Full Name: John Grimmsham
More than a decade ago in the mid-seventies, John Grimmsham was a loner shunned by most people. Ambitions unfulfilled, he took a job as a guard in Pulp City Studios. Of course, he claimed that this was only a temporary means of surviving before he got a real job in showbiz. John spent his nights on the job watching TV and planning his rise to fame. In the meantime, each day he kept working on a screenplay that he believed would be an award winner and the accolades he was due would be his.
On Christmas Eve in 1979, he was jolted from his diversions. Grimmsham heard some unusual sounds coming from the studio’s food court. With his flashlight switched off, he carefully stole into the court, only to find a couple of mongrels feasting on the remains of a dinner.
The ugliness of these creatures was unrivaled. About four feet short, with hairy backs and vaguely human features, the twisted men-things snarled at the fear-struck Grimmsham and continued feasting. A few minutes later they retreated into ventilation shafts and left the guard pinching himself to check he was awake, and it had not been some bizarre nightmare vision.
The same visitation occurred each night from then on, and eventually Grimmsham was able to approach the strange creatures more closely. Soon he engaged in rudimentary communication with the strange beasts. Their bond quickly grew tighter, and each night there were more and more ’Grimm’ (as he called them) visiting him in the studio. John had a secret that would pave his way to unbridled fame and fortune.
One summer night, John returned to his guard room after making his rounds. Inside the office, Grimmsham found Mr. Heimberg browsing his screenplay. Heimberg was a co-owner of the studios and a famous producer, but unfortunately without a hit in a few years. John’s heart jumped, as he knew this might be the breakthrough his career deserved.
Heimberg looked at him, smiled and put the screenplay inside his briefcase.
“You’re fired, Mr. Grimmsham,” were not the words that John expected to hear, and after a moment of dismay and distress, with all the desperation he could muster, Grimmsham leapt at Heimberg, trying to wrestle the case from his hands.
Standing over six feet tall, the burly producer easily shrugged off the skinny guard and whipped out a small gun, firing it point blank in John’s direction. Fire seared his face and the world went black as Grimmsham tumbled to the floor. An instant later, a terrible inhuman shriek came out of Heimberg’s throat and hot blood sprayed John’s face. As silence fell, he felt himself being gently carried away. Then darkness embraced him.
When Grimmsham awoke, he discovered his vision was limited. He touched his face and pain and rough bandages told him he was badly disfigured. One of the small creatures handed him a cracked hand mirror. He tore at the bandages to reveal horrible red wounds which ran from his eyes down his cheeks.
Grimmsham knew instinctively that he was somewhere underground, and only a faint sound of the city far, far above assured him he wasn’t dead.
Grimmsham looked around and noticed the blurry outline of scores of Grimm surrounding him. One of them, the bulkiest of all, shuffled up to John and offered him a treasure – the blank-eyed head of Mr. Heimberg, mauled almost beyond the recognition.
John smiled; he was about to become a celebrity after all.
The Grimm quickly came to worship Grimmsham. His mastery of the highest art of multi-tasking awed them and so they accepted him as their leader without question. He quickly reorganized Grimm society and established the Grimm Undercity. As he did so, the Grimm began their rapid evolution, new mutational adaptations allowing the society to grow according to Grimmsham’s needs and directions. He quickly ensured they pirated power and communication feeds using ramshackle facsimiles of above-ground technology. Soon the Grimm were thriving as never before, and their numbers swelled, and John Grimmsham was their master.
Full Name: Josiah Hudlin
Deep among the bayous in a lost parish of Louisiana sat an overgrown plantation. Dark, foreboding, and utterly uninviting it seemed only barely to be resisting the encroachment of a dark and untamed nature. Inside this festering manor sat a man who would serve no master. He sat alone in an old wooden chair and brooded dark thoughts. A man unlike any other sat in an overgrown manse deep in a lost parish of Louisiana, nestled among the bayous. The land was foreboding and uninviting, the rundown house’s walls overgrown with vines and barely resisting the encroachment of a dark untamed nature. A man who would be master sat alone in an old wooden chair, brooding, in that dark house.
The man sitting alone remembered his rise to power. But before a man could rise, first he had to fall. That had been his most important lesson.
