Spybreaker (Hero)

 

spybreakerCode-name: Spybreaker

Full Name: Col. John Schneider

Faction: Supreme Alliance

“We need more!” demanded Professor Llusk. A thin, older man with receding hair framing a shrewd face, he did not easily accept dissent to his demands.

His younger colleague Van Beek looked on impassively as the four-star general standing before them attempted to frame a reply, “We-.”

“I will heed no argument General Lucas. We need more subjects, and we need the best! This chaff you send is not satisfactory. The process is near-ready, but it will take the right kind of subject, a very special kind of man prepared to sacrifice all to survive something that will make him like a god amongst men,” demanded Llusk in his heavy accent. It was one that Lucas could never place, but something about it unnerved him, even as a decorated war hero and man of noted valor.

spybreaker-page-001 “Be careful with your tone professor, these are brave patriots you are talking about,” replied General Lucas, “But I have compiled a list of the best of the best. If any man fits your criteria it will be one of those if they volunteer.”

“Oh, they will volunteer,” said Van Beek with the merest hint of a sly smile as his colleague Llusk straightened up imperiously beside him, “for what man does not wish to embrace greatness?”

***
“Ten, hut!”
Colonel John Schneider stood to attention with the rest of the men in his training platoon as the meanest drill instructor the Army could produce barked his order. In this place, in this camp, ranks were meaningless. There was one purpose for all of them, and that was to prove themselves worthy of Project: Omega. If that meant being drilled into the ground, Schneider would meet that challenge as surely as when he charged enemy positions during the war.

spybreaker-page-002Days passed. Assault courses followed day and night runs, calisthenics sessions and maneuvers. Physical activity was interspersed with tactical and strategic assessments. There was no let up. Each day the number of men diminished as more washed out.

Within one week the number remaining in the group was halved. Within one month it was one quarter of those who started. Finally, a day passed with no washouts, then another. After one more week of grueling challenge the group remained stable. Schneider was tired, but focused. He listened carefully as the two scientists addressed all of the men. One had a peculiar accent he could not be sure of, the other a soft New England drawl.

fcl_supremealliance-page-001The egg-heads made it clear that what would follow was highly dangerous to each test subject and that any man could back out there and then and return to their parent unit. None wavered. Then the procedures began, and with them, true pain the like of which none of the men had ever known.

First there came the pills, and a week of nausea and painful muscle cramps followed, prelude to days of nerve-shredding agony which Schneider could not articulate in mere words. Perceptions were distorted. He could hear a spider pad its way up a wall. He felt as though he could discern every single fiber woven into his fatigues. A nearby dripping tap was a cacophonous roar.

When he emerged from days lost in a miasma of hypersensitivity, he saw so few fellow participants remaining. Fear threatened to grip his soul but John pushed the emotion down, this was time to be a valiant soldier. The final treatment still awaited the handful of survivors.

***
One month later, General Lucas stood beside the two scientists, Van Beek and Llusk. The room was alive with murmurs from the various War Department big-wigs who filled it.

“We should not be celebrating failure,” rasped Llusk.

“Failure, professor?” began the general, “Where you see failure I see noble sacrifice by courageous men to give this country a new edge in war. I see success with our man. You wanted the best and he has faced every challenge and exceeded what was asked. We have what we wanted and more.”

“We could have had an army of Supremes,” lamented Llusk.

“In this man, we may have created an army,” said Van Beek, with something not unlike a sneer in his voice.

spybreaker_smlThe attention of those present was called. The lights dimmed, and black and white footage began rolling, displayed onto a large screen. There was no sound except the whirring projector. A title declared ‘Project: Omega’ which was followed with a montage of images of a lone man assaulting an enemy base. One by one he knocked out and neutralized the soldiers guarding the compound, his lithe movements methodical in his systematic dismantling of defensive positions. Bullets bounced off his shield as he effortlessly made his way to his objective, the main compound building. When he exited, there as no-one to slow him down or to try and stop him. The film reel ended and the room was silent, the onlookers awestruck by what they had seen.

“Gentlemen, we give you the future of warfare,” said Lucas to the crowd, gesturing toward a heavy door. The door opened and through stepped an athletically-built figure dressed in patriotic red, white and blue, his head protected by a close fitting helmet. On his left arm he carried a shield, emblazoned with a star the lethal points of which overhung the main shield body. He stood proudly to attention, and all eyes turned to him.

“We give you, Spybreaker.”

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Rosie ‘Baby’ Rude (Hero)

rosie-rudeCode-name: Rosie ‘Baby’ Rude

Full Name: Rosalind Beatrice Rude

Faction: None

The city felt like hell on Earth. Everywhere Rosie looked there was destruction, the skyline ruined. Pillars of smoke filled the air with ash. Fires still burned across the industrial zone. Wave after wave of Monster assaults had been repelled, but at high cost. The pervading sound of sirens signaled frantic activity emergency services activity. At least the Monster alert alarms were silent.

