Chapter One: The Calm After the Storm But Before Another, More Metaphorical Storm
The Sentries Shuttle is winging its way to the Philippines, ferrying supplies and a squad of Sentries to help with relief efforts in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Along the way, the team holds its weekly meeting, chaired via video by the Baffler. There are two important points on the agenda.
First, there are still no leads as to who planted the bomb at the Bean in Millennium Park a few weeks ago. The bomb was designed to contaminate anyone in its blast zone with a harmless but unique form of radiation, apparently to contaminate and track any heroes who arrived to deal with the situation. The White Dwarf and Univox were “tagged” when they detonated the device miles above the city; Univox is safe because his armor shifts to the Wiser Dimension when not in use, but the Dwarf’s secret identity may be compromised.
The second topic concerns Killerwatt. The villainous android was sighted in a small New Mexican town. According to witnesses, Killerwatt appeared injured and afraid. The android disappeared before NEST could arrive on the scene.
The Baffler then briefs the team on the situation in the Philippines. He gives a background on the storm and its impact on the islands, particularly the devastation of Tacloban. This group of Sentries is to relieve the squad already on-site and continue clearing roads of debris, locating survivors, and generally helping relief efforts in any way they can.
The shuttle arrives at an airport outside Tacloban. Before he disembarks, the White Dwarf is pulled aside by Steel Cobra.
“Watch out for Filipino zombies,” the bionic Sentry whispers. “They’re basically Mexican zombies with kung fu.”
The airport, one of the relief effort’s staging areas, is a scene of chaos. Donations have poured in from all over the world, but with the roads and landing strips choked with debris distribution has been nearly impossible. Planes of all shapes and sizes are parked everywhere, and at least a dozen more are in holding patterns in the skies around the airport, Towering pallets of food, water, and medical supplies are stacked wherever there isn’t an airplane. Doctors, paramedics, and other volunteers sit or sleep in the tiny remaining spaces, catching what rest they can before heading back out into the devastation.
The Sentries notice the sizable number of armed soldiers patrolling the area. The Baffler’s briefing included reports of looting by desperate survivors across Tacloban. Large numbers of escaped prisoners have added to the anarchy, leading raids on relief convoys. A hastily repaired fence marks the stretch of runway where a mob stormed the airport to get at supplies being unloaded from a newly arrived transport plane.
An aid worker escorts the Sentries to the relief HQ located in a car rental office. There, an administrator asks the team to clear landing areas for helicopters in villages which still cannot be accessed by land.
As the Sentries prepare to leave, a weary but determined Tala descends from the sky. She thanks the Sentries for their assistance, which is more vital then ever now that Defense Force Ultra had to take up the search for a missing teammate. Tala asks if Aura is with them and appears a bit disappointed to learn she is not. Despite this, the Sentries are impressed by the young heroine and promise to do all they can to aid her people. Tala thanks them again and departs.
Chapter Two: In Which a Helicopter Parent Jumps Out of a Helicopter
A transport chopper heads for some of the most remote areas of Leyte. The Dwarf and Univox escort the craft under their own power. Sting and Dr. Graphene are on board, and it’s the Doc’s first time in a helicopter. He gazes out the window at the landscape below.
Hearing about the devastation is one thing. Seeing it for yourself is quite another. Graphene had imagined a tropical isle littered with felled palm trees and greenery. Instead, he saw a modern city where nearly every man-made structure had been obliterated. Twisted steel, shards of concrete, and shredded wood carpeted the ground wherever the young hero looked. There were no house, no stores, no street lamps or telephone poles still standing. It was as if the entire city had been scooped up by a giant hand and crushed into powder.
As the helicopter reached the outskirts of the city, Graphene spots a relief convoy making its way through a section of relatively intact forest. Suddenly, a large tree topples into the road, blocking the way forward. Moments later, a second felled tree cuts off the convoy’s attempt to retreat. Graphene shouts out a warning to the others, opens the helicopter’s side door, and steps out into the air some two hundred feet above ground.
Sting, not entirely sure of what just happened, mumbles a curse and leaps out after him.
A thin column of stone and soil has shut up into the air to catch Doctor G in mid-air. As soon as his boot slam into its summit, the teen-age Sentry wills the column to recede swiftly back into the earth. Spotting the makeshift elevator her son has created, Sting draws her twin sai and spikes them into the earthen tower. Momentum swings her down and around the column as she drags the sai to slow her fall. About thirty feet from the ground, Sting plants both feet onto the column and pushes off into a backflip to free her weapons and land safely under her own power.
