Kintsugi Plays Fallen Hero: Rebirth

Discussion in 'It's Galley's Turn' started by keltena, Dec 31, 2022.

  1. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    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:
    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
    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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
    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.

    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.
    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.
    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.
    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?
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2023
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  2. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    We relive the Heartbreak incident in our dreams. As our remaining teammates continue on, we find ourself drawn to one apartment—the source—and enter alone, determined to stop it.

    We're immediately paralyzed by the invasive psychic presence within, already eroding our shields. Rather than resist it, we recognize the emotion it's drawn to in us—the same despair that drove its victims to their deaths—and simply give it access. Thanks to years of prior experience with suicidal ideation, we're able to detach ourselves from the amplified emotion and wrest back control long enough to look our attacker in the eye.

    We see a woman wrapped in filthy hospital scrubs and still-attached cables, so weak she can barely stand. Who came all this way just to die, because this is home. Her brown eyes meet ours as the room fades into a different one, eerily familiar (to her or to us?). From a disembodied vantage point, we (she?) watch four scientists perform some sort of hard-to-recap procedure on a woman strapped to a table and covered in wires. Remember feeling excitement; the scientists' fear; eyes opening; the thirst for revenge.

    Wake and remind ourself why we're still here, clinging to our plans to keep us going. Our body needs sleep, so despite the early hour we slip into Barbara and head to the dojo where she trains. Lost in our thoughts, we fail to see the very cause of our current frustrations approach: Ortega, who apparently has attended the same dojo all along.

    We keep our panicked screaming internal, do our best "innocent Barbie doll returning a friendly stranger's flirting", and do some sparring to see what shape she's in these days. Hey, maybe catfishing our old friend/nemesis will be useful and not overcomplicate our life.
    Eight days later, Dr. Mortum brings Barbara to her lab—blindfolded, of course—to finalize the design of the armored suit she's making us. In addition to the usual benefits of power armor, our suit will house the reprogrammed nanovores in one glove, allowing us to disintegrate matter by releasing them, as well as the Rat King to help us control them. We decide on our priorities (enhancements to speed and telepathy) and preferred aesthetic (:mystery:, plus a cape at Dr. Mortum's suggestion), and deflect Mortum's concern for Barbie's safety as middleman for a supervillain.

    We do accept her invitation to drinks at Joes, where we spot a fight brewing at the roulette tables near Rosie and, after fierce internal debate, excuse ourself to check on our almost-friend. Rosie's trying to get Mecha (an imposing modded mercenary) to stop accusing her opponent Jake (henchman of underworld giant Hollow Ground) of wielding his boss's clout to cheat. Not being an expert on villain politics, we just tell them to take it outside.

    With the disturbance gone, we sit down to play a round for appearances' sake. We immediately feel an uncanny sense of déjà vu and certainty the next number will be Red 12 and, against all sense, bet on that one number and are proven right. Playing it off as beginner's luck, we return to Dr. Mortum for a mutually cryptic, melancholy conversation about life and what we're each doing with ours.

    Late that night, we sit up pondering the same question: why we're doing this. We could have tried to live a quiet life in hiding. We still could. But we want revenge against the people who hurt us—and now, at last, we have a plan.

    The city's Heroic Heritage Building, destroyed in a quake two years ago, will have its grand reopening with a benefit gala this month. It's only fitting that we should be reborn from its ashes instead.
    Three weeks later, in a garage borrowed from its brainwashed owner, we try on our armor for the first time. After running serious scientific tests on everything from strength (lifting a tire) to the nanovores' reprogramming (devouring only the metal legs of a wooden chair) to the armor (faceplanting repeatedly into the floor), we take a proper look at our new, mirrored face—our true face—and are struck by how right it feels. How—oh goddammit why is Ortega calling us now??

    …Because we haven't been answering and she's worried. Lousy stupid goddamn supportive friend. We agree to meet at the park later and show up wearing our best "this is fine" face, which Ortega inexplicably does not buy. She cajoles us into joining her for a coffee (as if eating or drinking ever made anyone feel better!) and keeps pressing until we admit that, while we definitely can't talk about it, we are maybe possibly slightly just a little not okay. We promise Ortega we'll see a therapist about it, so she can stop prying, and finally—having now thoroughly failed to keep our distance—agree to meet up again soon. In a staggering display of dramatic irony, her first idea is the museum's opening gala, but we must sadly decline. We have other plans.

