ASH: ASH #113 - A Suit of Sables Part 4: But A Shadow

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Thu Apr 21 14:14:24 PDT 2011

     [The cover is the same layout as that of #112, but now Lady Sable sits
atop the throne of skulls in the burning city, and only present-day members
of ASH lie defeated around her.]

 '|`  /|(`| |   A Suit of Sables Part 4 of 4 - But A Shadow
     /-|.)|-|        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 30, 2026 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin Sector]

     Darkness poured from the mouth of Akuryu's new draconic form, corroding
the pavement where it struck but missing its targets.  Lightfoot had used his
ability to impart speed to hustle Solar Max and Scorch out of the way,
Centurion and Contact had simply used superhumanly powerful leg muscles to
leap to safety, Meteor had yanked Justice out of the beam's path and Arin had
detonated her power from the soles of her feet and launched herself away even
more quickly than her lover's leaping had managed.  Other than Justice, it
was a maneuver they had practiced together hundreds of times in various
simulated combat exercises, and Justice was well-trained enough to trust
Meteor to pull him away.
     The lack of cover in the urban wasteland of deconstructd Milwaukee
offered no obvious place to escape *to*, though, and the team simply
scattered.  If Akuryu had brought any allies, they'd just set themselves up
to be defeated in detail.
     "Romeo-five!" Solar Max ordered, indicating the fifth rallying scheme
they'd trained for, one of six on the list that assumed an ally who wasn't in
on the training.  While not forming a tight knot, everyone quickly moved so
that they'd be within support distance of Justice, except for Centurion who
deliberately lagged in order to present a tempting target.
     Akuryu took the bait, sluicing through the air like an ink spill and
slapping down a man-sized claw at Centurion.  The hero tried to parry with
his sword, but it was like cutting smoke.  The claw passed through Centurion
with an angry hiss, and the big man grunted in pain as Akuryu's assault hit
him on a spiritual level rather than the physical.
     The others hadn't just been idly watching, however.  Scorch's flames
passed through a gravitational lens that Solar Max formed, becoming a sort of
solar lance that burned away chunks of the shadow dragon wherever they
touched.  Contact switched to a psychic assault, probing at the mind that lay
among the shadows and trying to find a weak spot.  Those with more physical
powers peppered Akuryu with their attacks as well, since it was possible that
the ancient sorceror's body was still present and controlling the beast from
within, but they weren't having any effect.
     And then Justice ran up Centurion's back, leaping for the dragon's head,
and brought his sizzling and crackling axe down between its gray-lit eyes.
     Akuryu HOWLED, a tormented sound that momentarily stunned everyone
within several kilometers with its wrenching agony.
     Justice landed roughly, his timing thrown off by the howl, but Akuryu
didn't take the opening this presented.  The inky serpent simply shot off
into the distance, quitting the field of battle after a fight that had lasted
mere seconds.
     "That sorted 'im," Justice panted, smirking as he hefted the axe.
"Guess he wasn't expecting 'Slaversbane' to be so effective."
     "Why not?" Centurion brushed at his chest, as if trying to wipe away the
darkness he could feel clinging to his soul.  "Lady Sable has to know about
your axe by now.  Unless she wanted Akuryu to fail, she'd have told him to
avoid it."
     "Sal's right," Solar Max nodded, although in his armor he almost had to
bow at the waist to do it.  "I think we've just been used...."

               *              *              *              *

[October 30, 2026 - Columbus, Ohio Sector]

     In his human form, Akuryu now suffered a head wound that wept dark
ichor, and he was holding a bundle of silk to it in a vain attempt to stanch
the bleeding.
     "I have performed my part of the ritual, my Lady," he reported,
wincing.  "I only regret that I failed to slay any of them."
     Lady Sable shook her head languidly.  "That was never necessary, and it
might have been undesirable in any case.  All I needed from you was a
credible re-enactment of the final battle for my ritual, as well as a
distraction from my other endeavors.  Endeavors that have been quite
successful, in fact," she stroked an ebony sarcophagus that sat next to her
"throne," the office chair that had served Lord Ebon himself for a time.  
     She reached up and wiped a small bit of ichor from Akuryu's eyebrow with
a slender finger, then licked the blood off.  "Never underestimate the
usefulness of letting an enemy *think* he knows your weakness.  Now go,
heal.  Take it as a compliment that I don't trust you anywhere near this
     "Indeed," Akuryu bowed with great outward humility, an effect spoiled
only by the faintest of gleams in his dark eyes.  The Chinese sorceror had
never read Shakespeare, but he would have definitely concurred with the
playwright about the chafing nature of gratitude...and the power to be gained
as the servant of a god was nothing to that one could have should he manage
to become the god himself.

