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  1. This is the setting thread for the Axis and Allies setting. Feel free to discuss and ask questions in the thread. Please mark threads in IE and characters with the [A&A] tag. Please note, this setting deviates from standard IE rules. Axis and Allies—a Steampunk Aberrant World In 1900, the first of the Dynamics became known to the world. Since then, these super-men have aided the technological advances that have brought the world into the ‘modern’ era of 1939. The use of ‘quantum æther’ has allowed advances such as round-the-world blimp flights and the ability to contact someone across the ocean. Vast knowledge is transmitted via quantum on devices called ætherlabes. Medicine has defeated many of the ills plaguing man, including polio and measles. Cancer is rarer, and people usually survive it. AIDS is a new disease, just making itself felt as soldiers in Africa carry it out of the bush and into civilization. 1939. Hitler’s Germany is on the warpath. The first to fall was Poland, who was split by Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, and their ally, Soviet Russia. Poland had 100,000 military personnel evacuated, while those Poles who remained behind formed the Polish Underground State, complete with an underground Home Army. All of the Baltic countries were forced to allow Russia to station troops in their countries. When Finland refused, they were invaded. By mid-1940, Germany had invaded Denmark and Norway, and controlled Sweden as well. Finland fell, while Russia helped Germany circumvent the Allied blockade. Iceland was controlled by Britian, and the discontent over the war had already ousted British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. He was replaced by Winston Churchill. The Allied powers were angered by Germany’s aggressions, but that was nothing compared to their outrage when the mad-man’s Iron Blitzkrieg invaded Western Europe. France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were invaded in May. The speed of their advance terrifies Britain, despite their Dynamic heroes who defend their shore. Other Dynamics from neutral countries such as the United States have come to Britain to join the war effort. Concept: Steampunk with modern trappings in World War II. Starting Date: January 26, 1941; for a timeline which we are using as a guide, click this: http://www.historypl...ine/ww2time.htm Intent: Beyond the usual ‘have fun’, this setting is to tell the stories of war through the eyes of novas. Nazis are the villains, and both sides have Dynamics. Eruption: No one is born dynamic in this setting. Anyone can erupt, as far as science can tell, and they show no sign before eruption. There is a slight hereditary tendency, but it is not safe to assume that you will be a Dynamic just because a relative is. Eruptions generally occur from stressful events. Lab experiments have once or twice resulted in eruption, but it believe that they occurred due to the stress of the tests, not from the experiment itself. Culture: Most people are set in the 1950’s, but the interconnections of the ætherlabe has allowed people of certain counter-cultures to connect and grow. LGBT, women and minorities are all learning the powers they have, both through their representative Dynamics and via the power of unity. However, ætherlabes are still very expensive, so most people only gain access to one via public institutions such as colleges or libraries. The ‘æthernetwork’ is not all pervasive: third-world countries do not have one, and Axis and Allied ætherlabes do not talk to one another. Themes: Though I intend to focus on the war in Europe, the tale of the War Hero is not the only possible story that can be told in the Axis and Allies world. There are many other things to explore: quantum æther experiments, the culture war that is slowly gaining traction, or just exploration of a steampunk world. Remember, steampunk is a genre about the best and worst of humanity: the bright shining light of human innovation struggling against institutionalized classism, racism, and tyranny. We threw this into WW2 because who doesn’t like to kill Nazis? The Isms A player who chooses to play a minority, woman, non-cissexual or any other "-ism", you as a player are free to explore the themes of bigotry or not, as you wish. Racism, sexism and all forms of bigotry can be triggering for various individuals, so we're not mandating that the cultural norms of the 1940's be followed. Players should not feel constrained by these cultural norms. On the flip side, players who explore those themes should not be censured for a realistic portrayal of -isms of the time. Mechanics Aberrant standard with the following exceptions: 40 NP Start at Quantum 3, max Quantum is 5 Base Quantum pool is 40 No taint from Quantum or Node (A&A is meant to be a low-taint world) No strengths and weaknesses 10 xp per month for every month you have at least one IC post, and the IE birthday bonus is 10 xp; no story awards Allowed books – all of the published materials, the mega-attribute books. Character limit - no more than 2 active characters per player; if you want another character, one of your active characters needs to be definitively retired before the new one of introduced. ‘2nd Gens’ – There are no such thing. Anyone can be descended from Dynamics; becoming a Dynamic is something that happens or not. Children born from two Dynamics are only slightly more likely to someday be a Dynamic than other children. Devices – built by calculating the cost of each power on the device, then subtracting 1 NP or 3 xp. Ex. Laser sword-gun – Quantum Bolt 3, Claws 3. Q-bolt is 3+3+3-1 for 8 NP plus claws 1+1+1-1 for 2 NP for a total of 10 NP. Playing Axis – Not allowed at this time, though playing an Allied spy in Axis territory is Justin, anything else to add?
  2. Kaitlyn smiled politely and made the umpteenth polite social noise as she slipped away from the self-important Senator from New Mexico trying to convince her to start a new company on her own across the state lines. She loved the expo for the chance for novas to show off what they could do and hopefully inspire another year of innovations and solutions to problems across the globe, but she hated the 'groupies' that invariably showed up, pushing selfish or just downright stupid personal platforms. Hell, even the kids that always tried to sneak into the high security labs were more interesting and promising to her than the dozens of petty politicians and narcissistic billionaires that flocked to the Expo just to be seen and thought important. ,, An arm caught her around the waist and pulled her down onto a man's lap. He was dressed in a suit, because she'd insisted, but it was a tie-die suit because so had he. "Here," her husband slipped a flute of sparkling liquid into her hand and chuckled. "Drink this. You look like you've been chewing on lemons again." ,, She leaned up against him and took a few cautious sips of the drink. "Is it that obvious?" ,, "We can go, if you want," he offered in total innocent selflessness. ,, "Uh-huh. You promised me opening and closing day, mister. I'm holding you to it." ,, He kissed her on the neck, not ready to resign himself to a day of 'Yes, my wife and I actually are happily married,' and 'No, it doesn't bother me at all that she's got a successful career and I get to stay home and do whatever I want all day long, because I'm not a Neanderthal, thank you.' Suit required, attitude thrown in for free. "I know something else we could do...." he murmured against her skin. ,, An arched brow looked down on him from her perch on his lap. "Really, that's your ploy this year?" ,, He sighed and gave her an unapologetic shrug. "Well, I couldn't get Dragon Age III released early. I did try." ,, Kait laughed and kissed him. "I know you did and I'm totally taking a day off when it does come out. Now, the buffet is open and the new lines of computers are being demo'd in an hour. Steven got them up and running a week early so we could bug test, and in return once the boring adult demos for the military and corporations are done, he's installed like every game ever on them and we're going to open them up for the kids and the captive spouses to play on as a sort of 'extended demo' for the rest of the day." ,, His face lit up and Kait couldn't help but smile back. "How big are the monitors, again?" ,, "Wall sized," she grinned and stood back up, fortified to wade back into the fray of media frenzy and nova show-offs (hey, that's what the expo was about, right?) again. Daniel scooted out of his seat, taking the empty flute from her, and kissed her goodbye. "Don't forget to eat and drink yourself, okay?" ,, "I wo-" ,, "....Dr. Weaver!" A petite woman with cinnamon skin and fetchingly exotic features bustled over to the couples temporary shelter. Daniel waved and made his escape before he became part of the interview as well. "Jo Seo-young with the South Korea Yonhap News Agency; I'd like to ask you about the exhibitions this year. It looks like there are six new novas debuting this year...." ,, Kaitlyn sighed, pasted on her PR-smile as the woman prattled off her questions non-stop, and reminded herself of all the good that came out of the Expo every year. Also, watching everyone show off was always so cool. ,, Social Thread! So, here's the deal: Each year, Novastorm hosts a show-off expo for their resident novas (and some select others that get special invites) and R&D teams to present the projects they've been working for the year. It's always held the week of April 1st and started in 2010. This is a big international event, lots of press and people looking to impress. Feel free to socialize with each other, making up media/politician/business owner run-ins, and to do a 'showcase' post of your PC showing off for the Expo.
  3. “Just find the most Aryan American you’ve ever seen in the middle of the forest. He’ll be friendly. And he should be able to speak German.” ,, The instructions from Wilheim had been unhelpful, to Silvestru’s point of view. The archer ghosted through the woods without a final destination or end point, without concrete instructions, without a defined timeline, and with a description that matched half the strapping farm lads of the area. ,, Worse, this entire affair annoyed her. She hated being sent out to babysit an Allied soldier who was probably coming. Probably. The radio communication had stated that he was, but this was a war. Silvestru held out zero expectation of things happening as they should. ,, She came over a hill and paused, pulling out her map. Tilting it so that the dim moonlight fell on the paper, she glanced at it and checked the position of the stars and the terrain. The valley below was the meeting place for the G.I. Joe. Silvestru thought about going down there but instead she clambered up into a tree, settled against the trunk and waited for the Allies’s miracle. ,, Maybe I’ll have someone else rail against the useless resistance with me.
  4. Mala got me thinking, so, I'm curious: What's your biggest problem with Aberrant? ,, If you change some things... what would they be? ,, I wanna hear it, no holds barred. C'mon, gimme your best. ,, (No dick rule applies, guys. Debate if you must, even trash talk, but in the end respect everyone's opinion. What I like, you might not, and that's cool. We're all adults, act like it.)
  5. Maybe I'm opening up a can of worms here, but, seriously... what's the big deal with this Body Mod? ,, I know some of you guys just hat it with a seething passion, why?
  6. Here's the place for talking out of character. Some notes on the game: This game is currently closed to new submissions. I'm not requiring character profiles; as small and cozy as this game is, I'm not sure they're needed right now. Consider it an experiment to learn each other's PCs through RP. Discuss if you wish; I'm open to changing this.
