[ASH] REPOST: ASH #121 - City of Night Part 2 actual: Nachtlich
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at eyrie.org
Mon Oct 11 10:32:39 PDT 2021
(OOPS! Posted part 3 as Part 2. Here's the actual part 2.)
[The cover shows members of EUROPA (Arc, Ymir, Hotspur, Justice, ghostly
Oni, and a woman in an unfamiliar EUROPA-styled uniform) launching attacks
against a wall of blackness. "We attack the darkness!" cover blurb.]
.|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED presents ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #121
'|` /|(`| | City of Night Part 2 of 6 - Nachtlich
/-|.)|-| copyright 2017 by Dave Van Domelen
ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL
CODENAME REAL NAME POWERS ASSIGNMENT
-------- --------- ------ ----------
Solar Max Jonathan Zachary Spacetime Control AMERICA
Meteor Sarah Grant-Taylor Superspeed AMERICA
Poniente Esmeralda Colina Wind Mage 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
[January 9, 2027 - Berlin, Germany]
"OH, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!"
"Calm yourself, Damon," Mischa put what she hoped was a comforting hand
on her friend's shoulder.
"Calm? CALM? SERIOUSLY?!" Damon raged. "I came to visit you to help
forget about Montreal, about how my whole life got turned upside down and I
can't go home because home is on verruckt VENUS and now all the craziness has
followed me HERE and..." he trailed off into panting, wide-eyed silence.
Elsewhere, the mood was quieter, but no calmer.
"No one's answering at work, either, I think," Gerd Karstens said
softly. "But I don't know if anyone could be getting there right now, with
the roads packed." Anna had tried going out earlier, but had turned back
when she saw the rapidly growing crowds and feared a riot would break out.
"Any luck with the cel?"
She shook her head. "I think whatever's going on crashed the network.
Phone can't find a signal. I got ahold of Gretchen earlier, before things
dropped, but she didn't know anything we didn't. Now I'm regretting not
trying harder to meet the neighbors."
Gerd nodded. He'd tried knocking on a few doors, but no one would open
up, and one threatened force if he didn't go away. They'd lived in the
building since last summer, but he couldn't even remember the name of the
family across the hall. They'd introduced themselves when Gerd and Anna
moved in, but....
"It's hard being all alone in the middle of a city," Anna put his
thoughts into words.
* * * *
[January 9, 2027 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]
"I take it this sort of thing is unusual?" Sharon Venturi nodded at the
bank of screens showing various angles on the same thing: a perfect dome of
utter darkness covering the central districts of Berlin. Some views focused
on the traffic jams of refugees trying to get out of the city before
something worse happened, a few were on analysts discussing the dome, but
every news source on the planet was reacting to the current crisis. "I mean,
it sort of reminds me of...damn, the name's gone, staying gone...a part of my
old city. Covered in darkness and eternal night."
"Yes and no," Lightfoot shrugged. "A few months before you showed up,
feels like longer, but there's superhero life for you...anyway, Monaco got
caught in a time bubble sort of thing. Split four ways, no one could get in
or out at first. And since then, the entire Sun got covered in a shell,
and. Damn. I guess it's not really that unusual lately."
Sharon laughed bitterly. "Same shit, different dimension."
"I was going to say 'plus la change,'" Breaker took a sip from her tea,
"I try to mind my language around the old man here."
Sharon looked around. "Jed?"
"She means me," Tom rolled his eyes. "Time travel. I was born about
fifty years ago."
"I remember time travel. It never seemed to be useful for anything but
causing trouble," Sharon looked back at the screen. "You suppose that thing
is time travel again?"
"Could be," Tina swirled the remnants left in her cup. "The Impossible
Five are still out there. But as far as we can tell, they don't have their
own time-based powers. They had to manipulate someone else to get them here,
and he's no longer available to them. I wouldn't rule out them having some
involvement, since they're mostly focused on Europe, but this is more likely
the work of Lady Sable."
