Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Sometimes When We Awaken

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

The first thing that registered in my fuzzy brain was the sunlight. It streamed in through the window instead of the skylight, which told me I hadn’t wasted too much of the day. Not that I had terribly much to do these days. Sleeping through one still felt like a waste. Just one of those things that stuck with me after I stopped listening to my parents.

It also prompted me to lay there for a few more minutes. This usually led to me dozing off for twenty or thirty minutes, sometimes an hour or more. Not this morning. My eyelids still felt heavy with sleep, but I knew they weren’t going to fully close again. Instead I lay there unmoving, watching the little slice of the sky through the bedroom nook window and listening to the sounds of the morning on the street below and futilely trying to cling to scraps of the dream that I’d been having. It was an unusually long one, as far as dreams go. I was trying to collect something from inside of people, some kind of energy or essence, so that I could escape…

I was already too awake for too long. It had all but  slipping away completely.  Just the basic idea remained.

As consciousness firmly wormed its way into my head for good, I realized that the fuzziness I felt  wasn’t confined to my brain. It felt like my entire body had “fallen asleep” but without the tingling, just the numbness. Maybe it has something to do with me being on my stomach. I rarely slept that way. Usually I curled up into a fetal position. Not this morning. On my stomach, arms underneath my pillow, tangled up in the sheets and the nightshirt I’d been wearing.

Funny, didn’t feel like my sleep had been that restless. Except for the numbness, I felt like I’d gotten a pretty solid sleep, even if it was only a few hours.

Now that I was 100% certain I wouldn’t be going back to sleep, it was pointless to stay in bed any longer. I rolled over on to my side and swung my legs around and over the edge of the bed. I sat up and stretched, feeling around the floor with my feet for my slippers. Couldn’t find them. No big deal, probably on the other side. They weren’t a regular habit for me. I prefer to go barefoot, anyway.

I shuffled over to the window and stretched again, joints popping in their familiar ways. The weird feeling in my body lingered. Now that I was more or less fully awake, it didn’t feel like a numbness. More like a slight temperature, even though I otherwise felt fine.  My skin wasn’t warm or clammy, just felt like skin. A slight headache too, but those are so normal for me that I put them off almost immediately.

There was something else I couldn’t put my finger on. A feeling I had in the back of my head plus the sensation of my body added up to something I just couldn’t put my finger on. I tried to dismiss it with the usual excuse of not enough sleep, but that didn’t feel right. And it only got worse as I looked out the window and onto the morning traffic below. Everything looked like it ought to, like just another day. Cars and people off to do whatever it is they did in the morning. But the more I looked…

“Something doesn’t feel right,” I announced to the world.

“What doesn’t feel right?”

I turned around to see her sticking her head out of the bathroom, running a brush through her hair. I shook my head.

“Dunno. Kinda what I meant by ‘something’,” I said, walking back over towards the bed. “I sleep okay?”

She shrugged and continued brushing her hair, stepping out of the bathroom. “Sure, far as I could tell. Maybe something you ate?”

I shook my head again. “Not a stomach thing, or a head thing. More like a body thing. Can’t really describe it.”

She nodded absently and brushed her hair out some more. I watched her for awhile; brushing her hair, walking over to the nightstand for her scrunchie, putting her hair up in a loose ponytail and softly humming the whole  time. Even in her self-styled Laundry Day clothes, she had a quiet grace to her that I’d never thought much about before.

That thought irritated me for some reason. What irritated me more was that I don’t know why that irritated me. When she’d finished with her hair, I looked up at her and asked, “How long have we been together?”

She looked at me over her shoulder with a smirk. “Long enough for you to forget, apparently. Why?”

That answer perturbed me more. The odd numbness in my whole body flared up some. I stood up, and was greeted by a low buzzing in my head. No worse than the small headache, but definitely not helping my overall mood.

“I need a cigarette,” I announce to no one in particular, walking out of the bedroom nook and into the living room.

