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Character: Thief of Time


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Susan plopped down on her bed with a sigh. She was just zoning out when the voice of her best friend and college roommate, Lily, jolted her back awake with "So, have you decided yet what classes you're going to take this semester?" Turning her head away, Susan mumbled something noncommittal and hoped Lily would take the hint. Instead, her friend walked over and said firmly "Listen, girl. You seriously need to get your *** in gear and figure out what you're going to do with your life. Enough procrastinating. Now, I'm going to go freshen up before my new job interview, and I expect you to have an answer by the time I'm ready to leave."


Susan held back the sigh until she heard Lily close the door to their bathroom. She knew her friend was right; tomorrow was the last day to sign up for classes, and she still had no idea what to select. The problem was that it was just so hard to make a decision; there simply wasn't enough study time in the world to learn how to do everything she wanted to achieve in life, and Susan couldn't bring herself to abandon any of her dreams, even to pursue others. Speaking of which . . . rolling back over, Susan let her mind drift and began to fantasize again. Maybe, if she could decide which of her visions of the future - all, of course, starring herself as a supremely competent agent - were most enticing, she would know where to commit herself.


"Get off your lazy bum and pick a class, now." ordered a strangely familiar voice. For one startled moment Susan thought she had fallen asleep and missed Lily coming out of the bathroom. But, no, the shower was still on; so, eyes opening, Susan looked over to see, sitting on the bed opposite . . . herself.


Blinking, Susan asked "Who . . . what are you?"


"Why, I'm you, darling - a future version of yourself, that is."


Still taken aback, Susan nonetheless retained enough presence of mind to eye the doppelganger critically and remark "Not very far in my future, from the looks of it."


"Don't be silly," the other Susan immediately snapped, "I'm from farther down the timeline than you can imagine - it's just," she added slyly, "that I've developed immortality, so I stopped aging."


Put off by the harsh tones, Susan's interest was piqued by a mention of immortality. Enough lifetime to study all the things she'd ever wanted to! Not noticing the thin smile of triumph that spread across her double's face, she asked "So why are you - I mean, why am I - I mean, why here? Now?"


"Because something's gone wrong!" The other woman appeared angry again, but more upset, and even worried. "You've heard that, every time we make a choice, an alternate universe is created? Well, that's not entirely true; only the keystones of Time itself, like us, have such an effect, but the most important decision point of your life is right now! And for some reason, at this most critical of crossroads, you're not using your power - and that choice jeapordizes all your futures, including me!"


"Power?" asked Susan, bewildered.


"Yes, power. Since your early childhood you've seen visions of how your life might turn out - I know that, because you're me. What you apparently haven't realized yet is that you are glimpsing actual futures, ways that reality does turn out - or will, if you don't screw it up!"


Susan sat up and glared at the woman sitting across from her. Giving up after a few moments, because it was disconcertingly like staring into a mirror, she retorted anyway: "Hey! I don't care who you are, it doesn't give you the right to speak to me that way!"


The other Susan glared right back, and seemed about to launch into a retaliation when suddenly she sat back, cast her eyes down, and muttered "Reality check, Susan. You are arguing with yourself, here. Get a grip, girl." Looking up, she said apologetically "Look, I'm sorry. Just try to imagine it from my point of view for a minute, allright? Err . . . " she thought about this for a moment. "From our point of view. Imagine that all your fantasies have come true, and you've lived them all out, and it only cost you a fraction of the study time it should have; but then, all of a sudden, it threatens to have all been just a dream, and you're going to wake up back in your college dorm room and none of it will have been real."


"Sounds like my usual day," Susan acknowledged. But despite that, she was intrigued. "You say it's all real?" she wanted to know.


"Exactly." said the other woman in an approving tone. "I've always been fast, haven't I? Now, here's how it works: the fantasies you're having aren't just your imagination, you're seeing yourself in action - the you from an alternate universe, where different choices were made. Your power doesn't extend to just seeing, though - you can reach across and pull yourself through, or propel yourself to an alternate timestream. There's more, but that's the basics of it; and, whenever you need to do something but don't know how to do it, just call for one of your alternate selves to come help out. You're still the star of the show, and you reap all the accolades, but the you that did all the work doesn't stick around to hog any of your glory."


"Wait . . . " said Susan, eyes narrowing; "What's the catch?"


"In return for them helping you out with whatever they've specialized in, you have to help them out from time to time. This means you still have to study, and work hard at it, to master whatever field you choose to approach."


