ASH: ASH #66 - Manifest Destiny Part 2: Eruption!
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Sun Mar 12 15:54:00 PST 2006
//|| //^^\\ || || .|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
// || \\ || || --X---------------------------------------------
//======================= '|` ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #66
// || \\ || || Manifest Destiny part 2 - "Eruption!"
// || \\__// || || Copyright 2006 by Dave Van Domelen
[cover shows a volcano with a serpentine head poking up amid the
pyroclastic sprays. The layout evokes a certain famous pseudo-
religion's text that will remain nameless since they like to sue.]
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 DETACHED
Lightfoot Tom Dodson Velocity Control ACTIVE
Breaker Christina Li Telekinesis ACTIVE
Fury Arin Kelsey Concussion Blasts ACTIVE
[January 4, 2026 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]
"Join ASH, see the worlds," Lightfoot sighed as he went over the pre-
flight checklist on his handcomp. "At this rate, I'll be an old man
biologically by the time I finish my degree."
Darran chuckled. "Buck up. You can always take some distance learning
classes. Extremely long distance learning."
"Har dee har har."
"Seriously, the Academy is going to have to branch out sooner or later,
and you'll help them iron out the kinds of things they'll need to do for
people who want to pursue a college degree but who are too important for the
Combine to let 'em sit in a classroom for four years."
"I suppose. Too bad I can't use my 'speed stuff up' power on the
classes, though. I'd be done already."
Darran smirked. "True. Anyway, I'm not just here to give you a hard
time, I'm here to brief you on the latest political stuff."
"I thought you *weren't* just here to give me a hard time."
"Ha ha. As someone who's going up into that mess, I'm sure you'll be
glad to hear that the Senate has decided not to attempt to enforce
territorial claims on Montreal. They're backing the 'no nation owns the
other planets' treaties to the hilt, if only to have a wedge to try to keep
the other nations out of it."
"What about all the people?"
"They're still citizens. The Sans Rouge can keep the land, but they're
not entitled to any people. There's going to be an official statement later
today about that...anyone who wants to come back to Earth is going to be
given a chance, assuming it's possible."
"Wait...huh? I mean, if we can't finagle a passenger liner or two out
of the PC, it'll take a while, but it should be *possible*..."
Darran shook his head. "Magic. Remember, this all happened because the
Viaus got mystically banished from Earth [Capstone #2 - Ed.]. They'd tied
their souls to the city back when the CSV invaded [CSV #15, ASH #30 - Ed.],
which is why the isle of Montreal got yanked along. However, according to
Peregryn's report, he's not sure how far this halo went. The people of
Montreal might be banished as well."
"Wow. That would suck."
"Very. So we're going to be setting up a temporary settlement for them,
at least to help organize and process them, and keep them sheltered until
such time as we can organize transport. And if it turns out they can't go
home again...well, there's plans to make the settlement permanent. But,
getting back to my earlier point, the Sans Rouge are going to be informed
quite emphatically that if they try to keep anyone in Montreal by force or
coercion, the Combine will take action. Unspecified action, of course.
Gotta have diplomatic wiggle room."
"I hope I'm not going to have to deliver that ultimatum?"
Darran shook his head. "No, but you will be taking along a Senatorial
Aide on this jaunt, and she'll be delivering it. The rest of your cargo will
be prefab housing and some construction engineers."
Tom tapped the screen of his handcomp to acknowledge having read the
preflights. "Gotcha. Is that it?"
Darran started to nod, when a voice came from the doorway.
"Hold it right there! You're not leaving without me!"
* * * *
[January 5, 2026 - Venusian Orbit]
"Unidentified Pranir trading craft, this is Corpsman Severa. Break off
your landing approach and take up a stable orbit so that I may inspect your
A motion was creeping through the GWC higher ups to have the newly-
habitable planet below her Interdicted, but even on the fast track it was
taking a few days. In any case, the news wouldn't reach her until a day or
two after a decision was reached. Earth was already officially Interdicted,
of course, not that it kept Pranir away. But Venus was likely to get a
higher priority, since it "magically" became livable. Until then, though,
she could at least rigorously enforce the standard trade laws that normally
"Don't run," she muttered with the comm off. "Please don't run. Just
be a good snakepit and heave to."
