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X - M A N S I O N

Two Days Later, Night | Salem Center, New York City

MUTANTS ATTACK SCHOOL, TWO OFFICERS DEAD


Those six words sat like an anchor at the bottom of the television screen. Above them a bunch of Jumped up, make-up caked pundits and talking heads were screaming at one another about what they were calling the 'Bayville Incident.' Over a dozen men and women in suits had appeared to give their expert opinion on the threat that mutants posed to America's youth. There was all sorts of talk about arming teachers, making watchlists and putting armed security in every one-room schoolhouse in the States.

No matter what channel Scott flipped to it was all the same. Lance Alver's photo was plastered across national television and it had stayed there for the past two days straight. They were calling him all sorts of things: the Bayville Menace, a deranged psychopath, a disturbed youth; one particularly bizarre old man had taken to calling him the 'first stone' in an "avalanche of mass killers to come."

All of it pissed him off. But the one thing that really got to him was every time they mentioned the other mutants. Evidently, the media had gotten to one of those kids Lance had attacked because they'd actually started to discuss the X-Men by name. Opinions on them varied, of course. Some people thought the X-Men and Lance had both come to the school with the same goal in mind but had ended up at each other's throats. Others thought the X-Men were vigilantes that had tried but failed, to put a stop to the attack.

Those people were the ones that really got to Scott. They were the only ones giving him and his team the benefit of the doubt, but even they were quick to agree that the 'X-Men' had done more harm than good. "Let the police handle it," they fervently said. "A bunch of kids in masks are just going to get in the way."

As much as it made his blood boil, Summers couldn't help but feel like they were right.

There were other stories interspersed between breaks in the main event, none of them good. Some guy dressed like a Spider had attacked more NYPD officers in the city proper. A supermarket in Atlantic City that had refused service to mutant customers had been burned to the ground by protesters. A millionaire executive at Roxxon named Clayton Burr and his wife had both been abducted from their home and their son was just found dead in his office, his body torn to shreds by metal shrapnel.

They all shared a common thread that Scott couldn't help but notice. Every single story that ran that day- on every single news channel he could find- was about violence conducted by mutants. The talking points differed, the channel logos changed, and even the stories weren't all the same. But the agenda being pushed by everyone with a voice was paper thin. They all marched lockstep in their demonization of people they didn't so much as try to understand.

The remote in his hand crunched, it's plastic shell cracking and the electronics inside crumbling. Scott dropped the remains of the device onto the carpet before he rose from his chair. The voices coming from the TV grew distant as he left the room and started down the hallway toward the garage, stopping at his room to snag a coat and stuff his uniform into a duffel bag before making his exit.

Just as he stepped out of his door, though, he found a hand pressed up against his chest.

Jean Grey was a good six inches shorter than Scott and nearly fifty pounds lighter, but she didn't have any trouble stopping him in his tracks. All it took was a look.

"Oh, uh, Jean-" Scott started, clearly caught off guard. He would've thought everyone else was either asleep or stuck in their usual nightly routines by now. Summers retreated a step back into his bedroom, trying in vain to conceal the bag he had over his shoulder behind the door frame. "Did you need something?"

She let her hand fall away as he stepped back, crossing it over her other arm. She didn't bother answering, a knowing- and disapproving- look on her face.

Scott cleared his throat and turned his eyes away. "I'll be back soon. No need to worry about me."

"Uh huh." Jean sighed, lowering her chin into her chest. "You gonna talk to me or are you gonna keep pretending like nothing's going on?"

"I don't know what you-"

"Dude." Grey cut him off. "You never sneak out. Mister 'up with the sun' should'a been in bed an hour ago."

Summers locked his jaw and turned to look at her. Her hoodie bore on it the image of a skeleton with its mouth duck-tapped closed and two, boney middle fingers held high, and the name of some punk band he'd never heard of right underneath it. That was only what Scott noticed first, though- what he cared about more was the blue material of her uniform that peaked up around her neck.

"No." He shook his head, attempting to squeeze past her. "No, no, no. You're not coming with me."

"Oh, come on!" She snarled, punching the door frame to put her arm directly in his path. "You can't go out there by yourself, especially with everything that's going on."

Scott hesitated for a moment before grabbing Jean's arm and pushing it down, forcing his way out of the room so he could start toward the stairs. "How'd you even know what I was doing?" He asked incredulously, fully aware of the fact that she was just a step behind him.

Grey took him by the arm and spun him around to face her. "How do you think, you idiot?" She poked his forehead repeatedly with enough force that it began to sting. "Your brain's been practically screaming it since dinner."

Summers grabbed her finger and pulled it up over his shoulder, dragging her face closer to his. "How many times do we have to tell you 'no mind reading' until it gets through that thick skull of yours?" He asked in an annoyed whisper.

"You know I can't help it. Dick." She pulled her hand away, though she refused to step back.

"Maybe if you took those meds the Professor gave you-"

"-So I can be a drooling moron? Bobby's already got that covered, thanks." She scoffed.

Scott just threw up his hands. "Whatever. Fine. Let's just get out of here." He conceded. When Jean made up her mind he knew there was nothing he could do to change it, and he wasn't in the mood to argue with her for another forty minutes. The pair made their way down to the mansion's garage, completely unaware of the pair of glowing yellow eyes that had borne witness to the whole ordeal.

H A N ' S P I Z Z A P A R K I N G L O T

Two hours later, Night | Brooklyn, New York City

The classic sound of CCR'S Fortunate Sons rolled out of the convertible's expensive stereo, smooth as silk but as powerful as a typhoon. Jean's black-booted foot tapped against the dashboard in time with the music, her hands currently occupied helping guide a hot slice of pizza into her open maw.

Scott's mood wasn't nearly as good as hers. His expression was twisted in dour concentration as he stared down at his phone, scrolling through endless incident reports and news coverage. Occasionally he'd flip from those over to another page scattered with digital notes, reminders and things to improve or follow up on.

The fight with Lance had been disastrous by most accounts. Bobby had managed to go toe to toe with Alvers, but he'd gotten so cocky that he nearly cost the rest of the team, those students and even himself their lives. And Hank had lost control of his anger again. Scott blamed himself for all of it. The onus was on him to keep everyone in line. He was the leader. He should've pulled them together when it mattered most. If he even had a little bit of real control over his powers, Cyclops knew he could've ended that fight in a second. All it would've taken was one, solid blast to the chest.

As it was, though, Scott couldn't have done that without killing Lance and probably someone else on the other side of the street. He felt frustratingly useless in that encounter. He couldn't control his team, his powers, or-

"Can you, like, stop feeling bad for yourself for two seconds and actually eat?" Jean interrupted, her mouth half-full of pizza. "You're really getting my mood down, dude."

Scott just grunted. "You're the one that wanted to come. And I am eating."

"Uh huh. Sure you are."Grey said, glancing at the slice of pizza Scott had set back in the box after taking exactly two bites. Taking in a breath she focused on it, compelling her psychic energy to surround the unfinished food and lift it into the air. She guided it over toward Scott's face and, in the same movement, reached over and plucked the phone from his hands.

"Hey!-" Summers started, only to find his open mouth stuffed with cheese, pepperoni, sausage and a whole load of tomato sauce. He looked like he wanted to complain, at first, but it didn't take long for him to take the slice himself and start scarfing it down until it was nothing but a few crumbs on his chin. "Alright, there. I ate. Now give me my phone back."

"Noo way, buddy." Grey shook her head. "No work allowed during graveyard-shift pizza time. It's the law. Look it up."

Scott didn't reply, except to lean across the front of the car to try and swipe his phone back. Grey was quicker, however, and managed to swap it into her other hand so she could press it up against her window. "Ahh. Too slow as per usual, Summers."