By now, a motley assortment of bedraggled typhoon survivors have emerged from the jungle and are running towards the convoy. The would-be hijackers are mostly armed with clubs, but there are a fair number of firearms evident amongst the mob. The soldiers guarding the convoy are better armed but seriously outnumbered, and there are unarmed relief workers to protect in a firefight. Furthermore, the attackers seem to be driven by desperation rather than greed. It’s up to the Sentries to settle things before someone on either side gets hurt.
A quick glance around suggests that everyone has been too busy to notice the Sentries’ rather spectacular entrance. Sting decides to take advantage of surprise and dashes toward the nearest hijacker. She leaps gracefully some twenty feet into the air and lands on the shoulders of her target. Before he can slump to the forest floor unconscious, Sting pushes off his body and executes another backflip that carries her to the next nearest attacker and terminates with both her feet planted in his midsection. Swift as lightning, Sting cartwheels towards a third man – who drops his weapon and falls into a cowering heap. At the last instant, Sting converts her flying kick into a playful slap on the man’s upraised rump.
Meanwhile, Doctor Graphene has been focusing his energy. With a gesture, he opens up a chasm beneath the hijackers on the opposite side of the convoy from Sting. Their frightened cries fill the air as they plummet several feet into the yawning chasm – which suddenly closes about their squirming bodies. With a single move, Doc Graphene has rendered a dozen men helpless.
That’s enough for the rest of the hijackers, who drop their weapons and flee back into the jungle. All except for two rough customers, whose demeanor suggests that they are some of the escaped prisoners mentioned in the Baffler’s briefing. These men had not taken part in the assault on the convoy. Instead they held back to watch over a trio of sobbing women huddled together at their captors’ feet. The convicts point their pistols at the frightened hostages while barking out orders in Tagalog and fractured English – the heroes and military must flee the area or innocent blood will be on their hands.
Sting doesn’t take her eyes off the gunmen as she mutters sotto voce, “Just like we practiced, kid.”
A quick gesture from Graphene, and a wave of earth rises up and shields the hostages from their captors. Simultaneously, Sting whips both hands forward and a pair of her titanium throwing “stingers” flash through the air. Thrown with unerring accuracy, each stinger strikes a vital nerve in the neck of a convict. The gunmen collapse into an unconscious heap on the ground.
Chapter Three: In Which the Sentries Are All Wet
The team spend the next 30 hours helping clear debris, locate survivors, and transport relief workers and supplies. While their powers make these tasks relatively easy, the enormity of the job at hand threatens to overwhelm them at times. Still, the work is fulfilling; it’s great to be helping people directly instead of just punching psychopaths in the face.
After bringing supplies to a small coastal village, the Dwarf and DocG are chatting with an elderly resident. Their attention is drawn to a spot in the ocean several miles from shore. The water is churning violently and at first it looks as though another natural disaster is looming. Then a large transport ship erupts onto the surface, water pouring from its decks and portholes as it floats precariously on one side.
“Huh,” mutter the old-timer. “Darn thing came back.”
Upon being questioned by the Sentries, the old man reveals that the craft had been docked off-shore for several days before the typhoon. He assumed it had been carried away by the storm. It seems odd that the vessel had managed to sink completely intact, and even stranger that it has now bubbled to the surface in the same condition. The Sentries decide to investigate.
Univox flies ahead to scout the ship with his ultrasonics. Amazingly, he is not able to penetrate the ship with his sensors, which is a definite clue that someone in or around the boat is up to no good. ’Vox alerts his teammates and continues his reconnaissance.
Meanwhile, the Dwarf has commandeered a truck and his fellow heroes pile in. Doctor Graphene raises a rocky bridge from the ocean floor just as the vehicle hits the edge of the water. The truck cruises along on this narrow strip of land towards the mysterious ship.
Univox has successfully used his intangibility to penetrate the craft’s hull, but he still has not been able to produce any worthwhile scans. Not wanting to go deep into the ship without back-up, he plunges into the sea to reconnoiter from another angle – and comes face to face with a giant shark-man and his toothy fish friends!
The armored Sentry is taken utterly by surprise and launches a panicked, all-out attack. The effects of his sonic blast is amplified by the water and takes out the fearsome finned felon with one hit! The sharks surround and protect their unconscious master but make no retaliatory attack of their own, which is all right with Univox.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team have driven about halfway across the bay to the newly-risen ship. Suddenly, a huge wave roils up out of the ocean and comes hurtling towards the truck! But the White Dwarf merely chuckles, as lifting the truck and its content is child’s play for his powers.