               *              *              *              *

[October 30, 2026 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]

     "The only thing we know for sure is that whatever her endgame is, that
wasn't it," Solar Max frowned.  Centurion was getting checked out by an
apprentice mystic healer for possible shadow contagion, but otherwise
everyone from the battle had reconvened to brainstorm, with help from
Peregryn's video image.  "If it had been, we'd be dealing with a new goddess
     "Maybe she just had better things to do upon ascension than mess with
puny mortals?" Beacon suggested, having reached Earth a few minutes after the
     Peregryn shook his head.  "Even if that were the case, I doubt I would
have missed the signs of apotheosis.  Having witnessed the birth of a god, I
know what to look for, and Lady Sable would not have been able to hide it
entirely.  Nor has Inanna felt anything that would have indicated such an
event.  The ritual has not yet finished, assuming it didn't simply fail."
     "What else is there?" Scorch asked.  "The analyticals have gone over
every clash Ebon had with ASH, and with the Raiders before that, and found at
least something recent and unexplained at each site.  A few minor thefts,
probably physical tokens of the old battles, some strange sightings.  There's
nothing left for her to revisit."
     "It could be that her ritual will close with something totally
original," Peregryn suggested.  "This would make it almost impossible to
predict or intercept, unfortunately."
     "No.  It feels wrong," Contact shook his head.  "I've spent enough time
with profilers, telepathic and mundane, to see that even disregarding
whatever the magic demands, Lady Sable is a classic copycat.  Radner would
love working with her, she's a stickler for the forms of the old villains.
She wouldn't work up a ritual like this without the payoff being at least
related to Lord Ebon.  Is there anything we know he wanted to do...other than
become a god...that he never managed to implement?"
     "You mean, like a plot that got scuttled early in the planning stages?"
Solar Max frowned.  "I'm not sure we could even find out about that sort of
thing.  It's not like Lord Ebon left a journal with his hopes and dreams for
the future."
     "Dear Diary," Scorch affected a deep and creepy voice like Lord Ebon had
used the few times he'd been captured on tape.  "Today I flensed Bobby
McGurk.  He totally had it coming, for making fun of my new shirt." 
     Peregryn furrowed his brow thoughtfully, ignoring Scorch with the ease
of long practice.  "Actually, he may well have.  The problem is that Lady
Sable would have it, should it exist.  That could explain many things, if she
were reading Lord Ebon's journal and using it to help plan her own ritual.
Mages generally keep notes of unfinished rituals and experiments that we wish
to revisit later.  Lady Sable could have stumbled upon an apotheosis scheme
that Ebon abandoned, and decided she could make it work.  Perhaps it was
something that couldn't have been performed in the 20th Century because the
stars were not yet right..."
     "Wait.  Stars," Lightfoot interrupted.  "We ARE missing one of Ebon's
conflicts.  It wasn't with heroes, though, it was with other villains," he
started tapping away at his terminal as quickly as the system could keep up.
"They Might Be Villains, an obscure little group that fought the Raiders a
couple of times before vanishing.  I only know about them because I was
mining the databases for information about someone I wrote about online in
the early 90s.  Constellation."  Images came up on the main screen, showing
the starry-bodied supernatural.
     "Oh, shit," Contact spat, the first to make the connection.  "Lady Sable
wants to try a soul fusion.  Like the one that created Constellation, or the
Family."  +-Or that I thought I'd achieved with you, Paul,-+ he added
     "It's not apotheosis, but it's definitely a step into the semi-divine,"
Peregryn nodded.  "A more conservative path than leaping directly from
mortality to divinity, and not without its own dangers, but success could
place her beyond our ability to affect without bringing her to the attention
of jealous gods just yet."
     "If she really wants to be a goddess at the end of the game, I don't see
her merging with an equal," Arin pointed out.  "Too much chance of becoming
the junior partner.  So Akuryu wouldn't be it.  We haven't heard from
Chiaroscuro since he flamed out during the Orange Skies incident, but I doubt
he'd put himself subordinate to her either, even if she found him at his
     Justice's blackcel buzzed at the same time that alert messages popped up
on everyone else's terminals.
     "Well, there's the answer," Meteor pointed to the main screen.  "Looks
like the guy Contact and Justice captured the other day was faking it.  He
escaped and took his prize with him.  They just discovered the fake he left
     "This is extremely dangerous," Peregryn's image looked at the main
screen.  The alert itself would no doubt arrive on his personal comm once the
lightspeed lag had passed.  "Even if we're wrong about the soul-fusion,
TerraStar's body represents the sort of unique resource that might make true
apotheosis possible.  And if soul-fusion is the goal, Lady Sable could merge
with the ba, or lower soul, still present in the gross matter of the body.
It might not be as powerful as a fusion between equals, but having the power
of TerraStar's body added to her own sorcerous might...?"

