World explaining Wednesday – The Dominatrix Matrix

Remember in the Matrix when Neo sees the cat walk by twice and says “Deja vu?”  That makes no sense to me.  Seeing the same thing twice isn’t déjà vu, déjà vu is when you get into your car to go to work and a song comes on the radio and suddenly that moment seems exactly like one you’ve already lived.  If I saw two black cats I’d just assume there were two of them.  Which would still be weird enough to comment on but I wouldn’t say déjà vu.

Maybe they’ll explain that in Matrix 4. 

For a tenth of a second today I thought I saw my girlfriend’s cat in my house.  Brains and vision are wacky huh?  According to an episode of the X-files from 25 years ago “they” still don’t know how a two dimensional retinal image is translated into our 3 dimensional vision. 

According to the hugely popular podcast about this massively successful blog people were confused by the presence of the woman in the catsuit in the “job interview” posts.  Since I am bad at describing things (which is a great attribute to have both for writing and running RPGs, two of my favorite things) people thought that was the same woman from the fight in the “apartment” closet.  It was not.   

I thought about posting some pictures but ultimate didn’t.  10% because I don’t understand how giving people credit for things works.  90% because I assume tons of kids read this and they don’t need to see that.  “But Jeremy, you talk about this not appropriate for all audiences all the time”.  Sure, but reading is harmless.  Seeing things?  That has impact. 

Anyway here’s a character breakdown or whatever of those two separate and unique people.

Let’s start with the apartment lady.  I envision her looking like Catwoman from the 1992 movie Batman Returns only without the cat ears and more straps and buckles.  Kind of like that weird Edward Scissorhands leather suit maybe.  Hence in Ela’s eyes she looked like a dominatrix.  Would the average person in the 1970s know what a dominatrix was?  No clue.  Write what you know they say.  Nah, I say back.   

A rebellious girl from not the best home Susan Draper quickly learned the easiest path to excitement and the finer things in life was to attach herself to men who lived dangerous lifestyles, feeding off the thrills and money of those relationships.  She was the “main squeeze” of a gang leader in Basin City when she decided that it would be a real thrill to cheat on such a violent and dangerous man.  Which it was until he found out.   

Rather than kill her said boyfriend went the time-honored comic book route of selling her into the clutches of unscrupulous scientists for experimentation – in this case the much-maligned Pecos Republic super soldier program.  The Pecos facility at Lone Star is known far and wide for its dismal success rate at creating viable super soldiers and its great success rate at creating corpses unrecognizable as having once been human.   

Given this reputation Susan was grateful when she was turned loose without any visible effects as a “zero”.  A few months later she developed empathic powers, which is kind of lame, but a few months after that she developed the ability to manipulate the pain and pleasure centers of the brain as well – which is really something.  A few months later she developed enhanced agility which was nice.  A few months after that she developed the ability to inject people with ink from her fingers to create tattoos which is just silly.  If Ela hadn’t thrown her through a wall to her death who knows what additional powers she would have gained.  How long would have gone on?  New powers every few months?  That sounds like a great idea for a comic! 

Susan eventually grew bored of seducing and betraying various low-level villains and joined up with some fellow female crime people that came to Madripoor to recruit for some “big time” criminal undertakings.  It didn’t work out great for Suze.  But in Ela’s defense she threw the first kick. 

Now the job applicant.  Wealthy socialite Marina Elizabeth Sieber has no innate superpowers but she was bequeathed a magic panther skin suit by her uncle, you all know how that goes.  He told her that it came from “African witch doctors” but it’s actually a Mesoamerican artifact related to the necklace that Ela took off Serpentina.  It’s part of a panoply of enchanted items that if assembled completely would give you all kinds of powers!  No one knows that except for an evil archeologist in Britain by the name of Sutter Cane.  And you better believe he’s looking for them!  He’s just not very good at it.   

Point is, when Marina wears the skinsuit it grants her increased strength and speed (but doesn’t do anything to protect her legs obviously) which she uses to fight crime sometimes.  As a wealthy socialite saving lives and beating up supervillains is more of a hobby than an obsession like with some super people.  She is known to have captured the dastardly Ace of Spades, a serial killer dubbed the Subway Slayer, and one of the several dozen villains with the moniker of the Vulture.   

She has a vacation home in Madripoor that she maintains when she wants to get away from the tedium of being a wealthy socialite part time crime fighter with a magic panther suit.  She heard about a chance to do some freelance superheroing and thought why not?  And you know how that turned out.   

