World of Freedom 2.5 (DVD Commentary)

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Libra
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Post by Libra » Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:22 am

[Gauntlet's stats are functionally identical to those of Aaron Sullivan's "Green Lantern" build, here.]

Now why didn't I think of that?!? I was wondering when Aaron would put up stats for the Pantheon - amongst other things - and technically he already has.

So simple, so brilliant. Curse you Davies, I want some of that inspiration!
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Post by Aaron Sullivan » Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:26 pm

Now why didn't I think of that?!? I was wondering when Aaron would put up stats for the Pantheon - amongst other things - and technically he already has.
:wink:
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Post by Davies » Fri Apr 25, 2008 8:05 am

Libra wrote: So simple, so brilliant. Curse you Davies, I want some of that inspiration!
What inspiration? I asked Aaron what PL he'd suggest, planning to build the character up from the Ringbearer archetype, and was pleased to find out that the work had already been done for me.

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Current Events: Time of Vengeance (Part One of Four)

Post by Davies » Fri Apr 25, 2008 8:20 am

[Before I begin, let me introduce the newest member of the Ex-Cons -- Sebastian Gregory, aka "Savant", a super-intelligent detective who was busted for drug possession and sentenced to probation with the group. (For a visual reference, think L from the manga and anime Death Note.) He replaces Aquaos, who's moved on to other things.]

[One more thing -- this four part series of articles basically reveals the whole plot of Time of Vengeance. So if you think you might be playing that adventure, you might not want to read this. Likewise, if you're planning on running it as a GM, and you think your players read my articles, you might want to change things around a bit. Or a lot.]

When it became readily apparent that the unnatural swarm of blood-sucking fleas infesting the North End of Freedom City weren't going to be dispelled by the STAR Squad's efforts, "Bulldog" Maddicks reluctantly called in the Freedom League. Unfortunately, they were off on an adventure in the Lost World. The Arsenal of Democracy was in a similar position. It didn't make a lot of sense to call the Atom Family, given that their headquarters seemed to be the focus of the fleas rampage. Maddicks wasn't about to call in the Next Gen or the Alterniteens; it was bad enough having to turn to adult super-heroes, let alone a bunch of kids. If he'd known how to go about contacting Foreshadow, Eldrich or Dr. Tomorrow, he'd have done so, but since the only one of them who's in the phone book wasn't answering his cell, Maddicks wasn't left with a lot of options.

Despite that, it wasn't until the reports came in about the frogs in the Fens and the really scary Goth-girl in Liberty Park that Maddicks realized that he had to do something he'd probably rather have shot himself than do. Teeth gritted, he dialled the number for Project Freedom and called in the Ex-Cons. Harriet Wainwright promptly split up her team into three partnerships -- Thunder & Lightning were sent to the Fens; the Old Man and Savant were dispatched to the Goodman Building; and the Commander and Toxic headed for Liberty Park.

The three groups encountered varying degrees of success. On encountering Tsfardeia, Thunder tried the direct approach of a full-force punch. While it did momentarily knock the frog creature for a loop, she was injured and disoriented by her contact with its slimy skin. Outraged by this "assault" on his wife, Lightning proceded to rain blast after blast of lightning on Tsfardeia, completely ignoring anything that it said about "hairy smile ack". Once Thunder recovered, she joined in the beating, throwing various heavy bits of debris at the stunned creature. Neither of them even noticed the memorial to an obscure hero that didn't quite get wrecked in their battle ...

Meanwhile, the Old Man and Savant made their way into the Goodman Building and quickly encountered the beleaguered Atom Family. Andrea Atom was busily trying to repair the damage done to Professor Atom's mainframe while her children and Jack Wolf covered her; the arrival of the two Ex-Cons provided some welcome relief. Savant quickly deduced, based on the reaction of the fleas themselves to the anesthetic gas, that the rather larger specimen who seemed to be controlling them might be particularly vulnerable to them, and was able to dose Kinim with the stuff, incapacitating him. Unfortunately, the damage to the Professor's program seemed beyond Andrea Atom's ability to repair, rendering their victory bittersweet ...

Worse was yet to come, though, as the Commander and Toxic went after Dam. The Commander made a serious error in judgement in pulling his punch when he made contact with the teenaged girl, which turned disastrous when she lashed out with her blood control to induce a stroke which sent him out of action. For her part, Toxic wasn't able to land a blow on Dam, and as she wasn't able to get in touch with Wainwright to get permission to use her toxic aura, it's not even clear what she could have done if she did. Despite almost heroic effort on her part, Toxic wasn't able to prevent Dam from transforming the reservoir into blood ...

And when the villain had made her escape, and Toxic tried to use her own transmutation to undo it, she found herself blocked by power she couldn't quite comprehend. Verbal abuse from the police at the scene didn't help her self-esteem any. Given this, it's perhaps not surprising that Toxic wasn't in any mood to listen to the Old Man's message from Andrea Atom, indicating that she'd like to meet with Toxic and talk about the younger girl's father. Telling him off, she stormed to her room, loudly wondering why she put up with this crap ... and ended the day by staring at the phone number that Lady Blue had handed her, months earlier ...

And that was the end of the first day of the Time of Vengeance.

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Post by Rubber Baron » Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:09 am

I seem to have missed the introduction of the Ex-Cons. Anyone know what page (of 40) they were described on?

Thunder and Lightning are obviously from the old Champions mythology (and I don't think they survived into 5th Edition, did they?) but the others are totally unfamiliar to me.

I've been thinking of running Time of Vengeance, but it is so thoroughly tied to Freedom City (with all the Atom Family and Freedom League references) that it's a daunting amount of work to modify it to fit into my worlds...

