Thursday, July 12, 2007

Paragon Design Journals

Green Ronin is releasing a new campaign setting, Paragon for Mutants & Masterminds. It's very different from Freedom City, and seems to be going out of its way to provide a very untraditional source and background for its universe -- think the strangeness of indy comics, not the four-color normality of the DC and Marvel main streams.

They have two design journals up talking about the new campaign; while we won't be using any of this for Infinity Storm, it might be worth checking out for some future supers campaign.

* Paragons Design Journal: Believe... and You Will Fly: Basic campaign concepts
* Paragons Design Journal #2: Chapter-by-chapter source book overview

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Infinity Storm #0: A Morning Like Any Other

Our Heroes:

* Dragoon, the Man out of Time
* Turbo, Saving the World in 30 minutes or Less
* The Indomitable Gray
* Paladin, the Techno Knight
* Lily, Rest for the Wicked


* Power points earned: 1.

A Morning Like Any Other
June 29, 2007 8:35 a.m.

The day began like any other day. Bobby Phoenix up on a job site, helping weld structural steel for the new FreeSpace Inc. headquarters downtown. Juan Rivera in Lincoln, sleeping in after a late night of delivering pizzas up and down Freedom City's South River. Mav Grayson sitting with his fellow dockworkers, ready to put in another long day of unloading freight at the Wharf. Lily Tombs wandered the outskirts of the Liberty College campus, looking for a donut to filch and still shocked she wasn't dead. Or rather that she was dead … but hadn't stopped moving yet.

Sleep had never truly come for Charlemagne “Charlie” McInnis, as was so often the case. The genius technologist catnapped through the night, but awoke after 30-45 minutes with fresh insights into his latest design. That morning found him bent over his work bench, nano-vision focused on putting the finishing atoms on his latest creation.

And then the alarms began to flash. "--declaring an air emergency, repeat this is Noreaster Flight 7112 declaring a [snick][snit] emergency … lost and engine … not sure we can make it in… McInnis was on his feet instantly. His body armor immediately shot into place around him, wrapping him in the best protection that technology and his own brilliance could create.

Moments later Paladin, the Techno-Knight, was streaking over Freedom City, ready to do whatever it would take to save that plane.

Terror in the Sky
June 29, 2007 8:36 a.m.

Racing toward the plane, Paladin gleaned all he could from the city's police, fire and air traffic bands, augmenting it with data collected from his own remote probe streaking toward the target. It was a last-generation 747 on its way in from New York City. The outer left engine had exploded and was on fire, and the pilots reported losing hydraulic pressure throughout the plane.

He met the plane just north of the I-525/Route 4 junction northeast of the city. The pilots welcomed him, even if they didn't know him … his greatest fame to date had come from building an earlier incarnation of the Paladin-class power armor for government. Techno-geeks and armor-freaks admired his skill, but the rest of the world was oblivious to his genius.

Until now.

Paladin moved up and under the plane, matching his velocity to its and grabbing hold of the left wing to stabilize the aircraft. First things first though. One of the engines had already exploded, shrapnel had shredded part of the wing and damaged the second engine. Rocketing along below the wing, Paladin alerted the pilots that the second engine was in danger of shutting down, which would send the plane into an irrecoverable, and fatal, corkscrew.

Working quickly, Paladin was able to jury-rig the second engine so that it wouldn't fail, at least for now, then got to work on the rest of the problem.

He dispersed a cloud of nanites into the 747, confident he could use them to assume control of the plane's hydraulic subsystem and then let the pilots tell him how to control the left side as they dealt with the right.

He was wrong. The entire hydraulic system on the left side was shot, and would take time to repair. He was good, but not good enough to repair a dying plane in flight in the minutes -- maybe seconds -- they had before the plane crashed into Freedom City.

He'd have to do it the old fashioned way. He reached out, grabbed the wing flaps … and began wrestling the plane toward the runway.

* * *

Bobby Phoenix, didn't see the plane as it careened past I-525, but he couldn't help but notice it as it screamed into downtown's airspace -- and seemed to level off at an altitude that would take it streaking into the growing superstructure of FreeSpace Tower. He immediately shouted a warning to his co-workers, telling them to get to safety. As they ran, he ducked behind an I-Beam, dug two metallic bracers from his backpack, and slapped them on. Instantly, he became Dragoon, the Man out of Time. He might not be able to get to the plane in time -- it was moving at an ungodly speed -- but he could stop it from killing anyone.

