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Ultimate Vanguard Chronicles 5

Chapter 5: Vanguards, Mobilize!

Herman Schultz slowly swished around the hazel liquor in his glass as he sat at a little hole in the wall, wearing a long jacket over his new suit to hide it as he wore his mask up like a skull cap to keep his hair hidden. He doubted he’d be recognized in a dingy little place like this, but if it came down to it his new vibro-gauntlets could level the place and anyone who pissed him off. And God knows he needed some way to blow off some steam.

He had been hitting the bottle pretty hard since the moment he left the place where Smythe had taken Spider-Woman. He was hoping that the alcohol would put out the fires of rage he felt at the lack of respect he got. But, no matter how much he drank, it didn’t seem to be enough.

All Herman’s life he just wanted respect. But did he get it? No.

First those bastards at Roxxon stole his work and fired him, forcing him to resort to crime to get what he had coming to him. He invented his first shockers for this reason, but then came the damn Spider came out of nowhere and intervened time and time again. Then, once the kid croaked it, two more took his place.

Time and time again he ended up in some prison, only to break out time and time again because no one took him seriously. Even other villains took him as a joke. It was unbearable to live with the thought that, despite everything he had done, despite the tools that he developed, he was a joke to everyone.

Downing the glass of alcohol, Herman wondered if he should just leave town once he got paid. Take the money and start a new life under a new name. Good bye to Herman Schultz, hello some new guy with forged papers to start life as an engineer somewhere else…

No.” he growled in a low and biting tone. He refused to be seen as a joke anymore. Herman—no, Shocker, was going to get his as he was. He would show everyone he wasn’t one to call a clown!

Tossing some crumpled up bills onto the counter for the drinks he made his way out of the bar and pulled out his smartphone that he had gotten for the job. The map feature outlined the path to the nearest bank. It was time to put these gauntlets to use for what they were originally made for, tearing vault doors open.

The trip took less than five minutes, but the alcohol in his system made it seem longer as every step he took was weighted down until he entered the revolving door and into the foyer of the bank. Making sure to adjust the gauntlets for a Level 1 release to deal with the security guards, he pulled his mask down and covered his face. With a hoarse voice he yelled, “EVERYONE ON THE FLOOR!

To the security guards and teller’s credit, they followed protocol to the letter. Guns were drawn as the metal shutters slammed down over the bulletproof glass and the silent alarm was pressed. The sheep cowered, having been in New York long enough to know that when a guy in a mask and costume shows up play it safe and wait for one of the heroes or cops.

It was time to go to work, and Herman kicked things off with a bang. Aiming his new vibro-gauntlets at the first security guard he pressed the trigger button and the mass of trembling air that was launched caught the guy in the gut, sending him on a little trip into the wall before he collapsed into the mess of huddled sheep.

Thunder rang out as gunshots were fired, the handguns being discharged into him as the people screamed at the abrupt noise. It felt like being hit by foam baseballs, the materials in his suit absorbing and discharging the kinetic energy of the bullets throughout the suit. Same went for the mask, and both were water-proof on top of that.

Herman laughed as he discharged another Level 1 and caught the guy in the chest, one of the floaters breaking under the force of the blow as he sailed back and through one of those desks they had for filling out deposit slips. With those two out of the way, he turned his attention to the defenses they had erected around the teller’s windows. He charged the vibro-gauntlets up to Level 3 and the air shrieked as the force of the blast shook through the metal and hardened glass that could stop bullets, throwing back countless bills and machine parts.

Stepping over the skewed debris of metal and glass, he blew the secured door that led to the corridor to the vault clear and kept walking. Some of the employees working in the back and thought they were safe were crouched over on the floor, begging for him not to hurt them. He stepped over them like the ants they were with a smile under his mask. Let them fear him, as long as they respect him.

Like an impenetrable wall, the vault door stood as a mass of steel several feet thick. The model was one of the sturder ones they sold, capable of standing up to the elements with an airtight seal to prevent the contents from being disturbed. This unyielding obstacle screeched as the vibro-gauntlets were charged and unleashed a Level 5 upon it, metal wailing as the vibrations shook it madly until it submitted and popped off the hinges.

