World of Freedom 2.5 (DVD Commentary)

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Death Waif

Post by Davies » Sun Jun 08, 2008 12:05 pm

One "interesting" consequence of the gradual collapse of Cabot, Cunningham & Crowley is that various projects of the senior partners are coming to light, either because they're being used in the firm's infighting, or because the resources to keep them under lock and key are no longer available. It's believed that the latter situation is the one that resulted in the being called the Death Waif being set free to walk the Earth.

Fragmentary records, collected by Meg Richie, indicate that the Death Waif is not native to Earth, but that she's not from elsewhere along the Crimson Coil either. Unusually, she's from a parallel universe, one that a certain former partner at the firm gained access to using technology obtained from something called the Murder League. If details about the transactions through which the Waif was purchased are hard to come by, information about the world from which she was obtained is positively obscure, but it seems reasonable to conclude that it had apparently undergone a zombie apocalypse.

Fortunately, the partner who'd obtained the Death Waif took steps to make sure that the infectious plague which was spread by that world's zombies wouldn't be spread by the one he'd imported, more out of a sense of self-preservation than any benevolence. While the Death Waif's teeth inflict wounds that are very slow to heal, and often leave terrible scars on those lucky enough to survive her attacks, her victims are in no danger of becoming zombies themselves. (Unless, of course, the virus mutates. Which they tend to do.)

The partner in question was killed in the opening weeks of Cunningham and Crowley's civil conflict, having made a false move and paying the ultimate price. The employees who owed him fealty were claimed by other players, and the cell which contained the Death Waif was left unattended. After it became clear to her that the regular meals to which she'd grown accustomed would no longer be coming, the Death Waif decided that it was time to leave. So she tore her way out of the cell, and discovered that it had been built under a nightclub (once owned by the late partner, now under new management) which was filled with people.

Wonderful people. Tasty people. And she hadn't eaten in days.

The screams drew the attention of Seven and the Bowman, who were on patrol nearby. While Bowman took care of evacuating the civilians, Seven confronted the Death Waif. She was startled by the toughness that the zombie-creature possessed, but her magic allowed her to prevail and capture it. As the Shining Shackles of Sirrion closed around the creature's hands and feet, Seven wondered aloud what she ought to do next. After all, it wasn't as though she could turn over a mindless zombie to the police, so perhaps she should just --

"Who's a mindless zombie?" asked the Death Waif.

Well. That was a different wrinkle. It soon became apparent that the Death Waif was clearly aware of her actions, and under those circumstances (and despite Bowman's not-too-subtle hints that it would probably be a good idea if they destroyed her) Seven felt obligated to turn the creature over to the authorities. Unfortunately, despite precautions, she managed to escape from captivity and escape into the night.

She's fought Seven quite a few times, and seems to bear a real grudge against the young witch. While cognizant of her actions, the Death Waif seems to find it impossible to understand why anyone would try to stop her from eating people. It's not that she doesn't understand that people don't like to be eaten, it's more that she can't understand why anyone other than the people being eaten would object to it. Self-defense is one thing, but sticking your neck out for anyone else? That is just plain crazy, and Seven's persistence in doing so, and thus stopping her from getting her meals, really annoys her. (Interestingly, one of Seven's auric examinations of the Waif suggests that her attitude towards such matters predates her transformation into one of the hungry dead.)

The Death Waif is unlikely to cooperate with other villains, unless they're obviously non-organic and thus non-food, or unless she's being controlled in some manner. In addition to being the premiere member of Seven's rogue's gallery, she has also crossed paths with the Next Gen and the Alterniteens. She seemed to recognize Elite, or possibly simply his fighting style, which suggests that the Murder League was quite active on her original world.

It should be understood that, despite what she believes, she doesn't need to eat flesh in order to survive. Her abilities weren't diminished in any way by her brief period of "starvation", and wouldn't be if she never ate another bite. (She also doesn't gain weight from "binging".) But she doesn't know that, and wouldn't believe it if she was told ...

[Stats here.]

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Post by Libra » Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:56 am

Oooh. :D
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Post by Davies » Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:15 am

Thanks, Libra.

Next up: Another flash-forward to 2050, to find out what's happened to some of the villains of the current heroic age.

Then: At long last, how Caias Ward became the Centurion of the 25th century.

