Friday, May 21, 2010

Sign of the Zodiac: The Empowered


People with extra-human abilities can be generally divided into four categories, all gathered together under the catch-all name of “the empowered.” Beneath this general grouping, there are:

The twelve bearers of the Zodiac Signs. This is naturally the most exclusive group, since there are only twelve such individuals at any given time. Currently, all twelve Signs are in the custody of the United Nations peacekeeping forces and are assigned to specially trained operatives. Not all twelve Signs are active at all times, due to manpower shortages, training schedules, routine testing, and casualties, but the UN does its best to make sure that at least six Zodiacs are in the field at all times. These heroes are also sometimes called Alphas.

This parlance has really only become common in the last decade as studies of Annunaki science and Omega genetics have paid off. Anyone with human-produced artificial powers, whether a robot exoskeleton or gene-spliced claws, is a Beta. The term was intentionally coined by the media as a bridge between Zodiacs (“Alphas”) and Gammas. It is widely believed that science may only be a few short decades from unraveling the secrets of the Zodiac Signs. Some humans with no powers except for resources and gadgetry are also sometimes mislabeled as Betas.

Any empowered individual using an Annunaki relic to gain their powers is known as a Gamma, from the mathematical symbol for “variable.” Most relics grant far lesser powers to their wielders than the true Signs, and they are incredibly unpredictable. Some relics offer only instant death to anyone that touches them, while others transform the bearer into near-gods. Still, the promise of power has lured more than one person into relic-hunting. Others simply stumbled onto their relics by chance and have had to learn how to use them haphazardly. Gammas (sometimes called "Gizmos") have a reputation for being “small fry” and for being villains, since all of the Zodiac Signs have been in the hands of heroes for decades now. Reliquary sciences have led to the advancement of human technology at a rapid rate.

Sometimes called “Zeds” or “Z-Twos,” Omegas are the result of the Hiroshima detonation, humans who were poisoned before birth by the released radiation of Annunaki technology, developing strange and aberrant mutations. Many Omegas are hideous monsters, twisted mockeries of the human form that suggest the nightmare shapes of the Annunaki themselves, while others could easily pass for normal—until they use their terrible powers. If anything good can be said about the Omegas, it is that Gammas have become more accepted since they appeared. The study of the so-called Omega Gene has become a major field of scientific endeavor in the last thirty years.


The twelve Zodiac Signs have existed for thousands of years, drifting in and out of human history with the force of myth and legend. They have wandered the entirety of the world, though they are believed to have been created in the Middle East by a prehistoric figure called Gilgamesh who fought the alien slavers known as the Annunaki. The Zodiac Signs imbue their holders with amazing, seemingly supernatural powers, usually including increased toughness and longevity, but limited only by the willpower and force of personality of their bearer. The powers of each Sign seem to follow a general theme—Aries grants amazing combat prowess, while Pisces gives powers of healing—but they seem to rewrite their abilities for each new user. Perhaps the only constant of the Signs is that once they are bonded to a host, no known force save the wielder’s death can separate them.

The United Nations tells people that the Signs are currently all possessed by their Zodiac Division, which is comprised of dedicated individuals trained for years to act as a Sign-bearer should a current one fall in battle. The truth is somewhat different. At any given time, the UN only controls eight to ten of the Signs, with the others being missing in action. As well, the UN does not choose the Sign-bearers—the Signs choose their own wielders through some unknown process, traveling from their fallen host to search for a new one in a matter of moments.

Should a Sign-bearer fall in battle or die of old age (which has happened, albeit rarely), the Zodiac Division immediately mobilizes to find the new Sign-bearer and bring him into the fold before something can go wrong. The rare rogue Sign-bearers get reported to the media as especially powerful Gammas to preserve the UN’s secret (and the reputation of the Zodiacs). Occasionally, however, a Sign simply goes missing for months or years at a time, resurfacing just as mysteriously as it vanished. Signs also go quiet sometimes, spending weeks or months inert; it is during these rare quiet periods that actual research on the Signs is conducted.

