ASH: ASH #112 - A Suit of Sables Part 3: The Steep And Thorny Way

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Fri Apr 1 08:07:21 PDT 2011

     [The cover depicts Lord Ebon, a black silhouette with a deathly white
grin, sitting on a throne of bones in the flaming ruins of a city.  Members
of both the 1990s and 2020s ASH lie defeated around him.  The cover copy
reads, "PAST = PROLOGUE?" in a blood-dripping font.]

 '|`  /|(`| |   A Suit of Sables Part 3 of 4 - The Steep and Thorny Way
     /-|.)|-|        copyright 2011 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
Centurion      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

[October 13, 2026 - Orono, Maine Sector]

     "Ugh, you would not believe my day," Jane sighed as she locked the
apartment door behind her and started kicking off her uncomfortable-but-
fashionable shoes.  "The new provost got some burr up his butt about the
latest management fad, and now we peons in the outer office have to figure
out how to make it work."
     Slipping into some sandals she kept by the door, the short and somewhat
frumpy thirty-something woman dropped her coat onto a chair in the kitchen,
dumped her purse on the counter, and opened the fridge.  Frowning at its
depleted state, she finally grabbed a bottle of a local microbrew and pulled
a magnetic bottle opener from the front of the refrigerator.
     "I hope something shiny distracts him soon, so we can get back to doing
things the right way," Jane opened the beer and headed for the living room,
where she plopped down on an overstuffed couch.  Reaching over to the table
next to the couch, she skritched behind the ear of the head that sat there.
     The bodiless, one-eared, robotic wolf head.
     "At least I know you won't ever do something stupid like that, Louie.
Who's a good boy?"
     "You know, even by my standards, that's a little creepy," a new voice
entered the conversation.
     "What?  Who..." Jane started to awkwardly get out of the couch, only to
be pushed back down by a long gray leg emerging from the shadows.
     "Oh, don't get up," Lady Sable smirked, fully emerging from the darkened
corner.  "I won't be long...I just need the essence of a member of the
original Academy of Super-Heroes, and LU-62 is what they call 'low-hanging
fruit' in that regard."
     Jane had the look of a mouse fixed in the gaze of a snake, and
stammered, "'s just a hunk of metal.  Louie died to save me from a
collapsing wall, all of his memory circuits were in his torso.  Trust me, I
took his head to plenty of robotics and computer experts since in the past
few years, there's nothing in the head but sensors and projectors.  And most
of those were so burned out they don't work anyway.  It's the only reason the
government people let me keep him."
     Lady Sable tsked.  "I didn't say I was here for his memory, I said I was
here for his essence.  His spirit.  His *soul*."
     Jane frowned a little at that.  "A soul?  Louie was a robot."
     "And yet, as you say, he sacrificed his existence to save you.  Even the
rocks and the air have spirits, don't you think LU-62 demonstrated more
spirit than most humans ever do, Miss Preston?" the dark sorceress raised
one cruelly curved eyebrow.  "And he died after heaven and hell were sealed
away for a generation, so there's nowhere else his soul could have gone.
Yessss, I feel it here, bound to his mortal remains.  A ghost in the machine,
quite literally.  It was buried too deeply for me to sense earlier, but your
arrival seems to have waken it up.  Perhaps your conversations with that
paperweight weren't as one-sided as you suspected?"
     There was an unflash of darkness around the metal head, then a tiny blue
spark emerged from the skull and floated to an amulet Lady Sable wore around
her neck.
     "N-now are y-you..." Jane stammered fearfully.
     "...going to kill you?" Lady Sable laughed coldly.  "No, you really
don't matter in the grand scheme of things, and killing you would only draw
unwanted attention.  Simple enough to erase the last few minutes of your

     Jane blinked.  "Ooh, rough day, Louie.  I think I blanked out for a
minute there."  She looked at the microbrew on the table next to Louie's
head.  "Maybe I should cork that up and finish it some other time.  Then
again, after the day I had, getting totally wasted might be just the
thing.  Do you know what the new Provost wants us to do...?" 