               *              *              *              *

[October 31, 2026 - Columbus, Ohio Sector]

     "They Might Be Villains operated out of a strip mall?" Arin quirked an
eyebrow at the drone footage.  They were at the local DSHA enforcement office
downtown, the only signficantly built-up part of the city.  Outside of the
small downtown, the city of nearly a million people was functionally just a
lot of suburbs stitched together.  That decentralized nature had made it a
natural for absorbing the better-off refugees from cities like Cincinnati or
Detroit, and what losses it had suffered in 1998 had been reversed since
     Finding the exact location of an obscure villain group's base had been
fairly time-consuming by modern data sifting standards, so rather than come
blazing in on a suborbital shell or military helijet, they'd simply taken a
nondescript commuter jet and landed at one of Columbus's smaller private
airstrips.  As speed didn't seem necessary, as much stealth as could be
practiced was in order, even if they had no illusions about being able to
make it all the way in without being detected.
     Lightfoot shook his head.  "It was a disused auto body shop, actually.
But I guess it finally got torn down at some point and a shopping center
built at the site.  Hm," he scrolled over the data on the location, "looks
like the strip mall hasn't seen a lot of business lately either.  The
neighborhood net news seemed pretty excited that someone had rented one of
the units a few months ago, and there's some speculation about what sort of
business it'll be once it finishes renovations."
     "Bad business for everyone," Solar Max frowned, cradling the helmet of
his armor under one arm.  "Although it's probably a good thing that the place
was so moribund...Lady Sable probably wouldn't have had any qualms about a
few discreet murders if that was what it took to acquire the site of TMBV's
old base."
     "We have the warrant," Centurion held up his comm, then scanned the
specific wording.  "Looks like there's been a few complaints about noise and
odd smells from the location already, so the judge had no problem signing."
     Everyone was relieved at that.  While they could generally force their
way through the legal process and make the evidence stick in court anyway,
that only worked if they were *right*.  If this was just bad luck for some
innocent citizen, there were fewer public relations reprecussions if they
could get a "clean" warrant from a judge who wasn't doing so under protest.
Especially with the Freedom Alliance making noises about how ASH was
trampling on American Rights.  Maybe sending in the nation's top superteam to
deal with someone who hammered on drywall too early on a Sunday morning would
be blasted as overkill, but it wouldn't be of questionable legality.
     "Do we go in fast and hard, or knock?" Centurion put the comm in its
specially shock-padded pocket on his uniform.  "Warrant doesn't specify."
     Solar Max pondered that for a moment.  "Knock.  If we had a combat mage
along, we could try to get surprise on our side, but it's pretty safe to
assume that if Lady Sable has been set up here for a couple of months that
she's got mystic tripwires all over the place, and none of us is equipped to
find them.  And if this is a wild goose chase, we won't cause as much trouble
this way...none of the reported activity at the site is inconsistent with
remodeling for a new business, after all," he nodded to some additional data
that was scrolling up the screen.  "Expect her to know once we're within a
few blocks, be ready for attacks.  Meteor, Lightfoot, I want you on a sweep
for civilians.  The neighborhood has a low population density, but you never
know.  Beacon, try to be the Rad: I doubt she'll ignore the danger that
Justice's axe presents, but I want her focusing on your more obvious threat
instead.  We knock, but let's move briskly about it.  If we're lucky, she'll
be deeply involved in something, and having to break away to deal with us
will take her precious time."

