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  • in reply to: The Mega Character Interpretation Contest #36048
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    the M E G A
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    Sorry if I didn’t add the fact that you don’t necessarily have to read the whole story. I admit this post is a little long, but I wanted to set the precedent that you should use as much space as you need to when introducing the latest challenge. If you are going to ramble on as I have, I would suggest you condense your story using spoilers and accentuate the essential parts so the other contestants can easily draw from the available information when they begin their Heromachine projects.

    I know, again, my post is still pretty long. This will be the exaggerated model for the length of story contest winners should strive for — if a blurb is longer than the inaugural story, I’ll make sure to dish out penalties.

    in reply to: The Mega Character Interpretation Contest #36020
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    CONTEST #1 – Week of January 11
    A winner will be decided after 1 PM on January 17 — the new contest will begin January 18

    METTALLICC
    Streams of fire rain down on the surface of Earth as several black-plated warships hover just above the planet’s atmosphere. Their laser cannons relentlessly bombard every inch of the almost completely defenseless world — the invading force’s only resistance being a scattered group of soldiers seeking cover under natural rock formations. The military men hope their cover will hold until reinforcements can arrive, but they all know what destruction the Cessalians are capable of; they won’t survive through the night. Just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse, that ever familiar whine of a short-range teleporter rings in the soldiers’ ears. Before their very eyes, a column of faded blue light appears mere yards from their position under the wide stone arch, and out from the glow steps their worst nightmare: a mechanical exoskeleton armed to the teeth with hidden melee weapons and clearly visible firearms of varying size and intricacy, piloted by a member of the most dangerous species in the galaxy. Without a word or any warning, the robotic war machine takes a step toward the contingency of terrified survivors and levels its right arm-mounted explosive cannon directly into the middle of the group. The last sound the soldiers hear is an ominous *click* signaling the relatively quiet expulsion of a ballistic shell which spreads fire and shrapnel across the terrified group of hardened marines.
    After registering all hostile life forms as either terminated or with zero percent threat capability, the armored Cessalian trudges toward the mayhem with weighed down metal greaves to inspect the soldiers closer. The unfortunate few who survived the blast wriggled and squirmed on the ground, clenching whatever parts of their bodies they could to try and stop the bleeding or put out the fires. The Cessalian scanned through the survivors and pinpointed one with the least injuries. His smaller projectile based firearm spun around his wrist and extended into firing position, awaiting the operator’s command. However, the wounded soldier’s odd behavior forced the Cessalian to hesitate; the condemned man pulled off his helmet and shakily held it out a few inches from his bloodied face, staring intently and with much sorrow into the concave portion of his protective headgear. Shaking off his curiosity, the robotic exterminator firmed up his arm and let out a short burst of ammunition, effectively ending the soldier’s life. The man’s helmet fell and rolled off his leg upon his expiration, revealing the inside of which was taped a photograph of a gorgeous woman cradling her newborn baby.
    Now a war widow and her bastard child. These are the classifications running through Metallo’s mind as the world around him slowly evaporates to become an empty and expansive room with virtual lasers forming a complex grid system. The real-time combat simulation had ended, and the small squad of Cessalian operatives deactivated their weapons to perform a salute in the direction of a glass pane at the end of the humongous chamber.
    Everyone except Metallo, who could still see the sadness and desperation in the eyes of the final man he killed.
    “It’s all fake,”, he reminded himself. “nobody even got hurt…”
    A horn sounded and a green light came on near the observation window, signaling the address of the trainees’ assessors.
    “Well done, gentlemen. Please proceed into storage vault 74E to return your battle suits and await further debriefing.” With that, the green light switched off and a pair of large doors beneath the window slid open. Metallo wasn’t actually a trainee, rather he was merely accompanying potential members of his own personal task force with whom he would carry out sensitive missions for the Cessalian Empire. Only the best of the best were allowed to share the battlefield with the son of the Grand Judge, let alone one of the highest ranking Generals in all of Cessal. Metallo shared both prominent honors with his two elder brothers, Graat and Ryund, who along with their ruling father formed the most powerful family across fifteen star systems.

    In combat hanger 74E, Metallo and his men took their places beneath large disassembling machines and patiently let the clumsy magnetized clamps and suction appendages remove their extremely high-tech armor piece by piece, stripping away the indestructible black krytanium plates before carefully unscrewing all the bolts and breaking the welding bonds from the titanium graycoil which formed the second layer of insulating armor. Once the thick, rubbery first layer had been removed, the hollow frames of each of the Cessalian could be seen — a sight which would have made humans go insane. The Cessalians were, in their earliest days, beings made of rough minerals, given sentient life by a mysterious spark which surged through the planet and spawned the stony ancient ancestors of modern Cessalians. Through natural evolution alongside technological advancements, the Cessalian race shed their rough outer shells and adapted to become hardened crystals of pure energy, hovering delicately in the air and projecting their electromagnetic pulses in a wide radius in all directions. In order to properly utilize their armored exoskeletons, the Cessalians needed a humanoid frame, easily constructed by focusing their powerful electron fields into the shape of a man and strengthening the molecular bonds just enough to support the heavy layers of equipment. This technique was originally implemented as a way for Cessalians to peacefully interact with other species of their own galaxy, the majority of which were human or descendants of human-like creatures. Although their methods of temperate cooperation with other races has been all but forgotten, strong traditions and a sense of nostalgia keep Cessalian weapon designers from altering the blueprints for their battle suits too drastically, although many different designs have been implemented in the Empire’s military in the past.
    The mechanical arms suspended each portion of their armor in mid air while other automated limbs reassembled each layer inside a transparent holding cell. Each Cessalian carefully loosened their hold over their own energy field, collapsing their humanoid projections and returning each particle to its natural orbit around the large crystalline nucleus. All of them were nearly the same shade of indigo, save for Metallo who was a slightly darker hue, signifying just how young the squad was. At birth, Cessalians are bright green mineral slivers, and as they age, they pass through the visible spectrum and grow in size until they are dark purple amalgams of many protruding gem spikes. Cessalians have a formidable life expectancy, and it is said that after a few thousand years, their crystal turns red as blood, although such cases are rare. Metallo and the trainees were met with a pair of even darker blue administrators, both levitating a semicircular panel of screens jam packed with data on each recruit and the results of their virtual reality exercise.
    “Before we complete your assessment, is there anything Commander Metallo would like to address concerning any member of his team of their overall performance?”
    Metallo thought back to the beginning of the dream-like excursion and quickly ran through the entire scenario again in his mind, taking note of each action taken by his team.
    “I have no objections.”, he coldly stated. The number crunchers proceeded through the ranks of the some two dozen operatives, typing in their final observations and clearing each Cessalian for duty as part of the General’s personal task force. With their jobs finished, the trainees were dismissed, but one of the administrators stayed behind.
    “Pray I would speak to you for a moment, Metallo.” The analyst adjusted his frequency to a pitch that only Metallo would be able to register, preventing anyone but him from hearing what he had to say. “I noticed a slight change in your behavior immediately following the exercise. Is everything alright, sir?”
    Metallo shook back and forth and relaxed his electron field.
    “No– I mean, yes, I just…” He took a second to regulate his interior energy flow. “I saw a glitch in the program, probably left in from when Magellan was the head coordinator. It wouldn’t hurt to give the system another inspection; patch up any lingering issues.”
    The administrator lifted his data panel over toward a shelf and placed it down gingerly.
    “Metallo… what did you see?”
    Metallo sent out a weak shockwave to intimidate his unwarranted conversation partner and hovered past him toward the exit.
    “I saw pity.”