               *              *              *              *

[October 30, 2026 - Washington, Federal Sector]

     Like most government agencies, the Department of Super-Human Affairs
wasn't a single monolithic organization.  Rather, it was a collection of
several entities that operated under a common banner and mandate.  Most
people were familiar with the law enforcement aspect, the DSHA field agents
that helped deal with paragangers and supervillains, although the new NAC
Marshals were increasingly taking over that job.  Many were also aware of the
admen and agents of the "Hollywood" side of the DSHA, the people who marketed
the likenesses and endorsements of superheroes (and supervillains) to help
defray the phenomenal costs associated with having superhumans in the world.
     But there were other branches that had much lower profiles, and often
much smaller staffing requirements.  Superhuman insurance policies, both
against damage caused by their fights and for medical coverage of registered
superhumans, were mostly farmed out to private companies, and only a
relatively small group of auditors was needed to keep an eye on them.
Similarly, the sort of work that had been done by MuniCOE in the 1990s was
mostly contracted out to private firms (one of whom had bought the MuniCOE
trademarks) with only a half dozen or so DSHA agents in charge of
coordinating their work.
     Burt Russell was part of one of those smaller, less visible parts of
DSHA.  Well, his birth name was Bertrand, but since he'd gone into
computational science he'd gotten tired of being compared to the TwenCen
logician he'd been named after, so he insisted on Burt.  His job involved
work on the various netcrawlers that the DSHA maintained.  Improving their
search algorithms, providing a first layer of human interpretation to the
results they spat out, that sort of thing.  He had ten or so coworkers in the
Analytical Division, but rarely met them.  This was the sort of job you could
do from home as well as anywhere else, especially given that their mandate
was specifically to work with unsecured sources.  The kind of thing that
needed warrants (or fancy legal footwork to avoid getting a warrant) wasn't
in DSHA's charter, and they went to the Combine Security Agency when they
needed deep black infohacks.
     But Burt was pretty proud of the algorithms he'd developed.  People
sometimes questioned the reasoning behind the assignment of Marshals, for
instance.  He'd been the one who wrote the code that let them determine which
areas needed what sort of superhuman help, often before it was obvious to
even the closest on-the-ground observer.  He'd actually gotten the
inspiration from a bit of old supervillain code he'd found in college, called
"Captain Dogooder."  But where that program had tried to predict what a
particular superhero would do, Burt's program tried to predict the kinds of
threats an area might face that would require a superhero...a much more
complicated task, requiring something pretty close to a true Artificial
Consciousness.  It scoured the open nets and made inferences that bordered on
     Burt smiled, taking a bite from a lukewarm breakfast burrito and
surveying the latest patch for what he called the "Marshal Machine."  Some
recent decisions on privacy law had put a couple of holes in what the current
version could do...damn hippies and their "Constitutional Rights" protests,
always making it harder to gather information...but he'd found a way around
it.  A legal way, even.  He knew a lot of illegal ones, and he'd passed those
on to a pal in the CSA in return for favors to be named later.
     A flashing icon in the corner of his second monitor nearly made him spit
out the mouthful of burrito.
     "The Apotheosis Protocols?  Crap!" he exclaimed through a full mouth.
     Using much of the same code as the Marshal Machine, he'd written the
Apotheosis Protocols after Lorenzo Archangeli's attempt at godhood.  They
hadn't been able to predict Q'Nos's rise to power, but now they had enough of
a hit that the machine wanted human eyes on the data.
     Burt quickly saved his work and shoved it aside, letting the Apotheosis
Protocols take up all of his monitor space.  Then he remembered to swallow,
     "OOOOOOH this is bad," Burt's eyes widened.  And while a small part of
him realized there were five separate changes he needed to make to the code
that would probably have alerted him several days ago had they already been
in place, his main thoughts were already moving to the blackcel he kept at
home for those rare times he needed a truly secure line to the agency.
     "Transmitting vital data, ASH eyes priority," he said into the phone as
he punched in commands to dump the Apotheosis Protocols' data over the link.
There wasn't a verbal code for this sort of thing.  Too sensitive.  So, no
dramatic pronouncement like, "Code Brown, we have a new god in town," to
accompany the data stream.
     The data would speak for itself.
     Scream, even.