Every Sign has certain personality types to which it seems to be drawn, and offers broad categories of powers. There are mythological and astrological associations with the Signs as well, and the practice of astrology remains just as popular in the modern day as it did in prehistory despite ample scientific opposition to its veracity thanks in part to the popularity of the Zodiacs.

Aries: The Ram

The master of warfare and strategy, Aries offers its followers melee combat prowess unmatched by any lesser warrior. Any weapon is deadly in the hands of an Aries, and every bit of terrain a key element to victory. An Aries thrives in situations that require courage, leadership and strength, though their aggressive nature sometimes leads them into rash or impulsive action.

Aries is a masculine sign, and its element is Fire. Diamond, also called adamant, is the birthstone of the Aries, and their preferred metal is iron. Red, white and black are the colors of Aries, colors commonly associated with warfare. Physically the Aries is tall in stature, and athletic in appearance. Even an Aries with a poor physique seems much fitter than he really is. Aries tend to have short, military-cut hair, even without cutting it. Their natural expression is that of a scowl, and they have great difficulty at showing mirth or joy easily.

Power Associations: Super-strength, invulnerability, mystic weaponry, close combat prowess, fire-based powers.

Taurus: The Bull

Resourceful and dependable, the Taurus is the epitome of defensive combat just as the Aries is the epitome of aggressive combat. A Taurus masters her own body to become tough and stable beyond the ability of others to move or harm her. Because of their desire for stability and forethought, however, a Taurus can often seem dull, argumentative or conservative to others.

Taurus is a feminine sign, and its element is Earth. Emerald is the birthstone for Taurus, and its metal is copper. Pale blue, light green and mauve are its preferred colors. Physically, individuals born under the sign of Taurus tend to have a full and square face, large and expressive eyes, and thick, often curly hair. Generally, there is something distinctly sensual about their appearance—earthy and full-figured. They are usually of average height.

Power Associations: Invulnerability, regeneration, force fields, immobility, earth- or metal-based powers.

Gemini: The Twins

The Gemini is a dualistic individual, on the one hand adaptable and articulate, and on the other fickle and insensitive. A Gemini’s abilities focus on interaction and the ability to become what others seek to see and hear. Cunning diplomats and moving speakers, a Gemini’s greatest flaw is his inability to be his own person—a Gemini ever mirrors others.

Gemini is a masculine sign, and its element is Air. The birthstone for Gemini is the pearl, and their metal is silver. Both represent the fluidity of personality and expression that Gemini consider essential. Gemini prefer white if they must pick only one color, but their true calling is in the panoply of the rainbow. Physically, Gemini tend to have a straight and narrow nose, long limbs, high cheekbones, large hands and long fingers.

Power Associations: Duality, speed, quickness, emotion control, disguise, shape changing, telekinesis.

Cancer: The Crab

Cancer is generous and devoted, capable of offering healing and care to others even at greatest cost to herself. Visionaries, teachers and lawgivers, the sign of Cancer lends itself to those that place the good of others over their own well-being. Unlike Taurus, who seeks to defend their physical selves, Cancer protects their rights and souls. Their devotion can easily turn to zealotry, however, and Cancer can seem controlling or even domineering at times.

Cancer is a feminine sign, and its element is Water. Ruby is the birthstone of Cancer, with its connotations of blood and health. Cancer’s colors are silver, white and black, muted tones for the seriousness of their calling. The physical characteristics associated with Cancer are below average height and short legs; many Cancers are also somewhat pudgy. A Cancer usually has dark hair, a round face, a pale complexion, and small eyes. They sometimes walk clumsily, for no readily apparent reason.

Power Associations: Group defense, invulnerability, healing, natural weaponry, water-based powers.

Leo: The Lion

Ambitious and independent, but ultimately noble, a Leo finds his truest calling as a leader of men. From magistrate to king, a Leo is born to greatness. Perhaps because of this regal bearing and their aristocratic calling, Leos also have a reputation for being overbearing and luxurious, without any concept of the value of money. A Leo does not request—he demands, and expects to be heard.

Leo is a masculine sign, and its element is Fire. Leo’s birthstone is the royal peridot, a jewel of nobility, and its metal is gold. Gold and purple are the colors of Leo. Leos tend to be large in all physical features. They are usually tall, with broad shoulders, large hands and feet, and tend to be quite tan. They keep their head held high and look down their noses at others, and have thick manes of light-colored hair.

