[ASH] Coherent Super Stories #15 - Mixed Media featuring Brightsword II

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Sat Apr 12 22:43:49 PDT 2008

     The cover shows a silhouette of a woman with long hair in a bodysuit,
backlit by the moon as she stands atop a building.  There's some hints of
blue and red at the edges of her silhouette, and just enough moonlight shines
through her hair to suggest it's blond.  Cover copy, "Who's that girl?"

 .|, COHERENT                                            An ASHistory Series
 '|` SUPER STORIES                        #15 - Mixed Media
        Featuring Brightsword             copyright 2008 by Dave Van Domelen

[Answering Machine Message on the telephone of Jim Jackson, Tuesday November
17, 1994]

     Hey, daddy...I met with that old war buddy of yours, about the rumors
our competitors were expanding into Chicago?  Turns out the CEO was just in
town for a retirement party for one of his dad's old associates.  I decided
to leave well enough alone, crashing the party would be rude, and most of
these guys have been out of the business so long there's nothing I'd be able
to get from schmoozing.
     So, anyway, I booked a flight back to SFO for Monday.  Cheaper tickets
if I stay over the weekend, and it'll let me do the touristy thing.  ASH may
not be in town anymore, but there's still lots to see, and I hear the night
life's been on the upswing again lately.  I might even get a chance to wear
that new outfit I packed.  Who knows, there might even be some clients to
work here, mix a little business with pleasure.
     Talk to you soon, hopefully I don't just get the machine again.  You
really should get a cellphone, you know.  They *do* make 'em sturdy enough
you won't accidentally break one.  Love you, daddy, bye!

               *              *              *              *

chi.superheroes #64271 (1 + 4 more)
From: Carl_G_Winton <dabearsrule23 at aol.com>
Newsgroups: chi.superheroes,soc.superhuman.superheroes
Subject: Lady Lawful new costume?
Date: Fri Nov 18 06:20:53 CDT 1994
Organization: America Online
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I think I saw Lady Lawful last nite!!!!

She was jumping around hte Loop, no mistaking that bod or that blond hair.
But I think she's gotten a new costume, she was in a white bodysuit with some
sort of red details I couldn't make out, plus blue boots and gloves.  I think
she also changed her belt to red, but she was moving really fast.

NE1 know if there's any pictures out there of her new outfit?

 /   `     DA BEARS RULE    dabearsrule23 at aol.com    DA BEARS RULE  /   `

chi.superheroes #64273 (1 + 3 more)
From: ASH Fan 1 <rde332 at uchicago.edu>
Newsgroups: chi.superheroes,soc.superhuman.superheroes
Subject: Re: Lady Lawful new costume?
Date: Fri Nov 18 08:23:12 CDT 1994
Organization: University of Chicago
Lines: 9
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     I'm pretty sure she's still in the red and blues, Carl.  That, or she's
trying out a new costume on a temp basis, since there was a sighting down on
Lake Shore Drive last night, in her old outfit.  I think she was spotted at
about 1AM, when did you see her?

     Rob Evans

I do not have a sig.file.

               *              *              *              *

[Chicago Sun-Times, "Super-Beat" column, November 18, 1994]


     According to police reports, Chicago's own Lady Lawful broke up a high
stakes art theft ring last night, as they were breaking into the Field Museum
in search of some rare paleolithic carvings.  
     The thieves were purely normals, although unconfirmed eyewitness
comments suggest they were equipped with either low-level supertech or
perhaps alien technology to help them in their work.  This equipment included
at least one "blaster" of unknown style, which is said to have "scorched Lady
Lawful a little."
     Lady Lawful did not linger after giving her reports to the arresting
officers, and it's possible she went home to change into an undamaged new
costume, because several eyewitnesses place her at various points downtown in
the early morning hours, but wearing a mostly white outfit.
     "She musta been really busy, though," said Javier Ibanez of Harvey.  "I
shouted her name and she didn't even look down."

               *              *              *              *

[Excerpt from Doctor Developer's Greatest Hits, volume 1: 1993-1997]