    In the morning, Metallo visited his father at the Tribunal of Justice, the closest structure Cessal had to a church, for its existence represented the preservation and unity of their entire civilization. New laws were hardly ever made or even suggested here, although the old standards remained enforced with the greatest of discretion. Truly, the Cessalians held firmly to their roots, and had no overwhelming love for change and integration of new ideas. Metallo’s routine voyage to the tribunal was typically executed alongside his two brothers when all three were not away on military endeavors off-planet, but he chose to be alone this time.
    “Congratulations on selecting a worthy corps, my son.” From atop a throne of twisted gold and translucent gemstones, the Grand Judge Haar addressed his youngest child. The large, reddening monarch held a magnificent golden crown which just overlapped the tip of his formidably tall crystal. The father and son briefly exchanged particles in a greeting fashion, mingling a select few electron clusters to evoke a pleasing sensation for both of them.
    “Thank you, father. I am glad to have finally been given the opportunity to serve my Empire. Would that I could have offered my services earlier, but the illusion of fame beneath yours and my brothers’ excellence had blinded me for a good many decades. I hope our efforts to carry out the will of the Empire will pride you and bring further glory to our family.”
    Haar slowly circled around Metallo, scanning his crystal and the energy field surrounding the boy.
    “Your voice speaks as one without concern, yet your aura tells a different story. Tell me, Metallo, what troubles you this day?”
    The blue gem let himself sink low enough to disturb the coating of dust on the floor of the tribunal’s hearing room.
    “I… experienced something I have never yet experienced before, and it frightened me, father.”
    Grand Judge Haar whizzed to one side of Metallo and stopped abruptly.
    “Fear!? It is not possible for a child of Cessalia to be afraid! I implore you to change your words as to be easier understood, my son!”
    Metallo’s particle field involuntarily shifted in formation again.
    “The forbidden emotion… empathy… I felt it yesterday, during the simulation. I want to know what it means.”
    “My son… no emotion is taboo, although fear and pity have been strongly scrutinized in recent times. A good Cessalian feels everything but fear, for where kindness and compassion fall short, anger and spite are sure to follow — and surely, when hatred and suspicion wane, we become vulnerable to those who would seek to abuse our temperance of spirit. If only the whole of our armed forces could feel what you felt…”
    “I believe I understand now… thank you, Haar.”

    Metallo exited the citadel and returned to his small house in preparation for his duties later that day. The live news feed on his wall turned on automatically after he floated out of his electron-replenishing chamber.
    “We’re here at the steps of the Tribunal of Justice just moments after a national tragedy has befallen the people of Cessal–“
    Metallo’s particles stalled and began to vibrate with such intensity that he thought the whole neighborhood might be caught in a destructive chain reaction.
    “–the Grand Judge has been discovered in his quarters with his aura extinguished. I repeat: Grand Judge Haar is dead.
    Just then there came a loud bang at Metallo’s door, with an Enforcer’s siren blaring in the background. He needed only continue watching the report to discover why the police were at his house.
    “The last person seen leaving the tribunal was none other than the Grand Judge’s own son, Metallo, and with no other leads on the circumstances of Haar’s death, Enforcers are currently on their way to apprehend him. Here is his hue and Frequency of Rest for anyone who may have seen Metallo today and wishes to help turn him in to our Enforcers.” A highlighted color palette popped up on the screen next the graph of a specific wavelength representing Metallo’s electromagnetic heartbeat. Panicked, Metallo locked onto a small key card on his desk and hovered quickly out his back door, heading in the direction of the city’s science district. Within minutes, he arrived at a secluded warehouse on the border of the military district and used his key to let himself inside. It wouldn’t be long before the Enforcers honed in on his energy signature and surrounded him, so he had to work quickly inside the cluttered laboratory. With the flick of a switch, the lights came on inside the large building, revealing a technological marvel known only to the most privileged members of the Empire’s armed forces.
    The prototype Super Suit, S.S.V.1.01, a concept in the works for several years, but only recently put into development. The first and only one of its kind, the piece of equipment was originally intended to be a battlefield weapon worn only by high-ranking officers, although its designer had hoped his invention would replace the severely outdated battle suits which had been in circulation since the Fool War over a millennium ago. There were a number of striking differences between the Super Suit and its mass-produced predecessors — the first of which being its formidable size: while the typical battle suit stood at roughly six and a half inches tall and resembled a somewhat stocky humanoid, the Super Suit towered in its display case at an intimidating eight feet and had the characteristics of a career bodybuilder, complete with state-of-the-art synthetic muscles woven inbetween layers of armor, adding quite a bit of bulk to the already imposing design. Another costlier derivation included the largely seamless distribution of black Krytanium alloys (some mixed with Graycole for the more flexible areas of the suit) across the entire surface of the top layer of armor, as well as the occasional golden accent or border.
    The helmet was comprised of a grated lower faceplate which covered the bottom portion of a pointed green visor, topped off with a pair of rigid wings and soundwave detectors on either side. Centered on the chestplate was a revolutionary hexagonal entry point which expanded to allow quick access to the suit’s functions, although a short boot-up cycle was still necessary for this particular prototype. Large pointed pauldrons adorned the suit’s shoulders, from which thick carapaced biceps hung down and connected to relatively thin forearms that housed an arsenal of hidden offensive weaponry, from weighted batons and katars to stun pistols, flamethrowers, and explosive cannons. The components of each weapon were interchangeable and reassembled inside the suit to save room and prevent the suit from becoming too cumbersome — still, functions such as this were prone to malfunction in the early stages of development. From the waist was draped a number of golden decorative plates, giving the suit a contemporary regal Cessalian look. Pistons and levitation jets cluttered the suit’s legs as well as its back, allowing for temporary propulsion and longitudinal stability in mid-air. Finally, a pair of bulky pointed greaves held the whole suit up, with a number of different configurations to adapt to any terrain, as well as a couple of optional combat features in the form of tempered spikes under the soles and heel-jets to improve running speed and melee execution.

    Metallo had no time to stop and marvel at all the breathtaking features behind the security glass. He could hear the horns and sirens getting closer, and with rigid determination, he shattered the transparent case with a blast of unstable electrons, spilling the energized preservative fluid onto the floor of the laboratory. Using the frequency code given to him by the very scientist who oversaw the suit’s construction, Metallo unlocked the device’s breastplate and fitted himself inside to begin projecting his human wireframe. He couldn’t help but notice how snug and natural the suit felt against his mobilizing energy field, and a pleasing sensation came over him as he waited for the suit to power up and draw from his own electrical current. Already, a team of Enforcers had broken through the warehouse door, drawing Metallo’s attention toward them. Even his best efforts could not speed up the boot-up cycle, but it took his pursuers long enough to figure out what was going on for him to take control of the super suit and start his escape.
    With his arms raised high over his head, Metallo brought his large fists down into the floor, creating a shockwave which jettisoned the armored police back against the walls of the building. Already, error messages flooded into his display, reporting on the suit’s incomplete functions and the obvious danger of piloting such a volatile prototype. Nevertheless, Metallo regained control of his arms and raced toward the wall, charging through the reinforced steel barrier and refusing to stop until he reached the gates of his family’s private shuttle dock, where a single sleek spaceship awaited his command. Once inside the pod, he set the coordinates for deep space, hoping to distance himself as much as possible from his own people who were mistakenly trying to pin the Grand Judge’s death on him. Even in his rocket, Metallo’s energy signature could be tracked, and several anti-air lasers were fired from the city below. One lucky beam struck his ship and knocked it off course, tilting it just enough so that once the accelerator was engaged, the pod sped off toward a completely foreign sector of the galaxy. Metallo had evaded capture for now, but the vengeance of Cessal is swift and unrelenting; no matter where he ran, the Enforcers would catch up to him eventually.

    “Give me a report on the damage to my ship.” Metallo’s order evoked a buggy reply from the automated interface, assuring him that short-range travel was still possible, although repairs would be needed in order for his acceleration drive to function properly again.
    “Damn… and what sector have I ended up in?”
    A short pause ensued for the computer to compile data from the surrounding planets and constellations, resulting in its matter-of-fact answer.
    “QUADRANT CC36 — THE SOLAR SYSTEM. INHABITED PLANETS INCLUDE: EARTH; ALTERNATE DESIGNATION: TERRA PRIME. LEVEL OF TECHNOLOGY IS LOW / PROFICIENT. DOMINANT SPECIES POSES NO THREAT TO CESSALIAN DEFENSES.”
    “Earth…”, Metallo pondered to himself. The images from the virtual scenario ran through his mind again, and he impulsively typed the planet’s coordinates into the flight planner. A glimmer of red-orange light from the sector’s nearest star reflected off Metallo’s insidious armor, provoking his next monumental decision.
    “My people have forasken me… Metallo is no more. From this day forward, I am Mettallicc…”
    As his ship entered the Earth’s atmosphere, he gazed upon the green and blue glory of the small class four planet. With the general intention of escaping punishment and defending his new home from any threats presented to it, Mettallicc made his rocky descent onto the surface, skidding several miles through a dense forest and coming to a halt on the outskirts of a small Chilean village, whose speculation toward the U.F.O.’s arrival caused a big enough stir to catch the attention of a certain international organization — one which responds to potential threats with utmost urgency. Soon they, too, would be knocking at the alien’s door, and it would be up to him to decide if cooperation was in his best interests.