I can't even stick it into the Perrinverse (my first & largest campaign world) because the Atom Family is too different from the Fantastic Four.
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Post by Black Ops » Fri Apr 25, 2008 12:13 pm

:arrow: Project Freedom was first mentioned in post 854, on Page 18.
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
Translation: I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head

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Post by Davies » Fri Apr 25, 2008 12:54 pm

Rubber Baron wrote:I seem to have missed the introduction of the Ex-Cons. Anyone know what page (of 40) they were described on?
The index is your friend. :)

In addition to the already posted cite for the Ex-Cons, various characters who'll be appearing in this story can be found on the following pages:

Toxic
The Old Man
The Commander

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Time of Vengeance (Part Two of Four)

Post by Davies » Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:04 pm

The next day, as soon as the public library opened its doors, Savant was there to check on a vague memory. He consulted the Old Testament and confirmed that his recollection of the plagues described in Exodus was accurate, and checked the words used by the three supervillains as names against a Hebrew phrase book. His pleasure at being right almost overshadowed his realization that if the theory held, there were seven more plague-inspired supervillains waiting in the wings.

Meanwhile, the Commander accompanied Wainwright to assist in the interrogation of the two captured members of G'Tach. Through patient questioning, they were able to get their real names and their mutual origin. (Wainwright, who'd encountered Mr. Infamy's handiwork on a prior occasion, recognized him from the description.) When that information was combined with Savant's breakthrough, the Ex-Cons were able to work out a strategy of sorts.

That afternoon, the second trio of plague avatars appeared in Midtown. After observing the insectoid nature of one of them, and deducing that Arov might suffer from the same vulnerability to poisons as Arbeh, Savant put their plan into action. Thunder carried Toxic up above the human fly and performed a vertical fastball special (i.e. dropped her) on Arbeh, with Toxic activating her toxic aura on impact. She maintained enough control over her aura to not kill him, but left him sufficiently weakened that one punch from Thunder took him out of the fight.

Meanwhile, the Commander, having learned from his earlier mistake, hit Dever with everything he had, knocking her out before she could harm Mayor O'Connor or his father. (But not before she delivered part of her message: "Virginia North ordains the death of Michael O'Connor for --" WHAM!) At the same time, electrical attacks from Lightning softened Sikhin up so that sharpshooting by the Old Man could knock him out. While the Super-Museum, target of the plague avatar's attack, suffered some damage, it was well within acceptable limits.

Impressed with how quickly the Ex-Cons had dealt with the threat, Michael O'Connor Sr. invited them to accompany him as he paid a visit to Freedom Hall. There, he met with Nancy Gardener, who passed on the news that the Freedom League hadn't reported back from the Lost World. She also revealed that the one member of the League who'd remained behind was in a dire situation of his own, showing them how Dr. Metropolis was apparently reacting to the plague avatars handiwork as though they were attacking him personally. Since the Ex-Cons all knew Dr. Metropolis personally, and tended to regard him as vastly more powerful than they were, they were shaken by the revelation.

Eventually, the Commander thought to ask the elder O'Connor why Nancy Gardener was revealing all this information to him. In the meeting room used by the Liberty League, he revealed his secret to them, and after a quick question ("No, my son's not the new Freedom Eagle. I don't know who that fellow is. Don't much like what he's done with the look, either, but that's neither here nor there.") O'Connor also explained who Virginia North had been, and what had happened to her. Savant quickly made the connection between the attack on the Atom Family and Professor Atom's role in Virginia North's humiliation. O'Connor agreed with the assessment, but wondered aloud how on Earth North had known his own secret identity.

Savant's researches turned up more information about the later life of Virginia North. With Wainwright's assistance in accessing various public records, he was also able to figure out that she'd lived in the very same area of the Fens which had come under attack by Tsfardeia. But even with all this information, he was no closer to figuring out where she was or how to stop her from making her next move. And as night began to fall, and he hadn't had a cup of coffee in more than a day, he started to feel the call of the seven per cent solution ...

And that was the end of the second day of the Time of Vengeance.

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Post by Libra » Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:23 pm

The plot thickens! :wink:
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Current Events: Time of Vengeance (Part Three of Four)

Post by Davies » Tue Apr 29, 2008 9:05 am

The next morning saw a visitor to the Ex-Con's base/halfway house. Andrea Atom came by to offer her personal thanks for the group's assistance earlier. She'd been somewhat delayed when it seemed that her oldest son was coming down with something, but he'd made a fast recovery. She also wanted to speak privately with Toxic, who (prompted by Wainwright's delicately phrased "suggestion") agreed.

Andrea, calling Toxic by her real first name (which was her first big mistake) explained that she wanted to say that she was sorry that she and the other Atoms hadn't been more help to Morphogenesis' family after he was killed helping them in Sub-Terra. But she remembered listening to him talk about his kids, and she was sure that he'd be proud of his daughter for what she was doing with the Ex-Cons. Toxic sullenly said that she hadn't been doing so well with this problem, but Andrea interrupted to say that she meant what she was doing generally, in trying to make amends for what she'd done.

Toxic stared at her for a moment. "Make ... amends?" she said, slowly. "You think I want to make amends for killing that son of a bitch? If I could kill him a million times over it still wouldn't be enough! You don't know $#!+ about my life -- get the hell out of here!"

Andrea returned her stare evenly. "I see," she said at last. "I'm sorry that you feel that way." And then she turned, and walked away without looking back.

