ASH: ASH #98: Rising Sun Part 2 - I Shall Return
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at eyrie.org
Tue Mar 31 21:00:32 PDT 2009
The cover shows a uniformed figure with a corncob pipe standing on the
shore in front of a swollen red setting Sun. In the foreground, facing this
figure and lit by the red sunset, are the members of the Freedom Alliance.
//|| //^^\\ || || .|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
// || \\ || || --X---------------------------------------------
//======================= '|` ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #98
// || \\ || || Rising Sun Part 2 - "I Shall Return"
// || \\__// || || Copyright 2009 by Dave Van Domelen
[July 27, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]
It gave George a strange feeling, acting as a conduit into the photonic
network. Not good-strange, like the feeling he got when he entered Geode's
quartz-like body...just strange-strange.
He wondered if the jury-rigged means of access was changing the
experience inside Netwalker's "virtual" pocket dimension any. They'd been
warned that they'd have issues of losing themselves in their cover
identities, but Walker himself admitted he had no idea how much the usual
rules would apply in this case. Especially with Lightfoot using his powers
to speed everything up...if things went wrong, they'd go pretty *far* wrong
before anyone was able to react.
Of course, they'd had to make some compromises going in. The gender
balance of ASH was a lot more even than that of the Freedom Alliance, or the
First Heroic Age as a whole. Arin had gone in as a "guest star" of sorts,
but Sarah was in the unenviable position of portraying a male hero. Sure, he
was a bit "bishy" as later generations might describe it, but by all accounts
his boyish looks hadn't matched his personality very well.
Then again, Sarah had spent a good chunk of time as animated ice, so
she'd probably be able to cope with the change. He hoped. Because this
whole shadow-play (light-play?) might be their only hope of freeing the Sun
from the grip of the Light Brigade before the damage to Earth became
ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES/FREEDOM ALLIANCE ROLL CALL
CODENAME REAL NAME POWERS ASSIGNMENT
-------- --------- ------ ----------
Solar Max Jonathan Zachary Spacetime Control REAL WORLD
Johnny Angel Sarah Grant-Taylor Teleportation VIRTUAL
Gauntlet Scott Handleman Self-powered armor VIRTUAL
Centurion Salvatore Napier None VIRTUAL
Red Widow Arin Kelsey None VIRTUAL
Minuteman Aaron Zander Enhanced human VIRTUAL
Corporal Red "Paul Mahler" Enhanced human VIRTUAL
Lady Lawful Christina Li Super-strength VIRTUAL
Essay Sara Ana Henderson Gadgeteer INTERFACE
Peregryn Howard Henderson Jr. Elemental Mage INTERFACE
Beacon George Sylvester Living Light INTERFACE
Geode Unknown Living Crystal REAL WORLD
Lightfoot Tom Dodson Velocity Control INTERFACE
[June 15, 1944 - Saipan, the Philippines]
Minuteman and Corporal Red moved in an eerie unison born of intense
training, flitting from shadow to shadow as they approached the Japanese
bunker. Or perhaps it went beyond mere training, just as it was nearly
supernatural how they even found shadows to hide in, given how the ground had
been cleared pretty thoroughly by the defenders. Whatever the source, it was
an impressive display if you were one of the handful of people who knew to
Fortunately for the pair, the only ones who knew to look were on their
Gauntlet felt a sense of unease as he watched the two soldiers prepare
to place their satchel charge. Minuteman and Corporal Red were the only
actual soldiers in the little commando group. Oh, Johnny Angel had been in
the Army Air Corps, but as far as killing people who you could look in the
face went, that didn't really count. Gauntlet was no killer, and he
suspected that for all his bravado that the current Centurion had never
actually used his sword lethally. Red Widow's usual pistol was as much for
show as anything else, while Lady Lawful was definitely more of a "sock to
the jaw" sort. It was war, of course, and they knew that none of them would
get out of this without taking some lives...but all the same, Gauntlet was
glad that the two actual soldiers were taking point on this first mission.
"I still don't get why I couldn't just pop over there with the satchel,"
Johnny frowned, his mask crinkling on his brow. The masks felt a little
silly, for those who wore them, but the brass decided that there was a
psychological advantage to be had, as fighting against symbols instead of men
(and women) would be more unnerving.
