(GM) You’re on a chartered bus leaving from Chicago, going out to what was once the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Years ago, this place was the epicenter of the phenomenon known as “The Wave”, which granted people around the world paranormal powers.
(GM) Appropriate, then, that the location has been purchased by the Vitruvian Institute, and turned into the Vitruvian Institute for Parahuman Studies. In addition to being a research lab for the study of paranormals, the Institute has recently opened a section of their facility to serve as a training academy for the Transnational Guard.
(GM) That’s what you’re here for. Whatever your individual reasons may be, you are all here to join the Guard and be trained to be the next in a line of super-powered heroes.
(GM) You take a moment to look around the bus. Outside of the driver, there’s only four other people on it besides yourself.
(GM) You can all take a moment to describe what your character looks like, and what you’re doing to occupy your time during the ride.
(Ashley) A strawberry blonde with her hair pulled back neatly and an athletic frame sits in one of the window seats in the front. She’s playing with an expensive touch screen phone. She looks friendly and approachable, and often glances up
(Joseph) Is a bit older then the group, in his mid-20s. He’s wearing CPD sweats, and has a handsome Mediterian face. Currently has his nose in a Tony Hillerman novel with the air of someone used to having to kill time.
(Liz) Liz is sitting close to the back of the bus looking out the window, not seeming to pay much attention to the people around her. She has a strong, athletic build, blue eyes and long dark brown hair that’s been pulled back into braid.
(Wayne) A rough looking man with his hair buzzed short and light facial hair sits in a seat near the back. He looks like he’s in his mid 20s, with a nice looking leather jacket over his broad frame.
(Wayne) He’s pretty reserved, just glancing out the window or at the other passengers from time to time.
(Jordan) Lounging in the back, with one foot hanging across the aisle to perch on the seat opposite, is a strikingly attractive young man – maybe twenty or so – in Levis and a plain gray shirt. He’s got diamond-cut cheekbones, frosted tips, and an easy smile revealing rows of straight white teeth. He smells of product and chewing gum.
(Wayne) Every so often, he levels a glance at one of the passengers for a little longer than usual before looking back out the window.
(Joseph) Carefully dog-ears the page he’s reading before looking up. His hair is cut short. Not military but cop short and dark. Stretching out he looks around the bus as if sizing up the people here. His eyes linger on Wayne’s character, pondering him for a criminal for a moment before looking around at the rest of the group.
(GM) The bus pulls up to a large grey building, which you’ve seen in newspapers and online before, potentially.
(Liz) Liz briefly looks intimidated by the large building before quickly pulling herself together.
(GM) Standing in the parking lot as you stop in front of the building are a trio of men speaking to one another. The first is a tall man, with black hair and a severe expression, in a slate grey suit and blue tie. Next to him, a man in a darker suit, with a pair of glasses and his hair slightly receding.
(GM) The third, a blond man in his thirties, is wearing an old brown leather jacket and faded jeans, a marked difference from the two suit-wearing men standing next to him.
(Jordan) Jordan pulls a shaving kit out of his gym bag and surrepetitiously gives himself a once-over in a mirror before tossing it back in, shouldering the bag and sauntering down the aisle.
(Ashley) Ashley smiles confidently, rolling her neck to loosen up her muscles, and pockets her phone before waiting patiently.
(Wayne) Wayne gets up and plods down the aisle. His boots sound with each step.
(GM) The bus stops in front of the men, who wait for you all to disembark before speaking. The man in the middle, with the glasses, speaks first. “Welcome to Vitruvian! My name is Edward August, and this is Carter Standard,” he says, gesturing to the dour man in the grey suit “and Ian Ulrich,” the other man, the blond.
(GM) “We’re very happy to meet all of you, and…” Carter interrupts August, throwing the man’s obviously carefully practice speech off “Follow me, please.” He then turns to start walking towards the building, not looking back to see if you follow. August looks awkwardly for a moment, and then shrugs and smiles plaintively before gesturing for you to follow Carte
(GM) He and Ian both follow as well.
(Ashley) Ashley strides confidently after them without pause.
(Joseph) Shrugs and follows along at a strolling gait.
(GM) “You can crash-course them while we talk, Ed.” Carter mutters over his shoulder. With that cue, August continues “You’re involved in something unprecedented here at Vitruvian. For years the Transnational Guard has operated as protectors and defenders of humanity, but never before has there been a formal facility to train and prepare them.”
(Jordan) Jordan falls into step beside Ashley and leans in conspiratorially. “Pretty wild, huh? That guy August was on the cover of Forbes last month.”
(GM) “Current members of the Guard have all been… apprenticed, so to speak, studying under other members, or learned ‘on-the-job’, as it were. There’s a lack of formal education, uniformity of practice, and as my friend Ian would happily point out, a periodic snarl with law enforcement over procedure.”
(Wayne) Wayne takes long strides, walking briskly but staying short of the three.
(GM) They continue to walk you into the building, leading you into the vast internal foyer.
(Ashley) Ash smiles politely. “Yeah, I guess this whole thing is pretty crazy.”
(Joseph) Grimaces at the mention of the snarls, clearly not how he’d put it but keeps quiet, is listening, taking things in.
(GM) “But this won’t all be crime scene procedures and writing reports! We’re offering emergency medical training, interpersonal skill workshops, and even… emergency hostile situation de-escalation.”
(GM) Ian looks back at all of you and smirks “He means combat training.”
(GM) August straightens his tie “Ahem, yes, a reality of working with the Guard is that you will be called upon to assist law enforcement personnel in dissuading or apprehending parahuman criminals, and that will call for a certain level of preparation.”
(GM) He turns around and puts his hands up while walks “Not to say that you’ll be facing that today, or in the next few days! We’d never dream of putting you in the field and putting you at risk before you are ready, rest assured.”
(GM) The trio stop the walk inside the center of the foyer, as August continues to speak.
(GM) “Now, I’m sure some of you might think ’I’m ready now!‘, and some of you might be. I’m given to understand at least one of you has law enforcement experience, after all. However, not all of you do and that’s exactly the point; the training and preparation of each member of the Guard has been, up until now, wildly inconsistent.”
