Brennus Files 13: Origin Stories

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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.

Origins

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.

***

Second-Generation Metahumans

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.

***

Deviants

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.

***

Final Words

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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Brennus Files 12: Contriving

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Ah, the Contriver. No class of metahuman has caused the people on Earth as much of a headache as this one.

That’s a good way to sum Contrivers up: Headaches for others. No kind of metahuman is as unpredictable, or as annoying, as a Contriver to deal with, whether you’re their ally, their enemy, or just a bystander trying to avoid becoming collateral damage.

It doesn’t help that it’s easily the most nebulous class of powers that we’re talking about. Where do item-based powers end, and where does Contriving start? Are some Contrivers perhaps just extremely advanced Gadgeteers which contemporary science just plain can’t comprehend?

Many a Contriver of the early years has, in retrospect, been revealed to have been a Gadgeteer, and many a past Gadgeteer has since been re-classified as a Contriver, further muddling the classification.

Then there are “artifact-based Contrivers”, a classification which many abhor and which has been retired since the reform of the Classification system – people who express their power through a single, unchanging item, but can not create anything beyond it, nor modify it, really – merely requiring some manner of outside focus to express their power.

As if all that wasn’t enough, their specific condition – being tied to a particular, usually very elaborate fantasy – makes it nearly impossible to actually work with a Contriver directly for the sake of exploring the true nature of their power.

Currently, Contrivers are classified thusly:

A Contriver is a metahuman with a fluid, changable power or set of powers which they can not express independently, but require external tools to do so, whose nature is determined by their individual ‘theme’.

While succinct, this definition is not very useful, as Contrivers are perhaps the most diverse kind of metahumans, falling into several different classes:

  • Artificers: what most people think of when they speak of Contrivers, and by far the most common kind, Artificers create fixed items which are empowered by them, often but not always following a theme of ‘mad science’ of some sort, though there are also many ‘magic’ Artificers, who create ‘enchanted’ items.
    • Canon Examples: Doctor Despair, Spellgun
  • Casters: Far more rare, Casters express their powers through temporary constructs, be they vocal or otherwise – such as chanting spells, drawing runes, or other such temporary means. Almost always ‘magic’ based, there have only been two confirmed ‘science’-based Casters in history.
    • Canon Examples: none yet
  • Weirds: Not a formal classification so much as a catch-all term for Contrivers who fit into neither of the above categories, using more abstract or unusual means to express their powers through, such as a Contriver relying on specific constellations of people or circumstances for various effects.
    • Canon Examples: none yet
  • Hybrids: Combine two or more of the above in various ways.
    • Canon Examples: Hecate (Artificer & Caster), Heretic (Artificer, Caster & Weird)

Beyond these classes, Contrivers are usually differentiated by which one of two main themes they follow:

  • Mad Scientists: Following a pseudo-scientific mindset, Mad Scientists are almost always Artificers, creating items themed after their particular brand of science. They tend to be more rigid in the application of their powers, rarely able to improvise much on the go, but in return also (usually) create more stable, reliable Contrivances.
    • Canon Examples: Spellgun, Doctor Despair
  • Mages: The other big theme of Contrivers is, unsurprisingly, magic. Most, though not all, Mages are Casters. In general, Mages tend to be more adaptable than Mad Scientists, their powers less strictly defined, but they’re also more likely to suffer backlash of some kind or simply fail.
    • Canon Examples: Hecate, Heretic

Regardless of which class the fall into, Contrivers can not simply do anything they like that fits into their particular theme. There are several factors to consider:

  • Resources: Usually, Contrivers require specific materials to craft their Contrivances, be it raw materials to make ray guns, or chalk to draw magic circles, or any of a number of things. Depending on their theme and the particular Contrivance they wish to produce, these can get pretty exotic and, often enough, expensive. Some Casters can eschew these.
  • Time: It takes time to craft Contrivances, usually proportional to their power. Again, some Casters can eschew this, being capable of ‘creating’ their Contrivances (usually ‘spells’) on the fly.
  • Research: A Contriver doesn’t simply know everything they can do all at once. They usually start out with only a few ‘patterns’ with which to work, using them as blueprints for Contrivances (usually, a single pattern can be used for multiple different Contrivances), and have to perform research, each their own particular kind (a Mad Scientists might have to crunch mathematical formulas which’d give a normal person brain cancer, a Mage may have to do ‘spell research’ or negotiate with imaginary demons, deities or other sources) in order to obtain a new pattern.

While Casters may seem to have quite the advantage here, being often able to eschew materials and time spent crafting fixed items, instead casting spells on the fly, they are usually saddled with other restrictions and flaws beyond what a Mad Scientists often has to suffer, such as being dependant on the whims of some kind of ‘patron’ who might revoke their powers at will, or having to risk backlash if they mess up their ‘spell casting’, which isn’t unlikely to happen in the heat of combat.

Beyond all this, there are some common attributes all Contrivers share, both in terms of naming and process:

  • A Contriver’s creation is called a ‘Contrivance’, regardless of whether it’s a spell, a machine or something else.
  • Assuming unlimited time to research and build, as well as unlimited resources, a Contriver can do anything which fits their theme.
  • Power nullifiers can prevent a Contriver from both creating and using their Contrivances. This is usually the easiest way to determine whether a particular metahuman is a Contriver or a Gadgeteer, assuming a power nullifier is available.
  • All Contrivers are at least slightly mad, as they each truly, fully believe in their particular fantasy, even if it may not be immediately obvious.
  • Bad things happen when someone tries to actually convince a Contriver that what they’re doing is ‘not real’.
  • Contrivances usually lose all power if their creator dies, reverting to being nothing but curious decor, at best.
  • Even beyond their particular delusion, Contrivers are the metahumans most likely to suffer from Derangements, ranging from the extreme (Doctor Despair’s megalomaniacal compulsion to conquer the world) to the merely quirky (Hecate’s obsession with proper Grammar and Neatness).
  • Contrivers and real technology don’t mix well. While this is not a hard rule, the weird nature of Contrivances tends to play hob with any mundane technology they interact with, especially more complex ones (such as computers).
  • Contrivers and Gadgeteers really don’t mix well. While Contrivances and Gadgets usually interact with each other no different from the way mundane technology interacts with Contrivances, it is universally considered a horrible idea to have Contrivers and Gadgeteers try to create something in close proximity of each other or, worse, together. The results can be as harmless as both of them simply being unable to make anything that works, up to creating the Ultimate Lifeform To Replace All (ULTRA).

The Magnum Opus

While not exclusive to Contrivers (Gadgeteers are also capable of this), magnum opi are more often associated with Contrivers than Gadgeteers, if only because Contrivers are so much more common than Gadgeteers, and thus more of them have created these.

A Magnum Opus is a Contrivance (or Gadget, though we’ll focus on Contrivances here) on a different scale from what the metahuman usually creates. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime creation, but simply something grander, often but not always an expansion of their usual work into the megascale, though it may also be simply an extremely powerful, smaller item (Infinity+1 Sword).

Magnum Opi differ from normal Contrivances both in the time it takes to make them, the value of the resources required, and the potence of the result, all three far exceeding the normal results of the Contriver’s efforts.

