The best writers use pictures instead of words

The other day my random Microsoft screensaver showed me this – Guatapé in Colombia. It looks like what I imagine the part of Madripoor where the rich people have their villas looks like. I share it because I am a terrible writer and can’t describe things. If you look closely you can see Mr. X waving!

IMAGE MAY BE SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT!!!!

In other news, SPOILER ALERT, Madripoor was on the latest episode of Falcon & the Winter Soldier so now this entire blog is ruined because it seems like I was ripping off a TV show when I wasn’t at all, I was ripping off a comic book. Since Madripoor is already an expy of Singapore, I’ll have to re-write everything and make the place Ela is stuck in currently Thirteenapour.

BONUS MAILBAG – Since Ela is occasionally referencing Superman and other DC comic people, someone asked me if Marvel comics exist in this part of the Elaverse. They’re not supposed to. Since I already ripped off Madripoor, some very minor Marvel characters might turn up from time to time. Is that fair usage? I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer. Yet.

One of these days Alice, bang, zoom, straight to the moon!

A brief summary of the history of space exploration.

In 1863 Project Epicus, an effort by Baltimore based industrialists and munitions manufacturers, succeeded in firing a projectile that impacted on the surface of the moon.  In 1865 a second mission was attempted with a capsule-projectile containing three passengers.  Although the projectile successfully circumnavigated the moon and return to splash down on earth, upon retrieval it was discovered that the first “space travelers” had been killed instantly by the force of the acceleration required to escape earth’s atmosphere.   

Despite various proposals to protect potential spacefarers, the fragility of the human body was considered an insurmountable obstacle to travel by means of space cannon.  This was proven incorrect (depending on your feelings about non-baseline humans, evolution, and genetics) in 1909 when Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as the indestructible man, was launched into space – although no one would know this until 21 years later. 

Able to withstand the incredible force involved due to his superhuman durability, Gaspard survived the launch, the 5-day trip around the moon, and was headed back towards earth when an encounter with space debris caused his module to deviate from its course.  Although the capsule was equipped with rudimentary maneuvering rockets, Gaspard was unable to course correct to achieve re-entry, and his craft ended up in orbit around the Earth and the moon which scientists predicted would last more than a century before decaying.   

Attempts were made to launch equipment into orbit that could be used to help Gaspard reach earth, but because there was no way to communicate with Gaspard, and due to the limitation of what equipment could be sent because of the large g-force experienced by a ballistic projectile, these efforts were failures.  Gaspard was given up for dead, his silver bullet circling earth a grim reminder of his presumed fate. 

Gaspard proved as good as his name however, his body entering a state of suspended animation after running out of oxygen.  Gaspard’s inert body was examined by an extraterrestrial scout ship that mistakenly took the projectile for an artificial satellite (which technically it was).  Incorrectly surmising that earth had achieved space flight (which technically it had) and therefore was primed for first contact, the alien ship instead found a dormant, yet still technically alive, Frenchman. 

The aliens returned the capsule to Earth in 1930 and a few weeks later, Gaspard revived to tell his astonishing tale.  Gaspard was ready for another trip, he hoped to visit Mars. But in his absence, space cannons had largely been abandoned in favor of rocketry research. 

Gaspard’s return reinvigorated interest in space exploration.  1933 saw the birth of Project Archimedes, which many consider the most progressive scientific undertaking in human history.  Project Archimedes was a top-level scientific exchange involving nearly every major industrial power in the world (the Empire of Japan being a notable exception) with the goal of space exploration and eventually, colonization.   

In order to facilitate this novel project, the city of Artesia on Merritt Island was carved off as a separate legal entity of the United States, like the District of Colombia, where laws could be crafted specifically to serve the needs of the exchange of sensitive scientific information between world powers and to allow for the project’s many unusual requirements.   This project was opposed by many in the US government but ultimately was pushed forward (possibly due to bribery, blackmail, and assassination depending on who you ask). 

