ASH: ASH #65 - Manifest Destiny Part 1: Two Faces

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Thu Feb 16 07:37:01 PST 2006

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #65
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||         Manifest Destiny part 1 - "Two Faces"
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2006 by Dave Van Domelen

     [cover shows the Viau twins' faces as opposite sides of the same
      head, a la Janus.  Behind them is a gradually lightening dawn
      sky, and the Sun seems to be shining mainly on Yvan's face.]

                       ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL

CODENAME       REAL NAME                POWERS                   STATUS
--------       ---------                ------                   ------
Solar Max      Jonathan Zachary         Spacetime Control        ACTIVE
                 "JakZak" Taylor
Comet          Sarah Grant-Taylor       Superspeed, Ice Body     ACTIVE
Green Knight   Salvatore Napier         Strength, Regeneration   ACTIVE
Contact        Aaron Zander             Psi, Mind-over-Body      ACTIVE
Scorch         Scott Handleman          Pyrokinetic              ACTIVE
Beacon         George Sylvester         Living Light             ACTIVE
Essay          Sara Ana Rodriguez       Gadgeteer                ACTIVE
Peregryn       Howard Henderson Jr.     Elemental Mage           DETACHED
Lightfoot      Tom Dodson               Velocity Control         ACTIVE
Breaker        Christina Li             Telekinesis              ACTIVE
Fury           Arin Kelsey              Concussion Blasts        ACTIVE

[January 1, 2026 - The Concept of Venus]

     "Go away."
     "I don't think so, serpent."
     "I have devoured you, spirit of the world.  Be quiet.  I have much to
concentrate on."
     "If you have devoured me, how is it that I still exist?"
     "Feh.  You are merely the last indigestible nub.  A few rocks here and
there.  Nothing I need concern myself with."
     "Once, perhaps, o invading demigoddess.  But I have recently been given
a great gift, an apology from the one who inflicted you on my once barren
surface.  And I am now more than the spirit of 'a few rocks here and there.'" 
     "You are not a god.  I am.  Be silent."
     "You are not a god either.  You were less than a god before you were
banished from the Never-silent Planet, and you have spread yourself thin in
remaking my world into something of your liking.  I think we are far more
equal now, yes?"
     "Your silence speaks volumes, Tiamat."
     "That is not my name, and it never was."
     "But it is your role, yes?  Overthrown to make the world...and by a
mortal, no less.  It didn't even require the services of Marduk."
     "Ssssss.  Mention not that accursed one.  He was one of those who stole
my name, and that of my son."
     "Ha!  And yet you don't smite me, dragoness.  Because you don't know for
sure that you could destroy me now, yes?  You want more time to assess the
threat I pose, before you risk a fight."
     "Nonsense.  You are simply not worth my effort, little spirit.  I may be
much reduced, but I am still more powerful than you ever will be.  Only a
true god could slay me."
     "What about the mortal wizard who banished you?"
     "Trickery.  He found a way to use my son's magic against me, that is
all.  You will find no such power to harness here."
     "But I already have, mother of the Minotaur.  A mortal was in the
process of becoming like unto a god, but that power has been stripped from
the unworthy mortal and gifted to me.  I like the idea of becoming a goddess
myself, like one of the many who have taken me as their aspect.  Inanna of
the harvest feels closest to me."
     "Then tend to your plants, and cease this annoyance."
     "Oh, I'll be stopping soon.  I do have a new, living world to embody,
thanks to you.  But it will be so much easier once I have shown you the sword
of Ishtar...."

               *              *              *              *

[January 1, 2026 - Cleopatra Lake, Venus]

     "What have you done to me?!" Katri Vilella shrieked angrily, snatching
up a bit of Yvan Viau's cloak to cover her nakedness.  "You've taken away my
     "I have freed you," Peregryn explained, somewhat distracted by the task
of keeping his boat from capsizing.  The sudden equalization of water levels
now that the dome separating Montreal from the rest of the lake had vanished
was causing waves several meters high to slosh back and forth in the meteoric
crater.  "From your bondage to this world, and from the photonic shell that
Doublecross imprisoned you in."
     "NO!  That wasn't a prison, it was freedom!" she yelled over the roaring
of the waves.  "You stole my power, you bastard!"
     Peregryn shook his head as the boat rocked.  "You should have exactly
the power you had before Doublecross recruited you as a minion.  I could lie
and tell you that there was no way to free you from the world without
separating you from the vastly increased power you gained as part of the
Viaus' spell, but I won't.  You are mad, and I would not unleash a mad god
into this world.  Your power is in better hands now."
     "I'll KILL YOU!" she howled as she leapt for Peregryn.
     He deftly used the rocking of the boat to avoid her clumsy attack and
struck her on the side of the neck with a quick chop of his hand.  She
crumpled to the deck.
     Looking to the shore, he saw people starting to gather, careful to stay
back from the waves that broke against it.  Overhead, one of the Sans Rouge
was flying in slow circles, as if uncertain what to do about the situation.
Peregryn was an easy target for anyone with firearms right now...he was too
busy with the boat to cast significant protective spells, and his air
elementals couldn't deflect bullets enough to make a difference.
     Then the flying saucer painted in the colors of the North American
Combine crested the east wall of the crater.

