ASH: ASH #67 - "Monstrous" (Manifest Destiny Part 3)

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Sun Apr 2 19:40:39 PDT 2006

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #67
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||         Manifest Destiny part 3 - Monstrous
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2006 by Dave Van Domelen

     [cover is split into three horizontal panes, with the Leviathan's
      serpentine body acting as boundaries as it twists around.  In the
      top pane is a giant bird of bronze, in the middle a lion made of
      fire, and in the bottom a stone beetle the size of a mountain.]

                       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             DETACHED
Essay          Sara Ana Rodriguez       Gadgeteer                DETACHED
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 11, 2026 - Navka Ocean, Venus]

     The water churned as a mile-long serpent thrashed her way across the
ocean, hissing and spitting in fury as she went.
     "That upstart Astarte impersonator!" the Leviathan fumed.  "It wasn't
enough that she defeated me on the world that I *made* for her.  No!  She had
to wrench my spirit apart, out of one make many.  Sowing salt on the fields,
as if the blood spilled there was not enough!"
     She lashed out at a small atoll, stone and coral alike shattering into
shrapnel.  Once, she could have broken the entire island and sunk it beneath
the waves in a single blow!  But now....
     Sullenly, she swam through the gap she had created and rested in the
bowl of the atoll.  An analytical part of her knew that such structures
should take aeons to fully form...but she had wanted them on her new world,
so she had gotten them.  Venus was something of a patchwork of her desires
and memories, built to help ease the pain of losing her true home.
     "And she took them from me!" the Leviathan thrashed in anguish, sending
water flooding over the low atoll, only to wash back in through the gap of
shattered coral.  "She took ME from me!" she added, then returned to her
     Anger would return again soon enough, but for now, the Leviathan
wallowed in her pain.  After being torn asunder and losing that which had
been a part of her, the pain was one of the few things she had left.

               *              *              *              *

[January 11, 2026 - Vancouver, Columbia Sector]

     "Ah, what a gay, mad whirl," Julie twirled tiredly as she walked in from
the hotel hallway to plop down in the couch of the large suite.  "I think I
had five starlets at that thing strongly hint that they should play the part
of me in the movie about us that's been part of the rumorscape lately.  And
one outright *told* me she was perfect to be me," she sighed.  "How about
     Scott's face twisted into a wry smile.  "No, no starlets said they
wanted to *play* me," he chuckled.  "Although that one kid actor...what's his
name, Mac Pepoy...he kept hovering just far enough away to not look like a
fanboy, while never quite getting out of sight.  I think he wants to grow up
to be me."
     "Oh, like you've grown up to be you either," Julie snarked with a grin.
"Speaking of growing up, I've had a great idea."
     "Hm?" Scott hung his deep red tuxedo jacket on a doorknob, adding one of
the "please dryclean" tags from the closet to it.
     "What about Venus?"
     "We could get married there."
     "Um, well...I mean..." Scott hemmed and hawed.
     "No, seriously.  Okay, there's some Khadamites and monsters and stuff
there, but compared to the hazards of a high profile ceremony on Earth, it's
practically the same as getting married in a fortress.  And it's got plenty
of places just as beautiful as Angel Falls, so we could really..."
     "No, I'm sure it's fine in practical terms," Scott cut her off.  "It's
just that the whole wedding idea may not be where we should be going."
     Julie's jaw dropped.  An inner voice shouted, "I told you so!  You slept
with him, now he's bored and wants to move on!"  "W-what?" was all she
managed to get out aloud.
     Scott sighed and walked over to sit in the plush chair next to the
couch.  "I know this is gonna sound stupid and, and like a typical male
excuse or something.  But lemme get through it.  I read once in a psych text
that there's two kinds of romantic love.  The first is all hot and heavy and
desperate, and it's what gets people together in the first place.  The second
is more mellow, but longer lasting.  It's what makes marriage work.  And when
people get married during the first type of love, they often get divorced
when the second type never comes along to replace it.  That's why long
engagements are a good idea, because you know if there's a long term thing
going on before you make that committment."
     "And you don't have that second kind of love for me?"
     He shook his head.  "For a while, I thought maybe I did.  Then I found
out your brother'd been sharing space in my head, and that messed up *all* of
my feelings for a while, so I hung on and hoped that when the dust settled
things would be all good.  But they're not.  I like you.  I find you
attractive.  But I'm not in love with you anymore, and haven't been for a
     "Isn't that the sort of line the woman's supposed to give the guy?"
Julie half-choked behind a brittle smile.  "You been reading my magazines
     "I'm being serious, Julie.  I'm sorry if you still love me, and want to
marry me, I really am, honest.  But even ignoring all the ways in which being
my wife is dangerous, we'd just be setting ourselves up for all the everyday
average people sorts of problems.  We'd be in couples counseling within a
year, and probably a messy divorce shortly after that.  You're not clueless,
Julie.  Even if I didn't tell you, you'd eventually figure out that my heart
wasn't really there for you.  And you'd resent it.  And we'd become the sort
of tabloid Vancouver couple that we used to tsk at.  Still do, really."
     "Who is she?"
     Scott blinked.
     "The other woman.  Or man, I suppose, although I'd rather be thrown over
for a woman."
     He shook his head.  "There isn't anyone else.  I won't say I haven't
ever looked twice at some of the natural and enhanced beauties in this town,
but I'm not the jerk I used to be.  If nothing else, you helped make me a
better man...I haven't and wouldn't fool around behind your back.  But I'm
not a saint either, which is why I want to break it off now.  Before I DO do
something like that."
     "Sure.  Whatever."  She told herself not to cry, for all the good it
did.  Tears were already running down her face.  At least her makeup was
tear-proof, a small part of her noted with a glassy detachment.
     He started to reach out to her, then checked himself.  "I should leave."
     "No shit," she replied, an angry edge to her voice.
     Without any more words, Scott gathered a few things in his carry-on bag,
threw on his trenchcoat against the winter rain that was now starting to
tickticktick on the windows, and left.
     "What did I do wrong?" Julie asked the silent walls.