"Because you can't see from here if there's a booby trap at the door,
booby," Centurion smirked. He was sweating visibly in the nighttime heat of
the jungle, and Gauntlet knew that his own armor was going to be a liability
in that respect once the sun came up.
Minuteman made a hand signal as he and Corporal Red flattened against
the walls, the curvature of the built-up external part of the bunker giving
them some cover against the blast of their demolition charge. The chatter
stopped and everyone waited for the explosion.
One of the new explosives to come out of the mad science labs, it wasn't
much louder than a rifle shot, but the door had been blown completely off its
"Go!" Corporal Red shouted, diving into the smoke, submachinegun ready,
and the rest of the team broke cover and started running towards the
"Back off, glove-boy," Red Widow snarled as Gauntlet gained on her,
thanks to the powered musculature in his armor.
"What's your problem, anyway?" Gauntlet asked, even as he zigged to the
side a bit.
"Look, ya just rub da lady the wrong way, okay?" Centurion explained,
panting slightly at the exertion of keeping pace as he fell in between the
two. Then he turned to Red Widow and added, "Save da hate fer da guys on
th'odder side, yaknow?"
The next few minutes were a blur, albeit a familiar one. He'd fought in
cramped spaces before, against numerous enemies. Usually gangsters and
saboteurs inside warehouses or in the hallways of buildings. He fell into
his usual patterns, discharging various kinds of energy bolts from his
gauntlet weapon, feeling the usual light-headedness as the electricity left
his body and flowed through the armor.
The real surprise was Red Widow, though. Not just that she seemed to
have a lot of hate saved up for "da guys on th'odder side," but the way she
threw herself into the fight like she'd been born with twin Colt ACPs in her
hands. Her usual weapons were a whip and a revolver, but she'd taken
advantage of the arms locker back at the base, and it was like she'd just
point at someone and they'd die. A real angel of death, that one was.
"Hold fire," Corporal Red held up a hand at some unspoken signal from
Minuteman. Gauntlet still found it kinda creepy how those two seemed to act
like they shared a brain. "I think that was the last of the actual
soldiers. We might want to take some of the non-combatants prisoner, for
"With due respect," Johnny Angel piped up, "is there any such thing as a
Minuteman shook his head. "Don't believe the propaganda posters too
much, Johnny. Yes, the Japanese are rather fanatic in their nationalism, but
they're still people."
"Fine," Centurion wiped the blood from his sword and sheathed it. In
the cramped confines of a bunker it was as useful as a gun, and the Japanese
seemed to respect it more than a tommygun. "But if any a' dese 'non-
combatants' so much as LOOKS at me funny, I'll gut 'im."
There seemed to be general, if grudging, agreement on that point.
This was war, after all, not crimebusting.
* * * *
[July 27, 2026 - Interplanetary Space, the Photonic Sphere]
"It doesn't matter how much control you have with a sledgehammer, it's
still not too useful for scrimshaw."
Scott was still pretty proud of that retort, when Scorch had asked him
why he didn't have enough control of his power to sweep the entire photonic
shell away without destroying the Sun.
He just wished his particular sledgehammer could do fine etching work,
though. He had the raw power to sweep out large swaths of the moth-shell,
but to take them all out at once wasn't something he could safely do. Oh, he
could probably do it without making the Sun into a black hole. These days,
anyway. So it'd been a bit of hyperbole on his part to claim his only
solution was a black hole Sun. But in terms of "cure worse than the
disease," it was still essentially the right description of things. The kind
of gravitational distortion needed to eliminate all the photonic moths
rapidly enough that they wouldn't just regrow...that'd knock planets out of
their stable orbits. Venus for sure, probably Earth and Mars as well. And
it'd play havoc with the Sun-grazing asteroids and other NEOs.
Your basic "water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink" problem.
He may not have been in the same situation that had required psi intervention
during his Academy days, when he'd accepted external limiters on his power to
prevent him from accidentally destroying the world, but sometimes a bigger
hammer wasn't the solution.
For now, at least, he had enough control to keep a corridor swept clean
of moths without worrying about nasty orbital side effects. And while
Lightfoot was busy keeping the whole jury-rigged reality hack running at top
speed, at least radio links weren't being interfered with now, and some
Santari-supplied ships were able to get between planets at need.
