Exploits Issues

#1 – Night of the Garrote – 1933: Zeke Simmons terrorizes Miami for a year as the Garrote, a darkly clad killer who strangles 20 victims and leaves pennies in their eyes.  Wounded by a policeman one night, he stashes his cowl in the cornerstone of the newly constructed MayfairBuilding downtown, writes a farewell note to his son Tony, then dies after his car swerves off a bridge and into a river.  58 years later, the MayfairInsuranceBuilding is being torn down.  Amid swirling rumors and a large crowd of onlookers, local hero Panther breaks the seal on a time capsule for the opening ceremonies.  Police confiscate all items found, which include the Garrote’s black cloak and garrote, 30’s memorabilia, and an embroidered handkerchief with Simmons’ name on it.  Reporter Scott Lewis and wax museum curator Avery Bittman angrily ask questions, but are forced to leave the police station, which college student Thomas Scold watches from outside.  Wealthy mayoral candidate Roger Ashby (Simmons’ son Tony with a changed name), breaks into the station and steals most of the items.  Ashby, aware that his wife Lillian is having an affair with Scold, flees home.  Scold follows and kills the millionaire as he attempts to bury his father’s evidence in his backyard.  The spirit of the Garrote possesses Scold, and he murders a vagrant downtown, framing Ashby for it and leaving pennies in the eyes.  Faced with multiple suspects, Panther hears a scream late at night and comes upon a barely alive, strangled woman and the body of Lewis, who died defending her from the Garrote.  He tracks tar prints to a wax museum, where he finds Bittman dead inside.  The Garrote attacks, but Panther quickly dispatches the murderer and unmasks Scold.

#2 – Air Superiority – Visiting Germany, Arthur Tungsten witnesses a robbery high up on a Berlin skyscraper and decides to use his new abilities for the first time as the superhero Magna-Man.  When he interferes, the villain Blue Max, armed with a modified World War I biplane, attacks him with bombs and machine guns.  The hero retaliates with his magnetic powers and quickly apprehends the villain.  A few days later, he clashes with another elder German criminal: the deformed, winged Stuka, whose hatred of Americans goes back to World War II.  The speedy opponent dive-bombs the champion repeatedly, but Magna-Man is able to overcome the fascist and take him into custody.

#3 – Day of Reckoning – A shadowy government operative asks Panther to assassinate Joseph Williams, the ruthless supervillain Anaconda.  He is advised that the subject is amazingly strong, but has a vulnerability to copper.  Panther accepts the assignment and scouts his quarry in New York City for a number of days.  Early one evening, as the target steps through a gate, Panther shoots him in the head from a nearby rooftop with a copper bullet from a scoped rifle.  Anaconda falls, and the assassin leaps down to finish him off.  The victim gets back up and fights back for a short time, but is no match for the powerful superhero, who finishes him off with a copper knife.  Epilogue: Panther is covertly paid $40,000 in cash.

#4 – Glimpse into Eternity – C.H.E.S.S sends Sinder and Cyborg to Washington State to deal with a threat that has plagued the Northwest for over a decade.  A monstrous beast that emerged during Mount St. Helens’ eruption was dubbed the Terra-Rizer by the press, and has occasionally surfaced over the last decade to cause much damage and destruction.  The two heroes arrive in the small town of Cougar as the gigantic creature pulverizes buildings and causes small earthquakes.  The vigilantes attack relentlessly, but find that they are relatively ineffective.  One massive blast of earth kills the immortal Sinder, but Cyborg and arriving military forces are able to destroy the powerful fiend.  A month later, a revitalized Sinder responds to a crime-in-progress call in Baltimore involving the vicious Samhain.  Numerous police officers have already been incapacitated, and the champion fares no better as he attempts to intervene, taking numerous deadly slashes from the killer’s knife.  The murderer moves on into the night while all of his victims bleed to death.  A few weeks pass, and the reconstituted Sinder is called to Kenai, Alaska where husband and wife Whiteout and Bora threaten a group of whalers.  The adventurer tries to resolve the situation peacefully, but the pair is unwilling to talk.  The couple merges into one large being and attacks, but Sinder swiftly dispatches it and takes both extreme conservationists into custody.

#5 – Troubleshooter – As Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Joshua Stevens attends a movie with wife Carrie in downtown L.A., an exhausted stranger sits next to him and surreptitiously slips an audio cassette into his coat pocket.  Outside the theater afterwards, the stranger is gunned down by machine gun fire; the assailants flee in an unmarked car.  The victim dies in the doctor’s arms, and in his hand a crumpled card shows an address in a seedy section of the city.  At home later, Stevens finds and listens to the tape, hearing what appears to be an organized crime meeting and a claim by gangster Stewart Rhodes of a special agent; the tape was made by reporter Paul Anderson shortly before he was cut down by gunmen.  Stevens dons a suit of armor and becomes the superhero Dr. Desist, then visits Anderson’s desk at the Los Angeles Times, where he discovers the journalist’s informant, Jerome Cooper.  Desist meets with the drugged up Cooper, who tells him about Rhodes.  The hero travels to the card’s address in East L.A.: a condemned tenement building which serves as the temporary base for the Blades   street gang.  He enters a basement to find numerous gang members, and the paranormal Night Raven attacks him from an adjacent room and quickly darts outside.  The two men square off in the sky, but the dark vigilante (undercover and leading the Blades) halts the combat and tells Desist where Rhodes can be found.  The doctor tracks down company president Rhodes at the Pioneer Oil building downtown, then storms his way up to the penthouse.  He confronts the criminal in his lavish office, but the mobster’s bodyguard Celeste comes to his aid.  Dr. Desist struggles against her confusing illusions for a time, but eventually takes down both villains.