Power Associations: Empathy, mind control, unnatural charisma, super strength.

Virgo: The Virgin

Purity is the watchword of the Virgo. Not just physical purity but spiritual purity as well. Not all Virgos are literal virgins, but even at their worst they seem virginal. A Virgo values innocence and justice, and is willing to pursue truth and moral uprightness to almost any extreme. Their modesty and discretion can make them seem prudish and perfectionists to those who have lower standards of excellence.

Virgo is a feminine sign, and its element is Earth. The Virgo’s birthstone is sapphire, blue and placid, and their metal is quicksilver, better known as mercury. Grey and deep blue are the representative colors for Virgo. Physically, individuals born under the sign of Virgo tend to have a graceful figure, a round head, large and clear eyes, and refined features. They are usually of slightly above average height, and their limbs are long and graceful.

Power Associations: Empathy, invulnerability, mind reading, energy powers.

Libra: The Scales

The sign of the Libra is one of the most valued in the Zodiac. With its penchant for balance and moderation, and talents that lend themselves to fairness and equality, Libras are judges, peacemakers and builders. Unlike the Gemini, who is skilled at copying another’s viewpoint and mimicking it, a Libra excels at actually understanding both sides of complex issues and finding ways to balance them. Some see Libras as easily swayed thanks to their willingness to shift views, however.

Libra is a masculine sign, and its element is Air. Opal is the birthstone for Libras, and has become the traditional precious stone in the garb of judges and magistrates. Steel is a Libra’s metal, and its colors are lavender and pale green. Physically, individuals born under the sign of Libra tend to have a graceful figure, charming appearance, a high forehead, and a “trademark” dimple. Libras are of above average height.

Power Associations: Mind reading, empathy, emotion control, telekinesis, air-based powers.

Scorpio: The Scorpion

Secretive and intense, a Scorpio revels in mystery and enigma. They understand that knowledge is the truest currency—and that the fewer people who know a given thing, the more valuable it becomes. Their innate talents lend toward being spies, thieves and infiltrators, and some Scorpios take their assets a step further to become assassins. Even friendly Scorpios hide things from their loved ones, and their inner passions often drive them to become manipulative or cruel.

Scorpio is a feminine sign, and its element is Water. The topaz is Scorpio’s birthstone, and, like Libra, its metal is steel. Scorpios have a natural affinity for maroon and black. The nose is the most prominent physical feature of the Scorpio; it tends to be large and hooked, aquiline. A Scorpio’s eyes are dark and piercing. Their faces are angular, and their hair dark, sometimes with a red tinge in direct light. A Scorpio’s body is short and thick, resembling its opposite sign, Taurus.

Power Associations: Stealth, invisibility, quickness, superhuman dexterity, natural weapons, magnetic powers.

Sagittarius: The Archer

Born with an eagle eye and a steady hand, a Sagittarius is a master of archery almost before he can walk. Freedom-loving and idealistic, the Sagittarius hopes that someday every person will embrace his broad-minded philosophy. At his best, a Sagittarius is open and honest, accepting of others, while at his worst he is impulsive, tactless and rebellious without good cause.

Sagittarius is a masculine sign, and its element is Fire. The birthstone of Sagittarius is turquoise, and its metal is tin. Blue and white are the colors of Sagittarius, though pink is also sometimes used. People born under the sign of Sagittarius have a large and well-shaped head, with a high and broad forehead. They possess a tall and broad figure, and fair hair that tends to grow long and wild.

Power Associations: Ranged combat prowess, energy projection, quickness, super speed.

Capricorn: The Sea-Goat

With their birth sign so closely resembling the traditional emblems of devils, it is no wonder that Capricorns are regarded with mistrust and suspicion. A Scorpio might stab you in the back, but she would do it in a moment of passion—a cold, ambitious Capricorn would do it with perfect calculation, having decided your doom months beforehand. A Capricorn’s mystical powers make them no less strange and terrible to others, but their hard-working and serious natures make them reliable allies to anyone willing to associate with them.