Or it would be, if something or someone wasn’t counteracting his gravity control!
The truck lifts only a few scant inches before it rocks back on its shocks. The Dwarf cries out a warning. Graphene leaps out of the cab to try and raise a wall of earth to act as a breaker for the onrushing water. The White Dwarf grabs Sting and flies straight through the truck cab roof to soar high above the oncoming wave. As the heroic duo gaze down at the narrow bridge of land and Doctor Graphene, they can only gaze in horror as the wave smashes down the wall he is forming. Panic grips Sting’s heart as she watches her son disappear beneath thousands of tons of water!
But as the wave recedes as quickly as it arrived, the heroes spot a thin summit of stone that had not been washed away by the mini-tsunami. Standing atop it, soaked but alive, his lower half encased in a vise of rock, is Doctor Graphene!
Doc G telekinetically shapes the stone summit into a small floating platform and flies it up to join his mother and cousin. Univox comes soaring out of the ocean at the same time. The team regroups and compares notes before continuing their voyage to the mysterious ship.
The reunited team approaches the listing vessel carefully. There was now no doubt that paranormal criminals were involved with the resurrection of the sunken ship. Doctor Graphene, who had recently been studying the Sentries’ data files, pointed out that the giant wave was most likely the work of Hydro-Lord. And the list of villains who could counteract both Univox’s senses and the White Dwarf’s gravity control was very short – and very deadly.
Following team procedure, Univox goes noncorpreal and enters the ship first. When no immediate threat arises, he signals the rest of the team to follow.
The vessel is listing so badly that it is nearly floating on its side. The interior of the ship is disconcertingly tilted and the halls are still partially flooded. The heroes trudge through knee-deep water along one canted wall, alert for danger as they search for clues.
The Sentries make their way to the bridge. Floating amongst the debris are the bloated corpses of several crewmen. While the condition of the bodies make it uncertain without an autopsy, there are no signs of physical violence on any of the dead men. Additionally, the team notes that there are still-holstered sidearms on many of the crew, and loaded assault rifles are scattered about the area. It looks as though the ship was a victim of the storm and not any deliberate foul play. The White Dwarf gathers up what documents he can find, and Doc Graphene pulls down a schematic of the ship from one wall to use as a map. The Sentries decide to make for the main hold.
The expansive cargo hold is empty save for two feet of water and a number of gas canisters stacked into a large pyramid. The Dwarf floats over and identifies the markings as those used for the chemical weapons recently surrendered by Syria. These canisters are supposed to be somewhere in the Mediterranean awaiting disposal by a private contractor. The Sentries put two and two together and conclude that the weapons were somehow smuggled out from under the watchful eyes of a half-dozen governments and shipped half a world away – only to be caught in one of the worst typhoons on record. Hydro-Lord must be using his unique powers to salvage the canisters from the ocean floor.
The sound of a golf clap echoes through the hold. The heroes whirl about, ready for action. To no one’s surprise, Hydro-Lord forms a physical body out of the standing water in the hold. But the Sentries are taken aback when Doctor Prism does likewise!
Doctor Prism! One of the Sentries’ greatest foes! The mad genius whose armor can duplicate the powers of any paranormal in his presence! The team will have their hands full with this one!
Prism strikes first, mimicking Univox’s sonic powers to emit a high-pitched wave that overwhelms the Sentries’ senses. All but the White Dwarf, that is, who was ready fro the attack. He still feigns injury and curls up into a ball to conceal his next move from the villains. Hydro-Lord takes advantage of the Dwarf’s supposedly weakened state and engulfs the gravitronic guardian in a hard water bubble. Can the hero break out before he drowns?
While the other Sentries struggle to shake off the effects of his first attack, Doctor Prism copies the Dwarf’s powers to create an area of super-intensified gravity. Doc Graphene and Sting slam to the deck, their weight suddenly increased sixteen-fold. Univox, who had remained incorporeal this far, fades through the floor and out of sight. Prism laughs maniacally and taunts the heroes with their impending doom, his only regret being that Aura is not present to share their fate.
But the Dwarf rears up in his liquid prison, revealing that he had donned a small rebreather while feigning injury! The heavyweight hero uses his own powers to cancel out Prism’s gravity well, and his teammates snap to action.
“Fastball G-12!” shouts Sting as she leaps into Doctor Graphene’s arms.