               *              *              *              *

[October 30, 2026 - The Serengeti, Africa]

     "The problem, you see, is that while too much instability is obviously
bad for the region," Edouard was unfolding a map while Ahmed stood
attentively, "too much stability is also bad.  So long as there were a few
warlords jockeying for position in the area, no one was strong enough to pose
a problem for me and mine.  But Adoko is on the verge of becoming the
uncontested ruler of a big enough region that he can start looking to the
mineral wealth of Lake Victoria." 
     Edouard stabbed a claw at several points on the map, each marked with
hand-written symbols that represented some sort of natural resource.  "Gold,
for one.  And rare earths, of the kind that many electronic devices need.
Bulky resources, the sort of thing that you want to be able to get to a
seaport.  And that means a new road.  And the easiest route?" he swiped a
claw across the Serengeti, scoring the paper of the old roadmap.
     "So...what?  Prepare for a guerilla war against road-building crews?"
Ahmed shrugged.  "From what little I saw of President Adoko's training camps,
he's probably a year away from being stable enough to risk dumping resources
into a venture like this.  Maybe two years.  Not, I admit, that I have a
great deal of practical experience in this sort of thing."
     "Come now," Edouard smiled, a rather disturbing sight on a cat's head.
"You've said enough in your time here that I know you've been educated in the
classics of warfare and ruling.  At the very least, you've read the Art of
War and The Prince.  Don't think so small.  You're hiding from Khadam for
some reason, and I can guess at a few possibilities.  You need powerful
allies, preferably a secure power base of your own.  Oh, don't look so
shocked.  I was in the superhero game long enough to recognize a would be
conqueror in the making...if I thought you were the wrong kind, you simply
would have gone to feed the lions of the Sun.  But an age of supernormal
Princes is dawning, mark my words, and you have the raw material needed to
become one of the good ones, if you live.  No, I have a proposal that might
serve both your needs and my own.  What do you think of the idea of starting
your own empire in Kenya, one that would keep humans out of the Serengeti?"

               *              *              *              *

[October 30, 2026 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]

     "I concur with the computer analysis," Peregryn's image spoke from a
monitor screen.  "Someone is attempting to repeat Lord Ebon's apotheosis
scheme of 1997."  With help from Essay, Peregryn had managed to enchant the
monitor and its built-in camera so that it would allow for realtime
communication between Earth and Venus.  His earlier magical painting had
worked perfectly fine as far as he was concerned, but Solar Max found it to
be...creepy.  Especially when he thought of the ingredients that had gone
into its paints.
     "Has anyone ever pulled off a repeat of one of those godhood gambits?"
Scorch asked from a mundane monitor that connected to Vancouver.  "I mean, at
least there's a close guard on the Great Pyramid now, just in case, but if it
works or looks like it might have, why not try again?"
     Peregryn shook his head.  "It's hard to say, as there are very few
reliable accounts of mages even attempting it, and Rebus may or may not be
the only success story...depending on how you define success.  But one thing
that the lore tends to agree on is that you must sacrifice something unique
as part of the ritual.  To make a god is quite significant, and the cost is
commensurate.  A great deal of raw power helps, naturally, hence the hecatomb
Lord Ebon made of Milwaukee, or Rebus's slaying of the Anchors along with
using the power of the pyramid.  But it puzzles me what our mysterious mage
is up to...if she knows enough to make the attempt, she knows that exactly
copying Lord Ebon's path can't work.  Whatever element Ebon sacrificed in his
attempt...and we know he got far enough to have made the gone
now.  By its nature, there cannot have been another, cannot ever BE another.
And as far can be determined by mages on the ground, the Great Pyramid no
longer accumulates power.  Rebus's ceremony destroyed whatever part of it was
key to the gathering of energy.  So that is consistent with the lore."
     "Whatever we do, we have to do it soon," Solar Max pointed out.
"Assuming that the Apotheosis Protocols are correct and the Lady Sable
they've been hearing about in Europe is behind this, she'd almost definitely
want to perform the crowning ritual tomorrow.  Not only is Halloween
generally good for dark magics, it's the anniversary of Lord Ebon's own
failed gambit."
     "A gambit that almost destroyed the original ASH," Meteor added.  "The
dangerous thing about these quests for godhood isn't that they succeed, it's
that they fail so destructively."