Just a few moments later, reports came in of a most unusual hailstorm afflicting City Center, and the Ex-Cons headed out before Wainwright got a chance to ask Toxic about her conversation. The team made its way through the city to Freedom Hall, where they found Barad calling down flaming hail as she called for Johnny Wade to come out and face the punishment he deserved. Savant took a moment to congratulate himself on being correct about the motivation of the villains, and then speculated aloud that Barad's weakness might be fire.

In response, while the rest of the team engaged the flying hailstormer in battle, Toxic transmutated a large section of Centennial Circle's pavement into gasoline, and had Lightning ignite it with a lightning bolt. One solid punch from Thunder knocked Barad into the flames, which were intense enough to drive her into unconsciousness. The Commander managed to pull Barad out before she burned to death, but she would be a long time healing.

Upset at the lethal tactics Toxic had just used, and by her tardiness in putting out the flames, Wainwright ordered her to stand down and report back to base while the rest of the team headed to the next crisis. When they arrived, Savant noted that this had been a strategic error; given the track record of the insectoid members of G'Tach to this point, it seemed likely that the locust-like Arbeh would also be vulnerable to poisons. And indeed, without that advantage, the plague avatar nearly beat them, before they received a completely unexpected bit of assistance from the intended victim of Arbeh's rampage.

As it turned out, the Commander had heard of the Bee-Keeper; the villain had featured in a number of the Centurion's comic book adventures which had been translated into German, and which he'd read as a child. He was also diplomatic enough to avoid contradicting the old man's claims that he'd been one of the most feared of the Centurion's many foes.

The Bee-Keeper's account of his one and only encounter with the Scarlet Spectre provoked a frown from Savant. He soundly ignored the awkward silence which had fallen after the Bee-Keeper's plaintive query about what sort of hero carried a gun (which provoked a glower from the Old Man) and observed that this was a departure from pattern. Other attacks directed by the G'Tach against specific persons had been tied to humiliations that Virginia North had endured. What had been so humiliating about this? The Bee-Keeper didn't know, but observed that she might as well have been acting like someone was breaking into her hide-out.

Thanking him for his help, the Ex-Cons started to depart, but then met another person who remembered the Scarlet Spectre, and described a memorial that had been erected to her. Before they could really find out more about it, they were informed of yet another crisis situation -- this time in Bayview, where the sky had begun to darken like an eclipse. They quickly headed into the danger zone, and arrived at Claremont Academy just in time to see the Next Gen going down to defeat at the hands of the animated shadows of Chosech.

"Call me crazy, but I think this guy might be weak against bright light," Thunder quipped before Savant could say anything, earning a nasty look from the detective. "Honey, would you be a dear?" Lightning proceeded to use his electrical powers to generate a brilliant light, neutralizing Chosech's powers and allowing his wife and the Commander to knock him senseless. Headmaster Summers offered his reserved thanks to both the Ex-Cons and the recovering Next Gen, in the latter case preserving the illusion that the group wasn't associated with his school.

The team then went back to base to find Toxic confined to her room and Wainwright trying to get in touch with Dr. Ellis. Savant persuaded her that it might be a good idea to let Toxic out. To illustrate his point, he wrote down the names of vanished hospital patients, and then crossed off those who'd since been discovered as a member of G'Tach, which left only Virginia North. He then wrote down the list of the plagues, crossing off those which had already been manifested. There was only one remaining on that list as well: the death of the first-born.

"I think I can safely say that the worst is yet to come," he noted.

Meanwhile, in Bay City, far removed all this chaos, Lady Blue was enjoying a peaceful afternoon in her swanky apartment when the phone rang. Activating the scrambler, she picked it up. "Hello? Ah, how are you? Yes, I've heard. I take it this means that you've decided that you want out after all. Well, we can certainly arrange that, but you will owe us ... are you certain about this? There's no going back once you've done this, you know." She listened. "All right. I'll get in touch with you as soon as possible. Sometime in the next few hours. The two of you had better get ready."

Lightning said, "Thank you."

And that was the end of the third day of the Time of Vengeance.

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Post by Kreuzritter » Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:27 am

aw dang, and here i was hoping you'd find some way to work in lt. thunder from my thread

good summary of the adventure though
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Post by Davies » Fri May 02, 2008 10:18 am

Okay, I'll be posting the finale of the WoF 2.5 version of Time of Vengeance tomorrow, after which I'm going in a slightly different direction than I'd planned, mostly because I've just acquired Agents of Freedom, Worlds of Freedom and Iron Age. I'm going to be reconciling stuff from all of them with this thread, particularly the two different versions of SHADOW.

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Current Events: Time of Vengeance (Part Four of Four)

Post by Davies » Sat May 03, 2008 9:29 am

Thunder was the first one up the next morning. She hadn't slept well after her husband had told her what he'd done. The notion of being in debt to the Crime League didn't sit well with her, less because of any fundamental honesty than because she didn't want to be part of the world of heroes and villains on either side. Still, she didn't want to be in Freedom City when the boom came down, either. She wandered into the base's kitchen to make some breakfast, and hoping that whatever Lady Blue was going to do, it'd happen --

"Good morning," said Mr. Infamy, as he sat at the kitchen table and drinking a cup of tea. "Could I trouble you to gather your colleagues? I've a proposal I want to make."

A few minutes later, all of the Ex-Cons were in the kitchen, listening to Mr. Infamy as he explained that he was in the business of granting people the ability to achieve their wishes. Since they wanted to defeat Virginia North and the rest of the G'Tach, he would be more than happy to put them in a position where they could do so.

"Even though you're the one who gave them the powers that they have now?" Savant asked quietly.

"They do serve as a useful advertisement, wouldn't you agree? Well, what do you say to my offer?"

