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Mutants & Masterminds: The Unlikely Prophets - Prologue: Sharatur De Vasch - Remember When


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The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.

- Malcolm Forbes

It was a new day.

The sunrise over the Grand Canyon was worth every dime that Sharatur De Vasch had paid for her house. Grand Canyon Village wasn't too far from the main attraction, but where she worked was the Canyon Geological Museum, which didn't get many visitors - at least, not as many as the Canyon itself, which wasn't getting many visitors either.

Hopefully, that was about to change. There was a new exhibit coming in today. Some rare kind of rock that was being shuttled in from a museum in China that was closing down. It was a rare type of quartz and they'd be one of two places in America that had a sample larger than a fist.

Maybe it'd bring people back.

That's what she told herself, anyways, as she got ready for work.

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Sharatur completes some stretches and loosening exercises. She lets her mind wander as her body goes through the familiar routines. Afterwards, she showers and eats a simple meal of scrambled eggs and bacon before heading off to the Museum. Yesterday a family had come through, and the young boy actually seemed interested in the exhibits themselves, which was a pleasant surprise. The parents had just seemed interested in padding their photo album dvd.

Today the exhibit would need to be unpacked and readied for display; she has been assisting with such duties more and more as the Museum's custodian readied for retirement. She is looking forward to seeing the exhibit, whether it brings in more tourists or not, so she finds herself arriving at the Museum half an hour early.

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"Do not, for the love of Archon, drop that."

Sharatur came in to see a bunch of movers carefully maneuvering something onto a display stand, still cast in styrofoam packaging. They were being supervised by two people: the museum's treasurer Terry Archer (called "Terrible" Terry by no one but himself) and Francis Bain, the curator.

Francis waved at Sharatur. "Shary, come over here, it's just about ready. They're just getting it in place and clearing away the packaging."

"You know where they found it, right? Underneath a martial arts temple. How awesome is that?" Terry was a large man who nonetheless was almost boyish in his enthusiasm. He loved the Order and the idea of superpowers to an almost disturbing degree. To his credit, he did the accounting very well. Not super-well, but who'd want to claim super-accounting as a power?

"Yes, yes, very nice. Yes." Francis' voice wandered off. He turned to Sharatur. "It is an interesting exhibit. I've seen the photos. There's a small natural formation on it that looks intriguing..."

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"Hey Francis, hey Terry. Glad I arrived early!"

Sharatur perked up at Terry's comment. She had not known that, and it intrigued her. Why would--but they were watching, and she could see it would be ready soon. She nodded and smiled to Francis, and considered asking about the formation. She knew she would observing it soon enough however, so she just stood by the display waiting patiently. And if she happened to be standing just a little closer than protocol expected...well, no one was going to say anything, and it would give her a better view. She also kept a cautious eye on the movers, just in case. After all, this was only a job to them.

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Once the piece was moved into place, they gently removed the packaging, and dusted it a bit. Sharatur could see it clearly.

It was a cleaved away chunk of stone with a quartz deposit inside. That wasn't unusual. The deposit was a bunch of different, bright primary colors, which also wasn't... well, it was a little unusual, but not unheard of. But the formation of the layers and the colors formed what looked like a drawing of a fist.

"Yeah, it was underneath a temple. More than that, it was a sorta neutral ground, where people from schools all around China and all over the world would meet and trade secrets. All the stuff you hear about - "

"Terry - "

"Like walking on rice paper and water, and vanishing like the ninja did in that burst of smoke - "

"Just stories, Terry." Francis smirked. "But this is an amazing natural formation. Like the face of Mars."

"Just stories, huh? So the world's not ruled by a guy made out of lightning? And the Country Magistrate wasn't wearing an indestructible ruby suit during his last public event?"

"That's different."

"Uh huh."

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Sharatur relaxed slightly as the artifact was uncovered. She had not even realized she was tense. She frowned; it was like she had expected something to happen. Shrugging minutely, she dismissed the thought in her new distraction.

"No Terry. Of course not." She was pleased that her tone remained patient; they had had this...discussion so very many times over the years. "The ruby suit is just a flashy uniform whose protection is as much its reputation as whatever that material is it's really made from. And a man made out of lightning? This is the real world, not some...comic book! Lightning is simply a visual expression of energy in transition. Having it somehow contained into the shape of a human is not only impossible, it's pointless. Why bother--or why not a cougar, or a car? Now I am sure he has his reasons for wanting to make us believe it of him. I wouldn't care--much--if he pretended he was made of pink cotton candy, so long as he keeps everything running smoothly."

Throughout her speech, Sharatur stepped toward and examined the artifact, being careful not to touch it, or even breathe on it. The formations really did make it look remarkably like a clenched fist. In a fit of whimsy she added, "There's no logic to it. I mean, this rock could just as easily give me 'super powers'. Behold! I am Stone Fist! With my invulnerable Quartz Armour, I am unstoppable! Let evildoers fear me everywhere!"

She paused then, mentally reviewing everything she had said, and decided it was a little too harsh. She apologized, saying "I just get a little frustrated sometimes, the way the whole world seems to bought into the whole thing. What's next? Santa and the Easter Bunny are real?"