               *              *              *              *

[October 31, 1997 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin]

     EMerald had been part of ASH almost since the founding, had even led it
on occasion, and she'd never seen anything this horrible.  The previous "most
horrible" had been when Dread Cthulhu was briefly awoken, but he was too
incomprehensible, too cosmic, to resonate the way the sight before her did.
     Thousands were dead, piled into arcane patterns that turned the downtown
area into a ritual circle.  Many had died praying to gods who did nothing, or
to a God that some were becoming convinced either didn't exist or had lost
interest in His world.
     One god, at least, was represented here.  Set was more enraged than
EMerald could recall ever seeing him.  There was no sign of the awkward
academic Myron Telix inside the hulking jackal-headed brute now, just pure
divine anger.  A monstrosity constructed from the merged corpses of over a
hundred innocents was trading blows with the Egyptian avatar-hero, though,
effectively neutralizing ASH's strongest member.
     EMerald and the other "Armor Angels" had been sidelined early in the
game, by an anti-technology spell Lord Ebon had readied against ASH's
arrival.  The same spell destroyed Isabel's guns, and she and Edouard were
relying on staves and swords.  Ravenfire's minor telekinetic talent might
have been useful in rescuing any survivors, but this close to Ebon himself
there were none...just different types of casualty.  EMerald spared a brief
thought of thanks that LU-62 had gone solo a while back, the spell probably
would have killed him outright.  Or Psiberpunk...she didn't even want to
think about what would have happened to his cybernetic systems.
     "Oh, God, he just ripped Vectrox's face off!" Banshee turned away and
started to retch.  The speedster had been halted by a palpable field of
darkness after landing a few solid blows on the necromancer, who was clearly
enjoying toying with his foes.
     "What the hell can we do?" Ravenfire asked.  "Ebon may not be a full god
yet, but he might as well be!  Vectrox and Ghostflare are dead, Rad's off in
Radland, there's not enough working tech between our three armors to make a
toaster, Set's not getting anywhere against mega-zombie there, and I think
the only reason Eddie and Izzy are still alive is that Ebon doesn't really
think they're a threat.  Probably the only reason WE'RE still alive."
     "I'd suggest we start praying," Banshee's voice had a hysterical edge to
it, "but if it didn't help any of these people, I doubt it'd do us much
good.  You'd think those gods showing up on TV lately would be interested in
flexing their muscles here."
     EMerald shook her head.  Set had explained that one before things had
gone totally to hell.  Something about the ritual was balancing forces very
carefully.  The gods were reluctant to take a direct hand, lest things blow
up in their faces.  Set suspected he might be stripped of his avatar status
over this, if he survived.
     Isabel jumped in among the three women, dropping something with a
clunk.  "DSHA armor power core.  Looks intact.  Gotta run," she leapt back
into the thick of the undead soldiers.  
     Since ASH's presence in Milwaukee tended to attract a certain number of
"gunslingers" looking to make a name for themselves, the Department of
Super-Human Affairs had stationed some armored agents in supertech suits to
help deal with the riff-raff, as well as hold the line should something hit
when ASH was out of town, as they had been today.  EMerald didn't know which
of the three men had worn this particular suit, nor did she know any of them
very well, but she was pretty sure they'd given their lives to try to hold
off the unstoppable Lord Ebon.  But maybe....
     "Look, he's trying to become a god of shadow, right?" EMerald said,
sudden inspiration striking like a whisper at the back of her head.  "That
means he has to become darkness incarnate as part of the ritual.  Once that
happens, and before he finishes becoming the new god of night, he'll be
     "We have what?" Ravenfire insisted.  "All our other tech is
busted to hell and back.  There's no way it'll hold together long enought to
do any good."
     "Who said I wanted it to hold together?  Remember Strafe?" EMerald
asked.  "Summer of 89?"
     "You know how his Overlord Blast system worked?" Ravenfire asked,
dubiously.  The very first time ASH had fought someone claiming to be a god,
the armored hero Strafe had nearly died when he channeled all the power of
his suit into a single titanic blast that turned the tide of the battle.  She
cast a nervous glance to where Lord Ebon was sitting atop a throne of severed
heads, laughing as his titanic zombie threw Set high into the air.
     "No, but I know how a bomb-pumped laser works, and I know how to make
these cores," she gestured at the one Isabel had left them, "go boom.  The
emitters in my gauntlets are damaged, but I bet the lasing rods have at least
one swan song in 'em!"

