ASH: ASH #110 - A Suit of Sables Part 1: Passing Through Nature

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Tue Feb 22 08:19:40 PST 2011

     [The cover shows TerraStar lying in a sort of pod, with shadowy hands
reaching out from the edges of the image to try to grasp at her.  Cover copy
reads, "The Body In Question!"]

 '|`  /|(`| |   A Suit of Sables Part 1 of 4 - Passing Through Nature
     /-|.)|-|        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

     "Nay, then, let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables." 
          - Hamlet, iii. 2

[October 22, 2026 - Monaco, The Eurasian Union]

     "It's not so much that Monaco is *neutral*, ja?" Colin "Justice" Shaw
shrugged as he scanned the various governmental functionaries and newsies and
just ordinary citizens going about their business.  "More like equally
objectionable to los todos."  
     The fact that Justice was slipping into the argot commonly called
"street Eurolac" was enough to tell Aaron that the EUROPAn was feeling more
than a little stress, although his telepathy couldn't help but pick up some
of the agitation radiating from the man.  "I guess I can see that," Aaron
nodded.  "The Conclave isn't comfortable with TerraStar's body being in EU
custody, but Monaco's currently hazy status makes it better than the Hague or
     "I wouldn't call it *that* hazy.  Princess Ursula may be in bed with the
Conclave...literally, if the scandal sites are right...but she doesn't have
the poder to break treaties on her own say-so.  Far as I can tell, Monaco's
in no danger of secession.  They're just not, um..."
     "Not particularly energetic when it comes to keeping out Khadamite
riff-raff?" Aaron suggested, and Colin nodded.  "Anyway, as long as everyone
understands what might happen if Heraclius discovers he can fly through
space, Monaco's as good a place as any to keep TerraStar's body and hold the
negoti...wait.  Something's wrong."
     -+String ping,+- Paul's mental voice chimed in.  While better described
as an aspect of Aaron's own personality that was patterned after the mind of
Paul Mahler, the "mental clone" was useful for more than nostalgia over a
lost love.  For instance, it let Aaron multitask very effectively, and even
while discussing the overt matters of security with Justice, Contact had been
keeping as close a mental eye on the area as local psi-regulation laws would
allow.  And now he'd gotten the "scent" of someone else with an extra mind in
their skull.
     Justice hefted his axe, which was starting to spark ominously in a way
that didn't look like the former Vogue Ghoul was channeling his own power
through it.  "Oui.  I'm not sure I like the fact that my axe is starting to
talk to me, but it says something dark is near."
     -+I wonder why we didn't pick up anything from the axe?+- Paul
     +-Maybe it's a closed connection, or maybe Justice is starting to have
delusions...not important right now,-+ Aaron thought back, even as he keyed
the alarm on his handcomp and started walking towards the business-suited man
who'd raised his mental hackles.
     The man turned and spotted the two heroes moving in his direction.  For
a brief moment, it looked like he was going to try an innocent, "Can I do
something for you?" ploy, but he quickly recognized the Combine telepath and
knew that wouldn't work.
     Darkness spat forth from the man's body, which collapsed like a rag doll
as the shadows left it.
     "Look out, I think it's going to try to grab one of us!" Contact warned
as the shadowy silhouette streaked towards the two rather than fleeing.
     -+Shields up, captain!+-
     At the last moment, the shadow veered towards Justice, as if realizing
that a trained telepath wasn't an easy target.  But almost on its own
volition, Justice's axe interposed itself.
     "NOT AGAIN," Justice boomed in a voice that was eerily not quite his
own, and a flare of power nearly blinded Aaron.
     A slender, swarthy man lay stunned at their feet, a few tendrils of
shadow around him dissipating like the morning fog.
     "Shadowmorph possessor," Aaron said, rubbing his eyes more out of reflex
than actual need.  He hadn't been wearing his goggles, but his mind over body
powers were more than enough to eliminate the slight vision impairment after
a few blinks.  "You okay?" he asked Justice.
     "I think so," the other hero replied.  "That was weird."
     "Agreed.  But for now, we need to get an Anchor in here so this guy
doesn't shadowmorph out when he wakes up.  And make sure his victim's okay,"
Contact motioned to the security personnnel who were already converging on
the location.