Herman kissed his new gauntlets and stepped into the vault, where bills were stacked on bills like a wall. He pulled out a couple of bags he secured on his way in and prepared to fill them to the brim. Shocker was finally going to get his.

With Maria Hill

HERMAN SCHULTZ!” Maria Hill yelled through the megaphone as she stood outside the bank, having been called in when the silent alarm went out. Camera feeds and facial recognition showed that the perpetrator was Herman Schultz before he put on the mask, also known as the Shocker. “COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP AND YOUR WEAPONS DOWN!

The perimeter was surrounded, civilians kept out of range so they weren’t caught in the crossfire. While, for all intensive purposes, he was a joke character, he was a lethal joke character. The rule was that anyone who put on a suit outside of Halloween in this city was to be treated as a dangerous element, and given how many times he had broken out of prison they weren’t going to take any chances with him. The risk to the hostages was too great to charge in, but the moment he stepped out of those doors they would have him in custody once again through as much force as necessary.

It was then there was the sound of an explosion of plaster and brick, followed by screams and gunfire as the radio crackled to life. “The suspect has broken through the rear wall and engaged. We need back-up! We need—

It died as the air screamed once more, the sound of metal groaning and glass breaking filling the air. The officers circled around to the other side of the bank, another force moving in to vacate the hostages from the inside and direct them to medical they came across was a surprising scene.

Glass littered the streets, windows broken from the buildings lining the main street as a hydrant gushed upwards with the destruction of its upper-half. A lamppost had fallen into a car, the light pole penetrating the windshield. Overturned cars look like they had been crumpled as the bodies of the injured police laid skewed on the ground.

Destruction was commonplace for New York, given how all the meta-humans seemed to flock to their city. But usually the collateral damage for one of Herman Schultz’s attempted robberies ran lower. Either way, those thoughts turned to a reaction when he turned to face them with his gauntlets aimed for them.

They opened fire on him, concentrated fire like machine guns unleashing a barrage against the man as his coat was torn apart. But the suit rendered their efforts meaningless, the constant fire like a ripples in a pond as their impacts were dispersed. They were forced to take cover as the gauntlets returned fire, Level 1s being fired at a rapid pace to lay down cover fire as he made his way down the street in an effort to get away. Navigating along the string of upturned vehicles to serve as bulwarks, they tried cut him off before they had to move the perimeter back again.

It was then Maria Hill heard her men telling her to move and fleeing. She looked up to see a ton of beaten metal hurling towards her, a car tossed into the air by a charged blast of the gauntlets. Her training as a former agent of SHIELD kicked in on reflex and she made to move, but she was at a bad position and the warning came too late, the trajectory of the car ensured that escape was hopeless.

Then came the black and red blur that swept her up to safety as the crashing of metal became a distant sound. The first of the heroes had arrived. Maria Hill found herself in the arms of Spider-Man, staring into the lenses of his mask as he asked, “Are you okay?”

She nodded and quickly got back up onto her feet, noting they were now on a rooftop overlooking the scene below.

Seeing the youth dressed in red and black, Herman roared as he charged his gauntlets. “SPIDER-MAN!”

Miles wasted no time in leaping off the building a casting a web-line to swing himself in a pendulum motion, straight into Herman, before he could cause anymore problems. The kick sent him careening back, but not before he managed to get off a Level 2 on the teen hero and sent him flying in return. Miles landed into one of the overturned cars, flipping it over. Before another blast reached him the shadows wrapped Miles tightly and pulled him in before the intensified blast tore through the asphalt and metal in its wake.

“HEY!” yelled the next heroine, Lana standing at his back with burning-orange rings around her wrists. Similar to him, both Lana’s concussive and explosive blasts were judged on a scale ranging from Level 1 to Level 10. Against unarmored and non-empowered individuals she was restricted to using up to a Level 3 by Daisy, but considering he was wearing some sort of dampening suit that warded off bullets she ramped it up to a Level 5 out of the gate. “PAYBACK TIME!”

The blow was unleashed and Herman coughed blood that refused to stick to his mask, instead sliding down his neck and suit. He was tossed down the asphalt before crumbling to his knees from the Level 5 shockwave released from her fist. The pressure wave slammed through his flesh and suit to attack his inner organs and nausea surfaced.

“This is your only warning,” Lana told him. “Stay down and tell us where Spider-Woman is!”

