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Dragos Industries (new game from the people who did Ancient Aberrant)


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Myself, Pendaran, BcAugust, and metaphysician of the Ancient Aberrant group have started a new high-power nova game to go alongside with that, with meta DM'ing.  It's a 2008 start date modern-day campaign, with very high level novas (we've always liked shaking the pillars of heaven).  So far we're two sessions in and hope to have more, although our eternal nemesis -- scheduling conflicts -- has already started again.

Meta is DM'ing this one.

A brief overview of the PCs:

Justinian Dragos -- Pendaran's character, Justinian Dragos is a young Greek billionaire CEO with all the money in the world. His nova powers are magnetic control, enhanced intellect, and all the mega-socials at a ridiculous level. Having erupted as a teenager, after a brief career as a regional defender he inherited his father's corporation and rapidly powerlevellled it into one of the leading megacorporations on the planet Earth, rivalled only by DeVries International and Project Utopia itself for size.  While DV of course monopolizes the elite market with a strong minority in natural resource exploitation, and Utopia is Utopia, Dragos Industries does everything else, and does it everywhere the other two aren't always welcome.

Justinian's current objectives are to find out the secret history of the world, and to safeguard and protect novas from whatever threats might try to manipulate or use them without screwing over the rest of the world in the process. He sees both of these goals as the path to his life's dream, uplifting the world by the potential of all such that dwell in it.

Justinian also had a brief dalliance with -- he describes it as 'a very hazardous extended undercover operation' -- into the Teragen, as he felt it necessary to investigate their claims into having a cure for Taint. After learning what he needed to know, and finding out it wasn't what he hoped for, he left. Technically Justinian Dragos is a Pantheon member, because he has successfully attained the Chrysalis and guided a minimum of one other person through their own Chrysalis... although neither Justinian himself nor any member of the Pantheon would ever actually agree that he was.

As you might guess, his relationships with all the other nova power blocs are complicated. However, as he has sufficient resources to be a power bloc in his own right (no, seriously -- its a very high-level campaign and the player paid for multiple 6-dot Backgrounds), he remains as yet unmolested.

John Holland - my own character, John Holland is a man with a mysterious past. (Cipher 6) His nova attributes are maxed-out mega-dex, respectable levels in all the physicals, maxed-out Intuition and Psychic Shield, maxed-out Mega-Wits, minor mega-intellect (with tactical and investigative prodigy), moderate mega-manipulation, and high mega-perception. He also has Quantum Blast 5 bought with the custom limitation 'must be firing a gun', defined as the ability to quantum-charge ordinary bullets with dark energy/phantom mass so that when fired they hit like railgun slugs. He can put an ordinary 9mm round lengthwise through a main battle tank, and he's quite likely the greatest nova marksman in the world as well as highly skilled at pretty much all normal special-operations type skills.

Publicly, John serves as the Chief Security Officer for Dragos Industries. Not-so-publicly, he is Dragos' personal assassin. Not that Dragos often uses such methods, but competition at this level pretty much mandates an elite response from time to time.

Which admittedly isn't a far cry from what John did in his pre-eruption life as one of the pre-N-Day world's most experienced baseline freelance hit men (which is exactly why he paid for Cipher-6 -- his eruption changed his physical age and appearance, and his prior persona is on record as having died in the Sao Paolo blast, so nothing can connect the man he used to be to the man he now is), although since his eruption cured his borderline sociopathy and gave him a newfound empathy for the suffering of innocents he at least does it for far more ethical reasons now.

John's past is a secret that he hasn't told anyone, except Dragos and his inner circle.

Dr. Rose McGowan -- BcAugust's character. Dr. Rose McGowan, M.D., is an experienced Warper, one of the most powerful healers on Earth-Aberrant, and a highly talented biochemist, administrator, and PR person. The scion of a politically-well-connected and wealthy family in the US Northeast, she was the out-of-wedlock daughter of the family's 'black sheep'. Despite her eruption in medical school and its opportunity to return to the family fold as a major and valued family asset, she entirely spurned involvement in her family's business to instead embark on a career of volunteering for charity operations in Third World countries. She rapidly graduated to running those charity operations, to the point where 'Dr. Rose' is now first-among-equals/nova spokesperson/unelected queen of Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, etc, etc., etc, and all the other charity and humanitarian NGOs that haven't been dragged kicking and screaming into the Utopia umbrella yet.

Her admission to Dragos' inner circle is a recent thing, as the campaign opened with said NGOs realizing that Utopia simply wasn't going to suffer their competition in the 'save the world' market sector for much longer and that they couldn't hope to compete with a nova-backed megacorp on their own.  Fortunately, Dragos was looking to expand into not just large charitable donations but actually having Dragos Industries have a major charity and humanitarian foundation of its own, and Dr. McGowan was just the person to be made the director of it.

Prominent NPCs

Lynn Ijiri (Ally on Dragos' character sheet) - Chief Operating Officer for Dragos Industries, she is pretty much the Pepper Potts to his Tony Stark. Her nova powers are being a super-administrator... and also an invisible, intangible ninja if need be. Sarcastic, pragmatic, and infinitely patient, she is the person who actually handles all the day-to-day details so that everybody else can do the work.

But don't let that girl-next-door facade fool you. When push comes to shove, she can be more ruthless than John Holland.

Ismet Arslan (Ally on Dragos' character sheet) - Chief Technology Officer for Dragos Industries, Ismet is one of the world's greatest nova geniuses. Having originally erupted as highly Tainted, his unbelievably brilliant mind was essentially incapable of communicating with anyone except another nova mega-genius, and he was in distinct danger of going insane. Ismet is the person Justinian Dragos has taken through the Chrysalis... which did have the benefit of removing his mental aberrations and leaving him a sane, functional personality yet again. Of course, it also mutated him into an 8-foot-tall red-skinned giant spouting bone spurs from his major joints and with a giant wild mane of hair, but you can't have everything. Personality-wise, Ismet is benign but largely detached from conventional morality, and maintains primarily out of gratitude to the man who saved his sanity and continuing interest at the endlessly complicated puzzles and challenges that being both the chief of R&D for a world-spanning megacorp and the chief science consultant for the man trying to penetrate the veils of secrecy around the various nova conspiracies of the world can bring.


As you might guess, a major theme of this campaign is that the players like the idea of what Utopia should be, but don't like Utopia, so they're going to try and do it themselves. Add in that Dragos & Holland have done enough investigations to at least hear the name 'Proteus' and have dark suspicions (while none of the PCs have much use for the Aberrants, Slider was a personal friend of Holland's and everything the Aberrants have turned up in their investigations, Dragos made sure to get a copy of via friends of friends), and, well, there you are.

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And, I did my own character backstory as my usual 'copy the style of the Aberrant setting books fluff text' thing, so, here is.


Post from Daily Cageside XWF fan blog, February 2nd, 2004:

So, just got back from the Vancouver house show tonight and it was the usual mitoid jobber parade mostly. The only things of note were La Arana pulling off their usual 5460-degree flying spin wrecking combo almost directly in front of my seat, and the debut of the XWF's latest undercarder, John 'Thunderhawk' Holland. Looks like your average 20-something white guy in a generic costume designed for him by the XWF stage staff. He's definitely a for-real nova – the mitoids never can pull off that no-body-fat-ultra-toned look a genuine nova has – but unless he's saving them for a surprise coming-out at the upcoming PPV he doesn't seem to have any flashy powers. Just the usual 'stronger, faster, tougher' package. You can see from the photos that he's got a more gymnast or runner build than a heavyweight's but when you're riding the quantum express your muscles and your strength don't necessarily have anything to do with each other, witness Melinda Guzman looking like an anorexic ballet dancer but still able to bench-press a Toyota. Holland's debuting in the Silver Circle, but from the size of the punches I saw him take without bleeding they'll probably be moving him up to Red once he gets some wins. If he can bulk up a little he might be a solid tournament contender; he's pretty damn fast.

Holland didn't draw much pop, but it takes a while for these guys to learn how to perform to the crowd as well as fight. From the way he moved, it looks like he was a martial artist of some kind even pre-eruption; I've seen enough newbs on the circuit flailing around on pure quantum-augmented speed and agility but no science at all to recognize a guy who's actually had training when I see one. However, he doesn't seem to have been a nova long; a couple times it looked like he threw himself off-balance a little with how powerfully or quickly he moved, and none of his moveset looked set up to take advantage of nova-level mobility. Dude's probably just getting used to the new body, so, we'll see how he develops over the summer season.

XWF Internal E-Mail, September 15th, 2004:

Boss, Holland's just not selling. It's not because he's kicking in the traces; he's a lot more willing to sit still for costume changes, name changes, and so forth than most of these guys are, and he sticks to the script we give him. And he can seriously deliver the wins; so far he's lost only three matches ever, even after we fast-tracked him to Red. One vs. the Red Circle champion, one vs. the Upset Queen, and one in an inter-circle exhibition vs. Superbeast of all people. Guy started out already able to fight better than most of the new meat, and he's been learning and refining new moves by leaps and bounds week after week. He just can't pop. If we were in the business of making nova martial arts movies he'd make a great stuntman, but we're not in that business, we're in the wrestling business.  And in the wrestling business, he doesn't have what it takes to put asses in seats.

We've put in a whole development summer on this guy, and two makeovers, and the graphs are barely trending at all. The technical fans love him, but the other 90+% of our demographic are strictly take-him-or-leave-him. We'll keep trying new angles for the winter season, but if he hasn't started to catch fire by spring 2004 we'll have to recommend not renewing him after his rookie year.

It's a pity. If I could bottle his attitude and inject it into all the other yahoos we're trying to bring along, half our handlers could retire. Holland always shows up on time, does the work, doesn't drink, doesn't use, and doesn't cop an attitude; he's as professional as any employer could ask for. He just isn't good at show business. Maybe see if DeVries would take him for a nice referral fee?


Personal diary of Ashley Winthrop, January 24th, 2005:

Dear Diary:

Today was the best day ever! I finally got to quit my horrible job at the wrestling show! John, who is seriously the nicest guy working there if always sorta quiet, had told me that he thought Mr. Jerkface Parker was cheating me on my contract, and it turns out he was! And then he snuck around somehow (I wonder if he used to be a P.I.? He definitely has that whole 'punch people like I do it for a living' thing like the P.I.s on TV) and got the evidence for that, and then he gave it to Mr. Dragos (who is so totally the nicest rich guy I have ever seen, not like that jerk owner of the wrestling show Bartlett at all.) so he could give it to his lawyers so there was a whole lawsuit out of court thing and I could finally legally quit my job! No more 'contractual obligation' because no more contract, I'm free! I'm even getting some of the money back I paid in "agent fees", so I'll have something to live on while I look for a new job.

Minor bummer, Mr. Dragos said I probably couldn't get my old job back at Hot Topic. Well, I could, probably, but it wouldn't be like it was before because people get all weird celebrity-stalkery about novas, even novas that don't actually do anything, so it wouldn't be a normal job anymore. But he was really reassuring and pointed out that there's lots of good jobs specially for novas that don't actually require you to dress up like a stripper and get punched in the face in front of 50,000 drooling fanboys every night (seriously? What was I thinking when I signed up for this?), and most of them are quiet and let you set your own flexible hours and wear regular clothes. Hey, even if its just loading heavy stuff on a loading dock, I'm up for that; I mean, I worked in a store for a living. You lift lots of stuff for close-outs and restocking. No big, right?

But that's tomorrow. Tonight, I'm going to wear the baggiest old thing I own, and go to the mall and just sit in a movie theatre and watch the latest DiCaprio thing and not have anybody bother me about not working evenings or not showing up for media stuff or taking time off or anything. Because I'm not a stupid wrestling show person anymore, and that's the best!

Oh yeah, and John said he was quitting the wrestling show too. Well, he's a smart guy and a hard worker, he'll have no problem finding a new job. I think Mr. Dragos is maybe gonna hire him, they were talking to each other even after I left.


DeVries National Tactical Solutions internal email, April 10th, 2005.

General Carrington, I just got back from our latest attempt to headhunt re: the Holland case. Our efforts were even less successful than usual when trying to poach out of Dragos' stable, which means less than zero.

As a recap: John Holland first showed up on our radar mid-2004, when our recruiting division noted him as an unusually technically proficient fighter on the XWF circuit. While we normally don't recruit out of there as there's no shortage of quantum-powered showboaters walking in our front door of their own accord and most of those at least understand the basic reality of combat, we're always willing to poach a few XWF-ers that look like they don't have their heads completely up their own jockstraps and he was definitely one of them. Our analysts pegged him as having exceptional physical potential regarding speed, agility, and close-quarters technique; even as a newly-erupted nova he was delivering hand-to-hand effectiveness on par with some of our veteran instructors, and the projected upper limits of his potential with enough experience and quantum development were quite frankly ridiculous. Some of our wilder analysts went so far as to say that in less than four years' time he could potentially be matching Kleisner. I know, right? What are they smoking?

