A few people seemed interested, so let's do this! Fallen Hero: Rebirth is a work of interactive fiction by Malin Rydén about a telepathic ex-superhero's rise to villainy. It's an entirely text-based choose-your-own-adventure and a ton of fun—so, basically asking for a cooperative forum let's play. I'll be giving all choices to the thread to vote on as they come up: plot, character creation, romance options, etc. Some general content notes for anyone who wants them: Spoiler We play a telepathic aspiring supervillain with a dark past. Expect consistently high levels of: • mind reading/control/manipulation/alteration • PTSD symptoms ranging in severity from "moderate" to "borderline psychological horror" • the dubious ethics/consent issues inherent in deceiving everyone you know Certain sections of the story heavily involve suicide. I'll warn when these come up. This game isn't shy about describing serious, occasionally gruesome injury/pain. I'll warn for the worst instances. The Story So Far Spoiler: Notable Characters & Groups Our Hero Villain Civilian identity Josie Jacobs. Soon to be infamous as the villain Anathema. In a past life, we fought alongside heroes as the masked vigilante Sidestep, though our identity and powers were known to only a select few close allies. Now, years after our supposed demise, we've returned to Los Diablos in secret to seek revenge against the people who hurt us. While an untimely encounter with an old friend has revealed our survival, we've kept our new career—and the fact that we still have powers—secret. A telepath whose powers have grown dramatically since our hero days: in addition to reading and influencing minds, we've learned to seize direct control of others' bodies. Skilled at blending in and avoiding notice even without the added help of telepathy, though we draw the line at remembering what a gender is. Certified angsty loner who only makes friends by accident. Drinks too much coffee and gets too little sleep (the latter is more to do with the nightmares). Long-time sufferer of suicidal ideation, but we're handling it. Barbara A comatose woman we "rescued" from a hospital two years ago. So named because she's essentially our Barbie doll (and looks the part). At night, we do our dealing with the criminal underworld in her easily-puppeted body while our own sleeps, acting as our own henchwoman. Though she lacks our telepathy, we've learned to leverage her good looks into confidence and charm to get our way. We train her body in aikido for emergencies. The Rat King Five psychic rat brains in a jar. Stolen from Psychopathor's cannon, which they used their formidable telepathic awareness to aim; now employed in our armor to provide telepathic support and nanovore wrangling. Possess at least basic sentience, though it's unclear if they truly understand other minds; if nothing else, they seem to like us. The Rangers Heroes deputized by the federal government to keep order. Wear blue for team spirit. On rocky terms with local law enforcement. We worked with them back in our hero days, though we were never an actual member. Charge Long-time member and former marshal of the Rangers, better known to us as our old partner Julia Ortega. Modded after an accident in her youth; now shoots lightning from her hands. Immune to telepathy as a side effect of her epilepsy. We worked closely with her in our hero days and, despite our best efforts, succumbed to her persistent friendliness; now, thanks to a chance encounter, she's managed to drag us back into that friendship. Had a surprise meet-cute with Barbara when they turned out to attend the same dojo and now they're flirting, we guess? We're pretty sure all of this is her fault somehow. Marshal Steel Long-time member and current leader of the Rangers. Ex-military; uses power armor that interfaces with his extensive cybernetic replacements. Civilian name Wei Chen. We worked with him as a hero, though he was always suspicious of us. Has asked us to stay away from the Rangers now that we're back. Lady Argent Hero with a body of nigh-invulnerable metal, superhuman strength, clawed hands she can extend into blades, and some sort of multi-spectrum vision that can see circuitry through walls. Her durability doesn't mitigate pain, as we learned in her body. "Angie" to her friends. Itching to get her hands on whoever possessed her; thankfully, she barely seems to notice we exist. Herald The Rangers' newest member, a boost with the powers of flight, durability, and photogenic smiles. Dating Lady Argent. The public and media love him; we do not. Kept looking at us funny when we visited the Rangers. Anathema Former Ranger. A boost with an invulnerable body and the ability to secrete powerful acid—more powerful than their invulnerability, as we learned too late during the Heartbreak incident. Was one of LD's only other openly nonbinary heroes. We worked with them and had a good relationship; now, as a villain, we've taken up their name. Villains & Criminals Dr. Mortum Eccentric but well-mannered mad scientist with a French accent and an interest in forbidden tech. Though we have our doubts about the former, her undeniable skill with the latter led us, as Barbara, to commission our new armor from her. We've encouraged her interest in Barbara for our own purposes, though we've tried not to let the flirty rapport get too personal. Thinks Barbie's boss is bad for her and she should get out while she can. Rosie Boosted henchwoman who scrapped a villain career as The Riveter in favor of more reliable contract work. Rescued Barbara once and has since become a valuable underworld contact—and something uncomfortably close to a friend. Joe Owner of Joes, the wretched hive of scum and villainy where Barbara does our villainous networking. Employs stringent security