Rosie continued walking; there was work to be done. It was a long hike, but with city transit services disrupted she had little choice and did not want to delay waiting for the designated pick-ups. Reaching the cordon around Golden Plaza she showed her identity card. The priority was to get key defenses back into operation, and so Wilson’s Tower was abuzz, construction crews working tirelessly, twelve hours on and twelve off. The skyscraper was heavily damaged, scarred by acid and fire. Holes pocked its façade. Something huge and green glowed near a top floor, embedded in the building’s side.

Rosie looked up and smiled, watching Lady Cyburn weld steel into place. She then glanced backwards at the sound of a super-heavy thudding footstep, as Captain Hadron loomed large over the scene, a true giant working as a human crane, lifting girders and concrete blocks into position for the hard hats to do their job.

Rosie was part of a team trying to patch up one of the upper labs, and she knew that no-one would object if she started early. A woman in a man’s world, Rosie had to put up will all kinds of comments and jibes, but she had carried on, even accepting their nickname ‘Baby’ as a badge of defiant honor as she was slowly, grudgingly accepted, while working harder than her peers to continually prove herself.

rosie-baby-rude-page-001On the sites, union rules and many safety protocols had necessarily been abandoned in the face of the threat of further attacks. It was a decision that had been explained carefully to each worker and none had backed away – they all wanted to pitch in to protect their city, tarnished mess that it was.

The building was a hive of activity, crews pushing to get labs and workshops operational for the Supreme boffins, others repairing the infrastructure and defensive countermeasures. Even M.O.D. was scurrying about, providing precise schematics and advice where needed. The little robot knew the tower better than anyone.

When Rosie reached her assignment, there were two guys she did not recognize, working hard to put a support in place for the ceiling above.

rosie-baby-rude-page-002Suddenly, from somewhere far overhead there was the sound of tearing metal and smashing concrete, as if the building itself was screaming. Rosie was sure that whatever was, it was plummeting toward the center of the room they were working. She shouted at the two workers to get out. One looked paralyzed by fear. Rosie ran forward to shake him out of it, pushing him away. In that moment, she saw a flash of brilliant green light before everything turned black.

***
Rosie blinked her eyes open, her body a mass of dull pains. She looked around and saw the smiling face of Captain Hadron. She returned the smile weakly, squinting to focus. Hadron looked small. Had he shrunk down to treat her? That was odd. Then she looked around the room. Everything looked small, like it was half the size it should be. Puzzlement made her forget her physical discomfort.

“What’s going on?” she asked, “Did the other guys make it out?”

“Try and relax,” replied Hadron gently.

“I can take it, whatever it is, don’t worry,” said Rosie firmly.

“I am sure you can,” said Hadron, musing for a moment before continuing, “You saved those workers. Well done. Best as we can tell, you’re okay too. Different, but okay.”

“Different? How? In what way?”

“Look at you. Look at your body. Look at me. Look around. You are bigger now, taller with proportionate increase in mass. Your skin was temporarily purple. Whatever crashed through the building was leftover matter from a Monster attack. We thought it was secure, but it was too high up in the tower and too large for us to remove, so we had to make a considered decision to leave it in place temporarily. What we thought was inert suddenly became volatile and burned its way downward at incredible speed. You were in its splash zone and it dissipated on contact. Somehow, it seems that you absorbed all the energies of whatever it was. We want to run tests to make sure it isn’t some kind of parasitic transformation, and to ascertain if there are any lasting Ill-effects. One thing we have observed is that you seem to vent energy periodically,” Hadron pointed to scorch marks on the celling, “So I whipped up this, a variant of technology I use myself.”

The Supreme affixed a boxy looking device around Rosie’s forearm, festooned with warning lights and hazard notices. It looked bulky, but did not feel heavy.

newbabyrude1a“I think it’s safe to say you are one of us now,” said Hadron, a big grin across his face.

Suddenly, a klaxon sounded. Hadron moved to a wall-mounted computer screen and tapped on the keyboard below.

“Monsters, in close proximity,” he said, “I have to go.”

“Monsters, huh? Not without me,” said Rosie defiantly.

She climbed off the bed and stood to her new full height, her head almost scraping the high ceiling.

“I need some clothes and something really heavy,” said Rosie, clenching her fists, “It’s payback time!”
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M.O.D. (Hero)

 

modCode-name: M.O.D.

Full Name: Modular Operations Droid

Faction: Heavy Metal

M.O.D. quietly wheeled through the otherwise deserted workshop, dust-pan in hand, sweeping up the remnants of a small explosion from Captain Hadron’s latest energy regulating device. The only sounds from the small bot were the almost inaudible electric whirr of his mono-wheel, and the tinny noises escaping his headphones. On his little personal cassette player World in Flames blasted out ‘It’s What It Is’. M.O.D. really enjoyed the fast, energetic music, but was too shy to let Lady Cyburn know he regularly listened to her former band.