And Pranir-supplied ships.
"Incoming craft, please identify yourself," he sent out on the standard
Galactic Warrior Corps challenge frequency.
"This is the KSS Eugene's Folly," a clearly synthed voice replied,
followed by a series of clicks and buzzes that his suit's computers
identified as T!rir and tagged as a personal name for one of the insectile
race and the designation of ship's captain. "Or you may call me Mantissa,"
the synth resumed. "I have legitimate business at the Tritonis settlement."
Star Knight frowned, although there was no one to see it even if his
helmet were set at a lower opacity than it currently had. Mantissa was
perhaps the most famous member of the Conclave of Super-Villains as far as
the interstellar community was concerned, even if almost no one on Earth had
heard of him. A scandalously progressive-thinking T!rir, practically a
madman by their standards, although compared to the average human or Santari
still pretty staid.
But, dangerous as Mantissa may be in the long run, Khadam and the CSV
did have a legal and valid reason to travel to Venus, and it didn't seem like
they were involved in the Light Brigade's plot.
"Very well, pass through," Star Knight transmitted. "Just keep your
proboscis clean, or I can make sure your stay is for the duration of the
"Understood, lieutenant," Mantissa replied, and it was followed by a
short snatch of T!rir language that Scott's suit couldn't translate.
Probably because the program had been designed by someone too polite to use
what passed for rude language among the T!rir....
* * * *
[July 27, 2026 - Mount Olympus, Kingdom of Q'Nos]
"Welcome to Olympus, Phaeton," Q'Nos pronounced as the lighting dimmed
to a level that mortals could survive and that Q'Nos himself found tolerable
if not pleasant.
"Not a phrase I'd ever expected to hear, Min...Q'Nos," the Titan bit off
the insulting false-name quickly enough that Q'Nos doubted it had been an
intentional slur. Humility came slowly to fallen gods, and the fact that
Phaeton had experienced the past human generation linearly only meant he'd
had decades to fume over his loss of stature. Humility took much longer than
that, especially since Phaeton hadn't been forced to endure the servitude
faced by the former god of the Minoans.
As if to drive home his attitude, Phaeton chose to manifest at a height
of nearly twice Q'Nos's own, and Q'Nos himself was almost impractically large
for the city he had built atop the mountain once sacred to the gods both he
and Phaeton hated. He had also manifested blazing with such light as to char
the wall hangings, although he'd toned it down to merely blinding
"No, you'll find that the gods don't much care what happens to the
mortal version of their exalted home, not at the moment," Q'Nos sat and
gestured for Phaeton to take a seat at a nearby throne. It was equal in size
and positioning to Q'Nos's own...an overt olive branch hiding its own snub.
Phaeton would have to reduce his size in order to sit with comfort, but
couldn't claim that Q'Nos had offered him a throne inferior to that of the
Darkening slightly as the same thoughts went through his own semi-divine
head, Phaeton sat, retaining just enough additional size to allow him to
continue looking down at Q'Nos's shaggy bull-head. "True. We're 'below the
radar' as the mortals would put it. Too reduced in stature to be worth their
notice any longer. I lost too much on my final gambit," Phaeton admitted.
Q'Nos nodded sympathetically. The Titans had already been on their way
down as a divine power when he himself had been humbled ages ago, and their
participation in the so-called "Godmarket" of the late 1990s had been a move
of pure desperation. But Phaeton brought much of the failure on his own
head, seeking awe and gaining derision by erecting a Collapsauron statue of
himself in one of Earth's great cities.
A great city built largely on unstable shore land, incapable of
supporting mystically-dense gold without the sort of immense engineering
groundwork that Phaeton didn't have the foresight or talent for. So the
statue had sunk almost instantly to its knees...and then continued to dig
into the bedrock, which itself merely slowed the progress of the four hundred
meter tall monument to Phaeton's pride. The mockery this had caused had cost
the Titans what little power they had amassed, and they were quickly removed
from the game board, reduced to demigod or demon status much as Q'Nos had
been on another battleground of the wars of the gods.
"At least the mortals have hidden the symbol of that," Q'Nos noted.
