[ASH] ASH #46 - Shattering Hellas A: The Minos Touch

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Tue Feb 24 17:39:07 PST 2004

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #46
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||         Shattering Hellas A: The Minos Touch
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2004 by Dave Van Domelen

     [cover shows the Minotaur standing on a large relief map of
      Greece and the surrounding area.  He is stamping his foot down,
      causing the map to crack along several fault lines.  In the
      upper right corner is the image of a broken pillar and the
      logo "SHATTERING HELLAS" with a small alpha below it.]

                       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
               George Sylvester         Living Light             MEDICAL LEAVE
Essay          Sara Ana Rodriguez       Gadgeteer                ACTIVE
Peregryn       Howard Henderson Jr.     Elemental Mage           ACTIVE
Lightfoot      Tom Dodson               Velocity Control         ACTIVE
Breaker        Christina Li             Telekinesis              ACTIVE
Fury           Arin Kelsey              Concussion Blasts        ACTIVE

[July 7, 2025 - The Academy, Wisconsin Sector]

     "Not much to look at, is it?" Anya snorted, gesturing at the small room
hewn out of bedrock.  No one else was in the long hallway, but even if it
hadn't been summer break and the day after the remembrance of That Day, this
part of the Academy would have been pretty deserted.
     "Well, it *is* a jail cell," Coulter shrugged.  All the "rooms" nearby
were still largely as they had been a generation ago when the installation
had been called the Northwoods Correctional Facility.  "At least they took
out the restraint devices."  He didn't bother to add that they'd replaced the
existing locks with a simple spring-loaded bar that could only move in a
straight line.  When she got locked in for the night, or for any other
reason, her powers of telekinetic torque wouldn't be able to open the door
subtly...she could break out, but not sneak out.  Simple but effective, both
as a security measure and as a message.
     "I suppose.  And since broken air conditioning in an underground complex
is a reason to evacuate, I guess it'll be comfortable enough even this deep,"
Anna conceded.  "I still wish we could share a room."
     Coulter sighed.  That had been the hardest sell, oddly enough.  "Honey,
you know, I know and THEY know...you've done a lot of bad things for which
they don't have evidence or jurisdiction.  They're willing to give you a
shot, but one step at a time.  We can still be together in the evenings, as
long as you're back here by nine."
     Anya hugged her arms close and twisted back and forth in frustration.
"It's like I'm a small child with a curfew, and my parents looking over my
     Robert paused for a moment and considered that.  "You know, that's about
right.  Because eventually parents do let you go out on your own, once you've
grown up."
     This earned him a cold glare.  "I am grown up already," she snarled,
reminding Coulter that he'd hit a sore point.  Because of her early ballet
training and its dietary restrictions, Anya had taken much longer to reach
puberty, only really blossoming after becoming a supervillain.
     "It's just a metaphor," he backpedaled.  "Our lovely paternalistic
government has decided to treat you like a child rather than like an
incorrigible criminal, that's all."  He clicked the shutter on his cybereye,
a sort of mechanical wink that usually got a chuckle out of Anya.
     Not this time.  A muttered, "Not MY government," was all that escaped
her lips.
     After a pause that was just long enough to get uncomfortable, Coulter
picked up Anya's bags.  "Come on, let's get you moved in."  That should kill
about ten minutes, he thought...staying one step ahead of a number of
factions on a motorcycle for months, not to mention the whole circus
incident, had taught both to travel light.
     After that...they'd just have to take it as it came.

