ASH: Coherent Super Stories #1: Taking Flight

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Tue May 1 08:25:18 PDT 2007

     The cover looks like a Marvel comic from the early 1970s, and is
slightly worn around the edges.  In the center of the cover is a silhouetted
human figure with dragonfly wings and a vaguely machanical tail, but almost
all details are blotted out in shadow.  A red question mark is superimposed
over the face.  The cover copy demands to know, "WHO IS...DRAGONFLY?" 

 .|, COHERENT                                            An ASHistory Series
 '|` SUPER STORIES                        #1 - Taking Flight 
        Featuring Dragonfly               copyright 2007 by Dave Van Domelen

[July 4, 1976 - Washington D.C.]

     "The United States of America has had two hundred years of existence,
but that ends now!" a heavily armored figure shouts from the base of the
Washington Monument as camera drones whirr around him, capturing every nuance
of the scene.  "Today starts the rule of the machine, so swears ANTIOCHUS V!
Now go, my steel and silicon children!  Raze this city to the ground that I
may build my own capital upon its ashes!"
     "Not so fast!" cries Dragonfly as he swoops in on buzzing memory plastic
wings.  The technological wizard who cracked the secrets of gravity itself
flies in, carrying none other than his occasional foe, the supervillain the
papers call Powerhouse!
     "America may have given me a raw deal," Powerhouse snarls as he drops
among the robotic minions of Antiochus V, his ebony fists changing to diamond
and lashing out to crush their bodies, "but that doesn't mean I'm letting
some tin-plated turkey serve the country up well done!"
     Flying in behind Dragonfly are a quartet of the finest heroes the
country has left to offer in these jaded times: Ladyhawke, whose wits are as
sharp as her metal wings; Fantom, the man who made himself half a ghost
thanks to his forbidden science; Delta Rose, gentle as the dawn and fierce as
a desert noon; and Weapons Master, trained in the exotic fighting arts of the
     "Looks like a job for my shock-chuks!" Weapons Master announces,
deactivating his jump belt and pulling a pair of charged rods from his hip.
Only his insulated gloves keep him from tasting the electrical justice he
serves up to the closest robot, sending it into a spasm of short-circuited
     Firing bolt after bolt of intense pink laser light, Delta Rose glides
over the Mall, strafing the leading edge of the robotic horde and keeping it
penned in.  "This is a piece of pie, guys!  No laserproofing!"
     "Cake, Rose, not pie" Ladyhawke smirks, enjoying some private joke.
Then she swoops into the massed ranks of automata, the incredibly thin metal
of her wings slicing through limbs and torsos like a chainsaw through butter!
     For his part, the mysterious Fantom remains silent, as is his wont.  His
disturbing appearance has no effect on robots that know no fear, but the
ghostly bullets from his twin Colt 1911's pass partly into their bodies
before becoming solid once more and ricocheting around their innards.  They
may not fear death, but he will give it to them nonetheless!
     "Organic fools!" Antiochus V shouts.  "Given time, you may be able to
turn the tide, but time is not a luxury I intend to give you!  Technology may
be your tool, but it is my very ESSENCE, and it is time to strip that tool
from you!"
     Energy crackles briefly around the crudely armored bulk of the
megalomaniac machine, and then RELEASES in a rushing WAVE of destruction!
All technology not specially shielded by means known only to Antiochus V
ceases to function!
     "Uh, guys?" Weapons Master mutters as his shock-chuks bounce harmlessly
off a robot.  "Unless my sword can cut these tin cans open, I may be in
     "Speak for yourself," Powerhouse sneers.  "Nothin' but mechanical relays
and alchemical formulae in my rig," he boasts, pushing a button on his
harness that causes his free hand to drip with metal-eating acid.
     Up in the air, Dragonfly's wings droop, and the thin foil of Ladyhawke's
razor-sharp feathers crumples like paper.
     "I've got you!" Delta Rose shouts.
     "No, get Fantom out of there!" Dragonfly orders, somehow still suspended
in mid-air.  "Je...Ladyhawke, clear the other two out too, time to ditch
     "You got it, 'darling,'" Ladyhawke winks, tearing the useless wings off
and nearly vanishing from sight.  A shadow in the shape of a woman swoops
down to pluck Weapons Master and Powerhouse out of the melee while a shocked
Delta Rose goes to help the powerless Fantom.
     "What insanity is this?" Antiochus V demands.  "There is no electrical
response from your suits!  My sensors never lie!"
     "But they don't always know the whole truth, either," Dragonfly
chuckles, unconcerned that his stabilizer tail is drooping uselessly behind
him, emitting a thin trail of smoke from the damaged laser array in its tip.
"None of this was supposed to happen, and I'm putting a stop to it right
now," he adds cryptically.
     Dragonfly detaches a pod from his belt, noting that his allies are now
all clear of the area filled by Antiochus V and his progeny.  "GRAVITY BOMB!"
he shouts, throwing the pod to the ground.
     And suddenly the air itself seems to become heavy.  The robots buckle,
the soil compacts, and the Reflecting Pool cracks in a thousand places.
     "NO!" Antiochus V shouts.  "No one on Earth has such power!  This is a
trick!  An illusion of some sort!  You're...skkkk...deceiving my...bzzzz...
     "You should've stayed in hiding, robot.  You might have lived longer,"
Dragonfly says grimly as the Mall gains a thick layer of smashed metal and
plastic and the last of Antiochus V's camera drones dies.
     Confused, gentle reader?  How can Dragonfly and Ladyhawke still be
flying, after their antigravity harnesses were destroyed?  Well, to me, that
wasn't the really odd thing.  To me, seeing Dragonfly in action at all was
strange...because I'm Dragonfly, and I'm watching this whole affair on
television from my hidden lab, confined to a wheelchair.  Well, I had been
watching it, before the camera drones were crushed.
     Maybe you're just unfamiliar with the whole thing, though.  Sure, you
must have heard of Antiochus V, but perhaps you don't know about me.  Let me
tell you a story about my brief superheroic career.  It begins and ends with
Antiochus V....