    Sorry for the delay, I really wanted to get through as much of this guy’s backstory as possible before picking out the parts I wanted to use for the contest. I know it’s more than a blurb, but I’ve left the more expository paragraphs in spoilers in case you just want to read the essentials to better design your interpretation. I’ve also emboldened certain parts that you might want to take special notice of. Who knows? It might help your chances…

    If you haven’t figured it out yet, the character I want you to portray is Metallo (changed to Mettallicc at the end of the story). As I’ve said, feel free to create more than one iteration, but for this particular character I’m only going to judge creations that showcase the actual super suit detailed in the story. You get bonus points if you also share your version of the actual Cessalian crystal, but keep in mind that only submitting Metallo outside of his battle garb will not qualify you for this week’s contest.
    I hope I’ve been clear enough… please ask me anything you want and I’ll try to clarify whatever is confusing to you about the assignment or the overall contest.

    in reply to: Zane [Sensitive Content] #35931
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    the M E G A
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    I thought this might be a good exercise in utilizing my powers during a real crisis, but right from the get-go I noticed something was wrong. As the van rocked around and my captors held themselves still by holding onto metal bars welded onto the interior walls of the vehicle, I fell flat on my back at such an angle that I could see under the potato sack on my head. The strange equipment lining the walls of the van looked almost identical to the computer-processors that were present in the van during my first kidnapping, except this time, there was a ridiculously loud whirring sound coming from them and all their display bulbs were blinking like the lights at an intense rave party. Shades of green, red, and yellow flashed on the masked men, who hardly paid me or the machines any attention, instead choosing to maintain a firm grasp on their bulky and menacing-looking assault rifles. It was different this time… no matter how hard I concentrated, my abilities wouldn’t activate. At first, I chalked it up to nerves and the fact that I really wasn’t prepared for such a high stakes scenario, but after almost five minutes of strenuous thought provocation, I realized my powers had remissed, and I was in some serious trouble.
    I began to panic even worse when a sudden flash of light poured in from outside and the whole van violently rocked from side to side for a few seconds. The last thing I wanted was for anyone else to get hurt on my behalf, and if the cops became involved, there was the chance my dad could be in danger again. Powerless and frustrated at my dismal situation, I started to cry, hoping that either my captors would evade the police without any bloodshed or that they would be taken down before it evolved into a deadly shootout like the last time. Another flash of light followed by the vehicle’s heavy rocking made me curious as to what weapons the SPD were using — and whether they cared that the people inside made it out in one piece.
    We sped along what I guessed must have been a highway for no more than another minute before the back of the van tipped abruptly, as if something were weighing it down. I turned around and shook the bag off my head in time to see the back door of the van be ripped off its hinges and tossed out into the street behind us. We must have been driving at least 90 miles an hour, but my eyes saw him clear as day: a tall, muscular blonde-haired, blue-eyed man dressed in a white kevlar uniform, standing effortlessly on the back bumper of the van. The man hunched over to peer inside and scowled at the masked men, who must have been scared out of their minds behind the thin cloth hiding their faces. Their fear only lasted a couple seconds, for a spray of bullet fire soon found its way heading in the superhuman vigilante’s direction. The heroic aryan retaliated by sliding back behind the door that was still intact and flipped onto the roof. A pattern of holes in the van’s metal walls followed the man’s movements, pausing only after being blinded by the bright sun when the roof of their vehicle was suddenly torn off in similar fashion to the van’s back door. With a flip, the mysterious savior jumped majestically onto the floor of the back room and got to work disposing of the criminals; a swift karate chop to the neck incapacitated the kidnapper on the driver’s side, and an almost simultaneous axe kick sent the thief on the opposite side of the van spiraling into the back of the passenger seat. As if ignoring me, the man of action marched toward the space between the front seats and relinquished the key from the ignition, initiating the van’s immediate deceleration. One more karate chop and the driver slumped unconscious in his seat. All threats taken care of, the man in white turned and kneeled down to untie the rope around my wrists.
    “I hope you’re alright, son… these hooligans shouldn’t bother anyone else for a while.”
    His voice was deep and somehow comforting, and I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the ensemble that was his combination of handsome features and chivalrous mannerisms, all with the spryness and strength of a true-to-life cinema action hero. I wondered, at first, if he had been something I wished into existence in my desperation, but looking upon the still running machines in the shell of an automobile the two of us sat in, I deduced that this fellow was of an entirely different nature.
    “Who… who the heck are you!?”, I stammered, still amazed by his feats and the perfection of his appearance.
    “If you must know, I’m Daniel–“, he said with a quick smile. “–and you must be him: son of Adams. Zane, I believe?”
    “Yeah… are you with the police?”
    Daniel chuckled and helped me up to my feet. The van had finally gotten down to about ten miles an hour and was moments away from coming to a complete stop. He put his hands on my shoulders and looked disdainfully back at the distant string of police cars with their blaring sirens.
    “My affiliation with organized law enforcement is, uh… complicated… so I’ll have to talk with you in depth later. The people I work for have been keeping keeping tabs on you for a little while now, and we’ve found your “condition” to be of dire interest to us. Still, we wouldn’t want you to do anything against your will — I’m not sure we’d be able to anyways, with the kind of skills you possess — but I’ll tell you what: if you ever feel like you need answers, come visit us here–” Daniel pulled a business card out of his pocket and planted it in my hands. “That’s currently the only address of our headquarters. We hope you’ll consider investing some time with us very soon, for all our sakes.”
    As the van finally stopped moving, the whine of a small engine crept into our ears from somewhere not too far away, and a reflective winged device soared into position above Daniel, who propelled himself into the air and grabbed onto a pair of control sticks. The gizmo’s design was not too far removed from that of a hang glider, except it appeared to be souped up with a myriad of technological gadgets and doodads. A single miniature jet engine adorned the back of the futuristic glider, and Daniel started to slowly fly away when I finished reading the card.
    “Hold on, these are just coordinates and a map of the Gobi Desert… how am I supposed to find you, let alone get to Mongolia!?”
    Daniel flashed me one last smile and gave a thumbs up.
    “I’m sure you’ll find a way, Zane… remember, you can do anything you put your mind to!” With that, the white-garbed superhero flew off into the distance, leaving me to be retrieved and questioned by the cops yet again.
    “Anything I put my mind to, huh…? Boy, that’s never been more true…”

    in reply to: Zane [Sensitive Content] #35025
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    the M E G A
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    “Dude… your shirt…”
    Derek had to point out the spots of blood running down my chest for me to notice them. By use of pointing at my nose, he also drew my attention to where the blood had come from.
    “Oh, sh–!” I yanked some conveniently places tissues out of the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt and started wiping away at my nostrils and upper lip. I didn’t usually get nosebleeds from anything outside of gross physical contact, so my concern over something that should have been a minor inconvenience was drastically higher. Thinking back, it had been a few days since using my powers had made me puke, and I had been exerting them quite a bit today; first there was Matthew in second period, who spent most of the class throwing balls of paper and firing spitwads at the other students — whose backpack zippers mysteriously disappeared, sealing the contents inside; then Mr. Daniels in fourth who “didn’t agree” with the free-response answers on my Economics test, and had quite a conniption when he couldn’t find a single working whiteboard marker that could write the rest of class…
    While in front of my friends, I kept myself from having a nervous breakdown, but once I got to the bathroom and saw my bloodied reflection in the mirror, the shaking, twitching, and tears came by themselves. The runny stream of blood fluctuated in volume and consistency, with periods of small droplets escaping through my nostrils, and others where it looked as though entire chunks of flesh rolled down my lips. Ever so slowly, I regained my composure and stopped pulling from my own bottomless box of tissues. Instead, I found the paper-towel dispenser attached to the wall and retrieved a single brown sheet — the last sheet in the container. I cleaned myself up as best I could and let out a deep, heavy sigh into the mirror. Since learning about my powers, I hadn’t taken particular notice of how I looked, but I noticed something was subtly different about me. Not only my face, either; I could just barely make out a dim, yellowish glow emanating from my skin and weak vibrations pulsing throughout various parts of my body. I interpreted these symptoms as a surge — or even an excess — of energy stored inside me. I wondered when these side-effects began to take place, or if they were even noticeable by anyone else.
    The lunch bell rang. Suddenly, I remembered that my next class was all the way on the other side of the campus, and I bolted out of the restroom. In my haste, I left the blood-soaked paper towel there in the sink and chuckled to myself at the thought of someone finding it. I started to feel bad, in case it would have made someone faint, but I figured it wouldn’t be the most horrifying thing the people at this school have ever witnessed in a high school restroom.