Life had offered him little opportunity as he drifted through the system. His parents had succumbed to their own lives of squalid excess when he was young. It had been a miserable childhood, only enriched when his mother whispered in her self-induced haze of the blood of powerful priests that ran in their veins. Her veins finally gave out though, and he was left alone.
The social workers assigned to him made it clear that few were interested in adopting him because of his age. He was a good kid, generally well-behaved, and did what he was told. When he finally left his last foster home, he went into the world with very little. He sought to make a life, but was rebuffed. With few qualifications, despite obvious intelligence, and with no stepping stones, prospective employers turned him away. He was never sure what the reason was. The only place he could afford to live was in the city slums. With few choices left, he finally turned to crime to survive. Even as a criminal there were always those who took advantage of him.
He descended quickly, as he fell far into the stink and mire of the worst of humankind, and he was tested. The man was left with nothing and still others preyed upon him. He realised his own wretchedness and knew he could sink no further.
He had one stark choice – to sink, or to swim those foul depths to survive and become something, someone, else. His mother’s ramblings called to him. In his blood she had said, there ran the power of generations of voodoo kings and queens. And at that moment, with his choice made, he opened his soul and listened for the whispering of the darkest of Loas. He heard their voices and then he knew where his path lay.
What little humility and compassion he had left were slowly, inexorably, stripped away as discarded trappings of one life, as his journey took him to very dark places. There was the back-street curiosity shop where he stole a book of secrets, and the life of the proprietor. Then the pimp-voodoonista whose life he extinguished in exchange for an artefact of power, his skull-topped cane. The city morgue in a crumbling municipal building where he first animated a corpse to do his bidding as it slew the unfortunate attendant on duty.
Those had been the first necessarily gruesome steps on his journey. In due course he came to the attention of the Coven, an organisation with a secret history hidden far away from the world’s prying eyes. They recognised his aptitude and potential and nurtured his burgeoning talents.
With his acceptance to the Coven ranks his knowledge grew, and with knowledge came more power. But even as one secret was revealed to him, another would tug at the edges of his understanding.
He rose through the ranks, deployed where he was best suited. It was he who bent the Ghede in greater numbers to the Coven’s will. But through it all he began to see that nothing came without cost. Even his few failures such as the loss of the young voodoo queen-to-be, did not harm his ascent. And now he began to see the costs of his course.
To the Coven’s foes and its few allies he became Papa Zombie, front-line leader of the organisation. But the truth was a secret buried save only for the highest echelons of the Coven. There were mightier powers than his, greater influence, and more absolute mastery of what the Coven did. And that was his price to pay; to covet the power and rule of the Saints, and their ultimate master, Dimanche. To take that power he would have to do far worse than he ever had before and risk all that he had accumulated. What follows when a man has tasted great power, only to learn of his own insignificance in the grander scheme of things? In the schemes of others? His time trapped in Hellrock prison had showed him whole new worlds of possibilities. It had given him a look into the true nature of the Necroplane, and the power one man might wield – he was prepared to pay the price to acquire it.
Full Name: Unknown
Feartigo stepped through the back-alley detritus. His raggedy presence was unsettling enough to an unwary onlooker, but it was his psychic broadcast of raw dread which sent a scrawny drug dealer counting his take fleeing into the night, money fluttering to the ground in his wake. Beneath his sack-cloth mask, Feartigo smiled his ruined-face smile.
He was here to provide an update, and his contact was always punctual. Why Sanguine chose to meet in a filthy alley amid the city’s grime was unclear. It was out of the way of prying eyes, that much was true, but it was not on the bloodsucker’s usual hunting trails. The squalor did not bother Feartigo, he just questioned it, wondering what Sanguine’s angle was. He had found that to succeed in his true mission he had to question every motive and trust no-one.
Feartigo’s mind flashed backwards to earlier times when his circumstances were far different. A minor Petro loa, he had been cast out, cursed to never again to be able to mount a human host. A disembodied spirit, his urges to violence and spread fear were held in check by his lack of physical form. Those responsible were powerful bokor, and eventually those sorcerers founded the Coven. Time drifted by almost without meaning for the spirit, a century, then two. All the while from the shadows between realms the loa watched the Coven grow. Decade blurred into decade as the secret society’s ranks swelled. In time their focus fell on a wretched city on the West Coast, which soon became their main base of operations.