Lightning caught Thunder's eye, willing her to understand his thoughts -- that if they did this, they wouldn't need the Crime League's help, or anyone's help. Thunder found herself thinking that this was just more of what they hadn't wanted in the first place. The Commander thought of all the good he could do. Toxic thought of all the humiliation she'd endured over the years. And Savant?

Savant said, "No."

"Well, that's one --"

"And if my colleagues are as smart as I think they are, they'll say no, as well. You see, you've overplayed your hand. You wouldn't be offering us power like this unless you thought we had a chance to defeat the plague-avatars without it. If we do that, after all, then you've gained nothing. But if we accept your offer, then we become the next big threat, and you can tempt someone into going after us, and then someone else again to going after then, and so on and so forth, in a never-ending cycle of corruption. So, no. We don't need or want your help."

"Are you done?"

"Yes."

"Fine. Would any of the rest of you care to accept my offer? No? Very well. If you change your minds, my card is on the table. I'll let myself out." And he walked out of the room, disappearing the instant he stepped out of sight.

Wainwright nearly had a fit when she found out what had happened when she arrived at the base a few hours later, but she calmed down when the Commander handed the card to her. She wanted to know what leads the team had, and agreed that their best information about Virginia North, aka the Scarlet Spectre, aka Makat Bechorot, pointed in the direction of the Fens. She decided to send Savant, the Commander and Thunder out to that neighborhood, while the Old Man and Lightning stood "monitor duty". Toxic was still under lockdown until Dr. Ellis could be contacted to have a talk with her.

So half the team headed into the Fens. Directions from Mrs. Kemp allowed them to quickly find the monument she and a few others had erected to the Scarlet Spectre. There were no clues, there, but they did make it visible for the first time in years. They then pressed on to the school which had featured in the Bee-Keeper's account of his meeting with her.

Savant took one look at it and proclaimed, "She's in there."

"Uh-huh. And how do you know that?" asked Thunder.

"If you are implying that I am relying on intuition rather than deductive processes, then I would ask that you recall that I am not gathering evidence which will need to support testimony at this time. Therefore, I do not need to be logical. And she is in there." He paused. "Admit it, it looks like she should be there."

Thunder looked at the Captain, who shrugged. "It does, you know," he said.

Rolling her eyes, Thunder pulled out her cell phone and called the base to tell the rest of the team what they'd found. Wainwright agreed and sent the Old Man or Lightning to join them. As they were leaving, Dr. Ellis finally arrived to speak with Toxic. Wainwright insisted on being present for the meeting, and Dr. Ellis reluctantly agreed.

Gradually, Ellis drew out what had happened between Toxic and Andrea Atom. Eventually, Toxic admitted that she had found herself feeling better when Andrea had apologized for not having been more involved in her life. Dr. Ellis tried to draw her out, make her examine those feelings, but Toxic got distracted, thinking out loud about Virginia North. "I mean, all that happened to her, it was all just stupid stuff, but I bet nobody even tried to apologize to her for it. Maybe if they had ..." And then she realized. "Maybe if they did ..."

Meanwhile, the rest of the Ex-Cons had proceeded to enter the abandoned school. Avoiding the weak spots on the floor, they climbed up to the second floor and discovered the Death Angel, floating above the floor of one of the classrooms. She simply sat there, staring at a wall-clock, which was still working, improbably, and clicking down the seconds remaining until noon.

And then she turned, and saw them.

With a piercing scream, she lashed out with a explosion of dark mystical force. The Ex-Cons quickly began to pull back, this time taking advantage of the weakened floor to quickly descend and escape from the building. The Death Angel pursued them every step of the way, out into the Fens.

She paused, as she saw that they were not alone. The Death Angel wrestled for a moment with the incongruity of a pair of men in three-piece suits and masks -- masks that she recognized -- as they began to speak. The Freedom Eague offered his sincere apologies for what had happened when she came to a meeting of the Liberty League. "We should have done better by someone who'd been doing good work like did," he concluded. "My associate here tells me that you were one of the most frightening foes he ever encountered."

"Yes indeed," agreed the Bee-Keeper.

This is the weirdest team-up ever, thought Toxic. But she pressed on. "Okay? So enough of all this. It was really bad stuff, what happened to you, but it wasn't anyone's fault --"

"WRONG!" snarled the Death Angel, and fired a bolt of pure darkness at Toxic. It smashed into her and sent her flying back from where she stood in between the retired super-hero and -villain. She landed, dazed, several feet away.

Before the plague avatar could loose her fury on other targets, the Commander and Thunder promptly began to grapple her in a desperate attempt to hold her down. She blasted against them, but they held against all odds. Then the Death Angel let out a howl ...

And Harriet Wainwright slowly turned in a circle as each of the G'Tach appeared on rooftops around them, and she quietly whispered, "Oh God no --"

But before any of the plague avatars could make a move, backup arrived. The Freedom League, the Atom Family, the Next-Gen (aching for a rematch with Chosehech), the Alterniteens, Eldrich, Foreshadow and his Freedom Knights, the Eyes of Night, a full squad of SuperMAX-equipped AEGIS agents, and a disguised Taskforce engaged the G'Tach. Of course, that still left the Death Angel for the Ex-Cons.

"Let me talk to her," Dr. Ellis asked, starting to sound desperate. "I know how to do this, I can calm her down and --"

"HEY, B---H!"

Wainwright and Ellis slowly turned to look at where Toxic was standing, one of her eyes swollen shut, breathing heavily ... pointing at the monument to the Scarlet Spectre. "You really think you got it bad? Take a gander at this!"

The Death Angel soared up, Thunder dangling from one of her legs, and looked down at her monument in confusion.