               *              *              *              *

[October 30, 2026 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin Sector]

     Most people knew what happened next.  Certainly, everyone who had
attended the Academy knew.  It was their history, and could be their future.
     ASH, for all practical purposes, was destroyed as a team that day.  The
two newest members had died.  All three "Armor Angels" were seriously
injured, either in the detonation of the bomb-pumped laser or during the
brief chaos unleashed by Lord Ebon's demise.  Banshee hadn't even bothered
rebuilding her armor.  Rad spent months recovering, only going back to action
shortly before July 1998.  Edouard tried to hold things together for a while,
but eventually he and Isabel took a leave of absence that they never returned
from.  Set went on to found a new team using the old name, but even though
most of the godly avatars he recruited had been members of one roster or
another, it really didn't feel like ASH anymore.  That "Pantheon of
Super-Heroes" team came across as propaganda for various gods, like an old
familiar local brand that was bought out by a multinational conglomerate and
used as a front for the same old crap.
     And, of course, Milwaukee had been gutted.
     It was easy to pretend, looking at the emptiness of its lakefront, that
the loss of population was just another one of those post-1998 effects.  A
lot of cities had been deliberately emptied, like Dallas, because there were
no longer enough people around to support them.
     But Milwaukee had had its heart ripped out in 1997.  People had been
moving away as fast as they could throughout the early months of 1998, and
the population was actually about the same now as it was in June of that
year.  Like Manhattan, the ones who stuck around were the die-hards, the ones
who either had a stubborn pride in being from Milwaukee, or were simply
unwilling to move for personal reasons.  Once the largest city in Wisconsin,
it was now at best fifth-largest, probably sixth.  The University of
Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and its private school counterpart Marquette
University, formed the core of what remained, and after education the city's
largest industry was urban reclamation.  Permanent residents were a minority
of those who now walked the streets of what had become a sleepy little
college town.
     "I think Lord Ebon killed more people here in '97 than live here now,"
Lightfoot observed.  Coming back to the haunted shell of Milwaukee always
unnerved him.  His first sight of this brave new century had been here,
returning mere hours and a full generation after he'd left it in 1994.  It
had been like visiting grandparents and suddenly realizing that they weren't
the people you knew as a kid...they were old now, and near death.  He wasn't
from Milwaukee, but it had been his home for an important time in his life.
     More chillingly, it had been the time when he was the new guy on the
team.  Vectrox's fate could easily have been his own.
     "Odds are good that Lady Sable isn't going to try to recreate Ebon's
endgame exactly here," Solar Max pointed out.  "If Peregryn's right, she's
using sympathetic magic to draw echoes of that ritual to herself, but she'll
need to add her own unique spin to things in order to actually attain
godhood.  It's also possible we've already missed her, she did whatever she
needed to quietly enough that no one here noticed."
     "I hope not," Fury shivered.  "I don't like the idea that anyone could
get so close to Chris without anyone noticing it."  Arin's son had been
adopted by Nancy Balzer, an Anchor and nurse who lived in one of the few
remaining residential neighborhoods not tied to one of the two universities.
Unlike most of her neighbors, she commuted to the Madison area rather than
