October 15, 2011
4Sworn, Session Thirteen
The Battle of Progress Ltd. September 1st, 2005
The PsiPlane came streaking out of the sky straight down over Gdańsk, Poland. Aboard, Perdition, Shockwave, and Zap watched the right-angles and straight lines of the seaport's industrialized coastline swell uncomfortably fast outside of the flight-deck's windscreen. Psion concentrated on the vehicle's approach and moved to level off at 500 feet.
On the ground, dockworkers fled from smoke and general signs of mayhem, and the team knew this was where they were needed.
Shockwave and Perdition, trying to make sense of the scene on the ground, reacted in horror as a rectangular object the size of a truck hurtled up at the ship. Anti-collision alerts sounded, and Psion tilted his head as he swung scanners around wildly to identify the source. Shockwave shot out of her chair and attempted to bank the PsiPlane out of the way by grabbing the control sphere the telepath used as an interface. But the device proved rigid as a statue. "What kind of trackball is this?" she wondered in panic. She looked again at the approaching projectile, now overlaid with red holographic tracings and a variety of numbers and warning messages, and instinctively grabbed Psion; pulling him out of phase just before the impact.
The object impacted the PsiPlane's fuselage with an ear-splitting bang and shriek of tearing metal. It jarred Psion physically as his psionic connection to the craft transmitted awareness of structural damage to his mind. Though his hands passed through the control sphere, his grip on the PsiPlane remained intact as the freight container that had hit them was torn apart, showering the waterfront with cardboard boxes of iPods.
Now alert to well-timed attacks and suspicious of having blundered into an ambush, Psion widened his field of sensor focus and swept the skies behind the craft. Aft scanners showed Shee-Ariel's approach as she struck the ship a blast of flame. Clearly, it was unwise to stay in the center of a trap, and Psion accelerated the ship almost instantly to 5700 mph, hoping to come in from a fresh direction and put the team on a better tactical footing against their adversaries. “We'll be re-entering the area in fifteen seconds,” he told the others. “Get ready for combat.” Zap transformed into electricity and split into two. Shockwave returned Psion to a corporeal form.
“Shockwave, you've just demonstrated a need for an emergency override for for flight operations,” the telepath told her. “Your boosted reflexes gave you a chance to react to danger far more quickly than I could even with my psionic interfaces.” Shockwave zipped off the flight-deck and returned with a sandwich an instant later. Psion shook his head and tried to stay focused, “I'll implement a change to flight operations that will allow passengers with your talents to provide such an override from a console position. I'll make you my copilot.”
“Give me a loop button. Give me a roll button. That's all I need.” She thought a moment before adding, “And a big stop button.” Starfire, Perdition, and Shockwave phased out of the ship and dropped to the ground near where the first freight container was launched from. Zaps One and Two flew off the ship, looking for Shee-Ariel.
As they approached the dockyards, they noticed another freight container moving along on the ground, apparently being pushed by a Honda Asimo. Starfire dropped Shockwave on the robot and she turned it non-corporeal and pulled it down into the ground until it was waist-deep in the ground before releasing it.
From the cab of a nearby gantry-crane situated between truck lanes and stacks of transport containers, Soul-Catcher blasted black flame at the PsiPlane, which splattered against the ship's defensive invulnerability field and flickered out.
On the ground, Karybdis prepared to throw a transformer from an electric substation at Zap Two, but he launched himself into the metal structure of the gantry-crane, emerging at Soul-Catcher's feet to strike at her hands. His attack knocked the serpentine staff from her grip and blasted her off the edge of the crane. Zap One swooped in to catch the staff. The staff, however, objected strenuously, its three snake-skull heads hissing and sinking their fangs into Zap One's electrical-state arm. Zap cried out in pain and surprise and promptly fell unconscious on the gantry … the staff still snarling and chewing at his arm.
Aware of the loss of Zap One, Starfire swung around and released Perdition near the falling Soul Catcher. Perdition shot her with an oricalcum bullet.
Starfire confronted Karybdis, but she was ready and interrupted his attack by batting him back with the transformer, obliterating the device and shooting Starfire backwards like a baseball struck for a home run.
Shee-Ariel flew up from behind a warehouse gleefully cackling as she aimed a fiery blast at Perdition. The hero, focused on Soul-Catcher's fall from the gantry crane, was caught unprepared.
