[ASH] ASH #93 - Billions Served Part I: Roll the Bones

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at eyrie.org
Thu Oct 23 09:13:46 PDT 2008

     [The cover is an homage to the Rush album "Roll the Bones".  The ASH
logo is spelled out in black six-sided dice embedded in a wall of white dice.
In front of the wall, Chain Lightning of the Rush is tossing a NAC Marshal's
helmet as if he were rolling dice with it.  Careful examination will reveal
that summing up all the pips showing on the dice in "ASH" gets you 93.]

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #93
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||        Billions Served Part 1 - Roll the Bones
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2008 by Dave Van Domelen

                       ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL

CODENAME       REAL NAME                POWERS                   ASSIGNMENT
--------       ---------                ------                   ----------
Solar Max      Jonathan Zachary         Spacetime Control        AMERICA
                 "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

[June 25, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]

     "I guess that explains why 'Kim Bell' seemed like she was avoiding me,
no?" Essay smiled wryly after the briefing message ended.  With lightspeed
lag being what it was, most communications were more like video emails,
although her husband had worked up a mystic means of no-lag comm they could
use in emergencies.  "If I got too close to little Cindy I'd'a been Anchored,
and we mighta figured out she was really Gimble.  Ow, I just got the joke in
her alias," she winced.  "Muy TwenCen."
     Cheryl Biggs, the Senate liaison for the Falcon Bay community, nodded.
"And we may not have a modern surveillance setup here, but I'm sure we can at
least get some eyewitnesses to describe Ms. Graves for us, to aid in the
search back on Earth."
     "I dunno about that," Lightfoot frowned.  "I mean, she avoided me too,
no surprise, but the few times I saw her at a distance she looked pretty
     "Nah, she was going for 'glasses ugly,'" Jacques Dumont shook his head
from his seat at the comm station.  As part of the Montreal resistance, he'd
become something of a community leader in Falcon Bay, and one of the few
"locals" with the clearance to be in on these briefings.  
     "She didn't look ugly," Lightfoot countered.  "Just kinda average."
     "Sorry, I guess that's not slang everyone uses," Jacques apologized, his
faint Quebecois accent getting a little more noticeable as it tended to do
when he was nervous.  "You know how movies and TV'll sometimes get a really
good-looking actress, then put her in frumpy clothes, severe hairstyle, no
makeup, and ALWAYS glasses, to make her look like a plain jane?  Then, at the
right point in the plot, she gets all dressed up and everyone can see she's a
knockout?  That's 'glasses ugly' in a nutshell.  I worked with Kim a lot on
the tech geek stuff, and I can tell you, she was trying really hard to look
frumpy.  Just as well, helped me avoid Tamica getting jealous," he half-
grinned.  "In fact, I'd bet she could give Tawny Adams a run for her money if
she wanted to draw attention."
     Beacon smirked.  "Well, we can be pretty sure Gimble won't run to the
CSV, then."
     "Oh?" Biggs furrowed her brow.
     "Yeah.  Sultry's a really jealous type, the prettier members of the CSV
have been known to get the occasional 'accidental' lightning strike in their
vicinity, I hear," Beacon replied.  "If Gimble's really that attractive in
human form, even keeping her Anchor daughter nearby all the time probably
wouldn't keep her safe."
     "I do not believe Ms. Graves would seek out the Conclave in any case,"
Peregryn said flatly.  "Her profile makes her a poor fit for the group, and
even though she was willing to work for Devlin Marx, don't think that she's
about to start making weapons now, or otherwise taking a more active role in
acts of dubious legality.  Plus, Triton is one of the most dangerous people
on the planet as far as Innocenza is concerned...his dispute with Rebus was
extremely personal, and he would not be above killing a child in order to
stamp out the Archangeli line."
     No one had a response to that, and the room fell silent.

