1.6 Background Notes (bonus chapter)

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((Author’s note: this chapter has been edited out and isn’t part of the story anymore. The information presented here has been integrated into chapter 1.3, instead.))
 

The early days after the Pulse: An attempt at a brief overview

By Susannah Harris

 

The Pulse

An event that was experienced worldwide on the 24th of february 2010 at 20:09 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Everyone, everywhere, lost power for at least half an hour. The exact duration was variable. As of yet (status: the 22nd of June, 2012) there is still disagreement about the exact cause. See the section further below for a listing of the most commonly discussed theories.

Some individuals have referred to this event as “the great darkness,” but that term was deemed too inaccurate to take hold. Naturally, the lights only went out for a portion of the world population. The remainder were still enjoying daylight.

In addition to the loss of power, astronomers confirmed the collective loss of approximately one minute of time. Some individuals have claimed to retain knowledge of events during that one minute, but their reports vary so greatly that the truth would be nigh impossible to determine.

Thousands of people have reported strong headaches immediately after the pulse. Scientific examination has revealed some correlation between those reports and the manifestation of supernatural abilities (commonly referred to as ‘powers‘), but the prediction is not accurate in many cases.

 

Common Pulse theories

  1. The influence of extraterrestrial life forms or a signal from space. This theory was immensely popular until a group of researchers proved – with reasonably credible evidence – that the source of the Pulse was not space, but the Earth’s core.
  2. This “explanation” has no scientific value, but is listed here because of its popularity. Antonio Varras, also known as Preacher, has established the belief that the divine energies that used to permeate our world have withdrawn from it, resulting in the assumed chain reaction that was named the Pulse. See further information below.
  3. An international team of researchers (see the annex for a detailed listing) believes to have discovered evidence that some kind of life form perished within the Earth’s core, or alternately spent the last of its energy in a way that is not too dissimilar from a solar flare. This is a very new approach, and the details of their findings have not yet been publicized.
  4. A number of renowned mathematicians and physicists have established some theories of their own. They delve deeply into complex mechanisms and calculations and are commonly referred to as “the calculator theories.” I will not elaborate on these in detail.

 

Initial Evolved appearances

 On the 28th of February 2010, a fourteen year old Turkish boy requested to address the world on a national TV channel. Over the following three hours, he held a speech in 5 different languages, fluently and with flawless dialects. Main points were unresolved conflicts, world peace and differences in religious interpretations. Leader figures of the international muslim community conducted tests according to scriptures and commonly shared beliefs, then declared the boy to be a Prophet.

The boy has since played a key role in establishing and maintaining peace and stability, primarily in the Middle East.

The exact nature and extent of his abilities is unknown. The details have not been shared with the world.

On the 5th of March 2010, Katsuro Sakai gained abilities while attempting to resolve a hostage situation in an office building in Osaka, Japan. Due to the nature of his transition, a large portion of the world population considered him a “hero” in the spirit of popular superhero fiction. The enthusiasm sparked by this perceptive may very well have been the foundation for the later establishment of the UN Covenant and the various international sub-groups.

In concordance with a growing awareness of image and reputation, Katsuro Sakai changed his name from Ronin to Paladin when he entered United Nations service. He was the very first individual to be associated with the Covenant.

He was later classified as a Revoker, but his abilities appear to be a mix that could fit into multiple categories.

On the 7th of March 2010, an American animal researcher named Roy Wilson transitioned while working on a paper about bird communication. The abilities he described were flashbacks about events of the past tied to his location.

He claimed the name of “the Historian.”

Roy Wilson complained of depression and overwhelming visionary feedback after a few days of living in populated areas, and supposedly moved to a cabin in the woods. He disappeared without trace sometime in the autumn of 2010, and there has been some debate about whether or not he may have been the first case of an “off the grid” disappearance.

Wilson’s Evolution put an end to the assumption that superhuman abilities tie into the types of activity performed during the transition. Clearly, there is little to no relation between bird research and visions of historic events.

On the 12th of March 2010, Céline Poirot transitioned while tabledancing in a club in Marseille. According to witnesses, her tattoos came “alive” to lash out like tentacles, and very nearly killed the club owner.

She claimed the name of Eve, as the first woman to acquire superhuman abilities.

Poirot was also the first case of an Evolved being considered dangerous. She was imprisoned for several months, but released not long after the Covenant’s formation. Her case is also of particular interest to feminist groups. Her imprisonment sparked protests and numerous demonstrations.

