[ASH] ASH #47 - Shattering Hellas B: Valley of Death

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Sat Mar 20 20:15:13 PST 2004

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #47
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||         Shattering Hellas B: Valley Of Death
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2004 by Dave Van Domelen

     [cover shows a long column of troops and vehicles at night,
      headlights stretching off into the distance, troops backlit.
      All around them are sinister amber and red eyes.]

                       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 24, 2025 - Istanbul, Turkey]

     "Well, *that* could have gone better," Aaron sighed as he and Peter the
satyr got out of earshot of the rest of the participants in the now-closed
talks.  Aaron had hoped to convince the Moslem Confederation to not send an
army into Greece, not to let themselves be drawn into what was obviously a
trap set by Q'Nos, the Minotaur of myth.
     "Ehh, there's only so many times and so many ways y'can tell someone not
to stick their dick in the blender," Peter shrugged, trotting along beside
him.  "If they're set on doing it anyway, it ain't yer fault.  At least they
got an under-the-table agreement with the EU, so it won't be a *bigger* war.
I like Arc, she's got brains and bod...you suppose she...?"
     "Nope," Aaron shook his head, grinning at the mental image of the
super-strong speedster, ah, "rebuffing" the satyr at high velocity.  "I'm
pretty sure she and Teller still have something going.  Don't fault your
taste, though."
     "What, you switching teams?" Peter arched an eyebrow.
     "I keep telling you, I'm not gay.  I'm not straight, I'm not bi.  I'm
psi.  And I'm no more likely to have any kind of deep relationship with Arc
than with any other non-telepath.  But I can still appreciate the shallow
stuff just fine, okay?"
     "Eh, just trying to getcher mind off the coming storm," Peter grinned
wickedly, reaching the limousine first and hopping in.  "All right, a
     Aaron followed suit, closing the door and motioning for the driver to
take them to the NAC Embassy.  Peter meant well, but it was kinda hard to get
BOTH of his minds off a problem this thorny.  Even if Aaron was distracted,
he could feel the psychic echo of Paul in the back of his head, worrying.
Multitasking could be a pain sometimes.
     The Moslem Confederation Expeditionary Force was massing in the Golden
Horn, ready to march on Q'Nos's forces in the Shattered Lands at a moment's
notice.  The Eye of Purity was on his way out to meet that army and lead them
in along a path cleared of the reality warps that had plagued most of Greece
since the "Godmarket" of 1998.  And the EU had already shifted additional
troops into Albania and the remnants of Montenegro to back up their public
     But as long as it remained confined to the Mediterranean, he was just an
observer.  And the one observation he was certain of so far was that the
whole situation was going to end badly.  VERY badly.

               *              *              *              *

[July 25, 2025 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]

     "Patch & Crow's Nest - At one point a pirate-themed bar, it has since
changed owners and themes several times without changing the name.  The
current incarnation is a fairly straightforward sports bar with reasonable
prices and slightly better than average service and variety.  What makes it
notable of late is its proximity to the Academy of Super-Heroes regional
headquarters, and the chance that patrons may catch a glimpse of one of the
NAC's own heroes relaxing off-duty there...." - Excerpt from Pieterzoon's
Field Guide To North American Cities: Chicago (2025 Edition).

