After combing through Roland Johnson’s records, the PCs learn that a new experiment is being scheduled in two days at the new prison facility being built in Central California. They are able to access early building schematics, but decide to do some reconnaissance and then wait for Johnson and his people to arrive. Rebecca goes inside under cover of invisibility to check things out firsthand. The prison complex is maybe 85% complete – an amazing feat but no surprise given they had help from Quantums during construction. Apollo and Skyrocket stay near the cell tower they all arrived at and keep an eye out. Rebecca notices that the prison is not empty; there are a handful of armed guards there. Not too unusual for a construction site, but their heavy weapons make it obvious they aren’t your standard private security team. While walking down the steps of an unfinished stairwell connected to the central tower, she manages to find the one that hadn’t been firmly attached, making quite the racket and alerting a nearby guard. She manages to stay quiet and evade him (being invisible seems to have helped), then continues looking around. She finds the basement level and a room with large power cables neatly tied up along the floor, but not yet attached to anything. Hardly seems like their permanent configuration. Some time later, Skyrocket and Apollo see the convoy of trucks and Escalades with tinted windows – like the ones Skyrocket had pulled Abigail out of back at the Cancer facility – heading toward the rear of the prison complex. She can see the occupants from the small, second-floor windows adjacent to the elevator room. She watches as both Roland Johnson and his mentalist wife exit the Escalade, quickly followed by VP Candidate Rod Santoro, and a woman they don’t recognize. The rear doors of the transport vehicles open up and three of the cryogenic prisoner pods are wheeled inside the building. In addition, a figure wearing an unusual suit of high-tech armor with a mask that hides his features entirely, exits the back of one of the transports. Rebecca can hear as the elevator goes down to the basement level.
Rebecca describes what she’s seeing to her team as they decide how best to handle this. She’s very concerned about whether they can handle these people by themselves and even more concerned about herself. Perhaps having been reverted back to her “normal” appearance reminded her that she’s still just 16 years old. Secretly, she’s hoping she can make a graceful exit from what’s about to go down. While she’s dealing with her self-doubt, Apollo and Skyrocket make their way inside the prison. The central section of this tower complex is open from the basement all the way to the top, with walkways and unfinished prison cells along the perimeter of each floor. The tower design allows quite a bit of natural light inside, which is good news for Skyrocket. Rebecca, still invisible, can see the armored figure standing in the doorway of the room where she had seen the power cables on the floor. Doubt still racking her mind, the overconfident Apollo and Skyrocket decide there’s no time like the present and they need to stop Johnson. The details of his experiment aren’t entirely clear, but now that he has the enchanted blade similar to the one Ruth had to prevent Quantums she killed from healing and knowing the secret she carried – that a Quantum killing another Quantum increased the killer’s own strength – was not a secret that ever needed to escape these walls. It would cause pandemonium across the globe! Taking a page from one of Apollo’s scripts, they come down and do the “superhero 3-point landing” and engage them.
The armor provides the figure inside with jump jets and a weapon with a variety of settings. His mobility allows him to harass Skyrocket by keeping the distance short and the reflective shield in his armor makes him think twice about each shot. Frances Johnson is quick to engage Rebecca from inside the room, using her Mind Scan ability to locate her and, using her Mind Control, convince her to teleport home for her own safety. As tempting as it may seem to her for a brief second, she resists Johnson’s attempts to control her mind multiple times, frustrating her enough to make her switch targets and blast Apollo’s mind instead. The unknown woman wearing Scorpion Technology emblems on her clothing engages with Rebecca, thinking her an easy target. The blades she throws and gas attacks she launches are ineffective against Rebecca, however, as she turns into mist, rendering the attacks harmless. From inside the room, Santoro bellows a bestial roar and comes charging from the other door and slams into Apollo, the human figure now replaced by what can only be described as a minotaur! Rebecca sees that Roland Johnson is in some kind of chamber or pod, inside of what looks like some kind of chitinous chrysalis; it is connected to three prison pods and everything is connected to a computer system. From the notes they found, his chrysalis form is part of his power set – it’s a process that takes a few hours and when he emerges, his other powers change. The equipment is here to make sure the prisoners “expire” at the right moment so that he absorbs their power before emerging. Inside the three pods she sees Reaper and the two quantums who had tried to break their cartel leader out of prison some months ago. Undoubtedly someone thought them perishing here was ironic.
The figure in the power suit knows what he’s doing and had Frances Johnson been a better strategist, her mental blasts would have knocked out Apollo or Skyrocket quickly. The battle is tough, but the Vanguard team prevails!
The team contacts HQ and Patrick, Cole, and Eddie all arrive a few minutes later to help with securing the Quantums in their custody as well as dealing with the fact they have the Vice Presidential candidate here, unconscious, in a very compromising situation.
While Cole takes care of securing everyone for temporary containment, Patrick and Eddie get the scoop from the team. Things will get ugly quickly no matter what they do. They decide they will need to get DOSA involved to take over Supermax prison. Any of the entities currently working on it will be removed from power and investigated – this includes a number of the “Zodiac” companies tied to Supermax as well as Sagittarius because of the T.A.U.R. robots and their relationship to the prison complex. DOSA takes over and decides that a new procurement process will need to be started and that a steering committee will be included to better vet the bidders. Public outcry is huge – it’s the second such scandal in a short period of time. The fact that many of these Zodiac companies were run by Quantums casts a lot of doubt on how much Quantums can be trusted here. Vanguard does not reveal the information Johnson got from Ruth; it is deemed too dangerous for public consumption so even DOSA is left in the dark for now.
Rod Santoro is dropped from the ticket immediately. Walker drops out of the race as well because of his ties to Santoro and the growing distrust of Quantums being in positions of power. His constituents in Central California support him for all the good work he did for them for decades, but he says it might not be the right time for a Quantum to hold the highest office in the land. He’ll go back home and continue helping the way he always has and show people Quantums are no different that anyone else; there are a few bad apples that spoil things for others. He does send Patrick a private message saying he is once again in the team’s debt and that despite him having to drop out, they did the right thing by turning in Santoro and the others. “No one should have that kind of power,” he writes.