“Since when do you smoke?”

I stooped in my tracks and threw her a scowl. The look on her face wasn’t accusatorial, nor was it playful. It was genuine curiosity. Calm, non-judgmental curiosity. And for no good reason, it made me that much more out of sorts.

“What do you mean, since when?” I asked, not bothering to keep the edge out of my voice. “Since I was a kid, but now only when I really feel like having one. And I really feel like having one, okay?”

She frowned slightly, but not in any way that made me feel like she disapproved of my answer. “Well, it’s been awhile since then, I guess. Want me to run downstairs and get you a pack?”

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It didn’t help whatever I was feeling in my body, but it took the edge off of my emotional outburst. “Yeah, sure,” I said, adding a faint smile to my words to let her know I wasn’t angry. “Wallet should be in my pants.”

She nodded and found them at the edge of the bed. She took out a ten and shoved it in her pocket, stepped down from the nook and over to me. She slipped a hand around my waist and kissed me on the cheek.

“Don’t wait up for me, okay?” she said with a grin.

I grinned back and shook my head as she walked out. The corner store was right across the street. I’d have to worry about going to bed without her for quite a bit longer, longer than it would take her to get back. But it did give me enough time to myself to try and sort things out.

I walked over to the kitchen area in search of something to shove into my face. There was no coffee made, but that wasn’t shocking. I rarely drank it and she usually only made enough for herself. Opened the fridge and found a soda. No diet, though. Must’ve had the last of it last night. Oh well. Maybe the caffeine-sugar bomb would be enough to jolt my system out of whatever funk I was in. Found a granola bar, wolfed down half of it in two bites and washed it down with a healthy swig of soda. It rumbled a bit on my empty stomach, but it didn’t feel like there was any danger of it coming back up.

With something resembling food in my stomach, I walked back into the living room. The sun hadn’t hit the skylight yet, which was nice. Gave the one-room apartment a bright light without the added heat. Perfect working time in Summer, and the perfect excuse in Winter to stay snuggled up beneath the covers for a couple extra hours.

Thinking of work, I shoved the rest of the granola bar in my mouth and shuffled over to the canvas set up in what was supposed to be the dining nook. Neither of us were the type for a traditional sit down meal, and this saved me from having to rent out a studio somewhere.

At first I’d come over to stare at the half-finished piece and perhaps gather up the mental capacity to whack at it some more with my brushes. But the longer I stared, the worse I felt. And it wasn’t the sugar overdose ‘breakfast’. What started out as a mild numbness had become something akin to a hangover without the nasty headache that usually came with it.

Then it finally hit me full force. I had no idea what I was looking at. I didn’t recognize a single stroke on the canvas. I couldn’t remember putting a single one down. I couldn’t even remember being an artist.

Confusion was having its way with my brain and panic was not far behind when the front door opened and closed behind me.  I turned around and watched her put the change on the kitchen island I suddenly couldn’t remember having ever made a single meal on and then walk over and sit down on the couch I couldn’t remember having ever sat on.

“What… the hell is going on?” I asked, not sure if the shakiness in my voice was just in my head or not.

She gave me a quizzical look and answered, “I went to the store to get you smokes, remember? I wasn’t gone that long, was I?”

I was standing on the other end of the couch from her now, looking down at her and the cigarettes in her hand. Another wave of confusion and numbness washed over me. I’d never seen that brand before. I was far from an aficionado of cigarettes, but I recognize most of the brands available and I had never seen this one before.

“What the hell are those?” I demanded.

She furrowed her brow, looking confused herself now. “You want me to get you something else?” she asked, genuinely worried.

“No!” I shouted, making her cringe a little. I instantly felt like shit for doing it. I sat down, tilted my head all the way back against the top of the seat and covered my face with my hands.  “I just… want to know… what the hell… is going on….”