"Yeah, it's to you! You're a woman scorned? You're the woman everyone's forgotten? Try again, lady! They put this up back in the eighties, when everybody in this crazy town hated masks! Thirty years after it all went to hell for you, people still thought you were great!" Toxic broke off, and she was almost in tears when she continued. "Ten years from now, nobody's even gonna remember me except to say thank God she's gone, but you --! You were a hero, lady! And now you're throwing that away, for this?!? Being some kind of monster movie reject?

"Y'know what? If that's how you want it to be, you better just give me another one of those blasts. I'm not going anywhere. Just get it the hell over with and shoot me where I'm --"

All the while Toxic had been talking, the Death Angel's face had gone from confusion to shock to amazement to a terrible expression of horror. It's not even clear whether she heard Toxic's last words, but they were cut off with a long, desperate cry of despair as the shadows in which she was surrounded began to come apart. She fell slowly out of the sky, coming down right in front of the monument ... right beside where Toxic was standing.

Only Toxic heard her last words.

The G'Tach were all subdued, eventually, but none of them were in any mood, by this point, to follow their leader's example.

Later that day, Lightning got a call from Lady Blue, apologizing for the delay in getting the extraction plan set up. Lightning explained that it wouldn't be necessary, and Lady Blue indicated that she understood that. "You still owe us, though," she explained.

"But -- that's not --"

"Fair? We're the Crime League, buddy. We don't have to be fair."

A few days later, Wainwright asked to speak with Toxic privately. "I know that you're a little upset about the fact that we decided to cover up Victoria's ... more active role in all of this --"

"Hey, what's one little white lie between friends?" Toxic replied, her cold tone giving the lie to her words.

"I understand that you don't approve. I hope that you'll come to understand the difference between lying to protect someone and lying to hurt them --"

"I get it. You lied to protect her after she was dead, just like my mom lied to protect dear old gramps. Makes pefect sense. Is that all you wanted to tallk about?"

Wainwright paused to collect herself, and then continued. "I was just wondering ... whether you'd learned anything from all of this."

Toxic stared at her. "Was I supposed to?"

Wainwright was silent for a long while, then sighed. "No, I guess not. You can go."

"Aces. I've got places to be."

After she left, Wainwright sadly wrote, "No progress in rehabilitation," in Toxic's folder. Then she added one more word. "Yet."

Most of the Ex-Cons were watching Dr. Metropolis transform a city block in the Fens into a beautiful, much expanded memorial to the Scarlet Spectre. Toxic didn't join them. Instead, she headed for a quiet cemetery in Greenbank, walking past a tree, picking up a fallen branch and turning it into a white rose ... that she left on a grave.

Her father's grave.

And that was the Time of Vengeance. Perhaps now it was the time of healing.

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SHADOW, Revised and Updated.

Post by Davies » Sun May 04, 2008 12:06 pm

The Directorate

First of all, Hilda Reinholdt (or "the Duchess", as some of her underlings now call her behind her back -- or so they think, anyway) would regard the suggestion that she is "a physical equal for the best AEGIS agent" as a grotesque understatement of her actual talents. She is significantly better, particularly since she started using the Agony Gauntlet, the personal weapon of her grandfather (who was killed in 1961, at the very start of Darke's brief tenure as head of SHADOW) and father (who was killed at the start of the SHADOW Wars). [Yes, both of them were, statistically, the Iron Duke (see p. 110 of Agents of Freedom).]

Hilda Reinholdt (PL 8)

Abilities: Str 12 (+1), Dex 16 (+3), Con 14 (+2), Int 16 (+3), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 18 (+4).
Skills: Acrobatics 4 (+7), Bluff 5 (+9/+13), Climb 2 (+3), Computers 4 (+6), Diplomacy 5 (+9/+13), Disable Device 5 (+8), Disguise 5 (+9), Drive 4 (+7), Escape Artist 5 (+8), Gather Information 5 (+9), Intimidate 8 (+12), Investigate 6 (+9), Knowledge (art) 2 (+5), Knowledge (behavioral sciences) 3 (+6), Knowledge (civics) 3 (+6), Knowledge (current events) 5 (+8), Knowledge (popular culture) 2 (+5), Knowledge (streetwise) 4 (+7), Knowledge (tactics) 3 (+6), Notice 5 (+8), Pilot 4 (+7), Profession (agent) 6 (+9), Search 5 (+7), Sense Motive 6 (+8), Sleight of Hand 5 (+8), Stealth 5 (+8), Survival 2 (+4), Swim 2 (+3).
Feats: All-Out Attack, Assessment, Attack Focus (ranged) 2, Attractive, Contacts, Defensive Roll 2, Distract (Bluff), Elusive Target, Equipment 10, Fascinate (Diplomacy), Fearless, Improved Defense, Leadership, Move-By Attack, Taunt, Well-Informed.
Equipment: Armored uniform (Protection 3) and up to 47 points of equipment from SHADOW's arsenal, depending on mission requirements.
Powers: Device 5 (Agony Gauntlet, hard to lose; Restricted 2)
Agony Guantlet: Nauseate 8 (pain; Ranged, Alternate Power: Nauseate 8 [Concentration Duration]).
Combat: Attack +6 (melee), +8 (ranged), Grapple +6, Damage +1 (unarmed) or by weapon, Defense +8, Knockback -3, Initiative +3.
Saves: Toughness +8/+5 (flat-footed or without armor)/+3 (flat-footed and without armor), Fortitude +5, Reflex +8, Will +7.
Abilities 30+Skills 30+Feats 26+Powers 22+Combat 28+Saves 13=140.

