Greatness. Some people are born with it, while others find it thrust upon them. Today on Deadliest Fiction, we focus on the latter in a battle between two heroes who were seemingly in the right place at the right time as Jesse Faden, runaway turned director of the Federal Bureau of Control who saved the world against the Hiss, battles Cole MacGrath, the Lightning Man of Empire City and New Marais! It'll be an all-out superpowered showdown in which weapons and skills will get pushed to their very limit to answer the ultimate question...
Jesse Faden was born in the town of Ordinary, Wisconsin, growing up alongside her brother, Dylan, with the two often playing with their friends at a nearby landfill. One day, the two discovered an old slide projector in the landfill and discovered that it had the ability to open portals to new dimensions. One of these dimensions contained a being known as "Polaris", who telepathically told them they were special, with Jesse growing most attached to it. Unfortunately, a local bully discovered the projector and abused it's power, unleashing an entity known as "the Not-Mother" who turned the bullies into horrific creatures and made the adults of Ordinary vanish. Working with Polaris, Jesse and Dylan managed to deactivate the projector and destroy all the slides save for Polaris's, but Dylan was subsequently captured by the Federal Bureau of Control while Jesse managed to escape.
Spending her life on the run, floating between countless jobs and psychiatric facilities, Jesse never stopped searching for the FBC while trying to prove the events of Ordinary. Answers became more clear when Polaris summoned her to New York City, enabling her to find the Oldest House, the FBC's headquarters. Working her way through the House, Jesse discovered the body of Director Zachiarah Trench, who had killed himself with his own gun. After picking up the gun, Jesse was contacted by the Board, a group of entities from another dimension that explained that the House was being invaded by the Hiss, a hostile resonance that had turned most of the FBC into it's minions, and then appointed her Director with the task of stopping them.
Now gifted with incredible power, Jesse linked up with the surviving FBC members and agreed to help battle the Hiss in return for the location of Dylan. Uncovering the House's secrets led her to discover that both her and Dylan were considered potential Directors, but Dylan's instability led to him being locked away. Reuniting with him in the Executive Sector, Jesse was shocked to learn that Dylan had embraced the Hiss, who had entered the Oldest House through the slide projector, with him warning her not to trust Polaris or the Board.
Acting off Dylan's tips, Jesse searched deeper into the House and discovered Hedron, the apparent conduit of Polaris and the source of HRAs, the equipment protecting the surviving agents, which was found by Trench and Head of Research Casper Darling during an expedition with the projector. Unfortunately, Jesse was an unwitting pawn of the Hiss, who broke Dylan out of containment and destroyed Hedron, trapping Jesse in an endless loop until she was able to reconnect with Polaris and force her way out, discovering that the Hiss had been summoned by Trench, who had been corrupted during an expedition and subsequently manipulated by Dylan into activating the projector before killing himself.
Guided by the Board, Jesse confronted the Hiss in the Astral Plane and fought her way to Dylan, who she purged the Hiss from before turning off the projector, stopping the invasion. With Dylan comatose and the House still on lockdown due to the Hiss within, Jesse embraced her role as Director, working on clearing out all remaining threats while investigating cases such as Former, an ex-member of the Board with it's own agenda, and the mysterious disappearance of author Alan Wake.
A college dropout working as a bike messenger, Cole MacGrath's simple life was changed forever when the package he was delivering exploded, gifting him electric powers but at the cost of thousands of lives and his home, Empire City, being quarantined. Alongside his best friend Zeke Dunbar, Cole works towards helping people and cleaning up the city by battling it's various gangs, such as the Reapers and the mysterious First Sons and their leader Kessler. Cole eventually discovers that his powers came from the Ray Sphere, an object that absorbs the energy of thousands and gives it to one person and works to reacquire it, only for Zeke to betray him in an ill-advised bid for power and give the Sphere to Kessler.
In an attempt to teach Cole a lesson, Kessler kidnaps Trish and forces Cole to disarm several bombs before choosing between saving Trish or her fellow doctors, with Cole reluctantly choosing the doctors and getting to Trish in time for her to die in his arms. Getting the Sphere back with the help of NSA agent John White, Cole attempts to destroy it, with it using the last of it's power to kill John before vanishing. With all loose ends tied up, Cole confronts Kessler in the blast zone and manages to kill him after a brutal fight, only to discover that Kessler was himself from an alternate future, who fled instead of facing the Beast, a powerful monster that killed most of the human race, including his family. Shaken by the revelation, Cole vowed to get stronger to face the Beast.
Following the battle with Kessler, Cole and Zeke, on better terms, are forced to flee Empire City alongside NSA agent Lucy Kuo as it is destroyed by the early arrival of the Beast. Ending up in New Marais, where Dr. Sebastian Wolfe has supposedly built a more powerful version of the Ray Sphere. Finding Wolfe, Cole discovers that he also built the Ray Field Inhibitor, which can strip "Conduits", people with special abilities, of their powers, but Wolfe is killed before he can help Cole fully power it. Battling an anti-Conduit militia, Cole befriends a fire conduit named Nix and discovers that Kuo is an ice Conduit, gaining ice powers of his own from her before eventually confronting Joseph Bertrand III, the leader of the militia and a Conduit himself, and defeating himself after a lengthy battle.
As the Beast reaches New Marais, Cole discovered that it is none other than John, gifted powers of his own after the Ray Sphere seemingly killed him. Explaining that a plague is wiping out humanity, John claims that the only way anyone can survive is if all non-Conduits are wiped out, a price Cole refuses to pay. Charging the RFI to it's full power, Cole works with Nix to battle the Beast and Kuo, who betrayed them out of fear of dying, with Nix sacrificing herself to slow the Beast down. Reaching an understanding with Kuo, Cole activates the RFI, which wipes out the majority of the Conduits including himself, but stops the plague and saves the world.