"Darkness is definitely her schtick, and last time we ran into her she
was trying one of those apotheosis schemes we were talking about last week,"
Tom nodded. "In fact, that was the last major threat we faced before your
arrival. Well, as a whole team...Poniente more or less soloed a crisis in
"So, do we get on a plane or something?" Sharon asked. "I don't really
want to fly to Berlin under my own power."
Tina shook her head. "Jurisdiction issue right now. EUROPA has first
call on it. But don't worry, we've gotten past the squabbling phase of our
superteam relationship. If it's more than they can handle, we'll get a
* * * *
[January 9, 2027 - Brussels, Belgium]
"Oni's body is still being transported from the air base, but I think we
can start," Arc addressed the conference room. While it was crowded with
Important People from the EU government, it was safe to say that a mere
handful of people dominated it. [Unless otherwise specified, all characters
in the rest of this issue are speaking in the Standard Eurolac language, with
occasional words from other languages dropped in. Translations are more of
meaning and intent than literal. - Ed]
Ymir dominated it more than most. The hulking Scandinavian may not have
been much stronger than a normal person of his size, but that was still
pretty strong, and his power over cold meant his codename suited him well.
Hotspur had dropped the punk attitude that was part of his public
persona, and when clarity was called for the multilingual patois of his
"street Eurolac" gave way to fairly formal English, French, or Standard
Eurolac as the situation called for, but he was still given a fairly wide
berth by many of the "respectable" people in the room.
Justice, ironically, was far closer to his Vogue Ghoul criminal roots
than Hotspur, but he'd never made that part of his public face in EUROPA. He
was also less likely to lapse into street Eurolac than Hotspur. Those same
respectable people weren't bothered by him at all.
Oni was strikingly attractive in person, and would have stood out in
this room simply for not being European in descent. For now, however, she
was communicating via her invisible magnetic "ghost" form interacting via a
piece of metal sculpture that had been pulled from the lobby and placed in
one of the seats at the table.
Felka, who was trying out Tytanika as a codename, probably wanted to be
invisible, and her nervous attempts to not draw attention to her did exactly
the opposite. The petite young Pole also had a natural tendency to act as if
she were a bull desperately trying to not destroy the china shop, something
Arc herself had to consciously overcome, even though she wasn't nearly as
strong as Felka.
Arc's discomfort was less because of her powers and more because she'd
fallen into the leadership role as a sort of battlefield promotion, and
because she had the best...ah, relationships...with the world's other
superhuman teams. Justice seemed to be more of a natural leader, but he was
still a security clearance nightmare on many levels despite looking and
acting respectable these days. Also, Arc and Ymir were the only remaining
founders, and they both agreed Claire was the better choice.
She just hoped this latest crisis wouldn't require more battlefield
"STRAFE has deployed to Berlin in a purely investigatory capacity," Arc
continued, after taking in the room, "and their preliminary assessment is
that no incursion should be attempted until EUROPA has had a chance to reach
the scene. Less because we're better suited to sneaking into places..."
Oni's sculpture rippled with what Arc had learned to recognize as a
"...and more because any attempt to enter the dome of shadow could draw
a response, and our raw power would be needed. The Academy of Super-Heroes
has been in touch and is ready to offer aid, but is currently remaining
within Combine territory. No word from Chancellor Radner one way or another,
but I expect that if Khadam were behind this he wouldn't have remained
There were a few somber nods. No one trusted Triton to be a responsible
global citizen, even after his help in several world crises, but the
bombastic young man's taste for showmanship was never in doubt. If he or one
of his people had engineered the dome over Berlin, he would have crowed about
it by now. In fact, the lack of any announcement from anyone was beginning
to worry everyone. In the history of "powerful entities taking over cities,"
silence from the conqueror almost always meant that they didn't care what the
rest of the world thought, because they were confident that the rest of the
world would be conquered soon enough.
"So, if we could keep this as brief as possible, I'd like to get my team
in the air within the hour...."
* * * *
[January 9, 2027 - Just outside Berlin, Germany]
"It's growing. Like Monaco," Ymir rumbled.