#6 – Death to the Doctor – From jail, Stewart Rhodes puts out a contract on Dr. Desist; mercenaries Crossfire and Shadowjack answer the call and accept the job.  C.H.E.S.S. asks their new agent Entropy to protect the doctor on a routine mission in L.A., as Desist is considering joining the organization.  Later in the day as they enter a parking garage, the two assassins ambush them.  Entropy squares off with Crossfire as Shadowjack focuses on their target.  Shadowjack incapacitates Desist and begins strangling him with his bullwhip, so Entropy breaks from his engagement and rescues his partner, then flies him away to safety.

#7 – Storm Front – Spectre is called to the robbery of a jewelry store in Miami and arrives to find the veteran criminal Ice Princess.  Innocent bystanders and police lie scattered about, and when the hero demands her surrender the thief attempts to leave.  Spectre attacks and slowly chips away at the woman’s ice armor with ranged vibratory blasts; in return the villainess buffets him from the air with a blizzard and arctic winds.  The fight rages on for a number of minutes before the exhausted vigilante finally downs the powerful adversary.  C.H.E.S.S. asks Entropy to transport top-secret paperwork to New York City.  As he arrives at a government facility in Brooklyn, the speedster Bandit launches an assault and attempts to apprehend the classified briefcase.  The superhero valiantly attempts to fight off the mercenary, but the former champion auto racer stuns the agent and dashes away with his acquisition.

#8 – Outnumbered – A truck transporting a group of Komodo Dragons crashes near a festival in Central Park, releasing four of the giant lizards.  New superhero Crocodile, en route to C.H.E.S.S. headquarters in Manhattan, hears screams from the panicked crowd and rushes to the scene.  The biologist rounds up the animals, protecting many threatened bystanders and saving numerous citizens from harm.  He then assists the local authorities in securing the scene and the reptiles.  A week later, alien scientist Banshee interrupts an Intercrime shipment being unloaded at a dock in Pittsburgh.  She intervenes and bewilders the enemy forces, whose attacks go right through her.  By the time the police arrive, the ghostlike hero has subdued four Garrison soldiers and forced an Assassin and a Power Infantry trooper to flee into the night.

#9 – Lightning Strike – Strange ritualistic murders in Chicago baffle local investigators, who turn to C.H.E.S.S. for assistance.  The agency sends operatives Zap and Gigantor to look into the matter and give needed support.  Clues lead to a building in the south part of the city, where the mystical Marutukku and his accomplice Vibron are encountered.  The eccentric villain insists that he is a god, and asserts that he must regularly perform ancient rites.  The vigilantes demand his surrender, which causes the two criminals to lash out at the inexperienced pair.  The fight is intense as Zap and Marutukku assail each other with electricity, causing much damage to the surrounding area.  Meanwhile, the colossal Gigantor takes down Vibron.  Alone and outmatched, the demented rogue does not last long against both champions, and when the dust clears they are both surprised to find that the madman has been slain.

#10 – From the Shadows – In Japan, a large assembly of ninjas gathers before the Dragon’s Claw High Council, where a figure hidden in darkness gives ominous instructions about an upcoming assignment in New York.  Days later, as Panther and Sinder arrive in Manhattan for a C.H.E.S.S. debriefing on their recent mission to Belgium, they find themselves ambushed on the street by four ninjas!  The powerful warriors attack with martial arts weaponry and prove to be extremely dangerous adversaries.  A katana strike kills Sinder before Panther is able to knock out the last enemy combatant.  Law enforcement arrives, and the quartet of incapacitated fighters are all discovered to be mysteriously dead.

#11 – Taking out the Garbage – The Guardians are alerted to a situation developing in downtown Washington, D.C., where police are unable to stop a strange man able to animate trash from his own garbage truck.  Cobra and Crocodile are closest to the scene and respond.  Their attempts to calm down Garbage Man fail, and the villain sends monsters made of garbage at the two heroes.  The vigilantes battle back, finding their foe to be extremely strong and impervious to harm.  After a long fight they are able to fell the troublemaker’s creations and take him into custody.

#12 – New Babylon – The U.S. government offers Cobra a full pardon in exchange for performance of a dangerous mission to New Babylon (formerly Madagascar).  He accepts and equips himself for a lengthy assignment, including requisitioning a flight belt and explosive quarrels for his crossbow.  At his 21st birthday party he says goodbye to his parents and family.  With the goal of disabling a Scrambler Tower 124 miles inland, a transport plane drops him in the Indian Ocean and he makes his way toward the southern end of the island.  After dodging sharks, Cobra arrives on the beach and is assailed by Wavemistress.  He skirmishes with the villainess for a short time, then disappears into the rainforest.  Trekking north for several days, he survives an evening encounter with the annoying Sir Lemur, a former man transformed by T.O.T.E.M. scientists into a strange creature.  A week in and now heading northwest, the hero gets very sick and struggles to get proper rest while avoiding torrential storms; while fatigued, he also fights off a vicious crocodile.  On the eleventh day, as he begins to feel better, he meets the paranormal Shroud while floating above the jungle canopy.  The following morning, Jovia and Shroud launch an assault on him, and the hero overcomes them both.  The vigilante then fashions a parasail utilizing his flight belt and journeys a great distance east.  He catches a native zebu and feasts in the grasslands, taking time to heal from his wounds.  The next day he finds a hut and sets up camp there, and over the next two weeks he rests, heals, and fends off wildlife attacks from snakes, spiders, and another crocodile.