Designated as Modular Operations Droid, chronologically M.O.D. was just a few months old, created by Androida and Dr. Mercury primarily for research support and lab cleaning. They modeled his personality and artificial intelligence on idealized features of a bright young adult human, and his learning capacity surpassed even his creators’ expectations as M.O.D. constantly devoured new experiences. The genial little robot felt that he had been designed for real purpose, and if that was to support the Heavy Metal team, then he would happily play his part.

mod-page-001With the workshop tidied up, M.O.D. did his rounds to make sure everything was put away in its place. He may have been just a small cog in the mighty Heavy Metal machine, but he saw his role as being the one to make sure that the Supremes could focus on the really important matters they wrestled with every day: battling Villains, halting invasions, closing dangerous Quantum Holes and most importantly – serving the public. Right now, most of the team was scattered across Pulp City, trying to contain the crises resulting from the rampage of Monsters which had befallen the metropolis in recent days. M.O.D. inwardly hoped they would all come back safely. He had become part of their team, and as he grew emotionally, he accepted they were inextricably part of him.

As M.O.D. serenely moved down a clean, bright, high-tech corridor, the lights suddenly flickered – once, twice, then darkness. Emergency lighting bathed the interior of Wilson Tower red as an alarm klaxon rang out, signaling an intruder alert. M.O.D. raced to the nearest access panel which slid aside at his approach. From a forearm he extended a smooth metal tube plugging him directly into the building’s main-frame, which still worked under emergency power. He rapidly examined schematics to gather intelligence on the interlopers. Cameras were inoperative in their location, but heat and pressure sensors placed them on the floor below, having exited the elevator shaft. They were approaching the Monitor Room, and the only Supreme in the building– he had to help Chronin!

mod-page-002Sending an alarm signal to Heavy Metal, M.O.D. rushed to the stairwell. Crashing through the door he engaged his shock absorbers to maximum compensation and bounced down the steps with precision. He approached the next door cautiously. Carefully nudging the door open, he peered around it, counting five dark-clad figures moving like shadows creeping stealthily into the Monitor Room.

From within the chamber he could hear Chronin, her voice loud and firm, “I see you, killers, and I will not yield!”

Recognizing there was no time to waste and that he was the only support that Chronin had, M.O.D. raised his energy shields and raced forward. Androida and Hadron had engineered countermeasures to allow him to approach volatile energy experiments, but he suddenly realized they could serve him now to protect against enemy attacks.

M.O.D. rushed into the room, positioning himself alongside Chronin. One attacker lay nearby, felled already. A database search immediately indicated he was a Ninja affiliated with the Jade Cult. Scanning the room, M.O.D. detected two other Ninjas, one masked and in standard garb, the second wearing more ornate accoutrements, its uncovered face an inhuman visage. The final two figures were near-identical visually, but markedly different under spectrographic analysis, one a shadowy double of the other, formed of an energy whose properties were unrecognizable to his systems. The pair looked feral, part-human, and wore clawed gauntlets.

One of the clawed trespassers exclaimed gutturally, “The sword will be reclaimed!”

The masked Ninja approached Chronin and was struck down in a swift flurry of blows. Chronin looked down at her smaller companion with a grim smile, raising her sword and adopting a defensive stance. A multitude of options ran through M.O.D.’S computer-brain in that moment. He analyzed programs and sub-routines, and then had his answer. He re-coded a workshop assistant program in a matter of seconds, pulling scripts from several different sources simultaneously. Ready, he reached out, energizing his ally. Chronin felt a tingle of electricity wash over her, not painful, but invigorating. Her smile widened.

MODFolding time, Chronin unleashed an impossible fusillade of lightning-fast sword strikes as the three remaining Jade Cult approached. First the final Ninja was struck down, then the shadowy double. Suddenly, another figure crashed onto the scene, smashing through a window amid the roar of jet engines. Having heeded M.O.D.’s alarm call, the war-suit wearing Tomcat levelled his weapon systems at the remaining invader. The feral half-man glanced around the room before seeming to melt into the shadows.

“It is not over,” said Chronin thoughtfully as she turned to M.O.D., “But thanks to you my little team-mate, it is a battle we can face another day, together.”

“T-team-mate,” stammered M.O.D., a vocal sub-routine glitch as he processed the recognition of her words.

Tomcat slapped M.O.D. on the shoulder, “Welcome to Heavy Metal, buddy!”

 

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Bigfoot (Hero)

 

bigfootCode-name: Bigfoot

Full Name: Doug Behr

Faction: None

 

A twist of the throttle and the big old bike roared even faster along a deserted back road. Its powerful, muscular rider ignored the wind that whipped against his exposed russet fur, his focus fixed on only one thing – going home. To his left darkness was coming, and another kind of darkness lay ahead. He felt his jaw clench tighter as he sped on.

