It is time for the world to learn of a rather unusual group of alumni from a prestigious technical university. A group whose destiny is beyond what they can imagine now. However, I see my appearance puzzles you so I suppose an introduction is in order. I have acquired many names in my travels through the multiple time streams and realities, but the title of Captain Continuity seems best suited for my current purposes.
My task is to keep track of the myriad nodes of reality and all possible worlds formed by the outcomes of their interactions. The quickest way to open your mind to this would be to don my derby, which would grant instant knowledge of the basic causal connections between all entities and their actions. Unfortunately this often leads to a complete neural meltdown in most life forms, leaving them with a blank smile and a perpetual “I get it now” expression. To be safe, I’ll spotlight the individuals poised for fame and greatness by using my Flashlight of Truth. This will illuminate information and interactions at a more acceptable pace. My role is not purely informative. Occasionally, through time travel, reincarnation, or extra-dimensional interventions, someone’s life story becomes altered. When it reaches a point that becomes impenetrably confusing (containing more unknown relatives, surprise twists and wild coincidences than an entire season of a daytime soap opera), I am forced to use the RetGun. A single shot from this weapon will instantly obliterate the target from any theoretical past, present, and future, leaving a clean slate for a new, more rational, beginning. My travels and goals are as ever changing as the stars in my costume. The only constant is my sneakers: wandering the infinite timelines and dimensions can be hard on the feet. But enough of my cosmic missions and footwear, back to the task at hand, for destiny cannot be put on hold.
This group of technical graduates lives in the suburbs, remained friends and co-workers after graduation, and all read way too many comic books. None of this is the unusual part, for those of you taking notes. But wait, there’s more. They live in one of the universes where costumed crime fighters are real (still not unusual) have become super heroes themselves (not very unusual) and have remained living and working in the suburbs (there would be the unusual part). How did this come to be? Who are these Paragons of the Parkway?
Their story starts with a wish.
Every time Tommy Aginni went to the Natural History Museum as a child, he’d stand near the display of radioactive stones wishing for super powers. This dream lay dormant when he was older, but destiny has a long memory. While visiting the museum on his first college break, he scuffed his feet through the rock and mineral exhibit trying to build up a large static charge to zap his sister. As he passed the radioactive section (now filled with extraterrestrial samples that the many heroes of the city had supplied), a spark jumped from him into the electric socket that was connected to the containment field of the display. The resulting explosion engulfed Tommy, bathing him in countless unknown types of rays. When the smoke cleared, he was somewhat charred looking, unharmed, and surrounded by a red crackling force field that he could move and shape at will. (In this universe, these things happen.) Besides using it for a simple blast or shield, he found that he could extend it into basic shapes (battering rams, shovels, the classic giant boxing glove, etc.). With a great deal of practice, he learned to form it into the motorcycle he rides on his crime fighting patrols. Tommy was able to wield the power of Crimson Thunder.
His original plan was to move to the city, after he finished his master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and add the power of Crimson Thunder to one of the many famous hero teams operating there. This never came to be. Instead he found himself protecting housing developments, industrial parks and condos at the prompting of his then roommate and current boss.
That roommate was Arthur Flan, a scientist and tinkerer at heart. However, he majored in business and engineering management because of his father’s last wish that he take over the toy company run by the senior Flan and his partner, Joe Bolg. Arthur was a star on many sports teams due to tremendous athletic ability and natural leadership skills. He always felt that he should use these talents to do more than score some meaningless points. Deciding to focus his gifts on helping others, and still reading too many comic books, he was inspired to become a super hero. (The fact that his roommate was now regularly shooting red lighting bolts out of various parts of his anatomy added to the inspiration.) Arthur immediately dropped out of all sports and concentrated on a regimen of gymnastics and martial arts. He realized he needed some sort of edge or gimmick, both to be more effective and also more memorable. (How often does one hear, “The city is in peril, call that acrobatic guy who fights good”?) Remembering his childhood skill with a yo-yo, he worked up several high tech designs with his friends and Mr. Bolg. Then fashioning a special bullet and fire resistant suit (with built in vision, hearing and breathing protectors); he armed himself with twin combat yo-yos. The world’s only practitioner of Yo-Fu, Commander Yo was born.