     On the surface, the mood was jovial, a regular Friday night out at a bar
with friends.  A few of the screens showed the White Sox or Cubs games, but
most were tuned to the paraball game.  The Chicago Fire were currently
leading the Mexico City Knights 5-3, welcome news after the lackluster first
half of the season.
     But underneath it all, the mood was brittle.  World events were marching
towards war, and no one was more uncertain about what this might bring than
the group at a special corner table, currently swathed in green light thanks
to one of the half dozen or so occupants.
     "I really don't like just sitting around waiting for something to
happen," Scott fumed.  "When it was Rebus, we went in.  When it was
Doublecross, we went in.  Why not now?"  He took a sullen drink from his
     George, the source of the green light, shrugged.  When he spoke, it was
with a slight buzzing sound, as if he was using old stereo speakers that had
faulty wiring.  "Because we went in when it was Rebus and Doublecross, I
think.  Well, because you guys did," he smirked, acknowledging that he had
been busy being presumed dead at the time of the previous incursions.
     Darran, one of the intel people who worked in a support role for ASH,
nodded sagely.  "Doesn't matter that these have been 'our' baddies.  Public
opinion in the EU has been pretty savage regarding the fact that you guys
keep having to go in and save the day.  Leaves egg all over EUROPA's face.
And it doesn't help that the biggest ongoing threat on their doorstep is run
by an expat American ex-con," he shrugged, preferring not to mention
Chancellor Radner by name.  "Diplomatically, it'd be a real disaster if we
sent any of you into the EU right now for anything but consultation."  He
drained the last of his mug and set it down, sighing contentedly.  "But
enough talking shop, you two.  There's a far more important issue me and the
guys," he gestured to take in three non-powered coworkers and Tom "Lightfoot"
Dodson, "wanted to bring up tonight.  Tom?"  He nudged the speedster
     "Ah, yeah," Tom started somewhat hesitantly.  In a strictly legal sense,
he was old enough to be served in a bar in Illinois, what with being born in
1977.  Biologically, though, he was only 20 thanks to his time travel jaunt,
and he'd been ill at ease all night because of it.  "Two words: bachelor
     "What the old man said," Jefferson chuckled, the maint chief clearly
enjoying Tom's whole age-related discomfort.  "Running a proper bachelor
party for a celebrity like you is gonna take as much planning as the wedding,
at least in terms of security, eh?"
     "I can just imagine trying to find a strip club that passes security
checks," Darran chuckled.
     "Oh, no strip clubs," Scott made a cutting gesture with both hands.
     "What, Miss Silvestri already having a bad influence on you?" Jefferson
     "Nah, just never really saw the point," Scott shrugged.  "It's like
going to a restaurant where they only let you look at the food.  Anyway, I'm
not sure a bachelor party is a great idea, not after what happened in Ibiza
for Radner's.  All I need is for an Ares-class Santari Warsuit to pop out of
a cake or something, and I won't make it to the wedding.  Not that we've even
figured out where to have the wedding...probably want to settle on that
before even thinking of stuff like bachelor and bachelorette parties."
     "Have you considered the Cloisters?" Darran suggested.
     "The ones in New York City?" Scott arched an eyebrow.
     "The same New York City we're not supposed to go into?" George added.
     "Uh-huh," Darran nodded.  "Before you set fire to my shorts or
something, hear me out.  Devlin Marx has bought the Cloisters and turned it
into a casino and convention center.  It's neutral ground in the city, and
according to the reports I've been getting, the paragangs seem to be honoring
that.  There's been a few isolated incidents, but mostly at the start, before
word got through that 'isolated incidents' would not end well for the
instigators.  It's a beautiful setting, Marx owes you all collectively, and
it'd drive Umbrae nuts figuring out how he'd want to spin things."
     "There is that," Scott nodded thoughtfully.  "I'll mention it to Julie
and her International Planning Committee."
     Just then, a window shattered and people dove for cover.  In a flash,
Lightfoot was out of his seat and in front of the window, holding a tattered
baseball made of silk cables and covered in kevlar.  Then he grinned and
directed everyone's attention to the screens showing the Fire/Knights game.
     "And what a home run for Hector 'Slammer' McGee of the Fire, punching
RIGHT through Jesus Ibanez's force net AND the stadium's dome!  That was not
just out of the park, it might be out of the SECTOR!" enthused the announcer.
     "I'll be back in a minute," Tom grinned, lightly tossing the ball.
"Don't make any plans while I'm gone!"

               *              *              *              *

[July 28, 2025 - Shattered Hellas]