               *              *              *              *

[November 12, 1971 - East Lansing, Michigan]

     I hadn't felt so beaten and bruised since my thesis defense, and most of
*that* damage had been emotional, not physical.  Of course, Mr. I'm With The
Government, I'm Here To Help wasn't going to let me escape the day
emotionally unbruised either, it was starting to look.  If nothing else, my
headache was going to get worse.
     "Doctor Robert Baines, if the paramedics are done checking you over, we
need to talk.  In private," the agent urged.  "Miss Corrigan should be
present as well."
     "Who are you, and where's your badge?" Amy countered.  A bandage covered
a cut over her left eye, but she'd otherwise gotten out of the situation in
better shape than I had.  She always seemed to have that knack, to the very
     "Agent Bennett Rush, Department of Super-Human Affairs," he answered,
pulling out an official-looking ID.
     "Wait," I held up a hand.  "Maybe it's the concussion LABRAT probably
gave me, but I thought the DSHA was a purely military organization?  I don't
have any military funding here, it's purely civilian DoE stuff."
     Agent Rush shook his head.  "You need to watch the news some, Doctor."
     "Professor," Amy interjected.  I wasn't tenured yet, but Amy was clearly
trying to grab the posturing high ground on my behalf.
     "Professor Baines, the DSHA has recently been split off from the
Department of Defense," Rush continued, a hint of exasperation in his voice.
"In light of recent upsurges of superhuman activity in New York City in
addition to the San Francisco situation, it was decided that the government
needed an independent group to oversee domestic superhumans as well as help
monitor compliance with the Paranormal Warfare Treaty.  Now, if the
paramedics could leave us?"
     I nodded to the woman who was doublechecking some of my bruises.  "I'll
be fine.  I'll come by the hospital later for X-Rays," I assured her.  With a
look of professional discourtesy to Rush, she and her partner packed up their
gear and left.
     "Thank you.  Now, before I go any further, Do...Professor Baines, I just
want to verify a few things about you and Miss Corrigan," he flipped open a
notepad and started reading off the facts of my life.  "Your father, James
Harrison Baines, was a construction brigade corporal in the Pacific Theater
of Operations in World War Two.  He met your mother in Manila, and like a lot
of soldiers, brought home a war bride.  You were born in '46, and the three
of you moved around quite a bit before settling down in Seattle in '54.  Some
problems with racism kept you on the road, I believe?  Anyway, Seattle was a
good fit, and you finished growing up there, going to University of
Washington for your degrees in Physics.  After a brief research fellowship in
Batavia, you got an Assistant Professorship here at Michigan State.  You come
up for tenure in a year and a half, and your publication record suggests
you'll get it."
     I nodded, confirming the sketch of my life story.  After all, I had no
idea at the time that my father had been more than just a SeaBee, and Rush
saw no need to fill me in at the time.  I didn't blink at the fact he had all
that information...I'd needed to get a security clearance for my grant, so
the government had all the relevant and irrelevant details.
     "Amy Corrigan, born and raised here in Michigan, just outside Alma.
Medaled in state high school gymnastics twice, despite being rather tall for
a gymnast.  Got your pre-med biology degree here at Michigan State, where you
met Professor Baines.  Currently working as an unpaid research assistant, as
well as part-timing at a local clinic while you decide whether you want to go
to med school."
     "Oh, I think I've decided to put that off for a while, be sure to add
that to your notes," Amy smirked.
     "Thank you," he scribbled the addition, either missing the sarcasm or