     A short drive north in a city maintenance van brought them into the
neighborhood they'd been watching via the spydrone.  A mix of industrial,
commercial and rental residental in various states of "just this side of
condemned" decay.  Their briefing told them that there were parts of town
with more danger, but none with more despair, as the post-1998 inrush had
largely passed this neighborhood by.  The few modern structures, like their
target, just made the rest of the TwenCen-vintage buildings look worse by
comparison, rather than lifting up the neighborhood.  
     But people still lived there, still ran businesses there, because it was
cheap.  And, in some ways, that made it more heartbreaking than demolished
Milwaukee.  Not dead, but not really alive.  Not good enough to attract
interest, but not bad enough to require attention.  A twilight community
surrounded by people who passed through it on the way from one better place
to another, and feeling like it had been that way for a long time.
     In short, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better place to hold a dark
ritual that you wanted to keep under wraps.  And being All Hallows Eve was
just a layer of corroded gold on the withered lily.
     The parking lot was empty except for their van.  They'd seen some
trick-or-treaters and general holiday revelers in the general area, but none
came to this block.  It had no houses with tenants, and the few active
businesses closed early on Saturdays.  The Sun hadn't set yet, but the
shallow rays it cast across the neighborhood only made everything look more
     The two speedsters had come along on their own power, and were busy
making sure the area was as clear as it looked at first glance.  Now, the
rest of the team exited the van, and the DSHA officer driving it took off as
quickly as was prudent.  She could come back if it was a false alarm, but the
fewer "squishies" in the area, the better Solar Max felt.
     No sign yet adorned their target, although it lacked the "FOR LEASE"
notices of the storefronts that flanked it.  Butcher paper sheets had been
taped up to cover the glass front and conceal the work going on inside, and
the fact that none of the sensors in Solar Max's helmet could get anything
past that told him that this wasn't a case of an innocent but annoying
tenant.  There was some serious concealment magic behind that paper...if it
wasn't Lady Sable, it was at least *someone* who needed a talking-to from the
     As the most generally durable of the group, Centurion stepped forward to
knock on the glass door, exercising care to not shatter the tempered glass.
     "No candy here, go away," came the muffled reply.  It had the sort of
mocking tone that told Solar Max that the speaker didn't actually think they
were trick-or-treaters.
     "Breach," Solar Max said over the closed comlink.
     Centurion gave a quick tug on the door.  A normal door of that sort
should have come off like the plastic lid of a fast food coffee cup, but it
merely rattled in its frame.  Rather than waste time finding the minimum
required force, Centurion simply drew his spatha, its edge reinforced with
collapsinum threads, and sliced through the hinges.  The door flew inward
easily at his kick, the warding spell having been disrupted by the loss of
physical integrity.
     The sight inside was almost unremarkable.  There were a few candles
filling the air with a sickly incense, and an ebony sarcophagus that clearly
wasn't part of a normal business plan, but lay on an utterly mundane folding
work table.  Remove the sarcophagus and the candles and it would look like
any other strip mall store in the middle of renovations.  
     Lady Sable, her skin gray and hairless save for eyebrows, had the look
of someone who was trying to not look annoyed at an interruption.  Shadows
wreathed her hands, and she was poised as if to dive into a pool.
     "Ah well, midnight was more showmanship than need," Lady Sable smirked,
and tensed to complete her ritual.
     Arin's power bolt sliced neatly through Lady Sable's face, followed a
split second later by a gout of Scorch's flame and a green flare from
Beacon's hands.  None of them had any effect on the sorceress, although they
blew out the back wall of the room and continued on through the outer wall of
the storeroom.  Sable did flinch, as if perhaps uncertain her defenses would
have really worked, but she recovered quickly and started to FLOW into the
container housing what they suspected was TerraStar's body.
     Justice leapt, a lapis scarab in his outstretched left hand.
     The sculpted eyes of the sarcophagus started to open and glow redly.
     The scarab struck the surface of the sarcophagus with a dull CRACK.
     Justice stumbled as he twisted to avoid knocking the makeshift altar
     The sprinklers went on, triggered by Scorch's flames.
     Lady Sable was nowhere to be seen.
     "So...?" Beacon looked to the others.

