I do know that both of your parents survived what you thought was their demise. They were brought to Canada and assumed new identities. We try not to keep too much information on those that we relocate. I am sure you can understand that we cannot be compelled to confess that which we do not know. I wish that I could tell you more, but I have seen that the information your father has may be able to once again stem the rising tide of mutant hatred in the United States. You may want to speak with Maquillage; he was responsible for your parents’ new faces and may be able to help you discover more. My best to you Agent Storm, for the good of us all I hope that you are successful.”
As she left I asked for her name and was given her code name – Moira. Via the mind link, I learned that her next stop was with Amber, who had also separated herself from the main group (now involved in basic combat training for the Gamma level mutants we’d assisted) as she’s prone to doing. As cryptically as she addressed me, Moira also addressed Amber: “Young lady I fear I must be the bearer of ill tidings. You cannot continue with Hollywood Knights. You seem to be a beacon of sorts; something was implanted within you when you were with PRIMUS and they are tracking your every move. Our jammers, here, are keeping them in the dark for the moment, but they now know that you are in Canada. We will need to remove the tracker before you can go anywhere. Unfortunately, only a powerful Cyberkinetic such as Tweaker or IQ can help us with this, and one is not available now. I am afraid that you will need to remain here when your compatriots move on. There are nefarious dealings within PRIMUS and while the agency is not corrupt, corruption within it is prevalent enough that you should be wary.”
I was pretty sure that spiel of Moira’s frayed every conspiracy-oriented bone in Amber’s body, but I was equally sure it might cause her to listen (for once) – instead of being her usual, contrary self. Time would tell. In the meantime, I had bigger fish to fry, as I went looking for Maquillage. He was apparently the fat, robed guy we’d seen, earlier, and he had his own space in the building – which meant he was a staffer. As I entered his space I could not help but notice it was literally wallpapered in headshots of people of all shapes, sizes, and races. Some of the images were even amalgams assembled from different features. On a counter were several human busts made of clay – each in a different state of completion.
Maquillage was there, lounged on a recliner with a glass in his hand, his head back, eyes closed, with earbuds in his ears. He seemed to be singing something, but since it wasn’t K-Pop I didn’t recognize the tune. I must’ve startled him as I entered because his eyes snapped open and he remarked: “Oh shit, sorry! I didn’t know you were there. Good thing I wasn’t singing, huh? What can I do for you? Can I get you a drink?”
I agreed to water, and he poured us each one. As he did so I introduced myself and shared with him the fact that Moira indicated I should look him up regarding the relocation of my parents. When he asked how long ago, I gave him the precise date of Sept 5, 1986. He remarked that we were talking a long time ago as he began looking through several notebooks which he’d pull and return to a bookshelf. As he worked, he mumbled: “Lessee … Storm. Storm… Ah, here it is: code name Polygraph and a plus one. Dammit! Looks like I am missing the pictures, but I have the specifications. This is going to take some time. Okay. Nose: 370937a; eyes: 98734c; mouth: 627435u; chin, hair, ears, head.”
During his mumbling Maquillage made notes of the specs he’d rattled off, and after ~40 minutes of rifling through other books, he began to work on a bust by molding the clay. As he did so, he remarked that working on flesh was faster than working on clay, and I wondered why he didn’t fix his own disfigured face if it was so quick and easy.
He also warned me that his effort might take some time, so I sized up his mind, found it relatively open, entered it, and probed his thoughts for images of my parents. Strangely, on the surface what I found were thoughts of the specifications — as if they meant the same as images to the man. Plumbing deeper into his memories I found what I was after — images of the new faces my parents had been given over two decades ago. What I also found surprised me – my mother’s ‘death’ was faked using a corpse made to look like her … and my father’s ‘death’ was handled in similar fashion. As my father had always been a company man, the faking of his death didn’t surprise me – but my mother’s caught me off guard.
Feeling bad about my unwarranted rummaging within the man’s mind, I informed Maquillage that I had probed his mind to save us both some time and then promptly apologized for doing so. He graciously waved me off, indicating that he’d worked with mutants for years and it wasn’t the first time someone else had been inside his head.
Session 2 – Narrative:
Maquillage’s response bothered me, as it raised concerns about who else might have brained the guy. However, his response also amounted to consent to be in his head, so I took it upon myself to look around a bit more. In doing so, I learned: he had been in mental contact with Switchboard of the Mutant Underground via a mind link; several months ago Blindside of the Mutant Liberation Front had exerted mind control on Maquillage to force him to divulge where Red Racer was located; he’d had regular surface-level contact with Jasmine of the Mutant Underground via telepathy; and an extremely powerful entity I couldn’t quite pin down or place had been in Maquillage’s mind at one time to do a very deep, thorough dive … and hide its tracks. The last of these was, of course, worrisome, so I tucked the knowledge away for future reference and/or use.
Meanwhile, TK Kid, Hardcore, and Psi-Kick watched Armstrong as he helped some of the new mutant arrivals learn to use their powers cooperatively – until a woman they all recognized caught their collective eyes. Cindy Jasper, star of one of the hottest movies of the summer (Blaze of Glory) walked into the room, called Armstrong by his first name in asking how the new groups were coming along, and introduced herself to the Knights upon noticing their presence. Pleasantries were exchanged and, after asking how Cindy had come to be at MUV, the Knights learned that Cindy began going by Cinder after she outed herself as a mutant in support of mutant rights on the Jimmy Fallon show. (Apparently all the special effects in Blaze of Glory were actual effects produced by Cinder’s mutant powers.) Her coming out party went badly enough that a bodyguard was soon required, which is how she met Jason Armstrong.
The Knights also learned Armstrong and Cinder had been attacked by a Genocide Squad they managed to evade thanks to the squad’s failure to account for Armstrong being a mutant. Unfortunately, their evasion led to an unexpected problem: a few SENTRY squads showed up and took the pair to a facility for their own so-called protection … a facility that turned out to be a mutant detainment camp. Both escaped despite the strength of SENTRY’s power neutralizers … along with five others from the camp. The group then headed to Canada based on rumours of the Mutant Underground helping those in need … and stuck around to try to help others.
Heading upstairs to look in on the latest news reports, Cinder asked Psi-Kick to join her since MUV’s computer guy was apparently a Psi-Kick fanboy. Psi-Kick obliged, and the pair arrived just as Maquillage introduced me to the same man – a nerdy fucker named Kabir Chambal who was dressed in ratty jeans and a t-shirt that read, “Gamers Don’t Die, They Just Respawn.” He was playing three video games, reading multiple online chats at a rate I could barely keep up with, and watching several news channels – all at once, while sitting back and drinking a Dr. Pepper. For whatever reason they called this guy Data. If he wasn’t so much older than Tweaker, I’d have thought they might someday make little nerdlings together.
Apparently, our arrival surprised him, because Data’s chair quickly spun around to meet us as we showed up. While Data got over an initial G-Man-induced anxiety attack, a news flash on one of his screens indicated CORPSEC had been awarded a coveted U.S. government contract that resulted in it reporting to the Department of Homeland Security. The initiative was labeled SENTRY, which stood for Superhuman Entity National Tactical Response Yield. My lightning-quick mind noted how similar the word homeland had become to fatherland while Eva Sanchez reported from the Fort Collins Federal Detention Center – a mutant detention camp that had been attacked by Kinematic and members of the Mutant Liberation Front to break out 23 mutant detainees at the expense of significant casualties and public property destruction.
Introductions were made, and Psi-Kick offered to bring Data into our mind link – an offer he eagerly accepted. Via the link I shared with Data images of the two faces Maquillage had rendered to me, and I asked Data if he could run facial recognition on them. He agreed and within minutes he turned up a pair of matches: Norman and Barbara Squall, living at an address in Pictou, Nova Scotia. Psi-Kick, accustomed to having fans, flirted with Data a bit more, and signed his poster before bidding him farewell and dropping him from the mind link. I’d bet she made his year.
Meanwhile outside the cafeteria, Hazel spotted a former acquaintance – a woman named Jasmine who worked with Hawthorne as an interrogator during Hazel’s SHOOT days. Jasmine was busily tending to a young, unconscious woman in another room – wiping her memories of MUV and its location from what Hazel could gather from Jasmine’s dialogue with a nearby man wearing a cowboy hat. She heard Jasmine call him Sundown as she walked up and caught Jasmine’s eye. The two hugged briefly and then spent a few hours catching up regarding the last few years apart. Hazel learned that Jasmine: worked with PRIMUS in Dallas as a therapist; was cut out of the loop after Director Dawes visited the facility and told Silver Avenger Gray PRIMUS was cracking down on powered assets; and fled the United States while aiding the Dallas Mutant Underground in the relocation of some mutants. She had remained in Canada with MUV ever since, as her specific mental talents had proven useful.
Later that evening we headed to a communal dinner in the cafeteria. On the way, Onyx explained that he and Sundown pretty much ran the MUV show. He then introduced us to several MUV members we had not already met: Armstrong, Bubbles, Jasmine, Grey Wolf, Nappy, and Stratolifter. I recognized Jasmine and Stratolifter as former PRIMUS operatives, the latter of these once going by the codename Hercules. I also observed that Hazel wore a beret with a SHOOT insignia on it, suggesting she was a former member of the Super Human Opposition Ordinance Troops – an all-female mercenary group once employed by the U.S. government to fight mutants.
