[ASH] ASH #74: Metropolis IV - Clash By Night
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Mon Nov 27 08:35:45 PST 2006
Cover shows a laughing group of women, mostly obvious cyborgs, having a
good time in a restaurant at the center of the image. All around the borders
are threatening silhouettes encroaching on the festive scene.
//|| //^^\\ || || .|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
// || \\ || || --X---------------------------------------------
//======================= '|` ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #74
// || \\ || || Metropolis IV - Clash By Night
// || \\__// || || Copyright 2006 by Dave Van Domelen
ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL
CODENAME REAL NAME POWERS ASSIGNMENT
-------- --------- ------ ----------
Solar Max Jonathan Zachary Spacetime Control AMERICA
Comet Sarah Grant-Taylor Superspeed, Ice Body AMERICA
Scorch Scott Handleman Pyrokinetic CANADA
Green Knight Salvatore Napier Strength, Regeneration MEXICO
Fury Arin Kelsey Concussion Blasts MEXICO
Contact Aaron Zander Psi, Mind-over-Body DIPLOMATIC
Breaker Christina Li Telekinesis DIPLOMATIC
Essay Sara Ana Rodriguez Gadgeteer VENUS
Peregryn Howard Henderson Jr. Elemental Mage VENUS
Beacon George Sylvester Living Light VENUS
Geode Unknown Living Crystal VENUS
Lightfoot Tom Dodson Velocity Control TRANSIT
[March 6, 2026 - Washington, Federal Sector]
"Why I am here?" was the question that wouldn't leave Julie's head. The
"Juliana Silvestri" professional persona had been left behind in Manhattan,
now it was just Julie surrounded by incredibly deadly CyberNostras in a
heavily stealthed antigrav-lift airship over the nation's capital.
"Isn't there a more sane way to go about this?" was the question she
actually asked, though, pleading in her tone as she looked around the cramped
cabin at Maria Incarnata and the rest of her crew. Of the lot, only Sister
Christian seemed at all sympathetic to Julie's plea...but she had been
against the whole plan in the first place. She only came along because her
"code sister" insisted.
Maria did that a lot. Insisted. And she had the raw power to make it a
good idea to go along when her persuasive tone wasn't enough.
As for the rest, they were champing at the bit to do this drop. Even
calm and collected Monica, the only one besides Julie without obvious
cybernetics, had an eager gleam in her eye. The red-headed Hangman may have
been along for security purposes, but it was clear she meant to enjoy this
night's endeavors as well.
And if Monica looked eager, the mirror-twins Audrey and PJ were
practically foaming at the mouth at the prospect of getting in some action.
Asian by ancestry, Bostonian by upbringing, and CyberNostra by rebuilding,
they had deliberately chosen their upgrades to be mirror images of each
other. They also normally went masked, unlike most CyberNostra, but had
forgone those accessories for tonight's festivities.
Cam and Eve fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, which made
them only moderately insanely dangerous cyborg women. Cam's cybernetics had
a spidery theme to them, while Eve had opted for a TwenCen anime look,
complete with green hair.
"No," Maria answered Julie's question. "This is not a time for sanity.
Sanity will cost us too much time. We go in hard, we go in fast. And this
place will never know what hit 'em!"
This brought a chorus of hoots and hollers from most of the women, who
then settled down to make last minute checks. Everything had to be in place,
had to be perfect. Monica would be responsible for making sure Julie made
the drop safely, as Julie was the only normal in the little party. It helped
that Monica wasn't nearly as pointy as the other women...Julie really didn't
want to be impaled on an elbow spike or something.
The pitch of the engines changed, which Julie had learned meant they'd
gone into hover. The thing about antigrav drives was that they also created
their own internal gravity fields, which damped the effects of acceleration
quite a bit. It meant you could perform much more severe maneuvers without
being pulped, but also meant any passengers could hardly tell when they were
The hatch irised open. Carabiners snapped onto lines that rolled out
the bottom of the craft.
"Go! Go! Go!" Maria ordered, and everyone dropped from the ship in the
pre-planned order. Julie hoped they had done this before many times, because
there'd been no rehearsal that she'd been involved with.
Monica and Julie were last out, so the others had already recovered and
detached from the lines, fanning out to form a circle around the drop zone.
Just in case.
"F-FREEZE!" a beat cop shouted, fumbling with his sidearm as Monica and
Julie landed on the sidewalk at the intersection of 18th and Belmont. Right
in the heart of the infamous Adams Morgan neighborhood.
"Just ignore him, Julie," Maria waved a hand dismissively. "He's a LOT
more scared of us than we are of him," she added with a predatory grin.