Capricorn is a feminine sign, and Earth is its element. Garnet is Capricorn’s birthstone, and many mystical properties (including summoning powers) are attributed to that gem. Electrum is the metal of the Capricorn—neither truly gold nor silver—and its colors are brown and dark green. Physically, individuals born under the sign of Capricorn tend to have dark hair, steady eyes, a dark complexion, capable hands, and prominent cheekbones.

Power Associations: Strange luck, pseudo-arcane powers, mind shielding, warding and defense, deception.

Aquarius: The Water-Bearer

The Aquarius looks into the depths of the human mind, seeking meaning in the pursuit of the intellectual. The urn held by Aquarius in myth does not hold only water, but the very water of life—the urn is the receptacle of all knowledge. Though somewhat detached because of their intellectual pursuits, an Aquarius is friendly and progressive in his personal life. He seeks knowledge not just for its own sake, but to share it with others and improve their lives by doing so. Their erratic pursuit of esoteric learning can make them eccentric and self-centered, though.

Aquarius is a masculine sign, and its element is Air. Amethyst, purple and full of palpable magical force, is the birthstone of Aquarius. Brass is its metal, and its colors are various shades of blue and purple. Physically, individuals born under the sign of Aquarius tend to have finely chiseled features and a slender figure. Male Aquarians are often somewhat soft in features, while females are somewhat broad-shouldered and strong looking but also fair.

Power Associations: Mind reading, mind control, super intellect, illusions, general psychic powers.

Pisces: The Fishes

With a sign that governs both beauty and health, a Pisces almost literally glows with attractive well-being. Where a Cancer would heal wounds, and a Virgo would heal spirits, a Pisces wipes away disease and pain. As well, their focus on appearance lends itself easily to the manipulation of appearance—illusion and reality mix freely for a Pisces. Sometimes impractical and even escapist in their fantasies, a Pisces is sensitive, creative and artistic. “Enchanting” applies to a Pisces in every sense of the word.

Pisces is a feminine sign, and its element is Water. Aquamarine is the birthstone of Pisces, and platinum is their metal. The colors associated with Pisces are aquamarine, purple and mauve. Individuals born under the sign of Pisces tend to have heavy-lidded and liquid eyes, a tall stature, and a broad physique. Their hair grows long but thin.

Power Associations: Healing, regeneration, aquatic powers, unnatural charisma.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sign of the Zodiac

It's been a while, but I'm not dead! Just very busy. In return, here's the outline for a superhero campaign I've been working on, Sign of the Zodiac.


Earth is a troubled world, a world in need of heroes. But then, it always has been.

At the dawn of time, beings called the Annunaki called Earth home. They built a grand civilization on the backs of human slaves, making their homes in enormous towers of gold and diamond. Their technology was advanced enough that they did not need servants, of course, but the possession of slaves was a status symbol among the Annunaki, and Earth slaves were especially prized.

Cruel and inhuman as the Annunaki were, no human could truly say they truly understood their masters, who possessed seemingly endless magical powers. They slew men for sport, pitted their slaves against one another in gladiatorial fights, made them construct monuments though they had the power to do so more quickly and efficiently, and turned the primitive world of Earth into a paradise for themselves—and a hell for its natives.

The people labored under their masters for countless centuries, unable to think even of the concept of freedom because of the Annunaki’s uncanny powers of mind control. Finally, there came a day when a single man arose from the masses of humanity to call for an end to the tyranny. His name was Gilgamesh, and in his wake was rebellion. Charismatic, resistant to the powers of the Annunaki, and possessing great physical strength and intelligence, Gilgamesh learned the secrets of the Annunaki “magic” and turned it against his former masters. From among the people, he chose twelve champions named for the constellations and granted them weapons to use against the Annunaki.

In time, Gilgamesh and his Zodiac defeated the Annunaki, cast down their mighty towers, and drove them from Earth. The first hero and his companions passed down into the annals of myth and legend. Over the centuries, the regalia of the Zodiac would sometimes resurface, usually no more than a piece or two at a time, and epic legends of heroes and villains would be birthed from their appearance. Similarly, pieces of lost Annunaki technology would sometimes be unearthed in the strangest places, leading to “natural” disasters or the rise of petty tyrants. History is speckled with the legends of such occurrences, shrouded in the language of mysticism.