Weapons, Powers, and Abilities
- The Service Weapon: The Service Weapon is an Object of Power resembling a pistol that was discovered by the Bureau during an expedition into the Oldest House. Wielding it gives the owner a direct link to the Board and makes them the Director of the FBC, with those deemed unworthy killing themselves upon touching it. It is implied that the Service Weapon is centuries old, shifting it's appearance to match the general public's perception of weaponry, with documents tying it to both Mjölnir and Excalibur. Not needing ammo outside of a cooling time, The Service Weapon comes in five different forms with different abilities, which Jesse can automatically switch between two of while she will have to manually switch if she wants a different mode outside of those two. These are:
- Grip: Grip is the standard form of the Service Weapon. Resembling a revolver, Grip has a semi-automatic rate of fire and is suited for close-to-mid range combat encounters, though a skilled enough shot can use it from a further distance.
- Shatter: Shatter is a form resembling a shotgun with an emphasis on close-range damage thanks to it's wide blast radius and high damage output, but poor range.
- Spin: Despite a lower damage output, Spin makes up for it with a rapid-fire function resembling a machine gun that makes it an effective tool against groups of enemies or foes with healing factors.
- Pierce: Pierce charges a single shot that is powerful enough to completely blow through cover and walls, and can easily kill most enemies in one hit while ignoring the armor and defenses of stronger ones.
- Charge: Charge is capable of charging up to three explosive rounds that are unleashed on a single point, detonating for massive area of effect damage. The charged rounds are fired upon Jesse taking her finger off the trigger, with all three rounds automatically firing upon charging to maximum power.
Power and Abilities:
- Parautilitarian Abilities: Jesse is a Parautilitarian, an individual capable of controlling wielding supernatural abilities granted through Objects of Power. Both she and Dylan both have this potential, but Dylan's instability made binding him to objects deeply dangerous while Jesse is guided by the Board in understanding her abilities. These powers, which function on a specific amount of energy that recharges when not in use, include:
- Launch: Launch is a form of telekinesis that enables Jesse to pick up objects and sufficiently weakened people and throw them for high damage. Launch is so refined that Jesse can catch projectiles such as explosives or rockets and redirect them back at their wielders and is strong enough to allow her to effortlessly lift a forklift and throw it at maximum speed. On top of lifting, Jesse can also push enemies away with it as a form of close-range attack.
- Evade: Jesse pushes herself with a short burst of speed, enabling her to dodge attacks or give herself an extra bit of momentum into a jump.
- Shield: Jesse can pull debris and objects out of the environment and surround herself with them as a makeshift shield. While shielded, Jesse can regenerate energy, enabling her to use other abilities upon dropping it. The shield will begin to shake as it takes too much damage, giving Jesse a warning that it will soon drop, and upon being dropped it is launched at nearby enemies. While shielded, Jesse can also rush enemies with Evade and use the shield as a makeshift ram.
- Seize: Jesse can assert a form of mind control on weaker enemies, who will assist her in combat for a limited amount of time before dying. Note that this ability only works on weaker-willed foes and not boss-tier enemies.
- Levitate: Jesse can levitate herself, allowing her to reach higher points and areas that simple jumping or climbing would make impossible. She can still evade and use other powers during levitation, and can slam into the ground at high speed, damaging those caught in the landing.
- Polaris: Jesse can communicate with Polaris, an otherworldly resonance who guides and protects her. Despite it's unclear motivation, Polaris regularly talks with Jesse, seemingly functioning as a surrogate parent from time to time, and provides cryptic hints that enabled her to stay one step ahead of (and eventually find) Bureau. In spite of the destruction of Hedron, Polaris continued to exist within Jesse's psyche, communicating with and helping her in the aftermath of the Invasion.
- Superhuman Durability: Owing to her abilities and importance as the Director, Jesse is able to withstand large amounts of pain and damage before dying. She's survived direct hits from rockets, being in the blast center of explosions, being riddled with bullets, and can easily shrug off a fall from great heights with nothing more than minor pain.
- Skilled Marksman: Limited training with the Service Weapon has given Jesse a surprising level of talent with a gun, and she can easily pull off headshots on fast-moving enemies from a distance during frantic combat.
Weapons and Equipment:
- Amp: The Amp is a melee weapon designed by Zeke to help Cole channel his powers during melee combat. It is a two-pronged weapon that resembles a tuning fork.
Powers and Abilities:
- Electrokinesis: Cole's primary power is the ability to generate and manipulate electricity from a limited pool of energy that he can regenerate by absorbing electricity from the environment. Due to tinkering and experimentation on his part, he's able to use this in a variety of ways, including manipulating magnetic fields. These powers include:
- Bolts: Cole can rapid fire a series of electric bolts from his hands. For more precise shots, he can slow down his perception of time, though these require more powers. He can also manipulate the form of these bolts for various purposes.
- Pincer Bolt: Cole fires a trio of bolts that arc through the air before converging onto a single target.
- Artillery Bolt: Cole fires a larger bolt that is affected by gravity and travels at a slower speed, but can hit enemies from a further distance.
- Magnum Bolt: Cole fires a condensed blast of lightning that does major damage.
- Bolt Stream: Cole rapid fires a series of homing bolts.