Dominic Dowd has only recently been installed as Reinholdt's chief assistant, after he exposed the fact that his predecessor in the role, Douglas Brent, was an unwitting servant of Mastermind. The fact that he did so by manipulating a group of overeager UNISON investigators into uncovering the connection, and that their subsequent adventures resulted in their demise, was gravy on the fries as far as he was concerned.

Dominic Dowd (PL 6)

Abilities: Str 12 (+1), Dex 16 (+3) Con 12 (+1), Int 16 (+3), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 18 (+4).
Skills: Bluff 4 (+8/+12), Climb 2 (+3), Computers 4 (+7), Concentration 4 (+6), Diplomacy 7 (+12/+15), Disable Device 4 (+7), Disguise 4 (+8), Drive 2 (+5), Escape Artist 3 (+6), Gather Information 4 (+8), Intimidate 4 (+8), Investigate 4 (+7), Knowledge (art) 4 (+7), Knowledge (business) 8 (+11), Knowledge (current events) 4 (+7), Knowledge (popular culture) 2 (+5), Knowledge (tactics) 2 (+5), Knowledge (technology) 3 (+6), Notice 4 (+6), Ride 2 (+5), Search 2 (+5), Sense Motive 6 (+8), Sleight of Hand 4 (+7), Stealth 5 (+8), Survival 2 (+4), Swim 2 (+3).
Feats: Attractive, Connected, Contacts, Defensive Roll 2, Diehard, Dodge Focus 2, Eidetic Memory, Equipment 4, Evasion, Fascinate (Diplomacy), Improved Disarm, Luck 2, Uncanny Dodge (auditory), Well-Informed.
Equipment: 20 points of equipment needed for the current operation, or because he feels like having it.
Combat: Attack +6, Grapple +7, Damage +1 (unarmed), Defense +8 (+3 flat-footed), Knockback -2, Initiative +3
Saving Throws: Toughness +4 (+1 flat-footed), Fortitude +6, Reflex +8, Will+7.
Abilities 28+Skills 24+Feats 20+Combat 20+Saves 15=107

The Penumbra

Reports that the Penumbra only communicate through secured transmissions is slightly inaccurate. In addition to the infrequent social meetings between members of the "inner" Penumbra (one of which is depicted in the illustration on p. 74 of Agents of Freedom), the entire body meets on a monthly basis ... sort of. The overwhelming majority of its members send delegates to these meeting to represent them. (This is one of the few holdovers from SHADOW's corporate period. Overshadow dislikes it, but has been persuaded by Folkes that giving the cell leaders the appearance of consultation assists in maintaining their allegiance.)

The policy of delegation is the reason that it was earlier reported that Ebony Sin was a member of the Penumbra, when in fact she is simply the Scourge Emperor's usual delegate. (And in the wake of her recent embarrassment, she may not be that, or much of anything else, anymore.)

Overshadow recently grew frustrated with a number of repeated failures by the regional administrators for Australia and New Zealand (the most recent of which was his defeat by a crocodile hunter named Dundee) and removed him from his position (and life.) In fact, he went further, putting the entire section under the control of the regional director for Southeast Asia and Oceania, after stripping it of most of its assets for Nifflheim. (Thus, the Southeast Asian section didn't become considerably more powerful than the other sections -- just slightly more.)

This came in the wake of a number of other changes in the organization. Overshadow also expanded his council of advisors to twelve members. First, he ended the long estrangement between SHADOW and the Foundry, inviting Talos back to the Penumbra. Talos has accepted the invitation, though he doesn't socialize as the rest of the council do from time to time. Secondly, having placed the Atomic Brain in charge of the Corona's energy weapons research, and monitored his progress for a reasonable interval, Overshadow installed him on the Penumbra as well. He has plans to exploit the grudge that the Atomic Brain feels against Talos for denying him the resources he needed to build a new robotic body.

In addition, the reports that Nacht-Krieger had become a member of the council are slightly inaccurate. While he remains Overshadow's primary hatchetman, not even Overshadow could bring himself to say that he regards him as "a valuable advisor". That seat belongs to Superior, for good or ill. Overpower intends to play the Ultima off against Ragnarok, and vice versa.

Franklin Folkes is not given statistical reference in Agents of Freedom. Iron Age states that he's a PL10 Crime Boss, but while that information is probably reasonable for him in his early forties, his physical abilities have somewhat declined over the last twenty ears. Use the following modification to that stat block to better represent him.

Franklin Folkes -- PL8 (162) [Crime Boss (Iron Age, p. 80)]; reduce Str to 10; change Profession skills to (spin doctor) and (lobbyist); reduce Defensive Roll to 4 ranks; drop Fearsome Presence; reduce Device to 1 rank; reduce Electrocane's Strike to 10 ranks; drop Strike; reduce base Attack to +6; reduce Fortitude to +8.

The "tenth man", as has already been indicated, is the woman who uses the name Dr. Ashley Ellis. While she has contributed considerably to the organization's development of psionic technology, Overshadow is more suspicious of her motives than he is of any other member -- even Superior! He strongly suspects that she was responsible for his recent mild breakdown, which caused his previous incarnations to start taking over his body. Since the problem has been corrected, and was really only a minor embarrassment rather than a serious threat, he hasn't taken any steps (other than adding rank 15 Impervious Will circuitry to his armor) ... but he really wonders why it wasn't a far more serious threat.

Among the regional administrators, three of the most notable are Akhenapophis, the director for the Middle East (and the most senior of the Initiates of the Hidden Coil; claims that he's a high priest of Set are a classic example of misdirection), Mikhail Andropov, the director for the Russia (and the current host of the body thief Nergal, a fact well-known to Overshadow), and the recently elevated director for Southeast Asia, Oceania and Australasia, Cheng Gui. The son of a noteworthy agent of the Chinese government who was quite a problem for a certain group of criminal investigators in Hawaii in the 60 and 70s, Cheng is quite enjoying his new influence.

