[ASH] ASH #56 - Eager To Please
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Sat Mar 12 22:08:07 PST 2005
//|| //^^\\ || || .|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
// || \\ || || --X---------------------------------------------
//======================= '|` ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #56
// || \\ || || "Eager to Please"
// || \\__// || || Copyright 2005 by Dave Van Domelen
[cover shows the Assembly of Heroes, plus Breaker, posing for a
picture with a captive merlion, as if this was some sort of
fishing competition. Giantess is at full height, holding the
monster. Her face is not in the shot.]
ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL
CODENAME REAL NAME POWERS STATUS
-------- --------- ------ ------
Solar Max Jonathan Zachary Spacetime Control ACTIVE
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 MISSING
Lightfoot Tom Dodson Velocity Control RESERVE
Breaker Christina Li Telekinesis ACTIVE
Fury Arin Kelsey Concussion Blasts ACTIVE
[November 2, 2025 - Singapore, SEATO]
The cliche was that state dinners had an excess of three things: hot
air, wannabes, and rubber chicken. Oh, the actual meat supposed to be on the
plate might not be chicken, but it wouldn't really matter. You weren't there
to eat, you were there to be seen. Either because you were powerful, or
because you wanted to become powerful.
So far, at least, this dinner had surprised Tina by missing the last
ingredient. The meal had actually been very good, maybe those rumors about
Prime Minister Liebre having a supernormal chef were true.
Still plenty of hot air and wannabes, of course. And there was a fourth
element she had gotten used to watching for, but hadn't seen yet: attempts to
kill or humiliate national leaders.
"...gratitude to our fellow nation, the North American Combine, for not
only saving the world from the serpent, but also for their efforts on our
behalf recently," Liebre continued. Tina wasn't exactly tuning him out, but
she wasn't really focusing on his speech either. She was more interested in
the reaction of the diners.
Clearly, Liebre wasn't a paranormally compelling speaker. He was
competent, of course, and might even have been fairly engaging to someone not
keeping one eye and one ear out for an attack. Everyone looked like they
were paying rapt attention, but that was a show for the cameras. The mood of
the room was closer to wary anticipation. There hadn't been any attempts on
Liebre's life yet, but news got around, and the word on the (politically
connected) street was that if China had been making moves against the Western
Dragon, Liebre was an obvious next target.
There was even some scuttlebutt that Tina was actually a double agent
working for China. Just what she needed.
"And we sincerely hope that this is just the beginning of a long and
friendly relationship between the nations of the Southeast Asian Treaty
Organization and the North American Combine!" Liebre finished. Tina
applauded along with the rest, although her claps made no sound. That's what
happens when you wear kinetic damping fabric under evening gloves....
* * * *
[November 3, 2025 - Montreal, Venus]
Phil Benton paused and leaned his pruning hook against the nearest apple
tree, taking a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow. It was always warm in
Montreal now, under the roiling orange skies held up by Ste. Claudette. It
was always daytime, but he never saw the Sun. People who knew about
astronomy said that it should have been night by now, that Venus wasn't
locked with one side facing the Sun like the Moon always faced Earth, but
maybe it was now. Or maybe the Twins provided light during the times of
darkness, and it was this magical (holy, said the Sans Rouge) light that
accounted for the incredibly rapid growth of plants.
Phil looked up at the apple tree. It had been a seed about a year ago.
Just one of many miracles that had kept the people of Montreal alive.
Not everything had grown so quickly, though. The waters held in by
St. Yvan were essentially empty of fish, which either hadn't reproduced any
faster than normal, or had simply not kept up with demand. Nor had any of
the other meager food animals kept up with the plants.
It had been hard giving Spike over, though. He really had loved that
mutt, but there hadn't been enough food to keep pets for companionship. And
not everyone was unwilling to eat dogs and cats during the lean times. Then
again, he wasn't a lonely accountant living in an apartment and bowling alone
anymore. Between the shift to an agricultural economy and some aggressive
programs put in place by the Sans Rouge, everyone knew their neighbors now.