Unwilling to submit to defeat again from children, Herman eyed a nearby parking meter and fired a Level 3 into the ground with both hands at an angle, the blast launching him towards it before her next strike could connect. Standing behind it and banking on it being full, he unleashed a blast that turned the coins into shrapnel once fired.

Lana jettisoned herself out of the way using her powers as the rain of coins turned into deadly projectiles peppered the building behind her, breaking off chunks of the brick and breaking the glass. Herman moved to the next few parking meters and did the same once more, forcing her to take refuge behind a car. Annoyed, she pressed the wireless in her ear and it crackled to life as she spoke. “Kid, tell me you’re done with whatever you were doing, or I’m skipping straight to blasting him to pieces!”

Already done,” Miles stated over the line as the firing stopped. Herman found himself staring at a spider-web too thick to squeeze through, his exit cutoff with Miles on the web like…well, a spider. He took a couple of pot-shots as Miles dived out of the way and spoke into his wireless. “Dagger, any time now?

At that he landed into a crouch on the street and Herman lined up a shot. Two light daggers streaked through the air and penetrated the vibro-gauntlets, causing them spark as the shorted out. Dagger spoke into her communication device to move to the next phase. “Now, Ty.”

Herman turned to flee now that his primary weapons were gone, only to find Tyrone at his back, cloak open to display the smoky chasm of darkness that made up his form. There was no time to flee or escape as the darkness lashed out in a tangible form and ensnared him. Herman was dragged kicking and screaming into the darkness, Tandy skating from above on light trails before entering into the abyss after him.

With the target subdued for the moment the group gathered around Cloak to await the results of the interrogation going on inside. They had discussed it on the way over and decided since Miles couldn’t be tough enough and Lana was too rough, it fell onto Cloak and Dagger. Since Tandy was living light, she was the sole source of it within the Dark Matter that made of Tyrone’s physiology and thus the most comfortable within the realm. As Lana could testify, you did not want to be in there without light, so it gave her an advantage.

A minute later Tandy stepped out of her boyfriend, dragging Herman’s unconscious body with her and said, “I got a location.”

“Call it in,” Miles stated. She tapped her communication device and sent word to Daisy Johnson, who instructed Johnny Storm to play his role and the flare went up in the distant sky mere seconds later, telling them where to go. Miles said cast a web-line and took to the air with the others following, leaving Herman behind for the cops.

Maria Hill slowly walked up to the man and removed his mask, before flipping him on his back and removing the broken gauntlets to apply handcuffs. She then turned to some of the others and issued a command. “Someone get this clown in a transport and make sure he gets to a cell this time!”

With Alistair Smythe

Alistair Smythe kept his face beneath the visor an impassive mask as he turned off the stun-disk feature of the slayer-bot that held Jessica paralyzed, now that the truth serum has had time to work its way through her system. It was time to get some answers. However, before the questioning could begin, a warning prompt appeared in his visor and he switched the view to the slayer-bots he posted outside to see the living flame approach after sending up a signal flare.

He quickly cycled through the rest of the distant views of the slayer-bots he had positioned in various points for roughly half-a-mile as a precaution. It was then he caught sight of the rest of the children coming towards them. Their base of operations had been compromised. Complications in the overall scheme of things, but should he act in the appropriate manner it would be a boon rather than a bane.

“Boomerang, Mysterio, get ready for uninvited guests,” Smythe stated to the pair, using the slayer-bots near them as a speaker system through the helmet he wore. “The children are coming. All of them.”

What about Shocker?” Frederick Myer asked, his voice transferring through the bot, as he donned his gear.

Tuning the ear pieces attached to the helmet to the police radio frequencies, Smythe scowled as he listened to the report. “The fool tried to rob a bank and was subdued. He’s dead weight. Capture the children.”

There was no more time for discussion after that as flames ate through the ceiling in a hole, followed by the Human Torch. The living flame’s eyes fell upon Spider-Woman, who was behind him, and he streaked towards Smythe in an angry rage to try and save her. Smythe mentally sent out the command for the suit to come up with an equalizer to neutralize the current threat.

