"Good afternoon, Protectors," said the man. "Permission to come aboard? Or is that ashore?" He smiled and his somewhat plain face became suddenly appealing.
PC did four things more or less simeultaneously: she opened a link back up to the man, checked the logs to see who was on site - discovering the Wanderer and Sting, tried to get the camera to pull-back - failing since it was on his end and not under her control, and ran a check through the data-files to see what she could find about the man.
That last check started spitting data instantly. There was a 98% likliehood that the man on the screen was Dux Brittanicus, leader of the British superhero group known as the Round Table. A cross-referenced list of exploits popped up, as well as a variety of other data. A note on vehicles caught her eye, when travelling the Round Table often used a GEV named "The Vanguard," and specs about the craft were available. Not surprisingly, much of this data came from cross-references with IPAC files.
"Hello, Mr. Brittanicus." PC said cheerfully over the monitor. "Or do you prefer Dux? In any event, please standby."
Wanderer signaled on the base for Sting and Wanderer to come to the comm center while she looked more in detail at some of the exploits and at the craft specs.
When the heroes arrived, PC showed them the screen and the specs. "I'm pretty sure he's legit, but I don't lead, so I didn't want to make the call. I think he wants to 'come in'. Wanderer, this OK by you?"
"Well," said the black dressed alien, "if he knows the way in then sure." The Wanderer looked over the data and commented, "I'll bake a cake, and you can rally the troops. Unexpected guests are always exciting."
"Well," said Dux, "I should be more or less above you right now if memory serves, but an escort down in a sub would be nice."
The Wanderer looked over to PC, "Tell him that we're fresh out of subs, I'll be glad to meet him topside with a hoagie." The Wanderer popped over to the airlock and gave a jaunty wave as he cycled through the door on his way to the surface.
The Wanderer floated to the surface and spotted the Vanguard perhaps a mile away. He swam towards the vehicle and by the time he arrived, he could see that a small mini-sub was being swung over the side in a cradle. He popped onto the deck, catching the armoured man by surprise. He recovered quickly, though, and offered a hand, "You must be The Wanderer, I'm Dux Brittanicus." He peered closely at the Wanderer, "Have we met before? You look familiar? Oh, pardon my rudeness, let me introduce the crew. Our support team is called the Squires." Dux introduced a number of jumpsuited men and woman who were handling the duties shipboard. Finally he stopped before a tall and striking woman bearing a round shield and a spear, "This is Bouddicea," he said, "a valued Companion of the Round Table."
The woman who looked like a striking celtic goddess reached forward to shake the Wanderer's hand and said in a thick Cockney accent, "Good to meecher."
The Wanderer bowed grandly, "Lady Bodacious, er...Bouddicea the pleasure is all mine."
"When PC said your sub was unavailable I asked if it would be acceptable to use ours and she said yes, so I had it prepped," concluded Dux.
"Aye aye," he snapped back with a salute and added "I'll happily guide you in."
"Very good, Boudiccea, the Vanguard is yours," said Dux Brittanicus as he entered his craft. He was dropped over the side and pinned the grinning Wanderer in a floodlight. He followed him down and down to the submarine pen, where PC opened the doors, then followed the Wanderer in and parked his sub by the large one left there by Overlord. PC closed the pen doors and reset the security behind them.
Dux popped his hatch and joined the Wanderer on the deck, waiting politely for the alien to wring his hat mostly dry. As the Wanderer led him into the control area, he commented, "It's been years since I've been in the Nest, have you renamed it?" He paused by a section where some damage had recently been repaired and ran his mailed fingers across the fresh welds, "Seems the old girl has seen a few fights since then."
The Wanderer slogged his way over to Dux and answered, "We renamed the Nest the Fortress, just as we could never fill the shoes of the Eagles we took the nom Protectors out of reverence to the man himself." He walked along pointing out the repairs, as well as what was still neeeded, most notably the vehicles. "Perhaps you have the expertise that we could borrow to get the old girl back up to code?" he asked with a smile.
"Not my baliwick, I'm afraid," said the knight. "The Squires handle that. But I could talk it over with the other Companions. Closer cooperation between our two groups would be a good thing. That's why I'm here actually." The two men walked into the control room where PC spun around to be introduced.
As the Wanderer made the introductions, Dux Brittanicus removed his helmet and the Wanderer was rendered almost speechless; the man was the spitting image of Sir David of Brenlake!
"H-h-how?" the alien stammered. Despite the things he had seen in his many years, the Wanderer was struck with utmost curiousity. "Do tell, you look good."
Dux Brittanicus looked back at him curiously, "Thank you. So, then, we have met? I thought we had. I can't recall when, though, I'm sorry. Can you enlighten me?"