               *              *              *              *

[October 23, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]

     "It's at times like this, when the two worlds are at their closest, that
I imagine I can almost feel my real body," TerraStar sighed, a gravelly sound
that issued forth from the stony avatar she wore to the negotiating table.
While she could only maintain this separate form for an hour or so at a time,
it was vastly preferable to trying to find room for the half-kilometer-long
body of Heraclius himself in Falcon Bay.  "I imagine that if I'd done better
in my studies with the Sisters of the Silver Cord, I might even be able to
project myself back into it from here."
     "Suspicion that you might have such a talent is part of the reason your
body remains on Earth," Peregryn frowned, an expression echoed to one degree
or another by the others around the table.  "You've made no secret of your
general intention to follow in your father's infamous footsteps in some
fashion, so you'll understand if the governments of the world are reluctant
to follow through on any understanding you may have reached with those of us
on Venus during the recent solar crisis."
     "Ah, but my very openness counts in my favor, does it not?" TerraStar
smirked, an expression made more disturbing by the rough-hewn planes of her
avatar's face.  "I'm not hiding shadows within shadows," she cast a pointed
look at Marshal Howard, aka Noire.  "Further, it is my understanding that
certain recent events have made it necessary for your governments to find
some way to regularize my status, yes?"
     Administrator Biggs nodded.  "As much as I dislike the more bureaucratic
aspects of this job, your current disposition is too vague for our liking.
Whether as part of these negotiations or as a unilateral action, we need to
formally decide how to treat with you.  As a simple criminal, owing to your
association with the Conclave of Super-Villains?  As an agent of a foreign
power, either Khadam or your native reality?  Some think it might be best to
treat you as an ambassador and try to negotiate some sort of treaty, although
your family history of conquest argues against the utility of that approach." 
     "Heraclius likes the idea of being considered a nation," TerraStar
pointed out.  "You could call him the potentate and me the ambassador
     "That has been considered as well," Biggs shrugged, showing no sign that
she'd thought the offhand remark was meant to be humorous.  "The point is, at
the moment you're neither fish nor fowl, and that could be dangerous.  If we
were to agree to the disposition of your original body without first
regularizing your status in general, it could have unpredictable
     There was a distant rumble from where Heraclius sat on the horizon, and
TerraStar chuckled to herself.  "Heraclius says he was wondering when the
Office would return, and that he never liked it himself."
     "There are other factors that argue for a swifter rather than slower
resolution," Peregryn added, managing to conceal any surprise he might have
felt at finding Heraclius knew about the Office.  He didn't mention the
previous day's events in Monaco, because there was still a small chance that
TerraStar herself had been behind them.  But even if it was the simple
opportunistic crime that it appeared to be...well, TerraStar's body had
become a prize to be won.  And it might be more dangerous in another's
possession than in Polla's own, especially if restoring it to her removed her
influence over the titanic stone kaiju squatting in the distance.  "It is
possible that a resolution will be reached one way or another before the two
worlds move out of conjunction.  Given the mystic elements involved, a simple
shuttlecraft would likely be a safer means of moving the body here."
     TerraStar's avatar held out its hand and a shining blue scarab of lapis
formed in her palm.  "I can make it simpler.  As I said, I am not skilled
enough to cast my spirit across the gap between worlds unaided.  But place
this on my body's forehead and it will act as an anchor for me.  I will know
it has been placed and can simply move to inhabit my body once an agreement
has been reached.  Of course, I fully expect you to examine it carefully
before letting it leave Venus," she extended her hand to Peregryn.  "But you
could simply put it on the next shuttle back to Earth and should the
negotiations drag out, leaving it in the pocket of one of your 'Anchors'
would suffice as security."
     Peregryn nodded.  While Rebus had slain a large percentage of the
world's Anchor population, many still remained, including those whose Anchor
was so short-ranged it made them useless for most of the traditional jobs
their sort found.  But they could still neutralize dangerous objects on
contact, and a few made a comfortable (if somewhat socially isolated) living
carrying talismen and mad science creations while living in highly secured
     "You two have been fairly silent so far," TerraStar looked to the
representatives at the table for the EU and Khadam.  "Which is shockingly out
of character for you in particular, Eugene."
     "What can I say?" Conflicto spread his hands with an expression of
innocence on his face.  "Glyph told me that she didn't like any of the
possible outcomes of these negotiations, and just to keep an eye on things to
make sure we know which way to jump when rocks fall and everybody dies."
     "Similarly, my government echoes those sentiments, if not the flippant
tone in which they were delivered," Colonel Rafe Cordoba shrugged.  The fact
that the EU had sent a military representative rather than a civilian one had
been a not-too-subtle message about how they considered the matter, however.
They were clearly leaning towards simply labeling TerraStar a foreign
invader, assuming they hadn't done so already in their own regularization of
paperwork with the Office.  "We are, however, prepared to accept any
reasonable settlement reached between the Combine and TerraStar, and
understand that the groundwork for these negotiations lies in her cooperation
with the Academy of Super-Heroes this July.  I have already made clear what
we consider unacceptable during previous sessions at this table."
     "And we agree that none of those outcomes would be desirable either,"
Biggs nodded.  "I think that for now, we can all agree to let Mr. Henderson
examine the offered artifact and recommend what to do with it.  Moving on to
other points, since Ms. Termiddo only has limited time, we would like to
discuss some matters of Bronzewing's migration patterns of late...."

