[ASH] ASH #97 - Rising Sun Part 1: Plan Orange

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at eyrie.org
Wed Feb 25 19:36:51 PST 2009

     The cover shows a scene from Contact's vision in ASH #92, with Contact
looking up at a swollen Sun, only it's orange instead of red.  In the
distance over his shoulder, a pair of ravens can be seen circling.

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #97
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||            Rising Sun Part 1 - Plan Orange
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2009 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

[July 25, 2026 - Amarillo, Texas Sector]

     "Um, we might not get out of the cafe before this turns ugly," Nate
Walker pointed out.  The Sun had turned gigantic and orange, and this was
having the effect of panicking the outdoor cafe's morning crowd...with every
indication that it was hardly an isolated reaction.
     "I could try telepathically calming them," Aaron suggested,
uncertainly.  "I've only done this in training exercises, though."
     "Don't worry...put these on," Boomer handed earplugs to the other two,
wincing as a table was pushed over by someone starting to go into hysterics.
As they put in the plugs, he pulled out a small, brownish object from his
satchel and pressed down on the center.  It started to hum, and everyone
nearby stopped panicking.  Instead, they seemed befuddled, as if they
couldn't hold a thought for more than a few seconds at a time.
     "My latest crowd control widget," Boomer explained, his voice strangely
distorted through the earplugs.  "Uses subsonics to disrupt concentration.
Not great if someone in range is driving, but it keeps a crowd from rioting.
Get going, I need to keep this inside the pedestrian district or it could
cause more problems than is solves."
     "Thanks," Aaron nodded.  "I need to get to Chicago...and I suspect
Nate's going to need to play Netwalker for some sigint."
     "One question, Boomer," Nate frowned as he collected his things and
started to leave.  "Why does that thing look like a fruit pie?"
     "What, don't tell me you never read any of those old comics we found in
the same archive as the Legion of Net.Heroes stuff?" Boomer grinned.  "Tasty,
flaky fruit pies solve all of life's problems!"

               *              *              *              *

[New Faith, Virginia Sector]

     "What do you make of it, Sean?"
     Sean Kelsey took off his ballcap and scratched his short red hair, one
of the few traits he seemed to share with his daughter Arin these days.  And
even that was turning gray...he tried not to dwell on the metaphor, though.
"Can't really say, Zachary," he gestured at the swollen orange orb that
filled too much of the sky.  "I mean, it's darker than usual, but hardly as
black as sackcloth, right?"
     Zachary Smith nodded.  "And it doesn't seem to be getting closer, so
even if John of Patmos got the order of things in the Apocalypse wrong, I
wouldn't say it's the second trump, come to poison the sea.  Or Wormwood, for
that matter."
     "Maybe one of the council of ministers knows some other portent this
could be," Sean shrugged, "but I'm inclined to think it's just ol' Scratch
trying to test the weak of faith again.  Tribulations of a sort are
definitely coming, but not The Tribulations.  Not yet.  Not that any man can
know the day of that coming...."

               *              *              *              *

[Impossible Five base, undisclosed location]

     Dust tendrils danced like agitated snakes around the dessicated form of
Anhydra as she confronted her teammate Chiaroscuro.  Normally a mix of light
and darkness, he seemed far more dark than light, perhaps mirroring the state
of the Sun itself.
     "What, exactly, made you think this was a good idea?" she demanded.  "In
our history, this plot barely got off the ground, since they tried to use
Oblivion as the core intelligence and he's barely above animal intelligence
at this point.  And it wouldn't have worked anyway, since their goal was to
raise Doublecross from the dead and we know he's NOT dead.  Heck, he lasted
long enough to make Talos and raise him."
     Chiaroscuro smiled, his teeth a brief flash of white amidst ebony.
"There's working, and then there's working," he pointed out.  "Yes, there's
no ghost of Doublecross to raise, but think of what I could do with all of
that accumulated power.  Once my erstwhile mother discovers all the energy
she's gathered isn't enough to bring back the old Lord of Living Light, I'll
take advantage of her confusion to take the power into myself.  Which, for
what it's worth, should also keep the world from being totally destroyed.
Although the damage this Dyson-like sphere causes should soften things up
     "Did Never sign off on this plan?" Anhydra seemed unsatisfied by the
photonic mage's explanation.
     "Naturally.  She even suggested I kill my past self in the process, to
demonstrate to any potential threats that we're not worried about paradox
anymore.  Although I don't know if I want to do that...I kind of like the
idea of spoiling myself rotten.  Don't you think I'd be a totally cool
'uncle,' An'?"
     She merely rolled her eyes in response.