"Why certainly," offered the Wanderer as he recounted the last adventure where he had met Sir David. (Issue #24, A Trip in Time - The Past) The story was rife with gestures and play-acting as the alien in black performed admirably the defeat of the Black Druid. PC looked on patiently, as she had seen this all before; many times to be exact, but each show was entertaining nevertheless.
Throughout the story, Dux grew more animated, nodding and shaking his head, and occasionally interjecting a "Yes!" or "Correct, I had forgotten." or a similar comment.
Feigning exhaustion, the Wanderer collapsed in a nearby chair and waved for Dux to present his request.
"How can you remember so well soemthing that happened a thousand years ago?" asked the Dux. "With such detail! I only remember parts." His face grew hard, "I remember Black Daffyd and the Black Druid all too well, though." He punched one mailed fist into a mailed palm.
"A thousand years is but a matter of days," the Wanderer offered. "There are several others who will be pleased to see you again and ask you how came to be here today." He sat up in the chair, "So, old friend, why are you here now?"
PC punched up the alert for the other Protectors who had gone back in time, and Sting's and the Beggar King's beeperphones buzzed, lit up or vibrated depending on their owner's preference.
"Well," said David, "I read in the IPAC Villian database that you had recently had a run in with Overlord. We're having a spot of trouble with him now, and I wanted to come pick your brains.
"He's threatening to cause earthquakes and destroy sites of national importance if we don't pay him off. I'm fairly certain we'll find him eventually and shut him down, but he could do a lot of damage in the interim. We're hoping you have some insight into how to find him, or even what means he's using to cause the earthquakes so that we might be able to devise a defense."
"Overlord," repeated the Wanderer. He popped over to the console and punched a few keys calling up the logs from their last encounter which took place in the very room they now sat. (See Issue #10 - Where Eagles Dare) "He was the joker that led us here," said the Wanderer," the Guardians were able to wrestle control of the Nest from him, unfortunately he escaped as you well know."
The Wanderer talked about Overlord, what he knew of him and allowed the tapes to fill in greater detail. He confirmed his earthquake abilities and revealed the speculated ties to the science outpost heist when the alien first appeared in Port Alexander. "We may not be able to assist much with intel, beyond some of his accomplices, maybe you could help us in determining if his takeover of the Nest is somehow related. Was there anything here that could shed light on his means or plan?"
It was at this point that Sting walked into the room, took one look at the knight, and gasped. "Wha...huh...how..."
Dux bounced to his feet and came to shake Sting's hand. "Sting, good to see you again." He smiled, "Quite a shock, I guess. As for how ... The Wanderer tells me you came through the mirror back to, well, now. I came the long way. When we've finished talking about Overlord, I'll tell you if you want."
He turned back to the Wanderer, "So he was using the earthquakes on you as well? Did you ever figure out how he was doing it? Did he need to plant a device at the site, or could he do it remotely somehow?" Dux began to pace.
"That was what Iron Maiden thought," replied the Wanderer in reference to the use of earthquakes. "As far as I know it was just a theory, she didn't elaborate much however she did have some friends in IPAC. Nevertheless, I'm a lover not a scientist." The Wanderer removed his hat and smoothed his hair. "I do hope we can help you, London is bound to love me."
"We'd love to have you if you can come," said Dux.
"What do you see our involvement being?" asked the Wanderer.
"I hadn't considered it. Quite frankly, I had come here to trade information and war stories and to just make contact for future cooperation and trades," said Dux. "At the moment, we don't have a lot to go on with this Overlord thing. I had hoped you'd have more information about his earthquake device and some way to counter it or track it."
"I don't have much up here," said the Wanderer tapping his temple, quickly amending it "at least on this topic." He popped over next to PC, "However, any details or notes on Overlord would be inside this contraption," he tapped the console. "I'm sure PC can access whatever you need."
"In the meantime, I will make a phone call and see what I can dig up," the Wanderer stated before he disappeared from sight with a pop. Almost as soon as he vanished he reappeared briefly, "if you will excuse me," before leaving again.
Defender said quietly, taking it all in. After the Wanderer blinked out, Defender spoke up. "We could check out his sub. When I did my original inspection of the vehicle, I found some instruments and devices that were beyond my expertise."
"Really?" said Dux. "I suppose that is not too surprising, actually. His technical skills are most impressive."
"Beyond that, PC and I could lend our technical expertise. Who was it said was gathering data?"
Ka-sador fidgetted. [SUB TOO SMALL FOR KA-SADOR] The alien walked over to the console in a couple of strides, [PC AND KA-SADOR LOOK FORE ERRTHQUAYKE DATA]
"Sounds like a good plan, big guy." Defender stood and motioned for the British hero to follow. "Shall we have a preliminary look at the sub?"