     Mujahid looked up and down the column of advance uncomfortably.  Allah
may inspire, but man is responsible for the details...and the details of this
operation worried him.  It reminded him far too acutely of the battle of
Teutoburger Wald and the lost legions of Tiberius: an army forced to travel
in a tight column through terrain that was unfriendly to them but home to the
enemy.  At least they weren't also hampered by traitorous guides.
     "Varus, give me back my legions!" he muttered.
     "Sir?" Yussuf looked over.  The lieutenant had been assigned as
Mujahid's aide, but had proven to be useful for little more than the tasks of
an orderly.  His education was, sadly, typical for that of a soldier of the
     "An old quote from a Roman emperor, who found his armies sent into a
situation such as this," Mujahid explained.  While the typical soldier's
learning consisted of propaganda, scripture and how to field-strip a rifle,
the men in charge of the project that trained Mujahid were wise enough to see
the value in a broadly-educated super-soldier.  Such a role required one who
believed in the nation with true understanding, after all, so there was
little danger in exposing him to a wider world.  Too many followed the Law
because it was all they knew, and they would abandon it once they discovered
there were alternatives.  Mujahid followed the narrow path of the true faith,
     But that did not mean he liked following *all* narrow paths.
     The Eye of Purity was indeed a holy man, exceptional among his nearly
infidel countrymen.  But he was no war-leader.  He honestly did not believe
that there was any particular danger to limiting the army to only two
directions of movement...they would always be moving forward anyway, thanks
to the grace of Allah, yes?  The Hands of Fire seemed to have a better head
for tactics, and the Eye was practical enough to hand over operational
details to the Omani, but tactical wisdom is not always tied to strategic
wisdom, and the Hands of Fire seemed to be a case in point.
     Mujahid was distracted from his thoughts as Scirocco sped past, raising
a trail of dust and showering the vehicles and men with pebbles.
     "Do not worry, sir," Yussuf grinned.  "Allah would not let danger slip
past the eyes of one so devout as our Jordanian ally."
     "No, He wouldn't," Mujahid replied, hiding his scowl from his aide.
Unfortunately, their "Jordanian ally" was hardly devout.  He put on a show
for the public, but in private it was clear he worshipped no power but
himself.  Oh, he was not one to proclaim himself a god in defiance of Allah,
he was merely self-centered and petty.  Mujahid treated him merely as a
tripwire for now, as Scirocco was likely to either fall to or flee from any
dangers first, his absence providing some warning.
     Even in this he failed.
     Mujahid heard the faint slap of bowstring against forearm just in time
to raise the small collapsinum buckler strapped to his left arm.  The arrow
shattered against it.    
     Centaurs boiled out of a copse of too-green trees, firing a ragged
volley of arrows clearly aimed at command vehicles and at the visible members
of the Righteous Flame.
     Mujahid raised the alarm by the simple expedient of opening fire on the
charging creatures with his assault rifle, ducking down to use the firing
slit in the truck's high walls.  A small corner of his mind realized Yussef
was standing stock still in shock, but a quick legsweep brought the aide
below the protected level before any arrows could find him.
     Gunfire chattered out of the column, to little effect as the centaurs
seemed to be uncannily nimble.  Every few seconds, though, a ravening lance
of white light lashed out from ahead of Mujahid, signifying the position of
Cannon, a converted alien cyborg who now worshipped Allah and served the
government of Egypt.  His tracking systems were superior to the human eye in
most respects, and soon he was finding a target with every shot, although he
was also being found repeatedly by arrows fired during the recharge cycle of
his namesake weapon.
     A few tongues of white flame far ahead told that this was not an
isolated ambush, rather it was coordinated along the length of the column.
Perhaps even timed to hit while Scirocco was as far away as possible?  That
the enemy had that level of organization worried Mujahid.
     The enemy was wheeling away now, leaving dozens of dead and wounded
Moslems, but no shortage of their own dead, thanks to Cannon.  Mujahid was
fairly certain he had felled at least one himself as well.
     The Base of the Pillar was only now reaching the edge of the column, its
lumbering pace being ill-suited to this sort of battle.  Much like the bulk
of the army, the mass of animate rock was best used in a "set piece" battle
where a slow moving powerhouse could get into a dangerous position.  Against
the Centaurs, it was only really a distraction target, one that they had
stopped shooting at once they saw their arrows did not penetrate its stone
     He looked at his shield.  The red paint covering most of it had been
scratched by the arrow, but there was no other effect on the wafer of
preternaturally strong metal.  That meant that the arrows were simply arrows,
not magical enough to penetrate a product of 20th Century super-science.
     Good.  The enemy had enough advantages already.