    * * *

    “How well is the data compiling? Do we have anything substantial yet?”
    A thin old man with white stubble on his face kneels down beside a significantly younger uniformed man in a chair. Both men eagerly scan the computer screen in front of them, about ready to drool over the results from a highly complex program never released to the general public. The younger man grinned.
    “It’s still got a few minutes to go, but I’m seeing some very promising patterns already. See here, where the energy spikes–?”, he points to the end of a graph among a multitude of different charts and slides of information, all overlapping on the little monitor. The older man nods.
    “This one happened around noon yesterday: somewhere in the southern portion of Fremont High School, our sensors picked up sudden, minuscule increases in tectonic, gravitational, kinetic, and radioactive energy within about a mile or two mile radius of the area of triangulation. We still don’t have exact coordinates or a positive identification yet, but we’re more than 99% sure its the kid we’ve been keeping our eye on for the past five years.”
    “The Adams boy… yes, I had a hunch he’d be the one.” The grizzled old man stood up with some difficulty and put a hand under his chin.
    “Sir… how do you think we should proceed now?”
    The old man looked right past his underling as he turned to try and get a response.

    “Get another team together — an experienced one, this time… lord, it surprises me what a few ex-cons will do for a few hundred grand, but Jesus are they dumb…” The old man walked with a slight limp over to a keypad on the wall and punched in a series of numbers.
    6 – 7 – 6 – 4 – 0 – 7 – 1 – 6
    A green light came on just above the keypad and a sliver of light in the shape of a door’s outline appeared in the metallic wall, giving some illumination and character to the dark room full of angular equipment and the occasional blinking light. The old man stuffed a newspaper under his armpit and pushed hard against the wall. Bright sunlight flooded into the small chamber, and he stepped out into the contrasted outdoors. At the computer, the young technician turned his head back to the screen after hearing a distinct pinging sound and began examining the program’s finished results. As his eyes read the concluding line of information, he gasped and stood up to say something to his boss, but the firm click of the seamless wall coming back into place assured him it was too late to pass on his concerns. Distressed at the product of the compiled data, he grabbed the windbreaker hanging on his chair and started climbing down a ladder leading down into a circular hole in the floor.
    The old man waited a minute for eyes to adjust to the glaring rays and continued walking across a grassy field occupied only by a few trees and a couple families out for a picnic in the park. A squirrel darted behind the man as he strutted away and came to a stop just before reaching the spot where the fellow had suddenly appeared. The critter sniffed the air briefly and put its tiny fingers against an invisible wall before returning to its quest for survival and sustenance.

    * * *

    By far, I’ve had stranger dreams, although I’d be hard pressed to remember when. Aside from being a silent observer, this seemed the be the first sequence to ever not directly include me. Worse yet, the people in my dream certainly sounded as if they were talking about me — and what was the deal with the technologically saturated theme? I was never too into all that robotic, future convenience mumbo jumbo… so why would it choose to show up where I have, more or less, complete control over everything going on in my subconscious? Chalking it up to yet another side-affect of these randomly spectacular powers, I shrugged off the weirdness and got out of bed to start my day.
    When my tube of hair gel was suspiciously refilled and my comb appeared to have been wiped clean of all the loose strands and dandruff, I immediately checked my nose to see if I had somehow used my abilities without realizing it. I still wasn’t certain whether it was my over-exertion that caused the concerting symptoms, but it didn’t hurt to check anyways. When I came downstairs, I found my dad at the table, reading today’s newspaper with his reading glasses.
    “How do you like your new comb, son?”
    Reaching for a plate in the kitchen cabinet, I froze out of relief and let out a huge sigh.
    “Works like a charm.”, I responded. I sat facing the window as I waited for my waffle to finish toasting. For just a moment, I closed my eyes and tried to reflect on everything that happened yesterday — to my frustration, everything up in my head was all jumbled around, and it was impossible for me to linger on any one thought for very long.
    “My god, would you look at that…” My dad’s exclamation quickly returned me to my senses, and I stared out the window with him. For nearly fifteen whole seconds, the sky had turned a devilish light red, nothing like the early morning pinkish hue when the sun just began to rise over the mountains, no — the sun had already lifted high enough to showcase a clear blue landscape overhead. This phenomenon was no act of nature, and for some reason, I failed to acknowledge it as an act of mankind, either.
    Both of us commented on how strange it was that the sky turned red for a while, and I grabbed my cooked waffle on my way out the door. Aside from the constant worry over possible repercussions and reasons for my powers, I started the day off feeling relatively good. And yet, just when I thought everything was fine, another whim of fate caught me by surprise.
    I hardly even remember feeling the dark hood tightening around my neck as another gang of kidnappers hoisted me by my arms and legs up into some vehicle or another. All I could do was grunt in annoyance and hope these criminals knew just what they were in for.

    in reply to: Zane [Sensitive Content] #34986
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    I worked at trying to control my powers every day, but there was only so much I could accomplish through strict concentration. Still, there was no way of knowing exactly how I was able to do the things I could do or why, but I reveled in pushing my limits and seeing just what I could pull off. Until I got good enough to completely predict what happened when I exerted myself, it was a good idea to leave it a secret. Even after weeks of attempting to hone my abilities, I still felt woozy every time, and the more strenuous feats made me vomit. So far, I hadn’t noticed any adverse effects of these powers, although I had a feeling trouble was right around the corner. Everyone knows from comic books and other media that once you get powers, you’ll have to use them in some way other than just helping yourself eventually. “With great power comes great responsibility.”, or something like that.
    As I got better, I became more bold with the execution of my talents; in class, occasionally, I would strongly imagine writing on the board, and whatever I thought would appear… usually. This led to quite a bit of amusement at the expense of my instructors and the other students, since I would try to rewrite a classmates answer or insert typos into teachers’ lectures — and all the while, I was never suspected. Who or what could incriminate me? The way I pulled off my little pranks left no evidence. I started to wonder what else I could get away with…
    And to think I wouldn’t even be alive to enjoy these gifts if I had been braver in February…