The yo-yos have spent uranium cores, making them impact with great concussive force. They also have exchangeable multi purpose cartridges (gas, sonics, light flash, blades etc.) that the Commander wears on his belt for whatever needs may arise. The high-tension strings allow the yo-yos to be spun “around the world” as a shield. In addition, he carries extra long “strings” to tie up opponents, or use for climbing and swinging. Arthur realized that with all the big hero groups focusing on saving the world, and the gritty urban street heroes protecting the city dwellers, no one was there for the common folk living in the suburbs. The Commander expressed these beliefs to his friends, and managed to easily convince them, especially after also expressing his desire to give them jobs. Commander Yo leads the group of heroes, which are also employees of Flanbolg Toys - now the main supplier of high tech components to most of the larger toy companies. Of course, you can’t make technological toys without electronics knowledge, which leads to the third “super alum”.
Taking the weekly trip to the comic book store with Arthur and Tommy was an attractive woman. (I did say it was an unusual group.) Jennifer Trent is an electronics genius, finishing her Ph.D. in record time. Jen has some secret help though: she’s psychic. Not in a “know the test answers the day before” or “give the professor tomorrows winning horses” way, however. Jen can see the past. By concentrating, she knows what has occurred in her location or to an object she holds, from a few minutes to several days ago. For some reason, she manifests the side effect of levitation when dwelling too deeply on visions of the past, or an engineering problem. (In this universe, these things happen when you’re psychic.) Her postcognitive powers give her almost absolute confidence in anything she builds, as she can recheck all the components simultaneously by meditating on the finished product. She can also use her abilities to unerringly track a person or object once she gets a bead on them. It was this tracking ability that led her to help Commander Yo and Crimson Thunder for the first time. In order to fit in better with her interestingly dressed classmates, she became the shrouded in spooky Doctor Yesterday.
Her skill constructing electronic equipment is as much help to the war on crime (and to Flanbolg Toys) as her other powers. For her protection; she carries a water gun of her own design that breaks down the water into hydrogen and oxygen, and fires plasma bolts (gets twenty shots per liter…not bad). Even so armed, she found her overly male companions spent more time protecting her than stopping the bad guys. Therefore, she constructed her own bodyguard.
Doctor Yesterday is protected at all times by the Electric Powered Offensive Combat Humanoid or E.P.O.C.H.
EPOCH has been programmed with the world’s known martial arts styles, and operates at the maximum human potential level in all of them. His internal battery guarantees that he will still be functioning well into the future when all that remains are cockroaches, Chevy Novas and Keith Richards. However, his repair system can be enhanced by electricity, and he can “heal” battle damage by plugging into the wall. If charged with excess power, he can generate an electrostatic charge in his hands and feet allowing him to cling to vertical surfaces. He can also release the charge, taser like, into a soon to be stunned enemy. EPOCH is an android that will never pine to be human, search for his emotions, or star in a musical version of Pinocchio. His programming is very simple: 1) Protect Dr. Yesterday 2) Beat up who Dr. Yesterday tells him to once she’s protected. Not complex programming, but highly effective.
Sadly there is a tragic tale from the same engineering school that yielded these great heroes. Poor Melvin Wirpi was born completely color blind. This had no effect on his getting a degree in biochemistry. However, in college he met Arthur, Tommy and Jen, and often did some analysis and forensics for them. Seeing how kindly fate had treated them, he figured on using his knowledge and school equipment to repair his vision. He theorized that most cephalopods have above normal powers of color detection, due to an innate ability to completely control their body color schemes and create perfect camouflage. His plan was to harness that ability and give himself color vision. There would be no genetic jiggery-pokery, as he harbored no desire to become Squid-Lad, The Cuttlefish Commando, or Octo-Dude. Instead he tried to isolate the bio-energy field from several of the creatures, and infuse it into himself. The experiment was a success, but not nearly in the way Melvin had hoped for. It did create a permanent field around him, granting him cephalopod like control of the color patterns of his skin, hair and clothing. Unfortunately, he remained completely colorblind. Chromatic Aberration Man now experiences constant random color fluctuations from head to toe. (In this universe, these things happen to Melvin.)
He can create a soothing hypnotic pattern with great concentration, and has been known to cause temporary blindness when panicked. He currently works for a pharmaceutical company near Flanbolg toys, and still helps with bio-analysis, but is not considered a “field hero” by either himself or his friends.
There are other heroes native to the area of Flanbolg Toys that did not attend school with the gang. The Fiartist is one of the better known.
Moe Jonez was born with the ability of pyrokinesis (look it up) much to the dismay of his parents and the local newsstand. The naturally artistic lad practiced control for years, and learned to focus his fire generation through his staff, which he uses as a big flaming pencil. (There’s an image for you). He draws objects that become “solid” flame creations. The more time and detail he puts into his drawing, the longer the object lasts and the stronger it is. The Fiartist left his home and moved into the city, where he works with several of the better-known hero teams. When Crimson Thunder first came on the scene, he met with the Fiartist in hopes of making contacts in order to gain a foothold in the city. Unfortunately Tommy mispronounced the experienced hero’s name, and asked if his powers are fueled by flaming gas. Instead of getting angry, Moe introduced Crimson Thunder to his cousin, who has powers of a different sort.
