Τετάρτη, 6 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

What I Think About Stuff-Stuff I'll do when I grow up: Rise and Fall (Part One: The Set-Up)



Infinite worlds, endlessly unfolding…


Stuff I’m going to do when I grow up-Rise and Fall (Part One: The Setting)

The previous article detailed the story’s outline and Rise and Fall’s basic cosmology. It spoke of the decline of superhumanity and the slow but certain death of the OverMan through a decades-long whimper, not a bang.

But what has been the function of the superhumans in this Universe? How have they actually changed Earth and made human civilization into this construct that no longer requires them? And, above all, how much has all this changed mankind?

Does the future hold the hi-tech bling it promised?


Unfortunately, no. Rise and Fall does not exist within the narrative definition of a utopia or a dystopia. Rather, it is just a few dozen steps ahead of us. Mankind, even if it has developed means to defend itself against extraordinary threats, has not been transmuted into some enlightened race that dances to the secret music of the Spheres. We’re still as petty, territorial and divisive as ever, afraid of both our own potential and that of our fellow men.

We’re also still rushing to pay the electric bill, because let’s face it: geothermal energy may have replaced oil, but that doesn’t mean that shit’s free.

It is perhaps this normalcy, this way that the world has not evolved into something greater or reduced to ruin by the folly of man that has driven some of the older, more powerful (or important) superhumans mad. The thought that mankind does not require them not because they became something that surpassed them, but because they simply rendered them obsolete.

But what was the world like, in the day of the superhumans? What were their greatest and most important organizations and how did they come to this?

Well why don’t you join me as we look at…

THE HEAVY-HITTERS OF RISE AND FALL

Actual artwork soon to follow

The Sentinel:


The watchful eye of the almost-gods…

The Sentinel were first formed by the League of Nations after the end of World War One, as part of a project that aimed to form a superhuman intervention force, with the intent to function as a counter-measure against any and all threats, both on and off-world.

The first incarnation of Sentinel (manned by Titan, Doctor Infinity and his Infinity Squad and the experimental US superhuman that later came to be known as Brick the Zombie) played a very important role in stopping the multiversal invasion by Earth 3-Epsilon. 

The invasion both proved the existence of multiversal threat and also the need for Sentinel to be provided further jurisdiction (to the point of it being able to overcome national sovereignity in the name of homeworld security) as well as a need to increase their numbers. The idea of giving such extreme powers to a group of superhumans was of course, ill-advised at best. By 1937, Sentinel had become a superpower in their own right.

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Sentinel immediately intervened, claiming that an attack on this nation befell under their jurisdiction. Despite their success at halting the blitzkrieg in its tracks, they soon found themselves under attack by every diplomatic organization and nation on Earth, demanding their immediate disbanding.

The Sentinel were thus destroyed and its respective members sent back to their countries, to wait and watch helplessly as the Germans tore through Europe and the Soviet Union. It wasn’t until 1940, when Nazi Germany revealed its own superhuman capability, that the Sentinel was immediately reassembled and sent to the battlefield.

World War 2 ended with severe losses for both human and superhuman population. Furthermore, Titan’s resignation from Sentinel and defection to the Soviet Union (his homeland) signaled the beginning of the superhuman arms race and the Cold War.

Nukes vs Spandex

The Sentinel find themselves suddenly burdened with both the responsibility of regulating extra-normal threats (The Third Cosmis Conjencture and the Chaodeamon invasion, for one) as well as the very real possibility of a full-scale nuclear holocaust that could destroy them.

It’s with the collapse of the Soviet Union that Sentinel disbands officially, giving up on the UN. With Titan at the head, they reestablish themselves as a separate entity, with the function of aiding any countries that ask for their help, while making sure to stay well the hell away from human affairs.
Sentinel’s final roster consisted of:

Titan

The direct descendant of the world’s first superhuman.

The exact origins of Titan’s bloodline have remained, so far, unclear. According to his own testimony, he is the latest in a line of superhumans, dating all the way back to the days of prehistory, a pure-blooded bloodline of near-gods.

Titan has the bearing and the attitude of a born monarch. He was, after all, raised by his parents with the belief that he is the paragon of human achievement and his own powers support this claim. Macrocosmically strong, capable of perceiving the material world down to the quantum level, flying at speeds only measureable in the Richter scale and tough enough to survive his descent into the furnace-heart of a quasar, Titan has been the leader of Sentinel by sheer might alone.

If anything can be considered as his actual ‘weakness’ then it should be his arrogance, his conceit for every ‘vanilla’ human, as well as suffering from a form of superhuman hemophilia.

You see, Titan’s family is pure and has done its damnedest to remain pure throughout the millennia of human history. They consider themselves to be gods and well…

 Incest *is* considered to be the mythical privilege of divinity.