               *              *              *              *

[June 30, 2026 - Newport News, Virginia Sector]

     "Careful, everyone," Sergeant Callahan warned the group of seven SWAT
officers and two NAC Marshals.  "The tidal surge last month [in ASH #83 -
Ed.] wasn't too bad at this point, but none of the damaged warehouses in this
neighborhood have gotten a serious check from the building inspectors.  Even
if the tip's wrong and the gangers aren't set up here, the whole place could
come down around our ears anyway."
     Marshal Alaric Jackson nodded.  On paper, he was the ranking law
enforcement officer of the group, being officially assigned to the Newport
News/Virginia Beach area.  But Callahan had been a cop longer than Jackson
had been drawing breath, and even the other Marshal temporarily assigned to
the case had several months of experience over Jackson.  So he was playing
the smart "butterbar" and letting the people who knew what they were doing
lead the raid.
     "The building's definitely drawing power," Marshal Willot replied.
"Strike that...it's generating power.  There's nothing actually coming in
from the grid," she waved a hand in the general direction of the underground
trunk lines.  "That's enough to justify a separate warrant."
     Jackson nodded and quickly tapped out a message on the screen of his
comm.  The team had a sort of blanket permission to enter any tsunami-damaged
building under a search and rescue authority, but with the actual disaster
nearly two months in the past that excuse was getting a little ragged.
Testimony from a Marshal that a supposedly unoccupied building was definitely
using electrical power was good enough to get a search warrant on suspicion
of illegal inhabitation.  They'd dot the i's and cross the t's in the
paperwork afterwards, but the judicial response came within seconds, since
the judge in question had been told about the raid in advance and was "on
call" in case they needed her stamp on anything.
     "We've got the warrant," Jackson showed the screen to the others.
     "Right," Callahan nodded.  "You picking up anything else?" he asked
Willot, but she shook her head.
     "Either everything's in passive, or it's pretty well-shielded.  I'd
guess shielding, since they seem to be trying to avoid detection," she
frowned.  When they'd both been students at the Academy, Jackson hadn't known
she could actually sense electromagnetic waves so well, but he supposed it
was a talent she'd honed on the job.
     Either job.
     Word was spreading through the rumormill that Marshal Willot had been
moonlighting as the infamous Hellhound, and while there was studious official
ignorance of this fact, Beth hadn't exactly tried to refute it either.  The
Marshals were a young organization, but Beth had helped them establish their
first custom: it was rude to ask a fellow Marshal if they did a little
freelance peacekeeping on the side, yes?
     "Peepers in," Callahan ordered, and one of the non-powered officers
broke cover and scurried up next to a window, placing a small block in one
corner, nicknamed a "Weevil".  The Weevil extended a small hollow tube tipped
with a special debonding agent designed to eat away at the plexiglass that
formed most modern windows.  Once it had drilled through, it extended a fiber
optic probe through the tube, while simultaneously attaching pads to the
window that turned it into an audio pickup.
     Well, that was the theory.
     Instead, the officer barely avoided being crushed as a massive lump of
flesh and metal smashed out through the wall, destroying Weevil and window
     "Cybernostra!" another officer hissed, leveling his weapon.  They'd been
expecting a Rust Brothers export, but that cyborg was way too sophisticated-
looking to be a member of that New Jersey paragang.
     "I don't think so," Willot replied as she launched a barrage of
lightning at the hulking attacker.  For a moment, it seemed like she might be
starting to hurt him, then the bolts veered away and into the building!
     "Mongo no like tickles!" the cyborg snarled, pointing petulantly at
     "Looks like our intel was very bad," Jackson powered up his impact
gauntlets.  "On the bright side," he deadpanned, "we've found Marshal
Hodgson's lost lambs."  [Hodgson faced Mongo and the rest of The Rush in ASH
#81, and Matrioshka broke them out of their prison transport shortly
afterward in ASH #83 - Ed.]
     "That means there's two energy manipulators in there," Callahan said,
having called up Mongo on his helmet's display.  "Superconductor and Chain
     "And who says you primitive screw-heads have no infoskills?" a voice
cackled from behind Mongo.  "Nice zappies, pigita," he added, stepping out
and winking at Marshal Willot.
     "I've got Mongo, Willot, you're on Chain Lightning," Jackson took
command.  In regular police operations he may have been the newb, but he had
more experience in supernormal combat that anyone on the squad save for
Willot.  "Superconductor is supposed to primarily channel energies, Callahan,
and I don't think he's up to channelling sabot rounds."
     With that, Jackson leapt at Mongo, getting inside the huge man's
metallic reach and smashing him in the face with a kinetically augmented
punch backed by enough strength to break concrete.  The blow merely annoyed
Mongo, but it got his attention, and forced Chain Lightning to scramble in
order to avoid being trampled underfoot.
     Callahan motioned to his squad, and they started to run past Mongo
through the hole he'd so helpfully made.  Unfortunately, the hole was filled
by two other cyborgs.
     "Now you two *are* Rust Brothers," Callahan leveled his rifle.  "Stand
down, our guns are more than enough to deal with your type."
     "...really?" they answered, one completing the other's sentence.  "And
what type..."
     "...would that be?  We've had..."
     With that, the slightly smaller of the pair leapt up onto the shoulders
of his companion, elements in his cybernetic legs unfolding and locking onto
hardpoints on the lower one's torso.  
     "Over Fist!"
     "Mecha Shiva!" they added in unison.