               *              *              *              *

[Manhattan, Autonomous Sector]

     Louie Giancoli frowned.  Something was wrong with the color of things,
it was like a sunset back in the 1990s, with the light passing through the
noxious clouds over New Jersey.  He walked down the block a bit to where a
skyscraper had been demolished, so he could get a look at the Sun.
     "Huh," he said as he saw the sky.  "Giant orange Sun.  That's new."
Then he shrugged and went about his business.  He'd lived in Manhattan since
the day he was born in 1968, and he'd had far stranger days.

               *              *              *              *

[Kathmandu, Central Asian Confederation]

     Resplendent Phoenix had been working late, as often happened when one
was the Minister of State for the Western Dragon.  Her own hours were often a
reflection of her obviously superhuman stamina, and Phoenix did his best to
keep up as a "mere human".
     As a result, he was enjoying a slow walk home when he noticed the nearly
full moon start to change.
     He stopped, frowning.
     The moon was turning blood red, the way it would sometimes do during a
lunar eclipse.  But such an event could only happen during the height of the
full moon, and there wasn't even one scheduled for this month...although he
thought there might be one on August 28.
     Resplendent Phoenix started to pull out his blackcel to check the
astronomical data when it pulsed of its own accord.  The pattern told him
that the Western Dragon was calling.
     "Yes?" he answered, the distortion field of the phone automatically
activating so that any of the people walking nearby would only hear garbled
     "Phoenix, please return to the office.  We have a problem," the Western
Dragon said.  Her voice seemed calm, but he knew her well enough to pick up
the edge of panic.
     The Moon was now a deep orange hue.
     It was going to be a very long night, he realized.

               *              *              *              *

[July 25, 2026 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]