The suit itself was made to handle combat with empowered-humans, but not this one in particular as he was unexpected. However, the suit’s processors were far faster than even the speed he was moving, allowing Smythe to calculate a counter-strategy with the arsenal it had. Concussive missiles were launched from shoulder slot that appeared, their trajectory calculated so they would hit one another before him.

The Human Torch was thrown back as he felt the concussive force tossing his body aside, his flight canceled as he tumbled to the floor. Just as he rose back onto his feet, he caught sight of Smythe extending his hand as the armor warped it into a cannon. He quickly fired a sleek dart of flame at the armored man, who moved his head to the side to avoid it, and countered by firing a concussive beam of that slammed into Johnny like a car moving at a high-speed, throwing him through the wall of the room.

“This annoyance will be dealt with permanently,” Smythe said as the nanotech in his armor transfigured his spare hand into a blade and he stepped through the opening. As he did so, he failed to notice that the slayer-bot perched on Jessica’s shoulder had been melted off…

With Shocker & Mysterio

Frederick Myers and Quentin Beck had maybe a minute to get suited up after Alistair Smythe sent out the warning. After that the walls had been blown out by an explosion courtesy of Lana and her friends stepped through the opening as the smoke wrapped around their bodies until it faded. The villains and young heroes wasted no time in acting.

With a flick of his wrists four collapsible Bomberangs were flung in arches towards the kids courtesy of Frederick, who moved to avoid standing still and becoming a target. Miles struck fast both hands extended as impact webbing managed to intercept and encompass the explosives, rendering them harmless as the shrapnel from the bombs were stuck inside the dense webbing.

Lana struck next, a focused and concussive Level 3 blast from her hands at Mysterio. The figure wavered as the blast passed through him harmlessly and then sputtered out, smoke and sparks rising from the portable projector that supplied the image of a target for her to hit. The surprise cost her a moment’s distraction, which was all Frederick needed.

Plan Four!” he yelled as he loaded and unleashed several Fumarangs and tossed them, smoke erupting shortly after he released them from his grip and they hit the ground, triggering the pressure-sensitive sensors and filling the room with the smoke. Quentin, while veiled in the light-bending camouflage device his suit was equipped with, one of the many upgrades he made since he was freed from his imprisonment, used the minor distraction to its fullest in accordance to the plan. He released his spider-sense disrupting gas in with the smoke and tossed out portable holographic generators that conjured a bunch of Frederick copies to hide the real one as the smoke thinned itself out, leaving them with no clue as to know which was real.

“They’re illusions!” Miles declared. “It’s Mysterio’s tricks!”

“One of us is real! Lazorangs!” said the chorus as they all unleashed a barrage of the spinning boomerangs of death in a straight barrage of illusive saws that drew their attention. Cloak acted as a shield for them with his cloak spread, while the real Frederick wisely and quietly threw a Shockrang in a manner that it would curve around and strike the spider-brat from behind. With his spider-sense disrupted, he wouldn’t see it coming and get enough electricity to the noggin to put down an elephant. The boomerang began to spark as it flew, drawing the attention of Lana.

“Kid, duck!” Lana yelled as she threw an explosive blast his way. He did so at the last moment, mostly because he saw the burning orange rings around her wrists that indicated she was getting ready to shoot, and thus avoided the shock of a lifetime.

“Thanks. My spider-sense didn’t pick up on it…” He shook his head at the absence of the buzzing that served as a warning, despite the danger they were in. “No, something’s wrong. It isn’t working. I can’t discern which is the real one with it or find where Mysterio’s hiding.”

“Then we’ll hit them all!” Tandy decided as she leapt over Cloak and into the air. Light then gathered in her hands and coalesced into a rain of daggers that she flung into the veil to attack the illusions. The pitched daggers perforated all but one that dodged, leaving the holographic devices shorting out. It singled out the real one. “There!”

“On it.” Miles nailed him with a blast of impact webbing that swelled in the air and encompassed his torso as the force carried over and left Frederick on the ground. “One down.”

“I’ll find the other one,” Tyrone stated as he opened his cloak of dark matter as wide as he could and the shadows spread, slowly bleeding across the empty space until it came across the illusionist eventually. Once he did, he would drag him into the darkness.

Fredrick clicked his tongue at the way things were turning. A good leader knew when to fold and cut his losses, and Smythe wasn’t worth going into a cell again. Time to rabbit. He gave his hidden illusionist a final order as they moved in for the capture. “Give ’em the gas!

