Supra-Man

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WHO is the new GOTHIC CITY GUARDIAN?

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GOTHIC CITY

They said that no city had been through more.

Gothic was a city of staggering wealth, and the intermittent disasters which had befallen it over the years had only concentrated it further. Entire swathes of the city's population had been left completely homeless, struggling to eke out an existence in the heart of one of the most corrupt metropolises in the world. There was no way out without running into either the deadly street gangs or the brutal police force, itself in fully in the pocket of the criminal underworld. Every year, it seemed like Gothic couldn't get worse. It was a black hole. Every effort to improve it had only attracted a more vicious response from within, and without.

Until now.

That was what the Supra-Man promised.

Most people in this city wore dark colors. Not him. A simple pair of blue jeans, t-shirt with a vintage superhero symbol, and red cape'd do the trick just fine.

A long jump carried him across an entire city block. The sound of gunfire followed.

The cape stretched out behind him, his smile wide, an adamant bullet caught casually between his teeth.

"Shoot him down! We can't let him get away again!"

Across the city, he could hear orders barked into radios. The entire police force was mobilizing in a game of manhunt. Sirens filled the air, not to protect the people, but to take out someone who was willing to stand up to the way things were - to demand something better.

Well, that, and busting through into the top floor of a clandestine meet-and-greet between the mob, the commissioner's office, and a mayoral candidate.

He replayed the scene in his head as a bullet ricocheted off his shoulder. (High-caliber rounds tonight - they were really pulling out all the stops).

The meeting had been set at the top floor of the Pembrose Building, a fifty-story skyscraper in the middle of the city. A standing jump had carried him up the side of the building; his coiled fist broke through the wall. Super-senses confirmed he was in the right place. The tips he'd received all added up.

At first, there'd been nothing but quiet shock. The goons pulled their guns and bullets ripped a few holes in his cape, but that was the best they could do.

He'd walked up to the candidate and casually hoisted him over his head by his shirt collar. All before the mags could hit the floor.

"What gives you the right to push people around like this?"

The man quivered with rage and fear. He knew he'd been caught in the act. But what was going to happen to him.

The caped youth shrugged.

"What gives it to you?"

That one felt good.

Next -

- the drop.

The meeting had been in the top floor of a skyscraper. He was about to take it to the bottom.

With a running jump, he flew out the hole he'd made, dragging the candidate in tow. He had to be careful, or this might wind up a little sadistic.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa -"

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"Don't be such a baby. I've got you," he smirked.

The concrete cracked under his footfalls.

BOOM.

The whimpering politico was forgotten, deposited at the feet of news crews and SWAT officers.

Guns leveled on his head did nothing to shake him. Instead, he pointed right at a camera.

"Alright, big shots, you know the deal. Respect for the law's a two-way street. This isn't going to stop until you clean up your acts. All of you. This city deserves better. The people deserve better. Do your part."

Shutter flash after shutter flash captured the image. It was surreal - a young guy nobody knew, wearing a superhero t-shirt, who'd just burst out of the top floor of one of Gothic's most prominent structures with the favored candidate for mayor in his grip...

...now appearing to threaten everyone in charge.

The only reason they'd not opened fire on him was because the whimpering candidate was too close. He was crawling away now...he'd need to wrap up his speech quick.

"Treat people right or expect a visit from me."

And with that, it was time to go.

There wasn't a vehicle on this Earth that could catch him. Pushing off against the pavement, he sprinted through lanes of traffic, weaving between cars and buses, vaulting over an eighteen-wheeler with the cops in tow.

He could feel the fat cats quaking in fear of what he'd do next - and the hope of a people who'd had nothing for too long.

Gothic City wasn't supposed to change. It was supposed to be Hell on Earth.

Well, not anymore.

The Supra-Man was here to stay.

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The Supra-Men of the Multiverse

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Across the Thoughtspace

For every idea, there is a potential world. Each one twists across sub-planar cosmos, the formations unstable until given form, at which point they rise to the over-cosmos. Most often they are microcosms of the primary authentic Earth, smaller pieces identical to the gestalt of our world but for one minuscule difference. These countless what-ifs and how-mights emerge in alternate dimensions, sometimes producing radical change that threatens to ripple out from their containment. For all these changes, though, there seems to be a constant:

The Sigil-Men.

It is not a name that belongs to any single being, but a title meant to inspire others to reach greater heights. Denoted most often by their broad-shouldered figures and inspiring "S" sigils, the members of this elite group often serve as the protectors of their planets. They are most often endowed with the power to defy the laws of physics through will, inordinate strength matched with radical speed along and the ability to fly. These staples of his identity reverberate throughout the over-cosmos, producing variations on every action taken by the original, who himself may be one of those echoes.

Thus far, this extraordinary group has assembled for one occasion only, rallied by Prodigy, another parallel echo of the soaring sentinel archetype.

These are the more significant of them, those abstractions which rose above the others and became solid enough to touch the material world.

Our Earth - Nemo, the Supra-Man

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Some would call him the original, or at least, the closest embodiment of the idea to have yet graced the over-cosmos, so much so that he is most often referred to by the title Supra-Man. His strength, speed, and sensory abilities represent the peak of what his type has to offer. Devoting all of his power to a meticulously-derived notion of good, his actions have already had numerous effects on the array of potential worlds surrounding his own primary planet.

Close allies with the Black Bat of his world, Nemo has enjoyed a long and ever-evolving career as one of the world's premier defenders, his personal timeline more irregular than those of most other beings. Unlike a man who goes through time linearly, Nemo seems to drop in and out of the standard sequence of events. His most notable presence was throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries, those which some say were the greatest ages of heroes. After a period of contemplative isolation, he established a base in New York City, where he lives to this day. Other super-beings he's taken under his wing include the anarchic Arabella Stover and the mystic Maxwell Hastings.

Following the Avatar Event that rippled throughout the over-cosmos, he's committed to putting together a team of his own to take on post-cosmic threats beyond the scope of his own physical plane, as well as devoting enough time to his home dimension to keep it secure as the primary Earth in his eyes.

Our Earth - Joseph Beckham, the Prodigy

Creator: @joey_destroyer_of_worlds

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The simultaneous embodiment of dynamic heroism and boyish wonderment, middle schooler Joseph Beckham was accidentally gifted the power of Zeus in the palm of his hand. Though almost made into a weapon against humanity, he instead became one of its better-known protectors, defending the world against the likes of Exemplar the Geomagnetic Man and Methodius, the God-King. By chance or fate, he now stands among the legion of Sigil-Men with his own unique lightning-based symbol proudly displayed on his chest.

Joseph's supernatural abilities derive from his symbiotic connection to Zeus himself, the Olympian Lord of the Sky. Bound to the very idea of Kronos' youngest son, he is empowered with Herculean strength and mastery over the sky, capable of transforming from his adolescent body into an electric Adonis once every 24 hours.

Balancing the trials and tribulations of teenage life with after-school time spent saving the planet from fantastic evils, the Prodigy approaches problems in a way no other Sigil-Man does: with the optimism and wit of a juvenile powerhouse.

Earth ROSS - Supra-Man One

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On a world with more constrained laws of physics and tenser international relations, one man was bequeathed genetic gifts by an uncanny fluke the likes of which the world had never yet seen. Cosmic radiation sent in a tightly-defined beam passed through the young man's chest, awakening an inner potential locked away in his DNA. Of these trillion-to-one odds emerged perhaps the sole unpredicted factor in this world's highly mechanical existence - Supra-Man One.