staying in the county, but Chris had recently been enrolled in the local
school system, where he'd still be at this time of the afternoon.
     "Well, there's close and then there's close," Centurion tried to
reassure her.  "Miller Valley is miles away from downtown," he gestured at
the empty lots that surrounded the helijet's landing spot.  "Downtown"
Milwaukee had been deconstructed decades ago.  The damage inflicted in Ebon's
failed ascension had gutted many of the more prominent structures, and there
hadn't been enough money or desire to rebuild.  So the old city core had just
been dismantled over the years following the crash of the Godmarket, leaving
two clusters around the universities, and a third around the old County
Stadium (which itself was finally demolished as a safety hazard in 2012).
All that was left of most of the city was a spiderweb of crumbling roads that
weren't cost-effective to rip up, surrounding bare foundations and cracked
parking lots.  The truly heartrending images of an urban ghost town were over
a decade in the past, at least, as all of the debris and usable materials had
been cleaned up.  But you'd never mistake it for anything other than a dead
city, the bones had simply been picked clean and nicely mounted.  It would
take another generation or so before nature would fully reclaim things and
old Milwaukee would just look like three towns that shared a small airport.
     But where ASH disembarked had once been the living heart of a city.
     "Feels aenlich East Germany," Rechtigkeit shivered.  Once it was clear
that the Lady Sable who had been active in the Combine over the past few
weeks was the same as the "Dark Lady" plaguing Europe, EUROPA had insisted on
sending a representative who was involved in the case from their side, so
Colin caught a ride back to America with Contact.  "The old Soviet show-
cities that fell apart once the USSR stopped propping them up."
     "Feels more like Lost Angeles to me," Scorch replied, his expression
hidden by the smoked armorglass of his helmet.  "Like a trap.  Maybe we
should have waited for Beacon to get here before going in." 
     "How perceptive."
     Out of nowhere, a slender Chinese man in ancient robes of black silk
decorated in silver threads had appeared, standing next to the small memorial
pedestal that had been erected on the site of Lord Ebon's throne.
     "Hit him!" Solar Max ordered, smashing down on the area with as much
gravity as he could muster.  Radner would probably chide him for not
respecting the tradition of trading banter before a battle, but when you know
a trap is slamming shut you don't pause to chat with the jaws.
     Arin's powerbeams, Rechtigkeit's lightning and Scorch's flames added
their energies to the assault, while Centurion, Meteor, Contact and Lightfoot
stood ready to respond to any as-yet-unrevealed threat.
     For a moment, it appeared that the combined assault had simply erased
the man from existence, but an echoing laugh put the lie to that idea.
     "Your language has a phrase I quite like in this case," the disembodied
voice mocked.  "Jumping at shadows."
     "Ah, crap.  I knew we should have waited for George," Scorch muttered.
They could have diverted to Venus first, costing them about an hour or so all
told, but now that Beacon could reliably fly between the planets on his own
they'd agreed to meet him in Milwaukee.
     "Your namesakes were driven out of their home in Chicago by a shadow
dragon," the voice continued, resonating from everywhere and nowhere.  "It is
therefore fate that I, Akuryu, will slay you in the city to which they fled!"
     A sinuous shape of pure darkness poured out of the sky, opened jaws
large enough to devour a man on one bite, and unleashed a blast of the
blackest night....