- Shock Grenades: Cole can create and throw small electric grenades that bounce off surfaces and explode a few seconds after being thrown. Cole can also generate and throw grenades that stick to surfaces and ones that split into smaller grenades before exploding.
- Rockets: Cole generates and fires a massive burst of explosive kinetic energy that explodes upon making contact with anything it touches. Cole can also create a version of the rocket that hones in on targets hit by bolts and one that splits into mini-rockets that stick to targts until they explode.
- Blast: Cole releases a burst of energy that pushes foes back. He can also create a stronger version that knock enemies into the air, where they float helplessly until brought down, and one that charges enemies with an electromagnetic energy that makes them explode upon Cole connecting a shot.
- Thunder Drop: Cole jumps and drains the energy of the air around him as he falls, creating a powerful shockwave upon impact. The range and force of the wave depends upon the height Cole has fallen from.
- Kinetic Pulse: Cole uses his electromagnetic powers to levitate items off such as cars and crates off the ground and throw them at enemies.
- Arc Restraint: Cole creates electric cuffs that pin people to the ground.
- Drain: Cole can drain energy from nearby sources of electricity, restoring his energy and healing his wounds. He can also drain from wounded or trapped civilians and enemies, killing them to replenish himself, but it's a power Good Cole tended to avoid unless absolutely necessary.
- Pulse Heal: Cole shoots out a pulse of healing energy, restoring everyone within the radius of the pulse to full strength.
- Static Thrusters: Cole can use static electricity to briefly glide through the air.
- Induction Grind: Cole can electrically grind across railways and power lines, enabling him to move quickly through the city.
- Radar Pulse: Cole emits an electric pulse that lets him sense out sources of electricity, hidden items like blast shards, and helps him distinguish from friend to foe.
- Bolts: Cole can rapid fire a series of electric bolts from his hands. For more precise shots, he can slow down his perception of time, though these require more powers. He can also manipulate the form of these bolts for various purposes.
- Cryokinesis: Because he took the powers of Kuo, Cole can also use cryokinetic powers that draw from his electric meter (basically stamina). His abilities are limited, but still effective, including:
- Shatter Blast: Cole generates and fires small shards of ice in a close-range burst resembling a shotgun.
- Ice Grenade: Cole throws a condensed ball of ice that explodes on contact, freezing weaker enemies solid and leaving a small block of ice for Cole to take cover behind.
- Freeze Rocket: Cole launches a ball of compact subzero gas that can instantly freeze most targets caught in the radius.
- Ice Launch: Cole freezes water molecules beneath his feet and launches himself into the air, enabling him to leap great distances.
- Frost Shield: Cole creates a field of ultracold air that suspiciously resembles the Polarity Wall which instantly stops projectiles and converts them into energy, letting Cole use his powers.
- Ionic Abilities: Cole can absorb ray field energy from defeated enemies and civilans to access higher tier attacks. For this match, he'll have one Ionic Charge.
- Ionic Storm: Cole uses an Ionic Charge instead of electricity from his surroundings to summon multiple lightning strikes.
- Ionic Vortex: Cole focuses an Ionic Charge in his hands and throws an electrically charged tornado.
- Ionic Freeze: Cole uses an Ionic Charge to launch a radial wave of ice. Human sized enemies are instantly frozen by this move.
- Superhuman Strength and Durability: Cole's Conduit powers have made him substantially stronger and more resilient than an average human. In combat, he can easily throw a man over his head and shrug off direct hits from shotgun blasts and rockets, and he can easily walk off a fall from a great height.
- Skilled Traceur: Cole is a talented practitioner of parkour, which enables him to easily climb and freerun across rooftops and explore the city to it's fullest.
|Jesse Faden||X-Factors||Cole MacGrath|
- Both Cole and Jesse have found themselves going against massive threats in their time, but Cole has been at it for a longer amount of time and against a much greater variety of threats. Over the course of a year, Cole's battled criminals, militias, mutants, superpowered mercenaries, and other Conduits, alongside monstrosities such as Bertrand and the Beast. By comparison, Jesse has only been the Director for a few days at most and while she has faced unusual entities like Essej and Former, the wide bulk of her experience comes from battles with the Hiss, an admittedly varied but still specific foe.
- Cole has no training outside of the stealth mentorship of Kessler and a very brief time with Kuo and Dr. Wolfe, with everything he knows about his abilities coming from his own experimentation and tinkering with them. While Jesse has never received traditional training either, she benefits from being an asset of the Board, who made sure that she was given a proper chance to test and learn about her abilities before sending her out into the field, meaning she knows the limits of her abilities and how to best use them.
- Cole's not an idiot, as he is operating with a limited college education and regularly shows creativity when it comes to his own powers, but he's not noted for his intellect and often relied on others like Zeke and Kuo to point him in the right direction when he needed guidance. While Jesse doesn't even have a middle school education, having been on the run since she was 11 years old, she's incredibly clever and perceptive, able to stay just of reach of the Bureau with the help of Polaris and solve the numerous complex puzzles of the Oldest House on her own, though she still needs help from Bureau staff and the Board to understand more difficult concepts.
- Cole has a variety of ways to move across the city, from rail grinding to levitation to long-distance ice jumps and even straight up parkour and climbing compared to Jesse's more limited abilities of levitation and a short-range dash, though she does show skill in traversing the more dangerous areas of the Oldest House.
- Cole doesn't like to kill, but his power set is inherently destructive and he's not afraid to cut loose against people that piss him off enough, though he does regularly make an effort to protect civilians during more chaotic fights. Jesse, meanwhile, has never really gone up against anything that was human, with Bureau agents possessed by the Hiss beyond saving and the various entities she encounters being entirely malevolent, meaning she rarely hesitates with pulling the trigger, though the one time she encountered a genuinely human threat (her own brother) she refused to kill and instead found a way to save him.