     While this display was going on, the flow of electricity back and forth
between Chain Lightning and Marshal Willot was starting to reach the point
where the glare was painful to the eye.
     "Give it up, bacon bit!" Chain Lightning cackled.  "My future-tech is
more than you can handle!"
     "Feels like standard-issue Tsaran cannons to me, sparky," Marshal Willot
retorted.  "Not sure how you fit them inside your arms, but I'll gladly help
tou figure out how far they'll fit up your backside if you don't surrender!"

     "Stand still so Mongo can crush you!"
     "Unlikely to happen," Jackson replied calmly, dropping behind Mongo and
slamming a kinetic gauntlet into the back of the big man's knee, causing
Mongo to topple and barely getting out of the way of the falling pile of
metal and meat.  Despite his even tone, he moved like a dervish...which was
appropriate, given that Dervish had once been his "codename".

     "Concentrate fire on the connection point!" Sergeant Callahan ordered,
and a volley of penetrator rounds smashed into the combined cyborg.  To the
credit of the Newport News Police Department's armorer, the rounds actually
dented Hand Over Fist.  It also made the cyborgs flinch, as if they hadn't
really believed they could survive such a volley, despite assurances from
their leader.
     "Minimal effect," one of the officers observed.  "Permission to switch
to aiming for the squishy bits?"

     Suddenly, helmet displays flickered, Jackson's gauntlet powered down,
and the intensifying lightning barrage dimmed.
     "I'm done here," Superconductor announced, stepping out past Hand Over
Fist.  He waved a hand and some of his stolen energy hurled the unpowered
officers several meters away.  "Come on, Mongo, Chain Lightning, Hand, Fist.
It is time to go to our backup location.  It's no longer worth fighting over
this one."
     "Mongo want to smash little man!"  
     "There's ice cream at the backup location," Superconductor sighed.
     "You're not going anywhere," Jackson pulled out a pair of collapsinum-
coated batons.
     "Mongo going to get ice cream!" he swiped at Jackson, who ducked under
the assault.  
     Unfortunately, he didn't notice the lightning until it was too late, as
Superconductor drew in power from both Chain Lightning and Marshal Willot and
channelled it into a sort of net that left Jackson no room to dodge.  The
world flashed purple around him....