Onyx directed us to a large table at the front of the cafeteria, and we seated ourselves. He remained standing and addressed everyone in the room: “Folks, by now you are probably aware of what went down in Colorado this afternoon. Things are escalating more rapidly than we thought, and it is probably going to get busy, here. People are being rounded up in certain areas of the States just for being suspected of possessing Mutant powers. This is instilling a lot of fear in everyone, so we need your A game. You may have noticed that we have some guests. The Hollywood Knights were kind enough to help us out with an extraction today from California, so I would like to thank them publicly for their assistance and wish them well when they return."
The Knights gracefully accepted MUV’s show of appreciation while I remained seated. Across the mind link I gave the team a briefing: Moira indicated my parents were alive; my father might hold the key to undoing this godawful mess mutant-kind was experiencing at the hands of the U.S. Government; Maquillage had provided them with new faces; Data had tracked those faces to an address I had in Pictou, Nova Scotia; and I had to look into this with or without the Knights. I tried not to let my tension show, but I think Hardcore sensed it, as he was quick to back me up by volunteering to help. Psi-Kick seconded him as he suggested we look for a ride, to which I responded with a thought that the teleporter, Hazel, might be ideal as she was from L.A., combat-trained, and could transport the group.
As dinner concluded we approached Hazel. I thanked her for her assistance with the extraction, and Hardcore in his ever-subtle fashion, asked her directly if she’d give us a ride to Pictou. When queried as to why, I explained the situation in full and suggested that Hazel might make a good addition to the Knights given the recent thinning of their core membership, her combat training, and her specific skillset. The team agreed to give it an informal try, Hazel was added to the mind link, and soon after dinner we prepared for the trip by having the dope fiend among the new mutants change my suit and the Knights’ costumes to look like civvies.
Moments later we found ourselves on the street in front of the address Data gave me. It was dark … and late … for we’d failed to consider the time zone change. Not wanting to waste the opportunity we scouted the area. I noted there were no visible human minds within the house. Likewise, Hazel saw no one inside using her IR goggles; just a cat. Noting the oddity of a couple in their 70’s not being home and asleep after 11pm, we presumed the couple must be out for the evening and decided to check things out the next day. Hazel contacted Data, informed them we were inbound, and teleported us back to MUV where we bedded down for the night.
The next morning, we headed back to Pictou, this time arriving a bit before noon in a discrete location away from the street side of the house. TK Kid used his telekinesis to flip open the latch on one of the windows, let himself in, and float through the house. It was again empty, but he noted someone had packed in a hurry, the cat had been recently fed, and the garage was empty. He let himself back out the way he’d come in, relocking the window behind him. Witch Hazel then contacted Data, asked for makes/models of vehicles owned by the Squalls, and learned they owned a 2014 blue Honda Accord whose plate was recently noted at Southerland Harris Hospital. A quick cross-check of the hospital’s records by Data revealed that Mr. Squall had checked into the hospital on the previous day due to a broken hip.
I scanned for my mother’s mind and was rewarded to find it – a sight for sore eyes after so many years. She was on the opposite side of the hospital, so I asked the team to wait and strode in as if I owned the place, knowing that walking with purpose in a deliberate direction would likely avoid any questions. As expected, no one stopped me, but I slowed as I neared the threshold of the room she was in. The door was open, but I knocked, anyway, and heard my mother’s voice inquire: “Yes?”
I entered the room slowly, removed my glasses, and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Squall? I was wondering if we might have a few words?”
My mother stopped in her tracks at the sound of my voice, looked me up and down, then ran to me and hugged me as tightly as she could while saying through tears, “John, my baby!”
I instinctively hugged her back and heard my father say, “Oh my goodness, John, I never thought we would see you again. I am so sorry, my boy, but it was to ensure that you were protected. When I discovered who was behind the car bombings in Syria it was over for us; we had to leave.”
Across the mind link I informed the team of the precise location of the Squalls’ room. I then indicated I had others with me and asked my parents if it would be ok for them to join us. They agreed, and all the team except TK Kid made its way to the room … and I made the polite and proper introductions. Out of concern for someone who might be listening, I then initiated thought transference with my father and asked him what he meant about Syria. He mentally explained that he was a mutant who could detect lies and that Vazquez had been launching a campaign of his own from within PRIMUS – due to some vendetta he had against mutants. Vasquez apparently staged the hijacking in Pakistan just to take out my father and one other. My grandfather had all the information and was going to blow the lid off the whole thing…but my father never heard back from him … and couldn’t reach out to me for fear of putting me in harm’s way. Aloud he said, “There is only one way to bring this thing down. You must find Lazarus, he’s got all the information. Only he knows how deep this goes.”
At that moment a nurse entered the room and said, “Well Mr. Squall, how are we feeling? We need to get you ready, so perhaps your guests should wait outside.”
I asked the nurse, directly, if she was there to help my father get better – hoping to leverage his ability to detect lies. She nodded an affirmative, so I gestured for the team to exit the room. As we began to leave the nurse said, “Now just relax Mr. Squall everything will be just fine.”
Via the thought transference my father exclaimed, “John, she’s lying. Something’s up!”
Session 3 – Narrative:
The nurse’s fingers extended into blades which she plunged into my father’s chest before anyone could stop her. Witch Hazel came to his aid using her aportation to remove him from the equation while Hardcore interposed himself protectively between the nurse and my mother. Psi-Kick spotted two Genocide Knights in the hallway and unloaded on each of them with her blunt psionic weapon. Both hoisted their blasters and returned a hail of laser fire, striking Psi-Kick once as I gathered all the mental strength I could for the most forceful command I’d ever given. TK Kid raced into the hospital and headed for us. A moment later I established mental contact with the assassin, dominating her mind with a command my anger could not prevent me from also speaking aloud: “Don’t move a muscle…”
As I fixated on the nurse’s tattoo of a black queen’s crown, her mind writhed and slipped past my mental grip as she leapt at me … her next intended target. All I could do was dive out of the way and render myself someone else’s problem as the shame of failing my father in his penultimate time of need washed over me. Hardcore scooped up my mother and whirled to place her on the hospital bed behind him, once more positioning himself protectively between her and the assassin as TK Kid continued his advanced toward the room.
The nurse, perhaps sensing her failure, vanished, leaving only the Genocide agents for us to deal with. Psi-Kick busily pressed her attacks, hammering both Genocide Knights again. One returned fire and struck Psi-Kick three times while the other pulled the pin from a grenade and lobbed it. Unfortunately for them both, Psi-Kick sensed the danger posed by the grenade and quickly slammed the door shut, resulting in a hallway explosion that nearly incapacitated both Genocide Knights. Hardcore and Witch Hazel finished off both Knights as TK Kid arrived on the scene and took out the Genocide Pawns with a telekinetic explosion. I picked myself up off the floor demanding over the mind link to know where Hazel had sent my father, and then bolted after him.
I found Norman laying in an ever-growing pool of crimson and immediately set to the task of stopping his bleeding while someone called for the trauma unit. Knowing they’d not arrived before he bled out, I rent the bed’s top sheet into thin strips and packed Norman’s wounds with them. It wasn’t pretty, but my field experience had worked, as evidenced by the trauma team telling me I’d probably saved my father’s life. “At least I didn’t fail at that,” I thought as I exited the room.
Worried that Norman might still die … and with him information potentially vital to the salvation of mutant-kind … I reluctantly probed his deep memories in search of information about his and Lazarus’ shared past. What I found was mind-blowing: PRIMUS’ former Director of Intelligence, Avery Vazquez, was a mutant whose daughter, Juana, was slain by a mutant supervillain in 1984 while evading capture. Out of angry grief and a desire for vengeance, Vazquez initiated a scorched earth policy by turning on other mutants. He did his work strategically and at arm’s length using operatives of a like mind so that his own hand was never directly involved. However, one of PRIMUS’ operatives assigned to Project Open Eyes found out the real objective of Vazquez’s operation – his name was Robert Storm and he was also a mutant.
I probed more deeply to learn what happened and found out that Lazarus was an operative of the Paranormal Executive Action Cooperative Endeavor (PEACE) working as a contractor for the U.S. Government. The car bombings in Syria in the 80’s that had left nearly 150 dead were ultimately Vazquez’s doing and were aimed at killing all six PEACE operatives, but Lazarus (Evan Dalton) escaped without Vasquez being the wiser. Remembering my father’s words, I then plucked an image of Lazarus from Norman’s mind and stored it for future use, as my father’s memories indicated Lazarus was in Washington, D.C. and that he had been hunting Vazquez.
Digging around for a way to contact Lazarus, I noted that he and my father communicated once a week via the Sunday New York Times classifieds. In his ad, Lazarus would give a new burner phone that my father would use to contact him. The ad always followed a formula that started with three words whose first letters provided the abbreviation for the given month while the next four numbers indicated the date range that the burner phone would be active … followed by ten numbers indicating the phone number of the burner phone.
When talking, the pair also spoke in code involving a challenge/response system, wherein the challenge would be the first noun in the ad and the returned response should be the last noun in the add. In addition, Vasquez would be referenced as the second noun in the ad while Norman would be referred to as the house and Lazarus would be referred to as the car, each with locations referred to as the yard and the garage, respectively. Meeting arrangements also followed a similar algorithmic format, which I also learned.