- Voting closes on September 7th.
- The battle will be set after the events of Control and during the events of inFamous 2.
- Credit to Leo, who I copied the description of the Ionic Abilities from.
- Scenario: After finally wiping out the last of the Hiss, Jesse and the Bureau find themselves responding to an apparent Object of Power in New Marais and move to capture it before anyone is hurt. Meanwhile, Cole uncovers a First Sons prototype that could enhance his abilities further and goes to capture it for himself, only to run afoul of Jesse and her team.
The New Marais militiaman gave a grunt of pain as a bolt of lighting slammed him into a wall, his gun clattering out of his hands as he hit the ground. Through pain, he watched as one of their trucks was lifted off the ground and tossed directly into a crowd of his men, the ensuing explosion sending them flying, though one managed to stagger his feet and raise his gun at a figure stepping through the carnage. Before he could fire, the figure pulled a metal tuning fork from his pack and lunged, knocking him out cold with a well-placed hit.
As the apparent last of the Militia ambush fell, Cole paused to catch his breath. He wasn’t breaking a sweat on these guys, but they were still a pain in the ass to deal with when you were just trying to get across the city. A bullet streaking by his head took him out of his moment and relaxation, and he turned to see the last Milita member had gone for his gun. Cole blasted him with another bolt, knocking him out cold, then snapped, “Stay down this time, asshole.” Giving a cursory glance to make sure no civilians were injured, he went to climb back to the rooftops when the entire city shook.
Cole staggered, cursing as the quake subsided as quickly as it had come. His radio went off and the distinct drawl of Zeke yelled out, “Cole! Cole, you feel that? Jesus, haven’t felt that since the time we stole that sports car with the weird suspension.”
Cole chuckled, then responded, “Yeah, I’m good man. Just glad to see that wasn’t just me wrecking the city for once. Since when does New Marais get earthquakes?”
“Well, that’s the interesting part, man. Me and Kuo did some digging and we mighta found somethin’. Something that could help ya take down the Beast.”
Cole perked up at the mention of the Beast, then replied, “Alright man, I’m on my way. This better be good.”
“10-4. See ya in a few.”
With that final exchange, Cole leapt for one of the nearby buildings, then pulled himself up to the roof before taking off in a sprint, leaping from rooftop to rooftop as he headed to the rendezvous point.
Jesse shed her gold jacket and slung it over the medical room chair, smiling sadly as she looked at Dylan, eyes closed peacefully, the only sound in the room the quiet beeping of his life support. She slouched in her chair, trying to ignore the feeling of exhaustion as she sat down for the first time in two days. She hadn’t heard from the Board since all the stuff with Marshall and Former deep within the Foundation, but that was fine with her. She needed a break from the cryptic lectures anyway. For the moment, she was just going to sit in the silence.
And talk to Dylan.
Polaris’s voice rang in the back of her head, and she nodded and replied, “Per usual.”
She wasn’t sure why she visited Dylan, who had become a cruel parody of himself thanks to the Bureau and this Hiss, but maybe he’d be better once he woke up. Assuming he did wake up, anyway. Maybe it was because she liked having to speak to someone who didn’t put her in a position of authority, or maybe it was just because he was the last piece of her old life that hadn’t been destroyed by extradimensional horrors.
She leaned forward, starting to talk, when a polite, if nervous, “ahem” caught her attention. Suppressing a groan, she turned to see Emily Pope standing in the doorway, holding a file with a look of urgency. She smiled and waved, and Jesse stood up from the chair and grabbed her jacket. “Emily, what’s up?”
“Director Faden, I am really sorry to bother you when you’re with…him, but this is incredibly urgent.”
Jesse nodded, her small smile replaced with a look of grim understanding, then said, “Alright then, Emily, explain away. And, please, just call me Jesse.”
Emily nodded, then replied, “Okay, Dir-Jesse. It appears we have a new Object of Power incident.”
Jesse shrugged, then said, “Another escape? Surely Langston’s people understand that we need to actually lock the doors on them, right?”
Emily laughed in spite of herself, earning an amused grin from Jesse, then quickly attempted to take a serious expression again before continuing, “Well, Jesse, this isn’t, um, a Bureau incident. We detected the readings in the city of New Marais.”
The implications hit Jesse immediately. She’d finally get a chance out in the field, away from the Oldest House? She took Emily by the shoulders, any previous amusement gone, then ordered, “Take me to Investigations, I need to see the readings.”
Emily curtly turned and gestured for Jesse to follow, and she gave one last look at Dylan, still lying silently, before following.
“So, what is this thing, exactly?”
Jesse followed closely behind Emily as she led her through the Investigations Sector. Much of the damage of the Hiss Incursion and her own fight with the Hartman creature had been repaired, though it was easier said than done, given the scale of the invasion and Jesse’s own powerset. Regardless, the Bureau had managed to get operations running smoothly, with no major incidents to speak of. Until now, anyway.
They stopped in the control room, where countless technicians worked at their desks and a giant map of the country hung above them on an enormous monitor, a small area in Louisiana lit up a Christmas tree. Jesse looked the operation over with an impressed expression.
So that’s what this place was for. Feel kind of bad for throwing the computers around so much now.
She gave a curt nod to Arish, who was already waiting with several of his Rangers, discussing something about an “initial approach strategy” while Emily pulled a long sheet of paper from a printer, showing a line going straight before spiking massively, then resting again. She set it on a table and waved Jesse over.
