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GM 4:00 PM, August 3rd. Ross Haywood had seen better days, but he’d seen worse ones too. The mark of those darker times was still on him. He was underweight for his considerable height, and a spider angioma extended its tendrils along the right side of his neck and the base of his chin, harsh purple-red against the soft brown of his skin. But he was walking more steadily than he used to, and the shaking of his hands was so slight that it was hardly noticeable. Smiling at the thought, he patted the little iron crucifix he carried in his jacket pocket, close to his heart. Twelve steps had seemed an awful long way a year ago, but he’d walked them. That kind, honest smile faded as he remembered his purpose. He’d worn his best suit, secondhand and faded but still possessed of a reserved elegance, in the hopes of gaining an air of respectability. Maybe it was stupid to think of hiring a PI as an occasion, but Ross had been turned down in enough interviews to know that first impressions mattered in any deal. One hand in his pocket, he ran his fingertips across his daughter’s picture and said a little prayer in the back of his mind. He was running out of options, and out of time to make this right. They said that Xavier Steadman was honest. In a town like Bedlam, that was either said derisively or with a vague sense of awe. Ross clung onto the hope that it was true like a drowning man to the edge of a raft. He didn’t have much, but he had learned the hard way what really mattered in life, and he would spend every penny he’d ever scraped together for this if he had to. He’d walked several miles to Steadman’s building; it’d been a long time since he’d been able to afford a car, the buses were dismal, and it would crush his soul to be one taxi fare short of whatever price the PI named. As the building loomed up before him, he took a deep, steadying breath that came out shakier than he’d meant to let it. “Okay, Susie,” he whispered, his voice a deep, rich baritone. “Here we go.” Reaching the office door, he forced one trembling hand to knock.
GM Any megacorporation is shrouded in conspiracy theories. In Bedlam, many of them happened to be true. The Howle-Brandt Consortium was the figurative new kid on the block in the “City of Now”, though they’d been established long enough that their towering jet fuel refinery was one of the top employers in town – and one of the least safe. It was an open secret that their legal team were experts at getting rid of maimed workers without providing any benefits, but rumors went further than that: shadowy military contracts, unethical human experimentation, robots poised to replace the labor force. Bedlam’s hacker community, or “freedom of information” community in their own words, had been trying to confirm it all for years. But whoever did HBC’s cyber security was smart and well-funded. Their clearance system was stricter than the federal government’s, and any sensitive information was squirreled away in databanks requiring direct physical access. They didn’t bother to hide their Bedlam employment practices, which would get them crucified in a town where people had anywhere else to work, so what did they think was worth hiding? The rumor that had popped up lately was that it might be possible to find out. Some user was making the rounds of the surface-level conspiracy and hacker boards, claiming to have inside knowledge of illegal drugging of HBC’s workers. He said he didn’t have proof, but he knew how to get it, if anyone who could beat a secure system was willing to come with him. Cynicism ran fever-high in Bedlam. It was a survival mechanism in a city of broken promises and abandoned dreams. So most of the discussion on each of those posts was trying to figure out the user’s angle. Was he working for HBC’s security team, trying to catch potential hackers? Was he going to ask for money, then disappear before he had to deliver? He’d been inventive with the details, they had to admit, coming up with all that about addictive muscle stimulants to keep the workers coming back. But they had all seen better scams before, and they hadn’t fallen for those, either. But the user, In$id3r, didn’t give up. He kept a private instant messaging channel open to anyone who believed him and wanted to help.
