LAWSON’S REPORT #4: THE MISSING LINK

From renewed study, I can confirm with almost 100% confidence that I was correct in my earlier assumption. Now that I know what to look for, the pieces are all there: nothing in nature behaves the way Red Lung does. Thus, it cannot be considered to be “natural”.

It was almost certainly manufactured, just like Elizabeth Blackthorne later manufactured Chimera, and then deployed at some point during the Red December incident.

Still: one question remains unanswered.

If Red Lung is indeed a man-made virus meant to kill its victims, why the 17-year wait between infection and symptoms? What sort of bioweapon incubates for 17 years and then activates for, apparently, no reason?

For a time, I was almost tempted to chalk it up as a failed bioweapon- perhaps something that Elemental had deployed during the battle, only to find it woefully inefficient.

But that doesn’t seem right. From what I know of Elemental, the man was hardly an idiot. The idea that Red Lung was simply a failed weapons test seems almost too simple to be true.

Then, an idea occurred to me.

My research has proven conclusively that Red Lung is an artificially-created bioweapon.

No one would reasonably create a bioweapon that takes 17 years to kill its targets.

Thus, I can only conclude that the victims currently suffering from Red Lung were not its intended targets.

But if that is the case... then who was?

This, I believe, is the link I’ve been missing all this time. If I can determine who- or what ­–Red Lung was designed to kill, perhaps I can find the cure for those poor souls unfortunate enough to be caught in its crossfire.

To do that, however, I will need to find the truth about what really happened during Red December.

It is time to pay the Valor Corps a visit.
 "So, that went well." 

We are in Zephyr's office, in the newly-constructed Tower atop Ace Lake. A human body wouldn't sense it, but I can feel the thrum of the Nemesite Reactor even up here. The power it exudes is tremendous.

It's me, Diva, and the shapeshifter sitting across from "Supervisor Quill" at his desk. He looks at me, one eyebrow raised. "You have concerns?"

"It just seems a little obvious that you're muscling in on their territory. Price's whole speech last night was painfully transparent. You sure you want to make an enemy of them so quickly?"

"They are already our enemies." Zephyr's voice is sharp. "She won't admit it, but I have no doubt that Elena assembled them specifically to undermine me. Their interference cannot be allowed. You three understand your tasks?"

"I know mine," says Changeling. I do not look directly at her. I can see through her disguises, but my sensors don't get along well with magic. "You're sure the jester can be trusted to watch Whisper? If she gets out..."

"It'll be fine." I answer before Zephyr does. "I built the cage myself. She's not getting out." 

Zephyr looks to me. "I trust you have that same level of confidence in your father's robot army?"

I give him a thumbs up. "They're wired and ready to go. I'll stream Changeling's video after the robots are 'thwarted'. Lawson's ugly enough, I'm sure it won't be hard to convince people he's gone full supervillain."

"...which leads us to you, Diva." Zephyr stares flatly at her, and she tries to pretend like she wasn't surfing her phone. I snort. "You understand your role?"

"Track down the Chimera freaks, haul one or two of them in for 'questioning', come back later to arrest the rest for being terrorists." She yawns. "I don't get why you hate them so much, boss. Sure, they're ugly as $#%@, but who cares about a bunch of mutants and sick veterans?"

"It's not that I hate them, Ms. Suprema. Quite the contrary; I pity them. But they must be exterminated for the greater good. Once the weapon is deployed and this sordid business is behind us, the Valor Corps can resume normal operations."

"And then I'll be a real hero?" Diva's eyes are sparkling. "Like, don't get me wrong, I don't mind $#%^ing up some fools, but I didn't join up to become, like, an assassin or whatever..."

I suppress a sigh.

"Of course." Zephyr waves a hand dismissively. "With Elena's team of puppets removed, Ace City will require renewed protection. Your legitimacy as a heroine will be unquestioned."

"Sweet!" Diva beams. The three of us stand, moving to go complete our tasks. The idol and the shapeshifter move ahead of me, but I linger at the doorway. 

Zephyr blinks at me owlishly. Sometimes I forget that he really is an old man. "Did you require something else, Ms. Jones?"

"It's Silvermane. After speaking with her tonight, I'm wondering... I mean, she hates Elemental's crew almost as much as you do, right? What if we tried to bring her over to our side?"

"Oh?" To my surprise, he actually seems to consider it. "I suppose if Rohan saw something in her, perhaps..."

He seems to think about it, then answers. "Very well. If she seems receptive to your advances, you may attempt to recruit her."

I'm about to answer, but he raises a hand. He wasn't finished. 

"...and if she is not receptive, you will end her life without delay. I believe I've made myself clear on this point in the past. I assume you do not desire a reminder?"

I shake my head. My jaw is tight. "Whatever you say, boss. Whatever you say."

I'd say I see myself out- but I know he's seeing me, too.
 I am in Zephyr's workshop, seated atop an operating table. The access panel on the back of my head is open. Zephyr is operating on my core CPU as we speak.

"Do you wish to explain this little outburst?" My right arm spasms as he activates a standard motor function test. Fingers twitch and scrabble at nothing.