As the 20th century approached, such events became more and more common, and the governments of the world started taking notice. The British Empire was the first to connect the legends and strange events together, leading to their imperial push in the Victorian Age. Those in the know had put together the bits and pieces of history, creating a terrifying tapestry that they could not afford to leave in the hands of enemies. They never managed to garner more than a few scattered relics of this hidden past, but their scramble for power led to other nations discretely participating in the grand game as well.

World War I was the beginning of the end for the British Empire. While it won the war, it lost much of its spirit keeping the dangerous Zodiac Signs out of the hands of Germany and its allies. The Zodiac heroes on the side of America and England were tired from all the fighting and hoped to retire gracefully. Unfortunately, several mighty relics falling to Germany and Japan spurred the Second World War, during which the secret finally became stretched too thin to keep. By the end of the war, costume-clad heroes bearing Zodiac Signs or wielding Annunaki relics were flying alongside American bombers in the European theater or guarding warships from attack in the Pacific. During this time, anyone with super-human abilities (regardless of source) became known as the empowered.

By 1945, Germany was defeated and Japan was holding out only from sheer desperation. Unable to crack the atomic secrets held by an Annunaki ship uncovered in the American southwest, the government of the United States ordered their most powerful Zodiacs—codenamed Aries and Taurus—to unleash their full power on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Though reluctant, they were persuaded by the military high command that such a display would ultimately result in the loss of less human life.

Something went terribly wrong. Instead of becoming simple demonstrations of Zodiac might on Japanese soil, the incursion turned into a full-on battle between the American Zodiacs and a cadre of Japanese soldiers wielding Annunaki technology. In the three-day-long fight, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were totally devastated, slaying tens of thousands of innocent civilians, inundating others with deadly radiation, and destroying buildings like matchbook houses. Finally, one of the relic-users tried something he had never done before, and for a brief second, Hiroshima was bathed in the fires of the sun. None of the empowered survived the battle, but the Japanese government was so demoralized by the attack that they finally surrendered.

After the end of the war, the world powers realized that another such conflict might mean the end of humankind. To avoid such a nightmare, a new organization was established to maintain and monitor the Zodiacs. The group, the United Nations, became a clearinghouse for diplomacy and negotiation, as well as the final arbiter of international conflicts. Armed with the power of the Zodiacs, no nation wanted to stand against the UN. The following decade saw peaceful relations between powers that once despised one another, at least on the surface. Truthfully, nations still fought and warred, they just did so on a smaller and more hidden scale. Since Zodiacs were only brought out for the most dangerous and significant situations, countries found that they could kill each other as much as they wanted, as long as they did so quietly.

The breakthrough in Annunaki technology came during the 1960s in Japan, as the government struggled to deal with the civil strife brought on by the rejection of American peacekeeping forces and the burgeoning population of Omegas. An Omega university student surpassed all of his peers when his Omega Gene went active, allowing him to leap decades ahead in raw technical prowess. By the end of the 70s, clean-energy engines were common and the internet had become a global phenomenon—and Japan had become the wealthiest country in the world. Many secrets remain to be pulled from the Annunaki relics, most of which still defy analysis. Still, it’s an exciting time to be alive.

The Present Day

The year is 1984. Jimmy Carter is the president of the United States, after winning a narrow victory against an actor-turned-politician from California. His efforts as a peacekeeper and humanitarian have made him incredibly popular with the international community, though he is little-liked by his own countrymen after several contentious decisions regarding his dealings with Communist nations. Still, America is wealthy, safe and powerful, riding high on its victories in the World Wars into a glorious future.

The Soviet Union is a mighty country, rival but not enemy of America, under the leadership of Konstantin Chernenko, though his ill health makes it seem likely that another leader will rise to take his place all too soon. Glasnost has been good to Russia, allowing the country to preserve its Communist ideals while still becoming more open to the world at large. America and Russia bicker amicably in the United Nations, while playing their long-term game of chess against one another through intermediaries in the third world.

