The Shadow Knows! (Final Update 6/3/04)

Which of the Shadow's epithets do you like the best?

  • The Cloaked Crusader

    Votes: 1 6.3%
  • The Dark Avenger

    Votes: 7 43.8%
  • The Man of Mystery

    Votes: 2 12.5%
  • The Sable Sleuth

    Votes: 6 37.5%
  • I've got the perfect one! (post it!)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters

The Shadow

Hey there. I've been posting a log of the Mutants & Masterminds game I play in at the "Atomic Think Tank" - Green Ronin's official M&M forum site. Several people there have urged me to cross-post here, so I thought I'd give it a try.

This is a solo game, usually played weekly over the phone. The GM goes by "SuentisPo" online, so I usually refer to him as "SP". He is, as you will see, quite evil. :)

Character sheets are posted in the Rogues' Gallery, under "LA Under Shadow".

Gaming session posts will be marked with the M&M icon, campaign backgrounds with the News icon. (If this is inappropriate, somebody please let me know.)

This first post is actually a short-short story I was inspired to write before the game actually started. It introduces the Shadow and his sidekick/associate, Carlos.


A Night Off

Alex took a calm deep breath as he quietly entered the run-down building, his mind-sight showing its interior to him as clear as day despite the hour. None had seen him - of course. He paused at the top of the lobby stairwell, taking a moment to finish "getting into character." By the time he went down the stairs and swept his trademark floppy black hat off the ornate banister knob to place it on his head, it was the Shadow who did so.

But where was Carlos? He should be sitting at the computer with the headset on, turning to him with a sunnily sarcastic, "'Morning, sir!" and offering him a fresh cup of coffee. Strange how quickly I've gotten used to him, he mused, closing his eyes and letting his mind rove outward. There he was - dim with rhythmic sleep patterns. Sacked out in the next room, no doubt on one of the weight machines. That's the second time this month, he thought with a trace of annoyance.

It vanished when he went into the room and took in the boy's ludicrous position - draped over the leg-curl bench, legs askew in the machine, knuckles of one hand resting lightly on the floor while the other forearm inadequately pillowed his face. He'd thought experience with his son David had inured him to the contortions of teenage sleepers, but this was a bit much - exhaustion was written in every line of the young man's body.

Carlos stirred and mumbled a little as the Shadow carefully worked his legs out of the machine, but did not wake. He did manage to half-sleepwalk over to his cot when the Shadow lifted him easily onto his feet and supported most of his weight - noticing as he did so that Carlos' tank top was still sodden with sweat. He worked the boy's shoes off carefully and covered him with a blanket. I suppose I should go home, take the night off, he thought. No, wait... David's on a date tonight, and there's no work tomorrow. What's to go home to?

He sank into a chair by the cot, lazily looking around, taking in the textbooks and papers scattered over the nearby desk. That boy drives himself too hard, he thought. But the inner rejoinder, "As hard as you?" was a difficult one to answer.

Moved by an obscure impulse, he took off his hat and studied it for a moment, hesitating. Then he tossed it (unerringly) onto the banister knob from across the room.

He looked back at the sleeping youth at his side, thinking. He looks so young this way, so vulnerable... you'd never guess the hard life he's led when he sleeps. Alex sat for a timeless time, thinking nameless tumbling thoughts. After a while, he hesitated again, then reached out and ever so gently brushed an errant lock off of Carlos' forehead. The boy's eyelids started twitching then as he entered into REM sleep. Oh, oh, Alex thought glumly - that'll teach you. But Carlos relaxed back into deep sleep, smiling slightly.

The next REM cycle was not so gentle. Alex started when Carlos abruptly sat bolt upright, gasping for air. The young man hunched over and hugged himself, the very picture of misery, then nearly jumped out of his skin when Alex touched his shoulder and asked, "Are you OK?"

"OH! Uh, fine, sir. I..." Carlos gulped. "I had a bad dream." Alex nodded. "Was it one of the 'special' ones?" "NO. I, uh, don't think so."

Alex got up and started rubbing his shoulders, which were still bunched and hard. "Want to talk about it?" Carlos sighed gratefully as he started to relax. "Thanks, sir. Not yet... if that's okay." "No pressure."

Carlos yawned and asked, "What time is it...?", then he gasped and his eyes went round in horror when they found the clock. "Caramba! I'm sorry, sir!" He flushed and looked away. "I didn't mean to, it won't happen again." Alex said firmly, "Don't bother about that, I've decided to take the weekend off. And in any case, I have something for you to do tonight, so you won't be able to man the place for me." Carlos nodded eagerly, "Sure, what is it?" Alex snorted. "Go and shower and get dressed, get some food in you, Mr. Castaneda. Then we'll discuss it."

He made a king-sized omelet while Carlos showered, smiling ever so slightly as he deliberatedly added some mushrooms. Carlos grinned and took the inevitable ribbing on that subject while he inhaled the thing with typical teenage gusto, giving as good as he got. Then he sat up and asked, "What have you got for me, sir?"

"Carlos, when was the last time you went out and had some fun?" The boy's face betrayed surprise. "But I have fun all the time, sir. I like being here!" "Perhaps so, but I asked when was the last time you went out and had some fun." "Er... I grabbed some pizza last Thursday after classes." He grinned wolfishly. "There were some hot chicas there too!"

Alex nodded, letting that pass. "Well, your assignment tonight is to go out and do something thoroughly enjoyable." He rummaged in the petty cash drawer (his wallet safely at home, after all) and passed over a few bills. "On the house." "Wow, uh, thanks, sir!" But Carlos' expression at this remarkable change of routine was something closer to wary uneasiness than gratitude.

Alex permitted a trace of the Shadow's cold, no-nonsense tones to enter his voice. "Carlos, you are using yourself up before my eyes, and I won't have it. If you can't sleep, that's one thing - you're still getting used to your powers. But you spend every waking minute taking care of everything but yourself. Since you won't, it falls to me to do so." Taking in Carlos' stricken expression, he softened the blow by adding, "Do we have a meeting of the minds, Mr. Castaneda?" (The joking nickname taking some of the sting from his words.)

Carlos essayed a weak smile. "Of course, Chief. Mind like a steel trap." (In cheesy Maxwell Smart tones.) Alex snorted. "I shall have to tell Garrity to add a Dome of Silence to his plans." Then, shaking his head, "Then again, he probably would." When Carlos laughed with relief, he added, "Now run along and have some fun, see a late movie or something." The boy nodded and started to go, when something prompted Alex to say, to his own surprise, "Wait, I'll join you."

Alex doffed his all-too-characteristic black cloak and gloves, then cloaked them both in invisibility until they were well away from the base. Then they found a late-night movie worthy of MST3K, dissecting it mercilessly on the way back - Alex's humor dry and sardonic as always, Carlos' laughter merry. Then they played cards for a while, until Carlos started to yawn contagiously. "Time for bed, Carlos. If I docked your pay a dime each time you yawned, I'd soon be arrested for using slave labor!" The boy yawned again and nodded, "Yessir. And sir... thanks." Ducking his head shyly, he added, "I had a good night."

Alex yawned himself and stretched, then walked amiably over to the stairwell. There he was brought up short by the sight of the Shadow's hat on the banister knob. He stared at it for a time, troubled. It wasn't until he left the building and started walking home that he tried to put the thought into words:

"Wasn't I doing this all by myself just a few short months ago? When did I start to..." he let the words trail off, not quite daring even to think the remainder of the sentence.
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The Shadow

This first session occurred about five months after the events in "A Night Off", game time. It's mid-November 2003 in Los Angeles.


Alex strode purposefully toward the base. A Friday night, and David had asked permission to stay out late with the gang watching movies and eating pizza. They'd made an early start of it - he should be able to get a lot done. Perhaps he'd be able to get a lead on those mysterious black cars.

Long, pricey, and with tinted windows, they'd been causing a lot of talk on the street of late - talk that gave the Shadow pause. They weren't the first group to try to muscle in on the power vacuum he and the Forbidden had left in the area, but the first to use tactics like these. Local underworld leaders would get taken for a ride, in which the benefits of mutual cooperation were supposedly discussed. Upon their return, they would be... different. Colder, more purposeful... and, the Shadow had found to his shock, with a mental shield about their memories that was difficult to pierce. They didn't seem to have it in for him personally, so he was at a loss to decide what it was all about.

Worse yet, when he'd seen one of the cars himself last week, it had registered blank to his inner sight - something that shouldn't be possible, unless robot cars had been suddenly perfected. He'd tried getting a better fix on it by sending out a pulse of psychic energies, but got only that whatever was in the car was even blanker than empty space. To say he didn't like it was an understatement.

Alex ghosted into the building, went down the steps, and let the Shadow take over as he put on his hat. The lights were out... oh, right, he was early. Carlos would still be sleeping. He put on his cloak quietly and checked his weapons. Should he wait?

Nah. He'd been getting spoiled lately, with all the commlinks and security systems and even Garrity's latest toy, a hovercycle immune to radar (among other features). A night out on foot would be like old times, and perhaps keep his edge from being blunted.

He left a note on the keyboard, "Went out on my own," and suited actions to words. Sticking relatively close to the base, it was a quiet night, save for a loud domestic disturbance down the block. He waited to see if it would get violent; when it didn't, and the husband stormed out in a huff to go get his drink, he dismissed it as not worth his time.

While patrolling, one of those cars came motoring past - blank as ever to his mindsight. He tried "pinging" it again... and his flesh crept when it slowed down and stopped. He stepped back into an alleyway - if they could sense his regard, perhaps they could sense other things... after an interminable time, the car powered up again and moved on.

The Shadow eyed it in frustration as it sped away, unable to give effective pursuit. "Nostalgia has its limitations," he muttered as he memorized the license plate.

Keeping an eye peeled for members of his network, he caught sight of Hands stepping out of a bar to go to the john. Perfect.

"Malone." The man started badly. "Who's there!" The Shadow did the chuckle, throaty and rich with mockery. "I would think you'd be used to me by now, Malone. The Shadow knows!" He permitted Hands to see him, then, and the man's face spasmed.

"Shadow, I, uh, what do you want to know?" "Everything, Malone. Everything. But especially about these black cars. You know the ones I mean."

Malone spilled his guts feverishly while the Shadow slipped into the upper reaches of his mind to help spot evasions and the like. The man's hatred for him washed over him, overmatched only by his gut-wrenching terror. "Nobody knows much about them. They invite you for a ride, cut you a deal, and you're not quite the same when you get back. Hell, this one guy with the Blue Stars swore he'd never go with them, but he went meek as a lamb when they came! They say he's making money hand over fist now, but, you know, ain't quite the guy he was." "Who says?" "I don't know! People."

"Who else is in with them around here?" "The biggest guy around here would be Carlos. You know, El Bandito of the Red Shivs?"

The Shadow filed that away and handed the man a ten dollar bill. "Anything else?" A variety of things flashed through the man's mind in a panic, including an imperfectly-hidden reference to a crime he'd committed recently. That brought an unpleasant smile. "You've been a good boy lately, haven't you Malone?" "YES!" Hands squeaked. "I even turned down a B&E job recently!" "And why was that?" "I wanted to take it, but I knew what you'd -" "You lie poorly, Malone. The Shadow knows!"

"All RIGHT! I was all set to buy a whore that night!" The Shadow tsked. "Malone, Malone, Malone..." Defensively, the young man said, "I didn't break the law THAT much, it wasn't something BIG..." "Never mind that. What else do you have for me?" He watched Hands come to a decision. "There's these other guys around..." The Shadow was amused to discover the man's fervent hope that they and the Shadow would manage to do each other in. "Go on."

Malone shivered. "There's just something WRONG with them! No, wait... wrong with their suitcases." He seemed puzzled. "Their suitcases?" the Shadow prompted. "I don't know how to describe it... I just now remembered. They're just guys, big guys, dressed a little classy for the street, you know? I don't know what they're out doing. But they've got these big aluminum suitcases, and somehow I forgot all about them. They just... look really weird. They give me the creeps!"

"Interesting," the Shadow observed, "now be a good boy and don't fight." He went deeper into Hands' mind. The man stiffened as he caught on to what was happening, looking ready to bolt. The Shadow examined the memory, but there was little more there than what Hands had told him. As long as he was in there anyway, he followed the associations of that earlier hint of crime, and found a small-time break-in Hands had done in a company's cafeteria vending machines.

"All right, Malone. That was most interesting." He held out another couple tens, then pulled them back when Hands reached out for them. "Anything else you'd care to confess?" "No..." The Shadow smiled nastily, "What about the vending machine job a couple weeks ago?" Hands' face curdled and he moaned in fright as the Shadow gently pushed him up against the wall.

"It isn't nice to steal other people's money, Malone," the Shadow observed in deceptively mild tones. The man was still speechless, so the Shadow went on, "I think an anonymous donation to that company is in order, don't you? With a little extra thrown in for the damage to their locks." Malone nodded frantically in approval. "I'm so glad you agree," the Shadow noted, as he patted the man's cheek and tucked the tens in his jacket pocket.

As he turned to go, the Shadow paused and asked, "Malone, have you ever TRIED to get a legitimate job?" "Yes! But... they don't seem to want me." He got in reply only a snort of contempt and an acidic, "I can't imagine why..."

