ASH: CSV #26 - Four to Never Prelude: Time Trials

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Fri Jan 12 09:19:45 PST 2007

     The cover shows a clock-face, with an ankh for the hour hand and the
AstroSpear for the minute hand reads four minutes to midnight, is super-
imposed over a satellite photo of Monaco.  The hour and the minute hands
converge over a top-down view of the airship, Skyhaven.


.                 Blackbird & Countinghouse Presents:
   ( )                 CONCLAVE OF SUPER-VILLAINS               ( )
    I          An Academy of Super-Heroes Universe Comic         I
    I                  copyright 2007 by Tony Pi                 I
                     #26 - FOUR TO NEVER: Prologue
                             "Time Trials"

  TRITON        Derek Murdock Radner        Gadgeteer/Electricity
  SULTRY        Zuri Angeline Croft         Weather Control
  CONFLICTO     Eugene Kwan                 Friction/Viscosity Control
  MYRIAD        Alpha Rho Fourteen          Shapeshifting
  GLYPH         Zephirah Reuben             Magical Sigils
  KALIBAN       Kaliban Kalibos             Monstrous Strength
  TIARA         Princess Ursula of Monaco   Master Thief
  BURNOUT       Trish Catrall/Tyra Dumont   Ash Elemental
  LIGHT ERRANT  Petra 'Irrlicht' Hollander  Wispform, Hypnosis
  LABYRINTHE    Yvan Viau                   Spatial Magic
  CARYATID      Claudette Viau              Magic

  TERRASTAR     Polla Hectrix Termiddo      Earth Control
  CHALLENGER    Robert Coulter              Cybernetics
  SPIRAL        Anya Kirova                 Telekinetic Torque


[April 14, 2026 - Port of Monaco]

     The middle-aged woman in sunglasses stood on the deck of her yacht, the
_Lazy Twilight_, and gazed up at the black airship high over the Rock of
Monaco.  It was Skyhaven, the mobile aerial headquarters for the Conclave of
Super-Villains, in town for the first ever paranormal grand prix, the Prix
     Literally, the Ultimate Prize.
     She flipped the cover of a device roughly the size and shape of a
pocket-watch, and a miniature holographic daemon appeared, hovering over red,
glowing glass.  It resembled a cross between Anubis and Pan.
     "Good afternoon, madam.  The time is sixteen-hundred hours and three
minutes, fifty-two seconds, March nineteenth, twenty twenty-six.  How many I
be of assistance?"
     "Hello, Cronyx," she replied.  "Please continue the surveillance report.
Only the most recent intel, please."  She knew most of the information by
heart, but a refresher was always wise before any mission, especially with so
much at stake.
     "As you wish, madam," the daemon said.
     In the blink of an eye, the woman and her hologram seemed to teleport to
another place, but it was only a three-dimensional construct projected onto
her specially-crafted lenses.  They appeared to be in the midst of a crowd of
journalists at the Casino in Monte Carlo.  Sounds from the press conference
were piped through tiny speakers in the frame of her glasses.
     The woman touched the daemon's device, moving them like ghosts through
the virtual landscape.  She paused in front of a beautiful woman in an
elegant white dress and priceless jewelry, answering a British journalist's