     "You know," Scorch mused, "we really need to do more social stuff as a
     Fury quirked an eyebrow.  The conference room was full of superhumans in
various outfits, some in fighting togs while others were in "formal" uniforms
or even street clothes.  Her own flight over from Mexico City had been long
enough she'd changed into the formal uniform just in case someone needed to
go in front of the press, for instance.  But Scorch was wearing most of his
blue and white armor, with the helmet hung from a hatrack in the corner.  
     "Why is that?" she asked.
     "Because every time we're all together lately, it's because the world is
about to end," he shrugged.  "I'm starting to dread seeing you all."
     Meteor stifled a giggle at that, and Solar Max just rolled his eyes.
     "We already dread seeing you," Lightfoot waggled his eyebrows and mimed
holding a cigar as he did a particularly poor Groucho Marx imitation.
     "Okay, as much as the situation needs some defusing, let's get this
meeting started," Solar Max said, and the table settled down.  The full team
was present, minus those stationed on Venus, plus Jen Kleinvogel of STRAFE,
Star Knight as representative of the Galactic Warrior Corps, and a Senatorial
Aide whose name escaped him.  "Clearly, the Sun hasn't gone nova, since we're
not all dead.  But it's not just an illusion either, and the amount of energy
reaching us has dropped dramatically.  Someone's put a shell around the Sun,
and managed to pull it off without anyone noticing until it was too late."
     Jen cleared her throat, then interrupted, "Now that we know where to
look, it seems there were some faint signs of it several days ago, maybe even
weeks.  But whoever set this up was careful to keep the partial shell from
covering any lines of sight to inhabited planets or known observatories.  And
with its exponential growth, the time from 'all but the holes' to
'everything' was maybe a few minutes.  A few people noticed suspicious signs
in the lead-up, and a report from Beacon on Venus looks to have been one of
those signs, but there was nothing strong enough to set off any alarms."
     "In the meantime, we've lost contact with Venus," Solar Max frowned.  "I
hope that's just interference from the shell, and not a sign that it grew
inward and destroyed the planet.  Obviously, one of our priority jobs is to
make sure Venus is still around, since some of our most powerful assets for
this sort of job are on that planet.  Star Knight, I know you did a quick
recon, do you have any information on that count?"
     The former classmate of the core ASH members shrugged.  "Some, but less
than I'd like.  Short hyperspace jumps are tricky, and something about that
shell is causing more than just electromagnetic interference, so I couldn't
go straight through to Venus.  But I got close enough to see what it's made
of: moths.  Solid light moths."
     "Doublecross again?" Scorch snarled.  "Didn't we make him really quite
sincerely dead after Paris?" [In ASH #40 - Ed.]
     "We never did track down all of his Light Brigade," Jen shrugged.  "And
from Dan's report on their China base, there was definitely some disunity
among the photonics.  This could simply be Mothflame deciding to make her own
play for the role of Lord of Living Light...we do have news from Venus that
she's been interfering with Heraclius's stone beetles."
     "Still, this stunt is several orders of magnitude above what she's ever
been shown to be capable of," Contact spoke up.  "And even a pretty basic
control method would be beyond even a telepathically trained person like me.
It can't all be Mothflame, unless she's gotten a serious boost from someone
     "Agreed," Solar Max nodded.  "We desperately need hard intel, and that
means going to Venus.  Not just for the sake of finding out how they are, but
because I'm willing to bet that Peregryn's been working on this problem from
the mystic angle since this morning, and he's bound to have some useful
insights.  Especially if we're looking at godly interference."
     A chill went around the room.  No one really liked the idea of the gods
getting involved with Earth, even those who'd had relatively beneficial
interactions with the immensely powerful entities.  Besides, any god who
would aid in putting a shell around the Sun?  NOT likely to be involved in
beneficial interactions.
     "On the less scary side," Breaker suggested, "the Light Brigade may
simply have built a device to help enhance Mothflame's powers.  It wouldn't
take a terribly complicated computer program just to take handoff of a
photonic moth and tell it where to go in orbit."
     "Good point," Contact nodded.  "Netwalker caught a ride to Chicago with
me, we could have him look into seeing if there's any new and huge
information nets out by Venus way in his pocket dimension."  While
stereotypical "cyberspace" was still beyond the capacity of the worldwide
data structure, Nate Walker's power let him enter a pocket reality that
somehow resonated with the network in such a way that it was effectively the
same thing as a 1980s-style fictional cyberspace run.  But since it wasn't
really entry into the data network, it could do a few weird things that would
normally be impossible...of course, doing the impossible was par for the
course when it came to superhuman abilities.
     "How are our ticking clocks?" Solar Max addressed this to the aide.
     She pulled up notes on her computer screen.  "According to preliminary
assessment from the office of the Combine Science Advisor, the shell is
thickening, and if the growth rate follows the pattern observed in the past
few hours without change, it will reach Earth some time in November or
December, so that seems to be our absolute time limit.  It's not totally
opaque, obviously, but the thicker the shell gets the darker it will appear.
Climate is always hard to predict, but we probably have a week or so before
things start to get difficult.  The internal energy of the planet will buffer
us for now, but even the best case has us seeing environmental havoc by the
end of August.  Harvests will be pretty much ruined in many areas, so if we
can't get this resolved in, say, two weeks...we may be looking at widespread
famine.  It's not so much a ticking clock as a calendar, but not a very long
calendar."  Her tone was professional and even, but her self-control was just
a little too tight, betraying her emotions by their absence.
     "Socially, we've already got a fair amount of panic," Jen added.  "This
is the first world-class threat we've had that was actually visible to the
whole world, rather than being localized or hidden away, so people aren't as
jaded as they were back in the TwenCen.  Fortunately, while we've got some
rust to shake off, the old procedures and training are still in place from
the 1990s, and the Marshals are taking the lead on keeping the lid on, with
Dan coordinating.  As far as I can tell, the EU is similarly coping, although
most of their populace is still on nightside and getting their information
through the media.  Needless to say, media controls have been clamped on as
tightly as they'll go."
     Solar Max nodded.  Thom O'Ryan might have some good points regarding the
authoritarian tendencies of most of the world's governments [such as he
expressed in ASH #11 - Ed], but there were times when tyranny came in awfully
useful.  That, he supposed, was the problem with it.  Authoritarian
structures were so handy, it was hard to give up the tools.
     But that was something to worry about later.  Aloud, he said, "Fine.  If
there isn't any other pressing business, I want us on our way to Venus as
soon as the orbiter is prepped."  Built to reach Earth's orbit in the 1990s,
the "orbiter" was now mainly used for interplanetary travel thanks to the way
Lightfoot's powers extended its range and speed.
     "On it," Lightfoot said, and then he was gone.
     "Everyone else...Jen excepted, of course...get into full gear.  We may
have to fight our way through, and the more of us who can work in space the
better.  Contact, you said Netwalker tagged along when you came up to
Chicago?  Right, tell him he's coming with...if there's a datanet running
that swarm, he'll have an easier time sniffing it out from up close.  Ritter,
you and I will be on path-clearing duty," Solar Max told Space Knight.
     "Can I go get my comically oversized flyswatter?" Star Knight smirked.