Bigfoot-page-001His mind wandered as he rode. He had carved out a life where others looked past his freakish appearance, a quiet life where he worked hard and contributed to his community. He lived among people who accepted him just as mom and dad had when they adopted him, rest their souls. Even the nickname he had acquired when he settled across the northern border was one he took pride in. His friends in the small Canadian town where he had lived for the past two decades had called him Bigfoot, and he embraced it because it fit. Now though, the past was catching up with Pulp City, and that meant he too was within its grasp.

So much of Bigfoot’s life, his own history that he knew, he simply regarded as ‘weird’, but he had moved past all that and learned to embrace who he was and to leave those mysteries alone. It had caught up with him in recent weeks, and that is why he now rode his way back.

Bigfoot-page-002It had started with an itch at the back of his mind. A mild irritation he could not ignore. Over days it became worse, like some kind of mental buzzing, almost as if an insect was in his brain. Within a couple of weeks the buzz seemed to make some kind of sense to him, almost as if words were being spoken to him: “They have found it”. An image formed with those words, which were spoken over and over, of a creepy-looking masked face with six jeweled eyes. Bigfoot was not yet sure who it was that was somehow communicating with his mind, he left all that prospect of Supreme stuff behind when he left Pulp City, but he could not ignore the message. Someone was digging into something that was best left buried. He was comfortable with who he was, he did not want anyone unearthing how an infant creature was found at the old paper mill, and nor did he care to learn more. The hidden monsters of the woods were better left alone. He was done with the past, but the past did not seem done with him. Whoever they were, they surely wanted those secrets for their own gain, their own power.

He saw a sign exclaiming twenty six miles to Pulp City. He was getting closer now. He gunned the engine harder.

 

Suddenly he saw twin shapes ahead. Bigfoot skidded the bike to a sideways halt, and squinted as his eyes adjusted to the twilight. The figures were monstrous amalgamations of mechanical exo-skeleton and armor with a moist, fleshy-looking substance visible at their joints and on their misshapen faces. Each of them clutched an ancient looking spear – they were ready for a fight. Bigfoot kicked down the bike’s stand and let it rest. He stepped off, never taking his eyes off the strange figures. With an easy motion he reached over his back and grabbed his trusty axe from its sleeve. He had no doubt the peculiar things in front of him were connected to the message he had received, connected with those seeking to uncover those old mysteries. Bigfoot rolled the axe handle in his grip before bounding forward. These things did not know who they were messing with.

 

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Tekkna (Hero)

 

tekknaCode-name: Tekkna

Full Name: Erika Mitros

Faction: none

Beneath a purpose-built university building in Greece, Erika Mitros blew on her coffee cup to cool it down as she sat waiting outside a climate-controlled vault full of antiquities. The professor was late. The professor was always late. Professor Adam Stamos was handsome, charming and brilliant, but time-keeping was not one of his strengths. Still, she could tolerate that in the name of being his lead researcher.

Minutes passed, many minutes. When Erika realized she had been waiting for almost an hour she prepared to leave. As she stood, Erika heard a commotion from the corridor leading to the vault. She saw Adam and a security guard running toward her. Shots rang out and Adam stumbled as the guard fell to the floor. Adam ran on, clearly injured. Blood seeped through his jacket and shirt as he clutched a hand to his wound.

Tekkna-page-001“Erika! We must escape!” he panted, as she saw two armed men approach, both dressed in dark suits.

Adam frantically pressed the code for the vault, leaving bloody fingerprints on the keypad. A hiss followed and he and Erika tumbled through the door. She glanced over her shoulder as the two men advanced. Suddenly the gunmen realized what was happening as the vault door began to close but they were too late to stop it.

Inside, Erika and Adam sat on the floor. Already her boss was looking wan and pale. He looked up at her as she pressed her hand against his wound.

“Erika, you must listen, we don’t have much time,” he said, words catching in his throat from the pain.

“We need to get you out of here,” she said, ignoring his plea, before continuing, “Who were those men?”

Tekkna-page-002“Cultists. True believers. Men who sold their souls in the service of an ancient power. Agents of the Forgotten.”

As she listened his words made no sense. She wondered if Adam was already delirious from injury and blood loss.

“We have little time,” he continued, coughing as blood specked his lips, “I don’t have much time. Here, take this.”

Adam pressed a circular metal item into Erika’s palm. On it were etched various sigils and Greek characters. Erika gasped as she realized that there were several wheels on the disc’s surface that rotated with her touch.

“The gift is within you,” coughed Adam, “That I have always known. Use this and decode the Scroll of Daedelus, the one that seemed like gibberish when we examined it. It was written in code, and that device is one half of the cipher. You are the missing half of the cipher.”

Adam weakly motioned to a scroll held in a transparent hermetically sealed box, suspended by metal wires from the vault’s ceiling. Erika stood, dazed, and wandered over to the encased parchment. As she approached, holding the disc, its array of characters changed as wheels moved into position. At last she heard a faint click as movement ceased and the circles locked into place. The strange device then shimmered with its own light. Automatically she raised it and spoke aloud the words it translated on the scroll.