    A few days later, we struggle through Barbara's latest training session with Ortega; turns out being around her makes it hard to stay in character. Barbie is supposed to be nice, but we can't resist teasing Ortega a bit when she's flustered to realize Barbie knows she's Charge. (It's not like you wear a mask, Ortega!) We reassure her we're not intimidated by fame/superpowers and consider whether to angle for that date at the gala (Barbie needs a ticket for our plans), but we have a better option.

    Dr. Mortum is plenty receptive to the idea, so long as we get to enjoy our date before the explosives go off. With our plans in place, we await the big night.
    Barbara attends the gala as Dr. Mortum's date. The doctor is surprisingly in her element—too many academic fundraisers back in the day, though she doubts anyone she knows is present (or would recognize her now anyway). As the small talk turns personal, Dr. Mortum says that she recognized something of her younger self in Barbie: a person in the process of reinventing themselves. And—unexpectedly—that she recommends Barbie find a new employer: this one seems bad for her.

    This heart-to-heart is interrupted by a glimpse of Ortega across the room; interestingly, Mortum is the one to frantically pull us away before we're spotted, explaining apologetically that she spotted someone she recognized and erred on the side of caution. Changing the subject with the usual flirting, we realize we have a moment alone with Mortum. We're curious whether she'd really kiss Barbara—and the answer is an emphatic yes.

    Once that's wrapped up, it's time to get to work. Dr. Mortum promises to wait for us near the exit while we set the explosives stashed in our purse. We've picked locations carefully to minimize casualties—we're a villain, not an indiscriminate murderer. Right as the timer runs out, we vacate Barbie's body, trusting Dr. Mortum to get her to safety.
    Already suited up, we emerge from our borrowed van with a cloud of smoke grenades to announce our arrival in suitably spooky and mysterious fashion. Our armor's speed lets us effortlessly dispatch the gala's ordinary security guards. We notice Dr. Mortum glaring at us from the sidelines as we enter, Barbie's unconscious body in her arms.

    With the Rat King's support, we stoke the crowd's fear into panic to make them flee the building, then turn to our main task. The Rangers could arrive at any moment, so we set the bomb's timer dangerously short—better unsafe than sorry. Herald arrives on the scene just in time to be caught in the collapsing building. We're fast enough to escape unscathed; he's not.

    Though our new identity has only just been born, the name we give Herald is all too familiar: Anathema. The Ranger we once fought alongside, whose acid dissolved matter as effortlessly as our nanovores. The other casualty of the Heartbreak incident. We let the public think our reasons as simple as a grudge against the Rangers, a wish to rub their faces in their failure. We make short work of Herald, baiting him into an opening by threatening civilians, then knocking him out unceremoniously. Can't have him thinking we're personal nemeses or anything—not when our real nemesis has just arrived.

    Our telepathy is as useless against Ortega as her lightning is against our armor, but we don't need it: we know better than anyone how she fights. With our new suit, we can finally fight her on even ground—or better. Then, with our greatest friend and enemy lying defeated at our feet, we launch into the monologue that's been building inside us for so long. We gloat extremely normally over our victory, call her out on her complicity with the system, and vow revenge on the government masters she serves. Even if we have to go through her. She never learns when to shut up, when to give up, even if it gets her—

    —ambushed by Lady Argent, finally back after leaving the party early, because we let ourself get distracted. Just what we swore we wouldn't do. It's the first serious hit we've taken all night, and we make sure she won't land another. She's the most dangerous of the bunch, but dancing circles around foes who could easily kill us is our specialty, and now we have the speed to keep pace with her. We wait for an opening and make our exit, leaving her in the dust.

    Our sewer escape route is simple if unglamorous. We move carefully as we reflect on our victory: the museum in ashes and 3/4 Rangers handily defeated in a single night's work. A faint blip on our telepathic radar interrupts our thoughts: Lady Argent's recovered fast and is on our trail. We didn't plan for a bonus boss, and something feels strange—somehow muffled?—about her thoughts; thankfully, we're fast and easily outrun her to our escape vehicle.

    And… that's that.

    We did it.
    Back at our base, with no worse than bruises to show for our night's work, we clean up and consider next steps. We need to retrieve Barbie, but… perhaps against our better judgment, we run a different errand first. Ortega should be in the hospital by now, and we need to see her in person. To confirm our enemy's condition. Or see if our friend is all right. Or… something.