               *              *              *              *

[July 25, 2026 - Interplanetary Space, Sol System]

     "The flyswatter might have been about as effective," Solar Max noted as
he sent another wave of intense gravity into the swarm of glowing orange
moths, warping and scattering them away from the path of the orbiter.  His
armor's boots were clamped to the hull so that he wouldn't be swept away...
he simply couldn't keep up with the kind of speed Lightfoot could get out of
the spaceship.  Not that it was making much headway at the moment.
     For his part, Star Knight was free to move, or as free as anyone could
be in the glowing cloud.  "I could probably sweep out more at once, but I'm
not sure how survivable it'd be for you guys," he noted, the solid light
insects evaporating along his line of sight.  "And I might even be able to
take out all of them at once, but it'd kinda involve making the Sun into a
black hole."
     "Let's take that option off the table, okay?" Solar Max grunted as he
was caught in a current of inrushing replacement moths.  "Gah, this is like
fighting in a feather factory.  Every time we make a hole, it just fills back
in, and trying to move at any sort of speed through them would shred the
     "At least the orbiter doesn't have any intakes to suck the little
buggers into.  And they don't seem to be programmed to attack...just
reproduce.  A LOT," Star Knight observed.
     "I think I see a, um, dark at the end of the tunnel, finally," Solar Max
checked his helmet's link to the orbiter's sensor suite.  "If we have to do
this again, we need a better plan...."

               *              *              *              *

[July 26, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]

