ASH: ASH #81 - Timequake Part 3: Dallas Rocket

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Mon Apr 2 14:42:00 PDT 2007

     The cover shows silhouetted figures emerging from the rift above
Dallas.  While clearly cyborgs, they are otherwise unfamiliar shapes.  Rising
from the ground to meet them is a missile wreathed in "Kirby krackle" energy

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #81
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||            Timequake Part 3: Dallas Rocket
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2007 by Dave Van Domelen

                       ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL

CODENAME       REAL NAME                POWERS                   ASSIGNMENT
--------       ---------                ------                   ----------
Solar Max      Jonathan Zachary         Spacetime Control        MISSING
                 "JakZak" Taylor
Meteor         Sarah Grant-Taylor       Superspeed               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 Henderson       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

[April 22, 2026 - Malta]

     "Then you might as well go join C.J., help her question the
harbormaster," Meteor sighed, shrugging with a motion so rapid that no one
would have even noticed it.
     "Right," Contact agreed, hopping down to the dock.
     Meteor heard a faint click from inside the ship the moment Contact's
feet left the deck, and her professional paranoia kicked in.  She
concentrated, bringing her mental speed up to maximum, nearly a hundred times
as fast as a normal human's, with physical speed almost to match.
     She turned to look at Grind, whose expression told her he'd heard the
same noise.  He was even starting to dive so that Tony Drake's invulnerable
body would be between him and any explosion, but it didn't look like he'd
quite make it.  So Meteor gave a helping hand, shoving Tony into position
just as a bright flare of light told her the explosion had started.
     Now, every millisecond counted.  Meteor was fast, but she couldn't
outrun an explosion.  Turning on her heel as the orange and yellow blossom
sped towards her at what looked like the speed of a thrown baseball, she sped
towards Contact, tackling him so that they both flew through the air and put
the bulk of the pier between them and the rapidly expanding fireball.
     The blast front slammed into them from one side just as the water rose
up to smash them from the other, driving them into the sea hard enough to
make Meteor's vision swim.  But then they were under the surface, protected
from the rest of the detonating yacht.  
     Debris was starting to hit the water around them, moving so slowly that
she could almost make out what each piece had originally been before the bomb
blast had torn the yacht asunder.
     Kicking against the water, Meteor propelled herself and Contact away
from the dock and into open water before surfacing.  Contact had barely
finished having the breath knocked out of him by her initial tackle, but he
had enough presence of mind to avoid breathing back in until she got his head
above water.
     After a few long gasps and taking over for his own swimming, Contact
sighed.  "Yep.  Trap."

     Moments later, Meteor and Contact got back onto the dock, where Tony and
Grind were standing and surveying the burning wreckage.  Both were a bit
singed, but seemed otherwise unhurt.
     "Tesla Branch kinetic damper field did its job," Grind explained when
Meteor shot him a concerned glance.  "After that bomb in China, I had them
put this together for me.  Won't stop a bullet or a blade, but it's good
against diffuse force like explosions.  Plus, Tony caught the worst of it."
     "And I landed on him," Drake grinned lopsidedly.  "But the big bossman's
tough enough to handle that."
     "They're toying with us," Contact said, flatly.  "From what Meteor tells
me, the bomb was triggered by me leaving the boat.  It could just as easily
have been triggered by someone getting deep enough in the yacht that excape
would be impossible."
     "Clearly," Grind agreed.  "Never and her allies see us as merely 'basic'
threats, and are probably justified in their overconfidence.  Nevertheless,
it *is* overconfidence, combined with the same love of cliched flamboyance
that Triton brought to the CSV under his leadership."
     "Hey, I think something's moving in the wreckage," Tony pointed at the
burning remains of the yacht.  "Yo, C.J.!" he shouted over to his teammate,
who was helping make sure the fire didn't spread to the refueling lines.
"Could you damp down the fire over where the bridge used to be?"
     The pyrokinetic nodded and concentrated.  The fire didn't go away
entirely, it was too strong a blaze for her to totally counteract.  But it
faded enough that everyone could make out a vaguely egg-shaped object,
perhaps a handspan tall, hovering in the air.
     "It's a matrioshka," Grind pointed out.  A Russian nesting doll, which
looked to be carved from wood and coated in lacquer, yet it was not burning.
"An ego calling card," he added.  "It sounds like it's playing a recording."
     Contact nodded, then used his psionic mind-over-body abilities to
enhance his own hearing.  After a moment, he turned to the others.  "It's a
loop.  It says, 'Today's entertainment has been brought to you by the
Impossible Five.'"
     "Well, at least we have a name to hang on our problem now," Meteor