     A fixed camera view shows a woman in a skintight uniform held down to a
concrete floor by thick wrought iron staples driven into the floor.  The
uniform is mostly white with a red sword insignia down the center of the
torso and some red stripes on the arms and legs.  Her hands are covered in
leather bags, as are her feet, although a pair of blue boots and matching
blue gloves can just be seen at the edge of the viewing range.  A blue domino
mask covers her eyes, and her long pale blond hair spreads out in a halo
around her head.  Connected to the bags on her extremities are slender but
taut ropes, which lead off-screen.
     The woman starts to stir.
     "Uhn," she moans.  Then, with slightly more coherence, "What the hell
hit me?"
     "Good morning," a male voice can be heard.  No speaker is visible on the
screen.  "Or good evening, I suppose.  It depends on how long the stunner
net's effects lasted.  To be honest, I was expecting someone else...oh, and I
should warn you not to move until I have a chance to explain your situation."
     "Who are you?  Where am I?" the woman demands.  However, aside from some
slight straining, she heeds the warning to remain still.
     "If you'll look up, you'll see your own laser torch, suspended from a
very sensitive latticework of threads.  Each of your limbs is connected to
that lattice by a rope...if you move too quickly, you'll snap one of the
ropes and your own...ignited...weapon will plunge towards your heart.  I've
done some research on you while you were stunned, Brightsword, and I'm fairly
confident that your own weapon can hurt you, maybe even kill you."
     Brightsword turned carefully, looking at the bonds that held her.
     "I was tempted to keep your weapon, actually.  It looks to be
normaltech, probably of alien manufacture, and that makes it particularly
useful to me, since I'm a normal.  Well, in a technical, Violation Physics
sense of the word, anyway," he admits, a bit sheepishly.  "I took enough
pictures of it that I should be able to track down a copy through the Pranir
markets, assuming it's alien."
     She starts to flex one of her hands within the leather mitten.  The way
it moves suggests it's been wrapped around something unyielding, to minimize
range of motion.
     "Now, I suppose you could wait for the power cell in your sword to run
out.  I've rigged it to be turned on when motion detectors pick up your
return to consciousness, but I don't know how long it can stay on.  And I
don't have hard numbers on your strength...those staples would hold my
intended target, but, well...one makes do.  There's a lot of information
available about your predecessor from the Second Heroic Age, but you've only
been active a few months, so there's not a lot of data available.  There are,
oddly, a lot of stories written about you online.  In fact, I first heard
about you when looking for, um, information about the local patriotic
superheroine here in Chicago.  There's a few pretty enthusiastics fans of
yours online, although you might want to talk to a lawyer about some of the
stories.  I think the technical term for them is 'femmeslash'.  Anyway, my
apologies for the simplicity of this predicament, but I've only been in the
Windy City for a few weeks now, and truly artistic traps require a little
more time than I've had.  In fact, if you hadn't all but blundered into
something I was testing, you wouldn't be here."
     However, the apology was wasted on a room empty of anything except for
smoke and twisted metal.  Brightsword was gone.

               *              *              *              *

chi.superheroes #64291 (1 + 0 more)
From: John Smith <thedoctor3 at webtv.com>
Newsgroups: chi.superheroes,soc.superhuman.superheroes
Subject: Re: Lady Lawful new costume?
Date: Sun Nov 20 13:47:32 EDT 1994
Organization: WebTV
Lines: 27
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     In case anyone's still wondering, the "white costume Lady Lawful" is
actually San Francisco-based hero Brightsword, another "legacy" hero, so
she's sort of like Lady Lawful.  She's also superficially similar in
appearance and powers, but she seems to be stronger and significantly more
invulnerable than Lady Lawful, if not as fast.  She's using the laser torch
weapon of the original Brightsword, I couldn't say is she has any particular
skill at swordplay, though.  She's definitely tough enough to survive a
strike from her own weapon, but a strong enough electrical jolt will still
stun her.
     Oh, and one thing of interest to trivia buffs with an interest in
dogooders.  Brightsword's fingernails are as invulnerable as the rest of her,
and she's sharpened at least one of them to a scalpel-like edge, then painted
it over with regular nail polish so it's not immediately obvious that it's
been sharpened.  In a pinch, she can saw through wrought iron with that nail.
I wonder how many other invulnerable female supers have thought of that
     I think I still like Lady Lawful better, though.  Brightsword's a little
too...reckless for my tastes.  Much like her predecessor, I suppose.  He had
a reputation as a bull in the china shop, and I suppose it would make sense
to pass the baton (or sword) to a like-minded individual.
     Anyway, check out alt.binaries.superheroines, I uploaded some clear
shots of Brightsword if anyone's interested.  I might mirror them on the web,
too, but I just moved and I don't have a reliable local ISP yet, hence the
webtv.com account.  

The Doctor is out.

               *              *              *              *

[Answering Machine Message on the telephone of Jim Jackson, Monday November
21, 1994]
     Daddy, I don't think I like Chicago's nightlife.  This one guy picked me
up and took me back to his place, but he was into some really messed up kink,
and I stormed out.
     I thought about going back to give him a piece of my mind once I'd
cooled down a bit, but he'd cleaned out and didn't leave a forwarding
address.  I kinda worry about the other gals in town, I think he's stalking
someone who he mistook me for, but I just gave what I knew to the cops and
went back to my own hotel for a looooong shower.  I don't think I really
wanna get in the middle of this.
     Seriously, daddy...I'll take the San Francisco weirdos over this guy any
day.  See you tonight, can't wait to get home!  Oh, and could you talk to our
legal people about internet libel?  My 'date' mentioned something that makes
me think we need to get them looking into some things....


