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Mutants & Masterminds: The Unlikely Prophets - Prologue: Sandra Murphey - Dark Corners


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Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.

- John Ruskin

It was a new day.

It was raining in Seattle, as it often did. She'd have to wear the rain poncho today, if she was going out into the field. Just one more piece of gear to check off, as she went over the list, dressing herself in the full-length mirror.

The outskirts of Seattle were all right. Very little graft, very little crime, very little trouble. People knew their place out there. But the center of the city was like a rotten watermelon that had split open. Lots of homeless. Lots of gangs. Lots of targets. She spent a lot of time in there. It felt like trying to push back an ocean of darkness some days.

She affixed her badge, an Order symbol with rank bars in the lower right quadrant denoting her as a Sergeant. She checked her sidearm and her baton and her stun gun, which were all ship-shape. Outside, the cruiser was waiting, and then Watchmen Central for the Seattle area...

And Russ Peyer. Handsome Russ Peyer. Russ Peyer who transferred in from Los Angeles and still had his tan and seemed pretty sweet on her. Russ Peyer who'd be on shift today.

The future looked bright.

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Andi grinned goofily at her reflection in the mirror. She could deny it to Molly, but not to herself. She was more than a little sweet on Russ in return. Come on. Get rid of that ridiculous grin. You look stupid. Hardly befitting an officer of the Order. A quick glance at the clock took away that grin; she was going to be late if she didn’t hurry.

A quick dash downstairs to the garage preceded her pulling the cruiser out onto the street. She kept Russ firmly out of her mind as she drove the twenty blocks to Ralph Torren’s house. Ralph was her partner, a gruff but steady guy. Andi was happy to have him at her back. He was the kind of guy who you knew would be there, no matter how rough it got. “Yer late,” he grumbled as he got in the car.

“Be accurate, Torren. I’m close to late,” she retorted, glancing at the clock, just as it flipped over past the time they were supposed to meet. “Now we’re late.” As Ralph grunted, she hit the gas, pulling out and coming close to cutting off a van full of kids and a soccer mom. Tossing him a grin, she dared him to point out that near-indiscretion. It had been a bit reckless, but she was in a good mood. She wanted to be a little wild.

It was almost a shame that she was the person who stopped wildness.

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The ride to the station was uneventful. The only standout was when Ralph tapped the siren as they drove past a group of kids loitering on a step. They got the hint, and scattered.

They pulled into the station house, which was well maintained and very cleaned. They walked past a riot truck, CCTV cameras on the top behind bulletproof glass, so that they could take pictures of everybody at a riot and keep them on file. They walked past a poster which had Archon proclaiming that Order Starts with You. They checked in at the front desk, with the desk sergeant Molly Poole, who beamed at Sandra. Ralph took the cue and left them alone, heading into the locker room.

"Andi! You lucked out. You and Ralph are going into the inner city!" After a moment, Molly realized this might not sound like good news, so she added "And Russ'll be there!"

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Andi tried to play it cool, especially since that old fart, Morrison, and his partner Pike were walking by the desk. Morrison was old school and didn't think that women belonged on the force. Pike was young and impressionable, and seemed to follow Morrison's lead on anything he did. "Peyer's a good one to go out with," she said, and only then realized the double entendre. As her cheeks pinkened, Morrison snorted and mumbled something under his breath.

"Thanks, Molly," Andi said politely, while her eyes asked her friend to shut up, for just a little while.

"No problem," she giggled, sure that Andi had meant to say it like that. She leaned forward and whispered, "And I want all the juicy details when you get back."

"Right," Andi sighed, rolling her eyes. Despite wanting to retain her veneer of professionalism, she knew that Morrison was gone and she really wanted to tell Molly off. "Because the most romantic thing I can think of doing with a guy is getting into a firefight with some coke-head teens fighting over a city block of trash and burned out buildings."

Molly just giggled. "Have fun!" she called after her as Andi headed for the girl's locker room. At least she'd get to see Russ before they went out into the field.

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"So what're you going to do after work?"

There were six of them in the van. It was armored on the side, with gun ports and CCTV cameras on the top. The question was asked of Russ by one of his friends, Lee being the name on his badge.

"Dunno. See a movie, I guess." Russ checked the chamber to his sidearm. "Maybe Star Wars."

"I thought you saw that."

"No, I saw the one that was out last year. I go to the new one that comes out every year. Kind of my thing."

"I like the Star Trek movies more, I guess. The guy they got for Kirk this year looks interesting."

"I guess. What about you, Sandra? You got a favorite series? My sister really likes the hobbit movies when they come out." Russ smiled at her a little.

They were riding into the inner city. The mission was deemed 'politically sensitive' so they were to get targets and orders en-route, at about the half-way point. They were coming up on it.