               *              *              *              *

[July 1, 2026 - Somewhere on Venus]

     Petra rolled the crystal sphere back and forth over the front and back
of her hand, a parlor trick she'd learned back in hew Vogue Ghoul days.  It
held a golden glow deep within its layers, tinging her pale flesh with its
hue.  "So, what news of our fallen fellow?" she asked.
     "My pets located the former Photosynth," Mothflame said, a delicate
orange butterfly perched on her outstretched finger.  "She is still meat,
despite promises by the Leviathan to free her of the shell.  One might almost
suspect that poor Katri is being jerked around, as Dusker might have once
said."  Mothflame had spent considerable time imprisoned by Doublecross, able
to see and hear but do nothing else, and she still sometimes gossiped about
the previous iteration of the Light Brigade.  No matter that many of them
were now dead, at least one by her own actions.
     "Jerked meat," Whiteout smirked.  "So, that leaves us still at four,
rather than the five that our new benefactors would prefer.  Speaking of
Dusker, should I make another attempt to recruit him?  His photonics have
been replaced by metal and plastic, but if I could get him away from his
jailers he might welcome a return to our number, even if we can't yet grant
him freedom from the meat ourselves."  
     Oblivion, as always, was Whiteout's silent and invisible companion, but
Petra could sense his presence...and his eagerness to "recruit".  They had
tried a few times to liberate humans from the flesh using Oblivion's powers,
but it had yet to be successful.  Petra suspected Oblivion preferred the
failures anyway.
     "As a point of fact, we have our fifth member right here," Petra held up
the crystal sphere.  "Thanks to Chiaroscuro," her left hand strayed to her
belly, which did not yet show signs of the pregnancy she knew was well into
its second trimester, "we have the remains of Goldmind right here."
     "Didn't he die in orbit?" Whiteout asked. 
     "The meat died, but his brain was already pure light," Petra frowned.
The bizarre partial conversions seen in the Light Brigade raised by
Doublecross the previous year were...distasteful.  In fact, she no longer
thought of her own flesh as anything but a necessary tool for carrying a
child to term, considering her will-o-the-wisp form to be her true body.
"Chiaroscuro reclaimed it from the dessicated husk of Goldmind's body, and
Matrioshka encased it in this shell for safekeeping.  I've been talking to
Goldmind while you were out searching, and he has some ideas...."

               *              *              *              * 

[July 2, 2026 - Newport News, Virginia Sector]