“Okay, so this is a reading of Louisiana’s seismic activity. It’s completely steady for months, then an enormous one shakes half the state. My research showed that the largest earthquake ever recorded in the state was a 4.2. This one? It was a 6.8.”
Jesse shrugged, rubbing the back of her head in mild confusion, before saying, “Emily, this is a cool lesson, but how is this an Object of Power event? It just sounds like an earthquake.” Emily grinned, then pulled out a small map of the state and set it down on the table, showing a massive red dot in a specific part.
“That’s what I thought too, until I realized the quake is almost entirely localized to a small area of New Marais, originating almost thirty feet underground. It wasn’t a quake at all. Something made that activity on it’s own.”
Okay, that made more sense, at least to Jesse. She leaned on the table and looked closer at the map of the city, noting the circle by a church.
“So, if it’s underground, where is it, exactly?”
“From my research, I’ve uncovered writing of a series of catacombs underneath the entire city, with the access point somewhere around the St. Ignatius cathedral. They were built decades ago, and there’s been urban legends about a horde of vampires living down there, but I’ve never been able to find evidence that confirms it.”
Jesse laughed, “Besides, vampires are just a story anyway.”
Arish chuckled nervously, then added, “Well, American ones are, anyway.”
Jesse made a mental note to learn more about vampires later, then turned back to Emily, who continued, “So, what I’m suggesting is Arish and his Rangers lead a small expedition into the catacombs, uncover this object, then either bring it back or secure it for the Research Division to investigate further. I really want to get this before the entirety of New Marais turns into an AWE. So, do we have director’s approval?”
Jesse crossed her arms, looking at the numerous data sheets tossed haphazardly across the table, and thought it over. So, this was her first big crisis outside of the Hiss as Director, and it would be smart to send Arish, but also, it would very much be nice to go somewhere that wasn’t the Oldest House or the Oceanview Motel. Polaris gave a small tingle of affirmation, and Jesse cleared her throat, confident now in her orders.
She nodded, then replied, “Yeah, you’ve got the go-ahead.”
Emily clapped her hands together excitedly, then began to give further instructions, only for Jesse to hold up a hand, silencing her before continuing, “But, I want to accompany Arish on the expedition. I want to see this for myself.”
Arish raised a quizzical eyebrow, and Jesse noted an equally uncertain expression on Emily’s face.
“You sure, Director? I don’t know if it’s the best idea for you to head out into something like this.”
“I mean, I’m the only one with special abilities, and Trench and Northmoor both went out on field work all the time.”
“I don’t know if they count as good examples of Directors in the field, Jesse.”
She shrugged, then replied, “Well, maybe, but as Director, I feel it’s best if I accompany you on this mission.”
Arish nodded, recognizing the authority in the statement, and Emily reluctantly replied with, “Alright, so you and Arish’s team will head out to New Marais. We’ve already got a jet lined up, so you should get there by tonight if everything works as intended. And I should really urge you to be careful. Objects of Power in the wild are a lot more dangerous and unpredictable than in the Oldest House, and I really don’t want you getting hurt.”
Jesse smirked and replied, “Look, by this point I know to never let my guard down around this stuff, so it’ll be a walk in the park. Or, well, a walk in the catacombs.”
With a grunt, Cole pulled himself onto the rooftop to see Zeke and Kuo both waiting for him. Zeke grinned, taking a sip of his beer, while Kuo went back to looking over a map and some old photographs. As Cole stepped up, Zeke clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Good to see you’re safe, brother. Hell of a quake back there.”
Cole smiled, then replied, “Yeah, sounded like it scared the shit out of you.”
“Hey! I wasn’t scared, I was just, y’know, surprised. New Marais ain’t really supposed to be earthquake territory.”
Kuo finally looked up from the map and said, “That’s because this wasn’t an earthquake. I’ve been doing some research and I think I’ve found something that could help us against the Beast. It’s worth a try, at least.”
Cole walked up to her and looked at the map, which was a layout of underneath the city, and the photos, which were all black and white and depicted men in fancy outfits around some machine.
“The hell is all this?”
“I’ve uncovered of a secret society that operated across the country for centuries, but they had a special hold in New Marais in the early 30s. I think you might recognize them.”
She pointed at one of the photos, and Cole squinted to see a star with an eye on it on each man’s suit. His eyes widened in recognition.
“Holy shit. The First Sons?”
Zeke perked up at the mention of the Sons and scoffed.
“So what, you’re sayin’ is the First Sons built some kinda earthquake machine, and stuffed it down in the underground?”
Kuo scoffed, “I’m not saying it’s an “earthquake machine”, specifically. What I’m saying is whatever the Sons built before moving out of New Marais is down there, and I think it’s been reactivated. And, if it’s strong enough to shake half the state, imagine what it could do for Cole.”
Zeke seemed impressed by this, while Cole continued looking at the map, which Kuo had drawn a path through, with occasional circles along the way.
“So, what? You want me to go down there, find whatever caused the quake, then see what we can get out of it?”
“Well, that’s the idea. I have a sense that it’ll be more complicated than that.” Cole chuckled at that.
“Yeah, that’s the truth of it. So, where am I headed?”
Kuo took out another map and pointed to the cathedral.
“From what I can determine, the access point to the catacombs underneath the city are here. So, you enter there, then just follow the paths until you find something. Make sense?”
Cole nodded. Nothing like exploring the dark, abandoned underground of the city to put yourself at ease.
