Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Episode 35 - Before the Deluge

The Immortals managed to defeat the Genies, but the battle was not over. Mystery Man had gotten Ea (Enki, Dr. Heimholtz) to safety and the doctor warned him not to let the team face Enlil, fearing he was too powerful. Once sure he was okay Mystery Man returned to Lancaster's home.
Meanwhile back at the estate, the team faced the Sandstorm and decided to take the fight inside Lancaster's home. They were able to get in fairly quickly, but not before Enlil managed to zap both Phoenix and Marduk with bolts of lightning.
The team discovered the office of Lancaster with some Cuneiform tablets and computers showing seismic and bathymetric data of a site roughly a thousand miles south in the Arabian Sea. They piled the stuff back to their inn, and following Ea's advice they split up to find Anu.
  • Ea and Mystery Man discovered a mystical castle where the ruins of an ancient Ziggurat should be. Mystery Man accepts this on faith, since he sees only the ruins.
  • Phoenix and Banshee notice a highly stepped up presence of Military and Paramilitary (Cromwell Industries) personnel as though they were on alert, when they heard of the castle, they quickly, but casually make their way up there.
  • Marduk and Dragonfly find the rug merchant who recognizes Marduk's armor. They banter a bit, and Marduk asks about Anu. The rug merchant points behind him. There stands the little girl he met earlier. She offers little in the way of answers, and if anything is more cryptic than the other two.
The team plus Ea and Anu assemble at the gate of the Ziggurat, but most of the people saw only ruins hidden behind the hurricane fencing. Slowly they all began to see the great gaudy gold and jeweled palace. No windows and no other doors, just one big locked one. DragonFly pushed his shrinking and was able to enter the lock of the big door, and using his 'vocational learning' was able to unlock the big door. The team entered and found themselves in a large hall with an enormous throne at one end covered in ancient glyphs. Dr. Heimholtz's curiosity got the best of him, and he went to read the inscriptions. As soon as he touched the throne he disappeared.
There was some dicussion about wht to do next. Phoenix did a quick search of the building, which was complicated by a vast series of deadend and useless corridors. Marduk and Anu discussed Marduk's intentions. Did he come to claim the throne, to start a war or what? Marduk said he would take the throne. And he did. He did not disappear. He demanded the return of Ea, and his wish appeared to be granted as the doctor reappeared.
The team made its way upstairs and discovered a temple room with a strange altar connected to a bank of computers and monitors. Anu says that there is a star in the altar. Ea says it is time for he and Anu to bestow their powers on Marduk. He removed his amulet, and asked Anu to imbue it with her power. She asked Marduk if that is also his wish. He said yes, and so she did. The amulet grew and took the shape of a large lens. And seconds later all hell breaks loose. A rocket of fire and energy launches from the lens and blasts through the roof of the castle. "Heimholtz" says "That went better than I expected" but seemed to have lost his German accent. Before they could respond, Enlil (in the shape of Heimholtz) teleported away with Anu. Marduk summoned his mighty sword in hopes of destroying the lens. His attack is partially successful. His mighty blade damages the lens, but the point of impact becomes a 'leak' in the energy stream and a cone of explosive force knocks everyone in its path against the wall and into unconsciousness. The main thrust of the energy flies in a parabolic arc southward to the Arabian Sea where it boils away the water.
Phoenix searches the castle for Anu and find her, as well as Ea and Enlil. He rescues Anu returning her to the altar room, then goes to explore the rest of the castle, including another locked door. He permeates through the locked door, and finds himself in a cylindrical room, after a momet inside high winds begin which rapidly turn into tornado winds. When the team goes to rescue Ea, but Enlil sends him to join Phoenix in the whirlwind dungeon.
The team spends precious time rescuing the various people, and discovers that the effects of the blast are beginning to be noticed by the satellite systems. The damage has already begun.
Above them they saw Enlil playing with the USAF jets sending their missiles flying and swatting at the jets as they try to fly past.
It seems clear that they can't just destroy the lens. But now the real Heimholtz offers Marduk his power, which he gladly takes. Anu says that she can send the star away, once Marduk releases it from its prison. She warns that after he releases the star he will be in no shape to deal with Enlil. The team girds itself for a fight with Enlil before they can deal with the Star Beam.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Episode 34 - The Gods Must Be Crazy