Arc nodded, shivering for reasons that had nothing to do with the
weather or her teammate. Too many bad memories of the Timequake, too many
The "Allied Field Expert" leading the STRAFE contingent gestured to a
line of stakes in the ground. "Quick and dirty, but it's made it easy to
measure the growth rate. Right now, it seems fairly steady and pretty slow.
We haven't tried getting any people through the boundary, but it does seem to
reject life above a certain threshold. We've seen a few birds land on the
top, but they do seem to perceive it well enough none have simply bounced
off. We're not seeing things like mildew get squeezed off wooden fences at
the periphery, so microscopic life seems to get absorbed along with nonliving
"Can you get anything out if it's partially in, like a camera on a
mast?" Justice asked. He'd called Berlin home for several years, on and off,
and had several friends inside the dome.
The STRAFE agent nodded. "We tried that. Unliving matter can be pushed
through, about as much resistance as molasses or warm tar, but there's no
going back. Eventually it gets sucked in as the dome expands. Electronic
signals don't come back either."
Arc gestured to Tytanika and pointed at a highway safety rail that ended
where the dome boundary met the road. "See if you can pull it out."
Felka stepped up and got a good grip, then tugged experimentally. The
rail warped slightly, but the end that met the dome didn't move. Frowning,
she crimped the rail down into a more solid bar and gave it a hard pull.
With a sharp PING it snapped off raggedly at the dome end. As they watched,
the tattered edges of the metal slowly sank into darkness. "Might not be
stronger than me, but it's stronger than steel."
"I could attempt to project into it," Oni offered.
Arc shook her head. "You might not count as living, but you might also
not get through." She turned to the STRAFE agent. "Any theories on what
happens to light that strikes the dome?"
"None firm enough I'd risk Oni over it, no," the man shook his head.
"This isn't one hundred percent black, by the way...there's pigments that are
blacker. Some light does reflect, but only a tiny fraction. As best as we
can tell, the reflectivity is the same across all wavelengths that count as
light. We haven't tried gamma rays yet, but since matter can get across
there must be some limit. We DO think that the dome is a shell, however,
rather than a solid mass. Sonar acts weirdly around it, but near as we can
figure we're looking at a transition layer and on the other side things go
back to being normal...aside from being totally cut off."
"A city that size can't last without power, water, and other things,"
Justice protested. "Even if people don't freak out and start rioting,
there's just too many of them in too little space."
"Damn, you're right Colin," Arc nodded to him. "What's Berlin's
internal capacity for power generation?"
While the STRAFE agent started tapping away at his handcomp, Justice
narrowed his eyes and thought. "Not a lot. Most of the non-grid power
sources are solar panels and windmills, neither of which are much good to
them now. The hospitals will have backup generators, but no one really
wanted a power plant inside the city, especially with memories of Soviet-era
pollution. Water pressure's going to pretty much go away except in the
low-lying areas...oh crap, those are going to flood. River water can go in
but can't get out."
"We did think of that," the STRAFE agent interrupted. "All the major
rivers have had emergency dams and diversions put in place. Eventually the
dome will get too big for some of these, and downstreams are already dry
short of where things rejoin, which is causing problems outside the dome.
But major flooding inside the dome shouldn't be a problem for a while."
"Okay. Until we have more information, it's going to be hard to plan
anything beyond watching and hoping," Arc shrugged. "But we can probably
help out with the river diversions in the meantime...."
* * * *
[January 10, 2027 - Berlin Exclusion Zone]
"Everyone ready? Tytanika and I will make the first strike as soon as
the sign has been absorbed," Arc ordered.
They'd been sending emergency generators, water purifiers, and other
supplies through the dome for the last day, in the hopes that the people
inside were still alive and could make use of the things. Each was
accompanied by chemical lights so that they would stand out. Now they had
picked a clear area away from any of the supply drops, but to reduce the
chances of hurting any innocents they were letting a lit-up sign reading
"Back away" in several languages get sucked into the dome first. The
blackness had just reached the feet of the stand.
"The sign. It's sliding backwards," Hotspur observed.