Still, even half of that would be a huge win for us, and he wasn't doing well at the XWF anyway (technically great, but didn't seem to like the showbiz aspects at all), which only looked better for us. The initial recruiter approach back last fall was getting polite reticence, so they kicked it up to head office to ask us for an authorization to offer more signing bonus. We thought it was going to be a 'shoot ducks on water' situation because word was the XWF was about to let him go after his rookie year rather than renew him, but just as we were putting together a gold package Justinian Dragos swept in on one of his periodic Santa Claus runs to bail out some idiot girl XWF jobber who'd gotten herself caught up in a rigged contract or something, and since Holland was a friend of hers he came into touch with Dragos. Dragos must have liked what he saw, despite his usual policy of not horning in our market share, and took Holland with him when he left.

We let that sit for a few months, but when Holland seemed at loose ends just taking grad-school courses and doing pieces of security contracts here and there, we figured he was ripe for another approach and so put together a platinum signing package and took it to him. More money, more perks, faster promotion, way more action, who could lose, right?

Apparently us. Despite his background being obscure (to the point we suspect he had it washed clean before first coming out as a nova; well, he wouldn't be the first) our psych profilers swore that the guy has to have a military background pre-eruption, had likely seen serious combat before, and that he'd find low-end grunt work as boring as hell. We figured the pitch to come join the best of the best would be a slam dunk. Instead, we hit a stone wall. He wasn't rude, but he clearly wasn't interested. Even if he did seem to be a guy still looking for what to do with his life, he made it politely but firmly plain that being a DeVries elite would not be it.

Well, this was the third strike, and we're out. Despite his desirability I recommend no further recruitment outreach efforts in Holland's case; if he ever changes his mind he's got our phone number, but until he does change it we'd just be pissing into the wind.


Directive intelligence estimate on Dragos Industries, entry dated April 3rd, 2006

It's official, Justinian Dragos has finally opened a black ops compartment, and its this guy. Our Japanese branch confirms that his bodyguard John Holland was the operator that did the sanction-and-extract on the nova traffickers in Hong Kong last week, and turned up the rather surprising information that not only was it handled in-house instead of via subcontractors but that Holland did it alone. As you might recall, the Kowloon incident involved the deaths of three pretty serious Heaven Thunder novas and over thirty baseline shooters, and zero noncombatant casualties. (detailed after-action analysis attached)

Holland's background has always been problematic (because he doesn't freaking have any that we can determine, and isn't that alarming), but clearly it includes military or covert operations experience of the nontrivial kind because the only thing this dude's done as a nova is some pro wrestling, get an MBA and some security school refreshers on modern techniques and gear, and run some routine investigations and retrievals for Dragos - and yet he just came back from doing a black op that Anya Ilyanovich would envy. This guy has some serious stealth, speed, agility, and hitting power, and an extensive baseline skill set to back it up. Not that we care how many soma traffickers end up violently dead, and its always a good day when innocent children are rescued from having their brains carved up to make more narcotics, but the capability displayed here is alarming. Dragos was always a significantly powerful rogue element but he was limited in various aspects by what sort of elites were available to be hired. And elite hiring has its own built-in disadvantages, and is trackable besides. But now Dragos has a first-class elite operative on his permanent staff and Holland just showed themselves to be a walking iceberg; what we've seen all along is only the barest fraction of what was actually there.

Of particular note is that in addition to his known physical attributes Holland appears to have some kind of focused telekinetic attribute that only works to accelerate bullets or amplify their penetrating power – forensic analysis of the corpses he left behind shows that he was somehow able to penetrate the skin of Heaven Thunder nova operative "Chang Shih", who is confirmed on-record as having been able to stop .50-caliber BMG rounds without injury, using nothing more substantial than standard 10mm pistol ammo. So, just because Holland doesn't use BFGs or exotic weaponry, that doesn't mean he can't do serious damage to even our hardened assets.

Worse yet, chatter indicates that Dragos is going to be promoting this guy to a senior executive position in his corporation soon; he's not just going to be a hired gun but a command-rank position of some kind. While we doubt Dragos is going to pose an open challenge to Anna DeVries in the PMC and security services contracting sector, he's clearly feeling the need for developing an in-house extended asset capacity.

Whatever the surveillance priority on old JD is, we need to up it again. He's either digging trenches and preparing for heavy incoming, or getting ready to eventually declare war on someone, and either way means bad news.


Active Matters, Dragos Industries internal house organ, July 1st, 2006


CEO and Chairman Justinian Dragos announced today that the head of his personal security detail, John Holland, would be immediately promoted to the newly-created position of Chief Security Officer for the Dragos Industries combine and all subsidiaries.

Until now the rapid pace of acquisition had left security functions for our expanding corporate family being handled on an individual subsidiary level by local managers, with our Chief Operating Officer Lynn Ijiri handling coordination between separate detachments as an adjunct to her normal duties.

John Holland combines extensive pre-eruption experience with the fields of executive protection and operational logistics along with an impressive record of hand-to-hand competition victories as a nova, and almost two years of distinguished service as a personal bodyguard and security operative for Justinian Dragos. When asked about Mr. Holland's unusually rapid promotion to a C-level corporate officer of a Fortune 500 corporation, CEO Dragos replied:

"Rapid advancement is a hallmark of the nova age. Our capabilities are new but constantly expanding; the simple fact that N-Day was only eight years ago means that there are virtually no novas with an extensive decades-long resume in what they do for a living. Talent scouts have to evaluate us based on our capabilities and not just the size of our CVs. To draw an example of even more rapid promotion from our distinguished competition, Dr. Rachel Alinsky was a struggling 20-year-old MIT undergraduate when she erupted and less than two years later was Chief Technology Officer for DeVries. John is a highly talented man with varied and rich experience, exceptional aptitude, and an intense personal loyalty. I've unhesitatingly trusted him with my life, and now I don't hesitate to trust him with the lives of all my people."

As Chief Security Officer Mr. Holland will have final oversight over all matters of physical security, security training, risk assessment, loss prevention, disaster recovery, and occupational safety compliance for all Dragos Industries commercial properties and subsidiaries. Responsibility for digital data security will remain under the auspices of the Chief Information Officer, in coordination with the CSO.

Upon assuming the position, Mr. Holland gave these remarks:

"I am both humbled and encouraged by the amount of responsibility Justinian has chosen to trust me with, and dedicated to not letting him or the company down. I've inherited a good shop full of good people; all of our subsidiary compartments and detachments are doing something well. I see my current responsibilities as bringing that all together, encouraging us all to learn from each other, so that eventually we're all doing everything well, and can each draw upon the other for support so that none of us are struggling alone. And to everybody else I might have to encounter in the performance of my new duties… people, just don't. It wasn't easy for you to try us before, and its definitely not going to get any easier for you now."


People Magazine, May 8th, 2007


These photos from the New York City Star Lord's VIP luncheon section earlier this week show that Team Tomorrow's poster girl Jennifer "Slider" Landers might just be revisiting old haunts. The elegant-looking gentleman in the $100,000+ eufiber suit shown here is John Holland, who dedicated fans might remember was a hot XWF rookie prospect back in 2005 and also the hot-n-heavy romantic partner of the delectable Miss Landers for several months during the same time period. I guess even Utopia's Sweetheart goes through a bad-boy phase every now and then, hmmm?

While their fling came and went with the passing of summer, now that Mr. Holland has traded in his jeans and cutoff t-shirt and XWF undercard job for an expensively-suited position as chief of security for Dragos Industries, one of the world's largest megacorporations, perhaps Slider is re-evaluating her prospects.

Insider gossip says that Mr. Holland is a quiet, polite, and refined sort of gentleman, even though he clearly loves to roll up his sleeves and cut loose on the mats.

Is love in the air once more? Or is this merely ships passing in the night? Only time will tell!  Stay tuned!

Posted in Comment Thread:

Can't a girl just grab a lunch with a friendly face anymore?


Excerpt from NovaCom online corporate reports database, 4th quarter 2007

Dragos Industries – Security

Overall, the security standardization and centralization initiative begun by Dragos Industries last year continues to show marked results. Under the leadership of new CSO John Holland, the Dragos combine has finished a full security systems modernization program for all core and the vast majority of extended assets in an unusually short time. A slight de-emphasis on networking and decentralization has been accepted as a price for reducing vulnerability to cyberkinetics and wireless-enabled intrusion attempts, with more focus being placed on "air-gap" systems, wireless-blocking mesh, and internal satellite links being used to safeguard high-security data transfers and storage.

Site security has also been significantly revamped, with a higher than average rate of personnel turnover due to heightened and more rigorously enforced physical fitness standards and training certifications. Personnel replacements have been heavily scouted from ex-military and ex-law enforcement personnel from several regions, with a slight preference towards North America and Central Asia. Security 'reaction teams', composed of the most experienced tactical personnel, are kept at each high-priority site and encouraged (with generous travel benefits and relocation expenses) to rotate between sites on a regular basis to prevent complacency and to widen experience.

Dragos Industries has not substantially changed its hiring policy for security nova assets, still giving preference to factors such as background and temperament over magnitude and breadth of nova abilities or ease of availability. At least eight novas (profiles attached) have been confirmed as of this writing as being assigned primarily to security or extended operational duties as Dragos Industries employees, as distinguished from the multiple other novas employed in industrial, scientific, administrative, or entertainment roles.

CSO Holland's executive security management team has also headhunted several unusual specialists such as forensic psychologists, an internal marketing consultant, a terrain analyst, and in-house forensics analysts, in addition to the more standard administrative and investigative personnel.

Although the security department's substantially increased budget has affected profitability over the past fiscal year, overall Dragos Industries remains solidly in the black due to the success of their ongoing corporate expansion and acquisition plans. The budget situation is expected to revert to the mean in future fiscal years now that substantial capital improvements to security infrastructure are largely completed.


Communique double-encrypted with Navajo Daedalus 3, dated 4/29/08


After the Landers sighting in downtown San Antonio, Texas this morning (thank God for fanboys who whip out their smartphone and tweet every time they think they see their fave celeb incognito in a crowd) we prioritized facial-recognition scan time on every wirelessly-accessible camera in the local area, and got a hit at 1027 local time off of a traffic camera. On noting that subject was in an amateurish disguise of bulky jacket, ball cap, and sunglasses, and was sitting and apparently waiting in a fast-food restaurant, our analysts drew the conclusion that she was there for a prearranged rendezvous and we assigned the highest priority to the immediate dispatch of an asset to perform live surveillance. Unfortunately, since Landers' own nova abilities would make it problematic to use Teleport or Warp anywhere in her close vicinity without immediately drawing her notice, even the most rapid dispatch could not ensure the arrival of an asset on-site in less than 23 minutes by which point Landers' meeting had already concluded and both she and the second party (identified from video imagery as John Holland, Chief Security Officer for Dragos Industries) had left the scene.

Our asset followed standard procedure and, posing as an FBI agent, discreetly debriefed all available witnesses and then pulled recorded imagery from every useful camera POV in the vicinity. Unfortunately, there were no available sound pickups, and image quality rendered even the most computer-assisted reconstruction and lip-reading of only partial use. What follows is the best, if incomplete, transcript we could compose.

JENNIFER LANDERS: Were you followed?

JOHN HOLLAND: (Holland was seated so that no camera had a clear view of his face, so we are unable to give any lip-reading of what he may have been saying.)

LANDERS: Look, I've got to be quick. People are following me-

HOLLAND: (unintelligible)

LANDERS: No, not paparazzi. I'm in serious trouble here, John.

HOLLAND: (unintelligible) (body language becomes more attentive)

LANDERS: (unintelligible) -inside Utopia. It's… oh God, I know this sounds crazy…

HOLLAND: (unintelligible) (leans forward, places hand on her forearm momentarily in apparent calming gesture)

LANDERS: Yes. People have already died.

HOLLAND: (momentarily flicks his gaze several directions, without turning his head) (Analyst's Note: He was almost certainly using nearby reflective surfaces to scan the entire surrounding area for suspicious-looking individuals, without visibly turning to look. We're actually fortunate that our asset didn't get there in time with this guy in the picture - he's known to have significantly heightened nova perception and is a highly trained security operative.)