"It wasn't an outburst." My voice is a sullen grumble. "So I screwed her out of a minor invention. So what? She'll build something else."

"You needlessly antagonized the Silvermane girl." Somehow, between our two voices, his is the colder. "After I ordered you specifically to keep a low profile at her school. Clearly, you had a reason. Do you wish to tell me, or shall I simply access your code myself? It truly makes no difference."

"It wasn't... I didn't..." I feel his omni-tool probing my memory bank, and wince. "Alright, fine. I did it because I was jealous, okay? You happy?"

"Elaborate." It's not a request.

"She's smart. Smarter than a human has any right to be at that age. Smarter than..."

"...than Bridgette Braun was?" 

"No. That's just it. Bridgette could have matched her. But I..."

"Ah. You are concerned that you are failing to live up to Braun's legacy. And that is why you stole this drone from her?"

There is frustration in my voice. "I just... I want to beat her. I want to crush her, humiliate her, make her admit I'm better. The real Bridgette could have done it. If I can't, what does that make me?"

"Irrelevant." He's messing around in my core again. "You've been given a mission. Anything else is a distraction. Do not disappoint me."

He can't see me, but I roll my eyes. "Whatever. You're not even my real dad-"

It happens in an instant: pain, searing, in my head and hands and feet and everywhere across my body. Yet I do not scream, or move, or do anything at all. I can't move. I am frozen in agony.

"Let me make myself absolutely clear, 'Ms. Jones'."

Zephyr moves in front of me. He takes my face in his hands, as if I were a doll, and his eyes stare directly into mine. They are as cold and blue as ice. 

He's not even angry. It would be better if he was. He stares at me like I'm just a stubborn out-of-place gear. A problem to be corrected.

"Your personal philosophical struggle does not matter to me. Your petty rivalry with a random schoolgirl does not matter to me. The only thing that matters to me is finding out what Elena plans for these children. If you are incapable of completing this simple task, I will find you another. Toasting bread, perhaps. Do you understand?"

I can't answer. My lips won't move. But he sees the answer in my eyes.

"Good."

He moves behind me again. The pain stops. I can move again, but I don't. I sit in silence until he's finished.

My access plate is bolted shut. "The upgrade is complete. I trust you will remember our talk?"

"Yes, Zephyr."

"Good." He makes for the door, and I dare to watch him go. He pauses for a moment, then speaks.

"For the record, if you were my daughter, I expect I'd be barking mad as well."

He switches off the light and shuts the workshop door. I sit alone in the dark until morning.
I have been studying the samples provided to me by Ashlyn Silvermane, and almost by accident, I believe I have stumbled upon an answer.

From the start, I have been approaching Red Lung from a traditional academic standpoint. Investigate the disease’s symptoms, pinpoint a source, and remove it without causing harm to the victim.

At every turn, Red Lung bedeviled me in this. A disease that affects such a specific demographic, that incubates for 17 years, that defies all attempts at classification…

No known disease behaves this way.

Thus… what if Red Lung is not a disease at all?

But if so, what the devil is it?

I was trimming my claws, and reflecting on the changes Chimera had wrought in my body, when the answer hit me. It’s been right under my snout the whole time.

Red Lung isn’t a natural disease. It’s artificial. In developing Chimera, Elizabeth Blackthorne didn’t create a bioweapon- she improved one that already existed.

At the time, I had thought Blackthorne to be a genius. But with this knowledge in hand, much of her work on Chimera seems… premeditated. As if she’d worked with the Red Lung virus before.

I wonder… is it possible that somehow, Elizabeth Blackthorne knew about Red Lung before she discovered my classified research?

And if so… who told her?

LAWSON’S REPORT #2: THE RED DECEMBER INCIDENT

At the heart of the Red Lung mystery lies the incident for which it was named: Red December, that bloody Christmas day that no one, myself included, will likely ever forget.

For such a politically and culturally relevant event, the American public was told frustratingly little about the events that actually led up to that fateful day. As far as we knew, the Valor Corps were doing a smashing job of keeping the peace- and then one day, everything seemed to go to hell in a handbasket!

Pardon my informality, of course.

The official story we were given was that former Valor Corps founder, the superhero Elemental, decided to turn against his comrades and launch an attack on the city. He gathered to his side both other Valor Corps members and several former supervillains, and led a team of super-humans to destroy Ace City. The Valor Corps loyalists arrived on the scene to stop him, and the chaos of the resulting battle formed the basis for what we now know as the Red December incident.

This account of events was given to the public by the surviving members of the Valor Corps involved in the battle: Zephyr, Hundredlives, and Iron Maiden.

It is almost insultingly vague, and for the past 17 years, angry politicians, activists and pundits have all been demanding clear answers from the Corps. Why did Elemental turn against the very team he helped create? Why attack Ace City?

And, most pressingly to my research, what exactly happened in that battle that led to the appearance of Red Lung?

Sadly, answers are not soon forthcoming. The Valor Corps have refused to release further details of the incident, claiming they know nothing else of merit.