               *              *              *              *

[July 10, 2025 - Somewhere in the Andes, South American Protectorate]

     "Okay, you can open your eyes," JakZak said as he and Sarah touched down
on hard-packed snow.
     Sarah looked out over the snow-covered and jagged peaks jutting up from
a sea of clouds below and gasped.  "It's beautiful!  Where are we...the
Canadian Rockies?"
     JakZak shook his head, grinning.  "The Andes.  Peregryn said we should
test out the amulet someplace cold, and someplace where my powers were their
strongest, symbolically.  Well, aside from a spot or two in the Himalayas,
gravity is stronger here than anywhere else on Earth.  And no sense in
risking antiaircraft fire by going into China," he smirked.
     "It's like an alien world up here," Sarah whispered as she turned all
about to take in the vista.  "Nothing for miles and miles and miles, we're
completely out in the open, but no one's around to see us."
     "Maybe a few spy satellites," JakZak winked as he took off his helmet.
"Whoa, thin air.  Better set up the tent so I don't pass out.  And, um, to
deprive bored sat-intel wonks some jollies, too."
     Sarah gently punched her husband in the arm and then got to work helping
set up the pressurized tent, using her speed to rapidly dig out a hollow in
which it could rest securely.
     Within minutes, the tent was ready and she was helping JakZak remove his
armor.  "How's the temperature?"
     JakZak breathed in deeply and then exhaled.  "A little cool, but more
like having the air conditioning turned up than anything else.  Certainly not
the Oh-My-God-Below Zero that the thermometer claims," he jerked a thumb at a
small readout on one wall of the pressurized tent.
     Sarah took JakZak's bare hand and slid it up the front of her skisuit,
holding it against her stomach.  "And how does this feel?"
     "Like polished marble...cool, but not cold," he replied, slowly sliding
his hand further up.  "And softer than I'd expected, too," he grinned.
     Outside the tent, the wind started to pick up, but its moans went
unnoticed by those inside....

               *              *              *              *

[July 10, 2025 - Knossos, Crete]

     "People of Crete!" a mighty voice boomed over the rooftops, carried for
miles in every direction by enchanted breezes.  "Know that I am Q'Nos, god of
this land of old, and I have come to reclaim my domain!"
     Across the city the reactions to this bold proclamation were mixed.
Some merely snorted derisively, knowing that this braggart would soon be
dealt with by their preferred polity, be that the Eurasian Union or the
Moslem Confederation.  Others fumed at the blasphemy of setting oneself up as
a god.  But a few, those who had been paying attention to the world beyond
the local disputes of the island, trembled with fear, knowing that war had
come to them.
     Then there was one who reacted in a way uncopied by any other on the
island, for he was a hero.  He was the Bull of Allah, and he would not stand
by and watch his home be taken by a demon who wore the guise of a minotaur.
     He could not tell from what direction the voice came, with its promises
of reasonable treatment to all who would surrender, but the Bull had grown up
on this island.  He knew where one who thought himself an old Minoan god
might wish to speak from, the ancient palace of Knossos.  And so he leapt
into his reinforced jeep and drove there as fast as the early morning traffic
would allow.
     "I have been expecting you, man who calls himself bull" a voice carried
by the wind whispered in his ear, nearly startling him into losing control of
his vehicle as he drove up the gravel road leading up to the palace ruins.
He pulled over and leapt the remaining distance in a single bound, his mighty
thews propelling him into the presence of the demon.
     "Then you have been expecting to be driven out, devil," the Bull of
Allah proclaimed as he faced the bull-headed abomination who stood flanked by
two ancient pillars.  "Allah will not permit such monsters as you to live."
     Q'Nos chuckled, a low, growling sound.  "Allah, assuming He exists, does
not care about such petty mortal concerns as rulership in life, oh 'Bull.'
And even if He does, perhaps He is allowing me to live and thrive as a test
for the faithful, much as He must have allowed the disaster of a generation
ago to strike."  He grinned, exposing teeth that belonged on neither man nor
bull, but might not seem out of place on a shark.
     "Do not try to twist the Laws of Allah to suit your perverse needs,
monster.  I will fight to my last breath to protect the people of my home
from your evil...die if that is what Allah asks of me.  But I will not stand
idly by!"
     "Do you not realize that this is *my* home as well?" Q'Nos countered.
"Before Mohammed dictated the Koran, before the Torah was in written form,
this island was my domain.  I am willing to let you continue to worship what
gods you wish, so long as you accept me as ruler of this island.  It would
certainly solve the ongoing dispute over whether Crete should be part of the
Eurasian Union or the Moslem Confederation...it would be part of neither.  Is
that so unreasonable?"
     "You say you were a god, but there are no other gods but Allah.  If you
utter such a falsehood, how can we trust any of your other claims or
promises?  No, it is not reasonable.  Leave this island and go back to your
miasma of hellpits in Greece, Q'Nos," the Bull of Allah spat the name out as
if it were a bit of rotten pork.
     Q'Nos shook his head slowly and dramatically, as if he knew he was being
filmed by news cameras...which he probably was at this point, the Bull
realized.  "You seem to think you can stop me, that if necessary, the
sacrifice of your life will cripple me enough to force me to turn back.
Perhaps, perhaps not.  But whether you could best me in single combat is
irrelevant.  Or did you seriously think I came alone?"
     The shadows of the pillars to either side of Q'Nos slowly warped,
lengthening unnaturally and twisting into unholy forms.  Within a heartbeat,
they had become ebon hounds as tall at the shoulder as a normal man.  And
within another heartbeat, the Bull of Allah had no more heartbeats ever