"Alright, that's it. You asked for it." Summers clicked his seat belt off and lunged across Grey's seat in an attempt to pin her arm down long enough for him to get his phone back, prompting Jean to squeal and squirm to get it as far away from Scott as possible.

The two's struggle only lasted a minute and a half before it was rather rudely interrupted by that same phone pinging in Jean's grip. She only glanced at it, one arm pressing into Scott's face to force him out of her personal space as the other held the phone toward the windshield. Summers took her by the wrist and forced it down, his smile faltering. He recognized that particular tone. "Hold on, that's important."

Jean furrowed her brow, handing it back to Scott. She knew when he was kidding and when he wasn't. "What is it?" She inquired, letting her feet drop off of the dashboard and back down onto the floor, intent on leaning over to get a view of the screen for herself.

"Sentinel app," Scott replied. "It pings me every time the NYPD mention a mutant on their scanners. Looks like...shit, that's not far from here." He quickly fumbled to stick the smartphone onto its mount on the dashboard. "A precint in Queens just got hit. That's twenty minutes from here."

"Ten if you floor it." Jean agreed with a nod.

"Call the team."

"And let them know we were out this late? Alone?" She scoffed. "Bobby and Kurt don't need more ammunition as is. Nah, we can handle it."

Scott just sighed, pulling them out of the parking lot and starting down the road much faster than he should have. "Here's hoping."
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L O N G I S L A N D

Night | Queens Borough, New York City

The wind pounded into Scott's ears with a roar no lion could match as they shot across Brooklyn and into Queens. He jerked the steering wheel to the side to narrowly avoid a car turning into the street he was busy barreling down at dangerous speeds, ignoring every red light along the way. He could already practically hear the professor chiding him about such recklessness, but on this particular night, Scott wasn't all too concerned with following the rules of the road. Anger was cutting through his veins like a virus, seeping into his fingers and forcing them to clamp down on the wheel hard enough to make his knuckles go white.

Jean had been right. Putting the pedal to the metal had gotten them to the 105th precinct in just ten minutes' time. He let his foot loose off the gas at the sound of sirens- they weren't approaching, though; it actually appeared he was coming up on them from behind. The building melded into view as he rounded the corner, revealing a fleet of cop cars as they sped out of the station's garage in pursuit of their mutant attacker. The sight of it made Summers' stomach drop.

Only two nights ago a psychopath who just happened to be a mutant murdered a pair of New York's Finest. It didn't take a mind reader to feel the rage bubbling just beneath the surface of those officers as they raced after the culprit. There were no reports of casualties coming out of the precinct, at least not yet, but...that wouldn't matter. Not when a bunch of angry cops with guns got their hands on whoever did this.

"We'll get to 'em him, Scott." Jean placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, snapping Summers back into the present.

He had a half a mind to give her the 'no mindreading' spiel again, but it felt like a waste of breath at this point. Instead, he let his hand fall down to the gear shifter and eased the gas back down, pushing past the precinct once the police cruisers had gone on their way. "We don't have a lot of time before they catch his trail. Do you think you can reach out to him? Find out which way he went?"

Jean gave a hesitant nod, falling back into her seat so she could concentrate. Her eyes slipped closed and her mind's eye opened in the same instant, revealing to her a hundred faces in her immediate vicinity. 'Face' wasn't an accurate term- not really. What she saw was more of an...imprint. A brief, surface-level imaging of a mind. It was easy to parse through them when they were like this, though it took a bit of strain to reach out for specific traits that might stand out.

'Mutant' was an easy one, letting all the faces that word didn't resonate with melt away. There was Scott right beside her, his image far more detailed than most. And there were a handful of others. A child hidden under a blanket with her cellphone, pretending to be asleep. An old man knocked out on his favorite chair. The police officers spreading out in front of her, though their connection to the word was...dark, to say the least. But she couldn't find their perpetrator.

She cycled through a few labels the criminal might give him or herself without any luck. Whoever they were, they didn't seem to affiliate themselves with the seedier parts of New York City's underbelly. It was possible they weren't any kind of thief, gangster or mobster- this might've been the first thing like this they'd ever done. Hell of a start to a career.

Jean furrowed her brow, glancing over at the precinct itself as they drove past it. She noticed a window was broken and glass had been shattered across the lawn. It was quite a fall. At that height, most ordinary people wouldn't have been able to stand back up, let alone escape the police. She zeroed in on a new word. 'Pain.'

"I've got him," Grey told Summers, raising her voice to be heard over the wind and the sirens. "Keep going straight, then hang a right." There was something...off about him. The imprint read like it was two different people, completely distinct from one another yet placed right on top of each other. One of the faces was recognizable as a person, but the other...The other felt horribly alien. Its very presence near her mind made her throat tighten and her eyes water. It was like nothing she'd ever felt before.

The convertible's driver was none the wiser to the nature of the thing they chased, however, and eagerly pressed on in the direction Jean had pointed him to. Scott's heart was pounding against his chest as he tore across the pavement light lightning, glancing over at his mirrors every other second to keep an eye out for the police that were so very near to them. Trees, houses and the night sky raced passed them on either side like a blur of green, browns and black. He slammed down hard on the break the moment they reached the intersection, skidding across the pavement to make the turn in record time. They were off to the races again without pause, soaring down the road with abandon.

Sure enough, though, his recklessness had proven fruitful: their prey's back had come into sight.

Whoever he was, he appeared to be wrapped up in some kind of costume. He was dressed head to toe in a skintight suit as black as midnight like you'd expect any thief at this hour to be- but then there was that big, ugly beetle symbol stretched all along his back, painted on in a blinding white. When juxtaposed on the field of black that was the rest of his suit, it sort of looked like a giant target.

"You see him, Jean?!" Cyclops roared, his fingers dancing across the rubber of the steering wheel with an equal measure of anxiety, excitement, and anger. "Let's slow him down!"

Jean blinked a few times to get the block splotches out of her eyes, nodding in agreement. She stuck her arms out the side of the car, keeping her palms held straight out and her digits as widely spread as possible. She focused fully on a bundle of objects sitting on the side of the street that they were rapidly approaching: a couple of garbage bins full to the brim with trash and a mailbox filled with much the same. She took in a deep, ragged breath, willing her mind to grasp each of the containers with an unseen hand. A silent scream fled through her parted lips as she strained to tear the mailbox's post from the dirt and lift the pair of surprisingly heavy bins from the ground, bringing them into the air and dragging them alongside as they approached the mutant from the back.

"Hey, pal, you got mail!" She shouted, heaving her arms forward and willing the objects to fling through the air toward the black-clad man's back.
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:: the laughing worg tavern // thorinn ::


The plate of food set before Graves remained untouched, save for the occasional poke with a fork to give the impression that he was trying to eat. But he wasn't hungry. Not in the slightest.

Only a handful of days had passed since he and the rest of his party managed to escape that dungeon with their lives. He'd taken a rather nasty blow to the head that he could still feel the effects of ringing in the back of his skull like a phantom's bell. 'Course it wasn't the only thing from that fight that was bouncing around in his head, refusing to go away. Death was a strange thing. Graves had seen it a hundred times in Pariah, yet...something about that last one felt so much more real. The desperation on the other man's face as he tried to cling to life,to his last, precious few seconds in the world. It was nauseating just remembering it.

He wasn't the only one thinking about it. Rael said it aloud first. Brought all their fears and worries out into the open air to stew in that stinking tavern. "I'on't know, Red." He said with a heavy sigh. "Maybe everything."