Most people, including myself, believe this to be a bald-faced lie- but what are we to do about it? Many national governments rely on the Valor Corps to help them contain meta-human threats. None are in any position to exert demands upon the very organization on which they rely for protection.

Even putting aside the political concerns, one must not forget that individual Valor Corps members are capable of challenging entire armies alone. Put simply, if they wish to keep secrets, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.

What hope do we mere mortals have of interrogating silent gods?

Still, I am hopeful for the future of the Valor Corps. The children who saved myself and the others from the ThornTec conspiracy appear to virtuous and good-hearted youths.

Perhaps they will succeed in uncovering the truth behind Red December, where so many before them have failed.
LAWSON’S REPORT #1: RED LUNG

Since the unfortunate incident with ThornTec has resolved, I have resumed my research into the nature of the disease known as “Red Lung”. My new body makes lab-work somewhat cumbersome, but I shall persevere! If anything, the Chimera debacle of the past summer only makes the need for a Red Lung cure more pressing. I will not allow Elizabeth Blackthorne’s treachery to prevent me from saving lives.

To review, these are the factors involved in this disease:

1) Only those who were present in or near Ace City during the Red December incident have contracted Red Lung. Those who have lived in the city before or after the incident, but were not present during the attack, have not contracted the disease to date. Almost all recorded cases of Red Lung belong to former rescue workers, police, firefighters, etc.- those who were nearest the disaster area at the time of the attack or most involved in response efforts.

2) Despite Red December happening almost two decades ago, victims did not begin to exhibit symptoms until this past year. For the past 17 years, patients appear to have carried the dormant virus in their bodies without any ill effects.

3) The virus is not contagious- we exhausted all possible vectors with no successful infections. Only those who were initially infected in December 2000 are suffering the effects of the disease.

4) Recorded symptoms include respiratory bleeding, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, chronic pain, loss of pigmentation in the hair, and ultimately complete respiratory failure. Silver-colored hair is typically a sign that the victim is in the final stages of the disease (with one notable exception- still researching that particular anomaly.)

5) Conventional medicine has proven ineffective; the virus appears to attack the victim’s very DNA. It was this mutagenic property that first prompted my colleagues and I to attempt a cure through gene therapy, but while we were successfully able to treat the symptoms, the disease kept coming back. A more permanent solution must be found.

In summary, Red Lung defies conventional academic records of known viral diseases. To put it frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it: a disease that only manifested during a very brief window of time, quietly incubated in its victims for the better part of two decades, and then quickly kills them with no apparent prompting. It is almost maddeningly confusing… but then, Pasteur and Fleming must have felt this same frustration at some point, no?
SEASON 1
Roundup 1: Brains and Brawn | Hobnobbing | Mataora
Roundup 2: Valor and Mystic
Roundup 3: House of Cards | Policing the Police
Roundup 4: Bringing Down the House
Roundup 5: The Meaning of Heroism
Roundup 6: Corporate Espionage
Roundup 7: Dog Daze
Roundup 8: Past the Vaulted Door
Roundup 9: Doc Jacques, Shock Jock
Roundup 10: Lady in Waiting
Roundup 11: Thistle Hurt A Little
Roundup 12: World of Wolves
Roundup 13: Thorns

SEASON 1 SYNOPSIS

On Christmas Day in the year 2000, the American metropolis of Ace City suffered a major tragedy. The worldwide team of superheroes known as the Valor Corps fought a civil war over the skies of Ace, causing massive collateral damage and the loss of many lives. This event became known as "Red December."
 
17 years later, a new team of Valor Corps have signed on to protect the city. After preventing a mysterious tattooed warrior from attacking the city's police chief, they uncovered a citywide conspiracy. A massive corporation called ThornTec was kidnapping Ace City citizens for experimentation, with the cooperation of the Police Chief, whom they were blackmailing. As part of "Project Chimera", ThornTec was using human DNA to create an army of mutant monsters, as part of their effort to create the ultimate lifeform.
 
The Valor Corps fought heroically against ThornTec and the company's hired assassins. In their investigation, they discovered that Project Chimera had grown out of an effort to cure a deadly disease unleashed during Red December. This disease, "Red Lung", was the subject of research by a Dr. Lawson, whose experimental cure was hijacked by ThornTec and became Project Chimera.
 
Ultimately, the Valor Corps defeated ThornTec's CEO, the mad Elizabeth Blackthorne, and destroyed Project Chimera. But their task wasn't over yet: Elizabeth's adopted sister Rohan attempted to unleash the Chimera serum upon all of Ace City in an insane attempt at forcing humanity's evolution. Together, the teen heroes of the Valor Corps were able to bring Rohan down, and saved the city from biochemical annihilation.
 
The Valor Corps are now hailed as Ace City's saviors, but many questions still remain. What really happened during Red December? What will now become of ThornTec's mutated victims? And just who are the "Terror Corps", whose name Rohan whispered with her last breath? 
 
These questions, along with many more, will challenge our young heroes in the days to come...