She didn’t answer right away. I took several deep breaths and the numbness subsided a little. I slid my hands away from my face and finally looked her in the eye. She was looking back at me with the same calmness as when I first snapped at her about my smoking.

“What do you want me to tell you?” she asked just as calmly.

I scowled again and said, “Just tell me the damned truth. Like, who the hell are you?”

There was a pregnant pause before she answered,  “Who do you want me to be?”

I finally lost it. With a hoarse shout that filled the apartment, I flung the cushion across the room and into the painting. I stood up and stomped over to the step up to the bedroom nook and clutched at my hair with both hands, hyperventilating.

I don’t know how long I stood there like that. All I knew was that I couldn’t face her in that fit of rage. Whoever she was, whatever all of this was, I knew deep down that she wasn’t the cause and didn’t deserve my anger. When I finally calmed down enough, I turned around. She was still sitting at the end of the couch, looking back at me. She hadn’t been crying and there was no moisture in her eyes, but her expression was one of infinite sadness that damn near broke my heart.

Slowly, I walked back over to the far end of the couch and just stood there, my body as numb as ever. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Just… you can start by being someone who doesn’t answer my questions with more damn questions.  Who. Are. You?”

She didn’t answer right away, simply looking at me past my eyes and into my soul. Finally, she spoke in just above a whisper, “I don’t know.”

Her answer shocked me more than any other thing she could have said, I think. All I could do right then was sit down on the far end of the couch, looking at her watching me.

When I found my voice, I asked, “What do you mean, you don’t know? How can you not know who you are?”

“Because you never told me.”

Her answer made my head spin. A firm grip on the top of the seat kept me from standing up and stomping off again in confusion. “Just tell me…” I said through gritted teeth.

“I’ve been with you from the start,” she answered in a quiet but steady voice. Almost soothing. “Whenever you had an idea that needed me, I was there. Sometimes to play a part, sometimes to be the lead. But it was always me. Speaking the words you wanted me to speak. Doing whatever it was you wanted me to do. Being the girl you needed me to be.”

She looked down at her hands, now clasped over her stomach. “You used to talk back to me, when you were younger. Play out your ideas together. And sometimes when you just needed someone who would listen. You rarely do that anymore. I don’t mind. Like I said, I’m what you need me to be.”

I stared at her for quite some time in silence. I knew everything she said to be true, even though  I’d never heard it before. I looked around the apartment, then back to her. “So where are we?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know that, either.”

“Because I never told you…”

“No, that’s not it,” she replied. “I’ve always known before. It was always somewhere inside of you, no matter where we were. Not this time.  I was with you here, so as far as I knew that’s where we were.”

I furrowed my brow. “When did you figure out…”

“That it wasn’t inside you?” she finished. “When I stepped outside. Because there was an outside. Not just an abstract idea of what outside would be wherever we were, but a real outside. At first I thought it was something new you were trying…” she looked back up at me,  a hint of sadness still in her eyes . “…now I know you’re as lost as I am.”

The numbness in my body had mellowed to a mellow buzz, like a caffeine high without the energy. Whoever she was, I knew she was telling the truth. I trusted her.  But there was one more question I had to ask. “Am I still asleep?”

Again, she shook her head. “No, you’re awake. I know that much. Do you… remember anything about before you went to sleep?”

I leaned my head back and thought for a moment. “Nothing especial. I’d been up all night, trying to get something out but nothing was coming to me. It was morning when I finally laid down and still morning.” I looked up at the skylight, and the sun was just starting to peek through it. “Still morning here, so I figured I was only out for a couple of hours…”

“Try twenty-four.”

I looked back down at her and blinked. She had a faint smile on her face, but I could tell she wasn’t joking. “A whole day?” I asked, and she nodded. “That’s… never happened to me before. But you said I’m not still dreaming, so that still raises the question as to where the hell I am.”

“We are,” the two of us corrected simultaneously, making us both laugh and ease some of the tension.