Shockwave ran through the robot-pushed transport container and found it filled with running shoes. Exiting the other side, she saw Karybdis, still holding remains of the transformer she'd used to slam Starfire back. Shockwave gritted her teeth and launched herself at the cyborg, preparing to deliver the “brain blow” assault that had previously worked against her back in Nogales. But the approach was badly timed, and Shockwave missed with both swings.
Shee-Ariel turned from Perdition and launched a prolonged burst of fire at the fast-moving Shockwave. Shockwave saw it coming, but had no time to counter and as the flames burst against her torso and head, knocking her out cold. She toppled and went skidding on a long trajectory, passing through various obstacles and finally disappearing through a warehouse wall.
Zap Two raced past the gantry as Soul-Catcher's staff released Zap One and tumbled towards the ground. Zap One dissolved into nothing as his energy rejoined with Zap Two and the re-integrated Zap, hoping to avoid being bitten again, caught the staff near the base of the skulls and tried to phase it electric. The staff, however, somehow resisted the effort. He looked up at the PsiPlane and over the switchboard said, “Psion! Can you catch this?”
“Deploying the lift. Throw it in there and I'll seal it in the airlock,” answered Psion.
Zap flung the staff towards the vehicle as Psion swooped in. The cylindrical lock descended and snapped open to catch the magical staff, then snapped closed again and retracted … the skeletal weapon trapped within.
Starfire arced back into the combat with a transport container in hand. He swung the container and used it to swat Shee-Ariel out of the air. She hit a warehouse rooftop, but rolled and got back up. Looking back at Starfire, she grinned and rubbed her chin. “I like a boy who plays rough!”
Atop the gantry-crane, Perdition carefully aimed at Karybdis' eye with his pistol. The bullet struck her diamond lens and bounced off ineffectually. What does it take to stop this woman, the frustrated Perdition wondered.
Karybdis looked up at him, jumped over to a nearby warehouse, ripped a firedoor out of its frame, and threw it like a steel playing card at him. Psion tried to knock the projectile from the air, but missed and it slammed into Perdition's forcefield. The force of the impact knocked him back twenty feet and collapsed his forcefield completely.
Shee-Ariel gestured at Starfire and shrieked menacingly. The flying hero, still holding a transport container, shuddered for a moment as though gripped in a spell, but recovered without having been turned into a toad. Perdition wheeled in mid-air, aiming at Shee-Ariel with another anti-magic oricalcum bullet, but missed.
Karybdis wasn't going to leave Perdition alone, though. She ran a short distance and lept into the air, relying on her enormous strength to propel her on a jump that would intersect with him. Her exoskeleton reformed itself into a terrifying array of blades and spikes as she reached out to grab him. Perdition gasped in horror and dodged free of her grasp, those blades slicing menacingly through the air as her trajectory continued down to the roof of a warehouse.
Zap returned from disposing of Soul-Catcher's staff to fire a series of electrical attacks at Shee-Ariel. The bolts arced over her body and head and she tumbled backwards over the edge of the roof and fell to the ground in an unconscious lump.
Starfire dropped the transport container and shot forward to grapple with Karybdis. He'd hoped to grab her and take her to orbit, but that nano-molecular exoskeleton of hers felt unnaturally slick and she slipped from his grasp.
Zap looked back up at the PsiPlane. “Hey Psion, have you scanned for any other super-villains in the area?”
“Using what setting, Zap? I don't remember adding a 'scan for supervillains' function to our sensors. Besides, I'm a little busy getting a combat telepathy lock on Karybdis.”
Zap shook his head and looked back down at the gantry-crane. Soul-Catcher, who had been unconscious up to this point, rolled over on her back and began making “snow angel” motions with her arms and legs. The ground grew hazy beneath her and she fell through it. He decided to go check for Shockwave in the warehouse. Once inside, it was easy to find her from the trail of shattered crates that she'd smashed through after phasing back into a solid state while unconscious.
Starfire focused a laser beam at Karybdis' eyes. The flash didn't blind her, but it was clear she'd taken some damage from it. Perdition drifted down to the ground and walked around the portal Soul-Catcher had formed under the gantry-crane. He then went over to examine Shee-Ariel.