After leaving Malone, the Shadow heard the telltale rustlings that meant Carlos was putting in his commlink and coming on-line. "Good morning, Mr. Castaneda. I trust you slept well." "Evening, sir. Yeah. Why didn't you wake me?" "Nostalgia. What have we got on the Blue Stars and the Red Shivs?" Carlos' innocent voice responded, "One's Crips and the other's Bloods?" earning a dry, "Thank you, Carlos, I couldn't possibly have figured that out without your help." Carlos added, "The Shivs have a thing for knives..." then gave it up when he saw the Shadow wasn't buying any. "While you're at it, run this license plate number. Big black stretch model."

Tappity-tappity-tappity, he heard faintly through the commlink. "The car's supposed to be a brown Suburban - must be a stolen plate. We don't have much on the Blue Stars in the database, they seem to be one of the newer splinter groups. They don't have anything near your current location, sir. We have a little on the Red Shivs and El Bandito." "What have they got nearby?" "There's the crackhouse on 18th..."

"It's back already?!" the Shadow said incredulously. He'd cleaned the place out thoroughly not a month ago. "You know what they say, sir - supply and demand." "We'll see about that!"

Annoyance warred with a warm sense of satisfaction as the Shadow surveyed the place. Bars on the windows, deadbolts on the doors, guards posted all around the place... you'd think they were afraid of something, imagine that. "At times, a reputation has its rewards," he said to Carlos. "I'll have to come back sometime soon and give Garrity's new 'Shaolin Doohickey' a try, he'll like that - and no doubt it'll give the Shivs something to talk about for a while. But for now... I suppose finding El Bandito and the black cars is the top priority."

Most of the guards were in pairs, but there was one all by his lonesome at one of the corners. The Shadow tsked - poor planning, these gang members have never been the sharpest knives in the drawer, whatever they call themselves. He leveled his gun at the hapless young man (noting with minute discomfort that he was barely David's age, if that) and spread his invisibility over him, meanwhile letting him see through the illusion so he didn't realize he was invisible. This, of course, had the side effect of letting him see the Shadow.

The boy tensed, his jaw going slack in shock. "Keep your hands where I can see them," the Shadow warned as he approached. "You're not the Shadow!" the boy blurted out, "The Shadow can't be spotted!" That worthy suppressed a grin - yes, he did have a reputation with this gang - and did the chuckle, spreading it out into a malicious laugh. "All right, I am not the Shadow. You have nothing at all to worry about. Except, oh, wait, I'm pointing a gun at you." Close enough now to reach out and touch, he added, "And you are going to tell me what I wish to know."

The laugh did it. The boy froze like a rabbit caught in headlights. My word, the cloaked crusader thought, I didn't even have to "push" fear at him to do that. Shrugging, he plunged into the lad's mind, keeping the gun leveled on his chest.

Aloud, he asked, "Tell me about the black cars," meanwhile reading the associations and responses that leapt up mentally. But he had to wrestle with the boy's raw inner strength, greater than he'd guessed. [Yes, I was rolling incredibly badly that night, and the GM was blessed by the dice gods.] For a moment, the gang member got the upper hand, seeking to know what the Shadow's plans were. The truth - that he wanted information and wasn't planning on killing him YET - did not do much to assuage fear.

Enough of this! He pointed the gun directly between the boy's eyes and said mildly, "I suggest you play nice," but to his astonishment realized he'd made a misstep - the boy actually feared mental invasion more than death! His revulsion for it was overpowering - with a moan, he tried to bolt, gun or no.

The Shadow swept his legs out from under him, then pinned him to the ground. [Finally, some decent rolls!] Twisting the boy's arm up behind his back and holding the gun to his temple, he said, "If you don't tell me what I wish to know, or if you lie, I will have to go into your mind again. You'll like it even less the second time." "I'll tell you anything!" "Where is Carlos?" "At the Hangout, man!" A local arcade, popular among certain shady circles. "What do you know about the black cars?" "Carlos is the only one who talks to them! He said we'd make a lot more money!" "And have you?" the Shadow inquired scornfully. "I dunno!" "What about the men with the suitcases?" "Huh?! You mean the couriers...?" He knew nothing.

During this time, the hapless gangbanger's comrades noticed his "absence" from his post, and started coming to see what the trouble was. The Shadow cursed silently, and rapidly dipped into the boy's mind to erase the substance of his questions so as not to tip El Bandito off to his next move. It took longer than he expected, too long. The other gang members were on him by then, and they had guns out. He let the boy become visible to give them something to think about, then couldn't resist telling him, "I suggest you find another line of work if you want to grow up." (Not his most inspired line, but not bad under pressure.) When Carlos (HIS Carlos) shouted at him, "Get out of there!" he complied.

It took some fancy moves and dodging to get out of the sudden mass of bodies. He bumped into one, but even with that "clue" the man saw nothing. But another stumbled into him from behind and his eyes flew wide when the Shadow whirled on him. The Shadow dropped his shields, letting his seething emotions boil outward. "Get out of my sight!" he hissed, and the man fled as if demons were cackling after him. [That was actually an ordinary Intimidate check with a +21 bonus. I rolled a 2. :) ]

As he jogged toward the Hangout, the Shadow said calmly, "Make a note for the weekly calendar, Carlos. 'Clear out crackhouse on 18th street.' And remind me to look up that kid I reamed tonight..."

"He could perhaps be useful one day."
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The Shadow

[I was almost too embarrassed to post this session... To be honest, I haven't gotten regular gaming in a looong time, given that the gaming group has been forced to, you know, grow up. :) Matching schedules is a killer. I'm not in the habit of thinking deviously on my feet any more, and I made several gaping rookie errors that the Shadow would frankly never have made. Plus I'm not yet used to M&M combat. Ah well, chalk it up as a (re-)learning experience.]

As he approached the Hangout, the Shadow was filled in by Carlos on El Bandito: Carlos Gomez, 24 years old, five of them illegally in the US of A. He'd done time, but never hard time - small-time stuff like assault and battery. (Though he'd been tried for things like murder-one, none of it had ever stuck.)

He also had Carlos check juvey records on Juan Martinez, the boy he'd just got done reaming. (He'd picked up the lad's name while in his mind.) 17 years old, with a rap sheet as long as your arm, but for nothing worse than drug possession. An address was given (Juan was on probation), but it was of a large flophouse that the boy might or might not ever have actually visited.

The Shadow surveyed the Hangout briefly; he'd been there before. The upper floor was given over mostly to arcade machines and a bar, the basement to pool tables. The basement was more popular for less-than-forthright doings. Fortunately the door was open for ventilation; he was able to slip right in.

He went through the first floor thoroughly, just on the off-chance. The Red Shivs were heavily represented among the clientele, but there were also a half-dozen Angels - a girl's gang, mostly rebellious rich kids. Ordinarily they wouldn't amount to much on the food chain, but money does talk... and their current leader, "Lady V", had quite a fearsome reputation. (A flair for threats, and a tendency for people she threatened to not be heard from again...) The few patrons not in gang colors were being hassled confidently by the Shivs.

The door down to the basement was guarded by a heavyset guy with an air of competence about him and a baseball bat ready to hand. But why bother, when there was a fire door also available? Garrity's 'Shaolin' device would get an early workout, that's all.

The thing worked! Walking through the door was slow and unpleasant, like walking through peanut butter. But no harm was done to it nor the Shadow, so he breathed easy. Going down the stairs, he passed through the other door, and found himself in a scene that struck him as positively surreal.

As a lead chemist at a major pharmaceutical company, Alex had sat through his share of interminably boring business meetings; he knew the drill when he saw it. But he'd never before sat in on such a meeting devoted to drug sales... the illegal kind, anyway. Nor was the dress of the participants exactly up to corporate standards. It was like Dilbert crossed with Dickens. (Fortunately the proceedings were in English.)

A scraggly young man (20 at the most) named Josef was doing a not-entirely-uncreditable imitation of an accountant, though he'd do better with a suit, ten more years, and ten fewer convictions. It appeared that sales were actually up overall this quarter, but costs were also on the rise. (A moderately snazzy, if unpolished, chart tracked these statistics.) A sharp dip in sales a month ago was explained as "one of our crackhouses being raided by that nutball who calls himself the Shadow". The cloaked crusader frowned and committed the youth's face and mental signature to memory - he should show more respect. (And he proceeded to do the same for the other major lieutenants.)

Next, Carlos called upon Jorge, who evidently handled the protection racket - nothing excessively overt, just threatening to hang around and hassle customers unless moderate sums were paid. Jorge reported that business was doing well, with about 75% of businesses in their territory having caved in. They were stepping up "persuasion" on the rest, but he warned that there were a number that "We probably won't be able to get without using heavier measures - they don't have many walk-ins." Carlos responded, "Then we don't get them." Evidently the gang leader was not out to stir up excessive trouble.

Jorge yielded the floor to Miguel, who reported that he had managed to bribe "somebody on the force". (The Shadow's ears pricked up, and he taped the rest on a mini-recorder.) This individual couldn't let them "get away with murder", but could make evidence disappear if needed and snarl things up in other ways. He also warned that with the recent election, many of their solidly-bribed people in appointed office were being replaced by "The Terminator", and it would take time to figure out who among the new people could be bent.

Finally, an unnamed, unpleasant-looking fellow reported that with "our new business arrangements" - here shooting a glare at Carlos, who glared back - it was harder to keep the "putas" in line. "We have to beat them more."

Carlos wrapped up with a pep talk that only heightened the Shadow's sense of unreality. He ended with, "Our new business partners tell me that things are going smoothly. We just have to keep things quiet for now - if we all fight amongst ourselves, the only winner will be The Man."

"They also say that they aren't willing to commit resources to the Shadow unless we provide proof of his existence." The Shadow listened with great intensity at this point! (Evidently his strategy of trying for urban-legend status in respectable circles was working to some degree.) At the rising tide of dismay, El Bandito continued, "Yes, I know WE know he exists, but they aren't buying it without proof. So put word out on the street: Five grand for anyone who can name a name of one of his collaborators. Ten for anyone who brings one of them in, if they've got useful information. Fifteen for anyone who can get solid proof of the Shadow. And fifty G's for anyone who brings in his head - with or without the body attached."

"What sort of proof do they want?" someone asked. "Hell if I know! But if you can get a good photo or a videotape of him, I figure that'll do it. Yes, I know he can't be seen, but he's gotta be human - he might slip up sometime." The Shadow frowned - he was more vulnerable than they knew, for his mental invisibility only worked on people, not machines. He would have to be cautious.

With that, the group filed up the stairs, with the Shadow following. Carlos moved for the door, but was confronted by the group of Angels. "Lady V's not happy with you." El Bandito sneered, "And why should I care?" "You don't wanna make Lady V unhappy." "What's she gonna do about it if I do?" "You could get hurt." "Yeah," another Angel smirked, "or lose some face. Lady V's got a thing for making people lose face." There seemed to be a private in-joke involved, for the Angels all laughed. Carlos said only, "I ain't afraid of Lady V," and started to leave.

Only to get zapped by the Shadow's suggestion that his bladder was quite uncomfortable. Sure enough, the man decided to wander over to the bathroom, followed closely by the Man of Mystery.

Just the two of them. Once El Bandito was in a compromising position, the Shadow aimed a heavy blow at the back of the man's head.

[Mistake one - I was expecting an easy knockout. No such luck. No dodge bonus means you HIT - it doesn't help you do damage. Plus, a guy like Carlos is not a minion. And finally, the GM was rolling like a demon, while I suffered from my usual player-level Unluckiness disadvantage all through the combat. I swear I should get points for it! :) But I got 19's and 20's for sensory rolls and so on. Go figure!]

Carlos slammed into the wall, but was still alert. He spun around and spotted the Shadow. He also spotted the Shadow's hastily-drawn gun. Tense but retaining a certain degree of cool, he asked sarcastically, "Are you here to rape me, or do you mind if I zip up?" The Shadow magnanimously permitted this, so long as his hands remained in sight.

[Mistake two - I can't BELIEVE I didn't search him. Terminal brain failure!]

"Care to go for a ride?" "Thanks, but I've got one outside." "I'm afraid I really must insist." "I'll pass." "And if I take exception to your passing?"

[Mistake three - witty banter is all very well, but let's remember who's holding the gun, shall we? I finally remembered and started taking control of the situation again.]

"There's only one door out of here..." The Shadow laughed maliciously. "Oh sure, ha ha. But there's no way you can get me out here past my boys - and that window isn't big enough for either of us." The Shadow peremptorily gestured. "Go stand over by the sink, Carlos." "I prefer 'El Bandito'." "Your preferences don't interest me. Now turn around." He pulled out Garrity's doohickey again. (That wall was an outer wall of the Hangout - I'd checked.)

[Mistake four - one hand to hold the gun, one hand to stay in contact with El Bandito... which hand were you planning to use the device with, again? I dithered, then settled on holding it in one hand and wrapping that arm about his middle.]

Activating the phasing device, the Shadow shoved El Bandito forward, but the man instinctively braced and couldn't be budged. [Not my fault for once, unless you count my incredibly crappy dice-rolling.] In the moment of confusion that followed, El Bandito managed to spin away and pull out a semiautomatic. [And the Shadow's player proceeded to curse himself for an unusually hapless village idiot.]

The short silence that followed was filled by the Shadow's words: "You should have done it my way, Carlos. I wasn't going to kill you, but now..." They traded shots, neither conclusive. El Bandito ducked behind a stall for cover and started spraying bullets around in a panic. None came near the Shadow, and he managed to wing the gang leader.