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Post by MorningKnight » Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:23 am

I positively love this thread. Good work as always!

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Where Are They Then: The Factor Four and Others

Post by Davies » Thu Jun 12, 2008 8:34 am

Factor Four: Shortly before the Atom Family started to come apart, in the early 2020s, they faced the Factor Four in battle for the last time. The four elemental criminals had begun to lose their powers as their bodies, never meant to contain the powers of Prime Elements for so long, succumbed to time. Professor Fathom had a plan to revive their energies by draining those of the Atoms. Of course, it didn't work, and the Atoms actually thought they'd seen the last of their old enemies.

But in fact, the plan had been an elaborate feint, never intended to succeed. (That, at least, was what Fathom told his associates afterwards. Make of that what you will.) The actual goal had been to get access to a certain artifact in the Atoms' possession, with which the Professor could perform a complicated and very scientific procedure that didn't at all resemble a magical ritual to open a gateway to the elemental realms from which the Prime Elements had originally been drawn. That done, the four elementals could travel to their respective realms, draw power from them, and rejuvenate their energies. They would be returned to their youthful strength, and beyond!

And this plan did work. However, there was a slight snag that the Professor didn't anticipate. The four members of the Factor Four had all absorbed so much energy from the elemental realms that they no longer qualified as natives of the Tellurian, and were subject to the limitations of the Pact (see The Book of Magic). And since everyone on Earth believed that the Factor Four were dead, there was no one to summon them across the the threshold.

For the most part, the Factor Four -- who rarely think of themselves as a team anymore -- have adapted. They have each conquered a reasonably large chunk of their respective elemental realms, and made a good start on expanding their rule into other realms of the Cosmic Coil. But they remain as petty and human as ever, and if offered the chance to return to Earth, each of them would seize it even if (maybe especially if) it meant betraying their fellows.

Fathom (who no longer styles himself as Professor; if he were being modest, he'd call himself Emperor Fathom) has had the most luck in making contacts on Earth, attempting to intrigue Overshadow into making the next Operation Inundation into a real "great flood". (Of course, he'd betray Overshadow, and Overshadow would betray him, and they both know it, which is why this plot is proceeding very very slowly.) The others are somewhat more remote, and Fathom is dimly aware that Pyre has accumulated enough power in his fiery realm to make it possible that Fathom can't control him without the others. So the possibility of an elemental apocalypse involving all four of them working in conjunction is remote, and Chase Atom -- who's learned of their continued existence -- sleeps a little better as a result of that.

Freebooter: Given his birth defects, Jared McGinness was always aware that he was living on borrowed time. Of course, he had taken precautions, and when his time finally ran out, in the late twenty-teens, he transferred his consciousness completely into the latest version of his Freebooter android. Unfortunately, Jared has always been a "other-side-of-the-hill" type. While he was now free of the physical challenges of his previous existence, he found himself keenly aware of all the things he'd given up in becoming an android.

So now he was a melancholy, narcissistic, paranoid genius, and kept right on engaged in his piratical activities. Moreover, he soon became a melancholy, narcissistic, paranoid genius with a spaceship, when, during one of Captain Kraken's periodic incarcerations, the Freebooter took it on himself to steal the Stellar Buccaneer from UNISON and crew it with a group of "cyber-pirates" he'd recruited. (Captain Kraken took this very amiss, but as he was deported back to Illthus in 2029 and has not been seen since, nobody really cares what he thinks.)

Fortunately, the Buccaneer's warp drive was burnt out when he acquired it, and the Freebooter has yet to master its intricacies, so his depradations have so far been restricted to the Solar System. (I think that's a fortunately. Maybe not?) He's particularly fond of raiding corporate space outposts and seizing their "booty", whether in the form of material that can only be manufactured in micro-gravity factories or precious computer data. These acts have brought him into conflict with Protonik, among others, but he has yet to be brought to justice.

The Terminus: With Omega's disappearance, Shadivan Steelgrave has attempted to seize control of the Terminus as the leader of the Annihilists. Fortunately for all of reality, he hasn't had a great deal of success with that; other factions among the Annihilists are trying to seize control as well, opposed to him. Perhaps most worrying to Shadivan is the fact that Mandragora doesn't consider Shadivan to be Omega's successor, and feels that he owes him no fealty. Mandragora has in fact abandoned the cause of entropy entirely, and is assisting the Furions in battle against Tarvon the Undying. (This is a very uneasy alliance.)