GM 6:00 PM, August 7th. The Bedlam Arms Hotel was the city's ritziest, projecting an aura of aged elegance that was particularly impressive given that the building was less than five years old. It was common for fleets of limousines to arrive, slipping through the smog of the Babylon district to drop off their passengers in the enclosed entryway, away from the poor. But tonight there was a virtual traffic jam of the vehicles, their drivers jockeying frantically for position - their jobs were on the line, as their irritated tuxedoed passengers told them between bursts of swearing. For this was not just any business conference or celebrity dinner. This was the Grant Conglomerate's Miracle Gala, and everyone who was anyone would be there, watching and judging through jaded and avaricious eyes. Grant's stark, efficient corporate banners clashed oddly with the gaudy, vaguely rococo decor of the hotel's interior, but no one was looking. Instead they were peering into the mass of twenty-thousand dollar suits and daring dresses, trying to pick out the power players. Short, fat Chase Pennington Sr., the sixty-five year old ruthless landlord of half the apartments in Hardwick Park, stood by the entryway, bellowing racist comments about the state of the city. His doughy son Junior, singularly unattractive but wearing diamond cufflinks and a watch worth half a million dollars, had his arm around a visiting Slovenian model, who had to bend almost in half to allow it and kept quietly redirecting his hand away from her chest. Doug Nylander, tall and athletic beneath his crown of distinguished grey hair, stood by the punch bowl - and no one was drinking any, for fear of coming too close to that coiled viper. His pretty blonde wife Wisteria, already buzzed on more than alcohol, hummed quietly to herself, lost somewhere far away. His daughters, Madison and Jenny, wore dresses that would certainly not be allowed at their high school, drinking in the attention that came with being the prettiest people in the room - even though much of it came from men twice their combined age. Horatio Hoggard III gorged himself on a plate of ribs, his jowls stained with barbecue sauce, while Dr. B. Hugo Lurman talked excitedly with a Grant representative about untested medicines, stopping every few words to go through a series of half a dozen nervous tics. That accounted for the old money, but many eyes were on the new. This wasn't just Vivian Howle's first appearance in Bedlam; it was her first public appearance anywhere since her son Jason, a Bedlam cop, had been killed in the line of duty. Though nearing sixty, she looked good for her age, her close-cropped hair dyed back to the light brown of her youth and the results of her daily exercise apparent. She wore a black business suit that could match any man in the room for elegance and stood with her head held high, otherwise unadorned. As CEO of Howle Chemical, half of the massive Howle-Brandt Consortium, she needed to project confidence. So when socialites approached her, smiling shark smiles with crocodile tears in their eyes, and gushed how sorry they were for her loss, she managed to thank them. It was a moment for mingling before speakers, dinner, and dancing, and all eyes were alert. It was rumored that someone all the way from Freedom City would be in attendance...
Samson Power Level: 7/10 (150/150PP) Unspent Power Points: 0 Trade-Offs: None In Brief: Rich kid starts taking super serum to avenge his brother and fix the harm his family has caused. Catchphrase: "You should run." Theme: Forever - Kamelot Alternate Identity: Aaron Howle Birthplace: Cape Cod, Massachusetts Residence: Bedlam City Occupation: Socialite Affiliations: None Family: Vivian Howle (Mother, CEO), Todd Lester (Father, Art Dealer), Jason Howle (Brother, Deceased) Description: Age: 23 Gender: Male Ethnicity: Caucasian Height: 5'11" Weight: 180 lbs Eyes: Blue Hair: Brown Aaron Howle is modestly handsome, with a strong, sharp face but soft, deep eyes. He wears his hair short, with a well-trimmed beard running along his jawline and upper lip. It's a fairly recognizable face to anyone who reads the business page of a major newspaper. Aaron's build, though, has changed somewhat since most of those photos. He has put on twenty-five pounds of pure muscle, leaving him broad-shouldered and with corded arms and legs that stand out all the more given his merely average height. Young and fresh-faced, he has had dark circles beneath his eyes almost perpetually of late. He is a sharp dresser, and fills out a twenty-thousand-dollar suit nicely. In costume as Samson, Aaron favors mobility and anonymity. He wears a loose black duster coat with an attached hood; a cloth scarf up to the bridge of his nose works with the hood to keep his vision clear while hiding his identity. Beneath the coat, Samson's clothes are durable but flexible, a close fit but not a tight one. They are unarmored, as Samson's layer of muscle just beneath his skin is as tough as kevlar, and particularly violent fights or