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Terry opened his mouth to say something, but Francis shook his head, and Terry subsided.

"Well, whatever, I have to go check this thing in." Terry left for his office.

Francis turned to Sharatur. "For what it's worth, I agree with you, mostly. It could all be smoke and mirrors. But you're young, Sharatur. You're post-Gap. I can remember losing my virginity - don't give me that look, I was young once - but I can't remember who won the Presidency in 1996. No one can. If there's an explanation for that that doesn't involve things I don't like to think about, let me know. I'll sleep better."

Terry had left his door open, and he had the TV on, tuned to the news.

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Sharatur frowned. It was not something she thought about very often, but she did have trouble with that. She didn't remember the past so well beyond a certain point, but then she was just a child then. Just because she could not think of one did not mean there was no logical explanation, of course.

She kept half an ear on the news, not expecting much--so much of the it seemed almost intentionally designed to keep people afraid and depressed, that she avoided it whenever possible.

She was more interested in studying the display, examining every part of it, not just the centerpiece. Sometimes she even made changes to displays; no one had objected, so far.

Superheroes though? I really was absurd.

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Sharatur didn't have long to ponder the query of Francis, however. The door opened. A man in plainclothes was escorted by two men decidedly not in plain clothes: Knights Watchmen, hands resting on their clubs.

"Hello, Sharatur? I'm Agent Kittering. We're the Knights Watchmen. We're here to confiscate your new exhibit."

"What?" Francis glared at them. "Now see here - "

"This exhibit has been flagged. It's not for public display or for public study. You need to ha - "

There was a pause. Sharatur found her gaze drawn to the TV set in Terry's office. 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, Sharatur 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. Sharatur 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 - clocks ticked, people breathed - but the whole planet seemed to take a collective breath. No one around Sharatur noticed the song, just as no one around her seemed to notice the Mathemagician either.

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 her 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.

"-nd it over, right now. We will use force."

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Sharatur froze. "...the hell...?" she breathed. She stared at the TV for a long few moments. It had seemed that he was looking right at her! She was feeling so very odd. And no one else seemed to have sensed anything.

Then the Agent's words registered on her distracted psyche. She looked up and said intelligently, "What?" She gathered herself together, pushing the...hallucination?...aside for the time being, so she could focus on the immediate situation.

"Wait wait, please. Force is not necessary. We only seek to understand what is happening, and why. For example, what does that mean exactly, 'flagged'? Is there some danger? It was submitted to all the standard tests for radiation, toxicity, contamination and so forth before it was released for display, right Francis?"

Sharatur noticed then that she happened to be standing in between the Knights and the artifact. She carefully maintained as nonthreatening a demeanor as she could, but decided not to move aside for now. Perhaps that would give them greater incentive to at least explain what was going on.

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"Right, fuck it. Hit her."

One of the Knights nodded, and fired twin taser darts into Sharatur's chest. She staggered backwards, her body convulsing with several thousand volts, and she crashed into the display...

"We don't "

Time got strange.

As she collided with the quartz, as the current ran between the quartz and her, suddenly she remembered things she couldn't possibly have been taught.

She remembered being taught the ways of the Fivefold Intercepting Fist. How to block and dodge and guard. How to do it from a hundred perspectives, a hundred different minds, all taught the same katas, the same techniques, the same rotes, over hundreds of years...

" have "

She remembered training with the staff, the simplest and best of weapons. It could hide in plain sight. It was in the right hands, as deadly as any blade. And as the knowledge of the staff passed through a hundred hands, all those hands felt like hers...

" to "

She remembered further back, near to the start (the start of what?) where the truly dangerous secrets were taught, because there were dark times coming and someone had to remember. She remembered the secrets of Humility's Tred, to walk so lightly that even the air would hold you. The secrets of the Strike of the Ballista, which would sense a weak spot and punch through it like paper. The secrets of biofeedback, to simply tell the body that it was unhurt, no matter what it was telling her...

" explain "

And further back than that, the most secret technique of all, the first that had been shared: The Step Between Spaces, which could cause you to vanish like a ghost...

" ourselves "

And she remembered two wise old men, burying the stone, which was unmarked by any fist. One of them asked the other why they were burying such a wondrous thing. The other replied, "because the stone absorbs knowledge, and here, it will absorb all we have to teach. It will see we are not forgotten."

" to "

And Sharatur almost laughed, because the secret of biofeedback was easy enough. All she had to do was tell her body that the taser's electricity was merely her body's own.

" you."

Sharatur regained her footing. The quartz hit the carpet. It bounced, thankfully not shattering.

"So just hand it over. Order's orders."

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"No you don't." she calmly agreed, pulling out the darts and dropping them. Operating mostly on autopilot now, while a large part of her psyche quietly gibbered and drooled, she added, "But you could have. And maybe you should have. So what did you mean exactly by 'flagged'?"

She strove for control, to regain her center of balance. Nope, not a chance. At this point, it was taking all she had just to keep her trembling body upright!

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"What the fuck - how did - "

The Knight stared blankly at Sharatur. The other one did as well, before raising his own taser...