choosing to ignore it.  "Now, as I mentioned, the DSHA now has domestic
authority to investigate any situations involving superhumans, not just those
involving the military."
     "Fine, but I'm not a superhuman any more than I'm a military man," I
protested.  "My research has been veering into 'pseudoscience' lately, I'll
admit, but...oh, this is about Doctor King, isn't it?"
     Rush nodded.  "He's started calling himself the Freemason lately, and
using robots to commit various crimes.  Your little incident here involved
one of his prototypes, and it may have activated according to some hidden
directive of his.  What can you tell me about it?"
     I sighed, trying to collect my thoughts.  "Okay, LABRAT was part of the
junk in this room when I took the job here at Michigan State.  No one else
could get any of Dr. King's stuff to work after he was fired for...well, I'm
sure you know more about that incident than I do.  Anyway, as low man on the
totem pole, I got stuck with the lab, and in my spare time I've been seeing
if I could get any of this to work.  LABRAT was one of the first things I got
functioning, and since I don't have any grad students to do my scutwork yet,
it was a big help keeping the place clean and running some of the more
tedious parts of my research."
     "I've seen the images, the robot is humanoid.  Why do you call it
labrat?" Rush asked.
     I shook my head.  "It's an acronym for something.  Stencilled on the
inside of its chest access panel.  There wasn't any documentation or
anything, but I think at least one of the A's stands for anthropoform."
     "I'm partial to Loveable Anthropoform Bio-emulating Robotic Adaptation
Testbed myself," Amy pitched in.  "But we have a whole list of guesses we
made up one night.  Some of them get pretty rude, though, we were drunk."
     "I'm sure," Rush didn't spare Amy a second glance.  "Were there any
hints prior to today regarding its sentience?"
     I shrugged.  "Well, it was clearly meant to be sentient from the start,
but in the way a dog or a cat might be.  Able to recognize its environment
and itself separate from that environment, respond to stimuli, that sort of
thing.  AI isn't really my field, I just got its powerpack to work and it
turned itself on from there.  But the whole 'renaming itself Antiochus V and
proclaiming itself the vanguard of Earth's new dominant lifeform' thing?  No,
that was a total surprise.  It beat me and Amy up, and left.  I hear it
dismantled the Spartan statue on its way off campus and wrapped pieces of the
bronze around itself as armor...weird."
     "Did it take any of the other abandoned technology you...inherited from
Samuel King?"
     I shook my head.  "I don't think so.  I haven't had time to do a careful
inventory, and it's possible it was slowly stealing stuff over the course of
the semester and replacing it with fakes, but I keep pretty careful track of
it.  Part of my AEC license requires some really obsessive recordkeeping.
And before you ask, both of the miniature nuclear power packs are still
here.  That was the first thing I checked once I came to, even before I
called the paramedics and police.  All our fuel rods are still here too.
LABRAT ran on batteries, I guess it didn't feel like trying to upgrade itself
that seriously yet."
     "What, exactly, *do* you need miniature nuclear power plants for?"
     "The flight harness," Amy explained, striking a modeling pose.  "I was
testing one out when LABRAT went nuts.  You need a lot of power to counter
the force of gravity."
     Agent Rush got a thoughtful look on his face.  "Indeed you do.  Well, I
need to go talk to some of the other witnesses, we think Antiochus V might be
headed for Detroit.  But I'll be back...if nothing else, I think your
experiments might end up under DSHA jurisdiction.  Or you yourself will.
It's starting to look like people who can make weird science work are
actually superhumans."
     And you know what?  He was right.