She sighed and looked around the apartment. “I really have no idea. But it is nice, wherever it is. I wouldn’t mind staying here as long as we can.”

I nodded and smiled my first genuine happy smile since waking up. I had no idea how any of this had happened, how long it would last or if it would ever happen again. I had been given a gift, and I intended to enjoy it for as long as I could, and enjoy the memory of it for much longer.

I never did give her a name. Didn’t feel the need to.

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Now we come to the third and final post in this series. While I’ve had a plethora of other characters over the eight years (that still blows my mind, sometimes) of City of Heroes—some fantastic, some regrettable but  all memorable—these ‘Baker’s Dozen’ are the ones that have been the most richly developed, through both good times and bad. Some of them have had other incarnations previous to Paragon City and the Rogue Isles, and some will have more incarnations to come. They’re all a part of me, for better or for worse.

Thanks to everyone who’s read these words, and even bigger thanks to those that shared in the memories. I know I won’t soon forget them, or you.

—C


Krasniy Oktyabr

KrasniyAleksandr Stanislav remained with the CCCP as an acting Commissar for the first few years after the Praetorian  War. Many were unsure how long he’d last with his advancing Alzheimer’s, but thought it best to keep him in familiar surrounding for as long as possible.

As it turned out, Aleksandr wasn’t suffering from Alzheimer’s. His loss of memory and slow deterioration of motor skills was due to someone else being inside of his head: Unit K, the entity he had become while enslaved within the Clockwork Mind, was awakening from a dormant state. When finally able to communicate, Unit K said it had no desire to harm Aleksandr and agreed to do anything to save the old man’s life, even terminating itself. No one wanted that to happen either, least of all Aleksandr.

Using a brand of science that can only be described as ‘mad’, Petrovich,  Aleksandr’s brother Levka and his niece Tasha devised a new home for Unit K, psychically transferring the entity into an anonymously-donated Kheldian bud and housing it inside a robotic shell made to look like one of the Clockwork, where it acted as both brain and battery.

Unit K remained in the care of the CCCP when Aleksandr retired from it a few years later. Aleksandr returned to Volgograd to be close to his family, and was given an honorary rank of Captain by the Ministry of Defense for his years of service in Paragon City.  Aleksandr quietly lives out his retirement giving lectures on campaign strategy at the military academy he attended, occasional handyman work and visiting his niece Nataliya.


Nova Requiem

Haunting Aria

nova_ariaWith all the chaos brought on by the Praetorian war, Aria made one last all-or-nothing attempt to gain the love of her ‘sister’ Nataliya Novakovski all for herself, by destroying everyone Nataliya loved or corrupting them against her. To accomplish this, Aria used her awakened psychic abilities to steal Nataliya’s memories and implant her own, then smuggled Nataliya into the Rogue Isles where she would take Aria’s place as her, wreaking havoc as the ‘evil clone’ while the real clone was in Paragon City enacting her plan. Aria enlisted the aid of Rhikki Ryan to watch over Nataliya and use her own considerable psychic abilities to ensure that Nataliya would remained convinced she was Aria while Aria went about destroying the life, loves and reputation of Nova Requiem and Nataliya Novakovski.

Before Aria could do more than lay the groundwork for her plan, something completely unexpected happened: instead of simply carrying Nataliya’s memories to help in her plot, the morals, ethics and most importantly the emotional connections that Nataliya had made with people in Paragon City started to merge with and surpass Aria’s own. She was still Aria, but now she completely understood why her sister had done everything she had, why she loved the people she did and they in return loved her. Once it had become an inseparable part of herself, Aria couldn’t and wouldn’t destroy any of it.