Miles recognized the numerous ampoules of Mysterio’s special blend of fear gas flying towards them and recalled his previous experience with the substance. “Don’t breathe it in!” he warned. “It’ll make your worst fears appear and feel real!”

It was too late, however, as the liquid in the ampoules violent vaporized when they broke. The fear gas filled the room in short order, trapping them in their fears:

The world in Miles’ vision shifted to that of a hospital floor, where he watched his father cradle his mother’s corpse as she bled out on his knees. He was just there, crying over her corpse as he remained in the ever expanding crimson pudding. When Miles took a step forward his father’s gaze fell upon him and turned murderous. “This is all your fault! If only you hadn’t become a freak and put on a costume! You brought this upon our family!”

The words cut deep as knives, carving bloody furrows into the depths of his soul. His voice was choked as he tried to say, “I-I didn’t—”

His voice went silent as the crimson pool of blood turned into a black mire that towered behind his father. It squirmed, writhing over itself like countless black worms that took the behemothian form of Venom, white pupils narrowed as it looked down to the corpse and grieving father. The pointed prehensile tongue was exposed as its maw opened and revealed the jagged and crooked fangs. It dove for the fresh meat.

“Look out!” Miles reached out a hand and tried to save him, but he failed as the black behemoth bit down and he witnessed his father’s end, all while he was staring at him like he was a freak.

Lana’s vision was that of a battlefield, the scent of gunpowder and acrid smoke in her nose making her feel sick. The feeling doubled when she spotted her mother lying on the ground, broken and burned out as soldiers stepped over her like a spent weapons to continue their fight. In the end she died as a meaningless tool of war, seen as less than human because of her powers as a Mutate.

Tandy found herself in the company of her parents and Tyrone, before her vision was blinded by light radiating from her uncontrollably and spilling forth like a shining star. The light eroded her parents from existence as she watched desperately, only to turn at the scream coming from her boyfriend. The light was like a strong wind and his body made of black dust, scattering him slowly from the bottom up as he reached for her. Tandy tried to grab him, but the moment contact was made, he disintegrated in her arms completely.

Last was that of Tyrone’s, whose body collapsed into itself. It became a black eddy that sucked in everything around it, pulling in everything as Tandy’s luminescent was drawn to him. No matter how hard he tried to stop it, he took more and more inside of him and was unable to stop his decent into a black hole, eventually swallowing the love of his life and the world.

“NO!” In a fit of desperation and recalling it was an illusion based on the gas, he pulled it all inside of him and cleared the room. Even though the visions only lasted mere seconds as Cloak pulled the gas into his body to rid them of the hallucinogenic mist, they were all shaken as they came to their senses…just to discover the pair was gone, the webbing that was around Frederick now melted on the ground by Mysterio using his own blend of web-dissolving fluid as they escaped through the opening the team made on their entrance.

“Let’s go after them!” Lana declared, shaking with anger at the vision.

“No,” Miles stated from his position, looking at the spot where he watched his parents get eaten. “I know how you’re feeling, but we’ve wasted too much time with them in what was supposed to be a rescue mission. The Human Torch hasn’t said he’s gotten Spider-Woman either.”

Shaking her head to clear it of the lingering thoughts, Tandy asked, “Where is he then?”

That question was answered in a very short order as a flaming comet broke through the wall and into the room, sliding along the floor. The dust cleared to reveal Johnny Storm now in his human form, having been tossed around by Smythe, who stepped through the entrance as his sword-hand shifted back into digits.

“I see those two were incapable of subduing the rest of you whelps,” Smythe stated as he mentally directed the slayer-bots on the perimeter to erect another force-field to prevent them from escaping now that he had them all in one place. “No matter, this just means that it comes down to me.”

Tyrone moved to end this immediately, lunging forward and descending like the night itself, seeking to swallow him into the void of his body. “I’ve got this—”

Tyrone’s words were replaced with a scream as the high-pitched shriek of a sonic cannon was directed to him point-blank as Smythe trailed his hand cannon on the living dark matter. As long as he had a mind and ears, the sonic attack was the most effective method of subduing him and the assault sent him on a vertigo trip, pain flooding his body as he tried to cover his ears to no avail until he collapsed to the ground and could barely retain his human shape.