Despite his near-invulnerability, any wound sustained by Titan will cause him to bleed profusely without the ability to heal naturally. He has done his best to conceal it for years, choosing to maintain the face of invincibility, to the point where his denial has convinced him of it.

And for people with delusions to divinity don’t take well to the idea of being deprived of the praise they believe they deserve…

Nevermore:
Nevermore Power Armor, Mark III


Edgar Rumfoord was one of the first US superhumans to have burst into the scene during the Cold War. Considered Titan’s counterpart in every way, Nevermore was originally a vigilante, dealing his own brand of justice in the streets of New York back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Or that’s the story they want you to believe. Nevermore did not exist as an entity, since he assumed the mantle of the original Nevermore, a man named Samuel Henriksson; a Vietnam Veteran who had taken it upon himself to wage war against (and I quote) ‘the darkness in the heart of America’. The targets of the original Nevermore (a name inspired by Samuel’s love for the works of Edgar Alan Poe) were the criminal gangs of New York City, but also a number of ethnic groups and even homosexuals.

Samuel Henriksson was finally shot down by a police SWAT team during his attempt to resist arrest as they stormed his hideout; the idea, however, of a vigilante spawned myriad copycats, with Edgar Rumfoord the best-equipped and maddest among them.

A talented physician and impossibly rich, Rumfoord took the mantle of the vigilante with none of the skills or aptitude of Henriksson. It was his meddling with the origanized crime syndicates that led to a brutal counter-attack that led to the death of his wife, Lenore. Refusing to accept his own folly, Edgar instead chose to go crazy and dedicate a decade of his life into becoming something that the world would fear, instead of respect.

By stealing Doctor Tyranus’ G-E5 power armor designs, he developed a stealthier version of the armor, which he used to target the men behind his wife’s death, beat them to within an inch of their lives and then admit them to his private clinic, there to be surgically crippled and trapped for the rest of their lives.

Keeping his façade, Rumfoord soon became the jailer of New York as well as its vigilante. His aptitude with mechanics and his tenacity also earned him a place among the Sentinel as ‘the world’s greatest mortal’. It was this glory and pretension that kept the demons of his personal failure at bay. But when mankind forgot him, he decided to get even.

Kuan Yin:

Mongolian Goddess.

The most powerful superhuman in history (outshining Titan in every way that matters), Kuan Yin abandoned Chine in favor of joining Sentinel in the joint defense of Earth.

Capable of bending reality and, above all, leading the team, Kuan Yin soon found herself at odds with Titan, who had absolutely no interest in sharing the world with her. During their spat and power shifts, Sentinel nearly tore itself apart.

It was during Russian’s invasion of Georgia when their conflict reached critical mass. Kuan Yin, choosing to use Sentinel as her private army to force Russia to halt their invasion effort, nearly tore the team apart. Facing what could have been the possibility of World War Three, Sentinel turned against her and killed her in a climactic battle.

It was Kuan Yin’s actions that forced the hand of human governments to actively take measures that would eliminate the need for superhuman aid.

Surakh:


 The sorcerer, dwelling in the astral plane.

The twelfth incarnation of the arcane champion of Earth, Surakh has been a member of Sentinel for three incarnations. A master summoner and the first mortal to have ever crossed into the astral plane (and made contact with its denizens), his power mostly relies on summoning beings from other realities to do his bidding.

His true nature, however, is far more insidious: the true nature of Surakh has been that of the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, a trickster spirit that has always existed in the bylines of human history. His allegiance to Sentinel is only attributed to boredom and there are few (if any) superhumans left that could fight him head on.

This lack of attention by mankind has begun to fatally bore him, forcing him to seek other avenues for once again reaching the spotlight.


Marduk:

Tecnhically not a superhuman…

Out of every member of Sentinel, Marduk is by far the being least affected by the whimper that has signified the end of superhumanity. Ancient and nearly omnipotent, Marduk had existed with mankind peacefully for ages, until the Second Cosmic Conjencture and the manifestation of the Chaos Demon Loug forced his hand.

Unlike Surakh, who is a trickster being clad in mortal form, Marduk is a true god in every sense of the word. It has wisely chosen to avoid any and all meddling in human affairs, its place in Sentinel reserved for any cosmic disaster that might befall his current continuum.

Out of the entirety of Sentinel, Marduk is the least affected of the death of superhumanity’s importance. He stands guard at the gates of the realms that stretch beyond life, forever standing guard against any and all threats.

He waits still…

But what kind of enemies did Sentinel face, back in its glory days? What sort of strange bedfellows will they make now, on their final days?

Well why don’t we look at…

Dr. Tyrranus:

G-E5 power armor, Mark IV

Born in Chechnya in 1963, Leonit Kadyrov spent his teens during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Deciding that he was not going to waste his genius (and skills) in the service of a corrupt and totalitarian regime, he defected to Germany, where he abused the Cold War NATO budget (originally intended for the development of counter-superhuman technology) to develop and perfect the G-E5 power armor technology.