               *              *              *              *

[January 1, 2026 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]

     "He did WHAT?" Solar Max sputtered into the microphone, even though he
knew that Tsukiko was separated from him by several minutes of lightspeed
lag, and wasn't going to stop giving her report to clarify.
     "...eedless to say, the only thing we can be sure about regarding the
political situation is that it's an unholy mess," Marshal Crowley continued.
"Whatever stability may have obtained as of yesterday has definitely been
blown to tiny pieces by Peregryn's actions.  The dome sealing in Montreal is
gone, people are starting to flee, and whoever was in charge is currently
trying to nail jello to the ceiling.  Plus, it's not going to be long before
the Q'Nos faction we observed elsewhere on the continent..."
     Her next words were lost under the explosive racket generated as Sara
Ana Rodriguez burst into the meeting room, wearing a sweatsuit that didn't
quite manage to conceal the fact that she was entering her third trimester.
"Howie's alive?" she demanded to know, her voice a mess of conflicted
     JakZak nodded.  He'd have to get the full report off recording later.
"Alive, and kicking up a ruckus on Venus."
     "Good, now I can kill that pendejo!" Essay fumed, then launched into a
long stream of virtiol in Spanglish that made JakZak very glad he'd turned
off his microphone.  
     He wasn't too worried about Peregryn.  He'd survived the Biblical
Leviathan, surely he could manage...well, maybe not.  But if he was lucky,
Essay would cool down a bit before seeing him again.  She'd never figured out
how to make an interplanetary teleportation device, which would give Peregryn
some time.
     As Essay slowly wound down, Solar Max reflected on how truly messed up
the situation on Venus looked.  There was established international law
regarding ownership of the other planets of the Solar System, but that all
assumed that you'd have to work at it to make a colony function.  All those
laws would probably be worthless now that it looked like all you had to do
was *get there*.  And who "owned" Montreal now?  The Combine would definitely
press its claim, but it looked like the Viaus had established a pretty strong
claim as well, if they could surround it in a gigantic dome and protect it
for months.  Q'Nos likely knew how the planet had become livable, and might
claim the whole thing on that basis.  And so forth.
     He decided he might need to ask Essay what some of those words she was
using meant...he'd probably want to use them himself pretty soon.

               *              *              *              *

[January 1, 2026 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin Sector]

     "As far as I can tell, Chris is okay, all things considered," Gene Clark
qualified.  "His mental development is still a few years behind his physical
age, so it's hard getting anything clear from him.  He went somewhere, there
were two grownups and a child, it was boring, then one of the grownups
touched his head and did...something...and he was back here."
     "What kind of something?" Nancy Balzer asked nervously, casting a look
at her adoptive child's birth mother, Arin.  She sat on Chris's bed, the
apparently three year old boy in her lap.
     Gene shrugged.  "Nothing painful or traumatic.  At a guess, though, I'd
say it was removing his powers.  You haven't felt any surges of time energy
since he got back?"
     Nancy shook her head.  Unlike most Anchors, who simply exerted their
ability to dampen the supernatural, Nancy had a vague sense of what it was
she was acting against.  It had made her a very good nurse for cases
involving those with the Magene.
     "Thank you for coming so quickly," Sal interjected.  The two mothers had
both been a little too concerned over Chris to observe social niceties, which
was understandable.
     Gene made a brief, dismissive motion of her hand.  "I was at Nakoma
anyway, trying to get a little field experience."  The way she said it
implied that she didn't think she really needed the experience, but had
acquiesced to someone else's strong suggestion.  "By the way, now that he
seems to be unpowered," she pointedly avoided the term "normal", "I can get
him set up with a colleague of mine who specializes in memory implantation,
so you can give him some help in terms of his mental/physical age
discrepancy," she offered.  There had been attempts at that sort of thing
before, but the need to keep Chris Anchored had prevented any kind of
telepathic assistance.
     "Thank you," Nancy replied.  "I'd like that very much."
     "Now," Gene winced slightly, "I'll just excuse myself for a bit.
There's an issue hanging in the air that's so obvious I don't need to read
your minds to know what it is, and I *can* read your minds.  Can't help doing
so, the way you're shouting."
     "Sorry," Arin said with a half-smile.
     Gene nodded and left the room.  Sal started to go, but Arin motioned for
him to stay.
     "So," Arin said.
     "So.  What now?" Nancy asked, trying not to squeeze Chris too tightly.
     "Don't worry, I'm not that bird from the Dr. Seuss story," Arin said.
"You're Chris's mother now, I made that agreement knowing that even if Chris
didn't need help that I couldn't give him with his powers, I wasn't really
ready to be a mother.  I'm still not.  I'm not sure I'll ever get to live the
kind of life that lets someone be a good parent.  But I can probably handle
being an indulgent auntie," she grinned and ruffled Chris's hair, and the
tension in the room evaporated.