     "Tiara.  Princess Ursula of Monaco, master thief.  Threat level, low.
She isn't paranormal.  Though not at present an active member of the Conclave
of Super-Villains, focusing on her regal obligations of late, due to a
madness glyph that has incapacitated her father," reported Cronyx.  "She
intends to use her infamy as Tiara to draw tourism to Monaco, and is
sponsoring the Prix Ultime."
     The woman nodded, and listened to Tiara's interview.
     "Who are we expecting among the racers?" said the Tiara image, repeating
a reporter's question.  "Well, we are open to anyone who scores a 3.5 or
higher on the Tesla Index.  There are a few you will recognize.  Arc of
EUROPA.  Conflicto of the CSV.  Lightfoot of the Academy of Super-Heroes.
>From the Academy's student body, Bobby Chambers, who some of you may recall
from the Formula Junior racing circuit before the manifestation of his talent
forced him to withdraw."  There were some murmurs from the crowd as the minor
scandal surrounding that was recalled.
     Another journalist raised her hand.  "Aren't you concerned about...
certain racers sabotaging other racers with their powers?"
     "I understand your concern," said Tiara.  "However, there are strict
rules and safeguards in place against the use of paranormal powers against
other racers."
     "Such as?"
     "Every racing car is glyph-marked to limit the effective range of powers
from inside to one meter.  Even if a racer breaks the rule, he or she will be
mystically identified and ejected from the vehicle immediately," said the
princess.  "To make the race even more interesting, we will also be using
speed limiters so that the race will hinge on cornering and well-timed
acceleration.  We wouldn't want the race to be over in a matter of seconds,
would we?"
     The crowd laughed.
     "Any word on Prince Maxim's recovery?" asked a Belgian reporter.
     Tiara kept up her smile.  "Thank you for asking about my father's
health, but at this point in time, there is little change in his illness.
The doctors are hopeful, however, that one day he may return to his former
     "Cronyx, cut audio," said the woman.  "Her father may be a point of
leverage.  Next."
     The image shifted, showing a racing pit.  A race-car driver dressed in
bright yellow with clashing orange and blue arrows was polishing a car in the
same tasteless color scheme, while a woman in a robe covered in glowing
sigils painted a glyph on the steering wheel.  Instead of skin, she had
rainbow-hued scales covering her.


     "Conflicto," said Cronyx.  "Threat level, moderate.  He controls
friction and viscosity.  The subject has matured much over the past year,
abandoning the role of clown for a more serious outlook on life.  It is only
partly successful.  In times of stress, he reverts back to the role of joker.
Infatuated at one time with fellow teammate Spiral, he pursued her and ex-CSV
member Challenger to America, culminating in an incident at a circus that
nearly devastated Raleigh, North Carolina.  Out of that incident, he has
amassed a menagerie that he calls the Zoo of Malice.  Recently, he was in
charge of Khadam forces on Venus, using the Raging Mad Mountain Gorillas.
Has a love of technological toys."
     "Add Spiral as a point of weakness to his file.  Also add possible
sentimental attachment to his vehicle," said the woman.  "His powers could be
devastating, but hardly world-beater class.  This Glyph is more of a threat."
She patched into the sound.
     Conflicto whined to Glyph.  "Couldn't you leave that hex off my sweet
ride, cute-and-scaly?"
     Glyph hissed in reply.  "Stick with the rules, Eugene.  Remember, our
goal is to improve our image in the public eye.  Behave, especially around
Spiral and Challenger."
     Conflicto grumbled.
     "Glyph.  Threat level, high," said Cronyx.  "A sorceress who employs
written symbols to manipulate magic, her powers are most versatile yet
limited by her mode of sorcery.  The current leader of the Conclave of
Super-Villains since Triton stepped down over a year ago.  Not as effective a
leader as Triton, being more of a recluse, which led to the past year being
quiet on the CSV front.  Thus far, her most notable achievement during her
tenure as CSV leader has been the team's cooperation with ASH during the rise
of the World Serpent.  However, as you can see, she has twisted that help
into power for herself.  Her new scales make her nearly invulnerable to
physical attacks.  However, it also made her cold-blooded."
     The woman examined the scales on the Glyph hologram.  "The power stolen
from the World Serpent makes her an even more formidable threat," she said.
"File annotation: obsession with serpentine totem, and vulnerability to cold.
Show me the other mages, Cronyx."


     The hologram shifted to show a man dressed in a dark gray bodysuit
covered in labyrinthine patterns, his deep blue cloak swirling about him in a
manner that suggested it was no natural wind that moved it.  He was creating
a crystal-shielded road through a strange deciduous forest.  A woman in a
blue cloak and white bodysuit floated in the sky above him, combating
feathered serpents in the air by encasing them in elemental ice.
     "Labyrinthe and Caryatid, twin mages specializing in space distortion
and spirit summoning, respectively.  The threat levels of both are high.
However, they were banished from Earth along with the city of Montreal a
while back, having spent their energies keeping the city safe on the planet
Venus.  When Peregryn took the World Serpent to Venus, he liberated them from
their confinement, but the twins are incapable of returning to Earth.  Their
expected interference is minimal," said Cronyx.
     "Good.  Too many mages could complicate our plans," said the woman.
     "However, if they do become a factor later, note that the brother-sister
relationship is strained," added Cronyx.  "Their primary loyalty at this
point in time is to Montreal, though they are cooperating with the Conclave
of Super-Villains during the colonization of Venus."
     "What are they doing now?" asked the woman.
     "Establishing a safe road from Falcon Bay through the Venusian forest
to Montreal," said Cronyx.  "There is another CSV member on Venus at the
present time."
     "Show me."