               *              *              *              *

[November 19, 1971 - Near Meridian, Michigan]

     "Now, be really careful," I said for what must have been the tenth time
that afternoon.  "My AEC license doesn't, strictly speaking, let me take the
nukes outside the lab."
     "Ha.  I'll be fine.  All-State uneven bars gold and rings silver,
remember?  You're the klutz here.  And you took the flimsy plastic wings, to
boot!" Amy smirked.
     November in Michigan is cold enough that we had an excuse to be all
bundled up in football padding under our clothes, but once we put on the
bulky harnesses over our coats it'd be unmistakable that we weren't just some
late season hikers.  Amy had a set of wings made from thin metal foil
stiffened by magnetic fields...potentially much more maneuverable, but also
presenting more hazards in the event of an accident.  My wings were made of
memory plastic, but controlled by a computer system to hopefully keep me
stable despite my much lesser athletic abilities.  And we both had harnesses
that contained my gravity nullifier.  It would make us weightless and even
allow some propulsion via localized redirection of...well, let's just say
they did most of the work.  The wings were for guidance.  In Amy's case, if
this all went the way we were thinking it might, they'd also be weapons.
     "Okay, everything set?" I asked.
     "Five green, no red," she looked at the lights mounted on her wristband.
"Deploying wings, so stand back!" she warned, pressing a button on the
wristband.  Like those party streamer things, sheets of metal unrolled form
her backpack, stiffening into gleaming, razor-thin wings.  The leading edges
clamped onto her armbands.  "I'm go for takeoff."
     "All green here," I responded, pressing a control on my belt.  My own
wings unfurled, smaller than hers, and made of a shimmering translucent
substance.  Each of the four was connected to an actuator that could flap it
back and forth or tilt it as needed.  "Go with antigravity!"
     Flying for the first time was like having sex for the first time.
Awkward, uncertain, potentially embarrassing as hell...but there's *nothing*
like it.  And, like sex, it was something Amy and I now shared.
     Within moments, she was swooping and diving like she'd been born a bird.
Me?  I was struggling not to slam headfirst into a tree...but it was still
amazing.  I'd flown on wires once in high school, during a production of
Peter Pan (so sue me, I've always looked young for my age, so I got to play
Peter).  But this was nothing like that.  In the play, the harness had pulled
up on me, and it was uncomfortable as hell.  But the antigravity system
wasn't carrying me like a wire, it was surrounding me in a field.  It was
like swimming in air, I was buoyed up all over.  Literally, in fact, come to
think of it.  Fortunately, the field wasn't 100% efficient, or we might have
shot up into the sky like a kid's balloon.
     That...was an unpleasant thought.  I hadn't even considered buoyancy
before that moment, it could have been a fatal omission.  I made a mental
note to add a control to the system to let me gradually increase weight, just
in case.
     After I figured out how to steer this damned thing!