If someone discovered that they had the ability to draw the heat from an object touching one hand and infuse it into an object touching the other hand, most people would consider a job as a waiter (“keeps the hot side hot and the cool side cool”) an insulation salesman (“look how much warmth you’re losing through this window”) or even star in a new stop-motion Christmas special (“I’m mister both misers”). Not young Danny Jonez: inspired by his cousin’s success, he donned a ridiculous orange and blue outfit and called himself The Exchanger.
Danny constantly appears to bother Crimson Thunder and the other heroes, insisting that his powers are useful in the war against evil. He also insists that his name is “The Exchanger”, despite being repeatedly called “Mr. Thermistor”, “Captain Convection Current” and “Bipolar Boy”. Danny is certain that someday, he will prove that it is his destiny to be a great hero. Destiny could not be reached for comment.
Aside from protecting people like the Exchanger and Chromatic Aberration Man from themselves, our heroes do face some very real threats from villains, who until recently ran amok, unopposed in the neighborhoods and office complexes of suburbia. One of the most dangerous of this group is one of their own. Unfortunately that university didn’t only produce good guys.
Janey Laud was at the top of her computer science class. This was done partially through her skills and intelligence, but augmented by less ethical methods. She was eventually caught and expelled. Working on her own, she created cyber gauntlets, which allow her to access and de-encrypt systems by touch. Her wire mesh body suit is embedded with circuitry, and her right eye was replaced with an internal monitor, making her a high-powered human laptop. With her cybernetic enhancements, she has become a master of industrial espionage calling herself The Software Pirate Queen.
To reinforce her image she always dresses the part, and carries a laser blaster flintlock and a whip. The whip acts as a conduit cable, giving her gloves a longer range. The flintlock sends out a surge that interferes with any electrical communication signal (including that of the human nervous system). The queen’s crew was formed with the timed honored engineering school tradition of “Using the Geek”. It is made up of nerds she’d initially recruited into doing her homework, and then her bidding. They remained with her after expulsion and are now known as the Hackers.
She provides them with a simpler version of her own gauntlets that can only download information, which is then supplied to her. They also carry a bandoleer of “spikes” which will wipe the memory banks of any system they are stabbed into. Her crew are all armed with energy cutlasses that fire beams from the tip. The Queen’s gauntlets can shut down any of the Hacker’s equipment, but she has a far more powerful control over them. She is a babe in a miniskirt and fishnets, and they are computer geeks. A Hacker’s loyalty is never in question.
Organized crime is also trying to move into the suburbs, and one of their most infamous enforcers has been placed in charge of the new territory. Vincent Scarfone was born with a rare skin condition that, coupled with his large size, led to a cruel nickname and teasing. The teasing never lasted long, as his capacity for infinite violence was aroused. He worked his way up the organization from low-level button man, to protection rackets, and finally to being the boss of his own gang. He decided to keep the epithet the other kids gave him and make sure no one would ever laugh at it again. Thus Vinnie “The Cow” became one of the most despised names in the city.
He even had Steel horns embedded in his skull to enhance his bovine appearance. Anyone who laughed at him was sent to “sleep with the cows.” (Trust me, don’t ask.) While he is always conventionally armed, his “work” with a baseball bat has earned him most of his reputation. He is deeply feared by all who encounter him, especially his dry cleaner, who must return all his Armani suits to pristine condition after Vinnie finishes “work”. The Cow has been assigned to take over and turn a profit in the suburban towns, so he has his gang offering protection to residents and businesses. His boys all wear cowboy hats, boots and jeans. Though western in appearance, their designer shirts, hand woven silk ties, and accents reveal their origin. Originally they were known as simply cowboys or cowhands. One afternoon, Vinnie called one lieutenant a cavone, the man said, “Don’ you mean Cow-vone, boss?”
After forcibly decommissioning the lieutenant with the wide end of his bat, Scarfone decided he actually liked the sound of it, and currently uses that name for all his troops.
The entire criminal element in the area is not organized into unusually themed groups with spiffy matching outfits however. There are several local independent operators. The most visually appealing of these is The Phantom Floozy, a specialist in blackmail and information theft.