As I wrapped my mind around the depth of it all, I rendered myself someone else’s problem and stood guard over my father as the trauma team went about its work. Meanwhile, Psi-Kick wrapped up a deep dive of the Genocide agents’ minds and informed us that they had somehow tracked us to the hospital. The Knights and Witch Hazel then quickly exited the building with my mother in advance of the authorities’ arrival and made themselves scarce for a few hours. Once my father was stable I alerted the team to it, and Hazel brought the Knights and my mother to his room. She then alerted MUV that we were headed their way with wounded, and we took my parents back to MUV through one of Hazel’s gates. Upon our arrival, hurried discussion ensued, after which Hazel disappeared, only to return a few minutes later with Tweaker and a mutant with healing powers who began tending to my father.
My family safe, I went to Data and asked him for a burner phone and to bring up the NYT classifieds. Unsurprisingly he had both on hand and in a matter of moments I’d found what I was looking for in the Times – an ad matching Norman and Lazarus’ algorithm that read: “Need One Vintage Comic Book – Collector seeking Sentinels #19 in VF to Mint condition. Will pay top dollar. Also interested in Black Mask #22, Vanguard #21-28 and American Eagle 45-53. Serious sellers only please. Call Tim between 6pm – 9pm. 347-639-6546”
I committed the ad to memory headed back to the rest of the team, sharing all that I had learned over the mind link. By the time I reached them I had decoded the ad to indicate that Lazarus’ phone would be active from Nov 19-22 at 212-845-5369. I formulated a response, dialed the number, and upon it being answered I began, “Hi, I’m responding to your ad about the comics, but I can’t talk long because neither the…”
The line unexpectedly went dead mid-sentence, and then I realized I had failed to provide the challenge, so I revised my response and dialed again, saying the following when the line was answered, “Hi, I’m the son of an avid BOOK reader responding to your ad about the comics, but I can’t talk long because neither the HOUSE nor the YARD I’m in are conducive to it now. I’m not an avid COLLECTOR, but I grew up hanging around the HOUSE with a father who knew one, and as a now-nerdy middle-aged man it seems like your interests and mine are similar. Can we meet so you can see what I’ve got, and maybe arrange a trade or sale?”
Lazarus provided the proper response by saying, ““Tim? I wasn’t expecting you to call. How is the house?” From there I related who I was, what had happened to my family, and my interest in Vasquez to Lazarus using his and my father’s code. He responded by suggesting that we meet … providing the time and place using their meeting code which I decoded to mean the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in one day at 5pm … and to look for a man wearing a grey hat drawing attention to the name Dave.
We spent the next few hours trying to figure out how we’d been tracked and learned that a tiny device had been embedded in my body – most likely during mandatory PRIMUS inoculations. The tracking device, itself, was originally part of a needle’s tip – designed to break off and lodge within the vein without causing discomfort or being noticed. Tweaker and TK Kid marveled at the object and asked if they could disassemble it to see how it worked; I told them if they could put it back together such that it functioned exactly as before it would be ok — since we’d need it to throw the dogs off the scent when we headed to Washington, D.C. I also suggested checking both Jasmine and Stratolifter for tracking devices, since both were former PRIMUS agents. When they checked, they found that Jasmine had a tracking device embedded within her while Stratolifer did not — suggesting that the covert installation of them commenced somewhere between two and five years ago.
The next day passed slowly as we rested and waited for the appointed time to draw near. As it did, Hazel teleported back to Pictou, hailed a cab for a short ride, and dropped my functional tracking device in it as she paid the fare and exited the cab. She reappeared at MUV, picked up the team (still in civvies), and transported us to an out-of-the-way location near the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. The team hung back as I walked along the memorial looking for man in a grey hat drawing attention to the name Dave – who I found and to who gave me the appropriate meeting challenge and to whom I gave the appropriate response. And that’s how I met Lazarus…
We walked as we casually talked, no doubt appearing to onlookers as two long lost friends reunited for the first time in years. At one point he called me ‘kid’, and I realized that despite looking younger than me in years, he probably looked pretty much the same when I was just a boy. As we chatted it became apparent that Lazarus had been tracking Vazquez for some time, and that he knew where Vazquez was located. He indicated that Vazquez was typically guarded around the clock by a team affiliated with DAGGER – some of which were hired superhuman mercs, such as: Hideous, Mechassassin, Rainbow Archer, Thunderbolt II, and Utility. The picture was grim: this was a man who lurked in the shadows behind minions and a veneer of righteousness. Aware of our limited time, Lazarus committed to getting us the rest of his notes and we agreed to keep in touch in the usual manner so that we could bring down this monster
After our chat, I met up with the Knights, and Witch Hazel returned us to MUV with a lot to chew on…
Session 4 – Narrative:
Over the next several hours Data, TK Kid, and Tweaker nerded out by webcrawling, data-mining on the dark web, and whatever-the-fuck else tech-savvy mutie kids did for fun … to collate/formulate their findings into a single cohesive report on the life and times of Avery Vazquez. The report also leveraged follow-up details Lazarus provided via several secure transmissions to Data.
Vazquez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to a poor farm couple in 1942. A child prodigy who was unsatisfied with farm life, Vazquez exploited his intellect wherever possible, and in 1960 at the age of 18 he left Puerto Rico to attend Princeton where he graduated with a B.S. in political science in just two years. He then attended U.V.A. law school where he obtained his J.D. in 1965. That same year he entered the U.S. Army as a Captain and served in JAG Corps until 1975. By that time, he had made bird Colonel at only 30 years of age – the youngest full bird in the military at that time, in fact.
The guy was obviously bright – quick on the undergraduate work but a bit slow on the uptake (by my standards) getting his J.D. I reasoned I might be a hair sharper than Vazquez, but I also recognized that what he lacked in raw intellect he compensated for with manipulative drive. Entering the Army as a Captain was rare, and making bird Colonel in only 10 years was unheard of … strongly suggesting he’d manifested his mental abilities in his late teens … and exercised them judiciously to ladder-climb during his military career.
The report went on to indicate that Vazquez signed on with PRIMUS as an Intelligence Commander under Director of Intelligence Bernard “John” Storm – my grandfather – under whom he served with distinction for 15 years. In 1990 when General Storm had a heart attack, Vazquez stepped in as the acting Director of Intelligence and on July 4th, 1990, Storm resigned as PRIMUS Director of Intelligence, naming Vazquez as his successor. Following General Storm’s resignation from PRIMUS he lived in virtual obscurity, spending the last 8 years of his life in a VA hospital in Albuquerque, NM suffering from dementia.
Four years later in 1994, Daniel James Johnson was promoted to Golden Avenger with Vazquez’s recommendation. Later, in 2002, Director Glenn retired, and Richard Henderson, Director of Agents, was promoted to the Director position over Vazquez – surprising many within PRIMUS. In 2006, a Genocide facility was taken down by the Sentinels aided by NY PRIMUS agents, and during the subsequent investigation Director Henderson was implicated, tried, and convicted, resulting in President George W. Bush appointing William David Tyler to be the new Director of PRIMUS. In 2014, Vazquez fell under investigation by Tyler and was forced to resign in relative disgrace. Tyler then promoted Intelligence Commander Davis Dawes to Director of Intelligence.
I found myself wondering if Henderson had gotten in the way … and whether Vazquez’s forced resignation was a cover to move his pawns up the ladder … or whether Tyler had truly been able to force Vazquez out. I knew Webster didn’t trust Dawes, but Tyler seemed above reproach – the perfect puppet, if that was the case.
As I mused, I turned to the dossier’s section on Vazquez’s personal life. He had been married three times and met his first wife, Janice, in 1971 while at Fort Benning, Georgia. That same year she bore him a daughter, Juana … but their marriage fell on hard times and ended in divorce in 1979. Janice moved back to Atlanta, retained custody of their daughter, and eventually remarried one James Van Buren – something that ultimately contributed to Juana’s death on March 16th, 1984, during the escape of the mutant supervillain named Black Thorn from the Atlanta courthouse where James worked as federal court judge.
Vazquez met his second wife, Angela Caruso, in Washington, D.C. in 1977. She was an aide to Congressman Jasper from Michigan, and the two had a whirlwind affair which clearly led to Vazquez’s divorce from Janice. After his divorce in 1979, Avery and Angela were promptly married in 1980, and they remained so for 10 years. Unfortunately, Angela was killed in a car accident on April 6th, 1990 – with nothing suspicious noted and her death ruled an accident.
Later, in 1994, Vazquez met Charlotte DuBois – a former French supermodel and powerful spokesperson for Ligue des droits de l’homme (Human Rights League) in France. They married a year later in 1995 and remained so for 22 years – the last three of which had been somewhat estranged as evidenced by most of Charlotte’s time being spent in Europe while Avery’s time tended to be spent in the U.S.
The lowdown, while a mouthful, seemed simple: Vazquez cheated on Janice with Angela … so Janice dumped him and took their kid with her. Vazquez then married Angela while Janice also remarried, and one day while at court to have lunch with the new stepfather, BAM, their daughter was killed in the crossfire created by a mutant trying to escape his hearing. Rather than blame himself for being a shitty husband/father who ultimately caused Juana to have a stepfather in the first place, Vazquez blamed Black Thorn as the source of the incident and commenced his crusade. Then somewhere down the line Angela got sick of Vazquez’s shit – either because he was cheating with Charlotte or she’d seen a change in him … so he offed her … just under three months before my grandfather had a heart attack and resigned.