The seismic sentinel uses his immense strength to throw his mother directly at Prism! As she hurtles through the air, the combat diva draws her katana and aims it directly at her target. A millisecond before impact, the White Dwarf concentrates and increases Sting’s weight to the maximum of his ability. It’s as if a freight train has slammed into the armored antagonist, with all the force directed into a single, razor-sharp point directed straight at his throat! The unbelievable has happened! Doctor Prism’s armor has been breached! He staggers back in pain!
Hydro-Lord shift back into water form. We’ll never know if his intent was to aid his partner or make his escape, for Univox rises up from behind him and lays him out with a full-force sonic blast before the liquid lawbreaker can make his move.
The Sentries advance towards the downed Doctor Prism preparing to finish him off. But the villain duplicates Univox’s noncorporeal power to give himself time to recover using Sting’s regenerative abilities. He distracts the heroes by monologuing. Yes, these are the chemical weapons handed over by Syria. Yes, they were smuggled away from the authorities and en route to a buyer when the typhoon struck. Yes, Doctor Prism recruited Hydro-Lord and some new local talent to help retrieve the shipment. But the armored madman is cagey enough not to give any clues as to who the buyer is or even if Prism was in on the plot from the start. And now he has stalled long enough to regain his full strength and finish killing the quartet of heroes!
But Prism is in for a surprise! As he began his rant, Doctor Graphene moved a few steps away from his teammates and passed a secret signal to Univox. This was the sign for the sonic superhero to try a trick the team had practiced but never put to use in the field. The armored avenger uses his mastery of sound to create a “dead zone” around his young teammate; no sound DocG makes can be heard from even a few feet away. However, the seismic sentinel’s communicator can still pick up his words and broadcast them via radio waves to the rest of the team. In this way, the teenage hero is able to let his fellow Sentries in on an audacious plan.
Knowing that Prism would have to become corporeal in order to attack the Sentries, the White Dwarf and Doctor Graphene wait for that moment to strike. Pushing his powers to the limit, the Dwarf creates a negative gravity well covering as much of the ship as possible. At the same time, DocG strains his geokinesis to its utmost and summons a huge pillar of bedrock up from the ocean floor and smack into the listing vessel.
The result is catastrophic! The cargo ship snaps in twain and both halves spin crazily in the air before striking the surface of the water with bone-shattering impact! While the Sentries were prepared for this development, Doctor Prism was not so fortunate. He is battered again and again against deck and hull before he finally regains enough composure to use the Dwarf’s gravity powers to float in a personal pocket of zero-g.
It’s only a matter of minutes before what’s left of the vessel vanishes beneath the waves for ever, but the Sentries might not have that long to live! For Graphene’s plan has an unexpected side effect – many of the chemical weapon canisters have cracked open and their poisonous contents begin to rapidly fill the cargo hold!
The White Dwarf springs into action. He creates a small gravity well that keeps the gas from seeping any further. He then asks Univox to fly him as high and as fast as he can. The Dwarf requires all his concentration to have the “frozen” cloud of gas and the remaining canisters keep pace with him as Univox carries his near-weightless compatriot up through the sundered wreckage of the cargo ship. The master of sound pours all of suit’s power into its boot jets, pushing his living metal armor to the breaking point. Within minutes, the duo reach the edge of the mesosphere. Univox uses the last of his jets’ power to ignite the gas, and he and his teammate begin the long free-fall back to Earth. Drained and exhausted, they are in no shape to confront one of the Sentries’ most powerful villains.
Meanwhile, Doctor Graphene and Sting prepare to do what they can to take down the notorious Doctor Prism. However, the arch-villain glances about the wrecked and now-empty cargo hold, shrugs, and turns into water ala Hydro-Lord. The Sentries on the scene have no way of tracking the criminal in this form and have no choice but to let him get away. (Truth be told, they’re a bit relieved.)
Doc Graphene contents himself by restraining the Hydro-Lord in a hollow block of stone as the moist marauder stirs back into consciousness. Sting advises him to keep the earthen prison airtight, as Hydro-Lord does not need to breathe in his liquid form and could easily escape through the smallest crevice.
While Doctor Prism is still at large, the Sentries can take satisfaction in a job well done. They destroyed a cache of dangerous WMDs, foiled an international terror plot, and captured a notorious paranormal criminal. But most importantly, they extended a helping hand to the people of the Philippines in their hour of need. (And probably learned the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Whatever.)