Suddenly the Shadow realized: He can't see me! When he turned his back on me, my invisibility reasserted itself! He carefully worked his way around the field of fire and dispassionately looked upon his enemy, who was himself looking in entirely the wrong direction. You must die, he thought; it must not be said that you fought the Shadow to a standstill. Carlos Gomez, I sentence you to death.

The next bullet tore messily through El Bandito's head. The man lived, but hung on by the barest of threads. Since others were bursting into the bathroom, the Shadow spread invisibility over his enemy, picked him up in a fireman's carry, and stepped through the wall.

Once through, he had (his) Carlos call 911 and tried first aid to keep El Bandito in the land of the living a little longer. No such luck, the man was slipping rapidly. The Shadow went into the man's mind, slapping aside the shield around his memories almost effortlessly. [Oh sure, NOW I roll a natural 20!]

How do you contact the men in the black cars? A distinct impression of a phone number.

Who are they? No knowledge on this subject.

What happened during your car ride? A well-dressed man in the car reaching into a satchel with a spherical metal object glimpsed inside, manipulating it... All of a sudden, the things they were saying started to make sense.

What do they... Too late. Carlos "El Bandito" Gomez had met his reward.

The Shadow filled Carlos in on what he'd learned as he dropped by the crackhouse again. (But Juan turned out to not be on duty any longer.) "But sir," Carlos' puzzled voice responded, "didn't Mr. Garrity tell us that it wasn't possible to make a machine that could do telepathic stuff?" "Yes," the Shadow replied, "so either he was wrong, or else they were using the machine to boost an already-existing telepathic talent. I would not, myself, be inclined to bet on Hal being wrong about something like that." "That makes sense. What now?" "Run the phone number of the black cars... No, wait. Send Michael Barnes an email telling him to meet me tomorrow at the library at 10 PM. I'll have him do it."

With that, he decided to use the rest of the night seeking black cars on his hovercycle (sent out by Carlos to home in on his commlink beacon), but had no luck. Finally, he managed to hunt up Harvey to drop off the tape and warn him about the dirty cop he'd found out about - Harvey'd know who to tip off in Internal Affairs.

And with that, he headed "home" to the base, a little wiser and no worse for wear.
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The Shadow

Alex stalked down the stairwell and dropped his hat on the knob at once. (No doubt a sign of his upset, as he usually takes it off only when he leaves for the night.)

Carlos spun around in his chair and took in the look on his face. He got up to help Alex off with his bulletproof vest. "So, uh, do you want to talk about it, sir?"

Alex did not respond at once. He got off the vest and his cloak, and hung them neatly on their hooks. Then he sat in a chair and stared off into space. Carlos, knowing his moods, wisely kept silence.

"How much did you hear?" he finally inquired. "Most of it." "Ah." Longer silence. Then:

"I did not want to kill him."

Carlos sat down. "Do you want my assessment of what happened?" "Very well." "I think you got caught up in your own image - invisible, untouchable. You let hubris get the better of you for a moment. It happens to the best of us, sir."

No response except a minute sigh.

Hesitantly, Carlos went on, "I see a good man sitting there..." Alex finally looked at him and said with quiet firmness, "No, Carlos. I am not a good man. I do what I do because I must. Not because I think it right." "You're not working to make the world a better place?" "A cleaner place, perhaps..." He snorted. "I am scarcely Mother Teresa."

"Well, no," Carlos replied uncomfortably. (Over the previous year, he'd been returning to his Catholic roots and getting moderately devout.) "But then I guess Mother Teresa wouldn't do very well in your position either..." He changed the subject. "I did some checking up on El Bandito and the Red Shivs that may help us figure out what to do next." "Very well, let's hear it."

The boy dutifully reported on some rather old violent crimes believed to have been committed by his erstwhile namesake - beating rivals to death and the like. Alex looked at him, having picked up on the fact that he was being cheered up. "You found this in the time since I left the Hangout?" "Yessir." "While the smart thing to do, it was also a kind thing to do." Carlos looked intensely nervous for a moment. "What do you mean, sir?" "Never mind. Who is likely to succeed El Bandito?"

It developed that in Carlos' expert opinion, three successors were likely. "There's Julio, his right-hand man. He's basically Carlos' protege. He's likely to follow through on everything Carlos was doing. Then there's Mario, the guy in charge of pimping. They didn't get along. And finally Maria, Carlos' ex-girlfriend, more or less." Alex frowned. "I did not have the impression that the Red Shivs were the kind to take direction from a woman." Carlos shrugged. "I don't know who she'd pick to use as her figurehead, but she'd be the one really in charge."

"It occurs to me that the successor, whoever it is, will be needing to make some decisions about the black cars very quickly." "Well, the whole thing will probably take a week to shake out at least, sir." Alex replied sardonically, "I imagine one of Julio or Mario will be dead before the week is out." "Probably," Carlos said matter-of-factly, "If not, the Red Shivs will probably splinter."

Alex had a sudden thought. "Did I just start a gang war between the Shivs and the Angels? Given that Carlos died just minutes after being threatened by them." "It honestly depends on who succeeds El Bandito, sir, and what their goals are. It would be easy to start a war if they want to. I'd guess that Mario would go after them, while Julio would pin the whole thing on you. I have no idea what Maria would do."

"Will the price on my head go out on the street, do you think?" "Again, it depends. Mario despised Carlos and will likely oppose anything he was in favor of. Julio, on the other hand, got where he is by not making waves (the last protege met a sudden end by making them...) and working to keep El Bandito happy. ... Honestly, sir, we want Mario to win."

Alex sighed a world-weary sigh. "I suppose I can arrange that if I work at it. What I would really like is for nobody to 'win'... but I suppose that's too much to ask for."

Coming to a decision, he announced, "Carlos, I want you to be careful." The young man looked faintly puzzled. "I'm always careful, sir, don't worry..." Alex gave him a look. "Have you forgotten? You are one of my principal 'collaborators', as El Bandito so gently put it."

The look on Carlos' face would have been priceless in a less serious situation. Plainly he HAD forgotten. Visibly flustered, he got out, "Er, yeah, I guess I did, sir." Alex added with quiet intensity, "I don't want anything to happen to you." The boy ducked his head, pleased, but unsure of what to say.

Alex filled the short silence with, "I also want you to get word out to Maria and others of the network that there may be danger in the upcoming weeks." "OK... Who else?" "I've already spoken to Harvey. They and Doc Griswold are the most likely targets. And you might say a word to the 'fan club.'" Carlos snorted with wry contempt. "Even Ricky?" Alex weighed it. "I suppose he might go off and do something stupid, now that you mention it." "Honestly, sir, their connection is remote enough that they probably aren't in danger. Not enough people take Ricky seriously enough to think he's actually tied to you." "Very well."

"And Carlos..." "Yessir?"

"If you were thinking of seeking out the men with suitcases... Don't." That one syllable was freighted with ominous finality.

Busted! The boy suddenly found the table intensely interesting. Alex continued, "If you happen to come across one, by all means get a good look at the suitcase and tell me what you notice. But do not show undue interest and do NOT attempt to follow them under any circumstances. Understood?" He waited until he got a meek "Yessir," in reply. Disaster averted, Alex thought.

Alex glanced at the clock. It was quite late - early, rather. Carlos followed his eyes and said, "Hadn't you better be getting home and to bed, sir?" (Saying nothing, to be sure, of his own sleep schedule!) Alex snorted. "Yes, mother." It took Carlos a moment to decide that was a joke, and therefore safe. Then he grinned. "And be sure to button up, it's chilly out!"

Alex grinned despite himself as he rose to his feet. "What did I ever do before you, Carlos?" He got the impudent reply, "Bumbled along like usual, sir - just not as well." "Just so. ... I'm glad you're here." He gripped the startled Carlos' shoulder a moment, then went up the stairs.

Once home, he performed his nightly ritual of looking in on his son. But instead of reassurance, he found this night only a new worry...

David was sleeping on his belly, the covers in disarray... with a stained bandage about his left shoulder. Alex froze for a long moment. Then he entered the room, got a closer look (the stains were brownish, like curiously old blood), and retrieved David's clothes from the chair he knew they'd be on. Taking them out of the room to look at in the light, he found no obvious bloodstains... but the shirt was conspicuously missing.

Sensing movement behind him, he whirled only to find his sleepy-eyed son confidently holding a baseball bat. "Oh! Uh, hi, Dad..." Plainly he was expecting a prowler.

Alex asked in conspicuously emotionless tones, "Hello, son. How did you come by the bandage?" "Oh, uh, a guy knifed me." (Trying to say it casually - no big deal, Dad, just a Friday knifing - and not quite making it.) "A guy. Knifed you." Acutely uncomfortable, David said, "Uh, yeah."

"You do not seem very bothered by this." Playing for sympathy, David made a misstep: "Well, you know, after being kidnapped and worked over by goons last year, it doesn't seem that bad. Just a scratch..." Uncharacteristically, his father turned his back on him, putting an abrupt end to the conversation. He strode into the bathroom and leaned on the counter, struggling to collect himself. David trailed behind sans bat, getting nervous.

The boy offered, "The movie was longer than we thought so we decided not to watch another one and go for a walk instead." Silence. "The rest of the gang eventually went home, so Twyla and I started heading back to her place." Silence. "This guy with a knife said she was going to come with him. I said she was with me, and he slashed at me. Got me the once before I took it away from him." Silence. David plainly took this for an ominous sign, getting more nervous as his recital went on.

Alex abruptly cut in. "Let me have a look at that shoulder." David submitted meekly to his father's ministrations with visible relief. The cut was shallow - too shallow for the amount of dry blood on the bandage. "How deep was it at the time?" "I don't know! Deep enough to need a bandage." Alex sighed. More evidence of David's healing powers. "Were you hurt anywhere else?" "Just some bruises."

"How did you get the blood on your hands?" For the second time that evening, a young man gave him a flabbergasted look worth framing if it'd been a less serious situation. He stuttered, "H-how did you know?!" while displaying his clean hands. Alex snorted without amusement. "I am the detective in the family, remember?" He pointed to the bloodstained knobs on the sink, and David said some words he probably shouldn't have.

The boy started looking intensely uncomfortable again. "I, uh, banged two of their heads together." "So there were two of them." "Uh, yeah, you see it was sort of, that is, I mean..." "David, we both know you are avoiding saying something. Just say it." For once David didn't bridle at Alex's bluntness, and did as he was told... in a small voice.

"There were six of them."

"Six." "Yeah..." then he added, "Not all at once!" as if this were an extenuating point in his favor. "Were they all armed?" "Yeah." "Any guns?" "One of them. I, uh, threw one of the other guys into him before he could draw it." "I see." Another silence followed.

David filled it with more nervous explanations - a little more unabridged, this time. "We weren't looking for trouble, Dad. It was by this alley..." He described the location, and Alex recognized it - an alley notorious for violent crime that he'd cleaned out of lowlives himself several times. He mentioned the notoriety, only to be met with a blank, "I didn't know."

At any rate, David had taken the knife from the erstwhile rapist (breaking his arm in the process), while one of his buddies got in the slash on his shoulder. After that, nobody managed to touch him, save for a few whacks with a stick he got from one of them. "He was pretty good," he added nonchalantly.

"David, where did you learn to fight like that?" "I dunno. Roughhousing with the guys, I guess." Having been in more than a few spats himself, Alex did not find that theory too believable.

"The two whose heads you knocked together... There was a lot of blood?" David said in a small voice, "Yeah." "Are they still alive?" "...I dunno." "How do you feel about that?" "Weird." "I do not blame you." Silence again prevailed. This time, it was Alex who broke it:

"I killed a man tonight." He NEVER talked about the Shadow's doings with David. Never. David went tense with shock. "I did not want to kill him."

The boy looked away first. "It was too EASY, Dad! It shouldn't be like that... so easy." (A memory: David getting ready to try out for the track team while his father timed him. Upon hearing the time, he showed shocked pleasure, then uneasiness. "It's too easy..." He never did join the track team...)

Alex's face twitched - a rare sign of loss of control. "Killing should never be easy," he said, and the two reflected soberly on that. David asked hesitantly, "Have you ever... you know. Done it by accident?" "No. I am very deliberate in what I do."

David shook his head and repeated, "It was too easy," looking like a little lost boy for once.

The father in Alex instinctively knew what to do. He hugged his son tightly - noticing that the hug he eventually got in return was curiously gentle, as if David were suddenly afraid of his own strength.

Alex was still struggling to retain emotional control when they parted. Abruptly a new thought occurred to him. "How is Twyla?" "She's all right. None of them touched her." "So she is all right, but is she all right?" David took his meaning and said uncomfortably, "I dunno." "What does she think of... what you did?" David bit his lip and repeated, "I dunno." Alex twitched again.

Suddenly he asked, "David, why are you standing like that?" David blinked and shifted in surprise. "Like what?" "You dropped into a fighting stance just now." "I did?" He visibly tried to regain the position, looking, well, like a gangly inexperienced seventeen year old trying to mimic a fighting stance and failing - comic, if it weren't so dead serious. "Like this," he demonstrated. David immediately fell into a matching stance, poised on the balls of his feet, clearly surprising even himself. Alex sighed. As if their lives weren't difficult enough.