With that, it fell over. Other objects at that edge of the dome were
swallowed up serenely, but as the boundary reached the sign again it started
to slowly push.
"Okay, dass ist pesimo," Hotspur muttered. ["Okay, that is very bad,"
in street Eurolac - Ed.]
"I think we just got proof that whatever's behind this can see us, even
if we can't see them," Tytanika bounced nervously on the balls of her feet.
"Do we still go?"
"Change of plans," Arc announced. "Tytanika, you punch it, but don't
lean into the punch. It's changed its permeability, so for all we know it
won't offer any resistance to living things now."
Tytanika struck the darkness with a very faint thud, followed by very
loud cursing in Polish. When she ran out of steam in that vein, she added,
"It felt like punching a wall would've before I got my powers. If I'd gone
all-out, I probably would have shattered my hand."
"Merde," Hotspur added.
* * * *
[January 11, 2027]
"Strong Anchors are hard to find these days, but a captive city has a
way of making resources available, Ms. Auger," Gerhard Hesse smirked. Arc
had spent the weekend working with the STRAFE expert, and while they weren't
on a first name basis, they at least *knew* each other's names now.
"Let's hope these four are enough to do the job, Agent Hesse" Claire
nodded. Whatever was happening here was clearly unnatural, and restoring the
natural order was what Anchors did. They were like intelligent antibodies
created by the universe as a defense mechanism against supernormals like her
or her teammates. These Anchors had trained extensively to shape where their
abilities would apply, or even damp them down when required to be around
supernormals without turning off everyone's powers. Unfortunately, most of
the highly-trained Anchors in the world had been killed as part of an
apotheosis scheme by an insane Anchor. [See the entire Pyramid Scheme
storyline - Ed.]
"More than this and it'll be hard to let you all function," Gerhard
shrugged. "As it is, Oni will have to stay back in reserve...her ghost form
wouldn't be able to get near them, and leaving her body while inside the dome
would leave her too open to someone making off with it."
Arc nodded. They all tried to train against Anchor sparring partners
whenever possible, but in some cases that merely established who was best
served by avoiding Anchors entirely. Oni kept up with her hand to hand and
weapons training, but simply wouldn't be any more effective than a trained
baseline human in this situation, so it didn't make sense to risk her.
"Anchor squad at the ready!" Arc called out. Four Anchors, two in the
distinctive uniforms of the Israeli Defense Forces, stood in pairs on either
side of a road leading into Berlin. They all nodded.
"EUROPA at the ready!" she ordered, dropping onto a set of sprinter's
blocks secured to the roadway. Even though her powers would shut off as she
got close to the hoped-for hole, momentum would not suddenly vanish, and she
would take point. This would also give everyone else a chance to check
themselves if she merely bounced off. But the shorter the time over which
the Anchors exerted themselves, the better. Once they were inside, they
would be on their own until the Anchors had gotten a breather.
"Anchors, GO!" Arc yelled as she launched herself forwards on the
blocks. Despite their training at focusing the effect, she could feel
herself coming off the block sluggishly by her normal standards, a fastball
rather than a cannonball. Looking up she saw what she'd hoped to see...faint
glimmers of light in the darkness. There'd been worries that power would
already have run out in the city, and it would be so dark that there'd be no
way to tell if the Anchors had succeeded.
Ymir, Hotspur, Tytanika, and Justice ran in behind her, Justice
brandishing his magical axe Slaversbane in both hands. Even with its magic
and his powers damped, it would still be an unpleasant experience for anyone
hit by it.
Then she hit the wall and nearly stopped. It was no longer adamantine,
more like wet concrete. The others struck a moment after, and they all
struggled to force through the boundary between inside and out, between
captives and rescuers. If the Anchors weakened the barrier more, it would
also further rob the EUROPAns of their preternatural strength, possibly a
zero sum game.
Another moment, though, and she won through!