               *              *              *              *

[Spirit Plane]

     A small black figurine of Polla rested in Lady Sable's hand.  The
Egyptians called it the "sheut," the shadow soul.  The extradimensional
sorceress's soul was badly splintered from months of separation, a fact that
Lady Sable had been counting on.  Divide and conquer.  Assimilate the sheut
first, then the heart, the thought, the lower soul and the name.  Should
Polla's higher soul ever return, it would find no purchase.
     She would have liked to have lingered over this process, slowly devour
the wholly alien and unique shadow and savor every aspect of it, but time no
longer favored her.  While time flowed differently on the spirit plane, it
still flowed, and it was just possible that the "heroes" in the room with her
might be ruthless enough to destroy Polla's body before Lady Sable could
fully take control.
     Lady Sable raised the sheut to her lips.
     "Hold, usurper!" shouted a new voice, accompanied by a blue-gold flare
of light in the shape of a stylized sun disk.
     "Polla?  Too little, too late," Lady Sable swallowed the sheut in a
single gulp.
     "You may have my shadow, but this is my body, my soul," Polla countered.
"My father's court considered body-theft to be a mere parlor trick in games
of palace intrigue, do you think I was left untrained in its nuances?"  While
all that took place here was merely a metaphor, Polla's metaphorical kick to
Lady Sable's metaphorical stomach was quite painful in a very real way, and
she had to fight down the urge to vomit up the stolen shadow soul.  "I
suppose I should thank you, though...if not for your clumsy maneuvering, I
would never have had the pretext to return to my rightful body!"
     Polla advanced again, only to be restrained by what at first seemed to
be an immense and craggy stone wall appearing between the spirits of the two
wall.  Lady Sable expanded her perceptions, and realized that it was no wall,
it was the smallest foreclaw of a titanic stone beetle.  It radiated the
power of semi-divinity, power that sang seductively to her.  If only she
could control that!
     But no, it would be too much, too soon.  Best to take advantage of the
distraction and find the "ib" or heart-soul.  If she could control that, it
would take the fight out of Polla, quite literally.
     "Don't you see she's trying to become a god?" Polla screamed from the
other side of the claw.  
     Yessss, Lady Sable thought.  She could use this, play the beetle spirit
against Polla, lay the groundwork for absorbing the scarab's power later on,
once she had adjusted to her new status.  Lord Ebon, for all his merits, had
been too hasty.  He hadn't wanted to wait, and it cost him not only godhood
but his mortal existence as well.  
     "No, I'm afraid that won't do at all," a new voice declared.
     A sharp pain flared from Lady Sable's midsection, and she doubled over
clutching her stomach.  Was Polla's sheut aware enough to fight free?  She
started to retch uncontrollably, her throat stretching wider and her jaw
dropping like that of a serpent as something forced its way out.
     In a burst of silver light, a metal wolf flew from Lady Sable's mouth,
clutching the tiny sheut figure like a stick in a game of fetch.  A quick
toss of his head, and the figurine flew over the claw-wall.
     "I can't say I expected my afterlife to look like this," the metal wolf
said.  "Then again, I can't say I expected to get an afterlife."
     "PUPPY!" the scarab boomed, sounding like a delighted child.
     Lady Sable cursed.  She'd underestimated the spirit of LU-62.  BADLY
underestimated it.  And as a machine intelligence, she doubted it would take
him long to comprehend the true nature of his situation.  She knew it was
time to cut her losses and flee, but LU-62's emergence had hurt her in ways
that she couldn't just shake off...she was trapped, at least for the moment
that it would take her to regain some of her strength.
     Polla's higher soul stepped through the interposing claw, which had
become insubstantial once the scarab was distracted.  "This little mageling
seeks to steal my body, as she seems to have tried to steal your soul."
     LU-62, whose current form only bore a passing resemblance to the robotic
body in which he had lived, replied, "I noticed.  Your shadow woke me up from
my death-trauma.  And this large fellow doesn't want to let you go?"
     "I DO NOT WISH TO BE ALONE," the scarab boomed.
     Lady Sable started to force herself back to the physical world, ignoring
the horrible pain in every part of her spirit that this caused.
     "There's no time!  She's escaping, she'll destroy my body out of spite
now that she's been thwarted!" Polla exclaimed.
     "Thwarted?" LU-62 cocked his head quizzically.  "Madame, you sound like
a supervillain.  In fact, you look somewhat like one...assuming your facial
features in this dimension are representative of your physical appearance, I
calculate a 95% chance you're related to the invader known as WarStar."
     "My father," Polla lunged for Lady Sable, but was once again
restrained.  "Let me GO!"
     "I hate picking among bad choices, but..." LU-62 started clambering up
Heraclius's foreleg, moving at the speed of mechanical thought until he
reached the massively armored head.  "If you let this woman reclaim her body,
I will take her place as your companion.  I'm pretty sure I no longer have a
body to return to in any case, I sort of blew it up in order to save
someone.  Just don't call me George."
     "Old media reference," LU-62 shrugged.  Lady Sable could tell that he
had figured out exactly how long it would take her to force herself back to
the physical plane, and now was just taunting her with the digression.  "Do
we have a deal?"
     "Louie will do."
     Polla, released, fell upon Lady Sable with a snarl of rage and then
there was only a flare of pain and a decidedly non-comforting darkness.