Note: It is believed that the appearances of Prophet and Ronin / Paladin as the first evolved individuals had a great impact on the way we perceive their existence now. The pre-Pulse superhero fiction that glorifies their existence has also played a key role. The initial enthusiasm faded somewhat after later events, but it can be assumed that if Liquidate or Shadowslasher’s transitions had been first, any further discoveries might have resulted in immediate execution orders.

 

Other early events of note

On the 13th of March 2010, the man later known as Preacher stepped into the public eye and declared himself head of the Guides of Destiny, a now frighteningly popular sect that revers evolved individuals as Godkin. It is unknown whether he possesses abilities himself.

The Guides of Destiny were largely ignored at first, but gained many new followers especially after the first reports of the power surges that some evolved individuals have experienced. Their current numbers are estimated to be around sixty million worldwide.

 

Excerpt from “A Mortal Man’s Genesis”, a publication by Antonio Varras.

Classified as sect propaganda. Intended for study purposes only.

 

If you are reading this, you want to know the truth. Congratulations, you may count yourself among the thinking men and women who have dared to ask questions and doubt the make-believe science that has been published.

Let’s get one thing straight, right away – you have been lied to.

The pulse is all there was, and the flock of researchers isn‘t going to get any more answers from it. The truth is uncomfortable to some, and they are afraid of your questions. The church, the politicians, and industrialists all want to maintain the status quo for as long as possible, even while it’s crumbling beneath their feet.

What happened on the 24th of February, 2010, had nothing to do with science. There was no relation to any known values of physics, mathematics, biology, or chemistry. No data to examine except confirmation of a worldwide loss of power and time. No evidence to analyze. All of the research that is supposedly happening – they are making it up to have you believe the world order hasn’t changed.

I know because I used to be one of the white coats, myself. I was also a father and a man of God.

The changes that are happening don’t have anything to do with religion. It doesn’t matter what entity you used to look up to… they’re gone. The pulse wasn’t a manifestation of a God, but a withdrawal of divine energy from the world. We are now left on our own, without any monsters or demons to blame for our own flaws.

This is our anathema. A void without divine guidance or judgement. Human nature is all there is, and mortals will bestow blessings and curses, guidance and judgement.

Humanity was once created as fragments of the Divine, shaped according to the image of God. As our final gift, we have received the potential to ascend, to right millennia of wrongs with our own abilities.

Why, you might ask? Isn’t it the duty of the Father to watch over the child and gently encourage him to follow the right path?

Maybe so. But mankind has grown lazy and selfish, and the Father has grown tired of watching the child call out for intervention at every turn instead of taking the chance to grow and show greatness. I don’t claim to know whether Adam and Eve existed or are merely a biblical metaphor, but their story illustrates that we were never meant to be puppets on strings.

We were created as individuals with a free will to make our own decisions. Sometimes, those decisions are wrong, and have terrible consequences. But it is our duty to protect the weak. To feed the hungry, to give comfort and advice. Crying out to higher powers to relieve us of that duty is among the greatest sins ever committed.

What would have happened if the Gods answered all our prayers, delivered everything we asked for? Complete and utter passivity, never satisfied, always asking for more. The only time a man can outgrow himself and show greatness is when he is faced with a seemingly overwhelming challenge, or a great injustice.

Let me tell you about the greatest misunderstanding in religion. Our prime responsibility has never been the mechanical memorization of scriptures or the performance of rituals. All life is a manifestation of the divine, and mankind’s true, most misunderstood responsibility is to take care of one another. To honor life in all of its forms.

Now, a chosen few are forced to act. To take responsibility in place of those who have done nothing but look after their own selfish needs.

They are the Godkin.

I don’t claim to know whether the transitioned humans have been chosen well ahead of time. Perhaps the distribution is indeed random, a testimony to the equality of all humans. I don’t have all of the answers you might want. I am no one special, just a man among many. But I choose to see, and to open your eyes in turn.

I am Preacher.

 

Power classification list, version 3.5. Effective date: 13.05.2012.

 

These are the most commonly used terms, first introduced by the United States of America and expanded by the United Nations in 2013. Some nations or organizations may use labels that differ – the EU, the Communist State of China, the Mukhtar (source: Gonzalez, 2012).