    Even so preoccupied with mastering these powers, my heart and mind kept coming back to Katrina. I would see her walking with Tyler every passing period and at lunch, and I tried not to stare too long, but sometimes it was just too tempting.
    “Zane!? Hellooooo!”
    One of my friends waved his hand in front of my face while the other two snickered and started throwing ketchup packets at each other.
    “I said, Ms. Carter knows so much about the dinosaurs because she is one!” Derek had a knack for making lame jokes, and unfortunately, my attraction to them was just as bad.
    “Ha! That’s so funny I fell off my dinosaur.” We fake laughed at each other to the point that other kids around us started to give us weird looks. We finished joshing each other, and I set my eyes on Katrina again. She and Tyler were sitting under an awning in the quad, about to dig into their lunches. God, she even ate in a way that made me crazy for her. Suddenly, I had a mischievous idea.
    “Hey, guys, hold on a second…”, I said, which was enough to make Robert and Nate hold off on challenging each other to see how much of their hot dogs they could fit in their mouth.
    “You see that guy sitting with Katrina over there?” A trio of nodding heads bobbed behind me.
    “Watch this…”
    I waited for the perfect moment to begin focusing in on the milk pouch in Tyler’s hand, hoping to make it burst right in his face when he brought it up to take a drink. After a few grueling seconds, the jock lifted his beefy arm and opened his mouth, preparing to squeeze a stream of liquid dairy down his gullet, and I closed my eyes to help to process along.
    The result was far from anything I had hoped or expected.
    “AAAAAAAAAUUUUUGGGHH!!!” A scream of pain echoed through the school — a sound so violent and gut-wrenching that, for the first time in recorded history, the school fell dead silent at lunchtime. I opened my eyes as soon as I heard the yell, and what I saw filled me with fear and regret. Tyler was standing over the bench where he had been sitting with steam rising off his body; his face was an unnatural shade of red, and several boils covered his skin. The leather from his varsity jacket melted instantly. My first thought wasn’t, “Hey, who threw a pot of boiling water on Tyler Gorman?”
    No — it was, “Oh my god, what have I done?”
    What hit me the hardest was the worry and despair in Katrina’s eyes as she watched a pair of volunteer proctors take Tyler by his arm and lead him to the nurse’s office. I felt to terrible for something I didn’t even want to happen. All I wanted to do was take petty revenge on the kid by embarrassing him in front of his friends, but it was clear something went wrong. Until then, I never
    had any problems playing out exactly what I imagined — whenever I failed to concentrate hard enough or something distracted me, the powers just didn’t activate. Maybe that was the problem: this time, I was thinking too hard.
    Without any indication to my friends, I left to follow Tyler, hoping I could help somehow. Inside the nurse’s office, I overheard an assistant in the storage room gasp when the nurse told him about Tyler’s condition and remark how under-stocked they were. In the office, Tyler continued to pant and breathe manically, grimacing at the disfigured monster staring back at him through the mirror. When the nurse returned to the room, she bared down at me with a fierce look.
    “What are you doing here!? I’m busy treating someone right now — if its not life-threatening, please wait outside!” She didn’t even wait to make sure I had left before returning to Tyler’s attention with a bag of ice wrapped in a towel.
    “No, hold on — i’m his brother! Zane… Gorman! He has a medical condition, let me see him first!” As the words escaped my mouth, I realized I had no idea what I was doing, but it felt like the right thing to do. Before I had finished talking, the nurse opened her palm toward me and resumed her stern glare.
    “Identification?”, she said in her most authoritative voice, to which I panicked and told her to wait a second while I dug through my pockets. Now I really felt I was in deep; without any proof, there was no way she would leave me alone with Tyler…
    But hello, there was something in my front pocket after all — the fingers on my left hand touched the thin edges of a pair of plastic cards and I carefully tugged the objects out to show them to her. The nurse lowered her glasses and stooped down to get a better look, then sneered and walked back toward the door in her flashy heels.
    “Alright, you have a look at him, “Zane”… but if you need anything, I’m right around the corner.” She slammed the door as she left, bestowing me with an odd sort of reassurance. I sighed and turned the cards around to see for myself. One was a medical information card with Tyler’s picture on it and various bits of information concerning his health insurance policy and contact information; the other was a school I.D. card not too different from my own authentic I.D., except the name clearly read “Zane Gorman”. I indulged in a celebratory gesture and put both cards away as I walked in front of Tyler. He was sitting on the table in the middle of the room crying in a deep voice with his big hands covering his face. I hesitated grabbing his arm and tried to find just the right approach to the situation.
    “Tyler, here — let me see.” After noticing my fingers on his elbow, he relaxed slightly and lowered his hands.
    “Ooh, this isn’t good… we’re gonna need something pretty strong to dull the pain.” I tried sounding as professional as possible, all the while praying Tyler didn’t see through my ruse. I started fumbling through the cabinets in the office to either find or create something to put the kid to sleep.
    “H-hey… you’re Zane, right?”
    I gulped and paused my rummaging for half a second.
    “Since when did you start working for Miss Bowen?”
    I closed my eyes momentarily and lifted a syringe out from the drawer. Of course there was no way of knowing exactly what liquid was inside the needle, but right now, I had to be sure.
    “I know you get all the best grades in English class, but what makes you qualified to–!” Without warning, I stuck Tyler with the syringe and slowly squeezed the mystery fluid into his bloodstream. Within seconds he was down for the count, and I was free to take a swing at fixing what I had done to him. I took a deep breath and put my hand over Tyler’s face.
    “Put him back together,”, I chanted.
    “he was never burned. Put him back together…”

    On my way out, I paid Ms. Bowen a visit. She sat comfortably in the swiveling chair at her desk, reading a women’s magazine.
    “Nurse Bowen?” I tapped on the door as I entered her personal office. She glowered at me under mascara-drenched eyelids.
    “I think you’ll find my brother won’t be needing any further treatment. You can see for yourself if you like — but if he asks what happened, just tell him you’re the best nurse in Sacramento.” I shot her a wink and a smile before slinking back outside through the patient room. I kept the image of Tyler’s perfectly restored face to cheer me up — which was little more than a dent in the gnawing memory of his horribly burnt visage. Above all else, I would definitely have to be more careful with my abilities in the future.
    Power and responsibility.“, I reminded myself.

    in reply to: Zane [Sensitive Content] #34770
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    Thank’s much, big K! Please let me know if I ever cross the line — I’ll do my best not to, but I hope you’ll serve justice if I lose sight of the goal ;)

    I somehow managed to convince myself it was all a dream, and I was just about ready for my life to return to normal — until I heard the TV blaring downstairs and got up from my bed to investigate. There stood my mom in her bathrobe with a hand over her mouth, staring intently at the screen. I wiped the sleep dust from my eyes and announced my presence by saying, “Good morning, mom.”
    Caught by surprise, she gasped and turned toward me, stepping away just enough so I could watch the morning news.

    “… after consulting with all local and out of state railroad companies and carefully examining the wreckage itself, it has been determined that these cars were elaborately painted and constructed to be life-sized train models. What’s most interesting is the human-shaped indentation on the front engine, although no bodies have been recovered as of yet. There is still speculation as to who or what was driving the train forward, and whether or not this has all been one big, very dedicated prank. We hope to have more information about the mysterious crash later today, but until the debris has been cleared, we’re advising pedestrians to stay clear of the train tracks just to be safe. Back to you, Fred.”

    My mother pulled me in close to her and put her hand on the back of my head, holding me tight and nestling my hair with her forehead. I could tell she was crying. I can always tell when she’s crying.
    “Oh, that’s right over where you boys used to go and play all the time… I’m so glad you were nowhere near there when it happened. After what happened to Curtis, I don’t know if I could go through it all again…” She was sobbing so hard I thought I might begin crying just by association — and her merely mentioning Curtis made me want to give her a lecture about how nothing “happened” to him… but right now, that could wait.
    My eyes kept returning to the scene on the television. The locomotive and its haul looked so strangely familiar, and I was about let it go when it finally clicked in my head. I finished consoling my mom and rushed to my brother’s room upstairs. Just past the door, as intact as the day it was set up close to seven years ago, stood the long-coveted miniature model train community, complete with flashing lights, tunnels, and automated controls for directing where and when each engine traveled. I carefully lifted one of the rows of cars and turned on the TV in my room. Sure enough, the trains depicted in the crash were identical to the string of toys in my hand. I woozily dropped the trains and sat down on my bed, trying to piece together all the details. I could still hear my mom sniffling from the other room as she got ready to leave for work.
    “It’s getting late, Zane. You better have something to eat.”, she called.
    I responded inaudibly then shook my head in an attempt to clear my head of all the confusion. I said “Yeah.” again so that she could hear me and pulled on some clothes. As I left the room, my foot knocked the set of trains to the side. I glanced back and forth from the toys and the blank TV screen for a short while longer.

    Despite the recent trauma in my life, nothing like it happened again for quite some time, and I carried on as normally as I could. School was still boring, riding the bus was a chore, and my classmates were as dumb as ever. Katrina and I didn’t see each other as much, which was to be expected. The hurt didn’t seem so bad, though, especially since I was still worried about the other life-changing event that happened the same day. No matter how I looked at it, there was no way of denying I had some hand in putting the train right were it happened to be. But how or why did I do it? It wasn’t a conscious decision… and the fact that it perfectly resembled the model from my brother’s set meant that it must have somehow manifested from my subconscious. And how had I not been killed or even injured by the collision? The possibility of them being holograms or hallucinations was out of the question — other real people had touched and seen them, but only I remained doubtful of their real existence.
    Like the reporter said… probably just some elaborate hoax…
    A few weeks went by, and I had almost completely forgotten about the incident. Incrementally, I returned to my normal self. I talked to my family at dinner and watched movies with them on the couch; I was cheerier with my friends, and Katrina and I had even started to wave and say hello to each other again. I tried not to acknowledge her when Tyler was around for courtesy’s sake, but for the most part, the damage to my psyche had already started to mend itself. But as I had already learned, nothing in my life was ever as simple or easy as I was led to believe.

