Sentinel Society: Genesis - Chapter 1: Axiom Enterprises Bay City was at it always was in the early morning light, blanketed in its signature thick fog off its namesake bay. Even this early in the morning Highway 2, the main road in and out of Bay City and across the Bay City Bridge that connected Bay City to Alameda where many came from to work every day, was congested with work traffic and already a few accidents. The fog would lift in a few hours, but for now it would be as it was, frustrating, but nothing out of the ordinary. Todd sat in his car, the radio was on but he wasn't listening, he was too anxious. He had already been late twice this month, the boss was breathing down his neck, and if it happened again... I can't afford to be fired. Between paying rent he paid in Alameda, which he only lived in because he couldn't afford Bay City apartment prices, and the car he had had to buy to transit to his job in Bay City, the young man was already having to stretch a budget just to break even. He had moved out here to work for the West Coast branch of Axiom Enterprises. - Once the country's largest conglomerate and megacorporation. About a decade ago, Axiom, at the time just another East Coast middle-weight robotics company, had been purchased by, John Donovon, a self-made multi-millionaire venture capitalist, and been renamed Axiom Enterprises. It saw its stock value more than quadruple overnight and onward and upwards from there. Axiom Enterprises quickly went on from its robotics base into medicine, military r&d, household appliances, and even food sciences and bio-engineering. They were credited with creating a completely healthy alternative to sugar and other sweeteners, branded Axiose, and suddenly they were everywhere. Everything you bought had the AE trademark on it. Not only had Axiom Enterprises become the biggest corporation on the market, they had become the market. But something happened about five years ago. People started exhibiting strange symptoms and signs of a sickness. It started normally enough. A headache, a fever. And it wasn't everybody, but everyone knew someone who got sick. From there it just got worse. A lot worse. Terrifying. And then, just plain weird... People got sicker and sicker with a variety of symptoms, vomiting, feinting, seizures, and even comas and catatonic states. A lot of people died, usually from organ failure caused by, they said, the sheer stress caused by the virus. It was a pandemic. It affected everybody, young and old, rich and poor, healthy or infirm. Lastly, after a few months, at the height of the national anxiety, the sick began to exhibit... Abilities. Unnatural strength, the ability to move things with their mind, and people even had their bodies morph into inhuman forms, everything in the comics and more. Fear brings out the worst in us. And this was no different. Protests occurred, demanding that those affected be locked up or even systematically eliminated due to the potential threat they posed. Anxiety and fear turned to violence, The Violence. The worst of it was in the big cities back east where lynch mobs formed and committed violent acts, even killing, those suspected of being sick. One was fearful to go to drug store with a cough in those weeks and months. The Violence eventually subsided, or so it was thought, but not before there was a migration, swaths of affected people moved westward, Bay City being a premier destination for them due to its open-minded population. To this day there is a refugee camp in northern Alameda. That's where they got the term 'A's, after the local baseball team, the Alameda A's. The As formed their own groups, and of course, with new abilities and strengths, those inclined to do bad found new opportunities. A gangs and groups formed throughout the area and crime spiked. The police and even military were impotent in the face of people who were quite literally bulletproof. The worst group was the Alphas, who existed more as a secret society and terrorist group than simple gang. The Alphas believed that those with abilities were the next step in human evolution and that it was the ordinary humans, called 'Betas' or 'B's that needed to be dealt with through enslavement and eradication. Coast-to-Coast, Alpha ideology was taken up by As, especially those that had been done wrong in The Violence and the second wave began, this time the shoe being on the other foot. The Alphas were eventually broken by none other than a group of A heroes and a, for lack of a better term, ceasefire between As and Bs has existed since. There are still radical, even violent, anti-A groups and A-gangs still very much exist, but The Violence is over. Eventually the CDC came out with a theory that a build-up of Axiose, which was in almost all food even fresh fruits and meats, in everyone's systems interacted with their DNA and caused a sort of mutation. But they could not explain why not everyone got sick. They hypothesized that it could be the quantity of Axiose people ate