Far too late, however.

Originally Posted By: OOC
Click to reveal..
Knight's Initiative: 14

Sharatur's Initiative: 22

Sharatur may act before the Knight does. Sharatur, what is your action?

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No. No. No. This was...it was...it was too much. Too fast. She couldn't deal with it, it was too overwhelming, she needed time, some time to deal with it, find her center, figure out what the flying fuck was happening to her!

A way presented itself to her. A way to gain that time. She could just...leave. Her battered psyche gibbered again, protesting the impossibility of it all, but she just didn't have time for it!

She did have the presence of mind to grab the artifact first, at least. Then she took a ste--

--Wait. Oh God. Francis. She couldn't just leave him to these...these thugs. She gauged the distance; it was too far to get to him before they could react. But then that...way...opened up for her again.

She didn't think about it. If she thought about it, she'd freak out. She just stepped behind Francis. The startled Knights tried to track her with their weapons, but by the time they had taken aim at her new position, she had already grabbed Francis and stepped away.

Taking him with her.

Not having any time to think about it, she just went to the safest place she knew nearby: her own 'office'. It was literally nothing more than a converted broom closet, but she knew she was lucky to have it at all. How many museums bothered to provide a mere tour guide with an office of her own? And there was enough room--barely--for the two of them.

It was a good thing her (tiny) desk was behind her. That gave her butt something to fall on when her legs finally gave out from shock...

(OOC: That should all be one round: Move Action to pick up the artifact, Free Action to teleport to Francis, and another Move Action to teleport again to her office--which should be within range and a place she knows very well. If that isn't kosher, let me know and I will revise accordingly.)

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Francis staggered back. "What - how did - "

He had the presense of mind to not shout, at the least. He just stared at Sharatur. "We - just a second ago we were in the exhibit hall. What are we doing in here?" He kept his voice low.

Outside, Sharatur heard muffled shouts. Something about fanning out.

"Where's Terry? Is he safe?"

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"I don't know! Just...just give me a moment, okay?" She paused, fighting to regain her center. But again, there was no time, because "...Terry? Oh shit. You don't think they'll hurt him, do you? He wasn't even in the room!" She asked with some hope...but not a lot of conviction.

She could not--Terry could not--wait for an answer. So she didn't. She pointed to the corner where her 'mop' sat in its metal bucket, and ordered Francis to "Stand there and don't move!", then simply stepped to Terry's office--or tried to. She had been there many times during her years at the Museum--in fact, there was probably no place in the entire complex that was unfamiliar to her. But was it familiar enough?

She was about to find out.

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Sharatur blipped into Terry's office. Terry was here, bent over his desk, his hands behind his back. One of the Knights was here too, holding him down.

"You tell me where she went or so help me I - "

He looked up at her. He blinked. Then he went for his gun.

Click to reveal..
Knight's Initiative: 15

Sharatur's Initiative: 11

Before Sharatur could act, the Knight pulled his gun and aimed at her, pulling the trigger.

Click to reveal..
Knight's to-hit with the handgun: 20

That hits Sharatur's defense if I'm unmistaken. Sharatur must roll a Toughness save vs. DC 18.

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Sharatur managed to twist her body to one side, quite literally dodging the worst of the bullet. And suddenly, she had had enough. She appeared beside the Knight, shifted her focus into pure offence, jumped into the air, and kicked him in the head. At the last minute, she pulled her strike enough so that she hopefully knocked him out instead of killing him.

"Terry, are you all right?" she asked quietly, glancing down at him as she eyed the Knight.

Click to reveal..
I hope I did this right. ; )

Sharatur's Toughness Save: 1d20+10=30

Sharatur's Attack: 1d20+10=26

Nonlethal damage against the Knight, attempting to knock him right out. Shifted my Focus to Enhanced Martial Arts before the attack.

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Click to reveal..
That's a hit. According to mook rules, he is knocked out.

The Knight flew backwards, bouncing off the door and sliding down. Terry struggled to his feet. He looked Sharatur up and down.

"That was awesome! You just poom! and he was like fwuh! she he pulled that gun and choom choom and you're like woah and then wo-pai! and your foot was like schwunch! and he flew back and - " Terry stopped, as he heard footsteps outside the door. "Uh, I think the other guy heard the gun go off."
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Sharatur just wanted to curl up somewhere and try to figure this out. The part of her that still gibbered and babbled that this was all flat-out impossible was shrinking in the urgency of the moment. She doubted that was a good thing.

There was no time.

Sharatur did not even acknowledge she had heard Terry. She tried to gauge the Knight's footsteps, then simply stepped behind him, this time going for a simple flat-palmed smash to the back of his head, hopefully knocking him out too.

Click to reveal..
Sharatur's Perception roll to try to hear his position: 1d20+11=30. She should be able to jump blindly if necessary.

Sharatur's attack roll: 1d20+10=19.

If that knocks him out, and she did not have to move into melee range after teleporting, she will then step back beside Terry. If her action has ended the fight, she will simply grab hold of Terry without a word to him, and take him back to Francis.

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