SEASON 2
Interlude Chapter: The Museum of Heroes 
Roundup 1: The Curse of La Llorona
Roundup 2: Alpha Team Is Go
Roundup 3: Robot Clown Therapy
Roundup 4: Beauty and the Beatdown
Roundup 5: Welcome to the Heavy Shit Room
Roundup 6: In the Dark
Roundup 7: False Heart
Christmas Special: The Valor Corps Save Christmas
Roundup 8: What Heroes Are
Roundup 9: Chickens & Catacombs
Roundup 10: Insane Clown Posse(ssion)
Roundup 11: The Phantom Man-of-Ace
Roundup 12: Desperate Alliance
Roundup 13: The Scalpel and the Sledgehammer
Roundup 14: Sky-High Showdown
Roundup 15: Weight of the World
Roundup 16: End of an Era

SEASON 2 SYNOPSIS:

Fresh off their victory over ThornTec, the Valor Corps were visited by Rafael's mentor, the legendary heroine Hundredlives. She revealed to the team that their victories had resulted in the city opening up a second Valor Corps branch: "Alpha Team", consisting of 6 other young heroes ready to defend the city.
 
Relations with Alpha Team quickly became strained, however, after an unknown illusionist framed Whisper for the murder of Mayor Price. At the same time, the team's old friend Dr. Lawson supposedly unleashed a wave of robots on the city, turning public opinion against Chimera victims and putting more and more power and influence in Alpha Team's hands. Torn apart by doubt and infighting, it seemed our heroes were on the verge of collapse...
 
...but in the end, their friendship proved strong enough to endure the conspiracy and dig up the truth. The so-called "Claws of Chimera" terrorist group was a fraud perpetrated by Alpha Team's own supervisor, Nero Quill, in an effort to gain martial control of Ace City. Quill turned out to be Zephyr, a legendary superhero and acting leader of the entire Valor Corps, but this didn't stop the team. One by one, they defeated his Alpha Team minions, convincing them to abandon their corrupt master.
 
As they battled their way through Alpha Team, the team slowly pieced together the truth behind Red December. Elemental and the Terror Corps had sought to peacefully conquer humanity, but were opposed by their former allies in the Valor Corps. On the day of Red December, the two groups had met for a peace summit to determine the fate of human government. The peace summit went horribly wrong, however, when someone poisoned Elemental and drove him berserk, leading to the infamous massacre. The Terror Corps were imprisoned while most of the loyalist Valor Corps were killed in the fight, leaving the entire organization open for Zephyr to control.
 
When they learned that Zephyr planned to chemically-exterminate anyone carrying the Red Lung or Chimera mutations, the heroes confronted Quill in his personal tower, where they learned his true identity: Edward Blackthorne, founder of the ThornTec empire and the true mastermind behind Elemental's poisoning. All of his efforts to destroy their team and the victims of Chimera had been an attempt bury the truth about Red December, and assert his continued dominance over the Valor Corps. 
 
As Alpha Tower rocketed into the sky, Zephyr announced his intention to annihilate Ace City with a Nemesite Cannon, a weapon of incredible and dangerous power. A climactic battle ensued, in which Sonicheart was able to save Superego from Red Lung upon discovering that it was a corrupted form of the Sound Force. At the last moment, Ashlyn Silvermane diverted the cannon's blast into space, saving Ace City and allowing the others to cast the false hero down. Zephyr was finally defeated, and it seemed the day had been saved...
 
...but a final crisis still remained. Hundredlives emerged from the Nemesite Cannon's reactor, having absorbed the power of its core into her own body. She revealed the truth about herself to the party: that she had been Zephyr's silent accomplice for the last 17 years, and that in order to protect the Valor Corps' legacy, she would have to annihilate Ace City herself. A desperate battle ensued, during which the entire tower exploded, leaving our heroes to continue fighting even as they plummeted through the Earth's atmosphere.
 
Pushing themselves to their very limit, the party defeated Hundredlives just in time to crash into Ace City, averting catastrophe and even saving her life in the process. Emerging victorious from the rubble, they handed Zephyr over to the authorities, where his long list of crimes and conspiracies became known to the public. The entrenched corruption of the Valor Corps was exposed, and a global political crisis followed as the entire organization's legitimacy came into question.
 
Ace City has been saved, and the truth about Red December finally revealed to the world- but at what price? With its leadership dismantled, what does the future hold for the Valor Corps? Our young heroes are now among the strongest superheroes in the world- but will they survive the unseen terrors to come? 
 
Only time will tell...
 
SEASON 3
Interlude Chapter: The Beach Episode
Roundup 1: Heart of Markham
Roundup 2: Back from the Brink
Roundup 3: The Bone Zone
Roundup 4: Knock 'Em Dead
Roundup 5: Breath of the Weald
Roundup 6: Fairyland
Roundup 7: Hope and Change
Roundup 8: Crossfire
Roundup 9A: Mothers
Roundup 9B: Tyrants

Dr. Braun and Dr. Brayne: Having escaped in the confusion caused by ThornTec, Braun and Brayne were about to leave the city in an airship when Braun noticed the explosion coming from his old lab. Arriving on the scene to taunt the Valor Corps, the two mad doctors took off into the sky... only to be apprehended by the Corps five minutes later, having stopped at a Shell station to gas up. They have since been tried and sent back to a standard-security supervillain prison.