Seeing the Truth

Many people have tried to show a Contriver that what they do is not what they think it is, and observe the results. Their efforts have been met with various, often detrimental results:

  • The most common reaction by Contriver is to simply ignore these attempts, rationalising any proof they might be shown.
  • Also quite common, and not at all desirable, is them going into a rage, lashing out at whoever or whatever challenges their delusion.
  • Rare but not unheard of is the case of a Contriver suffering a ‘crisis of faith’, losing their powers until they return to their fantasy.
  • One of the most rare results is the Contriver losing their power entirely, essentially ceasing to be metahumans. This may in some cases actually kill the Contriver.
  • Rarest of all observed reactions is the Contriver losing their power and, essentially, manifesting again on the spot, gaining some other power instead, which is usually related to their Contriving’s theme.
  • There are rumors of one more possible reaction, though no confirmed cases exist – that is, that a Contriver might realise that their delusion is not reality, yet retain their Contriving and unlock untold potential. This may or may not simply be wishful thinking.

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Brennus Files 11: Gadgeteering 2.0

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Like any kind of power, gadgeteers can be hard to classify, since each one is different in their own way, but there are certain patterns that can be observed. They’re not hard categories that every power has to fit into, but they can be useful as a guideline to understanding a gadgeteer’s process.

Gadgeteers usually manifest at the end of a string of challenges, often failed or barely passed, then confronted with one final, greater challenge or success; at this point, whether they accept reality and press on or reject it and flee inwards may decide whether they go down the path of the contriver or the gadgeteer.

Case Study ‘Peregrine’: Layla manifested after the plane she was on crashed on a remote island in the Atlantic, leaving the teenage girl as the sole survivor of her flight, and bereft of her glasses on top of that. Half-blind, she established a camp, then went to work using technical knowledge gained from several special courses at school to scavenge parts from the plane and the cargo, trying to build a long-range communication device. After two weeks of work, numerous set backs and her rations running out, she had one finished and tried turning it on… but her limited eye sight had caused her to overlook several important details in the wiring, which caused the machine to burn out uselessly, damaging several vital, irreplacable components.

First of all, every gadgeteer has a focus. Actually, every power has it, but it’s most obvious with gadgeteers and contrivers (next Brennus File will be on contrivers). This focus is the axis of their power, and what most people think of when they try to classify a gadgeteer, but it’s not the only thing.

Foci can run the gamut from simple, clear ones (heat-based melee equipment) to the strange and abstract (man-machine integration, countdown, automation). Usually, more abstract ones are more ‘powerful’, meaning if someone with the ability to perceive powers looks at you, they’d see a bigger power there, but it’s not universal.

Usually, they can be broken down along the lines of:

  • Field gadgeteers: those who have a certain field which they focus on and are mostly limited to working within said field, only branching out with a lot of effort, but can do amazing things within. The most common type of gadgeteer.
    • Polymnia: works with sonics, and only with sonics. Every other field she touches on is adapted to her focus.
    • Hotrod: multi-purpose vehicles and vehicular weaponry
    • Cartastrophy: originally Four-Wheeled Vehicles, has branched out into vehicular power armour.
  • Approach gadgeteers do not have one specific field, and are able to work within several of them, branching out relatively easily; their gadgeteering is instead governed by the approach they take, a certain theme or recurring element.
    • Tick-Tock: everything she makes has a timer as part of its function.
    • Boom-Boom: it all blows up. Often repeatedly.
  • Hybrid gadgeteers are where the lines get blurry, as they seem mix the strengths and weaknesses of both, in various ways, with no clear distinction between their field and their approach.
    • Sovereign: Automation.
  • Free gadgeteers, who can invent anything, in any field, given sufficient time and materials, though usually with some manner of large drawback, often tied into the vastness of their power.
    • Su Ling: could make anything, but everything she made escalated into the megascale. She sat down to fix her village’s sole microwave and ended up constructing a factory which turns raw matter into food. She wanted to build a telescope for her younger siblings to stargaze, yet ended up with a laser cannon which burned a canyon into the moon that is visible from Earth. Had a secondary power which allowed her body to produce rare and valuable materials required for her construction process (very painfully and beyond her control).

Case Study ‘Peregrine’: Layla’s power gave her two inter-connected foci, and she works best while working in the intersection of the two. Her foci are ‘Flight’ and ‘Sensory’.

Beyond this, gadgeteers are often split into combat/non-combat ones, though this distinction is mostly just used for teams in the field to set their priorities.

While there are some gadgeteers who are strictly locked into only creating combat equipment, and some who can’t make anything for combat at all, in most cases, it is more fluid than that.

So why don’t gadgeteers just stay in their lab and make equipment for normal people or for other metahumans to take into battle? Why not keep these valuable force multipliers safe in your base and have them crank out force-fields, laser guns and power armour?

Simply put, a gadgeteer needs to test. They need to see their creations in use, live, in whatever environment they were made for, in order for their power to properly improve on them. If a gadgeteer makes something for combat, then, unless he does not wish to improve on it any more, he has to be there and see it used in combat. While another person could use their equipment with them standing by and observing (they do need to be present, in most cases, as their power is watching with more than just their senses), that would leave the gadgeteer rather defenseless. Furthermore, not everyone can use a gadget to its fullest capability and only seeing half of your variable plasma gun’s potential come into play defeats the point of putting it to the test in the first place.

Case study ‘Peregrine’: Having escaped the island using a hand-made, solar-powered glider and flight goggles with navigation equipment built in, Layla returned to her home country of Scotland, where she chose to take on the name Peregrine and become a superhero. To do so, she developed combat-worthy equipment, specifically a rifle meant to drop stunning payloads from above on opponents, specced to be most accurate during fly-by attacks, as well as a winged jetpack to enable the full use of her weapon, and provide the much-needed mobility. In order to further improve on these first, rather crude creations, she’s going to go out and test them in combat against a local clan of criminals, among them one metahuman. No one but her has the necessary sense of balance and eye for air currents needed to fly her jetpack without crashing, and aim her gun properly during the high-speed strafing runs which it works best in, even where they to wear her high-spec visor.

And as for those gadgeteers who’re fine with not improving their technology, always just replicating the same old piece of equipment, never innovating…

Well, that’s a fast track towards dropping your Synchronization with your Tenant way, way down.

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Brennus Files 10: The Untold Ones

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Before I settled on Basil as the main character, I went through a lot of early drafts with various main characters, some of them radically different.

Here are some of them – they may or may not show up in some form in the future, but these incarnations, at least, are not going to be told:

Hemagoria

One day, Amanda Blake woke up in a back alley of New Lennston’s Shades – naked, alone and with no memory other than a mission – Find Basil. Her only companion a weird, lizard-like cat which she knew she made herself – though she could not, for the life of her, remember when or where.

Amanda was a gadgeteer of a very rare type – instead of having a specific field that she works in, she could create an extreme variety of equipment – but it all needed her blood to run. Her power mostly settled in three distinct fields, all connected to blood:

  • Living beings, such as her lizard-cat, of animal-like or lesser intelligence and with various abilities, grown out of her own genetic material to be obedient, but requiring a regular dose of Amanda’s blood so as not to break down.
  • Small-scale Equipment – power armor which requires a small infusion of blood to boot up, energy guns which regularly take some of her blood through spikes in the grip in order to continue functioning, grenades which took a one-time infusion of blood to be primed, a teleportation device that uses her blood as a marker to determine destination, etc.
  • Medicine of various kinds, though the base of everything she concocted used her own blood as its base.

