ASH: ASH #80 - Timequake Part 2: Blitzkrieg!

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Fri Mar 16 19:33:25 PDT 2007

     Cover shows a column of WWII Nazi tanks approaching the viewer.
Standing astride the lead tank is a man carrying a large bearded poleaxe that
crackles with lightning.

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #80
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||              Timequake Part 2: Blitzkrieg
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          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 19, 2026 - Houston, Texas Sector]

     "So, Mike...your sister get out of Dallas okay?" Bijaya asked as he
looked up at the Big Board for the tenth time in as many minutes.  There
wasn't a manned mission up at the moment, so the tracking center was in quiet
standby mode, really just doublechecking the results sent in by the
interdiction satellite the Planetary Confederation had in place to deter
     Mike nodded.  "Yeah, she's staying with our mom in San Antonio for now.
I've been bugging her to get out of that hole for years now, guess it took a
mandatory evacuation to shift 'er.  Me, I'm worried that crap that's spewing
out of the time rift'll spread downriver here, and we'll have to reloc to the
backup in Florida."
     "Hey, Florida's nice enough, especially this time of year.  And it's not
like hurricanes never hit Houston."
     Mike waved dismissively.  "Oh, it's not hurricanes, it's the whole
tourist trap atmosphere.  Could be worse, though, I hear China's putting
together a spaceport in the Gobi, on top of an old Pranir smuggling strip.
Working *there* would just su...what the hell?"
     Alarms were lighting up all over the tracking center.  The Big Board
shifted from its usual flattened projection of the planet to a spherical
representation that made exact positions of selected objects clearer.
     And it was clear that something big had just appeared in low orbit over
the Eastern Hemisphere, descending fast.
     "Holy..." Bijaya hissed.  "How did that get there?  We're not getting
any hyper footprints from the interdict, are we?"
     Mike shook his head.  "Nada.  But it's not moving fast enough to have
sneaked up on us without some kind of cloaking.  Besides, it looks like it's
changing was on a direct intercept for, looks like northern
Africa, but it's deflecting a little now.  It'll, I hope, or
impact.  Either way, it looks like it's gonna be a really bad day for Spain!"
     The room started to fill as people who had been on break, or working
other duties, came in and took up stations.
     "Kowalski, see if you can get a visual on whatever that is!" Bijaya
shouted to one of the newcomers.  "I'm sure the jet jockeys are already
scrambling, and they're gonna call any second to ask us what it is so they
can decide whether to blow it up...."
     "It's gone," Mike realized, pointing uselessly at the Big Board.

               *              *              *              *

[April 19, 2026 - Earth Orbit]

     "I've got enough other sensors online to confirm gravimetrics, sir!
Including main visual!" Dectos Vega shouted over the rising din on the
bridge.  "We're headed dirtside!"
     "Dectos Synam, can we steer clear?" Commander Hektane asked.
     "It's no good, sir!  We can't shed enough momentum or turn hard enough
with our current vector," the Dectos replied, nervously.
     "Radar sheath online," another rating noted nervously.  While it made
them invisible to most long range detectors, it also kept their own long
range systems from seeing anything.  Right now, though, they could all see
pretty clearly the most important thing in the area, now that visual sensors
had been brought back online.
     Earth.  And they were on a collision course, thanks to some mis-Twist.
The Fornax hadn't been anywhere near the original home of the humans when it
started its last Twist through tachyonic space, but somehow they'd overshot
by far more than anyone could recall having happened.  To anyone.
     "Are the Twist engines still online?" Commander Hektane asked, wincing
     "Aye, captain.  We should have enough residual power for a Twist out to
the Oort Cloud.  But..."
     Hektane shook his head.  "You heard Synam.  We don't have the jets to
pull out of this, and the Fornax is meant to destroy surfaces, not *land* on
them."  In fact, the ungainly ship would probably break up before reaching
planetary surface...which it would do VERY hard, since it didn't have the
kind of thrust needed to counter a standard gravity.  The main drives didn't
work as well in an atmosphere as they did in space, requiring a vacuum for
full efficiency.  "Another mis-Twist might be as bad, but it can't really be
worse...get us a Twist solution out of here, right now!  We can hide in the
Oort cloud and make enough repairs to get home."
     If home was still there, Hektane reflected.  They hadn't gotten much
data from the hardened backup sensors before realizing they were dangerously
close to Earth, but what they had found out made him wonder if they were
really in the same Sol system he was familiar with.
     Then all musing was cut off by the familiar wrenching of the Twist Drive
kicking in and hurling them through the planet as a stream of insubstantial