               *              *              *              *

[January 11, 2026 - The skies over Imdr Regio]

     Freedom!  No more shackles to the old, decrepit world and its squabbling
gods!  The skies of a brand new orb to call her own!
     The past is gone, only the present and the future matter!
     "What should I call myself?" she wondered as the wind tore past her
sharply beaked head at nearly the speed of sound.  "I am I, myself, free from
the old, a bird who flies free.  Do I need a name?  There are other parts of
me, but none *is* me, so why should I care what *others* call me?"
     She flew on for several minutes, smugly considering that point.  "Let
others bother with names," she murmured at one point, flexing her vast
metallic wings and then going into a dive.
     Pulling out of the dive and skimming the ocean, she dipped her beak into
the water for the merest moment and snatched out a mighty sea wyrm.  It was
easily a dozen meters long, yet in her beak it looked like an earthworm.
Gleefully, she sucked down the prey, and it fell into the roiling acid of her
     She did not need to eat, the air itself sustained her.  But it pleased
her to devour one of the children of the Other.  "I am no longer a part of
you, mother, but your children go into my belly quite nicely!" she laughed.
     "Hm," she pondered as a few beats of her gleaming wings took her back
into the sky and among the clouds.  "Maybe I do need a name, lest I simply be
known as a part of *her*.  But it is so hard to choose!  I know, I will let
the mortals choose for me."
     Defocusing her eyes, she looked into the days yet to come, a gift of
prophecy she took with her when she left the Leviathan.  "Men will call me
Bronzewing.  A bit simple and mere description," she admired her plumage,
"but I suppose not all men are poets in this age.  Bronzewing I shall be.
Bronzewing the solitary, Bronzewing the free!  I fly with no one!"

               *              *              *              *

[January 12, 2026 - Mount Olympia, Washington Sector]

     Scott touched down atop the snowy mountain peak, landing carefully so
that his residual heat wouldn't melt his footing out from under him.  Low
clouds shrouded the cities below, but the sky above him was crystal clear,
the stars shining down as harsh white points.  He'd read that some people
could see the colors of the stars, but he wasn't one of those people.  Just
hard, white flecks of ice to him.
     He pulled off his helmet and breathed in the wintry air, letting it
shock his lungs and hoping it could break him out of the foul mood he'd been
in since he had The Talk with Julie.
     "Damn it," he sighed, his hot breath forming a cloud of vapor that was
quickly whipped away by the winds.
     Trying to tell himself that waiting longer would have only made things
worse wasn't much consolation.  At least George got off planet before the
newsies started sniffing around.  No statement had been released by either
him or Julie yet, but the fact she appeared at a party tonight without him
was almost as good as a press release.  He'd set his comm on "official
business only" filters, but it was only a matter of time before someone
spoofed their way past that and asked for a comment.  It might now be after
midnight, but for the celebrity press set that was like noon for regular
     "What now?" he asked the wind and the night.  "Like it or not, Scorch my
boy, you're a celebrity now.  A Vancouver hunk.  Downtime would be good,
but..." he fell silent again.  But he'd be fighting the women (and probably
some men, as Julie had implied) off with a stick.  It'd be easy to go back to
short, meaningless flings, he'd certainly have his pick of ladies for that
sort of thing.  But he *had* grown up a lot in the time he'd been seeing
Julie.  He didn't really want one night stands all that much anymore.
     "Ah, maybe I should ask to go to Venus too," he sighed.