But some damage had already been done. Just as Nataliya’s memories had become part of Aria, so too did Aria’s memories overpower Nataliya. She was Haunting Aria, except far more dangerous as she had never truly learned to control her mutant life-stealing powers and deadly sonic screams. While Nataliya’s memories remained buried deep within her, Rhikki informed Aria that the ‘takeover’ had been so extensive that there was no way to reverse what had been done without permanently damaging Nataliya’s brain and leaving her a vegetable. This was something Aria was also unwilling to do. The only thing Aria could do was to take Nataliya’s place permanently. Aria returned to Paragon City, from then on politely insisting that everyone use the diminutive form of her sister’s name, Tasha, since she would never truly be Nataliya.

Much to everyone’s surprise, “Tasha” suddenly switched majors from Music Theory to Medicine and Life Sciences. She earned her Doctorate in record time, blazed through her internship and then devoted her life to treating metahuman illnesses and injuries with the aid of her mutant gift of kinetisynthesis, becoming known around the world as ‘Surgeon to the Supers’. All of this she did for the sole purpose of being able to finally fix the damage she had done to her sister.

The procedure was a bittersweet success. Nataliya’s mind was freed from its prison, but too much time had passed and “Aria” could not be removed. Nataliya was moved to a private psychiatric hospital near Volgograd, where she could be close to her family  and get the best care money could buy, the hospital now receiving funding from Llwelco on  behalf of her uncle Aleksandr (whom Aria had confessed everything to, being the only family Nataliya had during her stay in Paragon City) and anonymously from Aria’s substantial salary.  Nataliya now lives out her life randomly slipping back and forth between the dual personalities in her head—kind and forgiving Nataliya and violent and sociopathic Aria—permanently hooked to an IV of potent power-suppressing drugs that also leaves her heavily sedated and unable to walk but free from constraints that kept her deadly voice and touch in check.

The only other person in the world aware of this delicate masquerade is Aria’s lover Ashley Maynard, to whom she couldn’t lie about it even if she had wanted to. To everyone else— her friends, family and even the love of her life Gabriel St. Thomas—Aria is and always will be Tasha Novakovski, sharing with her sister the memories of love and happiness that she deserves.


Doctor Zen

DocZenAt the conclusion of the Praetorian War, the enigmatic man known only as Doctor Zen (and occasionally ‘The Other Keet’ by those who were ignorant to his ways, which was pretty much everyone) vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared all those years ago, but not anywhere near as loudly or obnoxiously.

Very few people even noticed the Doctor’s departure. The war brought countless casualties on all sides, and those that even remembered him figured he was simply one of them. All anyone knew for certain was that his psychedelic pants, rants about Nemesis stealing his socks and cryptic gibberish about ‘The Author’ were only a memory. The only person to have any kind of contact after the war was Maya Collier, who returned home shortly before her own disappearance to find the familiar, well-worn fedora of by far and away the weirdest person she had ever called a friend waiting for her on her couch.

The last reported sighting of Doctor Zen was in Ouroboros, looking Mender Silos square in the eye and asking, “Seriously, man, why that chin?”


A continuation of Part I. No, I don’t have character called Captain Obvious.

The name was already taken.


Yesteryear Titan

Ol’ Daddy Long Legs

YesteryearTitanNot long after Rosie Raina’s transformation, Reginald Butler decided he really was getting too old for this kind of superhero nonsense.  He devoted his time to being the best godfather he could be for the girl as she grew up.

He never retired the magic girdle which gave him his strength and invulnerability, instead putting it to other uses besides “bashing about.” He lent his muscle to the efforts to rescue the surviving civilians and Carnival of Light from Praetoria after its destruction, then later began working full-time for one of the construction companies rebuilding Overbrook and other areas of Paragon City damaged in the Praetorian War.

ODLLReggie did make one final go at being a hero, attempting to free his half-brother Augustus Bernard Crenshaw from Arachnos’ clutches. One of the first Crab Spiders ever created, Arachnos had been keeping the old man in service because they were unable to duplicate the effect of the super serum prototype he’d been given, and were using his blood as a template for further experiments.