     A small will-o-wisp floated through the jungles of Venus in the company
of a swarm of stone beetles, being pursued by a green living light, shooting
energy beams and destroying the bugs.  "Light Errant, human will-o-wisp.
Threat-level, mid.  Again, her presence on Venus takes her out of the
equation, although she has the ability to travel to Earth under her own
power.  Recently, she has been using her hypnotic powers to entrance this
particular beetle swarm, and she has been leading assaults on NAC forces,
although the true master of the beetles seems to have been quiet of late.
The one chasing her is Beacon of the Academy of Super-Heroes."
     The woman sighed.  "Chiaroscuro will be disappointed.  Anyone else
likely to be out of play?"
     "Two, maybe three," said Cronyx.


     A black-furred creature appeared in the holographic image, conferring
with a centaur in what seemed to be a building with Greco-Minoan
architecture.  However, the statuary around them were distinctly bestial in
     "Kaliban, threat level low," continued Cronyx.  "When the minotaur
godling Q'Nos created his kingdom out of 'Shattered Hellas,' the CSV wisely
sent Kaliban as ambassador to the court of Q'Nos.  Due to his feral
appearance, he is palatable to the creatures that inhabit the kingdom.
Though he is highly intelligent, he will unlikely be an immediate factor in
the coming fight, due to his ambassadorial commitments."
     "Good.  Next," said the woman.


     A black blob with thirty tentacles and just as many eyes on eyestalks
sat in the Conclave of Super-Villains HQ monitor room, adjusting controls and
reading sensors.
     "Myriad.  Shapeshifter.  Threat level, mid.  Her current assignment is
to monitor CSV activities from the HQ in Khadam while the team enjoys their
holiday in Monaco.  She may come to the CSV's assistance if called, so I
would advise keeping her in the equation.  A versatile mimic and mistress of
countless forms, she is both muscle and spy.  However, as an artificial
lifeform, she is vulnerable to a range of chemical and biological agents that
are otherwise harmless to humans."
     The woman nodded.  "Thank you.  And the third?"


     The Jardin Botanique of Monaco flashed into holographic being, filled
with flowers that were blooming earlier than they usually did.  "Switching on
gravitational filters," said Cronyx.  The image turned black, with glowing
golden lines delineating space-time curvature.  A pocket of bent space,
though invisible in the normal visual spectrum, became apparent.  The outline
of a huge woman wielding a mace was trapped inside the spatial chrysalis.
     "TerraStar.  Nominally a witch of earth and stone, but her powers are
greater than she pretends.  Threat level, high, but she will be incapacitated
for the duration of the battle.  During Triton and Sultry's wedding, she had
been sealed inside this space-time fissure by Triton.  However, using magic,
her mind had escaped confinement and had taken over the heroine Geode.  When
the opportunity arose, she merged with the giant Venusian beetle Heraclius.
It is likely that she is currently distracted by the activities of Light
Errant from her quest to recover her body.  As a result, she will have little
impact on our plans."
     "And yet her prison is the Lock that our Four Keys must open," said the
woman, running her hand through the image of the trapped TerraStar.


     The scenery changed slightly, returning to the visible spectrum, this
time showing a cybernetically-enhanced human hand-in-hand with a lithe
Russian woman strolling in the botanical garden, not far from the spatial
rift.  They seemed to be enjoying the last of the daylight and the
surprisingly balmy weather for this time of year.
     "Challenger and Spiral.  Threat level for Challenger low.  He has minor
cybernetic enhancements, but his sharp mind and his notoriety as a reporter
of paranormal activity are his greatest assets.  After leaving the CSV with
Spiral, he became an instructor at the Academy, teaching Ethics and
Journalism.  His presence here is motivated by his student Bobby Chambers, as
previously noted."
     The woman shook her head.  "Re-evaluate him as threat level mid.  I've
seen how his mind works first-hand.  He is more dangerous than most people
give him credit for.  Continue with Spiral."
     Cronyx bowed.  "File amended.  Spiral.  Mistress of telekinetic torque.
Threat level, mid.  Along with Challenger, she resides at the Academy.
However, given her criminal past, she had been placed under probation until
she has proven herself trustworthy.  This is her first major foray out of the
Academy on good behavior.  She hopes to become an instructor at the Academy
in the new academic year.  She and Challenger seem devoted to each other,
which irks Conflicto to no end."
     "Thank you.  Continue," said the woman.


