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Everything comes from somewhere, and so do metahumans, and the powers that come with them. While few, if any, really know where the powers as such come from, there has been an enormous amount of research put into the process of Manifestation and the so-called Origins which precede it.
An Origin (always capitalised when used to refer to this concept) is the event, or series of events, which precedes a person becoming a metahuman.
What exactly qualifies as an Origin varies from person to person, with the minutiae of each having a significant impact on the attributes of the resulting metahuman, beyond just the nature of their power.
While it is pretty much impossible to predict what exactly might lead to a person manifesting powers, there definitely appears to be a common theme of extreme emotions which can be seen in every Manifestation to date; they’re usually events which push the person to physical and/or mental extremes, or come about due to those extremes.
In general, they can be divided up into two categories: negative and positive Origins.
A negative Origin is what most people think of when they speak of an Origin.
A man trapped underneath tons of concrete, trying desperately to get out before he is crushed by shifting rubble or suffocates due to the lack of air; a girl trapped in a burning building, breaking down in screams as the flames begin to lick her body; a young man finding himself on the cusp of achieving his life’s dream, only to hesitate at the last moment and lose it all; a heavily bullied boy, barely holding on at school, finally snaps when his tormentors drive away his last friend; another boy, running from a blazing monstrosity, desperately trying to carry his baby sister to safety even as he tears his own, bare feet apart.
That’s just a small sample of possible negative Origins, events which push people to the extreme in ways that threaten to, and often do, break them. Unfortunately, they happen to be the most common type of Origin by far, making up at least eighty percent of all recorded Origins – and likely far more, considering that not only is it considered a taboo to openly ask a metahuman about their Origin, but that many, especially heroes, often lie about or else obfuscate their Origin, for various reasons (not the least of which being an attempt to dissuade people from chasing harmful experiences in the hopes of gaining powers).
As they almost always result from people coming to harm, negative Origins generally lead to Manifestations providing violent, combative powers, which further skews the perception of the public, as the most visible metahumans – capes and cowls – are fighters, and so “favour” people who experienced a negative Origin.
Such power comes at a price, however, a price beyond simply having to undergo and then live with an experience harmful enough to cause a Manifestation. It colours the Manifestation, those unforgettable visions which all metahumans experience and which perhaps only a handful, if that many, people in the world actually comprehend. From that point forward, that person’s power is forever linked to these experiences, and every use of it will remind them of what they went through to gain it.
Furthermore, negative Origins are extraordinarily more likely to cause serious derangements, which can range from the annoying, but harmless (Hecate’s super-OCD) to the monstrously demented (Mindfuck’s obsession with making others suffer as he suffered), as well as serious physical mutations.
A positive Origin, in contrast, is an event diametrically opposed to its counterpart, yet also quite similar – an event which pushes a person to their physical, mental and/or emotional limits, and perhaps even beyond those, resulting in a manifestation. The difference being that they, as the term implies, are positive experiences – good things happening to you can also give you powers.
It could be the athlete who, after sacrificing most of his childhood to prepare, finally wins Olympic gold, in that moment when he stands upon the podium with his medal, bathing in the adulations of the crowd and his own euphoria; the social worker who, after years of failure, finally manages to save one of her charges and see them off to a better life, at last finding affirmation that it wasn’t for nothing; the boy who lifted a car off of his mother with nothing but his own muscles and will; the girl who, after years of toil, ostracism and sleepless nights, finally sees her dreams come true, side-by-side with her love, stepping forth into a new tomorrow; the last of a long line of treasure hunters, thought to have been nothing but madmen, finally finding the treasure his ancestors sacrificed everything to find, vindicated at last.
Such Origins are extraordinarily more rare than negative ones, as the threshold to manifest out of a positive experience seems to be much higher than vice versa; however, the rewards are more than worth it.
Positive Origins usually result in less focused, more versatile abilities (often lacking a clear, distinct issue to focus on, such as a collapsing building, fire, or bullying and abandonment); sometimes more abstract ones than usual, as well. Some of the strongest metahumans known claim decidedly positive Origins (Elysium’s/Diantha Whitaker’s great dance with the love of her life being one of the most well-known examples for having resulted in a decidedly overpowered ability), as do most metahumans with non-combat powers, such as Second Season, the man who travels the world making crops grow and trees bear fruit to combat world hunger.