               *              *              *              *

[July 11, 2025 - EuroNewsNet Broadcast]

     "The superhuman formerly known as the Minotaur and now calling himself
Q'Nos today eliminated the last significant local opposition to his takeover
of Crete.  The conquest, which started with a bold proclamation and the death
of the Bull of Allah, Crete's only native-born superhuman," a long-focus
image of a large man in a vest and trousers being attacked by shadowy hounds
appears as an inset, "lasted a mere 18 hours before local authorities
surrendered.  Loss of life is unknown, but seems to have been relatively
light, as the supernatural troops at Q'Nos's command routed defenders without
fully engaging in many cases."
     A map of the Aegean and northeastern Mediterranean now takes over the
     "The island of Crete has nominally been part of the Eurasian Union since
2012, but the Moslem Confederation has been making stronger claims on it in
recent years due to the strong Moslem population that includes refugees from
the Balkans and Cyprus.  The EU has held onto its official claims because of
the strategic importance of Crete as potentially blocking Russia's warmwater
ports on the Black Sea, especially since there were indications that a Moslem
Crete would be harder to deal with than the relatively moderate Turkey.  With
Crete in the hands of the apparently hostile Q'Nos, both Russian and Turkish
sea trade is threatened."
     Now a platinum blond man with receding hair standing before a podium
appears.  He can be heard speaking Eurolac under the English-speaking
     "Defense Minister Kjarlsson of the Eurasian Union expressed 'grave
concern' over the actions of Q'Nos, stating that this pattern of conquest
will not be allowed to continue.  He also warned the Moslem Confederation
against 'interference in our internal affairs'.  Unnamed officials within the
Confederation countered that the EU didn't care about a blasted Greek
wasteland and that it had been a Moslem hero who died in defense of Crete,
not a member of EUROPA.  However, no official response has yet come out of
the Moslem Confederation, which is notorious for needing several days to
bring its various member nations into consensus.
     "Chancellor Stockwell of the North American Combine expressed official
condolences for Crete's national hero, and promised the aid of the NAC in
this crisis should it be requested."
     The image shifted to the newsdesk.
     "More details as they become available.  And now Jean with the weather."  
     "Thank you, Karol.  It continues to be unseasonably warm in the British
Isles, likely a side effect of last year's repeated weather manipulation in
the Mediterranean...."

               *              *              *              *

[July 13, 2025 - Somewhere in the Mediterranean]

     "I'm too old for this," Simon muttered as he climbed up the grassy
slope.  In truth, he'd learned enough basic physical magics lately that he
felt as fit as he assumed he had when he was a young man.  He still had no
real memories of his youth, though.  And Q'Nos had been honest with him,
claiming no special talents with memory or ability to restore what had been
taken from him.  But the godling had given Simon useful clues, and that was
enough for the time being to help secure loyalty.
     For now, however, he had other things to investigate, such as the lines
of magical force in the land below his feet.  He sat for a moment and looked
out at the sea.
     "Strange that it would strengthen away from the sea," he mused aloud.
"Ah, but of course!" he realized.  
     Standing, he continued his walking for some time, then smiled and turned
sharply to the left, heading obliquely back to the sea.
     "Of course," he smiled.