The sigils on the scroll flashed through Erika’s mind’s eye. Knowledge dormant within her blood-line was unlocked in a single moment, lost scientific concepts and tekkno-sorcerous formulae tumbling through her thoughts. In that instant she understood it all. She was heir to Daedalus’ Cult Mekkana, foes of Phalanx and Hellsmith, and ultimately the Forgotten. A vision played out of their evil rising once more, and she knew that she had to fight to stop it.

tekknaErika looked down at her hands which glowed with energy. She was transformed, her skin taking on a strange hue and marked by tracery of tekkno-circuits. Her garments had changed into something more fitting to her needs. Erika Mitros was gone, transformed into Tekkna, daughter of the Cult of Mekkana.

She turned then to Adam, but his last breath had been drawn. Her mentor was gone. Raged coursed through her, and Erika reached out with her mind to those of the killers beyond the vault door, each collapsing to the floor from the assault of her ancient curse. With a thought she vanished from the vault, reappearing beside the unconscious assassins. Moving quickly she connected her mind to the personal digital assistant one carried. Effortlessly she sundered its encryption, freeing its secrets. The men had been dispatched by the heads of the Forgotten to claim the scroll, no doubt to usurp her power. The PDA revealed that the agents had travelled from Pulp City. That was her destination. She could do nothing to help Adam now, but would devote every waking moment to the downfall of those responsible for his death. The Forgotten had gained a new enemy this day.

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Youngblood (Hero)

 

youngbloodCodename: Youngblood

Full Name: Eddy Patrick

Faction: Blood Watch
Aroostook County, Maine, a rotting farmhouse. The giant rambling building was overgrown with ivy and lit up by flashes of lightning splitting the purple-black sky. Its ancient decaying form sat alone amongst vast sprawling fields and gently rolling hills.

Standing defiantly against cold driving rain, members of the Blood Watch looked on at the forbidding house before them. For those gathered Supremes, the house was a festering sore in this Maine hinterland. Waiting for V.H.’s signal, Six Feet Under slapped the shaft of his shovel into his left hand, and Blacksmith tightened his grip on his mighty hammer. Ace cocked his pistol in readiness. Moon Coyote loped around behind them, scanning a route to encircle the house, and Blood Rose prepared her mind to transport her Team-mates to their quarry.

youngblood-page-001Battle lay ahead, and the Blood Watch was ready.

What followed was bloody and brutal. The supernatural Supremes stormed the house. Immediately they found what they had sought – a nest of vampires! However the number of blood-suckers surpassed what their intelligence had indicated. From every room poured their enemies, vampires of every type: Carpathians, nosferatu, dhampir, jiangshi, strzyga and countless other variations. This was more than a mere nest, it was a conclave.

No quarter was given. As one undead fell to the Heroes, another flew forward, their forms turning to dust, ashes or flame as each was vanquished without hesitation. Slowly but surely, the Blood Watch turned the tide back, their wounds healed by Blood Rose as they fought relentlessly.

With dawn approaching, the Heroes had to corner the last of the undead to stop them escaping. One by one those who remained were dispatched until just a few were left, trapped in the dimly lit cellar beneath the house. Blacksmith, Ace and V.H. cautiously made their way down the wooden stairs, too narrow to accommodate Six Feet Under’s bulk.

youngblood-page-002Two hissing clawed fiends who leapt from the gloom were dispatched with sword and ghostly bullets. Blacksmith then noticed a flicker of movement. He pointed to the back of the dank chamber where there was a stack of coffins. The three advanced, ready for any threat.

As they approached they could hear a faint mewling, a fearful whimper.

Blacksmith smashed the coffins aside with a powerful swing of him hammer. Of all the things he and his allies expected to see, it was not the sight in front of them. A child-like vampire, looking no more than seven years old, terror in his eyes as the three Supremes towered over him. Ace of Wraiths cocked his pistol and Blacksmith drew back his hammer to bring it down in one fatal blow.

“No,” said V.H. firmly, her tone brooking no challenge, “This child will not go the way of the rest. We had a responsibility to vanquish their evil, and we have. This one is a legacy of that darkness, but we can give him a chance to escape that fate. We take him with us.”

Ace and Blacksmith looked on, surprised and concern battling within both of them as V.H. reached out to the youngling, picking him up as he wrapped his arms around her neck.

batbrat

Is evil born or is it made? Is a 5-year old with vampiric powers a threat or a responsibility? The Blood Watch chose to believe the latter. Unable to slay the young vampire, V.H. believes that if brought up and supervised properly, Youngblood will add much-needed survivability and strength to the Team’s repertoire.

What nobody says out loud however, is that if Youngblood’s powers and hunger are only supernaturally suppressed by one of Blacksmith’s talismans. What happens if that is not enough? The Blood Watch observes carefully, as Youngblood has begun to mature physically and psychologically, his deathless lack of aging suppressed partly by the artefact he now carries with him.