Amanda’s team consisted of:

  • teenage delinquent Godou Takahama, also known as Osore, a Japanese immigrant capable of projecting fear as well as great feats of strength and toughness.
  • Jack O’Connors, also knowns as the Snow King, a young man capable of creating localised flurries of snow, as well as manipulating said snow for offence and defence.
  • Timothy Louis, aka the Ogre, a rather easygoing boy who could turn into a brutish rage monster at will – but at the cost of having to spend a proportionate amount of time in the form of a preteen girl.

Medes

Jake Blake, a young psychic capable of using both telekinesis and telepathy, has been looking forward to being a hero ever since he gained his powers upon a mysterious incident during which he and four other people gained powers, each going their own way.

Medes was capable of both gross and fine telekinesis, was a general telepath (though he usually could only affect one person with any amount of precision, as it required great concentration) and had a knack for picking up skills from other people through telepathy and training.

The other four people who gained powers with him were:

  • Hecate, an insane witch obsessed with the “mission” given to her by her namesake goddess upon her manifestation – a sinister mission requiring, among other things, the deaths of the other four people who gained powers at the same time as she did.
  • Tyche, a morose, dedicated young man blessed with unnatural luck and a gift for martial arts who joined the Stormwatch (later renamed the United Heroes, upon me finding out about Vertigo’s Stormwatch books)
  • Polymnia, a gadgeteer focusing on all things musical and auditory in general, though having paid for it by losing her voice and any sense for keeping a rhythm or hitting a note, unable to produce music of her own anymore. Joined the Stormwatch.
  • Eudocia, a preteen girl with an extremely powerful voice and more than a few screws loose. A wild card.

Animus

Casimir Blake woke up in the medical ward of the Stormwatch, with no memory whatsoever, having been found by the heroes of New Lennston alone, in torn clothes and with heavy, nearly lethal wounds. Nursed back to health, they gave him the only name they could think of – the one sewn into the cat plushy he’d been clenching in his hand when they found him.

Motivated to repay their kindness by supporting them with the strange power he wielded – and eager to find out where he came from, and what had happened to him – he took up the mantle of Animus and joined the fight.

Animus power allowed him to animate any sufficiently life-like object – be it a plushie, an action figure, a statue or – if desperate – even a corpse. Anything that represented a living being without being one was fair game for his power.

He joined a team of junior Watchmen consisting of himself and:

  • Dike & Tyche, twin sisters with strangely interconnected powers – one could “pay back what is owed”, healing allies proportional to the support they gave her and harm opponents proportional to the harm they caused her; the other had the ability to “break proportion” (a simple tap would shatter bones, a crushing blow would only tickle, a light misstep caused one to lose balance entirely, etc). When they combined their powers, they could strike enemies with blows of disproportionate power.
  • Polymnia, pretty much the same as the canon version.
  • Noctis Lumen, the son of Lady Light and The Dark, a power mimic who could copy the power of any metahuman he had previously touched, provided that metahuman was not currently within a certain range of him.
  • Timothy Louis, the Ogre. Same as Hemagoria’s version.

Wanderer

Amanda Blake was a young woman fresh out of high school. With the whole world in front of her, she decided to make a journey and see the world. Unfortunately, her plane crashed during a flight over the pacific, trapping her as the only survivor on the shattered hulk of a vehicle, with little hope of being found before it broke apart and sank. She manifested gadgeteering abilities, creating a device that allowed her to flee the plane and return home.

Amanda was a gadgeteer specialising in cross-dimensional technology, creating various devices that could move energy and/or matter across parallel dimensions.

She became a vigilante and gathered a small group of other young gadgeteers around her:

  • Hecate (Vasiliki); a gadgeteer specialising in creating illusions of various kinds, though mostly audio-visual ones.
  • The Ogre (Timothy Louis); a gadgeteer who created a single, rather brutish android he was constantly working on.
  • Tyche (Dalia Fitzhampton); a gadgeteer, capable of building basic combat equipment (power armor, some weaponry, etc) and technology which calculated, predicted and exploited probabilities (e.g. a targeting system that calculated the bost moment to pull a trigger in order to bounce a bullet around two corners and into the target).

There were many more, but these were among the most fleshed-out ones.

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Brennus Files 09: Gadgeteering

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Gadgeteering. Basil’s bread and butter. Obviously, there should be some definition of it. How does it work? How far can it go? Why isn’t everyone using Gadgets? Or at least all the superheroes?

We won’t be going into Basil’s Gadgeteering in particular, because that’d be spoileriffic. Instead, I will explain the basics of Gadgeteering by using one of my favourite characters as an example. Be very afraid.

I call him Smileyboy.

First, becoming a Gadgeteer has nothing to do with being technically inclined, or being a smart person or interested in science. Nor does it come with an enhanced understanding of science or technology. A Gadgeteer may have secondary abilities that cover that, but being a Gadgeteer does not require understanding.

Smileyboy’s real name is Jory. Jory was never a very smart boy. Most of the time, he was (and still is) quite dense. He sometimes has trouble tying his shoelaces. TV remotes just confused him, especially if they had blinking lights. Jory doesn’t know how to get bored. He could just sit around, staring into space and doing nothing for hours on end.

Then Jory had a very bad day, and Jory manifested some heavy duty Gadgeteering. This did not make him any smarter. TV remotes are still a mystery to him.

All Gadgeteers have a theme, a field in which they work best. This can be something as specific as Covert Communication Systems, or something as wide open as sonics, man-machine integration, multi-purpose vehicles or, at the high end of the scale, High-Energy Systems, autonomous Systems and Communication. No, Basil’s speciality is not among these.

Jory’s power falls into a middle point of Gadgeteering – it’s both very advanced and very versatile, but not excessively so. Specifically, he specialises in High-Mobility Power Armor. His power is unusually versatile, and can also provide him with weapon systems that fit this theme, though they are never as advanced as the core systems he specialises in.

Next, Gadgeteers don’t actually invent their work themselves – their power does. No understanding required (or even possible, in some cases). Many a Gadgeteer spends their life building Gadgets they do not actually understand at all – they just get a basic idea of how they work and can describe that (sometimes), but it doesn’t (usually) give them a deep understanding. They are more channels through which their power works (think of Gadgeteering as something akin to the classic concept of Divine Inspiration). Usually, the power works off of random impressions and impulses, using them as seeds from which it grows a new invention.

Jory is stuck in a scrapyard. His legs are broken and his throat has been damaged. Not so much that he’ll be crippled for life, but he can neither leave on his own, nor call for help. As he lies there, in the burning sun, he notices a discarded toy – an old robot, cheaply made but still mostly intact save for its missing legs. Jory reaches out and starts to play with the robot. His power takes in the impression of the armored fighter, the movement of the joints, the tools he can reach, improvise or fabricate, the heat of the sun, and gets to work.

Despite what many may think, the average Gadgeteer has surprisingly little control over what they actually end up creating. They can guide their power, focus on specific ideas and needs, but ultimately, they have to work with what they get (to varying degrees). Some, like Melody, have a very high control over what they work on, and can focus their power on specific projects without much trouble. Others, though…

Jory has little to no control over his power. In fact, his power would become less reliable the more he’d try to control it – it works at its best when he simply lets it run its course, working with whatever he gets. Fortunately for him, Jory’s lack of scientific knowledge and rather airheaded attitude mean that he’d be barely capable of guiding it anyway, so he achieves a very high level of synchronisation with his power without even trying.

Once the power gets going, it draws on various (unknown) sources of information, recombining elements from those sources, ideas from the Gadgeteer’s mind and observations of their surroundings, creating a design. Then, the design is passed onto the Gadgeteer. Even if the Gadgeteer has no technical skill of their own, their power can compensate for that, but only for the sake of constructing, maintaining and operating their gadgets.

