Squadron: Birmingham 2019 Descents

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Descents

Techknight and Deacon secured SkyLord's orbiting fortress. Along with the army of robots, it also contained enough animal and plant DNA sample to allow anyone with sufficient wit to repopulate a decimated planet.

Techknight installed safeguards to ensure no-one without the appropriate level of access (ie. Sq:B) could activate the space station's systems. Deacon ensured that the station was in geosynchronous orbit over the UK and then secretly patched the errors in Techknight's programming.

A Squad-Jet docked, piloted by Miasma. She mused that she couldn't wait for the new recruits to be fully trained to pilot the team's jets. It was getting wearing to have to cover all the required tasks with just three members. She asked Deacon to mind the store and took Techknight away to perform to essential duties on Earth. Deacon would be relieved as soon as his team-mates had finished searching for Slink.

Deacon did another tour of the station. He noticed a slight, almost imperceptible drop in air pressure. Checking, he found air vents all over to station jammed open and the atmosphere slowly bleeding into space. Somehow he was able to seal the vents and bulkheads in a small area of the structure, but the rest soon became uninhabitable.

He radioed for help, only to have Miasma tell him that it wouldn't be coming. Of all the new recruits, Deacon had been the one that had tasked them the most. Being able to trap him in space had been a fortunate coincidence. There away from ley-lines and ghosts and the other occult nonsense he relied upon, he could be safely left to die.

Desperately, Deacon pulled his cloak around him, forcing himself through the dimensional portal it contained. He aimed to go back in time to a moment before he was trapped and change history. Unfortunately, he may have calculated the time factor correctly but somehow missed the Spacial component. He emerged from the portal earlier in time but in the same location. Earth and the Space station had yet to travel to that location. Deacon was drifting alone in Space.

He hurled himself back through the portal fixating on the one constant in his life for the past weeks, his team-mates and companions. Emerging from the void he found himself in darkness, surrounded by the cries of his companions as they hurtled groundwards through the black.

Creating an arcane light in his hand, he hovered, looking downwards. He saw Agony Aunt, Steel Reign and Electro. The first two bore signs of Ill-use but were picking themselves up off the floor. Electro seemed nominally unharmed by was lying on the floor in a foetal ball, whimpering. Of Steel and Magnetron there was no sign.

Flying down, Deacon asked where they were and what had happened. He was deluged with a wave of panicked, half statements. Even Steel Reign's android intelligence seemed so disturbed that he was unable to string a coherent sentence together. Eventually, he managed to piece together the story of betrayal, assassination and destruction that had so nearly ended the lives of his comrades.

Suddenly, Steel appeared besides the group. It seems that, in falling, he had chosen to grab a stalactite in passing and hung for while, assessing his landing position.

"Uh-oh!" said Electro, her superhearing picking up the sounds of splintering rock. The roof of the cave they were in was splitting, getting ready to collapse. Looking desperately around for escape, all they could see was a tiny tiny crack in the wall of the immense underground cavern they were in. As stones and rocks began to fall, they began to fly and run like crazy across the the broken ground. And almost made it. The crack was a mere three feet wide and, whilst almost everyone squeezed or was thrown into it, Agony Aunt's rapidly shrinking form only made it through Steel Reign sacrificing himself (again) by using his metal fists to smash the rumble away from her allowing her to make her escape. Then, her rescuer was buried under tons of rubble.

The team were trapped in the tightest of spaces, pinned shoulder to shoulder unable to even turn to face the twisting way ahead. Using his flying ability, Deacon managed to slither his way along the small crawl- space above his comrades' heads and used his arcane abilities to release Steel Reign from the fallen rock. The android was battered but, somehow, still functioning.

Then began an interminable struggle through the tight and twisting crack, shuffling sideways, never knowing when or if if would narrow to become too tight to move on, leaving them trapped beneath a uncounted hundreds of feet of rock, unable to move back or forwards. Never knowing if their movements would cause a catastrophic rockslide. And worrying all the time about the fate of their friend, Magnatron.

They reached a puddle in the ground. Deacon.pulled forth an ancient pole arm which was passed hand to hand overhead. The puddle was found, in fact to be a flooded crack in the earth beneath and perpendicular do their own. It being just a handful of feet wide, they chose to traverse it and carry on.

As luck would have it, a hundred yards or so of further shuffling found their crack to end and they were forced to return to the underground stream.

Originally built as a robot barman, Steel Reign was waterproof. He dropped into the crack and after a couple of minutes discovered it passed beneath a cavern. He pulled himself up....

..and was immediately attacked by a mob of some kind of ravening beast. Despite him being much stronger than them and armoured, their sheer numbers and the surprise resulted in several scratches and him being driven back underwater. He chose to return to his friends. The creatures did not pursue.

After reporting back, he investigated the other direction only to find no useful opening within reach. Preparing themselves, each hero took a deep breath and dived beneath the water to scramble towards the cave to confront the underground creatures. Only to find them gone.

The cavern they were now in was much larger. Everyone was able to move freely for the first time in hours. As they stretched, they took stock, rested and Agony Aunt was able to perform First Aid on their injuries for the first time. (Deacon was able to do some basic patching to Steel Reign.)