(GM) Carter nods and adds “It gets people killed. Some dumb kid gets his powers day 1, day 2 throws on a mask and decides to help fight crime. Doesn’t even consider that being able to throw lighting doesn’t make you bulletproof, and gets himself shot in the head.”
(GM) August frowns. “Yes, well, that’s what we’re trying to avoid here, Carter.” He smiles at you all again “So, to that end, we’ve brought in the only sort of people who could truly be called experts. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Action Pact!”
(GM) August gestures outwards behind him, to an empty temporary stage on the foyer.
(GM) He looks back at the rest of you, and has a nervous smirk before letting out a little breath of a laugh and leaning over to Carter. “Where are they?” he whispers.
(GM) Carter shrugs, and Ian lets out a chuckle and clears his throat.
(GM) “Auggie, they’re running late. Harrier shot me a text.”
(GM) August flinches at the nickname he’s obviously not fond of, and scowls at Ian “You didn’t think to tell me?” he attempts to whisper, failing.
(Joseph) Shakes his head, finding a nice bit of wall to lean against.
(GM) Ian shrugs “It was funnier this way.”
(GM) Ian walks over to the stage and hops up on it.
(Wayne) Wayne smirks.
(Jordan) Jordan stifles a laugh.
(GM) “Folks, my name’s Ian Ulrich. I was in the Chicago PD for eight years, working primarily in paracrime. Two years ago, this maniac named Mangle attacked me and my partner when he was out of costume. It was a traffic stop, not a bank robbery. My partner died.”
(Joseph) Straightens up at that.
(GM) “When I worked paracrime, I never blamed you supers for existing. You didn’t ask for your powers, you didn’t choose this life. I sorta isolated you all in my head, like you existed in your own little world. I crossed into that world on my 9-5, but if it didn’t have a cape, it was just the regular Earth I grew up with.”
(Liz) Liz’s eyes harden slightly hearing this.
(GM) “I never expected a super to sneak up on us, to have a traffic stop turn into a murder because some superpowered punk didn’t feel like paying a ticket. That’s the world we live in. We all live in it. You, me. Supers, normal people. We share it.”
(GM) “So we can’t go around acting like you’ll always tend to your own, like there’s a world for supers and a world for the rest of us. It’s the same world, so we gotta deal with that. That means we gotta learn how you do things, and you gotta learn how we do things.”
(GM) “No more amateurs running around in tights flinging fireballs just because God or whatever decided they can do that one day. No more. No more of us acting like it’s okay as long as it’s you against your own. No more. Power don’t give you the right to save the world, you choose to do it, and if you make that choice you learn how to do it right.”
(GM) “That’s my bit. That’s why I’m here. Auggie offered me a chance to train you people, to show you how it should be done, not just how people have been doing it. You have a real opportunity here to be the first generation of professional super-heroes who actually know what the fuck they’re doing.”
(GM) August looks appalled at Ian’s word choices.
(GM) At a distance, you hear the sound of a helicopter coming in for a landing.
(GM) Ian looks up “Yeah, that’ll be them at the helipad. We should give em a few minutes to get situated, maybe take a piss, before they get introduced. Meantime, what else have you got?” He looks over at August.
(GM) August mouths silently ‘take a piss?’ and puts his hands up while scowling at Ian.
(GM) Ian shrugs, and steps off the stage. “What? Stop seeing them as demigods should be like, priority one.”
(Ashley) Ash grins to herself.
(GM) August takes off his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose while grimacing.
(Joseph) Doesn’t react either way to it. Has heard far worse.
(GM) Carter decides to take the opportunity to hop up and speak to everyone. “Folks, while Mr. Ulrich is part of the faculty and one of your trainers, I’m not. My name is Carter Standard, and before I did this I was in the NSA for ten years. I’m the facility’s head of security. I’m not your enemy, but I’m not your friend either.”
(GM) “Don’t take that as a slight. The fact is, just as I have to keep you all safe, I also have a duty to keep the world safe from you, if I have to. I have to be above all this other stuff. I’m just here to make sure the doors are locked, alright?”
(GM) You all hear footsteps coming into the hall, and laughing voices. “Oh man, did you see his face?” you hear an excited woman talking “He was all ‘but we’re the master race!’ just as he was dropping a deuce.” More laughing.
(GM) The woman who was speaking you immediately realize is Redline, the fast-talking, hotheaded speedster of Action Pact. The rest of the team is following her into the foyer, laughing and joking amongst themselves. They all stop when they notice you, Harrier hushing them.
(GM) They seem to throw on ‘camera faces’, the sort of facial expressions you’re used to seeing them have in publicity photos and magazine interviews, before walking up to the stage. “Are these the kids? They look old” Redline whispers to a large man in a tanktop and camo pants, presumably Brigadier in his non-metallic form.
(Wayne) Wayne stifles a laugh.
(GM) The group starts to take the stage, before Nightstar grunts in disgust, bypassing it and walking around to all of you. She walks up to Wayne first. “Nightstar. You?”
(Jordan) Jordan suddenly straightens up and seems to be paying a lot more attention. Especially to Redline.
(Wayne) Mostly at their quick shift from vibrant individuals to public appearance mode.
(Joseph) Shakes his head and stands there watching.
(Wayne) “Wayne Harris.”
(GM) The rest of her group looks confused, and Nightstar scoffs “We’re supposed to be their mentors, their trainers. You think that putting us up on a stage is a good idea, Mr. August?”
(Wayne) Wayne offers a hand.
(GM) Edward stammers “Well, I mean you’re one of the most important teams and… and… well I’ve never done this before, miss!”
(GM) Nightstar looks at the rest of her team “Guys, c’mon. They’re supposed to become our peers.”
(GM) They all seem to nod, and hop off the stage to walk up to you all.
(Liz) Liz is a bit uncomfortable with the sudden influx of people mingling around her but tries to put on a friendly face (for her at least) and learn who everyone is.
(GM) Atomica looks over at Carter “Agent Standard, they’ve all been cleared, yes?”
(GM) Carter nods.
(Joseph) Offers his hand to Nightstar. “Joseph Russo.” Has a firm handshake. Doesn’t do the bonecrushing pissing game.
(Ashley) She smiles. “Ashley Benoit. I’d shake your hand, but I’m a bit… warm.”