The ship broke off and accelerated.
"Merde," Veturna spat. She found Terran languages to be a wealth of
obscenity, and in her job, you needed a lot of ways to curse. "They always
Kicking her small patrol ship's engines to eighty percent of maximum
thrust, she broke orbit and gave chase. The computer gave her the specs on
the ship, it was a standard Brings Prosperity Promptly-class trader, which
meant she had a fairly short time before it could get its hyperdrive back
online. She wouldn't be able to catch it, but she could at least get a
"Squealer round," she said to the ship's computer. Verbal interface
wasn't necessary, but it helped ease the long patrols to have something to
"Squealer round ready," the AI replied.
Veturna lined up the sighting reticule on the Pranir ship, which was
zigging back and forth in an attempt to evade her while charging its drives.
That might work against some piece of crap system-patrol ship, but her AI was
already seven steps ahead of the target and had positive lock. She stabbed
the also unnecessary but very satisfying firing stud and felt the slight jolt
as the rail cannon along the spine of her ship spat out the round.
The squealer lanced across intervening space at several multiples of the
target's own speed and, after making some minor mid-flight corrections,
latched onto the hull and started insinuating itself. The squealers were
designed not to do damage, but to require the services of a dedicated dock to
remove safely. And while attached they broadcast. Loudly. On all
frequencies. The message was usually something like, "Please report me to
the local authorities." Veturna's also added, "I am a doodyhead."
It *did* get boring out here, after all.
The Pranir ship jumped into hyperspace, but she figured it would be busy
trying to get the squealer removed for a while, so at least she was keeping
it away from Venus. Back to the boring part of the job.
The Santari didn't have an equivalent of Murphy's Law, but she certainly
felt the sentiment a moment later when her sensors picked up significant
seismic activity at the south pole of the planet.
* * * *
[January 5, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]
Reeds at the shore rippled gently under the lapping of waves and the
occasional gusts of wind, as a dozen or so people roamed around the shallow
curve of the bay. The hardiest of the refugees from Montreal, they had made
the walk down the slopes of the Maxwell Montes to scout out a good location
for the "temporary" resettlement. A mix of young and (relatively) old, men
and women...one even carried an infant on her back. Of course, one figure
stood out among them, his freshly repaired robes fluttering in the cool
breeze coming in off the sea: Peregryn.
He looked up before the others did, but in moments they all stopped what
they were doing and started moving towards a stretch of flat stone by the
shore, as they saw the saucer-like craft begin its landing approach under
silent gravitic drives.
The effect of the stately approach was ruined, however, when one of the
hatches opened while the craft was still meters off the ground and a visibly
pregnant woman jumped out and tackled Peregryn, who was too stunned to do
anything but fall over onto the mossy ground.
"Howie!" Essay gasped, then kissed him fiercely. A few of the onlookers
chuckled or made cooing sounds, but the rest concentrated on the landing
saucer...it contained their future, at least in the short term.
By the time Essay came up for air, people were already unloading the
cargo contained on the saucer.
"Sara, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but our daughter...are you sure you
"Be what? Jumping around? On Venus in the first place? I'm no
delicate Vancouver starlet putting her feet up for the whole last trimester,
Howie. Mi mama was working up to the day I was born, same thing for all of
my brothers and sisters. God put in extra steel when he made us Rodriguez
women," she chuckled, getting to her feet and offering Peregryn a hand up.
"Welcome to Falcon Bay," Peregryn said as he took her hand and stood.
She chuckled. "Falcon, as in peregrine? What, they tried to name it
after you and you steered 'em away? How modest."
A half-smile flirted across his features. "Not exactly modesty. Names
have power, especially here on a world where so little has been named by
mankind. And it's an unpredictable sort of power that I'd rather not have
attached to my spirit at this stage. Not given how everything got the way it
"Huh. How *did* it all get this way?" Essay asked as they started to
walk over to the spaceship. "I've read your reports, but you were hedging on
a lot of things 'until I'm sure'. Gimme the speculation."