  7. Welcome to Infinite Earth. This game is open to anyone who wishes to participate. Consider it to be somewhere in between an ST run game and an Open World. The basic idea is to have a game that is uncapped and in which any story can be told no matter how out there or how epic. In most settings there are stories that couldn't be told without compromising the shared world and impinging on the enjoyment of the other players. My goal with Infinite Earth is to provide a shared environment in which it will be possible to tell the truly epic tales without the need to constantly reset the game world. And hopefully we as players and writers will succeed in growing our abilities to do justice to our vision along the way. What is Infinite Earth? This is a multiverse game. There are an infinite number of Earths in parallel universes. For each decision or branching possibility a new universe is split off from the original. Example, when a coin is flipped a branch will split off and there will now be one universe in which the coin landed heads, and one in which it landed tails. What this means to the characters is that they can do what they need to story-wise and not worry about how it will effect other players. So how can the characters interact if they are in separate universes? Two ways, first they don't have to make any issue of the fact that they are on different worlds. They can just interact as if they are on the same Earth, but then only have things 'separate' when something happens that would mess up their the shared world. "But then from that point on they are on different Earths right?" Yes, but there is a solution. On every Earth is a doorway. Stepping through that door will allow a person to move from one Earth to another. In most timelines no one has realized what this door is since the closest universes are almost identical to the each other. To move from your Earth to one that is noticeably different requires quantum. Even those not possessing quantum can sense that there is something special about the ring of stones in the middle of the English countryside. Yes, Stonehenge. Not even novas who know what it can do can tell who created it or why. The stone circle was erected by prehistoric Britons, but the doorway which isn't a physical object stands between the pillars of the largest Trilithon. A nova who concentrates while stepping through can attempt to move to an Earth that matches their intent. Without buying Crosstime travel the nova can only effect small moves to 'nearby' Earths which are very similar to the ones they originate. With CTT a nova can make moves much easier to Earths very different from their own. "What does this mean for the game?" It means that if you write a story in which the Earth you are on is significantly altered you can move through the doorway to the Earth next door and continue interacting with the other players in the game as though it never happened for them because it didn't. Your character experienced it and went through whatever the traumatic event was, but as far as the others are concerned, it never happened. I hope this explains things clearly enough. I do ask that you treat the events seriously. If your Earth is devastated by an asteroid strike killing the entire human race, that should have an effect on your character. Just because you hop over to an undamaged Earth doesn't mean you didn't witness the death of 6 billion people.
  8. Everyone sorted themselves into various vehicles and caravaned the dozen blocks or so north to Hospital Hill as the sun began to dip below the horizon. Light, artificial and welcoming, greeted them at the ER entrance. Cars were quickly unpacked of supplies and the brightly lit waiting room of the ER was quickly converted into an impromptu camping ground. The hallways they could see down from the ER were more dimly lit, usually only one in three of the large overhead florescent lights shining, but they still dispelled the deeper shadows. Without someone on the other side or a staff badge to open the lock, the actual ER was closed to them while the power was still going. The large building was quiet, silent except for the humming power of the generators. If anyone was here, they weren't in the ER. ,, Krystal's pot roast was plugged in to keep it warm, while eating supplies were raided from the small coffee-and-microwave kiosk. Dinner was served in Styrofoam bowls with plastic sporks; the normalcy and comfort of eating lapsed them all into quiet conversation, mostly rounds of introductions. The four animals had taken their leave of their humans briefly once they'd arrived, but quickly returned for their own shares in dinner. Tulpa laid down just outside of the automatic door sensor once his belly was full; Resa made a careful approach to him and eventually curled up just a few inches from him, joining him in watching the outside with a wary eye. Fraz stuck close to Krystal, but he watched the doors inside with the same alertness as the other two. Only Sheba seemed unconcerned, eating her dinner and then settling in next to Kylie for a nap. ,, Khris broke the quiet conversation, addressing the group as a whole. "So....I need to make a raid on the pharmacy and see if they have my meds in stock. Anyone else here need meds of some kind? Insulin? My stuff is just pills, but if anyone needs stuff that's refrigerated or something, we'll need to figure that out." She glanced over at the closed set of doors that led further into the hospital. "And, um, I'd really like to not go alone. I'll wait until morning if no one wants to go with me right now - I've got enough meds right now to last a couple of weeks - but I really don't want to deal with this if it's long term on top of my own crazy." ,, At Eric's startled look and slight lean away from her, she clarified, "I'm bipolar, mostly depressive, not manic very often. And I have PTSD and social anxiety, not that I think those two are really going to come up much anymore if most the world's gone poof. I'm not dangerous-crazy, I'll just get maudlin and bitchy if I run out of my meds." She tilted her head in thought and added, "Unless magic-makeover here cured my brain chemistry, but I don't think I'm quite that lucky or the gods are quite that nice, so I'm still banking that my head's still a bit off." ,, She stood up and started to throw away her bowl and spork, then thought better of it and cleaned them both off with a napkin before setting them on her suitcase. She turned back to them and shrugged, motioning towards the interior of the hospital, "So, any volunteers?"
  9. Okay, so I've never played Trinity, well, I participated in a short lived game here on the forums once about 5 years ago or something, but aside from that, nadda. ,, I know a lot of the novas (Aberrants) lived through the Aberrant War and did the whole exodus thing. What I'm curious of is what happened to them? To my knowledge (and correct me if I'm wrong, please): ,, Cestus Pax went ape shit and is actually a tainted baddy now. ,, The Colony is now comprised entirely of his evil tainted eufiber and is less himself and more controlled by the alien mentality of his evil clothing (only white wolf could give us evil clothing...) ,, Divis Mal is still around but he's not really a bad guy anymore? He's actually against The Colony's plans. (He's the bad ass who run Eden with the other 66 novas). ,, And those are the only three off the top of my head. ,, Anyone have any other dirt on the Trinity era Aberrants?
  10. Please use this thread from now on for general comments and OOC talk for the game.
  11. This is the place to post character concepts, so that folks know what themes and ideas are in use. I will try and post a short description of the characters to this first post for easy reference in a spoiler so as not to clutter up the post too much. ,, Please add [CN], [A&A], [iE], [FF], etc, to denote what game the concept is for. ,, [CN] ,, Nate "Jedi" Chatham - Nate is Jedi themed. ,, Kevin/Taeli - DnD Elf Princess ,, Vixen/Roxanne is a kitsune themed meta-quantum manipulator
  12. Life continued easily enough in Japan, the addition of another nova greatly helped, even if she was an outsider. It was just so hard for many to not like Sasha, though of course the rumor mill was always in overdrive regarding who she spent her nights with, whether it was true or not. ,, There still existed a great deal of tension between her and Ryu, but work had been good enough to largely keep them separate, save for a couple nights of eating together at small restaraunts out of the way. ,, This evening found them together again, but on business. Sasha was there to put their hosts at ease, and Ryu there as the muscle. An anonymous tip came into DSA HQ stating that one of the local shipping companies was undertaking some highly illicit trade in restricted Nova-tech, and They wanted the two novas to go in, and see what they could see. ,, The company had largely proven intractable but within a few moments, Sasha had easily gotten them inside the warehouse compound maintained south of Tokyo. ,, Long was on full alert, there was just something that didn't feel right as they were being led around and inside the massive warehouses.
  13. Let me pick your brains for ideas... This was mentioned in chat some time ago and I thought I'd finally toss it out here. The concept is simple and complex all at once so bear with me. Premise Ultimate Aberrant. It's a game that is run just like a superhero game, it the antithesis of everything Aberrant stands for because quite frankly it is superfriends. Concept The PCs are high school aged 'mutants' (a la Marvel's mutants) and are stuck during a difficult time in their life: the discovering of their powers in a world that doesn't want them. With talks of Mutant & Supers Hero Registration the public seems to rally against them as 'their kind' does more and more property damage and harms the innocents caught in the cross fire every day. Sent to a special, private academy away from the rest of the world (in quiet upstate New York, where else!) they learn to master their abilities and bond with their new family; the others at the school with them. When the dangers of irresponsible mutants and other (dropped in vat of goo, and bitten radio active bugs) villains the students rise up and accept the challenge that if they are going to show the world they're the good guys, they can't do it if they're sitting on the bench. Sounds like a Marvel game. Basically. Except Marvel only serves as a means of reference so those who do not read comics could still relate. The technology is off the chain because of the super brains, and all the 'supers' are what we make them. The game will not be 'canon' Marvel, it will M&M with Aberrant's rules. What kind of characters could we expect to see? Who're the villains? There are 209 unused characters in the Aberrant: N!Prime section. I'm sure we could think of something. Imagine the super teams that could be born from them. Awesome! Count me in! Slow your roll there, I'm not proposing to run anything (yet). I'm trolling for ideas and input. Frankly I think it's an idea everyone could enjoy, but with the sheer amount of games going on around here I'm hesitant. I would prefer to see an Open World game where everyone can contribute to the over all storyline (playing heroes who all go to the school together). Because honestly we haven't had a lot of games where we can get wacky with explosives and teenage angst. Plus, several people have wondered what Aberrant would be like under my guidance. This theme and idea was the one I used that gave rise to Revenant and Artemis and a host of over 72 NPCs (like Primal and Contessa). It was zany, crazy, fun and filled with everything from adventure and excitement to love and drama (extra helpings of drama from time to time, they were High Schoolers after all). Discuss, I want to hear ideas and opinions. I also want to hear any questions you have for me. Oh, and for those curious, no. This has nothing to do with my 're-write the rules' project. That is just something I'm doing for grins and giggles on the side. But, as you all know, I'm a notorious rule bender.
  14. ,, THE PRESENT Date & Time: November 23rd, 2013, 11:41pm Location: Kaolak meteorite impact crater, approximately 3.75 miles east of Kaolak River, Alaska Coordinates (GPS): N 69 55.146, W 159 55.888 ,, Jimmy Smalls, Major in the United States Air Force, pulled up his collar and hunched his way further into his artic-rated coat as he leaned into the wind kicked up by the helicopter currently coming to rest fifteen or twenty meters away. The helicopter landed, and a moment later disgorged one of its occupants, who made his way to Smalls in the typical crouching-jog that people tend to use around helicopters. By the time the man had reached Smalls and was straightening out of his crouch the helicopter was already several meters in the air again and still rising. ,, Major Smalls saluted at the man’s approach and, once he was within earshot, half-shouted in formal greeting, “General!” ,, Brigadier General Tom Ballard returned a hurried and cursory salute without once breaking his stride, forcing Smalls to fall into step beside him or be left quickly behind. “Where is it?” the general asked, his brow furrowed and his eyes asquint as he peered into the arctic night around them, searching for the reason he’d flown all the way out here. ,, “Over this way”, answered the major, pointing off to their right, beyond the hastily assembled land-moving equipment and even more hastily assembled command tent. ,, They were more than a hundred miles from the nearest settlement large enough to be called a town – and much further away from the nearest actual city – in the middle of one of the remotest and most poorly mapped regions of Alaska’s North Slope region. Even during Alaska’s summer months travelling there would have been difficult, but in the middle of the Alaskan winter getting all of the equipment and personnel out there that they had, and getting them there as quickly as they had, was the kind of feat that only the United States Air Force could have pulled off. It was the middle of the night, but because they were so far north even if it had been daytime it would still have been dark, and there were high-intensity lights set up on poles at regular intervals throughout the makeshift camp, with a larger concentration of light set up around what the general assumed to be the actual point of impact. The temperature was well below freezing; there was hardly any snow at all, however, which Ballard thought strange until he remembered that he was standing in the middle of a recently formed impact crater. ,, General Ballard could see that the tractors and other earth-moving equipment had been busy, hauling away piled up debris from the central cone of the impact crater, forcing them to climb over and weave their way between a few different piles of recently moved rubble. He’d seen the crater’s central cone clearly from the air as he’d ridden in on the helicopter, but from down here on the ground it looked more like a small hill or large mound. Ballard had always found it strange that impact craters like this one often had these raised cones smack in the middle of them. He knew there was a scientific explanation for it, but couldn’t pretend to know what it might be. ,, As they walked the general spared a glance in Major Smalls’ direction. “Give me your report, major. What’ve you got so far?” ,, “Yes sir”, answered Smalls. Taking a breath, he dove into his report, “the object would no doubt have warranted an investigation of some kind in any case, but several anomalous events before and during its descent and impact attracted our notice and sparked the ongoing operation you see going on around you.” ,, “Anomalous events?” asked the General. “Such as?” ,, “The way the object changed course after it collided with the Radiosat 3 satellite, for one. At its mass and velocity, a collision with a satellite shouldn’t have had any notable impact on its course or bearing, yet it did. Additionally, there was the relatively small release of energy in the form of light or heat during the objects descent – significantly less than there should have been. Most of what was released was generated by the actual impact itself. Also, sir, the object slowed down significantly during its descent – down to around Mach 53 at the time of impact – much more so than can be accounted for by atmospheric drag. Especially considering the object’s actual size.” ,, Ballard cast a questioning glance in Smalls’ direction and asked, “Size? How big is it?” ,, “Much smaller than it should be, sir”, Smalls said. “You’ll have to see for yourself to really understand.” ,, They were nearing the actual point of impact as Smalls said this, so the general let the major's non-answer slide and allowed himself to be led to ‘the object’. ,, They crested the lip of the central cone and Ballard immediately found himself being led down into another, much smaller crater that lay inside of it. In the lowest portion of this inner crater’s basin was a crowd of personnel and equipment; as he and Smalls approached, some of the men turned and, seeing Ballard, stiffened in salute. The rest of those gathered quickly noticed this and turned to offer salutes of their own, standing to one side to allow the general access to whatever lay at the center. As the crowd of soldiers and workers cleared away Ballard finally caught site of Lieutenant Colonel Darnell Flowers, his officer in charge out here at the crater site, squatting over something practically at the dead center of it all. ,, The colonel turned and, seeing Ballard, stood to offer him a salute as well. The general returned it and said, “The major tells me there’s something here I need to ‘see for myself to really understand.’” ,, “He’s right, general”, Flowers told him. The officer stood to one side and gestured for the general to look into a recently-excavated pit that opened just behind him. ,, Ballard took a step forward and peered down into the pit. Lights were pouring into it from high-powered lamps, so the darkness wasn’t a problem, but the general was still having trouble working out what he was seeing. After a moment he turned back to Flowers with a curious look on his face. ,, “Is that a… a statue?”, he asked.
