Heroes Fail

Episode 33

Attack on Guardian Tower

The date: One year before Destruction Day, Jan. 27, 2019

It is winter and the team is just returning from a disaster mission — an avalanche rescue/recovery effort. Mosenthein Island, the island in the middle of the river where Guardians Tower sits, has its own landing pad for the several jets that are used for the teams, and as the group lands the landscape has been mostly plowed. There are 6-8" of snow in various piles where the plow left them after last week’s snow. The first three levels of the Tower house the Guardians Museum and the various and sundry employees who act as monitoring teams, legal teams, museum folks, accounting, requisitions, etc. Floors 4 through 13 are Guardians-Only and house labs, living spaces, medical bays, gyms, and so forth. All the teams have living quarters here, though a great many also have off-site homes (think firefighters — when they’re on duty, many like to stay on-site and in some cases are required to stay on-site).

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks and most of the team has been staying on-site for that time — When we’re not on a call, Maddy putters in her workshop/garage, Langston putters in his lab, Ryan and Melody tag-team who has Toby duty, etc. As they enter the building from the private entrance, Warden, the AI who runs the Tower, greets each team member by name. Maddy and Langston both head off to their private spaces, Melody joins up with her husband and son, and Natalie and Jared — who accompanied the team due to the disaster-relief aspects — agree to meet back up at her place after he heads for FEMA to give his report (and pick up pizza on his way back) and she catches a shower. As the evening progresses, Ryan’s team is called out and so Melody takes their son out to their off-site home to stay with the nanny/bodyguard. After Natalie falls asleep on her couch watching a movie with Jared, he heads off back to the mainland for the night.

And it is just an hour or later that odd little things start to happen.

Langston, in his lab up on the 10th floor, happens to notice one of the Guardians named Bolt as he passes the lab on his way (apparently) to the server room carrying something like a cylinder. Idly, Langston happens to check — Bolt has access to this floor, but he’s been up here exactly… never before. It piques his attention briefly, but it’s not really suspicious. Still… it also catches his attention that Warden’s response time on the query is sluggish.

At about that same time, Melody is returning to the Tower from dropping off Toby. She’s in her civvies, so she comes through the public entryway — and when the elevator arrives, she finds one of the admin assistants unconscious on the floor of it. She immediately rouses Natalie from a sound sleep because it’s around 7:30 at night and most of the Tower is not occupied by personnel at the moment. Natalie heads down in the other elevator and checks out the woman, Susan something. She seems stable, but they are heading for med bay anyway. Melody asks for video footage, and Warden’s response is both slow and unhelpful — the AI is missing about 10 minutes of security footage.

And then the Tower’s automated defenses lock the place down tight. Alarms start going off, all the blast doors come down, and there is no getting in or out. Mel and Natalie start making phone calls on Mel’s cell phone — first to security because the elevator’s internal phone is down. They get no one. Then Mel gets hold of Maddy and rousts her from her own little world where the darn alarms weren’t going off. Maddy cannot reach Warden OR any other machines right then, so she works on prying herself out of her workshop. Then they contact Jared, back at FEMA, and tells him that the Tower is having major problems — send Ryan’s team as soon as possible.

Langston works on extricating himself from his own lab by causing the fire suppression system to go off. His entire lab is doused in foam, but the doors do unlock and he’s able to get into the hallway at least. He finds, heading for the server room, that Bolt is unconscious on the floor in front of the open door and the canister is empty in the hallway. He contacts Maddy via the voice comms, but neither Melody nor Natalie have theirs on. He tells Maddy to round up whoever she can and get to the 10th floor.

Maddy heads for the elevator shaft on the seventh floor and pries the doors open to try to get to where Mel and Natalie are attempting to escape the stalled elevator down on the third floor. As they climb, the passive defenses are not on (thank goodness — those laser grids suck) but the active defense lasers start firing. Maddy is hit in the right arm when she pries open the doors up on the 7th, and Natalie’s hit in the left arm and begins to fall back down the elevator shaft, so Melody drops off the ladder and uses the air to cushion them both. Then as Maddy climbs from Floor 7 to Floor 10, Melody floats both herself and Natalie upward so that they all arrive at about the same time. Langston joins them at the elevator.