               *              *              *              *

[October 31, 2026 - Columbus, Ohio Sector]

     Just as she had flowed into TerraStar's body, Lady Sable now flowed back
out, but the form that solidified next to the table bore little resemblance
to the sinuously dangerous Lady Sable.  Oh, it was female and mostly
hairless, but the skin was a normal human pallor, sagging in places in a way
that suggested recent starvation dieting.  She stood more than a head shorter
than Lady Sable had, and looked like she'd once been moderately plump and
somewhat squat.  As recently as a few months ago, she must have been an
utterly unremarkable woman in her early 20s.  The Lady Sable they'd
confronted moments ago had been an illusion, a disguise.
     With a pained groan, this woman slumped to the floor.  Justice, who had
recovered from his awkward landing, moved to scoop her up, but then she
melted away into shadows.
     "Should've aimed at her chest," Arin muttered.  "The illusion made it a
big enough target."
     Suddenly, the lid of the sarcophagus smashed upwards through the roof,
splintering and breaking open the pipes feeding the sprinklers.
     "By the nameless ones, it feels good to be back in my proper body!"
Polla exclaimed as she sat up.  If her lack of clothing bothered her, she
didn't show it.
     "Um, I could've sworn she was in a hospital gown when we had her,"
Justice muttered.  The armor had, of course, been removed for analysis.  Not
that such a gown would have done much to conceal the almost disturbingly
well-defined musculature once the water from the broken pipes hit it.
     "But I've gotten so flabby," she frowned, stepping out.  While not the
tallest person in the room, even "flabby" her build along with her almost
regal bearing commanded attention.  If anything, the stone avatar through
which she had communicated during her time sharing a body with Heraclius had
been modest by comparison.  "Thank you for helping keep that slime out of my
body," she nodded to Justice.  "Now, if I can have my armor and my mace, I
will be on my way."

               *              *              *              *

[October 31, 2026 - Orono, Maine Sector]

     Jane pulled off the wire and nylon butterfly wings and tossed them on
the kitchen table.
     "," she sighed, dropping a pair of
plastic antennae next to the wings.  "Well, okay, maybe junior year of high
school was worse, but only because Jimmy dumped me the week before and
everything sucked for a while."  Unsaid was the fact that there'd been a few
really rough Halloweens after she'd been orphaned, but there hadn't been
parties those years either.
     Plopping down on the couch, she ran her hand over the top of the
one-eared metal wolf head on the table next to it.  "Guess it's another
Saturday night home alone, just the two of us."
     It doesn't have to be, the bars are still open, and there's definitely
guys drunk enough to be interested.  And time enough for you to get drunk
enough to find them interestING.
     Jane shook her head a little.  "Louie, did you say that?  Heh, maybe I'm
drunk enough already, actually.  And why should I waste the rest of the night
because of Erica and her loser friends?"  She went to her bedroom and started
going through her clubbing clothes, reinventing her costume to be a bit more
     "Don't wait up, Louie!" she called over her shoulder as she left the
     The minor elemental spirit that Lady Sable had left behind in LU-62's
head sighed contentedly.  Feeding Jane's darker side...and feeding ON
it...was proving to be a very satisfying task.