It was a Pyrrhic victory at best. Even though Reggie was able to beat back everything Arachnos threw at him with ease, Bernie simply didn’t want to go. He knew damn well what Arachnos was doing, but the Rogue Isles were his home. He had nowhere else to go. Not knowing what else to do, Reggie made a Devil’s Deal with Marshal Blitz and had Bernie taken to Warburg where he could at least be with other former Arachnos soldiers like himself, in exchange for continued experimentations to help find a cure for the Marshal’s cancer. As long as they keep the old soldier in Dominican cigars, he’s just fine with the arrangement.


Shattered Star

ShatteredStarDespite having an onboard AI program literally a hundred years beyond any modern technology specifically tasked with plotting shifts in the space-time continuum, the Praetorian War was a complete blindside to Sarah Masterson. She was so focused on the Rikti threat that she simply never saw it coming. While she was able to help the fight on the streets of Praetoria and its hidden Wards, the war was over before she had the opportunity to help take the fight to the Praetors.

RisenStarShe did, however, discover that there was another version of herself existing in Praetoria, one that had been found by Praetor Berry, fixed up and made into a loyal soldier. The technological advances that were made because of her Praetorian self were disturbing. Shattered Star tasked herself with tracking down other dimensions that had other versions of herself that had fallen backward through time in order to prevent anything like that happening again. After extensive searching with Portal Corp’s help, only one other such concurrence was found, one whose life had been saved by a Kheldian when she had been violently thrown back in time and had left Earth to fend off the approach of Battalion with the Peacekeepers.

With nothing left to do and her own future timeline irreparably altered, Sarah donated all the money  she had saved over the years to Priam Laboratories in return for the laborious process of undoing her full cyborg conversion. The process took nearly two decades even with their bleeding edge technology,  but Sarah was able to live out her autumn years once again as the flesh and blood woman she was born as.


Agent Delta

DeltaStephen Deltano had been on the front lines of the Praetorian War from the moment it has started, and he was there to see Emperor Cole’s downfall along with countless metas that had answered the call to end the war once and for all. For all of his efforts, he  was given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and a complete exoneration of all past records. But none of that changed the fact that he was still dying.

The radioactive isotope he had been poisoned with by the Agency had destabilized his mutant plasma generating ability almost beyond repair. The biosignature suit developed by Miranda Garren and DTP only delayed the inevitable. Deltano was literally a walking, ticking nuclear time bomb. Something radical had to be done.

Deltano decided to undergo an extremely dangerous open heart surgery, replacing his fusion reactor of a heart with an artificial one of his own design using parts of advanced technology (and, though he told no one, a few bits of magic as well) he had salvaged during the war. By all rights, it shouldn’t have worked, least of all at the size of a human heart. And it might not have if the operation hadn’t gone south fast and Miranda hadn’t broken their pact to keep the operation a complete secret and called Dr. Bella Parker in to help—who was absolutely livid that she hadn’t been there from the beginning.

The reason for all the secrecy was the Agency. Deltano knew that if they caught wind that he was out of the picture, even temporarily, that they’d use that as all the excuse they needed to declare the contract he’d bartered with them years ago  null and void, as would be the lives of everyone under his command. To that end, Deltano talked his best friend and second-in-command Charlie Duke into pulling the most insane long con they’d ever pulled: his Praetorian self, whom Charlie had discovered when she joined the Resistance there, would masquerade as Agent Delta until he could make a full recovery.

ArbiterThough the operation was a success and the artificial heart saved his life, Delta’s plasma-generating ability and super speed were greatly diminished. He took this as a cue to step down from active field work and run things more ‘behind the scenes’.  After tendering a rather explosive resignation of his Arachnos Arbiter position—a robot duplicate made by Jinlan Wu in his Arbiter armor, stuffed to the brim with C4 and marched into the Watchtower—Deltano had a yacht constructed (with some very discreet funding from several companies operating out of Paragon City) to serve as a mobile command center for the entire NWO. Now free from any jurisdictional boundaries, Deltano is free to strike out against the Agency with his full might, as well as expand their mercenary services to a global audience. His Praetorian counterpart still works for him out in the field with Charlie Duke with no one the wiser that he’s literally in two places at once.