The squad of Rangers walked in a triangle formation, three on each side, while Jesse and Arish took point, flashlights shining cautiously ahead as they walked through the winding, dark catacombs. After the Foundation, Jesse could have gone her entire life without going underground, but this was the job. As they continued walking, she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as Polaris gently whispered for her to be careful. She clicked a button on her walkie-talkie and spoke quietly, “Emily, we getting any closer here? Because I can definitely feel…whatever it is down here.”
“Like a danger sense? Interesting. Maybe the Board is giving you some form of limited precognitive powers as a means of protection outside of the Oldest House. We’ll have to run some form of field test when-“
The Head of Research was broken out of her quiet contemplation and stammered out a reply of, “Oh! Uh, the signal on our end appears to be getting stronger, so it should be coming up soon. Remember, we have no idea what kind of form this could Object could take, so you need to exercise maximum caution.”
Jesse smiled softly. It had been a while since anyone had really doted on her like Emily did, and despite the seriousness of the situation, it was kind of nice.
“I got visual on something.”
Arish’s voice pushed the thoughts of Emily out of Jesse’s head, and she raised the Service Weapon, set to Grip, as the squad turned a corner into a large room, where a glowing rod hovered, surrounded by floating debris and a shadowy dark essence. The squad hesitantly lowered their weapons as Jesse and Arish stepped closer to it, and Jesse winced as a quiet, ominous whisper grew louder with every step. One that sounded intimately familiar. Polaris’s words of caution had grown to pleas to step away, but Jesse ignored her for now. She knew exactly what this was.
“Emily, we’re looking at the object right now. It’s some sort of…stick, I think? It’s just floating here…menacingly.”
Arish eyed it nervously and trained his gun as Jesse looked it over, doing her best to avoid any contact with it. Watching from a distance, the Rangers shifted uncomfortably.
“Dir-Jesse, what else can you tell me? Any defining characteristics or strange activity, besides the floating?”
Jesse observed as the rod seemed to shift slightly, seemingly trying to stay away from her, and she quickly held it in place with Lift, straining slightly as it attempted to squirm out.
“It’s trying to avoid me, and it’s…whispering. I think it’s been tainted by the Hiss somehow.”
“Can’t be, Director. You sealed up the last of the Hiss two weeks back, so there can’t be any way they got out of the Oldest House.”
Emily interjected, “Well, if it’s the Hiss, that explains the other readings. I chalked it up to faulty equipment at the time, but we’ve gotten small spikes of otherdimensional activity across the country ever since we pushed the Hiss out. I think that it may be searching for an alternate route in.”
Jesse nodded, impressed as she watched the rod continue to struggle.
So, this Hiss found an Object of Power and latched onto it? Clever. Too bad I’m here.
“Alright, I’m gonna try and cleanse it. Everybody stand by.”
She pulled it into her hand and let Polaris’s energy flow through her and into the object, and the whispering turned into a full-on mental screaming fit, Jesse yelping in pain as the sensation of burning shot through her body. She fell to her knees, eyes rolling into her head, as she suddenly found herself floating in an infinite dark space. She squinted, trying to see through the darkness, just as a massive looming beast, skin a mixture of crimson red flame and shadows, appeared, towering above her. It reached for her, but was swarmed by a red mist.
The figure batted uselessly at the energy as it enveloped him, and Jesse watched as, just for a second, it took on the form of a smaller, frailer man before returning to it’s original form. It roared as the new energy surged through it’s body, and Jesse’s eyes snapped open as she found herself in the catacombs, staggering back and hitting the floor as Arish rushed towards her.
“Director! Are you-“
She waved him away, looking over to see the rod, and the rubble seemingly tethered to it, had fallen uselessly to the floor, the whispers gone.
Well, that Cleansing worked out. I think.
“Jesse! Jesse, answer me!”
Emily’s voice came to her, and she groaned as she replied, “I’m fine, Emily. Cleansing just went a bit weird, but it should be good.”
Emily breathed a quiet sigh of relief, then ordered, “Okay, just grab the object and get out of there. The readings have gone stable, so there shouldn’t be any reason to hang around.” As the Rangers gathered around the Object, Arish walked up to Jesse, concern evident on his face, and looked her over, much to her annoyance.
“You sure you’re good, Director? You didn’t look okay from where I was standing.”
Jesse smiled, then answered, “Yeah, it just got a little weird there for a second. I’ll give a briefing on it when we get back to the Oldest House. For now, let’s just pack up this damned thing so we can all see sunlight again.”
Watching from a perch in the ceiling, Cole surveyed the strange figures in armor as they gathered around whatever the hell the Sons had stashed down here. He pressed his radio and whispered, “Zeke, Kuo, I found whatever set off those quakes, but looks like somebody beat me here.”
“Who? Militia? First Sons?”
He shook his head and responded, “Nah, they got tech straight outta some comic book from the fifties. One of ‘em shut the thing off by touching it, but it looks like it messed her up a little.”
Kuo answered, her voice taking on an anxious tone, “Okay, do they have the object?”
“Yeah, they look like they’re packing it up, but there’s only a few of them. Gonna move now.”
“Cole, be care-“
Cole hung up on her and leapt down from the perch, landing a few feet from the figures and letting electricity crackle off his fingers as they trained their guns on him. The redheaded girl, who appeared to the leader, trained a strange pistol on him and said, “Who the hell are you?”
Cole raised his hands defensively and replied, “Look, don’t know who you guys are, but you gotta trust me. Just hand the…stick over, and nobody will get it.”