"Well," David said too brightly, "I'd better get back to bed." "Yes," Alex agreed wearily. "G'night, Dad..."

"I love you, son."

"Love you too, Dad."
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Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
The Shadow said:
Only to get zapped by the Shadow's suggestion that his bladder was quite uncomfortable. Sure enough, the man decided to wander over to the bathroom, followed closely by the Man of Mystery.

Just the two of them. Once El Bandito was in a compromising position, the Shadow aimed a heavy blow at the back of the man's head.
Let's hope the tabloids never get ahold of this. No criminal will be able to use the toilet in peace again! :D
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Wow, not even a page long and filled with a huge amount of substance. It must be the one on one thing. Very nice.

I feel like I'm reading Batman here. Only with a little more complexity and deeper supporting characters.


Piratecat said:
Let's hope the tabloids never get ahold of this. No criminal will be able to use the toilet in peace again! :D
Holy Hannah, Shadow! Not even a page in and the mighty Piratecat has posted on your storyhour!

Glad to see you made it over here.

-Swack-Iron (aka Winter over at the Atomic Think Tank)

The Shadow

Lela said:
Wow, not even a page long and filled with a huge amount of substance. It must be the one on one thing. Very nice.

I feel like I'm reading Batman here. Only with a little more complexity and deeper supporting characters.
*blink* Now there's a compliment and a half! Thanks, Lela!

And PirateCat: The streets get cleaner even as the bathroom gets, ah, messier. :) Entropy has to increase, get me? ;)

Thanks for suggesting this, Swack-Iron.

I'll be getting background material on the Shadow, Carlos, and the major members of the Shadow's network here and in the Rogue's Gallery shortly.
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The Shadow

This campaign is picking up from a duo Champions campaign run several years ago, in which the Shadow adventured with a similar outcast vigilante called the Forbidden. (A life-drainer who had to drain life occasionally to survive, who went after criminal low-lives so he could live with himself more easily.) The campaign fell apart when the GM prematurely offered the Forbidden a way out of his life-hunger, which was his sole motivation for adventuring. I'd always loved the campaign, though, so the GM and I decided to revive it in a solo M&M version.

In this campaign, all powers must come from the Psionic, Super-Science, or Training sources. (ie, no mutants, aliens, wizards, "gods", people hit by lightning, or whatever.) Psionics is genetic in nature, but not a mutation - it's a natural part of the human species, and always has been in one degree or another. (Most people with psi powers don't even realize it.) Super-Science is limited to a few geniuses, governments, and major corporations, and it's usually highly experimental. (Powered-armor superheroes are usually corporate PR stunts more than anything else.) Training is pretty much limited to people highly trained in martial arts or the like. The GM raised the cost of Mental Protection to 3 pp/rank because he wanted it to be rare - most psis are untrained.

Psionics is not publicly known to exist in this universe, though there's more chatter about it there than here. Several early researchers who talked about having definitive proof of it suffered mysterious heart attacks... The predominant attitude of the media and academe is withering skepticism. There are very few open "superheroes" - most of whom are military types hired to wear powered armor, beat up a few bad guys, smile for the camera, and mention the sponsoring corporation's products.

The only other major difference between this world and ours is that 9/11 did not happen - an anonymous phone tip cracked the plot wide open. Most people have forgotten about the whole thing.

Now for the main character. His sheet (among others) is in the Rogue's Gallery in the "LA Under Shadow" thread. This background is repeated there to avoid confusion.


Alex Brighton did not have a happy childhood. Nobody seemed to like him, but they couldn't explain why... "There's just something WRONG about him, but I can't put my finger on it!" they'd say. He had to work five times as hard to get the same recognition and approval as others. Life, he decided, just isn't fair.

It wasn't. Alex was born a rare homozygous telepath - he inherited telepathy genes from both parents. (His dad was a consummate salesman - an unconscious Mind Controller - and his mom a sensitive soul with much insight into others and a not-entirely-unfounded belief that she could predict the future with Tarot cards. They broke up when Alex was 7 - Alex's dad couldn't appreciate a woman with mental shields for long...) His powers raged out of control, projecting his emotions - especially the darker ones not suited for public display - to everyone around him. Meanwhile he would occasionally "overhear" the ugly thoughts others directed at him in response, which only alienated him further.

The solution he instinctively hit on worked in the sense that he survived and remained sane, but it didn't leave him any better adjusted socially. He trained himself to suppress and control his emotions as much as possible so there was nothing left to project... Of course he wasn't entirely successful. When agitated, the steep mental walls he'd erected would slip and he'd "zap" people again. "Most of the time he's a cold fish, and the rest he's a hair-raising freak!"

A brilliant young man, he entered university early, majoring in chemistry. There he met Jennifer, a psych major who found him irresistibly fascinating. (She was genetically "mindblind", immune to telepathic vibes.) She saw a shy and retiring young man, but one with a nice smile and (once you got to know him) a magnetic personality. She couldn't figure out why everyone treated him so badly for no apparent reason... Alex for his part found friendship, and then love, intoxicating. Within a couple of years, they were married.

Alex got a good job at a major pharmaceutical company, researching flora and fauna from around the world to discover, purify, assess, and alter new drugs. Meanwhile, he and Jennifer had a little son named David. After making a name for himself with a highly promising new cancer therapy, he gained a coveted promotion despite his social awkwardness. Life was good, far better than he'd ever dared to hope for - he had a loving family, challenging work, the satisfaction of helping others, and, as he learned to shield better and better, even a few friends. He had the money to indulge a few hobbies, like growing rare tropical plants (something he'd started doing for his Ph.D. dissertation) and collecting tapes of old radio shows. Including "The Shadow".

Then Alex's world came crashing down about his ears when Jennifer was raped and murdered by a hopped-up burglar. To add insult to injury, the guy got off on a technicality! Alex snapped and went on a rampage through his precious tropicals, destroying them to vent his rage... but when the juice soaked into his hands, he started to shake and then had a seizure.

When he got to his feet, he discovered to his astonishment that he could "hear" the thoughts of his terrified son in the next room. When he stumbled outside, he heard a neighbor thinking that he must be drunk... when Alex glared at him, the man's face was suffused with terror and he ran for his life. Alex, while not entirely understanding, smiled grimly. He could use this.

The murderer died that night, and he was very, very frightened before he died. (The coroner ended up ruling the case a truly bizarre suicide. You don't want to know.) While stalking him, Alex discovered something new - when he didn't want to be seen, he WASN'T. He was like the Shadow, clouding men's minds!

And why SHOULD some other guy lose his wife, some other little boy his mommy? There were more animals out there. Somebody should do something about it... somebody like him. Who else knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Alex didn't do anything rash. He took a sabbatical from his job, and used his chemical knowledge to isolate and purify the compound that had opened the door in his mind, altering it so it would no longer impair his judgement or give him hallucinations like it had that first night. (The seizure turned out to be due to another, unrelated compound.)

He got a gun and learned how to use it. He took karate classes, and then classes in other, more esoteric martial arts. He turned out to be something of a natural. (He has genes for biokinetic powers as well, but they're latent as they don't mix well with telepathy. But they make him stronger and faster than a guy his age and size ought to be.)

And when he felt ready, he donned black clothes, pulled on black gloves, swept a black cloak about his shoulders, and put on a battered black hat. Then he took a small white pill. The Shadow lived again... his eerie, mocking laughter from thin air striking fear into the hearts of the criminals of Los Angeles. "The Shadow knows!" (He also muffles the lower part of his face with a black bandanna, and uses a tiny amount of Illusion to fuzz his features, making them entirely nondescript save for the blazing intensity of his eyes.)

Five years now he has stalked the streets, a year or two of which alongside the tormented mystic known as the Forbidden, and there have been many changes. He has put together an enormous network of informers - criminal scum who fear him more than they fear higher-level criminal scum. And he has found a few people who approve of what he does and are willing to help him.

David is seventeen now, and starting to worry his father. The boy is much too strong, much too fast, and heals ridiculously quickly. (The biokinetic genes that skipped the last couple generations of telepaths came out with a vengeance in him - Jennifer's mindblindness in effect canceled out the telepathy genes David got from his dad.) David has inherited his father's stern sense of justice, and might try his hand at fighting crime more rashly than his father. His raging biokinetic hormones (mentioned in no biochemistry text) make for a fairly stormy relationship at times, too.

Still, David has received an object lesson that may give him pause. He was kidnapped and severely roughed up by a syndicate who discovered the Shadow's secret identity about a year ago. (The Shadow and the Forbidden utterly dismantled it - nobody who learned anything compromising is still alive.) He of course healed the physical damage rapidly but the psychic scars are another matter.

David found out about his dad's powers and "night life" at that time, and still isn't sure how he feels about it. It has become an edgy subject for the two of them, a sleeping dog neither cares to disturb. It is pretty much a given, though, that David would NOT approve of Carlos, who has been the Shadow's sidekick for the last eight months or so.

Carlos is a former gangbanger (18 years old) who turned over a new leaf after a nasty run-in with the Shadow. He caught the Shadow's notice by his immunity to the Shadow's mental invisibility... Carlos also has compellingly accurate, if unpleasant, dreams about the past and future, and often gets flashes of danger moments before it occurs. At a second run-in - the Shadow rescuing Carlos from gang members beating him up for trying to go legit - he managed to save both their lives by giving warning of a sniper bullet.

The boy had absolutely nowhere to go (a truly awful home situation, and in the neighborhood of his old gang to boot) and the Shadow liked his spirit, so he brought him to live at the base and support him in his work. He doesn't let Carlos go out on patrol or mix up in the rough stuff (though Carlos has had to come pull his bacon out of the fire once or twice) - mostly Carlos feeds him information from the base computer through his (Garrity-provided) commlink and offers him what he can from his unpredictable psychic talents.

Anyway, Carlos all but worships the Shadow - the closest thing to a father he's ever had - and he and David would likely feel highly threatened by each other should they ever meet, which Alex tries to make sure doesn't happen.

Alex has determined that the drug he uses is not addictive... but the same cannot be said for the Shadow persona it makes possible. Alex doesn't LIKE the Shadow, but he NEEDS the Shadow - needs to let the rage and anguish he feels out of its cage sometimes. (His Psychic Assault is nothing more sophisticated than exposing the target to his swirling confusion of bottled-up emotions all at once.) He keeps his two lives - and thus David and Carlos - as separate as he possibly can while still remaining sane. It's gotten a bit precarious at times...
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The Shadow

And now for...


Carlos Gutierrez was a typical casualty of society gone wrong. Abandoned by his father before his birth and neglected by his drug-addicted mother, he was mostly raised by an aunt and uncle who didn't really want him and abused him physically and verbally on a regular basis. His true family was the local gang, the Lions. By the time he was seventeen, he was a hardened fighter and gunman (having killed two men) and a fairly accomplished drug dealer who occasionally sampled his own wares.

All of that changed when the Shadow broke up a gang rumble that Carlos was participating in with great enthusiasm. Mind you, the Shadow himself got a nasty surprise - Carlos HAD always heard rumors about his Gypsy grandmother, and had occasionally had some weird dreams, but he hadn't figured on seeing this dude all in black striding through the battle bold as brass with a really weird feel to him! Nobody else seemed to see him... Was he a ghost? A hallucination? BANG! No, ghosts and hallucinations don't bleed. But then the dude turned on him, (gripping his wounded arm) and sheer ravening fear ripped through the boy like he'd never known it before. He pissed himself like a baby and ran... soon the others ran too.

Scrabbling at a wall to get away, he could do nothing but cower, babbling his terror, when the dude approached him, exuding a cold contempt. He knew him now - damn, that Shadow guy was said to be a KILLER! Scary-loco. But he just hauled Carlos to his feet and held him against the wall, keeping the fear on him. Finally he spoke: "You're not quite old enough to have wholly lost your humanity, boy. But mark my words - you shall be there soon, if you keep on this path. And I will be waiting for you." Then, after relieving him of his gun and stash, "Now get out of my sight," with a shove. Carlos didn't need any more encouragement to make like a rabbit.

Maybe it was the fear, worse than he had ever known. Maybe the drugs in his system hyped up the whole experience. Maybe it was the sudden flash of ultimate sadness and tightly-leashed fury he got when the guy touched him. (Something to do with his wife? She died, ugly...) And maybe he'd been gradually ripening for some sort of change for some time. Whichever, he couldn't get the Shadow's words out of his head. And he knew, down to his core, that they were the truth. Not just that he was on the road to losing his humanity - but that the Shadow would be waiting for him. Somehow he knew that the man was intertwined with his destiny.

Carlos turned over a new leaf. He ditched the drugs and went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He got a job for chump change and started taking classes to get his GED. He separated himself from the Lions as much as he could without getting killed, suffering the inevitable beatings stoically. He got involved with his church, which had always seemed boring and pointless up to that point. He found to his amazement that he was actually tentatively happy in a way he'd never imagined before... but also that the memories of his old life filled him more and more with shame.

Almost a year later, walking home from work one night, he got waylaid by his homies from the Lions. This was no ordinary beating - they were joking around about putting a bullet in him if he didn't stop "putting on airs", and maybe it wasn't all a joke. Next thing he knew, the Shadow was there, a most welcome sight, tossing unsuspecting gang members about with abandon. The Shadow hauled him to his feet, just as on that other day, then recognized him. "You," he said flatly. "I warned you..." but to the astonishment of them both, Carlos suddenly burst into tears. He started pouring out his story as he never had before to this total stranger who had changed his life so much. But suddenly a nameless dread gripped him that he could not explain, nothing like the Shadow's fear. He cried out, almost involuntarily, "Look out!" The Shadow (already more than a little paranoid) dove forward, bearing both of them to the ground, while a rifle shell cracked into the pavement through the space they'd both occupied a moment before.

