Libra wrote:Just a few more thoughts regarding the Usual Suspects (and to a degree The Knights of the Abyss); Feel free you use them or disregard them as you see fit, as ever:-
As always, wonderful!
The Usual Suspects are very good at what they do and what they do is steal artefacts of hideous strength from some of the least pleasant entities or individuals in creation and get away with them, not to mention pilfer anything else that may happen to catch their eye on the way out (when I said they were good at getting away with it, I forgot to add that this doesn't mean they're equally good at being caught red-handed in the process hence their freedom to pick up a few of the trinkets lining their escape route).
To date they have had a surprising amount of success flying beneath the radar of the various Powers in the multiverse never-the-less (partly because they are, to a lady or man, small fry by Nexus and mostly because The Shadow king is very good at being sneaky, but THE master of distraction), but have not been ENTIRELY succesful in their bid to avoid detection - it is interesting to note that one of the two factions currently making every effort to follow the Usual Suspects (not all of them succesful) is the hippest bunch of super-hippies in Creation and the other is The Diabolic Dozen who are neither hippies nor hip but ARE taking an interest because ... well, read on to find out.
The team's innocuousness is, quite possibly, it's greatest strength. When they invade someplace like Apokolips, they don't draw the attention of Darkseid and very rarely draw the attention of Granny Goodness. Instead, they draw the attention of the rank and file Para-Demons who are bad enough on their own but who are somewhat more manageable. It's only after Darkseid finds one of his most powerful treasures removed (his godlike defenses around it having been busted by a bit of magical powder on their persons) that things get VERY irritating.
Ironically, the worst attention they've gotten isn't from the Greenworlders (as problematic as they may be) or the Diabolical Dozen. No, the worst attention they've gotten is from the sole group in the Nexus the King in Shadows fears. A group he is quite unprepared for dealing with and is wondering about cutting his losses for. A fact he CAN'T do without endangering his project permanently. Yes, his archfoes and the only beings who may match him in sheer abject lunacy.
Seth and Jack.
Their last tango with the King in Shadows over multiple worlds' fates is, quite literally, legendary. Across both time and space, gods and heroes are discussing it. Coyote (of the Aeons) howls his appreciation. Anansi the Spider is laughing his butt off over the ending. Locke Lamora of Earth-38,717 merely claps his hands at the audacity of its lower
levels. It was also, quite bluntly, the one time the pair really really had to WORK their brains to the fullest. They won, but it was by the skin of their teeth.
Unfortunately, for the King, they're EAGER for the rematch.
To be honest a major part of that reason The Diabolical Dozen took an interest in The Usual Suspects lies in the antipathy that has sprung up between Penelope and Hex-Witch, the latter of whom regards the former as trying to muscle in on her motif and isn't too keen on being alternately regarded as a poseur and a handy scapegoat for any leftover resentment the youngster can no longer take out on her mother either - the vicarious amusement The Diabolical Dozen derive from all this dysfunction is, you must understand, the very least important reason for any interest The Diabolical Dozen may currently be taking in The Usual Suspects.
Hex-Witch and Penelope have met on Earth-0 as well due to the fact the latter's gateways lead directly to Grimmsbrooke, MA. As a result, they have both run into the various cornicopia of witches/hags/Lilin and ogresses present there. They've also run into a number of witch hunters due to their feud as well.
The Charming Order does not mess around with witches (mostly because they're responsible for 90% of the True Love Problems they have to deal with).
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The most important reason behind this interest is the fact that The Eternal Empress smells POWER, not in the Usual Suspects themselves (at least not beyond LUCK, which one cannot take hold of) nor even in their elusive sponsor, not quite, not yet (even when she pieces her decidedly-disordered memories she will have to deal with the fact that The King in Shadow's career followed her own fall) but in the artefacts which this small band of rabble seem so hell-bent upon acquiring ... for the most part The Diabolical Dozen have a long and illustrious record of having nothing to do with Titan-THINGS, but they do take an interest in ensuring that such Apocalyptic Artefacts are removed from the playing-field.
The Eternal Empress respects this attitude and on the whole agrees with it ... but were she ever to follow The Usual Suspects to the Swan King, then tail him to that place where he deposits them well then she would be TEMPTED; God help Creation if she fails to resist that temptation.
The Eternal Empress like the Celestial Conductor and Mister Arcane are powerful enough to be able to use the item without being corrupted. At least, in the traditional sense. It's just that the terrifying power available from the End's tech naturally brings out the worst in people anyway.
'No!' cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. 'With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.' His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. 'Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strengh to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be to great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me.'
And Professor Tolkien's letters.
It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power. But this the Great had well considered and had rejected, as seen in Elrond's words at the Council. Galadriel's rejection of the temptation was founded upon previous thought and resolve. In any case Elrond ir Galadriel would have proceeded in the policy now adopted by Sauron: they would have built up an empire with great and absolutely subserviant generals and armies and engines of war, until they could challenge Sauron and destroy him by force. Confrontation of Sauron alone, unaided, self to self was not contemplated. One can imagine the scene in which Gandalf, say, was placed in such a position. It would be a delicate ballance. On one side the true allegiance of the Ring to Sauron; on the other superior strength because Sauron was not actually in possession, and perhaps aslo because he was weakened by long corrupetion and expendature of will in dominating inferiors. If Gandalf proved the victor, the result would have been for Sauron the same as the destruction of the Ring; for him it woudl have been destroyed, taken from him for ever. But the Ring and all its works would have endoured. It would have been the master in the end.