Artesia became the site of a massive scientific center, home to more than 15,000 researchers and scientists as well as a residential and office complex for more than 50,000 support staff.  Buoyed by a surge of enthusiasm for space exploration, Project Archimedes was an unbridled success (and a massive financial windfall to the US).  Several of the project milestones are as follows: 

  •  1946 first artificial satellite is launched into orbit 
  •  1948 first pictures taken of the dark side of the moon 
  •  1950 first application satellite launched 
  •  1952 first data retrieved on another planet (Venus) 
  •  1955 first spacewalk
  •  1955 first pictures of Mars
  •  1956 first baseline humans walk on the moon

In 1957 with the aid of several NBH’s capable of orbital flight and surviving in space, a joint CSA, USA, and Canadian project began constructing space station Daedalus, largely using the once abandoned space cannon technology, which proved efficient for transporting freight, fuel, and ruggedized equipment into earth orbit.  This station would work in conjunction with Project Archimedes as part of an overarching plan to construct a base on the moon designed for launching craft to Mars.   

In 1960 as the station was nearing completion, Project Archimedes was derailed in a manner that no one anticipated.  An alien being appeared before Congress and accused many of the top scientists involved in the program of being alien imposters and moreover, galactic criminal fugitives.  The initial reaction of the governments involved in Archimedes was hostile to say the least, but a few months later one of the project leaders, Dr. Kyle David Pennington, came forward and confessed.  He and a dozen other critical members of the project really were criminal extraterrestrials posing as humans. 

The alien law officer declared her intention to arrest Dr. Pennington and his cohorts and remove them from the planet.   Since earth was benefiting from the actions of these criminals, many people were in favor of ignoring whatever extraterrestrial laws or covenants had been broken by Dr. Pennington.  Grant he and his fellow exiles asylum and make them citizens of earth nations – some claimed that the work of Project Archimedes would lead to a golden age, ending world hunger and war, and expanding human lifespans by a hundred years.   

The alien official declared that any such act would be considered unlawful and met with force, a small legion of additional aliens was called in as reinforcements to back up this threat.  The only card the technologically inferior earth governments had to match this force of “alien invaders” was to martial their NBH assets.  The world prepared for a war unlike any had seen before.  Spacefaring aliens against the supermen of earth. 

The conflict did not come to pass.  The governments involved in the project eventually offered their full cooperation with the alien authorities in the hopes that this would build goodwill towards earth’s early entry into The Alliance of Free Stars.  The alien forces took Dr. Pennington and his friends into custody as planned.  However, what was not expected was that hundreds of humans were taken into custody as well, their knowledge considered “fruit of the poisonous tree”.  The aliens stated they could not be allowed to continue teaching and using what they had learned from Dr. Pennington.  This was followed by the further outrage of the disassembly and destruction of all technology created by the project. 

Considering this a betrayal of their good faith agreement, several governments reversed course and once again prepared their NBH assets for an armed response.  However, public opinion had shifted.  Factions that had opposed the project spoke the loudest – earth is for earthlings, take away corrupt alien technology, we don’t need their help.  Rivals and political opponents whipped up anti-alien sentiment into a frenzy.  Many industrial business interests saw opportunity in the collapse of Archimedes and threw fuel on the fire.   

In the end, the project governments backed away from the edge of conflict.  In one of the more shameful moments in history, hundreds of citizens of various nations were allowed to be taken from their homes to spend the rest of their lives incarcerated on alien worlds for the crime of trying to make the world a better place for everyone.   

Many consider the spectacular collapse of Project Archimedes to be the death of space exploration as a human endeavor.  While enthusiasm for space research is certainly at a nadir, there are many who have already started to pick up the pieces and begin anew.  Government funding for space programs has been wildly curtailed, but it persists in one form or another.  As Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”  The dream of space travel can be delayed only, never denied.

The truth is out there

Pictured above “news van”

As one would anticipate from an international trading hub, Madripoor has newspapers from all over the world reprinted in many different languages, as well as a multiplicity of local newspapers.  The competition between these news outlets is often fierce, and like almost everything in Madripoor, sometimes crosses the line into criminal violence.  They range from the publications celebrated and respected across the world to glorified scandal sheets, half of each issue consisting of very poorly printed pornography.  Below all of them in terms of respect is the sporadic and confusing newsletter put out by Dan Hui sang.

Dan Hui sang aka News Dan of the News Dan News Van aka the Dan Man with the Dan Plan roams the city in his armored “news van” seemingly endlessly, day and night, like a shark always in motion – a shark that eats news.  Dan Hui promises to deliver news without “government propaganda or corporate spin” but largely presents news that no one would pay money for, which is why his newsletter is distributed for free out of the back of his van – and stuffed into doors of annoyed households at random when he has extras.   Which is always.

