If you missed the Kickstarter, you can now buy the book.
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Pariah follows two novice base raiders, Emily, and Edge-Cutter, as they attempt to break into an abandoned base hidden in New York City. Unfortunately, a group of corrupt feds are trying to loot the base before they do. Emily will have to push her new psychic powers to their limit to survive, but is she prepared for what’s inside the base? I’ve uploaded it to Amazon and Smashwords as a 99 cent ebook. If you’ve already read and enjoyed Pariah, consider reviewing it on Amazon’s website.
The following excerpt is from the chapter “Powers Done Dirt Cheap”. It describes the history of so-called “super soldier drugs”. Want to learn about the other four formulas? Back the Kickstarter!
All of the hundreds of known super soldier drugs can be traced back to one of six formulas. The first of the formulas, the American-created Peak Performer formula, sparked an international arms race between nations when it was made public in 1947. Nations raced to create their own super soldiers through whatever means were available. By the end of the Cold War, the six major forumulas had been discovered. The fall of the Soviet Union and pressure by a coalition of superheroes and activists ended research and development into the field by government and corporate institutions. The UN later banned the use of the six formulas in frontline combat troops after reports of atrocities by super soldiers during various conflicts in the 1990s created widespread outrage.
Since then, virtually every government has banned super soldier drugs for most if not all uses, even for life saving medical purposes. Some pharmaceutical corporations lobby for relaxing the rules, arguing that milder, diluted versions of the drugs could benefit the public but no politician wants to be the first to make these drugs legal.
Ragnarok has not changed this equation yet but many advocates for legalization of some or all of the drugs have emerged to argue their case. Some ask that police and military operatives be allowed to empower themselves with the drugs, although some cops and soldiers already illegally ‘juice’ themselves. Others point out how lawless base raiders empower themselves recklessly, endangering themselves and others in the process. Legalization would reduce that risk. Corporate advocates lament the loss of a potentially huge market for ‘over the counter superpowers’. So far these arguments have not persuaded the powers that be.
Peak Performer: Enhancement drug that increases physical and mental performance. The original formula transformed its recipient into a world class athlete and drastically improved memory, mental acuity, and bravery. There are few side effects, except for increased aggression and antisocial behavior. Variations of the formula often focus in a single area: increasing IQ or agility for example. This is considered the safest drug but its effects cannot transcend absolute human limitations.
Interestingly enough, the US military conducted research on combining Peak Performer with other super soldier drugs and achieved limited success, a rarity in the field. Adding more than one drug in a single human is unpredictable and many times fatal. However, the military found a way to safely enhance a human with Peak Performer before introducing another super soldier drug. This research is heavily protected, although its existence may inspire similar work around the globe.
Peak Performer is the most common of all super soldier drugs and some consider it too weak to be considered a ‘real’ super soldier drug today. Despite this, it is still treated as one. Two variants have become highly valued street drugs, sold to the wealthy elite. “Harmony” provides a temporary boost to emotional stability, easing the pain of psychological trauma and providing a sense of wellness to the user. However, in order to achieve this effect, Harmony is mixed with powerful antidepressants. This prevents Harmony from permanently improving the user’s emotional stability and causes depression during withdrawal.
The other common variant, “Boost”, increases intelligence on and is used by lawyers, bankers, doctors, and other high earning professionals. At least those that can afford it and can find a dealer that actually has Boost for sale. However, Boost’s effects are permanent, which is a problem to the very few drug dealers that sell it. One sale does not a business model make. So far, they have resorted to two common tactics: lie about the permanence of the drug and sell placebos (which may be addictive drugs) or blackmail their clients for regular payments.