Of course, as Tomen the Archivist has sadly observed, none of this matters a bit. Omega is not dead, and he will return, and everyone in the Terminus knows it. All of this is just a interlude before that happens, and things return to the terrible status quo ...

[Stats here.]

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Post by Libra » Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:52 am

Hmmmm. . .fascinating tidbits Davies. :D

What's next on your agenda, might one ask? :)
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Post by Davies » Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:11 am

A little tale I like to call ... "Graduation Day".

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Post by Libra » Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:28 am

Oooooh. :D
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Post by Davies » Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:43 am

Look for the first part on Sunday.

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Post by Charles Phipps » Sat Jun 14, 2008 3:23 am

Hehe, I almost attributed this to Rhialto. Never post two comments at once.

I love Death Waif, as a note. The idea that she was a sociopath in life and then turned into a sociopath ZOMBIE in death is just wonderful. I confess, she's a bit ghoulish for my Freedom City, which is a pleasant and Silver Agey place but the character definitely works for the slightly darker universe you've set up. Poor Seven, she really WOULD have been smarter just to put her in the ground forever.

Your version of the Terminus Civil War with Mandragora vs. Shadivan Steelgrave is delightfully set up. It makes me wonder if the courtship between members will come into play soon. But yes, we all know there's only one TRUE master of the Terminus.

Factor Four becoming Elemental Princes removes some of the fun of them as the evil Fantastic Four. However, it's an interesting take on the matter.

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Post by Davies » Sat Jun 14, 2008 12:39 pm

Charles Phipps wrote:I love Death Waif, as a note. The idea that she was a sociopath in life and then turned into a sociopath ZOMBIE in death is just wonderful.
Well, given some of the humans who've appeared in zombie apocalypse films, not to mention themes explored in The Walking Dead and the like ... what can I say?

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Post by FuzzyBoots » Sun Jun 15, 2008 5:38 am

Charles Phipps wrote:I love Death Waif, as a note. The idea that she was a sociopath in life and then turned into a sociopath ZOMBIE in death is just wonderful. I confess, she's a bit ghoulish for my Freedom City, which is a pleasant and Silver Agey place but the character definitely works for the slightly darker universe you've set up. Poor Seven, she really WOULD have been smarter just to put her in the ground forever.
^_^ It could still work. Just make her a very dull-toothed zombie. Imagine the NomNomNom sounds as she nibbles and gnaws with the various superheroes looking on at horror while this little girl is clamping down on them. Heck, you could even wind up in a nice moral panic with the right paparazzi "conveniently misinterpreted photo". "Does Captain Hero Like Children? Perhaps A Little Too Much?"

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Current Events: Graduation Day (Part One)

Post by Davies » Sun Jun 15, 2008 12:13 pm

This is the story of an ending, and a beginning. The story itself began the day after Caias Ward, the reluctant strongman of the Claremont Academy, confessed his darkest, most secret fear to Thetis, his teammate and best friend, as told here. After giving herself a few hours to calm down from the highly emotional state she'd worked herself into during their meeting, Thetis began to make concrete plans to follow through on her promise that she would help him to find out the truth about his origins.

Her first step was to go to Duncan Summers. Without going into too much detail, without revealing any of the embarrassing side of things, Thetis explained to him that Caias was concerned about his origins, and wanted to find out more about them. It seems fairly likely that Summers wasn't fooled by her obfuscations for a second, but he agreed that it would be a good idea to find out if there was anything more that could be found out about Caias.

To that end, he proposed that the Next Gen visit Centurion's Sanctum, where the spaceship that had brought the boy to Earth had been stored. Centurion hadn't been able to find out anything from it, but it hadn't ever been much of a priority for him. And Caias hadn't been with him when he investigated, as he hadn't wanted to remove the boy from his new foster family. So circumstances might let them learn more.

To supervise this "field trip", the team would be accompanied by two members of the Freedom League -- Bowman and Seven. It would hopefully be a pleasant reunion for the original members of the Next Gen, as well as serving as an opportunity for their old teammates to observe the newer members in action. As they set out that evening in a stealthed Pegasus, the whole team was in high spirits -- except for Caias, whose forced smile fooled no one. He feared what he was going to find out, almost as much as he feared the consequences of never knowing.