No shortage of companionship, to be sure. He supposed it was partly because
the Rouge wanted to make it harder for the remnants of the resistance to hide
in plain si...
The pruning hook fell over, and Phil nearly lost his footing.
"An earthquake?" he gasped. Nearby orchard workers seemed to be just as
confused as he. "Haven't had one of those for months now." There was no
moon, no natural way to tell time, but the old names held on.
"Is everyone okay?" the foreman called out. "Roll call!"
"Benton fine!" Phil called out, then waited as the others in his group
added their voices. No one had been hurt.
"That was a big one, eh, Jorge?" Phil called over to the foreman.
They'd had little quakes on and off for the first few months, later revealed
to be the result of the divot of land Montreal sat on settling into the
Venusian soil. But this one felt different.
And Phil was getting kind of sick of "different".
* * * *
[November 4, 2025 - Singapore, SEATO]
"Alright, here's the new plan," Breaker announced in her best drill
sergeant attitude. "Trying to grab all the merlions at once was clearly more
than you four can handle right now." She drove over the indignant responses,
"You're not a team, you're a bunch of individuals. Making you into a team is
going to take more time than I'm willing to spend, so we're going to try
something that uses all your strengths without counting on teamwork.
"Commando, your job is to swim towards a pod of the merlions and tag one
with a tracer, then get out. Then we wait for our target to get separated
from the others during hunting, and we can approach just that one. Giantess,
you grab it out of the water, then the Thunderer shocks it into submission.
Once we get it home, Microchip helps the marine scientists here develop
something like the old Chinese control system that we can use to keep
merlions away from ships."
"Hey, what's to keep Thunderer from shocking *me* into submission too?"
Giantess demanded. "Really big rubber gloves?"
Breaker nodded. "Essentially, yes. I'll also be there and help keep
the thrashing to a minimum with my telekinesis. Oh, and we could also have
had Commando hit the thing with a tranq dart instead, but I was asked to make
sure this was fairly flashy, for the news cameras. So lightning it'll be."
The Thunderer's confident smile didn't show any hint of smugness, but
from what Breaker knew about the man, he had to be pleased that he was
getting a job that was high-profile and low-risk.
"Still, this *will* be the trickiest part of the mission, so you and
Thunderer are going to practice it with a simulated merlion, Giantess.
Commando, Microchip, I've got a few contingency plans I want you to practice
at the same time...."
* * * *
[November 4, 2025 - Manhattan, Kansas Sector]
"Is it just me, or does this place get bigger every time I visit you?"
Thom O'Ryan gestured to take in Rusty's Last Chance Little Apple Brewpub
Annex in one sweep.
His brother Al chuckled. "Not just you, no. Rusty's has been expanding
on and off for decades now. It's just more profitable to fill any given
space here in Aggieville," referring to the business district on the
southeast side of Kansas State University's main campus, "with a bar than
anything else. When an adjacent business goes under, there's a good chance
Rusty's will snap up the lease. And when Westloop was having a bad time back
when I first came here, the steak and brew place there moved into this part
of Rusty's," he thumped the wall. "Anyway, some guys over in the
Architecture school have dubbed it a 'Barcology.'"
Thom snorted and raised his mug. "Cute. Well, today would have been
election day under the old system. Here's to democracy, may she rest in
Al paused in reaching for his own mug. "Come on, it's not that bad. I
lived through the bad times too, and while we're still a little behind the
democratic ideal, we're doing pretty well. Or do you know something about
the Senate's plans that isn't...stupid question. Of course you do."
Thom took a deep draught of his brew, then put down the mug and wiped
his mouth the the back of his sleeve. "No, it's not like that. The system
is clunking along about as well as can be expected, and the politicians are
no better or worse than they've ever been."