HAL: The dapper robot continues to serve as butler, chef and amateur masseuse for the Valor Corps. At Yan's insistence, he began accepting a salary, which he has proceeded to spend entirely on an expansive video game collection. His Starcraft record is immaculate, though you've received a few angry phone calls from Blizzard regarding toxic behavior coming from your IP.



Yan Zhao: In the wake of the ThornTec incident, Yan has been kept busy managing the team's press appearances, news conferences and various media obligations. She's yet to complain about the workload, but you get the feeling there might be more coffee than blood in her veins at this point.



Mayor Price: Accused of colluding with ThornTec and intentionally covering up the existence of Red Lung, Mayor Price is currently under investigation by the federal government, but has not yet been charged with anything and continues to serve as Mayor. He has publicly laid blame for the conspiracy at Chief Grayson's feet, claiming that he was unaware of the corrupt Police Chief's dealings with the Blackthornes. You haven't spoken to him personally since the gala, but you've overheard Yan engaged in more than a few angry phone calls with him.



Chief Grayson: Posthumously disgraced and stripped of awards, Chief Anthony Grayson was buried in a small, private ceremony attended only by his daughter and a few close colleagues. The discovery of his role in covering up ThornTec's abductions, documented by Ace Herald reporter Ana Taera, was a public outrage and a huge blow to the Ace City PD's reputation among the populace. Where before many citizens distrusted the Valor Corps, that anger has now turned on the police, with many citizens demanding the entire department be replaced.



Diane Grayson: Following her father's death, Diane has been spearheading an internal investigation within the Ace City PD, seeking to root out other detectives like Frank Horrigan who were helping to cover up the disappearances. The investigation is classified even to the Valor Corps, and you haven't heard much from Diane since ThornTec's defeat. Her injuries from the battle with Rohan have healed up, but she has refused psychological counseling, and several co-workers have expressed concern.



Marble: Marble's showcase gallery was cancelled in the wake of her abduction, and she has yet to re-open. Instead, her time has been spent in support groups and physical therapy alongside the other abductees. She remains in contact with Whisper, but seems even more quiet and reclusive now than she was before her abduction.



Sergeant John Mahoney: Now properly diagnosed as a Red Lung victim, Sergeant Mahoney and other Red December veterans were transferred to a medical facility under the care of Dr. Lawson. While they're not accepting visitors, Sonicheart recently received a letter from him thanking her for her role in defeating ThornTec and expressing his pride in her convictions.



Mataora: The tattooed warrior willingly surrendered himself to the courts for the murder of Frank Horrigan, but due to a combination of a legitimate self-defense claim and his role in helping the Valor Corps save the city, a state judge cleared Mataora of all charges. He continues to operate a dojo out of Ace City's east side, where he counsels at-risk youth through a combination of spirituality and martial arts training.



Elizabeth Blackthorne: Narrowly avoiding a trip to Mt. Markham for her crimes, Elizabeth Blackthorne was imprisoned in a maximum-security women's correctional facility. While ordinarily she would have fought the charges, it seems that she pled guilty and even tried to expedite her imprisonment- apparently she wishes to remain locked away until such time as her mutation can be cured. Stripped of both her financial assets and her political power, it doesn't seem like she'll be going anywhere any time soon.



Brock Tanner: Following his arrest, Tanner was identified as an ex-Canadian Special Forces soldier guilty of several war crimes and drug trafficking charges. He has since been extradited to Canada and is awaiting trial.



Rohan Blackthorne: Following her defeat at Braun Labs, Rohan fell into a coma from which she has yet to awaken. Deemed too dangerous for ordinary prison, she was shipped to Mt. Markham Prison in Antarctica; you have heard nothing of her since. Given Markham's reputation, you most likely never will.



Blackjack: Shortly after his interrogation at your hands, Yan Zhao handed Blackjack over to the Ace City PD- only for him to escape in the chaos of Rohan's attack. You haven't seen him since, though several casinos have since reported missing funds.



Interns A through D: Following ThornTec's dissolution and the acquisition of its assets by rival companies, the four nameless interns were forced to find work elsewhere. Last you heard, they were following up on a LinkedIn invite from someone named Wiggins in New York City.



Project: CERBERUS: Your mutant dog friend arrived at the surface along with Marble and the other Chimera infectees; you have since adopted him as an unofficial member of your team. He likes pets, walks, and bacon! Also, he still seems to capable of breathing fire. So that's a plus.



Shock Jock: To his surprise, Dr. Jacques was not assassinated by Elizabeth Blackthorne, who seemed to forget who he was. Great news! Bad news: he instead received a life sentence in a max-security men's facility for cruelty to both humans AND animals. Apparently at his trial, he inadvertently doomed his own defense when he stated that he "would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids and their dog."



Dr. Lawson: Suffering from a heavier mutation than other Chimera infectees, Dr. Lawson has taken to his new body with remarkable good cheer, ordering a new laboratory custom-made to fit his new frame. He remains in contact with Ashlyn Silvermane, and is currently running carefully-monitored research on both Red Lung and Chimera victims in hopes of finding a cure.