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"I like the Predator movies," Andi replied, forgiving Russ for calling her by her full name. She'd correct him later. "They don't come out every year, but they usually find a great cast for it. And I like the dark visuals. But I always see the Star Wars movies, too." That was mostly because Molly always asked her to go with her to see them. This year, Molly might have to go alone. She found herself smiling at the thought, and because she was looking at Russ, she smiled at him.

They broke eye contact after an energized moment, and Andi had to fight to keep the smile off her face. There was no mistake. He was into her, and she was going to ask him to go out after work, if he didn't ask her first.

She loved the heady days of a new relationship. It was so full of promise and hope.

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"Okay, time for orders."

Ralph Torren opened up a sealed envelope, passing around the papers. "Orders are to go into the building indicated on these. There's a gang that's sprung up over the past few months. Dealing is psychoactives, contraband, usual stuff. But: recently we got a tip, that they've begun religious worship ceremonies."

He let that stay in the air a bit. Everyone knew the Order'd outlawed such things. "Our source says they have knives but no guns. So we'll be nice and give them a chance to surrender. If not... oh well." He shrugged. "Not like there's a shortage of them."

Russ frowned, but said nothing. The others merely checked their guns.

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Andi noted Russ' frown, and frowned herself as she wondered what that meant. It just seemed like such an odd place to frown. Part of Andi's job was finding people who weren't with the program. She hadn't found one in a while, not once all her friends and family knew she was a Knight. She felt a nervous tension as she wondered what it could mean.

Was he a part of the Underground Church? Or was he objecting to killing members of the Church? Or had he forgotten that he'd forgotten to feed his fish? There could be any reason he was frowning, she told herself, and made herself believe it.

She checked her gun, and tried not to think about it. Her job was always easier when she relied on her training and didn't think about it.

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They reached the inner city quickly enough.

Everyone who was sane, scattered off the street once they saw the van. They cruised along to their address in silence, which ended once they reached their destination. A wyoung woman with scars on her arms and a wild look in her eyes ran out into the street, slamming her hands on the hood.

"Hey! Hey! You gotta stop 'em! You're cops, you gotta stop 'em!"

"Fuck a duck - " Ralph got up, grabbing at his taser, and popped the back open. He walked briskly around to the front.

"They got some kinda circle! They're all doped up! They're praying! They got knives - "

Ralph pulled out his stun gun and fired two taser darts into her chest. She convulsed, and threw up, and collapsed to the ground.

"Okay, everyone out! Out now! Weapons free, we're going in!" Ralph looked up wtih irritation at a television set that was out on someone's balcony, showing a reality TV show. "Turn that damn thi - "

Then the image seemed to scramble, as if the signal was interrupted. Then the visual was replaced by the little-seen face of the Order's economic and sociological engine: The Mathemagician.

There was silence as the Mathemagician stared out of the TV set. With a start, Sandra realized that it wasn't just silence on the television. There was silence all around her. And no one else seemed to notice.

Attempts to speak didn't seem to work. Sandra felt a tightness in her throat. And then, the Mathemagician spoke.

who are you?

Then there was a song.

" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344">

To call this song 'haunting' did no justice. It seemed to stop the whole world. Nothing was frozen - the wind blew, the sun shone - but the whole planet seemed to take a collective breath.

The song lasted a few seconds. It also lasted forever. Time lost all meaning in its embrace. The song crescendoed, and built, and crashed to its climax, moving mountains with notes. It faded away, leaving Sandra feeling different. Like everything in the living room of her soul was moved six inches out of place.

why are you here?

The Mathemagician's final words hung in the air. The world started up again.

"-ng off." Ralph waved a gun in the general dierection of the set. Its owner complied, clicking the switch.

"I say again, we are going in! Murphey, Peyer, you're with me!"

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Andi stumbled after Torren, feeling like someone had slammed her between the eyes with a hammer. What was that? What was that? That was the Mathemagician! What did he want with her?

Andi didn't know. All she knew is that she didn't want the Mathemagician to notice her. She didn't want anyone in the Order to notice her unless she'd pulled sixteen kids out of a burning orphanage.

They dashed up the steps of the building. Normally, the teams moving together reminded Andi of a wolf pack - dark, sleek, deadly and focused. Tonight through, she didn't feel any of that - her feet felt like they were encased in concrete, and her knees were weak. Instead of flowing up the stairs, Andi's feet caught the steps and she stumbled. What is wrong with me? She tried to catch herself, but she couldn't get her hand out in time.

Hissing in pain and flushing with embarrassement, she wondered how it could get worse. It got worse when Russ knelt next to her. "Sandra, are you ok?"