Peregryn shrugged. "Most of that concerns technical matters, things
that only a serious student of magic would care about. Minutae, possible
ways to replicate, and so forth. But I did leave out one significant point
that you wouldn't be bored to tears by. The WorldMaze's fate."
"As I reported, the Viaus had established a web of mystic conduits using
fragments of the Berlin Wall to perform sympathetic magic. One such fragment
had been placed in the Cleopatra Crater," he pointed in the direction from
which the refugees had come. "When I banished the Viaus, all of the
Earthbound termini of this network were destroyed, either by the banishment
itself or by the massive energies released by the passage of an entire city
through the network as Montreal moved to this world. I presume that it was
this release of energy that the twins tapped into in order to create the
protective dome around Montreal."
"But there are other extraterrestrial fragments. And I believe that the
remnants of the WorldMaze still exist. If the Venusian fragment survived the
arrival of Montreal and can be recovered, Caryatid may be able to travel to
whatever other locations remain in the system...and I have no idea how many
of those there are."
"Or where, yes."
As the supernormal lovers entered the saucer, "Kim Bell" watched from a
careful distance. Her daughter's Anchor field was remarkably controlled for
such a small child, but it wouldn't do to get too close to any of the
supernormals just yet and let them know that the heir of Rebus was being
hidden in plain sight in Falcon Bay.
Innocenza, or "Cindy" as the others knew her, gurgled happily in her
papoose. Gimble smiled over her shoulder at her daughter before heading over
to help sort the supplies. "Kim" was a civil engineer, after all. Keep it
simple. Make the cover something you can remember without too much effort,
and involve skills you have. A professional spy would never have used such
obvious details, but even they wouldn't recommend an amateur try anything too
Besides, no one here should even know Gimble was no longer a humanoid
* * * *
[January 6, 2026 - San Francisco, California Sector]
"Could you fly me there?" Geode asked, pointing at the fading star of
morning in the eastern sky.
George cocked his head. "Not in any reasonable amount of time, no.
Even assuming you're able to survive in space. Not an unreasonable
assumption, but still."
"You're made of light, can't you move at the speed of light?"
He shook his head. "I'm solid light, and I have mass. The faster I
want to go, the less solid I have to be, and it just...well, feels like I'm
dissipating when I get too unsolid. Like I'm not going to come back from
it. For all I know, it's a limitation of my borrowed body in particular, and
not of the photonics in general. But I can't get above, oh, Mach 3 without
feeling like I'm starting to fade away. Besides, even if I could hold it
together at light speed, I wouldn't have any way to carry you. Or anything
else. I start to go all butterfingers well below the speed of sound."
"Perhaps, if you had some sort of container to keep you from fading?"
"Like me," Geode pointed at her chest.
George laughed. "Given how we both feel when I'm just a little bit
inside you, I don't think I'd be able to fly anywhere if we merged all the
way. But why do you want to go to Venus anyway?"
She shrugged. "It's...a compulsion. I can't really understand it
myself. Like a calling from the heavens, like I know my destiny is there and
not here. But I am not trusted enough to be taken there by spaceship, I have
"Huh. Well, I do know we're trying to charter some passenger ships for
evacuation purposes. Maybe once that's set up, I could talk to JakZak about
getting us permission to travel out on one of the empty runs. In the
meantime, I think we should see if anyone can help you figure out why you've
got this compulsion. If it's tied to the fact that the Leviathan almost
killed you, it might not be a *good* compulsion...."
* * * *
[January 7, 2026 - 100 miles from Montreal, Maxwell Montes, Venus]
"I know you've been waiting to hear this, Zdeslav...you're in charge
here now," Willie said as he hefted his pack onto his shoulders. "I'll try
to have an uplink ready to go in five hours, although Vifrum Regio's too far
away for line of sight and the local magnetosphere is still pretty damn iffy.