Jesse narrowed her eyes suspiciously as she looked at the new arrival. The small briefing Emily had given her had said nothing about another Parautilitarian in New Marais, and especially not one with some form of electricity powers. She gave a small nod of her head, and Arish and his men formed a circle around the Object of Power while she took a step closer to Cole. “Sorry, buddy, but I’m not gonna hand this over to some guy who just fell out of the sky. Step away, now.”
Cole shrugged and mumbled, “Suit yourself.”, then lobbed a shock grenade towards the group. Quickly summoning a shield, Jesse grimaced as the blast pushed her back and sent the Rangers scattering. In the chaos, Cole charged forward, blasting a Ranger with bolts as he staggered to his feet, then drew the Amp and swung, connecting with a second Ranger’s jaw and knocking him to the ground. Jesse dropped the shield with a yell, the debris pelting Cole and giving him enough pause for her to dash forward and knock him to the ground with a telekinetic shove.
Groaning, he cursed under his breath as the Rangers recovered and opened fire, the concentrated fire forcing him to roll to cover behind nearby rubble. Jesse quickly switched to Charge and fired an explosive round into the makeshift cover, with Cole giving a quiet, “Shit,” as it exploded next to his head and knocked him back. Ears ringing, he staggered to his feet and fired a few bolts, knocking another Ranger to the ground as he ducked and weaved to avoid fire before summoning a Frost shield, grinning as the rounds slammed uselessly into the field. As the Rangers furiously reloaded, Jesse lifted a piece of rubble and tossed it at Cole, who returned fire with a rocket, destroying the projectile and scattering his attackers as they tried to avoid the flying debris.
Pushing through the chaos, he grabbed the rod from where it lie and quickly tucked it into his pack, then looked around quickly. He was gonna get cut to pieces if he hung out in close quarters, so it was time to make an exit. He looked up at the roof and grinned before lobbing several grenades that quickly stuck and detonated, raining rocks on everyone below. Avoiding bullets and explosives, he dashed towards the opening and use a pillar of ice to launch himself through it. He landed with a hard roll in a back alley, giving an impressed look at his surroundings as he realized just how expansive the catacombs were, then leapt on top of a trash can and onto a pipe leading up a building.
If he was going to lose these assholes, he needed distance.
Jesse fired another Charge shot out the opening and cursed, then turned to look at Arish, who struggled to stand as blood trickled from his forehead. Jesse rushed to his side and helped him up, but he pushed her away and yelled, “I’m good, don’t let whoever that was escape!”
Giving one last nervous look to her men, Jesse turned and ran towards the opening, then levitated through it, landing gently and furiously scanning around her for any sign of Cole. She looked up to see him pulling himself over the top of a rooftop and yelled, “Hey!” before lifting a trash can and hurling it at him. Cole cursed as the can slammed into him, pushing him onto the rooftop but knocking him forward, and he turned around to see Jesse levitate to the roof and draw the Service Weapon, a grim expression on her face.
“I believe you have something that belongs to my organization.”
Cole sighed. Another shadowy organization was exactly what he needed today. He raised his hands in mock surrender, then quickly sent out a blast of energy that enveloped and lifted her into the air. Jesse yelled in shock and confusion as she slowly floated away, and Cole smirked and gave her a mocking wave as he fired a bolt, the explosion sending her hurtling to the ground.
As a strange woman hit the ground in front of them, civilians panicked and ran, and Jesse staggered to her feet, pushing through the crowd as she ignored the pain in her side. She was fairly confident she’d cracked a rib in the fall, and the explosion somehow managed to feel like being set on fire and electrocuted at the same time. And, while it wasn’t really a major issue in the context, she was fairly confident the blast had torn apart the back of her suit jacket.
Well, let’s hope the Bureau pays for replacements. If not, I can make a decree of it, probably.
Cole leapt from rooftop to rooftop, ignoring the occasional shot from Jesse as it whizzed by him. His radio beeped and Zeke’s mildly concerned, “You good, brother? Hearing something about explosions downtown.”
Cole turned and fired a bolt at Jesse, who ducked behind a car to avoid it, then replied, “Yeah, I got the thing, whatever it is, but now some chick is on my ass. Some sort of Conduit that can throw shit with her mind.”
“Well, kick her ass, then!”
Cole chuckled, then responded, “Working on it,” before hanging up and leaping off the roof towards Jesse, letting the energy gather around him as he plummeted to the ground. Jesse swore under her breath and managed to pull up a shield just as Cole impacted, the blast tearing the shield apart and sending her flying into the street. Cole drew the Amp and charged forward, but Jesse switched to Shatter and fired, the rounds smashing into Cole’s chest and knocking him to the ground.
As Jesse pulled herself to her feet, Cole crawled towards a parked car and quickly drained it, sighing in relief as he felt his wounds knit themselves together and his strength renew itself. Fully restored, Cole lifted his hand and fired a Shatter Blast, Jesse crying out as the shards tore through her clothes and left cuts all over her skin. He used the momentary distraction to his advantage, falling back and letting loose several bolts in quick succession, Jesse narrowly dashing to avoid each as she switched to Spin and returned fire. Reaching out, she lifts a car and tosses it at Cole, who activates Kinetic Pulse and catches it.
For a moment, the two stood locked in place, each straining to overcome the other, before Jesse reached out and pulled a fire hydrant free, sending it flying into Cole’s side. He grimaced, the pain distracting him enough for Jesse to drive the car into him. Stunned, he struggled to push the wreckage off of him, only for Jesse to leap on top of the car and point the Service Weapon at his head, pausing to catch her breath.
“It’s over, man. Just…hands up, I guess?”