The loa continued to observe. New players emerged, rising through the Coven hierarchy, competing for mastery of the inexorably strengthening cabal. The loa took interest in one such, Papa Zombie. The human was a potent practitioner of voodoo, but out of his depth compared to the true powers behind the Coven. The spirit sensed the human could be useful in some way. The loa followed his quarry through a portal when Papa Zombie was captured by agents of the Necroplane and taken to their blasted world. There the loa watched, unseen, as the Necroplane made plans for an insidious invasion, systematically replacing key figures from Pulp City and across the Earth with Hollow One simulacra, Papa Zombie among them. Seizing his chance, the loa mounted a mindless Hollow One – he could exist in the physical world once again.
What happened next was remarkable, even within that alien world. The once-inert creature’s features flowed like melted wax, before slowly taking greater definition. Within minutes he stood ready before surprised necro-scientists. Feartigo was born, the embodiment of dread once more. In that instant an idea struck him, a perfect strategy. He demanded to meet their master, as he had something to offer, a bargain to make, and his wish was granted.
The plan was simple. Sacrifice the Papa Zombie simulacra as a way to support and deflect away from Feartigo’s own infiltration of the Coven. Revealing a false agent and ‘freeing’ Papa Zombie would allow Feartigo to join the inner circle and rise above suspicion. The plan worked perfectly.
Feartigo’s thoughts returned to the present. Sanguine materialized, taking form from a coalescing crimson mist. These encounters were always fraught with danger. One slip or mistaken detail could be enough to betray him. But he was not afraid. He was the essence of fear.
Sanguine looked at Feartigo with narrowed eyes and a barely concealed aversion. The lead agent of the Necroplane on Earth had refined tastes, and had lived a high life until the invasion was thwarted three years earlier. His shadowy networks remained largely intact, and that made him the ideal handler of Feartigo. The vampire hissed a little as he acknowledged Feartigo.
“I don’t trust you,” began Sanguine, surprisingly candid, “But Tenebrous has placed stock in your operation, and you have delivered useful intelligence. So far.”
Sanguine’s claws lengthened an inch, glinting in the moonlight. Was he trying to provoke Feartigo? Was he following his own agenda? Feartigo did not flinch, making no move to betray himself or provoke action, even as Sanguine took a sudden step forward. He had to see how this concluded, and ensure his best possible outcome. After a long pause, tension ebbed away as Sanguine adopted a more nonchalant pose. Feartigo pondered if he was testing him, and could only assume he had passed.
Feartigo’s loyalties were not to the Necroplane, that affiliation was simply a convenience. Those who had cast him out were long gone from the Coven, and there was no vengeance to be had. His infiltration had allowed him to swiftly rise within the ranks of the organization, aligning him to the Saints. Mastery of the cabal which had ultimately cast him out could be within his grasp. Obstacles remained, but with the correct choices, they too could be removed. Unknowing rivals such as Vendredi and the true Papa Zombie could be dealt with. The vessel of his past downfall could prove to be his true ascent, beyond the confines of the loa pantheon. Vast power could be Feartigo’s, he just had to act carefully and bide his time. They would not see him coming.
Full Name: Professor Maksimilian Mikhailovich Zolotov
Faction: Red Republik
Maksimilian was no stranger to sacrifice, it was the foundation upon which he had built his life. The youngest of seven children he had gone without more often than not. But when food was scarce he found more time to read and study. When the revolution came he saw the chance to be part of the winning side in history. When he made his choice he did not miss his brothers – their loss paved the way for his rightful advancement.
During the Second World War he sacrificed more men than he could remember, using them like sand to stop the wave of the invaders. But stop them he did. To further his cause he employed dangerous science, and ultimately his reach exceeded his grasp. That cost him two good hands, much of his face and too much time as he designed the necessary replacements. Assembling his Red Republik cost him blood, sweat, and his soul if he believed the tiger-shaman.
Nothing bothered him as much as the decades lost on his way to this time in Pulp City. From his war against the capitalist lapdogs of the decadent west to the center of its corrupt heart seemed like moments, but in those moments everything changed. Here he was surrounded by enemies, aliens, ancient gods, and interdimensional vampires. To be honest he had never been happier.