               *              *              *              *

[April 23, 2026 - Western Poland]

     "It is still there!" Oberstleutnent Schmidt cried out, lowering his
field glasses and turning to the man riding the side of his Panzer II's
turret.  "The rift has not yet closed, I can just make out the rippling in
the air.  Unfortunately, it is ringed by defensive positions, your friends do
not seem to want anyone else wandering through."
     "They're not my friends," Colin Shaw snarled.  "Lackeys of the socialist
state," he added, distastefully.
     "So you say," Schmidt smiled.  "Are you sure you do not wish to
accompany us to 1939?  Your abilities could tip the balance of many of the
close battles I have read about," he patted the outline of the history
textbook he kept under his tight-fitting black uniform jacket.
     The former petty criminal shook his head, replying in his somewhat
stiffly formal German, "I do not know exactly what will happen when you go
back home.  Maybe my world will still exist, unchanged, in which case I must
stay behind to fight the good fight.  Besides, my axe," he hefted a weapon
that was more polearm than axe, "already exists in the past.  It hurts my
head thinking about the possible," he paused, before shrugging and simply
using the English word, "paradox," then continuing in German, "it might
cause.  And the axe seeks me out if I am separated from it for too long, so
leaving it behind would be a problem as well.  But it's time for me to clear
your path," he raised the weapon, which crackled with lightning.
     Bolts issued forth from the mystic blade, striking sandbags and parked
trucks, scattering the defenders and setting off one ammunition explosion.
Not all of the defenders left their posts, but the line was weakened where
Colin had struck, and that was enough of an advantage for the Nazi armored
column to break through.
     "Farewell, Justice," the Oberstleutnant called out as Colin jumped from
the Panzer.  "I will remember you!"
     Within minutes, it was over.  The Panzers had all rolled through the
rift, which was starting to visibly seal.  Soldiers who had been lying by the
shattered defenses stood up and brushed off the dust and grit, some smiling
as they dabbed at the fake blood soaking their uniforms.
     "I can't believe they bought it," Felka smirked, pulling off the helmet
she'd worn as one of the soldiers at the chosen breaktrhough point.  "I don't
think any of them even shot at me."
     Colin shook his head.  "The lieutenant colonel in charge was one smart
cookie.  I don't think he bought a thing...he was playing along.  Y'see, he
found a history book in that village the Nazis took over."
     "What?!" Colonel Bankhoffer exclaimed as he walked over to Justice.  "So
all of this was for nothing?"
     "Oh, I expect he suspected the book wasn't the complete truth either,"
Colin noted, "but he musta figured that if I was lying, we still had to let
him through.  And if I was telling the truth, I'd help him get through
anyway.  Either way, he was going home, knowing the broad strokes of World
War II.  Not that he's going to be able to convince many people," Colin
pulled a history book out from under his leather jacket.  "I gotta say, it's
been years since I hadda use the old 'Artful Dodger' skills, but it's like
stealin' a bicycle.  Hope he enjoys the 1923 edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets
I left him...."

               *              *              *              *

[April 24, 2024 - Oort Cloud, Sol System]