               *              *              *              *

[April 19, 2026 - Skyhaven, Monaco Bay]

     "I'd like to thank Glyph for letting us use this space one last time
before Skyhaven returns to Khadam for more complete repairs," Meteor nodded
to the leader of the Conclave of Super-Villains.  "I expect we'll all be in
contact after this to share information, but I'd like one last face to face
meeting before we go our separate ways."
     She looked around the table.  Most of the Earth-side ASH members were
present: Green Knight, Fury, Scorch, and Breaker, with Lightfoot currently on
a mission.  Arc and Hotspur of EUROPA were also present, as were Grind, Drake
and Kleinvogel of STRAFE.  Glyph and Sultry sat at the head of the meeting
room table, but the rest of the surviving Conclavers were conspicuous by
their absence.
     "There don't seem to be any new major time rifts opening up, although
it's possible that there's dozens of them out there we haven't found, simply
because nothing dangerous has come through them.  The larger ones have been
giving off strong tachyon signatures, but the smaller ones simply don't emit
enough energy to be obvious unless something pops through.  That said, we do
seem to have two classes of rift.
     "The first seals behind itself, possibly because so much mass passes
through that it disrupts the rift.  The one the demonic Mongol fleet in the
Sea of Japan came through seems to be of that type, as does the one that
briefly opened in orbit.  More on that second one in a moment.  The second,
more problematic sort of rift is staying open, theoretically allowing two-way
travel.  The one in Rome is currently under guard, and we've shoved the
dinosaur back through, just in case a Butterfly Effect is possible.  The
Polish rift is still open, despite the large size of the panzer group that
came through, and Arc is working on a plan to get the tanks back through,"
she nodded to the leader of EUROPA.  "The rift over Dallas has been estimated
to stretch back to the Precambrian age, and the only thing to come through it
so far has been unbreathable air...we're pretty sure there was no life other
than in the seas back then, so we just have to keep any idiots from this side
from trying to go through.  Right now, that's our priority for sealing, since
the air pressure on the other side is so high we can't simply plug it with a
force field and let it sit.  Once we figure out how to seal these rifts, we
can go to work on the others.  Oh, and there seems to be a rift in the Moslem
Confederation territory, but they won't let us close enough to gather any
intel.  We just have to hope it's not dangerous for now."
     "Can we get back to the orbital rift now?" Glyph asked.  "Whatever came
out of that came uncomfortably close to hitting Khadam.  We have preparations
in place to deal with threats from the sky now," she shot Meteor a
significant glance, "but more information is always preferable."
     Meteor nodded, letting the veiled reference to her missing husband pass.
"That one's worrying me a *lot*, and I've got Lightfoot up there looking
around to see if he can find anything.  It was definitely a ship of some
kind, and a big one.  It definitely arrived via time rift, as there was a
strong tachyon signature when it appeared.  There was another tachyon
signature after it vanished, but more focused, not like the ones generated by
the time rifts.  More importantly, it vanished from radar thirty seconds
before the second tachyon signature.  Not the most comforting thought, since
that implies it may have some sort of stealth system.  The PC interdict
satellite was on the wrong side of the planet to get a visual, but confirms
that there was no hyperdrive signature either on arrival or departure.  Right
now we're trying to see if anything was looking in the right direction at the
time, but it's not looking good.  It arrived just barely on the daylight side
of the planet, so none of the visible-light astronomical systems would have
been open for business yet, just things like radar.  Fortunately, after
Doublecross's Paris plot, our space tracking systems were permanently
upgraded, so we do have more data on the ship than we might otherwise have
gotten, but it's still not a lot.  I'll have it all forwarded to your systems
once we finish here."
     "Do we have any good news at all?" Sultry asked, frustrated.
     "Yes," Contact interjected.  "I was able to get one more piece of useful
information out of Timeslip's memories.  Just a flash, but he saw part of a
yacht, complete with enough of the registry number that we were able to find
it.  It's named the Lazy Twilight, flagged out of Malta to a woman named Neve
R. Mai.  And yes, for any at the table who don't know, 'mai' is Italian for
never...the sort of deliberate calling card someone picking up the legacy of
the CSV would leave.  We're trying to see if this false identity has anything
else of interest attached to it, but I doubt it.  In any case, we should be
able to locate the Lazy Twilight pretty soon, and then decide if we want to
try to board it."
     "It's likely a trap, for many reasons," Grind noted.  "Not least being
that everything these people have done so far has been a trap in some way."
     "Granted," Meteor agreed.  "So, that's where we stand.  We have a
possible lead, most of our time rifts are currently being dealt with, and
there's something really big out in space that will probably come back at the
worst possible time.  Any questions?"