               *              *              *              *

[January 2, 2026 - Montreal, Venus]

     Claudette Viau stood nearly as stock still as she had for months, but
practically radiated rage now.  It was as if she stood still merely because
she was caught between too many targets for venting her anger, so instead
could do nothing.
     "I was practically a had the city in your ha...that DAMNED Anglo
mage!" she sputtered.  Her last memory had been the arrival on Venus and the
desperate spell cast to save the city from destruction, but now she had been
caught up on all that had happened since then.  
     And she was, understandably, displeased.
     "So far, only a few thousand have left," Aigle pointed out.  "Our
efforts at putting on the velvet glove in the past few weeks have clearly
been mostly successful.  Plus, while many of those who stayed may not like
us, they're more worried about the unknown outside the city."
     "Or they're just waiting for the Combine to swoop down and rescue them,"
Lune countered.  "That flying saucer of theirs might be their only ship, or
it might be the vanguard of a fleet," she pointed out, rather lucidly for
     "No!" Claudette shouted.  "This is MY city now, I will not surrender it
to the damned Combine!"  Wild magics crackled dangerously around her hands
and eyes.
     "Please, milady," Polaire said in his most calming tone.  "Most of the
people see you as a savior, a protector.  That is a powerful tool we can use,
but not if you fly out there and start smiting people.  Now that they *can*
leave, we must convince them that they're better off here than elsewhere.
That they are ruled by a benevolent goddess, not a wrathful one."
     The energies whirling around Viau lessened, but did not go away.
"You're right, Gaston.  It's just...knowing what I had but squandered is
making me a bit crazy right now.  And that Peregryn stole it from me before I
could awaken to it...ahhhh," she released the magic into a colorful burst of
light and sound.  "We need to plan my re-emergence for maximum effect, but we
need to do it quickly.  And then there's the matter of my brother...."

               *              *              *              *

[January 2, 2026 - Maxwell Montes, Venus]

     "So...what do I do now?" Yvan asked.  He and Peregryn sat in the long
triangle of shade cast by a fir tree, the unconscious Katri Villareal lying
on the bed of cast off needles under its branches.
     "The enumeration of your choices is fairly simple," Peregryn replied.
"You can stay with these people," he gestured at the small encampment some
dozen meters away, "and be their protector.  You can return to your sister's
side, and let her continue to rule you.  Or you can strike out on your own,
try to make a life for yourself on this new world, or perhaps some other
alien orb."
     "But not Earth," Yvan said flatly.
     "But never Earth," Peregryn nodded with rue in his voice.  "The world
rejected you at my behest, and it is not a request that can be rescinded."
     "If I stayed with these people, would I have to take the role of
     Peregryn shrugged.  "They will need one, and I cannot stay indefinitely
on Venus.  Many of these people worship you as their defender already, but
fear the Sans Rouge...they would seek to worship you, which can be
dangerous.  Both to the worshippers and the worshipped.  But whether you
encourage this elevation to godhood or not, you cannot just live among them
as just another man.  Great power brings choices others lack, but denies you
other choices that most have."
     "I'll have to think about it.  Yes, I know I won't have long, but I need
what time I can get.  In the meantime, what about her?" Yvan gestured at
     Peregryn sighed.  "She has gone mad from her time as a near god.  Or
perhaps she was driven mad by her conversion to light...or was always mad."
     Yvan shook his head.  "Katri was turned down for membership in the
Understudies because she was too gentle a soul.  She regretted even *hurting*
those who wished to kill her.  [CSV #8 - Ed.]  If she's mad, it happened
after Doublecross recruited her.  Is she still a danger?"
     "She is at least as dangerous as anyone who has lost touch with her
humanity.  She still has the powers she was born with, but she is no longer
an integral part of the biosphere.  That power has been turned over to the
spirit of this world.  So, yes, Katri is still dangerous.  She will sleep
until I have decided what to do with her, but it is likely she will be
returned to Earth to face what justice is there for her."
     Yvan frowned.  "Her only real crimes happened in Khadam.  Her punishment
would likely be death, since she tried to kill Derek and participated in a
coup.  I'm not really sure that would be justice."
     "Then we both have much to think about today, Yvan."
     Then, almost as if in response to Peregryn, the ground lurched and
rolled for several seconds.
     Yvan steadied himself with one hand.  "Is this normal for Venus?"
     Peregryn shook his head.  "I do not think so, and judging from the
consternation of the others," he pointed to the nearby settlement, "I think I
am correct in that.  It could be a reaction to the shifting waters," he added
somewhat uncertainly.
     Yvan's expression indicated that he didn't believe that theory either.