"But what should I specialize in?" Susan wondered, cast back to her original problems.


"That's just the beauty of it!" her double burst out in excitement. "It doesn't matter! The mere act of making a choice will automatically create the parallel universes - timestreams where, altogether, you made every possible choice!"


"So I pick my classes, and then that's it?" Susan asked dubiously.


"One more thing, actually . . . you need the energy of Time to fuel your powers. But don't worry, I've got some here that'll give you a jump-start."


As fascinated as Susan was by all this, she was suddenly wary upon noticing the eager, predatory way that her future self leaned forward during their last exchange. "Umm . . . tell you what, just let me have a few minutes to think about it," she pleaded. "I mean, it's a very big step for me, don't you think?"


"You don't have time." her double insisted. As if on cue, the shower shut off, heralding Lily's imminient emergence from the bathroom. Lowering her voice, Susan's future self whispered urgently "After this, you'll have plenty of time, but you need to make a decision now."


When Lily opened the door and came out, she looked around their room and asked "Did you have someone else in here with you? I thought I heard voices."


Susan answered "No, there's noone else here. It's just me."


Susan's abilities could be imitated by a Variable Skill Pool with a peculiar SFX, but the talk she had with her future self barely gave credit to her full powers. Instead she has Duplication, with several character points "in reserve" (unspent) that may only be used for skills. Any time she wants to do something that she doesn't have the skill(s) for, she makes an Activation Roll to call up one of her duplicates that can do it; on failure, that version of herself is busy right now, and can't come to her aid. (When all of her duplicates' skill selections have been determined, she must wait until she can pay for more of them; until then, the duplicates with those skills are presumed to be "still in training", or being watched too closely to get away even for a few minutes.) If she needs something done that requires more than one skillset, she must call up all the appropriate duplicates. There is also a chance, every hour, that she will be "called up" by one of her alternate selves, and vanish for a while, only to reappear when that task is done [effectively, Extradimensional Movement: Time, No Conscious Control, Random Activation]. Thankfully, she doesn't spend nearly as much time on those side trips as she would, thanks to another of her powers: by spending the chronological energy she has stored up, she can temporarily accelerate the speed at which she moves and thinks (relative to the rest of reality). So, for the accountant Susan, a combination of her extremely high skill levels and this power lets her do another Susan's taxes in just a few minutes (it seems like longer to her, but she only has to leave her own life behind for a few minutes). Nor does she age while she is accomplishing those tasks, or even in her "normal" activities, and this is the true horror of her powers: "Borrowed Time" allows her to Drain the Time from other people, so she's using their life instead of hers. To fuel all of her powers, she must either touch someone to forcibly take their Time, or obtain their consent through trickery or deceit (this is easier than it sounds: how many times have you had someone call you and ask "Pardon me sir, would you mind giving me about five minutes of your time?"). [The base effect is a 3d6 Speed Drain, averaging 10 points; in other words, with each touch, she can subtract 1 from her victim's SPD and add 1 to her own. This might work out better as a Transfer, using the Drain only when she desires to permanently store Time in her END reserve.]


She has also become somewhat addicted to Time; when her future self touched her, she also drained away an unknown portion of Susan's own Time, and teased her with not saying how much. Susan desperately wants to keep stealing other people's Time, if only to keep herself alive, because she doesn't know how long she has left to live. Susan feels cheated by this, and forced to keep shortening the lifespans of other people in order to survive. Currently she feels more like a villain than a hero, though the nonapparent nature of her powers could let her exist as a hero for some time while maintaining secrecy about her vampiric needs - but her guilt will always haunt her. Susan isn't sure how she feels about her own existence, for that matter - and part of her hopes that, someday, she will grow powerful enough to travel back through Time and, somehow, prevent herself from ever having existed.


Notes on play: this is a good character to introduce to a new campaign with a GM you don't know, but who claims to be running a low-combat game. In such a game, the character is actually fairly low-powered; it's when the GM throws the first dangerous fight at Susan, that you should say "Okay, she summons up all her duplicates and they start draining Speed." Naturally the GM will laugh, since you didn't have enough points left after all of Susan's duplicates to buy a serious attack, and his NPC is built like a tank. That's when you pull out all the stops, and say "My reserve points, the ones that would have been used for additional skill levels with age? I'm using 5 of them to buy Coordinated Attack."

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