With Spybreaker’s Alliance called back to beg scraps from their capitalist masters, Pulp City was ripe for a man willing to sacrifice. It started today with these heroes of Heavy Metal. They needed to be shown the true horror of war by a man to whom horror and sacrifice was an old friend, a trusted companion. The Red Republik was regathered, and he had meticulously planned his attack.
The bridge was the perfect place for his trap. Civilian casualties would be high, and vital infrastructure damage would cripple the city for months if not years. He could count on the Republik to stand together and follow his lead.
A brief flash of light from the top of the tower was the signal he had been waiting for. The slaughter begun, and Hammer moved himself forward toward the center of the bridge. As predicted, Heavy Metal did not take long to respond. C.O.R.E. assembled himself a body from the wreckage strewn across roadway; Androida was not far behind him arriving in a brilliant silver flash just slower than the speed of sound, to avoid adding to the destruction. Hammer laughed at that. A sonic boom would be the least problem for the bleating masses, and yet Androida was unwilling to make even that small sacrifice for victory. Yes, she would make the ideal example he thought.
The rest of the Heroes arrived by air, followed by June Summers. Perfect thought Hammer, they bring their greatest weakness to the battlefront with them, and broadcast it live to a nation. He entered commands into a control box and Red Robots maneuvered into position. The battle was soon joined in earnest. Prisoner #176 like a wild spider amid the high-tension wires as piled-up cars held off Iron Train and Dr. Mercury. Universal Soldat rushed C.O.R.E., keeping him occupied. Hammer strode to the edge of the bridge, offering a pretense of vulnerability.
The ruse worked and the Androida took the bait. She was fast but he had prepared his stratagem to perfection. She dodged down the path that he had created and right into Siberian’s trap. Caught by invisible wires, Red Robots closed in on her, their wicked saws spinning. Desperately, Androida turned the Robots against each other while she used her laser beam eyes to free herself. She then charged at Hammer again but he launched his left fist in a cloud of rocket exhaust to throw another Red Robot in her path. She side-stepped, as he knew she would but his right fist was already in motion and hit her just below her left hip. Androida crumpled to the ground her leg spinning off the bridge into the dark waters of the bay.
“We’ll stop you!” Her eyes flashed with defiant crimson light and Hammer threw a damaged Red Robot into the path of the blast. The automaton exploded as his right fist launched again, striking Androida in the head, denting her metallic cranium with an awful sound. Hammer closed the distance.
“You’ll never stop me. You are weak. You are kind. You will forever be shackled by your morality and your need to care.” Each sentence spoken was punctuated by a brutal blow from his heavy steel hands. Androida lay broken, sparks dancing on her shattered form, the light in her eyes dimming by the second.
Hammer looked up from his work to see June Summers pointing her camera at him. He turned the volume up and his iron jaw issued his proclamation to the city. “This is what happens to those who oppose the will of Professor Hammer and the Red Republik. We will destroy all who oppose us. You have been warned!”
Watching, C.O.R.E. began to scream, as his body began to absorb wrecked cars and scrap strewn across the bridge, transforming into his deadliest form. But Hammer had anticipated this. One of their number falls and Heroes lose all discipline. He signaled to Siberian, and charges placed under the bridge blew one hundred and fifty feet of tarmac into the bay below, taking Heroes and civilians with it. The day was his, his point made. C.O.R.E. would not allow innocents to suffer, he would save them. In doing so he had already lost. Sacrifice. That was always the key to victory. With that Professor Hammer strode off the battlefield, and into the heart of Pulp City.
Full Name: Eric Goulding
For Eric Goulding, business was business and the most serious matter in the world. Money was power and he had plenty of both. He felt he was unstoppable, then he was diagnosed with cancer and everything changed. All of Eric’s money and power could not avail him. Awaking that first morning after the diagnosis and recognizing he had no more than sixty days remaining, he realized he didn’t care about his money, now he cared only for survival.
The bittersweet irony of it all was that Eric had considered a career in medicine before embarking on the path he followed. He was caught off guard, because a healthy, fit man in his prime with a disciplined lifestyle worthy of a Tibetan monk was not supposed to go down with lumps on his right lung.