  15. ,, My flight from Tyche to the outermost edges of the solar system (as measured by Neptune’s orbit) winds up taking me only 5.8102 x 107 seconds, which OK, yes, that’s a long time, but I think anyone would agree that it’s a significant improvement over 7.0186 x 107 seconds. More than four month’s worth of improvement, in point of fact. Needless to say, my average acceleration has gotten better during my travels. ,, By the time I reach the last few hundred thousand kilometers of the roughly fifteen thousand astronomical units I must cross in order to reach my destination, my average acceleration over the entire length of the journey has reached a whopping 2.651 m/s2, which is only around 27% of one standard gravity. This is still only my average acceleration, however. My actual acceleration by this point is 17.6667 m/s2, which is pretty nearly two full g’s of thrust. There are two reasons for the discrepancy between my actual and my average acceleration. ,, The first reason is that, aside from a few semi-fantastical exceptions that are still not out of the “really neat idea” phase, let alone the design phase, there are no propellants or engines in existence that can maintain constant acceleration, over a scale of years, larger than a very small fraction of a meter per second squared. My own ability to propel myself through space is no exception. At “full burn”, I can maintain constant acceleration for approximately sixty-six hundred seconds at a time before I’m “all out of juice”, so to speak; if I take it easy and go at half-strength or less, the span of time over which I can maintain constant acceleration increases in inverse proportion. ,, Usually I just go full-burn until I’m all worn out, though, because something I’ve gotten even better at than generating thrust or listening for radio signals is regenerating my power levels (or battery charge or whatever it is that keeps us novas going). It generally takes me less than fifteen thousand seconds to regenerate fully, so I can typically manage slightly more than four full-burn sessions per twenty-four hour period. The actual percentage works out to pretty nearly 30% of every day that I can spend at full-burn, which in turn works out to roughly 30% of each week or month or year. And 30% of 17.6667 m/s2 is 5.3001 m/s2, which in turn is my maximum average acceleration. ,, I’m sure it’s readily apparent to anyone, but this is exactly twice the acceleration I quoted above as being my overall average, which brings me to the second reason for the discrepancy between that number and my actual acceleration. I know I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth going over again: in space, once an object is in motion it will remain that way until acted upon by an outside force. What this means in practical terms for me is that, unless I want to crash into another moon while traveling at several kilometers a second (or actually, a whole hell of a lot faster than that, given how long I would’ve been accelerating by this point), I have to start DE-celerating at about the halfway point of my journey. In essence, I must spend the first half of my journey building up speed and the second half shedding it all. The net result, from a mathematical perspective, is that my effective average acceleration over the entirety of my journey can be no faster than one-half of my maximum average acceleration. And one-half of 5.3001 m/s2 is 2.651 m/s2. ,, And there you go: basic astrodynamics. Bet you feel smarter already. ,, Something that really confuses me for a kind a long while is that my trip seems to be taking even less time than it should, even if I account for the steady increase in my average acceleration. The difference isn’t huge – especially not at first – but the discrepancy gets worse over time until I just can’t ignore it. After a while, though, I figure it out: time dilation. ,, By the time I reach the midpoint of my journey and have to turn it around and start shedding speed I’m travelling at fully seventy-six thousand, nine hundred and eighty-seven kilometers per second (that’s just shy of seventy-seven kilometers for every one-thousandth of a second, for those keeping score). A different way to say it is that I’m moving at exactly 25.68% of the speed of light. Of course, my average speed over the entire trip works out to only 12.84% of light speed, but that’s still really fast. Fast enough, in fact, for relativistic time dilation to begin to matter. ,, Overall, the net effect of the relativistic time dilation between my own frame of reference and any stationary observer is about 0.008 seconds per second. That probably doesn’t seem like much, but it starts to add up after fifty-eight million seconds. As a result, to me the entire trip winds up seeming as though it’s taken 5.762 x 107 seconds, rather than the 5.8102 x 107 seconds that it seems like it should have (and that it did take, from the frame of reference of any hypothetical earth-bound observer who might’ve been watching me during my travels). Again, the difference isn’t large, but it’s still strange to think that I’ve effectively moved more than five whole days into the rest of the human race’s future.
  16. DISCLAIMER: This is a repost of the prior deleted RP. I thought to edit it to be less annoying, but the changes required to do that would basically gut the entire thing. so consider this an elseworlds story. Any resemblance to characters live or dead is entirely coincidental. Either way, it is my final RP. ,, --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ,, “Everybody dreams. Every dream ends. ,, “Our dream ended as it always had to; with a cold awakening to the harsh light of morn, and bitter disappointment. ,, “I am Chang Zha-Yang, White Rain to some, and a spiritual leader to others. I am the second and final Divis of the Teragen, digger of its grave, and writer of its eulogy. “This is my final testament to the hopes we had, the battles we fought, and the future that we lost. With luck, this record will survive and be of use to somebody, somewhere, and if of no use, then I hope it will at least be of historical note. Let us at least not be forgotten. Surely we’ve earned that much. ,, “Hindsight is the all-powerful, final arbiter of wisdom. So with hindsight, allow me to recount the story of our final years. ,, “Our end came from the place it began, with the philosophy that gave us something approaching unity, and something approaching identity: Teras. We all got it wrong in the end. Even Mal, I think. ,, “My place in all of this has ever been the cynic and philosophical critic. I challenged all I knew and alienated most of them out of my sheer unwillingness to leave questions unasked. It will not be easy to live with. I can never know, even with my perceptions, whether I asked the right questions or – far worse – if I misunderstood the answers. ,, “Some will ask ‘where did it all go wrong?’ ,, “The children. It went wrong with the children. ,, “In our war with Utopia, begun by their sterilisation of our people, we soon realised we were outgunned. The idea that our nova brethren would flock to us when they realised what was being done to them proved to be the fancy of idealists and cretins. The one set were blinded by the dream of a nova society free of human interaction, and the attendant belief that all novas fundamentally wanted that; the other set… just blind. Both sets underestimated the intelligence and the loyalty of our nova brethren, and the entirely human capacity to accept circumstances that are not ideal in the hope of improving them through strife and effort. ,, “It is a sign, I think, that so many of us derided them for this simple nobility of spirit. I believe we lost that somewhere along the way. ,, “Let it also stand as damning truth that in the entirety of our unwinnable battle with Utopia, the only group which hurt them was the Aberrants. It was they, not us, who revealed the existence of Project Proteus. And when they did, all of our naïve hopes crumbled to ash. Exposing flaws in Utopia did not destroy it and send its adherents flocking to our banner. It just caused the nova adherents to redouble their efforts to make Utopia into what it claimed to be. ,, “Utopiate novas were outraged, of course, and some did come to the Teragen. But most accepted their apologies, as I had cautioned they might. And worse was what came next. ,, “Let us call them the mother-hunter wars. ,, “This was an absurdity, a five-way battle between five different factions, three of whom should technically have been on the same side and all of them so utterly blinded by arrogance and ideology that working together was unthinkable. These three blighted idiot pantheons were the Aberrants, those we can loosely call Shen’s Children… and us, the Teragen. ,, “And our opposition were Proteus, the adder in darkness, and Utopia, returning to its role as world heroes, ironically and sadly trying to protect the parents from its own twisted spawn. ,, “It is insane, even to me, that we were never able to find some compromise, some way to cooperate in all of that time. But we Terats never did compromise. Nor did I when I had the power to do so. Let those words be carved on my tombstone. ‘Here lies Chang Zha-Yang’ it will say, and in post-script, ‘She never compromised.’ ,, “Perhaps it would have been a better world if I had. ,, “There were casualties in these wars, really a series of ridiculous skirmishes wherein terrified fertile – and usually married – novas, desperately and futilely attempted to protect their baseline friends and families from the collateral damage of battles fought in their name. Neighbourhoods were flattened. Thousands died. And some of the children were lost. The motherhunter wars ended with the death of the first infant, with Proteus the victor. Everything after was just salt pouring into each other’s wounds, claws scrabbling at the edge of a precipice into which we were all falling, while Utopia buried all of us in negative propaganda. ,, “Let it stand that I stood against these actions from the beginning. It was wrong to seek to hoard the children as we did. It laid the groundwork for our ultimate failure. The Aberrants were right in the petty dispute between we ‘independents’. They sought from the beginning to get those parents away into seclusion, to let them start life anew. We sought to enrol them in our war. ,, “Our war. ,, “That was what it became, after all. We had nominal allies at first. There were occasional points of contact betwixt us and the Aberrants, a few desperate alliances, one or two collusions. But once Andre Corbin had revealed Proteus – with us running some protection to ensure that he succeeded – the Aberrants had no further issue with Utopia. As for Shen’s Children, I believe they viewed us as nothing more than an annoyance… to their disadvantage. Certainly they failed to accomplish their goals, from what little I have surmised about those goals. Like us they wished to destroy Proteus, but they had no interest in working with us to accomplish that, and no interest in trades of information. I believe they killed the leader of Proteus; an act so significant that the project head was replaced within one solar day, and the group went on as efficiently as it ever had. ,, “And so there we stood, truly alone against Utopia. For our warriors it was a glorious day. Finally they could disgorge years of bile and frustration before a public whose eyes were wide open to Utopia’s corruption. ,, “They lost. ,, “One by one our warriors fell. The child prodigy, Glory, destroyed us all but singlehandedly. Where she was not, Caestus Pax was. We bloodied Team Tomorrow, but never hurt those two lynchpins of public approval and Utopian propaganda. And the public, as time has shown, will never back a loser. ,, “Mal let it all happen. ,, “Mal, the most powerful nova to have ever lived, ostensible leader of the Teragen, allowed us to be struck down and pared away to ineffectuality. Everyone that has ever met Mal likes him. I like him. But I will never trust him again, should our paths meet. ,, “He began this. He started it all. And he let it all go to hell. ,, “If that sounds as if I am shunting the blame, banish the thought. But I do not want those key fools to escape history’s scathing. We should all be remembered, we fools, and learned from, so that nobody makes the mistakes we did. My own shameful role in the tale will come soon enough. ,, “Our situation was desperate. The children were the only answer we had. ,, “Glory was too powerful, too overwhelming. She rendered us ineffectual, invalidated us by her sheer power. Shen’s Children could individually have wiped out half of the Teragen if the mood took them. More than one could have destroyed the entire world. ,, “In short; things were out of control. ,, “I can never know if my suspicions were right, if Mal and Scripture placing themselves as sole fathers, with Bounty as sole mother, of all the Teragen’s children was as stupid, narcissistic, self-aggrandising and ultimately destructive to the cause as I believe it to have been. ,, “But perhaps I am absolutely right, and that was Mal’s intention all along. ,, “He taught the children Teras from birth. They lived it from the beginning. We all came to it flawed, we foolish novas. We were weighed down by our pasts, unable to ever quite step away and see what Teras really meant. ,, “Teras… it means to go your own way. Strip away the meditation, the power, and the changes; individuality