    After a long day at school, I stepped off the bus and headed toward home. I hadn’t noticed anything too out of the ordinary, save for a van parked in the neighborhood that wasn’t usually there. Wanting only to get home and relax, I paid no mind to it, even after its engine revved up and the vehicle began plodding down the street in my direction. Before I knew it, the van had pulled out in front of me, with a pair of men in ski masks ready to open the back door and pull me inside. The hoodlums wasted no time in gagging me and tying my hands with rope, which I found most uncomfortable. I had no idea just how long they drove before stopping abruptly in the parking lot of our local supermall. Gunshots and sirens could now be heard outside the car, and now I really started to panic.
    My dad was a cop.
    Even the idea of my dad getting hurt because of me was enough to put me into shock. For that reason, I really struggled with everything I had to try and get away before a shootout occurred between the would-be kidnappers and a large detachment of the Sacramento police department. I could see enough of the showdown from the tinted windows of the van, but I was too far away to make out faces. Regardless, somehow I knew my dad would be there, and I couldn’t help think of how ironic or coincidental or fateful it was that he should be rescuing me after responding to the report of an anonymous teen seizure. The masked criminals had since left the van to hide behind it as a shield from the oncoming bullets — not all the officers present had been fully informed of the situation, so I was in danger on both sides of the battle. After a couple minutes of twisting and turning, my gag came loose, and I wriggled far enough out of the rope on my hands to crawl toward the back of the van. I had to freeze right where I was when I saw who sprang up from behind the door of a recently parked cop car; there stood my dad with his pistol aimed straight at the criminals behind the van, and mirroring my dad knelt one of the armed kidnappers, his finger already on the trigger of his own high powered handgun. As futile as it seemed to yell a warning, I screamed at the top of my lungs for my dear old dad to look out, although it wasn’t my voice that saved him.
    The milliseconds in which my dad and the criminal exchanged bullet seemed to go by slower than minutes, and what transpired brought shivers to my spine. I had seen plenty of videos on the internet about real battles in war, and I played enough violent video games to become desensitized to real life blood and gore, but what made me sick was the recurrence of strangeness which simply would not leave me alone. As the criminal’s bullet sped toward my father, I watched it begin to lose its metallic luster and silvery shine, transforming into no more than a spitwad of harmless water that gently splashed onto my dad’s cheek. With a tortured smile, I watched as he startlingly wiped his face and examined the clear liquid; once he had ensured it wasn’t blood and his overall health was intact, he fired several more shots in succession at the kidnappers. With the threat largely taken care of, it was up to my dad to check on the abducted child — and what a shock he got when it was my face he strained to identify.

    Four men with extensive criminal backgrounds were admitted to the hospital for multiple gunshot wounds, and I was questioned at the police station for hours before my dad I returned home. In the car, I replayed the scene in my head a million times, each time coming to the conclusion that these strange events could not be ignored any longer. I thought about saying something about it to him, but after both of us went through such trauma, I figured he wouldn’t believe me anyways. It remained my secret in the days to follow, although I couldn’t leave the notion alone. Twice now I’ve experienced greater forces at work, forces either under my control or directed through my own concentration. It wasn’t so difficult to explain how, while my emotions were jumbled, I so strongly envisioned death that its bringer manifested through a locomotive, but I came to my senses before it could carry out its original mission. Just as well, I could imagine my desire to keep my father safe must have, in one way or another, changed the properties of the bullet which should have ended his life.
    So I stand here, in the middle of the wooded desert, staring, pondering into the distance, hoping for the assurance that these supernatural events aren’t just some random string of pranks being played by gods of yore, or some cosmic entity.

    “That tree is on fire.”, I repeat in varying intensity, with my open hand stretched out toward my lifeless victim.
    “That tree is on fire.”, I keep saying, promising myself this isn’t as stupid as it sounds. Because…
    “That tree is on fire!”

    The embers from the bonfire flicker in my eyes as I revel in my accomplishment. Soon enough, the tree is reduced to a burnt formation of ashen branches and black twigs. A real, genuine smile, the first in a long time, spreads across my face.
    “Boy, if she could see me now…”

    in reply to: Zane [Sensitive Content] #34745
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    Right, sorry. If I make sure to properly censor it, can I continue to share it here? By adult-themes, I really just mean things not necessarily appropriate for all ages, but I can work around PG limitations if you want.
    If you’ve already read the whole first post, is there anything that’s going to be a problem as far as following the family friendly rules? (I can already think of one, but i’ll let you point it out)

    in reply to: MEGA’s Refuge for Ever-Changing Personas #34733
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    @hawk007 said:

    On the third character you posted on the first post, you did the shoulder armor behind him. Actually, they were full things that covered your entire arm.

    I see what you mean. Its an older creation, so i’m not really sure why I made the shoulderpiece that way… I think what I was trying to do was show that his arm was twisted in such a way that his shoulder rolled back or something o,,O
    Thanks for the input, though. I’ll keep it in mind the next time I try something similar.

    in reply to: MEGA’s Refuge for Ever-Changing Personas #34727
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    I gotta say, browsing around some of the other hero galleries on these here forums has really given me a lot of story and character inspiration…

    There is one thing I’d like to do as sort of a story / detail interpretation challenge, if anyone’s interested. The premise will be that I (or whoever wins the contest) writes a short story — or uses a passage from a longer one, if they so wish — as structure for the other contestants to play around with. Everyone votes on whichever incarnation they think best fits the descriptions of the character in the story, and the winner gets to kick off the next competition. I’ve always been intrigued by multiple representations of the same character, and hopefully this will help myself and others find that perfect model to base their hero’s appearance on.
    So, let me know what y’all think. If nobody responds, I’ll just go ahead and try the topic out in the Art Contests and Challenges page, but it’d be cool to know who’d be willing to participate first.

    in reply to: Mechs over here! #34725
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    Dude, you’re a mech WIZARD!! Love the color combos you use, too — they really make ’em pop out.

    in reply to: Green Army #34722
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    Your characters are so sleek and imaginative… I can’t pick a favorite, so I’ll just say I like them all! Can’t wait to see more!

    in reply to: MEGA’s Refuge for Ever-Changing Personas #34664
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    Who would have guessed the Aerrian Order’s greatest champion would have emerged — almost literally — from the ashes of their worst enemies? Brian Tolstoy Altic, the son of estranged Aerrian knight Xavier Altic, had little more than his orphanage’s caretakers to look to for guidance, and as a result, became strongly attracted to such notions as anarchy and purposeful mischief. With fellow orphan Selleck Naedus at his side, the two delinquents grew up to become a fairly renowned criminal duo, resorting to hiding out in the woods of Jimen after being chased out of their home in industrial North Sary. It was in the dense jungle, cold, hungry, and facing few options for survival, that the mysterious Chief Matamaros came to them with an offer of shelter, sustenance, and companionship — on the one condition that they vow servitude to his tribal sect. As members of Matamaros’ savage community, Brian and Selleck helped wage war against the Aerrian Order’s self-righteous crusade to annex and indoctrinate the tribes hiding in the vast forests of their heavily wooded country. Fate would have it that, after a failed raid on one of the Order’s resource caravans, Selleck was captured and taken to a fort on the edge of the Jimen woods. With no time to lose, Brian rashly led a pair of fellow tribesmen to rescue Selleck, only to retrieve his friend in a fatal condition and lose both his comrades in the ensuing battle. In another stroke of terrible luck, Brian dragged Selleck back to the village they had come to call home in time to watch it burn to the ground and witness their patriarchal leader die at the hands of the Order’s notorious paladin Michael Vonae. With Selleck in dire need of medical treatment, Brian swallowed his pride and rode to the cathedral in South Sary, pledging his and Selleck’s repentance in exchange for the church’s sanctuary and compassion.
    No sooner had both wayward sons of Aerrio begun to establish themselves as devout soldier of the Order did their troubling pasts catch up with them, since their identities had finally been discovered by none other than Michael, who was in the process of staging a coup of the Aerrian Czardom in parallel with his flushing out of clerical personnel with any ties to the lingering tribal menace. In true disregard for the nature of redemption, Michael forged orders for Brian to perform reconnaissance in West City just as the Thardian War began, and personally led a group of soldiers in an attempt to execute Selleck and rival paladin Aaron Vaktrus, who was the boys’ close friend and mentor. Aaron and Selleck escaped, but not before watching Brian sail away to what very well may have been his doom…
    Once ashore the continent of Westoond, Brian rode to West City and encountered Xellian scouts right off the bat. Having been kept in the dark about most details concerning the developing war, Brian let himself believe anyone with a weapon would be hostile to him, a man of neither nationality of both countries involved. Once inside the city, a pair of unlikely allies came to his aid after being ambushed by Xellian soldiers. The Trosian squire, Rados, and the surviving West City guard, Borgo, introduced themselves as having no quarrel with the out-of-place cleric, and with no better option, he trusted them and joined their effort to escape the city. In the city’s barracks, Brian discovered a wounded Xellian soldier whom they believed might help them one way or another, and they took to tending her injury. With the barracks finally having been breached by pursuing soldiers, Brian helped the girl to safety and escaped into the city’s sewers through a hidden door in the barracks prison.
    With plenty of time to get to know each other, Brian learned her name was Alexis, and that she had been betrayed and left for dead in the barracks by her own comrades, logically forcing her to rethink where her loyalties lie. Agreeing to help Brian until some task more worthwhile became available, she accompanied him through the giant-crocodile infested underground, saving his life by making quick friends with the wayward spirit Icarus, who occasionally lent her his supernatural marksmanship powers. Both of them managed to make it out of the sewers and onto the grasslands just outside West City, where Rados and Borgo could be seen fighting what appeared to be an armored giant. While Brian finished up his duel with the relentless scaled beast Dundie, Alexis contributed to the defeat of the enormous knight. All four survivors together again, they decided to travel together toward Tros to petition action from Andross’ Vanguard in hopes they could help end the war.
    Though separated many times during their journey, the West City survivors trekked across the deadly Aura woods and Ghetty mountains, eventually reaching Ghetty city, where the bulk of Westoond’s hidden army lay in wait for their opportunity to strike back against Xellaus. After a tumultuous voyage by sea into the Trosian channel, Brian reunited with Aaron and Selleck, whose armada had fallen back on emergency orders to rendezvous with the Westoond fleet in the event of either nation being attacked. Their combined might sailed undetected, straight into the heart of Xellaus capital, where the final battle of the Thardian War was fought. Brian rode alongside the Aerrian cavalry from the Kokkaru forest, regrouping with Rados and Borgo to assail castle Ghorre and force the king’s surrender.
    During the course of the war, Brian acquired an infatuation with Alexis, and the two remained romantically involved long after their journey together. Once reparations from the Thardian War had concluded, Brian married Alexis, moved to Xellaus, and continued working for the Aerrian Order as a spy, reporting on suspicious activity in his new homeland and enforcing justice where and when it was needed.