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Wildman (Hero)

 

wildmanCodename: Wildman

Full Name: unknown

Faction: none

 

PROJECT CHIMERA. Twelve months ago, a secret private laboratory housed beneath a decommissioned military base in the north-east of Scotland. A chill wind blew outside and above, while deep underground two scientists sat in a state of the art control room. Monitors provided telemetry on more than two dozen test subjects.

The Chimera research was predated by experimentation on subject alpha under Project Metasis, which had started during World War II and was ultimately abandoned only to be later picked up by a madman. Redacted files about a phase one test stream suggested subject ten was its strongest result, however the developers tried to continually improve him over the time and he eventually died, his prodigious recuperative abilities crashing and failing as his physiology was overwhelmed.

Phase two was commenced years later, under the title of Project Chimera, the repurposed military base its bleak home.

“How are we progressing on phase two?” asked the older of the two men. Both looked weary, clothes rumpled from continuous work with little time to rest.

“Phase two subjects two to twelve show signs of failure. Vital signs are failing and I do not think any will be viable.”

“No second strain assimilation and stabilization?”

“No,” replied the younger man, his response followed by a small sigh.

“Our new principal will be disappointed,” stated the older man softly, his face betraying his anxiety.

“We press on then?” asked the younger man.

“Yes. It will take weeks, but we have no choice. We are in deep, maybe much deeper than you realize.”

A month passed. The two scientists worked around the clock, aided by technicians dispatched by their patron to assist them. The new arrivals were efficient and eerily quiet, focused on the tasks allocated to them.

Both of the scientists looked on with grave concern at the latest telemetry read-outs. The younger man began a running commentary.

“Second strain accelerant activated. Vital signs are holding. Remain holding. Subject fourteen, failure. Subjects fifteen through to seventeen failing, all now crashed. Thirteen is failing. Eighteen failed. Nineteen, twenty both failed. Twenty one through to twenty four holding. Twenty and twenty two crashed. Twenty one and twenty three crashed. Twenty four holding.”

Silence followed for several long minutes.

“Twenty four holding steady, thirteen still failing,” said the younger one as he resumed his observations.

The young man gasped as the vital signs of subject twenty four flat-lined.

“Twenty four lost, I am sorry sir.”

“Wait,” said the older man urgently, “Look there. Thirteen is improving. His vital signs are growing stronger. Normalized range recovered. He looks stable. Press on.”

“Third strain sir?” asked the younger man.

“All of them. All of the strains, of all the beasts, bring every strain on line!” demanded the older man franticly.

“Are you sure?”

“Oh yes, I am quite sure. You see our patron is someone they call the Mysterious Man. I know many think he is nothing but an urban legend, a boogeyman, but he is all too real. It is his money that has funded us all along, and failing him is never a palatable option. We have run out of time, and this is our final chance.”

Subject thirteen’s thoughts swam. Was he a man once? Did he have a name? If he did he had now forgotten. He heard a woman’s voice calling to him, as if carried on a distant breeze. But he was not in the wild, he was here, wherever here was, and he knew the woman’s voice was in his own mind.

She spoke with a soothing, lilting tone. Yet beneath those gently spoken words he knew there lay terrible fury. She was vengeful. Not with him, but with what had been done to him, and the atrocities committed against those poor animals which he sensed lived on in his blood and sinews.

The voice became louder and more distinct. At last he could understand her phrase, repeated over and over again.

“Free yourself man of the wild. Free yourself for me.”

Rage rose within him. He responded to her exhortations. He knew instinctively she was Gaia, the mother-goddess, and her wrath flowed through his veins in the genetic material of countless creatures whose lives had been snuffed out in the name of some despicable science.

He flexed powerful muscles and sundered titanium shackles like paper. He aimed a punch forwards thrusting through the glass of the cylinder in which he had been housed. Amniotic fluid cascaded to the laboratory floor as he pulled sensors and nutrient feeds from his body. He sniffed the air and he saw that he must leave this place, and he knew whom he sought as responsible for it all. Preternaturally keen hearing had heard the name spoken aloud just once: Mysterious Man.

The underground facility was in ruins. Subject thirteen’s violent rampage had destroyed almost-irreplaceable stocks of genetic material. The two scientists lay injured in the wreckage. One of the silent technicians picked himself up from the floor, even as his body showed signs of massive trauma. He drew a firearm from within his coat, and dispatched the two scientists before turning the gun on himself.

Today. Wildman has arrived in Pulp City. He has that name now, acquired as his reputation has begun to grow, and he is no longer subject thirteen. He is the Wildman, and he is the willing agent of mother-goddess. She bids him find allies in this place – the father and daughter of the green, the avatar of the sun, the redeemed man of stone.

He will do this, and he will find the Mysterious Man, and he will make that monster pay. The beasts live on within him, their rage kept in check as they await their opportunity.