(Holland will continue to repeat his unobstrusive scan of the surrounding area for the duration of the conversation)

LANDERS: (unintelligible) (agitated) – don't know! (pauses to gather herself) There's something wrong with the drugs. Adrenocilin. Moxinoquantamine(?). It's causing sterility(?). Utopia will- (unintelligible) –cover-up. I've written down some notes…  (hands him a USB drive)

HOLLAND: (nods in apparent agreement, takes the drive, places it in his shirt pocket)

LANDERS: Wait, you believe me? Just like that?

HOLLAND: (unintelligible) (starts to rise from his seat)

LANDERS: (loudly, starting to rise) No! I'm not coming with you anywhere!

HOLLAND: (mouth visible to camera at this angle) Jen, please. I can guarantee your safety-

(At this, several other patrons and one of the servers turned to look at the conversation. Holland and Landers rapidly seat themselves.)

LANDERS: Do you think I'm stupid? (visibly upset, places hand on forehead) I've tried to tell so many people, and they all laughed at me, and now you swallow the whole thing right away?

HOLLAND: (unintelligible, animated gestures)

LANDERS: No, you think I'm crazy, and you're just humoring me. You probably just want to take me to one of Dragos' nova doctors to get some nice safe pills and a head-shrinking.

HOLLAND: (facepalms)

LANDERS: (more calmly) Look, I know you're just- I wish I could come with you. I do! But I've had people I've known a lot longer than you already try to- I just can't take that chance.

HOLLAND: (unintelligible) (body language tense, possibly showing agitation or sadness)

(At this point Landers reaches into her purse and gives Holland her smartphone, and he types in several short text messages, possibly contact information. He hands it back, and she replaces it in her purse.)

LANDERS: I will. (smiles) And hey, don't worry. I'm Slider, remember? Nothing sticks to me.

(Landers and Holland both stand, briefly clasp hands, then depart separately.)


According to external camera footage Landers immediately Warped away to an unknown destination from the alley behind the diner, and Holland drove back to the San Antonio office for Dragos Industries, where he had been conducting a series of local contact meetings)

After-Action Analysis: Jesus Christ did we dodge a bullet here today. Can you imagine the size of the problem we'd have had if she'd actually left with him? Justinian Dragos is one of the absolute last people in the world we want putting a full-court press into keeping her hidden and safe while he debriefs her of everything she might possibly have to tell. It's bad enough that she was able to pass on an unknown amount of her notes and conclusions to Dragos' #1 gun, but its not like we had anything available locally that could possibly have taken it away from him against his will.

But the problem is that they're clearly going to remain in touch – a professional like Holland must have a hundred electronic drop-boxes she could use - and after Dragos gets finished reviewing whatever information is on that USB drive they're almost certainly going to reach out to her again and ask her to come in. And we know just how persuasive that Greek bastard can be when he puts his mind to it.

We're on a clock here, Director. We have to find a way to silence Landers, and we have to do it soon.


Interview in Fortune magazine, October 2008

Guarding the Palace: A Talk With The Right-Hand Man of the Richest Man in the World

John Holland has been the chief of security at Dragos Industries for two years, and was Justinian Dragos' personal bodyguard for over another year before that. A soft-spoken dark-haired man in his middle 30s with the good looks possible only to the quantum-enhanced, he looks more like a Hollywood character actor than a man capable of flipping over an armored limousine, outrunning highway traffic on foot, or fighting two terrorist novas to a standstill with his bare hands. Fortune magazine was fortunate to have him available today to answer some of our questions and share his opinions.

John, what's it like to go from obscure beginnings to suddenly being one of the most influential men in the world?

I wouldn't know, because I'm not one of the most influential men in the world. Justinian Dragos is; I'm just one of his support team.

Even so, you're hardly an insignificant part of that team.

One of President Wilson's most famous remarks was "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Justinian's spent his entire adult life trying to change a lot of things, and you're right, that makes for a lot of work for the people looking out for him.

What's the story on how you and Justinian Dragos originally met?

We first met towards the end of my rookie year – my only year, as it turned out – in the XWF. He'd shown up to attend one of the shows, and we bumped into each other through a 'friend of a friend' type situation. My contract was up in a few weeks, and he was looking for a new member of his security team, and since I had prior experience in the field as well as being a very good nova-level combatant it was a natural fit.

Prior experience? But the XWF was your first job as a nova.

(chuckling) As hard as it seems to remember sometimes, history actually did exist before the Nova Age began. I'm referring to my pre-eruption career.

You were a professional bodyguard? As a baseline?

I worked more in the security consulting and penetration testing fields. But I'd also worked on executive protection details, yes.

That sounds like a natural setup to become an elite, not an XWF fighter.

Becoming a nova meant that my body didn't remotely work the way it used to. Everything was different; my balance, my timing, even my perceptions. I know that DeVries has an excellent training program but I've always learned better through self-study. So I went to one of the best environments to learn nova-level hand-to-hand combat and athletics "on the job", as it were, and I did.

Did you already have plans to become a nova bodyguard after that?

That was one of the options I was examining. But any decent position as a nova pays you more than enough to live on, especially if you're not extravagant; I anticipated having ample time and opportunity to play things by ear. Then I was fortunate enough to find an opportunity with Dragos Industries, and here we are.

What you describe your average day as being like?

Cliché as it sounds, the best description would be "varied". Although 'day' is itself a pretty flexible term; both me, Lynn, and Justinian himself have the sort of quantum-enhanced metabolism that's entirely sleep-optional, so the executive team usually runs a 24-hour business cycle. I actually have three assistants that work in shifts, and so do they.

Despite my nova abilities and the mental images they raise, my average day is largely full of administrative duties. Every Dragos subsidiary has a security department, every building has a security team, and they all have to come together at the top and they all have to be managed to work together without friction, crossed wires, or waste. The buck stops at my desk; any problem I have to bring to Justinian had better be a problem for more people than just the Security department, or else I'm not doing my job.

Would you say that being the right-hand man for the richest man in the world is rewarding?

The right-hand man of Justinian Dragos is actually a woman; our Chief Operating Officer, Lynn Ijiri, who's far more indispensable to the operation than I am. I just try to watch their backs while they work; she's the one who actually manages it all for him.

(chuckles again) Now if you're asking about our executive compensation scale, let's just say that I have absolutely no complaints.

I would imagine that the vetting to become head of security for one of the world's largest corporations would be intense.

You wouldn't be wrong. Justinian and Lynn both handled that vetting themselves, using the full force of their quantum-enhanced intellects. By the end of it, I think he knew more about my past history than I did. Still, that's the sort of security you need to have when operating at this level; I certainly can't complain when my boss takes security as seriously as he should. The usual complaint of people in my position is when their employer doesn't.

Speaking of your past history…

Outside of what has already been released, I would prefer to keep that private. In fact, part of my signing package was Justinian's help in that regard. Let's just say… I am not the only person involved in my past, and I would prefer they not be dragged into the nova limelight simply because I was. Next question?

What's in the future for Dragos Industries?

Justinian will do things. Lynn and I will be nearby.


Really, we don't plan to do much except what we've always done; do well by doing good. Anything more specific, I can't really say without getting the Securities Exchange Commission upset at me; there's an entire category of regulations for news releases that might affect stock prices.

For our last question… forgive me, but how are you reacting to the death of Slider?

With sorrow and loss. She was a good friend. We'd actually dated for a little while during my XWF summer – that's public record – and while that didn't go further, we stayed friendly afterwards.

You are an elite-level nova and have access to significant investigative resources besides; do you personally or does Dragos Industries have any plans to join the manhunt for Corbin?

I might have joined if I had been sufficiently convinced of his guilt. But I don't think the current evidence is conclusive and Justinian himself is still evaluating the situation.

Project Utopia seems to disagree.

Then in my professional opinion either they have knowledge of the case that they have chosen not to share with the authorities or else their conclusions are premature.

You have to admit his behavior at the funeral was highly suspicious.

I was at her funeral, remember? His behavior was certainly very odd, but grief makes people do odd things sometimes. I'm not going to condemn a man just for not being up to public speaking after the violent death of someone he cared for, and I'm disappointed other people did.

It is a matter of public record that Andre Corbin and you have had your differences, so why defend him now?

Because I did not become chief of security for one of the world's largest corporations without learning how to separate my personal feelings from my professional judgement.

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Very Cool. I've only added excepts/headlines like yours to a few characters (some of the versions of Bombshell, Sonja Bahaar, and maybe Sean Cassidy IIRC), and never as extensive as yours. Nice shout-out to Boom Box, she deserves more love. :P

Just a few questions I'm curious about - is this game played at table top or online? And playing such a high level game, is rolling dice kept to minimum, since with such powerful characters, unless you are facing an unending number of equals, it would seem to be needless? I've tried playing in high-powered games, and after a while, it just seems to grow uninteresting to me.

Actually, by high-powered, going by your descriptions, are you guys at Q6+ with Level 4 powers, or just have a breadth of powers and maxed-megas with Q5, can't really tell from your descriptions. Just curious... kinda missing having a PC in an Aberrant-ish game. :P

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Tabletop, and die-rolling is at a minimum.  And we're broadly maxed-out q5s... John, in fact, is still a q4.

Now that you mention it, I should post stats.

As per our campaign rules, John Holland was built on 200 starting nova points. 6-dot Backgrounds from Adventure! were allowed.

His invulnerability is something me and Pendaran worked out between us: basically it's the same as 'Combat Luck' from the Champions RPG system by Hero Games. So long as he has freedom to move and the attack is something where dodge would be an applicable action, he has extra soak. It was a compromise on my part between the fact that concept-wise he's not supposed to be a tank, but mechanically any nova engaging in regular combat at this power level needs a shit ton of soak or else they will soon die.  (Even Totentanz, the original speed and agility fighter, still also has a crapton of Mega-Stamina and Force Field to keep him in the game).


Name: John Holland
Allegiance: Justinian Dragos
Nature: Caregiver


Mega-Strength 2 (Precision)
* Might 5

Mega-Dexterity 5 (Accuracy, Catfooted, Rapid Strike)

* Athletics 5
* Drive 3
* Firearms 5
* Legerdemain 2
* Martial Arts 5
* Melee 5
* Pilot 3
* Stealth 5

Mega-Stamina 4 (Adaptability, Regeneration, Resilience)
* Endurance 5
* Resistance 5

Mega-Perception 3 (Electromagnetic Vision, Hyperenhanced Hearing, That Creepy Feeling)
* Awareness 5
* Investigation 5

Mega-Intelligence 1 (Eidetic Memory, Linguistic Genius, Prodigy (Investigative), Prodigy (Tactical))

* Academics 3
* Analysis 3
* Bureaucracy 4
* Computer 1
* Demolitions 3
* Engineering 2
* Gambling 2
* Intrusion 5
* Linguistics 5
* Medicine 3
* Science 1
* Survival 5
* Tradecraft 5

Mega-Wits 5 (Enhanced Initiative, Lie Detector, Multitasking, Natural Empath)
* Arts 2
* Biz 2
* Rapport 5
* Shadowing 5
* Tactics 5
* Weave 5

Mega-Appearance 1 (Face of Terror, Mr. Nobody)
* Intimidation 5
* Style 5

Mega-Manipulation 3 (Trickster)
* Interrogation 5
* Streetwise 5
* Subterfuge 5

* Command 5
* Etiquette 5


Ally 1 (Sara 'Tenor' Meeks)
Attunement 5
Backing (Dragos) 5
Cipher 6 (Enigma)
Contacts 5
Eufiber 5
Influence 2
Node 2
Resources 5    


Willpower 10
Quantum 4
Quantum Pool 28
Taint 0
Initiative 28

Bashing 13, 18 w/ eufiber, 30 w/ invuln
Lethal 6, 11 w/ eufiber, 23 w/ invuln

TEMP WP -- 10

Walk: 7m
Run: 32m (25 mph)
Sprint: 80m (60 mph)


Invulnerability (Dodgeable Attacks: Broad Category) 2
Intuition 5
Luck 5
Psychic Shield 5
Quantum Bolt 5 (Edge: Reduced Quantum Cost) (Flaw: Limited To Gunfire)
    [8]+20d lethal damage, all other stats as per gun being used (1 qp)
    [4]+10d lethal damage, all other stats as gun being used (0 qp)
    Multiple Shots, Automatic Fire, Semi-automatic Burst


Iron Will (6 pts)


XP -- 15


AGE: 59


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Gotcha! Got a better understanding of the power levels now. :)

Ah, Champions! I got a fair number of the books, but never got to play a campaign using the system. For some odd reason, my long time friends that I get together with once a week for most of the last 20 years for table top gaming don't care for Superhero/super-powers games - been mostly D&D of various editions and Shadowrun, with some Rifts (shudder - great setting, shitty system) and Rolemaster.