The Croat technician nodded. The fact that he was only in charge of
Slim the cyclops and a half dozen centaurs meant he wasn't really thrilled,
but he was clearly glad to see Willie go. Not so glad to see Jessica go,
In a flash of multicolored light, the rainbow manifested nearby,
touching down on the token Simon Smith had created as an anchor for it. Now
that it would be moving back and forth between two locations, the mage had
felt it needed the extra guidance.
Willie and the rest of his team stepped into the shimmering curtain, and
in less time than it takes to think, "Wow, colors!" they were back atop Mount
"Is that everyone?" the vizier asked as he wiped a bit of sweat from his
brow, incongruous in the winter morning chill.
Willie looked around and took a quick inventory. "Yep. Everyone that's
going is here."
Smith nodded and concentrated. "The bridge should now take you to the
location that the harpies scouted. They will remain at your disposal for
sentry duty and to carry messages in the event you are unable to establish
radio contact. Please step lively."
For the second time in as many minutes, Willie entered the shimmering
curtain, and nearly gasped on arrival. The transition from wintry cold to
jungle humidity was abrupt and stultifying.
"Gah. My whole body's gonna frizz," he snarled as he trotted away from
"Hey, at least Slim's not along," Jessica noted. "He smells bad enough
when he's *not* working up a sweat." She pulled her already dampening hair
back into a ponytail. "So, where do we set up?"
Willie pointed to a rocky outcropping that formed one boundary of the
clearing. "I like the shady side of that. Sun's just coming up, and it's
gonna be 'just coming up' for a while to come, so I want some shade until we
can put up some permanent structures." If he'd had his druthers, Willie
would have picked a location well onto the nightside so they would at least
be facing Earth and able to send their own radio messages for a while, but
Smith needed something on the dawn line to help with the mystic resonances on
the first few tries or something. For all that he was a mystical creature
himself, Willie didn't much care for magic. Feh.
Then the ground started to tremble, and Willie was nearly knocked off
"Crap!" he spat. "But make sure we don't set up under any rocks that
might fall in these damn quakes we've been having," he added as the shaking
of the ground subsided and he steadied himself.
* * * *
[January 8, 2026 - Earth Orbit]
"Starting to enter atmosphere," Lightfoot said as he put the orbiter on
computer control for the delicate insertion. "You feeling okay, Mr. Piazza?"
Carlito nodded. "A little nervous, some butterflies in my stomach, but
that's all. I think."
"Okay," Lightfoot nodded, and caught the eye of the medtech who was
monitoring the Montrealer's vitals. The medtech nodded back. "Let me know
the instant you feel anything worse, though."
Unspoken was the concern that if the Earth rejected Carlito, it could be
sudden and fatal rather than gradual and reversible. But he had volunteered
to be the test subject knowing the risks. In fact, Peregryn had gone to
great lengths to describe all the possible deaths that awaited any who might
try to return to Earth, which had dissuaded most of the initial volunteers.
Carlito had been chosen randomly from the few who remained.
"Braking into troposphere," Lightfoot reported. Shields had covered the
windows the moment they'd hit atmosphere, to keep the clear ceramics from
clouding up from frictional baking, so it was all instruments. "Still okay?"
Carlito nodded. "Yes," he added once he realized Lightfoot was
concentrating on the instruments and wouldn't see a nod.
Minutes later, with the shields retracted, the orbiter landed with the
lightest of taps. The side door opened, and Carlito approached it
tentatively. The outside air entered his lungs, and it didn't hurl him
screaming into the abyss. He left the craft, his feet touching the concrete
of a helijet pad. Still nothing beyond a vague sense of unease that he
chalked up to nerves.
Finally, he walked to the edge of the pad and stepped onto the
grass-covered ground. With no ill effects.
"I'm home," he sighed.
And then he left with the medtech for the most thorough physical exam
he'd ever experienced.
"Looks good," Solar Max said, with Peregryn and Senatorial Aide Cheryl
Biggs on a split screen conference call. Of course, it was normal
lightspeed-limited communications, so Peregryn was largely a mute observer,
having several minutes of lag to deal with. "Mr. Piazza shows no problems
other than what you'd expect from flirting with starvation and then being
overworked and underfed for a few months. It looks like the banishment curse
didn't extend to the people of Montreal."