Ana Taera: Cured from Chimera, Ana Taera retained her superpowers, but elected not to join the Valor Corps- she stated that she's more interested in reporting the news than in creating it. Returning to the Ace City Herald, her first story was a damning first-hand exposé on ThornTec's crimes and the police conspiracy that enabled them. She is also involved in support groups for Chimera survivors, helping them to work through the trauma of their mutations.


And lastly...


The Valor Corps: Following their victory over ThornTec, the Valor Corps of Ace City have been heralded worldwide as the champions who exposed a dark secret that was consuming the city from within. As faith in "ordinary" law enforcement dwindles, the Valor Corps are being treated with more and more respect and reverence. However, not everyone is pleased with the outcome. During the final battle, 29% of the city was flooded with Chimera, and while most of the infected areas were evacuated beforehand, some of those left behind were transformed into monsters, and others lost their lives. A few special interest groups have accused the Valor Corps of not doing their jobs properly and lay blame for the incident at the team's feet.

For the most part, however, these groups are but a vocal minority: most of the city has recognized your efforts, and it seems the Valor Corps have finally been accepted by the people as the true guardians of Ace City.

thorns

Sep. 28th, 2016 12:16 pm
"Correct."

Father's voice is soft, but it carries across the room.

The pain follows. Searing, it shoots up my legs and into my arms, my eyes, my skin. It ends quickly- no more than two seconds, any more and I might faint -but the pain lingers. The memory of the shock hurts almost as badly as the shock itself.

The first thing I see when my vision clears is Elizabeth, smiling at me.

No- not at me. At my pain.

We are seated across from each other, that each might watch the other at all times throughout the exam. The bindings on our ankles and wrists shackle us to the desks. The exam has been three hours, and shows no sign of stopping.

Father waits for my breathing to resume. He looks down to the paper in his hands, and reads. "Antigen, when injected into the body, activates specific lymphocytes in the...?"

MALT. Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue.

"The MALT," answers Elizabeth. "Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue."

"Correct," replies Father. Behind him, the technician presses the button. I close my eyes.

-fire in my veins, teeth clamped like iron, it hurts it hurts it HURTS-

It takes 2.6 extra seconds for my breathing to resume. I see Father, frowning at me. Elizabeth has taken 6 shocks since the exam began; I have taken 43. This is well below my average.

("I'll give you a few," Elizabeth said, "So it doesn't look suspicious.")

I know he is disappointed. I am meant to challenge. Elizabeth is expected to win, but he does not want her to win easily. In this, today, I am failing him.

"This next question is for Rohan alone." I look up, surprised. "What is the optimum pH for cultivating vexa-proteins?"

I look to Elizabeth.

She smiles.

"I don't know," I say, and the pain is not far behind.

---

My whole body aches. There are no scars where the clamps dug into my skin, but I feel the pain there, buzzing like a field of angry wasps.

Worse still was the look in Father's eyes as I passed him.

That night, 10 minutes before curfew, I pass the guards and make my way to Elizabeth's room. She is waiting for me. She is very beautiful when she smiles.

"You did well today. I think we shall have to make a habit of this in the future," she says, beaming.

"The picture," I say, numbly. "You promised. You promised you'd give it back."

"Oh- right. Almost forgot." She turns to her desk drawer and rummages through it before coming up with the wrinkled photograph. "Why you're so attached to this, I'll never know. Don't you have any pictures of them on social media? Get on that, Ro."

I unfold the photo. Fresh black scribbles rest over my parents' faces. Elizabeth is watching, waiting for my tears.

I place the photo in my pocket and walk to my room in silence. Only when I am sure she can't hear me do I begin to weep.

---

I feel weak.

I feel helpless.

I feel trapped.

And my heart swells with hatred- not for Elizabeth, not for her father, but for myself.

I am weak, and I hate.

---

"Why did you lose?"

I jolt upright in bed, my heart pounding. For a moment, I am back in the rubble, and he is standing over me, and I know I am about to die.

Over the next few seconds, understanding dawns- it is night. I am in my bed at Blackthorne Estate. The voice is my father's, as he is sitting in a chair across from my bed. I look at him in fear.

"You knew the answers," he says, his face expressionless. "I saw it in your eyes. You took the shocks anyway. Why?"

Elizabeth. Do I dare tell him the truth?

I don't have to. He says her name, and glances to my box, where I keep my precious things. The things from Before.

The things Elizabeth stole from my room earlier this year. The things she still has, hidden somewhere I don't dare look.

I am silent.

"Do you know why my daughter hates you, Rohan?"

"No." My voice is small, and weak, and I hate it, I hate it.

Father's face is a black silhouette in the moonlight. "Because she doesn't like to be afraid."

---

We are in the examination room again. The dig of the clamps in my ankles and wrists has become an almost comfortingly familiar sensation.

"The optimum pH of Thiobacillus thiooxidans is-"

The words are not out of his mouth before I answer. "2.0 to 3.5."

Elizabeth glares at me in surprise- and rage. This was not part of the deal.

27 shocks for me, 73 for Elizabeth.