Some time has passed since the last adventure. Phoenix (formerly Jack Flash) has learned of his new abilities, in particular the ability to generate flames around his body by vibrating his molecules at super human speeds. Hephaestus and Ormand packed up and set sail for a sea journey of unspecified distance and duration. Hephaestus indicated he would leave his suit behind, just to avoid the temptation to use it drunk. Marduk finished up the semester and finals and found himself talking with Dr. Heimholtz as the later prepared his things for a journey of his own. He told Allen (Marduk) to get packing as the two of them we leaving for Iraq shortly. Mystery Man and Banshee acclimated to the environs of the Academy and began to work with the team to develop some secret maneuvers (to be determined later). Banshee also spent some time on the lab working up Jack's (Phoenix's) DNA to determine what changed during his resurrection.
A couple weeks later, Drs. James (Marduk) Allen and Hans (Ea) Heimholtz arrived in Baghdad and traveled to the site of the ancient seat of power, Nippur. This was now a relatively quiet suburb of Baghdad. The explored the city for sometime but never doing the sorts of things one would do to establish a dig. There was no bargaining for supplies, no arranging with the local authorities, it was different. Finally Heimholtz just sort of shrugged his shoulders in frustration and admitted he had brought Marduk here, because he felt summoned. He was sure it was for a 'summit' of the Gods, and yet no one had come for them. As if on cue, a Bentley pulled up and Lord Ewan Lancaster, of the British Museum greeted them. He invited them into his car and drove them to his estate outside of town. He too seemed interested in the events transpiring and suggested that the Gods might be trying to recreate the story of a great deluge sent to destroy mankind (which Marduk prevented in mythology). There was much talk of the three suggesting that Heimholtz (Ea) and Lancaster were two, and there was some mysterious third. The way the conversation went, Marduk was led to believe the Third was Enlil a vengeful and cruel god, so presumably Lancaster was Anu.

They returned to the town, and shortly thereafter encountered a strange phenomenon in a hidden courtyard. Rising up from a fountain, a strange blue genie like form appeared and attacked them. It was no match for Marduk, so cowardly it attacked Heimholtz. He was stricken paralyzed and dehydrated. Marduk rushed to help him. Holding him in the water seemed to help him. Whiled holding him the Genie (Marid) escaped. He was also visited by a young Iraqi girl who seemed to believe he was baptizing the old man. She disappeared in the crowd, and when Marduk abandoned his charge to follow her, he lost her several times. When he did catch up to her, she was gazing up into the sky, there he saw a US helicopter plummeting to the Earth. He leaped into its path and managed to cushion its fall allowing the crew to escape with only minor injuries, but leaving him unconscious under the mighty wreck. When he returned to the fountain, the girl and Dr. Heimholtz were gone.
He contacted the Team and let them know his situation. They decided to join him, and called in a favor with the gov't to fly out.
Once the team assembled they decided to visit Lancaster again, and hope to learn something. Marduk asked a contact in the reserves to help him out, and once again a helicopter arrived to shuttle the team to Lancaster's villa. They had to be dropped off outside the compound, because technically, the army considered that area British.
When the team entered the compound they were greeted by Lancaster who wasted few words before confessing that he too was a God, and not Anu, but rather Enlil. He summoned his four genies before the Immortals: Djinni (air), Ifrit (fire), Dao (earth) and the Marid (water) encountered before. Phoenix went into Plan A, and ensnared Lancaster. Then general brawl broke out. Lancaster was able to teleport out of his bonds, but his genies remained. This fight was a close one, at one point or another, nearly all of the Immortals were knocked unconscious, as were most of the Genies. The Marid had some sort of healing powers, and healed his allies making them difficult to keep down. Eventually, the Immortals focused their attacks on him, and once he was knocked out, the rest began to follow. They took out the Djinni and amazingly the indestructible Dao, and had snared the Ifrit when he tried to flee, taking Phoenix with him. At that point a supernatural sandstorm arose to defend the villa from their onslaught. Mystery Man portal'd blindly into the villa and miraculously found Heimholtz and rescued him from Enlil by teleporting with him his maximum distance. The rest of the team sought cover from the terrible winds and hunkered down until they could properly siege the small palace.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Episode 33 - Ashes to Ashley, Tusk to Tusk