Krutov Protocol: A Soviet made formula aimed to boost resilience and strength to superhuman levels, the Krutov Protocol is a set of drugs administered over a period of three weeks. The recipient falls into a coma and undergoes a metamorphosis that lasts for approximately two days. The subject must be hooked up to IV feeds to fuel the transformation. During this time, the subject’s body radically changes. His bones and connective tissue become incredibly strong, yet only slightly heavier and less flexible. Muscle tissue becomes vastly stronger, raising the subject’s strength to superhuman levels. Skin becomes dense enough to serve as natural armor. The recipient typically gains regenerative abilities as well. The character typically gains several inches of height and gains a large amount of weight from the transformation. Furthermore, they are noticeably different than humans, as their armored skin is instantly recognizable.
Administering the Krutov Protocol requires a specially trained medical technician or doctor and support equipment to keep the subject alive during the metamorphosis. However, variations of the Protocol have emerged that cut down or eliminate these requirements. The most common variation, “Compound B13” promises about half the end result for a fraction of the cost. One injection of Compound B13 puts the subject in a 12 to 30 hour coma. New, denser muscle tissue is grown and bone strength is enhanced. The skin begins to harden as well but it takes months for a B13 subject to grow effective natural armor. Virtually all of the subject’s fat is burned up during this period and the amount of strength enhancement is proportional to the amount of fat lost during the coma. Furthermore, this places an incredible amount of stress on the subject’s body, drastically shortening lifespan and increasing chances for cancer, especially skin cancer. All variations of the Krutov Protocol cause great damage to the subject in the long term. Of course, most users gladly pay that price for the power it grants.
Abandoned superhero and villain bases are being discovered and looted around the world. Most of the raiders exploring the bases have given themselves superpowers by using the technology and magic found in them.
Who built the bases? A small cadre of superheroes once protected the Earth from supervillains and other global threats. Not too long ago, an alien ship appeared in orbit above the planet. It teleported every superhero and villain into it and then vanished without a trace. No one knows what happened to them but the need for heroes to protect the world is greater than ever.
Why are the bases being raided? Only a few months after the superhumans disappeared, a few civilians found the hidden base of a superhero. They found powerful weapons and equipment and instead of selling it, the civilians used the gear to save lives and fight crime. Word spread quickly and soon more bases were discovered. The first raiders boasted of their findings and some sold or gave the knowledge they found, enabling countless people to gain superpowers. Soon knowledge of the bases became public and thousands around the world began searching for them.
Why are there so many bases? It seemed that the heroes and villains had built countless bases around the world. Using super-science and alien technology or magic, it was trivial for a lone superhuman to build a large base. It was also necessary. The superhumans needed infrastructure to support their endeavors. They need armories to build and maintain their gear, medical bays to heal their injuries, labs and archives to conduct research, and safe houses to rest in. But neither hero nor villain could use normal facilities for their work. After all, they existed outside the law and any publicly known base was a target for attacks
Aren’t the raiders just thieves? There was another need for the bases: prisons and storehouses for beings and objects too dangerous to be allowed to exist in the outside world. Sapient doomsday weapons itching to detonate. Self-replicating robot armies. Demonic gods eager to take over the planet. Immortal serial killers and worse. These prisons are now unguarded. Heroic base raiders have to find and stop these time bombs before it’s too late.
What kind of dangers can the raiders expect? Most of the bases contained many traps and guardians. Robots, sentry turret guns, mines, mystical wards, bound demons, or undead assassins to name but a few potential challenges. Any hero or villain worth his title had to contend with deadly enemies that could attack at any moment. As a result, many of them only felt safe in a fortress, with vast numbers of traps and guards to protect them. Of course, being who they were, they usually had access to the most advanced technology or the most potent magic. Base raiders can expect virtually anything whenever they delve into an abandoned lair or hideout.
How do you find a base? These bases are hidden well so finding one is often an adventure in of itself. Some raiders investigate the missing heroes and villains, looking for patterns of activity to deduce where their bases would be. Other raiders use whatever advanced tech or magic they have to uncover one.Some will simply track down the friends and allies of the missing superhuman and bribe or coerce them into revealing the location. This doesn’t always work, as both the heroes and villains were notorious for keeping many secrets. A few stumble into them by blind luck. Many base raiders got their start this way, as they used whatever they found to jumpstart their careers as raiders. Finally, a few notorious raiders simply follow more successful base raiders until they lead them to a base. Then they drive off or kill the competition, claiming the base for themselves.