"It's Andi," she snapped and pushed herself up without his help. "I just tripped." He looked at her, worried, but she just ran - ran away from the spot where she'd been frightened by the Mathemagician's broadcast and from where she'd fallen.

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The rest of the team, to their credit, were on the ball.

There were a couple of attackers with knives, who decided to run at Russ with their blades out. He double-tapped bullets in the head of each one, expertly. A third one ran, and Ralph hit him with the taser, causing him to collapse.

They swept the area cleanly, eventually coming to wide, locked double-doors in what was once the apartment complex's commons area. Russ nodded, flicking open a miniature torch and cutting through the lock on the doors. Over the hiss and sputter of the torch, Andi could hear... chanting?

"You hear that?" Ralph sneered. "I swear, in about a minute they're gonna have a lot of reasons to pray."

About a minute later, Russ kicked the doors open. What Andi saw caused her to falter slightly.

It was the middle of the afternoon. Yet she could swear that the shadows were thicker in here. In the middle of the room, was a circle, drawn in intricate symbols out of fluorescent inks that shimmered in the dark. And she could swear that the room was just a little bit darker inside that circle.

Trick of the light, of course.

The cultists - those lucid enough to figure out how bad things were - raised their hands, and stopped chanting. Knives clattered to the ground.

"All right, I surrender."

"Sure you do." Ralph tasered the man who'd spoken, causing him to collapse. The taser was one of his favorite weapons. Andi suspected that it was because it left the victim alive - most of the time - and gave Ralph something to do later on when the perp was in a cell.

One of them was still waving a knife around, sitting inside the circle, slicing his thumb open. "Don't stop don't stop we're so close the dreaming is right there - "

Russ raised his rifle. "Drop the knife."

"We need to break through - "

Russ fired a bullet into the man's forehead. He fell over.

And the darkness breathed.

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Andi leveled her gun at the darkness - no, it was Darkness. A living, breathing embodiment of the endless blackness that existed at the beginning of time. This is what Andi knew looking at it, and it was what was being whispered out of that cruel ebony field.

Click to reveal.. (Memory)
It was darker than anything she'd ever seen before; the shadowy cavern that was Uncle Jake's basement was so thick she tried to touch it. It wasn't solid, though. It was just endless and black.

Sandy shuffled forward, her hand outstretched. She didn't want to be down here, but her cousin had dared her, and you just didn't ignore a dare. It wasn't done. So she kept walking, feeling for the wall her cousin said was the goal. She just had to walk it... it was only the length of the house, right? It couldn't be further, right?

Something grabbed her hand, scratching and tearing her skin. Screaming, Sandy fled the basement, fear-struck. She didn't even notice her cousin laughing so hard he peed himself. She just ran, trying to find the light of the summer sun again. Even after she found out that she'd brushed through a loop of barbed wire, she refused to go back down there.

Someone in the room screamed, and Andi jumped.

Her finger jerked.

The Darkness was on the receiving end of that bullet.

Andi heard herself whisper, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."

She wasn't sure it cared.

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The Darkness loomed over Andi. Unnoticed, lying across the circle, a trickle of blood ran across one of the circle's lines...

And the Darkness lunged. It dove straight at Andi.


The confused memory bubbled up, unbidden, in the midst of an inky blackness that filled Andi's vision. She felt a tingling sensation in her torso, and then an indescribable sensation as her arms sent confused signals, seeming in two places at once.


House? That wasn't right...

Suddenly, the darkness cleared. The inside of the building was clear as day. She could still sense that it was dark inside, but it didn't bother her.

Russ stared at her. "Oh... oh God."

House? No. No, it hadn't said 'house,' when it lunged for her.


"Shoot it! Shoot that... that thing!"

"No! No. It's Andi. It went into Andi." Russ stared into her eyes. "She's still in there. I can see it in her eyes. Andi, it's okay, we can get it - "

There was the roar of a semi-automatic. Andi felt several dull thumps slap into her, causing her to wobble, and dear God, her arms, she pinwheeled four of them, she had four...

She looked at Russ. Russ had clasped his hands over his throat. Thick sticky blood was welling out over his gloves.

Just behind Russ, was Ralph, smoking curling off the tip of his semi-automatic. He was staring at her in wide-eyed shock. "A whole clip. It's still standing. Archon almighty."

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"Russ?" Her lungs exhaled, her mouth moved, but it wasn't her voice anymore. It was lower, smoky somehow and only half-familiar. She reached for him as he collapsed, her arms catching him. It was confusing, in that she couldn't remembering dealing with so much input, but natural, in that they seemed to all be aware of one another. There was no confusion or tangling of limbs as she caught the handsome man.