               *              *              *              *

[April 20, 2026 - near Poznan, Poland]

     Felix had seen nothing like these two women in all his admittedly short
time with the 4th Panzer Brigade.  The two light companies of the second
Abteilung had seen many strange things in the past several days, though, so
the speedy french woman and the young Polish woman tipping over
Panzerkampfwagen I's still had stiff competition.  There had been rumors of
ubermenschen under development in the Bavarian labs, but a Slav with such
     He triggered his PzKpfw I's twin 7.92mm machineguns, carefully tracking
the bursts onto the slender Pole, but she barely jerked as his weaponfire
shed off her like rain from a duck's back.  She did seem to be careful to
avoid the 2cm shells from the company's heavier PzKpfw II's, so she was
probably not completely invulnerable. 
     Not that this comforted Felix overmuch, as he was in an all but obsolete
Panzer I, and the other inhumanly strong woman seemed to be heading his way
despite the efforts of his infantry support to stop her.  This was certainly
not turning out as well as the first day's battle had.
     "Back off, Frenchie!" came a shout from behind, barely audible over the
chattering of Felix's guns.  He turned to see a man in what looked like
aviator's leathers, swinging a great poleaxe that crackled with lightning and
glowed with some sort of runes.  He pointed the weapon at the woman
approaching Felix's Panzer and a bolt of electricity shot out, striking her
in the chest.  She staggered, spasming from the jolt.  
     Felix snapped out of his shock and swung his turret around, taking
advantage of her momentary stop to fire several rounds into the woman,
dropping her to the ground.  She didn't bleed, but it was the most effective
his guns had been since the two women had started assaulting the company's
laager ten minutes ago.
     The Pole snarled and turned away from her current target to advance on
the axe-wielder, but only got a few steps before she too was struck by
lightning, followed by a 2cm shell from one of the more alert PzKpfw II
gunners.  She flew forward and landed almost atop her comrade, who was
starting to rouse.
     With a glare of hatred for the newcomer, "Frenchie" picked up the Pole
and ran off faster than Felix's eye could follow.
     Shrugging, the man walked over to Felix and said in German with a strong
British accent, "Greetings!  I am called Justice.  May I speak to your
commander?  It is a vital matter of importance to the world!"

               *              *              *              *

[April 21, 2026 - the Oort Cloud, Sol System]