The cyborg known as Purifier, leader of the Canadian branch of GENOCIDE, is one of the most notable cell leaders of the Penumbra. However, his position is rapidly becoming untenable. Overshadow is quite aware the American branch, now quite firmly under Xena Latham's control, is enjoying a renaissance, and wants her on the Penumbra in place of Purifier. He's honestly bewildered as to why the girl hasn't taken the hint and had Purifier killed.

The Supreme Serpent of VIPER is also on the Penumbra, though given that entity's true nature (an artificially intelligent computer network) it has to send delegates to meetings. It follows a policy of choosing its delegates at random from among VIPER agents, then executing them after they report back, on the chance that they might have realized its true nature.

Davies
Cosmic Entity
Cosmic Entity
Posts: 7143
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 4:00 pm

A Look Behind the Curtain: Earth-552

Post by Davies » Wed May 07, 2008 2:03 pm

[First, a quick note. The central thesis of this article is not my invention. It's derived from an essay entitled "China Without Tears", by Professor Arthur Waldron, which can be found in the book What If?, in which a number of military historians engage in the by-now marginally acceptible pastime of speculating about alternate histories. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a trained historian of any type, and am utterly ill-equipped to critique Professor Waldron's theories. So I have made no attempt to do so; instead, I have stolen it whole and put a mild spin on it, just as I have done with the works of others throughout this thread. However, those others are free, as Professor Waldron is not, to tell me to shut my yob. Hence my acknowledgement. Thank you, Professor Waldron. Where I am at best a pretender to scholarship, you are the real deal.]

Throughout the continuum, the one great enemy of all parachronic explorers, the one foe which has united forces from Alpha and Prime and from other, less well-known worlds, is the species known as the Ygadthhh in their own language. To speakers of modern English, they are better known as "alien space bats". These perverse entities apparently possess the ability to cross omniversal barriers at will, visiting worlds and employing mind control powers to twist their histories to their own design. Whether there is any rhyme or reason to their actions is known only to them. Dr. Tomorrow once speculated, perhaps seriously, that they regard it as an artform.

In the opinion of those who have visited the worldline known (to the Time-Keepers) as Earth-552, only the presence of these creatures can possibly explain the historical divergence in its history from that of Control. They were clearly present here, on at least one occasion sixty years ago, though they seem to have been unusually mild in their meddling. Still, to those familiar with the career of Chiang Kai-Shek, it seems clear that nothing else other than the intervention of the alien space bats could have made him make the decision that he made in Earth-552's history, in 1945.

With World War II ended, the struggle for control of China that had been interrupted by the Japanese invasion began once again. Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists, who had seized control of the nation in the 1920s, were recognized as the legitimate government of the nation, even by those powers -- such as the Soviet Union -- whom one would have expected to have preferred Mao Tse-Tung's Communists. In discussions about the fate of East Asia at the Yalta conference, Stalin had made arrangements to strengthen Russian influence in the Manchurian region, without any reference to the local Communists.

Of course, that made very little difference. Chiang's Nationalists had fought the Japanese to prevent them from conquering Manchuria, and they were hardly likely to back away from a fight with the Russians over the same territory. This became even more critical when the Chinese Communists sought to shelter under Russian protection in Manchuria. For the Nationalists not to engage the Communists would have been seen as a sign of weakness which they could ill-afford. But they were counselled to do just that by the Americans, who had no wish to see another war break out in the region, particularly one that could escalate into a conflict with the Russians.

In Control's history, the Nationalists responded to this counsel by using diplomacy to persuade the Russians to withdraw their protection from Manchuria, and then launched an invasion patterned on the one which had swept them to power twenty years before. It worked just as well this time, but before the Communists could be crushed, good intentioned Americans once again intervened to persuade Chiang that pressing on would be a mistake. So he held back ... which proved a far more terrible mistake. The Communists were able to strike back, eventually driving the Nationalists off the continent and onto the island of Formosa, later known as Taiwan.

In the history of Earth-552, Chiang, influenced by the alien space bats, responded to American pressure far more favorably. Rather than persuade the Soviets to withdraw, the Nationalists encouraged them to remain, permitting the establishment of a pair of Soviet satellites on the northern borders of their nation. It was an insane decision; control of Manchuria was the key to an invasion of southern China, as the Japanese and the Manchurians before them had demonstrated. Tolerating such a potentially unfriendly presence as the People's Republics of Manchuria and Mongolia, as they came to be known, would have been beyond the imagination of a Chiang Kai-Shek uninfluenced by alien space bats.

Instead of an external war, the Nationalists turned to an attempt to clean up the endemic corruption that could be found within their own borders. Their success in this attempt was mixed, but they were overall assisted by American aid and by the fact that, contrary to expectations, the end of the war did not bring about a return to the Great Depression. Instead, the world economy continued to prosper. Prosperity brought its own risks, of course, but overall it was generally to the benefit of the Chinese people that Hong Kong and Shanghai both became centers of world trade.

The brief, inglorious Korean conflict might also be attributed to the influence of the alien space bats. Without the example of a victorious Chinese revolution, it's not clear why the leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, believed that his attack against the South could possibly succeed. While Stalin authorized the attack, he didn't do much of anything to support the Koreans when the United Nations intervened. And without the support of the Communist Chinese, the counterrattack that drove Kim's followers into exile in Manchuria was bound to be a success. The lesson that the Communists took from this was that the time was not ripe for the final confrontation between them and the Capitalists; better, far better, to wait until they became weak, as it was historically inevitable for them to do.