Graves had shed his armor and other combat gear, leaving it behind in a pile in the room he'd rented out for the last couple of days. Most of it was in dire need of repair after Arnaakus nearly tore him in two. Part of him didn't want to even bother. With all the new bullshit they were learning about the game, he was becoming less and less comfortable running around in that suit. He felt naked in something so lightly armored. It might be worth it to just scrap his current gear and invest in a suit of half-plate for the time being. While they hid away in Thorinn he was comfortable enough in his normal attire, at least for now. A simple, hooded tunic of gray linen and a black jerkin pulled over it did more than enough to keep him warm.

Keeping warm. In a video game. 'God, nothin' makes much sense anymore, does it?'

He was torn from his thoughts at the sound of chair legs being dragged against wood. He looked up just in time to see Rael stand from the table and make her way to the door. "Where're yo-" But she was already gone before he could so much as finish asking the question. "Fuckin' bitch." He snarled under his breath, letting his head fall into his hands so he could massage his temples. The headache was getting worse. They'd lost a man in the dungeons and a few more had abandoned the party the moment they'd gotten back to Thorinn- off to panic on their lonesome, Graves assumed. God knows why he hadn't walked away, too. Babysitting had never been his strong suit, and keeping some, unnamed members of that party together was like herding cats.

Sighing, he did his best to reset himself and looked out over the rest of the party. "Alright guys," he started, sitting up. "It's been a couple'a days and we haven't gotten any word on when we can get outta here. We can't sit around drinkin' our troubles away forever, so...what'do we do next?"



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C H A R A C T E R C O N C E P T P R O P O S A L

KENT NELSON AGENT OF ORDER THE TOWER OF FATE NABU
C H A R A C T E R C O N C E P T


"I'm old, son. I've lived more lifetimes than most. Seen things you wouldn't believe- that nobody in their right mind would, really. Felt so much joy, love and hate that my heart can scarcely take anymore. Known pain beyond your wildest imagination. And power. Oh, what power I had. But that's all over now, isn't it? Because of my mistake. And now...now I've a choice to make. Not a hard one, though. What is one life compared to the fate of everything?"

Kent Nelson has served as Doctor Fate since 1920, yet he's seen more than centuries of duty. Travelling across time and space alike he has done battle in the ancient past and in worlds far from our own. He has dueled Elder Things and Old Gods, walked among countless pantheons and struggled against terrors that could wipe humanity from all memory. As an Agent of Order he has served as a sentinel against the forces of Chaos- holding fast at the gates that guard all living things and never swaying from his post. In those hundred upon hundreds of years of service, time and power have slowly chipped away at Kent's humanity. Each foray into the darkest corners of the universe forces him to leave behind another piece of himself so that he might better serve Order. In his bid to protect us, Dr. Fate becomes less and less human everyday.

But it was arrogance, not humanity, that was his downfall. For as he built up his power, Dr. Fate believed he had discovered a means by which he might defeat Chaos once and for all. He attempted to confront a Lord of Chaos, the one called Mordru, and hoped to kill an aspect of Chaos. It was a foolhardy notion from the start, for the Lords of Order and Chaos are but vessels for abstract powers that have existed beyond existence, and shall continue to existence even after the death of our tiny, insignificant universe. The battle was short-lived, and Nelson's arrogance made his master, the Lord of Order known as Nabu, vulnerable. Mordru struck a mortal blow against Nabu, wounding his opposite through his connection to Dr. Fate and tipping the scales in the cosmic struggle between Order and Chaos in a way previously thought impossible.

Nabu's injury has left all agents of Order, Kent most of all, weaker and more vulnerable than ever. Even when wielding the Helmet of Fate, he is nothing compared to what he once was, and for the first time in centuries has found himself no match for old enemies like Klarion and Wotan. He finds himself in a desperate race to heal Nabu's wound and repair the balance of the cosmic scales before Chaos can consume Order in it's entirety. The fate of the universe has oft been at stake when Dr. Fate intervenes, but things have never felt so dire for Order's greatest champion.

C H A R A C T E R M O T I V A T I O N S & G O A L S

There's always been something fascinating to be about the higher concepts in comic books. One concept in particular that's always caught my imagination is the idea of godhood, and how access to unimaginable power might shape a person and their character. How having knowledge of the fundamental makeup of existence might change someone's entire perspective on existence, and whether or not such knowledge is even desirable. Dr. Fate presents a unique opportunity to explore godhood, and power, as he's both simultaneously a man and something...more.

In this re-imagining of Fate, Nelson has lost himself in the mantle of Dr. Fate. His connection to his own mortality has been severed by a hundred years of impossible power and a personal relationship with literal deities. Knowing the answers to our greatest mysteries has soured Kent to mankind. He's seen the worst of us over and over and over again, and his constant duty to protect them has made him very tired. The near-death of a Lord of Order and the loss of much of his power will tear him down from on-high and force him to confront how power has changed him, and how being Fate for so long has caused Kent to lose his way. This is the harshest wake-up call he's ever going to get, and he's going to get the chance to decide just how important his humanity is to him.

C H A R A C T E R N O T E S

▼ S E A S O N O N E S U P P O R T I N G C A S T
▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔
Jim Corrigan
Detective and (occasional) Host of the Spectre


Mitchell Shelly
AKA Resurrection Man, Superhero


Amy Winston
Exiled Princess of House Amethyst, teenager


Linda Strauss
Nurse, single mother


Eric Strauss
Student, 10 year old


Nabu
Lord of Order


▼ S E A S O N O N E A N T A G O N I S T S
▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔

Klarion
Witchboy, mischievous and occasionally cruel


Fin Fang Foom
Dragon


Etrigan
Rhyming demon whose dreams drive men mad


Wotan
Immortal sorcerer and nemesis of Dr. Fate


Mordru
Lord of Chaos

S A M P L E P O S T


THE BOOK OF FATE
Issue #1: HUMBLED

Salem Willows Park Salem, Massachusetts

Kent Nelson had sat on that bench many a time before. Sometimes with Inza. Sometimes alone. It'd been there for quite awhile in one form or another. His favorite was the wooden one, made from the same Willows planted all 'round him, that they'd put up way back in the 18th century. This one wasn't great, he had to admit. It's deep black, wrought iron frame was sturdy, sure, but it was so uncomfortable. He hated what it did to his back.

Hell of a view, though. Hell of a view. Especially now when the sun was starting to dip underneath the water of the Ram Horn, almost like the channel was swallowing Earth's star whole. It's light cascaded across the open water like God throwing stones across a pond. They shot out in a spray of a thousand, individual tendrils of fire that reached from the horizon all the way to the stony shore. Every time Kent saw it it took his breath away. He thought he'd caught lightning in a bottle, and the next time he sat on this bench, the majesty of it would disappear. It kept, somehow. And that made it all the more special.

It'd been far too long since the last time, he realized. He couldn't even remember when the last time was. Kent felt a tinge of guilt in his chest. The only reason he'd come back was because he had nowhere else to go now that the Tower of Fate was locked to him. And he had the audacity to stain this poor bench crimson. Terrible as it might be, it didn't deserve to be bled on.

"I've lost my way, haven't I?" He muttered, followed shortly by a sigh. A painful one. That last blow he'd taken to his side must've done more damage than he initially thought. Reaching down he pulled at the dark blue material of his costume, lifting it up to reveal the mangled flesh that still clung to his side. Blood, pus and dark magic dripped down it- all of it flowing from the big, ugly mark in the center.

Arrogant. Stupid. Reckless. He should've known challenging Mordru in his own domain was folly from the start, and yet the mighty Doctor Fate did it anyway. Threw himself into the fires of Hell and expected not to get burned. Even an amateur would've had the forethought to know it was a bad idea.

"But not you, right, Kent?" Nelson laughed, only for it to transition into thundering coughing fit. "Kent Nelson, biggest moron in the Nine Realms, at your service."