               *              *              *              *

[October 25, 2026 - The Serengeti, Africa]

     Having grown up on the streets of Ghat, Ahmed was accustomed to the
dangers of being surrounded by inhuman predators.  But most of those either
walked on two legs or slithered on snakelike tails.  The predators
surrounding him now stalked the night on four legs, and in the guttering
remains of the campfire their muzzles dripped with the blood of the other men
in Ahmed's poorly-trained squad.  He wasn't sure why he was still standing...
he'd evaded a few pounces thanks to his superhuman reflexes, but he'd seen
enough pack hunting behavior to know that if these lions wanted him dead he
simply wasn't fast enough to stop them.  And they were smart enough to attack
in a way such that if he brought up his rifle to shoot one, three would be on
top of him before he finished pulling the trigger.
     No, they were waiting for something.  Perhaps they had come out of
Khadam, genetic experiments sent to track down any rogue sons of Zugmann and
bring them back for invasive testing.
     Oddly, they were lionesses.  He would have thought that Radner's reputed
sense of irony would insist male lions be used on the job, given the leonine
mane of hair Ahmed's genetic father had sported in his youth.  And what
little he knew about the ecology of lions suggested that the female hunted
while the males patrolled territory.  Not that it had been covered too
extensively in Bluthundin's lessons, which had leaned more towards political
and social theory.  The now-dead idiots in his squad relied on a patchwork of
folktales and dubious online encyclopedias for their knowledge of the
Serengeti's wildlife, so they'd been even more poorly informed than Ahmed.
     "Father's been asking my brothers to capture one of you flatfaces so he
could ask you some pointed questions," a distinctintly female voice spoke out
of the darkness.  She spoke English, but not with the local dialect.  It
sounded more like American English, but with a strange accent he couldn't
place.  "My girls think you're something special, though, so I guess you get
elected to be our prisoner."
     With that, the speaker stepped close enough for Ahmed's genetically
enhanced vision to pick out details in the dying firelight.  And one of the
most pertinent details was that she had the head of a cat on the body of a

               *              *              *              *

[October 25, 2026 - Monaco, Eurasian Union]