#13 – The Scrambler Tower – After a month on the island nation, Cobra leaves his camp and travels northwest.  He arrives in the city of Ihosy, where he confronts the dangerous criminal Nightmare!  After an intense fight, the adventurer slays his adversary.  He continues his journey northwest and encounters Psiphon, Sgt. Ramble, and Hoopsnake.  The three claim to be resistance fighters, but actually serve as scouts for one of the hostile warlords that currently rules in New Babylon.  He reaches the city of Sakaraha and meets the mysterious recluse Enrique Baram, who takes the traveler to his refuge, Haven.  For over two weeks the champion enjoys good food and rest, recuperating from his ordeals in the wild.  One overcast, cloudy evening, Cobra travels south for many miles and finds the ScramblerTower.  He first disables the laser grid, then takes out Lion and Dr. Wraithman as they descend from a guard tower.  He then invades the two-story structure and trounces the occupants: Boogeyman, Whippet, Dragonhand, and Kudebuck.  Using his explosive quarrels, he completely destroys the facility.  The superhero makes his way west, and in the early morning of the next day he sets out to sea, where after three hours he is recovered by the U.S. Navy.  Epilogue: After weeks of healing and debriefing, the hero receives his pardon.

#14 – Revelations – A plane from Canada on an urgent heart transplant mission crashes in upstate Vermont due to sabotage.  G-Force learns of the crash and rushes to lend assistance, but when he arrives he finds numerous members from the Pentacle suite of the Tarot Masters appropriating the organ container’s real contents: a large cache of smuggled diamonds!  The superhero attempts to stop the Queen and three of her warriors, but the situation quickly devolves into combat.  After a frantic exchange, the vigilante downs two of the soldiers and secures the jewels, but the Queen and the other warrior flee the scene.

#15 – Sidekick – An unconscious G-Force is transported to an underground Intercrime base. Suddenly a dimensional doorway, intended to be formed in the facility’s physics lab nearby, opens next to the lower level dock as three Garrison personnel pull their boat in to move the captive.  New superhero L-Force steps through the gate and quickly discerns the situation.  Trying to aid the downed victim, he blasts at the soldiers; as he does so an Assassin sneaks up and attacks him from behind! Though completely outnumbered, the young adventurer fends off the more experienced adversaries and rescues the veteran Guardian.

#16 – Mexico   City – C.H.E.S.S. sends novices Thunderbird, Mischief, L-Force, Enigma, CyberKing, and ToonMaster to Mexico City to investigate the burning death of Rook Henry Torrence.  Torrence had been keeping an eye on Cambridge Professor Maurice Somerset, who was suspected of being the next target in a series of disappearances of top international nuclear physicists.  The team meets Police Captain Raoul Perez and wealthy heiress Arlayne Abrest and checks into the Hotel Rey del Sol.  They identify Torrence’s body, check his effects, and see a picture of him with Abrest.  With the others down at the hotel pool, Abrest and CyberKing are attacked in her room by F.I.S.T., Yeoman, Mace, and Aztech.  The others respond, Aztech flees, and after a short fight the remaining criminals are detained.  Yeoman is found to have Torrence’s blaster pistol and a note about a meeting at Xochimilco (local floating gardens), but a motive for the attack is not learned.  Local media and police focus on the new superheroes, and ToonMaster attempts to deflect attention away from the misfit group.

#17 – Teotihuacan – ToonMaster and L-Force check out Xochimilco and briefly spot Aztech before being chased by criminals in speed boats through the exotic, flowered canals.  The pair takes out the hoods and dunks Aztech’s boat, but the villain flies away again and the thugs know nothing of his plans.  During dinner at the hotel the entire team keeps an eye on Somerset and his beau, Satin D’Or (actually an undercover French secret agent) and Thunderbird deduces that he is going to a secret rendezvous at the ruins of San Juan de Teotihuacan.  Later that evening the group tails him to the ancient ruins north of Mexico City. After a Light and Sound Show, they again follow the professor, and in caves underneath the Pyramid of the Sun he meets up with a man named Esteban Diamante.  As the heroes spy on the pair viewing and discussing Aztec hieroglyphics (forged) that tell of transmuting gold, Aztech suddenly traps them in the cave with a large rock.  They break free, but hear the duo kidnap Somerset and mention someone named DuLac as their next target.  The adventurers race upstairs, only to run into Shee-Ariel, R.A.M. 101, Psi-Phon, the god Quetzalcoatl (an illusion), and mercenaries Death Adder, Sam Winds, and Niles Foxworth.  The two sides clash, and the severely outmatched vigilantes are forced to flee.