That last bit was a leap based on some damn thin timing, but it seemed worth a look – along with a looksee into PEACE. With a little bit of digging used in conjunction with some of Lazarus’ notes, Hazel and I learned that PEACE was assembled by Nigel Fairchild (known as Peacekeeper) in 1980. The original team consisted of teenaged mutants brought together to learn to control their powers and use them for the betterment of mankind. The original members were:
- Bliss (Shelby Carson aka Shelby Kyle)
- Pulse (Michael Evans)
- Silhouette (Maria Navarro)
- Steel (Ronald Jefferson)
- Volt (David Kyle)
In March of 1983 the original team was captured by an evil mutant called Overlord and, to rescue them, Nigel assembled a hit squad of older, more experienced mutants. The rescue team consisted of:
- Agbara (Kimba Chidike) … name meant Strength in Yoruban
- Brechung (Hans Albrecht) … name meant Refraction in German
- Lazarus (Evan Dalton)
- Salvaje (Andrea Martinez) … name meant Savage in Spanish
- Shade (Rebecca Daines)
- Shimo (Genzo Saito) … name meant Frost in Japanese
The rescue team succeeded in saving the teenagers, and shortly afterward it began working with the U.S. Government as a strike team to combat villainous superhumans. In 1986, while tracking down the evil mentalist Aelaa Damagh (Supreme Brain) in Syria, the strike team was ambushed, and, as far as the world at large was concerned, it was systematically eliminated. Years later, Nigel died of a brain aneurism in 2007 … but remnants of PEACE remained in his wake. Two of the original members, Bliss and Volt, married and continued to pursue Peacekeeper’s original ideas by founding a school in Chicago, IL to help gifted students in much the way Fairchild had provided instruction and safety. In addition, Steel became a teacher at Ravenswood Academy in Millennium City, MI while Silhouette retired to Payson, AZ with her husband, Oliver Luckman. Pulse, however, was killed by Holocaust in a battle in New Orleans, LA in 2004.
In pursuit of a potential lead with PEACE, Hazel teleported Psi-Kick, Hardcore, and TK Kid to Chicago where they took a cab to the PEACE school under the guise of Jeremy potentially joining. Upon entering the large, Victorian building, they were greeted by a couple in their 50’s – David and Shelby Kyle. Someone checked the mutant signature of all three, recognized them as mutants … and as members of the Hollywood Knights … the latter of which prompted the David Kyle to ask why they were really in the neighborhood. TK explained that he thought learning PEACE history might help with the current situation and got David talking about Overlord, but no leads or useful info presented itself in either his responses or their observation on the school’s grounds. Soon after, the three returned to MUV.
While they were gone, we dug into some of the details Lazarus had provided and learned it was DAGGER who was responsible for the assassinations of most his team. Being very well known in merc circles, Hazel contacted a guy named Harrelson to ask about DAGGER. He was a fixer who knew everyone and could get practically anything … for a price. A lengthy conversation and a hefty fee revealed that, back in the day, DAGGER was headed by a former Special Forces Captain, Lawrence Dobbs (codenamed: Stiletto) and was comprised of other black ops mercs from various agencies, namely:
- Boomer (Timothy Kowalski)
- Diesel (Kenneth MacTavish)
- Bullet (Randolph Ball)
- KO (Kellen Okafor)
- Black Rose (Rosemary Uribe)
Bullet reportedly started his own merc group called The Raiders, while Stiletto was imprisoned in Chino for over 300 murders (nearly 50 of which occurred since his incarceration). The rest of the DAGGER team members were systematically eliminated by Lazarus as payback for the wetwork they did against his team in the 80’s, but the world at large theoretically had no insight into that, and we had no intention of shedding any light on that subject. Harrelson didn’t know where to find Bullet, but he indicated that Stiletto would be willing to talk.
Feeling that we’d gotten our money’s worth out of Harrelson, I made it clear I needed to head back to The Keep to retrieve something. Hazel was kind enough to get me to a non-descript location in L.A., from which I cabbed to the harbor patrol HQ and asked if the guys who we’d spared some paperwork might give me an off-the-books lift to The Keep and back. They obliged, and while they waited I quickly entered my quarters, retrieved my grandfather’s invitation to join PRIMUS, and returned – hyper-aware that I was likely being monitored and dismissing Merlyn, entirely. Another cab ride back to Hazel, and we were soon back at MUV … staring at an envelope containing a yellowed letter dated July 4, 1990 … inviting me to join PRIMUS and signed by my grandfather, Bernard “John” Storm. Beneath his signature were six hand-written words that read: “Mole KIA – Happy Belated Birthday, John.”
I explained to the team the significance of the letter and the oddity of receiving it years after it was written. I wondered aloud at who had delivered the letter and within minutes the nerdlings had identified one Evelyn Chambers as my grandfather’s former secretary using whatever super-Google-algorithm they used. They even had an address – a retirement community in Orlando, FL.
The web of data had become so tangled in such a short period of time it felt like it might take forever to pick it apart, but from past JAG cases I knew it to be normal … especially for 30-year-old cold cases, which is what this was. Fortunately, Lazarus had given us a head start … as had my grandfather’s letter. The date on that letter and the timings of both his heart attack and resignation were so stupidly close in time … I just couldn’t label it coincidental. Thus, the Knights, Hazel, and I saw three viable leads to explore:
- Blackthorn (incarcerated in Stronghold) – to learn his take on what happened to Juana
- Stiletto (incarcerated in Chino) – to find out what he knew about DAGGER’s contract
- Evelyn Chambers – to find out if there was more to my letter than the words on the page
Stronghold and Chino being relatively close to one another, Hardcore went with Psi-Kick and Hazel to both — figuring the girls would be welcome sights for both long-imprisoned men. At Stronghold, they learned Black Thorn’s story was pretty much verbatim from the old news reports we’d reviewed: he had been caught at a bank robbery by PEACE and was in a pre-trial hearing. As the hearing was about to commence he noted the stenographer had a fern, so he leveraged it to strangle both her and a bailiff and then made his way out of the courthouse. Once outside, he controlled other plants to make his escape, casually grabbing a girl (Juana) for leverage. According to Black Thorn, the marshals opened fire at him and killed the girl; he didn’t do it, he only killed the marshals – something he owned. The coroner’s report, however, attributed Juana’s death to ‘puncture wounds’, not gunfire, and so Black Thorn got the wrap for all the deaths associated with the escape attempt.
Because the visit to Black Thorn took place in Stronghold, it was most assuredly monitored by PRIMUS with a high potential for word to get back to Vazquez. In addition, Psi-Kick was unable to telepathically read Black Thorn as they spoke, so she had only his words to go on – but she believed him … as did Hardcore and Hazel.
The visit to Chino was a different matter, as it was a ‘normal’ prison. Hazel led the questioning about Syria, and Stiletto indicated it was a wild ride wherein they had been hired to take out a couple gene freaks while making it look like a bigger hit. He indicated Boomer was responsible for most of the action. Psi-Kick read him the entire time he spoke and was able to determine that he was lying, and that Vazquez assembled Stiletto’s team to take out the PEACE mutants as revenge for an on-shore job they had conducted. Over the mind link I suggested that Hazel dangle the carrot of a pardon in front of the guy, and when she did so he said that in the unlikely event she could arrange it, he was willing to sing like a bird. Fear of that exact problem was probably why the guy had killed 50 people while serving his time. On the way out, Psi-Kick picked up on a guard thinking to himself that he had to make a call to a specific D.C. number to report that Stiletto had a visitor – something she noted across the mind link. Back at MUV we relayed that number to Data, who noted it was to the D.C. PRIMUS facility in which the Golden Avenger’s office is located. TK Kid suggested we try to get a recording of the call – complete with voice analysis to confirm the Golden Avenger’s involvement.
Hardcore, Psi-Kick, and Hazel then popped back to MUV, and Hazel took me to Orlando to see Mrs. Chambers. Upon arrival at her retirement community, I waved my badge at the gate guards, and they let us through without any hassles. We made our way to Mrs. Chambers unit, and I politely rang the bell. An elderly woman answered the door with an inquisitive look, and I introduced myself while presenting my driver’s license to her for both her scrutiny and confirmation. Fixated on my face she ignored my credentials and a glint lit up in her eye as she exclaimed, “Johnny, is it really you!?”
I introduced Hazel as Mrs. Chambers let us in, closing the door behind us. She offered us lemonade and I accepted, following up with questions about my grandfather, who delivered his letter (which I showed to her), and anything she could remember that she felt was important about that day. As she answered, I furtively probed deeply into her mind and learned that her words matched her recollections: on July 4, 1990, my grandfather handed the envelope to her, told her to send it by way of same-day by courier if he died, requested it as an unofficial favour, and demanded that no one was to know. Beyond that, she said she could remember nothing else, but her deep memories revealed something more – my grandfather had taken a meeting later that same day with a shady-looking contractor who introduced himself as ‘Fuse’ upon arrival; he didn’t stay long.