Without a Communist victory in China or a quagmire in Korea, it might seem strange that there was still a "red scare" in the United States. Perhaps the junior senator from Wisconsin was also being directed by the alien space bats, or perhaps (as some genuine conservatives believe on Control, and more do on Earth-552) he was being controlled by more mundane forces, which wished to make anti-Communism as unfashionable as possible. Or perhaps he was simply a bully seizing an opportunity.

Be that as it may, the HUAC hearings had the effect of driving most of the remaining members of the Liberty League into retirement. But new heroes would rise over the next decade to replace them. One of them, the Raven, would draw attention to a true threat to the world's safety which had taken root in Asia, as Communism had not.

French Indochina was not bordered by a Communist state, and its largely Communist insurgency against French colonial rule was not supported by the Nationalist Chinese government. In desperation, the leaders of the Vietminh made a bargain that they would come to regret -- but generally only very briefly -- in accepting aid from Doctor Sin. While his brilliant strategies and strange devices turned the tide against the French, the revelation of the Vietminh's new master robbed them of what little credit they might have had with the rest of the world. And while American heroes were reluctant to fight another war against mere human opponents, it was another matter entirely to contend with the greatest villainous mastermind of all time.

As such, the war in Vietnam wasn't the unpopular war that it became in Control's history. Far fewer troops were dispatched, and there was no draft to be dodged. American military and civilian advisors (including many from AEGIS) provided assistance to a people fighting against a genuine threat to all of humanity, rather than attempting to interfere in a civil war. Superheroes participated on a limited basis, generally at the request of the government when confronted with a particularly serious threat concocted by Dr. Sin.

It helped that there were fewer supervillains on the homefront. This could very well be because of the lack of a Terminus invasion in 1965, and the resultant absence of strange energies that could empower and transform. Of course, that also could be the reason why there were fewer superheroes. But those whom there were endured longer.

Lady Liberty never underwent the power diminishment that she did in the mainline World of Freedom. The Raven, with assistance from Daedelus, managed to develop a version of Dr. Sin's immortality serum that did not require the abominable ingredients of the original, and distributed it to his colleagues, including Dr. Atom and Jack Simmons. Daedelus himself never felt the need to explore the universe. The Star Knight returned promptly to Earth after taking Blackstar in. (Either Mentor detected the activity of the alien space bats, or he was influenced by them himself.) The Scarab never fell to the Scions of Sobek.

Nor were these the only survivors. AEGIS agents, supplementing President Kennedy's secret service protection, discovered Lee Harvey Oswald's sniper nest minutes before the president's limousine arrived at Daley Plaza. (Either there was no second shooter, or he fled when it became apparent that Oswald had failed.) Kennedy's two term presidency was followed by that of his younger brother, who continued the civil rights reforms begun in the second term.

The space race was the source of some tension between the two super-powers, but overall it served to demonstrate American technological superiority. Sadly for some utopian theorists, the lack of wars did not result in more resources being provided for the space programs, which achieved only the same milestones that they would have in Control's history. On the other hand, computer technology progressed every bit as rapidly, despite the lack of a pressing need for a computer network that could survive thermonuclear war.

Outside of Asia, the lack of a genuine panic about the spread of Communism had some additional benefits. The United States never felt the need to preserve and support regimes whose sole virtue was that they were fervently anti-Communist, nor remove those who appeared tempted towards that ideology. Iran's left-leaning secular government was never overthrown in favor of the domination of the Shah, for example, leading to benefits that could never have been anticipated. That said, there was more will to fight Communism when it really did appear, as it did in Cuba.

While some muttered about a dynasty when the third Kennedy brother (having never gone near a place called Chappaquidick) was elected in 1976, his term would prove to be the most trying. The Communist Chinese republics collapsed in 1978, despite Russian support, and were quickly annexed by the stable Nationalist republic. Panicking, the Russians invaded Afghanistan. Without the history of Korea and Vietnam behind them, however, the United States had more than enough will to fight to defend this region. On the other hand, having not spent a great deal of effort to support those wars, the Russians appeared to be in better shape as well.

The war lasted until 1984. Fortunately, it never went nuclear, nor were the supers of either sides asked to intervene. (Officially, at least.) It ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Iron Curtain. Learning from the example of China, the United States remained in Afghanistan to assist in the reconstruction, ensuring that neither the dangerously fanatical mujahedeen nor the amoral warlords had too much influence in the post-war goverment of the region. Teddy Kennedy's vice president, a Georgia peanut farmer and pacifist, presided over the breakup of the remains of the Soviet empire, declaring that a new world order had begun to emerge.

The Freedom League, now composed largely of immortals (or at least the very long-lived), never broke up. Despite some tense moments in the 1980s, there was never an "Iron Age" when heroes were outlawed or unpopular. Archer came under the Raven's influence, moderating his temper and never needing to engage in deadly combat. Again, there was no Terminus Invasion in 1993. The Labyrinth's attempts to make superhumans were less effective, possibly as a consequence. Although Doctor Metropolis did eventually appear in Freedom City, Johnny Wade and Ray Gardener never developed superpowers.

This is the homeworld of Centuria (from Worlds of Freedom's chapter on "Future Freedom") where the Silver Age lasted forever. Heroes were heroes, and villains were villains. She was born in 2008, after the science of genetics was finally advanced enough to identify and correct the problems that Mark Leeds and his equally immortal wife, Laurie Leeds, were having in bringing a child to term. She won't be sent to the mainline World of Freedom until 2021 ... if that happens.

Locked