#18 – The Running of the Bulls – While L-Force and ToonMaster recover in the hospital, the others meet with police and then return to the hotel.  In Somerset’s room they find a postcard from scientist Rene DuLac referencing the two meeting the next day at Te Gustamos, a restaurant in Spain.  Accompanied by Abrest, the team makes the long flight to Madrid, then another to Pamplona, where they arrive amidst the Festival of San Fermin.  CyberKing meets DuLac at the crowded restaurant, but the scientist is drawn away by a child and snatched by Diamante.  CyberKing and ToonMaster attempt to stop the kidnapping, but Winds and another mercenary fight them off.  R.A.M. 101 traps Abrest and Mischief with energy webs back at their hotel while Thunderbird, L-Force, and Enigma join the other two.  The five heroes trace Diamante to one of his warehouses, but they are surrounded by Diamante, Winds, Foxworth, Death Adder, and three other thugs, as well as paranormal backup Kali and Psi-Phon (both illusions from a nearby Psi-Phon).  The misfits are prepared to fight, but stand down when police arrive.  The police are revealed to be illusions, and the champions are tied up and injected with drugs.  The next morning all but L-Force are doused with pheromones and forced out into the street, near the start of the famous Running of the Bulls.  Mischief joins her fellow adventurers as they break free and dodge the enraged bovines as well as bravely assist numerous endangered civilians.  When they return to the warehouse, they find Diamante and his three men dead and L-Force still unconscious.  Two clues mention locations in Turkey and suggest a connection to the legend of King Midas.  Back at their hotel, Abrest appears to have quickly checked out.

#19 – The Midas Touch – The team flies to Ankara, then drives for a few hours until they reach the small Turkish village of Dobrosk in the mountains.  Townsfolk draw a map to the Cenotaph of Midas, which they believe to be cursed.  The group drives to the River Pactolus, then journeys on foot along a trail through clearings and forest.  As they emerge into a large meadow and approach the ancient ruins of the monument, the watching guards are confused as they observe Mischief acting strangely; ToonMaster and CyberKing also mimic her silliness.  The squad evades alarms and finds a hidden elevator, which the six heroes take down into an underground base.  They make their way through the complex, but Venefica uses a spell to instantly age and incapacitate the invaders.  Nightshade then boasts about how she has discovered a way to transmute iron into gold, but the clever champions don’t fall for the ruse, and when given the opportunity to escape refuse to run and warn the authorities.  They confront and swiftly decimate Nightshade, Aztech, Venefica, and many guards, and also capture Abrest (who had been misleading them for Nightshade all along).  Nightshade’s plot to artificially affect the price of gold is uncovered, the brainwashed scientists are rescued, and C.H.E.S.S. secures the facility.

#20 – Blackjack – In Boston, safecracker Jack Dunn, having recently killed the superhero Silver Shrike, arms himself with many elaborate gimmicks and sets out to pull off larger scale robberies as the villain Blackjack.  The visiting champion L-Force overhears a police transmission and rushes downtown to a high rise building, where he challenges the thief in the middle of a crime.  The two clash, and though Blackjack grows frustrated when his attacks do not penetrate L-Force’s armored hide, he is able to disorient his younger opponent with a repertoire of devices and gadgets.  Over time, the hero is able to overpower and apprehend the clever criminal and secure him for the authorities.

#21 – To Catch a Thief – TIME magazine reporter Robert Martinkawicz and his associate Ernest Casey are tailed as they head to Washington D.C.’s Potomac Park to turn over incriminating audio tapes to Senator Anders Kelvin.  When they arrive, Reaver knocks out the journalist and takes the recordings (which expose a corrupt Federal judge in league with Intercrime), undeterred when shot by Casey. Portal is alerted and quickly teleports there from the Guardians’ base, while William Grasping-Paw, photographing the White House half a mile away, hears the gunshots and races to the scene, changing to the superhero Maccane along the way.  Portal protects the elderly senator with a flame cage and surveys the scene as the supervillain trounces Casey and some arriving police.  She rescues a lawman, then finds herself outnumbered and in an intense battle with the brute and two stealthy Intercrime Assassins!  As Maccane nears, Reaver breaks off and speeds away on a motorcycle.  Portal and her flame creations struggle against the two Assassins as the new vigilante arrives.  One of the Intercrime agents flees, but Maccane is able to mark him with musk before he escapes by car; one of the Guardian’s flame beings fells the other.  Portal and Maccane meet each other and attend to the wounded, and the Assassin is turned over to C.H.E.S.S.

#22 – …and the Children Shall Suffer – A wave of kidnappings claims several children of U.S. Senators and Representatives; the ransom demands are for America to release prisoners held under the Patriot Act.  When his son James is kidnapped, Dr. Desist (the King of C.H.E.S.S.) gathers a team to assist him.  Joined by Dr. Mercury, Fourarm, and Lin Pei, the group figures out that the children are being held by a neo-Nazi, white supremacist group at a compound in rural Idaho.  They hit the place hard, and using broad powers granted under the new legislation Desist and Mercury crack one of the members, learning that they are but patsies and that the kids are held by an occult group in the Swiss Alps.  The heroes rush to the mountain castle and fight their way through the cultists, some of whom wield eldritch magic.  They reach the basement just in time to save the children, who were about to be sacrificed in an unholy ceremony.