"Certainly," said Dux. Defender led the way out to where the sub was docked.
"When I first checked the sub out, I was thinking we might convert it for our own use. But it required too big a crew. I was also concerned about the weapons systems. Since I couldn't decipher the function of some of it without a field test, I am reluctant to use the vehicle at all." Defender lead Dux to the specific weapons control station he was discussing. "The answer to your earthquake problems might be right here. We can hope."
"We certainly can." Dux regarded the panel with trepidation. "What do we do? I can fetch a couple of technical minded Squires down from the Vanguard if that would be useful."
"Unless we can figure out how to surface this thing without wrecking the Fortress," Defender joked. "Bring'em on down and I'll hang out to help them where I can."
"I think rather they'll be helping you out where they can," said Dux heading for his sub.
An hour later, Dux was back inside talking to Ka-Sador and PC about their research, having left a couple of technically inclined Squires deep in conversation with Defender about the best way to proceed.
Max listened to the technical chat in the sub for a few minutes, then said, "If the world ends, beep me," and returned to the control dome.
As Dux arrived, he saw a map of the Port Alexander area with markers indicating suspicious seismic activity. Ka-sador and PC had accessed some previous notes by the White Knight and the Wanderer crossing them. [SEE MONSTER] Ka-sador replied, pointing to small triangles on the map which the Wanderer had marked as sightings in his investigation.
PC ran a few correlation checks to see if there was some pattern to the reported epicenters and after a moment the results popped up. She threw them onto the large monitor. The epicenters paralleled the course of the James river or the coastline.
[NOT RANDOM] stated Ka-sador in an obvious deduction. The alien paced about and posed an open ended question [WHY OVERRLORD COME HERE?] Ka-sador then asked PC if she could find anything the logs which could be Overlord accessing the Eagles archives.
"Right," said PC and started a trace. "Not random but why paralleling the coast and the river? And why further in along the river than from the coast?"
[LOOKING FOR SUMTHING IN WATER?] asked Ka-sador. There was a pop of displaced atmosphere as the Wanderer winked into existence. "Oh goodie, one of my favorite stations on the big screen," he said.
The Wanderer briefly filled in the heroes on his investigation of the sea monster and pointed out the sightings on the map, thumbing toward Overlord's abandoned submarine. "I think that was the monster, and Iron Maiden believed he was using the quakes to locate the Nest. PC, can you overlay the Fortress' location on the map to see if there is any creedence to this theory?"
"Sure." The image popped but dissappointingly far out to sea. "Wait a minute," said PC. She keyed something in and the tunnel to the Nest appeared on the screen. She tapped madly for a few moments, "Now let's see if this works." She hit a key and the epicenters vanished. Then one appeared, and a circle of green expanded out from it. "That's the first quake, and based on its magnitude and some guesswork, that's the radius that it would be useful as a siesmic sounding charge. IPAC suggest that the quakes might be used for something like that. Here's the second. See how the radii haven't hit either the tunnel or the nest." They watched for a few minutes as each quake appeared on the screen. Then PC pointed, "There!" One radius seemed to just touch the tunnel. The next epicenter was closer to the tunnel and the radius overlapped it considerably. The next and final epicenter was on the other side of the tunnel and farther out to sea. PC looked at Dux, Ka-Sador, the Wanderer and Max (who had just come in.) "From that he could just follow the direction of the tunnel in that sub out there and end up," a punch of a key and the nest icon flared, "here."
The Wanderer clapped at the presentation, "And because of his hasty retreat we presumably have his quake tracking device in that sub. Although if he is threatening merry old England then he must have the super industrial size version back in his evil lair."
[MAYBE WE FYND DEVICE AND LEARN SEEKRET, THEN TRACK HIM] offered Ka-sador.
"Maybe," offered PC. "That will be up to Defender and the Squires."
"PC," asked the Wanderer, "do any of those fancy databases have any info on our Mr. Overlord? I seem to remember him attacking us with a vibratory ray of sorts."
"Let's see what IPAC has ... and is willing to share," said PC. On the screen appeared a picture of Overlord and the following:
A meglomanical genius. Designed an armoured suit which presumably is the source of all other abilities including at least: vibratory attack blast, flight, and underwater life support.
After reading the confirming information from the computer, the Wanderer leapt to his feet and with a loud clap looked overjoyed. "There you have it," he exclaimed. "All we need to do is find out how he does the weird wiggly thing," the Wanderer waved his fingers in the air and produced some strange techno sound effect, "trace it, counter it, and we're home in time for dinner." Satisfied that he had solved the dilemma, the Wanderer reclined back in his chair smiling.
"Probably easier said than done," commented Dux, "But I think that's the right track. I guess there's nothing to do but wait."
"Right," said PC. "Can we offer you some coffee?"