I really liked the idea of Champions, system-wise, but man, that was a lot of math to make a character. ;)

I hear you on wanting to make the finesse character who doesn't want to be pasted by one hit in a fight. Once made a flawed version of Hypermovement that didn't increase your speed, but just gave the PC the extra difficulty to be hit in the first place.

May John Holland have many more adventures and always one more bullet in his gun.

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Pendaran put together a briefing document for the DM and his fellow players going into more details on Dragos Industries and Dragos' own relationships and contacts.  Here it is.


Dragos Industries

An astronomical outgrowth of his father’s Dragos Investments (which remains a prestigious subgrouping within the company, of course), Justinian took what was essentially something of a well moneyed venture capital cum mutual fund and transformed it within a few short years into one of the most powerful corporate entities on the planet. The company stands alongside DeVries, ViaSoft, and (from a certain perspective) Project Utopia as one of the first megacorporations previously thought to be the stuff of cyberpunk fiction.

When otherwise attempting to outline the particular spheres of influence and, well, industry in which Dragos Industries has at least some foothold, it is vastly more productive and time efficient to look at the ones they don’t.

Mercenary services. That’s about it. Certainly Dragos Industries has its own private security, but the company could not quite be said to control anything exactly approximating a private army, nor looks to have any interest at the moment in exploring such avenues. This is not to say Dragos doesn’t delve into military defense contracting and research (though there’s a light joke within the corporate culture that such things are part of the “John Holland needing to blow some motherfucker away” fund), but as far as actual boots on the ground, nova or otherwise, Dragos Industries generally stays out of such affairs.

Considering that the corp, either directly, or by owning a company, that itself owns a company, is involved in everything from software to banking to cosmetics to heavy industry to farm equipment to children’s toys, that singular absence is a curious thing, to some.

Certainly the desire not to get in some kind of pissing contest with DeVries is a satisfying enough motivation to some. To others, the fearless, ruthless, corporate raiding adventurism of “the Alexander of the Boardroom” having any kind of exception is entirely bizarre.  

Truth be told, and though he’s able to keep any sense of it out of a periodic friendly brunch with Anna herself, the elite industry and culture disgusts Justinian (he makes an exception for Argus and Peacekeepers Inc, given their mission statements). Seeing novas as a critical part of building towards a better tomorrow, an industry that encourages them to waste their lives, wasting each other, is an offense stepping on his dreams. This has not stopped him from, if truly nothing else suits them and it is ultimately their wish, helping a nova establish themselves within the elite world, but he certainly gives convincing them otherwise a vigorous try.

Otherwise, through investment both audacious, yet tactically optimized, quality products, a genuine dedication to a staggering customer base, sometimes vicious corporate raiding and liquidation, and a general effort to overcome rivals by simply rendering their efforts obsolete, Dragos Industries continues on in an aggressive pace of expansion. The every so often hostile takeovers should seem to give a more negative reputation to Justinian and his organization alike, yet as he likes to quip with a grin “yes, but they were all bad people.” There is a measure of truth to that in the main, Justinian largely targets corporate entities with some shady or unfortunate aspects to their practices, when deciding the time has come again to have fun, at someone else’s expense. And jobs are found afterwards for the deserving, at least. Still, his every so often indulged habits in this arena have lead some to call him “the Omar Little of the corporate world.” To this he has offered a rare, more genuine smile and a wink.

Helping Justinian’s reputation far beyond such things is of course..


The David Dragos Memorial Foundation

Usually shortened to The Dragos Foundation by most (though not by Justinian himself, who is outright obstinate in always referring to it by its full name), the Foundation is an R&D center, think tank and philanthropic organization of staggering proportions, run generally at a loss, and supported thereby from the every so often cutthroat shenanigans of Dragos Industries, along with general very flush profit from other endeavours. This is not to say the occasional insanely lucrative discovery, pathogen cure, vaccine or patent does not come from within its depths, but Justinian has made clear he does not give a good god damn about project cost effectiveness or profit alike as far as its doings.

Alternative fuels, pursuing breakthroughs in psychotherapy, cheaper building materials, medicine, decreasing soil salinity, even diplomacy, social work and philosophy are but a sampling of the initiatives pursued and refined at the Foundation. Though the Foundation’s particular notoriety comes from its work with novas.

While no one ostensibly equals Utopia in the field, the Dragos Foundation has managed to pursue the study of novas to a remarkable degree all the same as far as analysis of the nova condition, their abilities, such stresses and drawbacks as they seem to suffer, and paths that might mitigate them. To Utopia’s mild annoyance, alternatives and refinements to their own medications related to quantum channeling are pursued besides (“Friendly competition gang. Friendly!” *wink*)

The motivation for such a specific pursuit comes out of a mingled lingering grief over the events surrounding Dragos’ father’s death, and in a more publically offered way, Justinian’s belief that novas and humans can come together to aspire towards and realize a better world. That to do so requires understanding. Both of each other, and of the self.

While that sort of pie in the sky thinking is mildly appreciated by Utopia, disdained by the Teragen and eyerolled at by those feeling it to be some bit of PR, Dragos has all the same garnered a degree of broad goodwill across the nova community from the works in that philosophy’s name. Which is to say, while a rare thing, novas get sick, and novas get hurt. And when they do, treating them in any meaningful way can be ridiculously difficult (particularly for a pathogen strong enough to affect a nova). From drugs, to surgical techniques to tools, the Foundation has made a series of breakthroughs that have managed to lessen that difficulty. Astoundingly, Dragos did not even bother to patent such things (“Just use them. I have spectacularly compensated the responsible parties. Just use them.”)

Generally speaking, all such sort of research is done with the aid of volunteers, and on a somewhat grottier side, the occasional nova or family thereof who agree to donate (or in some cases that has made Justinian grit his teeth, “donate” for a clearly reasonable requested and certainly not at all ghoulish to ask him of fee) their corpse to science on death.

Part of what gives Dragos a positive enough reputation to allow for such agreements to have happened is of course..


“The Justinian Dragos Nova Talent Agency/Dragos Nova Headshrinkers Inc” Ad Astra

This is both instead something of a personal sideline of the man in charge and a fully-fledged corporate division of itself, under the heading Ad Astra. Perhaps again born out of pain at the stilled potential of his father, Justinian seems to have a personal dislike of beings essentially made out of potential, not being free to realize and explore it. Besides, to make that better world, people must be able to choose it freely, or it will have no staying power.

The man uses some of his resources thereby to keep abreast of the lives of the community as a whole, at times simply by being himself socially active within it to keep tabs on rumour and attitudes. He will sometimes thereby approach the newly erupted, or those who have otherwise betrayed some dissatisfaction or misery with their ongoing lives, even those he simply picks up a particular vibe from. And over the course of establishing trust and a friendship, if possible, he will offer them aid, in whatever form he feels would be of genuine help to them.

This has lead to him doing everything from covering legal bills, to arranging art lessons, to teaching meditation, to, with a slight, quieted sigh, arranging with some novas to have a sit down with Anna DeVries herself (it should be said, Justinian’s once or twice having served as what amounted to an elite recruiter having worked out wonderfully for DeVries has left Anna with a relatively positive impression of Justinian as a contact of hers. This aggravates him on a profound and spectacular level that gets vented in private sparring sessions).

He otherwise has ended up with a wide network of nova contacts for whom he has done everything from help find a mint copy of Action comics 1 (“Sometimes it’s just the little things people need to get by” *wink*) to, in many cases, secure gainful employment in a field of their choosing.  Or at least, tolerable employment to let them pursue what makes them happy otherwise. (Oh, Ashley Winthrop? He bought out her contract some time ago, with a light touch of behind the scenes rumoured leveraging. A few hours of her time in a week at high risk excavation, demolition, path clearing, or even forestry where baselines cannot go easily subsidizes what Justinian grouses to be something of a venal existence otherwise these days, but hey, she’s happy. And he hooked her up with a reliable investment manager, so she should stay that way for some time.)

That the most he has done with all that as far as the sheer favours and influence it could garner him is but ask such people to help out another nova that might be struggling, leaves some leery to no small degree, yet such personal efforts have continued to remain what they are.  

In a more official sense, Ad Astra employs several teams of lawyers, agents, managers, accountants, therapists and facilitators, maintaining contacts across worlds corporate and otherwise, managing novas affiliated with Dragos Industries on either a freelance or more formal level (the company represents a few city defenders in their arrangements with their home cities). It is the closest the company comes to the elite industry, and Justinian himself finds DeVries’ attempts to broaden their own corporate culture in that direction to be something between a shot across the bow and slap in the face (he’s idly pondering working to purchase Argus and Peacekeepers in a “no, you all keep your jobs and run your things as you have been, but goodness, look at this ridiculously increased resource base you now have backing your dreams” sort of way. If nothing else it would send a “stay in your lane Anna” message.)  

The Sanctuary Program

Originally run from within Ad Astra, but now a discrete initiative of its own, the Sanctuary Program exists to live up to its name, with regards novas and a world that seems to demand as price of their power an almost constant attention and strain.

Making use of everything from non-extradition countries to international waters to simply inhospitable territory, the Sanctuary Program is everything and nothing more than the name implies. The sanctuaries are refuges with essentially automated services as much as possible, where specific amenities can be arranged on request. They range from what could almost be publically acknowledged (if location withheld) spas to secret private underground bolt holes. Time in them is obviously arranged in advance (both to make sure any guests of the Sanctuaries that might have some issue with each other are not placed in the same location, and also, less politely, so Justinian Dragos can reply “you murdered a child, fuck off” as needs be from any investigating into the request).

For the most part, despite the occasional attempt at sinister rumourmongering, these are places largely used by novas looking for a break from it all.  With that said, they have certainly been used as part of such escaped Chinese nova smuggling as Dragos Industries occasionally trucks in. Justinian is also certainly aware that nova agents of the Aberrants, Teragen and Directive alike have made use of the Sanctuaries as places to lie low while some particular bit of heat dies down (Utopia and such darker adjuncts as it may or may not have, are highly intend on avoiding these places for some reason). The trick is to never directly acknowledge that they do, even to them, while also keeping them isolated from each other while they do (All involved parties are certainly aware this is all happening. All parties highly benefit from pretending to ignore that it happens). Also helpful are armies of lawyers and a smile that in relevant times feels like nothing so much as that of a shark.

Justinian toys with vastly expanding the program, twinning it with the notion of the obsolescences of his enemies, or at least existing well beyond their relative reach. He sketches out the occasional diagram of a space city, his closest employees roll their eyes, he grumbles about stepping on his dreams and alternates with moonbases or martian domes. All very nascent ideas regardless.

If by some chance it is critical to provide someone highly trusted with the most concealed and secure of refuge, Justinian simply makes use of the sub levels of the mountain itself.


The Relevant Background Ratings of Justinian Dragos

Allies 6: Aside from the various novas in direct employ of one division or another, or those represented by DI agents, managers, lawyers and the like (from entertainers to city defenders), Justinian’s company is known for the personal circle around its CEO, consisting of John Holland, Lynn Ijiri, and Ismet Arslan.

Lynn Ijiri (taken with two dots out of the free five for stat equivalency) “What exactly is her job?” “To run this whole thing if I ever get killed.” “She seems to already do that.” “Shhhh, she’s too busy to notice that.” “Or she noticed that several years ago.” “I mean, yes, probably.”

Lynn is on paper the COO of Dragos Industries. She is more accurately somewhere between confessor, sometime field operative, chief administrator, personal assistant, co internal affairs and every so often ego check. It helps that like the rest of Justinian Dragos’ sewing circle, Lynn doesn’t tend to sleep and has several different teams of staff that alternate to her schedules.

Lynn is also something of a pre David Dragos Foundation success story for Justinian, and a reminder for him of having a purpose beyond his personal issues. A high school valedictorian of the sort that had headed up every extra-curricular club and charitable effort that could possibly be squeezed in (and founded a few, “she was intense, but it was the good intense”, commented a fellow student), Lynn’s family were celebrating her multiple scholarship offers with an extended summer trip (her parents were academics that could take the time, and her family extremely close).  Lynn’s eruption was a deeply traumatic one, occurring Turkey, in reflexive panicked response to an oncoming out of control car. She seemed to simply vanish out of the way. And if some sort of act of teleportation was the underlying state of affairs, this would be a far happier story. Instead, her family, looking on in shock, then saw her slowly become visible and tangible again before their eyes as Lynn fought with her nascent powers. Saw her come back layer by layer. Blood, muscle and bone. Veins and organs. Looking down at her own body to see such grotesqueries, and hear the screams of horror with expressions to match sent her running.

