I start looking into my birth parents, X tries to figure out who Union Jack‘s companion had been, Phoenix chats with Captain Awesome, and according to the news, a tropical storm is developing out of season and is heading for the US’s eastern coast, getting stronger as it approaches.
X enlists Lightning’s help in looking for Jack’s disappearing date, she eventually comes up with the name, “Candace Toff”, the only thing that stands out in her background is that her mediocre high school career was a little discordant with her Political Science degree, which she completed on an accelerated schedule with straight A’s. Checking the traffic cams and everything (which are apparently quite plentiful in Great Britain), they can’t find any trace of where she’s gone. X compiles a dossier since she hasn’t been spotted since, and sends it to Jack with a note indicating that we think she might be Promethean and that when she disappeared from the hospital we weren’t sure if it was by choice.
Captain Awesome tells Phoenix that she must decide for herself what to do, not to worry about what makes life easier or more difficult for the Titans, do what she needs to do for her own mental well-being, and the Titans will be behind her no matter what her decision. (documentation only, even Knockout doesn’t know).
Lightning had her own stuff to do so I tracked down the agency which my adoptive parents used. It went out of business about ten years ago, and if the name of the agency, “Next Generation Placement Agency” wasn’t ominous enough, when I called up a photo of the owner/operator Trevor Kite, the picture that came up when I tried to track him down was a younger Alexei Novetnov! I haven’t told anyone yet, need to think about it and do some more research, this definitely seems to be related to Chimera and it scares the heck out of me that they’ve known about me for that long… I told Lightning but she didn’t know what to say, I think I’m going to take this to Miss Midnight.
We were all called to the briefing room, Captain Awesome and Miss Midnight were looking at a map of the US with the weather patterns overlaid, Warden has projected rates of growth and it looks like it will be devastating. And all UN email addresses received the same message. “You have 48 hours to release Lord Havoc, or else this storm will hit the United States,” yadda yadda weather control, big threats, just the beginning, etc.
They tell us that the UN is quickly going to put pressure on us to resolve this. So we’re going to do our other job, saving the world, before we’re asked.
We all worked on it, and traced the email back to somewhere in Switzerland, so we started looking for anything odd… We found on satellite pictures an area in the Alps where someone has constructed pillboxes, looks like it could hold 200-400 troops as well as armoured vehicles, large killing field, could hold against an army. It was a moderate avalanche area until 4 years ago, but there’s been absolutely no avalanche activity since then.
There’s a chalet at the top of one of the mountains which would ahve a pretty good view of all the activity that must have been necessary for the place’s construction, but we were unable to determine who owned it… Captain Awesome suggested that half of us hit it from the front and the other half sneaks in the back, there’s got to be some kind of hidden passageway in the chalet, try to figure out why they’re there and why they want Lord Havoc… Havoc never had followers, he only ever had his machines, they’re all that he trusted. We figure this could be some kind of rabid cultist following who would never listen to reason even if we told him Havoc would be of no use to them. X askes if he’s powered down, the answer is probably.
Lightning, Valkyrie, and Seven are going to hit the back while X, Phoenix, Shockwave, Red and I do the frontal assault… Pull the baddies, keep aggro, and kite them to keep them off the other party, just like old times on LOTRO and WOW raids… Fighting armoured vehicles is a real pain given the amount of armour they’ve got, but Shockwave suggests bringing some spray paint along. With the vision slots, sensors and gun sights painted over, they’re essentially useless even if they’re completely intact.
I pack a knapsack and some cans of spraypaint, and I’ll be keeping an open channel with Lightning any time I’m not sending messages to my teammates.
We chart the Lancer‘s flight plan over Swiss airspace and then we’re going to manufacture an excuse to make an emergency landing in the mountains, Shockwave has plans to make it a legitimate excuse. Winter camo for everyone… Lightning’s group is teleporting in, and when we get to about 20 minutes to ETA, she tells us they’re in place.
Nobody’s there when we land but as we’re closing the distance to the location Lightning tells me that they’re about to take out the sentries and to let her know when we’re about to hit. Red Star stealths ahead, so do X and Shockwave… I try, but step loudly on a branch when Lightning yells into my head, “Oh. My. God.” What?? “The side of the mountain just opened up and something is coming out of it.”
I relay this to the rest of my team and Lightning’s in combat by the time I get back to her. We get to a gatepost in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by defenses… Way in the back, we can see two 4-legged walkers that look for all the world like something right out of Girl Genius, the skull van is there in the back too, white with a black skull, and guys pop up from trenches. Dudes with AK-47’s, a guy who looks like an officer, oversized pistol in one hand, laser sword in the other, hollering in what Shockwave later tells us is Serbo-Croatian with the accent sounding Croatian, Firebats in powered armour suits with dual flamethrowers, and Marauders, in the same powered armour suits with funny contraptions attached that we later find launch globes of acid.
I put up my shield and try to KO the commander, while letting Lightning know that we’re engaging. Somewhere off in the distance, I could see a giant zeppelin. Phoenix whips off her collar, everyone else gets ready or takes their opening shots. I got hit by a wall of fire. Dear gods it burns. And I have to get better with my Knockout Physique, I didn’t even have to go unconscious for it to drop! One good hit and I’m fat in public! This is not to be! I think between the parka I was wearing and all the activity going on, nobody really noticed, but good grief. I don’t want this happening again, my personal insecurities should not be drawing my attention away from combat!