I envision her looking more like 1993 purple suit Catwoman from the comics.  You know the one I mean.  The one that captured small satellites in the gravity well of her chest.

See, 1992 movie Catwoman and 1993 comic book Catwoman, completely different.  I don’t know how you didn’t get that from my highly detailed and richly descriptive passages. 

Worldbuilding Wednesday – Tour of the islands 2 of 17,000

Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands, let’s look at one (that’s fake).    

In 1942 a FBDACOM (French British Dutch Australian Command) task force consisting of two light cruisers and three destroyers docked at Balikpapan with wild tales of the supposedly uninhabited island of Mantiuana.  They claimed to have encountered cannibal soldiers sworn to kill and die for Hirohito and savage tribes that worshiped Golyeong, a mighty gorilla the size of a blue whale with the savage cunning of a man (and a thing for blondes). 

Widely dismissed as sailor’s tales, there was one man who believed them, retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe who (for the record) made his fortune conducting illegal salvage diving operations and not in industrial tire manufacturing as he claims.  Retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe mounted expeditions to Mantiuana in 1957, 1959, and 1962, returning with a lurid narrative of a land inhabited by immortal outcast Topará demigods, the descendants of Austronesian explorers, and of course, dinosaurs possessed by Babylonian earthbound demons.   Retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe claimed that he collected many artifacts from Mantiuana during his visits but they would fade out of existence when taken off the island.  This led him to conclude that the island actually inhabited “the Fourth Realm” and therefore could not exist on earth, which is the Third Realm in the Colonels’ bizarre cosmology.  As we all know.

Neither the FBDACOM sailors nor retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe and his “adventurers” were lying, but none of them ever set foot on Mantiuana either.  This is because for many years, Mantiuana was the home of Diane Dream, the Mistress of Illusions, one of the “golden age” heroes of the 1930s.  Born Iwalani Haia, “Diane Dream” traveled extensively around the Pacific pitting her powers against the cult of the Dreaming Dark.  Her years of thwarting the Dreaming Dark took its toll.  Their dark sorcerers also made extensive use of illusions, and living in a world where nothing is what it seemed began to wear on her mentally.  In her middle age, she started having trouble with the nature of reality.  If someone believes in an illusion, does that make it real?  Even worse, she began experiencing episodes of memory loss and possibly memory manipulation.  After she found that she was no longer able to conclusively remember what she had actually done and what was illusion, she decided it was time to hang up her cloak and domino mask.   

She retired to the island of Mantiuana and used her abilities to keep away any trespassers or interlopers with fantastic mental manipulation.  As the years passed, several of her fellow crimefighters came to her seeking solace and retirement on her “invisible island”.  They wanted the peace she had found.  Her charity proved to be her undoing.  Among others, she was joined by her old companions Power Man and Jackknife, who unfortunately were sworn enemies of Baron Iorgu.  And the good Baron doesn’t forget his enemies.   

The Mistress of Illusion was skilled at keeping away sailors and retired Colonels, but Baron Iorgu was not dissuaded so easily.  He led a force of super powered mercenaries and Imperial Japan soldiers (it’s debated if this was an official action or someone’s pet project off the books) to attack the island in 1967.  The inhabitants of the island fought fiercely for their lives.  They may have been past their prime, but they were some of the most powerful heroes of their age.  Problem is, the world had caught up with them. 

An old woman with ice powers may be able to kill regular soldiers easily, but if they have insulated suits specifically designed to protect against her abilities, well, then it becomes a sixty-year-old lady with a useless power against a squad of heavily-armed, trained soldiers.  Some rare Superman-esque NBH like Angel (god rest her soul) can’t be cracked by copious amounts of airstrikes and heavy weaponry, but them being alive after a naval barrage is cold comfort to the rest that can.  Power Man and the majority of the “retirees” on the island were killed. The body of Diane Dream was never found and it’s generally assumed that she escaped and now hides herself behind so many illusions that she can’t be found even by well-meaning old friends.   

Once his enemies were dead, Baron Iorgu realized that Mantiuana would be a good place to conduct his maniacal and inhuman experiments in peace and started settling in.  No part of the island is shaped like a skull nor is there an active volcano, but hey, you can’t have everything you want in an evil island supervillain lair right?   

Worldbuilding Wednesday – Alamo 400k

Setting the bar tour aside for a while because it’s basically the same thing as the job interview thread in the main story. I should have realized that a while ago. Oh well. Back to normal worldbuilding.