[See ASH #5 - Ed.] "And there are benefits to being on the lower board of
the great game. We were long pawns on the upper board, even before we were
stripped of full godhood, Phaeton. Admit it to yourself even if you will not
admit it aloud. But the game has moved on to other eras, and we find
ourselves the largest fish in a suddenly smaller pond."
"But even a large fish can suffer the fisherman's spear," Phaeton
narrowed his eyes. "Mere mortals were sufficient to thwart you, not once but
Q'Nos nodded slowly. "It hurts to admit, but yes. Hubris affects
mortal and divine alike. But we cannot reach the heavens without reaching
FOR them, yes? And I called to you because I believe there is an opportunity
here for both of us to take a step in the direction of godhood once more. As
you can no doubt sense, even diminished as you are, the Sun has been taken
captive by mortals. The days grow darker, and soon it will be as if spiteful
Demeter has withdrawn her blessing again, even in the height of summer. But
if you were to provide a second Sun, one that shone only on the lands of
those who swore allegiance to me? You could gain new worshippers, I would
gain greater temporal power...we would both benefit. And the 'public
relations' benefit would start to erase the blot on your history, as
* * * *
[July 27, 2026 - El Dorado]
"Hmm, 'Yrni Von Wright,'" Delfi mused aloud with a slight smirk on her
"Huh?" Yrni looked up from his console and at his diminuative
co-worker. "What was that?"
"Oh, just trying on the sound of a second name for you," she winked.
"If you got married to that big stag of yours on the outside, you'd have to
take his name, since you only have the one." Very few residents of El Dorado
needed more than a single personal name, since the population was
deliberately kept fairly small and very well-organized. About the only time
two individuals shared a name was if a child was named to honor someone who
was not expected to live much longer, such as Oskir the Younger, whose
namesake had made a dramatic improvement and was still alive even now.
"Firstly, Del, while I'll admit I find outsider customs as confusing as
you clearly do, I'm pretty sure that anyone willing to recognize a proper
marriage would also accept that a mate isn't property. And secondly, given
that the Sun's been blocked out, is now really the time to be playing wedding
"Relax, Yrn," she smirked and adjusted a few of the levels on her own
controls. "Geothermal taps," she gestured at the screen, "indicate that the
Sun could wink out and we wouldn't have to worry about it down here for
years...easily long enough to arrange a mass evacuation of some sort. And if
things do get really bad up top, you'll probably be begging Viktor to come
down here for safety, if nothing else. Sure, all members of the CSV are
honorary citizens of El Dorado, but marrying you would make him a real part
of the city. And I'm sure you'd want that for him."
The fact that she'd ignored Yrni's first objection suggested to him that
she'd only been joking about that part, but....
"You're serious? You think we should be expecting to hunker down for a
long winter?" Yrni asked.
Delfi shrugged. "I'm just a tech, same as you, not one of the science
council. But closing off the Sun? That's big. Not something you do on a
whim, unless you're so powerful that there's no stopping you. And if you
plan it out, you plan for any attempts to undo it. We may be the only people
on the planet who will come through this, leaving aside a few of the very
rich and very powerful."
"We might not survive either," Yrni's mood turned even darker than it
had been, as he was struck by a sudden realization. "Even if we're still
pretty well hidden, the world knows we exist now. Those rich and powerful
people might decide that the simplest and quickest way to weather the dark
days ahead is to figure out where we are and take over."
"The Wise One would never let that happen," Delfi shook her head. "And
he's one of the most powerful of the people up top."
"That doesn't mean no one's going to try, either...."
* * * *
[July 27, 2026 - Skyhaven, over Khadam]
"Argh! Yvan's codename should be Point Failure!" Conflicto gripped his
hair in both hands and pantomimed tearing it out. "We finally re-establish
contact with Venus, and no one knows where he's wandered off to...so much for
gating all the important people of Khadam into El Dorado."
Glyph shrugged, her scaly face as impassive as that of a snake. "The
truly important people can survive without sunlight, or have their own means
of leaving the planet entirely. And, frankly, I doubt we even want some of
them knowing the exact location of El Dorado."
