World of Freedom 2.5 (DVD Commentary)

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Current Events: Graduation Day (Part Three)

Post by Davies » Thu Jun 19, 2008 10:18 am

As this section of the tale is entirely dialogue, as opposed to a mix of dialogue and narrative, I'm putting it in the Stories forum, here.

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Current Events: Graduation Day (Part Four)

Post by Davies » Sun Jun 22, 2008 12:04 pm

After defeating the guard, Caias and Xena -- together again for the last time -- proceded into the detention center and freed the Next Gen. According to the terms of their truce, Xena agreed to leave her agents cooling in their cells, on the condition that when they were freed, she'd be allowed to pose as though she'd taken the heroes prisoner. None of the Next Gen were happy about this condition, but on learning about the imminent invasion of Earth, all of them knew that they had to set aside their pride. (Of course, neither Caias nor Xena told them about the other major condition of the truce.)

Xena then set about developing a plan, but soon realized that she didn't have enough information about "the Master Race" or their homeworld to come up with a good one. Caias and Megastar went to get her some, in the person of Nerat, but found Caias' father being taken into custody by the security forces for allowing Caias to run loose. They rescued him, though the old man was seriously injured in the process.

Following Nerat's directions, the team travelled to a run-down area of the alien city, where there was a clinic that treated individuals who'd suffered power loss, among other humiliating ailments. The lady doctor who ran the place agreed to take care of Nerat, after giving Caias a very odd look. Xena impatiently quizzed the old scientist about various aspects of his world, slowly putting the pieces of a strategy together as she did.

Her basic idea hinged on the presence of a network of orbiting satellite weapons that were intended for planetary defense. If she could hack into their systems, she could use them to launch attacks on the planet's teleportation gates, through which the invasion would be launched. (Failing that, she could always just start blasting away at the troops themselves, but the Next Gen predictably nixed that idea.) However, the problem with the idea was that the satellite systems could only be connected from a mainframe on a space station, high above the planet, so they'd need a ship of some sort ...

While Caias, Megastar and Bolt staged a distraction in a different part of the city, Sonic and Nereid broke into a landing field and stole a small, "runabout" starship. That accomplished, they rescued their teammates and then headed to pick up Xena and her agents. Before they headed up and out, Caias paused to ask Nerat about his mother.

Nerat frowned. "Why would you imagine that I'd know anything about her? Conception among our kind is conducted through artificial insemination. I've never met the woman."

"Sorry I asked," sighed Caias, and ran off.

A moment later, the doctor stepped into Nerat's room. "What an unusual young man. I've only ever seen eyes that color once before." She paused. "They let me hold him for a moment, before they took him away."

"Oh," said Nerat.

"Indeed," she replied. Then, "He really should do something about that ... hair of his, don't you think?"

Meanwhile, the ship reached the lightly-manned space station, and after a short battle, Xena was able to hack into the system and obtain the control frequencies for all the satellites. Nereid noted that she was also downloading some odd data relating to geology, but her pose as a prisoner who was being forced to serve against her will didn't give the opportunity to ask questions about it. With the last step completed, they returned to the ship.

Looking down at the planet, which was quite beautiful from space, Xena mused that they ought to give the Master Race the opportunity to surrender before they opened fire. She seemed almost to be speaking to someone who wasn't physically present. "Yes," she murmured, "you should always give someone the opportunity to walk away from a horrible fate, if you can."

Xena directed Caias to make that appeal, while she began developing the targeting program. Reluctantly, since all he thought it would accomplish was to give their location to the authorities and allow them to scramble some interceptors, he did so, calling on the Master Race to end their planned invasion, or face serious consequences. Their only response was the scramble that he'd expected.

"Oh well," Xena said softly. "That's life."

She hit the firing button.

The sattellites fired. All of them. But they didn't target the teleportals, or even the massed armed forces. Xena had developed a different plan that she hadn't shared with anyone. The energy beams targeted fault lines and volcanos, anywhere that the crust of the planet was held relatively loosely together. They imparted just enough energy to them to start the process of tearing the planet apart.

The explosion took less than a minute.

As the ship rocked in the shock wave, Caias slowly turned to look at Xena. Her face was utterly still for a moment ...

("All right, then," said the voices -- no, just one voice was left, and it seemed almost sad. "I gave you ever possible opportunity to walk away from this, but I suppose destiny will not be denied. Congratulations. You get to be me." Then there was nothing but silence in her mind.)