Or at least, that was what he was called by his government. His true identity was immediately classified, agents approaching the youth the instant the United States' instruments detected such a powerful burst of cosmic radiation in the atmosphere. Tracking him back to his home via his flight patterns, they made him an offer he couldn't refuse - realize there was a power greater than his own ego, and devote his gifts to the good of his society.

Given a uniform tailor-made to endure the speeds at which he could move as well as an extensive mission-control center to help direct his activities, the newly-christened Supra-Man fundamentally altered the geopolitical landscape from the moment of his introduction to the skeptical public. However, recent tension between him and his commanding officers, including the sitting President of the United States, has led to an increasing disconnect between the Pentagon and its sole superpowered agent.

Earth MERIA - August Southern, Stratopal

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In all the over-cosmos, you might never find a man quite so brotherly as Stratopal, who fits the definition of Supra-Man by his largely parallel power-set as well as his cheery demeanor. Though virtually identical to the Nemo of our Earth in physical appearance, he appears to be more emblematic of stalwart companionship than indomitable will. A more ambiguous thought-being just as the original Supra-Man is, his renegade spirit manifests as humanity's best friend rather than its watchful protector.

Quick with a joke and ready to listen to anyone's problem, he commits his Herculean strength to the healthy preservation of his bond with humanity, knowing that they too will benefit from his kind nature in return. They say he's capable of befriending just about anyone given enough time, so long as their natures aren't too greatly in conflict.

When it comes to protecting the people he cares for, though, nothing will stand in his way. A staunch friend of the Atticus Pendragon of his universe, and is known to enjoy a few light drinks every now and then with him on the side.

Earth AUREL - Noah Vargas, the Foreman

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This Sigil-Wearer is distinct in both his attitude and his enhanced sensory abilities, the general philosophy of Earth AUREL perhaps enough to spark change in his very metaphysical constitution. The being who adopted the name Noah Vargas possesses far more potent sensory skills, enough so that he can sense at all times the motion of atoms surrounding him and their precise chemical makeups. He is more deeply in tune with his universe than most other Supra-Men, as he naturally anticipates the motion of all things in his vicinity.

He has been called the Determinist for both his aggressively staunch attitude as well as his philosophical leaning. Able to trace all events back to their primary sources as well as extrapolate future happenings from his surroundings' current physical makeup, he practically embodies Laplace's Demon, a creature which can tell the future by means of its sensory connection to the present.

Such an ability does not come without a price, however. To him, every event in the universe is a function of mathematics. Consequentially, he is incapable of viewing human beings as anything other than data points, traveling along fixed paths that only he can see. Their protection is his duty as a result of their particular rarity in the universe, not some emotional call to aid; he cares little for their individual desires, so long as they are protected. It is his conviction towards their protection - from themselves, if need be - coupled with his magnificent powers that earns him his status as the Supra-Man of Earth AUREL. If he should attempt to spread his abilities beyond his home universe, however, there would undoubtedly be pushback from some of the others who value freedom just as much as security - unlike him.

Earth ATTEN - Craig Cage, AKA Blitz-Craig

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On this world, the internet and remix culture have completely taken the world by storm. All conventional media is nothing but self-referential loops and deconstructions, fueled by a populace particularly preoccupied with social connection and keeping up with their favorite super-powered personalities. To possess a glamorous alt-identity has been the dominant trend for the past three decades, and merchandising has exploded across every storefront. Virtual-reality hero adventures keep most people occupied, and a total global interaction network has practically erased borders.

Flying high over the nightlife-powered urban supercenters is celebrity Craig Cage, better known as Blitz-Craig the Superior Man. His style is emulated worldwide, and he's the star of more media intrigue and gossip than anyone from a different Earth could possibly conceive of. Trying his best to remain above it all, he flies away from paparazzi just as much as he soars off to confront evil. The nature of the threats he faces are quite different, as metahuman "crime" is nothing more than bait for high-powered opponents. Obsession over who would triumph in the (often-staged) street battles dominates internet discussion, but the "Superior Man" of this world tries to stay out of it.

Omnipresent surveillance and compulsive recording made securing a secret identity for this protector impossible. His desire to lead a private life in spite of constant media-badgering has lead to more than a few outbursts, leading to his aloof "Superior Man" public persona. His agent (a necessity for any costumed crimefighter) simply recommended he go with the newfound reputation...and lose the cape.

Earth ASIM - Rick Card, Supra Man-of-Earth

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On Earth ASIM, mankind advanced at a far greater rate, the early development of regulatory artificial intelligentsia boosting mankind's technological output centuries ahead of those of parallel Earths. Under the direction of these immense computerized "Brains," humanity spread out into the Milky Way and beyond, securing a prominent place in intergalactic relations. This world is one of unparalleled optimism and unhindered exploration, the human experience utterly elevated by extensive contact with alien life-forms and interdimensional travel. In this universe, Earth is a cosmopolitan hub of trade and cultural production, protected by the legendary Man-of-Earth along with his partner, the enigmatic Blackhole Bat. The chief protector of the entire solar system, this star-based super-being routinely challenges rogue von Neumann machines, wrestles collapsing stars, and serves as a representative during intergalactic crises.

To manage the disparate challenges of the universe, Man-of-Earth has fully integrated the AI of his Empyrean with the head Brain of the Solar System. Though divorced from the government structure of the relatively futuristic planet, he still maintains contact with the exploration guilds, often stepping in to rectify far-space missions gone awry. His advanced biothread star-suit can change its shape and design to suit his needs. One of his greatest talents is the ability to speak most basic languages common to the right spiral arm of the Milky Way unassisted, a feat that puts him on par with numerous supercomputers. The Brain his AI is linked to can devote yottabytes of data to a single task.

His continuous exposure to countless alien cultures has made him far more comfortable than most other Sigil-Men in dealing with the unknown. As a hyperspace ambassador to countless planets, he has some of the most negotiating experience of all Sigil-Bearers, as well as familiarity with high-concept technologies non-present in other universes. He is also, however, one of the busiest of them all, his attention forced towards extra-galactic threats almost all of the time. His powers are far more suited to operation in a vacuum than any other Supra-Man.

Earth APOLLO - Chris Nicholson, the Supra-Nova

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Bold and brash, the Sigil-Bearer of Earth APOLLO is famed futurologist Chris Nicholson, whose laboratories developed a powerful nano-serum that enabled him to harness the power of the sun itself. Typically hidden beneath his skin, these solar panel-like nanobots can emerge to amplify his power to significant levels. Becoming the living renewable resource he'd always sought to create, Nicholson devoted his abilities to enhancing conditions around the globe, particularly in countries deprived of natural resources.

However, disaster struck when the Avatar Event rippled out from our Earth, resulting in profound changes to Earth APOLLO's sun. Ballooned to disastrous sizes for a moment only, the new white star in the middle of the solar system burned away much of Earth's protective atmosphere, resulting in a massive increase in global temperatures as well as making prolonged exposure to sunlight deadly. Nicholson is at the forefront of repairing the damage done to his planet by the event, reconstructing the environment and attempting to return water levels to normal. In the meantime, humanity persists within hastily-constructed Biodomes, societies compressed into cells for their own safety. Many citizens of first world countries opted to have themselves frozen, while members of underdeveloped nations had no such luxury.

Nicholson is now the captain of an uncertain ship, doing his best to manage the politically contentious new society while also aiding the planet's recovery from solar disaster.

Earth CONCH - Little Nemo, the Supra-Kid

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On the world of Earth-CONCH, it seems that every significant hero or villain from the alpha universe is age-locked at around ten standard years, producing a world of wide-eyed idealism and youthful mischief. Locked in a recursive time-loop in a vast suburban neighborhood. Villains are more likely to try to run neighborhood scams and shake down kids for their lunch money than interfere with the actual routine, ensuring that most problems are solved by bedtime.