The helmet was sitting in his lap, those empty eye sockets glaring up at him. 'I told you so!' They seemed to scream. 'I told you how it'd end, but you went anyway, and now look what you've done to me!' The Helmet of Fate was older than anything Nelson had ever encountered. Though he'd found it in an Egyptian Tomb, even then he'd known it was far more ancient than the Pharaoh it'd been buried with. It'd spent the vast majority of its existence spotless. Shining, like polished gold. Now Kent looked down at it and saw that polish fading. He could see small cracks along the faceplate and the crown. He used think the thing was indestructible.

Just like him.

But Nobu was dying. The Lord of Order had gone silent. If it wasn't for his uneven breathing in the back of Nelson's soul, Dr. Fate would've thought him dead. But his time was running out, and when he went so too would Kent. And there was no telling when existence would join them. Could be tomorrow. Could be in a hundred thousand years. But without Nabu...Without all of the Lords of Order...

Time was going to run out eventually.

"Stupid, Nelson. Stupid, stupid, STUPID!" Dr. Fate roared as he leapt up from the bench where he sat. With a great heave of his arm he chucked the Helmet of Fate, watching it sail through the air until it landed like a stone in the Ram Horn channel. Despite it's weight it didn't sink. Instead, the helm floated atop the water, refusing to flow with the current. Just sat there, staring up at the rapidly darkening sky.

"I killed us." He breathed, falling back down on that uncomfortable seat. "I killed us all."

"Death's not so bad once ya get used to it." A gruff voice, corrupted by one too many cigars over the years, called from behind Kent.



"I need your help, old friend, n' it sounds like you need mine."


P O S T C A T L O G


THE BOOK OF FATE
Issue #1 - Humbled
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THE BOOK OF FATE
Issue #1: HUMBLED

Salem Willows Park Salem, Massachusetts

Kent Nelson had sat on that bench many a time before. Sometimes with Inza. Sometimes alone. It'd been there for quite awhile in one form or another. His favorite was the wooden one, made from the same Willows planted all 'round him, that they'd put up way back in the 18th century. This one wasn't great, he had to admit. It's deep black, wrought iron frame was sturdy, sure, but it was so uncomfortable. He hated what it did to his back.

Hell of a view, though. Hell of a view. Especially now when the sun was starting to dip underneath the water of the Ram Horn, almost like the channel was swallowing Earth's star whole. It's light cascaded across the open water like God throwing stones across a pond. They shot out in a spray of a thousand, individual tendrils of fire that reached from the horizon all the way to the stony shore. Every time Kent saw it it took his breath away. He thought he'd caught lightning in a bottle, and the next time he sat on this bench, the majesty of it would disappear. It kept, somehow. And that made it all the more special.

It'd been far too long since the last time, he realized. He couldn't even remember when the last time was. Kent felt a tinge of guilt in his chest. The only reason he'd come back was because he had nowhere else to go now that the Tower of Fate was locked to him. And he had the audacity to stain this poor bench crimson. Terrible as it might be, it didn't deserve to be bled on.

"I've lost my way, haven't I?" He muttered, followed shortly by a sigh. A painful one. That last blow he'd taken to his side must've done more damage than he initially thought. Reaching down he pulled at the dark blue material of his costume, lifting it up to reveal the mangled flesh that still clung to his side. Blood, pus and dark magic dripped down it- all of it flowing from the big, ugly mark in the center.

Arrogant. Stupid. Reckless. He should've known challenging Mordru in his own domain was folly from the start, and yet the mighty Doctor Fate did it anyway. Threw himself into the fires of Hell and expected not to get burned. Even an amateur would've had the forethought to know it was a bad idea.

"But not you, right, Kent?" Nelson laughed, only for it to transition into thundering coughing fit. "Kent Nelson, biggest moron in the Nine Realms, at your service."

The helmet was sitting in his lap, those empty eye sockets glaring up at him. 'I told you so!' They seemed to scream. 'I told you how it'd end, but you went anyway, and now look what you've done to me!' The Helmet of Fate was older than anything Nelson had ever encountered. Though he'd found it in an Egyptian Tomb, even then he'd known it was far more ancient than the Pharaoh it'd been buried with. It'd spent the vast majority of its existence spotless. Shining, like polished gold. Now Kent looked down at it and saw that polish fading. He could see small cracks along the faceplate and the crown. He used think the thing was indestructible.

Just like him.

But Nobu was dying. The Lord of Order had gone silent. If it wasn't for his uneven breathing in the back of Nelson's soul, Dr. Fate would've thought him dead. But his time was running out, and when he went so too would Kent. And there was no telling when existence would join them. Could be tomorrow. Could be in a hundred thousand years. But without Nabu...Without all of the Lords of Order...

Time was going to run out eventually.

"Stupid, Nelson. Stupid, stupid, STUPID!" Dr. Fate roared as he leapt up from the bench where he sat. With a great heave of his arm he chucked the Helmet of Fate, watching it sail through the air until it landed like a stone in the Ram Horn channel. Despite it's weight it didn't sink. Instead, the helm floated atop the water, refusing to flow with the current. Just sat there, staring up at the rapidly darkening sky.

"I killed us." He breathed, falling back down on that uncomfortable seat. "I killed us all."

"Death's not so bad once ya get used to it." A gruff voice, corrupted by one too many cigars over the years, called from behind Kent.



"I need your help, old friend, n' it sounds like you need mine."
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early draft 4 Erich's background prolly not gonna work







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Demetrius "Demi" Solon | Knight | M | 19 | Saxony, Germany

Personal Dossier

Physical Description
Demetrius is rather plain and unassuming by all accounts. He's short in stature for someone his age at only 5'6, and he tries his best to hide his wiry frame; partially out of insecurity and partially because it keeps attention off of him. Demi does this by wearing baggy clothing like oversized shirts, jackets and work jumpsuits- one of the many signs that he doesn't care much about maintaining his appearance. Other signs include his unkempt and shaggy mane of hair, tendency to hunch his shoulders and slouch every time he sits, and the uninterrupted presence of dark bags under his eyes.

Personality Traits
Rational
Honest
Disciplined
Reflective

Nihilistic
Cynical
Anxious
Suspicious
Obsessive


Psychological Effects of Polaris Shift
Ever since he first achieved Perfect Synchronization, Demetrius has suffered regularly from mood swings, bouts of anxiety, and depression. He regularly takes medication in an attempt to stem these, but finds that the side effects of mental sluggishness and physical fatigue impair his abilities as an engineer and a pilot. This leads to stretches of time where he'll ignore his prescription so he can stay 'sharp,' only to end up spiraling into nihilistic despair until someone shoves a pill down his throat.

Personal History
Demetrius and Mara were born to be mercenaries, literally. Their parents were members of a defense contracting company called the 'Black Steel Battalion.' The outfit, while technically independent, worked exclusively for Paragon and its subsidiary companies, breaking legs and intimidating smaller settlements into accepting the generous contracts they were being offered by the megacorporation but were refusing to sign. It was bloody business, and both Demi and Mara were stooped in it from the start. Both of them pulled their weight around camp from the moment they could walk, and while Mara was more interested in combat roles like their father, Demetrius took to engineering like a moth to the flame.

He spent practically every moment of his early life watching the mechanics take apart and repair mechs, bombarding them with questions with every breath and volunteering for any kind of work that got him close to those titanic war machines. It seemed to be the only thing he was interested in- the only thing that made him genuinely happy. And he was good at it, too; his intense fascination and willingness to learn allowed him to excel in a difficult field where many others had failed.

He was more than a little conflicted when he found out that he tested positive for Neural Combatant compatibility and was told he'd be fighting on the front lines in his own mech. It gave him a newfound appreciation for the machines he'd been working on for his early life, of course, but it also meant he'd be spending more time fighting in NCs than fixing them.