    Twelve years following the destructive Thardian War, New Xellaus — ruled by the tyrannical Emperor Hadron — began its conquest of Venteran, starting with Westoond, prompting Brian to come out of retirement and don his red clerical armor once more. Seeking an explanation for the Xellian prince’s mysterious and drastic change in character, Brian scoured the Trosian archives in Ximen, only to be confronted by a warrior referring to himself only as the “White Knight of Tros”. Easily detecting his old friend Rados’ facade, he accepted Rados’ assurance that no record owned by the Republic would be able to help, and he headed for the Aura woods, where it was agreed a detachment of Aerrian soldiers would meet him to determine their next plan of action. Promoted to paladin by a representative of the Order and given a horse, Brian’s new orders entailed making sure Tros’ president, Lord Ventaros, made it safely into Aerrio. Riding as quick as the wind, he picked up a young Westoond soldier named Oliver Kone, who per Brian’s urging snuck past enemy lines and into the war-torn Trosian capital, where he made contact with Lord Ventaros and aided in their escape. Having done all he could given his circumstances, Brian made a dash for the wastelands north of Ximen, hoping to spread word of the president’s flight and create a diversion. With support from Rados, Andross’ Vanguard mobilized along the express route to the harbor where Lord Ventaros and his entourage were headed, and a sizable force including Rados and Brian entered the rocky plains to head off New Xellaus’ march around the Allorrean range. It was in one such outcrop that Brian became trapped between New Xellian garrisons, prompting Rados to lead his soldiers down into a valley where they created an opportunity for Brian to escape, although ultimately resulting in their deaths.
    Not wanting to waste his opportunity, Brian made haste north into Aerrio straight to the capital, where he informed Czar Vaktrus of the war’s progression, pleading for the Order to come to Tros’ aid. With the arrival of Lord Ventaros, Aaron finally agreed to take up arms against New Xellaus, and a reforged Trosian Alliance launched a valiant offensive out from Thor city, effectively pushing back the invading armies and taking back Tros’ capital.
    With the death of Aaron as a result of the possessed Grann Sileus, Brian temporarily asserted himself as czar, as no other candidates came forward. Under his direction, the Trosian Alliance eradicated the forces of New Xellaus and began mending the parts of the world ravaged by the ruthless foe’s brutality. His and Alexis’ children were among the first to depart Venteran in fear of the prophesied fiery armageddon said to follow the Alraune War.
    Coyote.png
    Brian, the Savage: As a Matamaros tribesman, Brian’s name of honor was Coyote, as he was fierce and stealthy like the wild canines which often roamed the wooded countryside.
    Brian-Tolstoy-Altic.png
    Brian, the Cleric: Under the paladin Aaron’s tutelage, Brian learned the teachings of Ahmerrozh and much of the lore surrounding the other Supreme Beings, as well such virtues as redemption, forgiveness, temperance, charity, and mercy — many of which he struggled to exercise in his time working alongside priests and devout members of the deeply religious Aerrian Order.
    Brian-Tolstoy-Altic-1.png
    Brian, the Fighter: Returning to his more brutish roots following the siege of West City, Brian shed much of his clerical armor and adopted a large axe as his primary weapon of choice through the arduous journey across Westoond. Something of a “jack-of-all-trades”, Brian also displays notable skill in swordsmanship, marksmanship, tracking, and geography, as well as significant knowledge in political history, scripture, and identifying creatures of mythologic origin.
    Brian-x-Aressio.png
    Brian, the Phoenix: After merging with the burning demon Aressio, Brian exhibits many fire-like qualities, including the ability to create and manipulate fire from the elements around him. Although these powers faded shortly after the Thardian War, as he was one of the last West City survivors to fuse with a mystic guardian, his supernatural prowess remained evident even during the final battle on Hades plains, where his flames climbed high among the three warring armies.
    Brian-Tolstoy-Altic-2.png
    Brian, the Paladin: Finally achieving the highest honor the Order could bestow on one of their followers, Brian proved the worth of his entitlement by keeping the New Xellaus armies on a wild goose chase throughout the Trosian Republic.
    Black-Knight.png
    Brian, the Black Knight: Though only adopting the mantle briefly during the push against New Xellaus’ invading force at Thor city, Brian set the standard for true brutality on the field of battle, serving countless enemy soldiers their own rears and earning the fearful respect of his comrades.

    in reply to: MEGA’s Refuge for Ever-Changing Personas #34392
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    Poster child and eternal devotee of the Westoond Empire, Borgo Allan Paraf has shown enough pride and loyalty to his country for a hundred lifetimes. Ever the war-hawk, Borgo began honing every muscle in his body and tempering his combat skills from the moment he could walk, distinguishing himself quickly in the eyes of his military superiors as well as the Emperor himself. If ever there was one man who completely personified the goals and strengths of Westoond, it was without a doubt Sir Paraf.
    Borgo was briefly stationed at an outpost in the Aura forest during the last few years of the woodland conflict, but the glory of battle continued to elude him and his outfit of soldiers. Upon his return to Ghetty city, an offer of promotion was sent his way, one which he turned down at first due to his insatiable hunger for combat. He was afraid that if he accepted a job not directly related to fighting among infantry, his wish to prove his abilities would become nothing more than an empty ambition. However, after some careful persuasion by Emperor Melarz, who took a particular liking to Borgo and easily befriended him, he accepted the offer and moved to the capital to begin his guard duty at the emperor’s palace.
    It was during his stint in West City that he became privy to the inner working of Westoond’s government and secretive military discussions among the war council, consisting of only a handful of the empire’s top ranking officials and politicians. With Lord Melarz’ apparent assassination at the beginning of the Thardian War and the disappearance of the remaining members of the war council, Borgo was left to lead the punitive West City soldiers in defense against the Xellian invasion. Separated from his men, he came across and rescued Rados, an ambassador from Tros, with whom he eventually escaped the city and became allies with another two survivors of the siege, Brian and Alexis. Together, the four of them traversed the deadly Aura jungle and battled soldiers from a variety of allegiances, as well as a number of supernatural creatures who had crept their way into Venteran from a crack in the rift between dimensions. After merging with the mystic guardian Hephaestus, Borgo temporarily adopted the incredible powers of his spectral ally, allowing him to shield his allies from harm in many dangerous situations.
    In Ghetty city, Borgo reunited with the war council and it was revealed that Emperor Melarz survived the attack at the palace by clever use of a synthetic flesh stand-in, whom the emperor was able to convincingly operate from a distance using magic. With his hope for winning the war refreshed, Borgo continued alongside his countrymen all the way through to the final battle on Hades plains, where he aided Rados and Brian in making it to the throne room and forcing the Xellian armies’ surrender.