or their individual biology or even the individual structure of their DNA. But they just didn't know. Everyone reacted differently, and most didn't experience the worst symptoms, but the impact on the culture, and on the world, was forever. Axiom Enterprises' stock tanked and it was eventually saddled with heavy fines and a criminal case was even brought against John Donovon that he and his inner circles and research team knew about and covered up the possible health risks of Axiose. But Donovon vanished, presumably fleeing the country, and a new board took over. Axiom Enterprises had a period of "self-reflection" where it got out of the food and bio-engineering business, its most profitable, and committed to heavy philanthropy where it donated close to half of its net worth in charity and r&d to help those affected by Axiose. It took five years, but Axiom Enterprises mended its wounded reputation and its profit margins through research on the As its product caused. AE eventually developed technology and inventions to help the regular police forces with A-gang crimes and help lobby for legislation regulating use of abilities and A-groups that assisted civilian police forces with enforcement of these types of things. Sentinel Society: Genesis - Chapter 2: Bay City Brawl Todd had zoned out for a moment. The sound of a motor accelerating caught his attention. Brakes screeched and there was a loud crash. The last thing I need. A wreck just ahead had occurred. He was definitely going to be late now. The punctually-challenge young man squinted and then his eyes widened. A motorbike had come the wrong way down Highway 2! Certainly the rider was dead. Todd felt sick to his stomach. Then, the rider, who had been flung through the windshield of a car just several ahead of Todd, pulled himself to his feet, glass falling from his leather riding suit, glass shards sticking out of it. The rider wore no helmet and looked to be one of Bay City's more colorful denizens. His mohawk was a head-and-a-half high and a bright red. Metal rings and studs adorned the man's snarling face. The rider placed his hands on the jacket and it began to sag and slip, smoke rose from the leather, and then he tore roughly the top half of it off his body. A large tattoo, a red "A" with a circle around it, was prominent on the man's chest. "You Betas!" He started in a thick British accent, Todd couldn't place the region, "Toilin' away, 'appy li'le wage slaves, grovelin' boot lickers!" He himself wore boots, also adorned with encircled "A"s, "Doesn't it make you angry? Doesn't it make you crazy!?" He lifted a fist above his head and Todd quickly felt his pulse quicken. Todd's adrenal gland dumped itself; the young man felt... Hostile. He felt violent. Stupid traffic. Dead-end job! Useless people!! Todd punched his radio dash, which was reporting on an "event" currently unfolding on Highway 2, and smashed it. He screamed and the wrath welling up in him only became worse. " 'At's right you ugly little worms," The motorbike rider muttered and pumped his fist once. The urge to lash out, to kick, to scream, to bite, to tear apart... Anything. Everything. Was too much for Todd to bear. He looked around wildly until he made eye-contact with the driver next to him, a young lady practically frothing at the mouth, her chest heaved and she gnashed her teeth at Todd. "What are you looking at, you witch!?" Todd roared and flung his door open, smacking it into hers and shattering the windows on both. The woman screamed a shrill battlecry and tore her way out of her seatbelt before beginning to climb through the broken window, blood dripped where the broken glass punctured and lacerated her hands. She had only managed to get about a third of the way out when Todd hit her as hard as he could and she went limp in the window. The hot pain in his fist felt good. He grabbed a fistful of hair and hit her again and again and again. After about the sixth or seventh time, his hand was swollen and throbbing and numb, his knuckles just as purple as the bruised flesh around her left eye and cheek. Blood seeped from her busted lip and broken nose. Todd could only see red, his head spun with a dizzying rage. He couldn't stop. He was going to kill her and then... Find someone else. "Riotmaker!" A voice called from the bridge cables above and it caught Todd's attention. He looked up to see a figure in a karategi and flowing white headband, "Stop this at once and turn yourself in or you know what will happen!" It was Rising Sun, leader of the most prominent A-enforcement guild on the West Coast, popularly called the Sentinel Society. Rising Sun was a master of every form of empty handed martial arts and possessed an ability to produce energies from his fists and feet and even head that looked like fire, a power collectively described as the Emperor Dragon. Four other figures descended in a flash and landed all around the villain, the othe four members of the Sentinel Society, "We have you outnumbered, and we won't go easy on you," Riotmaker, who had a terrible and twisted smile, "Oh, I don't think so, bootlicker. You and your bloody fascists don't stand a chance 'is time," Riotmaker pumped his fist once and there was a wave of shouts and animalistic roars throughout the area of Highway 2. The citizens, those that were still conscious and could walk, turned towards the four figures that had landed, "Outnumbered? 