If you asked the average North American what Alamo 400k is, most would say they’re terrorists (although some people would think ‘heroes’ in the head while they said it) but beyond that, answers would vary.  Some would say they’re anti-globalists.  Some would say they’re anarchists.  Some would say they’re white nationalists.  Some would say they’re anti-NBHs.  Some would say they’re nothing more than a drug cartel.  The stated goal of the Alamo 400k group would surprise many –  

“To provide overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to counteract pro-communist movements in Africa, Asia, and South America.” 

The origins of the group would be even more confounding to the “man on the street”.  In the late 1860s, a former Texas Ranger was discovered to be funding and organizing an extralegal secret police force designed to keep the Pecos Republic free of “undesirables” such as labor organizers, anti-capitalists, pacifists, anarchists and the like.  It took until 1870 for the for the legitimate Pecos authorities to uncover the full extent of this network and their operations.   

While a few ringleaders (or scapegoats depending on who you ask) were imprisoned, this organization was incorporated almost wholly into the Pecos government structure in 1871 with the founding of Branch 4, an ill-defined and shadowy organization that has at various times acted as investigative law enforcement, intelligence service, and expeditionary military force.  For the majority of the 19th century, Branch 4 focused on infiltration and intelligence gathering of anarcho-communist organizations and other social anarchists.   

No later than 1920 (but possibly much earlier) Branch 4 began focusing the bulk of its assets on communist groups, most critical including those based outside the Pecos Republic.  Branch 4 was dissolved in 1943 after numerous incidents of unwarranted appropriation of government funds and military matériel, political corruption, and illegal activity on foreign soil.  The core of Branch 4 true believers continued to operate in secret using funds and equipment stashed away in hidden depots for just such an occurrence.   

The former operatives of Branch 4 became associated with the name Alamo 400k after the 1947 San Antonio bombing by South American extremists (retaliating for the Pecos-US air strike on Sao Paulo) which they claim killed 400,000 people (the official number of dead and missing from that attack is closer to 20,000).  It is also variously claimed that 400k refers to the number of members in the group, but no reasonable intelligence agency believes they have even a hundredth that size of organization.    

The decentralized and highly secretive nature of the organization makes it difficult to gather concrete information on.  The widely varied actions it undertakes are evidence of several key members with unaligned personal agendas.  Each of these key leaders seeks to increase their own authority and resources while weakening those of their ideological or personal enemies within the group.

Each claims to have the true vision of what Alamo 400k is and does their best to prove it by games of one-upsmanship and occasionally outright conflict.  Individual agents follow their leader’s example and often compete for power, profits, and prestige.  A successful, high-earning agent gains more influence within the organization than a weaker, less profitable one, and some try to improve their own track records by stealing from or hindering other agents, usually covertly but sometimes openly.

Alamo 400k’s own culture and rules exacerbate this behavior — the best way to find an opportunity for advancement is to create a vacancy yourself. 

Is Ela ever going to leave Madripoor?!

Getting back to some world-building.  Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands (note to self, invent new salad dressing called 17 thousand island) let’s look at one (that’s fake).   

Like many of the island in the archipelago Malimgum has not historically been home to sustained human habitation.  The southern side of the island is steep with cliffs and the water carries a heavy current and swells that make approaching from the island by water difficult.   

There is some evidence that the island may have been visited and served as a fishing camp in prehistory but it has been little studied to date.  Recorded human habitation began in the 18th century when the island was used as a pirate base until the late 1730s.  Presumably this is when the island’s many wild goats and sheep were introduced.   

After the decline of piracy in the area, Malimgum was undisturbed by man again until an emergency airstrip was constructed on the island by the Dutch in the 1930s.  The airstrip was to be expanded during the conflict with the Empire of Japan but was bombed before the worked could be completed, then captured by the Japanese navy and rebuilt, and then bombed again by the RAF before ultimately being abandoned by both sides in the conflict. 

The airstrip was partially repaired and expanded in the 60s as a stop on the network of a smuggling ring run by a group that was either under the control of the Kenran-kai or had  a working relationship with them.  This group was the project by an NBH known by a variety of monikers but mostly generally called Silbaco.  Silbaco was a former member of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional before its destruction at the hands of the Warmasters and a joint CS-US expeditionary force.  Abandoning dreams of a communist utopia Silbaco settled instead for growing wealthy off heroin trafficking.   