"How's your research into teleportation spells going?" Conflicto asked,
deliberately tamping down his frustration. Glyph was officially the leader
of the Conclave of Super-Villains, but Triton retained a great deal of
influence over the team, and Conflicto himself had somehow fallen into a sort
of secondary leadership role despite himself. It made managing the group a
touch difficult, but compared to the political structures of Khadam below
them it was pretty straightforward. Still, Conflicto had to avoid venting
any of his frustration at the serpentine mage, lest things get very
straightforwardly bad on the team.
"I could probably move a few people into El Dorado, if that's what
you're asking. Not enough to be significant, though...we'll still need to
rely on the physical entrances that Triton has told us about," she shrugged,
sending the Medusan coils of her hair bobbing about.
"No, no," he shook his head. "I just had a different idea. Warm up the
clonetanks, I think there's an aleph-series spell you might be able to craft
for us. If we can't crack open the shell around the Sun, maybe we can bypass
* * * *
[August 14, 1944 - Saipan, the Philippines]
Servos and springs protested as Gauntlet cushioned the impact of Johnny
Angel slamming into him, but it was a well-practiced maneuver by now.
"You get 'im?" Centurion asked, peering at the sky.
There was a small explosion in the distance as the limpet grenade
"Yep!" Johnny beamed. "Scrap one scout. Who knew fighting planes would
be so fun without one of my own?" The trick was pretty simple: spot a target
airplane, then have Lady Lawful or Gauntlet throw Johnny really hard in the
same direction as the plane's motion. He'd pop over to it, keeping his
speed, and try to plant a sticky limpet charge as it zoomed underneath...even
as hard as Lady Lawful could throw him, it was still pocket change compared
to a Zero or Betty at combat speed. Then Johnny would pop back down to earth
and someone would catch him before he could leave a long skid mark. Tricky,
but effective. And it had a much shorter response time than getting AA
battery on target.
"If you gentlemen are done playing tag with the Imperial Japanese Navy's
Air Service," Corporal Red smirked, "we have a Vee Eye Pee waiting in the
"More reporters?" Gauntlet wondered aloud. The past few weeks had seen
a lot of hard fighting and the occasional bizarre Japanese secret weapons,
but nothing that the regular army forces couldn't have handled without
mysteryman help, so a lot of the team's down time had been taken up with
newsreel shots and the like. The public back home still didn't know about
the mysterymen in the Pacific Theater, but the enemy had to know by now,
which meant that there wasn't a lot of point in keeping it secret anymore.
The news would be breaking back home any day now, and they'd have plenty of
footage for the theaters to show off.
Thanks to his flashier powers and his "alien" origins [see Mega-Sized
Coherent Super Stories #1 - Ed.], Gauntlet got a lot of that attention,
although Red Widow was becoming something of a media darling as well. The
fact she practically wore a bathing suit in combat helped there...Gauntlet
just wished she didn't seem to hate his guts. He may only have really been a
kid despite his appearance, but she made him feel...well, it wasn't gonna
happen anyway. No use dwelling on it.
Corporal Red broke Gauntlet's reverie. "Nope. Well, there'll be more
of those later, but this is a real Very Important Person, not just some
newsie from one of the bigger rags. C'mon."
Gauntlet was the last into the tent, as usual. When powered up, his
suit let him move pretty quickly, but there weren't a lot of qualified super
science wonks out in the PTO, so he tried to keep it turned off as much as
possible to save wear and tear. But that meant he was hauling about fifty
pounds of dead weight around most of the time. He was certainly stronger
than any normal man of his size, but he was no Lady Lawful in that
department. So he slogged along.
"Good day, people," a figure addressed them, his face just outside the
light of a table lamp, but an iconic corncob pipe dangling from the corner of
his mouth made it clear who the man was.
"General," Minuteman saluted crisply, with Corporal Red in perfect synch
as always. Centurion saluted as well, if rather sloppily, but the rest of
the group didn't stand on military formalities. Gauntlet remembered the
first time he'd tried saluting an officer, but he'd slipped up and used the
Boy Scout salute instead. THAT had been hard to live down.
"At ease," the general nodded, the pipe bobbing into the light briefly.
"You're probably wondering why you're here, as opposed to Germany, or even
back on the homefront. Well, I can't give you all the details yet, but
you're not just here to give the newsreels something to liven up the Saturday
"I figured as much," Lady Lawful smirked.