    We slip into the hospital unseen, fighting back the bad memories it evokes, and find Ortega asleep in her room, thoroughly bruised and bandaged after what Anathema—we—did to her. We distract ourselves reading the machines by her bed while we wait for her to wake: her internal generators have been suspended while the machines recharge her, but it looks like she's had some upgrades.

    Ortega wakes, touched to see us, and we ask about the villain who did this to her (and the questionable performance of her team). Even in this condition, she's all stubborn, infuriating determination, dead-set on bringing down this new villain. We make her promise to stay in bed and rest, give her a rare hug, and leave.

    Planting our body somewhere unobtrusive in the crowded ER, we jump to Barbara's. To our surprise, Dr. Mortum is waiting at her bedside, worried. When Barbie wouldn't wake up, she called in a favor from a friend at the city's top hospital to get us treated off the books. Though relieved we're all right, Mortum is worried about Barbie's chances with a boss so willing to risk her safety and urges her to find new employment. We politely but firmly rebuff her—Barbie's an adult who knows what she's doing—and change subjects to the armor's performance.

    Just then, someone knocks, and in barges… Ortega, who literally just promised she'd stay in bed and oh god why does she even know we're here?? (Apparently she remembered seeing us at the gala and asked a nurse to check for us.) Dr. Mortum, who seems even less pleased than us by this surprise, informs Ortega in a decidedly un-French accent that we need to rest. We introduce her to Ortega as our date, steadfastly ignoring any hints of awkward love triangle in the air, then ask them both to leave so we can sneak out rest.

    By the time we get Barbie home and return to our body, our exhaustion is obvious enough to draw a concerned nurse's attention. We make sure she won't remember us and flee to our base instead of home, too shaken by the close call to stray far from our armor. There, on our laptop, we pore over news clips and headlines from our debut. The sight of our new face in print is even better than we imagined.
    Dr. Mortum receives a visit from Barbara, who is eager to discuss Anathema's new plans. Though she cautions Barbie to be careful, Barbie says she'll take her chances with her current boss.

    Down at Joes, Barbara pitches Rosie on a permanent position working for Anathema. Rosie is in.

    Back at Rangers HQ, Ortega questions Herald on his fitness for duty—his injuries will heal, but his judgment is still in question.

    Alone in the dark, Lady Argent pores over footage of Anathema's fights in preparation for a rematch.

    Steel chats with Ortega while he recalibrates his armor. They discuss Ortega's injuries from her fight with Anathema, their choice of career and the medical debt they'd be stuck with if they retired, and Ortega's uncharacteristic unease about the new villain wearing their old friend's name.

    The mysterious Hollow Ground receives word of a new villain in town. They opt to wait and see what this "Anathema" is made of.

    And from a suitably dramatic rooftop, the villain Anathema looks out over their city and thinks of the future.

    We explore two quick what-ifs: choosing Steel (instead of Ortega) as our nemesis, and having the chutzpah to name our villain identity Sidestep. In a longer alternate timeline, we learn what would have happened if we'd admitted to still being a telepath. In this universe, we agree to enter Lady Argent's mind and "help" her remember exactly who possessed her. We plan to pin the blame on a young girl called Locus, who is one of few telepathic heroes powerful enough to be a suspect and conveniently (for us) went missing months ago.

    We return a couple weeks later; Ortega escorts us in, and we have a brief, awkward discussion of the Heartbreak incident as we walk. After exchanging greetings and tense words with Lady Argent, playing up how nervous and out of our depth we are, we take the plunge.

    Argent's mental landscape is in turmoil, ready to snap back hard at any sign of a threat. We keep a carefully light touch as we work, projecting just enough trust for her mind to allow us passage. We take the chance to make an extra modification while we're there, a telepathic booby trap we can trigger in a pinch. Then we adjust Argent's memories of the possession to add a fleeting glimpse of Locus and embellish the regret she sensed from us to imply a young, conflicted hero's mysterious motives. We emerge drained but triumphant, Lady Argent's ire now focused on an innocent kid (sorry Locus) and no one the wiser.

    Ortega stays while we recover; in an unexpected display of thoughtfulness, she has a coffee ready for us. We deflect her offers to "talk about it" (whatever "it" is, the answer is no), then pre-empt her goodbye hug by hugging her first. As she walks us out, Ortega mentions that Herald's been asking after us… because we're his idol, apparently?? We shut this line of discussion down: Sidestep is dead, we are retired, and we need Ortega off our back until we can cut ties for good.