#23 – We Five Kings – President George W. Bush, watching the Army of Elvii at the Flamingo Las Vegas hotel casino, loses his teddy bear (containing the ‘Nuclear Football’, the launch codes for authorizing a nuclear attack).  Elvis Presley (performing as Sebastian Haff and considering himself a federal agent since he was deputized by President Nixon) calls in fellow Five Kings Investigations associates CyberKing and MindKing.  The three agents weave their way through double and triple crosses, as well as an old conspiracy involving the 60’s Rat Pack.  Eventually the three Elvii follow the evidence trail to a mansion near the California-Nevada border, where they take out Red Chinese agents.  Haff defeats the body-swapping Chinese cyborg Colonel Tom Parker in a climactic kung fu battle, and the team recovers the bear.  In Boston, teen paranormal Charlotte Sparrow (Snowflake) comes to the aid of a bullied girl, driving her tormenters away.

#24 – Misfits of Summer – Thunderbird and Maccane (from Sleeper’s Paranormal Detective Agency) go undercover to investigate possible illicit activity at the International League tournament in Buffalo, New   York.  Joined by Mischief, L-Force, and Enigma (playing for the Ottawa Lynx in his civilian identity, Phil Campbell), the adventurers enjoy the minor league baseball and spy on those behind the scenes.  During the semi-finals, the entire Buffalo Bisons team (heavily favored to win the event) comes down with food poisoning, leading the sleuths to suspect that the games may be fixed.  The Russian mafia (gambling on the Durham Bulls) then attempts to eliminate Campbell, and Maccane foils an attack by paranormal Yakuza mobsters (backing Ottawa).  The heroes make their presence felt at the championship game to prevent further trouble, where Durham (led by a Johnny Maxwell) beats Campbell’s Lynx to win the Governor’s Cup.

#25 – In Darkness Lurks the Slime Devil – In Boston, L-Force is informed by Scott Hastings, a reporter for the Stoneham Independent, that somebody broke into their newspaper offices and wiped out some files, which included information about him.  A young boy, Bobby Norton, then approaches the hero and asks for his help in finding his missing father, Arthur.  L-Force, joined by local vigilante Snowflake, discovers that the newspaper break-in was done by Hornet (whose assignment was to erase information about T.O.T.E.M.).  They track down the supervillain, and after a long fight the two youths take down the criminal and his four henchmen.  L-Force then investigates the disappearance of Arthur Norton and learns that he was last seen working with a repair crew in the city’s sewer system. Taking Bobby with him, he descends into the sewers, but the two are attacked and chased off by a hideously mutated creature!  L-Force is able to convince fellow C.H.E.S.S. agent Lin Pei of the danger in the Boston sewers, and weeks later she and Dr. Mercury accompany him back to the area.  The three find a large nest in the sewer and destroy the beast, as well as the serpents and eggs that it apparently spawned.  As C.H.E.S.S. and the local authorities clean up the mess, they find a number of human bodies and discover that illegal dumping of chemicals likely created the monster.

#26 – Supernatural Foes – Enigma happens across Boogeyman wiping out rival gangsters in the streets of the Bronx.  He takes out two blinded criminals, then dispatches the Irish supervillain after absorbing his flame attacks.  C.H.E.S.S. agent G-Force responds to a robbery of a bookstore in Nantes, France.  He confronts the mystical Hellons: Styx, Phelgathon, and Lethe, but is knocked out by Styx’s magical scythe.  He awakens and follows a trail of bodies to a nearby shopping center, where he swiftly takes out all three terrorists and recovers the ancient book they had stolen.

#27 – The Next Generation – Off-duty hospital security officer Scythe interrupts a robbery by gang members in downtown Washington, D.C.; he uses the flat side of his katana to defeat all seven opponents.  In the dimension of Atoll, the giant Goliath takes out the colossal Slayer when the dangerous madman goes on a rampage, attacking civilians at a shrine.  The supervillain Recluse uses hired muscle to run scams and set up a protection racket in a retirement community in Binghamton, New York.  Goliath and Scythe, joined by new superheroes Psi-Blade, Karma, and Spectre, discover what is going on and attack the criminals at an outdoor pool.  Recluse flees, but all of the other thugs are defeated and captured.

#28 – Secrets of the Knights – Vampires of the Bloodsworn clan are spotted in Milan, Italy, so the Freemasons send one of their best vampire hunting teams to the city to investigate.  William Stedman (Brit) leads Gary Thomas (Tool), Tory Johnson (Hacker), and robot I.C.E. (Invulnerable Cybernetic Enforcer), along with two emissaries representing the Catholic Church’s Illuminati: Father Allen O’Reiley and Markus Muller (Stalker).  At an apartment building the group dispatches human familiars and fights Anneke, Lazarus, and Guillermo, but the three undead warriors flee into hidden passageways.  The team finds that a bigger plot is unfolding at an abandoned Catholic monastery in the Italian Alps, so they venture there.  Inside they battle a werewolf and vampires Gideon and Phillipe, but the Bloodsworn leader Selena seduces their isolated members one by one.  The entire team nearly falls under her sway, but hold out just long enough to force the villainess and her minions to flee with a secret artifact.  Uncovered evidence reveals that during the Crusades the Church experimented with vampire blood to create a super warrior.

#29 – Vindicators, Guardians, and Villains, Oh My! – After a rampage in which Ebony Angel took out a number of police officers, she is quickly dispatched by Sir Rathos inside a mini-mart.  Guardians Kubera and Knight Shade, ally Mr. Electric, and the vigilante Stone find themselves transported into another dimension very similar to their own.  In the parallel San Francisco, a monk named Mannix coordinates numerous paranormals out of a mystical monastery; the visitors form an uneasy alliance with two of the Vindicators, Rockasaurus and Frostbite.  After battling the large tree creature Thorn, Beastmaster, and an undead bear, the adventurers clash with the powerful vampire Lord Malek, who gets away.  Knight Shade (who was secretly turned into a vampire!) and Kubera return home, but Mr. Electric and Stone decide to remain in the new world.