     Stealthily-Avoids-Patrols loosened his coiled grip on the t-bar that was
the standard seating on a Pranir ship.  Coming out of hyperspace into the
Oort cloud was always a little risky, since the matter density was higher
than locations further in-system and the larger objects were essentially
unmapped.  Still, it was the best way to avoid the PC's damnable interdiction
satellites, such as the one they had placed around the main inhabited planet
of the Sol system.  Dozens of ships regularly made the run, lured by the
hopes of high profit, low bulk cargos from Earth, and they all used the vast
Oort Cloud as an arrival point.
     "Secure from hyperspace," he commanded to one of his ratings, a new
recruit who had not yet earned a Starname.
     "Yes sir," the rating acknowledged.
     "Estimated time to planetfall?" the captain asked.
     After a short pause, the rating replied, "Approximately eight standard
     Stealithy sighed.  On open worlds, they could drop out of hyperspace
practically in orbit, which made matters so much simpler.  Well, at least he
was paid well for the boredom.  "And the Grubni?"
     "She reports all in order, and thanks us for the ride."
     "Sir!  Something on visual!" cried Obsesses-Over-Scanners, his aptly-
named sensors officer.  "I think it's a ship, but it's way too big for
anything that would..."
     The sentence was never completed, for the Fornax chose that moment to
fire one of its point defense lasers at the Pranir smuggler ship.  With a
beam a mere five meters wide, it was intended to detonate incoming missiles
that had highly refractory coatings and relativistic velocities.  What it did
to a more or less stationary and non-refractory Pranir bridge was, at least,
swift and painless.

     "Send out salvage teams, Dectos," Commander Hektane ordered.  "The poor
bastards probably don't have anything we need, but we might as well see if
their colossal bad luck can be our good fortune."

               *              *              *              *

[April 27, 2026 - Boston, Massachussetts Sector]

     A knock at her office door brought Bobbi Langford out of her trancelike
state of intense concentration.  "Who is it?" she asked.  She wasn't teaching
this semester, but it could have been an old student looking for a reference.
     "Stat Girl, I need your help!" came a familiar voice.  Bobbi swept the
door open to see Meteor standing there, in her old green and gold outfit.
     "Sarah!  Come in!  And don't call me that...I've managed to keep any of
my fellow postdocs from knowing about that old nickname."
     Sarah took off her headpiece and entered, taking a seat at the slightly
beaten chair Bobbi offered.
     "Postdoc already?  My, you're moving up in the world," Sarah smiled as
Bobbi closed the door.  "You even have a door to close.  Soon you might even
have more than three square meters of floorspace."
     Bobbi chuckled, sitting back at her small desk.  "I wouldn't count on
it, not if I stay here.  One of the things about storied institutions of
higher learning is that office space is at a premium.  Especially in a
department like Stats, where we can't really say we need the space for our
experimental apparatus.  Every few years they come though and add more walls
to subdivide the offices again."
     Sarah cocked her head.  "Why not just work from home, then?"
     "Oh, a lot of us do.  But there's something about the frame of mind you
get from coming in to work that helps me concentrate.  Besides, the novelty
of the office hasn't worn off yet.  I can imagine *you'd* go nuts being
cooped up in here all day, though."
     Sarah laughed.  "Oh, I'm not that bad anymore.  And my office is a lot
bigger least you have a window, though."
     "So...what brings you here, Sarah?  I watch the news, I know you're not
exactly in downtime mode right now...hell, I haven't seen you since you were
still a popsicle.  I doubt you just dropped by to chat with an old college
     "Actually, I did," Sarah tried to smile, and almost succeeded.  Bobbi
could see the facade start to crack, the old nervous and wired Sarah she knew
back at the Academy coming back to the fore, the way Sarah had been before
she met JakZak.
     "Oh," she realized.  "This is about JakZak, isn't it?"  It had been
almost two weeks since the leader of ASH had gone missing in Monaco.
     "Yes,  Well, it's not just about him.  The scary part is, I'm
really not all that worried about him.  I have it on pretty good authority
that he's lost in time, which is annoying on its own, but I'm sure he'll find
a way back soon enough.  For whatever 'soon' means when you're talking about
time travel.  But, I guess it's everything else that's happened since then.
I kind of grabbed the leadership stick once he vanished, and I haven't been
able to put it down."
     "And you can't talk to any of your teammates to unburden, since they've
started looking to you for leadership," Bobbi completed the thought.  "Oh,
don't look so surprised.  They don't take away your empathy when they give
you a PhD."
     "Can you look around at your fellow postdocs and repeat that?" Sarah
     "Heh.  Most of them didn't have much to take away.  Look," Bobbi leaned
forward, putting on her Serious Face, "if you just want to dish and maybe
have a good cry on my shoulder, I'm up for that.  But before we do that,
there is a little bit of actual business I've been meaning to bring to your
attention, oh leader of ASH."
     "It's about these villains from the future..."
     "The Impossible Five."
     "...right.  Them.  Well, I've been doing some of my work on a grant
that's studying Cassandra, that AI based on an upload from one of the
Burnouts at the Academy, and this past week we've been really busy figuring
out how she's trying to compensate for all the time rifts.  But it also got
me thinking about the Impossible Five, and how they seem to be able to whup
you guys so easily."
     "Back in their home time, we're just 'basic' threats.  They have records
of our entire careers, so they've been able to practice extensively against
simulations of us," Sarah explained.  "We figure that just means we have to
develop new tactics we wouldn't have needed in their timeline."
     Bobbi nodded.  "That's a decent idea, but it's a first order response to
the Five.  You need to be looking at zeroth order responses too."
     "You're reacting to them by changing their tactics.  But you need to
look at reacting to the things that *caused* them to show up.  Things that
would be different even if they hadn't reared their futuristic heads.
Something caused their future to cease to exist, which is why...don't give me
that look, my security clearance is high enough to work with Cassandra, it's
certainly high enough to get me reports on the Five...anyway, which is why
they came back in time in the first place.  It stands to reason that a big
enough shift to erase them entirely from existence would have other effects
they wouldn't have been able to train for.  Find those changes, see if you
can exploit any of them.  Because you know the Impossible Five will be doing
the same, with an eye towards defending against the changes."
     "Huh.  Damn, it's so simple I should've thought of it myself."
     "Hey, they pay me to figure out the simple stuff.  The complicated stuff
anyone can do," Bobbi grinned.  "Okay, business over.  It's almost lunch
anyway, and I know this great little out of the way place I found on a random
     "Guilty as charged!"