               *              *              *              *

[December 2, 1971 - East Lansing, Michigan]

     "What's that?" Amy asked as she entered the room.
     I flipped up the welding mask and made sure the arc was turned off.  "My
solution to the control problem, at least for now."
     "You're adding a tail?" she sounded dubious.
     "Yep.  It's all about conservation of angular momentum.  And it helps
the dragonfly motif the wings give the outfit."
     "Pretend I'm a pre-med who hasn't taken physics in a few years, Bobby.
Just because I date you doesn't mean I pick this all up by osmosis."
     "Oswhatsis?  Okay, have you ever tripped and as you started to fall,
waved your arms around in a circle to try to keep from falling?"
     Amy shot me one of Those Looks.  "Not lately.  You're the one who has
all the grace of a pregnant waterbuffalo."
     "Fine, um...okay, when you do a dismount.  You don't just land straight,
right?  You'd pivot around your feet and fall over.  You move the rest of
your body around to prevent that."
     "Okay..." she replied in a tone that suggested my metaphor wasn't quite
right, but that she was willing to humor me.
     "Well, that's angular momentum.  Something that's spinning or set
spinning will tend to keep spinning.  But you can move the spinnyness into
just part of your body, giving you time to reposition yourself.  If your arms
are pinwheeling, your body doesn't have to move.  Anyway, I found this robot
tentacle thing in Dr. King's gear, and set it up with a gyroscope to sense
when I start to spin too hard one way.  It'll react by thrashing that way,
helping me keep my balance.  It also means I can't maneuver very tightly on
purpose either, but once I'm not a hopeless newbie I can always turn it off.
Oh, and it has a laser in it, too!"
     "Boys and their toys," Amy smirked.  "So, I take it your codename is
gonna be Dragonfly?"
     "I guess so.  I've got some ideas for an optics array that'll give me
all-around vision, but I'll settle for regular goggles and a ski mask for
now.  What about you?"
     "Well, I'm thinking some sort of bird of prey, like Falcon or Hawkwoman
or Peregrine.  I've got a feathered leotard in my closet from a few
Halloweens ago that I can use, and I can wear it over some longjohns while
it's cold like this."
     "Ah, my fine lady hawk.  Do hawks eat dragonflies?"
     "I will resist that straight line," Amy frowned.  "Hm.  Lady hawk.  A
little more zing than hawk lady or hawk woman."
     "Throw an 'e' on the end and you can even trademark it," I grinned.
     "Actually, that's not a bad idea," she replied, her expression turned
serious.  "I mean, if we end up doing this superhero thing long term, and not
just long enough to track down Antiochus V, there's merchandising to
consider.  License our likenesses out, help pay for the hospital bills we'll
probably be racking up."
     "It'd be kinda hard to keep a secret identity and still do that,
though," I pointed out.
     "Well, given that Agent Rush'll probably have us figured out the moment
we show up in the papers, maybe we should ask him to be our other kind of

               *              *              *              *

[December 3, 1971 - Detroit, Michigan]