She couldn't see anyone nearby. If any of the citizens of Berlin were
around, they were hiding. It was dark, the darkness of an embattled city on
a cloudy night. Claire could recall darker nights, notably in the jungles of
South America, this was more like patrolling the depopulated ruins of one of
the Abandoned Cities, lit only by a few security lamps outside of the zones
of active salvage operations.
Scattered gasps told her at least some of the others had made it through
the tarpaper-like boundary. Arc turned to see that they all had, and were
dropping into ready stances.
"Your five!" Justice pointed behind her with his axe, launching a spark
of electricity past her. It sizzled weakly, his powers still feeling the
lingering effects of the Anchoring, and she turned to see what he had
attacked. It felt like an eternity, her powers still largely damped.
Nothing. Just fuzzy shadows cast by the distant lights or the red
flickering of metal spikes Hotspur was heating up.
"The shadows moved," Justice added.
Normally, that would be a sign they were all too keyed up and jumpy.
But here, under the dome of absolute night?
The shadows probably *had* moved.
"Hallo!" Arc called out. "Kann mir jemand hoeren? Can anyone hear me?
Then the shadows most definitely moved.
Nothing so distinct as figures, or even limbs, but the shadows detached
themselves from the ground and the walls and flung themselves at Arc. She
ducked under one, only to be hurled backwards by another. She was fairly
tough, and her uniform added to that with extremely expensive and durable
body armor, but her breath was still knocked from her.
Justice threw stronger lightning this time, and while it seemed to slice
apart the shadows in its passage, the harsh light cast sharper shadows which
then came alive to cut at him. Blood sprayed from one arm and he nearly
dropped his axe.
Hotspur fared little better, and Ymir's waves of cold did nothing at all
to the shadows. Tytanika grappled with numerous shadowy arms, easily casting
aside the ones she could grasp but then two more took the place of each she
"C'mon, Slaversbane, why so quiet now?" Justice muttered as his wound
closed with the speed typical of supernaturals.
If the mystic weapon had any reply, no one heard it as the shadows
surged like a tidal wave and slammed them back against the wall through which
they had entered moments before. The pressure was crushing, like the ocean
depths, and even Tytanika struggled to move. Then there was a sudden booming
surge and they were in daylight once more, amid piles of rubble and churned
As Arc regained her feet, she could see that the dome had grown by
several meters, but rather than absorbing all in its path, it had carved
itself a berm, shoving all matter out of the way. From the shattered pipes
and other debris, it looked as if the dome had dug many meters deep in its
"Well, that happened," Ymir frowned as he extricated himself from a
* * * *
[January 12, 2027]
"Still no movement," Gerhard confirmed. "If I were optimistic, I'd say
that the second big surge by the Anchors, what let you get pushed out rather
than squashed flat, took something out of whoever's behind this. They pushed
back against the Anchor effect, pushed HARD, but has had to rest up since."
"And since you're not optimistic?" Arc replied.
"Whoever it is has decided we're done letting it just keep grabbing
land, and has decided to prepare for a more active conflict. The Anchors
have kept trying, but the barrier's solid now. I'm not convinced it's
impenetrable, but whoever's making it can clearly tell where we're going
to try for a breach, and reinforce it enough to stop us."
"Oui," Claire nodded. "Either way, the game is going to change, and I'd
bet it changes soon. Justice feels confident that this is the work of Lady
Sable, and given his experience facing her last year [ASH #110-113, "A Suit
of Sables" - Ed.] I expect he's likely right."
"Slaversbane still only talks when it feels like it," Justice nodded at
the mystic axe he held, "but it's been feeling antsy ever since I got here.
I think the Anchoring put it to sleep for a while...it's not really alive, so
it doesn't snap back as fast as we do. It definitely hates darkness magic,
though, but you didn't need me to tell you that's what we're dealing with,"
he gestured at the dome. "Calling this on Sable is more of an Occam's Razor
"Regardless, I think it's time we called in ASH," Claire told those
assembled. "I know, no one likes feeling like we have to run to them every
few months, but they were the last ones to face Lady Sable, and they have
better magic-lore people than we do. It's call them, or ask if Glyph is
willing to consult," she smirked. The leader-in-name of the Conclave of
Super-Villains was not exactly popular anywhere, but particularly not among
STRAFE or EUROPA members.