"Aren't you, mister cop?"
The officer seemed at a total loss. As odd as his beat could get at
times, he'd never seen a half dozen or so cyborgs drop out of the sky,
clearly dressed for a night of clubbing. He was saved from his indecision by
a chirp from his comm, which he managed to pull out without discharging his
"Y-yes? Eight of them, yes. What? O-okay," he lowered his gun and
backed away. "Um, have a pleasant evening?" he offered, lamely.
"That's the plan!" Audrey whooped. "So many bars, so little time!"
"Let's start with that one," PJ suggested, pointing at a gaudy affair
across the street.
And with that, Maria Incarnata's bachelorette party got underway.
* * * *
From his window seat in the Pharmacy, Morgan Adams watched the scene
outside with faint amusement tinging the melancholy that had been his habit
of late. He'd seen more creative attempts to get around the parking
nightmare that 18th turned into on a Friday night, but not recently, and not
too many that beat rappelling out of a stealthed airship.
Still, cyborgs with way too much money and too little sense or not, it
was still pretty clearly a Bridezilla expedition. And *those* were all too
common these days. They were headed into the Mons Veneris, a newly renovated
club with a Sci-Fi Venus theme and more than a little wink and nod innuendo,
pretty much where he'd expect a bachelorette party to go first.
"A pity," he sighed into his drink as he lifted it for a shallow sip.
That place had been the second to last holdout from the old TwenCen
neighborhood. The Pharmacy itself was the last, and had teetered on the
brink of buyout for years, if not decades. It had succumbed to a more subtle
form of gentrification ages ago, though, with fratboys and tourists flocking
to its "bohemian" ambience and driving out all the real bohemians. Morgan
hated what it had become, but as hideously Georgetown as it had become, it
was still the last link to his old life left in the neighborhood.
His left leg spasmed, nearly making him drop his drink, and he cursed
loudly and creatively. This got him a few stares, but no trouble from
management. He was part of the ambience, after all. The only part of the
old guard that hadn't fled for other parts of town.
The pain faded and he settled back down as if nothing had happened.
Doctors told him that the only way to fix the nerve damage he'd suffered at
Giza would involve cybernetic replacement. He'd said no. Actually, he'd
used a few more words than that, many of them similar to his outburst of a
moment ago. He'd met too many cyborgs who gave up parts of their soul when
they gave up parts of their flesh. You can only change the body so much
before the person stops being the same person.
This brought a chuckle, and some more stares from patrons. Mons Veneris
was like a cybernetic enhancement for the neighborhood. Bright and flashy
like the women who had just gone in, but lacking the old soul. Maybe he
*should* get a cyborg leg, he'd fit right in.
Nah. He didn't want to fit into what his home was becoming. Better to
find one more hopeless cause and go down in a blaze of glory....
* * * *
"I realllly don't want to see Ibiza all over again here," Scorch
sighed. He was in civilian clothes, although with discrete body armor
underneath, just in case. It was also fireproof enough that he wouldn't end
up naked if he had to go full-out with his flames.
"That's the plan," Solar Max nodded. "We're not supposed to go in
unless all hell breaks loose or it's clear the opposition needs thorough and
fast squashing. STRAFE and the Marshals have most of this covered, and the
local police have been cleared out for now."
"Except that one poor guy who they landed next to," Comet smirked. The
holographic disguise she had borrowed from STRAFE was working well, following
the motion of even the smallest part of her face. It was a step up from the
one Scott had worn in his meeting with Coulter last year. It didn't stop the
palpable aura of cold she gave off, though, so she'd be staying out on the
street where it was cold enough already.
"Yeah, he slipped through," Solar Max frowned. "I hope he was the only
goof we see tonight." He looked distinctly uncomfortable without his armor.
Or perhaps he just didn't care for the stylish outfit that had been picked
for him...or the fact it made him look like a trendoid college student.
"This little bridal party is bound to cause some trouble beyond just
violating airspace restrictions. And dragging Julie along for the fun
Solar Max paused and looked at Scorch, who said nothing. Shrugging,
Solar Max continued, "The official position is to let them get away with just
about anything short of assault with a deadly weapon. None of our higher-ups
really want to piss off Rex Umbrae by messing with his bride-to-be."
"My guess is that she expects to spend a day or two in jail anyway,"
Comet speculated. "A week's enough time to sort out any legal issues and
still get back in time for the wedding, after all. And from what gossip I've
been able to pick up about Maria and her crew, getting tossed in the pokey
may just be considered a requirement for a successful party."