               *              *              *              *

[January 12, 2026 - Themis Regio, Venus]

     "Ah, land," Heraclius rumbled as his improbably thin legs lifted from
the surf and sank very little into the rocky shore.  And he did literally
rumble, his voice was like a modulated earthquake, moving too slowly for a
human ear to decipher.  "It is good to be out of the water again.  It is so
very wet, and things have started to grow on me.  I shall have to scour
myself carefully once I am dry.  Or I could let them continue to grow, I
suppose, if they are aesthetically pleasing.  Perhaps I would feel more
complete?  Perhaps not," he ruminated, pulling himself the rest of the way
onto land.  His undercarapace scraped the tops of trees as he walked,
knocking over some of the taller ones.
     "That looks like a good place to sit," he declared, moving towards a
nearby hill that was slightly smaller than his own bulk.  The sentence itself
took him several minutes to pronounce, during which he crossed most of the
distance to his new perch.  "Ah, yes, this is good," he pronounced as he
settled his bulk onto the hill, smashing the top flat.  "Now I can get dry
and think.  It was so hard to think in the water.  Why might that be?  It is
an element other than my own, yes, but so is the air, and I am now in the air
as much as I was in the water.  Maybe I simply do not like being wet.  Yes,
the simple answers are always the best.  The air may be the element in
opposition to my own, but it's so diffuse and easy to ignore.  Water is cold
and wet, hard to ignore."
     Satisfied with his conclusions, Heraclius sat silently for several
minutes, surveying the island upon which he sat.  Finally, he emitted a low,
gravel-grinding sigh.
     "Dry is good, but I still feel incomplete.  I am missing something, some
part of my soul.  And it will take so very long to find it if I have to
lumber around the ocean floor for days or even weeks at a time.  Perhaps I
should spawn, and send my children to search for me."
     Another long pause followed.
     "Can I spawn?  I feel that I can, yet I also consider myself to be
male.  That is certainly strange.  Of course, I am also living stone, which
seems to be strange as well...I have certainly not seen any other living
stone in my admittedly short travels.  Perhaps males of the living stone can
spawn?  Nothing to do but try, I say."
     For an hour or so, nothing seemed to happen.  But just as Heraclius was
about to give up, cracks formed on his upper shell.  Tiny pebbles fell from
his body, each a mere meter or two in diameter.  As they rolled down the hill
Heraclius sat upon, they changed, growing legs and heads, until they stood up
at the bottom of the hill, looking like miniature versions of their parent.
     "Ah, the sounds of children," he rumbled happily as he listened to them
skitter about.  "Go, my sons.  Fly to other lands, search for that which I am
missing.  Then find me and tell me if you have found it."
     They opened up their eleytra and extended crystalline wings that carried
them, humming, into the air.
     "Should I have been more specific about what they should search for?"
Heraclius pondered.  "Mayhap.  But, then, I don't know what I might tell
them!  If I did, I would not need to have them search, yes?"
     With that, the mountain-sized beetle started to groom himself, scraping
patches of seaweed and barnacles from his carapace.

               *              *              *              *

[January 12, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]