Dan Hui likes to focus on the NBH and “super” community for his news, which he feels is an area underreported by traditional news sources.  He weaves increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories about the underlying meaning of any action taken by superpowered individuals and their connections to what he sees as global shadow government controlled by corporate interests.  He reports on stories that he claims are “news that can’t be found anywhere else!”

If anyone bothered to check or pay attention, they would discover that once in a while, Dan Hui actually does scoop official sources, particularly when it comes to being first on the scene at some kind of super-powered incident.   Dan Hui has no fear when it comes to hurtling into dangerous situations to provide a first-hand account.  The two main reasons he has survived this reckless behavior (so far) are his tank-like armored vehicle and his intern/driver/bodyguard Xu Yiyang. 

Yiyang is able to elevate her adrenaline levels to give her superhuman strength, stamina, and agility for short periods of time.  This comes at the cost of exhausting herself and the probable eventuality of suffering total catastrophic organ failure.  The origin of these power and why someone with this ability would be serving as the assistant to a man who has significantly less credibility than The National Enquirer are both unknown.  

Despite his reputation and flamboyance, Dan Hui truly is a skilled reporter and works hard to pry the truth out from wherever it might be hiding.  He employs a network of informants to gather information for him that is staggering in its scope. He is fanatically devoted to what he does, believing that governments and corporations are all corrupt and represented by propaganda masters that fill the news with lies. His passion is exposing the truth, and he will go to great lengths to get it out there.

He is, predictably, quite paranoid. He believes that he “knows too much” and that the “secret masters” will take him out as soon as they get the chance, so as to stop him from exposing the truth.  In his more lucid and retrospective moments, Dan Hui wonders which truth would be worse – that there is a massive worldwide secret conspiracy trying to kill him, or that no one knows or cares what he’s doing.  

The New Founding Fathers of America

(In retrospect, I wish I had called them something else but I didn’t. Its not like I can change it now, my hardcore fanbase would be outraged.)

The New Founding Fathers are a radical underground organization dedicated to unification of the Coalition States of America and the United States of America into a single nation.  In the intelligence community, it is accepted that the ultimate goal of the NFFA post this theoretical unification is using the resulting military power of a combined CSA-USA state to consolidate the entire North American continent into a single entity – One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.

The New Founding Fathers operate in many groups they call circles – Science, Military, Government, Business, Medical, Military, Intelligence, and so on.  Operationally these groups all can be divided into those that pursue unification through political efforts by infiltrating political parties, influencing media outlets, and swaying public policy.  And those that prepare for the contingency plan – the violent overthrow of the CSA and USA governments – by providing weapons, money, and tactical advice to a wide range of terrorist groups and establishing sympathetic sleepers in military and paramilitary groups in both the CS and US to support a coup attempt if necessary. 

The duties of the first groups (aside from acquiring capital needed for the group to operate) are undermining the existing governments of the CS and US by making them look inept, tyrannical, and uncaring.  They particularly focus on sabotaging diplomatic relations with other nations, trying to isolate the CS and US from foreign support.  This wing love political scandal and use their media contacts to fan the flames of any government agent caught involved in shady dealings (real or manufactured by the NFFA themselves).  The endgame of these activities is that the citizens of the two nations themselves would support the removal of the current regimes and the takeover by the NFFA. 

Working in concert with these efforts are propaganda activities and the support and organization political action groups like One Nation and the True Americans.  The NFFA has controlling stakes in several advertising agencies to help them build popular support for the idea of unification.  Also within the umbrella of the non-violent wing of the NFFA are the intellectuals and career politicians who are laying the groundwork for the new government – cultivating contacts with the industries and organizations that will be critical to the transition of power. 

The other wing of the NFFA is responsible for supporting violent civil unrest of any stripe – even those groups with goals ultimately unpalatable to the NFFA.  Pro-America groups tend to get the most support, but the military branch of the NFFA provides aid to any group looking to perform terrorist attacks that will weaken the faith in the current administration.   