... and she smiled.

To Be Continued

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Post by Davies » Tue Jun 24, 2008 1:11 pm

Sheesh. Blow up a planet, and what kind of reaction do you get? What a jaded lot of readers you are.

Anyway. Next (probably last) chapter goes up tonight.

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Post by tylrlsaa » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:40 pm

Davies wrote:Sheesh. Blow up a planet, and what kind of reaction do you get?.
Well, technically speechless is a reaction.
There are three kinds of lies.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

-Mark Twain

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Post by Jalinth » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:57 pm

And I was waiting so as to avoid breaking up the story with a repeat of my last comment "I like, write faster. Sleep is for the weak." :)

I do have a request though. Could you provide links to the threads on the other sub-boards in your index? I tracked down two of the threads on the Story Hour boards and have a link all ready for you to copy and paste. I also jumped to the start of the Gathering storyline and got a link to it, as I didn't see it in your index.

The Gathering

World of Freedom: The Gathering -- Epilogues

Freedom City: Loves and Other Madnesses
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.
-A.E. Housman

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Current Events: Graduation Day (Part Four)

Post by Davies » Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:40 pm

After a long moment of silence, Megastar turned with a roar and, furious at having been made party to genocide, launched himself across the ship's bridge towards Xena ... only to be intercepted by Caias. "No, man, no!" cried the reluctant strongman. "Think about where we are right now!" Megastar looked around ... and realized that the GENOCIDE agents were all equipped with weaponry looted from the now-destroyed Homeworld. Weaponry that would have been designed to be powerful enough to injure and kill a member of the so-called Master Race ... and weaponry that was now leveled at the Next Gen.

"Another time, another place," Caias whispered into his rival's ear. And then he let him go. Megastar's glare in his direction was almost as angry as it'd been when he looked at Xena, but he held back.

"How very wise," commented Xena, and delegated two members of her crew to escort the Next Gen to a holding area at the rear of the ship, while she focused on navigating their vessel out of the recently formed asteroid belt.

As they were led down the hall, Caias commented, "Y'know what ... it's another time now!" Working quickly, they were able to disable the two guards before they could do serious injury.

"So now what?" asked Sonic.

"Now we get the hell out of here." Caias explained that he'd expected some sort of treachery from Xena -- albeit not ... He shook his head and continued. This class of ship was equipped with escape pods that employed the same sort of dimensional shift drive as the main ship, which could allow them to travel quickly to Earth with the coordinates that he'd gotten from ... Nerat ... He fell silent for a moment.

"But we cannot let this atrocity go unpunished!" protested Nereid.

"We're not going to, trust me." Caias explained the rest of his plan, and though it still felt like running away from a fight, they agreed that they were outgunned and outnumbered. So they hastened to the escape pod, and packed inside of it.

"It's going to be a tight fit with five of us in here," noted Megastar.

"You're right," said Caias, right before he pulled the hatch closed ... with himself on the outside.

"What are you doing?!?" Nereid cried out.

"I'm keeping a promise," he answered, almost too quietly for them to hear, while he entered the coordinates for Earth in a keypad on the pod's side.

"No ... no, don't do this," Thetis said, suddenly realizing the only thing that he could have promised Xena to get her to ally with him, even temporarily. "Don't!"

"... goodbye," he said, and launched the pod.

Seconds later, Xena and her troops burst into the corridor. He turned to look at the murderer of his homeworld, and quietly said, "I never said I'd let you hurt them."

"Very well," she replied, trembling with fury at being cheated of victory over all of her enemies. "Shall we do this, then?" Xena pulled out the mysterious weapon that had come all the way from Centurion's sanctum.

"Okay," he agreed. "Might as well finish the job, right?"

"Oh, that's right. I never did get to tell you what this peashooter actually does. It's not going to kill you. I was never going to kill you. Instead, it's going to shift you, physically, into a tangential dimension, from which you'll only be able to see what's happening in this one, unable to affect anything here." She was breathing heavily, now. "You're going to get a front-row seat to watch as I hunt down and kill every single last one of the freaks on Earth, and everyone you ever cared about, in the bargain, unable to do a thing about it! I've found a fate worse than death for you, you --" And she pulled the trigger.

It took a moment for him to fade out completely, and he had time enough to say, "Good thing that Bolt sabotaged this ship's dimension shift drive, then ..."

"What?" she asked, but he was gone.