               *              *              *              *

[April 29, 2026 - Dallas, Texas Sector]

     "How's the disperser holding up, Boomer?" Marshal Freedman asked, giving
the somewhat ramshackle contraption a suspicious eye.  It had been cobbled
together from an old Ozone Injector the Pranir had fobbed off on an
unsuspecting German town in the 1980s and several odds and ends Hodgson had
lying around.
     "It holds," he replied, his voice not exactly filled with confidence.
"We're managing to drive most of the incoming flow high enough for upper
level winds to take it away and dilute it, but it doesn't work so well when
the jet stream's not over Texas, and it looks like we're in for a week of the
stream shifting way north."  
     The city was pretty much fully evacuated by this point, with just a
Guard force to keep the looters out, and the small group of Marshals and
scientists working on the problem.  It was eerily quiet.
     "Guys, guys, I think I have it!" Richard "Hat Rick" Nelson shouted,
racing over to where the two Marshals stood.
     "What's that on your head this time?  An armored hazmat hood?" Freedman
     "Huh?  Oh, it belonged to a TwenCen supervillain, guy who liked making
deathtraps.  But he wasn't particularly durable."
     "So, you want to make a deathtrap for the time rift?" Boomer asked
     "Yeah!  That was the brainstorm I had this morning.  I figure, a lot of
those old deathtraps had to find ways to keep heroes from just teleporting
out, so why not approach the problem from that angle?  And I think I got it.
All we have to do is overload a hyperdrive right next to the rift, and it
should seal!"
     "Um, they always told me overloading a hyperdrive was a Bad Thing?"
Boomer ventured.
     "Sure it is.  But it's the right kind of bad thing.  As long as we don't
overload it *too* much, I guess."
     "You *guess*," Freedman sighed.

               *              *              *              *

[April 29, 2026 - Kearney, Nebraska Sector]