Silbaco is presumed dead after his plane was shot down by a Japanese pilot in ’69, an assumption supported by the fact that there is no evidence of the smuggling operation was abandoned after this incident, leaving Mulimgum uninhabited once again. Or so people think, dun-dun-dun! 

Also it occurs to me that I mentioned the Kenran-kai before without going back and saying who they are.   

The Kenran-kai is a clan at the bottom of the Yakuza hierarchy.  Formed out of the remnants of the traitorous faction whose lives were spared by virtue of their loyalty to the Shotozumi-rengo they are given the worst jobs possible as penance for their sin of having disloyal friends. They are put in charge the most unproductive and dangerous Yakuza territories (like Madripoor). Their main actives are smuggling and providing “protection” to the neighborhoods in their domains.  They have had some success in bringing the small gangs under their control, anything more ambitious than this is currently outside of their reach.   

Whether it’s because they are more enlightened than the other Yakuza clans or because of necessity, the Kenran-kai have been accused of recruiting non-Japanese into the clan which only serves to lower their esteem in the eyes of those they are trying to impress.  

If violence isn’t the answer, you misunderstood the question – Madripoor the City (part 1)

• A nosy, meddling reporter for a local newspaper

I’ve already introduced News Dan and the News Dan New Van, but he’s more of the underground conspiracy nut, so let’s have another character on the reporting scene.  If you’re going to have a super-world why not Superman it up?  Let’s say that Lim Boon Keng is a reporter in his civilian identity.  Some people say that having an existing character fill a new role is lazy.  Others say that’s character development.

• A special police division that deals with ‘supercrime’

I haven’t thought much about the Madripoor police other than they don’t care about the poor areas down the hill.  I figured that meant it didn’t matter, but that does mean they do care about the business downtown and the rich people zones.  Rich people have their own goons, but they probably want other people to yell at, too.  I’ll say that there’s not enough need for a full time “supercrime” division, instead the best (most murdery) cops are tagged for being brought together into a task force as needed and they’re totally badass like in the Raid.  The ace of this squad is surely a superperson, I’ll think on that.

• The detective who leads the ‘special task force’ that deals with ‘supercrime’

There has to be someone who keeps tabs on things and pulls the taskforce together when needed.  That will be Captain Raden Wijaya, a former counter-intelligence and anti-terrorist agent with the Indonesian government.  In order to do his job he maintains connections with the various criminal syndicates in Madripoor.  He’s not corrupt though, not really.

• A government agency with a sinister agenda

What manner of sinister agenda could exist in what is already a wretched hive of scum and villainy?  I suppose what it would be is a group that wants Madripoor to lose its independence.  Not a government agency but a secret conspiracy of government officials who want to see Madripoor annexed to the Empire of Japan.  Quislings – is that what you call people like that?  I don’t know but it’s a cool word.

• The premier superteam in The City and their roster

Much like the police, I never thought about Madripoor having a superteam.  But, it doesn’t have to be a superhero team right?  The idea is that there are too many factions and too much money being thrown around for one person or group to take over, but there would still be someone at the top of the super-evil heap even if they’re not in control.  I imagine they would be somewhat reclusive, an alliance of older villains in semi-retirement who came to Madripoor to live out their days in wealth and safety. 

I’ll have to think more about that as well.  One character idea I’ve wanted to work in but couldn’t find a place was a Coalition States communist who thought that robbing banks would help bring down capitalism in the CS but eventually realized they were just wasting their time and gave up.  Seems like a good candidate for this group.

• One ‘independent’ superhero who works the City

I’ve introduced several superpeople of various stripes but not many true blue heroes.  Another half-idea I’ve had is for a super team of aliens ripping off the X-men (how they used to be anyway, I don’t know what they are now) doing the “protecting a world that hates us” thing.  Another kernel to follow up on and flesh out.

• Two Villains who work in The City

Several of these are already in the mix.  But there’s always room for more.  I’ve mentioned a minotaur guy walking around, let’s say he’s one of these two extra villains.  In the Marvel universe there’s a thing called the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation which is a fighting deal for superpowered people.  It’s never been taken all that seriously aside from giving the Power Broker a reason to give people powers once in a while, but as a wrestling person I find it amusing. 

The “man” calling himself Jefray Kurnia Arwadi actually is THE minotaur of legend, awoken in the modern age (the 70s) from some manner of stasis.  How did they explain Heracles in the Marvel universe?  Was he just supposed to be out and about doing Heracles stuff for a thousand years?  Surely he was asleep in a cave or something.  I’ll have to look into that. 