The first superhumans to emerge after the old heroes and villains disappeared were not government, corporate, or criminally backed soldiers. They were civilians, amateurs in the purest sense of the word. They had no fear of experimenting with the new discoveries, had no hesitation with altering themselves and had no shame in proving that they had learned how to become more than human. Most of all no one thought these amateurs would share what they had learned to any that asked them. But they did.
How did they become empowered? Mostly by plundering the countless hidden bases around the world. These bases were built by super technology or magic and were used as armories, safe houses, workshops, and labs. But once their owners disappeared, they began to be discovered. Inside many of the bases were superpower sources like:
Western Super Soldier Drugs
Think bleeding edge steroids and performance enhancing drugs. Enhanced strength, agility, and speed. But not just that. Enhanced low light vision. Moderate regeneration. Resistance to mind control powers. Bone density enhancers to handle the strength. All with relatively minor side effects. Of course the drugs are only safe if properly administrated by a trained team of doctors and biochemists but that didn’t stop desperate base raiders from trying them for an edge in power.
Soviet Super Soldier Drugs
The super soldier arms race in the Cold War led to the creation of many programs that eventually made their way into the hands of heroes and villains. Soviet drugs offer more raw power but with even more risk than American drugs. Soviets preferred strength over agility. A soviet super soldier could pick up a tank and throw it – but such a feat could only be done once. Alternate drug programs could grant psychic powers. The top of the line was the Widowmaker – a blend of psychic boosters and performance enhancers that granted precognitive and telekinetic powers that seemlessly blended in with martial arts training. The brutal side effects typically drastically limited lifespan or have other power side effects.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union discovered an easily manipulated natural dimensional portal in Tunguska, Siberia. They recovered many artifacts and samples from other universes. Unfortunately in 1987, they stumbled across a hostile alien macrocosmic being, too large to fit through the portal. It tried to force open the portal so it could move through but it was driven back after months of fighting. The dimensional portal became unstable and uncontrollable. The sheer costs of stopping the Event and containing it bankrupted the USSR. They collapsed in 1989.
Today the Exclusion Zone is as big as Massachusetts and a permanent UN security garrison is kept there to contain it. Still scavengers and looters sneak into the zone for artifacts to sell on the black market.
Alien weapons and other devices make it on the black market. Most are useless or only dangerous to the user but every once in a while, a diamond in the rough is found.
Omega was the world’s most powerful supervillain before his disappearance. He conquered a large swathe of Eastern Europe and ruled it with an iron fist. As a super genius, Omega mastered super-science and magic and was focused on killing all superheroes and conquering the world. Eventually, the US invaded Omega’s country with the help of a massive group of superheroes. Omega was hopelessly outmatched but in a move of desperation unleashed mystic weapons of mass destruction. They backfired and Omega was killed or banished. His people had suffered the most from the invasion and had to be relocated as the mystic weapons had made the country unlivable.
One Omega financed his country by selling his super-science and sorcery to criminal syndicates and third world despots. Knock offs and imitations have flooded the market since his disappearance. Power armor and mystic potions that grant temporary powers are especially popular.
A mystic visionary and hero – Cerulean had a vast library of magical grimoires. It has been raided and many of the books have turned up in the oddest places. Most are normal but a few spellbooks have gotten out. A few have even been digitized and made available on various websites and file trading communities.
Three alien invasions hit the earth in the last 60 years. Each left behind at least a few crashed alien ships loaded with strange tech. Most were seized by Earth governments but many smaller scouts and fighters crashed in isolated areas. The heroes that kept the crash sites guarded or hidden are no longer there to prevent the curious from exploring the wreckage.
These are only a few of the more common power sources but thousands of humans have gained superpowers already from these power sources. It’s only a matter of time before other power sources become common, as more bases are discovered and looted.