Jory used to have trouble operating a television via remote. In fact, he still has. But as soon as he gets into his suit, he just knows how to do it. He knows every inch of it, every button and every control stick. He might lack actual practice, but he knows the theory on an instinctual level that allows him to operate his power armor on an acceptable level right off the bat. Better later on, once he gets some practice in. Just don’t ask him to actually teach someone else to do it right.

This lack of innate understanding, coupled with their mostly instinctive approach to construction and operation, makes it more than a little difficult to replicate a gadgeteer’s work. Furthermore, the ‘blueprints’ they write down (if they write them down at all – some record sounds, or fashion three-dimensional models, or just plain don’t make blueprints at all) are rarely actually usable as blueprints for anyone but them – they are meant more to remind their power of the gadget in question (essentially, they record a coded version of the impulses that led to the invention of said gadget, which then replicates the same process in their power), so that it can be reconstructed.

Jory’s first invention can barely be called power armor. It has two rusty-looking legs (built out of all kinds of scrap found, mostly car parts) that end in wheels (scavenged from a dirt bike) instead of feet. Its chest is actually a cockpit with an armored front (controls cobbled together from car electronics that weren’t scavenged yet, a few radios and an old television; the armor is made of two thick black car doors, reinforced by a few sheets of steel that he found lying around). Since his legs are broken, Jory couldn’t properly operate a normal power armor, anyway. This one allows him to strap himself in the back (seatbelts from cars and the saddle of the dirtbike), while providing some additional armor to protect his legs from frontal attacks (white, made out of a fridge, actually). His back is exposed, but he has neither the time, nor the material to really fix that right now. He does have a camera built into the ‘head’ of the armor (which is actually a decoy made out of a microwave – his head is hidden behind the chest area, where the armor is at its thickest), feeding into a screen in front of his eyes. He can slide the screen down and open a simple slit to look through, in case the cranial camera is disabled.

Furthermore his armor is already armed for combat. It has a crude shield (reinforced fridge door) on its left arm (built out of the same scrap he used for the legs, which can rotate to protect about fifty percent of his back at a time, when necessary, and provide additional protection from the front. The right arm extends into a lance (axis of a car, reinforced with welded sheets of metal scavenged from a few pick up trucks) with a built-in concussive missile (car pistons and a few other parts, mainly from said cars), which would fire off the outer layer of the lance with enough force to penetrate a concrete wall.

The whole product is powered with solar energy, to which Jory’s power was inspired by the blistering heat of the sun that was tormenting him. The panels and batteries are handcrafted, and took about as much time to get right as the rest of the armor put together. They fold out of the shoulders, usually hidden behind them, and it takes a while for the armor to charge to full capacity – afterwards, they can be opened to recharge even while operating it, but that is too risky to do in combat, as he can’t armor the panels themselves.

Some gadgeteers have an amazing construction speed, often to the point where they are given a secondary perception or manipulation rating. This often comes with trade-offs, though.

The entire project took Jory about eleven hours to complete – it’s night by the time he finishes, and he’ll have to wait until morning to charge his batteries. Unfortunately, the whole thing really is just a jury-rig, and probably won’t last for long.

As a final touch before he goes to sleep, Jory paints a smiley face on the front of the armor, out of a childish desire not to leave it blank. He then goes to sleep in a car whose heating he fixed haphazardly for the night. Next morning, he’ll take his armor for a ride, and go after the jerks who hurt him and dumped him in a scrapyard.

They’re going to regret it. A lot.

***

Now, this is all well and good, but why can’t Jory just let someone else operate his armor, instead of risking life and limb on the frontlines? Sure, in the beginning, he wants revenge and he doesn’t have anyone to entrust it to, anyway. But later on he’ll have a support structure, access to professional pilots and other heroes who might benefit more from having power armor to complement their powers than from having one more teammate on the frontlines.

The answer is manifold:

  1. Jory really can’t explain how to properly maintain or operate his inventions. Anyone who took possession of it would have to at least figure the latter out on their own, and they’d always be lacking compared to him, as his power only provides custom-made controls. Furthermore, many aspects of the operation are, simply put, up to the power. Only because someone can physically operate the controls, doesn’t mean that they are mentally equipped to. Jory’s armors may require a peculiar sense of balance to properly operate, or an instinctive grasp of gravity interaction, none of which he can pass onto other pilots. Even if they figure the controls out, they’d never be able to be as good at it as he is. The same goes for maintenance.
  2. He is, partly due to his power and partly due to his personality, rather possessive about his creations, and doesn’t like handing them off in the first place.
  3. In order to actually improve on his work, Jory needs as much input on it as possible. Watching it on video is a poor substitute for actually being in the field with it, seeing, hearing, feeling and even smelling it in action. Even where he to do that, his power wouldn’t work as well as if he was piloting it himself, feeling the pressure it puts on his body, the delay from giving a command and it being carried out, the issues with balancing on rough ground or navigating tight corners. All that is additional information his power can use to make improvements, information he’d plainly lack if he stayed in the lab. Even if someone could achieve the same level of detail in their reports as he can get firsthand, it still wouldn’t feed his power half as well as the real thing. His progress would be greatly stifled in any case.

Gadgeteers deal heavily in information, even if they may not do so consciously. Getting input on their work helps them immensely in improving and expanding it, which is why they are so prone to delve into long-winded explanations or detailed discussions of their work, especially with other gadgeteers – the short time Basil spent talking shop with Melody, when they were preparing for the fight against Hastur, was more fruitful for him/his power than the last two months of lab work put together – and that’s before they heterodyned their powers and created a weapon that can level a building in one shot, from scratch.

The same issues hold true for almost all gadgeteers there are. Some can circumvent parts of it – there are gadgeteers who are more suited to lab work, rather than active duty, and then there are all the non-combat gadgeteers, whose gadgeteering has no combat application in the first place. But, as a rule of thumb, if a gadgeteer mainly works with combat technology, then they’re best off actually using it themselves, in order for their power to work properly.

Some gadgeteers might be better off in their labs, but those like Basil, Melody, Tin Can, Hotrod or Warren are better off in the field, using their inventions themselves.

***

Now, lastly, a few samples of various Gadgeteers to put all this information into perspective:

  • Smileyboy (Jory)
    • Specialises in high-mobility power armor. Mentally handicapped, which his power compensates for where his gadgets are concerned. He can work incredibly fast, but shortens the lifespan of his work to do so – for every percentage he shaves off his ‘standard’ construction speed, the lifespan of his gadget is reduced by half as much. His standard construction speed depends on his current mood, available material, equipment, workspace and motivation.
  • Pollepel (Hannah Wenderman)
    • Dutch cooking gadgeteer, currently employed at the New Lennston UH HQ. She specialises in creating meals of all kinds, and the equipment needed to make those meals. The need for input causes her to moonlight as a participant or technician for cooking shows, so as to further improve both her recipies and her equipment.
  • Armitage (Jean Fries)
    • Counter-Cyber-warfare specialist. Writes sophisticated protective programs, with a secondary specialisation in computer equipment. He works for the American government, specifically to defend the stock exchange from cyber attacks, spending most of his waking time holding the fort, while a small army of beleaguered assistants support him (mostly by providing a steady supply of coffee and snacks).
  • I<3U (real name unknown)
    • Mysterious cyber-warfare specialist. Used to hack various companies and offices to steal funds or just prove her mettle, but lately she’s been focused on a private war against Armitage, whom she considers her archenemy. The two of them are nearly constantly at odds, not-so-incidentily supporting each other in continuously refining their programming.
  • Dory (Nikos Pavlopulous)
    • Greek gadgeteer. He only has a single creation – a high-tech spear that he is constantly working on, making incredible improvements and pushing the boundaries of technology, as well as the boundaries of space in how he manages to cram an insane amount of equipment into his spear. His power cannot work on anything but the spear, and so he has to make do with mundane body armor to provide protection.
  • Armory III (Molly Hastings)
    • Canadian gadgeteer and member of the Drakainas. Non-combatant. Her power focuses on futuristic military equipment (laser guns, reactive body armor, jetpacks…), but she has a mental block that prevents her from using any of her creations herself – she only ever makes equipment for other people. This does not mean that her work is easily reproduced, at all – she still has to make everything by hand, she just can’t use it herself.
  • Sovereign (real name unknown)
    • Possibly the most powerful living gadgeteer – or at least in the top three – and ruler of Central Africa. When he first appeared, it was believed that he specialised in creating combat drones, but he soon turned out to have the incredibly broad specialisation of autonomous systems. He seems to mostly work with military equipment – combat drones, artillery and the factories to produce said gadgets en masse – but has at least some ability in almost any field he has, so far, tried his hand in – he has created automated mining assemblies, autonomous farms, airports, public transport… there is a good reason why GAIN is considered the most advanced nation on Earth, and that reason is its ruler Sovereign. Despite his speciality lying in autonomy, actual AI seems to elude him. Furthermore, his most advanced work still requires his personal attention – such as his dreaded Subjugators, each of which is considered a challenge for the average combat team of metahumans.
  • Su Lin
    • The highest-rated Gadgeteer of all time, Su Lin’s speciality was never determined conclusively, as she died before thorough testing could be performed, but she was tentatively classified as a High Energy specialist, as all her gadgets were of rather… impressive scope and energy consumption. She’d developed a force field generator that was supposed to protect an entire city, an energy-canon that burned a visible furrow into the moon and was supposed to be working on a teleporter before her death. Unfortunately, both Su Lin and all her work were lost during the Viridescent Dawn incident.

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Brennus Files 08: Figures of Horror

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The Hannibal Storm

On November 11, 1996, a storm formed over the German city of Tuttlingen. At first, the inhabitants of the city thought it was a natural occurance… but it wouldn’t break up. Then, strange things started to happen. Electronics didn’t work right. Animals were acting nervous, irritable, then disappeared completely. On the third day, all contact to the city was lost, and the storm moved on towards the East. Investigators were sent in, but they found the city empty, with no signs of struggle or any remnants of the inhabitants or any other living thing. Even their pets were gone. An area of roughly twelve square kilometers, now completely devoid of human or domesticated life.

Meanwhile, the storm moved towards Stokach, moving over Neuhausen ob Eck before turning South. That city, too, was completely wiped out, leaving behind only the buildings – though this time, domesticated animals were not touched, only humans vanished, save for one four-year-old boy who was left nearly catatonic and unable to tell anyone what had happened – if he even knew.

It had nearly reached Stokach when several local superhero groups (and a few supervillains) banded together to try and find the cause of the storm. Just when they were about to enter, though, the storm suddenly vanished, leaving no traces behind.

Two weeks later, the storm reformed over Radolfzell, cutting off all communication before moving on a few hours later, too quickly for any meaningful response to be mounted. The city was, once again, bereft of all human life – and all animal life, too. Not just domesticated animals, but all animals. Even those that lived beneath the ground.

The storm moved on South, vanishing all humans that didn’t evacuate in time. Any metahuman response was met with it either disappearing for a few hours before reforming further South, or the metahumans vanishing.

On the thirty-first of December, the storm began crossing the Alps. It was then that a British newspaper called it, jokingly, ‘the Hannibal Storm’ – a name which stuck.

It was in the middle of its crossing of the Alps that the biggest assault on the strange weather phenomenon – though most were sure a metahuman was responsible, no signs of such were actually found – was launched. An assault that failed, miserably, costing fifty lives, including that of the Eighth Chevalier. Only five heroes survived – one of them Lady Light, who carried the other four to safety, very nearly succumbing to grievous wounds that had been inflicted to her during the battle – the first and so far only time that she came close to dying in battle. Of the four she saved, only one was still sane – the future Shining Guardian member Fleur, who was left traumatized and in need of therapy for the next year and a half.

The Hannibal Storm dispersed after the battle, only to reform a month later near Saint Petersburg, engulfing the Eastern half of the city for nearly two days before it moved on South, leaving it empty of life. Several attempts by the Sovjet forces to stop or capture the Hannibal Storm only cost them the lives of some of their best heroes.

For three months, the storm moved in an erratic pattern across the Sovjet territory in Europe, before it left and moved towards Italy in a very nearly straight line.

After half a year of relatively slow but unstoppable progress, it reached the town of Azzano Decimo – just when Desolation-in-Light appeared above the city.

Due to the nature of the two S-Class events, information on what followed is scarce. What little is known, though, is that Desolation-in-Light left after nearly three days of battle against whatever was inside the storm. The Hannibal Storm continued its move, massively diminished but not defeated.

It was at that exact moment, after it had been weakened by her daughter, that Lady Light mounted an all-out assault upon the storm, taking all five Shining Guardians, the Dark, the Dark Five, several independent heroes and villains, a delegation of the Sovjet Union, a delegation of metahumans and Subjugators from GAIN, Queen Madeleine and three members of her Queensguard.

After two hours, the fight was over. One member of the Shining Guardians – Fleur’s predecessor – and one of the Dark Five had fallen, as had the entire Sovjet delegation, the metahuman delegation from GAIN (though only five of the twenty-nine Subjugators sent were lost) and one of the Queensguard, as well as nearly all the Independents. Only Lady Light, the Dark, Severance and Madeleine were still conscious at the end of the battle.

It has never been reported what exactly they found at the center of the storm – but just a week later, the Tartarus Star project was greenlighted, the satellite prison completed and whatever they found there was taken up into orbit, to become the first and central prisoner of the installation.

Tachyon

July 7, 1995: Jason Orwell, aged fifty, is stabbed to death in broad daylight, in the middle of London, killed by a single strike to his heart. No one observes the murder. There are no traces found of the culprit, and Mr Orwell didn’t have any known enemies that might be responsible – he was just a butcher. A local research lab records a sudden burst of strange, unnatural particles in the area, but no further conclusions are drawn.

July 28: Le Aimei is stabbed to death in her bed in the baby ward of the Hong Kong Central Hospital. She is found by a nurse with a single stab wound to the heart. A burst of some kind of strange energy is felt by several local energy manipulators.

January 12, 1996: Svetlana Toschev is found dead in her apartment in Vladivostok, killed by a single stab wound to her heart. She is just twenty-two years old at the time of her murder. Two hours later, her brother Vladimir, who is studying medicine in Harvard, is killed in the middle of a seminar in the same manner. One student mentions seeing a red-and-white blur rush through the room, but no one can corroborate this observation. A local lab records a strange burst of foreign particles that vanish before they can be properly analysed.