'Ink again, lad. You're surrounded!" The anarchy-styled villain pumped his fist again and the horde fell upon the four. Todd felt an inescapable rage, the urge to murder those who had sworn to protect him. He pushed his way into the fray, grasping, scraping, gnashing. "Be careful with the citizens!" Called Rising Sun who took a stance, his muscled body tensing and his hands beginning to glow red, "I'll handle the thug!" "They're certainly not being careful with us, the jerks!" A young voice called from a portion of the crowd, a loud, metallic bonk! sounded and several of the rage-mad attackers went tumbling into the air, "Sorry, not sorry, jerks!" A second, robotic voice joined in, "Pow! Right in the kisser!" It called enthusiastically from the same area. A stern, deep voice resonated from a different location, "Young Warlord, mind your force, they can't help themselves. Riotmaker is making them do this, they are not of their own sound mind," A figure head and shoulders taller than everyone else in the crowd stood. His skin was a slate-gray and his muscle definition was more akin to a rock formation than biological anatomy. More striking was the helmet and mask he wore, something like the headgear of a welder but instead of a lens across his face, a black iron grate was there and there was seemingly a fire burning inside it. "Easy for-" Another metallic bonk and a jeering from the robotic voice, "-you to say, Forge! Agh! That's my eye you jerk!" Another three went sailing into the air, Serves you right! Shouted the robot voice in a sing-song voice, "You're like a golem!" "Simply because I am large and Jewish does not make me a golem, Young Warlord," Forge effortlessly moved whole swaths of individuals away from him in slow sweeps of his arm as he rebuked his ally with a calm, gravely voice that echoed from within the burning helmet, "Sibyl, how are you doing?" A short distance away, a large group of raging attackers floated into the air engulfed in an azure aura, "How do you think?" A young woman snapped, "If there were fewer people I could just cancel the hold Riotmaker has on them, but there are too many!" She floated above the group spilling into her location, they grabbed at her bare feet, and flowing robes that matched the aura's color, "If any of you look up my robes, you will have hell to pay," The magical woman said flatly. Sibyl made a quick series of hand signs and shouted a foreign phrase and a burst of azure light parted the crowds. A puff of black smoke and several flashes of light came from yet another area. In a quickened, feminine voice, "It's kind of fun, isn't it? Is that wrong? I'm sorry. Sorry! It is though. Kind of. Right?" A slender hooded figure in black stood upright on the shoulders of one of her attackers, "I mean it's like recess- I mean practice, right? Kind of? Sorry!" She leapt high in the air and displayed an incredible acrobatic ability, twisting in the air, nearly defying gravity, and threw several capsules, both white and black. Where the white ones fell, bright flashes of light stunned and where the black ones fell, thick smoke seemed to drug and drop the attackers, "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! Please don't come any closer," She winced as she came down on top of her more enthusiastic assailants, kicking off his face like a spring board and launching back into the air. "Focus, Blackbird," Rising Sun called, still focusing on the man in the middle of the square of action, the cause of this unrest, "Just because they're non-metahumans doesn't mean that they aren't dangerous," The hand-to-hand master, his weapons of choice now fully engulfed in what did indeed look like flame from a mythical dragon, pushed off the twisted metal support cables with both feet, a burst of air behind him, the fighter was gone quicker than could be perceived by most, "Let's end this quickly!" He called to his team. Sibyl groaned and stated flatly under her own breath, "Gladly," She made a hand sign and floated forward. Forge grunted in affirmation as he waded through the crowd as if it were just water. "Coming!" Blackbird giggled and began running along the heads of her wouldbe attackers. Young Warlord shouted his approval loudest of all but seemed rather occupied, still dealing with his crowd. "Master Warlord, would you like a hand?" Asked the robotic voice with a tongue-in-cheek tone. "Your name is Semi-Autonomous Sidekick System, Sassy, what do you think!?" The boy berated his helper for joking at a time like this. "If you're going to be rude about it-" " "Just do it!" "Fine, but I want an apology