"A supernatural oligarchy is just around the corner, Al. Just look at
the Central Asian Confederation for an example. Five'll get you ten that
the Western Dragon is a supernatural. And then there's that minotaur running
Greece. Give it a few years and we'll have our own supernaturals old enough
to run for office...and don't think they'll have a hard time of it."
"Celebrities have been running for office forever, Thom," Al countered.
"There's always a few that get in, but we aren't run by actors in general."
Thom shook his head, then plucked a sprig of dried white flowers from
the centerpiece. "You know what this is?"
Al blinked. "Flowers? Botany isn't my thing." He had, in fact,
avoided plant science in general since his wife had died.
"Silvenrods. Five years ago, they didn't exist. Then a supernatural
with plant powers no one knew she had wished that she didn't have to cut down
all the pretty goldenrods in the back yard because of her mother's allergies.
Flash of power later, the goldenrods were white, but also non-allergenic and
genetically super-dominant. Goldenrods are almost extinct on this continent
now, all because of the wish of a young supernatural."
Al shrugged. "Nice metaphor, but..."
"It's not just a metaphor, it's a warning, Al. Supernaturals warp
reality. They make things happen just by wishing. If they want to run the
world, either out of noblesse oblige or more sinister motives, don't you
think they'll succeed? The Senate of Silvenrods is only a few years away.
And if supernatural start breeding true, like they seem to be..."
"Wait," Al interjected. "My biology may be rusty, but I thought the
Magene didn't follow Mendelian genetics. The Owens Effect can up the odds a
bit, but that just means a one in a million shot becomes two in a million."
"The Owens Effect as you're talking about only applies to normals who
want or don't want supernatural kids. Remember, being supernatural means
probability bends to your wishes. Not two in a million for them, oh no.
More like two in three. Silvenrods, Al."
Al suddenly felt a great need to drain his mug.
* * * *
[November 6, 2025 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]
JakZak finished reading the reports Tina and Grind had sent back from
the CAC, leaned back and massaged his temples. He'd started reading them a
while back, but things had gotten kinda hectic. First there was that
breakaway paragang that tried to set up shop in Boston, then the weather-
controlling kid in Florida, and all the cleanup from that. He just now had
found the time to read the report in depth, although skimming the executive
summary had been enough to keep him on edge.
A goddamned shell game.
Maybe the CAC was independent. Maybe it was a puppet set up to give
China plausible deniability. Maybe SEATO was sucking up to the Combine,
maybe they really were incompetent...Tina still wasn't sure about that part
Grind had said JakZak was being groomed for politics. [ASH #41 - Ed.]
He really hoped there was something he was supposed to figure out soon,
because he couldn't imagine doing all this diplomatic sleight of hand for a
career without his brain exploding.
Cool fingertips caressed his forehead.
"Slain the paperwork dragon yet," Sarah's voice came from behind him.
"Pshh," he opened his eyes and turned to face her. "More like a hydra.
Cut off one head and two take its place. And fire doesn't help."
Sarah leaned down and hugged her husband. It was a cold embrace, but
the best she could manage, being trapped in a body made of ice. And the
sentiment behind it was certainly warm enough. "Come on, get into some nice
civvies, let's go out. You've been trapped in this office way too much
lately. Even *George* is having more of a social life than you are, and
Not to mention no longer flesh and blood either, JakZak filled in the
blank. At least Sarah had regained most of her sense of touch, which helped
her occasionally forget her own situation.
"Sure, let me just lock down my files and I'll be right up so you can
decide if I own any 'nice civvies' to get into."
* * * *
[November 8, 2025 - Singapore, SEATO]
"It's right under my drone," Microchip pointed at the baseball-sized
green and gold miniature helicopter making lazy circles over the middle of
"Right," Giantess nodded, then grew to her full size. Her baggy and
diaphanous garments stretched to become skin-tight and quite revealing, and
she spent a moment to fix the alignment of her veil-cum-mask. Predictably,
it had gotten tangled around her face as she grew. Then she donned the
special gloves that had been constructed to fit her maximum size.