After a bit of a confab where everyone is brought up to date on what Maddy has sensed, Natalie has sensed, and Langston has learned, the scope of the situation becomes evident: The Tower is under attack by at least one, possibly more, enemies of unknown origin. At least one is a telepath of some form — Susan in the elevator is seemingly suffering psychic backlash of the sort that usually comes from telepathic possession on a non-Powered person. Maddy thinks someone is ALSO controlling the machines that she’s been able to scan — there’s definitely an intelligence there. We decide that the most likely target of these infiltrators is the Vault, where we keep all manner of confiscated items. A quick phone call back to FEMA to update Ryan’s team via Jared (the team is still mid-fight and can’t get to us yet) and to have his team come in from the landing pad up on the 14th floor (aka rooftop landing). The group heads for the Vault, up on the 13th floor.

On the way there, they detour to one of the embarkation rooms on the 14th floor near the landing pad to equip themselves with an anti-telepath device that is stored there for teams heading out to deal with potential mind-control villains. It’s about the size of a suitcase, and Langston carries it down as we head down the stairwell. Maddy reaches out mentally to a small Roomba-like robot in the main electrical room and has it go shut off the primary Kill Switch for the Tower’s power grid. We hope that it will at least momentarily kill the building’s security defenses so that we can actually get where we want to go. And maybe lock down the Vault even tighter because our infiltrators maybe can’t hack it if it has no power.

The group lets themselves quietly onto the 13th floor, but as they round the corner of the hallway near the Vault, they hear the sound of the massive steel door being ripped off the wall. Bolt is unconscious on the floor and a Guardian named MegaStar is standing in the hall holding the door — his power is of course superstrength. Entering the Vault is a black cloud of particles. MegaStar throws the door and a huge chunk of the wall at the group, who all scramble backward trying not to get hit. It crashes into the wall near Melody and disintegrates.

Langston opens the suitcase device and starts to try to power it up while Maddy slips back around the corner of the hall and tries to communicate with all the devices inside the Vault — she convinces them to help her fight back against the “bad guys.” There’s one object — an alien cannon of some kind — that is entirely unreachable. So her machines begin to fight that one. Something, or someONE, seems to come phasing out of MegaStar in the middle of this chaos, and Langston perceives that this may be the person we need to take out of the equation before he can possess anyone else. So he flashes a glance toward Natalie, who is basically just trying to stay out of the line of fire for now, and he lunges toward the guy coming into focus while MegaStar collapses. He grabs the unknown man by the head and SHOVES him into the wall, engaging him in the brawl.

Melody is slipping around the corner into the Vault itself by now, but she stops short when she sees the machines all attacking each other. She shouts back to Maddy, “Which ones are ours?!” Maddy replies, “Not the cannon!” So Melody makes an attempt to attack the cannon itself and change its molecular structure.

Natalie took over the task of getting the mind-control defense shield up and running. When the unknown guy groggily looks up and sees what she’s doing, his eyes go all glowy as he attempts to take over her mind. She fights back, but it takes a few seconds. And as soon as Langston realizes what he’s doing, he backhands him into unconsciousness, which completely frees up Natalie to slide the case across the floor right next to Langston so that this telepath is out of commission.

Melody’s attempts, unfortunately, fail spectacularly at that moment. Whatever she changed in the cannon makes it volatile. It explodes with little warning. Mel manages to throw up a shield over herself, but the resulting energy wave does reasonable amounts of damage to Langston (who was right by the door) and Natalie (who throws her body over the unconscious MegaStar to keep him from being hurt), and the mental shrieks of agony from the machines incapacitates Maddy briefly. MegaStar and Bolt are not injured. On the floor of the server room is a black pool of gooey liquid stuff that was probably the being possessing the machines, the particle-cloud guy.

It is now that Ryan’s team shows up to help. He peers down through the hole that was just blasted through the Vault ceiling up to the rooftop, both eyebrows raised as he asked rather casually of his wife, “Hon… what did you do?” Things are wrapped up pretty quickly from there. The two infiltrators, called Smoke and Mirror, are taken to the Powered Prison — Lockdown — and interrogated first by Ryan and Langston, and then by whoever else afterward (unbeknownst to the team at the time, that was Jared’s job). It’s discovered that Smoke and Mirror were contracted by some super-science coalition who wanted to steal some of the devices. They have some kind of plan, but the two are just mercenaries and were not interested in the details. They can’t tell us much more than that. And so everyone heads home, now aware that there is some group out there who wants the villain gadgets but with no idea who that might be. And anyway, it’s kind of above their pay grade, after all.

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