later," The sound of thrusters send a boy flying into the air. The suit he wore was a bright yellow with large red fist-gauntlets and similarly red scarf around his neck and large boots, where there was now flames propelling him into the sky. The five Sentinels were upon Riotmaker in a moment who, though he still wore his twisted and toothy grin, was looking about with increasing anxiety, "Useless bloody citizens!" He lowered his fist and pivoted to face the leader of the group, "I'm gonna kill you, you bloody fasc-" Riotmaker's eyes grew wide as Rising Sun, who had been more than a stone's throw away just a moment ago was directly in front of him, the look in his eye... Always the same raw, determined look. A flaming fist crushed the villain's face, sending a piercing, blood, and teeth into the air along with their owner and directly into the power-armored fist from Young Warlord who twisted his body and, with a full windup, hammered the villain's face a for a second time with such force that it redirected the British troublemaker into the hands of the largest member, Forge. Without missing a beat, the giant bounced the skinny anarchist off the pavement with a hammerfist and then kicked him high, straight up into the air where Blackbird was waiting with a handful of white capsules. Riotmaker's face was struck with a magnificent, bright white blast that sent him screaming towards the pavement. Just before striking what would be a skeleton splintering blow, an azure light surrounded him. "Good catch, Sibyl," Rising Sun gave a thumbs up and a smile to the blue-robed witch who only sucked her teeth in response. The hero then turned to the crowd, "Citizens! Listen to me! You are safe now, the authorities are on the way. Please check on who is around you for anyone seriously injured and who will need medical attention first. I'm sorry this happened to you, but it's over now. The police will want reports from everyone, so please stay where you are. None of you are responsible for what has happened here or what you think you might have done. You were not yourselves, you were controlled by a sick villain with a warped sense of society. He will face justice and not bother you anymore!" With that, they were gone. All flying away or off in a jump. Todd stood, holding his hand which was in crippling pain. He had broken it... On a woman's face. Todd bent at the waist and was sick there on the pavement. Shaking as the sirens drew closer, he began to sob. He felt like a monster. - "What a loser. Wish I could've hit him more than once," Young Warlord jumped into the air and by the time he landed on the large couch in the common area of their base, his suit had removed itself and floated down with gentle thrust and then off down the hallway, "Hey, Sassy, make sure to buff out those scratches. One of those jerks dinged you real good!" There was a robotic 'hmph!' as it turned the corner, "What a diva," The boy groaned and looked around him on the couch, "Yo, anyone know where the remote is?" He sunk his hand in between the cushions. Blackbird had joined her ally in looking for the remote shortly thereafter. "You all did a good job today. I know it isn't easy when you have to hold back, but those civilians couldn't help it. Riotmaker has done this before, but not like this," Rising Sun stood with his large arms folded, a pondering frown on his face, "He's getting stronger," Sibyl and Forge stood in a loose group with their leader. She spoke in a low voice, "It wouldn't be an issue except he keeps getting out," The witch floated just above the ground, her blue robes about. They seemed to hover around her figure instead of on her, like a planet orbiting the sun, "The prisons still aren't capable of holding people like him," The mighty giant, Forge, spoke softly and encouragingly to his co-heroes, "There is still a learning curve. The facilities used to house metahumans must be secure, but also humane," Sibyl flamed and gritted her teeth, "Don't talk to me about humane, those people are anything but," Her robes gusted outward and several mugs and plates were flung off the table behind her and shattered, quieting the room including Blackbird and Young Warlord over by the couch who had just been rejoicing over half a bag of chips they had found under the couch, "I'm going to meditate," Sibyl said flatly after a moment and floated down the hall the same way that Young Warlord's suit had gone. Rising Sun spoke after her, "If we need you we'll-" "Don't need me," She snapped back, a dent formed in the metal wall beside her, and she rounded the corner. "Do not be disheartened. She needs some time, young dragon master," Forge spoke to his leader who still gazed down the hall. "She's always so angry," The young man said. "I remember when you were angry," The voice behind the metal grate was naturally rough and deep, but it had a softness and consoling to it. The leader scoffed, "You didn't grow up being a pariah from both your White and your Asian sides of the family," There