“Stop it!” Dagger cried, skating on her light-skies towards him. She swung her hands and left behind a luminous arch that birthed six daggers of light. They sped towards the Spider-Slayer with intent of perforating him, only to be knocked aside as the suit was covered in a sheen that made it seem red, only allowing certain wavelengths of light to get through and filtering out her daggers based on their position on the spectrum.

He turned to the living incarnation light pretending to be human and fired, giving her the same treatment as her boyfriend. “Two—”

Smythe stopped firing and Tandy collapsed as Lana managed to stagger him back with multiple Level 1 explosive blasts, trying not to catch the others up in the attack due to their close proximity. In annoyance he warped his other hand into an electro-cannon and fired a shot at her. The beam of electricity struck home and Lana screamed before she fell down.

“Three down,” Smythe stated as he noted the Spider-Man was missing. He instantly shifted his vision spectrum to see Miles darting in from above while under his camouflage to deliver a point-blank Venom Blast. Smythe swung his arm cannon and used it as a bludgeon to knock him onto the floor, hard enough that it sent him skipping off the surface and into a wall. The Spider-Slayer aimed the cannon as he struggled to get back on his feet. “It’s over.”

It wasn’t over. There was then a flash of crimson as, leaping from behind the massive bulk of the Spider-Slayer, Jessica appeared to defend her charges. Using his shoulders as a vaulting horse, she twisted in the air and came down to deliver as double-foot kick that staggered him before webbing left her fingertips and covered the visor of his mask. Leaping back after scooping up Tyrone and Tandy, she gave Lana her order and hoped she had reviewed the contingency phrases. “Bombshell, C-2!

Luckily they all had. The designation meant to use a Maximum -Output Concussive-Blast for a single target. Lana forced herself to move as the tongues of electricity still rolling over her body made it a herculean effort, but she managed to hit Smythe with a Level 10, the equivalent of a speeding freight train and Smythe took the full brunt of the blast as he stood in place trying to get the webbing off his visor and was blown back in a single motion.

The armor was all that saved him as he was punched through layers of steel, plaster, and concrete pillars as he was sent flying until he hit his own force-field. He rose to his feet just as Miles, having endured and recovered thanks strength and endurance proportionate to a spider, moved in and fought like a spider. Smythe’s bulky armor slowed him down as the lack of Mysterio’s gas allowed his spider-sense to keep up and layered on blasts of webbing, anchoring the armor-clad man to the ground as his limbs quickly found themselves bound.

Once cocooned, Miles unleashed a Venom Blast against the structure, the webbing conducting it inside with the intention of shorting out the suit. The enemy was too dangerous not to be rendered unconscious by it, even if it blew up with him inside. There was a momentary grunt, before the struggling inside the cocoon ceased, and Miles let out a sigh of relief…

Impudence!” An armored hand burst from the cocoon and grabbed him by the neck, lifting Miles. The dissolving agent released through slots in the armor melted away the cocoon and allowed him to get out of the bindings with ease. “This suit is insulated against your little shock, arachnid.”

Miles struggled to get himself free when a nozzle appeared out of Smythe’s forearm and began to spray out Ethyl Chloride when a spout of webbing from Jessica clogged it up. She would be damned before she let him go through the Hell was that was breathing in that stuff. A second web-line from Jessica anchored her to Miles and she pulled him away just as a sudden flare from the Human Torch was unleashed.

He body-checked Smythe, flying in at top speed and sending him careening as he decided to pour on the heat his time. Everything had a melting point and he was going to find Smythe’s. Alarms in the Spider-Slayer’s helmet blared as the heat was approaching critical levels, damaging the functions of the suit—the light-filtering systems failed, the gas reached a critical point in his suit and ruptured, and so on—as sweat began forming on his body since the heat bled past the armor to his flesh below.

ENOUGH!” Smythe declared as his hand formed the concussive cannon and fired a shot that sent him spiraling back and ceasing the flaming spout. He primed it for a charged blast when, just before he could get the shot off, Jessica leapt from the side with webbing in her hand as a binding that caught the arm. The way she leapt up and behind him as he discharged the shot left him getting a point-blank blast that broke through the super-heated armor and exposed his chest.