January 13: The entire Toschev family, including every family with connections through marriage, is killed, every single member – from twelve babies all the way to two elderly men living in assisted living facilities, are murdered by way of knife wounds to their hearts, despite being spread out over half of Russia and a good part of the USA. The strange particles are recorded in several of the locations where the murders take place and authorities (as well as several newspapers) take notice.

January 15: the Guardian publishes an article titled ‘Tachyon’, describing the bizarre string of murders. It also connects four more murders over the last six months to the metahuman now known as ‘Tachyon’. An hour after the article is published, all the employees of the Guardian, as well as their immediate family members, are murdered by being stabbed into the heart. Three eye witnesses report a red-and-white blur responsible for the attacks.

January 16: The British Prime Minister declares a day of mourning for the murdered people. He holds an address to the nation, but is stabbed halfway through, despite a heavy presence of government metahumans for protection, killed live on national television. The cameras catch a single frame of a man in a red-and-white bodysuit covering him from head to toe. The mask stretches across his face, without any openings. His suit is mostly pure white, save for his crotch, the inside of his thighs, the back of his knees, the back of his upper arms, the fold of his elbows and his throat and neck. He is caught in the middle of a sprint, holding a simple but high-quality kitchen knife in his right hand. A burst of those same strange particles accompanies his passage.

January 18 – June 22: Tachyon commits fifteen murders without any pattern or connection between the victims, all across the world. Due to the rather mundane means by which he murders, analysts assume that many, many more murders are actually committed, but not reported – these fifteen are merely the ones during which the foreign particles or a red-and-white blur were observed.

June 23: During a fight between the Twelve Judges and a short-lived group of villains called ‘Die Nibelungenritter’, Tachyon murders Roth, a member of the Judges. He manages to snap her neck despite her extreme toughness. It is concluded that he must actually be a true speedster, though no one is sure how he avoids collateral damage despite that fact.

September 29: After several months during which Tachyon made no recorded appearances, he struck again during a fight against Desolation-in-Light, killing four superheroes by breaking the necks of three and stabbing a fourth in the heart – then proceeding to murder seven villains who were helping out during the fight and assaulting Lady Light, though she managed to repel him before he could harm her.

February 20, 1997: after several failed attempts to trap Tachyon, and a lot of brainpower being focused on figuring out his capabilities, it is concluded that he somehow combines the strengths of all known types of speedsters – being both capable of true super speed and of partially negating the laws of physics, so as not to tear up the ground beneath his feet or shatter all glass in his passage. He appears capable of exerting his full strength and speed, yet still make normally impossible turns. In short, he has all the strengths of all speedster types, but none of their usual weaknesses. He is classified as an S-Class threat and an international death warrant is issued.

Ever since then, Tachyon has been randomly murdering people all across the globe, usually one or two a month, though he hasn’t repeated any of his early killing sprees since. No one’s been able to so much as inconvenience him since. It is assumed that he either acts entirely on impulse or has some kind of secondary ability that confuses precognitives trying to predict his movements.

The Living Trinity

Three girls – Noelle Alden, Ciara Hallen and Merle Fion – manifest under unknown circumstances at the age of fifteen, on the first day of March twenty-oh-seven. They had been friends since early childhood, each having at least one parent who was a member of the United Heroes San Francisco Division.

Calling themselves Move, Mold & Make, the three proceed to take over their entire neighborhood.

Noelle Alden, now named Move, acts as the leader of the three, being the most stable after their manifestation. Her power allows her to move anything she can accurately perceive to any location she can accurately perceive or picture in her mind – or she can just randomly send her target anywhere. More disconcerting is the fact that she can teleport only parts of her targets away – or into other things. She can essentially kill anyone within her sight, provided they are not somehow protected against such an ability. There appears to be no limit to her range, though she never moved anything outside the atmosphere. She could also teleport herself, as well as teleport her two friends without having to actually see them directly.

Ciara Hallen, Mold, was the most sadistic of the three, delighting in using her power in the most twisted, cruel way she could come up with. Much like Move, her power was very simple, and very powerful – she could reshape, or mold, anything she could accurately perceive into any shape she could imagine, even changing its composition to a degree – turning flesh into stone, or concrete into plants. Her molding was permanent when applied to non-human targets, while it would wear off, in time, when used on humans – unless it killed them or she kept concentrating on the modifications. She could also use her power to heal herself and her friends from nearly any harm anyone ever managed to cause them, provided she was conscious. Some reports claim she could even revive her two friends from the dead.

Merle Fion, Make, turned out to be the least stable member of the Living Trinity – a name she came up with, apparently – and, by far, the most powerful. Fortunately, she was barely functional without at least one of her friends around to take care of her. Unfortunately, she was quite deadly with her power. Make’s power allowed her to, well, make anything she could imagine. From simple force-fields all the way to elaborate monsters, heroes and villains with their own powers, she could make anything – provided she focused on it. So long as her focus was not disrupted, her creations remained. Obviously, the more creations she maintained at a time, the less elaborate they were – but if focusing on a single idea, she could create what would probably count as an A-Class threat on its own… except her creations could be adjusted with just a moment’s thought, and recovered from any damage so long as her focus remained on them. Her power was – and still is – so vast, she could actually create sentient beings with distinct personalities and the ability to be far more… stable and intelligent than she ever was, though they tended to deteriorate over time, as she lost interest in them.

As if these abilities were not enough, the three were capable of heterodyning their powers not just easily but casually. Though the resulting abilities were not much use in direct combat – they worked on too big a scale to be too useful in the heat of battle – they allowed them to fortify their ‘realm’ by quite literally breaking reality, moving bits and pieces between dimensions, erecting barriers, portals and twists of time and space. Within two months, the entire greater San Francisco area had been turned into a huge demented playground for the three of them, and they most certainly had their fun with it.

The Living Trinity terrorized their home city for nearly two years, as repeated attempts at liberating it failed, taking many lives – though not as many as one might expect, as the three of them were quite averse to killing (most of the time). Even Mold preferred her enemies to live (and suffer), nevermind sparing civilians so she could play with them again and again. Make rarely bothered to finish anyone off, as she tended to quickly lose interest in any battle. And Move was too pragmatic to start killing senselessly, as she knew it would invite an even more extreme response from their many, many enemies.

It wasn’t until the United Heroes mounted a greater incursion into their playground, near the end of the first half of their second year, that things spiraled out of control. During the battle, the three of them lost control of their powers and ended up killing several of the heroes, and an undisclosed number of civilians, causing wide-spread damage in the entire area.

Afterwards, they became even less stable than before, their games turning more and more cruel, with a steadily mounting death toll.

Finally, as it seemed that the situation was no longer salvageable – the US government was ready to condemn the area and declare it lost, the plan being to build a massive wall around it to prevent anyone from getting inside (and, hopefully, out) – Lady Light and the Dark ordered all surveillance of the area to be discontinued, and recalled all troops, metahuman and otherwise. Due to the desperation at the time, the government obeyed, and the two of them entered the area.

What followed is not really known. Some rumors say that Lady Light and the Dark heterodyned their powers. Some speak about the near-legendary achievement of stage two heterodyning, a occurance that has only been recorded a handful of times since the beginning of metahuman history – and some few speak of something entirely different, some kind of power they have kept secret to this day.

Whatever they did, it worked. The Living Trinity was captured, and all three girls were put into stasis cells, sealed in Tartarus Star. Most of the damage they did to the area – that is, the twists in reality – was fixed, or at least removed by way of massive damage. When asked why she and the Dark didn’t do this sooner, Lady Light replied that, “The situation had not devolved enough to warrant the risk.”