     The image shifted to that of the bridge of Skyhaven.  A red-skinned
woman with grey hair piloted the ship, muttering to herself in a singsong.
     "Burnout.  Threat level, high.  Able to transmute people into ash.
Possibly the deadliest power that needs to be dealt with.  Formerly mortal
enemies Cockatrice and Mister Strings, the actions of Jessa Dumont trapped
Mister Strings into the mind of Cockatrice," revealed Cronyx.  "Due to the
strange merger, Burnout is immune to mental effects.  Although the two minds
have had much time to adapt to their shared body, Burnout may still hesitate
in times of crisis as the two minds struggle for dominance.  Recommendation:
blinding her as soon as possible."
     "Thank you," said the woman.  "That leaves Sultry and Triton."


     The holographic scenery shifted to the skies above Monaco.  Flying
beside the giant airship was a woman in orange, basking in the sun.  "Sultry.
Weather manipulator.  Threat level, high.  She has been blessing Monaco with
perfect weather in Monaco for months, making the country among the top travel
destinations in the world.  I believe it is a gift for Tiara, who had
permitted her and Triton to hide their twin children in Monaco.  She has done
little else recently besides being a mother to her two children.  However,
she can be a fury when she needs to be, especially if her husband Triton or
her children are in danger."
     "And the Fourth Key?" asked the woman.


     A clean-shaven man sat in his office aboard Skyhaven, poring over
documents as his children, a boy and a girl, played with CSV action figures
on the floor before him.  The children each wore a force-field generator like
their father.  A suit of blue-and-white armor stood behind a shimmering
force-field the corner, along with a great shaft of gray metal studded with
conduits and controls.
     "Triton.  Electricity generation is his natural power, but he is a
gadgeteer of much skill.  Presently the Chancellor of Khadam, he stepped down
from CSV leadership but still participates in team activities as necessary.
Threat level..."
     "High," said the woman.  "He is our Fourth Key.  He made the spatial
rift here with the AstroSpear, and it will be that act which dooms him and
the others."  She gave a soft laugh.  "Aside from his love of Sultry and his
children, it will be his pride that causes his downfall."
     "Those are all the subjects under surveillance," said Cronyx.  "Anything
else, madam?"
     "One last thing," said the woman.  She entered the yacht through the
hatch.  On the ground was an open golden sarcophagus, the interior of the
casket filled with glowing circuitry.  A young male form wrapped in bandages
that resembled black gel was struggling inside the coffin, but unable to
escape.  Bound like a mummy, only his pleading eyes were visible.  The lid to
the sarcophagus hung from the ceiling.
     The woman lowered the lid, sealing the prisoner inside the sarcophagus.
The casket was the spitting image of Cronyx, and in its hands was a golden
ankh.  Its Anubis-eyes began to glow sapphire-blue.
     "Begin Operation 'Four to Never'," instructed the woman.
     "Yes, madam," said the Cronyx-casket, and in a burst of blue lightning,



     "Four to Never" Lap 1 kicks off in ASH #77, "Time Traps" as the plans
of our mysterious viewpoint character from this issue get underway!  Then,
come back here in CSV #27 for Lap 2, "Time Bombs"!


Author's Note:

     The CSV's back!  I can't believe it's been almost four years since I
wrote the last issue.  Where have I been?  Well, I've been trying my hand at
professional publication, and recently became the Second Place winner in the
Writers of the Future Contest, First Quarter 2006.  It left little time to
write CSV issues, but I did manage to consult with Dave on storylines
involving the CSV, including the evolution of the "Four to Never" arc that
you are reading now.  
     This issue actually hadn't been in the plans, but Dave suggested that I
let readers catch up with what's been happening with the super-villains since
the #1-#25 run.  So, this is more of a Who's Who in the CSV and what they are
doing now, and a teaser for the dramatic events about to unfold.  You can
find the references to the actual issues of ASH where certain events happened
above.  Enjoy!