    (As a bonus, we skip forward to see how that telepathic booby trap works. Answer: great for us, less great for Argent.)

    For an official timeline of major historical and plot events, click here.

    For an unofficial timeline of the game's events, see below:
    −3 years
    Josie returns to Los Diablos.
    −2 years
    Josie takes an unidentified comatose body from a hospital to use as their puppet.
    0 (Start of Fallen Hero: Rebirth)
    Josie possesses Lady Argent to steal the nanovore sample from the Rangers' HQ.
    +2 weeks
    Josie steals the Rat King from Psychopathor's cannon.
    +3 weeks
    Josie runs into Ortega and visits the Rangers' HQ.
    The next morning, Barbie and Ortega meet.
    +1 month
    Barbie visits Dr. Mortum's lab to finalize the armor design, then goes out for drinks.
    +1 month, 3 weeks
    Josie tries on their armor. Ortega convinces Josie to see a therapist and keep in touch.
    A few days later, Barbie asks Dr. Mortum to the gala.
    +2 months
    Barbie attends the Heroic Heritage Museum opening gala with Dr. Mortum. Josie blows up the museum and debuts as Anathema.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2023
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  3. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    Let's get this show on the road!

    I'm going to indent my comments like this so that they don't get confused with the game text. Let me know if any of my formatting needs adjustment for readability, etc.

    Los Diablos…

    Whoever chose to rename Los Angeles after the Big One in 1980 was not far off. The quakes had ripped the entire West Coast infrastructure to shreds, destroying most of the historic districts. The San Andreas Fault had just finished rippling when the Cascadia subduction zone was triggered, and the entire coastline heaved like a shaken rug, sending tsunamis racing up and down the coast.

    The seismic upheaval awoke the slumbering Mammoth Lake system, one of the continent’s two dormant supervolcanos. Luckily—if such a word could be used for a disaster of that magnitude—the lava chamber under the dormant volcano had not filled completely, and the eruption was less disastrous than it could have been.

    What the quakes had not destroyed, the resulting tsunami drowned. And when the ash had finally stopped falling, someone had looked at the ruins of Los Angeles and decided that this was no longer a place fit for angels.

    Thus, Los Diablos was born.

    At first, the government had tried to rebuild the ravaged coastline, but aftershocks and a crashing economy forced the politicians to focus on salvaging the Heartland and the East. The Midwest had been heavily affected by the falling ash, and the resulting food rationing made riots an everyday experience.

    As the years passed, reclamation stalled. In 1992, the West Coast was finally declared a free economic zone in an attempt to incite the private industry to do what the government could not.

    No taxes. No regulations. No federal government.

    To everybody's surprise, it worked. Like the Wild West of old, the ravaged coastline attracted the adventurous and the foolhardy. Enough people wanted to live their lives without being held down by the heavy hand of big government so that the wave of refugees turned into a trickle of immigrants. Enough companies wanted to ply their trade without rules and regulations for money to flow in as well. The roads began to be repaired, and the cities, cleared of rubble.

    And, right from the start, Los Diablos proved to be a haven for the Enhanced.

    ‣ I want to learn more about the Enhanced.
    ‣ I already know. Take me to the action….

    I'll go ahead and assume you all want the exposition.

    > I want to learn more about the Enhanced.

    The so-called Hero drugs had first seen the light in the seventies—an unforeseen side-effect of an attempt to create the perfect diet pill. Corners had been cut and safety trials skipped, so the pill hit the market as a dietary supplement instead of a strictly controlled drug.

    None was shocked that there were side effects, but the nature of those effects was a different story.

    Many people died, but in some, the metabolic changes resulted in weird and wondrous transformations. The rumors became reality when a woman who could light fires with her mind demonstrated her talents on live television. The active compound was analyzed, purified, and modified until you had a drug strong enough to kill most people.

    But the few survivors became far more than they had been.

    The drug was banned, of course, declared an illegal narcotic in 1976. How many people could consider injecting something that had a roughly 95% chance of killing you or turning you into a cripple for life?

    The answer was, surprisingly many.

    They were the dreamers and the desperate, the thrill-seekers, the greedy, and the plain insane. Prices went through the roof.