     "Ship, this is Commander Hektane," the captain said over the ship-wide
channel.  "There have been a number of rumors floating around about our
situation, and I'd like to clear things up.  Now that we've had time to fix
our most serious damage and get some more accurate star readings, I can say
that we are no longer in our own time."
     He could feel the murmur run through the massive ship, despite the comm
system being set to one-way operation.  Even the bridge crew, who already all
knew what he was going to say, seemed to echo the trepidation and shock that
others no doubt were expressing.
     "We're not a survey ship, so we don't have the most up-to-date
astrometrics gear, but we were able to get a fix within half a century either
way, which was more than good enough to be sure that there's no going home.
At least, not simply by Twisting.  Further, once we knew what to look for, we
were able to pick up old Planetary Confederation communications traffic from
an interdiction satellite.  We're apparently stuck in the dying days of the
Confederation, in perhaps the worst possible place to be...the Sol System at
the height of its so-called 'Heroic Age'.
     "The good news is, it's extremely unlikely anyone can detect us where we
are.  We have better sensors than anything in this era, and if we see someone
coming we can always put up the radar sheath.  Plus, even with most of the
ship's resources devoted to the planetary sterilization systems, we're likely
better armed than anything we're going to find in the hinterlands here.
Anything that can find us can't beat us.
     "The bad news is, there's a reason the Galactic Warrior Corps was forced
to attempt destruction of this world on several occasions.  The paranormal
inhabitants of this world make any of the psis or wild talents from back home
look puny by comparison, and it's certainly possible that one of them will
have the power to face a ship of the line.  That said, we do have several
     He paused to let things sink in, then continued.  "The safest option is
to take the long way home.  Engineering assures me that the old slowboat
systems were installed in the Fornax, should they be needed in the event of a
Twist breakdown.  We can reroute main gun power to the drives and maintain a
constant one-gee acceleration long enough to reach a high enough relativistic
speed that with minimal use of hibernation we could simply loop up and around
off the galactic disk, so that we come back to Santari space more or less in
our home time.  However, I'm not inclined to use that option unless nothing
else works."
     Another pause.  He once again wished that ship captains had some sort of
sealed orders from the Emperor, an "Open in case of time travel" sort of
packet, but he didn't.  Maybe the admiralty had thought about the matter and
had plans in place, but a mere Commander wasn't privy to that sort of thing.
Especially since he captained a ship built with well-proven technology that
wasn't supposed to do weird and unpredictable things.
     "Our other option is to grab this opportunity with both hands.  We
destroy Earth now, before they spread to the stars, and then return to
Santar.  We all know the basics of this ancient history, which Houses were
responsible for the fall of the Confederation...we can stop all of that.  We
can sidestep centuries of decline and rebuilding, and establish the new
Santari Empire right now, in our lifetimes.  The technology aboard the
Fornax, in her databanks and in the skills we all bring to the table, will
free our people from dependence on the T!rir's handouts.  The Twist Drive
will let us bind the scattered worlds together, where the six month
Hyperspace round trip from one end of the Confederation of the other doomed
it to disintegration.  Are you with me?"
     A ragged cheer resounded through the massive ship.
     "Good!  From here on out, time is our ally.  I don't intend to do this
in a slipshod manner, although we do need to move relatively quickly.  We
were visible long enough that even the primitive Terrans would know we were
there, and that will likely bring attention from the Galactic Warrior Corps.
But we have time to repair all systems and devise a plan of attack.  I
already know which of you did well in your military history classes, but if
any of you have studied this era as a hobby, inform your superiors.  We don't
have a scout wing, or anything capable of making the trip from here to Earth
in a reasonable time other than the entire ship, so I'll want to know as much
as possible before we return.  Our first strike needs to remove as much of
their space-travel capability as possible, so that we can concentrate on
sterilizing the world at our leisure...."

               *              *              *              *

[April 21, 2026 - Olympus, Q'Nos]

     "This is certainly fascinating, Kaliban," the Vizier said, a thoughtful
hand on his chin.  "But definitely well beyond my abilities, at least as they
now stand.  Even in my heyday, artificial intelligence wasn't one of my
     Kaliban nodded.  While "Simon Smith" played things close to the vest at
even the least guarded of times, the former Vivarium resident had learned
that he was among those rarest of individuals...someone who had been active
in the hurly-burly world of supernormality in the previous century.  Hero or
villain was left unsaid, but the man was clearly no Anchor, making him rarer
still for a survivor.  But no mere observer had been Mr. Smith.
     "Still, o prince among men, while skills improve with the passage of
years, the man underneath rarely strays far.  What you can do may not apply,
but what you would do given the skill is a matter of your mettle."
     "Ah, yes.  But would I give away my personal weaknesses to the
ambassador plenipotentiary of a power I may one day find at odds with my lord
and master?  Still, I suppose I could offer some clarity, confirm what you
may already have guessed," he relented.  "Much of my mystic training comes
from an alchemical background, as you have no doubt surmised by now, and the
leader of your Conclave of Super-Villains should be well-versed in those
arts.  While he appears to be bronze, Talos is likely a more mystical variant
on the metal, incorporating more than merely copper and tin.  I would expect
some of my own blood to have been used in quenching the alloy, to make him
more a true offspring of mine...and if you haven't already found a way to
obtain genetic samples from me, you won't be clever enough to defeat Talos
anyway," he grinned in an grandfatherly manner that belied his role and
     Kaliban nodded.  "What of his mind?  Is there anything you would dare
tell me of how you would have a son think and feel?"
     Smith shrugged.  "Likely entirely mystical in nature.  Given the
identities of the other members of the team as you have described them, I
don't think I would risk silicon or photonics in the construction.  He would
be intended as my successor, and if Matrioshka or Chiaroscuro could subvert
him too easily, he would not be very good at that job, yes?  Now, it does
sound like Talos is something of a child in his reactions, especially his
reaction to pain.  I suspect I wouldn't try to give him a fully-formed
psyche, but rather I would craft a child and send him into the world to grow
up on his own.  Talos is likely still very much that child, albeit a very
powerful one."
     "Thank you, Vizier, for your sage advice," Kaliban bowed.
     "One more thing, ambassador plenipotentiary," Smith grinned.  "The
powers over light that Chiaroscuro seems to wield can be traced back through
several steps to a man who was the first to go by the name of Beacon.  While
he is long dead and forgotten by most, one of his enemies may be rousing from
her slumber.  Whether she is a help or a hindrance to Chiaroscuro remains to
be seen, but any others who claim descent from the Lord of Living Light may
wish to keep a close eye on the shadows...."