This tiny Nemo lives in isolation in a treehouse near the edge of the cul-de-sac, attending school with the other local kids. Most of the relationships from our Earth remain intact on Earth CONCH, if warped significantly by the age difference. The time eddies that plague the world have no discernible source, nor are they noticed by any. These alterations affect only the initial inhabitants, meaning any visitors are unaffected by the non-aging nature of the planet they're on.

Even though they appear to only be kids, the residents of this Earth very much prefer to be left alone, and will express such desires petulantly at first, then threateningly. Only Little Nemo seems capable of interacting at all with outsiders in a sense that shows any modicum of self-awareness, which raises even more questions about the universe's distinct origin and ongoing history. All it would take is one adult to mess everything up.

Earth MALDOR - Omen, the Inverted Supra-Man

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On an Earth where good and evil are inverted, the notorious Omen is lord of crime. The Seven-Sin Man hovers menacingly over the world he has claimed for himself. A passionate defender of what he considers his extended personal property, this sinister duplicate of our Earth's high-flying hero is a potential threat to the entire multiverse. There exists a contract between him and the others, though, that he will keep the scope of his conquests within the borders of his own toxic reality. In a way, he is actually the gatekeeper to Earth MALDOR, preventing inhabitants of the Dark Cosmos from raining down on the others.

The history of this planet is similarly warped, as the very fabric of good-vs-evil interactions has been twisted over. Unlike the Supra-Man of our world, Omen was quick to declare dominion over vast swathes of territory, engaging those who would seek to stop him in bloody campaigns that wrecked much of the previous society. The current power-structure is intact, and though there is resistance against the forces of terror, most institutions have fallen to corruption and debauchery. Under Omen's watchful glare, "good" as classically known has no chance to rise.

Smug, conceited, and with the power of a living black hole, Omen is potentially one of the deadliest beings in all existence. Just as he keeps his own legions from leaving Earth MALDOR, though, so too are heroes from other worlds forbidden from infringing upon its twisted nature. This was the chosen price of keeping it isolated, a bloody smear on the tapestry of the over-cosmos. Only a sub-molecular adjustment to the reality's very soul could possibly undo its tainted existence. For now, we must be content that its inhabitants are quarantined...for the sake of all.

Earth CAPO - Buster Croce, the Spectacularly Strong-Man

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"With powers beyond those of mortal men, Buster Croce is the hero the public demanded! Staring down brutal gangsters and Nazi agents alike, he puts his immense strength and fantastic build to work as the ally of the commoner. Stronger than one thousand men combined, he's a veritable human dynamo, a mystery science has no answer for! See him dash from city to city, thwarting villainous plot after villainous plot! So far, he thinks himself indestructible, but with the Second World War looming around the corner, it's possible that his greatest challenge is just about to begin!"

On Earth CAPO, the infinitesimally small reactions that prompted the start of the universe occurred but a microsecond later, placing the equivalent of their present day in a setting that resembles our Depression era. Subtle changes abound, however, with the introduction of magnificent beings and technologies beyond their time earlier on have already begun a secret arms race between the United States and the Third Reich.

This Sigil-Bearer has less physical power than some of his contemporaries across the over-cosmos, but much more grit and elbow grease to compensate with. A part of society instead of a man watching over it, no other Supra-Man is closer to the ground - literally and metaphorically.

Earth ARTEM - Atalanta, the Supra-Woman

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On Earth ARTEM, the enigmatic woman known as Norn experimentally influenced early history so as to prompt more leading roles for females in developing societies. This led to a significant change in the male-female relationships throughout history, so much so that the modern world is radically different. Similar patterns re-asserted themselves, echoes of our Earth rippling across theirs to enforce unforeseen impacts. Even with the historical changes, many previous events insisted upon occurring in similar ways, such as the First and Second World Wars and the establishment of similar nations.

Just as the enigmatic sigil-figure of Nemo emerged on our world, so too did the heroine Atalanta on Earth ARTEM. Boasting power beyond imagination, she worked with the notorious Black Bat throughout the 20th century, eventually settling her Empyrean spire in the waters between Ireland and Great Britain.

Dedicating her abilities to protecting her blossoming homeworld's culture, the Supra-Woman is equally committed to working as an inspiring figure in numerous charities, shadowing Third World nations as they grow beyond what society initially expected them to be. However, danger looms on the horizon - even this more egalitarian could potentially be torn asunder if the well-guarded secret of how it came about were brought to light. If that were to be the case, Atalanta would be left with an insurmountable dilemma: preserve the utopia, or perhaps, allow cruel nature to run its course?

Earth VOLFN - Odin von Hammersmark, the Uber-Man

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Earth VOLFN is considered one of the most tragic Earths in the over-cosmos, and so too is its chief hero, the Uber-Man. Inheritor of a fractured Fourth Reich, he came into existence on the heels of one of the greatest atrocities ever to take place on any planet in the multitude of human worlds across the multiverse. Unlike on other worlds, the conquest of Nazi Germany in the 20th Century yielded success rather than failure, resulting in the eradication of the Allies and the complete domination of the Axis powers. A chiefly fascistic Earth was the result, one built on countless graves.

However, the victorious Nazis would soon discover that totalitarian states are by their very nature unsustainable. With the inevitable demise of Adolf Hitler came the succession of his competitive generals, each one dividing the remaining power of their respective commands among themselves. War with the Japanese and Italians seemed inevitable, and with nuclear munitions on the table, the complete collapse of human society seemed inevitable.

Enter the Uber-Man, unwitting secret weapon of the Third Reich. Choosing not to engage in crimes against humanity, he left the planet, returning twenty years after the new regime became entrenched in the Western Hemisphere. On this radically reshaped planet, he now seems to be the only thing standing between the remnants of German society and nuclear oblivion. As American resistance fighters make their move against the tenuous New World Triumvirate, backstabbing and corruption within the Axis governments may cause the complete demise of everything they built. Now bearing the guilt of an entire planet as well as the responsibility to guide it to a better path, the Uber-Man is faced with a terrible dilemma - allow the atrocious regime to collapse, and all innocents with it, or preserve it, knowing full well the extent of the horror it was built upon...

Earth OCTUS - Ein, The Quantum Supra-Man

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On this world of inquiry and scientific exploration, the Supra-Man is represented by the sentient energy construct named "Ein" after Albert Einstein. His power extends beyond the physical prowess of other Sigil-Bearers, his strength extending directly to the very interactions between particles. Attuned to the material world at the quantum level, he physically represents the greatest scientific achievement this Earth had to offer the universe. With a command of energy fields that renders him nigh-omnipotent within his own universe, he rapidly became self-aware and set out to carve his own destiny.

Occasionally assisting the scientists who created him in charting the unknown via his immense power and knowledge, he is noentheless reclusive, residing almost permanently within his planet's moon unless some anomaly calls to him. Benevolent yet distant, he is perhaps the most self-isolating of all sigil-wearing beings in the over-cosmos.

As one of the first to engage directly with the multiverse, he was a pioneer in his own right in contacting the disparate worlds, connecting them through his prodigious ability to calculate vast quantities of information and influence the interactions between various types of foreign matter. An engineer of super-colliding artificial stars and designer of devices meant to prevent the once-thought inevitable end of all things by entropy, he is nonetheless continually fascinated with both his own birthworld and those echoes of it which emanate throughout the universe.