The conversation then turned to my grandfather’s post-PRIMUS time in New Mexico, and Mrs. Chambers had only good things to say about his nurse, Enrique, and the high quality of care he had provided despite my grandfather’s ever-declining condition. Life after Storm at PRIMUS was the next logical topic, so I asked about Avery Vasquez, and Mrs. Chambers had absolutely nothing good to say about him. In fact, I could tell that she loathed him and that he was one of the chief reasons she resigned shortly after my grandfather did, choosing to work for a brokerage. Rather than keep this kind woman’s mind on topics that clearly weren’t pleasant, I turned away from the past and refocused her on kinder things: how good the fresh-squeezed lemonade was; the lovely mauve décor of her home; how nice it was to make a connection with someone who knew my family after being so alone for so long, and the like. After more chit-chit and some thank-you’s, we excused ourselves, exited the way we came, and popped back to MUV once we were sure no one was observing us.
A bit of checking by Hazel revealed that Fuse was the former codename of one James Rogers, an explosives expert consulting for the NYPD bomb squad. Figuring I might be the best to make an inquiry with him, I asked Hazel to transport me and TK Kid to NYC. She plopped us in Central Park and from there we made our way to police HQ, where I flashed my badge and asked to speak with Mr. Rogers. After being given no hassle and both a floor and door number, TK and I ascended the stairs. We found Mr. Rogers’ door open, so I politely knocked on the threshold. Once Rogers invited us into the office, I closed the door behind us, introduced myself, provided my full credentials for his scrutiny, and indicated that I knew he had taken a meeting with my grandfather on July 4, 1990. He put on his best poker-face and ignored my assertion, so I called him by his codename and pressed him to know what he and my grandfather had discussed. To this he responded by indicating he’d not been called Fuse in a long time … and by asking me the name of my grandfather’s secretary and her favourite colour … as a test to see if I truly was who I said I was. After answering both questions correctly, Rogers made it clear that he didn’t have a lot to say – that he had crafted and delivered an IED vest for my grandfather upon his request. I asked no further questions and, upon the suggestion that we be careful, I made myself someone else’s problem while TK Kid flew us out the window and back to Central Park. Shortly thereafter, Hazel picked us up and took us back to MUV.
Upon our return, Data confirmed that a man named Enrique still worked for the VA hospital in New Mexico, and since Hardcore, Psi-Kick, and Hazel had been in the western US recently, it made sense for them to go back. A quick jump from Hazel followed by a cab ride saw them at their destination, and a quick interview while Enrique was on break revealed that he thought my grandfather was nuts, but that across 8 years of care several things he angrily repeated while mumbling within his dementia stood out. He then quoted the following phrases: “It’s all Avery’s fault. He was supposed to die. I had one job to do and couldn’t do it. I had the best in the business try to take him out, but even they couldn’t get it done… slippery one that Avery. I just walked in with a suicide vest on. That was my plan…didn’t go so well. He made me step down, he always wanted to be top dog, and when I couldn’t kill him he turned me into this.”
Upon their return to MUV, I told Hazel and the other Knights it was clear what had happened: my grandfather learned that Vazquez was the mole within PRIMUS, ordered a hit on Vazquez; it failed; Vazquez retaliated; my grandfather tried to do it himself using an IED vest; he failed; Vazquez retaliated again, directly and in kind … and the rest had become PRIMUS history.
It was a lot to take in – perhaps too much. My earlier failure still sat heavily on my soul: my father’s would-be assassin was still out there because I wasn’t strong enough. And now I questioned my own adequacy once more – in the face of a man with powers like mine who had killed people, torn my family apart, and turned my grandfather into a mental defective … and gotten away with it all … for at least three decades. I wanted some payback, but I still saw no viable attack vector or weakness other than Juana and Vazquez’s hand in her death. It wasn’t promising. Worse, if he was keeping tabs on people, Vazquez would be growing suspicious as soon as news of our inquiries hit him. The clock was running…
Session 5 – Narrative:
It dawned on me that there might be a deeper agenda hidden within the mutant round-ups; were they furtively tagging/tracking mutants much like Jasmine and I had been tagged/tracked? I shuddered at the thought of it and promptly asked Onyx to check everyone at MUV for traces of the nanotechnology that had been used to LoJack me. It also occurred to me that the only thing we knew about Project Open Eyes was its name, so I asked TK Kid to work with Data to look into it. That left the questioning of former Director Richard Henderson at USP Leavenworth to the girls and Hardcore while I sought out Jasmine.
I found her in the cafeteria and struck up a conversation, learning what I needed to know: her ability allowed for very precise, surgical memory erasures. A few hours later, I was relieved to hear that no one else at MUV had been LoJacked. Yet, at the same time, I was also disappointed because lack of furtive tracking meant we had no hard evidence of 4th Amendment Right violations by the U.S. Government on which to hang a solid case. Fortunately, TK Kid had some better news. Open Eyes had been a U.S. Government project designed to ascertain whether the emergent mutant population presented a threat to humanity. Ultimately, the project determined mutation to be a legacy-type ‘affliction’ carried via completely normal parents, resulting in no clear means of so-called ‘preventative measures’. In time, Open Eyes was succeeded by a follow-up Project Safeguard – a project in which mutant experimentation took place on a volunteer basis, at first, and then eventually moved to a compulsory basis. If we could find evidence of forced experimentation – we might FINALLY have some evidence of wrongdoing. And if mutants were disappearing from the Corpsec camps to be used a guinea pigs, we’d have a solid/verifiable case…
The Kid had also taken solid initiative to get a tap in place monitoring the guard who had planned to call the D.C. PRIMUS facility – and the guard made the call, informing its recipient as to Stiletto’s recent visitors. Interestingly, voice analysis of the recorded call confirmed it wasn’t the Golden Avenger who received it, but Director Dawes. At about the same time, Hardcore and the girls returned having learned little. Henderson had nothing negative to say about Vazquez, fully admitted to being a Genocide informant, and knew surprisingly little about Genocide for someone who supposedly worked with them. It seemed fishy, but we still had absolutely nothing that would withstand legal scrutiny: an imprisoned mercenary with more than 300 ‘murders’ to his name who would sing if we could get him a pardon; a disgraced and imprisoned former Director of Primus who might have been the victim of mental tampering, a current Director of Primus who might not have pursued charges against Vazquez because of similar tampering. Speculation, speculation, and more speculation.
While we debated our next move, Data came running and informed us that there had been an explosion at the home of Judge Van Buren and his wife, Angela. Both had been home and neither had survived. Clearly, our time was up; the clock had run out and Vazquez was now covering his tracks. Psi-Kick suggested we try to anticipate his next move, but I already knew what it would be – he’d go for the soft targets … and that meant Evelyn Chambers’ home. As if on cue, the news channel we were watching was interrupted to cover a fire ravaging a retirement community in Orlando, FL. Our failures now had a body count, and the team mused that Stiletto would be next. However, I postulated he was likely safe where he was for the moment, as he’d withstood the tests of time well enough, so far.
Vazquez’s puppet, Dawes, was likely next, but we’d have to be quick and play it cool to keep him from going underground. To that end, Hazel opened a portal back to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. From there we cabbed to 800 K Steet, Northwest. The PRIMUS Department of Intelligence was located on the 12th floor, so we made our way up under my credentials. Upon our arrival, I asked Dawes’ administrative assistant if we could see him sans appointment, she announced us and confirmed he’d see us, and we entered his corner office. I officially introduced myself and the team while the group closed the door behind us and took up positions in Dawes’ office.
As Dawes seated himself, I informed him that we had come in person to report that we had credible intel regarding PRIMUS infiltration by and leaks to Genocide. His expected reaction of disingenuous surprise was accompanied by an unexpected crunching sound from his window. At the same moment, Psi-Kick shared an image of Dawes’ office exploding over the mind link, and I verbally barked for Hazel to get us out of there.
Hazel immediately opened a portal to the street, below, while Psi-Kick grabbed Dawes and carried him to the edge of the portal. Hardcore shoved them through it while interposing himself between Dawes’ desk and Hazel … as I ran through the portal and TK Kid erected a force field. Running to the building across the street for cover, I heard the familiar sound of an AT4 unguided missile launch, followed by multiple mind link transmissions of a massive explosion within Dawes’ former office. TK Kid and Hardcore soaked the blast well enough, but Hazel promptly fell unconscious despite Hardcore’s attempt to protect her.
On the street, below, I amplified my running and endurance while making my way to the edge of the building opposite the PRIMUS facility. Psi-Kick, however, decided to run back toward the PRIMUS facility, keeping both herself and Dawes in the middle of the street without any cover. Her open invitation was well-received by two gunmen on the roof who opened fire with their assault rifles, one of which struck Dawes twice, rendering him unconscious and bleeding. I noted one gunman at ground level and observed a total of three minds moving in maneuvering patterns, so I popped into view of them all, confirmed my targets, and held them with a mental paralysis.
Meanwhile, back in Dawes’ former office, TK Kid launched himself from what was left of the window, flew partway across the street, and wrangled both of the rooftop gunmen within telekinetic chains. Hardcore scooped up Hazel’s crumpled body and leapt from the window with it. As I radioed for PRIMUS support units to acquire the captured gunmen, Hardcore landed on the ground and reached Psi-Kick in a follow-up leap.
I ran to meet him and field dressed Dawes’ wounds while the Kid plugged Hazel’s wounds. Psi-Kick took the opportunity to pick the brains of the three mentally paralyzed operators on the ground, learning that a $100k contract had been placed on Dawes by DAGGER’s leader, Caliber. She also learned that the DAGGER team had planned a two-fold approach to the hit – the rooftop operators would take out Dawes’ office while the other three planted a bomb on Dawes’ BMW 740i within the parking structure. All five had planned to escape using a van parked around the corner.