It was in the 90’s when his home land was being invaded by Russia that he headed back, to build an army of powered humans, there to become Chechnya’s greatest protector and a supporter of numerous organizations around the globe. Despite the fact that the Tyrranus moniker was given to him by the press, Kadyrov has openly embraced it as his standard.

Kadyrov has, however, grown old and even his G-E5 technology has since grown obsolete. His legacy has moved beyond him and he finds this most distressing.

Agau:

The Queen Witch Unleashed

One of Surakh’s (and Sentinel’s) greatest enemies, Agau was born in Haiti, as a houngan and representative of the loa to her people. Through dark pacts, she sought to further increase her power, which turned her into an undead being and a necromancer supreme.

Agau is deathless and her power has never been truly tested to its utmost limits. It was during the Second Cosmic Conjecture that she was made apparent as the truly destructive force that she was, able to even take a divine being like Marduk head-on.

She has been considered dead for decades now, but still remains at large. Her powers and destructive capabilities however, have remained unused and she aches for another epic spat with the world’s greatest superhumans.

Roland Vadus:

The Puppeteer

Roland Vadus had once been the Sentinel’s director during the Cold War and their greatest and most important enemy during the 70’s. Whereas Kadyrov is the penultimate anarchist and a romantic fighting in the front lines, Vadus is the calculating, controlling son of a bitch behind the scenes.

Roland Vadus is not a native to Earth. Having escaped the crash of the prison-ship that was transporting him to the Andromedan maximum security prison, the shapeshifting being survived for decades trapped in the Antarctic, until a scientific expedition dug it up. Having consumed and assumed their forms, the creature made its way to Argentina, where it integrated itself to human society.

For years, the creature that became Roland Vadus would clash with superhumans (villains and heroes alike), under the moniker Mr. Halloween, a shapeshifting villain in the 50’s and then as the Hivemind in the 60’s. It wasn’t until the 70’s during the first Cosmic Conjencture when the creature devoured then Sentinel director Roland Vadus and became him.

While not invincible (and in fact, quite culnerable to fire), Vadus is a being that is tailored to survival. With the ability to incorporate the memories and knowledge of every creature it devours (coupled with its unnaturally long life-span), he is the penultimate enemy of the Sentinel.

But with the fight gone out of them, he finds himself bored, tired and feeling so much older…

Carcossa:

Where the flesh factories swallow men whole and spit out blood, monstrocities and horror…

When Earth 3-Epislon invaded, Carcosa was their first last and final line of defense and has remained so to this day. It is unknown whether or not the exposure to the current continuum was what turned it the way it is, currently or if the city was originally intended to be a nightmare factory of epic proportions.

The city of Carcossa once housed two million 3-Epsilon natives and was intended as the staging point of the invasion. It was a fully functional arcology, intended to withstand year-long sieges, complete with automated defense systems and a fully functional-AI that did not go insane. If anything, any and all records that were rescued from Carcossa indicate that whatever happened in there during the last days of the invasion was in no way the operating systems’ fault.

Something entere Carcossa and changed it. Sure, 3-Epsilon was already a dark universe where mankind had become more machines than men, bereft of morality (and in some cases, identity) but this was fucked up. Great flesh-factories sprang out of the bowels of the city without any indication of warning. Monstrosities creeped out of its alleys and living nightmares infested its every corner.

By the time native superhuman aid had arrived, it was too late for its people. All that was left was the sound of strange machines, screaming at the heavens and furnace-thick smoke, released from its bellows…

The city of Carcossa is sentient and malevolent beyond the shadow of a doubt and has resisted any and all attempts to be destroyed or contacted. It has remained trapped inside a stasis field inside its original place of origin (South Africa) but still remains one of superhumanity’s greatest concerns.
But something has been churning in its depths. Something cold and calculating and patient, that tastes the air and knows that bloody change is nearing.

And last, but not least…

Loug, the Chaos Demon:

Loug, assuming one of its true forms.

The being behind the Third Cosmic Conjencture and the creature that nearly destroyed the current continuum single-handedly, Loug is Sentinel’s greatest enemy. A creature of pure chaos and unspeakable destructive capability, Loug first invaded Earth in the 60’s and was driven back by the concerted efforts of superheroes and villains alike.

Loug has since been trapped in a tesseract prison on Earth’s moon, poisoned by geometries developed by Doctor Infinity and held in place by Sentinel, plotting its revenge.

But what the hell is a Cosmic Conjencture, Kostas? Also, none of these guys look like honest-to-God protagonists. Oh and by the way: what’s Earth-Epsilon?

I’m glad you asked, reader, because In part 3, we’re moving on to…


THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS. 

Addendum:

Whoa, 50k pageviews. I don't know if it's worth anything in the grand scheme of things, but goddamn that's a pretty number.

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