An ancient trigger gene buried deep in humanity’s DNA is sporadically activating, evolving select humans into something superhuman. Influenced by comic-book culture, many of these ‘chimerics,’ as they have been dubbed, have taken on costumes and adopted codenames. Organizations have risen up to either train, exploit, or police chimerics, and the world is at odds about their very existence. Emergence collects eight tales, each with a unique perspective on what it might be like to be superhuman in today’s day and age.
In Perennial, teen heartthrob Jim Cutlass, young star of the popular Peter Pan-inspired TV show Peter ‘N Wendy, arrives on set having discovered the existence of an insidious ring of Hillywood power players routinely sexually abusing his underage costars. Intending to confront the show’s producer, he is instead caught up in a planted explosion which kills the entire cast and crew…..except him. Cutlass’ latent supergene activates to protect him, and he finds himself imbued with the powers of his famous alter ego. Presumed dead, he goes underground for years, assuming the mantle of Pan and operating from the shadows to root out and bring to justice purveyors of child exploitation wherever it occurs.
When a destructive supervillain attacks downtown La Futura and Pan is the only hero around to stop him, Cutlass, physically unchanged from his days as a teen actor, finds himself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight, setting off a storm of controversy in the media as the apparently the world’s first superpowered child. He also attracts the attention of enemies he didn’t even know he had…..
Pan of Perennial began ten years ago as a character in a PBEM (that’s Play By E-mail – basically a turn-based roleplaying game entirely text-based) game that included one World Fantasy Award winning author and an ENnie Award winning game designer (still waiting for all that greatness to rub off on me) and a slew of other talented guys, and seriously kept me from losing my mind while doing hard time in an office cube at the most miserable job I’ve ever worked. In fact, a major sequence toward the end is directly inspired by a scenario that came up in it, which lends credence to my claim that RPGing is one of the best leisurely exercises a writer can participate in. Seriously, I came up with more story concepts gaming than I ever go out of two years of college writing courses. Merkabah Rider’s setting was first fleshed out in this very same PBEM group.
I’ve always been a big fan of James Barrie’s novel, and I had just read Kensington Gardens when the idea of a Peter Pan themed superhero who couldn’t age came into my mind. After the game ended I kept the idea simmering on a back burner for a decade, adding little bits to it over the years in light of Andrew Birkin’s JM Barrie’s Lost Boys and Amy J. Berg’s documentary on Hollywood’s history of child actor abuse, An Open Secret.
I also befriended comic book artist Geof Darrow, and through him, learned of author Andrew Vachss and the HERO Rescue Corps, an organization of military veterans who specialize in protecting exploited children and pursuing their abusers. Reading into the doings of the HERO Rescue Corps are what finally caused the plot of Perennial to coalesce.
Helping to develop the shared world of Humanity 2.0’s been pretty satisfying and I hope Perennial does its share in bringing Ragnarok’s shared universe to the public eye. I also encourage you to look further into the efforts of HERO.
“For those just tuning in, the death toll in the rampage across southern La Futura now stands confirmed at ninety five,” the anchorman said, shuffling papers and pressing his index finger to his ear. “Reports say it began when an unidentified man collapsed in front of Federal Station thirty minutes ago. We now know this man to be the Alpha-level chimeric Lance Lattimer, a former Wall Street futures trader better known by his psychotic and violent alter-ego, Tantrum, which manifested during Lattimer’s attempted suicide leap from the roof of the New York Stock Exchange three years ago. During that initial outbreak, Tantrum left over two hundred New Yorkers dead by his psychokinetic powers. Our correspondent Patty Park is live from the scene in Chinatown this evening. Patty?”
Patty Park crouched behind a police barricade of scurrying SWAT, strands of her black hair strewn half across her face, the light from her cameraman making her dark eyes shine like those of a terrified animal facing down a roaring Peterbilt.
“Mitch, historic Coronel Street Market was destroyed in the first few moments of Tantrum’s attack. We don’t know how many people lie buried in the rubble at this point. He’s moving up Hill Street in the direction of Roger Stadium. We’re right in his path. The police are attempting to rally with two armored cars from the Bulwark Division Station.”
“Patty, what about superhuman response?” Mitch asked.
An explosion caused Patty and the police in the background to duck down instinctively, and a fine white powdery mist descended on them, dusting them like a layer of sugar.