Next Issue:

     The endgame!  Anyone who survives the assault of Akuryu still has to
stop Lady Sable from becoming the next ascended god, in ASH #113, "But A


Author's Notes:

"Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede." Hamlet 1.3

     By the way, the phrase "recks not his own rede" and its variants are the
tied to the origin of the term "reckless".  It means to not pay attention to
one's own advice.  It's also why Ethelred the Unready wasn't unprepared, he
simply ignored his advisors (he was un-rede-y), who were a lot of useless
     Is Lady Sable herself climbing a steep and thorny way, or has she
decided that copying Lord Ebon constitutes a primrose path?  That's something
you'll have to wait until next issue to find out.

     The Jane Preston in the first scene is the "Janie Preston" from Coherent
Super Stories #23 (

     Captain Dogooder was first mentioned in LL&DD #7
(  Whether the original
platform (Horde) is still operating or not is unknown, although odds are good
that Doctor Developer's personal copy of Captain Dogooder still exists
somewhere in his effects. 

     Rare earth mining in Lake Victoria is a big part of the reason for a
currently proposed road in the real world that would cut the Serengeti in
two, although it's annoyingly hard to find any mention of which rare earth in
particular is being mined (my online searches got generic indignation over
trading wildlife for batteries, or were more interested in the gold mining).

     One thing that always requires a lot of suspension of disbelief in
superhero and high fantasy stories is that once some massive plot is
derailed, it's almost never attempted again.  At best, you get a "Now that we
know what to keep an eye out for, they won't be trying THAT again!"
pronouncement.  But other crimes get copycatted all the time, why not
apotheosis schemes?  The closest I can think of is that in Marvel, people
keep making new Cosmic Cubes.  But as I was setting up this arc, I decided I
wanted something a little more concrete to explain why mages didn't simply
spam attempts at godhood until one succeeded sheerly by chance.
     Of course, that still leaves the question of WHY you need something
unique, but that can be safely dumped on the shoulders of the other gods.
They're willing to let in the occasional n00b, but you have to be good enough
to figure out your own path.  The unique elements may even have been salted
throughout space and time by the gods as a sort of entrance exam, to let the
best of the mortals occasionally join the elite.

     Vectrox and Ghostflare joined ASH shortly before October 31, 1997, and
didn't last long.  I made them up on the spot to fill the "newbies who buy
it" trope in this flashback, rather than kill off a previously-established
character.  I referred to Lord Ebon's impact on Milwaukee waaaaay back in ASH
#4 ( and figured I'd get back to it
eventually.  108 issues later is "eventually," right?  Hardly an eyeblink in
Claremont Time.

     I've explained Radland before, but it bears repeating for new readers.
In the HERO system (where the original ASH games were played), the more badly
beaten into unconsciousness you are, the more slowly you recover...a STUN
score of -16 takes more than twice as long to get up from than a score of -8,
for instance, since the recovery rate slows down.  At STUN of -31 or lower,
the chart simply says, "GM's Option" for recovery rate.  Rad, who had a
really nasty attack (5d6+1 EKA, for those who know Hero stats) and only
moderate defenses (DCV 8, PD/ED 25) tended to get pounded into GM's Option
territory so often we renamed it Radland.  And the time his unconscious body
was used as a lava plow...well, I told his player Rad would probably be awake
in time for the next week's session.  But no guarantees.

     "Akuryu" is Japanese for shadow dragon or dark dragon, and when I
created Akuryu during Timequake it was a deliberate homage to the shadow
dragon that ASH fought in the old Champions campaign.  Knocking it back into
a 22 story building (which then was deemed too unsafe to inhabit and had to
be demolished) was the last straw as far as Chicago's city government was
concerned, and ASH was invited to leave.  Milwaukee welcomed them with open
arms, drooling over the increase in prestige.  Probably not the best move
they could have made, all things considered.


     For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to !

     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 !

     There's also a LiveJournal interest group for ASH, check it out at (if
you're on Facebook instead, there's an Academy of Super-Heroes group there


More information about the racc mailing list