Psi-Kick relayed this across the mind link, and I radioed PRIMUS backup about the bomb and the van. Once PRIMUS reinforcements took custody of the DAGGER team, TK Kid scooped us all up and got us the hell out of there … since we had no idea who we could trust. We contacted MUV, provided a sitrep, and Stratolifter was soon dispatched to deliver a healer and the PRIMUS tracking detector to us. With 4-5 hours to kill, we laid low and kept on the move. I used the time to pick through Dawes’ memories and learned that he was chock-full of potentially-useful intel.
Apparently Vazquez was working with a Geneticist named Dr. Jeremiah Katalist on Project Titan – a PRIMUS endeavor aimed at creating a second superhuman group that was better than the Avenger Corps. In addition, I became aware that he knew I was the son of Robert and grandson of Bernard, and he tried to have me killed using a drug meant to induce a hemorrhage in my brain – under the guise of cyberline treatment. When it didn’t work, Vazquez was forced to keep things quiet due to the development of my abilities, which Vazquez was somehow aware of.
It was also Vazquez who suggested that my requested transfer to Hollywood Knights be approved … and Vazquez who tipped off Holocaust as to Street Angel’s plight. Vazquez was in deep with Genocide … all the way up to the inner-circle, whose structure was known to Dawes as follows:
- North America: Controlled by White King, supported by White King’s Bishop (Vengeance aka Former Silver Avenger Darin Falswell)
- South America: Controlled by Black Queen, supported by Black Queen’s Bishop (Razor)
- Africa: Controlled by Black King, supported by Black King’s Bishop (Warrior)
- Europe/Asia: Controlled by White Queen, supported by White Queen’s Bishop (The Baron)
If we could reach safety, keep Dawes alive, and maintain his sanity … I was pretty sure he would testify. I half-wondered if the safest way to secure Dawes was to acquire his tracker, put his face on Lazarus, give Lazarus the tracker, and let Lazarus soak a DAGGER hit. However, the success of such a plan presumed Lazarus’ willingness, that his power was actually true to his namesake, and that we had time to make it happen.
Session 6 – Narrative:
When Stratolifter arrived, he handed the PRIMUS tracking detector to TK Kid while the healer went to work on Hazel. The Kid checked Dawes for the expected device and, upon locating it, I removed it and had TK Kid stash it for possible future use. By then Hazel was well enough to resume her duties, so she opened a portal to MUV and got us out of D.C.
Back at MUV, the healer straightened out Dawes’ wounds and then headed back to her duties as we debated our next course of action. As usual, the Kid wanted an immediate and direct frontal assault sans preparation of any kind – demonstrating just how wasted his so-called intellect really was. On the flip side, I recognized that we needed to be a surgical instrument rather than a blunt weapon – but that we still had no justifiable/probable cause we could use to convict Vazquez. The rest of the team was just as paralyzed by the abject lack of evidence.
We had just begun to question Dawes again when I saw his mind light up as if lased by an IR target designator. Before I could shout “Incoming!” I felt a mental lock clamp down on his mind … followed by a mental blast wave that bowled Dawes over. Claxons simultaneously sounded within MUV HQ, and Onyx began barking evac orders to his people. If we were lucky, it’d be Vazquez coming to do his own dirty work for a change – something I suspected he’d avoid but secretly hoped MUV defenses would force him into. Sadly, it was more of his flunkies – individuals I recognized as members of Project Titan from some internal PRIMUS memo I’d read a while back – and they were outside demanding that Dawes be released.
As Psi-Kick and Hardcore headed to the entrance, another mental blast wave washed over Dawes, shocking his mind deeper into unconsciousness. Meanwhile, Hazel opened a portal to MULA, I took up a defensive position beside her, and TK Kid flew up to Data’s command center to live stream the threat … all as Onyx’s people quickly ushered the MUV refugees to and through Hazel’s portal.
Outside, one of the Project Titan members known as Atlas grew several stories in height and redemanded in a booming voice that Dawes be released. Psi-Kick stalled by indicating we had saved Dawes and that he was under our protection. This was met with a repetition of the original demand by Atlas … which caused Psi-Kick to conclude and warn us that Atlas might be stalling, as well.
No sooner had she warned us than I saw Perses’ mind somehow phasing through the wall next to Hazel, so I filled his mind with psychic static to keep him off her … just as the last of the MUV refugees passed through the gate. Hazel casually side-stepped Perses’ blind attack while inquiring if there was anyone else to go through the portal, to which Onyx replied that he was the last and that Cinder, Sundown, and Armstrong would remain behind to help.
A second later, a blinding flash of light engulfed the room. I couldn’t see shit, but Hazel’s goggles protected her. She slammed her portal shut and relayed across the mind link images of Project Titan members I recognized as Prometheus and Astraeus emerging from a portal. While Prometheus stopped just inside the room, Astraeus blew past Cinder and knocked her into a wall while rapidly making his way across the expanse of the room. He then doubled back and took a swing at Hazel, failing to connect as he moved by. A few meters to my left I heard Armstrong and Sundown both cry out, followed by two thuds. Hazel reported both were down for the count … thanks to the handiwork of Prometheus’ and Selene.
Sensing imminent danger with the odds sitting at four of them against two of us, I made myself someone else’s problem while rolling down, back, and to the left – warning Hazel that from our opposition’s perspective she was likely the only person left in the room. The next image I received from her was one of Atlas phasing through the wall right where I had been … followed by her teleportation out of that room, to safety.
Meanwhile, Hardcore retreated inside to meet up with Hazel, Psi-Kick scouted outside, and TK Kid rocketed toward Psi-Kick via one of the compound’s windows. Drawing closer to the several-story-Atlas, Psi-Kick noticed his massive boots were leaving no indentation in the ground, surmised that he wasn’t real, reported this over the mind link, and continued to advance. A sharp pain immediately burned through her mind, and she knew, at once, that she had been mentally attacked by Metis, so she switched to a slower, stealthier approach. Her wingman, the Kid, did his part by telekinetically sending everything around (and including) Metis flying using his telekinesis. This drew Metis’ fire as she seared TK Kid’s mind with pain.
Meanwhile, inside, Hazel and Hardcore took up positions near the door of the room I was in. Furtively observing the Titans, I noticed none of them were talking as they maneuvered … and that Perses had headed back outside while Astraeus had leapt through Selene’s portal toward TK Kid, who I could see through it. I warned the team that the Titans were using a mind link and that Astraeus was coming for TK Kid, so the Kid erected an invisible barrier between himself and Astraeus, into which the latter unexpectedly slammed. Sensing my own pre-emptive opening, I became visible to Selene and Prometheus, mentally paralyzed them both, and cued both Hazel and Hardcore.
Hardcore nearly broke the door off its hinges as he ran into the room and slammed into Prometheus, who went barreling into the closest wall after the impact. I suspected Selene freaked out a little, as she shut down her portal to keep us from using it and then applied all her mental strength to break free from my paralysis. I warned the others she was loose, made myself someone else’s problem, again, and rolled right and a bit closer to the door just in case someone lobbed something where I’d been. Selene promptly opened another portal, used it to exit the building, and closed it behind her … not realizing I could still see her mind through the building’s wall. I relayed her location to Hazel who then opened a portal of her own, and Hardcore ran through it, stunning Selene with a well-placed jab.
Back outside, a still-blind Perses slowly made his way toward the fight with Metis, obviously being guided via the Titans’ mind link. At the same time Atlas and Metis focus-fired TK Kid, who had erected a telekinetic shield around himself. Sensing an opportunity, Psi-Kick moved toward Astraeus and struck him three times with her psi-blades, rendering him unconscious.
Session 7 – Narrative:
Metis pressed her attack on TK Kid, who casually shrugged it off as Prometheus tried and failed to break out of my mental paralysis. Psi-Kick, turning her attention to Metis, swung her psi-blades through the compound’s perimeter wall and missed. Hazel teleported outside to assist Hardcore and was knocked down by Perses as Atlas rushed to Metis’ defense, missing Psi-Kick.
Selene opened another portal, and through it strode a man wearing shimmering golden armour. The fluorescent lights from some sort of lab on the other side of the portal gleamed off the man’s helmet as he removed it, and there was no mistaking DJ Johnson, the Golden Avenger as he demanded: “Everyone stand down! Someone care to tell me what the hell is going on here? Where is Director Dawes? I swear I will have every one of you in a Stronghold solitary cell if you’ve let anything happen to him. You people are supposed to be sanctioned heroes, what are you doing in Canada?”
The presence of the Golden Avenger was so palpable that TK Kid steadily tripped over his words as he spilled his guts in response to Johnson’s demands. We let him ramble in order to buy time for Psi-Kick’s passive telepathy to build. She quickly gleaned that the Titans’ minds had not been tampered with, sharing that info over the mind link as I arrived outside carrying Dawes’ unconscious body. Johnson turned his attention to me, and before he could ask, I explained that we had been present when Dawes was attacked, saved his life, removed a covertly planted tracking device from him that he seemed not to know about, and then brought him to where we all stood to heal him and try to keep him safe. I punctuated this by explaining that someone had mentally attacked Dawes right before he fell unconscious, and that we did not know the source of that attack.