Or at least try.

He rose up into the air above the building, not sure what he was going to do, but doing it anyway. Then suddenly the plane rocked wildly and Dragoon caught glimpse of a metallic gold and green suited figure being knocked back from one wing. Instantly, the powersuited figure -- a hero? A villain? -- was back on the wing, righting the plane and helping it gain altitude over downtown.

Ah, a hero then. The plane and power-suited figure screeched overhead, leaving a billowing contrail of black smoke in their wake. Dragoon followed, his braces slowly powering up to full-flight speed. He wouldn't get there in time to save the plane, wherever "there" ended up being, but he could help in the aftermath.

* * *

Mav Grayson heard the plane before he saw it. That terrible rumbling was unnatural coming from the sky and when he turned to look at it's source, he spit out his coffee. "By the earth …" he muttered as the jet narrowly missed crashing into the rising superstructure of FreeSpace Tower, apparently with the aid of a power-suited hero of some kind who seemed to be struggling to lift the thing skyward.

"Umm … cover for me for a sec" he told his co-workers, "gotta go hit the john." 50 feet later he'd transformed into the Indomitable Gray and was phasing through the Earth at breakneck speed. He couldn't help the hero in the air -- flight was not his thing -- but if he could make it to the airport in time…

* * *

This is going to hurt, Paladin thought as the plane careened over South River, hurling itself toward the casino district. The 747 was only a few hundred feet of the ground now, and even that was a miracle. It passed over the Boardwalk, clipping the sign for South Side Palace and sending the Techno-Knight crashing into a nearby rooftop. He was instantly airborne again, throwing himself at the plane and barely catching it in time to push it just high enough to clear one of the outlying dorms at Freedom College.

He could see the airport. But he couldn't see how to land the plane. It's just … too … big … he thought, and then thought better of it. Too big to land safely … but with a buffer … He instantly extended his personal force shield, enveloping the plane with the best protection genius can make.

It was almost enough to save it.


The sound of his neighbors' roof-top shoots woke Juan from his night's sleep. Cries in Spanish about a plane crashing instantly caught his attention. "I told myself and God I would be a hero. That I would use these new powers for good … and it seems the Devil has provided an opportunity." In a millisecond, he was dressed in his black uniform with the embroidered silver gear on the chest. Two milliseconds later he was at the Jordan International Airport, arriving just in time to see the plane, completely encased in a protective golden cocoon, crash into one of the airport runways.

He could make out a green-and-gold power-suited hero atop the plane, and the shield was clearly radiating from him. And just as clearly, that shield was failing. It's golden aura was quickly fading, and as it did, the plane dropped closer and closer to the ground. When the shield gave, a shower of sparks and fire erupted from the undercarriage of the plane.

I am in time. But I am always in time, Juan thought. No, not Juan. Juan delivers pizzas. I am Turbo … and those people need my help!


The plane was down. For that, Paladin could thank his technology, which had cushioned the crash enough to keep the plane intact. But now it was sliding dangerously out of control, spinning across the runway like a drunken teenager on a sheet of ice. And wouldn't you know it, they were spinning right toward the nearby terminal, another fatal catastrophy … but not before it killed dozens of assembled police and fire crews.

But he was out of tricks. The suit had done everything it could. He had done everything he could … and it wasn't enough.

At that moment, a gray form rose from the ground. Armored in stone, larger than a man, and heavily muscled, the creature grabbed hold of the plane's tail. The strain was clear on the creature's humanoid face as it wrestled the plane to a halt, stopping its terrible slide toward fiery destruction.

It's crew and passengers weren't saved yet though. Paladin's sensors told him the concentration of jet fuel vapors was rising quickly, and it was only a matter of time until something sparked and the entire plane went up.

He raced to the jet, tore off a door, and quickly threw up a renewed energey field in an attempt to protect the doorway from any explosions. The door fell to the runway, and an emergency slide suddenly blossomed into existence.

Then something unbelievable happened. A gale force wind blew Paladin back from the door, and as he struggled to determine its source, he saw the crew and passengers from the plane suddenly manifesting by the assembled rescue team at the end of the runway. In less than a minute -- it happened so fast his sensors couldn't even track it -- everyone on the plane was off of it.

He caught the barest of glimpses as each person was deposited -- there was a black-clothed form that appeared as a series of flickers -- but it wasn't enough for a positive identification.

Confused, Paladin flew to the ground, intent on thanking the gray man for his help, but his fellow hero was nowhere to be found, apparently having melted back into the tarmac.

