Sunday, June 24, 2007

Paladin, the Techno-Knight #0

Paladin Origins

Ever since Charlemagne “Charlie” McInnis could remember, his father, a medeival history professor, would tell him tall tales of the adventures of chivalry and knighthood. Young Charlie was enthralled by their exploits, and their sworn duty to protect the weak against those who would use them evily. Charlie loved all of the tales, from Arthur and the Knights of the Round to Ivanhoe to Robin Hood to tales of secret societies and the Knights Templar. But his favorite tales were those of the great king Charlemagne and his 12 Paladins.

As Charlie grew older, it was apparent that he possesed a great intellect and a natural aptitude for science, a gift that eventually allowed Charlie to attend one of the premier scientific universities in the country.

While in college at MIT, Charlie started working on the project that would change his life forever. Alarmed by the rise of all of the “superpowered” individuals and especially the relative inability of standard police forces to deal with the increased threat, Charlie started developing a mobile weapons and protection platform to help give the edge back to the forces of Law and Order. Thus was the beginning of the powered armor that would eventually be known as one of the premier standards in law enforcement, the Paladin Armor.

In a related line of research, Charlie started to look for ways in which the interface for the armor could link directly to the wearers brain, making the armor a true extention of the wearers will. The most promising line of research was in nanotechnology. Alas, Charlie sponsors did not share his enthusiasm for injecting human soldiers and police with nanotechnology. Frustrated by their unwillingness to authorize further nanotech testing, Charlie proceeded by injecting himself with a wide array of nanotech.

The nanotech suceeded beyond Charlie wildest dreams. He found himself able to interface directly with computers and issue commands to them from a respectable distance.

Charlie started to put his Paladin armor research on hold while he further developed the nanotechnology. Within a year, he was able to develop several useful abilities due to the nanotech that he was injecting into himself. Alas, his sponsors were not happy that he failed several benchmarks for developing the Paladin armor and took the research Charlie had already completed and shut down his funding.

Embarrassed by the dissolution of his main project and overriding goal, Charlie devoted the next 9 months to perfecting the first version of the Paladin armor, nicknamed “The Squire” (due to the fact that it was only a working prototype) [in game terms, this armor was proably PowerLevel 2]. Featuring enhanced strength and resiliance and speed (on foot), the Squire armor far outshone what the government had been able to do with the Paladin research.

Impressed, the government re-opened the development project and in the next few years Charlie produced several more advanced sets of armor, dubbed “Champion” [Power Level 4], “Knight” [Power Level 6] and “Myrmidon” [Power Level 8]. At the height of the project, the Myrmidon armor provided great strength and protection, flight, basic armament and a comprehensive communications/sensor array. Although the government was immensly satisfied with the results, Charlie knew there was more he could do with the armor.

Charlie argued that the true pinnicle of the Paladin program, was to integrate the wearer and the armor so that the armor became less of a protective suit and more of an extention of the wearers own body and will. Charlie tried to convince the project leaders that the next best step was to fully envision his dream and create the ultimate armor, which he finally bestow the designation Paladin class, and which would rely upon the nanotech interface to increase efficiency and effectiveness tenfold.

Once again the government was unconvinced and decided they had already achieved “Paladin class” powerarmor and they started to put the Myrmidon armor into production along with a more heavily armed varient and started winding down the project.

Undaunted, Charlie decided to continue his work in private, reasoning that just as before, if he completed an advanced set of armor on his own, which demonstrated the increased efficiency and usefulness of his nanotech approach, the government would reconsider. Thus the superhero Paladin was born.

During the year that it took Charlie to perfect his design of the true Paladin armor, the government put the earlier design into field use at the newly opened superhuman prison known as the Lockdown facility.

It was during the finalization of Charlie’s new Paladin armor that destiny intervened.

Charlie was in his start up company Scientific Applications, or SciFi Apps. He didn’t have any outside contracts at the moment, so of course he was deeply engrossed in working on his advanced Paladin armor.

The nearby explosion broke his concentration though, as several tools and pieces of armor fell to the floor in a clatter. Exiting his lab, Charlie rushed outside only to see a hulking behemoth of a man roaring in defiance as the regular police forces attempted in vain to restrain him.

Charlie’s first thought was that the police would be able to handle it. After all, the STAR Squad had to be on their way, right? But then the superstrong villian picked up a police car and threw it down the street, right over and uncomfortably close to Charlie’s head, and right into another two police cruisers speeding to the scene of the distrubance.

“Well, I guess this is as good a time as any for a field test”, Charlie thought to himself as he ducked back into his workshop amid bursts of gunfire, crashing explosions, crackling megaphones and roars of defiance.

It took Charlie several minutes to don the Paladin armor (Charlie made a mental note to do something about suit up time), during which time the noise from outside died down. “I hope that’s not a literal assessment” Charlie thought grimly as he rocketed out of the skylight over his workshop, glass tinkling muscially below (Charlie made another mental note that maybe he should spend some time creating a different way out of his lab).

The scene below looked like it was the set of an disaster movie. Cars were flung everywhere, water was shooting up from destroyed fire hydrants and windows were shattered all along the block.

Taking a quick glance around, the HUD* (Heads Up Display) in his armor identified the infrared signatures of almost a dozen uniformed police officers, apparently having taken cover behind a pile up of several thrown vehicles, protecting the few civilian bystanders caught in the sudden violence. The HUD confirmed that for all of the obvious violence, injuries appeared to be light. “Thank God for that”, Charlie thought.

With the Repulsor tech ramping up to full power (another mental note, the Armor needs to be at full power much more quickly), Charlie paused for a moment. Chanelling more power to the sensor array, Charlie scanned the immediate area for the perpetrator. After only a few seconds, a radar blip appeared on the HUD, moving at speed away from the battle scene.

With the high pitched whine of repulsor tech, Charlie shot off in the direction of the perpetrator, cruising above the rooftops, searching for his target below. Unfortunately, he kept loosing the signal as his query ducked around corners, putting more buildings between the two. Charlie frowned as he suddenly lost the radar image altogether, making another note to expand the sensor array and work on filtering out buildings from the display.

Just as Charlie was making a sharp turn around a corner toward the last observed location of his target, he flew straight into an airborn SUV, courtesy of said superhuman villian. Caught completely unaware, Charlie was violently thrown back into the building behind him. Amid the crunching sounds of the masonry wall and the groaning of the Paladin armor denting under the fury of the tremendous blow, Charlie made another note to provide some sort of collision avoidance software into the sensor array. Seeing the now crushed vehicle falling away from him toward the street fifteen stories below, Charlie accelerated downward, repulsors whining angrily, a golden light lancing out from his gauntleted palms.

In the blink of an eye a golden wire framework stitched itself together around the falling vehicle. A second later, as astonished bystanders below evacuated the impact site, the final golden filament snapped into place, irridescent planes of pure golden light filled all of the spaces between the wires, creating a cushion around all of the falling debris just as it crashed into the waiting pavement. The golden fields of force blossomed outwards like automotive airbags, protecting the sidewalk below from the terrible impact.

Charlie quickly scanned the area, but nothing out of the ordinary showed up on his HUD. Unfortunately, his quary had gotten away from him and the police.

“Well, at least the forcefield design worked well”, Charlie thought.

Then the repulsors whined back to full power, carrying the new hero back into the air and back to the drawing board.

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