On the other side of the coin, while some NFFA groups support extremists, others spend their time garnering the sympathy of law enforcement and the militaries of both nations.  The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms in the US, as well as the federal police in the CS have both been substantially suborned by the NFFA.  While the NFFA does not yet have a significant presence in the active-duty militaries of either nation, they have made noteworthy in-roads in creating pockets of support in the reserve and various militias units.

To date, their attempts to recruit or suborn NBH assets have been failures.  As a result, their science and medical personnel have partnered with the military operators recently to begin a program of illegal human enhancement.

The most creatively named villain since Paste Pot Pete – Mr. X!

The publically accepted history of “superbeings” dictates that the first non-baseline humans were the results of experiments conducted in the early 1900s.  The man codenamed Majestic, deployed in the Great War, is considered by many to be the first superhuman.  This is incorrect on two counts, first count being that Majestic is not human, and the second count being there is evidence of naturally born superbeings since at least the 1500s and there is no reason to believe that they have not existed since the dawn of humans. 

Exact estimates vary, but the distribution of the biologic profile that allows for the potential of NBH enhancement by scientific methods is believed to be approximately one person in every eight million.  The subject of natural NBHs has not been widely studied yet but it is unequivocal that they are far more rare, possibly in the range of one in a hundred million or more.   

Armend Lusha, the mysterious Mr. X of the infamous Madripoor fighting tournament, is one of these uncommon naturally occurring NBHs.  Born in Tirana in 1940 to a wealthy family, Armend’s parents were killed by Black Cross anarchists during the riots in 1948.  Armand was shuttled from Budapest to Vienna to Madrid where he gained international fame of a sort when he was featured in a Life magazine article as “the world’s richest refugee”. 

Shortly after this publicity, Armend was adopted and brought to the US where his new parents renamed him Drexler Walsh.  In doing so, the Walsh family took control of the remaining assets of the Lushas, most importantly tobacco, oil, and mining concerns — increasing their already substantial holdings in shipping and real estate.  This made the Walsh family a major player in European markets overnight.

Their interest in raising Armend was significantly overshadowed by their interest in acquiring the resources and contacts that made up his inheritance.   

When Armend began killing his pets, it’s questionable if his adopted parents even knew. If they were informed, they certainly couldn’t be bothered to care.  Armend’s telepathic abilities had awakened during the murder of his biological parents, connecting him to them at the moment of their death. Through his psychic connection, he experienced the sensation of dying.

By his own admission, Armend has been obsessed with death since that moment.  Finding animals to be a poor substitute for the “real thing,” Armend committed several murders in his youth, intent on recreating the exhilaration of telepathically connecting with another person at the instant of their death. He pushed a maid down the stairs.  He poisoned a nanny.  He caused a family friend to be run over by a car. 

Armend is an addict and his drug of choice is murder.  On his 18th birthday, he killed his adoptive parents and over the next several years, one by one murdered his adoptive brothers and sisters as well.  Taking control of his family’s considerable wealth, he turned his attentions to funding and participating in violent anti-anarchist groups and government actions against anarchists.  Whether he truly desired any manner of revenge for the death of his biological parents or if this was merely a smokescreen to indulge his dark desires is unknown.   

Armend was in Italy “hunting” with a group of anti-anarchist soldiers of fortune when they were ambushed by the quarry they had been seeking in the mountains.   In contrast to his previous murders, which he had executed with no physical risk to himself, Armend found himself in a life or death struggle with a knife wielding assailant.   Armend was the victor and ended his attacker by strangulation.

The thrill of killing an opponent in hand-to-hand combat provided Armend with a feeling of euphoria that eclipsed anything he had felt to date.  Abandoning his “childish” methods of murder free of personal danger, Armend used his fortune to travel the world and study with the best fighters he could hire.  After learning all he could from them, Armend would kill them.  Maintaining a public image of a philanthropic sportsman with an interest in cultural studies, Armend circled the globe fighting and killing martial artists and streetfighters and brawlers of all sorts.

He gathered an inner circle of followers that he calls his “new murder avant-garde” including at least one other NBH.  Armend’s goal is to be the greatest melee fighter the world has ever seen which, of course, means killing all of the world’s best fighters.  Finding the secrecy of his efforts annoying, Armend traveled to the only place that would indulge this blatant bloodlust, Madripoor, where if you have enough money, anything can be yours.  With the help and backing of several local businessmen and criminal groups, Armend held the first Madripoor bloodsport in 1968.  Although not exclusively for NBHs, the participants typically are, since a normal human usually is no match for the elite of the enhanced killer world.   