               *              *              *              *

[August 1, 2025 - Washington, Federal Sector]

     To the southeast of the still-standing buildings of the old United
States federal government...the Capitol, the White House, the Washington
Monument, and so forth...a second set of buildings rose from an area nearly
razed by the unrest of the turn of the century.  More utilitarian, lacking in
the neo-Classical charm of the older buildings, these structures were the
heart of the Combine government.  With a mere 100-member Commons and nine
Senators, there was less need for space, but more need for security.
     Broad, empty swaths of grass or pavement surrounded each building, with
defenses both visible and hidden placed all about.  Concealed silos could
disgorge antiaircraft drones or even anti-satellite missiles at a moment's
notice, and the underground was honeycombed with escape tunnels and bunkers.  
     For all that, the room in which JakZak and Agent Hendrick waited for the
nine Senators was unremarkable.  No extreme security measures, just a
standard, if well-appointed, meeting room in one of the dozens of office
buildings that ringed the edges of the NAC governmental complex.  Sometimes
the best security is just keeping them from knowing where to aim, after all.
     The Senators had arrived from different directions, by different means,
but all entered the meeting room within a minute of each other.  They all
took places around the table by some silent agreement born of habit and
off-screen maneuvers for seniority.  As invited guests, JakZak and Hendrick
had chairs against the wall near the head of the table.
     Senator Lafferty, the senior Senator for America, nodded to the two team
leaders.  "Mister Taylor, Colonel Hendrick, thank you for making the time in
your schedule to be available for this meeting.  You understand, of course,
that anything you overhear here is confidential, and covered by contracts you
have signed regarding NAC secrets."
     The two men nodded.  Hendrick wasn't, strictly speaking, under the
authority of the NAC, as STRAFE was a United World team.  But private
contracts provided a way to stopper up that loophole.
     "Fine.  To business, then.  Greece.  Opinions?"
     JakZak watched and listened as the nine most powerful men in the Combine
government laid out their opinions and propositions regarding the situation
in the Shattered Lands.  Compared to the Senate's public deliberations, it
was remarkably straightforward, with little posturing or playing to the
crowd.  It struck him that perhaps this was how the Senate conducted all of
its *real* business, the public debates merely being a show for the masses.
Playing to their age-old expectations that representative democracy must be
constantly tripping over itself, unable to make much real progress and
therefore less of a threat to those it supposedly served.  Maybe the State
governments really were that hamstrung, with their unwieldy hundreds...but
for all the obvious disagreements, the Senate was frighteningly efficient in
this mode of operations.
     Lafferty listened to the last opinion and then nodded.  "So, in summary,
we seem to have some consensus, but not much.  Sra. Alonzo of the Pacific
State and I think overt involvement is inevitable, and would prefer to act
before action is forced on us.  Sr. Gutierrez of Mexico and Mr. Talbot of
Canada think we should not get involved in any fashion.  The remainder of the
Senate believes something *should* be done, but short of direct intervention.
And no one can quite agree on what.  Sounds to me like we have a good
starting point," Lafferty chuckled.  "No matter what we decide to do,
someone's probably already got a plan worked out.  Mister Taylor, could we
hear your opinion of the matter?"
     JakZak nodded, standing so that all the Senators could see him clearly.
"With due respect for the Senators from Canada and Mexico, Q'Nos is a menace
on a par with Doublecross or Rebus.  He may be a *fallen* god, but that still
leaves him more powerful than any single force on this planet.  If we let him
gain political power in addition to the purely physical, it may not be
possible to stop him WHEN, not IF, he turns his sights on the Combine.  But
like the Senator for the Isthmus points out, it's not obvious how we should
intervene.  It's entirely possible that the Moslem Confederation will be able
to defeat Q'Nos, but will then try to march into the Balkans...do we put
forces there to reinforce the EU, even though we've been asked not to?  On
the other hand, I agree with my teammate Contact's assessment that this is
probably a trap, with Q'Nos luring the Confeds into a fight that will leave
them badly mauled.  In such a case, they might be tempted to use the 'secret'
nuclear weapons everyone knows they have."
     "Are you suggesting we send forces to support the Moslems?" asked
Jean-Bertrand Baptiste, the Senator from the Carribean.
     JakZak shook his head.  "No, I agree that doing that would just anger
the EU, and we don't need that.  Overt aid wouldn't be good, at least not
coming directly from the Combine.  Colonel, might you have some ideas on this
     Hendrick shrugged.  "Officially, no.  Both the EU and the MC are members
of the United World.  If the EU wasn't being so pig-headed and refusing to
admit in public the deal they made with the MC, we might be able to arrange
some support above-board.  Best we can do right now is try to sneak in a
team, probably Tracey's or Kleinvogel's, to do a little sabotage behind the
     "We could try to prepare for the contingency of nuclear assault," JakZak
added.  "Build a limited missile shield of some sort using some of the laser
tech we captured from Doublecross's bases, put it in geosynch over the Middle
     Lafferty stroked his chin.  "Maybe.  But I don't like the idea of
letting it get far enough for missiles to be launched in the first place.  We
could find ourselves in a shooting war with the Moslems if we do swat their
nukes.  Hendrick, I like the idea of a sabotage team.  Given how much of both
sides' fighting strength is focused in a few supernaturals, it might be
possible to tilt the balance without revealing the presence of the team."
     Translation: assassinating Q'Nos would be a really good idea, but we can't
come out and *say* so.  
     "Taylor, you'll be hearing from my office one way or another soon."
     Translation: it might be necessary to just drop an asteroid on Q'Nos if
the assassination team fails.
     "Gentlemen, thank you for coming."
     Translation: We want to talk in private now, and while you did sign
those contracts of secrecy, we don't trust you *that* much.
     And with that, JakZak and Hendrick were shown out.