No one dared ask why they haven’t done whatever they did to stop DiL… or perhaps if they tried and failed, some time. Few want to even contemplate it.

Meanwhile, the Living Trinity sleeps in their orbital prison, locked away from the world.

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Brennus Files 07: Legacy of Heroes

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Chevalier

The name of Chevalier has been passed down almost since the beginning of superheroes, and is strongly associated with knightly ideals and a history of self-sacrifice.

The original Chevalier was one of the first and definitely the most beloved hero of France. His true identity has never been made public, as he believed that he should be more symbol than man to the people. In that tradition, no Chevalier’s name has ever been released to the public.

As a consequence of this practice, there is little to be said about the bearers apart from their caped lifes.

The original Chevalier first appeared in 1924, taking down a human trafficking ring based in Paris. He was wearing full plate armor and wielded a sword and a shield with a cross and the fleur-de-lys in gold. His power allowed him to draw foes – and only foes – into a pocket dimensions, so that they may fight one-on-one (or one-on-two, three, four… he was never shy about taking on bad odds). While he was generally stronger and tougher than normal, his powers were further jacked up within said pocket dimension, making him nigh-invincible within it (at least against the normal criminal – nowadays, he’d probably just be an average cape, if one only takes raw power into account). Since he couldn’t take allies into these ‘battlefields’, and he preferred not to endanger others, he mostly worked alone, further feeding the mystery around the character.
Unlike many early superheroes, Chevalier ascribed to a strict no-kill policy – there is only one known case where he fought with lethal intent.
He met his end during Weisswald’s invasion of France. The French army and their superheroes were not prepared, and were caught off-guard when Weisswald attacked them personally, along with his strongest fighters – a small army of metahumans, nearly thirty in number; an unimaginable force, at that time. In a desperate attempt to stall them and buy his allies time to evacuate the Northeastern part of France, as well as regroup and fortify, Chevalier drew the entire attacking force of metahumans into his pocket dimension, including Weisswald himself.
There is no record of the fight within, but he managed to hold out for five days, taking down ten of his enemies, including being the first person to land a hit on Weisswald (he retained a scar on his left cheek for the rest of his life).
His sacrifice allowed the French superheroes and soldiers to hold off Weisswald’s mundane army while the civilians were being evacuated.

Afterwards, Weisswald proved to be so impressed by his deed that he not only returned the Chevalier’s corpse to the French, but also declared a two-day armistice to allow for a proper hero’s burial (though he also used those two days to regroup his troops and prepare an even more brutal assault). During said speech, Weisswald spoke of ‘her sacrifice’, revealing to the world that Chevalier had actually been a woman (she later became a feminist icon nearly on par with Lady Light, and eclipsing her in France).

Later on, Weisswald declared her gravesite off-limits for his troops, provided it wasn’t used for military purposes. As such, it became a civilian shelter, where French nationals went to escape Weisswald’s camps. It has been estimated that more than five thousand people survived the war solely because of said shelter.

To this day, the seven days that Chevalier bought the French army are considered national holidays, during which girls dress as knights, or just generally in men’s clothing.

Chevalier II: The original Chevalier’s ‘squire’, Ecuyer, took up her name during her burial, taking an oath to defend her ideals until the day he died – which he did, years later, during an ill-fated attack on Berlin, an attempt to decapacitate the enemy warmachine. When the attack was proven futile, the Chevalier once again laid down his life, covering the retreat of his allies against Weisswald’s praetorian guard. His corpse, too, was returned to France (what little of it remained at the time).
His power allowed him to make any inanimate object he was in contact with indestructible and also incredibly easy to handle for himself, while retaining its actual weight. As such, he wielded a full-plate armor and a huge sword larger than himself, wielding them as if they were feather-weights. He bore the cross-and-fleur-de-lys on his sword, engraved into the blade.

Chevalier III: This man, too, was the squire of his predecessor and took up his mantle. He, too, fell in the fight against Weisswald during the closing years of the war, dying in the same battle that claimed Brightchild’s life, fighting and killing the Sturmwaffe, one of Weisswald’s top fighters, at the cost of his own life.
He was one of the early monstrous metahumans, a gryphon-like man with enhanced strength and toughness, winged flight and a piercing scream that could disorient enemies without harming allies. He bore the Chevalier’s emblem on a tabard, as he eschewed armor.

Chevalier IV: After the war ended, many argued that it might be best to put the name of Chevalier to rest along with it, keeping the legacy unspoiled. However, just three years later, a young man – half a child – took up the name on his own, the first Chevalier to be completely unrelated to the original. After two years, the public relented and accepted him as the new Chevalier, continuing the legacy. He served faithfully until he vanished in nineteen-sixty-nine, never to be heard from again.
Unlike the previous Chevaliers, the fourth had less physical powers, possessing an eclectic mix of minor powers that worked together to make him an extremely capable team leader (and a competent enough fighter on his own, though not to the level of his predecessors). He could make allies braver, more confident, synchronising them to let them work better together; he enhanced their physical capacity in minor ways, had a kind of ‘battlefield perception’ and a very powerful danger sense.
He wore the emblem on his cape.

Chevalier V: Also known as Le Bleu for his blue armor, this man took up the cape after the fourth disappeared and served faithfully and exceptionally for two decades, longer than any other Chevalier, until he was killed by a Spiteborn Blossom in a great effort to destroy an Acre that had been hidden and grown beneath Paris. He took his foe down with him, initiating the collapse of the Acre with his last strike.
Returning to the more martial roots of the cape, the fifth had a powerful, though short-ranged hydrokinesis, fighting with an afterimage made of water that he drew from to strike his opponents and defend against attacks. He could move at incredibly speeds when completely submerged in water, as well as regenerate almost any damage within seconds.
His blue armor bore the emblem on its back.

Chevalier VI: The sixth is generally considered to be the weirdest bearer of the title – more a jester than a knight, he spent his time off the job as a stand-up comedian (in full costume), filling entire sports arenas with adoring fans. As such, many called him the Laughing Knight, and he bore that name with great pride.
He served his country for five years, until he was killed in battle with the Dark in nineteen-eighty-six.
The sixth’s power made him very nearly immortal – no matter how much damage he took, he’d just ‘snap back’ instantly, completely pristine and unharmed, and go on fighting. He also had access to what he called his ‘Swordspace’, an extradimensional pocket from which he could draw a variety of weapons (usually swords and hammers) which were imbued with a variety of effects (usually enhanced striking power and some manner of elemental manipulation).
He bore the emblem on his breastplate and back.

Chevalier VII: The Quiet One, this Chevalier never spoke a word anyone heard. He did his duty with little fanfare, until he died in nineteen-ninety while battling DiL.
His power allowed him to cancel out all other powers within a hundred feet of himself, as well as dampening sounds, and he possessed some enhanced toughness and speed. He fought with a sword-shaped taser (and a real sword for backup), as well as a shield which bore the Chevalier’s emblem.

Chevalier VIII: It took four years after the fall of the Quiet One to choose a new Chevalier. This one often commented on how he felt unworthy of his title, but that someone had to be the Chevalier, and he’d hold the mantle until someone truly worthy was found.
Despite his lackluster self-confidence, the eighth more than lived up to the title, keeping the good name of the Chevalier going until nineteen-ninety-seven, when the Hannibal Storm crossed the Alps and he plunged into it, trying to find a way to shut it down – though he failed, and paid for it with his life.
The Eighth’s power was a kind of adaptive enhancement – his power could enhance his strength, speed, toughness, perception and recovery to varying degrees, distributing a set amount of power among these attributes. He had no conscious control over it. He fought in a fullbody armor that was styled like traditional knight’s armor and wielded a sword and shield with the emblem.