For those who know of it, the tournament is often misunderstood to be a mandatory fight to the death.  While deaths are common (Armend has killed everyone he’s faced in the first four tournaments, for instance) it isn’t strictly necessary to be the victor.   

Martialla returns – 70s style

Kirill Chernyshevsky was a black hundredist who fought against Bolshevik forces in the Russian Civil war in the 1920s and continued operating with militarized associations of anti-communist insurrectionists in Siberia through the early 1930s.  Operating mainly in Primorsky Krai, Kirill had close ties with a smuggling group associated with anti-Japanese Dongnipgun rebels.  It was through these contacts that he was smuggled into Yunshan in 1937 and from there made his way to Calgary. 

In Calgary, Kirill married Eugénie Caouette in 1939, the daughter of a prominent figure in the local criminal scene.  Kirill and Eugénie had two daughters, Martialla and Irena Chernyshevsky, before their murder in 1957, which remains unsolved.

Martialla, the elder sister, was able to get judicial dispensation for active military duty at the age of 16, joining the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service.  This allowed her to become the legal guardian of her sister Irena.  Martialla worked at the naval training center in Galt, Ontario until 1963 when Irena completed secondary school.

Leaving the service, Martiallia worked for transnational shipping company Horizon Lines while Irena attended Carleton University.  Martialla was on board the Horizon Spin in 1966 when it was attacked and captured by a splinter group of Alamo 400K terrorists who suspected that the ship was secretly illegally carrying liberated foreign fighters from a POW camp in South America.  She was held hostage for 7 months before being rescued in a joint Canadian-Pecos military operation.

Martialla worked various janitorial and service jobs in Ottawa until her sister graduated university in 1967.  Irena moved to the Coalition States and Martialla rejoined the Canadian Navy.  In 1972, she volunteered for a an experimental weapons program run by Department K, most likely because of the substantial cash incentive being offered for volunteers which she gave to her newly married sister for the purchase a house in Saint Louis.  During her service, Martialla had been tested several times for the necessary gene for creating “super-soldiers” by the Omega method, which had always been negative.

The Department K experiment was designed to see if people without the “super” gene could be enhanced by a chemical method.  The only segment of the tests that had any success was that attached to the combat diver program, of which Martialla was taking part.  Although it would be revealed to be a qualified success at best, 12 candidates were successfully granted the ability to breathe underwater and swim at speeds well outside of human norms.  However, over the next six months, 11 of these subjects developed “significant psychiatric symptoms including aggression and violence, mania, psychosis and suicide”, severe enough that all 11 were confined to a mental facility or killed during escape attempts or other clashes.

The only test subject that did not develop serious side effects was Martialla.  In addition to remaining free of mental health difficulties, Martialla’s granted abilities exceeded those of the other volunteers, exhibiting NBH physical capabilities in all physical areas on the Briggs-Hollymere scale, albeit only while submerged in water.  Department K and the Navy subjected her to intense testing as they attempted to understand and replicate this aberration.

Due to this confinement, isolation, and constant examination, Martialla became increasingly reclusive and bitter towards the Navy and the Canadian government.  Being treated as a test subject and an “asset” resulted in Martialla feeling that she had become a freak and she started directing anger and frustration at her handlers in Department K. 

When Irena got word to Martialla that her niece had been kidnapped, she escaped during a training exercise and is AWOL with no intention of returning.  She is suspected of damaging several vessels and is known to have attacked and sunk at least one whaling ship operating out of Vladivostok.  Over the past several months, hundreds of people have reporting seeing a real life “mermaid”, including a family that claim she towed their damaged and leaking boat over 20 miles to shore during a storm. 

Lucien Basilières aka Genderuwo aka Big Blue

Born in Saskatoon 1930, Lucien Basilières spent his youth in Montreal. Volunteering for the Army Special Force at 17, he was shipped to boot camp in Denver before being deployed to the fighting in Borneo in 1948.  He would go on to fight with the 1st Commonwealth Division in 1950-1952 on the mainland.  After returning to Canada, Lucien’s records indicate that he was assigned to an ill-defined unit that at various times appeared to be an attachment of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, a branch of RCMP Security Service, or an independent agency.  It is suspected that Lucien was involved in anti-terrorist and espionage operations, many of which were extralegal or illegal. 