               *              *              *              *

[August 5, 2025 - Shattered Hellas]

     The battle raged.  Colossal Cyclopses dominated the field, attracting
much of the fire and distracting the Confederate forces from other, perhaps
more dangerous threats.  Shadowy hounds darted in and out of the lines, the
so-called Wardogs of Set.  Harpies swooped and wheeled, dropping jars of
flaming oil or even grenades plucked from soldiers' bandoliers.  Centaurs
used the hilly terrain for cover and sniped at officers.
     All of this was clear to the Base of the Pillar, for although slow in
body, the Irani supernormal was just as quick of mind as ever.  Quicker, in
fact, which was a curse.
     HER curse.  In some ways, turning into a sexless brute of stone seemed
to be a punishment from Allah.  She would shed bitter tears over her fate if
she could still shed them at all.  But it was better than the life that she
had been growing into before her transformation...a bright girl in a society
that didn't value the intelligence of women, a nascent freethinker in a
closed and intolerant nation.  If she had manifested powers that left her
clearly human in form, she would have been stoned to death as a demon.
     She almost laughed at that.  Instead, she had been stoned to life, it
seemed.  Living, immortal stone.
     The Base lumbered onward, seeking out one of the giant Cyclopses as a
fitting opponent.  They could move more quickly than she could, but seemed
too stupid to think of anything smaller than themselves as a threat.
     As a human paranormal, she would have been a threat to the system, to be
purged before she could have a chance to demonstrate that she wasn't evil,
wasn't a demon.  So her parents faked her death and helped her concoct a
story of being a nearby rock outcropping come to life.  She had released some
of her fear and anger by smashing that rock to pebbles.
     Since then, she had been given a great many things to hit, and it did
help a little.  But it was all so unfair!  She was barely a woman yet, only a
girl by the standards of other nations, and her life had been taken from her,
replaced by cold, unfeeling stone!  Even an accidental encounter with one of
those called "Anchors" had not freed her, it was as if her natural state was
stone, and the only magic was that she could move and think.  It had been
like dying, if only for a moment.
     She reached her target, which seemed not to have noticed her, distracted
as it was by a heavy weapons platoon.  It at least seemed to have the
intelligence to block missiles aimed at its eye, she noticed.  The Base
grabbed its ankle and then planted her feet firmly on the ground, merging
with the stone under her and becoming immovable.
     The Cyclops noticed her now, and tried to shake free.  The ground
creaked and rumbled, but the monster did not succeed.
     "Clear my three!" she rumbled, a sound like a talking gravel crusher.
Well-trained, the soldiers to her right moved out of the way as quickly as
they could, dragging wounded with them.
     With a mighty heave, the Base of the Pillar toppled the gargantuan
Cyclops, its bones shattering like lightning-struck oaks as it hit the rocky
ground in an ungraceful slam.  A rocket-propelled grenade struck its single
great eye as it tried to rise on its one unbroken arm, sending it howling to
the ground again.
     She methodically started to work her way up one of its legs, striking
with her full force, shattering the bone into fragments.  It would never rise
again, and she would feel...better...for a good long time after so much
hitting.  Let the war take care of itself, she had her battle.