     The Eastern sky was tinged orange from the reflected glow of the immense
moth cloud, only a hint of the strangeness that was visible on the nightside.
As they'd approached the planet, the entire nightside had been lit up a pale
orange from the glow of the shell, and the blackness of space around them had
been replaced by a ruddy shine, the stars blotted out.  It had reminded
Lightfoot of nothing so much as the skies on Mars, the few times he'd visited
on a lark.
     "I can tell you how the web is maintained," Peregryn announced almost as
soon as the team disembarked at Falcon Bay's "spaceport".  It was a
stabilized dirt patch with a prefab control tower taken from the military
Seabees, probably in mothballs since Operation Stormfront, but it was all
they really needed.
     "From your tone, I'm guessing you can't tell us how to shut it down,
though?" Solar Max replied, pulling off his helmet.
     Peregryn shook his head and kept talking as he gestured for the group to
follow him.  "There is a human spirit somewhere out there, one of the
photonics besides Mothflame.  It moves too quickly for me to tell much, but
I believe it is the Light Brigadier called Goldmind.  The one who planned the
soletta array over Paris."  
     "Orbital mechanics do seem to be his motif," Scorch agreed, recalling
the space mirrors that Goldmind had arranged to come together into a single
titanic solar reflector, or soletta [in ASH #37-40 - Ed.].  "By the way, glad
to see you guys didn't get eaten by orange moths.  Don't want you all
thinking we weren't worried."
     "I...appreciate the concern," Peregryn nodded, leading them into a
quonset hut near the landing pad.  Inside were a number of what Tom
recognized as the settlement's leading normal citizens, plus Essay, Geode,
Beacon and Marshal Noire.
     "I take it we can't just find Goldmind and zap him, then?" Breaker
suggested, her tone conveying a sort of weary "no way is it gonna be that
easy" mood.
     "Unfortunately, no," Peregryn shook his head.  "Goldmind is moving
either at or very close to the speed of light, following what can only be a
quasi-random path through the sphere.  He clearly knows he's the lynchpin to
this scheme, and has no intention of letting himself be found.  Even mystic
means can barely touch upon him."
     "I thought Goldmind had a human body?" Lightfoot spoke up.  "At least,
he had to wear a spacesuit during the soletta fight...we never did find him,
     "He probably evolved," Beacon shrugged.  "It happens," he touched his
chest, his own photonic body being a legacy of the Paris incident, borrowed
from a now-dead Brigadier named Squadron.
     "If we can hack into Goldmind's control network," Solar Max nodded
towards Netwalker, "it'd probably be easier to backtrace him that way, rather
than worrying about his physical location.  Think you could manage it, Nate?" 
     Netwalker frowned.  "On my own?  Probably not.  Yeah, when we were
passing through that swarm I could definitely feel a network there.  Not the
same as the datanet on Earth, but close enough I could probably get in.  But
then what?  Even if Goldmind deliberately organized things like a computer
system, it's still a human mind at its core, and that's not an OS I'm that
experienced with.  I'd want a telepath along, at least.  Preferably one with
a lot more formal psychological training than Aaron, no offense."
     "None taken," Contact smirked.
     "This also assumes I can even bring someone along with me.  I didn't
bring along Boomer's net.thingy, and even if I had, it's not like it comes
with an interface jack for photonics," Netwalker explained.
     "That part we have covered," Beacon smiled.  "While we were working from
the assumption we were cut off from you guys, we did some brainstorming.
Peregryn is pretty sure he can use sympathetic magic to hook me into the
network.  We just didn't have any good plans for what to do after that.  And
Essay can reproduce anything Boomer built..."
     "Psh.  In my sleep," Essay snorted.  "Or in Rose's sleep, anyway," she
gave the crib next to her a little rock.
     "Okay, so between Essay, Peregryn and Beacon, we can bodge together
something that will let Netwalker take passengers into the Goldmind network,"
Solar Max set his helmet down on a table that was partially covered in design
schematics in Essay's distinctive handwriting.  "Then what?"
     "Then we fight through whatever defenses Goldmind has set up, find his
location, and brain-bomb him," Netwalker replied.  "The more the merrier,
I've found.  The symbolic representations of computer defenses can be pretty
nasty, and it helps to have people along with an intuitive grasp of fighting.
That translates through my quasi-mystical handwavy superpower into actual
counter-countermeasures, which should let me track down the core intelligence
and hit it with a very large metaphorical hammer.  It'd probably be a good
idea to use Tom's power to speed everyone up, so we have a shot at matching
Goldmind's light-based thought processes.  Goldmind's not an AI like I
normally fight, but a neural network is a neural network, I'm pretty sure my
usual toolkit will do the job of at least separating him from his flock."
     "And the Legion of Net.Heroes rides again, eh?" Lightfoot grinned.
     "You're never going to let me live that down, are you, Sig.Lad?" Nate
sighed.  Writing under the borrowed account of the original Solar Max before
he gained powers of his own, Lightfoot had written many of the stories that
inspired Nate and his friends at the Academy to become online heroes a few
years back.  "Anyway, I don't think the LNH would be the right architecture
for this fight."
     "I agree," Peregryn spoke up, having been deep in thought for the past
several minutes.  "We are not just entering a computer system in this case,
it is a living mind with its own spirit.  We will need a much stronger mystic
resonance than some light fiction if we are to overcome Goldmind's will.
Some symbolism that carries historical weight, much as I used the symbolism
of the first flight around the world to empower the spell that exiled the
Leviathan to Venus [ASH #50 - Ed.]."  Left unsaid was the fact that the same
spell had exiled Peregryn as well, and the knowledge that such great workings
of magic inevitably carried a price.
     "So, we need to get through hordes of whatever counts for minds in the
moths, get close to the central mind, and nuke it?" Scorch asked.
     "Pretty much," Netwalker nodded.
     "Sounds like the Pacific Theater of Operations to me, wouldn't you
agree, George?  You were always a history buff," Scorch turned to Beacon.
     "With Netwalker bringing the Enola Gay to Goldmind's mental shores?"
Beacon smiled.  "Sounds like it'd work.  But who'd the strike team go in as?
Anthropomorphic battleships?  General MacArthur?  Whoever it is had better be
swinging pretty big sticks.  Especially since, if I recall correctly how your
ride-along works Nate, they'd tend to think of themselves as being their
assumed IDs.  So it needs to be someone who wouldn't wander off and lose
themselves in the simulation."
     Fury smiled wickedly.  "Oh, I have SUCH an idea for that part...."