Cole smirked and quipped, “Nah, ain’t over yet.” before balling his hands into fists. The sky darkened, and Jesse looked up in confusion seconds before dozens of lightning bolts rained down on her, each connecting and sending pain shooting through her body. As her skin crackled with electricity, Cole activated Kinetic Pulse and tossed the car, her still on top of it, aside. The car exploded and Jesse was flung aside, smashing into a wall and hitting the pavement.
Pain radiating from every part of her body, Jesse crawled towards the Service Weapon, raising her hand weakly as it shook, then lifted itself towards her. Just as her fingers touched the grip, Cole kicked her in the side, knocking her over, then placed restraints on her before crouching down and placing the tip of the Amp next to her head, letting the electricity crackle off it as a clear warning. Satisfied, he replied, “No, now it’s over.”
Jesse squirmed, trying in vain to get free as Cole pulled the rod from his bag and presented it to her.
“Now, you’re gonna tell me what this is, and then maybe I’ll think about letting you go.”
She gritted her teeth and responded, through strained efforts to free herself, “You…don’t know what you’re dealing with. You need…to give…me that!”
Cole shook his head.
“Nah, trust me, lady. If you knew what was coming, you wouldn’t be fighting so hard for this. If I’m gonna stop the Beast, I’m gonna need everything I can get. So-“
The mention of the Beast made Jesse stop, flashing back to her vision, and frantically say, “Wait! Are you talking about the monster? Big guy, made of fire, or something?”
Surprised, Cole nodded, and Jesse replied, “Trust me, you’re gonna need my help. If you and I are thinking of the same Beast, or whatever it’s called, it’s worse than you expect.”
Cole seemed to consider it, then knocked her out with a kick to the face before absorbing the restraints. With a grunt, he lifted her onto his shoulder, then switched on his radio and said, “Zeke, Kuo, I took care of that Conduit chick, but she knows something about the Beast. I’m bringing her back so we can get some real answers out of her.”
With that, he used an Ice Launch to propel himself towards another rooftop, then made his way to the others.
The vision of Director Trench took a long, slow drag of his cigarette and smiled sadly, looking into the distance as he thought to himself.
“The Astral Plane…to us, it’s a blank white space used by the Board. But Darling always said there were other entryways, other pieces of the plane we just couldn’t see. We contemplated expeditions, of course, but when our probes didn’t return, we stopped contemplating. Too much risk, he told me, couldn’t waste personnel. I disagreed, but…fighting with Darling wasn’t worth it.”
He took another drag, then turned to look directly forward, as if he could see Jesse looking at him.
“There are days still where I lie awake, wondering who else, besides the Board, could be using the Plane. And not knowing, to me, is far scarier than anything that could be out there.”
Shaking the vision out of her head, Jesse looked the key in her hand over as she walked up the stairs to her apartment. After the fight with that Cole guy, she’d woken up and found herself in this city. After the initial confusion and panic, she’d learned that it was called “DFederal” and, while she’d dealt with a fair amount of weird shit, this one really took the cake. When it became clear she wasn’t getting out, she settled in, minding her own business while trying to figure out a way to contact the Bureau. Emily was probably worried sick about her, and Jesse felt a minor pang of guilt before pushing it aside.
She pushed the key into the lock and stepped into the apartment, shivering slightly at the mild chill in the room. It was modest, a little bit rundown, but after spending most of her teenage years sleeping in shelters and park benches, it was nothing really worth complaining. As she stepped into the kitchen, contemplating dinner, Polaris, who was blissfully still with her, chimed in with words of caution, and she drew the Service Weapon and pivoted to see a man with white hair and a suit to match sitting on her couch. His hands were folded and he politely nodded to her, the nod doing nothing to defuse the tension.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Interesting design on the weapon. Cole told me about it when he put in the good word for you. After doing a little digging, I must admit that I am impressed with you.”
She switched to Shatter and gripped the weapon tighter.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
The man nodded, then replied, “Name’s Elijah Snow. Something tells me you’ve been looking for answers on this place, and I might be able to help with that.”
He held up a single envelope, marked with a wax stamp symbol of a globe, and replied, “Believe it or not, there’s people just as curious as you out there. Enough, in fact, that I’ve assembled a small organization of them. Whether you want to help us is up to you.”
Jesse lowered the Service Weapon slightly, contemplating his offer. Judging by the chill going down her spine, something told her that if this man was a real threat, he would’ve acted by now. As she went to say a response, a familiar, loud ringing broke the silence, and both Jesse and the man looked as a bright red phone appeared on her coffee table. The man raised an eyebrow in confusion, then watched as Jesse answered it, then froze in place as she found herself before the looming, upside-down pyramid.
So the Board had finally found her.
About goddamned time.
“We/Us/Board have discussed this man/friend/ally. It is in our and your interests/goals/dreams to work with his group. As Director, these are your orders/objectives/demands.”
“So, you can send the Hotline, but you seriously can't get me out of here?”
“You are needed/wanted/desired. Our connection here, the man/fool/beast, arranged your time here for reasons/purposes/goals unknown to us. Standby for further instructions.”
The Board hung up, leaving her standing in front of the man, who watched with piqued interest as she hung up the phone and replied, “Alright, I’m in. First, you’re going to tell me what this organization of yours is.”
Elijah smiled and replied, “Well, Ms. Faden, that's a very long story.”
Cole won this match because of the sheer versatility and destructive power of his moveset in comparison to Jesse. While she did pack a superior weapon and her abilities are nothing to scoff at, Cole outmatched her at every other effective range and could hit with a wider variety of abilities that enabled him to fairly handily stay ahead of her and pull a win here.