Scorch sighed. "Hopefully we don't have to go there."
"At least Peregryn and Essay only have to worry about giant monsters and
the possibility of giving birth during the ceremony," Comet smiled warmly.
"Tonight's gonna just be the opening act for the fun Umbrae's likely to see
on *his* wedding day."
* * * *
The brooding mood had settled back over Morgan Adams as he sat in the
bay window of the Pharmacy. Thinking about his injuries left him in a foul
mood lately. The fact that he hadn't been killed instantly when he was
caught on the fringe of the exchange between Lorenzo Archangeli and his
undead father Pino was nothing short of miraculous, but he was too old to
come out of it completely unscathed. Burned over more of his body than he
cared to remember, the mystic lightning had seriously damaged the nerves in
his left leg and up his side as well. Most of the burns themselves were
gone, either thanks to normal healing or skin grafts...*that* much, modern
medical technology could still do for him. And a grateful government had
footed the bill, too. But even after over a year of physical therapy, he
still walked with a slight limp, and needed a cane for when it got bad.
It got bad a lot lately.
Howie's kid, the mage, had tried to do something about it once, but the
fact that it had been done by a god's power made it beyond his ability to
heal. The same reason probably explained why stem cell therapy wasn't
helping, nor had a nerve graft taken. It was a curse, a death curse that had
splashed onto him and left him crippled. The only treatment anyone could
come up with would be to simply cut out the damaged tissue and replace it
with mechanical parts. And pray that the curse didn't make those malfunction
What he didn't tell the doctors was that it seemed to be spreading.
Only a little at a time, and he could cover it up well enough for now. But a
killing curse of a god wouldn't stop until it had killed, right?
Morgan snapped out of his reverie. Something was wrong, something his
subconcious had picked up on before he was really aware of it. Even
wallowing in self-pity, the old instincts still worked.
He concentrated on the intersection outside. Something out there was
out of place...even more out of place than the usual fratboys and the
recently arrived cyborg bridezillas and the undercover STRAFE agents that
he'd noticed an hour ago.
But what was it...?
* * * *
To all appearances, they were just a half dozen college students in
heavy coats roaming from one bar to another along 18th, guys from one of any
number of schools...Georgetown, George Washington, American, perhaps even
commuting in from University of Maryland. If you examined them carefully,
you'd find nothing remarkable about them. They were totally average and
typical college students, chatting and acting like half-drunk guys on the
prowl. If you were of a suspicious mindset, you might find them a little
*too* typical...any group has at least some color to it, some misfit member.
Someone acting a little *too* drunk, a little *too* loud. People breaking
away from the group to snag an unreasonably large slice of pizza or hit on a
passing girl, rather than staying in a tight knot all the time. But most
people don't worry that much about that sort of thing.
They entered a bar called The Library Of Progress and took seats around
an empty table in the back. Talk turned to the usual topics: sports,
classes, women, and so forth. Again, to any casual observer, just a bunch of
guys out on the town.
But underneath this casual chatter, the real conversation took place on
tightbeam infrared laser beams connected under the table, emitters concealed
on belt buckles or on boots or on dangling handcomps.
"Transmitting floorplans," one said over this network, before sending
images of the Mons Veneris. "I believe that for maximum impact, we should
come in through the back wall at the point indicated."
"Agreed," chorused the other five.
"Remember, we want maximum splash and bang, try to 'accidentally' kill
some civilians. This needs to be messy and distracting, or we won't be able
to get back out of the city regardless of how much better our stealth systems
are than any on this mudball. Don't engage the targets for any longer than
you think you can do so safely...they may not be wearing their combat
loadouts, but they do use the same sort of Scytharian tech we do, and might
have some nasty surprises not in our briefing file."
"What about the local security forces?" another asked.
"They don't seem to have made us," the leader replied. "But word is
they have high end paranormal support, so when I say go, we bug out. We're
not prepped for the indig 'magic' crap. But if we can make enough of a mess
before pulling out, the paranormals may get distracted in search and rescue."
"If any of us do get captured," one of the group reminded them, "be sure
to run erasure protocol nine. We don't know much about who hired us in the
first place, but we can't afford the hit to our rep if one of their freaky
mindreaders can scrape up anything that makes it look like we talked."
"Agreed," came the chorus again.
* * * *
"Don't worry about the Hangman-killer coming for you tonight, Mon,"
Maria laughed, then pounded back the rest of her tequila. "It's not like
we're unarmed here."
"You're not wearing your missile rack," Cam noted, pointing at Maria's
chest. "So whatcha got under that oh-so-fashionable blouse?"