    The industry went underground, and when it resurfaced, it was in the reclaimed ruins of the West. The world had to relearn what it meant to be human; it had to adjust to masked heroes and villains battling it out in colorful costumes, with bombastic names. At first, the masks had been a way to preserve anonymity; the bank-robber's mask turned into the villain's horned helmet. Soon, the masks had begun to represent something else. A new life. A new destiny.

    It was a new America, and it deserved new heroes.

    > Next

    The government tried to stem the tide, but it was too late. Putting the cat back in the box is harder than letting it out, and in the end, they just had to accept this new state of affairs. The drugs were undeniably lethal, but the military had been making enhanced humans since Vietnam. And as the research companies moved west in the nineties, the lack of regulations led to new discoveries. Progress that, admittedly, was built on human suffering—but nobody could make an omelet without cracking a few eggs.

    Cybernetics had been used by the military since the fifties, but now they became compact and better-integrated with biology; armored suits grew sleeker and less prone to breakdowns. Washington made the decision that though the West was nominally considered a Free Territory, the government had to have some presence there to deal with the increasingly violent Enhanced.

    Thus, in 1997, the Marshal system was instituted. Appointed by the president himself, the marshals were given the powers of judge and jury and sent into the West to create some semblance of order. Some were victims of the Hero drug, quickly nicknamed Boosts by the general populace. Others were rebuilt by the government or private contractors into cybernetic "enhanciles" armed with military hardware. They were heavily modified humans, their name soon shortened to Mods in the headlines of the East.

    Now the public had heroes as well as villains, and the country turned from grieving its dead to looking towards a future dragged from the comic books of the past.

    America was hiding under the blanket, reading comics with a flashlight, trying to forget the terrors of the world outside. And it worked. Nothing is more precious than a dream, and this was one that could resonate with enough people so that the trickle of immigrants moving west turned into a flood.

    New cities grew on the corpses of the old ones, and though the quakes persisted, people learned to live with them. They learned to live with the danger because there was always the thrill as well. The thrill of living in a brand-new age where men and women flew like birds and called down rain from the clouds to end the incessant droughts.

    People had a dream, and like a fool, you shared that dream. But that was then, and this is…

    > Now

    The tackle is brutal enough to tear the air from your lungs as it catapults you across the street. You just about manage to bite back the curse on your lips.

    When you curse, your expletive of choice is usually…

    ‣ …darn.
    ‣ …hell.
    ‣ …crap.
    ‣ …Christ.
    ‣ …something else.

    We'll get around to minor details like name and gender later. For now, the important question: How do we swear? (The game will accept anything, though I reserve the right to veto "the entire Navy SEAL copypasta".)
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2023
    • Like x 3
  4. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

    • Agree x 2
    • Like x 1
  5. KarrinBlue

    KarrinBlue Magical Girl Intern

    :fuckthis: as well
    • Like x 1
    • Agree x 1
  6. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    Survey says: let our hero villain say fuck.

    > …something else.

    You usually say…

    > fuck

    You'd say something like: "Fuck, this isn't good," or, "fuck!" right?

     ‣ Yes.
     ‣ No, that sounds stupid.

    > Yes.

    Fuck. That hurt more than you thought it would.

    The safety glass of the store window breaks with a sharp crack as you smack into it. Shards surround you like a crystal snowstorm as you are sent flying into the bridal store. Alarms blare to life as mannequins topple like bowling pins around you, their dismembered plastic torsos clad in extravagant dresses, flouncing like butterflies with their legs torn off.

    An all-too-familiar sight…

    Remembered bodies. Real this time. Broken on the ground. Broken by the fall. As you are about to break.

    Or is this now? Was that then?

    The memories threaten to overwhelm you, and for a moment you are not sure exactly where or who you are.

    What do you do?

     ‣ I take a moment to catch my breath and make sure nothing is broken.
     ‣ I shake my head vigorously. This is no time for memories.
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  7. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

    Well, clearly the window is broken, so that check is done already. NO TIME FOR MEMORIES.
    • Agree x 2
  8. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    Okay, we're at 3 votes to get moving and 0 votes to get our bearings, so I think I can probably call it there?

    > I shake my head vigorously. This is no time for memories.

    Up. You need to get up.

    On your feet. Make this body work.

    You know you can.

    The important thing is staying in control; you have not spent the last two years preparing yourself for this just to blow it all by letting your past mistakes get the better of you. This is far too important to allow for even the possibility of failure. At least you haven't lost your grip on the small black box you stole just minutes ago.


    Right now, that should be getting to your feet and getting out of here.