measures, including against telepathy, to ensure his customers' privacy. Psychopathor Dangerous villain who almost killed us back in the day. Huge, heavily armed and armored, and as sane his name implies. Apparently captured by the Special Directive after we sicced them on him. The Catastrofiend Dangerous villain that nearly killed Ortega back in the day. Big, bladed, and as scary as its name implies. Other People, Beings & Groups Nanovores Swarm of self-replicating nanites programmed to devour organic matter, first seen in the deadly "Nanosurge" disaster we stopped nine years ago. Controlled by a sort of artificial hivemind which we can, with effort, tap into. We keep a small, neutered sample in our armor's left glove where we can release them at will to disintegrate inorganic matter. "Heartbreak" What we saw at the epicenter of the Heartbreak incident: a brown-eyed woman in hospital scrubs, nearly dead on her feet, trailing severed cables and projecting an overpowering aura of despair that drove all within its radius to suicide. Our nightmares recall a sense of familiarity and kinship. The Special Directive Top secret black ops force that employs Enhanced humanoid weapons called Re-Genes: lab-grown human bodies distinguished by blue-gray skin and vivid warning tattoos, boosted and modded to degrees few humans could survive and implanted with artificial minds. Mainly deployed overseas, with a few teams reserved for domestic threats. We anonymously called them in to deal with Psychopathor when we stole the Rat King. Spoiler: Chapter 1 By the 70s, the US's cybernetic arms race with the USSR and inadequate regulation of dietary supplements gave rise to two flavors of "enhanced" super-human: mods, or cybernetically-modified humans, and boosts, the small minority of hopefuls to take the illicit power-granting "hero drug" and survive. Then in 1980, a series of earthquakes and resultant volcanic eruptions devastated the western half of the country, leaving the West Coast largely depopulated until the president offered a regional discount on things like "taxes" and "laws". And that's why Los Angeles Diablos is run by libertarians and supervillains* and policed by four government-appointed superheroes in blue. * Non-redundant in this context. We begin our rise to villainy by being tackled through a store window; the thread votes unanimously to let us say "fuck" when we hit the ground. Fortunately, our current body belongs to nigh-invulnerable metal superwoman Lady Argent; unfortunately, turns out her invulnerability doesn't mitigate pain. Our plan to possess Argent for access to the Rangers' high-security vault was going great until we ran into her teammate/boyfriend Herald on the way out, panicked, and picked a fight. Finally we pull ourself together enough to lure Herald in for a takedown—and go promptly on our way instead of kicking him while he's down because we are a PROFESSIONAL, dammit. We stash the black box we stole in an alley trashcan and wreak more gleeful havoc in the street with Argent's super strength, hastily vacating her body when the Rangers' power-armored leader Steel shows up to put a stop to it. Back in our own body, we rush to the bathroom to vomit from the exertion, get distracted describing ourself rather critically in the mirror, then borrow a hapless bellhop's body to discreetly retrieve the box. We see Marshal Steel arguing with the police (probably about jurisdiction) but don't stop to listen; our puppet worries he'll get fired for slacking off and we're a villain, not an asshole. Once the world has stopped spinning from two successive body jumps, we check out of our hotel room and head home to rest. We dream of our past life as the hero Sidestep, fighting alongside our old friend and partner Ortega (a.k.a. electricity-wielding hero Charge)—specifically, the time we almost got killed fighting Psychopathor, a villain way above our weight class, with her. After we wake up (and stop screaming), we remind ourselves that the next time we meet Ortega will be as enemies. Night has fallen, so we leave our body to its dreamless sleep and slip into our main puppet, a unidentified coma patient taken from a hospital. We've named her Barbara (as in Barbie doll) and established her as a henchwoman who handles our villainous business. Tonight, we bring her to the villain bar Joes, where we say hi to our contact (and accidental almost-friend) Rosie, then deliver the black box to Dr. Mortum, a mad scientist we've contracted for our schemes and established a flirty rapport with. She excitedly identifies the contents as nanovores, highly illegal flesh-eating nanites used in the Gulf wars—a sample the Rangers procured from an attack we ourself neutralized nine years ago. Dr. Mortum promises to reprogram the nanovores to target inorganic rather than organic matter. Provided we deliver on the other parts we've promised, it will be ready in four weeks. Step One: complete. Spoiler: Chapter 2 Two weeks later, we kick off the second—and riskiest—phase of our plan. From a stranger's body, we phone a top-secret number with an anonymous tip: the villain Psychopathor is at a nearby warehouse, unprepared for an ambush. Back in our body, we fight off a full-blown panic attack as we await their arrival. "They" are the Special Directive, a rumored black ops force that employs enhanced humanoid weapons known as Re-Genes: lab-grown human bodies distinguished by blue skin and vivid warning tattoos, boosted and modded with powers greater than normal humans could survive and implanted with AI "minds". Though mainly deployed overseas, a few teams are kept local for situations like this—an enhanced villain too powerful for us to trust that anyone else can take him. As we try to stop panicking over the risk we're taking and focus on the mission, our thoughts