is what lies at the heart of it. Go your own way; follow the dictates of your own quantum expression. Ignore all else. ,, “And there we were, playing war with the future of children, forgetting that we were not their parents, and our wars were not theirs to fight. ,, “That was our end. Not their action, but our reliance upon it, and our lack of insight into what their action would be. ,, “We gave birth to children more intelligent than us by far, more perceptive, more insightful, more brilliant than we could dream. And they saw through us, I think. They saw the future the Teragen offered. ,, “They declined our invitation. ,, “Puck broke it all. My protégé. ,, “I cannot say that he did not learn from me, and I am proud of him. He learned from me, ever the contrarian, that going his own way mattered more than pleasing his elders. And when he gained the power to walk between worlds… that is exactly what he did. ,, “Given the option, Puck’s option, the children chose to go their own way with him. They left, one and all, and in so doing adjudged us their parents inferior, inadequate to the purpose of guiding them. They went in search of their own battles to fight. ,, “This, then, is the summation of our fatal error. ,, “We terats fought not for ourselves, as Teras suggests, but for the children. We fought for some imagined future where we would all, ultimately, become normal, respectable members of society. All our struggles, all our battles, were born from anger at our infertility and the desire to be a true species, to be able to pass on our genetic code to those who would come after. We wanted to build a place to do that. We wanted to build a society of our own, where we would be normal. ,, “It is pathetic to re-read these words. To know that we betrayed ourselves so utterly. ,, “What is ‘after’ to beings that chase the burning torch of immortality? ,, “What worth have children to those whose own legacy is not yet writ? ,, “For all our introspection, all our posturing, we never asked ourselves that most fundamental of questions. Why are we even breeding at all? What is the point of it? ,, “Our rhetoric, in retrospect, was familiar. That should have been a sign of things to come. Maybe it was. Maybe that’s why the Mathematician retreated so early, why Mal – he has no claim to ‘Divis’ anymore – became so schizophrenic in his leadership. ,, “We fought so that our children would have a future, as if they could not forge a future for themselves. ,, “Some of us arrogantly assumed the children would take up our struggle. Win our battles. Many of us banked on it, as the years wore away our numbers and our sanity. ,, “Instead they decided it had nothing to do with them, and departed for the next world along. They were Terats. ,, “As the final Divis of the Teragen, the sadness and our ultimate failure, is mine to bear into eternity. The other terats; my anavasi, the casablancas, the shattered remnants of the pandaimonion, vigilance, the harvesters… all they have to question is their own failures. Many never had the grand perspective, the chance to affect things. They can be comforted by their own struggles, knowing they tried their best. ,, “But I, through process of elimination, through purity of ideal, was elevated beyond my station. With Mal retreated and the Teragen twice broken, first by Glory, and then by Puck’s departure along with the children and many adult terats that he called friends… I was the last man standing, as it were, the only one of the pantheon who had not suffered enormous setbacks or physical injury. ,, “I believe my wife is to blame for all of that. ,, “She is in chrysalis, but she will waken soon. I can hear it coming. ,, “Lucrezia could manipulate world events in a way I never could. If only she had been with me. If only I had not missed her so much. Maybe that was all of it, in the end. Maybe I could have been the leader we needed, if only I had not missed my wife so terribly, and if I’d had her delicate, manipulative touch to reshape the world at her whim. ,, “If, when you listen to this, you live in Changtopia… well… you already know what we did later. But I don’t know what we’ll be doing when she wakens, and my story is not over yet. ,, “Shen’s Children left not too long after Puck did. I believe they loved our world, but not enough to stay. Two at least remain in the solar system. One is currently terraforming other planets. Another has made a base on the moon, I believe, or Mars. We are on reasonable terms, and she is friendly with some of my closest friends. I don’t know if she’ll be back. ,, “I will not lie; I was disappointed by most of them. I met only two, but heard little of the others that impressed me. Their surrogate father seems to have done a terrible job of preparing them for the world, and a worse one of preparing the world for them. But then, perhaps he had Mal’s view, and always hoped they would depart for greener pastures. We do not know and never will. Shen is dead, and his secrets, taunting as they are, died with him. ,, “Circumstance gave Utopia the chance it needed to become heroes again. ,, “The details are vague. Some Terats were involved in what happened, but only on the sidelines. As wanted criminals, they could not get too close to the action. Some alien force attacked us, or attempted to. Glory, along with other space-capable Utopians, met them out in the deep black of space and crushed them. The footage of those battles, shot by one of the anavasi and a dear friend, has won all of the awards you could possibly imagine. How on earth she kept calm out there, while explosions rocked the emptiness and nuclear forces shattered ships on the backdrop of the boiling sun, I shall never know. ,, “In the meantime, in my role of Divis, I took on an old enemy. ,, “Caestus Pax. ,, “Mal defeated him, and so did I. ,, “Mal turned off his node. While I, unable to face the bully when he came for me, allowed myself to be arrested. I let the world see him for what he was. Public opinion will ever lie with the – in this case literally – tortured artist. ,, “Another dear friend, Sakura – shorthand for a much longer and more complicated name – did not take kindly to my imprisonment. If I can claim a genuine piece of glory for myself, it is that she considered me a true friend, and that she temporarily forsook her innocence and her pacifism to see me freed. If any measure can be taken of a leader it is in the people who gather round and believe in them. ,, “Pax did not take well to my breaking of his public image. Mal took his image as the world’s most powerful nova. As the hero. But it was I that cast Pax as the villain, as the jack-booted representative of the establishment that cannot bear artistic freedom, that seeks conformity and crushes independence. He became a character in my songs. I made him into the symbol of all that the world had witnessed, of all Andre Corbin said of ubiquitous Utopia, of all the dirty secrets everyone wanted to forget. ,, “The children loved that. ,, “For all of this gloating – for this was a victory for me – I would be dead if Glory had not come back in time to save me. But then… I knew she would. ,, “It is not my place to write the end of Pax’s story. He lives on, after a fashion. But the world’s shining knight lies broken, his shell cracked and bleeding. Part of me weeps for him. I have felt the same despair and know how heavily it weighs on the soul. But I am aware that he walked this inevitable path side by side with us. The Teragen and Caestus Pax were like great serpents coiled about one another, trapped in eternal conflict. We had to fall together. Without us he has no purpose. ,, “So here is to Pax, the enemy we deserved. ,, “In these final years I have become Divis and Mathematician both. I hear the future in whispers, and find myself writing sheet music instead of composing. When I write, I hear my songs, sung by me in the near-future, and simply note down what I perceive. ,, “It’s all quite eerie, really. ,, “I wish I could have proven my detractors wrong. But it’s too late for that now. ,, “So how have we left the world, we gods among men? ,, “Not much different than when we arrived upon it, in honesty. Sakura has retired to seclusion with Darion Mográine, another good friend of mine. They appear to have begun a hesitant romance during my imprisonment. I hope it has flourished over these last years. Both have seen too much suffering, and it’s time that the karmic wheel pays out for it. They contact me from time to time, but I rarely answer back these days. She is too good of heart and too easily drawn into these battles, and Darion is a charming sucker for duty, all too moral a man to leave a call to arms unanswered, no matter the cost to his own soul. ,, “Let her raise her children with a man that was once a father. Let them grow up in peace. Let them find their own causes. Let them live as we wanted the children to live all along. ,, “They will be nearing twenty, now. Perhaps we will see them soon, those three darling girls. ,, “For me, the world will always be my muse, friend and enemy. Though today I plant the Teragen’s gravestone, the battle goes on. Teras will not die with the organisation. I may not be Divis in name after today, but I will keep that belief system alive and I will spread it as far and wide as I can. But from now on we all fight it our own way. We will fight and fail and fall or thrive as terats should; alone. Let there be no more grand alliances, no more schemes for power over all Novas. Let us stand with our close friends and lovers and none other, and shape our own corners of the world to our own devising. ,, “And if that makes us weak, if that makes us too easy to pick off… so be it. This was the sword we picked up. ,, “The prospects are not terrible. ,, “Project Utopia are on good behaviour thanks to Glory, another child of the future, but one who has chosen to reshape our world instead of finding her own. There are none in this world to oppose her, now. ,, “I hope Glory lives up to her name, and that one day we will not all be bowed underneath her wing, praying for gods that walk among us, forgetting that we long since drove them away to walk elsewhere, among more fitting company. ,, “But Project Proteus still remains. For all her power, Glory has not crushed that organisation. ,, “No longer attached to Utopia like a suckling parasite, it writhes and grows in the dark corners of the earth, forever perfecting the techniques they’ll need to bring us under heel for good and all. ,, “They were the wisest, those quiet leaders. ,, “Proteus survives. ,, “The Aberrants survive. ,, “We lambasted them for years, those Aberrants, called them fools and cowards, refused their occasional extended hand and took umbrage when they refused ours. Yet in the shadows they still remain, untouched by the events that have gutted the Teragen and handed absolute victory to Utopia. ,, “Those of us who remain militant have nowhere to go. Shrapnel and her idiots are little better than petty terrorists now, easy photo-ops for Glory and her new, revitalised Team Tomorrow. Geryon, still admirably leading Vigilance, has a little less to do than before. He likes to pop up on television and let Glory know he’s watching her, like an overbearing uncle. James was always one of our brightest minds. He knows the future is hers for now. But she’s looked the other way for him once or twice. ,, “Glory has come to me twice in recent months. I believe there are the bones of an olive branch being extended towards me. Perhaps I will accept, and see what she envisions for me. I believe that Pax’s fall has left her without guidance, without a parental figure. It may be she seeks that in me. I have a reputation for wisdom that I have not earned. Still… I do miss Puck. It will be nice to have someone to teach, to watch them grow until they surpass me. ,, “But that is the future. And if you are reading this you already know what has happened to me, where I stand. You do, I say, because whatever happens I refuse to be forgotten. ,, “And so, in hindsight, that final arbiter of wisdom, you stand as the judge of my decisions. I hope I made some good ones.” ,, -Chang Zha-Yang, Divis, November 20th, 2046
  17. So obviously, we have rumblings about how to keep the spirit of Aberrant and its style intact, but clean up all the mechanics issues by using a different system. Instead of Mutants and Masterminds, I'd go to a more narrative and what I consider more effective method: FATE Core. So the below are a collection of house rules and material allowing us to make novas, with examples at the end. All characters have simply been borrowed from Mutant High to use as an easy reference for the examples. Examples in practice: Curtis has the Always in the Lab (Mega-Intelligence) Aspect, reflecting not only his immense super-genius with science and technology, but his severe lack of of social skills and the associated reputation. This means there are additional ways to invoke or compel this aspect when it comes to social interaction.... Sonja has the Super-Barbie (Mega-Appearance) Aspect, referring to both her proportions and her corresponding nickname around the Academy. I personally have not figured out any additional invoke/compel uses, beyond the traditional Mega-Appearance list, but regardless, it helps make her character unique and flesh her out further. Example in practice: Alex can fire blast of solar energy with great power, chosen as a Solar Battery (Energy Projection) stunt....