               *              *              *              *

[July 17, 2025 - Istanbul, Turkey]

     The view from the conference room seemed to have been chosen very
deliberately to emphasize the many lines the Turkish government straddled.
Centered in the windows of one wall was the ancient Hagia Sofia, which was at
once church, mosque and repository of ancient treasures.  The other window's
view was bisected by the gleaming steel and glass spire of the Ataturk
Building, a 60-story tall earthquake-resistant skyscraper completed five
years ago with backing from secularist elements within the government.
     Old and new, mystic and technological, religious and secular, Turkey
covered quite a bit of ground these days.  They were one of the gateways to
the Moslem Confederation, which was both a cause and a result of their more
moderate stance on the influence of religion and tradition on their
government.  Some members of the Confederation tried to retreat from the
modern world, shunning trade and technology (save for military technology)
and embracing traditions that were forged by nomadic tribes or subsistence
farmers.  But Turkey, after a few generations where religion was actively
banned from the government, had found a working balance when circumstances
threw them together with the rest of the nascent Moslem Confederation a
decade and a half ago.
     Aaron reflected on this as he waited for the "Eye of Purity" to arrive
and fill the empty spot at the negotiating table.  Arc, of EUROPA, sat
uneasily across the table from Aaron. 
     +-Arc's the one who really has to go to the mattresses on this one,-+
Aaron thought.
     -+Yeah, and her anxiety is giving me a headache,+- Paul replied.
Granted, the head was Aaron's, and Paul was really just a sort of psychic
ghost, a memory of a man who died months ago, but the arrangement had worked
so far for Aaron.  -+She keeps thinking, very loudly, that she'd rather be
dealing with Rebus again than having to play the diplomat here.+-
     +-Well, the Eye of Purity insisted on dealing directly with supernormal
representatives.  He's supposed to be able to absorb powers, kind of like
Aegis, maybe he has some sensory powers related to that and figures he can
'read' supernormals better?-+
     -+Or maybe he just thinks that he stands a better chance being
understood by peers,+- Paul countered.
     The speculation broke off as the mahogany doors of the conference room
swung open to admit a slender young man in robes and a turban accompanied by
a short, balding man in a business suit.  The robed man had an eyepatch over
his left eye, a simple black oval with no ornamentation.
     "Greetings," the robed man said in lightly-accented English as he swept
over to one of the empty chairs at the table, but did not yet sit.  "I am
known as the Eye of Purity.  Mister Kamed will be assisting me on matters of
secular law as well as aiding me on the technological front...I'm afraid my
diligent study of the faith left me lacking in a number of practical skills,"
he smiled warmly, then sat down, gesturing for Kamed to sit beside him.
     Aaron immediately felt himself more at ease than he had been all day.
He'd been expecting some sort of fiery religious zealot, not a well-spoken
young man who seemed to have a sense of humor and a genuinely gentle spirit.
     "I will be frank," the Eye of Purity said once Kamed was settled down
and had his computer out, "ever since Allah gifted me with the power
contained behind this," he tapped the eyepatch, "I have suspected that my
destiny was tied to the land west of here.  The wars of the devils a
generation ago tore Greece apart, rendering large swaths of it uninhabitable
because of abominable magic.  I can heal the land.  But political concerns,"
he nodded to Arc, "convinced my government to hold me back, even though I
have proven in several places within our borders that I could repair the
damage done in Greece as well."
     He paused, and a stiffness like unto iron suffused his posture and his
voice now.  "We can no longer wait on diplomatic concerns.  A monster from
the past has found a way to use the shattered lands as the seed of an empire,
and he has invaded Crete, slaying a hero of Islam.  The Moslem Confederation
is unified on this matter: Q'Nos must be driven back, preferably destroyed
entirely.  And I will lead the Righteous Flame of its destruction.  I have
been empowered by the Confederation to take your concerns under advisement,
but we will not bend on the core of the matter."
     The Eye of Purity fixed his gaze first on Aaron, then on Arc, who seemed