By the end of the first day after his diagnosis, Eric’s finger was sore from dialing those university friends who had become oncologists. By the end of the week, his body was weak from the chemicals and the radiation that seemed to be the only treatment option for his aggressive condition. Processions of lawyers, priests and family stampeded through his hospital room. Each of them tried to mediate a peace between him, the Maker, the IRS and other nameless powers, each wanting part of Eric’s temporal influence.
Desperate, Eric reached out to less savory acquaintances. Connections were made and Eric soon had a caller. A peculiar and twitchy man, he came carrying a bundle of ancient scrolls. The odd little man promised Eric that the texts stated that he could cheat death, and have all the riches of Midas if he asked the right question when his time came. The strange man offered this in exchange for half Eric’s wealth and unfurled a lengthy contract. Eric gambled as he had nothing to lose, signing away half his fortune for the promise of extended life and greater wealth. Then the man was gone.
When at last the ward finally fell quiet, Eric’s final visitor appeared, embodying life’s last expectations. Eric was disappointed in how clichéd the moment felt. The visitor’s bony, pallid face was unmoving, but he heard the black silhouette say “Eric Goulding, you must come with me. It is time.”
Eric followed as instructed, and they walked a near-endless hospital corridor until eventually the walls became transparent. The luminescent ceiling arched like a gothic cathedral, as a pitch black portal appeared in front of them.
“Once you go through, there is no turning back,” the ghastly guide whispered.
“Do I have to?” Eric asked as a final jolt of fear shot through his body. It was the question the texts had decreed could change his final path.
“No. There are other doorways.”
The dying man was shocked, despite what he had learned, and after a momentary hesitation replied, “Wait, if there are other options, then why do people choose to die?”
“They do not ask the question. No matter what you choose today, you must live with the consequences of your decision.”
Six other portals appeared, or maybe they had been there from the beginning and Eric had not observed them. Eric felt that the one made from golden shimmering light was the one he must pass through. “What’s behind this one?” he asked.
“An eternity of prosperity, endless knowledge, and immortality. It comes at a price; you will never feel again.”
“Worth a try, I guess, let’s do it,” said Eric firmly.
“Are you certain?” the apparition asked. Before Eric could reply or react, the Reaper reached forth and plucked out his heart, replacing it with a cold stone. The wound sealed with a thick layer of liquid metal, but it did not hurt. The gleaming solution rolled through his veins until it filled his eyes with gold.
“This stone belonged to the greatest alchemists of the world and now it is mine. I am wiser than I ever was, yet that doesn’t excite me. I stand at the threshold of a new era and endless life and yet I am already bored. I see the tradeoff. I will embrace it and find ways to enjoy my life again, and new domains will bend to my will. I will have my gold, and I will have all of my wealth returned and more,” said Eric, his words betrayed by a lack of emotion.
Eric looked behind him and saw another Reaper leading a recently departed.
“Am I dead?” asked the newly arrived man. Eric grabbed the questioner with a golden fist and effortlessly shoved him into the black portal he himself had disregarded.
“We can make that assumption now. Please tell them Aurelius sent you.”
Full Name: Gorgoroth
The Ulthar Empire’s conquest of Taurus V was swift and brutal. The most advanced indigenous species on the planet was a peaceful and primitive people, bovine bipeds easily defeated by the power of the Ulthar. Once pacified, Taurus V became a key farming planet within the greater Empire. Small numbers of Taurus males were soon periodically drafted into menial labor and service off-planet, but beside Taurus V’s agricultural output, the planet became an overlooked but nonetheless important back-water, supplying the Empire with vital food for its forces.
The Ulthar had largely forgotten the denizens of Taurus until they heard of Gorgoroth. A literal giant among his kind, he displayed an uncharacteristic amount independence and aggression. As he grew older Gorgoroth questioned the subjugation of his species, and none of the answers he received were satisfactory. The fire of rebellion sparked within him, and as a young adult bull he led his fellow Taurus laborers in open revolt against their Ulthar overlords. Gorgoroth’s insurrection was unstoppable, and he claimed victory after victory. This could not stand, and so a promising young Warlord was dispatched to quell the burgeoning revolution. Ra’Leigh arrived with a small strike force to quash the uprising.