Earth KRITIK - The Supra-Marxian

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As the ultimate emblem of Marxist ideals, this sigil-bearer came into the world with no personal identity at all. He has no creed but that of the Party, no true name save for the title of Supra-Marxian, the one-man vanguard of the proletariat. Committed to the liberation of all laborers from all forms of exploitation, he battles against bourgeoisie lies and capitalist coercion, operating from his secret fortress hidden beneath the Kremlin in Moscow. A staunch foe of liberal deception, he devotes his immeasurable abilities to the preservation of a Communist Utopia.

After the death of Stalin, the Marxian was selected as the only viable successor, as his immortal embodiment of the Communist ideal made him the perfect candidate. On the surface, his rule has been an enormous success - Earth KRITIK is one of the most secure in the multiverse, its citizens satisfied under the Party's watch. However, given his aversion to needless bloodshed, the Marxian is committed to allowing revolution to occur naturally, in the true spirit of the Manifesto; for that reason, he has yet to invade the United States and force them to comply with Soviet command.

New troubles avail him, however; troubling reports that his subordinates plot to seize power for themselves (in direct opposition to his mission) have resulted in tensions within Moscow, as sufficient replacements have yet to be identified. Unwilling to fully automate his government, the concerned Marxian is forced to reckon with the extent to which he has influenced human agency. After all, is he not now the embodiment of the state Communists proclaim to detest? As he wrestles with this issue, another threat emerges - the existence of a non-Communist multiverse...

The Infinite Idea

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As there are infinite parallel worlds, so too are there nigh-endless numbers of sigil-wearers, most of them packing enough power to drastically influence the events on both their worlds and others. A pact exists between them not to cross the over-boundaries into each others' realities, for the havoc would be too great; only once has the group willingly convened within a reality, only to split apart immediately after for the safety of all life in existence, for their vibrational frequencies all existing in the same spot at once were causing reality to tear.

Just as they can gather, so too comes the potential for other beings to do so. Relationships between the most prominent of the sigil-wearers have already developed, dangerous alliances across the over-cosmos raising concern about cross-world invasion. Omen, the Marxian, and Hammersmark are regarded with particular suspicion.

Selected above are mere examples of the echoes of the original Nemo, samples of the hidden facets of the neverending concept of "super-hero."

OOC

  • This is a running list, and will likely be updated in the future.
  • This is not an extensive list of all worlds in the multiverse, nor of all Supra-Men in said multiverse.
  • In the coming weeks I'll have threads up for each alternate Earth, which will then become available to RPG in - either with visitors from our world, or versions of them on those.
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The Terminal Frontier

Nemo's Personal Log - Entry 324.18

Darkevius Halliwell's grip on all reality has been broken, but I fear that the repercussions of his seizure of the cosmos are only just beginning to be felt. His specter looms over us all, even though he was destroyed.

His great power came from his ability to steal the superhuman qualities of others. Slowly amassing new traits, he eventually became strong enough to reshape the fundamental structure of our existence. But even all the powers on our planet combined would not be enough to accomplish what he did. He traveled to other worlds, too, distant ones beyond human conception.

Alien activity on Earth also appears to be increasing.

I hear vague whispers of a benevolent being called the Overhero, who hails from distant space. Erian, the Pilgrim of Gorgon, came to Earth last year as well...once a friend, he now threatens conquest. Typhon of the Symaarians is here, though he continues to elude even my supra-senses. Time Siphons have caused unthinkable damage since arriving, and a kaiju of potentially extraterrestrial origin has been concealing itself beneath the waves. An lone alien Custodian operates on the behalf of some unknowable extraterrestrial government.

Earth has become fundamentally integrated with the rest of the galaxy. If I am to protect her, then I must also expand the scope of my operation. I cannot neglect my homeworld...but I cannot ignore the rest of the universe, either.

Something more troubling has become known to me, in recent days. When I made my first visit to Johann von Derfflinger - better known as the Warsman - he revealed to me calculations that all but confirmed the presence of something more sinister lurking beneath even my perception. There is excess energy penetrating the very fabric of the cosmos, thought-material left behind from the Eden Event that threatens to re-assert itself.

The ghost of Darkevius Halliwell lingers on the fringes of the galaxy...within our own Sun...and in the scars his blasted constructs left on our psyches. An entire world, tailor-made to suit our greatest desires...though I knew the family he made for me was artificial, there are days I miss the feeling of being with them.

The Black Bat, my oldest ally, confirmed that no such person matching the description of Marie Rose exists in our world, nor have they ever. She was just a dream, but I miss her nonetheless.

There is still work to be done. I must confront Erian, deal with Typhon, meet with the mysterious "Overhero," and finally, investigate this so-called "zombie reality" that threatens to overtake the cosmos from the depths of space. The unknown danger this anomaly poses could be too much even for me. In an unfamiliar environment, alone, I stand no chance. I will need a team.

This mission will take us beyond the bounds of the cosmos itself, through, over, and under time and space. Eldritch beings, alternate universes, and peril beyond all imagination.

My greatest adventure is about to begin. The Terminal Frontier awaits.

Up next: Into the Over-Cosmos!
Up next: Into the Over-Cosmos!

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Neverending

Well...here we are again.
Sometimes I used to joke that the worst thing that ever happened to me was that I was born. An odd joke, isn't it? To throw such a thing as life away isn't really that funny. There will always be occasions, I suppose, when the irony of things really kicks in, and it might look like there's no purpose in anything. We spend so much time looking for meaning in these short fires that are our lives. I was so convinced of what life had in store for me that I never thought to really question the overall structure of it. Locked into my genes, I thought. Locked into my nature.
I thought that was the most realistic approach, to just give in. I wish I could say that I didn't know what came over me. It seemed like the only reasonable ending to a life full of hurt. Somehow, I'd not only convinced myself that it was the only thing I could do, but that it was the right thing for me to do. Being told so often that you're evil can have that effect, especially when it's your own voice doing the telling.
Even I can't explain what happened next, though I recall it quite vividly. There I was, raygun in my mouth, finger on the trigger...and like a gentle breeze, there was a hand on my shoulder. "How cheap," I thought; "What a let-down." All of this, and for what? To be stopped by some muscle-bound buffoon wearing a blue skin-tight suit and a garish cape that would surely get caught on any door he tried walking through? How was that practical? An absolute stranger who nobody had ever heard of - even me - who was just...in the area that night? How had he found me? What rational force compelled him to intervene? Absurd!
But...he didn't stop me, no. Not like that. He let me choose. I don't know how long we talked for, but at the end of the night, I was feeling...better. I was feeling good. I gave him my gun, and he put it in his home, far away from where I could ever reach it. I never expected him to come back, even though he promised, but the next day, he was there. He was patient, too. I lashed out some nights, tried to destroy him; others, I just sat in the room and wept as he listened. He didn't go. He told me that I wasn't alone, and that he had my back, even if nobody else did. Me, of all people.
I put away the armor for good, put away the castle, put away the old name. I was scared at first - scared to try anything. But he worked me through it. Carefully, steadily, he worked me through it. I became a real human being, not just some idea dreamed up by a madman. Not a clone, but a genuine man. Someone who lived.
There wasn't much I could do in the open - that was his talent. But there were some things he needed from me, too. I was an ideasmith, he told me - both scientist and magus. Surely I could tell him who he was.
I still don't quite know. He seems to have multiple pasts, all contradictory. Some facet of him seemed to battle the Enemy before, in New York City, in the same place as when their ultimate struggle had taken place. Or was it the other way around? It seems more...circular, now, like you can read the story in any order and it all makes sense. I took to calling him the Man of Many Stories, for he seemed to be simply immune to the constraints of time and space. He had a true name in some, born on Earth; he said he remembered working to develop his abilities, training mind, body, and spirit until he became something else entirely. In others, he was himself a construct of shared values, a living sigil...the most potent spell I had ever encountered, one that could burn eternal. He knew Alexander Donn, too. Perhaps he'd come to him the same way he had to me - simply out of nothing. Ex nihilo.
One day, jokingly, he suggested that I had been his maker. This had been before the End Event, and while it may have been but a small gag then, it prompted further inquiry. In an unexpected act of supreme companionship, he gifted me with his genetic code, recorded in secret within the "Quantum Vault," as he'd named it. He told me that I was the only man he could entrust with such a thing. That if the day should ever come when the idea of the Supra-Man passed from this Earth, we would need a way to bring the story back.
Or hadn't you wondered what the "K" in Protocol K stood for? Sometimes I just can't help myself.
Ah, I've digressed too much from the main point I'd been approaching, I suppose, drawn back into the realm of the fantastical. This transient being, Nemo, did something I thought impossible, in saving me - in helping me live. I fixed my eye, and if I do say so myself, improved my fashion sense - something more befitting of my name. It does mean "light," after all - all colors. I have purpose now, a project to be elaborated on in the coming years.
Alas, I'm running out of room on the page to describe it...I suppose, for now, I'll finish with this:
If ever hope might seem to die, if life may become so bleak, if ever the fire may be in risk of going out, I'll just tell you what Nemo told me.
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Journal II of Klaus von Lichter - First Entry Status: Logged