Biggs nodded. "Good. We're already recruiting colonists, I figure we
can probably fill the charter ships going both directions until we repatriate
everyone who wants to come back to Earth. Peregryn, make sure everyone there
knows we're offering incentives to those who would like to stay. And you can
let them know we're sending Beacon and Geode along in the first wave to help
beef up defenses against anything the Sans Rouge might try." She never even
mentioned the treaty concerns that her boss was publicly touting. Maybe the
Combine wouldn't stake any official claims, but that didn't mean they weren't
going to try to flood the planet with sympathetic citizens.
Several minutes later, Peregryn nodded assent, but looked like there was
something on his mind. In fact, there was...the phrase, "Bloody Kansas."
* * * *
[January 10, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]
"So, big, little or medium wedding?" Essay asked as she put the last
component in place and the compact lumber mill whirred to life.
"I...think we can clear about an acre here for the prefabs, and use the
wood to start working on more prefab components," Peregryn said, looking up
from a small pile of twigs and other forest litter that he'd been using for
his auguries. "I notice, um, you left out 'no wedding,'" he added, finally
addressing the question.
"Howie," she sighed, mentally adding something scatological to the
effect that men will be men. "I'm not churchy. I know you sure aren't. But
mi mama will find a way to come to Venus and paddle your bottom if our
daughter is born a bastard. Besides, we're public figures, and you know the
PR value of a good wedding. Even Radner knows THAT."
"What about Scorch and Ms. Silvestri? I thought theirs was to be the
big pageant of the year?"
Essay shrugged. "I think those two will still be *planning* a wedding
at the crack of doom." Then she gave Peregryn a stern look.
Peregryn sighed and stood. "Yes, yes...I know. There's only about two
months until our daughter is born, so we can't put it off any longer. I
presume my extended exile will help appease the fundamentalists who would
ordinarily frown at a visibly pregnant bride, at least. But, to be honest,
the mundane, practical aspects of wedding planning are well beyond my skills
"Tch, there are professionals for that, Howie. We're *celebrities*, we
can get *people* for all of that. We just need to decide, and real soon,
where it's gonna be and when. I kinda like the idea of doing it here, too.
It's a beautiful place, the odds of random party crashers are a lot lower,
and it'd be like a founding party for the town we're building," she patted
the lumber mill. "We're too late to have the first kid born on Venus," she
waved in the general direction of Kim's work party, "but I'm sure we can have
the first big blow-out wedding on Ve-OW!" she clutched her belly. "Damn, but
she can KICK. Gotta be at least paranormal. Howie?"
He blinked, coming out of a distracted state. "Something is wrong..."
he started to say.
Then the entire planet shuddered.
* * * *
[January 10, 2026 - South Pole of Venus]
While the entire world shook, in one spot the tremors built up to a
fevered tarantella, the sea churning into foam as the ground beneath it
heaved and rose! Steam joined the foam, and then smoke followed soon after,
the water bubbling and roiling.
Minutes later, while the rest of the world had calmed, the land once
beneath the new seas had come to the surface, thrusting a volcanic cone into
the already ash-filled air. Steam and smoke blotted out the eternal sunset.
No human could have survived being close enough to observe the birth of this
new land, although at least one humanoid observed it from high over the
After half an hour, the volcano had formed an island several miles wide
and hundreds of meters tall, with lava streaming down all sides of the cone
and continuing to increase the size of the new land. A ring of steam
wreathed the column of fire and ash.
And then the scream began.
A howl of primal fury that shook the stones and the sea, and rose to a
crescendo in time with another belch of pyroclastic devastation...only this
time, it was not merely molten rock and ash that emerged from the volcanic
nadir of the world!
A mighty serpent, several miles long, streamed forth into the air,
coated in a mantle of lava, and arced towards the sea. It fell with a
splash, a hiss, and a scream.
The Leviathan was no longer master of this world. She had lost her
battle and been expelled to once more be mere matter, rather than the spirit
of a planet. She shook off her coating of stone and angrily swam away.
