The Action Force Annual 1990 was released in August 1989.
Part One: The Good Old Bad Old Days!
In Ho Chi Minh City a beggar walks the streets. He comes to a spot where two rival gangsters, Lu Chen and Pheng Lo, are meeting to discuss differences. The beggar produces an M-16 with grenade launcher and loads it. He destroys the gangsters' cars and their bodyuards, then demands the two tell him about a terrorist squad called "Hades". Lu Chen recognises the beggar's cap badge as that of Action Force and tells him Hades operate from the Mekong Delta.
At the British Embassy Hawk briefs a team on the situation. Normally Vietnam is out of bounds but one of their operatives has gone rogue and they have negotiated with the authorities for 72 hours to retrieve him themselves. He tells them the rogue is Gung Ho. Wild Bill, Roadblock and Leatherneck have been detailed especially as they served with Gung Ho during the Vietnam War and know both the territory and the man. Hawk continues to explain a terrorist group known as Hades is operating and they appear to be Americans, wearing GI uniforms. Gung Ho was last seen heading into the Delta so Hawk assigns two teams. The retrieval team will operate on the W.H.A.L.E. with Hawk leading, Cutter piloting, Lady Jaye as number two and Roadblack and Tunnel Rat. The hunter team will travel in the Tomahawk with Lt. Falcon leading, Lift Ticket piloting, with Wild Bill, Leatherneck, Jinx and Lifeline. The teams move out.
Gung Ho is on a motor launch in the Delta and starts recording a statement into a tape recorder. He explains he is operating for personal reasons in spite of international law and takes full responsibility. He explains how he was last here in 1972 with his team, the Orpheus 45th Airborne Cavalry. His helicopter was shot down over the Delta and he was told he was the only survivor of thirty. But recently he recognised them in the intelligence films on Hades and realised the terrorist group is Orpheus. He has followed the information and is now seeking a group of smugglers with more information. He switches off the tape as a river pirate motor launch appears.
Later Sin Cho, the launch commander, reports back to Phar Thon, leader of the river pirates, and explains how Gung Ho devastating the motor launch in seeking information on Hades. Phar Thon decides that revenge is pointless as scouts have reported a hovercraft approaching. Using several launches they attack the W.H.A.L.E. but the Tomahawk provides air support and the Action Force teams soon defeat the river pirates. Jinx captures Phar Thon and interrogates him, learning Gung Ho has already come this way and is heading for an island where Hades live deep in the Delta in a section called the Dead Waters, so named after the chemical spillages during the war. The teams board their vehicles and head on.
Gung Ho is approaching the island when a helicopter approaches his launch. Over the radio he tells them he is looking for "Hades" and "Orpheus". He is taken on board the helicopter and sees many Americans in combat dress. One recognises him. Later the retrieval team on the W.H.A.L.E. finds Gung Ho's launch and the tape player...
Part Two: Out Of Time, Out of Mind...
The helicopter lands on Grave Island as Gung Ho recognises many of his old comrades. They tell him that about twenty of them survived and made it to Grave Island where they have been continuing the war ever since. Gung Ho plays along with their belief, stating he has been in a "Special Operations group" on "very hush-hush" work, and learns that the men have regularly radioed what they think is High Command in Saigon. He realises they have been manipulated into thinking the war is still continuing. He also learns that the sixteen surviving members of Orpheus include his old enemy Rankine.
The W.H.A.L.E. is near the island and Hawk and Tunnel Rat discuss the situation and make plans to send a team in via the storm drains. Falcon, Tunnel Rat and Jinx are sent in, whilst the Tomahawk stands by to evacuate them in a hurry and the W.H.A.L.E. is used to launch a diversionary attack. On the island Rankine reports the arrival of Gung Ho to his commander. Both know the truth that the war is over and the commander - Dr. Mindbender - declares he will try to win Gung Ho's spirit. That night in the dormitory Gung Ho is visited by Mindbender who temporarily paralyses him and explains how Cobra discovered the Orpheus survivors eight years previously and Mindbender used hypnosis and auto-suggestion to make them believe they were still fighting the war. After many years of using them as pirates they are now dispatched on bigger operations. He tries to convince Gung Ho to join the others but the Action Force member resists. Then Rankine knocks him out and Mindbender orders a quiet death by drowning Gung Ho in the sink well, with the others to be told he was redeployed. But Gung Ho is rescued in the well by Tunnel Rat.
At the W.H.A.L.E. the Action Force members discuss whether to just pull Gung Ho out or attack with both vehicles low on fire-power. Hawk radios for "Manoeuvre Hammerbow" to be put in operation. Meanwhile in the drains Tunnel Rat receives radioed instructions and tells Gung Ho that Hawk has called for an air strike. Gung Ho declares he will not leave his comrades behind. He heads off down the drains and after tough thinking Falcon decides to provide back-up. Hawk orders an immediate evacuation but Falcon claims the reception is too bad to hear. Hawk orders the rest to attack. In the dormitory Gung Ho and Falcon tell the Orpheus veterans that they have a new assignment and must move out immediately. The men kit up and head out. Outside guards try to stop them but Falcon orders them to hit and run. Battle rages between veterans and Cobra troopers as the W.H.A.L.E. arrives to evacuate them. The Tomahawk flies in to take out the tower. Gung Ho is still missing, retrieving his friend Ed Berry but with only six minutes to the air strike Hawk has to order a withdrawal and the W.H.A.L.E. takes off.
Gung Ho has reached Berry who has been wounded and starts to haul him out when Rankine appears. He confirms Gung Ho's suspicions that he always knew the truth and sold out the others to Cobra. The two struggle. Meanwhile the air strike is closing in.
Later the Tomahawk radios that Gung Ho and Berry have been recovered injured, with the former having settled an old score. On board Gung Ho tells Lifeline he doesn't think Mindbender is dead. As the helicopter heads towards Ho Chi Minh City Berry says "Good-night Saigon".
Featured Vehicles & Equipment
Items of note
- This was a prose story with accompanying illustrations.
- It is not entirely clear what year the story is set in. Gung Ho thought his comrades died in "1972" but Jack Saint says they have been operating as Hades ever since. Hades is said to have existed "for ten years" by the narrator. This would point to a date around 1982. However Mikey Jabowski says the Vietnam War has been going on "for nearly one quarter century" which for American troops would make it around 1989/1990.
This issue contains several Intelligence Profile factfiles:
- Tunnel Rat - here retaining the name Nicky Lee and his birthplace of Brooklyn, New York.
- Dr. Mindbender
- Lt. Falcon - here retaining the name Vincente Falcone but now being born in Glastonbury, England.
- Cobra Commander's battle suit - a piece written in character by Lady Jaye on the Commander's new abilities. (A previous Intelligence Profile on the Commander appeared in Action Force weekly 9.)
Items of note
- Former Action Force Monthly editor Steve White served as the designer for this annual.
- The annual also contains three puzzles:
- "Know your Enemy" - identify six vehicles from their silhouettes.
- "Covert Codenames!" - answer eleven crossword style questions, fit the answers into a grid and find a twelfth word aligned vertically.
- "Spot the Difference!" - find ten differences between two seemingly identical pictures.
- The annual cost £3.99. No overseas prices were printed on it.