As he steeled himself to go speak with the rescue crew and the police, he heard a female voice behind him. "Why do you supervillains always do that? Cause the plane to crash, and then stick around to see what happens?"

Paladin turned, and saw a young girl -- maybe 15, maybe 16 -- standing before him dressed entirely in black. "You should turn yourself in now," she said, and suddenly Charles felt her words had unnatural weight to them, as though he not only heard them … but felt them. On any other day, he might have listened to her, as impossible as that might seem. But he'd just saved a plane. He'd done nothing wrong. And he was not going to listen to the likes of her!

"No, I don't think so" he said softly. The Goth girl looked confused, then scared.

"You're not going to listen to me …are you. But it worked yesterday…" she said in a barely audible whisper, then turned and began running away … and fading away. As she ran, Paladin's sensors told him that she was becoming less solid, like she was phasing out of this reality. He was intrigued ... but he had to deal with the survivors first.

He let her leave, then walked over to the police and started explaining what had happened. It was going to be a long morning.

* * *

Dragoon hovered over the South River, watching the entire event from afar. The plane's controlled crash, its sudden arresting stop, the just-arrived rescure crew, the instantly assembled mob of passengers. The situation was under control. Definitely going to need to fix up the sky rider, he thought. Things move too damn fast in this city.

The Inferno
June 29, 2007 11:04 p.m.

That night, Lily is staying in an abandoned building in Southside, playing over the events of the day and why her powers failed her, when she mentally heard a hears a cry for help and caught a flash of fire and fear.

She immediately phased through the building, toward the source of the mental scream, and found a warehouse on fire. Knowing the mental cries had come from the second floor -- from some kind of office, and apparently from two young girls -- she fearlessly ran through the burning wall of the warehouse. Walls can't stop me, so why should flames? she thought. Then the pain hit her, as the fire leapt from the walls to her ethereal skin, transforming from searing orange to a terrible blue in a moment. She screamed in shock and disbelief. Isn't anything going to go right today?

* * *

Bobby Phoenix was watching an ancient black-and-white TV in his dingy one-room apartment when he heard the scream and caught glimpse of flickering red and orange light coming from outside. He instantly slapped on his bracers, transforming himself into Dragoon and running outside. He quickly saw the flames a few blocks over, and flew to them.

Hearing a scream from inside, he threw up a defensive shield and broke through a warehouse window, shrugging off the flames as he did so. Inside he saw a young girl wreathed in blue flames … a girl who looked more like a ghost than a person. He moved to help her only to see her shake her head violently.

"No, I'm … I'm ok," she said, grimacing through pain. "There's two kids in here -- down that hall, in an office I think. Get them… I'll be fine". He did as she asked, running down a smoke filled hall -- thank the Lords of Time that his filters could keep out the choking particles -- and found the door the girl had spoken of.

He tried to kick it down, but it stubbornly held. "No time for this" he said, materialized his energy sword, and vaporized the lock and most of the door. Inside he found two young girls, who'd clearly been living in the office for some time. "Are you hear to save us?" the older one asked, clearly terrified.

"Yes -- just hold on to me -- I'll get you out of here," although even as he picked them up he couldn't see how. The bracers would protect him, but only him.

The teenager he'd passed on the way in had the answer. She appeared at the door, solid now, and blue flames gone. "Stand next to me," she said, "I can protect us from the flames, but only if we're touching." Together, they left the building, Dragoon carrying them, the teen protecting them with some sort of blue-shimmering energy field.

Safely outside, a woman shouted "My girls! You saved my girls!" Dragoon floated down to the woman, lowering the girls and the teen to the ground. "You saved them … thanks you sir!" she said.

Dragoon merely nodded. "You're welcome." He looked at the teen, who was dressed all in black, something he knew was an oddity in this time period. "you're welcome" she muttered and then suddenly disappeared.

Bobby Phoenix, the Man out of Time, thought that was a good idea … and flew off into the night.

Rock Fight
June 29, 2007 10:04 a.m.

The next day, Grayson as back down at the docks, same as the day before, probably the same as next week and the rest of the year. He was up in the crane, waiting for the crew below to signal it was time to start unloading containers. From his vantage point, he could see most of the Wharf, and thus, it was impossible for him to miss it when the front third of one of the larger warehouses was suddenly swallowed by a sinkhole.

"Crap," he said, then radioed his supervisor. "Gonna take a break. Be back in 10."