One of Breaker's suggestions to Microchip had been to start looking into
a better solution for Giantess's costume once this mission was over. She
knew some supernaturals in the TwenCen had been able to make their costumes
grow with them, after all. For some, it had been part of their powers, but
at least one had gotten his hands on some sort of supertech fabric that did a
much better job of stretching than what Giantess was stuck with.
"Careful of the soft riverbed," Breaker warned. Giantess had practiced
on similar surfaces over the past few days, but every spot in the river was
Of course, Giantess sank up to her chest after taking three steps,
having hit a particularly bad patch of mud. Fortunately, that had happened a
few times in training, and she simply shifted to a shallow breast stroke
after freeing her leg.
"I see it, and I think it sees me," Giantess's voice carried strongly
over the water. She stopped and stood just as the merlion breached out of
the river, fangs bared and talons slashing at the intruder in its hunting
territory. Giantess leaned back to avoid the attack, then waited the split
second for the merlion to start to arc back into the water. Her hand darted
out at an impressive speed even for someone who wasn't twenty meters tall,
and closed around the monster's tail.
The merlion was a younger female, and the differences in size made it
look like Giantess was holding onto a juvenile boa constrictor...albeit one
Breaker reached out to surround the beast with her golden aura, slowing
its struggles, then shouted, "You're on, Thunderer!"
In a burst of wind and a rippling of robes, the Cambodian hero flew to
the middle of the river where Giantess stood and touched his iron staff to
the beast's side. A crackle of electricity was visible even in the bright
early afternoon sun, and the merlion's struggles were reduced to weak
"All right, everyone, let's get this back to the lab!" Breaker said,
hoping that Thunderer hadn't accidentally killed it. In the simulations, he
was about fifty-fifty on that count, although he *had* gotten better near the
* * * *
[November 7, 2025 - San Francisco, California Sector]
George was dancing. He wasn't exactly sure how he'd agreed to it, or
why he had the impression that it was really his idea and not Geode's, but
there they were, out on the dance floor.
At least he was light on his feet, he inwardly groaned at his own pun.
"Am I doing this right?" Geode practically shouted over the heavy dance
beat blaring from the speakers. George just nodded...after a brief
resurgence of "step-based" dancing that you had to actually learn, the style
of "just move around with enthusiasm" had come back into vogue. As long as
he avoided the dreaded Eight Stereotypical White Guy Dances, he'd be okay.
And as long as Geode moved at all, no problem. After all, she literally had
a chiseled hardbody going for her, so even her somewhat inhibited and
tentative gyrations were...nice.
George's body didn't have blood, but he still felt a bit flushed. Of
course, from what he'd read in those diaries the professor left him, not to
mention some stuff he'd heard about the Taylors, being posthuman wasn't
really a barrier to having all of the usual human sensations, assuming you
weren't shutting them down yourself for some psychosomatic reason.
He took Geode's hand and tried a few of the swing moves he'd learned a
few years ago on a date that had ended very, very badly. She seemed a bit
shocked, but quickly relaxed into it.
The crowd gave them an even wider berth now that the super-strong lady
was being whirled around in circles.
This one wasn't going to end so badly, George reflected.
* * * *
[November 8, 2025 - Singapore, SEATO]
"Well, that didn't end so badly," Tina muttered as she took off her
gloves and goggles and set them on the desk in her temporary office. She'd
had classes in smaller rooms than this place. It felt like a CEO's lair,
with all the technological comforts, an imposing desk for making supplicants
feel small, an unreasonably high ceiling, and a view of the river through
ceiling-high armorglass windows.