Ra’Leigh’s raider ship strafed the dissenting plantations, scattering Gorgoroth’s rebels. In little time Ra’Leigh had his elite troops on the ground, and all of the Taurus dissidents were swiftly routed. All save for Gorgoroth. The mighty bull charged into the Ulthar lines, sweeping soldiers aside with his sheer mass. Ulthar lasers and blades alike seemed to only enrage the massive rebel leader, and soon the Ulthar were compelled to fall back. Ra’Leigh realized the tide was turning against his forces, and so the two peerless warriors came face to face for the first time. In burning fields surrounded by bodies, the two stood facing each other for long moments. Their respective troops stood back. There was a silent agreement between the two commanders, whatever happened now was between these two alone.
The battle lasted nearly an hour. Ra’Leigh was the faster combatant, his trident striking again and again at his giant enemy. But Gorgoroth had size and strength, as he hurled carts and industrial equipment at his foe, forcing the Aquarius to give ground. His thunderous charge was not as easily evaded and was seemingly completely unstoppable. Blow after blow was struck, and the two seemed equally matched. At the very last, Ra’Leigh’s mastery of water gave him the upper hand. Falling back slowly towards nearby irrigation ditches, he summoned his power as Aquarian Warlord and used the vast supply of water to nearly drown Gorgoroth.
Finally, with the colossal bull at his mercy, Ra’Leigh paused. It was perhaps the most challenging single combat the young warlord had ever faced. Recognizing the value of a great fighter in Gorgoroth, he offered the giant Taurus a deal. Gorgoroth and his followers would be spared only if they served Ra’Leigh with unwavering loyalty. They would be trained, equipped and allowed to fight within the Ulthar ranks. Gorgoroth agreed, provided all his people in generations to come were given the same opportunity, and with this the Great Contest was enacted. Gorgoroth took to the stars as agreed, and the first Taurus Shock Troopers recruits went to war under Ulthar banners – another fanatically loyal servant was wielded to the side of Ra’Leigh.
Decades later Gorgoroth now finds himself stranded on Earth. His loyalty to Ra’Leigh remains and he will serve the Warlord until death. But Gorgoroth has seen that there is a quality within the humans of Earth that reminds him of ancient stories of Taurus that was. Another spark has been lit within the gargantuan general, which sees him seeking to become more than a warrior. He is trying now to be a true leader to his brothers. Maybe, just maybe, there is a chance that the Taurus can find a new place in the galaxy, find a way to balance the ancient ways and the new. Possibly, Gorgoroth the Mighty can also become a savior to his people.
Full Name: Varies
It was a two or three day run to the arena, maybe longer if there was trouble on his path. There would always be those who thought they could gain an edge by eliminating the competition as they travelled. The Ulthar did not mind that – if you were weak enough or stupid enough to be killed along the road they had no use for you anyway. If the thought of being attacked while making the journey to the Great Contest made you nervous, then you would not last the first few minutes of the trials.
Cheraam was lucky to attend the last Great Contest. Ten cycles ago, his eldest bull brother had competed and lost. His brother was strong but slow, and besides, he had never really been in many scraps, too gentle by far to last in the crucible of the Contest. But Cheraam had learned from his brother’s mistakes. He worked tirelessly to train his body. He fought everyone he could in the surrounding plantations. He was faster, tougher and far meaner than his bull brothers. He would win his place or die in the dirt – that was better than slaving on the estates.
The elders spoke of days long ago when the people of Taurus V had lived peaceful lives wandering the great yellow grass plains. Those ancients had strived for artistic perfection and oneness with their community. In the old days a male that showed selfless concern for the tribe had his choice of females. Then the Ulthar Empire came from above with fire and machines, laying waste to the peaceful ways of the tribes. Cheraam didn’t believe it, concluding they were tales the weak and timid would tell to reassure themselves.
The Ulthar ruled Taurus V unquestioned, and demanded great tribute each cycle. The immense plantations were all that existed there now. Each farm employed thousands to work vast fields, raising crops for their masters. The best females were hoarded by the land owners or given to warriors who prevailed in the Contest. Every few cycles a plantation would fail to meet the quota, and then the Ulthar would rain fire from the sky and obliterate that land. That was the price paid for weakness. With each such Ulthar strike, neighboring landowners would claim the lost lands, working ever harder to appease the Empire.