     "Fischertronics Advanced Science and Technology Complex.  'FAST.'
Cute," Janice Freedman smirked as the truck she and Boomer were riding in
pulled into the isolated building's parking lot.  Kearney might not be
exactly the middle of nowhere, but it was close enough to do the trick when
it came to finding places to put potentially explosive research.
     "Be nice.  Even multimillion dollar projects need to sell themselves to
the unwashed masses," Boomer tsked.
     A gray-haired man in a slightly rumpled business suit was emerging to
greet them, and got to the truck just as Boomer was getting out.  "Marshals
Hodgson and Freedman, I presume?  Calvin Gordon, project director.  Good to
see you, and I hope we here at the FAST Complex have what you need to solve
that mess in Dallas."
     "So do we," Freedman replied.  "I didn't know we even had a purely
native hyperdrive working."
     "Wellll," Calvin temporized.  "For certain values of working, yes.  We
still have problems with the power source and stability, I certainly wouldn't
want to try to use one of our drives to go to another world.  For that, I'd
use one of the reverse-engineering projects, like at Sandia/JPL in
Albuquerque, or even that hush hush stuff Ritter's working on that no one's
supposed to know about.  Or just hire a ship.  But my people have looked over
the specs you put out, and I think we can do a better job of blowing up in a
controlled fashion, for cheaper, and with quicker turnaround.  All the other
projects in the NAC, not to mention the work done in the Gobi, on Okinawa or
in Khadam, require at least some imported material from aliens.  That's a
bottleneck.  Our system may not be at 100% yet, but we can build it with
purely native materials."
     "So, if Hat Rick's insane scheme works, we can repeat it for all the
smaller rifts as we find 'em," Boomer nodded.
     "Exactly.  Once we calibrate it on the emergency job in Dallas, the
brain trust here is confident we could even make a more portable unit to seal
the small rifts without having to blow anything up.  They seemed a little
disappointed at that...between you, me and the lamppost, I think some of them
like explosions a little too much.  But hey, it's rocket science, what d'ya

               *              *              *              *

[April 30, 2026 - Dallas, Texas Sector]

     "Ready to go," Boomer declared, closing the access panel on the cruise
missile.  "We launch this baby up to the rift and the hyperdrive in the
payload goes into overload, hopefully sealing the rift.  The ladies and
gentlemen from FAST here will analyze the results and figure out an easier
way to do this next time."
     "Wait a tick," Janice squinted, looking up at the faintly rippling tear
in the sky.  "Something's coming out of the rift...."
     "Huh?" Boomer turned his face to the sky.  "But it comes from the
Precambrian!  There wasn't even anything alive outside the water back then.
Unless it's a meteorite?  No...too slow."
     "It's people!" one of the National Guard soldiers realized, peering
through his binoculars.  "Two regular sized, one jumbo."
     Boomer pulled on his helmet and dialed up the magnification on the
heads-up display inside the visor.  "Cyborgs, it looks like.  And they're not
free-falling, they must have antigrav or something, I don't see any thruster
flare.  Wonder what their deal is?" 

     "Where's Presto?  Drammit, he's got the rampin' *time machine*!" a wiry
cyborg chattered as he looked around in a panic.
     "Cool it, Chain Lightning," a somewhat chubby cyborg replied.  "Stop
making up swear words and look up.  That's a time rift, or I need to check
the warranty on my sensor suite."
     "Whut?" the third cyborg, a hulking brute with a shaved head and massive
mechanical hands, replied.
     "What Mongo said, Superconductor," Chain Lightning nodded.  "Man, what a
drag, it looks like we're still in the TwenCen!"
     Superconductor sighed.  "To put it in words even Mongo can follow,
then.  Big hole in sky keep us from getting home.  Time got broken.  Presto
and the others could be anywhere or anywhen.  We're lucky we stayed
together."  Under his breath, he added, "If you can call it luck I got stuck
with the hyperactive headache and big dummy."
     "So we fly back through!" Chain Lightning started to power up his
antigravs, but Superconductor simply reached out and siphoned away the extra
     "Hold it, speedy," he warned.  "The hole doesn't lead home, it just
grabbed us on the way.  But I think I can do something about that.  Look down
there," he pointed.
     "Whoa, a missile," Mongo rumbled.
     "They trying to blow up the hole?" Chain Lightning suggested.  "Or are
the cops just that fast?"
     "I'm picking up a hyperdrive signature in that rocket.  I think they're
trying to seal the hole, so you're more or less right," Superconductor
nodded.  "All we need to do is take the missile for ourselves, and I think I
can modify it to redirect the time hole so that it will get us home.  Sadly,
judging by the lack of petrochemical smog, I suspect we're no longer far
enough into the past to meet the Holy Ones," he added ruefully.
     "Awwww," Mongo replied.  "I'll get the missile," he added, cutting his
antigravs and dropping like the ton of metal and flesh that he was.
     "Think there's time to scam some vintage tracks while we're here?" Chain
Lightning asked.