The Shadow made short work of the sniper (who turned out to have been tracking him for weeks for the local crime syndicate). Meanwhile, Carlos was busy falling in love - not a love like he'd had for the girls, but a love for an idea and for the man who embodied that idea for him - the man who could have leaped any direction and let him take the bullet but chose to save his life too. He poured out the rest of his story, with many tears, on that street corner when it was safe again, not even daring to hope for any response... he'd been disappointed so many times. But the Shadow pondered deeply for a while - Carlos had the distinct impression the man was looking right into his heart - then said, "Come with me."

He set Carlos up on a cot in the basement of an abandoned building he'd fixed up. (He'd moved some of his more outre' stuff there out of concern of putting his secret identity at risk. Later, that basement got souped up into something completely other by Hal Garrity.) The lad would receive room and board and a small stipend for watching the place and doing whatever errands the Shadow needed doing. It wasn't much by most standards, but to Carlos it seemed like heaven compared to flipping burgers while sleeping on the street on those nights he didn't feel like getting yelled at by his aunt or beaten by his uncle.

The Shadow has come, with ample justification, to trust Carlos implicitly. He hasn't revealed his true name (he's too paranoid for that) but Carlos knows what he looks like. Carlos is nearing nineteen now, but his feelings for the Shadow stop only just short of worship. The man is the only father-figure he's ever had, and he soaks in every bit of approval and affection. (The Shadow is not all that demonstrative toward him, but it seems like a lot by Carlos' standards.) He mans the headquarter's communication panel, keeps track of details, has learned carpentry just so he can keep the place in repair, and offers what he can from his unusual but unpredictable flashes of the past and future... but what he really wants to do is help in more tangible fashion. He scrimps and saves to take karate lessons, and works out with the base's gym to exhaustion daily. The Shadow has told him it's a no-hoper, but he keeps hoping anyway. (Despite the official lack of hope, though, Carlos has helped pull the Shadow's bacon out of the fire on a couple occasions - occasions he is fiercely proud of.) The Shadow has been getting a little concerned about Carlos' fixation on him, and when the kid finishes his GED - it's slow going, because he missed a lot of school - he intends to gently push him toward college or some other path that will get him out on his own.

While the Shadow never discusses his "real" life with Carlos in any substantive way, Carlos has picked up more than he lets on through his retrocognition. He knows about David and has a pretty good idea that David causes the Shadow some grief, which makes him privately indignant. Indeed, if the two were ever to meet (David has no clue about Carlos' existence), it's probable that sparks would fly - with Carlos likely seeing David as a spoiled brat who is too stupid or too pissy to appreciate his father, and David seeing Carlos as a threat - somebody who knows more about his dad's "other" life than he does! (And who's a tiresome one-man cheering section for the old man, to boot. Plus, ahem, who's considerably more hardened and experienced than most teenage wannabes. :) But if they were to get past the initial conflagration, they would likely have a good bit to learn from each other.

Carlos is unfailingly eager to please without being too obtrusive about it (he outgrew being obtrusive in his first few months at the base). He has metamorphosed into a rather clean-cut youth who makes a good impression on people. He donates a large fraction of his money anonymously to the families of the two young men he killed. He always addresses the Shadow as "sir". (People he sees as "decent folks" are also always "sir" or "ma'am".) While the Shadow can do little wrong in his eyes, he is merciless to his own mistakes. A bad grade on a test in his GED classes, or a word of disapproval from the Shadow on any topic, is liable to find him driving himself even harder than usual in the gym and denying himself fun activities. (Once, early on, he "punished" himself by going to his old house and deliberately mouthing off to his uncle, then submitting to a terrific pasting, but the Shadow gave him a VERY stern talking-to after that, and he's never repeated it.)

Though he'd been in and out of juvie repeatedly as a child and teen, now that he's eighteen "Mr. Reston" (Lance Reston is an upper-crust lawyer-minion of the Shadow's, who is definitely a "sir" in Carlos' book) has gotten his record sealed by the court. Lance has also managed to get Carlos off probation in view of the manifest change in his life, which is why Carlos doesn't have to worry about keeping the authorities notified of his rather unusual address. (The criminal justice system never knew about the gang shootings, otherwise that probably would've been impossible.)

Physically, Carlos is a bit short (5'6") and sensitive about it. He's also rather slender for his height - he didn't have the best nutrition in his formative years. Even so, he's managed to pack a surprising amount of wiry muscle on his slim frame with his arduous workouts, and there isn't an ounce of fat on him. He has a truly impressive collection of scars and welts, especially on his back (where his uncle got overly enthusiastic with a variety of domestic implements) and a number of nasty burn scars on his wrists and torso - cigarette-size and on up. (Some from being "punished" by his uncle, some self-inflicted to prove his machismo, some from being tormented by a rival gang and by the Lions when he tried to leave.) He is quite embarrassed about these marks of his old life.

While at home in the base, he usually lounges about casually in shorts and a t-shirt or undershirt; when "on duty" he will be seen constantly wearing a wireless headset to monitor police bands and keep in touch with the Shadow. When he goes out, though, he takes great pride in his appearance, usually wearing a button-down shirt and a nice pair of jeans or slacks, his jet-black hair slicked back with gel. His father was Mexican and his mother Puerto Rican; he speak Spanish as fluently as English.

Carlos doesn't get enough sleep, and it's not just that there aren't enough hours in a day for GED classes, the laborious studying he has to do to keep up with them, karate classes, his long workouts, and helping out the Shadow at night. The long and the short of it is that he's afraid of his dreams and wants to sleep as little and as hard as possible. He rarely sees pleasant things with his precognitive and postcognitive dreams, and even his normal dreams are plagued with nightmares - nightmares of the things he's done and suffered in the past, of letting the Shadow down, of failing to measure up. (He can usually tell which dreams are "special" and which aren't, but it's not a sure thing.) The Shadow has talked to him gently about it a few times, and occasionally takes a night off to let Carlos recharge the batteries and simultaneously let Alex have some quality time with David. (Alex himself is one of those rare people who only needs two or three hours of sleep a night, so his schedule does little to discommode him.) When he finds the kid snoring on the bench press, he knows a night off is overdue. :)

The two have a series of standing jokes between them. The Shadow calls him "Carlos Castaneda", though he had to loan him one of the books before he got it. Carlos strikes back with cheesy TV and movie references - especially from "Men In Black", "Meet Joe Black", "Dirty Harry" and so on. (Nor does he neglect "The Shadow". :) A typical exchange:

"Don't eat any mushrooms while I'm gone."

"Jawohl, Herr Kapitan!" (In an incredibly bad fake German accent - Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes.)
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The Shadow

The Shadow has collected a number of individuals who are sympathetic to his cause and are willing to help him out from time to time.

He also has a collection of low-level criminal scum who are so terrified of him that they are in effect minions - willing to spill everything they know with the barest prompting, and even willing to occasionally stick their necks out on his behalf, simply because they fear what he might do to them more than they fear what higher-level criminal scum might do. Most criminal scum will just kill you, after all...

Finally, there are what could almost be called a few Shadow fan-club members in local high schools and even on the streets. A bizarre mix of goths, misfit loners, and Straight-Edge types, they think he's cool. Very few, of course, are willing to do anything concrete in the name of his coolness, but there are a few hard-core types. (Carlos could be considered an extreme case of one of these.)

Here's a few specific people I've thought of.

Officer Harvey Grant: Harvey's a grizzled old beat cop in a number of the Shadow's favorite haunts. He is glad to see somebody finally taking the fight to the bad guys - unlike those wimpy politicos who keep tying the cops' hands. He is well-connected among police circles - everybody knows ol' Harvey - and he's quite willing to pass on tidbits to the Shadow. Given an extreme enough emergency, he might even be willing to put his career on the line - retirement isn't all that far off anyway, and it'd be worth it to finally get his licks in. Harvey's younger partner, though, is a bit nervous about the Shadow, though it would take extreme provocation for him to rat on his buddy.

Harvey's one of those guys everybody likes. In interrogations, he's always the Good Cop, and he's quite good at it. He's developed a mild potbelly, but is still within regulations. He's held quite a number of positions in the force over the years... the only reason he's a beat cop in his 50's is that he has trouble with authority - and to be honest, he likes being in the thick of things. His wide range of experience means that he knows a lot of people all through the force, though - and people from lab techs to detectives are often willing to share a little more with good ol' Harvey than they probably ought to. He also knows his neighborhoods, and the people in them, like the back of his hand.

Harvey was a redhead in his youth, but he's mostly grey now. His family life is not the happiest - he argues with his wife a good bit - but neither is it a disaster. He has grown-up kids.

Doc Griswold: A dedicated doctor who does a lot of charity work in neighborhood clinics. The doc has a dry, biting sense of humor - think Dr. McCoy - and can get quite gruff with people who get themselves hurt through stupidity... but his bark is much worse than his bite. He sees so many deaths and injuries from gang stupidity and other causes, and also sufficient drug addictions, that he is willing to patch the Shadow up quietly, no questions asked. On one infamous occasion, he even made a house call to the Shadow's hidey-hole at the pleading of a tearful Carlos.

The doc (his actual name is Ezekiel, which he hates - the few who are on a first-name basis call him Zeke) is a stringy, dignified older guy with piercing blue eyes. His hair is grey and neatly kept. He is a fairly recent widower with grandchildren he dotes on - and has shrewdly guessed that the Shadow has also lost the love of his life, though he hasn't pried or otherwise tried to find out more. His black doctor's bag is a constant companion, and also his shield on the street - the local gangs have declared him off-limits out of respect for what he does in the community.

Lance Reston: A high-priced upper-crust lawyer the Shadow saved from a mugging. He and the Shadow have never actually met since then, but he's done a good bit of pro bono work on his own initiative since that day to gum up the works of those trying to crack down on vigilantes like the Shadow. He is toying with the idea of running for office - maybe DA, maybe even something more political - and pushing a tough-on-crime agenda. Certainly he's well-enough known to the city's elite. The Shadow has passed on the names of a couple different people he thought deserving of a break (Carlos was one) and Lance has willingly helped them out on the cheap. He'd do the same for the Shadow. However, Lance himself may be needing the Shadow's help in the future - his teenage son is getting involved in a really bad crowd. And if he ever does get into a position of political power, the underworld powers-that-be will probably not take very kindly to him.

Lance is WASP clean to the bone, and dresses with understated elegance and style. Everything about him screams "class" - but softly. He has the confidence of a man who was raised rich yet still has earned his way in a tough world - he graduated very high in his class, and is a rising star in legal circles. He has a gift for setting people at ease; if he does go into politics he'll probably be very good at it.

Maria Volanti: A private investigator, hard as nails. She gets the job done, and her sources of information often complement the Shadow's nicely. They have a bit of an arrangement: She passes on what she hears, he does the same, and has even occasionally mind-probed a scumbag for her when she asked nicely. In turn, she wouldn't object to leaning on people the Shadow wanted discreetly leaned on, and would even consider going in somewhere with guns blazing if he really needed help. And note that though wild horses couldn't drag the fact from her, Maria is a closet romantic. She entertains a certain degree of fascination toward the Shadow, and would not be averse to it becoming rather more than fascination if given the excuse. So far it hasn't been given. (A standing joke between them is for him to sneak up on her, to her indignant "Don't DO that!")

Maria is a smoldering Italian with long, jet-black hair. (And the temperament of a classic red-head.) While not very pretty in the classic sense - perhaps even a touch on the homely side, especially given the broken nose - her features could be described as "interesting"... and her hair and sultry dark eyes make up for a lot. She dresses in power suits and packs a gun at every opportunity - if she could get away with carrying grenades in her purse, she's the kind to do it. (No wonder she and the Shadow get along... :) While not exactly a feminist in most respects, Maria does have a serious chip on her shoulder against those who are surprised at finding a female PI - "What, you think maybe a coupla balls would help me do my job? Maybe I should take yours?" She still has a trace of a New Yawk accent - if asked what she's doing on the West Coast, she just mutters, "Long story."

She makes a mean spaghetti sauce, and is prone to inviting friends to dinner for good Italian cooking.

Hal Garrity: Hal's a brilliant but scatterbrained inventor and tinkerer who operates out of his garage. (Which is equipped with something quite other than your standard workbench...) He could probably be rich if he had the determination to stick with one project long enough and the people-skills to market himself. As it is, he's one of those people too smart to be an effective member of society - he makes a living by repairing stuff in the neighborhood and selling bizarre novelties. Hal would love to be a gadgeteer superhero, but lacks the courage and physique for it. He contents himself with supplying some of the Shadow's more unusual goodies. (The Shadow often designs and synthesizes "interesting" chemical compounds for himself, but Hal has much more skill with the packaging.) He also designed some of the "special" features of the Shadow's headquarters, and willingly consented to having his memory of the specifics wiped for his own safety - the mere knowledge that he helped design the local "Bat-Cave" is enough to keep a smile on his face.