One hand curled around Russ' hand, holding his wound while the other three arms held him. "Ralph, you idiot," she said, her voice unnaturally hollow. "Get the medics."

Ralph reloaded and pointed his semi-automatic at her again. The Darkness within whispered to her in its alien tongue, and Andi knew what to do. No, he's my partner, she told the Darkness.

Enemy. Damaged the Russ-mate-one.

She moved, only partially under her own command. She had a choice; drop Russ or bring him, and so she held him, trying to keep his blood within his body with her hand. Feeling Darkness' determination to live and her own reluctance to hurt her partner, she touched Ralph.

"Die," Darkness whispered to him, using her throat.

Click to reveal..
Mike, I don't know if you want these or not. Here they are if you need them.

Drain, 10 ranks, choosing Constitution

Melee roll: 6 + 19 = 25


Fort Save, DC 20

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Click to reveal..
Ralph's Fort save: 4

Ralph's body was shot through with the darkness. He withered - literally withered - in her grasp, as if he'd gone through ten months of cancer treatment in two seconds. "Hhhh - nnngh - ff - "

She let go. Ralph crumbled like a bag of wet laundry at her feet. The other Knights looked at Andi, then at Ralph, then at Russ. Then they ran.
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She couldn't blame them for running, not with the way that Ralph looked. She wanted to run, but she couldn't flee from the thing inside of her.

Meanwhile, Darkness was rooting around in her mind, plundering her thoughts and memories to attempt to learn where it was and what this world was. She felt its growing horror at the place; it seemed particularly disgusted by the Order, though she couldn't have said why. And she felt it single Ralph out as a symbol of the cruelty and hatred it saw in the Order. Darkness reached toward Ralph again, and this time, it was to kill him.

Andi stopped it with effort. She found that turning and walking away from Ralph meant that Darkness couldn't reach him. He's my partner, she said, as she reached up and turned on her radio. "This is Sergeant Sandra Murphy; I need a medical team, ASAP," she called with her new voice over the emergency channel, hoping a medic was nearby. Russ was going to bleed to death soon without help.

Partner? Darkness didn't seem to understand the idea, and disregarded it as unimportant. He is cruel. And Darkness showed her Ralph, though eyes untainted by the Order's ideal of iron justice. It showed her the unnecessary pain he inflicted on others. It showed her the iron fist of the Order through eyes that were free. It taught her a new word.


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As the Darkness flooded her thoughts with an outsider's perspective on Ralph Torren, the Knights, and the Order, Andi caught a few bits and pieces of the mind behind the Darkness as well. It was murky - fittingly - but she caught a glimpse of Archon.

Archon, more than anything, mattered to this thing... and Archon was afraid of it. Afraid of them, now. She didn't know why.

She gained a keener sense of what it could do. Obviously, it could see in the dark. It could spread darkness like an inky cloud, step between shadows... well, large enough and dark enough shadows, anyways... and drain the vitality out of anything it touched. It could recede, leaving her looking mostly normal.

As Russ grew paler, as Ralph's strength returned, Andi gained a sense of urgency.

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Wait - step between shadows? Does that mean what I think it means?

Darkness again struggled to speak to her, to sort through her words and determine what she was asking. She got a sense of all darkness, all blackness, being one thing, linked together in an infinite continuum. Get us to the hospital, then!

Healing place? Darkness knew that much, but seemed confused on where it was.

Of course, you're a stranger here. Look, it's here. On some level, Andi was giving directions; in another way, she was making herself the center of the universe and pointing to where she wanted the new center to be. And Darkness did all the work, reaching out and pulling them through that inky continuum.

Andi gasped as the world spun; then she was in the shadowed edge of the hospital. Grinning with relief, she hurried for the emergency room. "Hang on, Russ," she murmured, holding him tight with her arms-


She was getting used to them already. The thought was chilling. Shrugging that off, she cajoled Darkness to recede, as he said he could. She felt him lessen somehow, as if he were further away, and suddenly she was struggling to hold Russ with only two arms. Grunting, she made her adjustments and hurried on.

"Hey!" she called the second she cleared the doors. "I have a critical case here." A nurse looked up, then leapt into motion, grabbing an empty gurney for her to put Russ on. Immediately, other nurses and a doctor surrounded her, pushing her back, pulling Russ away. She had just enough time to touch his hand and then he was gone.

She stood in the middle of the waiting room, blood on her hands - one of two for now. Shivering, she looked at the polished metallic wall to the side. She looked similar, but she wasn't the same. Her hair was a little darker, her green eyes now bordering on olive. Even her skin looked... shadowed.

She was shadowed - was a shadow.

The Mathemagician was wrong to ask her, "Who are you?" He should have asked, "What are you?"

She sure as hell didn't know anymore.

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