For the majority of the natives of Taurus, the Great Contest was the only escape. Prove yourself a superior fighter and the Ulthar would free you from servitude and a cycle of misery. Higher in status above even that of plantation owners, warriors serving the Empire were given access to the best breeding females, taught the secrets of the Ulthar, and allowed to fight amongst the stars. If a Taurus trooper survived long enough, they retired home and were given a plantation of their own. Life in military service to the Ulthar was not easy, that was true, but to Cheraam it was better than toiling ceaseless under the yoke of others.
He had waited, and trained, for the ten cycles since the last contest. Six bulls from the plantation also planned to compete. They were swiftly dispatched, their bodies scattered around the back pasture where they had agreed to meet. Those others were weak and would never have succeeded. Only the strongest and most vicious fighters would meet the Ulthar’s exacting standards. Cheraam finished scrubbing the blood from his axe and set off down the road. His first task was done, and done well. Two or three days running, a few more weaklings trampled on the way, and he would be at the Contest. He would become one of the elite Shock Troops of the Ulthar Empire.
Full Name: None
A nerve-shaking roar chased Trail down a deserted street. He knew he had to keep moving. If that prehistoric animal caught up with him he knew he was done for. The screams had pretty much died down now, and any remaining civilians were lying low or beyond help.
Trail ducked into a dark alley and took a moment to bandage his bleeding leg. He worked quickly, shredding his cloak to use as a dressing. Where was Dead Eye when you needed him? The big jock had really gotten him into one hell of a mess.
To be fair, Trail could have said no, but when Dead Eye called, you tended to answer. It should have been fine. 100 Voices and his lackeys were usually a tough proposition, but nothing they could not handle. While a few of them had shown some resistance to his Trailblazing techniques, there were always a few idiots in the horrible crew Voices frequently surrounded himself with. Dead Eye had assembled a good team too; first class Supremes with a reputation for getting the job done. None of them had been prepared for what awaited them.
The new Supreme they faced was a giant tower of muscle and rage that flung cars and people around like toys. This alone was not a big deal. Trail had fought more Monsters than most people had seen during the Fall. He was a veteran, a hardened Hero of Pulp City. He knew better than most that physical might alone did not win every fight. But something about this new Supreme its allies called ‘Cro Mag’, had unsettled him more than anything else he had ever encountered. It was not the way it charged headlong into battle, or the terrible roars that echoed through the chaos, or even the pungent smell of blood and death that clung to it. No, there was something primal, violent and raw about it. This Cro Mag was the living avatar of mankind’s most savage and bloodthirsty id. He should know, for he had been in its head. Just briefly. Just a glimpse behind the savage exterior into the pure rage and desire that drove this thing. His most advanced Trailblazing techniques skidding off an armor of pure violent hatred. He had recoiled from that mind. So distant from rational thought, beyond even the primitive drives of Kodo Island’s inhabitants.
Things had fallen apart after his attempt to control the raging brute. The team scattered before Cro Mag’s charge. Driving forward, howling and flinging friend and foe around while the demonic Voicelings struck at them from the shadows. He watched the beast throw Stone Hawk through a building like ragdoll. That was when Trail ran, and Cro Mag had chased him. Trail was nearly crushed by a car thrown at him, but had managed to escape momentarily with nothing more than a gashed leg.
Focusing on the here and now, Trail dropped his cloak to the ground; it would only slow him down. The sound of crumpled steel and broken glass drove him forward down the alley. Cro Mag was coming. Trail limped on, his heart pounding as another roar split the night and chased him down the filthy black passage. Ahead something loomed out of the darkness. Rosie! She was panting and bleeding but Trail had never seen a more wonderful sight. Dead Eye stood beside her. His cybernetic arm crushed and mangled, he too looked ready to drop, but determined to fight.
Cro Mag appeared somewhere behind Trail, blocking what feeble light there was. The massive creature’s ragged horrible breathing was magnified in the narrow passage. Rosie hefted a steel girder like a baseball bat. Dead Eye said something to her, some last-ditch plan no doubt. Cro Mag did not wait, it roared out his rage and defiance. Rosie screamed and charged for it. The alley was filled with the sounds of bellowing titans. Trail leapt into Rosie’s mind, triggered her rage and endorphins to maximum levels, trying to give her every possible advantage. Would it be enough?