I smile through them all.

---

I smell the fire before I see it. Father is out on a business trip, and if the servants saw Elizabeth throwing my stolen possessions into the fireplace, they had the wisdom to remain silent.

She's already gone by the time I enter the hearth, and half of my things are burned beyond recognition. I can still make a few out, though- the blanket my mother wove when I was born, the little cloth doll my brother used to love. The shirt that still smelled faintly of my father.

The fire is consuming them all.

My fingers find the photo in my pocket, crumpled and worn. Without hesitation, I open the grille and drop the photo on to the flames.

It's easier to watch my family burn the second time.

---

Dad's stories always leave me with goosebumps, even the ones with happy endings. I shiver as he finishes with the last line: "...and no matter how big our flock became from then on out, the big bad wolf never bothered us again."

He kisses my forehead. The brush of his mustache on my bare skin makes me giggle, and I am embarrassed. I am getting too old for such childish stories. I am becoming a young lady. A few days from now, it will be our first Christmas in the city. Soon after, it will be the new year.

"Sleep well, little Ro," my Dad says, and turns down the dial on my lamp. "Love you."

Outside, the snow is falling.

I sleep, and dream of wolves.


What Dis
Valor Corps is a superhero campaign based on Teen Titans, the MCU, Justice League, and all manner of cape-comics! I am looking for 4-6 players to play a team of junior superheroes tasked with protecting Ace City from all manner of fiends and ruffians. Details below!

Premise
In a world much like our own, the past 40 years have seen a rise in the appearance of superpowered individuals, hyper-technology, supernatural events, and extraterrestrial incidents. There are many who would take advantage of this chaos- but many more who have decided to use their powers for good. Around the world, Earths' various heroes have come together to form the Valor Corps, an international organization dedicated to combating supervillains, alien invaders, and anything else that the governments of the world can't handle on their own.

Ace City, major American metropolis, has recently established a junior branch of the Valor Corps. As a team of young superheroes, you have been tasked with defending Ace City and upholding the sacred ideals of the Corps.

Mostly, this translates to punching out bad guys.

Setting
Ace City is a large city roughly the size of Chicago, situated somewhere vaguely on the American east coast. Extremely industrial and innovative, Ace City is home to some of the brightest and most vibrant communities in America... which, unfortunately, also makes it attractive to all manner of criminals, empowered or otherwise.

After some bad incidents involving empowered superheroes and supervillains, Ace City's voting population took a hard stance against allowing the Valor Corps to set up a local branch, with your team's recent formation being the result of a hard-fought political battle. Although many Ace citizens are reluctant to accept "costumed freaks" into their city, a great deal more are optimistic that the Valor Corps' newfound presence will help the police crack down on superpowered crime.

Characters
Your party is a newly-formed team of junior superheroes, working under the Valor Corps to defend Ace City. As an official part of the Corps, you're given relative autonomy to complete missions at your own discretion, so long as the city benefits from your actions. You've been given jurisdiction of Ace City with the understanding that as you train and grow stronger, you may one day wind up protecting nations or even the Earth itself.

-Although the Corps itself needs to know your identity for security reasons, Corps members are free to either disclose or conceal their identities from the public as they see fit.

-To ensure timely response to crises, Valor Corps teams are expected to live together at their fully-furnished headquarters. Exceptions can be made, but are generally uncommon. Yes, the HQ has a butler.

-Valor Corps teams are generally given free reign to handle their own affairs. Aside from the occasional check-in, the greater Valor Corps takes a hands-off approach and prefers not to intervene in local matters unless they threaten to spill out of Ace City. You primarily answer to the Mayor and Police Commissioner of Ace City.

-Although most Valor Corps members posses some kind of superpower, non-powered individuals are allowed on teams if they can prove themselves capable of keeping up with their empowered counterparts.

Mechanics
Obviously, we're using Valor. I think most folks reading this will be familiar with the system, but feel free to ask any questions about character creation or how to play!

Game Flow
The game will be semi-open-ended: after establishing the setting, I will introduce a list of crimes/incidents for the party to investigate around the city in whichever order they want. The party won't have time to cover every potential lead, so choose carefully; a hero's work is never done! Sessions will generally run for about 3 hours.

I'm looking to get around 4-6 players, giving us enough flexibility that missions can still be run without the whole crew on a given week. Game will start after or near the end of Dragon Ball Valor, so sometime between now and late July.

Here's what I need from you!

Who are you?
Do you have any character ideas? If so, what are they?
Which days/times are you available?
Who's your favorite superhero?
Do you have any questions for me?
#TeamCap or #TeamIronMan?


From light, darkness.
From darkness, light.




This world has fallen into darkness. The ancient Keyblade Guardians, said to be the world's protectors, have disappeared. In their absence, evil rules the day, and stories which should have had happy endings have instead ended in sorrow and defeat.

But there is still hope. On the far side of the world, a small community has arisen: Tranquil Town, a safe haven where all may live in freedom and peace. Here on this island, a small group of refugees find themselves chosen by the Keyblade- a sacred weapon said to work miracles.