He would have been even more fearful if he'd known that they were being followed. Ever since the Next Gen had shown up to save Claremont Academy during the so-called Time of Vengeance, certain individuals had begun to suspect that there was a connection between the team and the school, despite the careful attempts to hide it. And while the stealth on the Pegasus was very good, it wasn't good enough to fool Xena Latham's sensors. Taking with her the cream of her GENOCIDE agents, she trailed behind the Pegasus in a ship of her own design.

The Next Gen arrived at the Sanctum and, with the assistance of one of the Centuritrons, found the spaceship filed away in the arsenal. After some discussion, they decided to see if the device would respond to being touched by its former passenger. Hesitantly, Caias reached out and placed his hand on the smooth metal surface. Nothing happened, at least not visibly. After it was suggested that he try talking to the device, he opened his mouth to say something.

Unfortunately, it was at that time that Xena Latham made her entrance, along with her twenty-five agents, some of whom were equipped with stolen MAX power armor. (Her intellect had made short work of the security system.) Caias barely had the chance to pull his hoody up over his head. so as to hide his identity from his former friend, before the bullets and beams started flying. He joined in the fight, as always wishing that this wasn't necessary, but recognizing that he was just one more enemy to Xena.

But while that was true, he was something far more than that to another intelligence present in the room, activated by his contact with the spacecraft. An artificial intelligence coldly assessed the situation, and found it not to its standards. The passenger was clearly in danger, as there were a large number of opponents active, some of whom possessed threatening levels of power. (The AI didn't care that the majority of the high power level combatants were on "the passenger's" side; by definition, no one not of the Master Race was on the same side.)

So the AI decided to take steps. It activated its avatar -- a holographic representation -- and addressed the combatants, using telepathic signals to inform all present that they were under arrest for interfering with a member of the Master Race's mission to civilize the universe, and would be prosecuted forthwith on the Homeworld. Before anyone could react to these tidings, a spacewarp opened, dragging the spacecraft, the Next Gen and the GENOCIDE agents into it before it closed. Unfortunately, Bowman and Seven were just outside the warp's radius, and were left behind, wondering what sort of reception awaited their friends on the other side of the galaxy.

And then worse news came when the Centuritron informed them that at least one of the more dangerous weapons in the arsenal had also been pulled into the warp field ...

To Be Continued.

(Hey, at least I'm not making you wait until 2009.)

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Post by Rubber Baron » Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:39 pm

As long as we don't have to wait until 2009 for the next chapter... :lol:
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Current Events: Graduation Day (Part Two)

Post by Davies » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:41 am

When the heroes (and agents, and Xena) regained consciousness after the space warp, they found themselves and the space pod in the middle of a park in an alien city, beneath a bright red sky. They were surrounded by dozens of armoured, helmeted men equipped with heavy weapons, all of which were aimed in their direction. One of them barked out what was obviously a question, in a language that none of the Earthers understood.

But the spacecraft's holographic avatar did, and responded, "The one in the hood is the child entrusted to me."

The questioner marched up to Caias, yanked back his hood, and stared in obvious horror at the hair on his head. "He has been living among the barbarians," reminded the avatar. In response, the questioner removed his helmet to reveal a bald head, and said something in a disgusted tone.

The other warriors began to herd the rest of the Next Gen away, and discovered that the Next Gen didn't herd. But the heroes were in for an unpleasant surprise as well, as they realized that each of the warriors was the equal of Caias in strength, if not his superior. Though it took all of the alien warriors in the park to subdue the young heroes, with five of them required to hold down Megastar alone, they had the advantage of numbers as well. Given that, Xena's GENOCIDE agents wouldn't even be a challenge, and so she ordered her men to stand down and wait for a better moment.

The prisoners were led away while Caias, under much lighter guard, was escorted from the park. He considered making a break for it, and hopefully rescuing his friends, but realized that he didn't know the territory well enough to blend in. The guards took him to a facility where he saw men being trained in combat, before taking him to a room that looked like a doctor's office. There, a device was attached to his head, and with a flash and sudden burst of sound --

-- he realized that he could understand what everyone was saying, as clearly as if they were speaking English.