Full Name: None that exists outside of the twins’ own mental connection
Ulthar twins are extremely rare among the egg laying species. When they are born there is always a male and a female. Each pairing shares an innate psychic bond and Ulthar culture holds that twins are a single being sharing two bodies. Twins are always immediately claimed by the Gemini Caste and secluded into the most secretive and intensive training program imaginable.
From their birth, Gemini twins are subjected to biological, chemical and psionic treatments designed to enhance their inborn psychic abilities. By the time a Gemini emerges from their secluded training they are stunted, distorted versions of the normally tall and slender Ulthar physiology. Their original gender characteristics are suppressed leaving them almost genderless and indistinguishable from each other. The most disturbing of all their features is their distinctive skull implants, their upper cranium removed and replaced by a special crystalline matrix which amplifies their psychic powers.
Geminis are always found close to Aquarius Warlords. They serve as counsellors and advisors constantly in the background of any meeting, so much so that most Ulthar pay them no notice. A perceptive outsider might observe that a Gemini never speaks, nor are they ever directly spoken to by any Ulthar. They are simply present, silent shadows at the highest level of the Ulthar war-machine.
The Supremes now known on Earth as Gemini X and Gemini Y are themselves products of this entrenched cycle. Gifted and powerful beyond other Geminis, they were chosen for an exceptionally difficult task and assigned to Ra’Leigh, the most rebellious and troublesome of Warlords, although he believes he won their services due to his own cleverness. Their duty was to see Ra’Leigh brought to heel and made to comply with the Ulthar directive, or failing that, ensure his destruction.
Instead Ra’Leigh survived and thrived. He sought counsel from Stormblades’ whispers, and embarked on a quest to conquer Earth and the lost colony. Gemini X and Y concluded that the most efficient way to undermine Ra’Leigh’s mission was to guarantee his defeat.
The true secret power of Geminis is population control, psychic manipulation that keeps billions of warlike Ulthar locked into their stagnant Caste system. Gemini X and Y withdrew the mental hold they normally exerted on Ra’Leigh’s forces, and the normally precise and clocklike movements of the Ulthar structure failed. Troops experienced doubt, fear, and failure for the first time in a hundred generations. The invasion was defeated. This should have been the end of Ra’Leigh, ensuring that Earth was left alone forever.
The Gemini plan failed. Instead, like some horrible disease, a semblance of the independence seen on Earth began to creep through Ra’Leigh’s Patriaship. Sporadic signs of individualism occurred among the lower Castes. The presence on Earth of the great turncoat Virgo further inspired rebellious thoughts and free expression. The most terrible change however was in Ra’Leigh himself. Defeat inspired him.
So unnerved were the Gemini Caste that they agreed to assemble the fleet for a massive invasion of Earth. Shaken and uncertain, the Warlords truly took control of the Empire for the first time since the Great Schism. This conquest failed also. Gemini X and Y judged that this was due in large part to unprecedented doubt among the Gemini Caste, coupled with the Ulthar’s inability to come to terms with such determined, clever, and powerful Supreme opposition. They devised a final strategy to save the Ulthar Empire and convinced the rest of their Caste of its necessity.
As the Gemini’s machinations were put in motion, the Empire turned on Ra’Leigh, stranding him and his followers on the far side of the galaxy. Destroying the Warlord’s vessel was simple, its deck-plans and security schedules leaked to ensure that the traitorous Virgo and Tritonious knew when and where to strike to cripple the great Patriaship. The Geminis guided the crew to assure destruction of the most troublesome and independent-minded of them. Yet somehow several resisted their mental commands and were not eliminated as the Geminis had planned.
Now the most powerful of Gemini twins are trapped on Earth, their place within the Empire sacrificed, doomed to die on a primitive world, their purpose served preserving the eternal Ulthar Empire. With no need to expend so much of their energy subjugating a vast populace, the Geminis are finding their power evolving. New and strange ideas are forming within them, and their own value as individuals is becoming apparent. There is inspiration to be found in Pulp City, especially the private empire of Mysterious Man. It is a new paradigm to the Twins, but perhaps a good one they think. Perhaps they should seek something for themselves.