     "It's days like this I almost believe Radner's an actual head of state,"
Contact pitched his voice low enough that only Justice could hear, earning a
snort of amusement.  The Chancellor of Khadam had graciously lent the
Monagasque authorities a harness he claimed was 90% likely to prevent someone
from assuming a shadow form.  The fact he had one on hand, he said, was due
to suspicions that Noir of the Light Brigade might not be dead.  Contact
expected it had more to do with Noire on Venus than Noir in Khadam, however.
     Still, the harness meant it was reasonably safe to let the Anchor back
off so that Aaron could perform a telepathic interrogation.  The shadowman
was also sedated, in case this was one of the other 10%, but not so heavily
that it would totally muddle his thoughts.
     "It'll be a few minutes before the doctors are satisfied with the level
of sedation," Aaron said more audibly.  "What was up the other day with your
axe?  I know it belonged to the two original Rechtigkeits and it's reputedly
Jotunish in origin, but..." he shrugged.  
     "You know 'bout as much as I do," Justice shrugged back.  "When I picked
it up the first time I think it talked to me, but I was half-high at the time
and running for my life.  Your basic 'you have been found worthy' basura.
But lately it's been talking again, when I fight anyone with shadow powers.
I think the axe doesn't like shadowy types."
     "I can't pick up any sort of mind in there," Contact pointed out.  "But
it might just be too alien for me to recognize.  Especially if it's not
really a thinking mind in the first place."  
     "What would it be, then?"
     "A sort of magical data cube.  No processor, just information and
instructions, which occasionally download into your mind.  If that's the
case, I could probably figure out a way to help you pull out the rest of the
'files' in it.  Ah, looks like they're ready," Contact turned towards the
anaesthesiologist who was nodding to an EU officer.
     "Remember, we're not looking for a deep scan this time," the officer
warned Contact.  "We have our own telepaths trained for that sort of thing.
But they're not combat trained, and since we only have Chancellor Radner's
word that the restraints will hold, we want someone who's got experience
fighting off possession attempts to go first."
     Unspoken was the fact that if things went horribly wrong, the EU
wouldn't lose one of its own trained psis, just a foreign agent.
     +-Show time, Paul.-+
     -+You got it,+- the mental echo replied.  Since most of Aaron's skills
in telepathic intrusion came from memories absorbed from his dead lover, he
was most comfortable sending that aspect of himself in as the psionic agent.
He did continue to train on integrating all of his skills into one persona,
but telepathic skills depended strongly on the personality of the one who had
learned them, and it was simply easier to use Paul's shade to run the more
advanced applications.
     "Okay, scanning...he's vaguely awake, and trying to turn to shadow, but
the rig seems to be holding," Aaron confirmed.  "Recent memories...okay, at
least on the surface he remembers just body-hopping at random on a lark and
finding himself in the body of someone who was going to be near TerraStar.
He figured it'd be a great body to take over, since it doesn't have its own
mind to push him back out.  Apparently he's not strong enough to hold onto
someone else's body for very long.  No larger plan...wait," Aaron frowned.
"This isn't a recent memory, but it's standing out.  Something about a Lady
Sable, a goddess of darkness."
     "Ah, scheisse.  That sonnet," Justice cursed.  "We been having problems
with darkness cultists lately, and one of them wrote a poem that was about a
'lady sable'."
     "Well, we...I'm not finding anything about an overall cult here, but
that might be a better-protected memory," Aaron shrugged.  "Although if we're
really dealing with someone on the goddess power scale, she could easily make
it so that any sensitive thoughts would be hidden from prying minds."
     "Ja.  I'm not sure which option I like the least: a conspiracy among all
these darkness cults, a totally spontaneous movement, or the first
masquerading as the second," Justice frowned.

               *              *              *              *

[October 26, 2026 - The Serengeti, Africa]

     Ahmed was impressed by the residence that the lion-girl (who had finally
introduced herself as Maria) led her to.  It certainly bore the telltales of
scavenger work, something Ahmed was quite familiar with from his life in the
Lower City of Ghat.  But within the limitations of what could be made from
decades-old abandoned human houses, it was quite well-made.  If the architect
was self-taught, as Ahmed suspected, at least the result wasn't a haphazard
     "Wait here while I announce you to father.  Well, he knew we were coming
a while ago, the wind was at our backs.  But father has his formalities he
likes to stick to," Maria grumbled.  Ahmed may have led a rather short and
atypical life, but even he had to recognize the universality of a teenaged
offspring's dissatisfaction with "old people" and their rules.
     The lionesses had peeled off several minutes before, no doubt to check
in with their peers, but Ahmed hadn't been stupid enough to take that as a
sign that he might be able to escape.  Even if Maria was overconfident enough
to think she could stop Ahmed on her own, he didn't doubt that for every lion
he saw there were five he didn't and that all of *them* saw *him*.  Besides,
he was interested in meeting Maria's mysterious father, who had apparently
set himself up as protector of the Serengeti.
     "Come on in," Maria said as she reappeared at the doorway.
     Ahmed followed, and saw that for whatever similarities Maria have had
with her father in overall form, she must've taken after her mother in many
ways.  The catman seated in what had probably been the original owner's den
was more cat than lion, with fur of a gray tone that said more about his
breed than his age.  There were other signs of age here and there, but mostly
in how the father moved than in how he looked.
     "Ah yes, you are definitely a product of Khadam," the father said,
placing a signicant emphasis on the word "product".  "I am the patriarch of
this settlment."  He was definitely the source of Maria's odd accent, that
strange mix of American English and...something else.  "Maria tells me your
name is Ahmed al Awi.  How much of that name is real?"
     "The Ahmed, sir.  It's all the real name I've ever had," he shaded the
truth.  He could claim the name Zugmann, after all.  It just wasn't wise to
do so yet.  "I was raised by the streets."
     "Welcome to the club," the patriarch chuckled.  "The only real name I've
ever had was Edouard, although some have called me Edouard Katzmann.  I
presume you know enough German to recognize the attempted humor in that.  Of
course you do, you're Khadamite.  But to business.  I had asked my children
to capture one of Adoko's soldiers so I could find out the specific reasons
for this latest attempt to intrude on the land of my people.  Do you have any
wisdom you could impart on that count?"
     "I'm afraid I can't enlighten you, Mr. Katzmann."
     "Can't, or won't?  Adoko's too old to be someone who can inspire loyalty
via magery, and too much a thug to really inspire it the old fashioned way.
I suppose when recruiting child soldiers, one doesn't fill them in on one's
plans, but you strike me as intelligent enough to have put a number of pieces
together on your own."
     "And intelligent enough to not burn any bridges too soon," Maria chimed
in from the door.  "If he thinks he can get back to the human cities, I doubt
he wants anyone finding he told us anything."
     "Too true," Edouard nodded.  "But also hopefully intelligent enough to
realize that if he leaves, it will only be because we decided to let him.
And that he will be followed," Edouard's lips curled back in a very predatory
grin.  "Enough.  Ahmed, I'm not the sort to keep prisoners.  Believe it or
not, back in the day I was considered a hero.  But I think your own curiosity
has been engaged, and you're not going to run until you get some answers.
But you won't get answers until I decide what the questions will be, and that
may take some time.  Especially given that you're definitely not a hundred
percent human.  Maria, show Ahmed around the compound.  Ahmed, you're not a
prisoner, but there's no slackers here.  If you want to eat, you'll be
expected to pull your weight, and I'm sure Maria is delighted to no longer be
at the bottom of the totem pole.  But," he fixed his daughter with the sort
of Stern Parental Gaze that sent a chill down Ahmed's spine, "with power
comes responsibility, my daughter.  I'm not giving you a slave.  Work him as
hard as you'd be worked yourself, but keep in mind that I want him *able* to
cooperate with my requests should he become *willing* to.  So don't break the
boy, okay?"
     Ahmed had often seen feral cats (and cat-like genetic abominations) in
the streets of Khadam toy with prey, and a glimmer of that sort of expression
had been crossing Maria's features, but now it was gone.  "I never get to
have any fun," she pouted.