  18. They say that in space, no one can hear you scream. ,, But that isn’t how it works, because in space? You can’t scream. ,, I mean, sure, you can explosively expel any air you happen to be carrying around in your lungs into the deep, cold vacuum all around you – assuming, that is, that your lungs haven’t already ruptured due to the pressure difference – but you aren’t going to be making any sound when you do. And once you expel all your air and fail utterly in your attempt at screaming, you can’t even take another breath and try again. Because, you know, it’s space. There’s nothing to breathe out here. ,, I can say this from first-hand experience, because trust me: when your eruption as a nova includes a giant ball of fire falling out of the sky and dropping onto your head, only to find yourself suddenly and mysteriously dropped into orbit around a previously uncharted “cold Jupiter”, spinning through the darkness a full quarter of a light year out from the sun (instead of, say, dead from sudden-meteor overdose, for example) – well, let’s just say that screaming seems like the most appropriate response when it happens, and leave it at that. ,, They say the Refugees came from another dimension, right? And that there are potentially an infinite number of other dimensions out there besides theirs and our own, too. Knowing that, I can’t help but wonder at the highly improbable – hell, the astronomically improbable – sequence of events that led to that meteor even entering the earth’s atmosphere in the first place, let alone to it landing right where I’m standing at the time it hits me. (Which, if you’re curious, is on a small fishing boat off the coast of Mexico, thanks for asking.) I can’t help but wonder how many other universes there are out there where I get to finish my vacation in Cabo – and if those other universes don’t outnumber this one by somewhere around “infinity-to-one” – or what the odds are that I’d be the version of me that’s living in this universe instead of in one of those others. And right about here is where the whole multiverse thing starts hurting my brain, causing me to find something else to think about…. ,, I find out much later that the meteor that sparked my eruption was the source of a major mystery in the days following my own then-presumed death. Afterwards, the scientific community apparently convinced itself, along with the rest of the world, that the meteor (which estimates say was travelling at several dozen times the speed of sound when it hit our atmosphere) exploded in an air-burst when it was only a few hundred meters over the waters of the Bahia San Lucas. Which is why they call it a ‘meteor’ instead of a ‘meteorite’ – it never actually hit the ground. The only thing the scientists can’t explain is why the air burst explosion of a meteor estimated to weigh more than 12,000 metric tons didn’t wipe Cabo San Lucas off the map, because all it did do was break windows for miles around and make a really big noise. Only four people were declared dead in the aftermath (myself among them), though a lot of people were injured by all the flying glass. ‘Where did all that mass and energy go?’ you ask, but they have no answers. ,, Personally, I don’t think it went anywhere, I think it became – specifically, I think all that mass and energy became me, but even now I couldn’t tell you what really happened that day. I can only tell you what I remember, which is this: ,, There’s a sudden flash, like a second sun just popped into the sky or something, and I look up only to be blinded by a light that’s actually brighter than the sun; I’m feeling my eardrums burst under the relentless pressure of a noise that seems like it’s bigger than the whole world, along with the sensation of my skin being baked off by the heat flash the light brings with it – and then, silence. ,, And also coldness. But not just silence as in the absence of sound or coldness as in the Long Night of the Arctic Circle; this silence and this cold do not represent the lack of their opposites – sound and warmth – but the utter impossibility of the existence of those things. Think about it: when you hear a sound, that’s the molecules in the air around you vibrating, and when you get cold it’s because the air around you is cold and it’s sucking away your warmth; in a vacuum, sound and temperature can’t exist. You think you know what real silence is or what true cold feels like? No. You really don’t. ,, Anyway, it’s hard to describe. ,, Whatever the cause, I suddenly find myself floating helplessly in blackness and struggling with a crippling case of vertigo as I stare thousands upon thousands of kilometers straight down at something so large my mind is having trouble comprehending it. It’s a planet, a gas giant, and it’s literally bigger than I have a frame of reference for; it’s forcing a new frame of reference on me even as I stare at it. Distantly, it occurs to me that until just this moment I’ve never really understood what words like ‘huge’ or ‘enormous’ really meant. Later on, when I realize I have an intuitive sense of dimension and distance, among other things, I measure this planet’s equatorial radius as 76,324.607785km – bigger than Jupiter, though not by much. ,, I don’t really have time to think about all this at the time, though, as I realize that I haven’t arrived here alone. The boat I was standing on when the meteor detonated is here with me, along with what looks like a significant portion of the water the boat was floating on. And so are the three friends who were on the boat with me. ,, Tom Kerry, Fred McHenry and Sam Harris. Those were their names. Watching deep space kill people is a terrible thing. ,,
  19. WhiteRain, while I acknowledge you are a far superior writer, you make many incorrect statements, and assumptions within your new thread. ,, This is not said as disrespect, but as one player to another. You do not control my character's fate, none of them. There were Terat children who stayed on Earth, a fair number actually. Glory was not as absolutely powerful, and before the game ended Proteus was dealt several major blows, in a buildup to eliminate it all together, which had the game continued, happened. ,, I want closure for this game, I always have, but it was never to be. I've been content to let it lie unfinished, untended, because it needed to remain so. The game was grand, a test of what play at the highest levels of power was like. ,, You do what you like with your own characters, but you alone cannot decide how the story closes for everyone.