"That would be great," said Dux.
* * * *Over coffee in the residential dome, Dux Brittanicus told his story. "Parts of those days remain clear in my mind: Sir Justin sailing off the tower to land at my feet, seeing you up there fighting like gods or heroes out of legend. When Justin landed there, I saw that he was weilding weapons and wearing armour out of legend, too. I grabbed his sword and shield and came out to help, but by the time I arrived, the fight was over and the Black Druid was free." He held up a hand to forestall the Wanderer's question, "Wait, I'll get to that."
"In the aftermath of the battle, I gathered the weapons and armour of the two fallen knights and examined them, they were ... they are exquisite." He indicated where his shield and sword lay against the wall nearby, "You can see. Out of curiosity, I tried them on. Imagine my surprise when they fit! Neither Justin nor Daryl was remotely my size, and yet their armour fit me perfectly. The sword is magnificent. I soon learned that the fearsome powers those two wielded were in the artifacts not in them. And now the powers were in me.
"I became a legend, too, then. Fighting for my Duke and my land. No one could stand before me. Those were violent times, but we were building a nation. We were building it on the backs of the Saxons, but it was the only way we knew. I've learned better since then.
"It was an encounter with an old Celtic witch that changed everything. I had been hunting a pack of bandits into the woods and found myself before a hut in an oak grove. A woman greeted me by name and almost against my will, I dismounted, entered her hut and heard her words. I saw visions. I saw the spirit of Britain, the land itself. That was when I became Dux Brittanicus in reality if not in name. The spirit of the land entered me, and I became as eternal as the land.
"That changed my perspective as you can imagine. I became the defender of the land and of all her peoples."
The Wanderer quipped, "With a slogan like that, you need to meet our leader."
Dux laughed and took a sip of coffee. "She also told me about the Black Druid. He could have been me, you know. He had the ability and the power, but he couldn't release the hate. Rather than become the defender of the Celt and the Saxon, and later the Norman, he chose to array himself against everything but his own narrow ideal. He was imprisoned in that orb, the Orb of Malice. I am now certain that it was his will that possessed poor Daffyd and drove him to those actions. When the orb was shattered, the malicious spirit that is the Black Druid was freed. I've fought him countless times down the ages. His pattern is the same. He find a victim, possesses them and utterly obliterates their own personality, controlling their body completely. I can only hope that their souls are not damned and find freedom. Then, again corporeal, he starts the battle anew."
"There is a man you should meet Dux," the Wanderer offered. "A man called the Mystic, he has been tracking the Black Druid as well. You two should speak and see if this menace can be banished from this plane for good."
Defender and the Squire who had aided him joined the group in the residential dome. The Squire summarized their findings while Defender got himself a beverage. "We found what we think is the device Overlord used to cause the earthquakes. It's extremely advanced, though, and it will take some time to figure out how it works and if we'll be able to block it or trace it. Or both."
Dux looked thoughtful, "We don't want to impose on our host good graces more than we have to. Protectors, how do you want to proceed? Can we perhaps talk you out of the device and maybe the sub and offer something in exchange? Some help in putting the Nest, ah, the Fortress to rights? Or, if it wouldn't be an imposition we could bring a team out here to examine the device. Defender has already spent too much time on our problem, and I would hate to ask him to continue."
"Don't worry about the time. I'm glad to have been of assistance. As for the sub, we really don't have any need of it. True, we have no operational vehicles at the moment, but that sub was just a bit too much for us. I'm afraid our needs run in different directions." Defender looked to the Wanderer then the others. "Unless there is an objection, I say the sub is yours. Something in exchange is not necessary, but we would gladly accept any assistance you can provide with the final repairs of this place."
Defender waited for Dux to return. "We've been discussing it. As I said, the sub is no use to us. It's yours. In exchange, we'd greatly appreciate any assistance your organization can lend in repairs to the Fortress. Most specifically, the vehicles which are in disrepair are the biggest concern."
"Splendid!" cried Dux. "We'll send over a team of our vehicle specialists to get the one sub out and back home and to get your vehicles running. Jameson," he addressed the Squire, "can you take a look at their vehicles and see what kind of a team they'll need?"
"Of course, sir," said the Squire. "At your convenience, gentlemen and lady."
From there things progressed quickly and soon Dux Brittanicus and the Vanguard were preparing to leave with a Squire team scheduled to arrive within a few days.
The Wanderer offered, "We'll be sure to let you know if we hear anything from or about Overlord. Please keep us posted, and remember the Protectors are here to help." He extended a hand to his old, very very old friend.
Defender nodded along. "I see no reason our two groups shouldn't have a smooth working relationship."
"I am pleased to here it," said Dux. "I came here hoping to find new friends, I had no idea I would find old ones, too."