Moments later he was down in the ground, swimming through the earth and emerging through the floor of the crumbling warehouse. He quickly moved to the mouth of the sink hole where he found a worker clinging to the edge. Gray ran forward, snagging the man by the scruff of the neck and lifting him to safety.

That's why he didn't notice the orange-tinged mountain appear beside him until it was too late. "Hey, remember me?" the voice rumbled. "Time for some payback."

As a stony fist crashed into his face, Gray did remember his opponent. It was Granite, of Factor Four. Super-villains through and through -- their last fight, down on the docks, had destroyed a half-dozen containers and a crane. Last time, Granite had been working solo. Would he be as lucky this time? Some how, he didn't think so…

He turned toward Granite and unleashed a blow of his own, knocking a chip of the stone-faced villain, but little more. The two then traded blows back and forth, sending explosions of sound rocking through the Wharf. Then Granite showed off a new trick, stepping back and bringing his huge stony hands together in a thunderclap of sound that staggered the normally indomitable Gray. He reeled under the blow and thought: Is this the day -- after surviving an encounter with aliens, after wrestling a plane to a standstill, hell, after spending more than a decade working the docs -- that I die?

As he swayed at the edge of the mental and physical precipice, he saw a mist-like form appear, and knew it to Sylph, one of Granite's fellow members of the Factor Four. And he thought the answer might be yes…

* * *

Granite's thunderclap rocking across the water of the South River, rattling windows on the Boardwalk, and sending echos ricocheting through Southside and Lincoln.

Juan was the first to respond, instantly dressing and running at near-warp speed down Route 4, where he caught a glimpse of a dust cloud rising over Riverside. He appeared in the warehouse a moment later, entering through a door and standing next to Granite. The stone giant didn't even have time to notice the speedster before Turbo had punched him, nearly knocking Granite sideways.

That got the elemental's attention, and he turned to fight the new arrival. Sylph, who had been unsuccessfully attempting to suffocate Gray with her vapors, saw the speedster as well, and decided to use her power on him instead. The noxious fumes shot toward him and penetrated Turbo's mask, causing him to choke violently and gasp for breath.

* * *

Elsewhere in the city the Spirit of Youth herself heard the distant rumbles, and phased up to the roof of the warehouse she was crashing in to see what the problem was. Noticing the smoke cloud, she instantly went airborne to investigate. She wasn't alone. The fighting in Riverside set of seismic detectors in Paladin's lab, and who promptly suited up and launched himself toward the docks.

Bobby Phoenix heard the distant thunderclaps form his apartment in Southside, and quickly did the same.

Lily made it to the warehouse first, arriving in time to the gray-skinned "hero" she'd seen at the airport the day reeling as though from a blow, while a vaporous woman had a black-suited man's head wrapped in a misty tentacle.

Who to help?: She'd met the gray man before, and thought she might have caught a glimpse of the black suited one at the airport. They might be heroes, they might not but the two elementalists they were fighting had made the headlines too often for her not to recognize them as members of the Factor Four. Those were definitely villains and whatever the motivations of those fighting them, as a hero herself, she had to take down the Factors.

Lily called out Sylph's name, and the airy woman turned to look at her. The Goth girl sprung her mental trap, manifesting the most terrifying visage she could imagine. Unlike her experiences the day before, this time everything worked exactly as she expected. The woman immediately screamed, retracted her misty appendage and flew away from the battle screaming.

A second later Paladin appeared, flying in through the ruined entrance to the building and repulsor blasts slamming down on the mountainous villain.

Granite caught one glimpse of the goth chick and the power-suited freak, and knew what to do next. He brought his hands together in a thunderclap that knocked Lily from the air, sent Gray staggering backward, and nearly knocked out Paladin.

The brick-skinned giant stepped forward, preparing to pick up Gray and beat a retreat. He had what Doctor Fathom wanted; it was time to get down to the Waterfront. But before he could turn and leave, yet another hero arrived. Dragoon came streaking down out of the sky, took careful aim at the villain, and shot a blast of energy from his bracers.

That was too much for Granite, and he finally fell to the ground, unconscious. Their enemy defeated, the heroes quickly picked up Granite and Gray and moved them to a safer location outside of the warehouse. There, Paladin accessed the police radio frequency and asked for an immediate pick up of a superpowered villain. The police responded by dispatching the Freedom City STAR Squad -- a special unit trained to deal with super-powered threats -- to transfer Granite to secure holding facilities at Blackstone Island prison.