               *              *              *              *

[October 26, 2026 - Manhattan Autonomous Sector]

     As Rex Umbrae entered his office, he saw that his oversized chair had an
occupant.  It had turned to face the window, so all he saw at first were a
pair of long and ashen-skinned bare legs draped over one armrest and a single
red-nailed hand gripping the other.  If he hadn't just left his wife behind,
he might have suspected that Maria Incarnata had acquired a new and rather
outre skinsuit that she wanted to show off.
     Rex casually triggered the silent alarm on his blackcel that would bring
a trio of Hangmen to the office in seconds.  Per standing orders, however,
they would remain out of sight until it was obvious there was a threat.
Given the circles Rex moved in, a certain amount of "dramatic entrance"
showmanship was inevitable.  While Rex actually had a secretary and made
appointments like the legitimate businessman he pretended to be, for many of
the world's more shadowy figures the accepted way to get an appointment with
someone was to break in.  This had the dual advantages of proving the
appointment-seeker's cleverness or power, and of showing how the visited
personage wasn't as secure as they might have hoped.
     Drama queens, the lot of them, Umbrae sighed to himself.
     "I do have a secretary, you know," Rex addressed the back of his own
chair, his basso profundo reverberating through the room.  He'd had the
acoustics specifically tuned to the harmonics of his own voice.  Okay, so
there was a bit of the drama queen in him as well.  An unavoidable hazard of
the profession.
     The chair swiveled around to reveal rather more ash-colored skin, barely
covered by a flowing black fur cloak.  The woman in his chair was strikingly
beautiful in a coldly alien way, repelling and attracting at the same time.
Save for eyebrows and eyelashes, she appeared to be totally hairless as
well.  The fact she had broken into his office told him she had power, while
her appearance suggested a few potential sources for that power.  Necromancy
seemed likely, but of a much more subtle form than the cybervoodoo performed
by the New York Macoute under Umbrae's authority.
     "Oh, how disappointing," the woman sighed, looking Umbrae up and down.
"I had hoped your name wasn't merely a metaphor.  I suppose you might make an
amusing toy later, but for now I have no use for you."
     With that, she melted away into shadows, flowing like dark sand into the
cracks between reality and dream.


Next Issue:

     Lady Sable's plans are revealed and Justice learns the history of his
mystic axe, in A Suit Of Sables Part 2, "The Memory Be Green"!     