               *              *              *              *

[April 22, 2026 - near Leszno, Poland]

     "My subordinates have told me they believe what you say, at least as
much as any of this situation is believable," Oberstleutnent Schmidt said,
gesturing as if to take in an entire world gone mad.  His tightly-fitting
black "Panzer wrap" uniform was spattered with dried mud here and there, and
he hadn't shaved in days.  "But, Herr Shaw, I wish to hear it from your own
mouth before I decide if I can trust you."
     "Well, you know my name," Colin replied, the English accent to his
German having faded somewhat over the past few days, thanks to all the
talking he'd been doing.  "And you know that you're in a Poland not under
German rule.  In fact, Poland spent most of the past eighty or so years
under the thumb of Russia," he said.  The best lies contain the most truth,
mum always told him.  "Germany lost the war that you were involved in helping
start back in 1939, and was divided among the victors.  Russia came out of
the war in a pretty good position, and communism spread across much of the
world...I was raised in socialist England, for instance," he told the
assembled officers.  It was more or less true, too...Labor had held onto
Parliament most of the time he was growing up, and that was pretty socialist,
     "If you were raised socialist, why do you seek to help us?" Schmidt
     "Because I was raised socialist, sir!" Colin replied, mustering as much
indignation as he could manage.  "I wouldn't wish socialism on even the
Russians.  Now, I'm not much of a historian, but I can't help but think that
if Germany won, or even if it held out a little longer before losing, the
world would be better off.  And when I found this," he hefted his mystic axe,
"I knew that the spirit of Germany was the key to finding justice in the
world.  So I named myself Rechtigkeit, after the previous German heroes to
carry the axe and fight against wrong."  In fact, there had been two heroes
of that name before.  One in the 1950s and 1960s, and the other in the
1990s.  Both had met unpleasant ends...the first had been murdered by his own
son.  But they had fought for West Germany and worn its colors.
     "I have assessed our situation," Schmidt narrowed his eyes.  "We do not
stand a chance.  Eventually, even with your help, the armed forces of this
time will mobilize and we will be crushed.  The small tank unit we faced when
we first arrived was clearly far beyond our level of technology, and only
surprise and no small amount of luck let us carry the day.  They will not be
so easily surprised again.  Why should we not simply try to get the best
terms for surrender that we can manage?"
     "Because you don't have to fight them *now* to win," Colin explained.
"History shows you vanished in 1939.  While you are only two light companies,
the confusion your disappearance caused threw the entire advance into
disarray.  Poland was still conquered, but precious momentum and confidence
had been lost.  Stalin saw weakness where there should have been strength,
which gave him courage to counterattack.  If we could get you back through
the hole in time, history might be changed for the better."
     The lieutenant colonel pondered this for a long moment.  "Still, it has
been several days now.  Even if we were to fight our way back to this 'hole
in time,' you say we emerged from, would not our absence of several days do
enough damage?"
     Colin shrugged.  "I'm not a scientist or a philosopher.  Maybe time will
repair itself if the damage is small, and you'll actually reappear with no
lapse in time.  Maybe you'll get back several days late, but your story will
be believed.  Maybe the legend of the time-lost panzer command will become a
rallying point.  I really don't know.  But I do know what happened in my
history, when you never came back.  And I do know that if you stay here, you
will have to surrender at some point."
     Schmidt smiled.  "You are earnest, I will give you that.  And there's
even a small chance you are telling the truth.  But," he picked up a book
from the trestle table behind him, "this may be telling the truth as well.
My men found little useful intelligence in this village, as so much seems to
be stored on electronic machines we lack the time to learn the operation of,
but your future time still has books.  And I read Polish," he tapped the
title.  "In the event you do not, it is a history book.  Oh, save your
protests.  I am aware that history is written by the winners, and the fact
that you and this book disagree does not mean you are wrong.  But even if
your words are a lie, your message is valid.  We cannot stay here.  And this
is not a future in which I would wish to live...perhaps on my return to 1939
I can attempt to set things right."