The third great world power of this era is Japan, though Japan’s might is economic rather than military. With the large population of Omegas within the country, Japan has essentially supercharged its economy with laborers who exceed human strength and endurance, businessmen who can read minds or predict stock trends, and scientists capable of intuitively designing advanced computers and electronics. Their military, while substantially smaller than that of most major nations, is composed primarily of Omegas as well. The Japanese Self-Defense Force, or J-SDF as it is known, is the single largest organized group of Omegas in the world.

Much of Africa is in the grip of various Beta and Omega warlords, ruling over their territories like feudal kings without United Nations sanction or cooperation. China is restructuring itself as a pseudo-Communist state and rapidly becoming the Soviet Union’s primary local rival for power. The Middle East is a land of peace since the end of world reliance on oil, though just as prosperous thanks to their undertaking of major archeological and scientific study of the many Annunaki ruins beneath the surface of their lands.

Europe, on the other hand, has become a renewed hotbed of conflict since the German reunification in 1980 as the nations of the European Union, long engaged in rivalry with the Soviet Union, must now also contend with the German Federation. As well, England seems to be on a new imperial push after leaving the European Union in 1979 and conquering Argentina during the Falklands War of 1982 against United Nations political opposition. South America is rapidly restructuring its previously fractious governments to stand against English aggression, gaining a new foothold in the world community and building allies in the UN.

Modern Technology

Because of the rapid Japanese advances in electronics, computers, and robotics during the 1960s and 1970s, the modern day is a time of incredibly advanced technology. Cell phones, little more than science fiction a decade ago, have become a major part of the global communications network, and the InterNet (International Network) of home computers is rapidly gaining popularity as well. First world nations have access to nearly-unlimited power, most cars are electric, and virtually every citizen in the world’s largest countries owns a personal computer as well as a vehicle.

Along with the benefits of advanced technology have come the drawbacks, however. Energy weapons have taken the place of ballistics on the battlefield, and most security forces are now armed with “bolters” (plasma bolt weapons) or “sizzlers” (laser weapons) as well as advanced ceramic body armor. Only the most common criminals or concerned citizens use gunpowder weapons anymore. (The American right to bear arms was recently upheld to include “personal arms” like rifles and handguns but not “military arms” like bolters, but getting a military weapons license is easy enough for the wealthy.) Primitive force field technology has managed to banish the brief fears of nuclear war, after the development of the atomic bomb in 1969. Virtually every major city has a force-screen generator, allowing it to deflect incoming missile attacks, though these screen generators have only limited battlefield application.

Medical sciences have advanced along with civil and military sciences, making most forms of surgery simple outpatient procedures. Cybernetics have become quite improved, allowing people with missing limbs to regain almost full functionality (if not sensation). Exo-frames are becoming more popular in the medical field as well, used for restoring mobility to people with major bodily paralysis or granting it to individuals with mobility-related birth defects. Major strides have been made in cracking the Omega Gene, allowing for simple genetic manipulation and modification of individuals. Such “enhancements” have become very popular in some nations, leading to entire subcultures of body modifiers.

Space travel has been aided by the proliferation of free energy, and the United Nations has both a working international space station (named Lagrange Station) and a moon colony (ostentatiously called Luna City). A manned Mars expedition is expected within the decade, and corporate investors are pushing to allow private industry access to Luna City. Should they succeed, the sparsely populated moon colony could become a real city in very short order. Space exploration is considered vitally important for Earth, since modern people know that aliens exist, and that they’re likely to be hostile if the Annunaki are any standard to judge by.

The most unusual application of modern science is so called DT-science (short for Dimensional Theory science), the study of Annunaki technology. Most Annunaki relics store the bulk of their mass in sub-spatial dimensions, protruding only the necessary pieces into “normal” reality. The friction between dimensional strata is the basis for zero-point energy, the nearly limitless energy source that has made modern life so comfortable. The manipulation of dimensional layers is the origin of the seemingly miraculous properties of Annunaki relics (and the Zodiac Signs, of course), but little more than this is certain, even today. The few human made zero-point reactors are town-sized facilities, capable of putting out a small fraction of the power of a fist-sized Annunaki weapon.


Next post: The Empowered!