At that point Metis spoke up and indicated that she had mentally knocked out Dawes while following her orders – and apologized. Johnson responded by explaining that after the attack on HQ, PRIMUS reviewed the attack’s footage and found that the Knights had ‘absconded’ with Director Dawes. He then thanked the Knights for taking care of the DAGGER group that attacked and, in the same breath, chastised the Knights for exceeding their jurisdiction by taking Director Dawes across international borders.
I gently set Director Dawes down and explained that the Knights did not ‘abscond’ with anyone; they had been under fire, under duress, and Hazel and Dawes had needed prompt medical attention. Once provided, it made sense to seek refuge in a location where others would not look, hence our presence in Canada. By this time Psi-Kick’s read on our opposition was complete, and she indicated across the mind link that the DJ Johnson had been mentally tampered with just as Dawes had been. She also noted that the very same mental signature was present. As she did so, the compromised Golden Avenger stated that we were under arrest for violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 1201.a – kidnapping and transport across international borders.
As he began to Mirandize us, I cut him off by pointing out that if we were outside of our jurisdiction … so was he. This clearly pissed him off, and he retorted by asserting that I had left him no choice but to do things the hard way. As if on cue, Captain Fucking Canada stepped from Selene’s portal and verbally confirmed that the Canadian authorities were working with PRIMUS regarding this case. My hip pocket devoid of additional legal ammo, I suggested over the mind link that we go quietly, as the live steaming of this event would serve only to confirm us as legitimate fugitives from justice if we resisted and/or ran. TK Kid wanted to fight, of course, but the Knights managed to make him see reason.
Stepping forward, I indicated that despite the false accusations made against us, I was willing to submit myself to our country’s justice, as I had nothing to hide. Johnson responded by demanding my sidearm and shield – both of which I willingly surrendered as he told us we’d have our day in court before a jury of our peers. I watched in quiet disbelief as nullifiers were slapped on the non-resisting Knights, a set of handcuffs wrenching closed around my own wrists as I looked on. With the mind link shut down by nullifiers, TK Kid spoke his mind, shouting at Johnson that he was the one who should be in nullifiers because he was compromised and working for the bad guy. Johnson, however, did not hear, as he was busily completing a perfect recitation of the Miranda card.
Selene then gated us to the Seattle base for processing, with TK Kid yammering all the way about Dawes’ confession. He implored Selene to review what was on his phone and think/judge for herself, however it was unclear if he’d broken through. A few hours later we were transferred to the L.A. PRIMUS holding facility pending transfer to Stronghold. While waiting, I was informed I had a visitor and led to the visitor area, where I seated myself. A few moments later Bob Webster walked over and sat down before me. We picked up the corded phones and I spoke first, greeting Bob by apologizing for the situation. His response was serious, and he said: “John, what is going on? I must be fair, here, and let you know that, officially, you’re suspended. PRIMUS will not be picking up any of your legal expenses, as you were acting outside of your duty and jurisdiction. It’s probably a good idea for you to get ahold of a good attorney. This goes all the way to the top. You’ve always been pretty straight with me, but my hands are kind of tied.”
As he spoke, I heard some quick tapping that sounded like Morse code coming from the wall that separated us. Unfortunately, my mnemonic abilities had not kicked in back when I learned Morse as a kid, so I couldn’t decode it. However, I committed it to memory in case one of the others could decipher it, told Bob I understood, and thanked him for visiting under these circumstances.
Upon transfer to Stronghold, the nullifiers were removed, and we were able to convene in a common area. I furtively related the details of my visit and tapped out the Morse code on Hazel’s downward-facing palm hoping she could decode it. Unfortunately, she was as rusty as I was. TK Kid, however, recognized it as Morse, so I repeated the tapping on his downward-facing palm, and he informed me that it was a phone number followed by a letter: 213-458-4941 G. Recognizing that the number was likely intended to go with the suggestion of calling an attorney, I located a phone in the common area and called the number.
A woman named Amanda with an organization known as Garrison & Clark answered and asked how she could direct my call. After I permitted the obligatory announcement about a collect prison call to finish, I informed Amanda of my name and asked to speak with Mr. Garrison. She accepted the charges and promptly put me through to one Jeffrey Garrison, who told me we were all over the news, indicated he was glad I had called, and asked how he could help. After giving him a high-level summary of our situation, he said he thought he could help and then directed me to hang up, tell the guard that I needed to call my attorney, and to dial 202-746-6767. He then wished me luck and hung up.
The 202 area code had me curious, as it was a D.C. number. However, in this day of portable mobile phone numbers, it could simply be a burner. Regardless, someone on the outside was poking around and might be able to help, and our prospects within Stronghold looked grim by comparison, so I followed Garrison’s instructions by informing a guard that I needed to speak to my attorney. The guard scoffed and indicated that it was unlikely I’d reach anyone so late in the evening, but he followed protocol and brought me to a room where I could have a private conversation with attorney/client privilege in play.
When I called the number, I was greeted with a simple, “Hello, Mr. Storm. Answer my questions with a simple yes or no.” I was then asked if I understood, to which I responded in the affirmative. Next, I was asked if I knew the location of Avery Vazquez, to which I responded in the negative. Two more questions followed, asking if I had access to Polygraph and if I was able to contact Lazarus, both of which I answered in the affirmative. What followed surprised me, as the voice on the other end finished with: “Thank you. Mr. Storm, this is Director Bill Tyler. I have reason to believe that PRIMUS is severely compromised, and I need your help and that of your compatriots to fix it. For obvious reasons there are very few I can trust within the organization. The only way to hold this bastard accountable for his crimes is to bring him in. Tonight at 02:30 the cells that you are in will open. You and your compatriots will then make your way up the back staircase to the loading dock. Someone I trust will be there to collect you and fill you in on the rest of the plan. Do you understand?”
Again, I responded in the affirmative, and Tyler’s voice followed as if he’d read my mind: “I know that you may be wondering if I am on the up and up. I assure you that I am. Your grandfather was a mentor of mine, and, if it means anything, I know of the letter you received on the day he died. Do I have your cooperation?”
Once more I responded in the affirmative, at which point Tyler instructed me to inform my friends, thanked me, and hung up. I exited the room, met up with the Knights, shared the go-forward plan, and then we retired to our respective cells. At 02:30 our cell doors did, indeed, open, and we quickly made our way to and ascended the back staircase without issue. At the loading dock we were met by Webster, who quickly ushered us into a plate-less, unmarked delivery van as he explained that time was of the essence. The security system had been placed on a timed camera loop that would soon expire, and we needed to be gone before then.
We met no resistance on the way out, and after one change of vehicle in a parking garage, we were in the clear and on the way to MULA. Upon arrival we were shown to a room where one Director Tyler sat, waiting for us. After introductions and appreciations, Tyler offered to open his mind so that we could see that he had not been corrupted by Vazquez, and Psi-Kick noted that he was completely unreadable. Expressing this discovery, aloud, Tyler explained that he was a mutant, and that the inability to touch his mind was his one ability. With this assurance that he had not been corrupted by Vazquez, talk soon turned to Polygraph and Lazarus, and I indicated that Polygraph was at MULA and that perhaps we should all contact Lazarus, together.
Fetching my father at Tyler’s instruction, I also acquired a copy of Monday’s New York Times and returned with both. A call to Lazarus ensued, and Robert Storm, Bob Webster, and Evan Dalton all spoke together for the first time in years … while Director Bill Tyler had Tweaker pull up data on Vazquez’s residence and hatched a plan to bring Vazquez in. In preparation for the effort, Tyler handed us nullifier-based headbands that act as neural inhibitors, while Lazarus warned us that Vazquez’s personal guard consisted of the mutant villains known as Hideous, Mechassassin, Rainbow Archer, Thunderbolt II, and Utility. Hearing this news, Tyler instructed Webster to contact Sherry at the base and to get a contingent of agents set up for a raid on Vazquez’s house – to be led by Webster in a stealth suit.
Session 8 – Narrative:
Webster followed his orders as we poured over aerial photographs and construction plans of Vazquez’s mansion provided by Tweaker. The place was solidly constructed with no clear means of unobserved approach to it once inside the perimeter wall. Someone suggested we try an approach from a nearby rooftop, and I spotted a tall apartment complex to one side that seemed to have the best view. With the clock ticking until someone noticed we weren’t in our cells at Stronghold, Hazel opened a portal close to the apartment complex and both Webster and the Knights went through it.
As Webster suggested we recon the grounds, TK Kid lifted Hazel off the ground so that she could get an overhead view of the apartment complex. Once she had a good fix, she opened a portal to the roof before us. Landing nearby as we appeared on the rooftop, we met up with the Kid and Hazel and began to plot our next move. We elected not to use the mind link because it would likely be visible to Vazquez, so comms were to be used, instead. We also acknowledged that Webster had a point about recon. Psi-Kick being the best suited among us, was to lead the way … so Hazel opened another portal – this time into the top floor on the side of the mansion closest to us. No sooner had Psi-Kick entered than the lights came on: motion sensors! Someone or something in a nearby room then paralyzed her, which resulted in Hardcore to rushing into the portal to her aid. Our recon plan instantly blown, TK Kid and Webster followed suit. I mentally boosted my speed, running, and defensive capability, after which I entered the portal … followed by Hazel.
Psi-Kick haymakered her way out of the mental paralysis as Hardcore assumed point position down the only hallway leading from the room. He was soon followed by TK Kid and Psi-Kick, while I issued a defensive mind control to him: “Disregard orders, commands, suggestions, or other communications issued to you by Avery Vazquez or those operating in/on his behalf in any way, shape, or form.”