Anyway minotaur-Jef wakes up and gets involved in a short lived superpowered boxing league and then UCWF before finally making his way to Madripoor to fight other super-people for money.  He’s likes fighting, you see.  How about this, the Minotaur survived to Roman times and got into the gladiator scene and the rich folks got tired of him winning all the time so they had a sorceress put him to sleep for a thousand years and chucked him down a mine shaft.  They had mines.  But did they have shafts?  There’s so much about Ancient Roman mining I don’t know

A while ago someone asked me why there are not many African superheroes and my idea was that the colonial powers employed a super-squad of hitmen to kill any African people with powers to help prevent them from becoming symbols for the African people and fomenting revolution.  In recent times, this group has been destroyed and one of the survivors is our second guy here – coming to Madripoor to hide from the many people that want him dead.  He’s not a white supremacist himself but just an amoral mercenary.  I shall name him Steelwing.

• A rival evil organization with an unknown agenda

Ela isn’t really an “organization” but I have thought it would be amusing for her to run into a super-powered singer who’s rich and famous to really torque her off.  I’ll flesh that out some more.  She shall be called Songbird.  Which is a little on the nose, but hey, comic books right?

OOC – The City

Do I still need to put OOC on these things? It’s always clear right? I guess I should so people can skip them if they want. Or only read them maybe.

“Ah, the City. I will spread my buttery justice over your every nook and cranny.” – The Tick

I recently purchased an RPG called Henchmen from Canterbury Games Studio.  It’s one of many cool games that I’ll probably never play.  The idea, as you can probably guess, is that you’re the minions of a supervillain trying to survive and become elite mooks.  For me it’s the right amount of tongue-in-cheek without being full on silly. 

There’s a section about creating you city that I think can be helpful for writing and roleplaying both.  The worldbuilding between the two isn’t exactly the same as I’ve very geniusly pointed out before but there’s a lot of overlap, my genius notwithstanding. 

When I’m playing an RPG what really gets me engaged, especially in a modern or future setting, is a city that seems like a real place.  It’s somewhat less important to me when I’m reading but it’s still always kind of a breaker when the story takes place somewhere that doesn’t seem like a real place.

Here’s there’s list of things you should come up with to populate your city, all credit given to Canterbury Games Studio mea culpa etc.  It’s superhero focused of course, but I still think it’s a good way to get the ideas popping around.

• A nosy, meddling reporter for a local newspaper

• A special police division that deals with ‘supercrime’

• The detective who leads the ‘special task force’ that deals with ‘supercrime’

• A government agency with a sinister agenda

• The premier superteam in The City and their roster

• One ‘independent’ superhero who works the City

• Two Villains who work in The City

• A rival evil organization with an unknown agenda

• The heads of the three richest families in The City

• The mayor and chief of police – to give harried no comments to the news anchor

• A TV news anchor – for when the henchmen see their crimes on the news

• A famous rock/pop star, who is really ‘big’ in The City

• A famous industrialist

• Two ‘ordinary’ criminal gangs

• A no-questions-asked fleapit hotel

• A major hospital

• A university with an active research department

• A bank with extensive vaults

• Three facilities, like labs or factories, that work on advanced technology, experimental science or chemicals

• The docks and/or an airport where foreign material and individuals can enter or leave the city

• An infamous prison, holding facility or insane asylum

• A casino, either legitimate or illegitimate depending on the laws of the city

• The fanciest hotel in the city

• A slum with a sinister or ironic nickname where the police only go in force

• A bar or club where the lowlifes hang out

• A bar or club that only the elite can enter

• A public park or open space – good for covert meetings and public showdowns

• The known public headquarters of a superhero or superteam

• A district full of the mansions and houses of the elite

• A big public entertainment venue such a stadium or concert hall

• The City’s biggest shopping district

• The City’s financial district

• The headquarters of a major news organization

Tremble before my procedurally generated terror!

I don’t really have anything for background this week so I’ll roll some random tables for a new character and build them.  That should be interesting?

Type – Magic, Mystically Bestowed 

Appearance – Tall, overweight 

Disposition – Self-reliant, tough 

Age – Elderly 

Origin – Europe, non-English speaking, large city 

Background – Wealthy 

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Physical limitations 

Abilities – Spellcasting 

In this context, mystically bestowed is a power source like Shazam, you speak the magic word or drink your magic tea and you’re transformed from whatever, in this case an old man with physical ailments, to a young strong alternate self.  Who in this case also knows magic.  Which is a little weird, seems like if you knew magic, you’d just know it no matter what. 

