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.
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.
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!
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