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The Player Piano

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Since the dawn of thought, man has endeavored to understand his world. On the inside and on the out, they categorize in binary terms, a dichotomy of good and evil emerging to describe their surroundings. It was not uncommon for that which was warm and comforting to be known as good, and that which was cold and cruel to become evil. One might understand routine and harmony as comforting, while randomness and meaningless suffering became cruel; good and evil emerged through mankind's natural binary understanding of harmony and disharmony, feelings most often associated with a higher power.

To the faithful, this was a creator in the truest sense of the word, an author of all things who had both infinite benevolence and unending compassion for the world beneath them; to the analytic, one might see a natural harmony expressed in their feelings of right and wrong, a morality born of thermodynamic interactions sparking chemical responses in their brains which perceived stimuli as good or evil. In either case, there was both right and wrong, good and evil. In both cases one might understand that there was an all-powerful champion of such virtues, one who felt care for all those he watched over. In both cases, suffering remained in the world. In both cases, one might find themselves suffering eternally. What benevolent author would allow such a thing?

Perhaps the answer lay in a simple analogy. Consider the harmony of a piano's music as the absolute good, a song penned by the author representing a moral vision which, if achieved, would produce the greatest joy and beauty in the world. The composer, with great care, places a book of sheet music upon the piano, open for all to see. If followed to the letter, it would introduce self-fulfillment and bliss to the player. There would be those who, perhaps, would not be able to play the music, or not be able to read the notes; yet all had the potential to catch on eventually.

There may be those who would choose to play their own melody with the tools they've been given. It would not be objectively inferior to that on the page, though there is no doubt that those who played this music would not be in harmony with all those others who sought bliss in the composer's original vision, their most moral music. In playing another tune, they would have effectively removed themselves from the composer's ensemble; would they be able to bear the relative suffering of missing out on the infinite bliss of the composer's masterpiece? It would have been their choice to play a tune which was not written on their stand, or to refuse to play at all, but in their humanity, they may question: "Why would I ever be permitted to play another song by the composer, who knew that in my humanity I may make that choice? That I might be separate from the harmony in the end?"

Why might, in a world where there was a moral agent of relatively infinite strength and benevolence, there still be suffering? Why would there still be the choice to be outside of the harmony; why would they have that option in the first place?

Consider the player piano, an instrument containing a mechanism which caused the keys to fall in time with the music. Functionally, it would produce the same harmony, perfectly playing the notes which were fed into the system. A perfectly efficient means of playing music, of producing the joyful harmony...yet it lacks soul. There are many who would contest that there is something more beautiful, more graceful, to watching a person play a song perfectly, rather than a machine repeating a meticulously-made recording. There would be no mistakes, no suffering, and the song would still be played...yet it would be less compelling. The performance would not be nearly so beautiful.

It is for that reason that the music is not made using a player piano. We are not compelled forcefully by this moral agent to be good, to produce harmony; they merely wrote the song, and every so often, may remind us of its presence on the stand. That humanity may have faith in the notes set out before them, and that while there may or may not be a plan, that following them might produce something spectacular; that this moral agent may do their best to convince others to be match their vision, to be "good" as it were; that this moral agent, though in the same image as humanity, might have conviction in their own moral strength, the confidence to believe that by laying out this music they are doing the right thing.

It is for that reason that there is still evil in the world, evil born of free will; that to destroy all evil in the world, to create perfect harmony, this moral agent would have to destroy free will as well. With the destruction of free will comes the loss of knowledge of good and evil, the removal of the musician from the piano and the automation of its keys. That is why there are still mistakes made in the music; why there is still disharmony in spite of the composer's benevolent intentions. That if he came down to Earth, there would be those who lament what they perceive as his failings, his inaction; there would, too, be those who curse his intervention, who accuse him of setting a course for humanity from which they may not stray, or face punishment. Those who would see the music on the stand as an imposition upon their free will.

So what might the composer do, he with a vision for the world which they feel would produce an ultimate value, a greater good that is human flourishing? He could not remove the music from the stand, surrendering his vision and abandoning the people for whom he cared; he could not also eliminate all suffering, for to do so would be to convert the performance - the story of humanity - into one which was told by a player piano. That in doing so, there would be lost something profound, something beautiful. For this reason, he could not intervene in all cases, end all suffering; he could not make people do good.

The answer would need to lie in balance. Perhaps it was possible that he might play the piano along with them, to do his best to be good; that he might remind them that there is a harmony to be found in the world if they knew where to look. That he might show compassion, give second chances to those who were willing to believe in good. That he might appear to those who were at their lowest, who considered ending their stories, and do them a simple human kindness, to be with them and tell them that they weren't on their own.

To walk among humanity while simultaneously flying above them; to offer his protection without depriving them of their free will, without creating the dreaded player piano to replace their own story. To witness them fail, and suffer, but be willing to help them back to their feet. That he might not be an authority, but simply a friend they could trust; that he might ward away those who endeavored only to create their own disharmony. He was more an idea, in that sense, than a man, one which slipped in and out of time. One who could extend beyond the three-dimensional plane he lived in, existing also in the two-dimensional written word, or perhaps in some greater dimension which comprised emotion, a dimension that even he could not perceive.

Though he may suffer and hurt and falter as humans do, for they were in each other's image, this moral agent would, in walking among men, be alive. He might play the piano along with them, and play it well, so as to add to the harmony. He might re-write the song every so often, to try and make it more perfect; perhaps that was the essence of it, though, an acceptance that while perfect good might not be attainable, the most noble thing would be to constantly seek it out. That was what he was, this moral agent: a symbol of trying - and indeed, sometimes failing - to do the right thing. More importantly, of not giving up on the music he'd written for himself, so that perhaps others would one day, of their own volition, come to play along. That there might be beautiful music made without a player piano.

He was the Idea What Walked; the Living Dream, the symbol of one thought, distilled into a figure:

Things could be good. Life could be good.