The next several years of Demi's life were exceedingly frustrating for him. He got very little satisfaction out of the act of piloting, but the battalion required that he do it- he had better sync rates with the Reichsritter than anyone else in the outfit, God knows why, and they believed he was far more useful here than in the gear pits. To make matters even worse, he achieved Perfect Synchronization during this time, and ended up developing several disorders that would follow him for the rest of his life. He felt trapped by the demands of those around him- trapped by the constant pressure to do what was best for the company, for the family, to ignore his own needs and wants.

So when Mara came to him and poured out her own issues and suggested that they leave, Demetrius was more than happy to oblige. The two of them spent nearly a month combing through their contracts with Black Steel until they found a clause that they could use to make it void without sacrificing their most important assets: their NCs. After managing to secure their independence, the duo began their year-long journey from central Europe over to Mara's chosen destination: New Anchorage.

Tactical Preferences and Skills
Prodigious Engineer: Demi has spent his whole life around NCs, and practically grew up with a wrench in his hand. It's one of the few things he's truly passionate about, so it's no wonder that he's dedicated countless hours to mastering his craft. There isn't a problem with his mech, or anyone else's for that matter, that he can't fix on his own provided he has the tools and the time to do so. The only area where he still has some room to grow is in his coding, as he enjoys the act of working with his hands far more than he does the minutia of computer work; still, he can do it, and he can do it quite well.

Competent Pilot: While no master of war by any means, Demetrius still has a good deal of experience operating the Knight in combat situations. He can hold his own in an NC fight, especially when he has a reliable squad that he can depend on to watch his back and cover for the few blindspots in his skill set.

Danger-Close Fire Support: Thanks to the massive size and particular armament of the Reichsritter, Demetrius's role in any given squad is to act as a mobile fire support platform. He aids his squadmates by providing suppressing fire on enemy positions and mechas, forcing them to shift their full attention to Demetrius and his heavy weapon fire while his squadmates rapidly advance and assault the enemy position. He acts in a similar role during defensive operations or retreats, generally trying to slow the enemy down via sustained ordnance and force them to engage him- the Knight's heavily armored body and (optional) combat shield attachment allow it to take several magnitudes more hits than a faster but more lightly armored assault NC.

Notes
Demi speaks with a slight German accent and is fluent in three languages: German, his first language, English and French.

Is very protective of his tools. Will only share them with people he really trusts.

Works best when he can block out background noise, usually using heavier rock music for that purpose.

Theme
Neural Combatant

Codename
Knight (English translation); Reichsritter (Original German)

Type
Heavy Bipedal

Squad Role
Support

Description
The Reichsritter is a behemoth of a mech at nineteen meters in height and over eighty tons in weight. Packed to the brim with layers of armored plating, the Knight's most notable attribute is it's ability to take an insane amount of punishment and keep going. It rarely wavers under enemy fire, advancing through everything thrown at it to launch back a fierce counteract using the Thermal Rotary Cannon (TRC-11) attached to its right arm. It's left arm remains free to allow for a level of versatility in it's loadout- depending on the situation it can either equip another offensive weapon for maximum damage potential or a defensive tool to make the mecha even tougher than normal.

Originally manufactured by Paragon and purchased by the Black Steel Battalion, the NC was thought to be somewhat sluggish, and it's previous pilot often complained that the TRC-11 chewed through battery packs and heat sinks far too quickly. Demi was able to modify the cannon to be 200% more efficient at the low cost of a slower rate of fire. Other modifications include longer barrels for increased effective range, an 'elbow-locking' function for more stability during sustained fire, and an improved target identification algorithm. It's 'sluggishness' was harder, though, and required that Demetrius remove the shoulder-mounted missile launchers to drop the tonnage on the upper body down to more manageable levels.

Equipment & Armaments
Thermal Rotary Cannon-11: The Reichsritter's primary weapon, the Thermal Rotary Cannon is an arm-mounted, high capacity support weapon. It can put out six hundred rounds of thermal ammunition in a minute at an effective range of fifteen hundred meters. It can generally get around two hundred rounds out of a single battery pack before it has to be replaced; it's advanced heat sinks can handle roughly two minutes of sustained, fully automatic fire before they either need to be swapped out or given a cooldown period of five minutes. It isn't recommended that the TRC-11 be pushed after it reaches it's max heat, unless the pilot wants to risk the weapon cooking its internal systems until they're unsalvageable.

Reinforced Combat Shield: A rather large piece of specially made armor that can cover the main torso, legs and head of the Knight when placed in front of it, the combat shield is an optional piece of equipment that dramatically increases the survivability and toughness of the mecha. Destroying or damaging the shield with small arms fire is nearly impossible, and even heavy ordinance would need to repeatedly bombard a specific piece of it before the armor would crumple. The easiest counter would of course be to target the Reichritter's exposed limbs, or to launch Area of Effect munitions to simply ignore the RCS.

Shoulder-Mounted Hellfire Launchers: Originally standard issue on the Knight, the Hellfire Launchers were a pair of missile racks that jutted out of each of the NC's shoulders. They had two primary modes of use: either as a 'dumb fire' artillery to blanket an area in explosions or in a 'lock-on' state that would track enemy aircraft and mechas after they'd managed to lock on to their target. While both forms were generally useful, Solon had them removed as they made the NC quite top heavy and awkward. He left enough of the system behind in both shoulders that they could potentially be reinstalled with a little bit of time and elbow grease.

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Mara Solon | Icarus | F | 19 | Saxony, Germany

Personal Dossier

Physical Description
Mara spent her whole life as a soldier and that fact is burned into her very identity. Rigorous, daily training has resulted in her developing a fair bit of muscle and an athletic frame- though no amount of hard work can make her grow any taller than 5'7, unfortunately. She's been dragged into more than a few brawls in that time, leaving her with plenty of scars, both big and small. The most visible of these are the cut along her left cheek and the numerous, smaller abrasions that pepper her jawline, neck and upper body.

Her 'style,' if one could call it that, reflects on how military life has shaped her: she continues to wear the same grey Battle Dress Uniform, work boots and the fur-lined aviator's jacket that were all given to her by Black Steel back when she first became one of their pilots. She's since removed all their iconography, of course, and replaced them with an embroidering of Icarus's wings; after all, who would be dumb enough to continue to wear the colors of a group they turned their back on?

Personality Traits
Confident
Passionate
Empathetic
Gregarious

Aggressive
Impulsive
Possessive
Dependent

Psychological Effects of Polaris Shift
The Polaris Shift drastically warped Mara's natural aggression and impulsiveness, causing her to develop symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder. This disorder is characterized by frequent outbursts of anger and aggression, almost always disproportionate to the 'slight' that caused it. These outbursts become even worse when Solon is in the cockpit, morphing acts of violence into an almost relieving or intoxicating experience. Her symptoms appear to be worsening with time, and her previous methods of maintaining or seizing control over her emotional state are becoming less and less effective. Worse still, the release and pleasure she feels during these incidents seem to be growing more intense and addicting- and that fact terrifies her.

Personal History
Mara was always the more combative of the two Solon twins, even from the beginning preferring to solve her problems with her fists than her head. That aggression and bravado made her a shoe-in for soldiering, according to her superiors at Black Steel, and she started her training regime from an extraordinarily young age at the discretion of her father. They instilled within her a discipline and strong sense of duty, and gave the skills she'd need to eventually develop into the excellent pilot that she would one day become.