There’s a rumor amongst certain circles that Deltano’s surreptitious trips to Paragon City to visit Miranda Garren involve more than a friendly cup of coffee. Neither of them have been willing to discuss it.

Even though the closing of City of Heroes is several months past, this is a project I’ve been wanting to do since my friend Leah posted a page regarding the fates of her characters. I’ve had the pleasure of playing and writing with her, and I thought this was a fitting tribute and send-off. So without further ado, part one of me doing the same thing. Enjoy.

(P.S. I realize a lot of you have little to no context for this. There’s up to eight years of back story for some of these characters. For those of you that do know them, thanks for all the great memories.)


Minty Fresh/ Starlight Mint

Minty & CandyFollowing the destruction of her original cybernetic body to save her friends, Minty’s caretaker James Master was able to use a combination of her sole surviving positronic fragment, the Kheldian energy he’d collected off of her over the years and a bud from the Kheldian Kyne as a blank template to create a brand new being: a reborn Candace Stroeber with all of her original memories intact. The Murdocks took Candace in to their apartment building, giving her a place close by where they could both watch over her and give her the much-needed guidance necessary to harness and control her Kheldian powers.  Candace later joined the Young Champions until she reached adulthood, where she then made a modest living writing children’s songs.

The Carnival of Light had had the foresight to make a complete back-up of Minty Fresh’s schematics (something James had never done)  and with their help a completely robotic Minty Fresh was rebuilt with her original personality. She remains with the Carnival of Light to this day, patrolling its streets and dispensing her childlike innocence and joy—and candy-flavored justice.


Crashin’ Byrne

ByrneThe Praetorian War created a boom for Paddock Industries. Helping to rebuild the city created jobs which in turn expanded production.  Criofan Byrne decided to focus his efforts within the company for the next few years, finishing his Doctorate in Psychology as well as a Bachelor’s in Business, eventually becoming head of HR. Through the natural attrition of board members, Criofan became a majority shareholder in the company on the board of directors and found himself to be a reasonably wealthy man because of it. Still he takes a very passive role in the company, preferring to let others “get on with runnin’ the joint.”

The war had also decimated the ranks of the Alliance of Champions. Many of its heroes had died or were missing in action. Crashin’ Byrne took the reins as ersatz leader of the AoC after the war, but only did what was necessary to keep the group together until they could rebuild themselves and select a proper leader.  He declined any nominations for the position and retained  a senior advisor role for the leaders to come.

The alien bio-metal that Vanessa Paddock grafted to Criofan after his rescue from the Rikti eventually achieved a perfect symbiosis with his body; the metal took on the appearance and malleability of his natural flesh while remaining as strong as impervium.

Criofan and Callie Smythe stayed together for several years but with the aftermath of the war and Criofan’s responsibilities they eventually drifted apart, but remain close friends. His one and only regret in life is not telling Amaya Collier how he really felt about her before her disappearance.


Kuraitaka

KuraitakaThe alien assassin-turned-Night Widow spent many years with her companion Willa Pottinger (Jamaican Blaze) searching around the world for the ones responsible for the destruction of the Infiltrators’ base and deaths of many of its members. They would occasionally take on mercenary work, mostly through Stephen Deltano’s organization,  when needing to resupply but mostly the pair kept to themselves and their self-appointed task.

After several years of nothing but false leads  and dead ends, the pair accepted the Infiltrators’ fate as an unsolvable mystery. With no clear direction ahead of them, Willa convinced Kuraitaka to begin searching for a way back to her home world. Kuraitaka and Willa remain inseparable friends as they travel through dimensional portals both magical and technological looking for Kuraitaka’s world. Though in her heart, Kuraitaka has accepted the notion that her true home is wherever she and her only true friend are together.