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You Are Not Alone

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Words have power, and the most powerful words often combine to create memetic phrases. These sequences of words are the means by which living beings connect with each other, how they cooperate to achieve great things. Ideas are given form through language, made real as others see the symbols and interpret them. Quiet voices echo the words we see, transmitting messages to our brains and giving character to others who we cannot hear, but we understand. Everything one sees is codified in terms of words; things are described as "good," or "bad," or "terrifying," or "wonderful." There are endless combinations of words which can be used to codify reality, and when words are not enough, people use metaphors, or invent new words. Sometimes they make music to capture feelings that cannot be expressed with words, or paint beautiful portraits that reflect the world in a way words cannot.

Sometimes, things in the natural world become symbols. These symbols are interpreted, described via words. They begin, the moment they are seen, to have an impact on one's both the conscious and subconscious minds. In our human efforts to understand the world around us, we begin using words to make sense of things. We attach ourselves to symbols, and use them for our security - for our guidance. Phrases like "we will never surrender," or "don't give up" are basic examples of words that form phrases which become symbols in our mind. They are images of perseverance that we can fall back on when things go wrong.

Human achievement and human fears alike are based around these phrases. They begin to embody our histories, and chart our futures. Based on the context, words can have even greater power. Though the fantastic may have already come to this Earth from beyond the stars, few could forget the general message which first arrived when travelers from deeper fantasy made their presence known. It seems there is no distinct date of first contact, only a general consciousness surrounding the knowledge and acceptance that the super-natural walked among us.

"You are not alone."

That was the message, one understood implicitly by every person exposed to it. The terrifying knowledge that humanity wasn't the only sentient life in the universe, that perhaps we were so much smaller than we initially conceived. That in having galactic neighbors, perhaps, our uniqueness - our importance - had been reduced. To look up in the sky and see men fly sent this message around the world, for if he were not from space, there was no doubt that he was in some other way inhuman. It was in this way that this flying man, and so many others, came to inspire in the hearts of so many the phrase "you are not alone," and all that came with it.

That there was something else, something which was other, watching, waiting. The only way to cope was to trust, to believe somehow in the otherness, and equate it to humanity. Strangers in the sky are given human traits, attributed moral qualities, and both reasoned and fought with. The collective unconscious is geared to have faith in the benevolence of those flying above, because comparatively, those on Earth have so much less splendor. Without something in the sky to place your trust in, some other which is nonetheless given our best qualities, the world can seem so much emptier, larger, colder.

It's akin to an all-consuming mire, one blacker than a night without stars. A sinking lifeless bog one walks through waist-deep, a sludge that pulls you in deeper day by day. The weight of the human condition begins to set on one's shoulders, pushing one deeper into the suffocating dark slime from which there is no return. In the process, everything loses its color, and doubt sets in. Other people are few and far between, hollow, wordless. The sounds they make can't be heard, not beneath the black waves. One can never really be sure if they're awake or asleep, drifting unblinking through life on dejected autopilot.

There is no kinship, no genuine connection that can be verified. You can reach out to touch someone else and feel nothing, either in fury, or in longing. The words are not enough either, not to explain what it means to be caught in the mire. There is no nostalgia, no calming memory which can be relied on. Life cannot be affirmed when one is alone. Perhaps it is because individuals have such a comprehensive understanding of themselves - because they are exposed to themselves for every moment of every day, because they cannot escape themselves - that they feel nobody else could be possible of understanding, of sharing in what has happened. All the hurt and quiet of the mire which is born of solitude. Sometimes one feels there is no other choice but to submit, abandoned, forgotten.

But the words, the symbols, the people - they have power. Without warning, it seems, they appear, spoken in the calm tones of a voice which seems to understand. Looking back before the plunge, one sees that it's a stranger, but not an unfamiliar one. One can recognize them, but they've never spoken to them - never thought about them much. A hand extended, a message delivered. A chance out of the mire - an affirmation of life, of choice. Most importantly, though, are the words. The words they needed to hear, before taking that final fall - words anyone, anyone, had the power to speak.

"You are not alone."

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The Caped Colossus

With the onset of the post-human age, mankind was confronted with the physical manifestation of its own inferiority before a higher power. Quickly in the face of overwhelming strength did we reassert ourselves as competitive with those endowed with superior genes, affirming the strength of our institutions and constraining the new meta-culture. When mankind once lived in fear of obsolescence, it instead fought back in every way it could, the very nature of ideology itself streamlining the superhuman consciousness and making it possible for man and meta to coexist.

The law did not fail. New departments sprung up to challenge the "objective superiority" of the superhuman, using force to coerce them, to control them. Integration commenced, and now, mutants and other superhumans enjoy equal status to ordinary human citizens in spite of their biological differences. On paper, even those who bear power equivalent to a nuclear weapon are viewed as legal equals to the mundane human being. In the face of the gradual metahuman apocalypse, our governments remained intact. We teach their children as we do our own.

The onslaught of both new technologies and new types of human being have been thoroughly mitigated by our culture's intrinsic self-preservation instinct. That which is different is made to conform; in the powered age, this is a key component of maintaining egalitarian ideals that so many in the West hold dear. Concepts such as gender, race, labor-based capital, and religion have persisted despite the existence of metahumans who defy them on every level. Shapeshifters can change their biology on a whim; metas who can transmute matter might reduce scarcity almost completely, flipping the field of economic theory upside-down entirely. Super-beings who claim to commune with God, or who practice magic, are rationalized as being able to coexist with the precept of God, by nature of the way they interact with our society.

In short, the human psyche has persisted in the face of objectively more powerful beings, who would likely have re-formed our values had it not been for the pervasive nature in which we integrate metas into society. Because they grow up along with us, and because they are subjected to our strong social constructionism, the vast majority of metas are on a level playing field philosophically with ordinary beings. They can be punished by our laws; they share our values, and can be generally trusted to act justly. They are human, and accountable to our greater ideals: the law, equality, goodness.

Or, perhaps, so we told ourselves.

The veil, I fear, has been torn back. So convinced were we that meta-beings had integrated with society that it was unthinkable that one might simply make his new stronghold in New York City, and judging by the reaction of the local governments, without permission. Now, it is well-known that other metahumans continually establish themselves in major cities worldwide, but they quite clearly do so in a way which conforms to human standards. They negotiate either privately with owners of buildings, or receive the approval of the government to lord over their particular region.

Make no mistake, lord they do; the use of force, outside the law, to bring social change into action? To punish as they see fit? Tyrants they are, these vigilantes and caped crusaders, but they are ones who thus far have operated within our system. There has been a consent to their actions from all; consent that they might save us, that they might establish themselves within our framework of society.

Yet in brazen defiance of this consent, one being has proclaimed themselves regent over the East Coast of the United States - no, the entire Western Hemisphere, if not more. For that is what these supers do, in setting up their bases; they acquire territory which they attend to, benevolently or not. It is only the illusion of thinking the government has power over them which keeps us calm, complacent, and content to have these supers exert their power over our system. But in this being's great power, and in his great silence, his refusal to integrate with our society...there is a message. I fear he is no Atlas, holding our world upon his shoulders; our grand system of ethics and balances is to him but a construct, one which has no more intrinsic value than any other.

The Caped Colossus, who stands over us in the most dangerous way: honestly.

I fear the Colossus because he makes no effort to maintain this illusion that he is equal to us, accountable to us. He does with us as he pleases, and it is only by virtue of his empathy that we live to see tomorrow. He has emerged, wordless, to act upon this world by his own system of value, one he makes no effort to impose or spread; it is for him and him alone. Beholden to none, he saves, I feel, because it is simply his project. How might we call this thing a hero? It is above all other human systems; it exists, I see, independently of our praise along with our condemnation.

