Champions of Light Chapter One
Issue 1 Collector’s Edition!
It was a dark and stormy night in late October. A thick layer of clouds made an already dark sky darker. Lightning occasionally lit the horizon. A chill wind lashed everyone with rain that should by all rights have been frozen. They pressed closer to the stones providing cover. There was nothing else to do. They were out in the open, largely unprotected. They were seventy, maybe eighty feet above a small valley littered with rocks and rubble.
From their vantage point, it appeared the target was deserted. That was a good start. The Resistance needed another good intelligence source. This one at least got them past Go.
The source said this was supposedly a research facility, advanced robotics. Scarab scanned the dark landscape. Rocks, cement slabs, steel beams, rusted, twisted rebar. Heat blasted, twisted, broken. A bomb. Something big.
Funhouse and Overload took off. Scarab shouted a reminder after them: 500 foot perimeter. Break the perimeter and the clock started. Five minutes for a response force. No longer.
Response force. No one knew what that meant. They were in No Man’s Land. It could be any number of horrors. They didn’t want to find out.
The mission was simple: find out what they could about the facility. More than anything, it was about the intelligence source’s value. A bit vague, but that’s why no one else had volunteered. The team was ideal for it.
Funhouse—decked out in urban camo—oozed over the rubble. He left his lower half behind. He stopped about 550 feet out from the crater. The crater was supposedly the facility’s basement. Single entry. That meant a single exit as well. Funhouse created a mouth on his backside. Talking out his ass while giving a recon update. Nice. It looked clear.
Overload didn’t care about subtle. He was a glowing energy form in the black night. The rain didn’t touch him. He flitted from one treacherous foothold to another. It was slow going, relatively speaking. He had to backpedal more than a politician on the summer campaign trail. A quick circuit then another, just outside the perimeter. He confirmed what Funhouse had reported: all clear.
It was Jaguar’s turn then. He sent Ix out. No reason to test the perimeter’s sensors. Chainmail and Scarab said they couldn’t sense power emanations. Not many things could sense Ix. No reason to discover this place had one. Ix traced Overload’s path. No trouble with the footwork. Not for the shadow cat. Jaguar growled: no scent.
Everything said all clear. That was all Chainmail needed. Up on metallic spider legs, skittering bug-like. He was in the pit before Scarab could say no. They were committed.
Scarab took to the air. He hovered ten feet over the ground. Jaguar followed. Templar shifted into metal form. Another touch of a tattoo and wings sprouted out his back. A leap, the wings flapped, and he flew, passing Scarab.
The basement was large. Segments of blackened cement. Melted metal, twisted, pooled. They knew where to check for the entry. Chainmail mumbled to himself as he searched. Jaguar, Scarab, and Templar watched the skies. Whatever reaction force came, it would almost certainly come from above. Funhouse and Overload watched Chainmail impatiently. Scarab calmly informed them every time thirty seconds passed. That happened twice before Chainmail quit his damned mumbling.
“Here.” Chainmail pointed to a section of debris. It looked like the rest. Funhouse formed a giant spatula and tossed the debris aside. The rain had pooled, filling a shallow crease. A hatch.
Overload tested the hatch with his energy form. He knew better. Advanced research facility, survived a big bomb. Yeah. Some crazy shielding.
Templar dropped to the ground next to the hatch. He dug his fingers into the crease. Muscles bulged as he worked his finger in. It was a contest, his metal versus the hatch’s metal, divine flesh or technological marvel. Divinity won. The hatch squealed in protest. A second tug and the contest was over.
Overload tried again. This time he was able to get by. They were looking at a shaft—elevator or silo. Elevator made more sense.
They entered. Funhouse oozed to the bottom and flowed over the floor. Elevator roof. Jaguar followed, leaping from wall to wall, claws digging in. Shadow slick, oozing between the elevator car and shaft walls. A door. The claws slashed. They slashed again. The door was opened. They were in.