Silent Shrike/Aly MacIntyre

Shrike & AlyThe influx of Praetorian refugees after the war created no small amount of work for the Paragon Police Department. While Brickstown dealt with the majority of the metas, a record number of new “residents” came to Kings Row. This hit the KRPD doubly hard, as both the precinct and the Cape & Cowl Division were kept constantly busy policing their own backyard and liaising with Vanguard in Bricktown over all the new “capes” in Paragon City helping them out.

For the first few years after the war’s end, Aly’s work as a detective and liaison kept her so busy that she rarely had the time or energy to don the mantle of the Silent Shrike.  By the time things settled down enough for everyone to sleep on a regular schedule again, much of her ambition to continue vigilante work had gone.

Aly remains in the apartment where she spent her years as the Silent Shrike, living with her boyfriend Jakob Dalh and his Kheldian symbiont Errys. Though they had many rough patches at first, over time the three of them have reached a stable point. Often Aly doesn’t think of them as two separate people, and because of the unique nature of the Kheldian/Human bond, even they are slowly losing the distinction with each other. Though they decided to never formally marry, Aly and JD/Errys are inseparable. They also decided to forgo having children of their own in favor of adopting one of the many Row children in need of a home. Secretly, Aly has vowed to never pass on the burden of the Silent Shrike to a new generation, it having nearly killed both her and her mother when they carried the bow.

Although Aly never got to realize her dream of snowboarding in the Winter Olympics, she still competes in the National Pro circuit.


Junsei Kuragari/Shinsei Kuragari

JunseiShortly before the outbreak of the Praetorian War, Junsei Kuragari, avatar of Izanami and then Headmistress of St. Raven’s Academy for Troubled Youth, killed one of her students in what witnesses called a ‘fit of rage’. She vanished soon afterwards and everyone simply assumed she had chosen to disappear like every other previous Headmaster of the school, due to the fact that said student was an Arachnos operative. The truth was far more complex. Izanami, like most of the old gods, span multiple dimensions and is weaker in some than in others.  She sent her Chosen Daughter to a dimension where Mot’s resurrection  and absorption of Diabolique would severely threaten Her hold on the Underworld and death itself without a direct presence in the form of an avatar.

Alone is a strange dimension, Junsei attempted to create a new St. Raven’s Academy, but it was a fruitless task. There was a version of her one and only friend Rhikki Ryan in this dimension, but not having gone through the same ordeals as her counterpart with Junsei’s friendship, she let her ego dominate her actions and never accepted Junsei as an equal, let alone a friend. However, keeping Mot’s destruction contained kept Junsei occupied and eventually she returned to being as cold and cruel as the goddess of death she personified.

However, Izanami had grown fond of the Rhikki that had been left without her friend. After the Academy’s headmistress vanished, Westin Phipps called in every favor he was owed and then some to have St. Raven’s dissolved. He “compassionately” took in the students of his choosing to Haven House, and left the rest to their fates. Many of them were old enough to enroll in Aeon University at this point and many of them, including Rhikki, banded together to create a program in which their younger peers would be monitored by them through the University.

ShinseiIt was after this that a new girl appeared by the name of Mariko (Shinsei Kuragari), an exact physical duplicate of Junsei, except with a mind modeled after the girl Junsei used to be before her death.  She met with Rhikki and after an uncertain start, Rhikki accepted Mariko as the friend Junsei had been. Izanami later revealed to Rhikki the truth about Mariko, and that she was a ‘seed’ for a new avatar if the need should arise. In the meantime, Mariko continues to work at Aeon University in Arcane Studies, working with Rhikki to thwart Westin Phipps whenever they can and keep the spirit of St. Raven’s Academy alive.