* * *

The pod carrying the Next Gen materialized in Earth orbit only a few moments after it departed, its dimension shift drive burnt out but its passengers all right. A Freedom League team rescued them, and brought them back down to the Claremont Academy. There, they were reunited with Seven and the Bowman, and revealed what had happened. In turn, they were told what the Centuritron had revealed about the Astral Gun, the weapon that had fallen through the portal with them.

"But ... that's good!" Nereid realized. "That means that he could still be alive! We could --"

Seven was shaking her head. "The most powerful astral projectors on Earth can't travel much further than the orbit of Saturn," she said, numbly. "Nobody has enough range to get out to where you were. And even if they did, we wouldn't be able to pull him back into this dimension. And even if we did ... we'd be pulling him back into vaccuum. I'm sorry, Thetis. I'm so, so sorry.

"He's gone."

* * *

Without the dimension shift drive, the ship was limited to ordinary warp. Based on Xena's calculations, it would take decades, even at maximum warp, to get back to Earth.

He'd beaten her.

She gave orders for her agents to put themselves into suspended animation, in emergency capsules set aside for just such a situation, in preparation for that long trip. When there weren't enough capsules for all of them, she solved the problem with her customary directness.

He'd beaten her.

After programming the navigation systems to set a course for the Sol system, and setting the ship's computer to awaken her if there were any disturbances, she joined them in suspension.

He'd beaten her.

That thought went with her into the long sleep. That thought, and rage.

* * *

Nereid left Claremont Academy that night, after a short conversation with Magni. He wouldn't tell anyone what passed between the two of them. A message came from Atlantis soon after, indicating that she'd made it safely home. That was all it said.

Sonic breathed a sigh of relief that he hadn't missed his graduation ceremony from Joseph Clark High School. He'd had a long talk with Wilson Jeffers about what had happened, and the older man's advice only confirmed what he'd suspected for some time now. He declined the invitation from the Freedom League, and kept his focus on the streets of Lincoln.

Chris Beck still had a year to go before he graduated from high school. He didn't have any intention of leaving Claremont, but given what'd happened, he wasn't sure about staying with the Next Gen.

And that was that. Of the five original members of the Next Gen, none remained. There'd be a new team, of course. Some of the transfer students had expressed interest, as had some of the Alterniteens. Duncan Summers, not a religious man, prayed that this would be the last great loss his students would ever know.

He knew it wouldn't be.

* * *

Caias found himself in a greyish void. As Xena had told him, he could see into the Earth dimension if he concentrated a bit, but no one there could see him, or hear him. At first, he thought that the void was timeless, but it turned out that time didn't pass at the same rate in every part of it. He found pockets where it seemed to pass at the same rate as it did back home, and ones where it moved even faster.

But while there was no time, there was duration ... and it elapsed.

Eventually, he made it to a part of the void that abutted Earth itself. By that time, though all of his friends were gone, as was much of the world he'd known. But it was still Earth, and he still watched over it. And then, in the year 2378, an experiment -- in Freedom City, where else -- drew him back across the dimensional barrier. Caias learned that the Freedom League was gone, and that the Grue were ravaging dozens of worlds.

The conditioning that his father had placed in him had faded as the centuries passed. There was a job for him to do. He gathered young heroes from many worlds, and set out to aid the humanity and its allies in their struggle with the Grue. He was startled when they called him the Centurion, but figured they'd grow out of it.

They never did.



Never The End.

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Post by Davies » Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:41 pm

Jalinth wrote:Could you provide links to the threads on the other sub-boards in your index?
I'll see what I can do.

Chris Davies.

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Post by Jalinth » Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:52 pm

That was a good ending to a rather good story. I enjoyed it.

I'm planning on getting a Freedom City PBP game started in the next while. I was wondering if you'd mind if made use of your setting in the game.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.
-A.E. Housman

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Post by Davies » Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:01 pm

Jalinth wrote:I'm planning on getting a Freedom City PBP game started in the next while. I was wondering if you'd mind if made use of your setting in the game.
I wouldn't mind at all! Go right ahead!

Chris Davies.
(Will be reading with interest. I'm not online nearly enough to participate, unfortunately.)

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Centurion II

Post by Davies » Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:51 pm

Some notes on the character (whose stats are here) .

One thing that most people fail to understand about him is that he's not a man out of time. He spent decades watching Earth from the astral void, and has had plenty of time to become completely adjusted to the changes between his current era and the early twenty-first century when he grew up. In general, he doesn't think that the differences are that serious, when compared to the similarities.