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V.H. (Hero)

Code-name: V.H. 

Full Name: Victoria van Helsing

Faction: Blood Watch

Dear Quincey,

I am glad that I managed to finally catch up with you.

I am sorry for the London mansion. You know it had to burn. I hope the insurance covers it, and if not, do not worry, as your head will soon be stuffed with garlic and burnt as well.

I have been told that you have been very inquisitive about whom I am, and that you tried to track me down after our first brush in Geneva. Since we will probably never meet eye-to-eye (my teachers did a good job of letting me know how playing with fiends like you may end), I am taking this opportunity to let you know who your killer will be.

We have actually met twice already. The first time, about twenty years ago, was when you graciously slaughtered my family; you and your minions. You thought there were only three children and that was your first fatal mistake. I hid in ice cold water, under the stone bridge, nearly freezing to death. Your heat-seeking vision could not find me.

I will keep things brief – it is like the stories you see in movies. While the Order of the Forge (you know them – you were responsible for the death of their Paris chapter) could not stop you, they were decent enough to save me and train me, and to channel my hatred for you into a set of skills that got me to where I am now.

I spent fifteen long years studying fiends, outsiders and horrors of the night. I know how to kill all of you. Five of those years I was doing my – as you may call it in the corporate world you fell so much in love with – internship, in the Order’s Hong Kong chapter. I passed my final test with flying colors. I beheaded the shadow oni that had replaced the prime minister of a certain country and sent his head to the biggest national television station. To my disappointment, they claimed he committed ritual suicide.

Then I returned to Europe and started tracking you. That was not too hard, as your lifestyle is pretty extravagant and you like to part with your money. You also play too much to who your parents were etc. They should have killed you, you little leech, when you were still in the cradle.

That poor fool, your father, kept hoping until the very end that you were his true son. In a carnal way, perhaps yes you were. However, you were the offspring of the bad blood ‘big D’ left in your mother’s system. But back to the story; I followed the money trail, yes, and that led me to Royal Investments. I then I realized you are not just a bloodsucker, but you are also conspiring against this world with the dead from another dimension (yay, more cadavers to behead!). We have met in Geneva of course, but I had one year less of experience then. I should have known that surrounded by your ‘friends’ and other associates, you would leave them like a lizard leaving its tail to escape.

Fast forward one year, to today, and we are bound to meet again; however this time, I am much better prepared.

You are in my trap. So make it easy for all of us and just die.

Sorry if I could not answer all of your questions and clear any doubts.

Love,

Victoria van Helsing

PS: I am glad that we are sending these good-old fashioned letters. Even for a gal like me, who grew up in the farms of Midlands (I know you, with your cold blue blood find the idea of such open spaces atrocious), reverting to the old ways that my great-great-grandfather and your parents used to stay in touch with each other is very refreshing.

 

PPS: Now slowly turn around. Good night, fiend.

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Perun (Hero)

Code-name: Perun

Full Name: Stanislaw Starzynski

Faction: Supreme Alliance

In every generation there is one brave Polish man chosen to wield the power of the storm in mankind’s darkest hour. He lifts up his runic axe, older than the people of his land, the lightning strikes, and the power of an ancient deity starts coursing through his veins.

Old gods still watch over their children and stand vigilant when tides of evil rise. Dark forces have begun to rise once more, and in Pulp City the agents of a coalescing evil power are at large.

The first photo-documented proof of Perun’s existence dates back to 1944, from a still taken in Warsaw. The picture was taken in the razed capital of Poland by a German army photographer evidencing the extent of the damage done.

The picture is over-contrasted and blurry, but it clearly depicts the clear silhouette of a man hovering ten feet above the ground. The figure wielded an archaic weapon that seemed to be the source of an all-present light, bathing the rubble in unearthly shades of white. In front of him a smoldering pile of corpses, all uniforms burned away, so it was hard to tell their allegiance. The photographer was recovered by his allies a week after the photo was captured and taken in for questioning, never speaking publicly about what he saw.

Another note was found in the documentation of one of the arcane-seeking Third Reich units. Apparently, the entity was mistaken for the Scandinavian/Germanic deity, Thor. No trace was ever found of the unit that tried to talk Perun into service for the Nazi empire.

The 1950′s and 1960′s proved that Perun was more than a local phenomenon, as he was seen siding with the greatest Supremes on Earth, including the Supreme Alliance, visiting distant Pulp City on occasion. Without word, he eventually vanished from the headlines, his fate unclear.

He is not a talker, say his allies, but they are glad he is on their side. He is not a diplomat, but a thunderstorm and barrage of lightning is usually enough to convince even the most steadfast opposition.

The current wielder of Perun’s power (though it is hard to tell, as the runic axe changes the appearance of the bearer) is a student from Warsaw whose grandfather and great-great grandfather also served as Lightning Lords years ago. Stanislaw Starzynski became marked with the lightning rune when he confronted Forgotten minions sent to recover Szczerbiec, the legendary coronation sword of Polish kings.