What is mankind to do? I am but a writer, in no position of authority to say. Ought we confront this existential challenge, hold on to what makes our existence meaningful in this world? Continue to go about in our chosen ignorance of some great illusion? Yet how can we, when with his every action, intentionally or not, the Colossus reminds us of one simple fact:

We are, all of us, living in the shadow of the Supra-Man...

- Kristofferson Kleiner's "The Caped Colossus," 2017
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The Supra-Man's Modern History

Timeline of the Supra-Man

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  1. Re-emergence and rise to metahuman prominence - Nemo silently performs feats of stochastic heroism, all while remaining distant from both the media and other heroes. His reputation as a "hero above heroes" begins to develop, his power and reticence calling into question both his intentions and potential weaknesses. The media identifies him as the "Supra-Man."
  2. Nemo meets Xenon in Ethiopia
  3. Nemo meets Valhala on the Moon
  4. Nemo meets Seth McStorm and races him around the planet
  5. Nemo meets Pilgrim and teaches him English
  6. Nemo battles Mariom
  7. Nemo confronts Nhumrethaz
  8. Nemo meets Lightning Lady in Australia
  9. Nemo fights Mega Justice - A pivotal fight which marked Nemo's return to active heroism, Nemo combated Mega Justice throughout the tyrant's attempt to destroy Grim City. He attempted to drag his enemy to space, but he was prevented from doing so by Gaige; the ensuing secondary battle threatened the tectonic plates beneath the city, forcing Nemo to call off the fight and resulting in the city's destruction. Before engaging Mega Justice, he also learned that the missing ex-Vice President is actually the vigilante Dark Vengeance.
  10. Nemo works to ensure the survival of displaced Grim City citizens
  11. The inverse Nemo terrorizes a small town - Occupied by the Grim Crisis, Nemo is unable to prevent a dangerous counterpart of himself from asserting control over Chesterville. "Omen" is later murdered in retribution by superheroes, and his body is thrown into the Sun without Nemo's knowledge.
  12. Nemo confronts Gaige about her choices in Grim City
  13. Nemo meets Theron - Encountering the Greek demigod Theron, Nemo confronts his own lack of skill, and requests that the Hellenic Hero help him refine his martial prowess. This leads to him developing an improved combat style.
  14. Nemo watches over Methodius' grand dinner
  15. Methodius attempts to provoke Nemo - Unsuccessful in drawing anger from the Universal Man, the God King Methodius resorts to threatening numerous civilians with death in an attempt to start a fight. Nemo is forced to throw him into the Sun itself in order to end the battle.
  16. Nemo meets Amin Karrit in the Arctic - A landmark in Nemo's interactions with humanity, he declined an offer to work alongside the French government, further establishing his estrangement from traditional authority. After this meeting, he moves the Quantum Vault's third entrance away from the Arctic.
  17. Nemo meets Kaija
  18. Nemo takes on the human identity of Daniel Nimitz in order to better relate to mankind
  19. Daniel Nimitz meets Mega Justice
  20. Nemo meets Stomatopoda
  21. Nemo meets Jonathan Bold
  22. Nemo combats Reynard
  23. Nemo meets with Kaija a second time and shows her the Quantum Vault
  24. Nemo establishes his base in New York City - Of his own accord, Nemo now resides in the heart of New York City. Its presence is both soothing and threatening, depending on who you talk to. This marks a new era in Nemo's superheroic career, one in which he begins to more actively play a part in the everyday lives of the normal human being yet still answers only to himself.
  25. Darkevius Hollwell appears briefly outside of the Empyrean before ominously vanishing
  26. Nemo Challenges Mega Justice Again - Impulsively going after Mega Justice, Nemo instead encounters his new form - "Pain" - and his thoroughly beaten in combat. Only the arrival of an old ally enables him to escape.
  27. Nemo delivers an Ultimatum to Project Unity - Thoroughly displeased with vigilante justice, Nemo issues a proclamation to the Project Unity group that crimefighting through brutal violence would no longer be permissible. He requests of Gaige that she leave the group for her own good.
  28. Nemo meets personally with Jacob Chase to discuss vigilantism and reaffirm his stance
  29. Nemo challenges a living massacre
  30. Nemo meets again with Arabella Stover and offers her residence at the Empyrean
  31. Sofia Folletti visits the Empyrean, but Nemo is unable to learn much about her before she leaves
  32. Nemo confronts Orange Water over his vigilante acts

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I Got a Name

It's been a while since I genuinely walked someplace. There's something to be said for walking, and what it does for a person. It keeps you fit, of course, but with me, it's more in the sense that it keeps my mind fit. Floating so high above everything, you can lose sight of what's important. Staring too long at the big picture, you forget the small details that make everything so worthwhile.
I'm glad to be talking to people again. It's not all bad, I suppose. I distanced myself so I wouldn't get attached to things, but maybe that's what had been making things so hard. Kaija put it well, when we met. Had I been underrating humanity, and their fearful nature? Tribal, hateful, ignorant...yes, many were these things, but for something to change, you have to allow it to. Maybe I'd been away too long, ever since the last time I'd truly been among them. Was it time to come back?
Yes.
The Vault handled the more minor details, for it had stored a great deal of information as part of a protocol I'd initiated years ago had I ever decided to hang up my cape. Meticulously crafting and updating an identity that I could easily return to with its advanced computational systems, even filing taxes from money I'd had from my many odd jobs. It managed a small estate in West Virginia, and maintained an occupation - a legal analyst, helping file away a portion of numbers for one of dozens of local companies. It'd be like Dan Nimitz had never left, just worked from home for the past seven years.
Standing in the Vault, I recall picking up the thick black glasses, the impeccably-folded clothes all tailored to the new identity. How could such a feeble disguise as simple glasses conceal me from the public eye? The answer lay in psychology, in the image the media had crafted for me during my silent exploits. Some even doubted that I spoke English; to consider that I, a veritable god in the eyes of some, would walk among them? Unthinkable.
It was less, then, the physical disguise, and more the alteration of the very concept of the Supra-Man itself. Who would suspect that someone chatting amiably about the weather, stooping to tie their shoes, missing a bus here and there, could be the same as someone whose poise and stature dwarfed that of any biological human being? People saw what they wanted to see, and thus, associating Daniel Nimitz with the Supra-Man would be, in short, nigh-impossible.
Anatomically, I would also disguise myself. The Vault's assortment of alien technologies included, above all else, something that would help me to disguise my powered biology. A simple band that could be wrapped imperceptibly around one of my molars would distort any attempt to identify me as non-human, all readings indicating that Nimitz was just an ordinary, if healthy, person. Exercise from helping around Newhope West Virginia in his younger days had given him a strong build, but his posture was more reserved, as if lacking in confidence. Associating the constructed identity with me would be difficult.
Culturally, there was also the extinction of the secret identity. It seemed that more than half of the "super-heroes" active today openly displayed their wealth and backstory for all to see, not bothering to hide their origins or current home life in the slightest. Masks were more about fashion than functionality, and with the end of the secret identity near, drawing a comparison between the Supra-Man and Dan down the hall would be met only with skepticism and silent ridicule.
But what would be the chosen profession of this new identity? What would serve me best in my new mission to meet with members of the species, to record their thoughts, to learn of their day-to-day struggles? Naturally, I couldn't associate myself with any major organization, which could plumb deeper into my past and discover it to be artificially constructed. Nor could I devote myself entirely to a single line of work, which might demand more of my free time than I could allow. I'd need a job where I could go places unquestioned, arrange talks with influential persons on neutral grounds, and work entirely by my own schedule.
Naturally, a documentary filmmaker. Independent, self-sustaining, and providing me with an excuse to visit uncanny places and secure businesses, to meet with those who thought themselves in charge. Plus, I could work with a camera. I did enjoy that, on a superficial level. The first work: "People of Earth." Day-to-day interactions, translated to film. For personal enjoyment, perhaps.
Trustworthy - a somewhat timid man in glasses, willing to listen to whatever someone had to say, and craft a working picture of their lives. Snapshots for preservation, life in motion on the screen. Yes, that would be good.
For the time being, I, Nemo, shall become professional and polite filmmaker, Daniel Nimitz. For the purpose of communication...of living. Things will be good.
Human clothes aren't nearly as comfortable as my suit...