Small coastal towns make for lack of photo documentation, but rumours spread, people can be interviewed, and “Ghost” sightings around the area can create a pattern. The event occurred during Justinian’s Invictus days, which helped him find her first. His capacity for interaction as much as an evident empathy he radiated for the traumatized allowed him to reach her and he very carefully worked at building enough trust with her over time (while preventing any otherwise damaging interference) to bring her back to something of a growing compound, throwing money around to find her the finest therapies the world could provide, from physical to psychological. Mercifully her issues were of the fundamentally (relatively) conventional sort, as opposed to what Justinian was already idly terming in his personal notes (“and on your crazy hobo board of too far ramblings”- Lynn Ijiri) as “quantum backlash”. Fueled by his own intellect and capacity, Dragos would contribute as much as he could to the process, helping him develop and conceptualize the services his company would come to offer.

It both helped, and also held a measure of irony, that when both healed and stripped of anguish to go with being able to remove a sense of herself, what Lynn found would always linger was a spiritual core of pure iron. Justinian would later claim she only needed a bit of a nudge to pull herself back together. Lynn would outright stick out her tongue as her value judgement of the wordplay. Unfortunately, it was of no help with her family. They were ecstatic on the face of it to get their daughter back, but she could always tell that just in the corner of their gaze, just on the edge of their words, was that fear, was the sight of her as a horror. She had been perceptive as a baseline after all, how much more now as a nova, and particularly after months of silent, invisible observation of the wandering world around her? That her youngest siblings would sometimes cry and flinch from her made a distancing inescapable.

The offers poured in all the same of course as months passed, if from completely different venues now. Nova watchers had managed to piece together the identity of “the Ghost of Istanbul” by this time, and even if the rumours of her abilities were true, her value was inestimable. Dragos Industries was starting to be a going concern by this point, and a lack of its own recruitment pitch was conspicuous. And for Lynn, perhaps slightly offensive.

So it was that she walked right through the door to Justinian’s then office, dropped a sizable file of offers onto his desk, and inquired where his was supposed to be. Justinian’s honest reply invoked the notion of concern over an undue influence on her, given his personal role in her therapy. Lynn simply pointed to the unopened door she had just emerged from, returning that she could go wherever she wanted, if she wanted, she was choosing to be here. Noting the steel in her tone and gaze, Justinian opted not to belabour an argument and simply asked her why she was choosing to be here then.  “Because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I have. Because families that love each other, shouldn’t lose each other. Because I think you’re my only real shot to change the world that way. And because your ‘personal role in my therapy’ is how you know this isn’t a line meant to play into your personal history.” She paused, and looked sincerely apologetic when he quirked an eyebrow to that. “And because I always do my homework. You were the only one that came close to passing my employment standards test.” “So I failed, is what you’re telling me.” “But you came really close, that’s a good start!” “Room to grow eh?” “Exactly. I’ve prepared an outline of some key areas, starting with your staff being astoundingly permissive of a woman just phasing right into your office. Don’t you have cameras in here?” “Well, they’ve seen worse.” A pause of his own after the joke. “Also I have a ‘no, it’s fine’ body language metric protocol.”

Lynn has been with the corporation since almost the beginning, her loyalty to the company, its vision, and Justinian a force as relentless as her drive to keep all such factors operating effectively. Her personal life is a bit spare and intensely private, consisting largely of classical music appreciation, pottery, meditation, rhythmic gymnastics, and a truly and astoundingly filthy collection of yaoi. The air about her is usually functionally unreadable self-possessed and politesse, though she can veer between cold disdainful fury, snark and gently firm yet energetic encouragement without missing a beat. She has something of an off hours (such few as could be called “off hours”) friendship with Athena Boyd after a nova manipulator attempted to put the two into each other’s path for a laugh and hope for sparks to fly. After a joined and appropriately discouraging bout of retribution, the two meet for drinks every now and again. They pointedly avoid talking about work.

(OOC: So I can fully stat her up as desired, but mostly I’m picturing Lynn with density decrease blinged out and possibly reflexive, invisibility, psychic shield, high wp, mega manip, perception, and wits to high degrees, enough mega stamina to let her get away with her schedule, a dot of mega dex, several mega int, a whack of abilities, relevant enhancements, so forth. She’s an excellent ninja-type, she’s incredibly difficult to get one over on, she’s an astounding administrator/organizer, but not much in the way of offensive oomph)


Ismet Arslan, head of R&D (1 ally dot from the free 5, so, 100ish nova point type or such as I recall)

Newer members of the more shadowy parts various organizations with a measure of initiative and energy will every so often put forward an opinion that Ismet Arslan is an otherwise exploitable weakness in the Dragos Industries monolith. More experienced figures have so far managed to take them aside and dissuade the idea, noting that it would take whatever problem Justinian Dragos represents from that of an bright ambitious egomaniac putting his mark on the world, to a cold, calculating remorseless sociopath bent on their ruin. They’re not exactly right about that conclusion, but neither are they exactly wrong.

Ismet was foisted on Justinian, more or less. He apparently erupted during a weekend long cram session at the family home for a university calculus exam involving took much caffeine and amphetamines alike. An initial rush of sheer brilliance gave way to fits of gibberish, mania, seizures and self-harm. It was early days still for Dragos Industries, but Lynn’s own history was something of a matter of public record at this point (“Thanks N!” said no one at Dragos Industries), and a desperate family at wit’s end was hoping for a similar miracle. Justinian very gently made the family understand that miracles, while the way things ought to be, were not always possible, but he would do his very best.

He managed to make some currency out of being one of the few people that could decipher patterns in Ismet’s gibberish (Arslan was in fact inventing new languages wholecloth from one fit to the next, and then ontop of them using them to communicate largely via math or riddles and word games. There was a subtle musical harmony sometimes underlying them that occasionally made Justinian weep) and craft replies to them, but it became clear that Ismet, while possessing a mind in several ways beyond even Justinian’s own, was decidedly suffering from “quantum backlash”. While Justinian and his initial science teams managed to come up with a rough Ismet to Turkish translator (the computing power required for this was.. not small) for visits from his family (who were moved in to the growing compound and community, with jobs found for them), it was evident that Ismet could not be left unsupervised/unmonitored, without some measure of sedation, or in range of tools.   

Dragos was at first vehement on making no use of the young man for corporate affairs. It took Ismet himself blazing past everything Justinian would initially provide to occupy him intellectually, and begging in his lucid moments for something to let himself feel productive and not just a charity case. He was reliably 60/40 up on Justinian at chess at this point anyway, and had no desire to spare the seconds to learn Go. Arslan had his hand in a variety of breakthroughs as a result, and Justinian found himself as something of a facilitator between Ismet and the rest of R&D.

The years were still deeply troubled ones as they passed, and while they managed to arrest Ismet’s condition from deteriorating any further, neither could it be improved. And then Justinian finished his dalliance with the Teragen and emerged from explorations into the chrysalis. After Dragos personally prevented yet another suicide attempt on Ismet’s part, Arslan simply collapsed into Justinian’s arms, wept, shook violently and begged for help, crying that he didn’t want to die, not really. Justinian sighed in a very soft and aching resignation in reply. “There might, perhaps, be something.”

Ismet Arslan is the only nova Justinian Dragos has guided through the chrysalis, and he intends for things to remain that way. The experience only further cemented to him the fundamental lack of value in it as a broadly applicable solution for the difficulties of the nova condition. His mentorship was a very careful one, engaging the two in the distant vistas of intellect and accomplishment.

When Ismet emerged, Justinian was there to see him weep in joy at looking out to the world with an unclouded mind at last, thanking Dragos profusely. Justinian just smiled a sad smile and nodded. Where once was a slim, slight young man, there was now a hulking, eight foot tall red skinned giant, a shaggy mane of crimson hair around his head (he’s since grown a neatly trimmed beard to match), spurs of bone from his elbows and knees, and where his eyebrows should be. Arslan is heedlessly uncaring about such changes being the price of his blessedly clear and brilliant mind, and even enjoys being some measure of a brute force powerhouse (that he is absolutely far from nimbleness to go with it has meant for a lot of ergonomic adjusting in his workspaces). Justinian’s particular approach to the chrysalis at least has not distanced him too far from the idea of humanity in a psychological sense, but Ismet was always something of an introvert even beforehand. He manages well enough with project teams in matters of pure science, he still spends time with his family (who are too busy being joyous that Ismet is sane, and grateful to Justinian to a point of almost worship, to find trouble in his new appearance), but he actively shies away from human interaction beyond that, preferring the company of high intellect novas the few times he feels social, or animals in natural surroundings (he also has a few pet cats). He is largely quiet and polite, and his look distantly thoughtful, but he can get highly animated and energetic when inspired.

Outside of the benefits his scientific work can bring, Ismet’s main tie to the outside world is various pieces of anonymous musical composition that various performers and orchestras have made stunning results out of. There is a certain curiosity as to who “A. Non” might be.

Justinian once asked Ismet on a vacation in the depths of the Amazon, if he even really believes in what the company is doing. “Oh! Well.. certainly as far as your work with novas, very much of course! And very much so as far as the intellectual challenges! But… overall.. no, I suppose not really. But, sir, you gave me back my mind, and you gave me back my soul. I am your man for eternity. Were you to send me away, I would still find a way to work ever to your benefit. I do not believe in your agenda, but I believe in your belief in me.” Justinian just sighed, smiled, and clapped his shoulder.

The bond between the two is an obviously paternal one, and Justinian is, for his part, fiercely protective of Ismet to a level of outright violence in a way he is not of anyone else (it helps that he’s pretty sure Lynn could survive the planet blowing up). He has informed Orzaiz (see below) that if he ever so much as starts to think that someone from the Teragen are trying to get their hooks into Ismet, he will kill them. Not he will have John kill them. Not he will arrange some careful bit of manipulation to have them distantly killed or ruined. He will kill them. Yes, he is well aware that various members of the Teragen are certainly more personally powerful than himself. It does not matter. He will find a way. He will be the last thing they ever see in the unimaginable pain of the last short moments of their lives.

Orzaiz knows his friend well enough to have simply nodded to this. Though he then smiled ruefully and shook his head, adding it was likely unnecessary anyway. From the already voiced perspective of Scripture for instance, this was simply an example of your approach to Teras as a member of the Pantheon, and the way you guide members of your faction through it. Justinian did not speak to Orzaiz for three months after that. (Raoul had to send him an apology power suit.)

Justinian does have his friends outside of his immediate corporate world, particular stand outs being..


Raoul Orzaiz

Lynn, who has just a bit of a viciously catty streak about personal ties Justinian will build with people she disapproves of, sums up the friendship of the two as “Raoul and Justinian’s excellent snob-ventures.” “We’re not snobs Lynn.” “You bring out each other’s inner snob.” “It was Paris and Fashion Week.” “You talked about suit tailoring for three hours.” “Well, you know, we had to cut it short for a party.”

Justinian and Oraiz have proven a measure of exasperating to monitor in their exchanges. Near as can be determined, they are very honestly and with a sort of classy energy (and sometimes critical snark) talking about wine, polo, horse racing, various mediums of art, fashion, opera and other performing arts, history, art history, travel, liquors, parties, high scale dance clubs, party planning, upper crust social gossip and occasionally the world cup. At least they’re charming about it. (Directive Agent: “I think I actually like polo now and I just bought season tickets to an art nouveau theatre festival. Get me off this assignment.”)

Their ties predate the modern nova condition, as it so happens. It’s said that an Orzaiz befriended a Dragos while the former was travelling on the Grand Tour, a handful of centuries ago, and the bond endured across the generations since. A Dragos and an Orzaiz probably even married at some point across the sweep of history. Their families have retained a certain closeness, and Orzaiz being a bit too young to be a contemporary of David’s, and a bit too old to be a contemporary of Justinian’s, slotted into something of a younger brother/older brother sort of place. He particularly liked Justinian, and enjoyed playing the role of the disreputably elegant cad who would regale him with trouble and scandal a boy might not otherwise know from (Justinian’s self-possession meant it only went so far, but it was amusing all the same to watch him cough around his first cigar). He was close enough to the family to attend the funeral of Justinian’s mother.

The news of Justinian’s eruption was a delight to him, Orzaiz had found the notion of giving the Dragos’ a lesser place in his social circles saddening. He was less pleased to hear about the particular circumstances of Justinian’s early nova days, but he quietly spread through his own people to avoid making mention of the idea that having come to the Teragen could have spared it. It wouldn’t be worth the headaches.