At the end of that hall a door opened, and from it an arrow ricocheted off the opposing walls multiple times, exploding before Hardcore in a ball of light that left him, Psi-Kick, and TK Kid sightless. Hardcore then heard something run down the hallway, felt a stuff punch land on his jaw, and found himself on his ass. TK Kid, still able to perceive by way of touch, entangled Hardcore’s attacker, Hideous, using telekinetic chains. Hardcore got to his feet as something else bolted from the room and attacked him. He suffered no damage as it moved on to Psi-Kick, who sensed its mind coming and blocked it while it passed by and landed a square hit on TK Kid, who was sent flying past Psi-Kick back into the room I occupied. Next it made a quick pass and scan of the room I was in, and then doubled back from when it had come. Over comms I reported it was Thunderbolt II as he whooshed past us – just as another arrow flew down the hallway and exploded near Psi-Kick into a choking gas that filled both the hallway and room, affecting all of us except Hardcore.
As the cloud dissipated, Thunderbolt II made another pass down the hallway and into the room, barely missing me, TK Kid, and Hazel as he headed back out of the room. TK Kid got to his feet and erected an invisible telekinetic force barrier at the end of the hallway as Rainbow Archer unleashed a volley of three arrows. The first blew a hole through the barrier while the second whizzed through and struck Psi-Kick as the third harmlessly slammed into the wall near TK Kid.
As Hideous broke out of the telekinetic chains, Psi-Kick advanced down the hallway and attacked Rainbow Archer with a martial strike that failed to connect. Hardcore then jabbed Hideous and sent him flying backward down the hallway. Unable to withstand that sort of physical combat, I maneuvered into corner where I could keep an eye on TK Kid as I boosted my speed and endurance. Hazel and Webster must have had a similar thoughts, as she disappeared through a portal while he furtively headed into the hallway and down a staircase.
Hideous got up as Thunderbolt II rolled down the hallway, into the room, and then back to his point of origin – flattening Psi-Kick and striking TK Kid on his pass. TK Kid retaliated with a pair of telekinetic thrusts against Hideous and Rainbow Archer that sent the former into the wall behind him while knocking out the latter. Expecting Thunderbolt II to go after TK Kid, I did my best to mentally paralyze him before he reached the Kid, but I wasn’t quick enough. I managed to freeze his mind just as he connected with and knocked out the Kid.
Back up the hallway, Hazel indicated over comms that she was going to legsweep Hideous to set him up for Hardcore, and the pair worked their magic one-two style using a legsweep/kick combo that left their opponent unconscious. Meanwhile, Psi-Kick and TK Kid recovered, as I unleashed a pair of angry mental blasts at Thunderbolt II that left him crumpled on the floor. A short breather ensued as I wondered what had become of Webster. Before I could give it much thought, Psi-Kick alerted us to a group coming up a staircase behind a door near the end of the hall. She then opened up with her psi blades through the door, striking the first up the stairs twice. He yelled in surprise as someone whose mind seemed oddly like my own unleashed a mental paralysis that affected Psi-Kick, Hardcore, and Hazel.
I retaliated in kind with my own mental paralysis that snared four minds in the room with the staircase. Another breather took place, and, as the mind like mine broke free, I followed up with psychic static to blind it. In reaction to the static, the mind disappeared from my vision, right before Hazel and TK Kid double-teamed Mechassassin through the closed door, knocking him out.
Session 9 – Narrative:
I dropped a psychic crush on Nuke right before Hardcore, Utility, and Nuke all broke out of their respective mental paralyses, after which Nuke turned on Utility and shot him in the back with a radiation blast. Surprised, Utility yelled, “What the fuck?! You must’ve broken your conditioning!" as he fired back at Nuke with an electrical blast. Sensing opportunity, TK Kid pushed a pair of telekinetic thrusts that cold-cocked both Utility and Hemorrhage, sending them flying into Mechassassin’s unconscious body.
I made myself someone else’s problem and headed for the stairs to try to find Webster while the battle with Rage continued. Once on the floor below, I sensed an unconscious mind I knew to be Webster’s … in a room with a powerful mind that could only have been Vazquez’s. I reported it to the team as Rage created a shockwave with his hands that hammered Psi-Kick and blew Hardcore and TK Kid down the hallway and out the side of the building, missing Hazel only because she followed me downstairs. As Hardcore, TK Kid, and Psi-Kick engaged Rage again and noted that he seemed to be getting stronger with each onslaught.
Hazel advanced to the door nearest Vazquez and attacked him through one of her portals, wounding him badly and rendering him unconscious with a single, well-placed strike. She then opened the door and I ran through to Vazquez will reporting, “Tango down!” on comms to let the team know our mission had been accomplished. Still scrapping with Rage, Hardcore as what the hell a tango was, and Hazel clarified that we could and should exit the building and leave it to Rage, as we could get Webster and Vazquez out by portal. Seeing the wisdom of her suggestion, Hardocre, TK Kid, and Psi-Kick withdrew while Hazel opened portal to the awaiting PRIMUS agents – through which we brought Vazquez and Webster.
As the PRIMUS paramedics revived Vazquez, his head twisted slightly and he seethed, “I knew that this would come. I simply have too much information, and they will not allow me to be taken. The White King controls it all. Beware the son, J…”
As I watched the man who drove my grandfather insane and tried to kill my father expire, it occurred to me that his brain was not yet dead. I promptly initiated though transference and probed his dying thoughts to find a spiteful little man who felt there was no stopping what he had set into motion. He believed that better people than us had tried and that arresting him would only cause the snowball effect to accelerate. His thoughts then turned to his daughter, Juana, who he felt was innocent and didn’t deserve to die. He believed her death to be evidence that mutants were predisposed to violence because they couldn’t help themselves, and that the only way to affect lasting change was to eradicate all mutants. His spirts then lifted a little as his mind went blank, and cold – his last images of Juana’s death, and the meaning behind that having been what set into motion a machine he believed could not be stopped.
In the wake of the battle, we learned that the computer systems in Vazquez’s house had developed a virus which destroyed all data … as well as that on networks associated with Vazquez’s system. Sifting through the rubble of what had once been Vazquez’s office, a handwritten note was found concerning Hemorrhage’s creation … as well as a reference that read: “Subject S1 incubation accelerated for testing purposes. This will require periodic booster injections to stabilize neurological synapses. Further subjects to remain at standard aging rate to ensure stability. Katalyst."
Over the course of the next few months, the Knight’s status was reinstated as PRIMUS-Sanctioned heroes. DJ Johnson was suspended as Golden Avenger, and Robert Webster was placed in the position pending a full investigation. Director Dawes was similarly relieved of his duties, and Helen Robinson (Intelligence Commander of NYC base) was elevated as his replacement by Director Tyler. Alex Richardson was transferred to L.A. as Silver Avenger, and Stephen Xiao took over for him in Denver.
Tyler then opened a full investigation into PRIMUS to be conducted by members of a multi-departmental group from within the government. He also proposed a working relationship with the Hollywood Knights which would establish them as a Genocide Task force answering to him personally. That’s when he gave me the bad news, as follows: “John, I called you in here to let you go. Son, while you have proven a great asset to PRIMUS, I think your talents would be of far better use working with the Knights on a more permanent basis. To be truly effective, they need to trust you … and that isn’t going to happen if you have obligations to PRIMUS, directly. Now technically you’ll still be working as a sanctioned deputy … so not that much will change … but you don’t have to report to us, any longer. The group has earned our respect, and with that, a bit of space would be a good thing. Effective immediately, you need to spend some time with your parents; it’s been a long time, and now that you have them back in your life, you should embrace it.”
What choice did I have? As a reward for services rendered I’d been administratively severed from PRIMUS … the very group for which I had voluntarily ended my military career. For the first time in my life I felt lost and confused, for I had finished what my grandfather and father had started, but been given a back-handed ‘thank you’ for doing so. I would lick my wounds in private while maintaining my composure, for that’s what a good officer does … but deep down, I was pissed, despite the absolute need and desire to catch up with my family.
Sadly, the laws on the books and the public perception of mutants didn’t change in the wake of our ‘success’. TK Kid’s broadcast of our battle with the Titans in Vancouver actually made people more paranoid. The Titans were, of course, detained and subjected to a full spectrum physical and mental screening while PRIMUS PR spun the whole video as a ‘training exercise’. For obvious reasons, the whole story was buried … and a memorial was held for Avery Vazquez who was buried with undeserved full military honors. We attended, of course, and noted a huge turnout among which one thing stood out: his estranged wife looked every bit the grieving widow that she should.
The Mutant Underground relocated both their L.A. and Vancouver bases …. doubling down on its efforts to help mutants. We assisted quietly where we could, and I decided that their assistance to us would be something I’d gladly return in kind, if ever asked to do so…
XP and Rewards
Agent Storm receives 10 XP
Hardcore receives 10 XP
Nuke receives 4 XP
Psi-Kick receives 10 XP
TK Kid receives 10 XP
Witch Hazel receives 20 XP
Surrealone receives 10 GMXP for the Adventure Log
Agent Storm is voted MVP for the first set of three sessions, receiving 1 additional XP.
Hazel is voted MVP for the second set of three sessions, receiving 1 additional XP.
TK Kid is voted MVP for the third set of three sessions, receiving 1 additional XP.