     Really, I didn't plan to take the suits into real action so soon after
finally figuring out my stability problem.  But when the evening news
mentioned a bronze figure spotted by security guards at several Detroit area
auto plants...well, we had to at least go check it out in person.  And the
flight over from Lansing to Detroit helped me work out some of the kinks.
     "Anything on police band yet?" Amy shouted over the wind.  Some sort of
helmet radios were definitely on the upgrade list.  Along with warmer
underwear...wind chill from flying a hundred miles an hour was brutal.
     "Nothing robot-related, no," I adjusted the headset.  I'd spliced the
antenna leads into my tail for now, its length made for a good receiver.
Besides, I'd checked out real dragonflies at the insect museum on campus, and
they really didn't have noticeable antennae, being sight hunters.  "Wait,
something coming in about a mechanical man at Quality Motors on the north
     "Time for action, then!" Amy shouted in anticipation, banking north.
We'd spent the afternoon poring over aerial maps of Detroit, familiarizing
themselves with all the auto plants, since they seemed likely targets for
Antiochus V in his hunt for body upgrades.  In all the years of my career, I
never did manage to get a map display for my helmet working, so we both had
to get very good at mapreading and memorization.  At least I installed
compasses for us both after that time we got lost over Lake Michigan in 1973.
     Within a few minutes, we were diving low over the Quality Motors plant.
We could hear police sirens in the distance, but the police wouldn't be there
for at least another minute or so.
     "He's grown," Amy commented as we got close enough to see the glistening
bronze figure striding across the half-empty parking lot.  The plant had cut
way back on third shift activities lately, what with the price of gas going
up and Japanese cars taking a bite out of the market.  "And he's shinier than
the Spartan statue ever was."
     "I don't think that's him, unless he's changed his mind and switched
from the whole Maccabees angle to an Egyptian motif.  That looks like one of
the bird-headed gods they had," I mused.
     "You're right," Amy nodded.  "Anyway, he may be too shiny for your laser
to be a good idea, let me take first shot."
     "Be my guest," I tried to bow in mid-air, an effect ruined by my tail
thrashing me back upright.
     We'd agreed that her athleticism made her better suited for in-close
fighting than I was, especially given the sharpness of her wings.  So, as
much as it tore at my heart to see her dive into danger, I knew that was the
tactic that'd work best for her.  
     For a horrible moment I thought she'd simply smash into the ground, but
she pulled out at the last instant and swept along just above the roofs of
the parked cars.  Her right wing bit deep into the robot's thigh, and it
started to topple in a shower of sparks and steam.  However, it hadn't been a
clean cut, and Amy...Ladyhawke...tumbled out of control, slamming into a
chainlink fence as her right wing twisted up upon itself.  Even though we
both knew from experience that the antigravity fields generated by our
harnesses made impacts far less damaging, my heart still caught in my throat
until I saw her stand and shake her wing back into shape.
     Meanwhile, the robot was trying to get back up on its one undamaged leg,
while also struggling to hold onto a safe that it had apparently ripped out
of a wall.  Too small to contain any sort of components, it must have had
blueprints or other valuable information inside.
     Turning my tail laser on at low power, I pointed the beam until it
rested on the robot's wrist.  Then I triggered a pulse at full power, and was
satisfied to see the hand fly apart as the beam found something vulnerable
and the superheated plasma created by the laser striking it generated a
miniature explosion.  The safe fell to the blacktop with a dull clunk.
     "I hope your maker was into anthropomorphism," Amy muttered as she
landed next to the struggling robot and hacked at its neck with her left
wing.  The head dropped off in a shower of sparks, and the robot ceased its
     "I think this is the work of the Clockwork Ibis," Amy said as I landed
next to her.  "One of the Tinker Ten out in San Francisco.  Maybe he's bored
with tangling with Brightsword and wants to try out greener pastures?"
     "That's the first time I've heard Detroit described as greener than
anything," I chuckled.  "But if he's thinking there's no superheroes here,
he's about to be very disappointed."
     Carefully guiding the beam, I etched out a message for the police on the
breastplate of the robot.
     Then we took to the air just as the parking lot filled with flashing red
and blue police lights.