She was ecstatic when she learned she was NC compatible, and all but leapt into the first mecha they'd let her climb into. Piloting was easily the most thrilling experience she'd ever had, and Mara dedicated herself to being the best in the entire battalion. It was a goal she got closer and closer to as she grew, both as a person and as a pilot, her skill and maturity developing well in tandem with one another. Her fondness for the outfit grew as well- she fell in love with the sense of purpose and comradery that came with her service. She was meant for this; she was meant to be a soldier.

Her first few sorties gave solon a healthy dosage of reality, however, as she was forced to turn her guns on flesh and blood people for the first time. She was able to rationalize it, at first:

The other pilots she fought were out to kill her, too, so why shouldn't she kill them first?

Her outfit wouldn't be targeting them if they didn't have it coming- her commander was a good man.

Mom and dad were encouraging her to fight. That meant it had to be okay, right?

Slowly but surely she came to the realization that these were little more than excuses. The guilt she felt every time she watched another mecha fall continued to build and build until it was so heavy that Mara could no longer bear the weight. It forced her to start asking questions. It compelled her to confront the worst parts about herself, about the work she did for Black Steel, and whether or not she would be able to continue to serve under such conditions. These weren't questions that came to her easily or in a short amount of time, but rather had to be teased out, long term, all while she busied herself acting as little more than a glorified leg breaker for a monolithic, uncaring megacorporation for nothing more than a simple paycheck.

She attempted to bring these worries before her family, she tried to get them to understand why she was hesitant to fight for them, but all it resulted in were dozens of fights and arguments with her parents about what was really important in the world. They argued- vehemently- that all that really mattered was that they do what they needed to help each other, that they needed to be loyal to the battalion; the company had given them so much, and it was only right that they give back as much as they could. Mara wrestled with that idea for quite a long time before she was able to reject it completely.

From there she decided that she could no longer continue to work for Black Steel in good conscience, or any corporation for that matter. She wasn't sure where she could go to avoid the massive shadow they cast over the world, but she'd become convinced of the fact that working for such organizations was wrong, and that it was a great disservice to waste her skill on a cause she didn't believe in; that left her with the 'simple' task of finding a cause she could believe in.

Enter a recruitment ad she found for New Anchorage.

Tactical Preferences and Skills
Trained Professional: For all of it's faults, the Black Steel Battalion knew how to turn boys and girls into hardened soldiers. She developed a wide breadth of skills both during the initial training process as well as during her active service, including but not limited to: operating a firearm, basic CQC and hand to hand, survival in extreme environments, field medicine and equipment maintenance. All of this was packaged along with a healthy sense of discipline and the resolve to see the day through, regardless of the personal cost or difficulty involved.

Excellent Marksman: The primary area of expertise, the skill Mara has spent her entire life honing, is her marksmanship. She has an intuitive sense of range, projectile drop, standard deviation and how weather affects specific types of projectiles. Even without the assistance of her targeting computer, Mara's aim is impeccable, bordering on prodigious. This skill doesn't translate as well outside of the cockpit, since shooting a hand-held weapon and aiming the Icarus's gun are such diametrically different things, but she's practiced enough in gunplay to operate normal firearms at a competitive level.

Precision, Speed, Reconnaissance: Mara Solon's role in an engagement is to act as a forward operative with the goal of gathering strategic intel on enemy numbers, armament and movement while also engaging them from a safe distance. Icarus's highly mobile yet lightly armored frame requires that she be constantly vigilante in how she's positioned; if she stops moving for more than a few minutes she's liable to catch a bullet. Knowing the composition and capability of enemy combatants is vital for her success as a scout and as a marksman- the vulnerability of her particular machine means that she doesn't have the luxury of missteps.

Notes
Mara, like her brother, speaks with an accent, but unlike Demetrius it gets significantly thicker when she begins to lose her cool- at her angriest she has a habit of switching back to her native German without fully realizing it. She also never learned French.

Keeps a strict schedule to keep herself sane and in control, including daily meditation and long exercise regimes.

Theme

Neural Combatant

Codename
Icarus

Type

Squad Role
Scout Marksman

Description
Icarus is a Paragon manufactured, lightly armored NC designed specialized for the task of battlefield reconnaissance and eliminating high value/vulnerable targets from extended range. Standing at only seven meters tall and twenty five tons in weight, Icarus is one of the smallest and lightest NCs in its class. It's frame is streamlined to minimize drag and stripped of all but the lightest armored plating for maximum potential mobility. Originally Icarus featured a black and gunmetal grey paint-job to match the aesthetic of the rest of the Black Steel Battalion, but since leaving Mara has swapped it for a softer white and blue palette.

Equipment & Armaments
Light Beam Rifle (LBR): The Light Battery Rifle is Icarus's weapon of choice for engaging in long range engagements while still remaining consistently mobile. It uses a specialized system of mirrors to fire a powerful beam capable of piercing through thick armored plating to burn internal systems. A great degree of precision is required for it to actually be effective- each shot won't do much unless it's able to pass through something important, otherwise it's essentially just poking holes in a metal can. The LBR is a recoil-less, rapid fire style rifle that can fire off continuous bursts of energy beams for several minutes before the battery has to be replaced.

Plasma Knife: Close quarters is the last place Icarus wants to be, but there are times where Mara doesn't have any choice in the matter- in those moments she's always glad to have a secondary weapon on hand to defend herself with.

Directional Rockets and Jump Pack: The main source of Icarus's mobility are the jump pack and directional rockets installed on the NC's back and limbs, respectively. Its jump pack allows the NC to reach otherwise inaccessible strategic positions, while the directional rockets focus more on improving strafing and letting Icarus run circles around enemy mechs.

Advanced Sensor Suite: Icarus possesses a wide array of electronic detection equipment including Radar, LiDAR, and thermal imaging. On top of these reconnaissance tools it has an entire electronic warfare suite for the purpose of disrupting enemy communication and obscuring their ability to track Icarus's squadron mates. These systems are constantly being tweaked and upgraded personally by Mara's twin, Demetrius, keeping their tech one step ahead of rival organizations.

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| Name |
Iron Patriot // Norman Osborn

| Age |
Early 40s

| Character Differences |
In this timeline Norman Osborn is no longer a villain, though calling him a hero might be overselling it. He has dedicated a great deal of his recent life to fighting for humanity's survival, not just because his interests happen to align with the side of light (namely not wanting to die in an alien-induced genocide), but because he sees that fight as a road toward redemption. The war with the Skrulls is Norman's chance to prove he's no longer the monster he once was, that he's conquered the Goblin, and that he deserves to see Harry again. All the while he continues to struggle with his psychosis in a silent battle for his mind and his soul.

| Brief World Background |
Earth wasn't in the least bit prepared when the Skrulls came for Earth. Unlike in the mainline continuity, Tony Stark never learns of the Secret Invasion, and the Skrulls are able to systematically pick apart every major threat before they're discovered. The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the x-Men, and even SHIELD all fall, the world none the wiser to what's taken place. It was only after victory was assured that the aliens launched an all-out attack on Earth.

Yet the swift triumph they anticipated never came, for in their darkest hour humanity still managed to resist- led not by its traditional heroes but instead by dictators, conquerors, terrorists and villains of all other stripes. Pariahs once shunned by the world for their misdeeds rose up in earnest to defend it. Among the highest echelons of the resistance sat men and women like Doctor Doom, Emma Frost, and Namor, united in common purpose. They were the strongest mankind had left to lead them, and that ensured their demise. The Skrulls managed to pick off the leadership one by one, carving out a power vacuum within the command structure.

A vacuum that Norman Osborn stepped in to fill.

The war was a long, grueling affair, with neither side willing to give even an inch of ground. It was the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, and it raged on for more than a decade before Osborn was able to strike the critical blow that would turn the tide in earth's favor: he punched through the Skrull flagship and put a bullet through their queen. It didn't end the fight by any measure, but it marked the turning point that allowed a united earth to crush the invasion for good.