(GM) Atomica smiles and pulls off her mask. “My name’s Therese Proctor.”
(GM) Her team-mates are stunned
(Jordan) Jordan smiles widely and offers his hand after Joseph. “Jordan Preiss. You’re Nightstar, right? I really respect your work.”
(GM) Nodding, and shaking hands extended her way, Nighstar follows suit “Lydia Rios.”
(GM) Brigadier, who doesn’t wear a mask and whose identity is public, just smirks and states “Glen Kemper” flatly while extending a hand.
(GM) Harrier and Jack of Hearts follow after. “Jeffery Goss” and “Jack Burke” they state, respectively.
(GM) Redline pulls her goggles up onto her forehead. “This ain’t even a real mask.” she laughs before greeting everyone else. “Stephanie Holland.”
(GM) Atomica speaks up “We’ll prefer that you use our code-names on the facility, and those of us who wear masks will be wearing them around on a regular basis. While this specific building is secure and you’ve all been cleared for this information, we can’t make that guarantee everywhere.”
(Wayne) Wayne is genial enough towards the heroes and shakes hands. His words and even his manner seem kind of measured.
(GM) “Plus, using code-names is good habit for when you’re in the field. If we were back to back in a fight, I don’t want you calling me Therese.” She laughs.
(Ashley) “Codenames. Masks. Right.” Ashley’s smile wavers a little.
(GM) “But I think it’s important to know we’re human beings, not personas. Personas are for other people.”
(GM) Nightstar laughs and says to Ashley “You get used to it.”
(GM) Harrier speaks up “We’ve read your files. Mr. August provided us with the information on your paranormal abilities that you decided to disclose. We stayed clear of your personal lives, that’s none of our business. You’ll come to learn in this life that so much of what you do is public, you cherish the things you can keep to yourself.”
(GM) “So whatever you were before now, whatever your life has been up to this point, you can leave it behind going forward… if you want to. What you want to hold on to, hold on to. What you want to let go, let go. We’re not interested in who you were. The fact is, nothing in this world is the way it ought to be…”
(GM) Redline rolls her eyes and mouths ‘oh here we go’
(GM) Harrier continues “The world’s harsh, and painful. It’s full of selfishness and cruelty and suffering. That’s the way it is. But that’s why there’s people like us. Heroes. We exist as if the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.”
(GM) Redline does a tiny golf clap and nods completely unconvincingly.
(Ashley) “No offense, but I don’t think I’ll be leaving anything behind. I walked away from a full scholarship to Harvard to come here. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
(GM) Nightstar looks at Ash “Well, that’s nice. Some of us don’t have that. Some of us didn’t get ripped away from a charmed life. Some of us had nothing better before this, and we had a lot worse.”
(GM) “It’s best to keep that in mind.”
(Ashley) Ash shrugs, not too bothered. “Sorry, didn’t mean to slight anyone. Sometimes I just like to hear my own voice.”
(GM) “Well, that’s good, you do a lot of that in this business.” Jack of Hearts laughs.
(Joseph) “Everyone has their secrets.” Shrugs. “Cop rule 1.”
(GM) Both Harrier and Ian seem to smile and nod simultaneously.
(Wayne) Wayne lingers a bit on Nightstar’s comment.
(GM) Edward August interjects. “Alright folks, how about we get you all situated? Carter will show you to your rooms. We’ve got lots of space here at the facility, you’re our first class so we’re far below our capacity. Everyone gets their own room.”
(GM) “You don’t need to use our rooming facilities if you want, although the commute is something of a bother.”
(Wayne) Wayne’s trying to keep the fact that he’s looking rather intently at Nightstar discrete.
(Jordan) “Oh, nice. I haven’t had my own room in two years. You guys don’t mind if we put up some posters or something?”
(Joseph) “Shouldn’t be too much of a problem assuming there isn’t an issue with me teleporting. And I’d rather tuck my little girl in if that’s not a problem.”
(GM) Carter shrugs “As long as they aren’t a structural or a security hazard. That’d have to be some poster, though.”
(GM) August nods at Joseph “Oh, that’s absolutely fine.”
(Ashley) “I have some trophies and medals and stuff I’ll put up, but no rush.”
(Wayne) “Any kind of restricted items or property?”
(GM) Brigadier speaks up afterwards “If you can teleport, you ain’t never got an excuse to be late, son, so keep that in mind.” He laughs.
(GM) Carter nods at Wayne. “Weapons, narcotics, and any items of illicit gain. I don’t give a damn if you’ve got pirated songs on your iPod but I don’t want your stolen car in my parking lot.”
(Joseph) Shrugs at Brigadier. “Depends on how quickly the wife gets ready and if Jessica decides behave.”
(GM) Nightstar scoffs at Carter “Oh, please, who hasn’t boosted a car for fun once in a while, am I right?” The rest of her team stares at her, although Redline shakes her head while laughing. “Just me then, huh? Ah well.”
(Jordan) Jordan throws Nightstar a wink.
(Ashley) Ash shoots Jordan a sidelong glance and smirks. “Down, boy.”
(GM) She smirks in response.
(GM) Carter leads you all on a tour of the facilities. They’re the sort of thing you’d expect from a high-class hotel, not a school. Pool, hi-tech gym, gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, that sort of thing. Your room is much closer to a small hotel room or apartment than what you might think of a typical dorm.
(GM) Commenting on the luxuries, Carter says “August has poured a lot of money into this place, and he’s received a generous helping from the Guard, which I’m sure ‘the Shark’ will be happy to tell you aaaaallll about.”
(Joseph) Has raised eyebrows, is impressed.
(GM) “You folks are going to be stunned by the Forge, that’s for sure.”
(Jordan) “I gotta ask. ‘The Shark’?”
(GM) Carter groans “The Shark is Roland Tessier, the Guard’s awful little marketing monster. He’s one of those guys who just… like he’s smiling with all those teeth all the time, but you’re always a little concerned he’s going to take your hand off. Like a shark.”
(Ashley) Ash is approving of the gym and pool. “I’m going to love it here. I need to stay in shape.”
(Liz) LIz quietly follows along not quite sure what to make of it all.
(Wayne) Wayne nods approvingly at the amenities.