was a pause and then he closed his eyes, "I'm sorry, Forge, I didn't... I wasn't thinking. Forgive me," "There is nothing to forgive," The large, rocky being spoke, unshaken. Forge was a second-generation Ethiopian Jew living with his parents in New York City at the time of The Violence. They had both been strung up from light poles coming home from the drug store for medicine for him, "We have all had our struggles," "But you..." Rising Sun unfolded his arms and shifted uncomfortably. He reflected on his team. Dealing with Sibyl was, perhaps not easy, but straightforward. She blew up. She cooled off. Most of the time you got one-word answers, maybe a barbed response. She was well-read, capable, and hyper-independent to the point of being mistrusting of the group in the beginning. The witch had come around but was still remarkably aloof. Her earlier life, too, had been one of constant hurt and ostracism. Young Warlord was... On the one hand, he was a genius with an immeasurable IQ. On the other hand, he was indeed young, fifteen to be exact. And the technical intelligence that was his ability did not translate over to common sense or self-discipline. He was, like many boys his age, messy, rude, and lethargic unless he was in his robotics lab or gaming or, his favorite pastime, fighting. Cutting access to any one of those was enough to get through to him. Blackbird was much more selfless and amicable, but, being that she had only moved from Danubia (in Central Europe) a few years ago - there was a very bad and violent anti-A movement there and so her hand her parents had left - she was not used to the cultural norms, and did not understand many things about her fellow team: Sibyl's pantheonic religion, what a "Beta Israel" was, Young Warlord's long-winded tech talks, or even Rising Sun's practices. Even though she was always turned down, she invited every one of them to Mass every Friday, Easter, and Christmas. Rising Sun had gone once and felt immensely out of place, Blackbird's father, who refused to call her by her hero name and only by Bianka, had been insistent on sitting between his daughter and Rising Sun, who he would only refer to as Sarkany, which Blackbird later explained was something to the effect of "Dragon" though she refused to elaborate further. But Forge. Forge was an enigma. Though his appearance was the most intimidating of them all. Rising Sun recalled a time when Forge asked if he was trying to see his face beyond the iron grates and flames. He had not, but... About the same time as everyone else, I got the fever from Axiose. It hit me hard. Everything hurt, everything. My skin, my bones, my organs. It felt like I was burning up from the inside out. My skin got harder and dryer until it cracked and bled and Mama would burn her fingers rubbing balm onto my skin and scorch her lips kissing my forehead. Then, I cannot explain how, but one day the skin around my eyes and lips begin to simply burn off. As bad as it hurt, it must have looked so much worse, because Mama, who had looked at me with only sorrow and kindness until then looked at me with horror. She tried to hide it, bless her, until the day she died, but I could see it in her eyes. My skin, then my meat, then my bone went. I should have died I guess but who knows what that poison we all ate did to us. My body is a furnace now, burning up my soul a little all the time, and I guess every furnace needs a stovepipe, huh? So, no, you cannot see my face because there isn't one there. As far as I can tell, I don't have any organs either. I eat, but not like you. I put in a burger and it just burns up. I opt to eat normal food out there, in front of the people, as if it will make me look any more normal, but when I'm here, among friends, it is funny, I just prefer wood or coal because it will last longer. Forge had had the worst of it, of the condition brought on by Axiose. For the same reason that a chemical compound apparently gave Sibyl the ability to touch and manipulate without touching or even make people go to sleep by saying a few words in Ancient Greek, Forge's body had burned itself up until it was just a stone husk and a flame inside, he said it was his soul burning. The helmet, which was permanently fashioned to his neck and shoulders was one of his own design. It "gave people somewhere to look at" he would say. After all this though, with all these reasons to hate the world, he still held an even-keel, he was kind, gentle, and had a depth of what could only be considered sage wisdom. He was good. "Let's help them find that remote," Forge said, Rising Sun could hear the man's comforting 'smile' in his voice. The giant turned and faced Sibyl who had returned, from her room. Her presence was all the apology there would be for her outburst. There was a look on her face though... The three of them went to the couch where Blackbird and Young Warlord had since ravaged the bag of chips they had found from underneath. Their leader chuckled at the two youngest