Lucien was ousted from the Canadian military after the issuance of Canadian Forces Administrative Order (CFAO) 19-20, Sexual Deviation – Investigation, Medical Investigation and Disposal, which required members of the military suspected of being homosexual to be investigated and then subsequently released from service.  The officer that headed this investigation was murdered, a crime for which Lucien was questioned but never charged.  The case remains unsolved.   

It is believed that for the next two years, Lucien used his skills on behalf of Aboriginal-based organized crime groups with connections to the Rizzuto crime family.  The fact that he hastily left Canada in 1970 with false papers indicates a falling out with these criminal groups.   

Lucien joined a group of “military advisors” made up of English, Welsh, and Dutch mercenaries expelled from or fleeing prosecution in southern Africa.  He was working in this capacity in Pakistan during the alien contact labeled Deep Space 99.  Most alien visitors to earth are the result of crash landings or other accidents, making enforcing the Covarrubias Convention, which requires the immediate extermination of all alien lifeforms on earth, relatively easy.   

The DS 99 incident was one of the rare cases of intentional alien landing – seven ships carrying highly trained teams of alien explorers with a mission to study earth.  Russian alien extermination teams were able to destroy five of the smaller ships and kill dozens of the explorers, but hundreds more were able to scuttle their remaining damaged craft and escape.  Making their pursuit and extermination difficult is the fact that the DS99 aliens, dubbed HIET (humanoid intelligent extra-terrestrial) 277 are indistinguishable from humans in visible light (they are noticeably different in the UV band).   

Lucien was captured by a splinter cell of HIET aliens and subjected to experimentation.  Although HIET 277 are known to be human in appearance, Lucien claims that his main tormentor had a prominent lizard-like face and long scaled fingers.  Whether this is an additional species associated with HIET 277 or merely the hallucinations of a man under intense pain and stress remains unknown.   

Lucien claims that he saw other humans being experimented on, or merely tortured, many of whom died.  Lucien does not remember escaping the facility or being set free, his next memory being waking up with his new form in the custody of authorities in Karachi.  Authorities who had very little interest in dealing with a massive blue lizardman.   

Left a stateless outcast, Lucien made his way to Madripoor where he makes a poor living as muscle for hire to various criminal enterprises.   

The physical mutations of the alien experiments by HIET 277 on Lucien are obvious.  He is now close to eight feet tall and weighs more than fifteen hundred pounds, not only because of the physical bulk but also due to hard calcified dermal deposits and superdense bone and muscle structure.  His skin has been replaced with blue scales similar in appearance to the Martinique anole, although in function they are similar to the armored scales of crocodilians.   

In addition to this enormous body size, Lucian’s ratio of arm-to-leg length is significantly higher than a similar sized human form would dictate.  His strength, reflexes, and speed are all outside of human norms.  He has not been formally tested but his observed abilities appear to be on the low end of the Briggs-Hollymere scale for NBHs.  Due to his mass, scales, and dermal deposits, Lucian is highly resistant to physical trauma.  Lucien’s vision encompasses a broader spectrum than baseline humans, extending into infrared. 

His most noteworthy demonstrated ability is regenerative power, allowing him to heal rapidly to the point of restoring lost limbs and quickly recovering from injuries that would otherwise be fatal.  Based on observations, it is speculated that Lucien can eventually recover from any damage that does not result in instant death (decapitation, massive heart trauma, some spinal injuries, etc). 

The Lords in Shadow

The Shadow Lords have their origin in the 1937 invasion of China by the Empire of Japan.  The Japanese Imperial Army brought coastal China under their control and they were followed by the yakuza as closely as lightening after a storm.  All the local criminal groups either fled or were killed.   

One of the survivors of this purge was a member of the Green Gang called Fat Yuan.  Rumors say that he was half Japanese, the son of a powerful oyabun and his Chinese mistress.   As the story goes, he was able to survive and escape the extermination of the Green Gang due to his superhuman abilities and inside information about the activities of those that sought his death.   

Fat Yuan fled south before the oncoming Imperial tide and began studying at the monastery of Four Winds outside of Vientiane.  When Fat Yuan and his followers stole the mystical shadowknives protected by the masters of the Four Winds, it instigated bloody infighting that saw the destruction of the Four Winds sect and the deaths of the teachers Howling Over Thunder and Crimson Mask.   