The greatest advantage of such Origins, though, is the fact that they are the ones most likely to leave a metahuman stable, without any, or merely minor, derangements. As well, their powers are forever tied to a memory of jubilation and success, rather than being a reminder of the lowest moment of their life.
If only more people underwent positive Origins, perhaps cowls wouldn’t outnumber capes four to one even in more civilised places such as the USA.
While it may seem, so far, that Origins are usually singular events directly preceding the Manifestation, them is actually not always so. While that is most often the case, an Origin can actually cover a lot of time, a series of experiences which are topped off by one final crescendo pushing the nascent metahuman over the edge.
The build-up and the finale can contrast, too. An Origin may be many, many good, happy things happening to someone, only for one final, big catastrophy to hit, undoing or tainting all those happy memories in one fell swoop; or a long, long series of disappointments and despair, only to finally find success and vindication at the end of it.
Generally speaking, Origins taking place over longer periods of time tend to result in more complex abilities, as well as a disproportionate amount of Contrivers and Gadgeteers, rather than the simpler, more straightforward powers that a singular Origin may cause.
Armourface: A derogatory term referring to the idea that powers come about as a direct response to a single event (get stabbed in the face, face gains armour). This is almost never the case, and even when it is, there are usually aspects and deviations which put lie to the idea that things work in so straightforward a manner.
In some rare – though increasingly more common cases – metahumans appear with powers that appear derived from those of other metahumans whom they are close to – often family members or close friends.
These so-called second generation metahumans seem to require far less stressful Origins in order to manifest and are less likely to be deranged or to have some manner of inherent issue with their powers.
While their powers tend to be related to those of their ‘parents’, they are not necessarily directly derived; it is far more likely that a 2nd Gen will show aspects and elements in their power related to that of those metahumans they are related to, while their actual powers are, at their core, fundamentally different.
As metahumans become more and more common, the number of Second Generation Metahumans has also been rising, slowly countering the trend towards a disproportionate amount of cowls compared to capes, as these people do not require nearly so traumatic experiences to obtain powers.
There does not appear to be any meaningful difference between second- and third-generation metahumans.
Usually, there are common themes, connections and relations between an Origin and the resulting powers, such as:
- An obvious, physical threat -> offensive power.
- Bodily harm to the nascent metahuman -> protective power
- Threat of harm (real or imagined) -> change self to escape or evade
- Lack of information at the core of the issue -> Esper power
- Recurring issue over a long time period -> Contriver or Gadgeteer
The reversals of these can lead to the same kind of powers, through a positive Origin:
- Resisting bodily harm -> protective power
- Resolving an issue by uncovering information -> Esper power
- Overcoming a recurring issue -> Contriver or Gadgeteer
And so on.
However, these are just simplified examples, and it would take far too long to go in-depth as to which particular Origins may lead to what kinds of powers, nevermind that that’s always just guidelines anyway – in the end, one may still end up completely surprised by the result of a Manifestation.
There are always those that buck the trends, cases where the apparently established powers simply don’t seem to apply at all. Some known cases of such would be:
- Type/Level Zero: Persons who show signs of minor Physique powers (healthier, more fit and more beautiful than normal), without any other symptoms of being a metahuman, nor having ever experienced an Origin or a Manifestation.
- Born Metahumans: Both DiL and Irene Whitaker/Gloom Glimmer manifested at birth, with no apparent Origin whatsoever. Irene does not remember experiencing any kind of Manifestation, either.
- Queen Madeleine: Eye witnesses report definitely that Madeleine died to wounds inflicted on her after days of torture, as well as extreme exhaustion. Her status was confirmed and she was officially declared dead, before she appeared to spontaneously reincarnate into her monstrously powered form.
This is but a small primer into the issue of Origins, Manifestations and power mechanics. Expanding upon the subject would not only take a long time, but would also risk an enormous amount of spoilers I am unwilling to divulge at this point in time.
As such, I’m afraid this will have to do for now…
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