torn about something.  Aaron decided to give her a little breathing room, and
cleared his throat.
     "As representative of the North American Combine, I'm here in two
capacities.  One is to attempt to avert any major conflict between the
Eurasian Union and the Moslem Confederation, and the other is to provide
advice regarding Q'Nos and his likely forces," Aaron opened.  "I have also
been tasked with reminding you that the North American Combine officially
recognizes the Eurasian Union's claim to the territory once known as the
nation of Greece, and while we support action to remove Q'Nos from those
lands, any action by the Moslem Confederation must be taken with consent of
the Eurasian Union may be construed as an act of war."
     -+I can't believe you said 'construed',+- Paul snickered.  -+Oh, and Arc
seems to have unclenched a bit.  She was genuinely worried that our new
Chancellor was ready to let the EU go it alone on this one and leave them
     The Eye of Purity nodded slowly.  "Do convey to your goverment that we
appreciate the North American Combine's help, but that Q'Nos has already
declared war on us by his actions.  We must respond."
     Arc cleared her throat.  "Officially, the Eurasian Union considers Q'Nos
to be a purely internal matter.  Outside assistance may be accepted, provided
that it operates solely under the control of EU auspices."  She held up a
hand as the Eye of Purity started to interrupt.  "Yes, I know you cannot
agree to those terms.  I have further unofficial instructions, if Mr. Kamed
will cease recording?"
     The Eye of Purity narrowed his eyes, then nodded to his assistant.
"What you say now is not part of the official record.  You have my sacred
oath on it."
     Arc nodded.  "Unofficially, we're willing to let you come in and deal
with Q'Nos.  We might even be willing to negotiate a new border that gives
Turkey some or all of the reclaimed territory, provided you can cleanse it as
you say you can.  But step one foot beyond the twisted lands, or enter any of
the Balkans, and we DO go to war over it."
     "I was told such an unofficial offer was likely," the slender Turk
nodded.  "And to accept it if made.  My government seems to think it likely
that the new borders will be...in our favor.  Mr. Kamed, you may resume your
record.  Now, Mr. Zander.  You said you had some advice to offer regarding
Q'Nos?  I believe you actually fought him some weeks back?"
     Aaron nodded.  "My advice would be, don't try to take the fight to
Q'Nos.  He's a canny bastard, and I can't help but feel that he's trying to
draw you into a fight that he's ready for and you aren't.  I've spent enough
time in Greece to know that it's not a friendly place for supernormals, much
less regular army troops."
     "But my power will cleanse the land ahead of the army, rendering it
perfectly safe," the Eye of Purity countered.
     Aaron shook his head.  "You will be creating a safe path, but this will
force your army into a thin line.  It will be like one long mountain pass,
letting Q'Nos use his forces like the Spartans at Thermopylae...only this
time, the Spartans have much better odds.  Q'Nos seems to be collecting a
small 'army' of mythic creatures and monsters.  In an open battlefield, you'd
tear them to pieces.  But when your forces can't stray from a cleared path,
well, let's just say Q'Nos has a heck of a force multiplier going.  On the
other hand, Q'Nos really doesn't have the means to do a lot of expansion yet,
as far as we can tell from spysats and my own research.  His powerful
combatants can defeat enemy units, but are less effective at holding
     The Eye of Purity broke in at this point.  "That is precisely why we
must attack now, before the monsters are strong enough to hold territory, as
you put it.  Now they are strong on defense by weak on offense, as you say.
Should we then wait until they are strong on both defense and offense?"
     -+Give up, Aaron,+- Paul sighed.  -+He's radiating his thoughts so
strongly I can't keep them out.  He knows it's probably a trap, but he also
knows Allah is on his side, and while he may die in the process, he will
defeat Q'Nos.+-
     "Fine," Aaron sighed.  "Additionally, my associate Peter can give you
information on the sorts of forces Q'Nos is likely to have available, as he
used to live in the twisted lands."
     "Is he a monster, then?"
     "Well, strictly speaking, yes.  Which is why I asked him to stay on the
other side of the border for now, rather than risk stirring up the citizenry
with his appearance," Aaron admitted.  "Also, I don't entirely trust him in a
city...he's a satyr, you see."