     Alaric's face was still tender where the electromag-net had seared him,
but he'd healed enough to go back on active duty.  Unfortunately, active duty
had included enduring the ribbing of Boomer Hodgson, his friend from the
Academy and former fellow Legionnaire.  And that could be a lot more annoying
than the itching burn marks.
     "We didn't have the three future cyborgs in custody long enough to get
much out of them," Solar Max was saying, as he led a briefing session, "but
fortunately for us we have fairly detailed impressions of the trio from the
original ASH," he tapped at the screen of his comm.  He and his wife, Meteor,
had come to support Alaric's ad hoc team now that it was obvious that Newport
News had more than just a few expat Rust Brothers to deal with.  And they'd
brought Boomer, since he'd actually faced the cyborgs in Dallas [in ASH #82 -
     "After getting beaten in Chicago in 1990, the Rush left behind one of
their newer members, who hadn't 'earned' a song title codename yet," Meteor
explained.  She had an air of authority, of maturity, that surprised Alaric.
She was only a couple years older than he was, yet it almost felt like he was
being talked to by his mother.  Then again, she'd been through quite a lot of
life and death in those couple of years.  "Since he wasn't all that
villainous, he was paroled into the Academy of Super-Heroes as Psiberpunk."
     "Nowadays reformed cyborg criminals just get teaching jobs," Boomer
smirked, referring to Robert Coulter, the one-time Cybernostra and reluctant
member of the Conclave of Super-Villains.  "It was a more trusting age."
     "Not *that* trusting, thankfully," Solar Max countered.  "Psiberpunk was
fully debriefed, including deep telepathic scan.  Most of the records were
highly classified, since they dealt with a potential future history, but I
have the pull to get at them.  And now you have the relevant bits, his
impressions of his former gang brothers."
     "Mongo and Chain Lightning are pretty much what you've seen," Meteor
shrugged.  "No hidden depths at all.  A big dumb brick and a borderline
psycho electricity freak.  Their cybernetics are purely normaltech, just
normaltech from a century into one possible future.  Mongo's about as tough
as Supernaut's original body, but he doesn't have any built-in weapons...
Psiberpunk thinks he might have at one time, but kept setting them off
accidentally.  'Pulling a Mongo' was gang slang for a misfire.  Chain
Lightning has reflex amps, some armoring, and built-in electric weapons that
are comparble to heavy Tsaran rifles, as Marshal Willot surmised."
     "What's the Rush's thing, anyway?  I mean, they've clearly got some sort
of theme going," Beth Willot interjected.
     "They're kinda like their time's version of the Rust Brothers," Solar
Max shrugged, "but if the Rust Brothers were into ragtime jazz or something.
A sort of Clockwork Orange thing, youth gangs embracing music from a time
before their parents were alive.  There were multiple Rush gangs, each themed
after a particular album.  This one was the 'Presto' gang, and their original
leader was the only definite paranormal among them, a transmuter of some
     "But from what we gathered during the fight in Dallas," Boomer added,
"Presto didn't come through the time rift with these three.  I got the
impression that the only reason Superconductor's in charge is that he's the
only one of the three with enough working neurons."
     "According to Psiberpunk," Meteor consulted her screen, "Superconductor
was your quintessential Number Two."
     "Insert potty humor here," Boomer stage-whispered.
     "Ahem," Meteor shot Boomer a look that was definitly a "Mother to
naughty child" expression, as far as Alaric was concerned.  "Good at
logistics, smart and skilled, but no charisma to speak of.  No evidence that
he even aspired to take over the top spot, he let Presto make all the plans
and just concentrated on carrying them out.  Although it's entirely possible
he was the idea man too, and let Presto front for him, seeing himself as a
sort of 'gray eminence.'"
     "He may or may not be paranormal, his energy transfer systems seem too
potent to be normaltech, even allowing for a century of advances and
infusions of Santari tech," Solar Max picked up the thread.  "And based on
what we know about the former Rust Brothers now going by Hand Over Fist,
they're definitely getting new supertech from somewhere.  Superconductor may
be many things, but as far as Psiberpunk knew he's no techie."
     "It just occurred to me," Alaric spoke up for the first time.  "If
Psiberpunk was a normaltech cyborg, might he still be alive somewhere now?"
     Meteor shook her head.  "He was killed in the Technomystical War.  Good
thought, though.  Anyway, in terms of raw power, the new version of the Rush
is a step above your average paragang, but Superconductor's keeping them on a
tight leash.  They had the upper hand the other day, but they fled instead of
trying to finish you off."
     "Thankfully," Willot muttered.
     "I think Superconductor's got some Master Plan he's working on, and he
didn't want to risk it getting disrupted in the event you had backup coming,"
Solar Max suggested.  But if we just go running after him again in force,
it's possible he'll shift into cornered rat mode and he could do a lot of
damage before we bring him down."
     Alaric admired the calm confidence in that statement.  Of course, Solar
Max had faced gods before and lived, so he probably didn't worry too much
about his ability to defeat a handful of cyborgs.  He just didn't want it
getting too messy.
     "So the answer to that is to use Superconductor's ego to lure him into a
trap," Boomer rubbed his hands together.  "And even if they've gotten some
supertech upgrades, I've had time to think about a rematch myself...."

               *              *              *              *

[July 4, 2026 - St. Louis, Missouri Sector]