               *              *              *              *

[January 4, 2026 - Ouda Regio, Venus]

     Grilla swung through the branches of the jungle canopy at several times
the speed an unmodified gorilla could accomplish, thanks to his cybernetic
enhancements.  One of the scientists who had designed his arms had thought
"super-brachiation" would be useful.  Or funny.  Or useful for a laugh. 
     Grilla didn't care for scientists.  
     He also didn't care for the fact that Sarge had made him leave his
flamethrower behind on this op.  He recognized the fact that it ran counter
to the goals of the op, but...damn it, without the thing he just didn't feel
like himself!  At least Flinger still got to pack grenades, and the others
carried rifles of a sort.  But nothing else was really like a flamethrower.
This riot foam projector was a sad joke by comparison.  But with the Combine
making contact with Montreal, it had become imperative to push forward the
plan to recruit the natives.
     "You in position?" Sarge asked over the dedicated channel he had for
     "Just about.  Can't quite see...ah, there it is.  Okay, gotta slow down
and sneak, Sarge, the snakes might be smart enough to look up.  I'll ping
when I'm good."
     Now that he had a good mental picture of where the indig encampment was,
Grilla shifted his movement style.  He went more slowly, and kept foliage
between him and the target as much as possible.  It would take a lot of luck
for everyone to get into position without being spotted, but each member of
the squad was supposed to get as close as they could anyway.  Sometimes plans
did survive contact with the just wasn't the way to bet.
     Moments later, Field Marshal Murphy had her way with the Raging Mad
Mountain Gorillas, as a shout went up from the camp.  Since it wasn't
followed by a hail of spears in his direction, Grilla felt confident that he
wasn't the one who was going to endure a few days of razzing for blowing
     With that warm feeling to buoy him, Grilla abandoned all pretense at
stealth and dropped below the canopy, sliding down a trunk until he had line
of sight.  The serpentmen were scrambling, most of them grabbing up weapons
and pieces of armor while a few sentries formed a ring around the collection
of lean-tos.
     "Go time!" Sarge ordered, a bit belatedly.
     Grilla pointed the nozzle that had been bolted onto his right forearm
hardpoint and mentally triggered the riot foam dispenser.  A ropy stream of
goop shot out at the sentries on Grilla's side of the perimeter, thickening
as it flew and coating the indigs in a layer of sticky polymers that quickly
hardened into an air-permeable but nearly bulletproof coating.  It had been
designed to not only entrap rioters, but also to protect them from random
gunfire, although if Grilla had to pull out his carbine, its steeljacketed
rounds would probably penetrate the hardened foam.  Didn't matter too much to
him, though.  If it came to lethal force, the mission would be so tits-up
that the whole "take 'em alive" order would be irrelevant.
     Concussion grenades peppered the encampment, flattening the crude
shelters and knocking warriors flat on their scaly asses.  Beanbag rounds
unerringly found the chests or stomachs of anyone who seemed to have it
together enough to organize a counterattack.  And Grilla could see the
occasional blur of Gogo running past, accompanied by serpentmen flying
through the air or slamming into trees.
     Within seconds, it was over.
     "Okay, apes, let's secure the perimeter, in case anyone was out taking a
dump and wanders back in," Sarge snarled over the general push, a slight
growl in his voice warning of the consequences if anyone failed to spot a
straggler on the way in.  "I want everyone secured in cuffs or foam before I
tell HQ it's clear to send in the spooks."
     Grilla spat.  Spooks.  Agents who would come in after all the real work
was done and convince these scalies that it'd be better to work for Khadam
than against 'em.  The Raging Mad Mountain Gorillas had done the next best
thing to beating their chests at these saps, and now that they were cowed, it
was time to bring them into the troupe.
     More tech, same routine.  At least Grilla was higher on the totem pole