(GM) Carter sighs “Yeah, you will. You all will. That’s definitely a point the Shark’s going to make with you, although I’ll let him try to justify it to you.”
(Jordan) “So this Roland guy would be doing, like, our likeness rights and stuff? Ok, cool. I gotta get with him about that. I have an agent…”
(Joseph) Groans. “Tell me I won’t have to have a stupid action figure….”
(Wayne) “Likeness rights? Seriously? That’s a thing?”
(Ashley) Ash laughs out loud. “Jesus, dude, prioirties”
(GM) Carter nods. “That’s the size of it, yeah. Your identities, costumes, catchphrases, that sort of thing. Look, folks, let me level with you here…”
(GM) Carter leans on the wall with his elbows, uncharacteristically relaxed for a man who looks so uptight all the time.
(Jordan) “Shit yeah it is, man. If they use, say, Samuel L. Jackson’s face on a Pulp Fiction doll without his permission, he can sue.”
(GM) “Harrier talks a good game about ‘showing the world what it can be’, and all that, but your other priority is going to be showing the world a good time”
(GM) “That’s the fact of it. The Guard acts like a not-for-profit, but it’s not. The Transnational Guard Funding Group, the people Roland Tessier works for? They’re a conglomerate of corporate business interests and private donations.”
(GM) “Merchandising, adaptations, reality comics, they’re big business. Just be thankful it’s not like it is over in Japan, where being a super-hero is a god damn reality show. You have no idea how much fighting I had to do to keep cameras out of here. The Shark wanted to turn this place into The Jersey Shore.”
(Liz) LIz starts to look vaguely ill as the reality of what she’s signed up for dawns on her.
(Ashley) Ash looks a little uncomfortable. “Look, my uh, powers? aren’t exactly happy shiny fun times. I mean, I’ll do what’s required, but I’m not much of a show GM.”
(GM) “You’d be surprised, kid. You’re the pyrokinetic, right?”
(Joseph) “Yeah, I can just see my powers be good on a Saturday morning cartoon.” Rolling his eyes.
(GM) “So’s this Australian kid, Hotstreak, on Primal Force. They can spin the fact that he burns people into being something positive, I imagine they’ve already got spin prepped for you.”
(GM) “There’s a showbiz aspect to this. You can’t avoid it. You might not like it, but it’s like this…”
(Ashley) “If you say so.” Ash shrugs. “I was captain of the cheerleading squad, I can handle a crowd. No big deal.”
(GM) “You got two options: either your paranormal crime-fighters do it in the light, in colorful capes and costumes, or they do it in the dark, in balaclavas and black helicopters. It’s sort of one or the other. The public made that choice back when the HMD Treaty went down. They don’t want soldiers. They don’t want commandos.”
(GM) “They want Spider-Man and Superman. They want comic book superheroes in real life. And, since they’re like that anyway, they want to buy the t-shirts and read the stories.”
(Jordan) Jordan nods. “That doesn’t bother me at all. Want to let the cameras in? Be my guest. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
(GM) “You know how Action Pact gets around? They’ve got a special helicopter, custom built for them. It cost millions of dollars. And it needs facilities, mechanics, upkeep. And that’s just for their vehicle. All that money has to come from somewhere, and people giving it to us out of the goodness of their heart only goes so far.”
(Wayne) Wayne looks visibly uncomfortable.
(Joseph) “Some of us do have things to hide.”
(Liz) “I don’t buy that we can’t be the face of paranormals without looking like clowns. There’s got to be a better way.”
(GM) “So, you’re going to have to put on a little song and dance for them. In a way, the masks and funny names can be a good thing. They can let you keep all this separate from your normal life. Tom Cruise can’t go into a supermarket without being hit up for autographs. You take off your mask and you have that luxury.”
(GM) Carter shrugs at Liz “You take that up with the Shark. He designed the get-ups that Action Pact wears nowadays, although some of their identities were their own choosing. If you think that they look like clowns, I suggest you keep that yourself.”
(GM) “Like Harrier? Harrier’s all Roland. That was his name, his costume, Jeff just sorta shrugged and let it all happen.”
(GM) “Nightstar was Nightstar before the Guard’s people got her, but that’s because back in the day she was a thief”
(GM) “So, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
(Jordan) “You just gotta own it. Have some confidence. It’s like putting on tights to do Shakespeare or whatever. Those guys get knighted.”
(GM) He hands out keycards. “Here’s your keys. They’re RFID, they open your rooms, and they also allow you to roam some parts of the facility. If the key lets you in the door, then you’re allowed to be in there. If it doesn’t, then you shouldn’t be in there. I don’t care if you can walk through walls or teleport, if you’re in a place you shouldn’t be…”
(GM) “I will not hesitate to send you the hell home immediately.”
(Joseph) Can’t help but roll his eyes over and over at the costume talk.
(Ashley) Ash laughs good naturedly at Jordan. “Dude, do you ever turn off?”
(GM) Carter scowls at Joseph. “Hey, local? Yeah, you might think ’I’m a cop, I don’t need this shit.’ Harrier was a cop too. He still played ball, and in the end, he started liking it. So, get over yourself.”
(Joseph) “No, I need the job. That doesn’t mean I have to like the chickenshit that comes with it. Never met a cop who loved paperwork. Only Feds had that fetish.” His tone rather cool.
(GM) “Alright, folks, that’s enough of this. Take a few minutes, get your stuff sorted, then meet me down at the Forge. If you can’t find it…”
(GM) Carter speaks into the air. “Leo!”
(GM) You hear an electronic chirp, and a synthetic voice speaking “Yes, Carter?”
(GM) “Give me a holo-line to the Forge.”
(GM) “Yes, sir.”
(GM) A glowing yellow holographic line, floating above the surface of the floor, leads down the hallway.
(GM) “LEO is the facility’s voice-activated interface. It’s not an AI, it’s just a normal computer. Holo-lines are one of the things it can do. It’s like in a hospital, you follow the line to your destination.”
(GM) “There’s a guide on Leo’s commands in your rooms, along with maps and orientation stuff. You can look it over on your own time.”
(Jordan) “So what’s the Forge?”
(GM) “Be at the Forge in half an hour. If you have any questions about facility security, ask Leo to call me. For everything else… read the list of whose job that is to care.”