I’ll say this guy is from Italy.  The only big city that I know of in Italy is Rome, but that seems too on the nose.  Internet says Milan is the second biggest city in Italy, so we’ll go with that.  So we have a wealthy old man in Milan.   

What was going on in Italy in this alternate timeline?  The Great War (aka WW1) was pretty much the same.  If this guy is old in 1973, he was probably the right age to be in the mix in 1914.  As a rich man who fancies himself a tough guy, he was likely an officer in the Italian army.  I don’t know a ton about WW1, but I think Italy fought a bunch of battles against Austria and lots of people died and it was all kind of pointless.  Which is more or less WW1 in a nutshell.   

I should probably give this guy a name, I’ll go with Dino Fossella, which I think is the name of one of the kidnappers in Man on Fire.  The novel. The movie was in Mexico instead of Italy.  Sidenote – I love that movie and I don’t care what anyone says about it.   

Dino was embittered by his experience in the war, he expected to come home and be a big hero and get a parade but instead, no really cared because they didn’t get all the sweet Austrian booty they were after. (note to self, register domain name sweetAustrianbooty) But old Dino wasn’t going to be denied his fame so easily.  Let’s say he was a big-time piano man and after the war, his goal was to become a celebrated concert pianist. 

He was good, but he wasn’t that good.  But, as a pretty good pianist with a boatload of cash, he managed to get his name out there at the expense of other, better pianists.  So he spends a good decade being a man about town and having concerts that are really just parties for his rich pals.   

I’ve established that there was no WW2 as we know it, just “another war in Europe”.  Without an expansionist Germany and a more laid-back USSR, what was going on?  I’m no historian, so I don’t know the roots of Italian fascism – but let’s say the march on Rome in ‘22 still happened.  So we have France and Britain fighting the Empire of Japan in the east while Germany and Russia are playing it cool.  That probably leaves Italy free to attack the Balkans like they always wanted. 

So we have Italy at war again.  Dino once again wants to be an officer but they say he’s too old – go back to your piano, old man.  Dino doesn’t like that.  He likes it even less when his villa is bombed by Greek and Yugoslavian operatives.  Dino survives but his legs and hands are damaged, no more piano for him, also now he can’t get around so well.   

If you thought Dino was embittered before, oh man, watch out now.  But what sparks Dino’s interest in the occult?  Perhaps one of the operatives was mystically inclined.  One of the bombers supernaturally clouded the minds of Dino’s men and walked right in with the bomb.  Dino saw his guards standing there like statues while a dude just rolls up and plants a bomb.  He becomes obsessed with finding out more about it. 

He spends the next thirty years or so frittering away all his money on raiding Egyptian tombs and whatnot looking for magic.  I don’t know much about Italian folklore, but google told me there’s a tale of a 7-headed dragon that was causing a ruckus in Bergamo province and a big army went to fight it.  The battle was a draw and the dragon retreated into the river.  Folklorists say there was a “maga” – a sorceress – involved somehow but that part of the story is lost.  Here’s the deal, the sorceress was the dragon, transformation style. 

And check this shit out, Milan is in Bergamo!  So old lady 7-heads is injured and she goes into the river to sleep it off for a couple centuries and when she wakes up and looks around she’s like “da fuck? Where’s all the old timey shit I know?”  She goes to the first place she sees, the now empty villa of Dino, where he sits alone and broke being old and bitter.  Probably it would be hard for them to communicate, the Italian language surely changed some in a thousand years, but she’s magic so she figures it out. 

She asks Dino what’s up.  He says give me the magic power and I’ll tell you.  She’s all like “sure” and he wigs out because he’s been after magic forever and now it just falls into his lap.  Dino speaks the word of magic power she bestows upon him, “Drago” and suddenly he’s a young strong able-bodied man that has a little magic of his own. 

But why can he only do magic when transformed?  Let’s say that this form of magic is physically taxing and in his old broken body he can’t manage it.  Dino says “thanks, old time Italian sorceress! Now I shall have the fame and coolness I deserve, by being a supervillain!”  And she’s like, whatever floats your boat man.    

I like duos (of people, not the gum, although the gum is okay) so he’ll probably have a partner but this post is already long so maybe I’ll do that next week.   

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.