    When Lord Melarz’ health began its decline after many long years of using magic to prolong his death, he entrusted Borgo to take over the throne. Borgo governed the empire as best he could, but when New Xellaus began its conquest, there was little his stalwart forces could do to prevent being overrun by Emperor Hadron’s superior technology and genetically-enhanced soldiers. Borgo made his last stand in the fortress on Ballast island, keeping the New Xellaus invaders at bay long enough for word to reach Tros about the sudden, fierce instigation of war. Even with the help of Ballast’s revolutionary tools of warfare and the steeled resolve of Westoond’s last few battle-hardened soldiers, Borgo and his troops fell to the might of Lord Hadron’s relentless attacks.
    As one of the key players in ending the Thardian War, Borgo gained renown which surpassed even that of the immortal Emperor Melarz himself, and paved the way for Westoond’s rekindled fighting spirit toward the end of the Alraune War.
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    Borgo the Guard: Though his father and grandfather warned against being tempted by a life of violence and combat, Borgo enlisted the first chance he got. In the waning years of the Woodland conflict, his installment had friendly run-ins with Trosian garrisons with a pair of officers with the last name Onklet, men whose significance Borgo would not learn until many years later.
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    Borgo, the Elitist: By his 30th birthday, Borgo had established himself as a stern and uncompromising drill sergeant in the Westoond militia. His methods of conserving stamina and increasing mobility by shedding what he calls “unnecessary layers of armor” sparked something of an equipment and protocol enlightenment immediately after the Thardian War, foreshadowing to the lighter and more efficient combat uniforms meant to be used in conjunction with ballistic weaponry.
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    Borgo, the Armorer: Also referred to as the Dragoon by fellow soldiers, Borgo acquired incredible powers from his fusion with the mystic guardian Hephaestus, including the ability to expand an invulnerable wall of armor from his own defensive chassis and procure metallurgic weapons out of thin air. Like all who merged with their other-worldly protectors, Borgo’s powers diminished significantly by the end of the Thardian War, but his strength, resolve, and willpower remained legendary long afterwards.
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    Borgo, the Tudor: No longer in his prime, Borgo reluctantly took to arming himself with prototype machinery which enhanced his own physicality and battlefield presence. Whether inside or out of his quadripedal combat vehicle, Borgo gave hell to any and all who dared oppose the mighty of the Westoond Empire.

    in reply to: MEGA’s Refuge for Ever-Changing Personas #34290
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    I give you the legendary squire, Sir Rados Kent Onklet — hero of the Thardian War and purveyor of truth and justice on planet Venteran. The blood of a famous Nautilian templar runs through his veins, as does the favor of many Supreme Beings for his valor and courage in the face of unbeatable odds and certain death. He hails from the Wetan province of the Trosian Republic, a formidable yet highly reserved country built on the ideals of free enterprise and widespread utopianism.
    Rados was not always such a fearless braveheart, however… growing up, he thought nothing of the notions of glory in battle or the thrill of combat; instead, he was quite content with running the family business which, after losing both his paternal father and grandfather in the waning years of the Woodland Conflict, had come under hard times. In his ignorance, precautions against a weakened economy during the corrupt reign of President Kerigges fell short, and his textiles company went under. Rados kept what little money was left after the economic collapse and left it with his mother while he left home to seek employment and a new future for himself. Unfortunately, he could find no means to support himself financially, and was reduced to begging in the city streets until, one day, a humble man of nobility approached him with a wild offer to help him run a campaign for the upcoming presidential election. A skilled advertiser, organizer, and speech-writer, Rados’ assistance miraculously tipped the balance in his employer’s favor and won him the president’s seat. From then on, he was President Ventaros’ personal squire and parliamentary manager, with a large enough salary to afford a house in the capital city and any luxuries his heart desired.
    Then, on the eve of the most devastating conflict since the Century War, Rados was assigned to personally deliver important documents to Westoond’s Emperor. After a rigorous journey across two continents, he arrived at Westoond’s capital of West City, only to be caught in the middle of an assassination attempt on the Emperor, immediately after which the city was invaded and made siege by the armies of Xellaus, the secluded kingdom which dominated the southern continent. Upon regaining consciousness, Rados suffered from selective amnesia and struggles to remember the most basic of details about himself or the world he lived in. In his ongoing escape from Xellian soldiers occupying the now ruined city, Rados joins forces with a surviving West City guard, a cleric from the north continent’s Aerrian Order, and several supernatural beings who made their way into the realm of reality from their own twisted dimension. Eventually, Rados makes it out of the city alongside Borgo, Brian, and Alexis, a defecting Xellian markswoman.
    Together, the four of them plunge into the Aura woods and face the horrors of many dark-spirited refugees from beyond the rift, as well as Xellian pursuers, savage tribesmen, and servants of the corrupt Aerrian paladin Michael Vonae. Rados and Brian become separated from their traveling companions and make the acquaintance of Darian, the wayward prince of Domino, the eastern continent. They reunite with Borgo and Alexis at Ghetty City, inside which they discover Westoond’s auxiliary forces and help in the city’s evacuation when the Xellian army catches up with them. The Westoond armada sets sail and heads south through the Trosian channel, where a fleet of Aerrian ships loyal to the paladin Aaron Vaktrus rendezvous with them. With battle plans drawn, their combined forces begin a two-front final assault on Xellaus, with Westoond setting up a base on Daiy ridge and Aerrio coming in from the Kokkaru forest. Rados, Borgo, and Brian find each other on the field of battle and make their way into castle ghorre, where Lord Throat awaits them. Separated from his friends, Rados faces the war’s instigator alone, calling upon his spectral allies to expunge the evil demon possessing Xellaus’ king. His clarity and kind nature restored, Lord Throat declares his kingdom’s surrender, effectively ending the Thardian War.

    Rados returned home a true hero and married his fiance. Instead of returning to his role as Lord Ventaros’ aide, he took advantage of his newfound bravery and strength of will to enlist in Andross’ Vanguard and become a knight, quickly rising through the ranks until he became a lieutenant under General Damcyan, the high commander of Tros’ military. In twelve years time, Rados’ talents would again be needed, for in that time, Xellaus estranged prince had built up a powerful army and begun a conquest in Westoond. Andross Vanguard succeeded in redirecting the New Xellaus invaders away from the capital long enough for Lord Ventaros and his entourage to escape, but the unexpected arrival of paladin Brian Altic forced Rados to lead a garrison of knights into battle alongside his old friend in order for him to survive. This act of selflessness ensured Brian’s safe return to Aerrio and his persuasion of the Order to take action in the war, although it came with a heavy price.
    Rados and his soldiers held out as long as they could against the New Xellian garrison, but their genetically-enhanced infantry proved to be too much for them. For the extraordinary accomplishments of his life and the weight of his sacrifice, praises of Rados’ incredible loyalty, valor, and perseverance echo from one end of the universe to the other, as well as through the rift, where his spiritual friends await his reincarnation.
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    Rados, the wandering swordsman: Just prior to the start of the Thardian War, Rados unknowingly helped prince Hadron, the missing son of Xellaus’ king, across Tros and into Westoond.
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    Rados, the lost squire: In the aftermath of West City’s invasion, Rados battles Xellian occupants and his own failing memory.
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    Rados, forrest knight of Venteran: With help from the wise Chief Aura, Rados reunites with his first spectral ally, the aquatic samurai Valor, and merges with him to temporarily gain superhuman powers which help him and his friends survive the treacherous jungle.
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    Rados, hero of the Thardian War: Re-equipped with Western weapons and armor, Rados prepares for the momentous final battle on Hades plains.
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    Rados, the white knight: While searching the Astras library in Tros, Brian encounters a silent guardian with a familiar fighting style and discovers his old friend Rados has adopted his title of “White Knight of Tros” once more.
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    Rados, the Vanguard’s knight lieutenant: In his final moments in the living world, Rados comes face to face with an old foe, the impossibly quick Latcher, whose dagger seals his fate and incurs the wrath of Rados’ remaining friends in the remainder of the war.

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