Hal has a face like a hyperactive chipmunk, and glasses so thick you could use them as re-entry shields. He is unhealthily thin and pale. He's balding somewhat prematurely in his 40's - what hair is left is salt-and-pepper. He wears whatever is at hand. Hal cannot seem to sit still for more than a few moments - he has to DO something. He talks a mile a minute... then gets lost in thought in the middle of a sentence, not budging from his reverie until prompted. His classic response to requests for explanations of his magic is, of course, "Oh, never mind!"

"Hands" Malone: A typical example of the scum who propitiate the Shadow. A small-time hood, Hands got a taste of what the Shadow could do to his mind while breaking and entering, followed by one of the most sincere beatings he'd ever received. Back on the street, Hands still makes his living by larceny (knowing no other trade), but is so racked with nervousness he isn't very good at it any more. He supplements his income with the pittances the Shadow gives him for singing like a canary upon command. He always begs the Shadow abjectly to wipe the memory of their meetings, so that it can't ever be gotten out of him.

Hands (his real name is James) is in his early 20's and in moderately good shape, though he'll probably flab out as he gets older. He's one of those people who manages to look tacky even in a suit, but he more often wears a mildly grungy T-shirt and leather jacket with jeans. He is blessed with entirely nondescript brown hair and eyes. He seems either unable or unwilling to find honest work no matter how much the Shadow terrifies him, which excites the Shadow's profound contempt.

Ricky Montel: A typical example of one of the Shadow's more dedicated young fans. He affects dressing in black, wearing a floppy black hat, and speaking in sepulchral tones. (The tattoos and piercings are his own idea of accessories, though.) He's also enough of a tough-guy that not many mock him for it. Ricky isn't averse to going to bat for the downtrodden - with an actual baseball bat. The Shadow's had to speak to him sharply about that... (*Ricky slammed against wall by invisible figure* "Listen up, BOY. If you want to get yourself killed, at least have the decency not to do it in my name!" Ricky thought that was so cool! :) Terrifying at the time, yeah, but cool! It gives him serious bragging rights in some circles, to the Shadow's chagrin. On the other hand, he hasn't done anything TOO stupid since then, either...) Anyway, Ricky is one of the Shadow's plug-ins to the teen crowd, a group he doesn't interact with well on his own. (If you really want some amusement, Ricky could even go to the same high school as David! :) True, David lives in a better class of neighborhood than those the Shadow tends to haunt at night, but Ricky is as capable of slumming as anyone else. [Note: The GM took me up on this.])

Ricky is a big bruiser of a kid (16 years old) who typically dresses in a black tank-top (usually of some heavy-metal band) to show off his muscular arms and his tattoos (including the logo from the Shadow movie on his right biceps), black jeans with a studded leather belt, heavy black boots, and of course the black hat. When he wants to be especially impressive (or to conceal the bat) he will wear a black trenchcoat over all that. He'd all but kill for a cloak like the Shadow's, but hasn't figured out how to have one made yet. He has multiple piercings in places of your choice, and also favors bracelets with spikes small and blunt enough to be allowed in school.

Jerry MacTavish: Unique among the Shadow's contacts in that he isn't a contact of the Shadow! Rather of Alex... they knew each other in college. Jerry has an erratic mind-shield (he's heterozygous mindblind) and was a pretty clean-cut straight-laced All-American as a young man, so he got along OK with Alex... and it didn't hurt that he liked hanging around Jennifer, too. Anyway, Jerry was Air Force ROTC and ended up flying missions over Iraq in the Gulf War. He was shot down, captured, and severely ill-treated. Honorably discharged, he returned to the States a broken man - heavily burdened with Post-Traumatic Stress syndrome.

Alex came upon him again by sheer coincidence about a year after Jennifer's death - driving home from work, he caught sight of a homeless man being shaken down by low-lives in an alley. Being Alex, he had to stop and do something... and, being Alex, he was packing heat. Between the gun and the surreptitious use of his Aura of Menace, the bad guys were soon beating a hasty retreat... and Alex found that the homeless man was his old college buddy.

Alex took him home, fed him, and listened to his story. (Jerry, for his part, was devastated to hear of Jennifer's death.) Moved, Alex decided he had to try to help him somehow. While Jerry slept on the couch, he downed one of his pills and tried to touch the man's subconscious mind. The effort exhausted him [ie, he used Extra Effort to get an Extra for "Unconscious Alteration"] but he succeeded in reversing the trauma that had burned into his friend's brain, and restoring his native sense of hope and determination. Jerry woke a new man. He attributed the change to the shocks of the previous day (the mugging and the news of Jennifer's death) and to Alex's kindness - which was more true than he knew.

Over the following years, Jerry succeeded in turning his life completely around. He got a job as a pilot and, after some time and with the help of his much-relieved family, he started his own charter-flight business. (Some shrewd investments in stocks at the height of the Internet boom helped finance this.) He visits the Brightons a few times a year, and David has come to call him "Uncle Jerry".

When his dear friend Alex came to him a year ago and told him that David had been kidnapped and hurt to try to get at his father, Jerry was outraged. Upon the news that it could conceivably happen again, he readily agreed to help get David out of harm's way if the need should arise. Alex gave him a sealed envelope with instructions, to be opened upon a certain phone call... and other than that, their relationship has not changed. There is NO connection between Jerry MacTavish and "the Shadow", and Alex intends to keep it that way. Jerry does know that Alex is a telepath, however - Alex had to tell him SOMETHING to convince him why he couldn't just go to the police. (The secret of Jerry's cure came out at this time.)

Jerry is a white-bread All-American - blond, blue-eyed, ruggedly handsome. His military habits of neatness and order have reasserted themselves with a vengeance - everything in its right place. In short, he looks like something off a recruiting poster, right on down to the crease in his slacks. He got married recently (Alex was the best man) but does not have any children.

Mike Barnes: Better known as DarKnight in cyber-circles. A 15 year old hacker extraordinaire with the usual arrogance, Mike has a fascination for comics, especially "dark" heroes like Batman, the "Dark Knight". Naturally the rise of the Shadow in his own backyard, so to speak, caught his fancy. (Mike lives in San Diego.) He maintains one of the more elaborate websites on the Shadow, full of fanciful theories - one Carlos and the Shadow often visit to see what is being said, and occasionally to plant rumors.

The secret to Mike's success as a hacker is that he is a cyberkinetic - he possesses the Datalink power. (And possibly a specialized Computer "Possession" power, too.) He noticed the bizarre way in which the Shadow's computer interfaced with his site [Note: As the base writeup says, Hal Garrity has provided some mods to the base's telecom that really shouldn't be possible], and traveled down the lines to "visit" - only to find a truly alien operating system he had difficulty making head or tails of... [Garrity's home-brewed OS - I'm surprised the poor kid didn't go mad :)] and no data of any interest. (The Shadow does not keep interesting data on the Net-connected computer.) Meanwhile, Carlos and the Shadow (who was looking over Carlos' shoulder at an amusing post) both sensed the presence of a mind located IN their own computer!

The Shadow lashed out with Telepathy, and managed to hold on to the terrified youngster's mind long enough to gain his name and address. When DarKnight managed to flee down the connection, the Shadow saw him off with a healthy dose of telempathic fear. Then he paid the lad a little visit at home late one night... Turnabout, after all, being fair play.

Once satisfied that the boy was not part of some plot against him, the Shadow went easy on him. Well, by his standards, anyway - Mike found the experience the most terrifying of his young life. Much like Ricky, though, he also found it extremely cool! But unlike Ricky, he has had the stupidity and unwisdom of his actions firmly impressed upon him. (Mike is a good deal brighter than Ricky, and also is rather the pencil-neck geek - skinny as a rail.)

Mike considers himself an "agent" of the Shadow in the mold of the movie. He has pledged himself to help the Shadow out with any hacking needs he may have - and the Shadow has found the offer sufficiently intriguing as to not discourage him too much. He has, however, made it VERY clear to Mike that any further stupidity - especially boasting about their meeting - will be met with unpleasantness. Mike, already used to keeping the secret of his cyberkinesis, readily agreed to this. The two have set up a number of very hard-to-reach email addresses to keep in touch - and Mike turns up at an agreed-upon public-access computer on a regular basis to meekly have his mind read so the Shadow can be assured he is keeping their agreement. (It also gives an ultra-secure means of passing on news and assignments - the email addresses are only for arranging "drops".)

DarKnight's site remains one of the main places to visit for (mis)information on the Shadow, and he has willingly set up a number of different dummy usernames for Carlos to use as plants. Nothing untoward has appeared there, and his mind remains "clean". In fact, the only point of friction so far is that Mike bristles at always being called "Michael". :) Not too much, though - he can handle "Michael" much better than he can "unpleasantness". :)

Ed Fullman: Once one of the better burglars in the area - specializing in defeating alarm systems and other electronic surprises - Ed decided that crime really didn't pay after a nasty run-in with the Shadow. Starting out as a locksmith, he later branched out into security consulting. Along the way he got a helping hand in the form of a grant from an obscure nonprofit... after looking "penumbra" up in the dictionary he started to get an inkling into what was going on. After he'd thought about it a while, he decided it was pretty classy for the Shadow to lend a hand as well as a fist or a bullet. (Normally the Shadow would not have the Penumbra Foundation directly help somebody he'd "converted" - he'd go through more elaborate channels. This was probably an oversight - perhaps he got Ed's last name wrong.)

Anyway, Ed has kept his mouth shut... and sent the Foundation a little note offering them a great deal on security consulting if they should ever need it. The note referred to the Foundation's motto, "Out of the shadows, into the light," in such a way as to hint that he knew. The Shadow has learned most of what he knows about locks and disarming electronic systems from Ed - though of course he hasn't openly learned as "the Shadow" and has used an entirely assumed name, which Ed himself likewise guessed and accepted. Ed has let it be known that he'd be willing to help out if the Shadow needs to get into someplace he can't manage on his own, though so far he hasn't been taken up on this offer.

Ed is not exactly a virtuous man - he got out of crime because he didn't see it as worthwhile, not because he saw it as wrong - but he does believe in paying his debts, and is quite relieved nowadays to be legit... it's a lot less nervous-making. If he does do a break-in for the Shadow, he'll expect to be paid for his time and risk, though not steeply. He won't betray the Shadow willingly - he can be a stubborn cuss when it comes to commitments he's undertaken, and he's decided he owes the Shadow several big ones. (Even if he comes to perceive himself as having "paid off" his debts, he will honor the "connection" so long as the Shadow plays straight by him.)

Ed is not the marrying kind, but he does have a couple children out of wedlock with different mothers. He pays child support loyally - that's another debt he feels honor-bound to repay. He's a hair under thirty with a wiry build, with the hands of a pianist and wire-framed glasses. He has dark brown hair and green eyes and dresses neatly. His habitual expression is one of sardonic amusement with life.
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The Shadow

And just so I don't completely overwhelm you with background information, here's the next session, in which Amazing Grace makes her first appearance. She'd been one of the most important NPC's in the original game.


Alex puttered about the house a little in the morning, putting off his troubles a while until realizing it was futile. When David got back from his morning jog, he asked after Twyla and was told he hadn't been able to reach her yet. "Let me know what you find out," he asked, and David agreed.

Then Alex went out to the base. Carlos was, unsurprisingly, still awake - and snickering at the computer screen. "What is it this time?" he asked, and got the gleeful reply, "Congratulations, sir, you're a vampire. It's obvious - you only go out at night, after all. Some say you're a moral vampire who only drinks the blood of criminals, others argue you're a psychic vampire who feeds on fear and pain. Currently they're arguing about whether or not a stake through the heart would do you in."

The Shadow snorted. "This might be a good time to toss in the alleged correspondence between my appearances and the phases of the moon again." (One of Carlos' screennames specializes in that pet theory.) "Do you want me to play up the werewolf angle?" "No, just throw it out there and let them draw their own conclusions. It's always better that way." "Will do, sir." He then muttered to himself, amused, "Thank God I'm a person." [Carlos' private terminology: "People" (in the mass) are idiots, while "persons" are individuals.] The Shadow asked, curious, "How long have you been a person, Carlos?" "Well," the frank reply came, "since shortly after I met you, sir." "I believe I shall take that as a compliment." "You should."

"And Carlos... see what you can find out about recent doings in this alley." He gave the location. "I have reason to believe that some bodies turned up there last night. ... No, I didn't do it! ... I want to know how many and how they died." Carlos nodded and started tapping away at the keyboard. "Got it, sir - a police report filed this morning..." He read a bit then whistled. "Wow, sir, this is a nasty one!" The Shadow winced visibly.

"Five dead. One with a knife wound... Two with crushed skulls... One guy with a broken neck... Another with his chest caved in. What happened?! Do we have a new serial killer on the loose?" The Shadow, looking very unhappy, took a long time to reply. "...A man that I know has body-altering powers that he hasn't learned to control." "Wow! He does this stuff like this every time he gets upset?!" "No, just every time he's attacked on the street." "Self-defense, huh? Well, that's a relief. Still - five guys at once!"

The Shadow sighed. "It was six actually. And he did it with his bare hands." Carlos stared. "He crushed a guy's skull with his bare hands? Sir, this guy is dangerous!" Defensively, the Shadow grated out, "He's not a bad man. They jumped him, not the other way around." "Well, I'd assume so - that's what self-defense means, and even a guy like that'd be stupid to jump six guys with weapons if he had a choice, but..."