The cavern had myriad exits. Eliminating the smallest and largest, Electro listened at each one and selected one which didn't contain the sounds of hundreds of slithering creatures. As they proceeded, however, the corridor branched and Electro heard sounds from every direction, including from behind. She chose the one where the sounds at least seemed to echo, indicating greater volume of space for movement. Alas that corridor shrank down from above and soon the team were crawling on their bellies as they all heard the skittering noises approaching from behind. Agony Aunt pulled out a jar containing some of the material she'd harvested from her encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex and tried to drop it behind, hoping the scent would scare off the creatures. Unfortunately in the tight space all she did was break it over herself.

Ahead everyone could see a strange and unearthly green glow. Somehow, before their ankles could be attacked from behind, they emerged into a huge cavern, illuminated by the green glow from a massive stalagmite. The cavern was filled with thousands of pallid, white, eyeless humanoids. Strapped to the green rock was Magnatron, unconscious, his skin beginning to take on a colourless pallor and his eyes looking shrunken.

Deacon, the demon hunter, hissed "Homunculi". But to Agony Aunt the existence of eye sockets but lack of eyes indicated rapid de-evolution of human victims. Completely impossible of course but the evidence was irrefutable. Probably caused by the radiation from the strange radiant rock, currently bathing the entire group in its glow.

The thousands of Homunculi did not attack. Neither did the hundreds emerging from the cave behind them. A giant homunculous, ten feet tall and looking like he was built out of rock himself, hauled himself up from a throne made of bones and sniffed. Apparently detecting the scent of dinosaur upon Agony Aunt he issued a gutteral, intelligible but unmistakable challenge to single combat. As he charged, she grew to her giant size for the first time in uncounted hours. Though she got some good blows in, the beast was still able to send her flying, huge as she was.

Fearing that she might lose the conflict and shocked at the deterioration of their friend Magnetron, Deacon chose to intervene. Lifting Steel Reign into the air, he flew him to the green rock and dropped him. The android's body hit the glowing stalagmite from above and shattered it. A wave of raw green energy battered every living creature in the cavern, killing many of the Homunculi and rendering everyone unconscious.

Only Steel Reign remained functional, immune to the radiation. He tried to rouse his teammates. Electro and Steel awoke first, protected by force shield and steel skin, respectively, from the worst effects of the blast. Magnetron remained unconscious. Deacon and Agony Aunt were barely able to stagger.

As they slowly recovered, the still more battered, and now nauseous, heroes grabbed their rescued friend and sought their way to the surface. But not before Agony Aunt chose to take several samples from corpses of fallen Homunculi. The brutality of the process and her callousness shocked Electro.

After who knows how long, they emerged in a forest. Deacon and Agony Aunt immediately began to vomit and pass out. Steel Reign collapsed the entrance to the cave from which they'd just emerged.

Since three of their number were unconscious and both Electro and Steel were feeling ill, they sat and rested. As they did, they heard the sounds of singing. Presently a middle-aged but youthful looking woman emerged into the clearing. At first shocked and alarmed, she regarded each of the Heroes for second and her alarm faded.

She introduced herself as Alma McMartin, a local artist who had a cottage nearby. She had been out foraging for food and pigments for her Art. She helped them get their fallen comrades back to her house to recover.

On the way she told them that she knew who they were but, now, she knew that the stories were untrue. Upon arrival at her home, and despite her protestations, the team clustered around her radio to hear the terrible news of how Squadron Birmingham's new members had turned on the team, slaughtering Techknight, Dynamo and the newly returned Enigma (who'd sensed their duplicity) and nearly killing Warrior and Miasma by destroying the Rotunda. Only Warrior's Heroism had saved them both, and the lives of many of the Rotunda's other residents. Not all though. He was now critically injured and dozens of people were dead.

At the team's exhortation, Alma dusted off her old battered laptop, and, using Steel Reign as an Internet hotspot, they were able to access YouTube. Agony Aunt's official feed had been pulled down, but some people had saved her final post which revealed her true evil manifesto - where she exhorted young people everywhere to take drugs, bathe themselves in all forms of radiation and try myriad other ways to gain their own superpowers. The video streaming site also hosted images too shocking for the TV channels to carry. Gleaned from various CCTV feeds.

Steel threatening the life of the Governor of Winson Green prison. Steel Reign tearing a Police Constable's arm from its socket and beating him with it. Deacon, emerging from invisibility to lop off Dynamo's head with an arcane axe. Electro saying "Hello Elf" as she's she scattered the faerie warrior into a million pieces . And Magnetron using his abilities to crush Techknight in his own armour.

But all was not lost. Realising that Miasma was now alone, new heroes had come forward to stand by her:

ICE WARRIOR - an armoured Hero who uses his Ice Cannon to freeze villains
THE FLAME OF JUSTICE - a flying, flaming hero
INFILTRATOR - capable of getting into and out of anywhere
MENAGERIE - master of beasts, with bat like wings of his own
TOYMASTER - who commands an army of robot toys

And the international Billionaire and Philanthropist Johannes Drax has stepped forward to underwrite the development of a new base for the team over the ruins of the old Rotunda. Now the site of one of the most infamous acts of villainy Birmingham has ever seen - eclipsing even the massacre on the Stratford Road.

Alone, friendless, vilified, our Heroes now face an alliance of their worst enemies. Enemies the world now thinks are Heroes.

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