Much of their current close friendship is based on each man finding the other a genuinely engaging sounding board for ideas, even if they are very different ideas. More important than that, that they can honestly converse about matters of shared inconsequentiality (“Well. A proper sense of style and taste can be entirely consequential.”- Justinian Dragos) without finding their extremely developed capacity for social interaction getting in the way. They can even work it in naturally without running into problems. And they both throw lovely parties. They did also once own a racehorse together, but that ended disastrously, and filed away as something never to be spoken of again (“Under the surface control issues Gotterdammerung” “So, when you make that kind of reference, you’re not being a snob, but..?” “Cuttingly incisive.” “I can’t believe I let you plan my social calendar.” “Your friendship with Orzaiz does suggest a certain specific history of poor decision making, yes.”)

Raoul takes some flak from his brethren for maintaining a friendship with Dragos, but at some point, the total flak he takes from them becomes a bit of white noise as a whole. He honestly warned them not to admit the man into the group, even as he facilitated Justinian’s deeper introduction to it. He told them Justinian would never join a group he did not found and could not control. He laughed when they admitted him anyway, he laughed even harder when Justinian was taught the chrysalis, and he laughed so hard he had to wipe away genuine tears at the press conference where Justinian repudiated the organization as a whole. If pressed in a rare and private way he can’t socially dodge, Orzaiz is one of those who believe that Dragos’ path through Teras was simply to actualize what he already was (in some moments the two men will discuss philosophy. He’ll bring that up then as well, but very delicately).

They’ll otherwise talk shop, as it were, when necessary, but in much more controlled and careful circumstances than their more idle jaunts. 

Justinian occasionally takes flak of his own for the friendship, but he’s defended it ably enough (or just eyerolls at Lynn, who is one of the few he allows for taking shots at him over it when opportunities present themselves). As he likes to say “Our families had a bond that stretched across generations and empires. I could tell you that to throw away a genuine friendship over philosophy and politics would be cavalier, or disrespectful to that memory. But truth be told, I couldn’t bring myself to abandon a close friend anyway. It would just feel a bit too inhuman.”

(“When you say things to the media like that, I can feel the ‘ting!’ effect off your smile from here.” “Really? Can we edit an actual one in to the footage?” “It was a live interview.” “Damn.”)



A Lynn Approved Friendship ™, though she does find the whole thing a bit tragic. Peter was just coming into his nova career around when Justinian was winding down his stretch as a regional defender. There was enough overlap to notice each other, and work together a couple of times on larger incidents. They appreciated the shared sense of a sort of daring professionalism. It was enough to build on, at the very least. And while Thorn was savvy enough to know there was probably something going on behind Justinian’s public hero workings, that the man was genuinely risking himself and his works were accomplishing real good provided a respectable balance (this is yes, possibly an analogy).

They kept in touch, though their social interactions were generally quiet sorts of things. Each man was pleased to see the other ascend to forefronts of their respective fields, which doesn’t stop them from lightly twitting each other about the things they feel are more openly compromising about their positions. Thorn also likes to opine that Justinian could be doing just as much good in Utopia, if he could accept that they’re not going to change the name to “Project Utopia: A Division of Dragos Industries”. Justinian amuses himself by outlining the international crisis intervention team he would create around Thorn, right now if he agreed, with endless funding, no bureaucratic oversight, no UN politics, his own say on membership and operational policy, and look at that! He brought a folder detailing the whole thing.

Neither man is very seriously trying to recruit the other. Justinian understands how deep Thorn’s sense of dedication to his purpose (and to such as he will view as comrades in arms) goes, it’s part of what Justinian likes about him. Thorn similarly comprehends Justinian’s ten thousand mile wide independence streak and that it is part of what has driven him to accomplish such great and admirable things. More to the point, and in very quiet, very private moments in which Justinian will bring something from R&D on which they will try (and usually fail) to get terribly drunk, they both personally understand deeply traumatic loss and conflict, in their own ways. Justinian and Thorn are a survivors’ encounter group of two. That they don’t work together is part of what facilitates this. Justinian knows the names of the Wolfpack, and Thorn has been to where Dragos’ father died.

Their friendship is not particularly flamboyant or extravagant, but they’ll talk, and meet up somewhere once a month or so, somewhere sedate and out of the way (that as it so happens, Justinian does love German beer resulted in one of Lynn Ijiri’s only, though very brief, giggle fits pre or post nova-dom, and the immediate changing of Justinian’s ringtone).


The old school VtM coterie flow chart interaction description of his friends, sans chart because I don’t know how to make those

Justinian is a good friend, in the different ways being a good friend would mean to different people. This does not exactly mean all his friends like each other. Lynn finds Orzaiz and the Teragen as a whole basically deplorable as regards her own worldview, and gives a wary eye to any influence it might work over Justinian through his beliefs in the potential of others. Narcosis and her ilk don’t concern her in that sense, though she finds her employer and patron perhaps a shade too confident about his capacity to move entirely untouched. She is not even quite so worried about Scripture or even Mal. Justinian having a guru would require Justinian relinquishing some kind of authority over his spirit to someone, and she smirks at that idea. Orzaiz is a problem because Raoul Orzaiz is his oldest friend, that puts the hooks right in. She had hoped Justinian repudiating the Teragen would take care of things, but nope, the suave bastard shows up for coffee without missing a beat. While politely friendly in public, she snipes about him in private as opportunity permits (but then Lynn can define ‘politely friendly adjutant’ as a matter of course wherever she is, with a pleasant veneer that discourages reading too deeply, and encourages putting her out of your mind happily enough once you’ve moved on to something else.)

Orzaiz is socially adept enough to understand the situation, but since Lynn has never pressed the issue, he makes no hay of it, and only tries to be particularly charming to her (he’s entirely aware of the futility, and more importantly, he knows she knows he’s aware of it) if they’re both feeling especially shitty to each other that day and are looking for indirect socially advanced ways to express it that Justinian can’t technically object to even if right there. Justinian generally tries to keep their interactions to a minimum, with a fair bit of success.

John is more straightforward in his dislike of Orzaiz, for reasons of recovered morality, but John has similarly reached an understanding about pressing the issue too hard, and generally doesn’t find himself to have to be much of a presence at Justinian’s social outings where prolonged interaction with Orzaiz would be a thing. Orzaiz, knowing John is following the tao of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” doesn’t goad, if largely for Justinian’s sake than anything else. John can’t dance the dance like Lynn can (he can dance in some ways a much worse dance, and that’s not worth pressing either). John’s kept to a cool dislike is hardly is as wrought with frisson as the situation of two people, each with deep emotional ties to a third, and those two people disagree about almost everything of note.

Ismet hasn’t really met Orzaiz, or if he has, he honestly hasn’t really paid much attention. Justinian has declared Ismet off limits anyway.

Thorn takes enough shit for “palling around with Justinian ‘the rampaging egomaniac’ Dragos” that he doesn’t feel a need to stress his life out even harder by developing ties to his staff. They seem like perfectly fine people in their various ways (like knows from like as far as the sense of past violence around John, but he trusts Justinian, so whatever is going on with Holland, it’s probably not an issue), but it is what it is. Lynn actually approves of him from a distance, but she’s content with the distance. John, while nominally fine with the idea of Thorn in theory, after recent events has to slot him more into a category of someone he has to be wary of and ready to kill if Thorn either makes the wrong choices or turns out to be involved in certain events. Distance makes that easier too. And Thorn and Orzaiz obviously have no regard for each other whatsoever.

Justinian doesn’t do “group movie nights”, perhaps.  

John and Lynn have managed a fast (for them) friendship that is talky when it needs to be and quiet when it needs to be. It helps that they float on basically the same level in their work environment and have in some ways similar approaches to work and problems. Lynn trusts John enough to occasionally float her (semi-) theoretical ponderings of killing whatever threat for a talking out, and John trusts Lynn enough to acknowledge that he’d be capable of that while otherwise talking the matter out. The pair have a very solid understanding of what they’re capable of. John sometimes wavers between appreciating Lynn not flinching or judging about such understanding, and wishing she would have perhaps just a little (“You do that kind of thing to yourself more than I ever possibly could even if I wanted to John, what would be the point? And you know how efficient I am about my own resources, emotional or otherwise.”) Also, when Justinian is being a more frustrating than encouraging presence every so often, it helps to have someone to vent to, sometimes while practicing judo (she founded a club in high school because of course she did). She occasionally makes idle efforts to get John to have a more active romantic life, but with Slider’s death, has relented from that.

Outside of his immediate family and the son/father bond he has with Justinian, Ismet mostly keeps himself to himself. He certainly likes John and Lynn enough in his politely, amiably unfocused way, but the venn diagrams of their worlds really only intersect for him at very narrow points called board meetings, or John attempting to train him to fight, or Lynn presenting him with project material or otherwise smoothing something over between Ismet and his science teams. Being mentally whole again simply lets him get some enjoyment out of tendencies towards introversion. Both John and Lynn otherwise acknowledge the way Ismet has chosen to move through the world and keep things friendly and professional, both are perhaps mildly concerned about how verge of violence protective Justinian is of him, but it has yet to be an issue. Lynn has attended a concert performing some of the music Ismet has composed. She openly wept and took a personal day afterwards.


Justinian Dragos’s Contacts 6 Rating, along with instances of organizations

Justinian Dragos’ web of acquaintances, not quite close friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, people he smilingly puts up with, people who will regardless agree to meet with him despite mutual personal feeling, and that perfectly lovely person he met just yesterday running a food cart, runs a wide and dizzying social gamut. While Justinian is deeply relieved to be able to delegate intelligence/counteringelligence to John, a general complaint in that world was that when running operations against or defending from Dragos Industries, you were not just taking on Justinian, you were taking on his friends, their friends, the servants of their friends, that street busker over there, and every other son of a bitch he shared a smile and a handshake with.

Justinian will get to know the busboys and hang out in the alleyway to smoke with them, because the conference was frankly just that boring. Justinian will find himself in an elevator with a janitor after a late night meeting at some company or other, strike up a conversation, and end up scoring them world cup tickets after extensively debating their all time all star teams. The janitor’s nephew will then be a member of a gang that an acting out daughter of someone appropriate is dating right now.

He finds it tiring, but when he has to, Dragos will intricately, arcanely and ornately manipulate his tangled, tangled webs of contacts for purposes of intrigue. There is otherwise, wherever he goes, someone, on some level of something he knows (and possibly done a bit of something for), or someone that he can get to know through a friend (or friend of a friend, or..) that knows them. He both makes and leaves a good impression, and it tends to pay off.

He’s met most of the important figures of the world at least the once given his own station, penchant for travel, and social fluidity. While their opinions of each other might range from benign to murderously poor, he can at least arrange meetings when he needs to. He’s even found himself at a brunch with Luciano Camparelli, that one time. He and Vladimir Sierka like to play chess just every once or twice, both to laugh at the obviousness of doing so, and to debate which man made the best choice for attaining power.

Justinian and DeVries:  As noted, Justinian has a basically low opinion of elite culture, with a handful of exceptions. This does not stop him from lunching with Anna DeVries generally every couple of months (they’ve otherwise run into each other at functions). He ensures such things are a pleasant enough experience, and that her appreciation for the handful of novas Justinian has (with some hidden grudging feelings on the whole thing) introduced her to feels genuine tends to make for him showering a few times afterwards.

He has also dated Constantina Zarinovich (“Yes, we dated for a year that one week”, as he puts it). While he views her as an artistic hypocrite (and to a snob, even a benign snob that mostly keeps their snobbiness in check, that is the worst sort of hypocrite), it was important as far as his mega social dance around Narcosis that keeps her from joining the groupings in the Teragen that want him dead, thus contributing to keeping the Teragen largely off balance in his direction. “If she can at some point just tell herself that it’s because I’m so self controlled I’m a borderline eunuch who otherwise only makes cool pragmatic assignation choices, she can move on. She’s not an idiot. If on the other hand it always seems like there’s even a small chance that she just hasn’t managed to get me to take yet, well, I’m a high value challenge, and the dance continues.” It was just around the eyes, but he looked deeply weary when explaining that one.

Still, it was an explosive breakup, and he knew it would be when he rolled his eyes to an angry hour long rant about global politics with “Yes darling, but you’re the on contract hired art gun of a shady multinational corporation. Your assumptions on the fucker to fuckee direction as regards you and ‘the power’ are very off base. I mean case in point.” Things were thrown with mega strength, autonomic reflex force fields kicked in.