In short, that's a FOURTH option with someone like Mister Arcane or the Conductor or the Empress* able to destroy the End by using his artifacts to enhance their power to universe-destroying levels.
However, a quick reminder, the last person to possess all the artifacts was DEVIL SUN.
* And the Empress is a hero equal to them. She's just a hero of HER OWN values. Ones who think setting up a TERRIBLE QUEEN as BEAUTIFUL AS THE MORNING and so on isn't such a bad idea.
It's also tempting to imagine what Victor would do with them or other heroes.
Amusing, the End THINKS the King in Shadows is doing this and is content with it but the KoS has no intention to enslave himself to a false lure of power like he did the Champion. You can't con a conman with a con he's used himself.
A note, VICTOR may be smart enough to not use the enemy's power but with the utter moral failure of his team--MARDUK is not.
The Courageous Coalition's reasons for taking an interest in The Usual Suspects is unsurpiringly somewhat more noble and slightly less direct:- one day, all too recently the Knights of the Abyss were let loose on Greenworld and what followed was quite probably the terrific superhuman battle that planet had seen since the first, last and to date only visit of the Diabolical Dozen (with The Protectors of the Nexus and USA-team hard at their heels).
In many ways it was a fight far more terrible than that one had been, for the very simple reason that The Diabolical Dozen (being an entirely self-serving lot and supervillains to boot) know when to cut the theatre, cut their losses and RUN - The Knights of the Abyss, on the other hand, were heroes once and in many ways this made the rage and contempt with which they sought to conceal their bitterness at seeing such a resemblance between themselves and the heroes of such a world much, much worse.
Justice Happening didn't enjoy the experience very much either; it was far too close to fighting dark reflections of themselves, with all the collateral damage that might imply and just a little too much like refighting the last battles against TYRANNUS for them to take much comfort from their successes - Justice Happening are old in experience and managed to make that experience count in the end - still, had it not been for a stroke of sheer good luck the Usual Suspects would have carried away the artefact they were charged with making off with, entirely oblivious to the havoc being wrought on their behalf all the breadth of a continent away.
The Knights of the Abyss discovering Earth-Greenworld is a somewhat horrible thing for the people of said planet because they see it as the perfect metaphor for themselves. The Amazon and Champion could, if they wanted, retire to this world and use it as a place to rebuild their lives. After all, if it was a hellhole that could be redeemed and there's hundreds of Ex-Nazis running around, there's nothing wrong with them doing it.
They'd just have to murder the existing heroes to replace them. Harmonius Jade would also be attracted to this place and assist them in doing so.
(Death's Head and others would want to destroy it for the same reasons the others would want to take it over.)
Sadly, the King in Shadows has once more displayed his epic ability to **** things up by introducing a group entirely capable of ruining Paradise to, well, Paradise.
Quite simply Justice Happening were perfectly able to sense SOMETHING going on at their West Coast HQ while they had no choice but to put a stop to the team of superhuman titans attacking the East Coast or die trying (on a world as rich in psychics as New Gaea it's HARD to keep anything hidden, but it's quite possible to keep it's heroes preoccupied), but The King in Shadows rather outsmarted himself with this particular gambit - having gone to great lengths to make sure neither of his teams had any connection to or particular interest in the other, he was prevented from ensuring the timing of their missions matched perfectly due to the unanticipated and unwelcome interest in his person taken by The Young 'Gods' (aka The Super-Car Crew).
The King in Shadows is a heavy-hitter, even working single-handed, but an entire team of Neo-Concordians makes for quite a handful (especially when it includes beings as difficult to evade as the Fetching Farseer and as difficult to fool as Quantek), obliging him to beat a fighting retreat and accept The Usual Suspects failure to penetrate the defences of The Superdome before the Fetching Farseer snatched what they had been chasing right out from under their noses.
To say that he was less than happy with this failure is putting it mildly; he's currently considering a scheme to bring E-92 to the attention of Greenworld out of sheer outrage at their success - he's keenly aware that they simply could not resist intervening to help a world suffering so badly from the influence of the Titans, knows that their intervention would not be utterly-futile but is well aware that such an intervention would exact a bitter price from The Super-Car Crew and their friends, possibly even one they cannot afford.
The King in Shadows didn't actually do this because of his intent, though he might have come up with it, but for the fact he slid through a portal to Earth-92 anyway. As a result, it's not so much a when anymore as they have actually SEEN the hellish Earth and know it exists. Disturbingly, this revelation comes with the discovery of their mad, bad, and despotic cousins on Earth-Middle Zoth.
Which means they're actually debating working WITH their archrivals in the hated Order.
The Courageous Coalition, on the other hand, have taken an interest in both the Knights of the Abyss AND The Usual Suspects, because they can spot a two-hander confidence trick even when the right hand and left hand in question are being carefully kept ignorant of the fact that they're even vaguely connected; The Super-Car Crew are taking a particular interest, because whilst they didn't quite recognise The Swan King and 'Grandpa Vanquish' is out of reach at this time, they have a lot of the pieces to an intricate puzzle in their hands and only lack the right perspective to solve it.
Dun Dun Dun.