Funhouse, Jaguar, and Overload entered first. Templar dropped from above and tore through the elevator car roof then shoved its doors open. Chainmail and Scarab followed.
They were looking at a hallway. Left of the elevator, fifteen feet. Same to the right. Corridors there.
Scarab scanned for a computer access port. First thing he did wherever he went. Bingo. Cybernetic finger extended, port match. Access. No go. No juice. “We need power. Keep searching.”
They split up. Chainmail and Overload took the right corridor, Jaguar and Templar the left. Scarab looked at the computer port, disappointed. Funhouse watched and listened. He was ready to respond.
Jaguar was the first to spot a door. Left corridor, hook a left. 75 feet in. Claw work and the door fell. Templar watched approvingly.
In the right corridor, Chainmail took a left. It was inky black. He saw just fine. He wished he didn’t. The walls were moving. They were flowing. They were forming robots. His chains went to work, shattering two of the robots. He shouted a warning to the others. Overload covered Chainmail’s flank. Funhouse moved to help. The walls. They were coming alive everywhere.
For a moment, it looked ugly. The wall-robots were everywhere. They weren’t enough. Not against the badasses they were up against. But the numbers. And when knocked down, they rebuilt. Scarab got off a massive EMP. That bought them some time.
Chainmail found a power room. Jaguar found a prototype assembly room. Templar found a component storage and fabrication area. Overload found living quarters—cafeteria, security, break room.
They needed to hack the computer systems. They needed power to run the computer systems. Scarab called to Funhouse. They were running out of time. Scarab figured he could jury-rig the power system if Funhouse could hack the computers.
They had less than three minutes.
The geeks went to work. Hacking happened. Funhouse discovered a real annoying design problem. To download the data he’d found—lots of cool data—they needed what he called a dongle. The others searched. Jaguar and Templar found a storage device and a personal computer device. They weren’t dongles, but they were important. Overload found all sorts of security cards and devices on the corpses—skeletons—in the living quarters. He also found what looked like the dongle.
They had less than two minutes.
More hacking and downloading. Templar didn’t like waiting. He told the others he was heading up. Keep an eye out. Then he was gone.
At fifteen seconds left, they had it. They ran for the elevator shaft. Above, Ix and Templar both saw lights in the sky. Trouble en route. Below, another door slammed into place in the elevator shaft. They were sealed in.
Jaguar and Overload gasped and staggered. Gas. Templar dropped down the shaft. He fashioned his divine weapon into a mighty axe. A swing. Another swing. The door was gone. They climbed the shaft.
As they ascended, the ground shook. Something big had impacted above. Ix said they were big men. A second later, they were out of the shaft. The big men were there. Robots. Guardians. No bargaining. No mercy. They fought.
The situation called for it, so they turned to it. It was a desperate measure, cooperation, but they had no choice. And working together was effective. Sure, it numbed their souls, it made them less important. Whatever. And in no time, the first Guardian fell. Chainmail rendered the second one ineffective.
Funhouse and Templar were the first to see it: regeneration. The same sort of behavior they’d seen in the robots below. Faster, though. The fallen Guardian was reforming. More flares in the night sky. Components were scooped up. Consensus was reached. They fled. Mission accomplished. They had a reliable intelligence source.
Monday September 13, 2012
Vulcan Energy, Incorporated. To those who knew of it—most of Freedom City—it was VEI. A fairly sprawling industrial complex. A beacon of hope, home to truly revolutionary geothermal energy research. A promise of freedom from coal and nuclear nightmares.
It’s a scene of chaos. In front of the giant administrative headquarters building, Occupy Wading Way protestors screamed. Angry, frightened, surprised. Mostly frightened. One group surrounded Chainmail. Another group watched Scarab try to escape VEI security. Armored security troops, not rent-a-cops. And near the fabrication building, Funhouse and Templar laid into each other. Some distance away, Overload engaged a small squad of armored troops. And Jaguar sprinted onto the scene to see Firestorm attacking three teenagers, seconds away from incinerating them.
End Session One
End Chapter One