#30 – Spyder Bite – Maccane assists C.A.P.E.S. (Chicago Area Police Enforcement Squad) paranormals Avenger, Sgt. Stone, Ivanhoe, and Hardrock in attempting to locate the powerful mercenary Spyder, who has reportedly been seen in the Windy City.  Joined by Rune, the group takes down masked thugs outside a bank, then finds that they have military-grade explosives.  The adventurers allow one to leave, and Maccane tracks him to a closed gas station in an abandoned section of town.  After spying on the small building, the team attacks.  Spyder and Shadowjack flee, but Crossfire and Bandit are captured after a short skirmish.  Crossfire reveals that Spyder has been targeting an armored truck delivery the next day, intending to steal a prototype weapon aboard.

#31 – Spyderwebs – The prototype weapon is replaced with a fake, and Rune, Avenger, Sgt. Stone, and Southpaw (newly arrived from Sigma) stake out a laundromat across from the strike point.  Shortly after the armored truck arrives, a spherical hovercraft appears on scene, and Spyder, Annihilation, Fire-Fly, Kachandra, and her pets T-479 and Semdifor spill out and hammer the force field protecting the vehicle.  The vigilantes counterattack, only to find that a massive Earth Monster lumbers their way, causing massive destruction!  After a lengthy slugfest, Spyder is forced to flee, but all of the others combatants are dispatched or surrender.  An exhausted Mirage (unseen by the heroes) also escapes, and her illusion of the Earth Monster disappears as well.

#32 – Won’t You Be My Wingman? – Numerous vigilantes respond as the supervillain Revenger and six Wingmen rob a Technology Depot in Washington, D.C.  Sentinel Goliath, his former teammate Jedi Guardian, Makeshift, and new hero Spirit interrupt the thieves, and during the battle Summoner arrives and assists in taking all of them down.

#33 – Signs of the Zodiac – Multi-millionaire business tycoon Andrew Topple honors Oz, Sir Rathos, and Spartan (and many other civic heroes) at a lavish Inspiration Celebration aboard his yacht, the Rebel.  After they depart from Baltimore, the ceremony is held, then Topple baits the heroes into expending lots of energy showing off, Sir Rathos gets drunk, and a disguised Scorpio and Virgo slowly poison each of the adventurers.  Meanwhile new vigilantes Wraith and Contagion investigate a strange break-in at the Crowley skyscraper downtown, where earlier Cancer had stolen plans for Topple’s Equalizer armor from a secure vault.  The two follow the yacht in a motorboat to a distant sand bar, where most of the passengers observe from land as Topple is confronted on the docked Rebel by Taurus, Pisces, and Cancer.  The new Zodiac criminals had conspired with Topple, but decided not to throw the fight after learning he planned to betray them.  Wraith and Contagion arrive and join Equalizer (Topple’s bodyguard) and the other three in contesting the villains, who swiftly decimate all who oppose them.  The six members of the Zodiac (including the hidden Capricorn) flee with the money Topple was supposed to pay them, spoiling the CEO’s clever plan to spotlight his Equalizer armor.

#34 – Knight of the Seductress – The Freemason Alpha Team flies to Tokyo, but are unable to contact team leader Brit.  Hacker, Tool, Father, Stalker, I.C.E., and new members Silversmith and Ghost find clues in his hotel room that lead to a private underground night club run by Anneke.  At the club, where humans are herded like cattle, they take out many vampires, but Anneke escapes.  Notes lead to the Matsura corporate building, the base of the Bloodsworn in Japan.  Bypassing elaborate security, the group finds Brit under Selena’s sway.  They battle the Contessa, her werewolf, Phillipe, Gideon, and many vampire minions and defeat nearly all of them.  Only Gideon and Selena escape, with Hacker under her control.

#35 – Morbid Fascination – F.I.S.H. asks Spartan, Spectre, Karma, and Psi-Blade to investigate the Morbid, a dark and sinister New York street gang, after an undercover agent goes missing.  The four heroes invade an abandoned theater in the Bronx and take down Mystico, his zombie, and a large group of the gothic criminals.  They learn that the agent was killed earlier, and recover a large quantity of illegal drugs.

#36 – No Crime Like the Present – Dr. Augustus Swakhammer visits an evening show at a planetarium in Orlando.  When the criminal Miz Happ fills the building with clouds to mask her theft of meteorites from the exhibit hall, he races outside to enlist his car (and extraterrestrial companion) Halley, becoming the superhero Perihelion.  New vigilante Psypher happens by and joins in taking down the villainess and her getaway driver, Farce.  Numerous members of the media question Perihelion, but Psypher chooses to avoid the exposure.  Soon after the pair leaves in Halley, they happen upon robbers exiting a bank.  In short order they disable their van and dispatch the Squire and a half-dozen thugs.  Meeting with Commissioner Rollands at the mid-town precinct, they learn that a crime wave has been taking the shape of a capital letter “C” across the city and agree to stakeout the bank believed to be the next target.