It was also why he asked Ismet in advance to run some algorithms on the likely ways Zarinovich would attempt to parody him in art afterwards, have them all made first in appropriately close enough styles and trademark them to hell and back. He then later on quietly mentioned to Anna, as a favour, the degree of odds in his favour vis a vis suing her latest pet right back to the stone age, that with blood in the water, the long, long list of people Zarinovich had either infuriated politically or discarded romantically would come eagerly rolling out of the woodwork. He added a slightly umbraged note about keeping better control of the hired help. Of course she had to have seen them, why, they had spent some time at Dragos corp hq where she was left unsupervised, and this was the woman who managed to escape a blindingly furious China on her lonesome. It’s sad that she wanted to pre empt Justinian wanting to have a sense of humour about himself, sad. You don’t suppose she was sleeping with him this whole time as part of some extended ‘fight the power!’ nonsense she can’t otherwise find ways to express, now that she’s taking your money, do you? All involved works have gone off the market. Some never even made it there. While DeVries is still of course expanding into non-combat areas, it’s slower than it could have been.

Yes, this entire sequence was cold as ice. Nothing forced Zarinovich to attempt to culturally smear him by way of breakup payback. Nothing forced her to sell her soul and integrity to DeVries, while still talking like someone who did not work for the company whose best known face is a gold skull death mask spattered with blood. Nothing forced Anna to start expanding outside of combat applications.

Still, he and Anna do have very nice lunches.

Justinian Dragos and the Teragen: Justinian views the Teragen as a high risk, extended undercover operation that could have killed him at any moment, physically or spiritually, that he barely got out from intact with what he was looking for (“You know how I never seem scared? Yeah. That whole time. Just buried so deep it couldn’t touch me or be noticed.”) Having done so, the Teragen are now only relevant to consider in so far as they might stand in his way about something, how they can be made irrelevant as needs be, or how they can be made use of in the face of some issue or other (and also in that rare, quiet, alone, small hours of the evening sort of way, where he cannot help but think of his father and wonder what might have been).

For the most part (with significant exceptions either due to pragmatism or a particular viewpoint on how Justinian Dragos expresses Teras), the Teragen as a group view Justinian as, to quote the Apostle, “an abomination somewhere between apostate and heretic.” (Justinian immediately had the term “Apostates and Heretics” trademarked up and down, and asked Lynn to find some novox rockers looking for a band name. They’re doing quite well for themselves these days). The idea that someone could experience the chrysalis, then leave the sect, repudiate them, and the chrysalis, was simply not thought to be possible. Even the most hateful, scheming, murderous, introverted, insane Terat, still stays in the group.

This makes it extremely awkward that, like the Directive and the Aberrants, the Teragen also make use of the Sanctuary program. Orzaiz, his people, Narcosis, or, interestingly, Leviathan, will quietly handle such arrangements.

Technically Justinian could walk into a pantheon meeting right now. He’s after all both been through the chrysalis, and showed someone else how to do so successfully. What other metric is there really? Aside from the stress and strife of such an action, he’d simply deeply prefer as not.


Justinian and the Pantheon:  He approached the Teragen as an already potent nova who controlled a multinational corporation. He was never going to be slumming it on the lower end of the Terat totem pole. So yes, he has interacted with the Pantheon at length, and while, Orzaiz even aside, he could still consider some of them as contacts, he is on the whole happy for that whole sequence to be over.

He finds the Apothecary to be an insane, scientific dead ender whose methods are clouded by his own lunacy (Zia just finds it sad Justinian is no longer regularly available to chat up about science. The boy had some solid insights!). He’s met Synapse and was capable of enjoying on a level of pure intellect messing about the OpNet with him (in some ways it gave him some guidance in how to later deal with Ismet). Said more accurately to a man with vastly enhanced mental and social capacity being confronted with various fake identities by someone who only has the former and not the latter, he’s determined Synapse’s identity and his story depresses the hell out of him. Alex is not much younger than Justinian, and the world has been taken away from him. To Alex’s still confused horror, Justinian walked up to a security camera around where his warehouse and simply held up a note “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your datastreams. This is not unfixable. You could experience all worlds. We could try, at least. If you ever really want to try, let me know.” Synapse vigorously puts up a veneer of disinterest about the entire Dragos situation in response.

Shrapnel, the Confederate and the Primacy hold Justinian in deep, angry contempt, and the feeling is largely mutual. With the Confederate, it was even mutual at the time (Shrapnel he just finds depressing). Justinian is mostly indifferent to Geryon, Geryon views Dragos somewhere slightly above Andre Corbin. Geryon grates whatever is passing for his teeth at the time about Dragos being just useful enough to hold back from just trying to smash through his corp HQ and try to pulp him. Geryon’s flair for public commentary has all the same lead him to earnestly curse Dragos out at frequent clip.

Justinian went through all of Leviathan’s hazing in catacomb and sewer depths with an unflinching shrug, then enthusiastically pulled one of his followers into an embrace (“She was fun. She had a sense of energy.” “’She could do exciting things with tentacles’” “You are the last person, considering your reading habits, to make those sorts of jokes Lynn.”) He dated her for a month during Justinian’s Terat stint (the breakup was mutual and amicable for the record, neither of them really wanted any sort of deeper relationship and it was heading in that direction).

As for Leviathan, well, he’s Leviathan, right? Justinian is well aware of Leviathan’s proclivities. Yet all the same, Leviathan gives a fuck about his people, perhaps more than anyone in the Teragen does. He’s in it for them, not for his own agenda. He’s also an inhuman monster, sure, but there is an integrity to Leviathan Justinian respects, and there is a grudging respect back in his direction. It couldn’t be said that they talk regularly (they rarely talk at all in any regular sense these days), but they maintain a respectful awareness of each other, if nothing else.  

The Apostle decries Justinian as the equivalent of the Teras antichrist. Justinian had a t-shirt made, he sometimes wears it on casual Fridays. He found the Apostle hilarious at the time, he finds him hilarious now, he simply made it work for him then (others hate Delormier as well after all). He certainly acknowledges the man is dangerous, but if you can hold yourself intact through his bullshit, he is, to someone like Justinian, wall to wall hilarity all the same. Santiago is lingeringly bitter over the entire Dragos experience, for having viewed him as a welcome pragmatist, as a lesser version of himself perhaps, here to help him make the sane, careful choices. Justinian certainly played into that as thoroughly as he could, alloyed by the understanding that Santiago would not acknowledge the capacity for someone with a similarity to himself to make choices he did not make. How could they possibly? “I did everything correctly with regards that boy!” the Mathematician stormed at a meeting after Justinian’s repudiation of the Teragen. “I’m sure Pompey said the same thing about Caesar,” quipped Orzaiz.

Justinian is deeply wary of Tarik. He would go so far as to have him killed if he thought he could get away with it. That is how wary Justinian is of Tarik. Five seconds into meeting him he realized he was looking at someone doing the exact same things he was, for far darker reasons, and doing anything about it would blow his cover. He’s fairly sure in that sense that Tarik viewed him in a roughly similar way, and did nothing for similar reasons. Technically Tarik and Justinian are now completely irrelevant to each other. For Justinian, that just makes the whole worse, particularly since as regards anything Tarik might do to or with the Teragen, he is now looking in from the outside. He has in recent years screamed warnings to Orzaiz in that sense, who will infuriatingly shrug, clap his shoulder, and smile. He feels like Tarik Ibn Mahmoud is a 52 car pile-up about which he can do nothing but slowly watch happen.

Narcosis is a long, elegant, pointless dance for Justinian Dragos. He flirts when they end up at the same parties, he acts with appropriate “scandalized charm” when she crashes his. He is politesse and sexual tension in varying measures and just the tiniest teasing hints of mutual adoration when needs be. He feels none of it (well, the sexual tension he supposes), but it’s important to dance the dance. It keeps her from committing to any conclusion about him, which helps keep the Teragen off balance in his direction, and thus, most importantly, out of his way. It’s difficult. She is good at what she does. He has engaged in entire other relationships for no other reason than to keep drawing out theirs. He has to remain a high value challenge with a huge reward of “vast mind boggling influence” if the challenge is beaten. He has of course, as related, never taken her to bed (“How do you know you haven’t?” she once teased. “Darling. We both know we’re going to live for centuries at least. Do you really want to carry for centuries that the only time you could get into my bed was by pretending not to be you?” They kept dancing. Literally in that case. It was a very grabby, grindy experience. Lynn refused to let Justinian back into corp HQ until he disrobed, she turned hoses on him, and then lit the suit he had been wearing on fire.)

The Dragos Industries Players Present Justinian and Bounty: A Love Story. “My god, you’re so fascinating!” “So are you!” “We both care so much about things!” “Let’s have sex and babble nonsensically for two months!” “You got it baby!” “Did you say babies? We should definitely have babies! So many babies!” “I’m sorry, you’re talking to the dust cloud outline of me that has been kicked up from how fast I just ran away. I am actually on Mars now.” Lynn and John are still not fired.

Justinian has met Scripture several times and Mal a grand total of thrice. He’s not particularly happy about the encounters. There’s something there, and he can’t really deny that. A genuine wisdom of some sort, an understanding. The two are conundrums, the second far more than the first, even to him. He’s certain that Mal at the very least had to know what he was doing, but he let it happen anyway (and really probably Scripture as well). He can only move forward on a path that in his view, makes all of them irrelevant to each other, and that seems the best way to handle the situation.

Justinian Dragos and Utopia:  Major organizations that are basically legal certainly have official channels through which to get in touch with each other. But that doesn’t mean they see remotely frequent use, particularly when the competitive tension between Dragos Industries and the Project is leagues beyond that between Dragos and Devries (which even with Anna’s recent tentative expansions, really only goes so far. Dragos has met everyone that you’d be likely to meet at the higher end of the social and political scale, from Larangione to Geisha, but largely in a sense of ending up at the same function or conference.

Lynn’s friendship with Athena Boyd is religiously apolitical (and who would question such women on such things?) so Thorn is basically the grudging means through which Utopia might send Justinian a less than official message.

An exception is Maria Villareal. While the Villareals are not close in the way the family Orzaiz has been, they all moved in the same aristo world past a certain point. Justinian’s father dated Maria for a short stretch (no, he was a widower by that point. Justinian had developed enough snark to note to him that if they ever married, he would emancipate himself). This allows for them to interact on a basis of familiarity and with a lack of personal tension, romantic or otherwise. Justinian cheerfully makes use of that Maria knew him when he was twelve and just a bit still thinks of him as the same charming tween prodigy child. She’s still the head of Utopia PR of course, they hardly see each other with any frequency, but the pleasantries there are at least not a veneer over disdain.

Justinian Dragos and the Directive: Having a major corporate headquarters in London would alone put Dragos and the Directive on each other’s radar (the country makes a whole thing out of spurning Utopia, it was fairly easy to slide in and offer an alternative under a tolerably comprehensible corporatist banner). That Dragos Industries is the megacorporation that it is, in the way that it is, makes the Directive something that requires policy and response. Mostly they dance around each other very carefully. There are lunches with someone appropriate just to keep lines of communication open and polite, just every so often. Justinian has even once or twice been asked for his unofficially off the books opinion on something Utopia is doing. But it’s a dance.

It’s certainly nice that Justinian has repudiated the Teragen and positions himself as a rival to Utopia. He’s still a considerably powerful nova with global scale influence. On the other hand, Justinian Dragos has repudiated the Teragen and positions himself as a rival to Utopia. Pragmatically, that is at least useful. So information and warnings sometimes every so often flow in either direction, as if a somewhat more positive version of the “enemy of my enemy” relationship the Directive cultivates with elements of the Teragen. And the Sanctuaries are of course useful in their way. It’s still a dance.

Justinian would like for matters to settle into something more reliable and less aggravating than a dance, he dances enough already. He views his avenue into this as finding a way to displace Kuro-Tek as the contractor for the Directive (yes yes, “unofficial contractor”). That company nauseates him anyway, he views it as a corruption of the drive of humans and novas towards progress. He’s not thrilled that they do it out of fear of novas at the end of the day, but the Directive is accomplishing solid strides towards global unity almost despite itself (again, out of fear, yes, but it doesn’t mean the infrastructure that results couldn’t be useful). He’d like to have more of a say in how they do that, he’d like to show them humans and novas are in this together. It would be easier if he could do that from within, not without.  

Justinian Dragos and the Aberrants: They use the sanctuaries in the same unofficial ways various others do, he has the channels for meetings if he needs them. He felt Corbin had a certain ludicrous rough charm, the few times as they had previously met. An attempt to define what secrets Utopia hides should be right up his alley. But Dragos is ultimately personally standoffish about the faction, even if some of them have a sense of promise about them as far as his habit towards mystery archaeology. He is aware of the notion of Sophia Rousseau, but even without her, he looks at the organization, the degree to which it has coalesced, even loosely, in short order, and he ponders to himself “What if, for some reason, I, or someone at least as capable as me, decided they wanted a secret nova army within the current climate? What steps would I need to take? What would it look like in the beginning?” He considers the various possible answers, he looks at the Aberrants, frowns slightly, and takes a step back. Perhaps he’s wrong. Perhaps he’s overthinking it. But then again perhaps not.  