               *              *              *              *

[June 15, 1944 - Over Saipan, the Phillipines]

     The C-47 was on loan from the 503rd Airborne, and accustomed to holding
up to twenty-eight paratroopers.  It wasn't as specialized for that duty as
the C-53 variant, but it did the job.  And, in any case, it was more than big
enough for the eight people currently in its passenger compartment as the
Skytrain flew through hostile night skies.
     "Nervous, Johnny?" Lady Lawful asked.  "You seem awfully uncomfortable
flying for someone who wears a pilot's jacket as part of your uniform."
     The young hero smiled nervously.  "I guess I just don't like bein'
cooped up in the back.  When I'm the pilot it's another thing entirely.
Angels gotta fly on their own, ya know?"
     Centurion snorted.  "Yer disappearin' act ain't flyin', Mr. Johnny
Angel."  Unlike most of the commando team, Centurion wasn't wearing his
normal costume, since Roman-style armor was really badly suited to a
parachute drop.  He did have his sword and armored vest, but otherwise wore a
standard U.S. Army uniform.
     "Hey, I was in the Army Air Corps before I...got my new calling," Johnny
shot back.  He'd been about to say, "before I died," but given that he was
one of the few people to know that the current Centurion was a blood relative
to the three previous slain Centurions, he decided not to rub salt in that
particular wound.  As far as the public knew, Centurion was the man who
couldn't be killed...not the man whose entire family had decided they'd
willingly give their lives to fight evil, one at a time.  Tony Calvano was
the fourth Centurion, and Johnny couldn't shake the feeling that he'd never
come back from the Pacific.  Everyone else in the Freedom Alliance had some
sort of gimmick that made them harder to kill, but not Centurion.
     Or, for that matter, Red Widow.
     "Remind me again why she's along?" Johnny jerked his thumb in the
direction of the Floridian femme fatale, who was sitting apart from the rest
of the group, occasionally shooting baleful glares at Gauntlet.  "She's got
no powers, and she never worked with the Alliance before this mission."
     "The brass said we needed an extra warm body on this mission, and the
rest of the Second Squad's tied up keeping Bond Rally Man propped up,"
Corporal Red explained from his place at Minuteman's side.  The real
Minuteman was Chinese, so an "all-American" actor took his place at events
requring that Minuteman remove the glassy black helmet he wore.
     "An' she's more than warm, she's hot," Centurion smirked, winking at Red
Widow.  She smiled back at him, then checked her parachute rig nervously for
the hundredth time or so.
     The eighth person in the compartment wore an Army uniform with Captain's
bars.  He had no powers or special skills beyond the normal sort one acquires
on the way to becoming a Captain in the Army.  "Listen up, people, it's time
to can the chatter.  That light there," he pointed at a small bulb over the
cockpit door, "means that we're nearly over the target.  There's intelligence
that the Japanese have reinforced Saipan with a squad of their artificial
superhumans, and we need you to take them out before the main landing starts,
or we could see some serious problems."
     "And if the intel is wrong, sir?" Minuteman asked, with a curiously
clipped and nearly accentless tone.  If he had any sort of regional accent,
it was faintly British.
     "Then you break as much as you can to help soften things up, and get the
hell out," the captain replied.  "This is a recon in force, to get some idea
what sort of defenses the golden peril has in store for us.  We don't think
this is anything out of the ordinary, but we'd rather get a rude surprise
here at the first gateway than deeper into the system."
     Johnny frowned at some of the terms the captain was using, but shrugged
and let it pass.  After all, back when he was a flyboy they'd used plenty of
     But "golden" instead of "yellow"?  Strange.
     A buzzer sounded.
     "All right, Freedom Alliance," the captain pointed to the door.  "Make
Uncle Sam proud!"