               *              *              *              *

[April 22, 2026 - Malta]

     The helijet touched down in VTOL mode, disgorging a small army of
supernormals, the majority of the Earthside contingent of ASH plus most of
the STRAFE core team.
     "The harbormaster confirms that no one has left the Lazy Twilight since
it docked an hour ago," Tony Drake said, holding a hand over his earpiece to
block out the roar of the helijet's slowing rotors.
     "Contact, you're with me on boarding duty," Meteor ordered.  "Breaker,
Fury, Green Knight, backstop us.  Dan?" she turned to Grind.
     "I'm going in.  Tony, you too.  Jen, I want you to go talk to the
harbormaster in person, just in case he's hiding something.  Take C.J. with
     "And me?" Teller asked.
     "Stay by the helijet, break out the rail rifle.  If we need to move
fast, I want there to be something to move *in*," Grind ordered.
     "Gotcha," the telekinetic marksman nodded.
     "I'm on point," Drake said, as the foursome approached the yacht.  Being
nearly impossible to damage made him a natural for a suspected trap.  He
could still feel pain, and there were any number of ways to neutralize him,
but at least he'd survive being at the sharp end.  Meteor's speed, Contact's
psi powers and Grind's overall "super spy" abilities made them the best bets
for the boarding party out of the rest of the combined teams.
     "Sensors don't show anything but a standard commercial security system,"
Grind noted as they came up to the yacht.  It was maybe thirty meters long,
impressive for a private citizen but common enough among the rich.  "But that
doesn't mean anything, given that our targets have access to technology
twenty-odd years ahead of our own.  I've neutralized the security system in
any case."
     "Are you sure that's a good idea, Grind?" Contact asked as Tony picked
up a portable gangplank and moved it over to the hull.
     The leader of STRAFE shrugged.  "It's a no-win situation.  Deactivating
the system may trigger something, but not deactivating it means we'll set off
alarms that may be tied to traps.  Either way something might go off.  And if
this whole thing is a red herring, at least we don't have the nuisance of a
klaxon now.  Contact, are you picking up anything?"
     The muscular telepath shook his head.  "No minds, no.  There's
something, almost at the edge of my senses, but I can't nail it down.  It's
familiar, though."
     "Well, let's get on board," Drake said, walking up the gangplank.  "The
party can't start until the guests arrive."
     When nothing exploded, opened fire, or otherwise spat death at Tony, the
other three followed him onto the yacht.  
     "I think I know what I'm getting," Contact said after a few moments of
carefully pacing the deck.  "It's like a telepathic static shield, but
quieter.  More of a sort of cotton wadding, where static shields are like
steel wool.  Must be 2052's version.  So there could be dozens of people
belowdeck, or no one, and I wouldn't know."
     "Then you might as well go join Jen, help her question the
harbormaster," Meteor sighed.
     "Right," Contact agreed, hopping down to the dock.
     Then the Lazy Twilight exploded.


Next Issue:

     You should know by now that no one's totally safe now that the
Impossible Five hold all the cards, but did they play an ace or a deuce in
Malta?  Plus, there's still more immediate problems to deal here
next issue for Timequake Part 3: Dallas Rocket!