big explosions can burn or tear big holes in the costume. Fortunately it's not difficult for Aaron to afford many, many spares. Samson wears padded gloves and boots to help absorb the impact of punches and long jumps. History: "You can't imagine how bad it is here, Ron. The money-changers are in the temple. The foundations are rotten. And our family's deep in it. Come and see. Please. I can't fight this alone." Aaron Howle's world began to unravel with that email. Until that moment, everything had been easy. Born the second son of internationally-famous businesswoman Vivian Howle, who had refused to give up the maiden name she shared with her company and had soon given up her husband instead, Aaron grew up surrounded by wealth and privilege unimaginable to most of the world. A reasonably intelligent and very well-mannered kid, he did well in school and made friends easily - in his little bubble of extremely elite private schools, from kindergarten to college. Coached on how to behave in the spotlight, he was used to the media circus that surrounded his family. He never gave the tabloids any ammunition except the rumor that he might be secretly gay, as he'd never dated anyone. In reality he was just shy, but if that was the rumor they were going to run with, he wasn't insulted. Four years and a personality gulf separated Aaron from his older brother Jason. Where Aaron was laid back and a little bookish, content to live the life he'd been given at his own pace and eventually take over from Mom, Jason was driven and possessed of deep convictions; Mom's example of fierce independence and strongly-held beliefs had worked a little too well on him. Jason always had a cause, and it usually wasn't a cause that lined up with the Howle-Brandt Consortium's business plan. Arrested twice for environmental protesting in college, he turned around and pursued a law enforcement degree at the University of Wisconsin, hoping to create internal reform in the local PD. He refused Mom's money and made his own way through school with scholarships and part-time jobs. Yet for all that they were different, Jason and Aaron were inseparable. They talked on the phone almost every day. Jason quickly proved to be a good, conscientious cop. He made detective at 26, just as Aaron was graduating from Georgetown's McDonough School of Business, though he flew out for the ceremony. Mom did too, and she might even have been a little proud. But Jason always had to have a cause, and when he looked around he saw blighted, corrupt Bedlam City just up north, a city where Howle-Brandt was one of the major (and virtually unregulated) employers. So he transferred to the Bedlam PD, full of spunk and idealism, with no idea just how deep the pit he'd just leapt into really was. The open graft and corruption shocked him like nothing he'd ever seen before. His refusal to participate, and attempts to tell IA about it, would have gotten him immediately killed if he had been less famous. As it was, he was sidelined to the dead-end Missing Persons squad. He took to the assignment with gusto anyway. Still, it took its toll. Not even his partner would talk to him, and he was handed the most hopeless cases the department could find. His calls with Aaron grew less and less frequent, and his brother grew worried. Then came the email. Jason said he'd found full and irrefutable proof of the Bedlam PD's corruption, enough that the Feds would be forced to step in and take over the department. But he couldn't do it alone; there was no one he could trust, and he was afraid the higher-ups were on to him. Aaron dropped everything and came to Bedlam as fast as the company jet could carry him. It wasn't fast enough. He landed to the news that Jason had been killed in a shootout with a Wolverton gang up on Industrial Row. He couldn't view his brother's body; he had already been cremated. He couldn't claim his personal effects from his office; they were "relevant to an ongoing investigation." Jason's apartment had been tossed. Even his car was gone. It was blatantly obvious to Aaron that everything Jason had been saying was true, and that his brother had died for it. For the first time in his life, he felt totally powerless and adrift. That feeling only intensified as he got a glimpse into his family's company's operations in Bedlam. The Howle-Brandt Refinery and the surrounding corporate dorms were warrens of human misery. Every dime in his trust fund began to feel utterly tainted. And in that moment, some of the steel that Jason had possessed found its way into Aaron. He was going to fight this, all of this madness and corruption and ruin. He told his mother, whom he was no longer sure