He's a man at peace with himself. Caias outgrew the conditioning that his father implanted in him quite some time ago, and no longer regards his superhuman attributes as disgusting or unpleasant. On the other hand, he doesn't take any particular pride or pleasure in them; they're just tools, like the flight ring that the Clockwatcher gave him when they first met. (It seems to be the product of a technology centuries ahead of even the advanced science of the 26th century. When asked about it, the Clockwatcher simply states that he was asked to give it to the Centurion in gratitude for services to be rendered.) He would still very much like to be a normal human being, but accepts that this is never going to happen, and would not be susceptible to offers to make it happen.

He is very aware of the fact that he's not, and probably never will be, the equal of the original Centurion at his prime. As a result, he employs some technological aids to enhance his natural abilities, but will only do so when facing serious threats. He wants to live up to his predecessor's legacy, but he never listens to or believes the hype.

His experiences in the void have left him with a great deal of patience. He knows that evil can flourish for a time, but that even if it is left unchecked, it will eventually destroy itself. Nonetheless, for the sake of the innocent, it is better to stop it from flourishing before it can start.

That said, it is important to remember one crucial fact about him. He was not trained by the Centurion. He was trained by the Raven, and it shows. when fighting fairly will end a fight sooner, he'll do so; when fighting very dirty will accomplish the same end, that's what he'll do too. Some years ago, when a few students of his came under the influence of Gauntlet, he proceeded to visit the crime lord in his den, wrecking it as he passed through.

Confronting Gauntlet, he quoted a great leader of his own era: "Your kind always underestimates ours. You mistake good manners for timidity, you mistake self control for passivity. So self-controlled are we that sometimes we won't retaliate if you harm us. But if you -- if any of you -- harm our loved ones, we will come at you like fanged, slavering beasts from the darkest of LSD nightmares.

"Believe it," he said, as he left the place in a shambles. Since then, Gauntlet has wisely left the students of Claremont Academy alone.

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Quick Note In Re: Paragons

Post by Davies » Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:04 pm

Liz (Empress) Ashe, the Freedom League's primary member in Las Vegas, has crossed paths with Evangeline (Empress) Summerfield, the femme fatale agent of the Pact (aka the Manus Gloriae). They don't like each other. To put it very mildly. (Liz is really irritated that no matter what alias she picks, someone else, usually someone very dangerous, seems to have come up with it too!) So far, their encounters have been inconclusive, though they have been very taxing for Liz Ashe, and she only survived their most recent conflict through the assistance of one of Silas the Elder's rivals, who aided her for reasons of his own. (She's not looking forward to repaying the favor ...)

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Post by MorningKnight » Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:04 pm

Caias is a truly great character and his story was magnificently written.

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Post by Davies » Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:06 pm

Thanks!

Chris Davies.

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Post by Davies » Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:34 am

[On a lighter note ...]

In the 1980s, one of the primary agencies working to protect the people of the City of Angels was the Dreamgirls Talent Agency, a modelling agency that was a cover for a group of highly trained freelance intelligence professionals. They --

Yes, really.

Stop laughing.

Ahem. Anyway, many young women worked for this agency, but the creme de la creme of its operatives was a trio who were known as the Dreamgirls. The exact roster changed quite a bit over the years, as the "girls" moved on to other things, whether those things were careers in show business or employment with AEGIS. But one thing never changed for the Dreamgirls, no matter who they were: they all had to deal with Shanna.

Shanna Victoria (real name Shannon McGurk) was a perpetual rival for the Dreamgirls -- in their covers as models, at least. While blissfully unaware that her rivals (or rather enemies, as she saw it) lived double lives, she was an inevitable complication for their missions. No matter where they went, Shanna would somehow end up there too, whether employed by the same people they were pretending to work for, vacationing in the out-of-the-way locale where they had a mission to complete, or (on at least one occasion) being courted by a man they were trying to follow.

That would have been bad enough, but the circumstances were even weirder. Shanna was apparently a magnet for a certain villainous plot -- and so she would be kidnapped and brainwashed or mind controlled, turned into a super-assassin, and sent after the Dreamgirls. Of course, she never succeeded in doing any permanent harm, and was always captured and subjected to reverse conditioning (or what have you) to erase her memories of being used in this fashion.