#37 – Mind Over Matter – Psypher and Perihelion stake out the bank for two days.  When it is robbed on the second night, they tail the gray sedan of the crooks across the city.  The car disappears into an alley, but the two sleuths find a clandestine door leading into an underground basement.  They make their way to the roof of the McGregor Building and find the six thugs in a penthouse office speaking to company president Scott McGregor.  The thieves confess without prompting, but suddenly the villain Ironmane springs from a secret elevator and attacks the pair!  The vigilantes double-team the attacker, inadvertently killing their foe.  During the fight the villainous Conscience descends in an elevator from an adjacent hidden office into a secret garage in the basement.  Determining that McGregor and the robbers appear to have been mentally controlled, the investigators search the plush office and find another hidden door into the Conscience’s headquarters.  They discover that the mentalist was running a criminal empire from within the building, which he had built to his specifications.

#38 – Tattoos – A private charity event to benefit victims from Superstorm Sandy is held on the lawn at the residence of wealthy Carl Caskey in Orlando, gathering paranormals from all over the country.  After numerous superheroes display their abilities, a commotion is heard inside the mansion, and Spirit, Helios, Makeshift, Psypher, Scythe, and Perihelion race inside.  They confront three masked thieves upstairs, but the criminals are able to phase through a shielded vault and escape with many expensive paintings valued at millions of dollars.  Police Commissioner Rollands contacts Perihelion and Psypher, alerting them that a severed leg has been found in concrete at an abandoned warehouse nearby.  The vigilantes check things out and theorize that someone lost the leg while phasing like the thieves.  Clues lead them to Leonidas High School not far away, and as they investigate the group begins to suspect three high school students who have recently exhibited augmented physical traits.  The trail leads to the tattoo parlor Kinetink, where proprietor Ivan Voloshchuk proves to be extremely evasive.  The investigators turn up the heat, but Voloshchuk calls police, then flees by phasing through the ground shortly after law enforcement arrives.  Half of the stolen paintings are found inside a safe at the shop.  Voloshchuk calls and arranges a meeting in the school parking lot the next day, agreeing to give up his minions in exchange for the art.  When Voloshchuk and his three teenaged minions arrive, the heroes attempt to take them down, but are shocked when Scythe turns on them and fights on the side of the enemy!  The two sides battle, and the champions are able to defeat and capture all of the lawbreakers.  Afterwards, it is learned that the crooks gained superhuman abilities from mystical Russian tattoos.  Caskey graciously rewards the adventurers for their recovery of his prized possessions.

#39 – Ritual of Kings – Warp and novice hero Kensai suddenly find themselves in a Double Tree hotel, then discover that they are in a world similar to but different than their own (Delta, the dimension of Lord Malek).  Simultaneously, in a bank on the ground floor of the same building, Vindicators Alcatraz, Visual Eminence, Mr. Fahrenheit, and Nightstalker, as well as new paranormal Aquaflash arrive after a robbery attempt by common thugs.  Shortly after, all of the paranormals meet each other and decide to work together.  When the bank’s vault is opened, a trio of unearthly, angelic-like beings (Athkin) are found inside.  Soon after, when a strange device appears and is picked up, the entire group (including the Athkin) finds themselves transported elsewhere.  One after another, the party faces and overcomes difficult challenges and puzzles as they make their way through an underground labyrinth, discovering a couple of slain titans (Mohan-Vor) along the way.  Later, they encounter Solor, a chained demonic-looking giant who claims to have been cursed and imprisoned there for over 500 years.  Davios, the captain of the Athkin, is not comfortable helping Solor, but the vigilantes have trouble deciding and continue.  In the large adjacent chamber, they find a gigantic, mystical Spirit Tree (which had drawn Warp and Kensai to this plane).  Unbeknownst to the adventurers, the Athkin (who had staged the bank robbery) and Mohan-Vor had used them to get past the traps to reach the living Spirit Tree, for a rejuvenation ceremony to heal their dying leaders.  Three Mohan-Vor warriors arrive behind the team and free their commander, Solor.  Now in the final chamber, the heads of the three alien clans (Solor, Davios, and Boug), each bound to the Tree, seek its healing energies for their own restoration.  The heroes join the Athkin and Mohan-Vor and battle the dark sorcerer Boug and his Onusk demons.  During the fight, the Spirit Tree begins rejuvenating each of the leaders.  Boug transforms into a large, black serpent, but Visual Eminence decapitates him and the Onusk surrender.  The aliens thank their new allies, and Warp and Kensai are returned home.

#40 – This Nut’s Not Sweet – Just as Wraith and Contagion meet newly awakened pirate Blackbeard at a café in Baltimore, the Spirit of Christmas appears.  The ghost asks them to stop an imposter who parodies the champion of Christmas in their city.  Racing to Casey’s, a nearby department store, the group learns that children have been taken hostage inside.  The trio efficiently defeats Santa Claws, Raindeer, and the madman’s Noels, his eight minions dressed as Santa’s reindeer, and rescues the captives.  A year later, Contagion, Blackbeard, and novice superhero Psilight attend a F.I.S.H. conference in Oakland, California.  In the evening they respond to a burglary in progress at a closed office building nearby.  Blackbeard crashes in through a window, and the three quickly take down villain Darc Warp and five thugs that were in the process of robbing the place.  Darc Warp is tied up with his own jacket, but wakes up and escapes by falling through a portal underneath himself.