She’s successful enough to not steal cash, but not above grabbing something pretty for herself while on a mission. Her hollow battle staffs contain miniature recording and photographic equipment, as well as any papers she’s absconded with. The concealment of these devices is the main function of the staffs, as her costume barely conceals her, never mind a tape recorder. She is capable of using the electronic escrima for defense when absolutely necessary, but she can usually depend on her acrobatic ability or dress sense (see the previous costume comment) to escape. Though always smiling and seemingly carefree, she is very serious about her work and reputation. Underworld groups and individuals often hire her to obtain information. Her professionalism and abilities insure that her employers are never upset. Her leather and spandex outfit insures the same of her male victims.
Stealing information or data is one thing, but when the bad guys need an object swiped that’s impossible to steal (from a microscopic lens to a city bus) there’s only one man they call: ShadowFox.
Absolutely nothing is known about ShadowFox except that he is the greatest thief anyone has ever heard of, ever…really. He only takes jobs that he feels are true challenges, and even knowing how to contact him is an impenetrable mystery to most. Anything he steals for others appears in their headquarters, usually in the most heavily guarded section. For payment, he then steals something from his employer. Therefore, he is only hired in cases of extreme emergency, even by the lowest of the low. The prizes he takes for himself have never reappeared, anywhere. The same is true of any people who were known to be guarding something he grabbed. Very few people have even seen him. Those that have say that the shadows he hides in seem to grow around him. Many suspect he has other worldly or mystical powers, and that he may not be human. ShadowFox comes and goes without trace, making even the most powerful criminal leaders uneasy with the knowledge that nothing they have can be truly safe from him. (Creepy, huh? – Boogie boogie boogie!)
While most criminals would benefit from practical invisibility, others thrive on high visibility to increase their reputations. This is especially true of hit men that specialize in public displays when a messy message is needed. One of the foulest of these assassins is the dreaded Master Pu.
He received his training from a hermit in a cave, outside the remote Asian jungle village of Ka-Khi. Then he killed his teacher making him the last master of the long lost martial art of Kusai-ki-do, the “Way of the Powerful Stinky”. His body is trained as a high-speed weapon and also, through controlled diet and exercise, constantly emits a powerful stench causing disorientation, nausea, and even blurred vision in his opponents. The knuckle blades he wears are mostly to mark a target who is only to be warned, as his martial arts ability is more than lethal enough to handle his normally incapacitated foes. While nearly unbeatable in physical combat, the contract killer could have a large problem: getting close enough to his employers to get hired or paid. Unfortunately, for those who fight for freedom, he has a partner. Deak Cotton was an unscrupulous mercenary working with a group in the jungle near Ka-Khi. Trained in the use of most firearms, he prefers the sound and fury caused by firing twin MAC-10 submachine guns. After eliminating the local population, the squad was supposed to test flight bands for yet another unscrupulous weapons company, planning to sell them to the highest bidder. The scheme was on the verge of being discovered by the U.S. Government, causing the company to order the termination of the test, and the mercenaries. The bands were rigged to emit poison gas when activated, and then rocket out of control. This killed all the mercenaries and flung them to the distant points on the compass, forever losing their remains in the jungle. All, that is, except for Deak. He’d put on his gas mask because of the terrible smell emanating from a cave nearby. When the bands fired, he was able to partially control his landing. The scented sensei found him, and they struck up a partnership based on a love of money and mayhem. Deak managed to repair the flight bands, and built a wing shaped bulletproof shield to protect his back. (Understandably, he's lost any trust he's had for others.) Now wherever you find Pu, you’ll find the Green Fly hovering overhead. The team leaves a trail of victims, bullets and methane in their wake.
Will our heroes be able to stop these villains? Is there some mastermind behind this sudden surge in suburban supervillainy? Is it possible to run a toy company and fight evil without accidentally shipping exploding pick up sticks? These answers and many others will have to wait for a future date. Yet another Crisis vibrates across universes restructuring all of history, and the RetGun must fire again.
All final character design, and villain creation done in Dec 02 using the heromachine engine:
Heroes made up for various hero RPGs in High School and College except:
Fiartist - name and original creation/design by Joe Monez
Captain Continuity and Chromatic Aberration Man: Nicknames given to me by Scott Landsman
Insulting nicknames for The Exchanger by Ben Moskowitz
Master Pu and the Green Fly: Inspired by a joke my Dad told me as a child (I really had no hope)
Encouragement and the time to think of (and try) the Crimson Thunder origin in the museum thanks to My sister
Fashion advice from my Mom,
Many answers to “is this better or worse” and infinite patience while I fix everything a zillion times from my wife
Someone to read this to and inspire to create their own heroes provided by my daughter
Thanx much to all