Funeral, 2008-06-12

From WestGuard

The Funeral, 2008-06-12

Flipping channels...

"Investigation continues into last week's terrorist attack and resulting explosion at the NASA-Vectronix Research Center at the University of New Orleans Research and Technology Park. Investigators are now attributing the attack to a subversive paramilitary organization known as CLADE. The death toll from the attack is now estimated at 23 people, most of whom were scientists working on the center's Quantum Collimator project. In other news..."

"You are 'Rockin' the Bayou' on New Orleans' only classic rock radio station, WKBU! This is WKBU news time! Funeral services for the remaining members of the paranormal group Vanguard will be held tomorrow. The services for the hero Rubberfist were held by his family yesterday. Since the remaining members of Vanguard have no known family, their surviving teammate Starmass has arranged for their burial, which will take place tomorrow morning at Greenwood Cemetery ("where heroes rest"). For safety reasons, Mayor Nagin has requested that the public not attend, and several members of New Orlean's finest will be on hand to make sure things don't get out of hand. However, your Rockin' the Bayou station has scored a limited number of passes to the funeral, and we'll be giving these out for the rest of the afternoon. There are seven superheroes being buried, so caller number seven will get two passes to the event..."

"Another body has been found in downtown New Orleans with its skin removed, this time in the Jefferson Parish area. Police have not yet identified the body, the third such to be found in New Orleans since November of last year. Police deny that the gruesome killings are the work of a serial killer, saying that the area where this body was found has had a recent spike in violent crime, and that the murderer probably merely imitated the style of the previous killings. Area civic leaders are attributing the deaths to the vigilante calling himself Beowulf, who is known for both his intolerance of illicit drugs and his brutal methods of dealing with those he catches in the act of selling them. Police have no suspects at this time."

"Tonight on the Discovery Channel... 'Beyond Human: Embalming A God'. How does one embalm a being whose skin is hard as stone, and whose blood is as dense as mercury? Burying Hercules, tonight on Beyond Human...."

The Interred

Blue Star: Former leader of the group, and second-oldest member (only Dryad had been a member longer). Very strong, very smart. She could fly faster than anyone else in the group (though still only at subsonic speeds). She wore a cape (the only member of Vanguard to do so). She gave good speeches. The minister calls her a "brave leader."

Dryad: She had been a member of Vanguard since it was founded in 1935, although she still looked like a scantily-clad green-haired 17-year-old girl when she was killed. Up until her death, she was widely regarded as immortal. She could control plants of all varieties, making them grow enormous and moving as she commanded. She was probably the most mourned of the fallen heroes; most residents of New Orleans regarded her as a cross between a local landmark and the girl next door. A great many teenage boys of the past 50-odd years have had crushes on her, and she got a lot of fan letters. The minister calls her "a pure-hearted innocent."

Hercules: Showed up one day in 1983 claiming to be the Greek demigod Hercules, and no one has been able to prove him wrong. Friendly, outgoing, quick-tempered, and a womanizer like his father. Considered one of the strongest individuals on earth until he died. Despite his prodigious strength, he was a tactical weak link in the Vanguard chain; he was unruly and didn't take orders well, and it was no secret he resented the fact that Vanguard's leader was a woman. The minister calls him a "powerful force for good."

Perseus Jones: The second of Vanguard's three flight-capable heroes (Blue Star and Starmass being the other two). Perseus Jones was a mysterious individual -- no one knew quite what to make of him. He could fly, though not any faster than Blue Star or Starmass. He was strong, though (again) not as strong as Blue Star or Starmass. He seemed to have the ability to absorb others' powers by touch, transferring those powers temporarily to himself. On several occasions, however, this ability seemed to fail him for no apparent reason. He never spoke in public, and popular mythology portrayed him as a loner and a malcontent (though there isn't any evidence for this assumption). The minister calls him a "steadfast defender of the weak."

Nemesis: A recent addition to Vanguard, Nemesis was nothing but trouble for them from the day he joined. He constantly fought with police, other superheroes, and members of his own team. He was a martial artist with mysterious abilities, the full extent of which were never documented. The minister calls him a "troubled soul."

Rubberfist: A happy-go-lucky stretching strongman who joined Vanguard at the same time Nemesis did. Where Nemesis was bellicose and ill-behaved, Rubberfist was cheerful, cooperative, and a team player. He always tried to work with the other members of Vanguard, and worked with a great many charities and local public services. Always smiled and signed autographs when approached in public; he obviously enjoyed being a hero, yet he managed not to appear the least bit vain about it. He was buried a few days ago in his family's cemetery plot near Baton Rouge, but the minister gives him a brief eulogy, as well.

TK Kid: The most recent addition to Vanguard, a 14-year-old orphan who was a powerful telekinetic, capable of lifting skyscrapers and aircraft carriers. Unfortunately, his powers were not entirely reliable, and on one occasion he leveled a city block when he tried to telekinetically grab a villain's fleeing skycycle. The minister calls him "a brave and idealistic youth."

Starmass: The only survivor of the Audobon Park Massacre. He wears chrome black armor, and may in fact be some kind of android. He was the third strongest member of the group (behind Blue Star and Hercules), he can fly, he can fire a laser from the visor plate covering his eyes, and his armor is generally thought to be impervious. It is known that his armor exists in more than three dimensions, and is opaque to most particles which pass through ordinary solid matter. He often served as team leader in Blue Star's absence.

Condolences

After the funeral is over, the crowd surges and throngs around Starmass. He just stands there, and the police and cemetery security start herding people out the gates. They seem to be concentrating on people in normal clothes (i.e., those not wearing a suit or a costume). It takes the better part of an hour to clear the bulk of them out of the cemetery.

In the meantime several dozen sympathizers line up to give Starmass their condolences. His responses are uniformly subdued -- usually just a nod, or a monotone "THANK YOU." Once in a while, he stops and says something to one of them, usually just a word or two.

Meanwhile, off to the side (and largely ignored by the crowd) a gaunt woman in black leather is talking to Dr. Redgrave, the blonde woman who accompanied Starmass in the limo. Anyone with some familiarity with superheroes might recognize her as Shrike, the leader of the San Diego group Barclays. Shrike appears to be furious with Dr. Redgrave, but whatever their dispute, the doctor seems to be holding her ground. After a few minutes of quiet but intense discussion, Shrike spins away from Dr. Redgrave and stalks off to one of the several sleek aircraft parked nearby. A group of costumed heroes follows her, they all get in the black aircraft, and it takes off with a muffled WHOOSH!

Other VTOL aircraft soon follow suit, and the limousines begin lining up to leave, as well.