(GM) “You’ll see.” is all he says to Jordan as he walks away.
(Jordan) Jordan pops a stick of gum in his mouth and shrugs.
(GM) Half an hour later…
(GM) You follow directions, either via map or LEO’s holo-lines, to a large cuboid building connected to the main facility by indoor walkway. The size of plane hangar or large warehouse, the building is simply labeled FORGE on all the maps.
(GM) When you arrive, you see Action Pact is already there, along with a young Indian woman who looks to be in her late 20’s. She’s wearing a white labcoat, and has a tablet with her.
(GM) The rest of the building itself looks plain, featureless
(Wayne) “You figure something called the Forge would look more interesting.”
(GM) The floor looks like one continuous piece of fresh asphalt, going off for well over a hundred feet in each direction.
(GM) “Oh, it will.” You hear a man’s voice.
(GM) Walking towards you from a side office, you see a short, pudgy man in his 50’s with a black mustache. “Dr. Martin Holtz” he introduces himself. “Welcome to the Forge.”
(GM) “Sunita, if you would please…” he says to the Indian woman. She taps a few commands onto the tablet, and suddenly… the floor moves.
(GM) The black asphalt in front of you begins to shift and reshape, forming geometic shapes rising out of the floor, changing texture to be glossy and almost glasslike, forming what appears to be a… obstacle course?
(Ashley) Ash laughs. “Ah ha, I figured you guys just had a flair for the dramatic.”
(Wayne) “Well, damn.”
(Jordan) “Hah, holy shit.”
(GM) “The Forge is a ferromagnetic gel with a proprietary hexpolar electrical substrate. In short, it’s a shapeable liquid metal, which we can alter the texture and form of as needed. It will serve as your primary physical training equipment.”
(GM) “The Forge can be any terrain we want, any sort of physical challenge we want. If we want you to run Olympics style track and field courses, we can do that. If want to train you on building breaching and hostage rescue…”
(GM) He looks at Sunita, and does a little rolling motion with his hands and an insistent nod. She says “Oh!” and types another command into the tablet
(GM) The obstacle course melts into the floor like hot wax, and then the entire floor reshapes, nearly silently, into a facsimile of an art deco bank facade, complete with classical pillars.
(GM) “Next Century Development is working on this technology as a way to possibly make emergency shelters for disasters, cheap housing, military forward operations bases, that sort of thing. You’ll actually be helping out the company by rigorously testing the technology with your own particular talents.”
(GM) “So, does the Forge look more impressive now?”
(GM) He grins, satisfied.
(Joseph) “Huh, the SWAT guys would kill for this.”
(Ashley) Ash claps a couple of times. “Yeah, I gotta admit, I’m a little blown away right now.”
(Jordan) There’s a blur, and suddenly Jordan is sitting atop the “bank,” legs dangling. He puts his hands to his mouth. “Nice view!”
(GM) “Marketing the technology to police and military services is definitely a long term goal.” Holtz states
(Ashley) “Show off.”
(GM) “You wanna know the best part?” Brigadier asks.
(GM) He ‘metals up’, becoming a figure of seemingly solid brass, walking over to the ‘bank’.
(Jordan) Jordan waves.
(GM) He rips out one of the roman columns, and yells up to Jordan “You’ll wanna move, kid!”
(Jordan) Jordan’s eyes widen. “Oh shit!” He kind of drops onto the awning facade and then rolls off onto the ground. He seems to have had practice at this sort of thing.
(GM) Brigadier hammers the column into the building once Jordan is clear, causing massive damage to the facade. He turns around, dusts off his hands, and laughs. “Doc!”
(GM) Sunita types into the tablet, and suddenly, the column and the damaged area sort of melt into each other, before returning to the shape they had before with a loud grinding noise.
(GM) “You don’t gotta worry about wreckin’ up the place!”
(Jordan) There’s another blur, and now Jordan is looking over Surita’s shoulder. “You’ve got to show me how this works sometime.”
(GM) Dr. Holtz interrupts “That only applies to the Forge’s black material, however. The roof and outer structural walls are conventional and expensive to repair.”
(Ashley) Ash gives a dissatisfied grunt. “It’s not the Forge I’m worried about hurting.”
(GM) Atomica looks over at Ashley. “We’ll work on that. Listen, I know some of you might be worried about hurting people with your powers. Some of you might have already done so. Let me tell you a little about myself…”
(GM) Harrier leans over and puts his hand on her arm “Therese…” She shakes her head “No, it’s okay.”
(GM) “Most of you had break-outs that were probably pretty big things. Really emotional, maybe traumatic. Mine… mine wasn’t.”
(GM) “I had what they call a ‘quiet break-out’, it wasn’t any one big emotional event. It just sorta happened, slowly, over time.”
(GM) “Well, my power is radiation control. So I was just sort of… giving off radiation. I didn’t realize it.”
(GM) “It gave my boyfriend cancer.”
(Joseph) Grimacing at the story.
(GM) “That was how I found out. I spent months in isolation before I learned how to control it. How to turn it off, how to turn it up, how to make bursts of specific types of radiation that wouldn’t have lingering effects, that sort of thing.”
(GM) She gestures at the fake bank, and blasts it with a ray of green energy, shattering columns and punching holes in the facade.
(Ashley) Ash flushes. “Yeah, I uh… kind of set my boyfriend on fire.”
(GM) She then turns and points her finger at Harrier, and a tiny wave of green light comes out, covering him head to toe and making him glow like a glowstick. It fades after a moment.
(GM) “I can destroy, and I can just safely use my powers in minor ways. Harrier now only has minor esophageal cancer.”
(GM) Harrier whips his head around and stares at her, and her and Redline start laughing.
(GM) “Kidding. Kidding.”
(Wayne) Wayne tries to stifle a laugh.
(GM) “You’ll learn to control it, Ash. I know you’re afraid of hurting people. That’s why we’re here.”
(GM) Jack of Hearts claps his hands together, drawing attention to himself “Alright, on that note, how about we assess you all, eh? See what you can do.”
(Joseph) “And even if accidents happen, some of our powers can deal with that.” Gives her a warm smile.
(Ashley) Ash seems relieved that no one is laughing or judging. “Okay. Cool.”