Team Titan does some damage, I stun the officer, and then one of the guys with the AK’s shot me. In the heiney. OW. The officer has a go at Shockwave, doing a flying overhead chop with his laser sword. With his long trench coat flying behind him, it looks impressive up to the point when the sword fizzles on impact. A second later his unconscious body rolls to a stop. Everyone else seems to be taking care of the walkers and the remaining dudes (except the group shooting at me) so I throw my purple Tremclad can as far as I can heave it towards the Skull Truck, catch it with TK and get ready to start painting the windows and windshield so the drivers can’t do anything. At some point we realize our electronics aren’t working.
I can see the Zeppelin disgorging its biplane fighters.
The steampunk crab walkers kept missing Phoenix with their icicle barrages. Red knocked over the truck, two guys got out and started running as the truck exploded, but Shockwave caught them after one of the crabwalkers almost shot him with its icicles. X picked up and threw one of the guys in 800 kg of powered armour into the nest of guys who’d shot at me, after having headbutted the guy so hard he cracked the face shield on the suit…
And Lightning is babbling in my head about a floating navy destroyer. Phoneix is trying to beat up the one walker that hasn’t retreated but it eventually runs away too. Red picks up the unconscious officer.
From Lightning, we hear that reinforcements are coming, the ship eventually gets through the jammed doors, incredible range on its lightning cannons and it has anti-aircraft lasers. We make a run for the Lancer but we go well past it, telling it to get out of here. X grabs me and flys me faster than I cold have run, keeping it low to prevent the screaming… Two biplanes from the zeppelin take off after the lancer, and the zeppelin shoots lightning at it.
Then my mindlink with Lightning goes dead. I guess she went unconscious but Valkyrie was too busy fighting to talk, I can even hear the church music playing in her head as she fights… once we get it all sorted out, Lightning told me she just thought I’d “hung up”. She said they made it into the chalet and past the guards, past a hangar bay where they fouled the doors, they found officers, made their way to the room with some weather control devices powered by a Promethean device. Seven told Valkyrie exactly where to hit it, and she did and it broke apart. Firebats and Marauders came to visit and after the fight the artifact was gone, Lightning swears she saw a long black-clad arm grabbing it…
So the main body of The Black Skull got away, I bet we haven’t seen the last of them. The landship was picked up on satellite. From all accounts, it looks like the WWII British Admiralty V class naval destroyer, made up to look like The Vampire, which was sunk in the Bay of Bengal by the Japanese.
After we finally met up with our Lancer and started heading home, I was complaining about having been shot and Red lifted his shirt and showed me a nasty scar on his chest, he muttered something about a sucking chest wound. Somehow he also ended up telling me about having his nose broken on purpose (though unbeknownst to him) at his first combat lesson, so it would never hurt that badly ever again.
This time we make sure to call ahead to Midnight and let her know about our “guest” before we arrive, she tells us the storm appears to be breaking up, and we give her a preliminary briefing on the situation so she can presumably relay it to the Swiss, who should be properly embarrassed that something that big was allowed to fester in their country rather than irriated that we didn’t go through all the proper procedures… and we should probably also mention it to Inspecteur Clousseau of INTERPOL.
Picking the officer’s brain
Once we’ve gotten our other obligations cleared up, we finally getting around to pulling the Black Skull officer out of the holding cells for a chat. Casanova takes the role of lead investigator, with Shockwave acting as translator for the Croatian officer.
Casanova’s ability to get people talking is outright superhuman, and once he shows an interest in the motives of Black Skull the officer gets downright talkative. Black Skull is a group of socialist revolutionaries, looking to overthrow the world’s corrupt capitalist governments and replace them with a socialist utopia. (SW: both he and I come from the same former “socialist utopia”, but I certainly don’t remember it being much of an utopia. Maybe it was different in whatever delusional world he thinks he was living in…) They intended to get Lord Havoc himself to command his legions of Havoc machines to assist them in rapidly crushing the armies of the world, while minimizing the number of civilian casualties that a prolonged conflict would cause.
The leader of the Black Skull organization is a Promethean who calls himself Black Skull, the lieutenant knows that he was in the Swiss base but has no idea where his leader personally retreated to.
When asked about how he and his men were recruited, he responds that they were members of the Croatian Defence Forces during the Yugoslav wars. After the wars were over they were demobilized and ended up working as “security consultants” and general soldiers-for-hire. Black Skull personally recruited him to help create a new, socialist world order.
The video from the interview was running live in our classroom. Miss Midnight gives a Q&A and critique session as a class exercise after the interview, and then excuses herself.
After our interview ends, Miss Midnight drops in for a brief chat. She gives him two options: tell her how Black Skull intends to control Lord Havoc and walk away a free man, or remain silent and die. He just laughs and says “What would Lord Havoc do for his son?”. This is apparently a good enough answer to save his life.
Since the video feed was still running, everyone in the classroom sees this exchange. Red Star asks her whether she really would have killed him, but she declines to even acknowledge his question.