               *              *              *              *

[December 4, 1971 - Okemos, Michigan]

     The flight harnesses were carefully hung in the closet.  The costumes
less carefully so.  The long underwear was just scattered about the bedroom.
God only knew where Amy's bra had gotten to.
     "You know, I thought I'd be too tired to do anything after that fight
and the flight, but I was wrong," I sighed as Amy snuggled up against me.
     "So little self-knowledge," she purred.  "I knew exactly how wrong you'd
be, and I was looking forward to it.  And I predict you'll be ready for
another go-round in a few minutes."
     "Oh?  And on what evidence does the mighty hero Ladyhawke make that
prediction?" I arched an eyebrow.
     She just grinned and ducked below the covers.
     Life was good.
     If only it could have lasted forever.


Next Issue:

     It's the height of the Second Heroic Age, as Detroit becomes the newest
locus of superhuman activity!  In "The View From Here," Dragonfly and
Ladyhawke meet new heroes, new villains, and experience everything their new
lives have to offer!  Be here for Coherent Super Stories #2!


Author's Notes:

     The series title, Coherent Super Stories, was inspired by a suggestion
Marc Singer made.  The 1970s saw a number of reprint titles crop up, such as
Marvel Triple Action, so I figured I'd take a cue from those with this
series.  Coherent Super Stories isn't actually reprints, of course...that
wouldn't really make sense given the fact that all issues of all titles are
perpetually "in print" anyway.  Rather, I'm going to use it as an umbrella
title for ASHistory stuff that I don't think would fit better in Time
Capsules.  "Reprints" in the sense of "stories from the ago-time" I suppose.
Fleshing out the backstory of the ASH Universe.
     So, to kick off CSS, I've mined some of my unused old character ideas
(something I call "applied nostalgia") and spruced up some that have been
mentioned in the setting already.  In the notes sections of each issue I'll
cover the "out of story" backgrounds of some of the characters seen in CSS,
and once the arc is over I'll be posting the sourcebook I put together to
help me in writing.
     But first, the usual "explain things that would be too awkward to
explain in the story" endnotes.  :)
     The DoE is the Department of Energy, and the AEC is the now-defunct
Atomic Energy Commission, replaced in 1974 by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission.  In the real world, the AEC came under a lot of fire for
inefficiency, corruption and so forth, hence the changeover.  In the ASH
universe, things like letting people play with portable nuclear power plants
added to the arguments for reform.
     Quality Motors is a fictional company, we'll be meeting its owner next
issue.  The Clockwork Ibis, the Tinker Ten, and Brightsword will all show up
eventually either here or in LL&DD, but for now just consider it part of the
breadth of the ASH Universe.

     Origins Part 1: Dragonfly, Ladyhawke, Antiochus V, Bennett Rush.