It had taken half an hour for her guide to go over the basic functions
of the office. The concealed bed in one wall was a nice touch, and she had
half a mind to rack out here rather than head back to the palatial hotel
suite they'd given her. She could only take so much opulence at once, after
Sitting at that imposing desk, she woke up the computer built into its
surface and started catching up on a few news and entertainment feeds. Her
handcomp was much more secure, but for this she hardly needed security, and
the desk machine was so much faster and, well, okay...some opulence she could
"Shiny computer," she chuckled to herself.
After a few minutes, she stretched, yawned, and then put the computer to
bed. "I guess I can live with the presidential suite another night," she
muttered, reaching out a golden tendril of energy to pick up her gloves and
They dropped back to the desk almost immediately.
Breaker snapped to alertness, sleep pushed back for later. There was an
It could have been someone working for SEATO, they didn't have the CAC's
rabid anti-Anchor sentiment. But in this part of the world, the statement
"That Anchor works for the People's Republic of China" was almost always
Quietly, she picked up her goggles and gloves and put them on, then
reached out with her telekinetic "touch". Nothing unusual was on the other
side of the door now, nor any "hole" where an Anchor might be.
Breaker decided to play a hunch, and headed for the tank where the
merlion was being kept. If the Anchor was a spy, it made sense to go there.
Microchip hadn't yet built anything that could be sabotaged, so maybe they
wanted to do something to the merlion before it could be fully studied?
Moments later, she was at the door, tapping in her security code. Her
"radar" told her that she'd guessed right, and the Anchor was on the other
Inside, a few graveyard shift technicians were keeping an eye on the
merlion, which seemed to be sullenly lurking in one corner of the tank. One
was approaching the bin of fish that had been brought in to feed the beast.
Only, he was an Anchor, and there was absolutely no reason to assign one of
the now-rare power-dampening assets to this job. After all, merlions might
be the product of magic, but they were not magical themselves.
"Excuse me," Breaker called out. "You, by the fishtank. Can I talk to
you for a minute?"
Three things happened at once. The technician spat a phrase in Chinese
that Breaker's parents would have been dismayed to know she'd learned in
third grade, Breaker felt her telekinetic probes all shut down at once, and
the merlion started to thrash around in the tank.
This, in turn, told her three things.
One: Yes, this was probably a PRoC spy.
Two: Microchip must have built something after all, using supertech to
keep the merlion passive.
Three: That "something" wasn't working anymore.
Breaker shoved the door closed and hit the emergency bar, sounding an
alarm and locking down the lab. The spy could probably get out anyway, but
why make it easy?
"You should not have done that," the Anchor snarled as he turned to face
Breaker. One hand was in his lab coat, and it came out with a long ceramic
knife, just the sort of thing to bypass normal passive detectors. "Now I
will have to kill you before I can break out. And without your deviant
powers, Miss Li, that should not be too difficult a task for me...."
Breaker fights for her life, and even if she survives, she'll still have
to face "Bigger Problems"!
I'd admit to having read almost none of Hunter S. Thompson's actual
works, but he's spread a wide shadow over the segments of the media I do
follow. From Uncle Duke to Spider Jerusalem to the very thinly veiled
version of HST in one of the supplements for Aberrant to the Gonzo Journalist
card in Shadowfist, he's always been enough larger than life to bleed over
into fiction. Thom S. O'Ryan is my own homage to the man, introduced back in
ASH #11 when I needed a muckraking journalist who wasn't afraid to be part of
his own story. At the time I created Thom, I didn't know that Hunter was
also ex-military, but I certainly don't mind accidentally following reality.
So, rest in as much peace as you can manage, Hunter S. Thompson.
The events alluded to in the JakZak scene are not things you've missed,
I just wanted to avoid the impression that the off-screen characters had just
been twiddling their thumbs during this arc. They're busy too, just not on
anything I feel like detailing. :) I suppose if any of you are interested
in writing for ASH, you could try filling in some of these blanks as a
The second-to-last scene is not a flashback or anything, it's just the
magic of time zones. When it's 2 PM in Singapore, it's 10 PM the previous
night in San Francisco.
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