"All right, so what's all this, then?" asked the warrior who'd been so upset by the sight of Caias' hair. "Why haven't you been fulflling your Imperative?"

Of course, sometimes he had problems understanding English, too. "Huh?" Caias asked.

"Your Imperative," the warrior barked. "The instructions that were programmed into you when they sent you off!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Caias admitted, deciding that there was no way he could possibly bluff his way out of this.

The warrior apparently decided that he was telling the truth, and gave an order to bring in the expert. An older-seeming (but equally bald) man came in, and held up a device that scanned Caias' eye. Examining the readouts, he confirmed that there was no trace of the neurological conditioning that ought to be there. When the warrior demanded to know how that could possibly be, the scientist suggested that he go away and leave that question in the hands of those qualified to answer it.

As the irritated warrior stomped away, the scientist turned to Caias with a sympathetic expression. "Well, lad, you have made a mess of things, haven't you?"

"Uh ... sorry? Who are you?"

"My name is Nerat, and I'm responsible for the neurological conditioning that each and every member of our species undergoes when they're sent out on the great mission to bring order to the universe by conquering everything in sight. So it won't take very long for them to realize that the only way that such conditioning can be absent from you -- not merely diminished or broken, but absent -- is that it was never implemented. Which can only have happened if I didn't implement it. Oh, and incidentally, I'm your father."

Meanwhile, Xena had easily escaped from the cell into which she'd been placed. The designers had put a lot of thought into how to keep a superhumanly powerful prisoner captive, but never considered how to hold onto a superhumanly smart one. She idly considered freeing her agents, but decided that it would be too risky. Instead, she stole through the corridors of the detention center, hiding from the guards, until she came to the location where the various pieces of equipment that had come through the portal with them were being stored.

She picked up one of the weapons, one that she'd never seen before. Ordinarily, she'd have been busy plotting escape and/or revenge, but the voices were telling her that there was something important about this weapon. So she found a quiet, isolated area where she wouldn't be disturbed, and began to study it, figuring out what it did.

Back in the laboratory, Caias' father explained that he'd become disenchanted with his people's goals quite a while ago. When the time came for his youngest son to be sent out on the mission -- to conquer a world by the time that he was 21, and then contact the homeworld so that it could be added to the empire -- he had not put in the normal conditioning. Instead of a joy in wielding power and a desire to conquer, his son had been conditioned with a dislike and distaste for the power that was his, and a desire to blend in. Nerat had hoped that doing so would allow at least one of his children to grow up on a peaceful world.

Caias, reeling at the idea that his dislike of his own powers was simply the product of neurological conditioning, took refuge in sarcasm. "The peaceful planet bit didn't really work out."

"Yes, I suppose that's the case. Tell me, do they all let their hair grow as long as yours?"

"... quite a few wear it longer, actually."

"Even the females?"

"Yeah."

"How unhygenic. Oh well. In any event, the situation is perhaps more dire than you've realized. This is the first time that the return beacon on one of our space probes has ever been activated under these circumstances. By doing so, you've alerted the empire to the existence of a world filled with potential enemies of considerable power levels. And you may recall that all of our young people are conditioned to be able to find joy only through the exercise of their powers in battle."

"You mean they're going to invade Earth?"

"They're already singing songs about it."

With Nerat's help, Caias was able to escape from the medical facility, and made his way to the security base where his friends were being held. (To disguise his alien appearance, he wore his hoody up again.) He didn't have much in the way of a plan beyond freeing the Next Gen and hoping that they could come up with some way to cripple the invasion plan together. But before he even got into the facility, he heard the sound of a weapon being powered up behind him.

Slowly, he turned around to see Xena aiming a strange-looking device at him. "You know, I've always hated you the most out of all of them," she said, conversationally. "I don't know why. Maybe you're just so normal seeming. And now I find out that you're not even formerly human, like the rest of your mutant buddies. I guess it all makes sense, now. Take off the hoody, please. I'd like to see the face that I'm about to blast into infinity."

Slowly, he pulled back the hoody, and looked at his old friend with sorrow. "Long time no see, Xena."

"... I'm sorry, have we met?"

To Be Continued.

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