Will your hearts prove strong enough to save the world from the villains who've conquered it? Or will you fall before the darkness like so many before you?

The power to change fate is in your hands...

Kingdom Hearts Valor is a weekly tabletop campaign I am looking to run! I believe most folks on my timeline are familiar with the Valor system, but if you're not, it's available here. I encourage you to buy the ebook yourself if you don't already have it, but if you're short on funds I can share the pdf provided you promise not to spread it around. Valor is a beginner-friendly, easy-to-use system inspired by anime, and it's basically perfect for the Kingdom Hearts series' fast-paced combay.

I am looking to run this as a weekly campaign, with sessions projected to run about 3-4 hours. My goal is to make it so that each "chapter" (everything from arriving in a kingdom to the final showdown with that kingdom's villain) takes anywhere between 3-5 sessions. Note that we most likely won't have time to visit every location on the map individually: I'm gonna try to keep this open-world for the most part, so the kingdoms visited will ultimately depend on player choice.

Setting

While borrowing heavily from Kingdom Hearts mythology, this will be a custom story inspired by the Disney Villains Victorious setting created on 4chan's /tg/ board. I won't be sticking to DVV's setting guide 100%, but the gist remains the same: this is a world where, with the aid of the Heartless, the Disney villains won. With the heroes out of the picture (dead or otherwise), the villains rule Earth unopposed... except, now, by your party. As new Keybade wielders, you're the only ones capable of sealing the Keyholes in each kingdom and dispelling the Heartless forever!

I've created an interactive world map here! Players will begin in the small hamlet of Tranquil Town (marker 27 on the map) at the start of the adventure. I've included little blurbs about each kingdom, but if you want to know more about any locations for character creation, feel free to ask. In-universe, it's been about 5-10 years (varying between kingdoms) since the villains took over, so the Disney kingdoms might not be as you remember them...

Characters

Player characters will gain the use of the Keyblade after or during the first session. Note that newer installments of the franchise have pretty much established that Keyblades don't really have to be "blades" at all- they transform to fit the user's fighting style and can become anything from whips to cannons to literal hovercraft. Thus, don't feel like you have to just play a Fighty Sword Guy- you can build pretty much whatever character you want and still have them be a "Keyblade wielder" in name.

I'm looking for a party of 4-5. (If I get a lot of interested people, I'd be willing to do what we're doing in DBV right now and split the party into two biweekly groups; in that case we could go up to around 8-9.) You can have your character be from any nation you want, or something completely custom! There's room in this setting for you to play anything from a robot to a wizard to a dinosaur. Go nuts.

If you're interested, please answer the following questions!

Who are you?
Do you have any character ideas? If so, what are they?
Which days/times are you available?
What's your favorite Disney movie?
Do you have any questions for me?
What are you afraid of?
What's the one thing you cherish more than anything else?
What do you want out of life?
FROM: chronochief@timecops.zorg
SENT: Tomorrow
SUBJECT: Open This Or You're Fired

CONGRATULATIONS, SLAGNUT. You are ONE HUNDRED PERCENT HIRED.

If you're reading this email or carrier pigeon scroll or cave painting or WHATEVER WHO CARES, you have been selected to join the Temporal Investigation Member Enlistment for Chronological Operations, Protection and Service. We also go by TimeCops FOR THE SAKE OF BREVITY.

You have probably never heard of us, which is EXACTLY THE WAY WE LIKE IT. We are the unseen guardians of Time. We are taking down bad guys literally every day. Also every YESTERDAY. And TOMORROW. Henry David Thoreau once said that "Time is the stream I go fishing in", but in this metaphor it turns out THERE WERE A BUNCH OF SHARKS UNDER HIS BOAT, and we single-handedly PUNCHED THEM ALL IN THE SHARK DICK. You are welcome, HANK.

I am going to be one hundred percent honest with you. They gave me a file about you and told me to read it, but I didn't read it, because I do not read anything that people hand to me. Therefore I have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER who you are or why the suits picked you to join us. Presumably it is because you are GOOD AT PUNCHING BAD GUYS. If you are not, you should probably stop reading this email and GO CHEW SOME SUGARLESS GUM, because YOU ARE PROBABLY A BABY.

If you decide to join accept our offer, your life will be completely transformed. You will travel across time and space. You will live forever and go on fantastic adventures with pals. You will get your own locker. IT IS A VERY CLEAN LOCKER.

If on the other hand you DON'T want to time travel and punch Nazis, I'm not even finishing this sentence because why would you ever not want to do that. THIS PARAGRAPH WAS A WASTE OF TIME.

Once you've packed your things and said your goodbyes, simply stand in front of your home and DO NOTHING, because you will have ALREADY ARRIVED. You are standing in my office right now watching me type this. IT IS ACTUALLY SUPER CREEPY.

Welcome to the team, NEW BLOOD. This message will now self-destruct five minutes ago.

Stop reading over my shoulder,

DA CHIEF
We’ve received word from the Master that they’ll be coming from the south. You have your orders. Kill them, take the Ra-Seru and dispose of the bodies. Alert me when it’s done.

Soon this will all be over. Soon, we’ll all be safe.

-GR
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