But something happened as a result of these repeated treatments. Whenever Shanna was subjected to a new conditioning treatment by a new master, it invariably worked to undo the reverse brainwashing that had been done to her, restoring her memories of previous instances when she'd gone after the Dreamgirls. She also regained the skills and training that had been programmed into her at those times. Because of this, she went from being an annoyance and a distraction the first time that this happened to her, to being one of the most dangerous opponents the Dreamgirls had ever faced, on the twentieth time.

Fortunately, by the time that happened, age was starting to catch up to Shanna. (She was nearly 25, after all.) After the aforementioned courtship, by a brilliant young chemical engineer who'd made his first million by developing a sweetener with half the calories of NutraSweet, she married and announced her retirement from modelling. For the Dreamgirls, it was the happiest day of their lives. ("No more Shanna! Yaaaaay!") Of course, they really should have known better. Their very next mission took them to the place where she was honeymooning ...

Fast forward about twenty years. Shanna Barker, as she's now known, is still married to her chemical engineer, who has continued to make vast sums of money through developing obscure chemical procedures that Shanna doesn't even pretend to understand or care about. They have two daughters, a teenager and a six-year old. Shanna manages to win a certain amount of the adulation that she once desperately needed by going on the convention circuit, trading on her appearances on a few episodes of a number of genre shows and soap operas. But despite this minor vanity, she's generally become a much calmer, nicer person than she used to be.

It was during one such convention appearance that her life recently took a bizarre twist. A group of wannabe terrorists tried to take the convention hostage, and while all they accomplished was to cause a certain amount of panic, one of them made the terrible mistake of pointing a loaded weapon at Shanna's six-year old daughter. The sight made something explode in Shanna's mind, and she easily took the gun away from the terrorist and pistol whipped him with it, before teaming up with convention security to capture the rest of them.

The affair got a certain amount of media attention, and when one of the Dreamgirls -- by now the head of the agency -- saw the reports, she realized what it must mean. Calling up her old colleagues, they went after Shanna, fully expecting to confront the deadly assassin once more ... only to find a confused woman who had no idea how she'd done what she'd done. The threat to her daughter's life had only broken the conditioning that kept her from remembering her skills, without bringing back the merciless personality that had employed them.

The ex-Dreamgirls explained what had happened, and Shanna absorbed the idea that not only did her old "friends" have secrets she'd never suspected, so did she. She declined the agency's offer to come and work for them, however, since this was part of her life that she'd decided was over. (As the offer had only been half-hearted, the ex-Dreamgirls let out a gigantic sigh of relief that it had been refused as soon as they were out of hearing. The notion of having Shanna, reformed or not, back in their lives was a terrible, terrible thought.)

Of course, nothing is ever that simple. Shanna keeps running into situations where her skills are useful, and she uses them to protect herself and her loved ones. She has even called on some of "her" old contacts to get ahold of some useful equipment. She never looks for trouble, but it finds her anyway. And, predictably, she's gotten involved with a few of the adventures of the newest incarnation of the Dreamgirls, who regard her appearances with every bit as much horror as their predecessors did. (Fortunately, as a side-effect of her partially regained memories, she's completely immune to any mind-affecting devices or drugs.)

Her husband is baffled by all of this, but is glad she has a hobby. (He's also glad that she's gotten back in shape, the better to be able to use her skills.) Her oldest daughter is torn between being embarrassed by her mom's actions (particularly whenever they happen where they can be witnessed by her friends) and proud of her mother the cool rebel (as she sees it.) In particuarly, she's fond of asking her things like, "Say, mom, if you were going to kidnap Justin Timberlake, how would you do it?" and getting a response that starts out as a well-thought-out plan with a frighteningly good chance of success and then turns into a plaintively wailed "Why do you ask me things like that?"

That illustrates the one real concern that troubles Shanna. While self-absorbed, she's always thought of herself as a basically good person, who'd never cause physical harm to anyone. (Emotional harm, yes, but never real injury.) She now knows that simply isn't true, and is still wrestling with that fact. And she's a bit frightened of the possibility that the side of her personality that is not only willing but eager to kill could come out again ...

[Stats here.]

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Post by Davies » Fri Jun 27, 2008 6:25 pm

Okay, so I've massively updated the Index page so that it now goes to just about everywhere this thread does. Tomorrow, I'm going to be explaining what parts of Paragons fit into my continuity and how, starting with a look at the Vanguard.

Chris Davies.

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