Author's Notes:

     Ooops!  In CSV #28, the dinosaur appears in Venice, but in ASH #79 I had
it in Rome, and no one caught it (least of all me) until weeks after posting.
Let's just say that the reports coming in during CSV #28 were a bit garbled.
     Most of the Gobi is actually part of the Central Asian Confederation,
but it's the sort of place that no one really fights too hard over, and the
People's Republic of China does lay claim to some of it.  That's where their
new spaceport is being built.  It's the same sort of logic that has had
spaceports proposed in Arizona and Nebraska in the real world...if you're
going to have a land-based port, put it where there's lots of open space in
case something comes in hard.  Or, at least, somewhere with too few people to
have the clout to keep it out of their backyards.
     I suppose I should go into a bit of background on the Santari for the
benefit of newer readers who haven't trawled the entire archive yet.  The
wars of the gods involve a lot of time travel and paradoxes, hence the term
"Causality Wars" you may have seen pop up from time to time.  In an attempt
to shield himself from having his worshippers erased from existence, a minor
Roman god named Santarus took a dedicated core of his followers and plopped
them down on an Earthlike world over 200 lightyears from Earth and ten
thousand years in the past.  He set them up with a supernaturally stable
culture, a side-effect of which was that the Magene was almost completely
suppressed in them.  And then he got himself erased via other means, leaving
a colony of humans on another world with no memory of Santarus save for the
certainty that they were the Santari (or Santarii, my Latin skills are pretty
much nonexistent).  They did go into a bit of a decline a few times, but
always bounced back, and by about the time they caught up with the era they
had been pulled from, they were starting to explore nearby stars.  All of
this was a roundabout way to have human-like aliens with a Romanesque culture
without invoking the "parallel evolution" cliche.  I wanted my own cliche, by
gum!  I will admit that my origin for the Santari has not exactly been
popular with the readers, but I like it...and even if I didn't, I don't think
I'd want to retcon it away now.  That way lies Infinite Crises.
     And no, the Santari don't actually speak English (although they probably
have plenty of loan-words by the 37th Century), or use terms exactly like
"Oort Cloud", but I've never really cared for the SF trope of making up new
names for everything simply for the sake of driving home alienness.  When I
do make up terms, like Dectos or Tsaran, it's because it's for something
where there isn't an English word.  Or because the mood strikes me.
Whatever.  So assume that their dialogue is all translated not only into
English, but into appropriate Terran terms where such exist.  For what it's
worth, Dectos descends via long and twisty paths from Decturion, but has
changed in meaning as it has been applied to new situations and military
structures over the millennia.
     The Panzer I (PzKpfw I) really does kinda suck, poor Felix.  Check out
its stats at  But, in real history, it
really didn't face much opposition in 1939, and even a "trainer" tank is
still better than the horse-mounted cavalry Poland was still fielding.  Each
Panzer Regiment or battalion in 1939 was composed of two Abteilungs
("departments"), each made up of two light companies (with Panzer I and IIs)
and one heavy company (of Panzer III and IVs), for a total of 71-74 tanks.
The stranded tanks in this story are the two light companies of one
Abteilung, plus their anti-tank support.
     For those who haven't been following along the whole time, Simon Smith
was born Bennett Rush.  In the 1970s, he was a government employee who
stumbled across the equipment of the original Beacon (see his series at and used it to become the
high-tech villain Doublecross.  An accident with a teleporter turned him into
living light in the early 1990s, but his hubris led him to clash with Apollo
during the Godmarket, and he was stripped of his powers and memory and turned
into a mortal once more.  But, thanks to Apollo's curse, he was "invisible"
to the gathering up of paranormals that created the Barrier.  Much later, he
stumbled across the original home of Simon Filius, the Renaissance-era
alchemist who would become Lord Ebon in the 20th Century, and his study of
magic unlocked his blocked potential once more.  Contact with a fragment of
Eos's rainbow bridge (pieces of which he used to create Q'Nos's gateway to
Venus) unlocked his memories as well.  Needless to say, he's very careful to
not let anyone know he carries the legacies of two of the 20th Century's most
notorious villains, although Peregryn probably suspects him of being a
student of Ebon's writings.
     Justice seems to spend a lot of his time pretending to be one of the bad
guys, doesn't he?  Infiltrating the Revanche, acting the part of a pro-Nazi
resistance wonder people have trouble trusting him.  :)


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