     "The big one's falling again!" Boomer warned.  "And I think the other
two are coming in a little too fast to be friendly.  Everyone ready!"  He
drew his sidearm, thumbing it to flechette mode.  The plastic shards might
not be as effective against armored targets, but the odds of a ricochet
damaging the rocket were a lot lower.  Freedman left her gun in its holster,
but the chill he felt emanating from her told him she was ready to rumble.
Hat Rick was busily rummaging around in his satchel, and the soldiers had
their rifles up to their shoulders.
     The hulking cyborg landed with a cracking of pavement and the hiss of
internal servos compensating for the impact.  As he straightened to his full
three meters of height, he held out a gigantic metal hand and said, "Gimme
the missile and I won't hafta rip anyone in two."
     "Hey, are you Mongo?" Hat Rick had paused in his search when the big guy
landed.  "Of The Rush?"
     "Yeah, now gimme the missile."
     "Careful, guys," Hat Rick warned.  "This guy and his buddies're from the
future.  Fought the original ASH back in 1991 while trying to kidnap Geddy
Lee.  Got thrashed and ran back to the future.  Looks like they had a
     "How do you even know this?" Janice asked.  "I've studied ASH's
casefiles and I don't even remember him."
     "Hey, when your power depends on finding stuff that belonged to
paranormals, you tend to geek out over trivia.  Ah, found it!" he pulled a
black ninja mask out of his satchel.  "Time to flip out!"
     By this time, the other two cyborgs had landed, and Mongo was looking a
bit confused, as if he wasn't used to being more or less ignored.
     "Look," the heftier of the new arrivals said, "just give us the
hyperdrive so we can get ourselves home, and we'll only beat you up a little
bit.  Our technology is a century ahead of yours, you really don't stand a
chance against us."
     "Oh, it's gonna be that kind of measuring contest, eh?" Boomer smirked,
holstering his sidearm.  "I have a better idea.  You surrender and we lock
you in nice cryocapsules and let you get home the slow way."
     "Grotz that!  Chain Lightning doesn't surrender!" the skinny cyborg
shouted, throwing a lightning bolt at Boomer, who jerked as the current arced
through him.
     "It's on!  HIIIIIIIIWAAAACK!" Hat Rick shouted, performing a complicated
back flip and booting Chain Lightning in the head.
     "That almost hurt.  Of course, I've zapped myself enough times by
accident that I always wear grounding wires," Boomer smiled shakily. 
     "I'll just take the missile," Mongo sighed, lumbering over towards it.
The soldiers opened fire, but their bullets just thudded against him and
dropped as if their kinetic energy had been absorbed.
     Meanwhile, Hat Rick was jumping around Chain Lightning, avoiding the
crackling electricity the cyborg was throwing at him, but no longer able to
get close enough to land any attacks of his own.
     Janice turned to the third cyborg.  "And who might you be?" she asked.
"For the arrest record, mind you."
     "My sobriquet is Superconductor, and you won't be arresting any of us,"
he sneered.  "Don't mistake my inaction for inability, I just don't see the
need to get my hands dirty yet.  It's not like any of you have the power to
stop Mongo once he's decided he wants something."
     "Oh, I think I can manage," Boomer smiled, pulling a small grenade-like
object off his belt and lobbing it at Mongo.  There was a burst of mist, and
suddenly Mongo slipped and fell on his back.  "I got the idea from
Conflicto.  Frictionless coating.  Oh, sure, I suppose he could fly now, but
good luck grabbing ahold of anything."
     "Gotcha!" Chain Lightning crowed as a blue bolt knocked Hat Rick away,
where he fell in an unconcious heap.
     "Time to end this," Superconductor smiled.
     "I couldn't agree more," Janice smiled back.  "Boomer, I'm ready for a
number thirty-four."
     "Thirty-four, coming up!" Boomer grinned, stepping over to the nearby
fire hydrant.  While not all that impressive as superhumans went, his
strength was still more than enough to turn the bolt on top of the hydrant
with his bare hands.  A torrent of water suddenly washed over the trio of
     Waves of cold emanated from Janice, freezing the water solid in the
blink of an eye.
     "That should hold 'em long enough for me to whip up a cybernetics
scrambler," Boomer smirked.  "Could we get a medic for Rick?"