     Hector McGee tried not to boggle as he stepped into the office.  Oh, if
you were to describe it in words, it was nothing special as executive offices
went.  He'd seen fancier at the general offices of the Chicago Fire Paraball
team.  But there was an undefinable sense of *power* in this room, largely
concentrated on the man behind the desk.
     "H-hello, Mister Walters," he stepped nervously up to the desk.  The
fact that he was strong enough to snap the other man in half did nothing to
calm his nerves.  If anything, it made him more nervous.
     "Ah, Slammer," the gray-haired man smiled...almost warmly, but with a
faint predator's gleam...and stood.  "Or would you prefer I address you as
Mr. McGee?"
     "Ah think...*I* think that when the seventeenth richest man in the
Combine calls me into his office, I expect he can call me whatever he wants
to," Hector grinned weakly.
     "Good, you did at least a little research about the man who bought your
contract from the Fire.  Although, unofficially, I'm definitely in the top
ten," the smile never wavered.  "I expect you're wondering why I bought that
contract, considering that not only don't I own the Cavaliers here in town, I
don't own any Paraball franchise."
     "The thought, um, crossed mah mind," Hector admitted.  "Not that I
really expect to play again, after them, um, incident."
     The smile faded, replaced by a serious look that might almost have been
compassionate concern.  Samuel Walters was too much of a corporate shark to
ever lose that hungry look, but when he tried the effect was more than a
little disturbing.  
     "Yes, the incident in Mexico City," Walters tapped the computer screen
build into his desk, as if to suggest he'd just been reading up on the
matter.  "An excess of patriotic zeal, leading to a regrettable dust-up and
some hospital time for a man who thought he could beat the famous Slammer
McGee in a fist fight.  It's made you box office poison, as we used to say
when I was your age.  The Fire was happy to sell me your contract, no
questions asked.  Unfortunately, I'm not going to get you back onto the
     Hector tried not to look too disappointed, but it must have shown.
     "Ah, but I'm offering you something better, including a new handle, one
a bit more inspiring than 'Slammer,'" Walters smiled again, the shark aspect
much closer to the fore now.  "Hector...one of the reasons I'm so wealthy is
that when everyone around me was throwing their lot in with the false gods, I
put my faith in two things.  The true God, and AMERICA.  The United States of
America, the greatest nation ever to see the light of God's Sun.  And I've
done my homework on you too.  Your father raised you right, up until the
Combine took you away and put you in the Academy.  He raised you as an
American, did he not?"
     "Yes, sir!"
     "I've watched with growing dismay the past twenty years as America gave
away the gains she made in the aftermath of the False Rapture.  We could have
ruled the hemisphere easily, but instead the bureaucrats decided to surrender
power and raised Canada and Mexico up to equality with America," Walters
snarled, a fire burning in his eyes.  "And then they started grooming the
most powerful of the new generation of supernormals to be enforcers for this
'Combine', betraying the very people who had let them take over half the
planet.  Betraying America.  It's time people who loved America did something
about it, and I think you can be part of my plan."
     "Are you talking about..." Hector couldn't even say the word, but
Walters supplied it.
     "Insurrection?  No, hardly.  You don't get to be one of the wealthiest
men on the planet by planning foolishness like that," Walters snorted.  "But
I can see which way the wind's blowing as easily as those pencil-pushers in
the government can.  When your generation comes of age, our ruling elite will
come mainly from the supernormals.  Much of what the Academy of Super-Heroes
does is aimed at getting people used to the idea of this particular batch of
supernormals running things.  I seek to provide an alternative...an American
alternative."  He tapped a control on his desk and a door opened at the side
of the office, a crate wheeling itself in under computer control.
     "Now, I know paraball wasn't your first career choice, was it?" Walters
asked as the crate pulled to a stop and sat there silently, like a present
under the Christmas tree.
     "Huh?  Oh, no...I wanted to be a Marshal.  But I didn't qualify.  I
guess just being strong wasn't enough," Hector shrugged.
     Walters sneered.  "Have you seen some of the powers that were enough to
make it as Marshals?  Please.  No, you failed the ideological test, my boy.
They didn't think you'd be willing to support the Combine over your native
country, so they shuffled you off into a high-paid career in entertainment to
keep you out of the real positions of power.  But I want people who'll put
America first, so you fit my plans perfectly.
     "I've used my pull within the government to acquire certain intellectual
property that the Department of Superhuman Affairs has held onto for several
decades.  The names of legendary American heroes, to be specific.  Also, I
acquired some mothballed 1990s technology and had a 'reformed' member of the
Jolly Molecules organization recondition it, with the help of some additional
sources of tech transfer, both terrestrial and extra-."  He gestured at the
crate, which swung open to reveal a suit of armor painted in blue and white
with a red sword on the chest.  At the hip hung a familiar golden tube,
shaped like the hilt of a sword.
     "Is that the real..." Hector pointed at the hilt.
     Walters shook his head, his expression showing a bit of true regret.
"Sadly, no.  The original was stolen from a museum in the 1990s, although the
scuttlebutt is that it's now in the possession of the Chancellor of Khadam,"
he practically spat as he mentioned the name [see CSV Annual #2 - Ed.].  "But
the original was merely Santari technology, and I acquired the latest model
of that tech through other channels.  As for the armor, you probably don't
recognize it, since extensive cosmetic alteration has been performed on it,
but it actually once belonged to a minion of the great foe of the man whose
legacy I want you to accept.  How's that for irony?"
     "You want me to be...?"
     "I want you to be the new Brightsword and lead my new Freedom Alliance,
Hector.  And lead America back to greatness!"
     But as closely as he stared at the gleaming armor, Hector failed to see
something hidden almost in plain sight, concealed beneath the five-pointed
star surmounting the helmet.  An array of five golden anks arranged as the
points of that star....