     "Oh, come on, Howie," Essay playfully punched Peregryn on the shoulder.
"People name things.  I think it's just something we're driven to do, can't
leave something unnamed for long."
     "I recognize that," he countered.  "But I simply think this particular
name may be ill-omened.  Especially considering what's happened at the new
volcanic island."
     She shrugged with a half-smile, half-frown expression.  "Calling it Pele
Regio follows the 'rules', anyway.  Half the places on this planet are named
after goddesses.  But I suppose that worries you too?"
     "Not as much."
     "Because those were names given when the world was, for all practical
purposes, dead.  There were no forces to disturb.  Now the planet is quite
alive, and new names could very well bind unwanted powers to it," the mage
     "I guess...whoops, this'll have ta wait.  The Lightfoot Express is
coming in for a landing," she indicated a flashing green dot on the screen
built into one of her armbands.
     Several minutes later, after the saucer had landed and everyone had
pitched in to unload its cargo and offload the small herd of goats that had
no doubt made the voyage...fragrant...the two special passengers had a chance
to catch their breath.  Metaphorically, at least, as neither actually
     "I feel so much better now that we are off that...thing," Geode
shuddered slightly.
     "I'm just glad to be away from the goats, myself," Beacon added.
     "No, it wasn't them, most people in my village raised goats.  It was...I
don't know.  I felt like there was a hole in me the entire time."
     "Space flight can take some getting used to," Essay nodded, putting a
friendly hand on Geode's blue-sleeved shoulder.
     "It may be more than that," Peregryn said, narrowing his eyes.  "Geode,
are you aware that you have strong aspects of the elemental about you?"
     "I am made of stone, yes."
     "Not just that," Peregryn shook his head.  "You seem to have a
connection to the mystical essence of stone and earth.  You are quite
literally OF earth.  I expect that it's not a connection you are consciously
aware of, and only recognize it by its absence when you are between worlds.
Now that you are back on solid earth, you feel more like yourself."
     Geode nodded, her impassive gold mask failing to conceal an obvious
sense of relief.  "I had worried that I was becoming ill...and how could
medicine cure stone?"  She paused.  "Still, that calling I've been feeling,"
she nodded to Beacon, "it is no less.  I am here, but just being on Venus
seems not to be enough."
     "Calling?" Essay and Peregryn asked at the same time.
     Beacon chuckled at the synchronicity.  "Yeah.  Geode's been feeling a
pull of some sort, telling her she needed to come to Venus," he got serious
now.  "I managed to convince Solar Max that this was important, and he let us
catch the next shuttle out."
     Peregryn assumed an even more thoughtful look than usual.  "I should
like to know more about you, Geode, before I venture a theory as to why you
feel called here.  But I should read the official reports first, so I have a
basis for my questions.  You should get settled in for now."  
     With that, he nodded and entered the shuttle, no doubt to request the
reports in question.
     "So," Essay grinned, "enough mysterious portents and official business.
What's up in the rumor mill?  Our bandwidth's a little tight right now for
radio, because we have to bounce signals off that satellite," she nodded
towards the sky.  Signals between Falcon Bay and Earth were blocked by the
mountains, so Lightfoot had left a small relay satellite in powered orbit
over the north pole for communications.  The plan was to replace it with a
group of satellites in stable orbits later.  "Anything juicy since I left?"
     Beacon frowned.  "Yeah, unfortunately.  It's not on the news nets yet, I
don't think, but, well, Scott broke up with Julie."
     "Maldita!  Why?"
     He shrugged.  "We didn't really have much time to talk before I had to
leave.  He says he fell out of love and didn't want to string her along any
longer.  And I guess, looking back, I should've seen it coming, but I was
kinda distracted."
     Essay looked at Beacon, then at Geode, and the way they sort of swayed
closer together when he said, "distracted."
     "Oh HO," she chuckled.  "Not so much distracted as diffracted, I bet,
si?"  Essay knew that underneath the blue and gold bodysuit, Geode was made
from solid crystal.
     Neither of the two were capable of blushing, but their body language
told the same story.  "How did you..." Geode stammered.
     Essay grinned.  Beacon slapped his forehead.
     "She was guessing," Beacon explained.
     "And thank you so much for confirming it," Essay chuckled.  "Oh, don't
look ashamed, Geode.  I mean," she patted her now quite visibly pregnant
belly, "it's not like I'm going to put anyone down for fooling around a bit.
And more power to you for figuring out HOW.  The whole 'no longer human'
thing doesn't really seem to stop anyone who's determined, I've found," she
winked as she recalled some of the more...interesting...inventions she'd
cooked up for JakZak and Sarah, so that he wouldn't, ah, wither at her icy
     "You are not married to the father of your child?" Geode asked, still a
little shocked by the idea despite months of living in San Francisco.
     Essay shook her head good-naturedly.  "Working on it, though.  Gotta
untangle some red tape, first...mi mama insists on attending, you see.  And
about a dozen brothers, sisters, you know.  Family."
     George winced slightly and Geode looked away.
     "Yes, family," Geode whispered.

               *              *              *              *

[January 14, 2026 - Pele Regio, Venus]