Editor's Notes:

     Here's some references for events mentioned in this issue, for those
wishing to go back and reread (or read for the first time) those stories.
     Subject 27: Tiara - Maxim's madness was caused by one of Glyph's spells,
some time between CSV #19 and CSV #25 (referenced in #25, but not shown).
     Subject 28: Conflicto - The Raleigh incident happened between CSV #25
and ASH #50, but this is an untold tale as yet.  Conflicto arrived on Venus
in ASH #62 with the Raging Mad Mountain Gorillas to help found the settlement
of Tritonis on Ouda Regio, and was present for the wedding of Peregryn and
Essay in ASH #76 before heading back to Earth for the Prix Ultime.
     Subject 29: Glyph - Ascended to leadership of the Conclave of Super-
Villains at the end of CSV #25.  She absorbed the scales of the World Serpent
in ASH #50.
     Subject 30: Labyrinthe - Yvan was banished from Earth during the
Capstone series, and was part of Montreal's protective dome until Peregryn
freed him in ASH #64.  He spent the next few months with the Falcon Bay
settlement, but reunited with his sister in ASH #76.  Peregryn's banishment,
while directed at Caryatid, affected Yvan and still prevents him from
returning to Earth.
     Subject 31: Caryatid - Same fate as Yvan.  Following the breaking of the
dome in ASH #64, she took over as ruler of Montreal, with the Sans Rouge as
her inner circle.  She has since gained power over elemental ice, but is
likewise still mystically prevented from coming to Earth.
     Subject 32: Light Errant - Her presence on Venus has not yet been
explained, nor have her actions since CSV #25 (when she was admitted to the
team) been depicted.  So you haven't missed anything.  :)
     Subject 33: Kaliban - He was appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary for
Khadam to the court of Q'Nos in ASH #60, arrived in ASH #61, and has been
there ever since.
     Subject 34: Myriad - Her activities since CSV #25 have not been
     Subject 35: TerraStar - Sealed in the warp bubble in CSV #25.  In ASH
#50, she projected her spirit out of her trapped body and into the body of
Base of the Pillar, saving the Moslem superhero from death and transforming
her into a new form as Geode.  TerraStar mostly bided her time riding Geode's
body, until ASH #70, when she transferred her spirit into the mighty stone
beetle, Heraclius.  She has since attended the wedding of Peregryn and Essay
in that form.  Her reaction to Light Errant's actions on Venus has not been
     Subject 36: Challenger - After traveling for a while with Spiral after
both left the Conclave of Super-Villains in CSV #25, Coulter was offered
sanctuary and a job at the Academy in ASH #43.  He accepted in ASH #45, and
has been teaching ethics and journalism there since.  He has occasionally
given information or advice to ASH.
     Subject 37: Spiral - As part of Coulter's deal, Spiral was put on a sort
of probation, as outlined this issue.  She has been allowed out of the
Academy on occasion, with supervision, but this was her first trip out of the
     Subject 38: Burnout - Cockatrice and Mr. Strings were merged in CSV #21.
Burnout was framed for a Hangman killing in ASH #73, but cleared when she was
able to demonstrate that she had been in Khadam the entire time, and further
cleared when Supernaut was blamed for the murder in ASH #75.
     Subject 39: Sultry - Fought against sirens in ASH #50, off-screen.
     Subject 40: Triton - Has been running Khadam since stepping down as
leader of the Conclave of Super-Villains in CSV #25.  Took part in the
defense of Haven in ASH #50, and has performed various diplomatic maneuvers
regarding Q'Nos and Venus.  Appeared in holographic form before the United
World in ASH #69 to publicly recognize Q'Nos's claims to Venus and declare
non-aggression with Q'Nos on Earth.

     Who are Subjects #1-26?  Well, there ARE supernormals other than the CSV
that might interfere with our mysterious lady's plans.  Not to mention, three
unnamed Keys....


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