And now the power of Perun stands ready once more.

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Moonchild/Moon Coyote (Hero)

Code-name: Moonchild/Moon Coyote
Full Name: Maria Moonchild
Faction: Blood Watch

The story of Moonchild begins with the Arrajo tribe; a small Native American tribe that had suffered for more than a century and half, and which came to reside on part of a reservation jointly held with the Avaje, approximately fifty miles north-east of Pulp City. Today, the reservation casinos are a tourist attraction on the Avaje part of the site. This success has led to some improvement in quality of life on the reservation, although this has not been shared between the two tribes as the Arrajo have shunned this new way.

For the past two decades the Arrajo had suffered the threat of possibly dying out, as no boys had been born among the tribe’s offspring in that time. Marcus Moonchild recognized that some dark force had accursed his people and had led to the tribe producing no boys. He committed all of his abilities as tribal medicine man to combatting that malignancy. He also sought to train his daughter Maria to become the first female shaman of the Arrajo. It was clear to Marcus that whatever the source of the curse was, it was on his tribe alone, as the Avaje with whom they shared the reservation suffered no such problems. From that recognition he was determined that the curse would be broken, and so set to instructing his daughter in the skills she would need to continue his efforts should he fail or fall.

Thus, from a young age Maria learned her father’s shamanic secrets. Years went by, and after her father’s passing, and her coming of age, it was through ritual in the sweat lodge that she finally discovered the origin of the curse that her father had believed to afflict the tribe. Joined in her ritual by the lodge leader, a tribal elder, the two women sat in darkness as smoke swirled around and heat enveloped them. The lodge leader chanted and drummed while Maria freed her mind of earthly constraints. Maria’s vision in that smoke-filled construction revealed images of a black crow demon spreading plague wings over the people of Arrajo. Despite her skills and knowledge, Maria knew she was unable to fight this dark beast. As her vision came to an end the screaming crow flew at the teenager and the elder, talons stretched out to rake them both. The vision ended suddenly and Maria was awake, alert and unharmed, but shaken by the experience. As she looked around she saw the lodge leader lying prone, dead, her face stricken with anguish.

The following night saw Maria nervously enter the sweat lodge again, this time alone with no-one to guide her with chants and drumming. Outside nervous elders waited. She took upon herself the sacred rituals and unbound her shamanic senses once more. Her sight went beyond sight and the vision began.

In her vision a wise albino coyote visited and spoke with her, its voice as old as the lands in which her tribe lived. The coyote explained that the crow could be defeated, but that Maria would need to give up part of herself to do so; a part of her would always belong to the albino coyote and in return, she would get its help to fight the crow. Fearing what the crow-demon would do if she did not act Maria agreed. As she woke from her vision Maria found half of a moon-shaped amulet in her hand.

On the third night Maria looked to the moon above, bright and clear in a cloudless sky. She took that as a sign that the path she had chosen was correct. She grasped the Moon Amulet tightly. Her body shimmered in the moonlight and her form became that of the albino coyote, its body adorned with mysterious markings. The Moon Coyote leapt into the night then, running effortlessly across the reservation towards the larger part that was home to the Avaje. On the outskirts of the Avaje lands Moon Coyote found a darkened lodge. As Moon Coyote waited, a wiry old man emerged from that lodge, his arms adorned with sleeves of crow feathers.

Moon Coyote became Moonchild once more, however her body was now covered in fine white fur, and her long hair that was once dark was similarly white, and her hands adorned with vicious claws. She took a moment to notice this change, noting also her own heart racing, then focused on her quest.

“You are the crow-demon,” Moonchild said, her voice steady and full of certainty.

“Yes, yes I am,” replied the wiry man, “I am Black Crow, and you are another shaman?”

“Yes, I am Moonchild,” she responded “and I fight for the Arrajo”.

As they stood facing once another the wiry man then explained himself; that he had cursed the Arrajo so they would die out so that his tribe, the Avaje, would become stronger on those sacred lands; that he had killed the lodge leader, and years before, Moonchild’s father; and that now Moonchild would die at his hand.

Silence followed. Then both leapt to attack. Moonchild charged forwards, claws slashing out as the wiry man himself transformed into some sort of crow-man. They battled for long minutes before one final slash from Moonchild caught Black Crow across the throat. Dying, he fell to the floor, blood pooling around his body, his curse lifted with his dying breath.

Moonchild had fulfilled her father’s quest and in doing so gave herself over to a greater power. In time she joined Blood Watch, making use of both of her forms to aid them. Her work with those Heroes in turn made her aware of Loup Garou II. She eventually learned of the bond they shared through their possession of each of two halves of the Moon Amulet; each held an influence over the other which unsettled their respective allies. Nonetheless, Moonchild’s courage and unswerving dedication to stopping dark forces is beyond question among the Blood Watch and so for now they respect the bond she has with the hulking werewolf.

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