     In the heart of the volcano at the center of newly-risen Pele Regio
crouched a fourth presence.  A great lion formed from fire and magma, a lion
formed with a singular task.
     "You will watch over the others," she had said, running her hand through
his mane.  "I have defeated the Leviathan, split her spirit into pieces, but
now I must busy myself with other affairs," she pointed out.  "I am but a
small spirit, despite my new powers, and there is so much more that needs my
attention now than there was when I rested here, alone and mute.  I give to
you the burden of watching the other pieces of the Leviathan's spirit until I
can give her my attention once more.  Can you do that for me, lion of fire?"
     Infernion had simply nodded at the time.  He bore the spirit of the
world no great loyalty for her own sake, but she had chosen him wisely.  All
things complex enough to have a sense of self also have a part of that self
that works against itself.  The anti-ego, the will to destruction, that dark
desire to undo one's own existence.  Infernion embodied the Leviathan's
     Yet, he did not hate himself.  He hated the Leviathan, and all other
parts of her.  Even without being asked, he would seek to destroy, or at
least oppose, the other three great beasts that had been spat from his new
volcanic home.
     In truth, what the spirit of the world asked of him was restraint.  To
not begin battles immediately, but to wait for true provocation.
     So Infernion sat, patiently, in the steaming caldera.  Senses beyond
those possessed by any mortal slowly scanned the world, looking for signs of
his hated brethren.  For signs of the other lifeforms spawned by the
Leviathan, or brought in from another world.
     Perhaps the mortals scurrying about on the surface would be able to
defend themselves against the Leviathan's shards.  Perhaps even destroy
     "I hope not," Infernion rumbled.

               *              *              *              *

[January 14, 2026 - United World Building, Canberra, Australia]

     "Giant...goddamned...monsters," Delta Rose sighed as she turned off the
monitor and let it recede into her desk.  "At least none of them seem to be
able to fly into space on their own," she said as she leaned back and closed
her eyes.  As artificial constructs, they didn't really need to be rested
like that as she leaned back in her chair and threw her head against its
support, but it was part of the emulation program that let her pass as a
Santari.  Or a human, in this case.  She'd been doing it for over fifty years
now, and no longer gave it a second thought.  Or even a first one.
     Besides, she had much bigger issues to wrestle with than whether it made
any sense for her to look tired and stressed out even when she WAS tired and
stressed out.
     "First the planet magically becomes livable, then everyone and their
brother sends someone to colonize it, and now giant goddamned monsters are
running around.  Some days, I wish I could just drop a nova inducer into Sol
and be done with this system.  Then again, a stellar nova might not stop the
madness."  She shuddered at the thought of some godlike being rising from the
ashes of Earth and coming after the Planetary Confederation for revenge.
     "Fine.  Giant monsters.  Maybe an Ares unit would be able to stop them,"
she mused aloud in a dubious tone.  "Or two Ares units.  Yeah, like I'd be
able to get two of them onto one planet.  'One Ares is enough to reduce an
entire planet to ashes, you don't need TWO,'" she said in a mocking imitation
of her superior's voice.  
     A "cyborg" in only the strictest technical sense that there was an
organic brain buried deep within the mountain of walking death, an Ares unit
was a ground assault force of last resort, and only marginally preferable to
orbital bombardment in terms of leaving something behind for the victor to
take possession of.  None had actually been used yet, that she knew of, other
than in test runs on uninhabited worlds.  Which were now *uninhabitable*
worlds.  She had a sneaking suspicion that they'd really been designed for
use against Earth, although most of her fellow Galactic Warriors believed
that their true purpose was use in the civil war everyone saw coming.
     For now, she supposed she could only watch and wait.  There were a
thousand ways that she had at her disposal to obliterate Venus and everyone
on it if she absolutely had to.    
     And if the supernormals let her do it.


Next Issue:

     The spawn of Heraclius are everywhere, in ASH #68, "Legion"!


Author's Notes:

     You may have noticed a bit of structural fun in this issue.  Monster
scene, then non-monster scene that parallels it somehow.  Fun, yes?  It did
keep me from putting in one or two other scenes I'd thought of, but those
will show up next time. 
     A quick reminder, or news for those just joining us, Vancouver is the
new Hollywood of the 2020s.  With most of the Los Angeles area devastated by
The Big One in 2013, and a lot of film work having been drifting to Vancouver
even in the 20th Century, it was natural for the continent's pop culture
center to move north.
     "Eleytron" is the technical term for the part of a beetle's shell that
covers the wings (plural being eleytra).  If I recall correctly, they evolved
from wings themselves, as a four-winged critter became a beetle with two
wings and two wing covers.  Feel free to throw the term around next time
ladybugs invade your back yard.  "Look, what pretty red and black eleytra!"
     For those recently joining us, Geode's family thinks she is dead, an
illusion she has to maintain in order that they not suffer retribution at the
hands of her former government masters.  Her parents started the fiction that
she was dead when her powers manifested and they disowned her, but she still
loves them.
     The Ares unit concept was devised by Matt Rossi III, for a one-shot that
was never completed.  Perhaps one day one of us will finish it.
Unfortunately, I can't find my copy of the partial piece Matt did several
years ago.


     For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to !

     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 !


More information about the racc mailing list