Chevalier IX: The Shining Knight, the ninth Chevalier took up the mantle during a difficult period in France when no less than three S-Class threats were raging through the region – the Hannibal Storm that slew his predecessor, a new Spiteborn Acre beneath Strasbourg and a mad ‘King’ with an army of orcs trying to take over Paris.
His performance was more than exemplary, as he slew the Orc King, supported the destruction of the Acre and was instrumental in the ultimate defeat and capture of the Hannibal Storm. He continued to serve his country for nearly a decade, until he was caught up in the London Nightmare during a vacation of his, dying in battle against Heretic and Hemming. France declared three days of national grief in his honor, and though his corpse was never recovered, he received a hero’s burial.
The Ninth’s power allowed him to declare one enemy, and gain powers suited to challenging that one enemy on equal grounds. Unfortunately, he wasn’t capable of ‘targeting’ DiL with this ability.
He bore the emblem on his chest, wearing a white-and-gold skinsuit styled to evoke the image of armor, and a huge cape.

Chevalier X: The Ninth left even larger shoes to fill than usual for the mantle, and the tenth never really lived up to this ideal. He wasn’t a bad hero, but he never really did anything of as much note as his predecessors, though he himself never seemed to mind. He fell in twenty-oh-ten when he supported the American heroes in their campaign against the Living Trinity.
His power allowed him to grow into a giant form, with a proportional increase in toughness and strength, with an exceptional regenerative ability during the process of shrinking down (as his wounds would shrink exponentially faster than the rest of him, leaving him with only minor damage. His sword and shield would grow with him, becoming far more durable as well as recovering damage when shrunk down.
He bore the emblem on his shield.

Chevalier XI: Also known as ‘the Blackguard’, the eleventh Chevalier is so far the only known scion of the name who betrayed its ideals, turning to villainy a year after he took up the mantle. He has yet to be brought down…
His power makes him an exceptionally dangerous and vicious combatant. He can absorb any material he touches – including other humans – to shore up damage, becoming tougher, stronger and adding weapons to his form. He becomes even more dangerous when he manages to use it on a metahuman, as he temporarily gains their powers on top of his own. Fortunately, the effect is not permanent, as his power slowly breaks down the absorbed material, until he is fully human and physically himself again. As such, he has to keep absorbing material to retain his strength and toughness.
He used to form the emblem on some part of his body, depending on what material he had currently absorbed.

Chevalier XII: There have been several aspirants to this title, but no one has been able to bring down the Blackguard yet – they were all either killed or driven off. France is still waiting for a new hero to come and reclaim the name and symbol of her most beloved scion.

Doc Feral and the Feral Family

The original Doc Feral, Bruce Bransteel, was one of the pre-eminent contrivers of the pre-WWII era, an ‘adventurer scientist’ who travelled all across the world in his pursuit of justice. His power revolved around a secret ‘formula’ which could bestow a variety of powers to anyone who drank it – though with side-effects if used by anyone other than Doc Feral himself.

Being of exceptional charisma, the self-declared Doctor (he didn’t actually hold an academic title) gathered a faithful following of fellow adventurers, mostly teenagers, one of whom manifested as a contriver as well, with a nearly identical technique (he used injections instead of ingested formulas).

The original Doc Feral became one of the founding members of the Shining Guardians, and his successors have held up said tradition. Ever since world war one, the Feral Family (as this group is known) has always included more than one contriver, of whom the most capable one would bear the title of Doc Feral, until he or she either died, passed it on or lost the title to an majority vote from the other members. Many of the older bearers of the title are still alive and support the younger generation in various ways.

The family is well-known for its reliance on heterodyning – as all members are contrivers, and all of them ascribe to some variation of the power formula, they usually operate by synchronising similar powers (such as having a squad of blasters coordinate to fuse their powers into something greater. Though most members are rather weak individually, the family as a whole can be considered an A-Class combatant.

Currently, the twenty-sixth Doc Feral is leading the family as they act as the leaders of the North American division of the United Heroes. Also known as the ‘Feral Mom’ (a nickname she quite despises), she relies on a specialised subset of the formula that induces physical changes, mainly various form of animal shapes with a variety of powers.

Amaterasu

Asuka Kagurasaki was just fourteen years old when she married the son of the Japanese emperor – only to see him brutally murdered by Weisswald, two years later.

She manifested on the spot, just as Weisswald was preparing to kill her. It was only due to her inexperience and panic that he survived her opening strike, which incinerated his left arm and killed two members of his praetorian guard before they even realised there was something wrong.

It is generally agreed that, had Asuka had any prior combat training, the terror of Weisswald could have been stopped right then and there. Even so, he was driven off, and then had to flee the country entirely when Lady Light and the Dark joined forces with Amaterasu.

Unfortunately, she was unwilling to actually leave her country in order to pursue Weisswald, preferring to stay behind and pacify it, bringing down the agents left behind by the Tyrant as well as uppity criminal elements. Though she did then join the war effort against Weisswald, he had made plans for her by then, and was capable of weathering her assault, even though no one ever found a way to efficiently counter her power (apart from staying out of its range).

Initially, it was assumed that Amaterasus’ power was a crude pyrokinesis – the ability to incinerate anything within roughly a hundred and sixty feet of her from the inside out. She also had an extra sense that allowed her to perceive every exertion of force within said range – such as the force exerted by muscles within a human body, or by a travelling projectile. As such, anyone who stood within her range lived and died upon her whim – she could reach into and burn even the strongest metahuman. And she herself was effectively immune to any and all physical attacks.

Later it turned out that her power was far more than just that – it was more comparable to a very crude telekinesis. The incineration was achieved by an undirected burst of telekinesis, generated within the target, tearing their bodies apart while setting them ablaze with the heat of the friction. Once she learned to direct this burst, she could use it to move objects along straight lines at very great speeds – including herself. She could effectively turn any solid matter (liquids could only be detonated on the spot) into a lethal projectile, allowing her to attack targets far outside her range, as well as fight targets within it with less lethal means than her standard attack.

Amaterasu quickly gained fame across the world, and even the Royal Family accepted her as a full member, despite her not having carried out any heirs to the throne and her husband being dead – but she was simply too powerful to ignore, and frankly far too important.

Despite Japan’s push to unify and standardise all metahumans as Sentais, Amaterasu was allowed to retain an independent identity, partly due to her personal importance and partly because she styled herself in a traditional manner (she wore rich traditional robes styled to evoke a priestly look). This would become part of her legacy, later on (more on that later).

Asuka fought for the prosperity and safety of her country until nineteen-sixty-nine, when she was enthralled by her own son from her second marriage and forced to first kill her three daughters, then herself. Afterwards, her husband tracked down and killed their son, before committing ritual suicide, stating grief over the loss of his family and shame over the monster his son had become as his reasons, thus ending the story of Japan’s greatest heroine.

But she would not be forgotten, as Japan declared her a national hero and an example for all to follow. In her memory, they have made a special exception in the Sentai system, allowing their most exceptional heroes to discard the uniform of the Sentai in favour of more personalised (though preferably traditionally inspired) garb and names. These elite few are considered Japan’s answer to the Shining Guardians.

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