Carlos trailed off as he took in the Shadow's expression and tone of voice. Warily, he asked, "Do you know this guy personally, sir?" Long silence, as the Shadow wrestled with how much to share.

Almost unwillingly he admitted quietly, "He's my son." Carlos's eyes bugged out. "Your son! But he's just a kid! What is he, sixteen?" "Seventeen... Wait a minute, I've never mentioned him to you before! How do you know about him?" The Shadow's tone grew almost a bit menacing.

Carlos temporized hastily, "Well, given your age, it would make sense..." The Shadow cut him off. "You haven't answered my question, Carlos." "I... I got a flash of him with you once. I guessed his age based on how you look now compared to the image I got." "Why did you never tell me this?" The undertone of menace was still there.

"It... it didn't seem important." Then, in a small voice, "Are you mad at me?" The Shadow was silent for a long time. Finally, he replied, "No, Carlos, I am not mad at you," and the young man let out his pent-up breath.

All business once more, the Shadow asked, "Have any of the bodies been identified?" "No sir, not yet. Do you want me to check later today, maybe the newspapers too?" "Yes. I want you to keep tabs on this." "Will do."

The Shadow brooded a bit longer, then picked up the "Shadow hotline" phone and dialed. "Grace? This is Shadwell."

The rich Southern drawl of Amazing Grace came through clearly. "Why Mr. Shadwell, what a pleasure to hear from you! Will you be wanting an appointment?" "Yes." Teasingly (knowing full well the answer), she asked, "A 'couch' appointment as usual, I assume?" "Of course." "I can fit you in at one - will that do?" The Shadow agreed, and hung up. [The 'couch' business refers to the fact that she IS a high-priced courtesan. But while she has no formal degree, she's also quite good at counselling... being a powerful telepath and mind-controller helps more than a little, of course. Some of her clients just want to talk.]

"I'm going out looking for the men with suitcases, Carlos. Do you mind staying up a little longer?" "Not a problem, sir!" So the Shadow went on a fruitless search until 1 PM, when he turned up invisibly at Grace's home.

At his knock, the door opened, and Amazing Grace appeared wearing a simple silk robe. She looked him over as he stepped in and said, "I do hope you're not broadcasting that way to the general public!" "Sorry," the Shadow muttered, "A moment of weakness," and zipped his shields up more tightly. Have to watch that, he mused. I'm more upset about all this than I thought.

He proceeded to prove it by taking his hat off and crumpling it a bit in his hands as Grace brought him a cup of tea. Curling up on a sofa with her own cup, she asked, "All right, Alex, what brings you by?" "Several things, this time. Business AND pleasure." He put so much acid into that last word as to leave no doubts about the purity of his intentions. She raised an elegant brow. "Go on. ... Should I cancel my five o'clock?"

Alex finally sat down. "It shouldn't take that long. Business first. What do you know about the men prowling about in the black cars?" She responded, amused, "I assume you don't mean the FBI types who tend to infest this neighborhood!" Her Southern twang was much muted today, Alex noticed, a faint lilt in the background. Her stage persona packed away in storage, perhaps? At his nod of agreement, she said, "I've heard a little. They carry big suitcases that are curiously repelling." Alex's heart sank - so it was all the same outfit after all. "Our kind of repelling, that is... and I do fear that it may be cybernetic."

Alex frowned. "I have it on the best authority that that just isn't possible." "I wouldn't know, dear. But I do have a pet theory. Only a theory, mind you." "Go on." She shrugged. "Those suitcases are just about the right size to hold a human brain..." Alex stared at her in shock. "Are you telling me that they've cored some poor bastard and put his BRAIN in a suitcase?"

"I know nothing for certain. Nothing, in fact, but the word of one of my clients... and I will freely admit that he's more than a little paranoid. But it's not just theory that they're after him. ... He's one of us, you see."

Alex asked incredulously, "But if they've got telepathic brains in suitcases, why on earth are they using them to infiltrate the gang scene in LA? What is there about small-time hoods to interest them? Why not go to Washington... or NORAD, for that matter."

Grace sipped her tea. "How much travelling have you done, Alex?" "Some, on business." "And how good are you at spotting people like us?" "Slightly." "I'm quite good at it. And I can tell you that there are more of us here in southern California than on the east coast. Why, I don't know. But it's true."

"All right, perhaps they've got some more suitcases to fill. But still - why the gangs?" She laughed musically. "You're the investigator, not me!" "True... Perhaps it's the drug angle. I imagine that adding cocaine to the life support fluid could help quite a bit in controlling even a telepathic brain. Then again, surely it wouldn't take very much..." "Or," Grace added bleakly, "very much per brain." "I refuse to believe they have THAT many telepaths. Perhaps they just need the money - all this technology has to cost." He mused some more, then shook his head. "I would seem to have my work cut out for me. At least they think I'm a myth."

"Keep it that way as long as you can, Alex. They know my client isn't a myth, and they are definitely hunting him. He's convinced they want his brain, but again, he isn't the most stable of individuals." "I will bear that in mind."

"So much for business," he concluded. "Now for pleasure. ... It's David." Grace nodded, unsurprised.

He told her the gist of the fight the previous night, and concluded, "I don't know anyone capable of giving him the training he needs. I'd do it myself, but I'm not superhuman! ... That way, I mean," he amended at her smirk. "Do you know anyone?"

Grace sighed. "You never bring me easy problems, do you?" Alex snorted. "The easy problems I can handle on my own!" "To be sure... The best teacher would frankly be the Forbidden. Do you know how to contact him?" "No, or I would have already. He covered his tracks well."

She mused a while, then said, "I know of two who might be able to help you. The first is very competent and completely discreet, but lacks David's... advantages... which could cause problems. The other has all the advantages one could wish, but..." "But," Alex suggested, "he is less than discreet?"

Grace sighed and got up, moving to the window. "People differ, Alex. Some see the world all in black and white... and worse yet, they don't always agree on which is which. If this man decides that David is too dark a shade of grey, things could get ugly." "Not worth the risk, then?" "I'm not saying that. The payoff could also be very great. A lot depends on David. And I would not like to see a training accident happen to the first individual I spoke of." "Well, tell me more of the second man, then."

Grace pondered. "Have you ever watched many of the more cheesy kung-fu movies, Alex?" "I can't say that I have." "Well, he is almost the perfect stereotype of the 'wise old master'. Full of confusing aphorisms for every occasion." "I know the type. 'Confucius say.'" Grace chuckled briefly, then went on. "He firmly believes that what he does is based on 'chi', and all the philosophy that goes along with it. Mind you, the philosophy might do David good if he will actually be willing to learn."

"Would he want payment, or will he take David on for the challenge? I understand 'wise old masters' go in for that kind of thing." "It depends on how he views David - whether he takes him as being sadly in need of control (in which case he will insist on payment) or if he takes him as being granted a rare and precious gift, in which case he will probably see the challenge as sufficient." "What sort of coin does he accept payment in?" "You needn't worry. Money will do quite nicely."

"Can you sound him out ahead of time so we can decide?" Grace nodded. "I'll try to set things up for next week."

"Thank you, Grace. This has been very difficult, and of course David has been quite shaken by it." "Of course. He's lost some of his innocence, poor boy. I shall miss it. He was such a sweet boy." [Amazing that a professional prostitute can say that with not a hint of innuendo. She was completely sincere and chaste about it.]

Alex rose to his feet. "You've taken a load from my mind." Grace smile grew, not precisely warmer, but more personal. "I'm glad, Alex. A pleasure as always." He paused at the door. "If you will permit me a slightly impudent question?" She dimpled and shrugged languidly. "If you like." "How on earth did you meet the 'wise old master'?"

Grace laughed. "I could say I met him professionally... and give you entirely the wrong impression. In fact, he actually trained the first individual I mentioned, the discreet one. He ought to be discreet, he's my brother." Alex struggled to keep his jaw from dropping. "I never knew you had a brother!" "I have parents too, if you can imagine that!" she teased. "Impossible," Alex maintained, and took his leave after thanking her again... feeling vaguely honored by her confidence.

He dropped off the costume at the base (Carlos was sound asleep) and then went home. David was reading in the living room. "Hi Dad." Alex nodded. "Son, we need to talk." The boy looked a little apprehensive, but set the book aside. "Yeah?"

Alex sat down near him. "I have learned some details of what happened last night." Never one to soften the blow, he simply handed over the hardcopy of the police report. David read through it slowly, wincing visibly in several places. Finally he set it down and said quietly, "I didn't do the one that was knifed." "I know." "And I swear I only broke that one guy's arm, nothing more." "I know, David. I believe you. But we need to act to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again." "How?"

Continuing, Alex said, "I am arranging for you to be trained by someone with abilities similar to your own. Grace knows him and is contacting him for me." He noticed with slight resentment how the rising storm in his son's countenance subsided somewhat at the mention of Grace's involvement, but he kept his voice neutral as he said, "What I need to know is if you are willing to learn." David sighed and pondered. "I'll give it an honest try," he said. "That's all I can promise." "And what is an 'honest try'?" "I'll sincerely follow through with what's expected of me for a few weeks at least." "Very well. I will warn you that it will take up a great deal of your free time." David nodded. "Figures."

Alex explained the details, then hesitated and gripped David's shoulder. "This has been very hard for me, son. I can only imagine how hard it has been for you." David resorted to the universal teenage answer for any topic too hard to want to deal with: He shrugged ambiguously. "I love you, David." Another moody shrug. Alex suppressed a sigh and let him be.

[If you noticed that Alex was more animated and open with Grace than even his own son, you get a gold star. The reason is simple: People like the Forbidden and Amazing Grace are peers of his with formidable mental shielding. He has no real chance of hurting them by accident. He can allow himself to be himself with them in ways he doesn't dare permit himself with others... even those he loves best. That is part of the tragedy of his existence.]

[The GM tells me, btw, that Amazing Grace is about the only person around who could conceivably tear down Alex's walls and teach him to shield in a more healthy manner. But since they're so deeply embedded in his personality and sanity, it would take about six months on a desert island (ie, nobody around to get zapped) and near-total trust on Alex's part, at least at the outset. In other words, it ain't gonna happen. He likes Grace, but that doesn't mean he trusts her with his soul.]

[Alex's homozygosity, btw, means he has more raw psychic potential than just about anybody, including Grace. It's just that the vast majority of that potential is bound up in containing his raging emotions and preventing him from "zapping" everybody around him. If he were ever to fully "cut loose", he could probably beat down any telepath on the planet not similarly cursed... the problem is he'd go hopelessly mad just afterward. But of course, he has such incredible inhibitions against "cutting loose" that it's psychologically impossible. He's never been able to lower his shields that far.]
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The Shadow said:
Thanks for suggesting this, Swack-Iron.
I thought the audience here might appreciate it. I note that as of 10:45 PM PST you've got only 11 posts and a whopping 81 page views!

FYI, in case you didn't notice it, there's a M&M banner, in case you'd prefer to use that one over the more general "Comics" banner.

The Shadow

Swack-Iron said:
FYI, in case you didn't notice it, there's a M&M banner, in case you'd prefer to use that one over the more general "Comics" banner.
I did indeed miss that, thanks. I've edited it in.

The Shadow

In the evening, David announced he was going out to play a shirts-and-skins basketball game with the guys, maybe pick up some pizza afterward. Alex asked, "How is your shoulder? It might be best to play on the 'shirts' side." David responded, "It looks no worse than a cat scratch now, Dad." "Very well. Have you spoken to Twyla?" David shook his head, plainly uncomfortable with the question. Alex let it go.

At ten, the Shadow was stationed by the public library, his mental sight focussed through the wall on a particular computer. Shortly before the hour struck, a mental trace blossomed there that hadn't been there before. He reached out with telepathy, taking in the young man's cocksure yet respectful overtones. Michael.

Hi, boss! the response came, with only a little quickly-suppressed irritation over the name. Do you have anything to report? Nothing unusual. Very well. I have an assignment for you. An interesting one, this time. Unconcealed glee - all the Shadow's requests of him thus far having been dull and humdrum. Tell me more!

Very well. Give me fifteen minutes, then come to my 'home' computer again. I will have it connected to your site. Great surprise and greater curiosity - he'd never been "invited" to the base computer after that first fateful meeting. I'll be there!

The Shadow sped back to the base. "Carlos, pull up DarKnight's site." Carlos looked mildly surprised, but clicked on Favorites. "Here you go, sir..." he said, then looked startled when the Shadow, instead of coming over to the computer, went and sat on his cot.

Then, "Sir! Mike's in our computer again!" Calmly, the Shadow told him, "I sense him too." "Is he allowed to do that?" "I have invited him this once." Carlos said a bit dubiously, "All right, then..." as the avenger of the night reached out with his mind again.

Here is the situation, Michael. He passed on what he knew of the black cars, sparing the boy only Grace's "cybernetic" theory. The trouble is that they can likely spot you in a computer as readily as I can... Mike's cocky confidence took a bit of a dive at that point. ...So I propose to come with you. I am good at not being seen. Shock and a delighted-scared anticipation. HOW?! ...Hold still. Then, aloud as he stretched out on the cot, "Carlos, I am going to appear to sleep for a little while. Do not be alarmed." A little more dubiously, "OK, sir..."