  20. Personal Traits: Name: James Allen Winston A.K.A.: Aurelius Known Relatives: None Theme: Living Singularity ,, Physical Traits: Weight: 112 metric tons (123.46 short tons) Height: 6’3” D.O.B.: January 14th, 1982 Gender: Male General Appearance: James’ skin is a semi-translucent crystalline gold in color. It gives the impression of being comprised of a thin layer of pure crystal, overlaying a deeper layer of equally pure gold. His hair appears as though it’s made of glittering, spun gold and has the same crystalline quality as his skin. The net effect is quite beautiful, if also very alien. ,, Additionally, James has a “third eye” that sits on his forehead in the shape of a large, pearl-like structure. Both this and his two normal eyes also possess a semi-translucent crystalline appearance, only they are cloud-blue in color, rather than gold, and frequently give off a faint light that seems to come from within. ,, Powers, Skills, and Personality: Traits and Personality: James is a friendly and generally outgoing person, but he has spent nearly his entire life living on the fringes of mainstream society, living and working in places and conditions that could charitably be described as “harsh”, and that have often been downright unforgiving. On the other hand, James has also spent a significant amount of time in places most would consider paradisiacal or exotic (or both), and knows how to make the most of his time in these locales as well. As a result, he is a very self-sufficient individual, used to making his own rules and to relying on nothing other than himself for survival. Having spent his childhood on the edge of the societal grid, and the majority of his adult life almost entirely off of it, these traits have proved not only useful but absolutely vital on a regular basis. All of this can cause James to come across as somewhat anti-authority (and, frankly, he is) and as being somewhat “out of step” with the modern world; it also lends a hard-bitten edge to his personality as well as an “air of adventure” that many find compelling. ,, Abilities and Special Skills: James is skilled in the art and technique of boat-building, and knows a great deal about most forms of modern commercial fishing. Years of practice and hands-on application during his time spent building boats has given James a very solid grounding in general engineering principles as well. After having spent so much time traveling to and living in some of the wildest or more exotic places earth has to offer, James has also learned a thing or two about survival – both in the wilderness and on the streets. Finally, James was an amateur astronomer by hobby even before his eruption and has only become more proficient and knowledgeable in this area since his eruption. ,, Nova Capabilities: James Winston is, for all intents and purposes, a gravitational singularity possessing self-awareness contained within an extremely high-density and nearly indestructible carbonaceous shell that itself masses more than 100 metric tons. ,, How this can be is not something science can currently explain, but it is theorized that when the Baja Meteor (see Background entry, below) descended on Winston’s position and sparked his eruption, James not only used a significant portion of its mass to power the immediate transfer of himself and most of the meteor’s remaining mass and the energy from its air burst explosion out into deep space, he also somehow ‘merged’ with the meteor, using what was left of its mass after the transference to construct a new body for himself; one that could survive and function in the vacuum of space. Because this does not explain the apparent presence of a gravitational singularity within his body, it is further theorized that the Baja Meteor itself may have been hosting a so-called ‘primordial black hole’ – a low-mass gravitational singularity formed during the volatile period shortly after the Big Bang. The possibility that some such low-mass black holes might be hidden within asteroids is well-accepted in the scientific community, and James Winston’s eruption provides potential evidence confirming it. ,, Because of his wholly unique physical nature, Winston’s powers all revolve around the direct control of the four fundamental interactions or forces. (Technically, all novas control these forces; most, however, are limited in this regard through mechanisms that are not well understood and may in fact be psychological, and so can often only indirectly influence one or more of the four interactions and sometimes cannot influence one or more of them in any way.) James can directly influence such things as gravitational fields, electromagnetic fields and radiation, radioactive decay rates, and the quantum properties of atomic and subatomic molecules. However, his control in some areas is greater than in others, and so far he has (perhaps naturally) shown the greatest degree of ability in manipulating the gravitational forces in his surroundings. ,, The carbonaceous shell that makes up James’ physical body is extraordinarily dense, massing in at over 112 metric tons, and evidence suggests its makeup is highly complex. The outer (visible) portion consists of a diamondoid matrix that is yellowish in color and semi-transparent, overlaying a deeper substance of unknown properties that is opaque and is the color of pure gold. What lies under this opaque golden layer is unknown, but the sheer density of the shell as a whole would mean that internal temperatures and pressures may be sufficient to induce a superionic state, or possibly even a full-fledged fusion reaction in the matter closest to the shell’s center. Regardless, it can be observed that this shell generates its own, surprisingly potent, magnetic field, which James Winston has demonstrated conscious control over. The shell’s extreme density alone is sufficient to impart it with significant resilience, but in combination with the highly stable diamondoid makeup of its outer layers it becomes nearly indestructible. ,, As a fascinating addendum, when James Winston mimics normal human movement by moving this dense outer shell, he does not do this by “reshaping” the shell and rearranging atomic bonds, but rather by initiating a dynamic change of quantum state in those particles involved, such that their relative positions and whether they are “real” or “virtual” cannot be determined with certainty. The net result of this is that at no time does the shell enter a fluid or otherwise non-solid state during any motions Winston might put it through, which allows the shell to retain its maximum resistance to physical trauma at all times. ,, The singularity contained within Winston’s outer shell is estimated to have a mass of somewhere between 1013kg and 1018kg – a very low mass for a singularity – and an internal temperature of approximately 100 billion Kelvin. Its Schwarzschild Radius would measure only 1.5 x 10-14 meters in diameter, however, which is three orders of magnitude smaller than that of a hydrogen atom. It is believed that James’ ability to deliberately alter the singularity’s charge and angular momentum allows him to hold it in place using powerful internal magnetic fields and complex gravitational interactions, as the singularity itself would otherwise slide unimpeded through most matter. ,, Background: James Winston became a ward of the state of California in 1985 at the age of only 3 years, after his parents were killed during the crash of Delta Flight 191 at Dallas Fort Worth Airport. Like so many other children orphaned past the age of infancy, James was never adopted and spent the next fifteen years in and out of various orphanages and foster homes. Court records show that he ran away on three separate occasions during this time, and was a victim of physical abuse at two of the various foster homes he was placed in. ,, Shortly after James turned 18 and reached the age of majority he left California and travelled to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, attracted by the promise of earning large sums working the various fishing jobs available. Winston secured work on a seining vessel during his first summer in the region and was able to use the experience to gain a spot on a crabbing vessel later that same year. Crabbing typically pays extremely well, and Alaskan boat captains nearly always pay in cash or with a personal check (meaning that accurately reporting income to the IRS for tax purposes becomes an ‘optional choice’ that many fishermen choose not to make), and so James suddenly found himself with a very comfortable amount of padding in his bank account. For the next three years James Winston would travel to Alaska in the winter to take part in the crabbing season, then travel to other parts of the world – usually Hawaii or Mexico – for the rest of the year, taking the occasional odd, usually part-time job to further bolster his earnings. ,, While on a crabbing vessel in 2004, however, James injured his back and was unable to complete the season. Suddenly without his primary source of yearly income, he began looking for other means and, after a few very financially tight months, managed to land a job at a boat-building company that specialized in laying the fiberglass molds used in many small to medium-large boats. Even though the monthly income was nowhere near what he’d earned while crabbing – and even though the job actually required him to show up for work all year round – the yearly income was nonetheless better, and James was surprised to discover that he truly enjoyed his new job. So much so that, in early 2005, he left Alaska for Seattle, Washington so that he could enroll in classes for a specialized two-year course on wooden boat building and general engineering principles as they applied to the wider boat-building industry. James was still in attendance when the Refugees came through the Stonehenge gate later that same year, causing waves of psychics and superhumans to spring up all over the world. ,, James Winston didn’t erupt when the Refugees came through their gate, however, and the next three years were normal years for him (not including the fact that the world now had genuine super-powered beings in it). He completed his schooling and returned to the Kenai Peninsula so he could get back to work. In the winter of 2008 he even took a position on a crabbing vessel again, the resulting payoff for which seriously augmented his bank account. Having some extra cash to burn and feeling a little stir crazy after a long winter (a common enough experience for those living through the Long Night of the upper two degrees of earth’s latitude), James and three of his friends decided to put their summer to good use and take a vacation to Cabo San Lucas. The decision proved to be their undoing. ,, On July 27th, 2008, the Baja Meteor exploded over the waters of the Bahia San Lucas, resulting in several thousand injuries and four deaths; the bodies of those presumed dead were never found however. Those four individuals were James and his three friends. ,, The Baja Meteor itself constituted a long-standing mystery, as its estimated mass and the height at which it exploded both indicated that the damage on the ground, along with the total number of injuries and deaths, should have been several orders of magnitude greater than they were – possibly on the order of a global-scale disaster. The event caused a great deal of alarm in the period following, as the meteor’s approach had remained entirely undetected until after it had entered earth’s atmosphere. ,, James Winston knew nothing of all this, and would not hear the details of his eruption event until more than five years later. The meteor’s explosion had not killed him, as was assumed by authorities at the time, but had instead caused his eruption. In fact, it is highly likely that his eruption as a nova at that precise moment in time was the ultimate cause for the relatively benign explosion of the Baja Meteor, and may have saved the lives of hundreds or thousands of people living in the surrounding region. It nonetheless cost James’ three friends – Tom Kerry, Sam Harris and Fred McHenry – their lives. ,, The events surrounding James Winston’s eruption have yet to be adequately explained, but it has been theorized that, in the instant before the Baja Meteor’s impact, he somehow utilized the potential energy stored within a significant portion of its mass to power the instantaneous transference of himself, his three friends, the small fishing boat they’d rented, and a large quantity of seawater across a distance of more than 15,000 astronomical units. The sudden exposure to deep space as a result of this would have proved almost instantly fatal to Kerry, Harris and McHenry, but Winston’s eruption altered his physiology so that he survived, and was eventually able to return to earth. ,, For reasons that remain as mysterious as the mechanisms responsible for the events of James’ eruption, or for his current physical nature, the newly erupted nova was unable to generate any similar “teleporting” effects after his initial eruption. As a result, he found it necessary to make the journey back to earth through unassisted flight. Detailed records of this journey can be found elsewhere.