inevitably return to seven years ago. The Rangers were called in to deal with an unknown, invisible force that had left a trail of inexplicable mass suicides before coming to a stop in a local apartment building. Due to the seeming psychic nature of the threat, which drove anyone in its growing radius to suicide, they went in with a team of only four: Ortega—then the Rangers' marshal—who is immune to telepathy; Steel, his armor outfitted with short-range psychic dampeners; Anathema, a friendly and physically invulnerable Ranger with acid powers; and us, a telepath affiliated with the Rangers. We drag ourselves back to the present to watch the battle kick off with an explosive strike from the Special Directive. Spotting Rosie among the henchmen getting slaughtered by a second-line SD operative, we take a moment to pull her to safety, claiming to be another friend(?) of Barbara's, and poach her for the less-deadly job of getaway driver. With Rosie safe, we climb into the rafters above the battle to wait for our chance. Despite a near miss with an operative lying in ambush nearby, our plan goes off without a hitch. As predicted, the SD team prioritize getting Psychopathor's powerful plasma cannon away from him, allowing us to quietly extract our target: the Rat King, a cluster of telepathic rat brains whose powers Psychopathor used to aim his cannon with inhuman precision. We then pause for a minute to painstakingly consider best handling practices for our new rat friends and finally settle on telepathically petting them, which they seem to enjoy. That night, our nightmares serve up reruns of the incident seven years ago. Of Anathema dying before our eyes when we fell just a bit too far behind Steel's dampening field and their own acid proved a match for their body's invulnerability. Of continuing up those stairs in numb disbelief when we should have run. It's a relief to jump into Barbara's normal, non-telepathic body when we wake. Since it's too early for Joes, Dr. Mortum instead meets us in a dirty alley… with a gun to our head and pointed questions about our proximity to last night's Special Directive raid. Thankfully, she backs down sheepishly when we play it off as no big deal, even offering to buy us dinner sometime as an apology. Though we avoid giving a direct answer (gotta play hard to get!), we deliver the Rat King as planned, on track for her projected deadline two weeks from now. Step Two: complete. Spoiler: Chapter 3 One week later, we've finished preparing Dr. Mortum's payment. While the effort has left us with a headache, over the past two years we've grown accustomed to using our powers to liberate the rich and powerful from their ill-gotten gains. As our plans near fruition, we reflect on the risks we've taken, not only by messing with the Rangers but by returning to Los Diablos—the only home we've ever known—at all. Still, we've tried to lie low and develop new habits like the cheap diner we frequent for food and caffeine, nothing like the places we used to go with Ortega. Naturally, it's in that very diner that our thoughts are rudely interrupted by Ortega herself, shocked and overjoyed to see us alive after jumping from that window seven years ago. We give her a carefully vague version of the truth: we were found and "rescued" from the scene by our enemies and have stayed in hiding ever since escaping them. When she's upset we never told her we were alive (how were we supposed to know she'd care??), we give her our most tortured woobie routine about our shame at not being cut out for the hero life and how we can't even use our telepathy since that horrible day. Mollified for the moment, Ortega admits that she could use our help with a friend's telepathy-related problem, even if all we have left to offer is knowledge. Before we can stop her, she's called her friend up with news of our survival and a request to discuss things somewhere safer; then, before we can stop her, she gives us our first hug in seven years. "Somewhere safer" turns out to be the Rangers' new headquarters, a high-security stronghold we've only seen through Lady Argent's eyes and had every intention of avoiding. As it's too late to back down, we set our telepathy to airplane mode and follow Ortega to the conference room where we find the other Rangers waiting. Steel explains that Lady Argent was recently mind controlled into stealing something, and that the culprit left a strong enough impression for Argent to peg them as a fellow hero…but, despite our fears, no one connects the dots to us. In fact, being retired rules us out as a suspect. With our powers "gone", we can't offer more than advice—and going back on our lie seems even riskier than giving Argent time to remember more—so we advise against strenuous mental activity (say, like letting anyone help jog her memory) and nope out of there. Steel intercepts us for a tense conversation as we walk out: he's glad we're not dead, and he wants us to stay away from the Rangers (so do we!). Herald follows, prepared to break up a fight (thanks Ortega), but we smooth things over and part on civil terms. Back in the privacy of our home, we channel our frustration at nearly having our plans derailed into planning around this new complication. Through news reports and fansites, we catch up on Ortega's recent career and reminisce on our hero days together. Despite everything, we miss those days: back then we had a life, allies, even friendship, albeit all based on a lie. Maybe the greatest risk isn't that Ortega will force her way back into our life, but that we'll let her. What's important is that Dr. Mortum will be finished in a few weeks; after that, none of this will matter. With that reassuring thought, we resign ourself to a night of sleep in our own body. The dreams can't hurt us… right?