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The Grim Question

The Outskirts of Grim

In the aftermath of the Conquest of Grim City by Mega Justice, the future of the city's denizens was in question. The utter destruction of their homes by Mega Justice, in some perverse attempt to purge the city of the qualities which made it the international center of crime. As if tearing down the buildings made some impact on the people's lives and nature, taking from them what was theirs and replacing it with refurbished buildings and allegedly an authoritarian police force. Who would fill the ranks of such a brutal coalition, join in the occupation of human freedom by an abstract avatar of justice? The Supra-Man, currently flying above massive throngs of refugees, could not say.

Grim was home to millions of people, who had all thankfully been evacuated before the battle had commenced. Now, though, they faced a separate crisis, one that Justice had left to other forces to account for. It was routine for the first world governments to provide for their citizens in the event of superhuman crisis, allocating food, water, and shelter for them to take refuge in. When cities crumbled, it was ordinarily a time of national solidarity, neighboring regions always offering aid and accounting for basic human needs in the event that entire systems of infrastructure were lost. Alien invasions, extra-dimensional incursions, and simple brawls between powered beings which escalated beyond conventional control were all hallmarks of the world humanity lived upon, and in order to survive, they had adopted behaviors conducive to surmounting these challenges on a logistical level.

But in the case of tragic Grim City, there were only so many who were willing to help. Historically stigmatized as an anarchic people, it wasn't a stretch to say that the citizens of Grim were practically from another nation as the rest of the United States. Like Puerto Rico or Guam, the sprawling urban dystopia that was Grim flew American flags, but that was almost the entire extent of its existence within the Union. Abandoned in the past, and now, devastated, the city's people had become rough at best, and barbaric at worst. It was no coincidence, after all, that Mega Justice had selected Grim as the first city to obliterate and rebuild.

The result was both a lack of preparedness for an event in Grim, as well as a hesitation to offer aid, any city which accepted the citizens certain to experience a massive boost in crime. It was in the nature of the unfortunate to commit crimes of survival, to be dragged into superhuman gang wars and forced to peddle Konite and other rare drugs...to steal and loot, for the alternative may be starvation. While the people of Grim as a whole may have much to learn, there was no doubt that as individuals, they were all victims. Not only had they experienced the destruction of their city, but also the destruction of their very identity. They would not acclimate to society unless their basic needs were met.

Statistically, famines were more a result of logistical inability to transport and store foodstuffs rather than inability to produce. Where the United States may fail in providing enough food at once for the now-nomadic citizens of Grim City, the Universal Man was willing to lend a hand. Bones still healing from his battle with the Smiling Arbiter, eyes still swollen shut, Nemo had flown to the various military crisis stockpiles, landing amongst ten-ton crates full of nutrition supplements, water, and medicine. Guards had dutifully leveled their weapons at him, only for an understanding commander to give a single knowing nod. They saluted as he left with his cargo, the injured Over-Human ferrying massive canisters of sustenance across the nation towards the US Coastline.

For once, there was no suspicion, no curses or shouts in fear. He placed the crates where they were needed most, scanning the throngs of people for the sick and elderly. Those in need of insulin were treated to a shot from the Idea What Walks, gentle in administration despite the blurring speeds at which he seemed to move. Stoic-faced and healing even as he himself treated the wounds of others, he occasionally faltered, needing time to catch his breath. All the while, the sounds of ongoing destruction from the fight he'd abandoned rang in his ears, haunting him.

Preventing fights was an unfortunate duty for him as well. For every crate he set down, he spotted desperate men and women clawing at each other for food and water, forcing an intervention from the Caped Sentinel. Frowning, he was forced to separate dozens upon dozens of hungry refugees, other times confiscating knives and guns from mafiosos who had even gone so far as to attempt power plays in gang wars whilst hidden amongst crowds of wailing travelers. Crying children threatened by stray bullets were pulled away, shielded by blue-garbed arms just as those who sought to take their gang war into the recovery camps were disarmed.

He spent time transferring those with family outside the city to their relatives, clutching one person at a time close to his chest and flying them high into the sky and across the nation, sometimes further. For hours he toiled, navigating some to hospitals and re-purposed sports stadiums to reduce the strain on the local forces seeking to help. Never did he move someone without permission, taking the time to ask their names, to guarantee their consent and safety. Though they would never forget the help he gave them, he was dismayed to admit that their faces began to blur together, their stories of hardship forgotten, their words of encouragement and thanks falling upon deaf ears.

Between the injuries he'd incurred in the battle, rushing food and water to the most-affected zones, and generally keeping the peace, even the Supra-Man began to tire. Taking the time to interact with each individual, to preserve what made them human rather than just gathering them in a safe zone without their permission...that was exhausting. Worse still was the knowledge that had he acted in advance, this entire crisis may have been averted. Had he dragged Mega Justice from where he'd stood upon podiums preaching his word rather than wait for him to commit violence, countless lives may have been saved. More still would not have to suffer in sprawling refugee camps where even Nemo couldn't reach them in time.

For a split-second, he became lost in thought, standing amidst the crowd in the dwindling twilight. Why was he helping, now? Was it further violation of his principle of non-interference, taking control of a human system - recovery from crisis - and making it his own? To take responsibility for the disaster, for the survivors' well-being...could he do so today, then stop the next? What of those living in danger in the Middle East, or in North Korea, or any other Third World country ravaged by metahuman terror? Was that a burden he could accept, to care for every soul on the planet? Moreover, how could he help people in Grim today, then neglect those who cried out for a savior tomorrow? His heart rate quickened abnormally, sweat budding on his strong features. Frozen amidst the crowd, statuesque, he faltered, looking around at the gathered thousands. He heard their heartbeats, their pain. Their prayers.

A hand on his shoulder brought him back from his thoughts, a touch from a woman whose face was tattooed to resemble a skull. A criminal enforcer yesterday, a victim crying for help today. One of the hundreds who had lost everything they had, now desperate for food, water...guidance. Others drew closer, straining to touch the being they'd heard so much of. His shoulders, arms, back...all were felt by the flock of unfortunate, a population grasping for light in what seemed to be a tunnel of never-ending dark. Did they need him, the Supra-Man? Could they truly not stand on their own? For better or worse, would he have the strength to deny them this security, what was necessary to live life at all? In aiding them...would he deprive them of freedom, of choice to follow their own paths?

They looked to him as though he were once again the Savior, the name he'd once gone by. A name with messianic implications, with an implied promise to bring peace. A fatal lie. A name he had renounced, and for good reason. They looked to him as though he were a preacher, meant to give their souls rest. But how could he tell them that he was no such being, and that he was, at the end of the day, only human? Silently, however, they demanded he be their shepherd. They pleaded with him, grasping for hope.

Though his only response was to wonder:

How can I be their shepherd...without their being sheep?

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