he trusted, that he was moving to Bedlam full-time for charity and political work. However ruthless Vivian Howle could be, she mourned her son, and she understood - for the moment. But money was not the only weapon Aaron intended to use. Aaron had friends at all levels in Howle Chemical, not to mention extensive clearance as the boss's business-involved son. That was how he knew about Xanacet-12. It was designed to be given in small doses to heavy labor employees, enabling them to build muscle faster and bigger than just daily exercise would. But things like caution and "small doses" had little place in Aaron's mind; his new mission occupied his every thought. He had never shot a gun or taken a karate class, didn't have magic spells or psychic powers, but he needed a way to become powerful enough to fight this fight. So he took Xanacet-12, a lot of it, and regularly. Heavy injections of the strength serum bulked him up to inhuman strength while maintaining a fairly slim build, changing the very makeup of his musculature. The rush that came with it, the power, was the best thing he'd ever felt, a relief for that helpless hopelessness that had descended over him. In the back of his mind, he's not sure he could stop even if he wanted to. Either way, he won't. Not until he finds the truth, reveals the corruption, undoes the harm... or dies trying. Personality & Motivation: Aaron is driven, even obsessed, when it comes to finding out who killed his brother and bringing them down - along with the entire system of corruption and disorder that led them to that point, or as much of it as he can reasonably dismantle. But he also recognizes that he's had chances most people never get, and that anything he does has consequences for people with less freedom than billionaires. He was always kind and thoughtful, thinking first of others, and while he doesn't much care what happens to him personally, he would never put an innocent person in danger to pursue his goals. Killing for any reason is totally beyond him. In truth, Aaron runs the serious risk of running himself into the ground. He has always been hard on himself, berating his every failure and devaluing his successes, while granting others easy grace - sometimes too much. The potent cocktail of grief for Jason and guilt over the way his easy life was financed that drives him allows him little rest even as he picks a fight it's impossible to ever completely win. His practical experience outside boardrooms, resorts, and private schools is limited, which he freely admits, and while he has always been quick and eager to learn, gaps in his real world knowledge might well be the death of him if his self-destructive impulses don't get him first. Powers & Tactics: Aaron can do a lot of good at a benefit dinner or charity fundraiser, and he tries not to lose sight of that. He's very good with people, and has tremendous resources at his disposal through his trust fund, his wealthy and powerful contacts, and his access to Howle-Brandt. When that isn't enough, Samson picks up the slack. Fast and strong, it's a simple matter for him to bowl over entire groups of armed thugs and pound them senseless - he actually has to hold himself back to keep from breaking their bones beyond repair. A slap of his hands or a stop of his feet can bring down opponents without his ever having to touch them through resounding shockwaves. Power Descriptions: Thanks to Xanacet-12, Aaron is strong massively beyond human limits. Capable of bench-pressing semi trucks and throwing punches with the force of a sniper rifle, he is a human weapon of considerable power. His muscles allow him to take great bounding strides at speeds of up to a hundred miles per hour or leap multiple stories in a single bound. The tough, corded muscle tissue is strong enough to flatten bullets and withstand heavy impacts. The drug makes all of this possible with muscle growth hormones, myostatin inhibitors that mean the body isn't told when to stop producing muscle, and RNA strands that build muscle tissue along the pattern of coiled steel. Complications: I Can Stop Anytime I Want: Xanacet-12 is deliberately addictive, an intentional means of keeping Howle-Brandt's workers from leaving the company. It also doesn't keep working forever; continued consumption is required to maintain the muscle-building effects. Aaron has discovered the hard way that his enhanced musculature shuts down if he stops regularly taking the massive doses he's been using to achieve super-strength. As his body's myostatin levels return to normal, it frantically starts breaking down his muscles in order to normalize his metabolism (he eats A LOT when he's on