Spider-Man, now!” Jessica ordered.

Miles pressed down on his web-shooters and let a single line fly that hit the exposed portion of his flesh before the nanotech in the armor could reform over it. He let a Venom Blast flow through it and attacked the human body beneath the armor. Bio-electricity ran rampant, the insulation of the armor having broken down due to the heat and making the damage worse as the armor collapsed around Smythe’s body and warping the helmet, where the processors were overheated and begun to sear into Smythe’s head.

He screamed until the flow stopped and then he crumpled to the ground. The nanotech that made up the suit was shorted out and melted into a puddle around Smythe’s body with the exception of the attachment-separate helmet. The force-field collapsed, allowing transmissions from the outside to get in as SHIELD was on its way to retrieve them all. Injured and tired, the rest of the heroes and heroines gathered around him.

“Well, that was a thing…” Lana stated, rubbing the bridge between her eyes. “So, mission accomplished. What now?”

“We find out who he was receiving orders from,” Jessica said as she ventured into one of the rooms and picked up his phone. “I know it was Roxxon, he’s the only one with ties to all of us and would want us all alive to replicate their former successes. If I can just find it evidence in this SHIELD will have to—”

The phone ceased to function, sparks flying from it fried in the palm of Jessica’s hand. Smoke rose once the sparking stopped and, to Jessica’s frustration, the interior and important bits, including the chip inside, were slagged. “Damn it, it self-destructed! We were so close only for this to happen!”

Johnny set a hand on her shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. “We’ll get them next time.”

Later that Evening

Once Jessica had been cleared of the truth serum and night had fell, she found herself starting at the conference screen with her superior on the other side at the base.

“Good to see you’re still in one-piece, Agent Drew,” Fury started with. “How are the others?”

“Physically, fine. Miss Raines is overseeing their mental health at the moment, in light of being exposed to Beck’s gases,” she replied back, before getting into the meat of things. Sir, about my request?”

“We can’t launch an investigation into Roxxon Corporation without hard-proof,” he stated. “We still have defense contracts with them and Director Chang won’t budge on that until she has hard evidence of their transgressions. Alistair Smythe is no condition to talk after being brought in and there’s no telling if he’ll ever regain consciousness since that helmet is melded to his head as well.”

“I see,” was all Jessica said. It just meant she would have to press them harder until they slipped up and she could get proof and a paper trail. Money wouldn’t save them forever.

After giving her a moment for her thoughts, Nick Fury added, “The unit’s designation has finally been decided on in light of their performance today. After that fiasco at the bank and St. Patrick’s Cathedral we’ve got some good press to counter the bad, meaning we can go public in a month. From this point on, they are the Vanguards—the front-line heroes of a new generation.”

With Herman Schultz

Herman Schultz was on his way to prison once more, the transport moving at a quick pace, as he sobered up. It was then that Déjà vu struck as the prison transport came to a halt and the doors were flung open to reveal Frederick Myers and Quentin Beck once more. “What are you two doing here?”

“Springing you,” Frederick told him as he pulled out a Lazorang and used its laser edge to cut his cuffs. “The deal we had with Smythe went south and the money was as good as lost when those kids showed up. We cut-and-ran while they went after him, no point in staying with a guy who doesn’t show us respect and couldn’t pay.”

“Why help me?” Herman asked as he stood and rubbed his wrist. “Again, I mean. There’s no money for springing me this time.”

“Because, I understood what you said about wanting respect,” Frederick stated earnestly. “I can get behind that, but with all the powers working together, its high-time we did the same if we’re going to earn it. No one alone…”

He extended a hand to him. “Besides, you were easier to work with than Smythe. Partners?”

Herman smiled and shook his hand. “Partners. Now, let’s get out of here before someone shows up.”

Thus was the birth of an alliance in the making…

End Note: So now the team has assembled. There was no way in hell I was calling them the Power Pack and I thought about calling them the Young Ultimates, but since they are a new generation of heroes they are the Vanguards of the Heroic Age.

We have Miles Morales, Jessica Drew, Tandy Bowen, Tyrone Johnson, Lana Baumgarter, and Johnny Storm. The first arc will end with the next chapter and the next arc I have planned is the “Return of the Reavers”.

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