               *              *              *              *

[July 18, 2025 - Istanbul, Turkey]

     "For a Koran-thumper, that Eye of Purity ain't too bad a guy," Peter
mused as he strolled through a wild area south of the Golden Horn, idly
grabbing up reeds and fashioning them into a set of pipes.  Aaron had sternly
warned him not to go out in public in Istanbul, but while the satyr had
protested, it was really just out of proper form.  He had no intention of
spending time in that city, not after the last time.  Moslems don't react
well to horned people.
     Just as he was about to test out his new pipes, Peter spotted some
movement by the shore and carefully trotted over.  "Hallo?"
     "Hello," replied a thin and burbling voice.  Peter looked down to see a
woman in the water, he hair green with weeds, her face pinched as if she'd
been without a drink for some time, but still beautiful.
     "You're a naiad, aren't you?  A bit out of your 'jurisdiction', eh?"
     "I've come many leagues to find you," she replied, her head slowly
rising out of the salty water.
     "Ah, the ladies can't resist ol' Peter's peter," he leered.  "Care for
some water sports?"
     "Perhaps later, once you have returned to your own kind and I am back in
my river," she replied, although a faint look of disgust crossed her features
before she got them back under control.
     Peter cocked an eyebrow.  "My own kind?  What, are you recruiting for
Q'Nos, then?  Fuggeddaboutit, as the mortals used to say.  Q'Nos isn't our
kind, he's just using you all to help him grab power."
     "You could share in that power," the naiad wheedled.
     "Why take the risk?" Peter shrugged. "I'm already in good with some of
the most powerful people on the planet, I've got no reason to change my
colors now.  In fact, I'm helping the mortals over there work out how to kick
Q'Nos's smelly tail right now."
     The naiad looked relieved, as if she'd really not relished trying to
lure the satyr in, and preferred the tack she was about to take.  "How long
would they trust you if they knew...certain things...about you?"
     Peter barked a laugh.  "Like what?  That I'm a horny devil and that
locking up your daughters won't do any good because I own a good set of
lockpicks?  Look, you moistened bint, blackmailing someone who has no shame
is a waste of time.  There's nothing you guys could dig up on me that I
wouldn't own up to proudly."
     "Isn't there?" she smiled, revealing sharp, fish-like teeth.  "Is there
really nothing that any of us mystical beings could know about you that could
drive a wedge between you and your mortal allies?  Think long and hard about
that, satyr...I will be back for your final answer anon...."
     With that, she disappeared beneath the surface, leaving only ripples.


Next Issue:

     Armies clash, in Shattering Hellas B: Valley of Death!


Author's Notes:

     Last issue could really be considered the first part of this arc, but
when I wrote it, I hadn't decided whether I wanted to plunge right into the
war or let things sit on the back burner for a while.  Oh, and the numbering
for this arc will be A, B, G...alpha, beta and gamma.  In ancient Greek
writing, letters pulled double duty as numbers, as in many other ancient
     The Andes scene was inspired by a map in the February 2004 issue of
National Geographic, showing the strength of gravity over the entire globe.
The variation is only a couple percent at most, of course, nothing you'd
notice.  But it's something Solar Max would certainly notice, and be
interested in.  I also included the scene because this arc doesn't spend a
whole lot of time on ASH members, so I wanted to get in a few more bits so
they'd get to show up in their own title.  }->

     Finally, in case you're wondering why the naiad was pinched-looking,
it's nothing deep and secret.  She's a freshwater spirit hanging out in salt
water, which is dehydrating her.


     For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !

     To discuss this issue or any others, either just hit "followup" to this
post, or check out our Yahoo discussion group, which can be found at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ash_stories/ !


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