"We wanted you in-theater for a bit to get used to working with the
regular troops, and to familiarize yourself with the way the world works out
here, before throwing you into the real defenses the enemy has up," the
general continued. "And make no mistake...there's going to be some damned
hairy situations in the days ahead. You're going to be at the sharp end more
often than not, dealing with things that no normal grunt would have a chance
against. Especially once the enemy realizes what we're up to."
"I'd think that taking Saipan would have made our intentions pretty
clear," Red Widow smirked.
The general chuckled. "Well, yes. Our general goal is clear, yes. But
not our way of going about it. We've been as successful as we have been in
part because we're refusing to fight the war that the enemy was preparing
for," he alluded to the "island-hopping" campaign he'd embarked on, bypassing
a number of fortified Japanese positions rather than trying to take every
island along the way. "We have something special planned for Tokyo now, but
we need to take a number of waypoints in order to clear the way for it. I'd
love to just send you all to Honshu right now to drop off our present, but
there's no...clear way to get you there in one piece yet." He seemed to be
carefully picking his words, as if talking around something he thought we
wouldn't understand. Or didn't need to know.
"What's the next step, then?" Corporal Red asked, nodding to the map
spread out on the table.
"We need to set a pointer by planting our flag here," the general took
the pipe out of his mouth and used the stem to stab at the map. "Iwo Jima."
* * * *
[July 27, 2026 - Interplanetary Space, the Photonic Sphere]
Among the fluttering orange shapes, glows of a few other colors briefly
met. Blue-white, pure white, lambent and a fourth that was essentially
invisible to human eyes.
"The harvest proceeds well," Mothflame reported. "My children continue
to be fruitful and multiply."
"Good," Irrlicht pulsed. "Soon we will have enough power to tear down
the barrier between life and death and bring back our lord. You will have
more than redeemed yourself in his eyes, Mothflame. Goldmind, you mentioned
earlier that you thought someone was attempting to breach the network through
which you control the swarm...do you have any more to say about that?"
A golden orb darted back and forth, nervously, as if unwilling to spend
even a few seconds in one place lest it be found. "Yes. I still don't know
how they accessed the network, but there's definitely a foreign presence.
It's doing a good job of masking itself from my probes, but I believe it's
actual human minds somehow brought into the system rather than AIs. Magic
seems a likely cause, if only because it's the only sort of attack I wasn't
able to take definitive steps against."
"Cheaters," Whiteout snarled. "Need any help in there? Oblivion and I
are getting bored, herding butterflies."
"No," Goldmind spun briefly in place. "I've got too many layers of
protection around me for it to be a worry yet. They haven't even reached the
systems that report directly to me...and I have some plans in case they do.
Still, it's no longer unthinkable that they will manage to sever the
connection I have with the swarm, at which point we'll need to move to plan
"I'd rather not use plan B," Irrlicht sighed. "It's inelegant,
practically cliche, but it's better than having all this power snatched away
from us. Very well, Goldmind. Keep us up to date. And we may have to look
into visiting the various mages on Venus to convince them not to meddle in
the affairs of their betters. That should alleviate your boredom,
The Freedom Alliance faces "The Guns of Iwo Jima" as the line between
reality and virtuality starts to blur. Meanwhile, both man and demigod take
desperate actions as the Sun continues to darken....
Collapsauron is also known as collapsed gold, a hyper-dense supermetal
indestructible by almost any force available to mortals.
"The Wise One" is an epithet applied by the citizens of El Dorado to
Derek Radner, who founded the community during his exile in the First
Century, as seen in CSV Annual #2.
As mentioned in ASH #82, the main city of Khadam has had folding panels
installed on rooftops that let Glyph create titanic mystical sigils using the
entire city as a focus. Aleph-series rituals require the sacrifice of
numerous cloned "squabs" and are mainly meant for national defense. Beth-
series rituals require only a single sacrifice and protect against lesser
natural disasters, and gimel-series rituals require no sacrifice and tend to
be merely for show (like mystical fireworks displays).
Finally, in case anyone didn't figure it out, the general in the last
scene is Netwalker playing the part of General Douglas McArthur. It just
felt right to not explicitly name him. :)
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