Author's Notes:

     My apologies for the long gap between issues (from late October 2010 to
late February 2011, although I did write a few things in between, like the
"Sonnet Null" poem referenced in the second Justice/Contact scene).  Given
how this arc is setting things up for a later Big Deal arc that I've been
toying with on and off since about 2002 (so no, TerraStar's body isn't the
longest-running dangler in this arc), I wanted to make absolutely sure I
had it all outlined before I started.  My usual style is to have a general
idea of the endgame and then write an issue at a time, adjusting the plan as
I go along.  But I didn't want to make any "promises" here that I couldn't
pay off later, so I waited until I'd figured out all the plot points before
writing a single scene.  And then the beginning of semester crunch hit and
put things off another month.  Oops.

     This arc introduces Lady Sable, one of the few major characters from the
original ASH/Raiders campaigns that I had not yet brought into the ASH
fiction setting (I couldn't find mention of her, so if I did use her before
now, it must've been very minor and off-hand).  The original Lady Sable was
the witch mentioned in the bio note for Black Paladin, a long-established
Champions villain.  When I had Black Paladin enact a rite to achieve godhood,
his witch lover was naturally along for the ride.  She got to have the Iron
Crown formerly worn by another Champions villain named Dark Seraph, which
gave her the same gray skin, bald head and wings that Dark Seraph had
sported.  The Iron Crown was available because, um, Set stomped Dark Seraph
into dust.  Turns out that when you have a "takes lethal damage from any holy
symbols" and you fight a guy who wields a holy symbol of his patron god as a
club and can punch holes in armor plate to begin with, bad things happen to
you.  Black Paladin became Lord Ebon, and the mercenary brother of Ravenfire
(Trevor Raven) became the new Black Paladin as Ebon's right hand minion.
     In the Raiders reboot, Lord Ebon had a totally different origin, since I
needed to divorce him from the Hero Games characters.  This also meant Lady
Sable needed a new schtick, and she ended up being a goth girl wannabe
sorceress who was more stalker than partner, but I never really found a good
hook for her and I'm not sure if she even appeared in the game.  So I don't
feel any need to hew to that version here.  If there was a Third Age Lady
Sable, she didn't make much of a splash, except maybe on the pavement after
Lord Ebon got tired of her antics.
     As you can see this issue, I went back to the "bald and grayskinned"
look for Lady Sable, but I ditched the wings and the crown.  I also recycled
Trevor Raven into Tobias Raven as the second Darkshield, obfuscating his
potential relationship to Ravenfire (and lessening the Trevor Rabin ripoff-
ness).  Hey, it's hard coming up with good names (or even bad ones),
recycling is authorially friendly.  ;)

     The arc title "A Suit of Sables" comes from Hamlet, as quoted at the top
of the issue.  The irony is that back then, a suit of sables was colorful
finery which might include in its many elements the fur of the sable.
Nowadays "sable" almost exclusively means black (although the fur itself is a
very very dark brown), so having a suit of sables makes one the black-wearing
devil.  ;)
     This issue's title is from Act 1, scene 2: "All that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity."  The original title for this issue was
"The Body In Question," before I decided to go whole-hog on the Hamlet
quotes.  I kept it for the cover copy, though.

     Thanks to the Worlds Apart iOS app for showing me the relative positions
of Venus and Earth in late October, 2026.  I finally replaced my 2003-vintage
Palm Tungsten with an iPod Touch in January 2011, and in almost every respect
it's a big improvement.  However, the calendar program doesn't let me easily
zip ahead to 2026 to check days of the week, and there's no free perpetual
calendar apps I could find.  So I bookmarked a perpetual calendar page for
now, I might print off PDF of it and store it on the iPod (which I have named
Garuda, after the MechaGodzilla accessory, in keeping with my penchant for
naming my computer stuff after robot kaiju).

     If you're confused about this Edouard cat person, see the "Catman: Minor
Arcana" miniseries, which can be found on the ASHistory series page: (and the WarStar series on the
same page is a little bit relevant to this issue as well).  
     Maria is about fifteen years old, but she and her siblings all hit
physical maturity at a very early age.  Ahmed has her beat in terms of "comic
book time" aging, though, since he's only about two years old but looks
fifteen or so.  Children in comics have a tendency to rapidly age to some
plot-convenient point and then never age again, except for time travel
stories or mystic accidents.  Sometimes they'll have a birthday party, and a
few years later have another party for the same age or even an earlier one! 


     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


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