Next Issue:

     "Billions Served" continues as ASH and the Marshals work to trap the
Rush, the Light Brigade advances their plans, and a new franchise opens its
doors for business.  And what's good for business is bad for the Combine!  Be
here in ASH #94 for "Counterparts"!


Author's Notes:

     This arc is meant to be more of a breather between the more focused
Kheper's Path story and the Big Damn Storyline that will lead up to ASH #100.
     "Roll the Bones" is the Rush studio album that followed "Presto," and
was in turn followed by "Counterparts."  The one after that was "Test for
Echo," which may or may not actually work as an issue title, but since
"Counterparts" works for multiple reasons, I decided to use it.  :) If I do
use "Test for Echo," I may try to wrap up the arc with "Different Stages" (a
concert album, rather than a studio album, but thematically good for an arc
wrap) to keep the album title pattern going.  As for the arc title, it refers
to the fact that the villain groups featured in the arc are all I5
     "Glasses ugly" is a term I coined a while back and it's not in general
usage in the real world, but this is my universe and it can be real slang
among film buffs in ASH, so there.  :)  The phenomenon has probably got some
other term in the real world, it shows up enough (i.e. the ZZTop "Legs"
video, the movie "Zoom: Academy of Heroes", the fact that Moaning Myrtle's
actress in the Harry Potter movies is clearly attractive, etc.).  Some of it
is that it's easier to make a bombshell look frumpy than to make an average
looking person look hot, but I suspect a lot of it is simply that pretty
wannabe actresses are a lot more common on the ground in Hollywood than
average looking wannabe actresses, so you use what's available.
     The "butterbar" reference in the second scene is military slang for a
2nd Lieutenant, who has a single gold bar for a rank insignia.  2LTs are
often theoretically in command of a squad but the squad sergeant is really
running things, and a smart butterbar knows to let the SSGT do so.  A stupid
butterbar will try to throw their weight around, with often darkly humorous
     Mothflame escaped in the background of ASH #40 and her swarm devoured
the human body of Squadron.  Goldmind was last mentioned early in ASH #40,
and until now his status had not been clarified.  There are a few more
survivors of the "City of Lights" iteration of the Light Brigade, but Petra
has either chosen not to recruit them, or has been unable to track them down
(one gets the impression that Royale may be using his luck powers to avoid
his old associates).
     The last scene is full of references, injokes and ASH history.  Samuel
Walters is inspired loosely by Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame/infamy.  Slammer
McGee, who was last (and first) mentioned in ASH #47, has been cast as an
homage to Bob Russo, the baseball player who very briefly took on the Captain
America identity in Captain America #178 (one of the first comics I owned).
The two TwenCen Brightswords have appeared in several issues of Coherent
Super Stories, but the Third Age Darkshield has not yet appeared on-screen
anywhere in ASH.  His minions wore power armor similar to his own, but lower
in power.  http://www.dvandom.com/minis/dshmini2.GIF shows what they
originally looked like, before Walters had a suit cosmetically altered.
Expect a drawing of the new Brightsword at some point.  Or maybe a mini.  Or


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and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !

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