(GM) “Who wants to go first?” He says, grinning.
(Joseph) Shrugs. “Which set of my powers do you want to test?”
(GM) Atomica whispers to the others “She should go first.”
(GM) They nod.
(GM) “Alright, Ash, you’re up.”
(GM) Sunita starts typing onto the tablet "We’ve already set up training programs based on what we know of your abilities. For you, Ash, we want to assess not just your fire intensity but also your ability to use it in a hostile situation.
(GM) The floor of the Forge shifts into a small arena type structure, with bleachers.
(Ashley) Ash looks entirely comfortable. “Sure. Let’s do this.”
(GM) “Brigadier will be assessing your abilities.”
(GM) “Everyone else can take a seat.”
(GM) Brigadier cracks his neck, which lets out a metallic clink instead of the normal noise. “Don’t worry, hun, ain’t no flames can burn me. The challenge for you is to be able to try, and to stop me before I get a hold of you and wrestle you to the ground.”
(GM) “Sound up to it?”
(Ashley) “Yeah, sure.” She shifts into a fighting stance.
(GM) He assumes a stance too.
(GM) Brigadier leaps forward, attempting to grab you with both hands.
(GM) He fails to get his hands on you.
(Ashley) Ash steps back and manifests a ball of fire inbetween her hands, muttering frantically under her breath. She amateurishly flicks her wrists forward and the fire flares forth brightly into his eyes without actually hitting him
(GM) You let out a flash, but he closes his eyes in time and isn’t affected.
(GM) He got his hands on you.
(GM) He says “I’m gonna give you a three-count, girl.”
(Jordan) Jordan calls out. “Sweep the leg!”
(GM) You wriggle out of his hands
(GM) you can now take an action
(Ashley) Moving a lot more smoothly now, she throws a wave of fire at him.
(GM) You uh, you burned off his tanktop
(GM) That’s about it.
(GM) He chuckles, and shouts “Nice moves!”
(GM) He then drives his fist into the ground, and the people in the bleachers are jostled and possibly bounced in their seats
(Wayne) “Aw, shit!”
(GM) You roll out of the way, completely unharmed as the impact shatters the black, synthetic ground beneath you.
(Ashley) She’s going to throw another fireblast out
(GM) He’s hurt, slighty, letting out a grunt as he’s slightly singed.
(GM) He runs away from you!
(GM) Then, jumps up on the edge of the arena
(GM) Leaping into the air
(GM) Dropping onto you with his body in a splash attack.
(GM) He falls onto you, but you roll with the impact, taking no damage.
(Ashley) As she moves away from him she pushes her hands out and a rolling wave of heat washes over him.
(GM) Brigadier falls to one knee, gasping for air as the raw heat, rather than flame, overwhelms him.
(GM) He puts his hand up “I’m done!”
(Ashley) Ash laughs between pants, putting her hands on her knees and taking a few deep breaths.
(GM) Jack hops down and runs over to Brigadier, putting his hands on his shoulders to help him up. He then yelps “Motherfucker!” as he takes his hands off of Brigadier’s heated metallic skin, shaking his hands and wincing “ow, shit, ow, ow ow ow ow fuuuuuuck”
(Ashley) “Sorry! Sorry!”
(GM) “Well, that was dumb. You grab hot pans off the stove too, Jack?” Brigadier laughs.
(Joseph) Focuses on Jack of Hearts hands and feels the pleasant surge of healing flow from him.
(GM) Brigadier lets out a long, slow breath. “That was really good, Ash. You changed tactics, tried different things. You could see you weren’t overcoming me with raw damage so you switched tactics. Real good.”
(Ashley) “I know.”
(Ashley) “But thanks.”
(GM) “Wh-whoa hey! Hey! Nice.”
(GM) Jack smiles at Joseph. “Thanks!”
(GM) Brigadier looks at Holtz and Sunita, who have been watching this entire time, and puts a thumbs up with a huge grin.
(GM) Harrier stands up “Alright, let’s switch gears here. Something not directly combat related, since not all uses of paranormal power are as direct as unleashing fire. Jordan, you’re up.”
(Jordan) Jordan smiles sardonically. “Ash, you were that kid that always set the curve, weren’t you?”
(GM) Redline stands up and looks at everyone “You might wanna stand up, guys.”
(Ashley) She grins at him. “I can’t help being good.” She swaggers past him and sits with the others, sweating but exhilerated.
(GM) Sunita taps on the tablet, and the bleachers and arena shift and turn outwards, changing from an arena to a… racetrack.
(Jordan) Jordan stands to attention. “What’s up?”
(GM) Redline winks at Jordan “Race ya.” She then zips down to a vaguely indicated start line.
(Jordan) Jordan grins widely and follows. He stands at the start line, wiping his hands on his shirt.
(GM) Harrier calls out “And… go”
(GM) You take off running. After an initial lead, she overtakes you.
(GM) She’s lapping you
(GM) As she’s doing so, with each lap she’s getting out a word “Push… harder…. you…. can… do…. it….”
(GM) POWER SURGE
(GM) You are running faster than you have EVER run.
(GM) Faster than you ever thought you could run
(GM) And then, for a moment, it feels like you just stop.
(GM) Like everything stops.
(GM) You feel yourself panting. It’s like you can hear your own heartbeat, birdlike, inside your own head.
(GM) You look around, and you see everyone watching. You see Redline, blur of air behind her. But none of them are moving. They’re just standing still, motionless, as if everything is frozen.
(GM) You take a breath, and everything goes black.
(GM) Suddenly, you’re running again, but not on the track. You feel like you’re running inside a prism, a rainbow of lightstreaks all around you in a tunnel, a bright light dead ahead you are surging towards.
(GM) You start to hear noises, quiet at first, but you realize they’re voices
(GM) A man speaking “Get off your knees, Walter, it’s undignified.”
(GM) A woman “Does it matter who his father is? No! It matters that we love him!”
(GM) A different man “Time for you to fold!”
(GM) A different woman “Lockdown! Lockdown!”
(GM) You enter the light, and see a man. Naked, elderly yet muscular, crouched down on the ground, his long white hair and beard covering much of his body.
(GM) He is touching the ground with his hand, his thumb and index finger making a right angle, glowing on the floor and extending outwards seemingly to infinite. He looks up at you, and appears confused.