Order according to assumed assignment frequency of individuals. It is now believed that the number of individuals within each classification remains more or less stable since the end of 2011. However, it is likely that some rare classifications (see Wildcards) are as of yet undefined due to lack of a complete empirical overview of all abilities that have appeared (Miller & Kobayashi, 2012).

Many evolved individuals command abilities from more than one classification. As of yet (status May 2012), research has not provided enough empirical evidence to lay a foundation for explanatory theories (Miller & Kobayashi, 2012).

All but the first three listed categories appear quite rarely, with no more than 1-5 assigned individuals that are alive at any given time. This listing will make use of the international naming system, with the exception of Nótt, who perished before the naming resolution.

Transmuter: Alterations to physical matter, including harmful body mutations. No beneficial changes to the human body have been observed in any case (exception: see Shanti). These alterations may have harmful effects on the environment.

Examples: Liquidate, Burrower, Shadowslasher

Evoker: Alterations to the laws of physics to control existing elements or conjure previously nonexistent forces. These forces may be disconnected from our pre-Pulse understanding of elements (see Eve). Evoker abilities are often destructive and used to be associated with the now obsolete destroyer classification.

Examples: Monsoon, Eve, Samael

Technician: Applications of superhuman understanding of technology, implemented in varying ways. Some create advanced technology, others are more focused on alterations or simply a comprehensive understanding of existing technology.

Examples: Athena, Data, Breaker

Wildcard: Comprehensive classification for unresearched individuals or ones that don’t seem to fit into other categories. In some cases, this may be due to false information, a short active lifespan and lack of observation.

Note: the Sleepwalker’s abilities may have been altered beyond the observed norms by transitioning during an attempt to commit suicide.

Examples: Jacob Wilson, Slapcat, the Sleepwalker

Visionary: Clairvoyant abilities not tied to psychological effects or empathy. Often involves knowledge and understanding of people, places, and events in the present, past, or future. The means of acquiring said knowledge vary greatly.

Examples: Queenie, the Oracle, the Historian

Revoker: Abilities that nullify, block, or completely disable the manifestation of other evolved abilities.

Examples: Paladin, Colosso, the Pessimist

Empath: Clairvoyant abilities tied into psychology and supreme understanding of living beings.

Examples: Kid, Aura, Dreaming Rose

Lightshaper: A classification for abilities that take varying forms, but are connected to a light theme. Previous attempts at defining these abilities listed them within other classifications. This recent change was inspired by the Oracle’s statements that refer to light and darkness (Ohakim, 2012).

Examples: Radiant, the Sun King, Wisp

Darkshaper: Commonly believed to be the antithesis to lightshapers. These abilities manifest in similar forms, but with an element of darkness.

Examples: Raven, Nótt, Ashstorm

Guardian: These individuals possess abilities that prevent others from suffering harm, the manifestation of the protective power may vary greatly. Guardian abilities apply typically to living beings, but may extend to physical objects as a side effect (Miller & Kobayashi, 2012). Damage that has already been suffered may not be reverted.

Examples: Sanctuary, Saint, Barrier

The Healer: Only one evolved individual has ever displayed the ability to physically cure humans of ailments and effectively perform a beneficial alteration of the body. As far as has been observed, this applies to any and all ailments, from crippled limbs to viral diseases (status as of May 2012). Affected bodies appear to be restored to a flawless state that matches their relative age. Some statements of visionaries including the Oracle may be interpreted in a way that suggests the existence of an antithesis to the Healer, but as of yet, no observations were made that would support this idea (Ohakim, 2012).

Only example: Shanti

 

Five signs your child might evolve : A checklist

(A flyer handed out to households in some US states)

 

Transitions are a rare, but very real danger to your family. If you believe that a relative of yours may be affected, especially if they are a child, please verify the points listed below. If the answer to at least three of these questions is yes, please call the number indicated below immediately to receive the support you need. This is an emergency line, free to call and always in service.

Contrary to some outdated information handouts, the potential is not unlocked during the actual transition. It happens sooner. Proper guidance may ease the transition, possibly prevent it altogether.

1)      Has your child experienced sudden headaches that only lasted for seconds?

2)      Have there been comments or complaints about distorted perception such as blurry vision or phantom noise?

3)      Has your child suffered from inexplicable body sensations such as sudden weakness, loss of control of limbs, heat, cold, or lightness without fever?

4)      Did your child tell you about recurring strange dreams that occurred only during the past day or days? Ask to make sure. It is recommended that you encourage a habit to draw pictures of dreams that made your child uncomfortable.