With the Skrulls pushed back into space, the surviving members of humanity began to reorganize themselves to prepare for further conflict- they knew well that the invasion of Earth was only the start of things. Osborn was, naturally, the best choice to lead the effort. He established HAMMER as a militarized opposite to SHIELD with himself as its director. Construction of a space fleet began, headed by former scientists and engineers from AIM, with the hope of striking back at the Skrulls for all that they had done.

| Brief Character Background |
Norman Osborn gained his wealth selling prototype weaponry to the American military. His company, Oscorp, was once a significant competitor to the likes of Stark Industries, only for the entire industry to be flipped on its head the day the 'Iron Man'- quickly revealed to be Tony Stark himself- appeared on the public stage. Nothing Oscorp was developing at the time could ever hope to live up to the armor, and every country on the planet was looking to replicate it. Osborn was far too proud to stoop to the level of many of his competitors that were racing to make and sell copycat suits en-masse, and he stuck religiously to his current project: attempting to re-discover the Super Soldier formula that created Captain America.

But progress was painfully slow, and USFDA refused to allow human trials to begin until the numerous side effects appearing in the animal testing phase were addressed. Norman flushed more and more resources into the development of the drug, diverting them from the company's more profitable ventures in the hopes of making a breakthrough. It didn't work, the serum remained unstable, and Oscorp was dragged under by his obsession. In a final, desperate bid to prove he wasn't a failure, Osborn injected himself with the incomplete formula, and the psychopathic killer known as the Green Goblin was born. That personality dominated Norman for eight, long years of his life, compelling him to terrorize the people of New York City and do battle with local hero Spider-Man.

This 'second personality' wrought chaos across the city, killing, maiming and destroying whoever or whatever he pleased, showing an intense obsession with proving its superiority over everyone else- most especially Spider-Man. It wasn't until Norman's son, Harry, was caught in the crossfire that Osborn was able to wrestle some semblance of control back. He surrendered himself to SHIELD, beginning down the arduous path of rehabilitation with the hope of one day being allowed to see his son again.

It became immediately clear to his doctors that the chemical mixture Norman had injected himself with was altering the state of his mind in a profound way, causing symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder to manifest. A treatment plan was written up that involved a great deal of medication and therapy over the course of three and a half years. There would never be a cure for Osborn's condition- not without a miracle- but they were confident they could stabilize him enough for him to return to polite society.

It was the hardest thing he'd ever done or would ever do, but Norman committed to the plan and refused to give up on himself. Norman Osborn wasn't going to let himself be beaten by this.

Unfortunately he was never given the chance to finish the treatment. The Skrulls invaded earth, assassinated its front line of defense and swarmed over the rest of humanity like a plague. It became brutally obvious that mankind wouldn't be able to win this war on its own, and Osborn couldn't simply sit back and watch the planet burn from a padded cell. Freeing himself from his rehabilitation facility, Norman armed himself with stolen commandeered Stark tech and began organizing a resistance movement with many of his old rivals from his time as the Goblin.
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| Name |
Superboy // Kon-El // Conner Kent

| Age |
Early 20s

| Character Differences |
Kon-El is further along in his life in this iteration than most, and a world-shattering tragedy has thrust upon him a terrible burden. Like many former sidekicks, the mentor that molded him into the hero and person that he is today was suddenly and brutally attacked. Kal was one of the lucky ones to survive as he did, though not so lucky when he learned of the extent of his injuries. The world has been deprived of its former heroes. A golden age of capes came and went in the blink of an eye, and the world's citizens teeter on the brink of complete panic and chaos. Its been suggested that Conner take up the name and mantle of Superman, both as a practical decision to take up Kal's former duties and as a symbolic gesture to the people that the new generation is more than ready to fill the void left behind by their predecessors. Conner is meant to spearhead that initiative, and yet...he isn't sure he has what it takes.

Most of the differences between this version and the Post-Crisis one is his maturity. He's older, more restrained, and perhaps even a little wiser. Along with that emotional maturity came physical maturity, too: his powers have evolved with time, growing stronger by the day. He's still far from a match for the modern Kal-El, but can be compared to the 'Golden Age' iteration in many ways, including a lack of flight. Rationalizations for this vary wildly, but most observers agree that, if Kon's physical age tracks with Kal's, he should be able to fly by now.

| Brief World Background |
Superboy's origin earth differs little from the Prime iteration up until the events known as the 'Tower of Babel.' Ra's al Ghul and his League of Assassins launched a massive assault on the Justice league's Watchtower, utilizing Batman's stolen contingency plans to capture, kill and wound Earth's greatest protectors. Unlike in the Prime timeline, the attack succeeded, and they were able to move onto the next stage of the plan. The Assassins created a series of false flag attacks to drive the countries of Vialya and Qurac to war with one another, dragging a complex web of alliances into direct, military confrontation with one another in the hopes of sparking a global war. It was believed that, without the possibility of intervention by the Justice League, such a war would be made inevitable, and from the ashes Ra's al Ghul's new world order could rise.

They were wrong.

Nightwing rallied the non-Leaguer heroes still left, many of whom were active or former members of the Teen Titans and Young Justice teams and their affiliates, and struck back. The conspiracy was revealed to the world, Ra's was captured, and the Assassins scattered to every corner of the planet, never to rise again to their former glory. The cost, however, was high. Numerous heroes were lost in the violence, either dead or too crippled to continue their service, and almost done managed to escape unscathed. Batman was not present during the attack for unknown reasons and has yet to resurface since- its assumed he was killed beforehand, but it isn't certain.

Of those that survived, Superman was the highest profile, and he was the primary reason the panic could be contained. He acted as a source of hope and inspiration, assuring the general public that they were still safe. All of his speeches, interviews and even his supposed appearances to continue the good fight were a calculated attempt to obfuscate the truth. Nightwing had realized early on that Superman was their lifeline to the old way: a stalwart reminder of what the League had represented. The public believed that so long they had Superman things would be alright. He also realized that the radiation poisoning Kal-El was suffering from was only getting worse, and it was only a matter of time before their lifeline snapped.

| Brief Character Background |
Superboy was originally a clone of Superman created by CADMUS with the goal of replacing the original with a copy loyal to the interests of the United States government. The project was discovered by a small group of sidekicks before he finished 'incubating,' broken free, and brought under the group's wing. He spent the next several years of his life adjusting to his new reality, being mentored by Superman and other prominent heroes. Superboy worked closely with the likes of Robin, Kid Flash and Miss Martian as co-founders of the Young Justice team.

Things took a dramatic turn after the League's massacre at the hands of Ra's al Ghul. Kon-El did all he could to help, playing an instrumental part in containing the Bialya-Qurac conflict while Grayson unraveled the conspiracy for the world to see. He could not, however, save many of his friends and mentors: he lost Kara, Barry, J'onn, Dinah and many, many more. And to make matters worse he was forced to confront the fact that Kal was ill, and there didn't seem to be any way to reverse the sickness. It was only a matter of time before the world lost its Superman.
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Location: New York City, New York -- City Streets


Superboy had never been in a fight before.

He'd seen them before, of course, when Kara and Kal-El would spare in the Fortress of Solitude, or when Kelex would let Kon watch old news footage of Superman throwing down with his many enemies. He knew what a punch looked like, and he'd figured out how to make his hand into a fist. But he'd never thrown one before. Never been hit by one before, either. The concept of pain was itself alien to him until this lizard-breathed giant decided to introduce it to him.