    Up. Good. You are still in one piece.

    Unfortunately, so is Herald.

    You catch a flash of his indigo suit as he flies through the already broken window. He tackles you straight through the back of the store, further into the mall.

    Fuck. Not again.

     ‣ I focus on protecting the box with my own body.
     ‣ I try to keep myself safe.
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  9. swirlingflight

    swirlingflight inane analysis and story spinning is my passion

    ‣ I try to keep myself safe. The black box is important, but this all falls apart if I fall apart.
    • Agree x 2
  10. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    3 out of 3 Kintsugijin agree: let's worry about ourselves before the box.

    > I try to keep myself safe.

    If you get knocked out, it won't matter whether you lose the box or not. As long as you're still standing, you can take it back. Twisting in the air, you manage to brace yourself at the last minute, hitting the wall with your shoulder in a tackle of your own.

    But it still hurts like hell….


    You had no idea how much it would actually hurt to be tackled through a wall. They make it look so easy on television, wooden beams splintering like cheap movie props.

    The truth is far different.

    First, the initial impact slams the air from your lungs, something not even your near-impervious skin protects you from. Then, for the briefest of moments, your body is a battleground between the momentum you have built up and the structural integrity of the wall itself.

    Compressed flesh, bone-deep bruises blossoming under tough, silver skin—and then the metal supports bend, and the pulverized concrete turns into a cloud of dust. The dust clings briefly to you before you smack into another wall and collapse there, velocity depleted.

    You never really knew, did you?

    After all, this is not even your body.

    > Unfortunately

    You always thought Lady Argent was invincible, her silver body shedding bullets like rain, slender muscles still strong enough to punch through walls.

    You saw her fight on illegal video feeds and officially sanctioned propaganda. Always cocky. Always direct. Always with a predatory smile on her face. She was the perfect woman of silvery steel, and none of you ever caught a hint of how much it actually hurt, doing the things she did.

    Not until now, when you are hiding inside her skin, when you feel every single bruise, do you realize that this was what she always hid from the cameras.

    Her invulnerability came at a price.

    She could still feel everything because you certainly can now. The pale blue skinsuit glued to her form protects and supports, but does little to dampen. You can feel broken masonry digging into your back, and you have to get up.

    You have to get up now before you lose control of her.

     ‣ My will is strong enough to control her; I will not allow myself to fail.
     ‣ I am cleverer than she; I run her body, but trap her mind.

    How do we keep control over a superhero's mind? Sheer force of will, or delicate manipulation?
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  11. swirlingflight

    swirlingflight inane analysis and story spinning is my passion

    ‣ I am cleverer than she; I run her body, but trap her mind. (My will is strong, but if she's been keeping herself in action while in this kind of pain, so is hers.)
  12. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    Of course we would never try to control such a powerful will through brute force. As a psychic, our methods require a more delicate touch.

    > I am cleverer than she; I run her body, but trap her mind.

    It only takes a moment to shift her emerging thoughts into another nightmare loop. As long as you can keep her mind asleep, her sleepwalking body is yours to control. She is not like a normal puppet; you don't dare let her mind get even close to waking.

    You've caught a tiger by the tail; now you just have to keep her from realizing that.

    Easier said than done.

    You can't tap into her memories or her true skills, and so you are left a stumbling marionette: a bungler hijacking the brain of one of the most powerful women on the West Coast.

    It's true that you were a good hand-to-hand fighter back when you played the hero game, but never like her.

    You wish. Things would have been very different.

    When you were on the side of angels, you didn't use your telepathic powers to possess people; instead, you read surface thoughts and mapped intentions. You knew when somebody would take a shot, and you would just choose to be elsewhere. If someone thought about punching you, you made sure to dodge. You wove illusions and distractions to keep up with the best; you used guns and technological toys, everything you could, to hide the fact that you were physically just a normal, well-trained human. You always had to have a back-up plan….

    > You Don't Have One Now

    It takes every ounce of your power and skill to keep her mind in check, to piggyback her nightmares, to keep her unaware that this is really happening. That she really is fighting a fellow Ranger.

    Or rather, that you are.

    Everything had gone so perfectly right up until Herald showed up. Lady Argent was one of the Rangers, so she had clearance to remove things from their vault. And with the fake replacement in place, nobody would know that anything had been stolen unless they specifically looked in that particular container.

    And then Herald had spotted her on the way out, and you panicked, hit him, and made a run for it. Not your best moment.