Dragos Industries Corporate Headquarters: While prominent branches and corporate campuses include London, Detroit, Taiwan and Belize City, the heart of Dragos Industries is at the rebuilt Mistras, in Greece (“why Belize?” “I threw a dart at a map of Central and South America” “.. seriously?” “No, but I had fun in that split second where you pictured it.” Justinian had in truth via the David Dragos Memorial Foundation negotiated a lasting peace and treaty between Belize and Guatemala, and massively rebuilt the infrastructure of Belize City along with the equivalent of storm walls to lessen the impact of hurricanes. It was one of his early prestige charity projects. He’s quite proud of it, even if globally it didn’t get a lot of play. He’s basically a living god in Belize though.)

Mistras is both the beautifully restored and inhabited Byzantine era palaces that function as a UNESCO world heritage site, the large, bustling, high tech community that has grown up around them (though the décor is very age of the empire, it is as if one of those “the ancient society lived and developed supertech” stories), the port that serves them, and the mountain itself. An art style referred to as “Neo-Mosaic” is highly popular locally, and receiving some traction in the wider world. Justinian has in fact dug deep, deep into the mountain “deep enough for if they try to nuke us anyway” “they?” “you know, they” “… sometimes you and John are poor influences on each other”. Given his family ties to the area, he has indeed built many mansions inside his father’s house (his father is also entombed within the mountain. There is a public grave outside it as a “see who would try to desecrate it” sort of thing). The truly secret projects, sanctuary chambers, and his room of file cabinets, white boards and mysteries are buried deep, accessible largely through shafts that require Justinian’s powers to move metal rooms or discs along. There are certainly many public labs, libraries, offices, the like, and really almost all of what Dragos Industries does on site as a corporation is fit for public view (though obviously for reasons of corporate propriety, one keeps what one does to oneself as best one can until ready to unveil or discuss it). Both community and mountain are designed between soothing ergonomics and ornate Byzantine panache, working to integrate the two. Domes are fairly popular. Monorails run along mass mosaic decorated rails. There is a richness to Mistras even to its smallest place, in a sense of the lushness that permeates it, that even a waiter might feel they are a palace unto themselves.

There are also very extensive and serene gardens for such as need a break from that kind of thing.

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And hah, wow. Session 3 just dropped a drama bomb.

Session one had a mysterious nova warp into a business meeting at Mistras corporate HQ and beg for sanctuary, immediately before being struck down by an implanted suicide device that utilized bio-organic technology on a highly sophisticated level.  Immediate crisis intervention by one of the world's greatest nova physicians was barely sufficient to stabilize the unknown nova, and could not rouse him from his coma or repair the damage to his memory.

Someone then tried to kill the unknown nova by opening up a Warp portal directly above the Mistras atrium and firing an anti-tank missile through it.  After dealing with that problem Justinian Dragos ordered the faking of evidence that the nova was dead, to forestall further attempts. Pooling all our respective talents together had us create evidence with a ridiculous # of sux, making it a flawless forgery.

We then went to the Directive and traded this data, warning them of the rise of a major new unknown threat that was apparently enslaving novas with mysterious blacktech cortex bombs, in return for their aid in tracking down the threat and identifying the completely unknown(!) nova.

A side topic was raised of Utopia's new ravenous acquisition intiative in the humanitarian and charity sector, as well as the mysterious upcoming release of Triton Biomedical. And then the Directive representative informed us that their own intel-gathering efforts had ID'ed what was coming.

In several weeks, Utopia (in this world) will make the announcement that they have had a breakthrough in overcoming nova infertility, and that while the treatment is still long-term and uncertain, there is hope.

To be quite frank, I am legitimately in awe of the sheer supervillain genius of this move. In one single stroke it completely rehabs Utopia's PR crisis, makes Slider look like an even more incoherent moonbat than before, reduces teh whole Aberrant crisis to insignificance, reduces the major Teragen recruiting drawing card to zero ('Wanna have kids? Come see Bounty. Nobody else can do this for you!'), and majorly ups the # of novas willing to hitch themselves to Utopia. The cure doesn't even have to work -- so long as a selected few novas are cured, everybody else will gladly get in line and wait for their chance at the fertility lottery. After all, research continues! The odds will only improve!

They just bought years of extra time and turned a gaping minus into a plus. Metaphysician's version of Proteus is clearly like a billion times smarter than the canon version, and I am now legitimately worried at just how tough the opposition is gonna be.

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  • 1 month later...

We missed a couple of weeks due to player availability, but we had a session yesterday.

High points:

* Dr. McGowan met with her family -- her problematic, politically ambitious, somewhat connected to organized crime family -- to reconnect and bring them up to speed on her foundation's joining with Dragos. Of course, they immediately started trying to leverage her to take advantage of that. We also found out that her (baseline) sister Charlotte just got elected to the US Senate on an anti-Portman, anti-Utopia platform, and is looking forward to trying to leverage that plot complication.

* Meanwhile, Justinian Dragos hied himself off to the fanciest penthouse restaurant in Rio de Janeiro -- the sort of place that had "exquisite food, menus with no prices, and staff who would be offended if you tried to pay for your own meal as opposed to having your people settle the bill later", as the DM put it, along with seating sections for their guests' entourages -- to meet with his (edit) old friend Raoul Orzaiz and sound him out on various things. One of his inquiries was regarding the exotic hardware that we were attacked with, and Synapse's possible aid in running it down. As a favor, he clued Orzaiz in on the upcoming Utopian fertility revelations.

(Player's note: I'm particularly amused at the subtlety here. So long as the Holland/Burrows hand-off remains unknown, which it almost certainly will given the sheer paranoia setup in that back channel and how briefly and invisibly they met -- in a bank vault, no less -- Utopia's counterintelligence will finger Dragos as the origin point of the leak, not the Directive. So their internal mole hunts will be looking for the wrong person, in the wrong place. And this doesn't put us any further in the hole than we already are, given that Utopia and Dragos Industries are already very very leery of each other. So the Directive is getting the word out to cause trouble for Utopia in a way that totally can't backsplash on them or compromise their source. I'm still not sure if this was deliberate on their part or just serendipity, but either way, works for us.)

Much less sanguine was Orzaiz' observation during this convo, and his own estimate of how future events might or might not develop:

"[I believe that] This will be coordinated with a push for greater Utopian influence over all aspects of nova life, especially any that are truly independent. If they are abandoning their effort at population control, long term they will need to have control of the population, so to speak."

* And finally, John got an anonymous, Directive-sourced email in one of his election dropboxes.

'Here's all we could find. Hope it helps. -B'

And a slim government dossier with 'Tiago Prestes' Last Known Address: 'Brazil', at the top.

So, now we have a starting point to look for re: the ID of mystery nova.

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As a random bit, I found the gamelog wherein Pendaran described briefly some of what is on his secret conspiracy tracking whiteboard kept in the hidden room in the hidden section of the hiddenmost depths of the mountain fastness underneath Mistras.

The interior is like something transplanted from a Victorian era museum, as far as the decor and use of brass fittings and glass cases, along with the style of the many, many file cabinets and bookshelves. There's a workstation, on which currently rests something that looks like nothing so much as the Antikythera mechanism, disassembled into pieces. A particular corner of the room is dominated by massive particle boards with article clippings going back decades, maps, and thumbtacks with red threads going from one to another and looping back in a dizzying and ornate and not exactly sane seeming weave.

There is, suspended from wires, what looks like a fender from a 1980s public bus with a handprint in the steel. An affixed sign in red states "1982!!!!" A sign affixed to the sign states "These exclamation marks are for emphasis!"

Some of the cases hold contraptions in various states of age and ruin and notes of indecipherability.

There is a stand with a framed, faded photograph of a group of people labeled "The Aeon Society for Gentlemen, circa 1923" There are blown up images of the picture around it, with various circles, question marks and notes on the figures within it.

There are a pair of notched old west handguns in surprisingly good condition and a rust covered steel target marker with various shots on it and a note of "documented accuracy impossible to reproduce under any condition not involving enhanced gunman".

Dominating everything centrally is a whiteboard, with several adjoining whiteboards, on which there are many notes and arrows.

Speculations on modern conspiracies, assassinations, political manipulation, hidden science, magnet fastened up photos of various modern figures both noteworthy and obscure with notes beneath them and arrows going off from them, various of the arrows will in some cases point to a word "Proteus?" or "Proteus." or "PROTEUS!"

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  • 3 months later...

And, our gaming has been irregular as hell since then but we've had a couple more sessions.  The highlights...


* The trail of Tiego Prestes, the man who died at the start of the game and who we just got the Directive file on, ended at his last known employment -- two years ago, he worked for a Brazilian nova druglord named Vitor "O Jaguar" Diaz. Since Dragos Industries can absolutely not afford to be spotted following this trail, and the people who killed Prestes already knew who he was, we had to find a way to talk to a powerful nova criminal in the heart of his own fortress in the Brazilian favela without anyone knowing.  And by 'we' I mean 'John Holland, this being part of his job'.  So, one moderately difficult ninja mission later that involved using a eufiber wingsuit to BASE jump off a Rio skyscraper and glide to the roof of Diaz' mansion, I waited for the guy inside his own secure office and had a chat with him.  A perfectly civilized chat with total underworld courtesy involved on both sides.  Very John Wick atmosphere. 

* Prestes was apparently a baseline then, who attempted to betray his boss to the Heaven Thunder Triad, got caught, and had to flee.  And was caught by men hired by Diaz under conditions that should have been fatal, but he somehow escaped. It's theorized by us that this was the circumstances of Prestes' eruption . So I now John has to follow the trail to the Heaven Thunder Triad.  Who hate him and want him to die.

* Dr. Rose got the Christmas party invite from hell -- from her sister, the US Senator-elect.  So, high-end US political swamp creatures abound! That Dragos is probably going to be her sister's date is only complicating things.

* Meanwhile, back at Dragos HQ, the weapons used in the attack were indeed a DeVries design... but the missiles actually shot at us were apparently pirate knock-offs made in a factory ultimately owned by Rashid bin-Muhammed Al-Nasir, the patron of the Janissaries. Dragos had to trade a favor to the Teragen to get Synapse to run down those clues for us.

* And then came the distracting news -- a sudden N! media push about sightings of 'the notorious nova criminal Dr. Worm sighted using Dragos' Sanctuary program to hide from the law'. Given that Dr. Worm in our continuity has no outstanding warrants in US jurisdiction, we figured this was a distraction/spoiling attack against us -- after all, we can hardly prove Worm is not using one of Dragos' Sanctuary safehouses except by opening up the records of who actually is using them, which defeats the purpose.  Our hasty investigation, however, revealed that Dr. Worm fell off the planet several weeks ago, which puts a much more suspicious turn on this sudden media push.

* Which is why Justinian Dragos is now setting up a ultra-secure meeting with one of the last people on Earth he enjoys talking to - Sophia Rousseau.  The sort of ultra-secure meeting only nova demigods can set up, the kind where meeting arrangements are made via totally anonymous burner phones through seven proxies and involve both parties Warping out to a random set of GPS coordinates at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on ten minutes' notice to avoid being followed, tracked, or monitored.

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  • 1 year later...

So, as the GM, thought I might poke my head in and mention that, the game has continued, and a lot of stuff has happened.  Some highlights:

-A "sidequest" involving Rose's friends in MSF leads to Rose and John rescuing some elite warfare watchdogs from a kill team in Africa

-The meeting with Sophia Rousseau went. . . well, it went.  Leading to a meet up with Dr Worm, that did not go so well.  It involved Dr Worm being wrapped in several tons of structural steel and being dragged into the sky above NYC

-The party got to meet several of Rose's relatives at the charity banquet.  It was not love at first sight ( well, okay, for Senator Charlotte McGowan, it probably was once she got a look at Justinian, ahem ).  Her grandfather in particular drew Justinian's carefully calibrated megasocial ire, for being a more or less complete monster.

-The biggy:  At the party, an agent of their unknown enemy was caught spying on them, and captured.  This lead to an exchange of secret messages that started with threats of doom, and ended with pleas of forgiveness.  Things got more depressing once they interrogated the prisoner, who seemed a nice enough woman underneath the fanatic dedication and/or absolute indoctrination.  She really seems to want to help and reach out to them, there just are some things she can't say or even hint at because those secrets matter more than her life.  But hey!  They just received what looks to be a secure communications device from their unknown enemy!  It seems like he(?) wants to talk more substantially!

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