Karybdis jumped down from the warehouse and started heading back towards Shee-Ariel and Perdition. Psion fired a volley of psibolts at her, but the attack missed.
As Karybdis closed on Perdition, Zap left Shockwave in the warehouse and ran toward Perdition who was now turning to face the oncoming cyborg. “Keep shooting at her,” Psion urged Perdition.
“All I do is piss her off.”
“That isn't true … you've caused some damage already. And so have other people. Do not back down!”
Through the switchboard, Perdition knew Zap was coming to pull him to safety. He raised his gun, but Karybdis snatched it from his grip. Zap shot through the confrontation, converting Perdition to electricity and whisking him away.
Starfire again swept through the combat zone, his fists buzzing with power blast energy and heading for Karybdis, but missed. She shook her head dismissively, flung Shee-Ariel's inert body over her shoulder, and dove into Soul-Catcher's swirling portal. Zap and Perdition headed toward the amber warehouse, but the door and about ten feet of wall exploded outwards in a shower of sparks as Desecrator stepped out to confront them.
With a modulated laugh, the armored hulk leveled his arms at the two. Zap fled through the wall of the warehouse with Perdition, keeping their electrical bodies confined to the metal structures through which they could conduct without being seen. Desecrator found this amusing and he chuckled again, “Running scared! Pathetic.”
He stepped out into the street and looked up at the PsiPlane, pointed his arm-mounted cannon at the vehicle and struck it with two blasts. The vehicle withstood the attack easily, but Psion saw little reason to remain a tempting target, so he moved off to 1000 feet.
“Let's coordinate on one,” Psion said over the switchboard. “Everybody hit Desecrator with everything they've got. Three …”
Zap dropped Perdition and split into two once more. He triggered the sprinklers in the building, then woke Shockwave. “Two ...”
Perdition readied his remaining gun. The PsiPlane dove back towards the ground on a parabolic arc. Starfire followed suit.
Perdition shot. The bullet disintegrated into a puff of dust about two or three feet from its target.
Psion fired two psibolts. The space between Desecrator and the PsiPlane shimmered briefly and Desecrator was blasted backwards about seventy-five feet back into the warehouse.
Shockwave ran in with a grenade and buried it in Desecrator's torso, but Desecrator whirled on her and fired a blast. It hit, but in spite of her injuries Shockwave withstood the damage and remained conscious.
Starfire swept in to target the wrist emitters on Desecrator's suit with his own power blasts, but no visible damage resulted. Zap followed, targeting the same wrist emitters with his own electrical attacks. This seemed to be more effective, but it was tough to assess the exact damage through the whirling clouds of nanites surrounding Desecrator.
Shockwave ran into the warehouse Desecrator had burst from, passing through a series of metal cabinets to find a man in a band leader's costume dragging metal boxes into the center of a circle that had been spray painted on the floor. "That's Whipsaw," she thought.
Outside, the grenade in Desecrator's torso detonated. The figure dropped to his armored knees, then collapsed into the ground and dissolved. Zap fired a into the spot for good measure, hoping to short out some of the nanites.
Back in the warehouse, Shockwave phased the floor under the boxes and dropped them from the collection area.
Zap entered the building to find a puzzled Whipsaw staring at the empty floor with his monomolecular whip in hand. He fired a “double-tap” into the unsuspecting villain and knocking him unconscious.
The team moved the boxes out of the warehouse and into the PsiPlane, but it wasn't long before the floor in the center of the circle began to sag. In a moment, a portal opened up and Shockwave dropped a grenade through. Psion also contributed a psicorder. A moment later, the portal vanished and the floor returned.
Psion rushed to his instruments and began a planet-wide survey, looking for a signal lock on the sacrificed psicorder. He soon detected the device: Pyongyang, North Korea.
Checking into the Ryugyong Hotel
Zap One and Shockwave exited a disused electrical outlet on the top floor of the abandoned Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. They had left the others waiting beyond the borders of North Korea while they scouted the origin of the signal lock and now found themselves in the country's tallest structure: a futuristic pyramid of concrete – unfinished and exposed to the elements.
The fall of communism in the former Soviet Union had left North Korea in economic disarray. Raw materials were hard to find and in 1992, construction had ground to a halt.