Lacking the resources to challenge the Yakuza directly, Fat Yuan and his followers traveled the Indonesian Archipelago, Polynesia, and Australia each recruiting their own followers – creating many small gangs that would eventually coalesce into the Shadow Lords.  Their ranks were swelled by other Chinese gangsters who had survived the purge, but included a diverse cross section of criminals from across the region.  This loose collection of criminal enterprises began to establish their own small spheres of influence in the Madripoor underworld. 

The Shadow Lords are essentially cults of personality formed around a specific individual.  As such, they usually disintegrate if that leader is killed or removed from power.  Experienced members will break off from their parent gangs to establish their own independent outfits with the approval of their former leader.  The Shadow Lords are not overseen by a central authority like the Mafia or similar groups.

Despite this lack of top down leadership, conflict between Shadow Lords is rare, unlike the mob wars between Yakuza clans, Mafia families, or Triads. 

In contrast to those other organized crime syndicates, the Shadow Lords are small, consisting of fewer than thirty sworn members.  Those members control front gangs, larger networks of criminal associations on the street. Due to the necessity of protecting themselves from larger rivals, the members never inform the operatives on the street that they are actually in the employment of the Shadow Lords.  

When a group becomes too big and attracts the attention of their enemies, it fragments into two or three smaller groups.  By splitting up and recruiting, they evolve and change their face and shape, keeping a low profile.   

In essence, the Shadow Lords are a confederacy of criminal outfits that share the same goals.  Each leader has their own culture, their own separate hierarchy, and what motivates them may be different, but they all help each other survive while they strike at the Yakuza.  Due to their single-minded obsession with hurting the Yakuza, the Shadow Lords have not grown as fast as they could. 

The Shadow Lords use every resource possible and are willing to take greater risks than rival syndicates.  Compared to the larger crime syndicates, the Shadow Lords are far more likely to cooperate with outsiders.  Besides their comfort with magical artifacts, this manifests by the Shadow Lords being one of the few organized crime groups that actively recruits “superhumans”, which are not welcome in more traditional enterprises.   

How to talk to your kids about super-soldiers and death

The Coalition States of America “super-soldier” project is renowned to be the most successful in the world.  Many people would be surprised to learn that the project (secretly dubbed “Godlike”) has only produced three viable outcomes.  At the cost of dozens of non-operable results (“zeroes” as they are deemed by the research team) and hundreds of deaths.  Even more surprising is that, despite that fact, it is the most successful program of its kind.  

The common belief is that people with the gene that allows for chemical manipulation to exceed human baselines are one in a million.  The truth is that they’re even rarer than that.  The chances of someone having the necessary gene already being in the CSA military were exceedingly small.  When Private First Class Amy Albright tested positive, the results were initially kept under wraps due to the high number of project failures.  After she emerged from the program a complete success, she became a media darling.  

A wholesome blonde girl-next-door type who had volunteered to serve her country that could fly at supersonic speeds and rip apart a tank with her bare hands?  It was a public relations windfall beyond the wildest dreams of the military spin doctors.  Her smiling face on 60 Minutes and the evening news did much to mitigate the (true) accusations of forced conscriptions and deadly consequences of the program.  

She went from being the face of a public relations campaign to a true national hero following the release of the 1970 documentary “Angel” showing footage of her in action during the Argentine Conflict.  The opening scene of a brutal looking staff sergeant explaining in no uncertain terms to his men that Angel One is a soldier and not “some mark in a pick-up bar” and will be treated as such in his unit unless they want a boot up their ass has become as iconic as the live footage of her turning the tide at Cordoba and saving the lives of thousands of CSA soldiers.  

It is because of this movie that she is known mostly to the public by her callsign used during that conflict – “Angel” or “Angel One” rather than her focus group-chosen public persona “Iron Heart”.  Angel One was reported KIA on March 4th, 1973, the details of which have not yet been released to the public.  It is widely assumed that a new chemical weapon provided to Ñancahuazú Guerrilla fighters by German communists is responsible for her death.  A sound clip of a CSA officer reporting “Angel One is down”, voice cracking with emotion, has become iconic.