     Dragonfly and Ladyhawke are both fairly old characters of mine,
especially if you look at Ladyhawke as a design evolution of Razorhawk.
Antiochus V doesn't go back as far, being a relative youngster with a
creation date of 1993.  Bennett Rush actually comes from a spies RPG in high
school, but went through several iterations of "secret betrayer".
     Dragonfly was a member of my second incarnation of the Pantheon of Super-
Heroes in 1984, created using the Marvel Super-Heroes rules.  He had a winged
costume with a bug-eyed helmet (and mandibles!), plus carried a polearm that
had blades shaped like a dragonfly's wings.  His tail was a Doctor Octopus
arm ripoff, and he had a big DF on his chest.  His wings helped him fly, but
he was all about the antigravity tech.  Antigrav in the suit, antigrav in the
polearm (to counter what I knew was a horribly unwieldy design even at 14
years old), Wingless Wizard ripoff antigrav discs he could attach to foes,
etc.  He didn't make it into the 1986 revision of the team, and I only ever
drew him twice: a solo shot (with one of my earliest attempts at putting a
background in a picture) and the team pic.  However, his presence "infected"
much of the team, as he was the excuse to give antigrav gadgets to loads of
other characters who otherwise wouldn't have a reason to have 'em.  Yes, even
at age 14 I realized the absurdity of the "Iron Man doesn't make tech for all
the Avengers" premise (mind you, he actually does kit out a lot of them with
at least some stuff...gimmick arrows, image inducers, communicators, etc.).
     Razorhawk was a design worked out in Champions around 1986.  The basic
Razorhawk powerset was applied to Ladyhawke as an NPC in my original Academy
of Super-Heroes Champions campaign in 1988-91, and she was the mother of one
of the teen hero PCs, Rad.  Back then, she had originally fought against the
early versions of Mechanon in the 1970s, so it made sense to revise that to
be Antiochus V.  Anyway, the Razorhawk/Ladyhawke suit used a compact power
source in the small of the back (a neutrino sieve for Razorhawk, a nuke for
Ladyhawke) to power both antigrav systems and memory metal foil wings that
could roll up and store in the back when not in use, but were bulletproof and
could slice through armor plate when active.  And yes, I took the name
Ladyhawke from the 1985 Matthew Broderick movie.  I suppose Amy gets to sue
the studio later on.  ;)  
     Antiochus V, for his part, was first introduced into my ongoing
worldbuilding as a Megatron analogue in my RoboMACs 2163 setting in 1993, but
I also made a version for my Raiders campaign, who I decided had been a
villain in the 1970s but had been in hiding since then, rebuilding himself in
an organic form.  He's also the only major 1990s ASH villain who I haven't
brought back in the 2020s in some form, having decided that Tymythy Twystyd
and the other Raiders destroyed him pretty thoroughly in 1994.  But every
universe needs at least one megalomaniacal robot intent on replacing humanity
with robots, and he's mine.  I essentially distilled out one aspect of
Ultron's long and messy history and ran with it.  The name was inspired by
Peter David's "Doc Samson explains Hannukah" story, in which Antiochus IV
(the heavy in the Hannukah story) is portrayed by Ultron VII.  His LABRAT
identity was new for this series.
     Bennett Rush has a weirder pedigree than most, and is going to take a
bit more verbiage.  Back in high school, I gamed with a bunch of college
students, and one of them worked in a billing department.  So he started
saving the names on billing stubs instead of recycling the paper, resulting
in a big bag of random names of real people in town.  When we needed a random
name, we reached into the bag.  Bennett Rush turned up as a PC in a spy game,
but I thought the name was so cool I decided to recycle it later.  Fast
forward to college, where one of the players in my ASH Champions game had an
DNPC scientist who built her supersuit.  I gave him the name Bennett Rush,
and immediately decided that he was *really* a Hunted.  He was using the
cybernetic controls of the suit to use her to commit crimes on the side,
assembling the tech he needed to become Doublecross!  Doublecross himself had
evolved separately in high school, when I designed a character who had
Multiform via powered armor...the suit transformed, and with it the
personality of the wearer.  The heroic Force-1 and the villainous
Doublecross.  So, Bennett Rush the spy plus Doublecross the "technology
testbed" merged into a villain with significant personal importance for the
PCs.  Now move on to the Raiders campaign in grad school, where I was
recycling various ASH things, but stripping out the Champions-owned stuff.  I
was casting about for a name for the team's DSHA liaison, and grabbed the
name Bennett Rush.  Realizing what I'd done, I decided to run with it.  After
all, nothing said I had to use all of the ASH stuff as-is, even the parts I
had made up.  So now, upstanding federal employee Bennett Rush was also the
techno-villain Doublecross, using his day job to the advantage of his night
job.  I later came up with the background you'll see unfold in this series,
where he went from earnest government agent to embittered traitor (although
he doesn't actually become Doublecross until the 1980s).

     Other characters will be covered in the notes of future issues, as they
become more relevant to the story.  Some of them have histories as long as
Dragonfly's (or longer), while others were made up either for this series or
this is otherwise their first time used by me.  And at least one has never
been more than just a costume and a power set until now....


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