About twenty feet in from the outer walls, dense tarps ringed an enclosed area from which the two heroes heard subdued voices and the sound of something heavy being dragged across raw concrete. Shockwave slipped out of phase and slid slowly closer through the concrete floor … only her eyes and the top of her head protruding above until she had pushed past the tarps and could see the activity within.
Battery-powered lamps lit the enclosure, and by their pale glow, she saw Karybdis rearranging heavy crates. Soul-Catcher sat disheveled and huddled under a blanket.
Zap One moved close to Shockwave and whispered, “We're bringing the others in. You keep an eye on things while I help get them.” Shockwave nodded slowly without taking her eyes off the scene, and Zap disappeared.
A groan from behind another stack of boxes drew her attention, and she drifted through crates and shadows until she found the source. A large woman staggered into view. “Shit,” groused the woman in a thick, hung-over drawl. “Where's my stash?” Clattering and crashing, she overturned boxes as she searched until she recovered a can and poured a handful of white powder.
Shockwave snuck along the floor behind Shee-Ariel, planning to drag the woman down to the lower floors, but as she reached up to grab her, Shee-Ariel turned. Shockwave yanked, pulling the villain down partway through the floor, but Shee-Ariel countered, somehow bracing herself despite Shockwave's effort to render her non-corporeal, and resisted being dragged down any farther. Then she immolated and the air around her whooshed upwards as her body erupted in flames. Shockwave rolled backwards away from her flaming adversary and dove to the level beneath.
Starfire arced past the hotel from out of the sky after separating from the two Zaps and Psion. As he entered the floor from the window, he heard a series of small explosions pop off behind the tarp Zap had described.
Zaps One and Two and Psion materialized on another side. Zap One charged ahead, racing through the tarp to confront their adversaries. Karybdis was battering away at a chunk of concrete that engulfed Shee-Ariel's lower leg.
Zap One fired a double-tap of electricity at Shee-Ariel. The combined blast against her body and head sent her sprawling. Karybdis spun on Zap and breathed a blast of plasma at him, but the hero discorporated before the plasma hit.
Shockwave again resurfaced with a grenade in hand, intending to plant it in Karybdis's torso, but missed when Karybdis moved to attack Zap.
Karybdis turned and fired plasma breath at Shockwave. The attack knocked Shockwave unconscious, blasted her through Shee-Ariel's personal effects, and blew her out the side of the tower. She came to rest hanging precariously off a ledge.
Starfire blasted the floor at Karybdis' feet, but didn't break through.
Zap Two launched himself at the cyborg, hoping to find a way to penetrate her armor. As electrical energy, he arced across her surface, then found a service port into her critical systems. She looked startled for a moment by Zap's actions, then she saw Psion and strode toward him. Zap One sped through, converted Psion to an electrical-state again, and whisked him away. Karybdis tried to fire her plasma breath once more at the two retreating figures, but missed.
Zap Two, ensconced in Karybdis' armor now had direct access to her organic components. He fired two electrical attacks against her brain. She spasmed and dropped to the floor.
[END OF COMBAT]
The team recovered. They pulled Shockwave off the ledge and woke her. Psion found the crushed remains of his PsiCorder and willed it repaired. They found rough, mined amber inside the crates.
They decided to evacuate back to the Firehawk to perform a thorough analysis of Karybdis' systems, taking the amber and prisoners back with them. They also discovered that Soul-Catcher's serpent-staff was still hiding in the airlock, and decided to discontinue using it for awhile.
Psion revealed that he has been synthesizing a chemical based on a formula created by the “space Nazis” -- A pacification drug called “Blue Magic”. It remains inactive until a light-pulse pattern perceived by the subject triggers it.
Shockwave and Zap worried about what they'd consumed on the PsiPlane.
In the lab on the Firehawk, Zap relayed data from the cyborg's onboard systems to Psion. They re-connected her off-switch and began powering down non-life-critical systems.
Shockwave proposed having Psion regenerate Karybdis' natural body from just her brain. “That's a remarkable idea, Shockwave. If there's any way to get her back to a normal life, that's it. Otherwise, she's going to become an angry Roomba, and that's the cruelest fate I can imagine for her.”
Shockwave nodded. “Let's give her the choice. That's more than the doctor who did this to her ever gave her.”