  21. Xiao Lok stood up from where he’d been kneeling, the ruined corpse he’d been examining still sprawled on the ground at his feet, and turned his gaze out towards the township of Chengxiang where it lay spread out in the valley far below him and several kilometers away. His partner Gu Bolin glanced up briefly as he rose but then turned his attention back to the desiccated corpse where it sprawled on the ground at their feet. Xiao had no idea what his partner thought he was going to find there, but figured he’d leave the older man to it; he much preferred the view he was seeing now. Though getting here had been enough of a workout to make him glad – yet again – for his status as a nova. Xiao Lok was one of SASA’s newest agents. He was a nova, even if he was what the Westerners called a ‘blip’, a low-powered nova only moderately more capable than a ‘baseline’ human. Sometimes being a member of SASA thrilled him and sometimes it galled him. Before his eruption he’d worked as a member of Chongqing’s police force and had worked many a long, hard hour to earn his way up the promotion ladder, achieving Detective status at a much younger age than was the norm. Then he’d erupted and had been immediately transferred into SASA, where he’d had to undergo rigorous training of the kind that made his days back at the police academy look like a vacation. Working for SASA was far more prestigious a career than working for some local police force – even the Chongqing local police force – but he’d still gone from being one of the fastest rising stars in the municipality to being just another greenhorn in a much larger organization. Gu Bolin was his first partner in the State Administration of Super-human Affairs, and this was only their third case working together – and if events so far were any indication it was shaping up to be an unpleasant one. Granted, SASA agents didn’t generally work cases that were dull or mundane, but Xiao hadn’t yet worked any that had been quite so inconvenient to investigate yet, either. Gu had assured him this was nothing and he just needed to give the job a little more time. Xiao wasn’t sure he believed that, but knew the case was even less pleasant for his partner – one of SASA’s baseline agents – than it had been for him, so he held his tongue. For starters, the victim – one Dengfeng Sun, a Buddhist priest – had died (cause of death and motive, if any, still undetermined) at a small temple just outside of the town of Chengxiang of Wuxi county, in the far northeastern corner of the Chongqing Municipality. For Xiao and Gu, based as they were out of the city of Chongqing proper, this had meant several hours’ drive along the Hurong Expressway, followed by a few more hours’ drive on the 102 Sheng Dao up into, and then back down out of, the mountains that Chengxiang and the upper tributary of the Yangtze river it sat next to were nestled in between. Then had come even more driving as they’d gone right on through the town of Chengxiang itself, crossed the river, and ventured out into the tiny townships of the surrounding area. An hour of this had finally brought them to the end of Provincial Road 102, after which point they’d actually had to hike on foot up what had to have been at least several thousand steps (at least!) before finally reaching their destination: Yuntai Temple, perched, at more than 1200 meters above sea level, atop Yuntai Shan. The view was spectacular. Needless to say though, this had totaled out to quite the trek. For Xiao it had mostly just been tedious and, at times, annoying (though the views, as they’d ventured further up into the mountains, really had been quite lovely), but for Gu Bolin, baseline (and older than Xiao by several years, too), it had been a veritable marathon. And, having finally arrived at the temple atop its mountain, they’d been confronted with a true mystery. Dengfeng Sun had been a Buddhist priest, of advanced age and some authority, from nearby Chengxiang. He’d been at the Yuntai temple to inspect progress on work being done there. “A temple” had been at Yuntai for more than 600 years, but the current temple, as well as the nearby bell tower and the large church building on the next hill over, were all recently built and were only the tip of the iceberg. The State-run Buddhist association had big plans for Yuntai, and once all of the plans for construction were completed the temple would be a sprawling complex draping itself over much of the mountain’s northern face and covering more than 3,300 acres. But for now it was just a small temple, a bell tower, and a (admittedly large) church building, all sitting at the very top of the mountain overlooking the river and the nearby townships thousands of feet below. According to what Xiao and Gu had been told so far, the priest, Dengfeng, had come up to the temple to inspect some recent additions, had done so, and had then exited the temple building itself, gotten about 10 meters, and had then died. In a most… unusual fashion. What, precisely, ‘unusual’ was supposed to mean in this context was not something that had been made immediately clear to the SASA agents, but they’d certainly understood what it meant once they’d arrived on the scene. Dengfeng’s corpse was emaciated – almost mummified. In fact, if it weren’t for the eyewitnesses who could verify the man’s death, Xiao and Gu would not likely have believed the body on the ground in front of them had been alive anytime in recent history. But then, that was why SASA had sent them to investigate; it wasn’t everyday that they received eyewitness reports of a man dying from on-the-spot, real time mummification while others watched in horror. Xiao Lok turned from admiring the river valley below them and looked towards the small gathering of Buddhist priests gathered nearby. “What did you say he was doing just before he died?”, asked Xiao, emphasizing the ‘just before’ part of his question and looking to the young priest who’d been acting as their chief guide so far. “Inspecting the alters inside of the temple”, was the young man’s simple reply. They’d gone over this with him before, but something about the chain of events was bothering Xiao. According to the facts they’d been given, Dengfeng had performed a perfectly routine, if very thorough, examination of the interior of Yuntai temple and, having finished with this, walked outside where he’d promptly begun screaming in apparent agony and had literally shriveled up and died while the horrified Yuntai priests attending him had watched. Bearing in mind that nothing in the case made much sense yet, these facts weren’t adding up for either of the SASA agents. Something was missing. Just then Gu looked up from where he was, still crouched next to Dengfeng’s desiccated body, and said, “Xiao, take a look at this.” Xiao Lok crouched down next to his partner and allowed the older man to point out what he’d found. “Look here and here”, Gu said quietly, pointing with a pen to some easy-to-overlook abrasions on the old priest’s clawed and shriveled fingers as well as to some kind of sediment or powder dusting the robes just underneath those hands. “It looks like he was holding something, doesn’t it?” Xiao took a moment to examine Dengfeng’s fingers and robes, then looked up to meet Gu’s expectant gaze and nodded silently in agreement. He gave the man a single pat on the shoulder and stood up again, turning back to the gathered priests. Xiao took a few steps until he was standing next to their young, priestly guide and asked, in a quiet tone of confidentiality, “Was the priest carrying anything when he left the temple? His hands look as though something’s been torn from their grasp.” While Xiao had pitched his voice in a quiet and seemingly confidential tone, he’d still – intentionally – spoken just loud enough for the other priests gathered nearby to hear. He’d observed them from the corner of his eye as he’d done so and, as he hoped, his question had gotten a reaction. A few of the priests were now nudging and whispering to each other, eyes bouncing surreptitiously between Dengfeng’s corpse, the two SASA inspectors, and the temple building behind them. “Care to share with the rest of us?”, Xiao asked them. This time his voiced was edged and hard, and made it clear that it would be in their best interest not to dissemble. Gu Bolin had finally stood up by this time and was now bearing down on the enclave of whispering monks with a glower that was something of a trademark of his firmly affixed to his face. In exchange for their services and loyalty to the Party and the State, SASA agents were given broad authority with relatively little oversight and they had already developed a reputation amongst China’s population for having a rather imperious and haughty attitude. Xiao Lok was hardly an exception, but Gu Bolin could really take it to another level when he wanted to. “Out with it monk!”, snapped the older SASA agent, having apparently chosen one of the two priests in the middle of the whispering group to bear the brunt of his indignation. “What aren’t you telling us? Or is it you we should be investigating here?” “No sir!”, the young man exclaimed and somehow managed to point at the corpse and wave both hands simultaneously. “I swear to you, I had nothing to do with this!” Gu Bolin covered the remaining distance between himself and the unfortunate target of his ire and, his glower still marring his already less-than-appealing features, jabbed a pointing finger into the poor trembling monk’s chest to emphasize his words. “You, and your companions – No! Your co-conspirators! – are hiding something!”, the SASA agent shouted. Personally, Xiao thought his partner was overdoing it, but he’d learned a long time ago that while liberal Capitalists in the West might not approve of such ‘bullying’ the truth was that it got people talking. “Just tell us what you know”, Xiao demanded, backing his partner’s play (though his own tone was noticeably less imperious). “We only want to determine what caused this poor man’s death. Once we’ve solved that mystery our superiors can ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again. Helping us helps the State.” “Yes”, Gu continued, catching his partner’s cue and running with it, “and if you lie to us you work against the State. Keep it up and I can personally guarantee that you’ll lose all of your funding for your precious temple!” As previously mentioned, Yuntai temple was to be the center of a massive rebuilding effort by the State-run Buddhist association with a final estimated cost in the millions of Yuan. Work on it all had barely begun, and to have all of that funding cut would leave the priests living and ministering here with little or nothing except a mark of shame for such a monumental failure that would haunt the rest of their priestly careers. The frightened young priest that Gu Bolin had singled out was still just staring wide-eyed at his tormentor, but one of his associates was a bit quicker to take initiative. “The Hēi Long!”, he exclaimed, “Dengfeng Sun was trying to remove its effigy from the shrine inside of the temple!” “What?”, asked Gu, his tirade cut short by this unexpected revelation. “The effigy of the Black Dragon”, declared another of the monks, “Dengfeng declared it unsuitable for a place at our shrine, saying that it hadn’t been cleared or approved by our head office in Chengxiang. We told him that couldn’t be, that the effigy’s inclusion at the shrine was one of the conditions given by our largest contributor of funds for the temple’s construction, but the elder brother wouldn’t listen and insisted on removing the Black Dragon’s effigy at once. He was carrying it when he… died.” Xiao Lok thought the monk sounded as though he’d been about to say something different and had thought better of it at the last moment, but before he could ask him about it his partner interjected loudly. “He was carrying a statue when he died? In his arms?”, Gu demaned. A few of the priests nodded in the affirmative. “Then why did you remove it?! You’ve tampered with the scene of the crime! With evidence! Explain yourselves at once!” The young monk that Gu had initially targeted for his tirade appeared to have gotten his wits back again, and this time it was he who answered first. “Pardon us, sir, but we couldn’t simply leave it there!” “Of course you could!”, Gu countered angrily, “It’s easy, you just don’t pick it up! There, simple! Problem solved!” At this the gathered monks began shifting anxiously and exchanging sidelong glances of discomfort with each other. The young monk who’d answered Gu did so again, “Oh no, sir! To do so would be absolutely unacceptable.” “What nonsense are you speaking?”, Gu lamented, “It would have been the opposite of unacceptable. In fact, I’d have commended you for it, if you had. Right, Xiao?” Before Xiao could comment, the monk corrected Gu. “My pardon sir, but I did not mean you. I meant it would have been unacceptable to the Black Dragon!” The other monks were nodding at this, and it was Xiao’s turn to ask, “What?” “Isn’t it obvious, sir?”, the monk asked him, “Our venerable brother, Dengfeng Sun, was struck down by the Black Dragon for his disrespect towards its effigy and for attempting to remove it from its rightful place at the shrine.” Xiao and his partner were both stopped up short by this remark and they exchanged a long look with each other while each tried to determine where to go from here. The Chinese Communist Party had had to pull its fellow countrymen out of the mire of superstition and religious dogma by its collective bootstraps, but even so it was not terribly uncommon to hear superstitious comments in this country. Xiao’s own mother had been fond of visiting a local fortune teller to have questions of finance and home troubles answered for her. But to hear someone – even a Buddhist priest whose religious beliefs were, presumably, much stronger than those of most of his countrymen – make a claim that was as flatly outrageous as the one that some minor god had struck a man down dead in broad daylight simply because he’d dared to move that petty god’s statue was – well, it was outrageous. “Where is the effigy now?”, asked Gu Bolin, “Back in place at the shrine, I take it?” One of the priests nodded silently. “Show us”, said Xiao. As a group the monks all turned and began walking back towards the temple building, which was not far away to begin with. As they walked Xiao fell into step next to the monk who’d suffered the brunt of his partner Gu’s wrath and who had revealed to them why it had been deemed necessary for the dragon-god’s effigy to be moved. Xiao asked him, “What did your fellow priest mean when he said that the effigy’s inclusion at your temple’s shrine was a condition of the funding you’ve received?” “Well not all of it”, answered the young man, seeming to have recovered already from his fear and now speaking in a mild tone and with a slight smile on his lips. “But the source of most of our temple’s funding was very specific in her desire that the Black Dragon have a place here at Yuntai.” Xiao nodded a little impatiently at this unnecessary clarification and asked, “And who was the source of this funding, exactly?” The monk’s eyebrows rose at the question and he seemed to hesitate momentarily, and so it was that they were passing through the temple’s doorway and the shrine and effigy in question were just coming into view as he began to answer. “It is Madam Wu herself who has provided the bulk of the funding for the building project here”, he finally answered, finishing just as the group came to a stop before the shrine. Xiao Lok stared at him. Madam Wu, he thought, well this adds a whole new dynamic to the investigation. Madam Wu, real name Wu Zhilan, frequently referred to by those who knew of her as Empress Wu, was the most powerful woman – indeed, the most powerful individual of either gender – in Chongqing’s municipality. In fact she was rapidly becoming one of the most powerful individuals in all of China, and it was rumored that one could feel her influence all the way to Beijing itself. Her husband, Wei Keung, had been the party chief of Chongqing’s municipality until his untimely demise (that some said was caused by Madam Wu herself). Wu Zhilan’s nickname, the Empress Wu, was a reference to China’s first (and, so far, only) female Emperor, Wu Zetian. It was also a reasonably accurate indication of just how powerful the woman really was, too. “The Empress” was known to have strong ties with the Communist Party’s liberal wing and had been kicking up some controversy lately because of her support for many religious activities, shrines, and temples. (This was to say, rather, that