               *              *              *              *

[October 31, 2026 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin Sector]

     Lady Sable still hurt to the core of her spirit, but she'd rebuilt her
glamour.  Her own natural body sickened her, she wanted nothing to do with
it, but lacked the power to simply reshape it to match her whim.  So she
starved it, living on magic, and appearing even to herself as something she
wasn't.  Flesh was the lie, shadows the truth.  All was shadows and
subterfuge, including this haven underneath the very feet of those who had
come hunting her earlier in the day.
     "I have done as you require, my lady Nyx," she prayed.  "I have provided
a stalking horse, to distract the mortals from your actions, and to give your
less subtle followers a new beacon.  I live only to serve your dark and
terribly glory."
     At least, she thought in such a deep place within herself that she dared
to hope the goddess could not see it, until she could make herself a goddess
equal to Nyx....


Next Issue:

     Polla has her mind and body together and free for the first time since
2003 (real time...February 14 2025 in-story), what's she going to do now?
Would you believe Disneyland?  Well, okay, not Disneyland, but it might be
just as strange as "A 'Star Is Torn"!


Author's Notes:

     "A dream itself is but a shadow." - Hamlet 2.2

     In writing some of the atmospheric sequences for this issue, I ended up
bumming myself out and having to take a break.  :)  Urban wastelands are
definitely a recurring theme in this issue, and they crop up from time to
time in ASH in general.  Some, like Milwaukee or Dallas, just get erased
completely.  Then there's parts of Manhattan that were deathtraps of no
maintenance for a couple of decades before Rex Umbrae took over and started
rebuilding.  And Detroit is an odd case all its own.  Cities die, sometimes
it's murder and other times more of a wasting away.  Even in the real world,
a search on "urban wasteland" can find plenty of pictures just as depressing
as the ones I tried to paint with words here.

     The Family was created wayyyy back in ASH #3, and the false fusion of
Contact and Paul Mahler took place in ASH #9.  TerraStar was last at liberty
and in her own body in CSV #25, but sent her higher soul wandering some time
before ASH #50, when it landed in the shattered form of Base of the Pillar,
transforming it into Geode.  From Geode to Heraclius in ASH #70, putting her
off-planet by the time her original body was freed in Four To Never (ASH
#76-78).  She first appeared in ASH #29, but mostly skulked around behind the
scenes until after the Pyramid Scheme, at which point she joined the CSV.

     I first used Nyx as a recurring "background threat" in the Beacon
miniseries, establishing her as one of the few purebloods active in the
mortal realm during the first 9/10ths of the 20th Century.  In case anyone
was still unsure about it, the Black Buddha of Bhutan can also be traced back
to Nyx, and several of the mysterious voices in the shadows over the past
twenty issues or so were also her (although Lady Sable started picking up
that duty recently).  I've actually been fiddling with background stuff
involving Nyx in the main ASH book since shortly after City of Lights, but
she's always seemed too subtle to rush into the sort of big story I had in
mind, so it became one of the longest-running danglers in ASH.  :)  And it's
going to keep dangling, at least for a while...Rising Sun isn't far enough
behind me that I want to go Big Damn Epic again yet.

     "A 'Star Is Torn" may be a one-shot, or an extended arc, I haven't
decided yet.  Suffice to say, though, TerraStar has had a LOT of time to
think and observe, and the plans she had when she arrived in the ASH
"Mainline" a couple of years ago have probably changed.  The roster spot that
Triton left open for her way back in CSV #25 may not have been left open once
Glyph assumed leadership, either....


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

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post, or check out our Yahoo discussion group, which can be found at !

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