Author's Notes:

     For those who aren't following ASH with a laser-like intensity, Jim
Jackson is the original Brightsword.  His daughter, Gloria, is leaving a
message in the first scene to tell him that the lead on Darkshield in Chicago
didn't pan out, while Tobias Raven was indeed in town, it was just to visit
an old partner-in-crime of the original Darkshield for social purposes.
Nothing illegal she could catch him on, nor any likelihood of a plot she'd
have to stop.  Not really important to the story, but I figured I'd let you
know what was going on.  The "legal people" mentioned in the last scene are
DSHA's promotions office.
     In case you're curious, here's how Brightsword got out of Doctor
Developer's trap.  She deliberately dropped the sword on herself, since she
knew she COULD survive the hit (her father did in CSS #5, after all, and
she's at least as tough as he is).  Then she sawed her left hand out of the
bindings as per the sharpened nail Deedee mentioned and used it to cut the
manacle enough to free her left arm (she's stronger than Lady Lawful, but not
enough stronger to have simply ripped free) and used her sword to cut the
remaining bonds.

     There really is a chi.* Usenet hierarchy, and it makes sense that it
would have had a superheroes group in the ASH universe.  Soc.superhuman.* is
a pretty big second-level hierarchy, and by 1994 it had several third level
groups under it and there was even agitation to break out a fourth level.  I
wonder if the inclusion of fake headers here will screw up Google Groups when
it archives this post?  ;)

     Oh, and you'd have to be blind to mistake Brightsword for Lady Lawful.
They're totally different!  See?
     I'm toying with the idea of a running gag that Lady Lawful II and
Brightsword II never meet, but keep crossing paths like ships in the night,
occasionally getting mistaken for each other by their respective rogues'

     Now, a short digression that I probably should have put on the end of
Derek Radner's Private Journal #5, but it's appropriate enough here.
Brightsword and Lady Lawful are really the only non-military American
patriotic heroes (aka "flagsuits") of the Third Age.  There's also the Elite
Brigade, with the Colonel (Army), Strafe IV (Air Force), Barrage (Navy) and a
few others who haven't been named.  The First Age is pretty much just
Minuteman, with Lady Lawful I becoming sort of a flagsuit by default in the
Second Age due to her background.  Brightsword I was the other flagsuit of
the Second Age.  Outside of America, the Rechtigkeits wore the black, yellow
and red of Germany's flag, and Commander Force had a Canadian flag worked
into his helmet.
     So...why so few overtly patriotically-named Western supers?  Why is
Minuteman the only one with a codename even remotely in the same "namespace"
as things like Captain America or Union Jack?
     Well, out-of-story it's because all the good names have been taken, all
the okay names have been taken, and most of the crappy names have been taken.
Heck, Roy Thomas singlehandedly devoured a good chunk of this namespace.  
     Back in 1992, when I was taking my first steps at stripping Other
People's Trademarks out of my ASH setting to use it in my "Avengers of
Justice"/"Modern Knights" RPG setting, I wanted to make sure I wouldn't get
in trouble with trademark owners, so I stripped out all of the stuff I'd
"borrowed" from other sources, including most of the flagsuits.  But I didn't
want the setting to have *no* patriotic heroes, so I was left with two
choices: I could either avoid the namespace entirely, or I could pick one of
the unclaimed cruddy names and then try to explain why, in-setting, anyone
would actually let themselves be called that.
     I don't really like the second option, to be frank.  Even if you posit
that Marvel and DC exist in-setting and jealously guard their trademarks, it
makes no sense to not have Marvel license out a few of their properties to
trustworthy supers.  And with that possibility open, why would someone go by
Lieutenant Justice or The Continental Congressman?  So I just try to sidestep
the matter by not having anyone take flagsuit-ish names of any kind, good or
     That, of course, doesn't really answer the in-story question.  If Marvel
exists, why DON'T they hire some guy to be Captain America, even if it ends
disastrously?  If Marvel and DC don't exist, why wouldn't anyone think to
call themselves Captain America or Spirit of 76 or The Patriot or the Star-
Spangled Kid?
     While I haven't really explored it in depth, I think the answer to that
is that in the ASH Universe, the idea of calling yourself something like
"Captain (insert nation or city here)" was poisoned by the Ubermenschen and
Bakajin, artificial superhumans of the Axis powers, who all bore names of
that sort.  By the time anyone thought to pick one of the more obvious
patriotic names in America, the public associated bombastic flagsuit names
with Nazis and Imperial Japanese...box office poison.  The Soviets might have
had patriotically named members of their Bogatyr, but that wouldn't
necessarily make the practice any more attractive to Americans or Brits.
     The Second Age may have been far enough down the line to let that reason
fade a bit, but then you get the whole counterculture/Vietnam backlash thing.
You had a few patriotic types like Lady Lawful and Brightsword, but those
looking to embody a group tended to pick non-national ideas, such as Union
Label or Flower Power.  As for the Third Age, the Elite Brigade's existence
(starting around 1990) tended to skew perception of what flagsuiting meant,
but there were still probably a lot of "crappy name" types in 1997-8 during
the superhuman explosion accompanying the Godmarket.  Literal flagsuits also
continued to get a bad rap, with Onslaught wearing a uniform based on
Khadam's flag.
     The Fourth Age and its supra-national polities have rendered the concept
a little quaint, with government-sponsored teams tending to deliberately
steer clear of flagsuit-style branding.


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