Xanacet-12). Withdrawals are both physically and mentally debilitating for him. If Aaron is unable to take a dose of Xanacet-12 for more than two days, he loses all powers and gains a hero point. At the GM's discretion, he may begin to suffer random DC17 Confuse effects and gain a hero point. Side Effects May Include: No one, least of all Aaron, has any idea what the long-term effects of taking massive doses of Xanacet-12 will be. It's designed to be sprinkled into food in doses less than a sixteenth of the size of what Aaron is injecting. There are nights when he stays up late, hunched over the toilet as he wonders if his newly-empowered muscle action is actually capable of making him puke up his own organs. It hasn't happened yet, but he is not infrequently sick and rarely sleeps well. If something does start to go wrong, it will be very difficult for him to get help without revealing who he is and how this happened... so he probably won't. At the start of a scene, Aaron may be fatigued from poor sleep, gaining a hero point. At the GM's discretion, he may have to save against a DC17 Nauseate effect at an inopportune moment, gaining a hero point. Why Yes, I Am Aaron Howle: Aaron was somewhat famous for all of his life as the son of Vivian Howle of the Howle-Brandt Corporation, and the recent media circus surrounding his brother's death and his own public presence in Bedlam have only increased his reputation. This can be very inconvenient for someone trying to lead a double life abusing muscle-building drugs to beat mobsters over the head by night. Aaron is keenly aware that he has a great deal to lose if his secret is revealed - his activities are against the law in Bedlam, and discovery could lead to the loss of his money, his reputation, and his freedom, plus plenty of problems for his surviving family. When out of costume, Aaron may (at the GM's discretion) be inconvenienced by reporters, admirers, or protesters to whom he must not reveal his secret, gaining a hero point. It Must Be Put Right: Aaron is dangerously obsessed with solving his brother's murder, fixing the damage his family's company has caused, and punishing those responsible. He is perfectly willing to sacrifice his own safety and well-being for the slightest chance at advancing one of those goals, but not the safety and well-being of innocent people. Even as he puts himself in increasing danger, Aaron feels compelled to go out of his way to help and protect those in need. He is also very careful to restrain his tremendous strength so that he doesn't hurt anyone beyond their ability to eventually heal, no matter how awful they might be. He can't cross that line. Abilities: 2 + 2 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 20PP Strength: 12 / 25 (+1 / +7) Dexterity: 12 (+1) Constitution: 14 (+2) Intelligence: 14 (+2) Wisdom: 14 (+2) Charisma: 14 (+2) Combat: 8 + 8 = 16PP Initiative: +5 Attack: +7 Melee, +4 Ranged Grapple: +12 (+7 Str, +5 Super-Strength) Defense: +7 (+2 Base, +5 Protection) Knockback: -3 Saving Throws: 7 + 8 + 5 = 20PP Toughness: +7 (+2 Con, +5 Protection) Fortitude: +9 (+2 Con, +7) Reflex: +9 (+1 Dex, +8) Will: +7 (+2 Wis, +5) Skills: 80R = 20PP Acrobatics 4 (+5) Bluff 8 (+10) Computers 4 (+6) Diplomacy 8 (+10) Drive 4 (+5) Gather Information 8 (+10) Intimidate 8 (+10) Knowledge [Business] 8 (+10) Knowledge [Civics] 8 (+10) Notice 4 (+6) Search 4 (+6) Sense Motive 8 (+10) Stealth 4 (+5) Feats: 34PP Attack Focus (Melee) 3 Benefit 4 (Filthy Rich, Status: Upper Crust) Chokehold Connected Contacts Dodge Focus 3 Fast Overrun Fearless Fearsome Presence 7 Grappling Finesse Improved Grab Improved Grapple Improved Initiative 1 Improved Overrun Improved Trip Improved Throw Stunning Attack Takedown Attack 2 Uncanny Dodge 1 (Auditory) Well-Informed Powers: 13 + 2 + 5 + 5 + 15 = 40PP Enhanced Strength 13 [13PP] Leaping 2 (5x distance; 85ft running long jump, 42ft standing long jump, 21ft high jump) [2PP] Protection 5 [5PP] Speed 4 (100 mph; Feats: Alternate Power 1) [5PP] AP: Swimming 4 [4/4PP] Super-Strength 5 (50 effective strength; Power Feats: Bracing, Groundstrike, Shockwave, Super-Breath, Thunderclap) [15PP] Drawbacks: (-0) + (-0) = -0PP DC Block ATTACK RANGE SAVE EFFECT Fearsome 35ft radius DC17 Will Fear (Mental) Groundstrike 70ft radius DC17 Reflex Trip (Physical) Shockwave 70ft cone DC22 Tough Damage (Physical) Stunning Fist Touch DC17 Fort Stun (Physical) Super-Breath 70ft cone DC17 Reflex Trip (Physical) Thunderclap 35ft radius DC17 Reflex Dazzle (Auditory) Unarmed Touch DC22 Tough Damage (Physical) Totals: Abilities (20) + Combat (16) + Saving Throws (20) + Skills (20) + Feats (34) + Powers (40) - Drawbacks (0) = 150/150 PP