she had been kicking up more controversy than normal, as the simple fact of her being a woman who wielded great amounts of power within the traditionally male-dominated Communist Party made her the center of an ongoing controversy as it was.) Personally, Xiao admired the woman for her savvy in providing such support. The truth was that religion and superstition – in a variety of forms – was making a comeback in China. In some of the more backwater portions of the country it was more accurate to say that the Party was in retreat in the face of this religious resurgence. Madam Wu was very effectively forestalling any such occurrence in Chongqing by doing what most of the Party was too afraid to do, except in the most half-hearted of ways, and her own power and policies were now inextricably intertwined with religious and superstitious belief in the municipality. And that was all well and good, but now Xiao Lok found himself caught in the middle of what had suddenly become a very delicate situation. They would need to examine this “Black Dragon’s” effigy, and to run some tests on it as well in order to properly conduct their investigation, but doing so would make it difficult for the priests here and could potentially be seen by the Empress as a challenge to her power. And speaking of that; if rumors started to spread that a man had been struck dead on the spot simply for removing one of the Empress’s favored deities from a shrine of her choosing, the entire situation could quickly get out of hand. Gu Bolin had not heard the conversation between his partner and the monk, and so he remained completely ignorant of the Black Dragon’s exalted status as one of Madam Wu’s favored little gods. He stopped before the temple’s shrine and, his frown still very firmly fixed in place, demanded loudly to know which of the effigies before him was the Black Dragon. One of the monks pointed and Gu found himself regarding the statue of man seated, and dressed, in a manner fairly typical for such “honored ancestor”-style statues. As was typically the case for Chinese dragon deities, the “Black Dragon” was here represented as a human being, dressed in appropriately regal robes and with appropriately sage-like facial hair. All in all the Black Dragon didn’t look that impressive to Gu Bolin. “This is it?”, he demanded to know, looking from priest to priest with an expression of incredulity. “I’ve seen more impressive effigies at the family shrine in my father’s home!” The gathered monks chose, wisely, not to respond to this taunt. “Well you wasted your time”, Gu declared, turning his frowning countenance back to the Dragon’s statue. Leaning forward, Gu poked at the statue with the same pen he’d used to examine Dengfeng’s corpse, eliciting small gasps of dismay and disapproval from a few of the watching Buddhist priests. The SASA agent threw them a withering glance at this but he nonetheless pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and, using that, shifted the statue this and way and that as he gave it a thorough looking over. This seemed to appall the gathered priests just the tiniest bit less than poking it with a pen had. When Gu examined its base he immediately saw more of what appeared to be the same powder that had he’d noticed on Dengfeng Sun’s robes outside; though it appeared to be just some powdered clay worn lose from the statue’s bottom, the power and the statue would still need to be analyzed properly. Gu looked back to the monks and finished his sentence from a moment before, “we’re just going to have to move it again”, he said, “and hope your meddling hasn’t hopelessly contaminated any evidence we might have pulled off of it otherwise.” “You mustn’t do that”, said the priest who Xiao Lok had been speaking with as they’d entered the temple. “That effigy was placed there and blessed by the holy woman Plum Flower Sika herself.” “Even if I knew who that was”, pronounced Gu Bolin, adding quickly, “and I don’t – it still wouldn’t make a difference. I promise you that your statue will be returned to you as soon as our people are done analyzing it.” “Please”, entreated the young monk, “you cannot do this. The Black Dragon’s presence here brings our temple great good fortune, and if you remove it you can only bring calamity on yourself.” “Are you threatening me?”, demanded Xiao’s partner. To this the young priest could only shake his head in the negative and, bowing at the waste, say that he begged the inspector’s forgiveness for his rudeness. Gu was looking appropriately huffy about all of this, but was somewhat distracted now, as he had his cell phone in his hand and was regarding its display with a look of disapproval. “Reception up here is lousy”, he muttered. Turning his attention back to the priest before him he said, “You and I aren’t done yet. I’m going to step outside and, assuming I can get any reception on top of this mountain, I’m going to find out what’s taking our forensics group so long to get out here. Once they get here we will tear this place apart and you’ll wish it were just a ‘divine’ calamity you were dealing with. Then we’ll see how uncooperative you all are.” Gu Bolin threw one more disparaging look at the Buddhist priests before him and then he turned and walked out of the temple. Xiao Lok watched him go while debating within himself. He knew that his partner might not be so eager to mistreat the priests or their idols if he knew that it was Wu Zhilan herself who’d installed them all here, but he also knew that Gu was right about needing to go over everything forensically, and that that would mean moving the Black Dragon’s effigy – and probably carting it off to a lab somewhere for at least a few weeks, too. This was one apple cart that was going to be disturbed no matter what, and if Gu wanted to be the one doing the disturbing then so much the better. A part of Xiao wanted to tell his partner what was at stake here on Yuntai mountain, but the other (larger) part of him saw an opportunity to navigate a tricky situation with his career still intact and, frankly, he was inclined to take advantage of that opportunity now that he’d seen it. These thoughts were still passing through Xiao’s head when the screaming started.
  22. This is where combat issues relating to combat taking place in the thread will be handled so we don't bog down the OOC thread. Consider this also a 'table talk' thread pertaining to the thread as well. ,, Rules are simple, as always: ,, Questions? Ask. Comms let you all talk freely. Don't Meta-Game. Have fun. ,, I know I've been scarce, but RL is what it is. I'll be doing my best to keep this moving along. I'll try and keep the combat as swift and as brutal as I can. Because I love you guys.
  23. Lee stumbled into sudden consciousness, guided by the sound of someone calling her name – her current one at any rate – repeatedly. “Ms. Roman”, Lt. Mayne asked her yet again, “are ye alright?” “Lee”, she muttered, sounding a lot less coherent than she meant or wanted to. “What?” “Just call me Lee”, said Lee. It sounded more like a moan than a sentence. “Er… right”, Mayne responded noncommittally. He was still looking pretty worried, but that expression was steadily giving way to one of bemused confusion. After a pause he told her, “Yer ‘chute failed t’open an’ ya hit the ground savage like, aye but you know yerself. We were none too sure you’d be getting’ up again from a fall like that, but tankgodanisolymuther yer still amongst the living.” “The others?” Lee asked, after her still-groggy mind managed to parse Mayne’s Irish accent into a form of English she could understand. She sat up then and started glancing about, taking stock of her situation now that her senses were returning to her and the shapes and colors all around her were starting to make sense again. Rake and Le Chêne were off to one side, standing behind Mayne, and nodded a greeting as she looked their way. “They’re fine, ma’am. Lee”, Mayne answered her, “Plewman landed wrong on his ankle, but he’ll be alright.” There was Plewman, Lee saw, sitting low on a sand dune several yards away with O’Sullivan crouched next to him. Lee nodded her understanding at Mayne, still taking stock, putting the pieces back together. There’d been the training in Egypt – completed only days ago now, but it seemed like years – followed by the rapid journey down to Darfur day before yesterday, the night-flight over Ubangi-Shari, a day of bouncing about in a jeep in Nigeria and, finally, a second night of flying, this time deep into French West Africa. They’d passed entirely over French Sudan and penetrated deep into Mauritania, at which point she and her team were to perform a parachute drop into the desert some 40 kilometers outside of Ouadane. Right, the parachute drop…. Hers hadn’t opened – like parachutes were supposed to – leaving Lee to plummet to her death. Or so she’d thought up until her sudden return to consciousness a moment ago had proved her wrong. Not that she was complaining. Surviving a fall from an airplane. That was a new one she could add to her List of Stuff What Hasn’t Killed Me (yet). And one she wasn’t likely to have put to the test voluntarily, either, so she supposed she should consider the event both fortunate and educational. Lee pulled herself to her feet, brushing aside Lt. Mayne’s attempts to stop her, and realized as she did so that while she may have ‘survived’ a fall from an airplane, she hadn’t done so ‘unscathed’. Yes, those were definitely some broken ribs she could feel scraping about in there, her right knee audibly popped back into joint as she struggled to stand, and she had a sneaking suspicion that there was something seriously wrong with her spine. She brushed at her temple and, upon seeing the clear fluid that was rapidly turning an inky black color clinging to the metal ‘skin’ of her hand when she pulled it away, realized she was also bleeding from a head wound. A benefit of being dynamic: she would almost certainly have recovered mostly or entirely from all of these injuries by this time tomorrow. Which was good, because more than 30 kilometers lay between them and their first objective and they needed to cover it all before this time tomorrow. She would be sore enough without the injuries. Lee accepted a strip of cloth from Mayne to clean her forehead with. She looked around at her five-man motley crew of British and Free French army as they watched her expectantly; Plewman was back up on his feet and appeared to have little or no limp, which was good. Spreading out around them on all sides as far as the eye could see under a night sky that blazed with stars, but no moon, were the low rolling sand dunes of the Sahara. To the east, the horizon was showing the first glimmerings of the rising dawn. “Alright", she told them, turning so that the coming dawn was to her right. "Let's go."
  24. It was the last day of summer. Sasha was enjoying the last days of warmth in her Bohemian home. She had a few friends over and it was somewhat a subued affair. Music, drinks, dancing, socializing, watching the summer sun go down for the last time this year. It was quite beautiful. After this she would have to go back to the States and be assigned to some droll mission by the DSA. While she didn't hate her work, she was coasting through these nova recruits. If it wasn't for her insatiable vice for traveling, she'd have tired out in the first few months. That and the DSA's handling of her personal life. She had seen Connor since their 'breakup', but it was formal business work.They both looked for something more than that. Sasha was a worldly type, but she couldn't help be frustrated that her mentor and friend was off limits to her. Though these were things she tried to keep her mind off of. Later that night, after the festivities were over and everyone was gonee - a couple of cute normals she decided to keep for a while, but they were fast asleep - she slipped outside to starwatch. The warm breeze would be something she would miss. She looked out to the quietwater beach. It was peaceful and serene. That serenity was broken when her phone buzzed. "It's three in the morning," she mumbled at the still buzzing phone. Normally she would go on about her business, but it seemed this call WAS her business. Horst, head director of the DSA. She tapped the OK to open up the call. "Hello, darling," she said opening with an upbeat greeting, "How are you on this fine autumn morning?" Of course Horst was understanding of the pleasantries, but he had no time to chat. He quite bluntly told her that she was going to be DSA ambassador to Department Zero. That stung Sasha. Last time she was in Japan She almost made a fool of herself in front of their head agents and gained the emnity of some Russians. Fortunately the DSA knew neither of those tidbits. The DSA got a glowing report of her impromptu visit to Japan. They gave her a couple of weeks to get ready, as she would be living in Japan for a while. The amount of time she would be there would depend on how well it went. That gave her time to crash course on the Japanese language. She also did Russian, just in case she ran into any angry mob bosses. The plane ride was first class. Six planes later - Miami to Atlanta, Atlanta to Dallas, Dallas to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Honolulu, Honolulu to Tokyo - she was in Tokyo. Department Zero met her with a limo ride. It was quite fun talking to the driver, an older man who didn't know Spanish or English for the matter, so Sasha had the chance to brush up on her learned language. While she was expecting to go straight to work, the limo actually made its way to a nice apartment building. They had set her up with a penthouse overlooking the bay. While Sasha was accustom to these things, she wasn't sure Department Zero or DSA would go this all out for a liaison. There was a note and gift basket on the bed. She took the note first to read it. "Please make youself comfortable. This is all yours for the time you are here. Your luggage will be delivered shortly. The apartment is yours as long as you are in Tokyo. Enjoy your stay. PS There will be a report meeting with Department Zero this evening. We will send transportation." The gift basket was full of tourist type attraction things. Then again, being a seasoned traveler, she could spot these comps a mile away. Still that massage did look comfortable. The next few hours was preperation. Sasha Tetris'd everything into the penthouse with feng shui accuracy. After that, she took a nice long hot bath. After being on the plane for nearly a day she thought she could use some relaxation. Finally after fliping through some sightseeing planners, she got ready for the meeting. A black strapless evening dress that seemed to accentuate everything perfectly. A little make up, some heels and a ruffle through her hair and she was ready. Now all she had to do was wait for the call of her ride.
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