Next Issue:

     The war for Greece comes down to one climactic battle in Shattering
Hellas G: Storm of the Eye!


Author's Notes:

     As mentioned in an issue of STRAFE, the 2025 season marks an expansion
of the Paraball League to eight teams, allowing them to play each other more
often and the "normalball" teams less often.  Why so many paranormals shifted
into what is essentially entertainment?  Well, not all paranormals have the
temperment for combat, or appropriate powers, or the talent.  But getting
them into well paid professional sports jobs has many benefits, not the least
of which is keeping them from joining paragangs.  It also gets them into a
situation where they learn teamwork and creative uses for their powers...
while they may not be as combat-effective as the NAC Marshals, in a pinch
they can be drafted into a fight and be much more useful than if they'd been
left to their own devices.
     The 2025 season roster is skewed towards America, with no teams at all
in the Minor States of Carribean, Isthmus or Pacific yet.  The Baltimore/
Washington Federals and New York Neons carry over from the 2024 season,
although most of their rosters have been spread out across the other teams in
a draft arrangement.  Added for 2025 are the Mexico City Knights, the Chicago
Fire, the Dallas Stars, the Edmonton Megas, the St. Louis Cavaliers and the
San Diego Kings.  The Megas were originally intended to be the Montreal
Megas, but the backers were in town when Montreal vanished.  There's some
agitation to move the Megas to Montreal anyway, since their stadium was
outside the vanished zone, but the money is talking louder than the fans.
Investors in Tokyo and Sapporo are looking into forming teams and petitioning
for entrance into the league for 2026, rather than trying to run a two-team
mixed league a la 2024's season in North America.
     Oh, and if you're asking things like "Isn't there already a pro team
called the Fire" or something, keep in mind that not every professional
sports franchise survived past 1998.

     And now, a bonus "docket entry" on the Righteous Flame!

The Righteous Flame:

     The MC has been very inward-looking since the scouring of the Levant,
but the Righteous Flame reflects the attitudes of the "young turk" faction
that is looking outward again, hence their involvement in the current
campaign of expansion into Greece.  Of course, not every member reflects this
outward-looking attitude, they may simply be followers of more energetic
faction leaders.
     Being outward-looking doesn't necessarily make them tolerant or
embracing of foreign ideas, of course, but it does mean they will tend to
make concessions when dealing with outsiders.  For instance, when interacting
with EU or NAC reps, they will tend to give the translations of their
codenames, rather than put up with Westerners mangling the Arabic.  Mujahid
is the sole exception (even Cannon's real codename is Arabic...and Scirocco
is a Latinization of Arabic s^arq), in part because he is aware that his name
is a term well-known to the West.  

     Righteous Flame members: Note - the name in parentheses after the full
codename is the "battle codename", shortened for ease of use in combat.

     Eye of Purity (Eye) - Nominal leader, but tends to leave most decisions
to The Hands of Fire.  Tall, gaunt young Turkish man in simple robes and an
eyepatch.  The eyepatch keeps him from accidentally unleashing his
"purifying" power, which is actually the ability to drain the supernatural
from something and use it to empower himself (primarily enhanced physical
attributes, but at high levels of absorption he has been known to manifest a
"holy aura").  He answers to no name other than his codename or battle
codename, having left behind his birth name entirely.
     He sees himself as truly being on a holy mission to purify lands damaged
by the Godmarket.  He has tried also to purify the radioactive wastes of the
Levant, but it didn't work, suggesting to him that Allah wishes that
devastation to stand as a reminder of man's pride. 
     Ironically, Turkey's backlash against enforced secularism did not result
in a hotbloodedly zealous culture, and Turkey is considered one of the more
moderate members of the MC.