The funeral of Jack "Flash" Summerhall was not much different from any other small private funeral. Grieving family, friends and coworkers there to show their respects, an ex-lover there for one last look. But this funeral WAS quite different.
During the ceremony what appeared to be some former acquaintance seemed unusually moved for someone who claimed only to be "an old girlfriend from college." She made two rounds to the coffin and shed many tears over the wooden casket.
Also present, not unexpectedly, but perhaps unfortunately, William Thompson, a.k.a "Hephaestus" clearly intoxicated, and stumbling. Mystery Man didn't recognize him, out of costume, and helped him to the ceremony, keeping him upright.
The ceremony went much as one expects these things to go. Marduk noticed the woman (above) glaring at him with an accusing look, and was about to speak with her, when something behind her caught his eye. Not wanting to alarm anyone, he signaled to the other team members to sit tight and let him check it out. He strode into the part of the graveyard occupied by large marble crypts, there, hiding behind one of the larger such crypts was the unmistakable form of Tusk, the Human-Elephant. Tusk tried to grab the god of War, but even caught off guards, Marduk's reflexes were too quick. He easily eluded the pachyderm's grasp. Wondering what brought the elephant man to the funeral, Marduk tried reasoning with the man-beast. He found himself staring into the deep eyes of the villain, and suddenly 'falling into them' as though he was racing down a waterslide. Moments later he found himself, once more inside the body of Tusk. And once more his own body addressed him with impunity. A fight broke out and Marduk in Tusk's body found himself struggling against the superior foe inside his own body. The rest of the team, noticing the combat, came to his aide, but seeing only their friend engaged with a known villain, they helped knock out the body of Tusk. Strangely when that happened Tusk didn't stay down. Apparently freed from Marduk's control the "real" Tusk was able to once again assert control over his body, and seeing four super heroes surrounding Tusk decided to flee. He didn't get far before Banshee and Mystery Man brought him down. Sadly for Dragon Fly, this left him alone with the villain in Marduk's body, who summarily dispatched him with a single blow.
Eventually the team got up and found 'Marduk' holding Jack's mother tightly to him. Dragonfly challenged him to release the frightened woman, but Marduk held her tight and began moving her to a car. With Marduk's strength he could snap her like a twig.
Eventually, Mystery Man was able to liberate Mrs. Summerhall, and the team was able to face Marduk without a hostage. By name the real Marduk had once again gained control of Tusk and entered the fray. Seeing his best friend's mother held hostage, seeing the villain use his own body for the crime put him into a rage. And like a rogue elephant, Marduk gored the villain, in his own body with his sharp tusks. His body fell bloody and dying from a mortal blow. If not for the quick actions of his team, his body might have died. Then through force of will Marduk once again traded placed with the villain sending him into the body of poor Tusk.

As all this was happening, something else was happening as well. Whether it was a coincidence of time. A preternatural sense of his mother in danger, the tears of his tragic lover falling on the coffin, Jack woke up. He was without movement or sensation except for his ears to the near silence of the tomb, his eyes to the blackness of the coffin. Somehow he knew he was buried, he knew he had to get out, but he couldn't move. Then the pain came. His nerves rapidly regenerating, but for a man who experienced time 500 times faster than a normal man, that regeneration was agonizingly slow. He recalled the claims of physicists that death in a black hole, though certain, would take an eternity as the very fabric of time stretch on to infinity at the same time as space itself. For Jack Flash the pain was excruciating and seemingly unending. But beneath the pain, beneath the dread and fear, was the heart of a hero. Through inhuman fortitude and endurance Jack persevered and survived. Eventually his body regenerated to the point no physical damage remained. The scars of his torture would linger a while longer.
Trying to recreate the trick that saved him from the fate of C4, Jack vibrated his newly reconstituted body to the frequency of the wood and soil above him and pushed his way out of the grave.
Those still in attendance stood shocked to catch of glimpse of him. They saw the very air about him charged with St. Elmo's fire as he literally rose, like the phoenix, from his own ashes. Seeing the oddity of his situation Jack sent a simple signal "catch you back at the ranch" and he was gone. His mother turned to see him only for a moment, before Jack moved so quickly he could not be seen. As suddenly as he appeared, he was gone, only a small cloud of smoke stood where he was, and that quickly dispersed.

The team secured Tusk, or whoever it was, but that did not end the drama. As soon as the immediate danger was over Dragon Fly turned on Thompson and knocked him down. He began to pummel the helpless man until Mystery Man pulled him off their erstwhile teammate. Dragon Fly lit into the sodden Thompson with condemnation and accusations. He blamed Hephaestus for Jack's death and the escape of the dangerous villains because of his drunkeness and his failures to be a hero. He insisted that Thompson could not be trusted with the powered armor, and insisted it be removed from him. Although mostly passive during this, Thompson defended his possession of the suit and refused its surrender. Eventually, through the cool-headedness of Mystery Man, they all returned to the Academy and discussed the matter.

Jack explained his experience as best he could, and cautioned the team from revealing his coming back to life before he could figure out whether he could spare his family from future danger by allowing the world to believe him dead. He told the team to, for now, call him 'Phoenix.'
Marduk's wounds were treated and by morning he was fit and ready for action. His godlike constitution accounting for his remarkable recovery. No longer needing sleep, Phoenix was startled in the late morning just before dawn by the doorbell. When he went to check it, he saw a figure flying off into the dawn, and a Conch Bouquet of flowers. In Ashley's (Tiamat's) handwriting was the note:
Welcome back to the land of the living.
You can thank me when you have a chance.
Be seeing you. -A

The Immortals having defeated death itself, now faced a more intractable foe. They agreed to debate the status and role of Hephaestus in the team, given his obvious alcoholism.
Everyone gets 1XP.