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The Labyrinth


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The Labyrinth

 

A Brief History of Douchebaggery

 

Like most ancient myths, this is a story of blasphemy, revenge, and horrible sex acts.  Long ago, King Minos of Crete, in an attempt to prove he was favored by the gods, prayed for such a sign (accounts vary; some attribute this to Zeus, others to Poseidon).  He received a beautiful white bull on the understanding that it be sacrificed to his patron, but instead, in his arrogance, Minos kept his prize and substituted a lesser specimen.  Greek gods being better known for creative retribution than mercy, this led to the perhaps misdirected punishment of causing Minos's wife, Pasiphaë, to lust for the Cretan Bull.  You can probably guess what followed. 

 

One miraculously non-fatal childbirth later, Crete became the "proud" home to an abomination known as the Minotaur.  The beast grew to sustain itself only on human flesh, and so Minos ordered Daedalus to construct an elaborate maze to contain it, as one does.  Some years later, the neighboring Athens was forced to a treaty in which seven young men and seven young women were sent every certain number of years (again, accounts vary) to Crete as gruesome tribute.  Daedalus's Labyrinth was almost impossible to escape, and inevitably, these prisoners encountered its first prisoner, to terrible results.  This continued until Theseus voluntarily sailed to Crete with the other thirteen Athenians.  With the help of Minos's daughter, Ariadne, he not only killed the Minotaur, but navigated his way out from the Labyrinth to freedom.  It seemed as though the nightmare finally ended. 

 

But Hades, not to be excluded from his brother's fun, eventually raised the Minotaur from his Underworld.  Daedalus had enraged him for refusing the questionable gift of immortality, and for a thousand years the Minotaur harried him across the ancient world.  Unfortunately for Hades, his servant was as ineffective as the master was unreasonable; Daedalus might not match the Minotaur physically, but his cleverness more than balanced the inequality.  A full millennium of disappointment passed.  Finally, Hades demanded that his horned agent change tactics: he began to form alliances and learn new methods of troubling Daedalus, traveling far and wide in study. 

 

The Minotaur would never reach the level of his enemy's brilliance, but he did discover the value of friends (or, at least, accessories).  He formed the Zodiac Cabal, and then after it, more complex organizations relying on mundane humans to perform the grunt-work.  Ages passed, the world changed, and the Minotaur--now known as Taurus, to the few who knew him at all--changed with it.  He no longer cared about Daedalus, and his single-minded subservience to Hades diminished, although some ties lingered.  Now, in the time of industry more than magic, Taurus rests comfortably at the center of a vast business empire that few people can even fathom, at least not without putting on a tinfoil hat. 

 

What Bull-Men Want

 

If Taurus has moved beyond his original purpose, then what drives him now?  By and large, maintaining and expanding his holdings.  Power, like physical matter, tends to attract more of itself like some kind of capitalistic gravity.  The Minotaur has such wealth and influence that he outmatches any other single living entity, although it should be mentioned that he cannot easily use his full affluence at any single time, as none of it is in his name, but rather spread across many, many false identities and (often unwitting) pawns.  His authority over the mortal world has grown so extreme that to unleash it to its fullest extent would probably prove his own undoing, and so Taurus must use a light touch.  Thus, the Labyrinth.

 

On a related note, Hades hasn't forgotten about Daedalus, and even though the god of the Underworld no longer bothers to control his horned minion, that doesn't mean he won't ever try.  It's always possible that Hades may someday renew his original demand; Taurus now certainly has the resources to inflict quite a lot of hardship on Daedalus if he wants, and so long as the Labyrinth doesn't suffer in the process, he probably won't mind temporarily devoting one of its many segments to pacifying Hades.  However, Taurus explicitly doesn't want any other villain, not even his old master, to conquer or destroy the world; it would terribly upset the status quo, which at this point is more or less his status quo.  He sometimes forms temporary alliances if they are to his benefit, but his partners are never supposed to fully succeed.  Heroes opposing such a villain might have an unlikely (but secret) ally.  If Hades and Taurus do happen to find themselves on opposite sides of a scheme, and the death-god learns of it, it's anyone's guess what might happen.  But it'll probably be bad.

 

Maze Runners

 

Apparently a fan of irony, Taurus calls his empire "the Labyrinth," applying the twists and turns of his old home/prison to a modern philosophy of deception.  We can define it as a collection of businesses and organizations (sometimes criminal, sometimes legitimate) throughout the world, ostensibly unrelated but in reality all under the Minotaur's furry thumb.  Some of them, he manages almost directly, like Labrys Industries, which is supposedly owned by CEO Bruce Carter, a man never seen in public thanks to extreme mysophobia.  Others, Taurus leaves in the hands of his closest underlings, members of the Center, such as Grant Conglomerates and Delphic Industries.  Countless more are managed by people who have no idea whom they serve.  All combined, they form an interconnecting web of influence that stretches across the globe. 

 

Taurus controls everything from military defense contractors to food importers, philanthropists to cartel bosses, and through them, he buys bureaucrats and judges, spies and police, metahumans and kings.  The Labyrinth is a lever that can move the world--and yet, it is also more.

 

Decoys and Dead Ends

 

The value of the Labyrinth cannot be overstated, but for all its price and power, it does more than just let Taurus influence mortal doings.  It also protects him.  All of his firms are ultimately expendable; he isn't the type to throw away a useful tool without good cause, but neither is Taurus such a miser that he'll risk himself or his freedom when he can remain hidden by sacrificing a pawn.  This brings us to how the Labyrinth operates.