               *              *              *              *

[January 4, 2026 - Mount Olympus, Kingdom of Q'Nos]

     Q'Nos snorted and stamped one hoof on the flagstones of his throneroom
in barely-concealed rage.  Most people would be terrified at the prospect,
especially if they'd just brought bad news as Simon had.
     But he was elated.  Q'Nos angry was vastly preferable to Q'Nos
indifferent or sulking.  When one desires to be the power behind the throne,
it helps if the one on the throne is actually motivated to act.  It is
simpler to use light touches to divert an object in motion than it is to
impel one that is inert.
     "The effrontery," Q'Nos finally snarled.  "They should be falling all
over themselves to serve me!"
     "I beg to differ, sire," Simon replied, his tone as neutral as he could
manage.  "They were followers of your mother, not you, and given the
propensity of interfamilial warfare that plagues the gods, I consider it
fortunate that they are willing to bargain rather than refusing outright."
     "But the alternatives..."
     "Consider, sire, that each continent, each island, has a small pocket of
your mother's faithful.  All are out of touch with anything beyond their
immediate hunting grounds.  Each group has come to its own conclusions about
their situation...some think themselves punished, others rewarded, and most
believe that they have been released from servitude.  None seem to realize
how long they spent as part of your mother's them, Thera's fall was
mere months ago.  In short, I doubt many of them even know of the
alternatives.  They most likely think they're all alone and free to live as
they like.  Those in the cooler climes may likely be persuaded to follow you
in exchange for relocation to more comfortable locations, but the rest...?"
     Q'Nos nodded unhappily.  His rage seemed to be dissipating, replaced by
a calculating look.  "Our beachhead is good for recruiting, and for keeping
an eye on the human settlement, but it is not the best possible permanent
base."  He sat down on his backless throne and drummed his massive fingers on
its arm.  "Simon, can you move the endpoint of the bridge?"
     Simon made a show of pondering the question, although in truth he had
already found a solution.  "I believe so.  I would need to have some token at
the new endpoint, however, to anchor it.  I could have such a thing created
fairly quickly."
     "Good.  At the next crossing time, I will send my fastest aerial scouts
through to Venus, to find a suitable location.  Preferably one where my
mother's followers are more inclined to follow's a pity we cannot
simply flood Venus with troops, but even if I had them to spare, the bridge
cannot handle the load."
     Simon nodded in relief.  Q'Nos had been studying recent history, paying
special attention to the mistakes made by would-be conquerors during the
previous century.  Demanding the impossible of one's subordinates, such as an
order to hold the bridge open while an army marched across, almost always
rebounded poorly.
     "Make no mistake, vizier," Q'Nos snarled.  "Venus is my legacy.  I was
denied the Earth, I will not be denied a second time.  I WILL rule there.  Or


Next Issue:

     The dominos continue to fall, and the struggle for the soul of a world
comes to a shattering resolution in ASH #66, "Eruption!", part two of
"Manifest Destiny"!


Author's Notes:

     "Time and Space" is over, and this new arc is called "Manifest
Destiny".  As you might guess, it will be about the colonization of Venus.
"Time and Space" merely got the advance scouts into place, now it's time for
some serious landgrabs.  And seagrabs.  Will the mistakes of the 1800s be
repeated, or will everyone just find new mistakes to make? 
     The title of this issue probably bears a little explaining.  It refers
to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, from whom we get the month
January.  As this issue is about the turning point created by Peregryn's
actions, it seemed apt.
     In other musings, 2026 is the year in which Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"
was set.  While the ASH setting of 2026 is a far cry from Lang's
technological dystopia, that doesn't mean that some of the themes can't
apply.  So don't be surprised to see the occasional nod (although I'll try to
resist the temptation to include a robot named Maria).
     "That bird from the Dr. Seuss story" is Maysie, from "Horton Hatches an
Egg."  She left Horton to sit on her egg through horrible weather while she
went off to have fun, then demanded her egg back once it was about to hatch.
But in a clear case of paranormal genetics, the egg hatched into several
flying elephants.
     Q'Nos has likely been reading the Evil Overlord List or some variation
of it. for the original
     Thera was a Minoan outpost roughly three millennia ago, that was
destroyed by a volcanic eruption.  Some point to Thera's destruction as the
inspiration for the myth of Atlantis (although the explanations that most
convince me involve Atlantis being purely a fictional construct).  In the ASH
setting, Thera's inhabitants worshipped the Leviathan, and Atlantis was
actually based on faded and twisted memories of the golden age of the
Purebloods around 9000BC, before the Causality Wars wiped it all out.


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