The Shadow wormed his way deeper into Michael's mind, getting a firm hold there and settling in. There was no resistance. He let his awareness expand in and through the boy's unique esper talent. [In game terms, I used Extra Effort to get an Extra for maintaining telepathic contact beyond Sight range. The GM and I agreed that my "touch" range Area Mental Invisibility could also apply to "mental touch" in this situation.] Let's go.

Mike traced down the phone number obtained from El Bandito's mind in moments, but the information gained was not terribly useful. It was a cell phone, with a P.O. box given as address. The bills were always paid in cash. The name proved to be a dead end - evidently a false one. The Shadow did make a note of which post office the box was obtained from.

Searching phone company records for calls made to and from the phone recently yielded about sixty numbers, and soon sixty names - a couple of which the Shadow recognized as belonging to gang leaders. Dump the data into an Excel file and send it to my computer, he directed, intending to have Carlos do a cross-reference with the gang database at a later date. Mike promptly obeyed. Now what?

Is there any way to trace where a cell call was made from? Mike hit on the bright idea of checking the cell company's records of what stations calls from that number were routed through. After some tedious searching and triangulating, he reported, Most of the calls are made from a single block, boss. I can't guarantee that they live there, but they certainly spend a lot of time there. The Shadow smiled an unpleasant mental smile. Excellent. What is on that block?

A quick search of city records, then... A big office building. No floor plans available, sorry. There's about twenty companies that rent offices there. He provided the list, and one of them niggled at the Shadow's memory. [I made a pretty good Int check.] He'd heard of "OmniMetal Inc." before - at work, or in the newspaper perhaps, he couldn't recall. Does OmniMetal have a website?

Mike flashed them over to another computer. Yeah, but it's down. Server trouble, it says... Then the boy froze when the Shadow "shouted", Get us out of here, Michael! NOW!

The connection was broken at the speed of thought. What? WHAT?! Someone scanned us psychically, or rather over our location. I do not believe they could have spotted us, but I also do not believe in taking chances. I think we have found what we were looking for. He did not mention the strangeness of the fleeting contact... a curiously "flat" mental trace, with none of the inevitable tiny fluctuations one found even in a skilled telepath like Grace. It was as if the scanner were completely focussed on the task at hand, even monomaniacal, with no distractions or other thoughts getting in the way. Excellent work, Michael. He sensed the young man swelling with pride the instant before he broke the connection.

Carlos started when the Shadow leapt off the cot. "Plug in, Carlos." "Already done, sir." The Shadow was already nearly to the hangar. "Good. Pull up this address on the master map so you can give me directions." "Done." The Shadow did a quick check on the cycle, then activated the lift. "Oh, and Carlos?" "Yessir?"

"Leave a message on Grace's machine. 'Mr. Shadwell is meeting the people he spoke with you about at this address.'"

"I suspect she'll be interested."

[And as SP put it, "A bit paranoid, are we?" :) To which the only possible reply is, "ALWAYS!" :)]

[BTW, when the Shadow smiled his smile and said "Excellent," I just about pictured him doing the Mr. Burns thing. Scary. :)]
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The Shadow

As the Shadow sped toward the office building of OmniMetal Inc., he rapidly filled Carlos in on what he and Mike had found. "Do a websearch on OmniMetal, tell me what you find. Check recent news stories in particular." "Sir, Mike's still in our computer - do you want him to handle it?" "By all means."

After a short interval, Carlos reported over the commlink, "Mike says he's finding lots of boring stuff, for whatever that's worth." "Check through it for things that would be interesting to me, as opposed to him." "Gotcha, sir... They're involved in a good bit of electronics assembly, looks like, pretty high-tech cutting-edge stuff. Oh, here's something, they were involved in that robotic arm business."

The Shadow clicked on the memory that he hadn't been able to nail down before. A very sophisticated prosthetic arm had been a nine-day wonder in the news a month or two ago. While its range of motion was limited (with improvements expected soon), within that range it had a delicacy and precision beyond anything else on the market, indistinguishable in performance from a normal human arm. "Oh. That." Then, grimly, "Wasn't there also talk of them developing a full-body exoskeleton?" "Yeah, I seem to recall that."

"Oh, sir, Mike just found out that OmniMetal is a subsidiary." "What is the parent company?" "It's called the 'Organized Multinational Investment Group'." The Shadow snorted. "Now there's a name with marketing cachet for you. Have him see what he can find about them." Shortly after, "Mike says he's running into some really heavy firewalls, sir. He asks if you want him to proceed." The Shadow pondered a moment, then said, "Tell him to go ahead."

Moments later, Carlos shouted, "OH CRAP!" and started typing so furiously the Shadow could hear it clearly through the commlink. "What is it, Carlos?! Talk to me!!" "Can't, sir, wait a second!" Then, "OK, he managed to break the connection in time. Mike says there's something really Bad in that computer, sir." The young man clearly pronounced the capital letter. "It tried to attack him, but I was able to warn him just before it struck. He's scared, sir." Carlos' tone revealed that he was rather shaken himself. "Tell him he's earned a good night's sleep. Did he get anything at all?" Carlos typed a little more, then reported, "Just a filename, sir. 'Overmind Project'."

Silence, then, "Carlos, please repeat that." "The 'Overmind Project'."

"I do not like this, Carlos. I do not like this at all." He hesitated, then finally continued, "Grace has a theory. A very speculative theory, mind. She isn't sure about it." Carlos, a bit nonplussed by the Shadow's uncharacteristic hedging, asked warily, "What is it, sir?" "She thinks these people are carrying around human brains in those suitcases."

"Gross! Why would anybody want to do that?!" "You do not understand, Carlos. Living brains. Living telepathic brains, to be precise." Long pause. "Oh sh- er, shoot, sir. Um. Where, uh, exactly did these brains come from?" The Shadow did not bother to answer that one. After a little more cogitation, Carlos followed up with, "And what do they want them for?" "I do not know. But I do not like it." Carlos' agreement was fervent.

By this time, the Shadow had reached his destination - an eight story office building. He circled it slowly, getting a feel for the place, his mental shields at maximum and his invisibility firmly in place. Then, cautiously, he lowered his shields to let his mental senses range outward.

The first thing he noticed was a pervasive basso "hum" in the psychic background, almost like the thrum of a bank of generators. It tended to wash out other mental impressions, make it more difficult to get a fix. But after some patient (and quite passive) scanning, he managed to ascertain a number of facts.

The bottom half of the building seemed empty save for watchmen, janitorial staff and so on. The Shadow guessed that the first four floors were occupied by the other tenants of the building; at any rate the fifth, sixth, and seventh floors seemed to reflect OmniMetal's style...

Those floors featured some of the strangest minds the Man of Mystery had ever encountered. Flat, passive, dormant - inhumanly so. The closest thing he'd ever seen was when he'd probed someone deep in meditation. These minds were awake, but not thinking anything at all. They were... waiting. Waiting, and nothing more.

There were also some more normal minds moving about, though there was something strange about them too that he couldn't quite pin down.

Finally, the eighth floor, which at first had seemed quite empty, proved to have the same utterly blank reading that the black cars had. The Shadow frowned deeply. They have power and to spare, it would seem, he thought.

He stopped and hovered the cycle between two windows, near a place where his senses told him a mind was waiting. Cautiously he extended his telepathic awareness into its surface thoughts... or what would have been its surface thoughts, if it had any. There was a blank inactivity there that frightened the Shadow more than he could say.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, he thought. He projected a single word to the waiting mind, as flatly and emotionlessly as he could: Report. [SP: "Ballsy." :)]

The mind abruptly flared into activity, and the Shadow nearly cried out as he experienced something like a red-hot poker in his mind. He broke the contact frantically; it had been trying to stun him, render him senseless. When he recovered himself, he observed the reaction inside the building.

The more normal minds were converging on the location of the one he'd just interacted with. Now that they were closer, he got a better "feel" for them... weak minds that seemed somehow augmented, sporting greater psychic strength than they ought to somehow. He'd never seen anything like it, and found it quite disturbing. These augmented minds entered some sort of rapport with the mind he'd touched... After a short time, they went their separate ways again.

Grimly, the dark avenger reached out once more with telepathy, this time to one of the augmented minds. Despite its unnatural strength, its shields were no match for him; he easily slipped into the stream of consciousness... Noticing peripherally as he did so that one of the "waiting" minds suddenly became frantically active.

Surprise and uncertainty - something about an alarm being triggered. Racing to another room and announcing, "The detector just went off!" Then tapping at a keyboard and anxiously scanning a printout that would have the answer. "Sh**, we're being probed!" Somebody else present ordering, "Activate the defenses." The Shadow decided it would be prudent to back off the cycle from the building, but remained in mental contact. There was some more typing at the keyboard, then several "waiting" minds speared probes over and past the Shadow's location - he was certain they did not notice him.

Then the mental background noise stepped up, and it became difficult to maintain his contact with the man in the building - the closest analogy he could think of being that of feedback squeals from an amp. Thinking quickly, he gave one parting shot before he broke off the connection: You should not trifle with Mastermind, fools! You have invaded my territory long enough! Hopefully that would give them something to think about - something other than the mythical "Shadow".

The Shadow sped away on his hovercycle, relaying what he'd found to Carlos. "That's some big bad juju in that place, sir!" "Yes, Carlos. I know." He didn't bother to repeat that he didn't like it, as that would have been quite superfluous. "Either those 'augmented' men live in the building, which I doubt, or they are working the night shift. I believe I shall pay a visit again early this morning, see what happens when they get off work. In the meantime..."

"I think I am going to see if I can find Juan Martinez again. My instincts tell me that he has been involved with these people before... They would certainly account for his unnatural terror of mental contact, and he does have a mind-shield stronger than the average. It could be unrelated, I suppose, but it is worth checking."

[To quote a Mr. Han Solo: "I've got a bad feeling about this..." For that matter, Obi-Wan's comment has some merit too - the one about millions of minds crying out in unison...]

[That's no moon, ladies and gentlemen... I think this may be the biggest caper the Shadow's ever faced. Hope it's not more than he can chew.]

The Shadow

Just a little info here - I've decided to mark the actual sessions with the M&M icon, and campaign information with the News icon. (If this is inappropriate, somebody please let me know.)

Does anybody mind my practice of interspersing new campaign information in between every few sessions? I've got a lot of it; when I get inspired, I produce reams and reams... and I got really inspired this time around!

By the way, my avatar is taken from the following old movie poster for the Shadow, which captures my image of Alex almost perfectly:



The Shadow said:
"Five dead. One with a knife wound... Two with crushed skulls... One guy with a broken neck... Another with his chest caved in.

Just a little info here - I've decided to mark the actual sessions with the M&M icon, and campaign information with the News icon. (If this is inappropriate, somebody please let me know.)
Icons aren't a big deal. Just a little flavor/filler. I wouldn't worry much about it if I were you.

Great avatar. Does Alex have that same nose?

The Shadow

Lela said:
I haven't encountered this acronym before, but I'm guessing it means something like, "That's one bad-ass kid!" :)

Yes, you don't want to make David mad. Trust me on this. The lad don't know his own strengt'. :)

The GM has let a little about his stats slip, btw. David is PL 8. He has a 20 Str normally. (Doesn't look it, though, he has a very dense musculature. He's well-built, yes, but not Arnie.) If he gets an adrenaline rush or perceives a threat, his Super-Strength and Super-Dexterity kick in, along with a bit of Strike (extra unarmed damage) and, I'm guessing, a considerable amount of Attack and Defense. Oh, and of course Regeneration coming out of his ears, and a bit of Running. Flawed Immunity to Poison - when he and Alex found this out, they did a controlled experiment... David gets buzzed after drinking four six packs of beer. He also hasn't seemed to get sick since puberty, though I don't know for sure whether he's Immune or just super-healthy.

Great avatar. Does Alex have that same nose?
I'm not particular about the nose (and anyway, when acting as the Shadow he maintains a light Illusion about his face to fuzz his features), it's the intensity of the eyes that grabs my attention. That and the wonderfully battered black hat... too many depictions of the Shadow show him in a freakin' bowler or the equivalent.
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The Shadow said:
I haven't encountered this acronym before, but I'm guessing it means something like, "That's one bad-ass kid!"
Actually, it stands for Rat Bastard DM. Generally, it's saying that the DM/GM is evil in that good, realistic, DM way.

The Shadow said:
Yes, you don't want to make David mad. Trust me on this. The lad don't know his own strengt'.

The GM has let a little about his stats slip, btw. David is PL 8. He has a 20 Str normally. (Doesn't look it, though, he has a very dense musculature. He's well-built, yes, but not Arnie.) If he gets an adrenaline rush. . .
I'm not up on my M&M but I'm getting the gist of most of it from the power names. So, if I have my Intro to Bio stuff down, the Mindblind power surpreses the Telepathy. Which, in turn, doesn't allow the Telepathy to suppress the super-strength. But, as I understand it, Alex has to be careful around his son so as to not project too much, right?

So, does the combination of abnormal protiens in his system result in something completely different? Or do I have the sequince wrong? Then again, perhaps all the chromosoms in question weren't passed on to him.

This would also affect Amazing Grace somewhat. She seems to have a brother with similar abilities as David (though not as advanced). Following the same logic above, wouldn't he have to be a half/step brother? Assuming the genes were passed on that is.

Keep in mind that I'm running off a 100 level course (I dumped the 200 level course due to cemestry problems) that I took a year ago.

The Shadow said:
. . .it's the intensity of the eyes that grabs my attention.
You're defintally right there. Those drill right into you.