“Still no word from TCA hero A-Frame. He departed the charity ball he was attending up north in Port Haven with The Brown Thrasher and Pecos as soon as word reached them, but it could be up to an hour before they arrive and…”
“What about the LFPD’s new P.O.N.E. unit?”
“Word is they’re stuck in traffic on the southbound 504. You know, none of them are fliers, so…”
Two ugly, dark armored vehicles with mounted battering rams rumbled past the camera and Patty spun, gesturing frantically for the camera to follow their progress as the cops cheered them on.
“Get this! Get this!” she shouted.
The camera swung to track them as they tore down the deserted street. Hill Avenue cutting through Chinatown was part of the annual Chinese New Year parade route. Everybody was used to seeing it littered with those paper cap wrappers and the remnants of streamers and red firecracker bricks, but not rubble. The numerous businesses, eateries, warehouses, and junk shops selling battery powered waving cats, cheap Japanese swords and lacquered chopsticks to the undiscerning tourists south of University Street had simply ceased to exist. It looked like Hiroshima. Broken glass littered the streets, and here and there red, vaguely human shaped splotches that were all that remained of the people who had run screaming from the leveled buildings blossomed on the pavement like Banksy-style street art. The block was flattened. Water from orphaned pipes spewed into the air, and plumes of black smoke spread across the dark sky.
In the center of it, advancing up the street, floating lazily ten feet in the air and slowly turning, was Tantrum. Bright, devil red, a huge, distended cranium filigreed with thick pulsing veins like a Telosian on Star Trek. Besides the huge bald head, he looked exactly like a weirdly floating buck naked infant, an evil version of the benevolent Star Child of Arthur C. Clarke, constantly wailing, screaming, a high, inhuman shriek.
And wherever that scream was directed, the masonry of buildings scattered, and flesh and muscle flew from the bones of unfortunate bystanders, until their skeletons collapsed and blew away to powder and ash.
Case in point, the two armored cars barreling at full speed towards the frightful enfant terrible.
The noise of the engines, or maybe the flash of their headlights, caught Tantrum’s attention immediately and he looked at them and screamed, little dimpled fists trembling before his downturned, scowling face.
The pulse of psychic energy that emanated from that tremendous brain was visible as a heatwave distortion. As soon as the bar of the energy tide struck the two vehicles, the armor shed from them like sheep’s wool before the shears. The chassis and engine exposed, the bolts fastening them together hung suspended in the air for a moment before the whole affair clattered to pieces. It happened too quickly for the crews inside to scream. Their deaths were instantaneous, but terrible, and even the practiced hand of the cameraman flinched from the sight and returned to record Patty Park’s horrified reaction as a second fine mist rained down on her and the cops around her. This one dotted her skin and raincoat scarlet.
She wheeled aghast at the camera, tears mixing with the blood running down her cheeks.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!”
The camera cut back to Mitch Brenner manicured and coiffed safely in the studio, hand to his mouth in mock concern.
“Patty. Are you alright?” he asked stupidly.
The feed cut instantly back to blood soaked Patty as she pushed the camera physically back toward the hellish Tantrum.
“Shoot, Bobby! Shoot!” she urged.
A figure descended quickly out of the sky. Small. Slight. No more than a child, really. The police spotlights caught the green of his strange costume. He was dressed like a masked Christmas elf, with a belted green leather tunic and gauntlets, some kind of green bodysuit, and a peaked, Robin Hood-style cowl. His appearance would’ve been ridiculous if it hadn’t been so unexpected.
“Hey, kid!” the newcomer shouted in a shrill pre-teen’s voice, as he stomped a heavy manhole cover with one foot, sending it spinning in the air. He caught it one hand and cocked it back like a Frisbee.
Tantrum revolved in place to face him, turning his destructive power from the barricade and from Patty Park and her crew.
The kid in green sent the manhole spinning. It collided with Tantrum’s forehead and the killer infant went flying head over heels, smashing through the front window of a Chinese restaurant.
“Get the hell out of here!” the kid yelled directly at the cops as the camera zoomed in tight on his beardless face, on the blue eyes flashing through the holes of his pointed cowl.
On his couch, in his home in Mogera Hills, Nico Tinkham sat bolt upright, knocking over his bowl of Cheetos and splashing Coke across his hardwood floor.
Order Emergence here. It’s available September 13th.