Sentinels, still digging in the couch, and went over to the TV, picking up the remote that sat next to it. The two young fighters looked at each other in horror. Rising Sun plopped down between them and laughed again, "That's awkward," He jabbed looking at one, then the other and switched on the television. As they watched, Sibyl spoke, "I felt one earlier. Out there today," She shifted, "I could tell there was an Alpha out there," "Well duh," Young Warlord gestured, smacking his head, "We were fighting him. Y'know. Big red mohawk, made everyone go coo-coo?" "Not him, you petulant rat," She gnashed, but bit her lip, gathered her composure and carried on, "Not Riotmaker. I sensed another one. There were too many to tell exactly, but there was definitely one there," Blackbird didn't break her gaze from the television, which she seemed enthralled in, "That part Highway 2 is a no A-type area," "But unless they looked like me," Forge interjected, "The average person might not be able to tell," They all sat quietly for a while until Rising Sun said, "We'll look into it later, but one problem at a time," Sentinel Society: Genesis - Chapter 3: Late Bloomer, Part 1 "Take your time, sir. I know this is a shock, but the more details you remember, the better," A police officer sat across from Todd, a recorder running on the table between them, the officer held a notebook and pen, "Just tell me what you remember," "It... It just..." Todd couldn't look up, it was like a chain had connected the top of his head and his waist. He could only move his gaze from his lap to his belly. His hand, that he had beaten another victim with, was bandaged thoroughly, though blood showed through at the first two knuckles, "That guy did like a thing. He raised his hand- his fist- and it made me so angry. I don't mean like road rage angry or even find out your girlfriend is cheating on you angry, I mean... I wanted to kill her. I wanted to kill them," "Who is 'her', sir? Who are 'they'?" After a few moments of Todd shaking a sniffling the cop continued, "Sir, you aren't in any trouble, the A's ability is to cause individuals to act violently, against their will. You aren't liable for anything you did, but I need you to be specific," "I don't know who it was, okay?" He looked up, snotty and sniveling, frustrated. Todd had never felt so... Victimized, so violated. To have someone control your emotions. He had heard of people controlling minds but this was different. He had wanted to do what he did. Todd suppressed a gag at the thought of the lady's swollen, beaten face, "Just the woman next to me in traffic. We looked at each other and I hated her worse than I've ever hated anybody. I've never even been in a fight before, but I... She crawled on broken glass to get to me, and I don't know, I hit her and hit her and she wasn't awake anymore but I kept hitting her until her... Oh no," Todd retched and covered his slacks. "Great... Can we get a mop in here?" The cop called. She sighed and closed her notebook, "Thank you for your time, sir. If you have any further details, please call the precinct," - Todd stood out on the street in front of the police station. A file of people out the door were still waiting to give their statements. Many of them were bloody, shaken, crying. Some were talking about what a hellhole Bay City had become, but others were just thankful for the Sentinel Society. The Sentinel Society... Todd had known about them, the West Coast's main A-law enforcement agency, y'know, the local hero team. They were the most famous west of the Rockies, though not outright celebrities like the East Coast crews in New York City or DC. He also knew that, with a greater A-population in Bay City and Alameda, it was more likely he would run into them, but it was still only a few thousand, if that, here that had... Powers. Most of those 'powers' were more mundane. But a small percentage, like that villain today and like the Sentinels, had really impressive abilities. Flight or lasers or whatever, those were the ones that drew all the attention. And they were the reason that As were all documented and segregated into communities like the one in northern Alameda. But... He hadn't been prepared for a clash of the titans. Todd's phone rang and it made his jump. Looking at the number didn't give him any relief at all. It was his work. His heart sank. "Hello? ... Yes ... Yes ... I was- Did you see on the news about ... No, I mean, yes, I mean, I was on the Bridge when ... Yes, sir. ... Yes, sir. ... No ... No, please, I don't- ... No ... No, sir ... No, that won't be necessary ... But, please, you don't understand, I moved all this way here to... Hello? Hello, sir?" The other line had been dropped. Todd held the phone for a moment and slowly his arm fell to the side. A-type stuff was just something that had to be accounted for out here. He was fired from Axiom Enterprises. Being jobless in one of the most expensive cities in the country wasn't an option... But what option did he have?