#41 – Marie La Rouge – Alerted to the possibility of a raid by pirates on the Hermosa Yacht Club in Isla Vista, California, Blackbeard, Psilight, and new adventurer Chronovator set up early one morning and await their arrival.  A ship arrives from sea, but when Chronovator circles around beneath it in her submersible, the L’Engle, the Flying Dutchess rises up into the air!  Cannons on the enemy vessel demolish cars in the parking lot, and Marie La Rouge shouts demands from the deck of her ship.  The heroes make their way aboard and take out the villainess and her crew of female pirates.

#42 – Firestorm – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra of the Zodiac Syndicate ambush a military convoy transporting classified prototype technology in rural Chesterfield County, Virginia.  Libra secures one of their objectives (prototype X269, a serum), while Leo leaps on a Humvee escaping with the other (X312, a miniature battery/energy projector).  Leader Aries, not wanting Leo to secure their other target by himself, rams the vehicle, which leads to an intense argument between the two supervillains.  As they bicker, the four soldiers in the damaged Humvee escape into the nearby town of Fairview.  Libra proposes a contest: the others in the Zodiac will not allow the military to escape Fairview as Aries and Leo track down the other prototype.  Aquarius hits the local three cell towers with lightning, cutting it off from the rest of the world, and the rest of the Zodiac spread out around the community.  F.I.S.H. calls in available heroes from the area, and Partisan, Tank, Psilight, Galahad, Blackbeard, and Z-Spiker respond, meeting on the helipad at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.  They are briefed by Army Major Shane Ellis en route to the ambush site by helicopter, then find a wounded combatant along the path to Fairview.  Lieutenant Alber provides more details on the raid before losing consciousness.  They continue into the small town, which is pelted by heavy rains.  Psilight swiftly reconnoiters the area and the group splits up, visiting the police station and Holy Trinity Church.  They discover that Father Jerome has provided refuge to another of the four, a burned Captain Gibbons, who gives them more information.  They decide to take out a lone sentry on the eastern edge of the city, but when they arrive they find the Zodiac ready for them.  The two sides battle, and eventually the heroes drop Leo and Aries.  The others manage to flee, and the team learns that Lieutenant Max Pincombe was transformed by the forearm bracer (the other prototype) he put on as he fled.  Nanoids have transformed the soldier into a paranormal!

#43 – Excavated Evil – Prologue: In Delta, twin brothers battle each other for centuries, Aelmar eventually taking the form of a paladin and Belarious that of a large dragon.  A magical curse causes them to switch bodies; the paladin calls himself Valgar and the dragon Pendragon. In the present, Ryoma Okita (Kensai) fights off strange ninjas at his work office, but drops after being poisoned.  Galahad dispatches a number of street punks, and a mysterious man claiming to be a servant of Merlin asks for his help.  In Delta, heroes Archon, Ad-versus, the Damned, Anomalous, and Nox are assembled to confront a great evil: Archon takes out a purse thief, but the victim knocks him out with a weapon.  Ad-versus is summoned to the dean’s office at his community college; he declines a robed man’s request for help and in turn is rendered unconscious.  At a laundromat, a man appears and gives Ricky Wilson (the Damned) an airline ticket to a fantastic resort island.  A woman convinces Anomalous to leave a bar, but before he can depart he passes out from his poisoned drink.  Nox investigates the kidnappings of various paranormals, and soon finds himself alongside the missing four, Kensai, and Galahad on a plane headed to an unknown destination overseas.  A disturbance jars the aircraft as it passes between dimensions (back into Delta), and many of the adventurers suddenly observe different people sitting next to them.  As the craft is rocked by more turbulence, the bewildered vigilantes unsuccessfully struggle to repair the vessel, but cannot keep it from crash landing on an island!  The heroes aid the injured, but most of the passengers are found to be dead.  As the others set up a camp and gather survivors while tending to the wounded, Anomalous and Archon explore an apparently empty compound to the north.  The camp is attacked by zombies, who prove to be much stronger and faster than expected.  The champions fight off wave after wave of the undead, allowing the innocent civilians to flee into a cave.  Just as they are about to be overwhelmed, the zombies stop, becoming completely motionless!  Unnerved, the party moves north to the encampment, resting on the roof of one building and sharing with each other how they each came to be on the plane.  Ad-versus explores, and in an excavation tent encounters Pendragon.  The reptile admits to controlling the undead, and commands Ad-versus to break an ancient obelisk to the north.  The hero attempts to comply, but is stopped by the others.  The group continues to explore, discovering state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.  Notes from head researcher Dr. William Huxley hint at a recently unearthed dragon that controls zombies.  In the most extravagant room of the compound they meet Valgar, who tells them the evil dragon must be destroyed, not the obelisk.  Pendragon communicates through Ad-versus, but the team refuses to listen to him.  They search more, and in a cave find the obelisk, as well as stone tablets that tell of a battle between a paladin and a dragon millennia ago.  Pendragon (Aelmar) tells the explorers that the paladin Valgar (Belarious) is not to be trusted.  The Damned confirms with the cosmos that they can believe both, but Galahad senses evil in each of them.  The superheroes discuss their options in depth, and then break the obelisk (against Belarious’ wishes, freeing Aelmar). Galahad offered Aelmar freedom, but, overcome with rage, instead of leaving, he attempts to kill his captor instead, and the pair continues their ancient fight.

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