"Game's changing right voegeln NOW!" Hotspur yelled, pointing upwards.
The dome started to twist upwards in the middle, a tendril reaching up
into the icy clear January sky. The chill that ran down Arc's back had
nothing to do with the wintry breeze, as the tendril resolved into the form
of a woman hundreds of meters tall.
A booming contralto issued forth from everywhere at once, the dome
itself shaking like a titanic speaker. "Berlin is henceforth and forever
more the City of Night," it intoned. "The domain of Lord Ebon, under the
regency of Lady Sable!"
The message repeated several times in various languages, and then the
shadowy goddess astride the world evaporated into the wind.
Lady Sable has staked her claim on a corner of the world, but will she
be satisfied with anything less than everything? We get a look at life under
the shadow in ASH #122, "Sub illa Umbra"
Oy. So, I started this in 2013, hoping that with the end of my
unemployment I'd gotten out of my writing funk. Not much luck with that...in
the four years since then, I've done a few one-shots, historicals, and so
forth, but the main plotline has just sat there. Most of my writing energy
in 2013-14 went to writing entirely new classes. In 2014 I got another new
job, and it was back to even more new curriculum. Additionally, I got
brought on board the City of Titans project to help design the non-coding
side of the powers system for the City of Heroes successor game. I generated
huge amounts of text (some of it for the CoT setting, but mostly design
guidance documents no one outside the team is likely to ever see) and
scratched my writing itch. I even created a comic and scripted a few sample
pages, but others have taken over writing for the regular project
(available at http://www.patreon.com/HiJinx at the moment, but it might go
onto its own website later on).
While I've been stable in employment since 2014, 2015 saw me revamp
everything in my courses significantly, in addition to spending the next two
school years with an "overload" schedule because one of our part-time
instructors had to stop teaching here for a while, so I still rarely felt
like writing anything big outside of my CoT work. Finally, in Fall of 2017,
I got back down to a normal full schedule (although administrative
re-definitions have defined it as an overload, it's still one course fewer
than I'd been teaching) and don't yet have to start the next massive
Therefore, I'm finding I have time and energy, having gotten really
efficient at doing 125% of my job in only 100% of the time and now only
having to do 100% of the job. :) Dusting off the partial ASH #121,
re-reading the ASH Wiki to remember who everyone is, deleting a paragraph
after being reminded the character it was about died...and so forth. I make
no promises about getting this arc done in anything resembling a timely
fashion, although the movie Atomic Blonde does have me more inspired to work
with a shadowy Berlin. (Pet peeve: Peter Schilling's music was used in
Atomic Blonde, but not the song "City of Night.")
And now to more story-related end notes.
[Note added after initial posting: Oh yeah, "Nachtlich" means nocturnal,
or at night. While I generally used the ASCII-7 compatible ae/oe/ue
construction to indicate umlauts in the body of the issue, I left it out here
because the root word Nacht doesn't have an umlaut and I figured that might
be less confusing than "Naechtlich".]
"We attack the darkness" is, of course, a reference to an old D&D gag
where players attack the darkness. You'll have a hard time googling the
original reference, though, since attacking the darkness has found its way
into several MMO achievements as an in-joke, and that clogs up the search
The place Sharon can no longer remember the name of is the Dark Astoria
neighborhood from City of Heroes. The dark god Mot broke through into
reality there, resulting in eternal night and wandering monsters. At least
the damned fog went away when Mot showed up.
Thanks to Tom Russell's friend Ania Ziolkowska for help with getting the
Tytanika name worked out. Google Translate got me as far as "Tytan" being
the spelling for Titan, but I correctly suspected that it was a gendered noun
and it was gendered male. Ania gave me some alternatives, and I picked
Tytanika from among them. One down side of Tony Pi working all sorts of
linguistic validity into ASH is that I have to hold up the standard and I am
not a linguist. :)
For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !
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