    A very delicate touch.

    Five blocks later, here you are.

    "What has gotten into you, Argent?" Herald asks, as you wobble unsteadily. He sounds worried.

    He should be.

     ‣ I smile threateningly; he should be afraid of me.
     ‣ I try for my best Argent impersonation.
     ‣ I just punch the asshole.
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  13. KarrinBlue

    KarrinBlue Magical Girl Intern

    ‣ I try for my best Argent impersonation
  14. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    Hey guys, this isn't an update (the current choice on how to handle Herald is still open), but I want to get your opinions on something.

    We're coming up on the physical appearance portion of character creation. This involves like six choices in short succession (gender presentation, apparent race, eye color, hair color/style…), and I don't want to force anyone to sit through a week of describing ourselves in the mirror unless you're into that, so I'm trying to decide how to handle it.

    Off the top of my head, I could…

    A) …show you all the choices, then give you some time to discuss ideas and reach a majority opinion on which to go with. This is probably the most fun option if you enjoy designing video game characters, and the least fun if the prospect fills you with dread and decision paralysis.
    B) …put up polls for all six choices at once, then pick the winning option from each one. This could result in something everyone's happy with or a mishmash of options literally no one envisioned (which is either a bug or a feature).
    C) …just go through the choices one at a time like usual. I'm fine with this if it's what people actually prefer; I just don't want to dump it on the unsuspecting.
    D) something else?

    So if you have a preference for/against any of these options, please let me know! (Or if you have opinions on how I handle choices in general, really; I'm figuring this out entirely as I go and have only the vaguest sense of what I'm doing.)​
    • Like x 1
  15. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    Let's put those powers of manipulation to good use. Herald won't suspect a thing.

    > I try for my best Argent impersonation.

    You almost smile at how close he gets to the truth because something has gotten into her, in fact.


    "Are you okay?" His voice is tinged with worry as he glides closer, feet just inches from the ground.

    "I'm not…please…" you mumble through Lady Argent's uncooperative lips.

    It's enough of a struggle to control her actions, and fine motor skills like speech normally require you to let your puppet hover close to wakefulness so you can access their memories and speech patterns. This is something you don't dare to do with her because you have a feeling that giving her an inch might mean losing her altogether. Hurting Herald's feelings is simply not worth it.

    Too bad, because Herald really needs to be taken down a peg.

    You never liked him and his tousled blond hair and picture-perfect smile, always ready for the cameras. You never liked him, and you had dismissed him as unsuitable for possession for that reason—because the sad truth is that, as a telepath, emotions influence you far too readily. Lady Argent was the better choice by far.

    Now, how best to make him pay?

     ‣ I lure him close and wait for an opening.
     ‣ I rush him and try to take him out fast.
     ‣ I let him attack and wait for an opening.
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  16. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

  17. keltena

    keltena putting the fun in executive dysfunction

    > I lure him close and wait for an opening.

    "Please, Argent, I'm sorry. Is that what you want to hear? We can talk about this."

    Herald hovers a few inches above the rubble, trying to reason with a woman who is no longer there. You wonder what exactly he thinks he has done to make her mad enough to do this. Trouble in paradise?

    You almost feel bad for the poor sap as you feign weakness and confusion, stumbling to your knees in the rubble.

    He is on the ground and at your side a moment later.

    It's no secret that he and Lady Argent are lovers, and for a moment, worry overwhelms caution. He doesn't even gasp when your punch hits him squarely in the groin; he just wheezes a little and falls over, curled up in a ball of unimaginable pain.

    This is exactly why you should never date coworkers.

    Now that is a satisfying sight if you ever saw one.

    Oh, if only you dared to spare the focus to say something clever. But she is strong and her subconscious is fighting you, so you need to break this off fast. You are not here to fight, after all.

    The box is safe and whole, and that is the important part.

    ‣ There is always room for one more kick.
    ‣ No time for petty vengeance.

    Maybe we can't spare the focus for a one-liner, but one kick would probably get our message across, right? If we felt like it.
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  18. KarrinBlue

    KarrinBlue Magical Girl Intern

    No time for petty vengeance
    • Agree x 2
    • Like x 1
  19. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

    We are a PROFESSIONAL ex-heroic villain, dammit.
    • Agree x 2
    • Like x 1
  20. vuatson

    vuatson [delurks]

    time to gtfo!
    • Like x 1
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