     The Hands of Fire (Fire) - Generates white flames from his hands.
Targets struck by them are not only physically burned, they also suffer some
kind of psi attack.  This generally takes the form of overwhelming guilt for
their sins, and Hands of Fire can reduce the physical burning if he wants to
focus on the psi attack.
     His real name is Aqbar al Hamed and he is from Oman.  Oman is currently
in a zealous phase, and Aqbar is considered a bit extreme even among his
countrymen.  He leads the Righteous Flame in fact, if not officially, because
his driven personality steamrollers the more introspective Eye of Purity in
most cases.

     Base of the Pillar (Base) - A hulking, vaguely humanoid stone figure.
She prefers to let people think she is a construct of some sort, and
cultivates the idea that she is the land given form to follow the Eye of
Purity's holy mission.  This is because her native Iran is very intolerant of
superhumans and is one of the more Taliban-like in its treatment of women...a
holy creature gets MUCH better treatment than a mutant woman.  Her family
helped her fake her death and create her alternate origin story, and they
still love her.  However, because she is supposed to be dead, they cannot
treat her as their daughter, and they know that revealing her secret might
result in her true death.
     Base is something of a moderate atheist in her heart, although she has
managed to get over her phase of cursing Allah for her fate.  Publicly, of
course, she says all the right words and does all the right things.  The rest
of the team suspects she was once human, but not that she is female (the Eye
probably figured it out, but is allowing her privacy on this matter). 

     Scirocco - Named S^arq by his parents after a harsh desert wind, S^arq
ben Jussef turned his name into a prophecy when he developed superspeed
powers and limited control over wind and sand.  Raised in the barely
habitable eastern parts of Jordan, he's something of a nationalist without
much of a nation (Jordan is more or less a protectorate of Iraq at this
point, having lost so much in the early 2000's war with Israel).  He would
love to see Greece become colonial ground for his family and friends to move
     Scirocco is an outright infidel, raised Zoroastrian but generally
faithless.  However, for political reasons, he feigns devout Islam faith...to
the point that his public act can seriously annoy the truly devout like The
Hands of Fire or Cannon.

     Cannon - Oddly, this is actually a Scytharian cyborg that was part of
the invasion of Egypt in 2024.  He escaped the warzone and turned himself in
to the Egyptian authorities, claiming he wished to not only defect, but also
convert (it's possible he "got religion" in the same weirdness wave that
enlightened Kaliban).
     Cannon is something of a symbol of the lack of trust growing in the
MC...not only do the other members of the Righetous Flame distrust him, Egypt
put him on the team as their representative because he's immune to the Eye of
Purity's powers (being non-paranormal), and they don't really trust the Eye.
     Egypt is about middle of the road for the MC, fairly devout and
incorporating elements of Islamic law into their current Constitution, but
not as strict as Iran or Afghanistan.  They distrust moderate Turkey, but
tend to side with Turkey against more extreme nations more often than not.
Needs no separate battle codename.

     Mujahid - This Afghani representative is a highly trained normal, not
really able to keep up with the rest of the team, but giving them a backbone
of solid tactical experience. Like the Eye of Purity, he has given up his
birth name and now only goes by his codename, which translates roughly as
     Mujahid is well-armed (although with purely normal technology aside from
his Collapsinum buckler, he even lacks much in the way of offworld tech) and
highly trained, and ready to give his life for Allah.  In public, he's the
perfect "Patriotic Hero" for Afghanistan.  But, as if someone up there was
delighting in irony, he's a really nice guy when he's not "on stage".  He's
still fanatical in his faith, but as long as you don't touch on the wrong
topics, he's pretty good to have around.  He even has a pretty good sense of
humor when off-duty, and is very broadly educated in a number of fields you
might not expect of him (and, of course, things you would expect, such as
military history and scripture).
     His government, however, does not have much of a sense of humor.  Their
policy is to execute any paranormals that exhibit powers, as they are
abominations and demons.  They don't even want to taint their representative
with unholy alien technology, and simply recognize that every so often they
will need to replace Mujahid with a new man, since a normal working with
paranormals tends to have a short life expectancy.  (Aside: the Taliban
managed to hang onto power in large part because after 1998 everyone but
Afghanistan's immediate neighbors ignored them in favor of more pressing
local problems.)

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