     Later, after the neutralized cyborgs had been hauled off, Boomer
finished re-sighting the rocket.  "Okay, here goes everything.  Hope we don't
get any more supervillains falling out of the sky...."
     The cruise missile arced into the air on a column of smoke, heading for
the time rift.  After a long second or two, it emitted a dazzling burst of
pandimensional energy that momentarily blinded everyone before exploding in
an almost anticlimactically mundane way.
     "Well?" Janice asked, blinking away tears.
     "These tachyon sensors had to be turned off to keep them from being
fried by the overload like the telemetry rig's were," the FAST scientist
explained.  "Gimme a second to get them back onl...ah, there.  Readings
conform to normal background levels.  It worked!"
     "All right!  Now we can get to work on replication," Boomer said.  "We
might just clean up this mess after all!"
     The scientists cheered, then got back to work.  Their busy day had only
just begun.

               *              *              *              *

[May 5, 2026 - Dzamin Uud, People's Republic of China]

     The spaceport bustled with activity as people worked on any number of
projects all at once.  Landing grids were being expanded and leveled.  A new
control tower was going up to replace the ad hoc system that had been in
place when this was a quasi-legal smuggler's cove.  Pre-fab hangars were
being replaced by sturdier docks, some of which held alien craft.
     A feeling of urgency beyond the simple economic boom times seemed to
suffuse the operation as well.  Not quite harried or panicked, but an
undercurrent of desperation could be felt by anyone present.  Somewhere, a
clock was ticking, and everyone at the spaceport was all too aware of that
     Then the shafts of fire rained down from the sky and time ran out for
everyone for miles around.

               *              *              *              *

[May 5, 2026 - Near Earth Orbit]

     "Secondary target designate five obliterated, captain!"
     Commander Hektane nodded grimly.  "Get me a firing angle on primary
target one as soon as you can.  I know secondary target four is closer, but
our Pranir prey were definitely heading to the primary target, and are
probably overdue by now.  I don't want to give them any more time to get
ships into space."
     "Yes, sir.  We'll be able to fire on the primary target in two minutes
at current speed."
     Hektane said nothing.  He may have felt a slight pang of regret at
bringing such devastation to a world not yet at war with his own, even if it
was for the greater good.  But the primary target?  Legendary as a pustule
full of crime and abomination. 
     And in about a minute, he'd excise the pustule that was Khadam from the
face of Earth.


Next Issue:

     "Timequake" hits its climax as the biggest threat to fall through the
time rifts is back: the Fornax is out to sterilize Earth and establish the
New Santari Empire in the year 2026!  It's all to be found in ASH #82, "The


Author's Notes:

     I accidentally put Jen Kleinvogel in a scene last issue.  I've fixed the
online copy to remove her, but thanks to Google Groups, an incorrect version
will exist forever.
     Pranir names are generally unpronounceable by members of other races, so
those who spend a lot of time interacting with "aliens" take on Starnames,
which are descriptive terms that can be readily translated into most
languages.  "Stealthily-Avoids-Patrols" is such a name.  Starnames can change
over time, and occasionally multiple Pranir will vie for the right to a
particular Starname, but a careful registry is maintained (much like the
Screen Actors Guild does) to ensure no two Pranir accidentally use the same
     The deathtrap-obsessed villain from the 20th Century is Doctor
Developer, see Time Capsules #9 for more about him.
     JPL is not currently co-located with Sandia National Labs in real life,
but given its location in the Los Angeles area, they had ample incentive to
move in 2013 when The Big One hit.
     "The Rush" was a group of cyborgs from the year 2112 that I used in the
original Champions campaign version of ASH.  Their leader was Presto, and
other members not seen this issue were War Paint and Scars.  They had a
junior member who hadn't earned a name yet, who defected and joined ASH as
Psiberpunk.  Yes, all the names came off the Rush album "Presto".  Presumably
other cadres of The Rush were themed after other albums.
     The proper spelling of Dzamin Uud has an umlaut over the "i" in Dzamin
and over the second "u" in Uud.  At least, it does on the map I was looking


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