Next Issue:

     It's the original (virtual) Freedom Alliance against the might of the
Japanese Empire, while things in the outside world become increasingly dire!
Be here for ASH #98, "I Shall Return"!


Author's Notes:

     I couldn't resist the Hostess Fruit Pie ref, sorry.  You can check
http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH/LNH.html for the rather limited adventures
of the Legion of Net.Heroes as they incarnated in the ASH Universe.
     It's been established that Manhattan has had some rather polluting
industries in the 2020s, so Giancoli's dig at New Jersey as source of
pollution may be unwarranted.  But unwarranted digs at New Jersey are
traditional for New Yorkers, eh?  ;)
     There is indeed a partial lunar eclipse scheduled for August 28, 2026.
See http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LEdecade2021.html for more.  :)
     Operation Stormfront was the lightning-fast liberation of Kuwait that
happened within days of the Iraqi invasion, using a combination of not-quite-
treaty-compliant superhuman assets and the rapid reaction forces formed to
deal with things like supervillain island fortresses.  It was nicknamed
Operation Stompflat thanks to things like the effect a single "brick" can
have on a tank column.  Juggling was involved.  Just not very good juggling,
since the Juggler wasn't one of those on site.
     I know I didn't call the array from City of Lights a soletta at the time
(I was thinking more in terms of Mobile Suit Gundam's "Solar System"), but I
was reminded of the term while reading The Vorkosigan Companion recently, and
it seemed to fit.
     A quick disclaimer to any history buffs reading this.  I'm shooting for
versimilitude in this arc, but not total accuracy.  It's a simulation of the
Pacific Theater of Operations, but it's also Goldmind's brain, and shaped by
the needs of the mission.  So there will be intentional "errors" here and
there, to reflect how nothing's quite what it looks like.  You may also want
to check out http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH/FirstAge for some of the
unreal history of the Freedom Alliance...although this, too, will have some
deliberate errors.  Like, say, Red Widow being active in the PTO instead of
fading into obscurity without ever rising above Local Hero status in Miami.

     And now, a bit of shameless promotion for another ASH Universe writer,
Tony Pi.  Tony is in his second year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell
Best New Writer Award.  Last year he missed the ballot by 3 nominations!
Last year, his novelette "Metamorphoses in Amber" was a finalist in the "Best
Short Form in English" category of the 2008 Prix Aurora Awards (not to be
confused with the Prix Ultime), and it also got 7 nominations for the Nebula
Awards.  Good luck, Tony.


     For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !

     To discuss this issue or any others, either just hit "followup" to this
post, or check out our Yahoo discussion group, which can be found at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ash_stories/ !

     There's also a LiveJournal interest group for ASH, check it out at
http://www.livejournal.com/interests.bml?int=academy+of+super-heroes (if
you're on Facebook instead, there's an Academy of Super-Heroes group there


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