 

At the top is, of course, the Minotaur.  Below him is the Center: Jonathan Grant, Constantine Urallos, a metahuman called Payback, Dr. Peter Hanks, Dr. Victor Reeds, and possibly Taurus's right hand, the mysterious woman known as Ms. Scarlet.  These six are the only Labyrinth agents who know their master's name and face, and in turn, they are the last line of defense against any who would try to learn the Labyrinth's true secrets.  A relatively small portion of lesser minions believe that the Center runs their various conspiracies, and below them, the vast majority know even less. 

 

Most people simply believe that their own enterprise is a solitary entity, or perhaps that they belong to a cluster of allied groups answering to some other commander.  By using "nodes" like this, Taurus can contain problems when pesky heroes stick their noses in his business--and over the millennia, he has learned that they inevitably do.  No matter how careful he is in concealing his activities, mistakes happen, and so, he knows the value of contingency plans.  Vigilantes are often very tenacious, they ignore traditional jurisdictions, and they're more difficult (but not impossible) to bribe than regular law enforcement.  Usually, he can appease them with a singular villain or corporation.  Some heroes are more skeptical, but if he thinks they want a conspiracy, then he just gives them one; it's a simple matter to array four or five different organizations together in a node so that any hero who goes that extra mile gets their intrigue-fix, finds the person "in charge," and walks away feeling satisfied.  Taurus then instructs his minions to move in new agents to fill the void, taking extra care to seem squeaky clean for the next year, or decade, or generation, depending on just how keen the hero in question seems, and business continues as usual.  When you're older than most world religions, you learn to play the long game. 

 

The Maddest Science

 

We should devote special space to the DNAscent process, which may be the center jewel in Taurus's crown, and yet at the same time, a fire that occasionally burns him.  It may seem odd that Taurus, who values control and has to devote significant resources to thwarting heroes, would deliberately create metahumans.  A large part of his effort is to get ahead of the inevitable by positioning his corporations to take on offers by legitimate militaries and crime syndicates alike, and then to limit their progress.  If he doesn't take these contracts, then someone else will, and at least this way, the Labyrinth can make discoveries on its own terms and retain whatever it learns or creates.  Taurus deliberately engineers more failures than successes, and when he does allow a new supernatural entity to come about, he then keeps tabs on them, or in the case of particularly dangerous or useful outcomes, sends in Labyrinth brainwashing experts to bend the hero to his will, whether they remain under the apparent control of their buyer or are quietly shuttled to a full Labyrinth agency.  The only thing worse than a new hero is a new hero outside of Taurus's control.

 

In spite of his best efforts, mistakes still happen, and a distressing number of people (and "people," depending on just how warped they are after surviving DNAscent) are running around the world today, answerable only to themselves.  Some of them know far more than they should.  Taurus wants them back, or failing that, deep in the ground. 

 

Furthermore, it just pays to keep tabs on centers of superhero activity, especially when such places have secondary value.  Emerald City is also a good source of new technology (and is the site of Taurus's Shadow Academy, the dark mirror to Claremont); Bedlam's rampant corruption offers all sorts of opportunities, the least being a large number of DNAscent test subjects that no one will miss.  And when we talk about heroes, Freedom City has no equal.  It's no coincidence that Jonathan Grant and Constantine Urallos, a full third of the Center, base their operations here.  Taurus may specialize in traditional wealth and influence, but he won't turn down more blatant, blunt sources of power. 

 

Your battlesuit?  Taurus wants that.  Your magic sword?  Taurus wants that.  Your alien symbiote, your talking motorcycle, your super-secret training technique, your ancient artifact, your body-altering tattoo, your power ring, your self-harvesting potatoes--Taurus wants it all.

 

To Infinity and Beyond (and then Back with the Loot)

 

It's safe to say that no other single villain can compare to Taurus's mind-boggling holdings, although some have greater raw power or abilities that he, personally, cannot hope to match.  The Minotaur has so thoroughly infiltrated human society, in fact, that his future gains on Earth will be measured in inches instead of miles.  So what if his ambition stretches beyond Earth?

 

In the earliest days of human space travel, Taurus probably cared more about the technology that made exploration possible than the exploration itself.  Now, he and humanity can see a glimpse of just what lies beyond their atmosphere, and it is positively fantastic.  Earth isn't precisely open to the galactic community yet, but it will be eventually, and when that happens, Taurus is sure to take a close interest.  Until that day, he may still be able to profit.  Yes, it is difficult (and more importantly, risky) to position his agents to directly handle interstellar diplomacy, especially given how carefully the Freedom League monitors such things, but perhaps there are other routes.  While he busies himself preparing for a truly cosmic empire, Taurus also considers making contact with outside groups.  Maybe he can use mind-controlled heroes to wiggle his way into their organizations, or maybe he'll just hire alien mercenaries.  Smuggling contraband into or out of Earth is an obvious and lucrative source of new revenue, especially since the Labyrinth currently would have few competitors. 

 

It definitely won't stop there.  Taurus's ambition is a horrible, hungry thing, balanced only by the kind of patience that his great age bestows.  He cares about this and all other worlds purely for what they can offer him; even his closest agents and best corporations are less valuable than his mere secrecy, let alone his life.  Nothing is sacred; nothing is safe. 

 

Heroes who oppose Taurus and his Labyrinth will find this enemy to be merciless, many-headed, and adept at subtlety, with such resources as to rival nations.  The only reason it doesn't bring its full power to bear is out of self-interest.  In the past several hundred years since the Labyrinth took shape, nothing and no one has threatened it to the point that it must show its full hand; doing so would probably be catastrophic, not just for Taurus, but for the world itself, as despite his monstrous nature, hundreds of millions directly or indirectly depend on his enterprises.  If the house of cards crumbles, then no one, not Taurus, not Hades, can predict the full consequences. 

 

So what's a hero to do?

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