(GM) Suddenly, you snap back to reality, tripping, falling over and bruising your face.
(GM) You let out a gasp of air.
(GM) For everyone else:
(GM) Jordan turned into a blurry whirlwind, faster and more uniform than Redline, until he appeared to be a perfect circle of the smeared image of his form, uninterrupted, around the track. The circle flickered, became semi-transparent, and then suddenly Jordan snapped back into position and fell down, gasping for air.
(Ashley) Ash stands up. “Jesus Christ! Are you okay?”
(Joseph) Moving towards Jordan, a spiraling glow forming around him as I let my healing powers loose.
(Jordan) “My god….it’s full of…old men….”
(GM) Redline walks over and gingerly says “You uh… you win! Yaaay….” She attempts a half-hearted smile, her face more showing worry than anything else.
(Wayne) Wayne thinks of poking and figuring out what he means, and immediately thinks better of it.
(Ashley) Ash hovers a distance away, obviously wanting to help but not knowing how.
(Jordan) Jordan picks himself up and dusts himself off. He smiles at Redline and points to where he smacked his face. “I got a booboo.”
(GM) “That’s a power surge.” Harrier states. “They happen, from time to time, it’s a risk any time you push your powers too hard, try to go farther or faster or harder than you normally are capable. If you’re not careful, that’s what can happen.”
(GM) “You can be afraid of that sort of thing happening, and only ever be conservative with your powers or not use them at all, or you can accept that as a risk, but try to be careful to avoid it. It’s your call.” Harrier continues
(GM) “Let’s… let’s move on. Joseph, I don’t know that we need to assess your powers, you seem to have displayed them pretty easily.”
(Ashley) “You didn’t have to try so hard to try to outclass me.” Ash teases. “I’ve already noticed you dude, you can relax.”
(GM) “Let’s try something a little… less dangerous. Liz…”
(Joseph) Shrugs and sits down. Is rather relieved to not show his combat powers for now
(GM) “I was going to have you tangle with Jack, he was eager to see the combat uses of your powers. However, I have a different idea, if you don’t mind.”
(Liz) Liz just raises an eyebrow
(GM) "While fighting is a huge part of our job, disaster relief makes up roughly the other half. It’s something we’ll be working with all of you on in the next couple weeks. What I want to try out is a Search and Rescue scenario.
(GM) “The Forge can easily simulate a ruined building, God knows we’ve put some input into that in the system. There will be a subject trapped in that rubble, that you have to find and extricate. Sound up to it?”
(Liz) “We’re about to find out….” she says as she start moving towards the building. “Shouldn’t be too different than tracking, right?”
(GM) “Essentially, it is a form of tracking.”
(GM) Sunita makes some commands, and a destroyed one story building, which appears to have once been two stories, forms out of the floor.
(GM) “So, who wants to be the victim?”
(GM) He looks at all of you.
(Joseph) “I’ll do it.”
(GM) “Excellent. Stand over there please.” Harrier points.
(Wayne) “I’m not really seeing another way I can test the terrain.”
(Wayne) “Would it be cheating if I told her exactly where I was, though?”
(Wayne) Wayne has a dumb smirk on his face.
(GM) “Yes, moreover we have a plan for you.”
(Joseph) Stands over where he was told. Shifting his form, his eyes darkening. (Switching forms.)
(GM) The ground beneath you opens, forming a slick slide
(GM) it vibrates, pushing you along and depositing you somewhere in the rubble. You aren’t really sure where.
(GM) “Alright, Liz. The odds of a survivor being extracted alive decreases dramatically over time. You have one minute. Go.”
(Joseph) Reaching out with his life senses, trying to locate himself based on where others are.
(Liz) Liz takes off at a sprint towards the entrance of the ruin. As she reaches the door she stops to listen very closely for a heart beat.
(GM) Liz can tell the direction of Joseph’s heartbeat, but it’s through a passage that is narrow and hard to get to. Athletics check.
(GM) You easily wriggle through the passage, and make into a tiny chamber where in the dim light
(GM) You can see Joseph sitting
(GM) Now, here’s the tricky part
(GM) While YOU could fit easily through that passage, it doesn’t really look like he can
(GM) There’s dim light, so there’s some small holes in the ceiling that obviously reach the surface somehow
(Joseph) Decides to play up the victium part, that always makes these things more fun. Starts gasping as if there wasn’t much air.
(Liz) Liz rolls her eyes. “Oh stop that”
(Liz) After looking around the room for another way out Liz mutters “dammit” under her breath and then asks Joseph “You afraid of heights?”
(Joseph) Making his voice waiver with panic. “No…but closed spaces are bad…and it’s stuffy in here.”
(Joseph) And hides the grin.
(Liz) “Great! I hate flying so we’re even.” And she promptly takes her jacket off so she’s only wearing a tank top. And promptly sprouts some wings.
(Liz) “Watch out for debris.” LIz flies up and tries to push part of the ceiling away.
(GM) You make a clear hole, and after grabbing Joseph you could easily fly out of there
(Liz) That’s the plan! Liz unsteadily hauls him out as quickly as possible and puts him back down even quicker so she can put her wings away, shuddering as she does so.
(Joseph) Smiles and teleports back to his seat.
(GM) “Fantastic. I didn’t even know you could fly!” Harrier sounds impressed.
(Liz) “I don’t.”
(GM) “You’ve all been incredible. Wayne, your test is gonna be a little… different. Nighstar…”
(Jordan) “Holy shit!” Jordan gawks at Liz. Then, as Joseph appears back in the crowd, “Holy shit!”
(Wayne) Wayne claps.
(Ashley) Ash grins and offers Liz a high five. “The girls are cleaning up today! Good job, man, that was awesome!”
(GM) Nightstar doesn’t stand, she just turns and looks at Wayne, smiling.
(Joseph) “It makes the tests that much more intresting.”
(Wayne) Wayne nods in her direction.
(Liz) Liz gives her withering look and just sits down.
(Wayne) “What’re we doing?”
(GM) Harrier continues “So, here’s a reality of our work: You aren’t unique. Not really. You might be the only person you know who has powers like you do, but somewhere in the world there’s someone who, in part, is either just like you…”
(GM) “…or is the rock to your scissors.”