"My left one's a terawatt pulse laser," Maria confided, leaning over the
table so that her artfully-designed cleavage showed. "Good for about three
shots, although I'm afraid it'll melt the covering on the first shot and make
me look all lopsided."
"I'm almost afraid to ask about the right side," Julie ventured. She
was slowly getting over her nerves...they might be killing machines with
loose to no morals, but otherwise Maria and her friends were pretty normal.
Well, Sister Christian was still a bit stuck-up and rigid, but even she had
loosened up after a few drinks.
"Oh, that's just a taser in case any of the fratboys gets too grabby."
"Boobytrap!" PJ and Audrey chorused, setting off another wave of
laughter at the table.
Except for Monica, who merely smiled politely.
"Don't tell me you're really worried, Mon?" Eve asked.
Monica shrugged. "Not about the Hangman-killer, whoever it is, no. As
far as I know, everyone who's been targeted was dirty, or at least they were
rumored to be. Old guard who don't quite get that we're the law now, not the
lawbreakers. My money's on internal housecleaning, although I suppose it
could be that Warden really is back in town and playing 'Who Watches the
Watchmen' to celebrate his return."
"No rumors floating around about your dirt, Mon?" Maria asked, winking.
"Oh, honey, no one would kill over what they say *Monica* does," Cam
giggled. Julie got the distinct feeling that things were heading into
territory she wouldn't be safe entering, and was more glad than startled to
see the old man seem to suddenly appear behind Sister Christian, smiling
beatifically and leaning ever so slightly on his cane.
"Good evening, ladies," the man interrupted, causing almost everyone at
the table to at least start moving into a combat stance. Julie just froze
when the others started moving, like a rabbit trying to remain invisible to
"Oh, don't get up on my account," he chuckled. Then he turned to Monica
and gestured at the back wall with his free hand. "You seem like a
professional woman to me, yes? Well-educated in *architecture*. You might
find that particular wall very interesting. It's not load-bearing, did you
know that? In fact, before they rebuilt this place, there was a door back
there. Some people still try to come in that way...embarrassing when it
happens, you got to admit."
"What the hell are you rambling about, old man?" Eve spat, needle-like
claws starting to emerge from her fingertips. Everyone glanced at her, as if
mentally taking bets on whether she'd pop her claws all the way and try to
gut the old man.
"Yeah...hey, where'd he go?" Maria asked as she turned back. "Who was
that old man, and how come I can't even find him on my sensor array now?"
Julie didn't answer, but she'd finally placed the face. And now she
could say she'd met the infamous Morgan Adams.
* * * *
Coats were discarded, revealing cybernetic enhancements that were as
fake as they were obvious, yet concealing subtler versions of the real thing
underneath. One set of disguises had been exchanged for another, and the
"CyberNostra" hit team was ready to break through the rear wall of the Mons
"You know, I hear the bachelor party's over in the Georgetown area,"
Morgan Adams said from the mouth of the alley. "This here's for the ladies,
and you wouldn't want to be spoiling their evening, would you now? Then
again, you probably do, seeing you're about as much a CyberNostra as I am.
Well, aside from you being cyborgs."
Rather than sputter something cliched like, "How did you know?" or "Who
are you?", the leader of the Scytharian strike team simply motioned to one of
his squad and said, "Start the civilian body count with him."
"Right," the merc snarled, stepping towards Morgan with his Tsaran
blaster drawn, its emitter crystal already glowing faintly blue-green. "Hold
still and I'll make this quick, old man."
For his part, Morgan turned an apparent nervous stumble into a drop and
roll, coming up with his cane smashing into the attacker's hand. There was a
crunch of bone and metal, and the alien-built energy weapon went flying into
a nearby dumpster. Morgan stood, not as smoothly as he might once have done,
"*Young* man, don't make me break a piece of this cane off in your ass.
Mind you, it's got one of those armor-grade ceramic cores, and I'm probably
not young enough anymore to break it off in your ass or anywhere else. But
I'm willing to give it a try if you are."
Without orders, another of the mercs fired on Morgan, but he'd been
watching them all carefully, and was not *quite* in the path of the blast
when it came. There was a smell of burning polyester as Morgan's coat was
singed down to the lining, and he couldn't help but wince a little at the
heat that penetrated to his skin, but he was still standing.
"To the pits with this," the leader snarled, detaching a piece of the
satchel charge he had placed against the wall. "Catch," he lobbed the primed
explosive at Morgan.
Morgan braced to swat it away with his cane, hoping it wasn't on a
contact fuse now, but suspecting it was.