"I will have my vengeance on this world and all who live on it. But
most especially the accursed mage," she hissed before diving below the
For a moment, it seemed that the volcano had spent itself in that act of
expulsion, but then it stirred once more. The top of the cone seemed to
shift and slide sideways...and then lifted itself up on six spindly legs and
started to trundle towards the water. As lava dripped from its flanks and
excess stone crumbled and fell away, it was revealed to be a great beetle,
its one gigantic horn dripping magma. As it walked, it grew, until it was
practically a mountain in its own right.
The mighty stone insect reached the hissing and steaming shore and
slowly sank below the water as it walked on. Soon, only a moving column of
steam emerging from the sea marked its passage.
But this was not to be the last monstrosity to emerge from the volcano!
With a renewed surge of molten rock, the cone spat forth a glistening bronze
form that unfurled wings a hundred meters or more wide and soared away, high
above the steam and smoke and ash.
Finally, having birthed three monsters, the volcano fell silent...but
for a faint growl....
Daikaiju have come to Venus! But are any of them friendly? (How do you
tell a friendly daikaiju from an unfriendly one? The friendly one kills you
by accident, rather than on purpose.) Come back for ASH #67: Manifest
Destiny Part 3 - Monstrous!
Before I go into notes about the story itself, I figured I'd clarify the
various ways one can get between Earth and Venus. :)
The in-system drives of Pranir and Santari ships generally run at a
cruising speed of 1/20 lightspeed, for a travel time of about 90 minutes at
closest approach to 5 hours (getting kinda close to the Sun) at opposition.
Mantissa's ship has better STL drives and can manage the trip in about half
that time. That's just orbit to orbit, though, figure an extra half hour or
so for ascent and descent phases. In an emergency, a hyperspace jump is
possible, which is effectively instantaneous, but there's always the chance
of emerging coincident with some asteroid or even a planet.
In theory, Lightfoot could make the trip in a few minutes, but finessing
high STL speeds is tricky, and the last time he did it he ended up being
hurled thirty years into the future. So he tends to stick to 1/20 lightspeed
as well, using Santari-designed navigation systems. The Combine currently
has no other means of reaching Venus in less than several months. Neither
Solar Max nor Beacon have yet tried an interplanetary jaunt, and Essay hasn't
worked out a good high-STL drive.
Travel via Eos's rainbow bridge is instantaneous, giving Q'Nos the
fastest route in theory. However, since the bridge can only be held open for
a short time at dawn each day, it's actually the slowest of the quick routes,
At this time, none of the Chinese or Moslem factions has a space program
that extends beyond putting up low orbit satellites. The Eurasian Union may
have an unrevealed supertech means of reaching Venus, but they have not
tipped their hand yet. The United World gets its space support from the
Galactic Warrior Corps, and the GWC's one human agent (Star Knight) is
capable of making the trip in minutes under his own power. It is possible
that Pranir traders will offer shuttle service to anyone with the means to
pay, although the Pranir Houses with close ties to Khadam are likely under
some sort of pressure to sell such a service to Khadam only.
Darran the intel guy last appeared in ASH #47, Carlito Piazza appeared
in ASH #59. Gimble and her child were revealed to be on Venus in ASH #43,
and have been lying low. Here's a rough drawing (took about 10 minutes) of
what Gimble looks like when not Anchored:
For those of you not up on US history, "Bloody Kansas" is not a British
epithet, it refers to a land rush in the mid 1800s. For various reasons,
including the decision that popular vote would determine whether Kansas would
allow slavery, there was a HUGE rush to get people into the territory, with
various factions pumping people and money into the prairie. It got violent
in many places, hence the term "Bloody Kansas."
Finally, daikaiju are giant monsters, roughly speaking. Kaiju are
monsters in general in one meaning of the term, and "dai" is an intensifier
that is often translated as "king". The term generally refers these days to
Godzilla and his ilk, and is often simply expressed as "kaiju". I've been on
a daikaiju kick for a few months now, and the struggle between Leviathan and
the spirit of Venus seemed to be a perfect time to add daikaiju to the ASH
universe. Venus was already a lost world sort of place with dinosaurs and
monsters, but now it has some really big monsters. More details on them next
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