(GM) “Ash, how many people have you met with ice powers?”
(Ashley) “Uh, no one?”
(GM) “I can think of two just off the top of my head: Coldsnap of Primal Force, and Ice Nine of Century Five. Both are cryokinetics. What would you, as a pyrokinetic, do against someone with powers that can directly counter your own?”
(GM) “We just saw Jordan try to outrace another speedster.”
(GM) “The individual peculiarities or combinations of your powers might be unique, but I’ve seen teleporters, shapeshifters, speedsters, all that stuff. I’ve seen it before. Those people exist. Some of them aren’t the good guys, either.”
(GM) “You aren’t the only telepath that exists, Wayne. Nightstar is a telepath, and even Jack has some surface-level empathic powers.”
(GM) “So, your test will be against someone who can tackle you in mental combat. Not physical, purely a battle of minds.”
(Ashley) Ash leans back and mutters to Jordan, “well this should be a thrill to watch.”
(GM) Nighstar says to Wayne “Think you can handle that, kiddo?”
(Wayne) “Heh. Maybe.”
(Wayne) “Don’t think I’ve ever met another telepath. Sounds cool.”
(Wayne) Wayne gives a hard stare at Nightstar.
(Jordan) Jordan chuckles at Ash’s remark.
(GM) Nightstar actually seems to stumble in her seat, grabbing the bleacher for support.
(GM) Nightstar starts swatting and brushing at her legs “Ack! Fuckin’… fuck! Fuckin’ bugs!”
(GM) There’s no bugs.
(GM) She whips her glare around at Wayne, eyes narrowed.
(GM) Wayne, your vision fogs. You are having a hard time seeing. You’re not completely blind, but it’s really, really fuzzy. Unless you have other types of senses, you can’t accurately perceive Nighstar to use your powers
(Wayne) “Ah… hell.”
(GM) Also you totally have that feeling in your ears like there’s water in them
(GM) And it’s unpleasant
(GM) It’s your turn Wayne
(Wayne) I walk calmly toward Nightstar.
(Wayne) I’m heading up behind her, but otherwise just setting something up.
(GM) SHE SEES YOU
(GM) She sees you, and attacks you with her mind.
(GM) “Nice try, kiddo.”
(GM) Nightstar puts up her hand.
(GM) “That’s enough.”
(GM) “We’re both playing rock.”
(GM) “Good moves, kiddo. I’m impressed. I know to the rest of you it might not seem like stuff was happening, but we went around the dance floor there. Hallucinations, blinding, all kinds of stuff.”
(GM) “Mental combat is always tricky, but you’ll likely run into it. I know I have, it’s how I got caught in the first place.”
(Ashley) “Cool, I think our team covers all the angles.”
(Ashley) “Do we get to pick a captain?”
(GM) “We’ll get to that, but it’s premature, Ash.” Harrier says
(GM) “We’ve got one more big test, and this is gonna be a big one. All of you, versus all of us, minus myself to even the odds.”
(GM) “So, for this scenario…”
(GM) An alarm klaxon blares.
(GM) LEO’s voice comes over the loudspeaker “Attention, Action Pact. There is an urgent message for you from Doctor Century.”
(GM) They all stand up.
(GM) Harrier responds “Connect us, Leo.”
(GM) A holographic video screen appears in mid-air. You see a man in a very fine suit standing in front of a park on a rather nice day (Obviously far from Chicago, where it’s January and fucking cold)
(GM) Those of you up to date on pop culture and superheroics recognize the man as Doctor Simon Century, head of Next Century Development and leader of the West Coast superhero team, Century Five (and also, obviously, sort of an egomaniac)
(GM) “Hey Harry, we’ve got a thing happening out here. Early monitors are showing a big quake’s coming, maybe not the Big One but it’s gonna be nasty. Could use an extra set of hands out here, bud. We’re putting the message out and evacuating people as we can, but still gonna be a lot of people hurt by this.”
(GM) Harrier nods “Of course, Doc, we’ll mobilize. Can you send us a stable landing zone? Quake’s going to probably hit while we’re in the air.”
(GM) Doctor Century’s eyes narrow “Who’ve you get there? The Mickey Mouse Club? Those the new kids you’re supposed to be mentoring?”
(Ashley) Ash frowns for the first time all day.
(GM) Harrier nods again “Yeah, we were just going through some tests and assessments.”
(GM) “Well shit, Harry, bring em with. If they’ve got powers at all they’re a help, I’ll find a use for ’em.”
(GM) Sunita speaks up “I don’t think that’s wise, Simon. They literally just got here, they have no training for that sort of thing.”
(Ashley) “I don’t know what you expect me to do, I don’t think setting things on fire is a great idea for a disaster relief mission.”
(GM) Doctor Century laughs “Ho ho, Dr. Bhaskar, how’ve you been, huh? That’s where you’ve been hiding, over workin’ for Auggie? C’mon, guys, this isn’t a combat zone, it’s an earthquake. We need basic first aid and earthmoving. Your kids won’t be at risk.”
(Joseph) “I have emergency responder training. I can at least lend a hand on the medical side.”
(GM) “Harry, it looks like some of them want to help. Bring ‘em. If they can’t do anything or it’s a risk, they can sit in the tent and relax. I’ve got lemonade!”
(Jordan) “Yo, I’ll pitch in wherever I can.”
(Wayne) “If anyone acts up, I can calm ’em down. Hell, if people are freaking out I could probably get the whole room settled.”
(GM) Harrier sighs and looks at all of you “Well, what do you say, guys? Think you can help save some lives?”
(Ashley) “Sure, whatever, I did a good amount of volunteering in high school. Just don’t expect any —” she waggles her fingers “super powered sh— stuff from me.”
(Joseph) “Yes.” Has never actually done a disaster responce but does have some training at least.
(GM) “Alright, Doc, we’re on our way.”
Paragons - Next Gen
Episode 1 - Off The Bus
A group of students arrives at the Vitruvian Institute, and meet their trainers.
(GM) You’re on a chartered bus leaving from Chicago, going out to what was once the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Years ago, this place was the epicenter of the phenomenon known as “The Wave”, which granted people around the world paranormal powers.