Then it vanished in a burst of cold wind.
The merc leader caught on just before Morgan did. "Paranormals!
Abort! Protocol nine!" he shouted, as a distant explosion could be heard.
All six started to shimmer out of sight as they activated stealth
systems, but then as one they slammed into the pavement.
The delicate stealth systems weren't made to handle five or six gees of
acceleration, and the cyborgs flickered back into visibility.
"About time you people got here," Morgan said as Solar Max landed in the
alley and was joined by Comet. "I almost had to break a sweat there. And
someone owes me a new coat."
* * * *
"I think you may have a death wish," Dan "Grind" Tracey told Morgan as
the last of the unconscious Scytharians were loaded into the STRAFE
transport. "But I'm sure people have been telling you *that* since before I
"Ha, maybe since before your papa was born," Morgan chuckled, smiling to
the field commander of STRAFE. "I had a colorful childhood, but no one
expected me to make it to adulthood."
"Didn't it occur to you to, oh, I don't know, CALL someone when you
realized a Scytharian strike team was setting up to attack the Mons Veneris?
No, strike that, of course it didn't."
"Why should I use up my minutes like that?"
"Sorry, before your time. But, seriously...with all the people you had
crawling all over 18th, why bother calling? Yeah, I spotted your agents.
And the Academy people, too...nice hologram on Mrs. Taylor, by the by. I
just wanted to get in some fun before someone came running. And I did tip
off the nice Hangman lady in the bar, so even if I'd screwed up and these
dopes broke down the wall anyway, the bridezillas would've been ready."
"The Incarnata party moved to a different location as soon as you left,
actually," Grind admitted.
"Well, there you go. They're not as dumb as they look. And neither am
I. I know my limits, and I knew full well how fast you'd have someone on
this the moment I started making a ruckus. But I haven't had a good fight
around here in ages...punching out a mouthy drunk fratboy doesn't count."
For a long moment, Dan just looked Morgan in the eyes. He tried not to
show any pity...tried not to feel it, either. He was looking at a possible
future for himself, after all, and he was done with self-pitying, even if it
was just projected onto someone else. Still...some said that the worst thing
that could happen to a man of action was to *not* die young. Getting older,
remembering the glory days, but having fewer and fewer opportunities to
Morgan must have seen what Dan was trying not to show, because he
snorted. "Save it. I'm not dying in my bed yet. And, hell...if the ol'
neighborhood can still attract this kind of action, maybe there's hope for us
He turned and started limping away, leaning on his cane more heavily
than he had earlier in the night.
"Nah," he added.
The wedding of the year (well, on Earth, anyway) goes down, and goes
down HARD! The Metropolis arc wraps up as the world watches, in ASH #75,
"Eyes of Evil"!
Special thanks to Marc Singer for plot assistance (Morgan Adams is his
creation, and Adams Morgan his old stomping grounds).
You may have noticed a change to the Roll Call, I do that every so
often. I decided that the Active/Detached/Inactive distinction wasn't quite
enough anymore (and frankly, probably hasn't been for a long time), so
tweaked it to also include a little more detail. I'm not officially
splitting the team a la the X-Men Blue and X-Men Yellow thing a while back,
though. Just codifying what's been shown in-story in the past, things like
Sal and Arin mainly hanging out in Mexico, and so forth. Thanks to
Lightfoot, though, anyone can be anywhere reasonably quickly. And, of
course, I kick off the new rollcall by having Scorch out of his territory.
Turns out that the Cyber Nostra is real. Well, not as a shadowy
organization of cyborgs, but http://www.cybernostra.net has been around since
1995 as an online organization of music demo makers (page is in French).
This makes it kinda ironic that the CyberNostra is giving Aoide her chance to
break into the big leagues (as seen in ASH #72). And apparently Optimus
Prime is a supporter of La Cyber Nostra.
Mons Veneris literally means the mountain of Venus, but it's not a
geographical (venerographical?) term, it's anatomical. And if you don't know
what it means, go look it up in a dictionary. ;)
http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH/gallery/incarnata.JPG shows Maria
Incarnata in her combat gear. Most of the armor plating is removable to let
her fit into the skinsuits, and the hair is a wig (breakaway should anyone
try to grab her hair in combat). The inspiration for the design should be
pretty obvious by this point, but in case it isn't, here's a reference pic:
http://www.jeffbots.com/maria-large.jpg (no guarantee this link will always
Morgan Adams suffered his injuries waaaay back in Capstone #3, at the
end of the 3:25 PM scene. This isn't Morgan's final story, though...Marc
gets to write that.
For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !
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