'Gotta say, I don't much like it.' Kon grumbled to himself as he peeled his body out of the concrete wall he'd just been thrown into, the Kryptonian-shaped hole crumbling behind him as his boots hit the ground. Slicks of dried blood ran down his lip, and a thin layer of rock dust had infested his mess of black hair.

Conner Kent, as he'd been come to be known on the Kent farm, cut an impressive figure for his age. He stood just a hair short of six feet tall and was built like an ox, arms thick as tree trunks and shoulders that could carry a full-sized tractor on a bad day. Big as the boy was, he looked like an ant standing face-to-face with the invader. It was absolutely enormous, and the hail of punches it'd just thrown at Kon evidenced the fact that all that muscle wasn't just for show.

"That all ya got, pal?!" Kon shouted, a cocky grin dominating his face even as he launched himself at the creature for the second time. The ground shook with the force of his leap, and he flew with such speed that he was right on top of the monster before it had a chance to use that laser again. Kon narrowed his eyes and clenched his fist, picturing in his head every newsreel fight he'd ever watched just as he fired off a punch into the alien's jaw. Armored scales gave a sickening crunch, bending and snapping under the force of the blow. Sickly-colored blood stuck to Kon's knuckles like glue. There was a moment's elation as he thought he saw the alien fall.

It caught itself on its back foot, however, and turned toward the little humanoid with hate-engorged eyes. Clutching its warspear in hands the size of basketballs, it gave a mighty swing toward Kon's skull. The weapon sang as it cut through the air, moving with inhuman speed. Quick, anxious flew in front of his face to adsorb the blow, the blade just narrowly failing to pierce Kon's flesh.

Pulling back, the alien launched another two strikes at Kon, one aimed to pour his guts all over the concrete and the second to knock him to the floor. Kon managed to jump back and avoid the former, but the former caught the back of his leg and he found himself on his back before he realized what had happened.

The creature roared triumphantly in its mother tongue, lifting the spear high into the air, preparing to finish off its opponent so it could return to capturing the girl.

Superboy didn't give it the chance. With clumsy, violent speed he flung himself from his back at the alien, his head colliding with its armored chest with the force of a rolling freight train. The two of them entered the air, briefly, flying across the street until they'd landed in the parking lot on the opposite side. Kon skidded for a couple of yards on the asphalt while his much heavier enemy just sort of sunk into it, like a boulder falling into a pond. People in the nearby shopping center screamed bloody murder at the sight of them, apparently having hoped that the conflict wouldn't come toward them and that they'd be able to hide it out there. They scattered in every direction as the two super-powered beings dragged themselves to their feet.

"Damn...Now I know why nobody else does that." Conner groaned, a hand clutching his thumping skull. Hurt as he was, though, Superboy could tell he'd hurt the other guy more than himself. It was struggling to get back to its feet, even going so far as to use the end of its spear to help push its great mass off of the broken ground.

Seeing an opportunity to end this, Conner charged. "How 'bout you just stay down this time?!" He roared, punching the alien's cheek hard enough to send its head crashing through the roof of a car parked just beside it. Conner grabbed it by the arm and tore it from the vehicle's interior, tossing the lizard brain into the body of another, larger vehicle. Metal bent, tires popped and glass shattered under the impact. It didn't have the strength left to get back up.

There wasn't any time to waste celebrating his first won fight, much as he'd like to do so. That girl was still in trouble, n' all those innocent people could be caught in the crossfire- he shouldn't have let himself be carried away from the main fight by just one of these things. Conner dug his heels in and bent at the knees, jumping into the air with the force of a small explosion. Dust, debris and rock were scattered in all directions as he took to the sky. He wasn't up there for long, maybe a couple'a seconds in total, but it was long enough for him to spot out the rest of the lizardmen. The biggest one was in the process of getting itself blasted across the road by the alien girl, who looked much worse for wear than when Conner last saw her- he felt a pang of guilt for leavin' her alone out there, outnumbered n' surrounded.

Yet he could see she wasn't all that alone after all.

He landed, caught his breath for a second and then sent himself up again. This time he focused on the newest fighter, trying to get a read on him. He was more slender and agile than Kon, by the looks of him, but obviously still built, and he was a shade less pale than Conner and covered in strange, glowing tattoos. Whoever he was, he was clearly on the right side of things, seein' as how he much lizard ass he was managing to kick on his own. He wa skilled, obviously, n' he had some kinda power to control water. But he was also horribly outnumbered by a bunch'a the giants, and even just one of them had given Kon trouble. They had him pinned behind some concrete for a second, but he used his powers to knock a light pole down on top of 'em to send the pack scattering long enough to get into their midst.

Kon lost sight of them again, but he was just a single street over now. This last leap would take him soaring over a line of apartment buildings and into the midst of the fight. Taking to the air, Superboy could see now that their mysterious ally had managed to take down two of squad on his own, but the other half had caught him out with a laser blast. He'd been brought to his knees and they were just about to put an end to him.

'Not on my watch.'

He flew in like a missile, crashing directly into the back of one alien and sending his buddy reeling in surprise. Kon clumsily stumbled off the first, plucking a chunk of rebar and broken concrete off the street as he got to his feet. He reeled it back behind his head and chucked it like it a baseball, sending the object rocketing toward the second alien with the speed of a bullet. It exploded across the creature's face, knocking it onto its rear out of sheer dizziness.

Conner turned around and offered a hand to the other, intervening hero, conscious of the fact that some'a the guys they just knocked down were starting to get back up. "Thought you could use a hand. The name's Superboy, n' I'm here'ta help." There were a lot of these things, and they packed a hellofa punch, but maybe together they'd stand a chance.
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ComradeMaxx King of Fools

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Location: Rushford, Ohio -- Jenkins' Diner



Cass's expression contorted into an anxious grimace at the ranger's answer. They had next to no time left before they had to get outta dodge and they still weren't ready to go- there was still talk of what all they should be grabbing and what could be safely ignored. Thinking about the clock ticking down while she watched them go back and forth made Montoya's palms itch. Maybe she'd noticed it, or maybe Cass had just gotten lucky, but Karen decided to not-so-subtly ask Cassidy to check for ways out of the diner that didn't involve plunging through the front door's barricade and into the swarm of shambling dead just outside.

"Yeah, I'll go check it out." She agreed with a curt nod, bouncing on passed the others as she moved deeper into the restaurant.

The place wasn't exactly in tip-top condition, probably hadn't been even before the apocalypse. The wallpaper was torn in places in the back and nobody had bothered to replace it, the wood flooring was scratched and stained with grease, and shelves of cardboard boxes filled with stale food lined the hallways. The kitchen wasn't big, only barely leaving enough room for two people to pass by one another in the pathways between the stoves and counters.

Just in the back corner, next to the broom closet, was the appropriately marked emergency exit. She felt her heart sank when she got close enough to read the small, red sign beside it:

EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY
ALARM WILL SOUND

"Shit." She snarled under her breath. "So much for sneaking away."

After swallowing down a moment's panic and collecting herself, she began to look around the room for anything else of note. There didn't appear to be any other doors aside from this one and the one in the front, but there were a few windows. All of 'em were small, ancient looking things- at least the ones that opened- and there was no way they'd be fitting the big guy through any of them. But there was one that gave her a partial view of the back of the diner. Not enough to scope the whole area out, but maybe it'd be enough.

She climbed atop a metal countertop to get at it. The thing was so old that no amount of tugging with her hands was going to get it to open normally, so she slid her crowbar out from her backpack and held it tight in her fists. It took a bit of fiddling, but she managed to get the tip of it underneath the window and knocked it loose, doing her utmost not to make a racket as she did.

'Here's hopin' one of those things isn't just waitin' right outside. Ha. Wouldn't that be a stupid way to go out?'

Once Cassidy had it open, she popped her head out to get a good look at their only escape route.
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