5)      Have you noticed any abrupt changes in your child’s interactions with you and other family or neighbors during the past day or days? Ask about them.

 

Evolved popularity chart

Based on the worldwide online survey “Who’s your hero?” conducted by the Institute for Evolution research in Cambridge, 2011 / 2012. Version 2.1 expanded to include rogues.

 

Rankings

1 : Shanti (4’781’966 votes)

2 : Radiant (1’088’357 votes)

3 : Kid (522’049 votes)

4 : Paladin (382’540 votes)

5 : Athena (275’441 votes)

 

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19 thoughts on “1.6 Background Notes (bonus chapter)

  1. This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d rather release the most basic background information as a separate bonus chapter than try and force it into the narrative. There’s still plenty of world building that wasn’t mentioned here and will find its way into the narrative anyway.

    For instance… why is the Sleepwalker scary? Who is Colosso? And what’s up with that lost minute of time?

    I won’t be offended if some of you skip this part. I planned for it to happen on a wednesday and at the end of an arc so it doesn’t distract from the story.

    Eventually, when I add donation buttons sometime in the future, I’d like to offer bonus interludes that are dedicated to side characters, Wildbow style. You could ask for a chapter dedicated to Athena, or the Historian, or whoever you like.

    As always, thanks for reading! ❤

  2. I checked the site earlier and didn’t see a new chapter, glad I checked again. I like that you finally released the basic information about the setting, while I would like to know more about the Covenant (when was it formed? what are its duty’s? why was Shanti killed in the prologue
    etc.) I feel like I got enough info to understand the gist of it.

    Looking forward to next Sunday.

    • I’m glad you checked, as well. I really appreciate when people post about the questions they have, it helps me not accidentally forget about unsolved riddles. And I can work more of the kind of information that interests you the most into future chapters.
      The Covenant and the Shanti incident will definitely be rolled up again with more detail as the story advances the time and date of the prologue – and especially a few days later.
      And I think the story summary and banner hint at who the third POV character will be. 😉

  3. Oookay, the Sleepwalker is a little disconcerting. Unknown/Unresearched powers that transitioned during a suicide attempt? That sounds dangerous. Yeesh. The power classifications are fun to have, though. The popularity vote also gives a bit of insight into the nightmarish aftermath of Shanti’s death.

    On Shanti…the ONLY healer? I can see why the people in charge would be worried about a power spike with her. No prior events, no one else on the planet like her… Preacher is also sufficiently disturbing. Fanatically religious is one thing, fanatically religious with possible unknown powers is quite another. I mean, parts of his gospel don’t seem BAD, caring for all life and such, but the lines ‘The only time a man can outgrow himself and show greatness is when he is faced with a seemingly overwhelming challenge, or a great injustice.’ and ‘to open your eyes in turn’ are foreboding.

    Is it considered rude to yell at you to keep writing? Probably. 😛

    …I could have sworn I’d seen a very minor typo when reading, but I can’t find it again. Either you fixed it while I was commenting, or I am hallucinating. Oh well!

      • One instance of “(Miller & Kobayashi, 2014)” instead of 2012 (unless there’s info from the future sneakily added.)

    • I’ll use this as the typo thread because of reason:

      (commonly referred to as ‚powers‘) —> The opening quotation mark is being silly.

      may very well have been the single most foundation —> I think you’re missing a word here. I admit I don’t know what you were trying to say there.

  4. It seems odd that a Japanese national hero would take the name Ronin. Admittedly, the last time I was in Japan was the Warring States Period, but being a Ronin, a disgraced and master-less samurai was something to be ashamed of. It’s only the American ideals of independence and self-reliance that make it seem cool.

  5. Hey, I found this chapter by accident. It doesn’t appear at the Table of Contents, and from chapter 1.5 you get to 2.1 if you click “next chapter” (and from 2.1 you get to 1.5 if you click “previous chapter”). I had to scroll a bit down after the end of the text and just before the comments section to see the “1.6 Background Notes (bonus chapter) →” link.

    • This chapter isn’t part of the story anymore. It was in an earlier version before my editor armed herself with a red pen and took it out. Instead, we integrated the most important bits of information in chapter 1.3 (which used to be much shorter). 🙂
      I’ll add a comment at the top to explain why this one is hidden away. Thanks for making me aware that it can still be found by accident!

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