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  2. How can a series where the protagonist is literally Satan possibly make itself family-friendly?
  3. About damn time! It's a shame they didn't get around to this while Lee was alive. Unfortunately this is making me wonder about all those cameos. Although he seemed all right in those (and was really good as a voice cameo in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse) I'm wondering how much of the money for them he actually received and got to use.
  4. Today
  5. tkdguy

    More space news!

    Liquid water on Pluto?
  6. I ran out of reactions for the day. I am enjoying them greatly and want to see more!
  7. That's it for that one. It never got the "formal" Champions-esque sectional write-up, as that hadn't been the point of the exercise. Clearly I started to do just that, but shortly after getting this far, one of my players announced that they really wanted their character to "study" under this character, so things changed up a bit: he aged thirty years (wow! Just like that!), had nearly retired from the police force as the Indian government had been pretty heavy-handed about pressing him into training select teams of men, and he only agreed to it on the grounds that he would train policemen from all over the world. While training some of the police in New York, a policeman from Campaign City (i.e., my player's character, who was a detective in his secret ID) had the chance to train, and the Tiger was so taken by his potential and dedication that he travelled to Campaign City, where he stayed for the next four years, teaching the PC. (if you're wondering, that particular campaign wrapped up in about four years, and the PC retired.) The Tiger was never a player character, and was never intended to be any kind of real character at all; he was created as an example for a buddy of mine, period. Oddly, he ended up being a recurring NPC-- never really directly involved with the adventures per se, but being on "conveniently placed" news stories that point out situations in that part of the world that might need PC assistance. (and for those who _might_ be wondering: yes, he is ram-rod straight to the point of being kind of an ass. Not on purpose, mind you: he's not really a jerk. He's just abrupt, determined, unsw--- he's a paladin. How's that? Kind of a dick, but not like a _dick_ dick...?
  8. Powers and Abilities; Personality and Motivation: Lohit Bagha is one of the most unique metahumans alive today. He is also one of the most unique parahumans to have ever lived. While his martial arts prowess and seeming invincibility have allowed him to face and defeat some of the most powerful of super-powered beings, it is the source of his abilities that make him unique: Lohit Bagha was not born parahuman. He endured no accident or operation or serum or magics to make him parahuman. Lohit has been retro-actively classed as parahuman, but it is the nature of his metahuman abilities that have granted him parahuman power. Lohit Bagha does carry levels of resolve and strength of will that could be considered parahuman, however. It is entirely through this strength of will that he is capable of parahuman levels of power. His single-minded focus on rigorous training and discipline have granted him a skill level as a melee combatant that may have only been matched a dozen times throughout human history; he posses undeniably metahuman skill levels in martial combat. As formidable as his skills alone are, however, it is the power and speed with which he is able to strike— even the raw strength he is able to exert during combat— that are clearly parahuman. This power comes from his sheer determination to not just emerge victorious, but an absolute personal _need_ for a clear, fast, and absolute victory, leaving his opponent with the understanding that he has absolutely no hope of ever besting Lohit in combat. Lohit has shown the ability to will himself to function perfectly and flawlessly, even with broken and sometimes crushed bones, torn muscles, and severe internal injuries. One official report shows that after detaining, disarming, and arresting a group of criminals, he mounted his patrol motorcycle and rode to the hospital, where nine bullets were removed from him. Hours later, he returned to the police station and requested assignment to his next duty. Compounding Lohit’s power is an ability to somehow increase his willpower through— for lack of a better term— sheer force of will. Lohit himself cannot imagine any set of circumstances that would stop him from his self-assigned duties of protecting others and stopping those who would do harm. Even when he feels himself begin to tire or begin to question his ability to continue, he draws from himself a deeper resolve, and greater motivating force. This cycle can continue apparently endlessly. It is this same willpower that provides his seeming invulnerability. Under no circumstances will Lohit allow himself to show any sign of weakness, injury, or strain until a situation is resolved or he is completely confident that he cannot be observed. This is not arrogance, but an important part of his belief in what his adopted uncle and many of his teachers and masters have taught him: his opponents must never be allowed to believe that they may one day be able to best him through violence. Through force of will alone, Lohit is able to always present himself during a critical situation as calm, in control, and totally unfazed by by any situation. He will never appear injured or even taken aback by any attack or tactic used against him, regardless of his actual condition. This has proven many times to be unsettling to opponents, particularly highly-skilled or unusually powerful opponents, and has often led them to make critical tactical mistakes. The power that Lohit can channel into a blow is difficult to measure, as is the full spectrum of his martial abilities, since he has always refused to demonstrate any sort of physical force beyond restraining an opponent, which he willingly teaches to anyone who asks. He has gone on the record as stating that violence is reprehensible, and he will always refuse to make a spectacle of it for any reason. However, given the opponents that he has defeated in battle, and their own records and abilities, it is safe to say that Lohit Bagha is undoubtably the single deadliest barehanded fighter alive today, and may well be the most dangerous human being to ever live. To date, he has trained only two men in the rudiments of his art (the two officers who attempted to follow him into battle against the Iron Soldier), and even then, while they are excellent combatants in their own right, they are not even shadows of Lohit’s own prowess. Each of Lohit’s trainers— presumably those who trained the Red Star himself, or perhaps former students of those men— has imparted to him entire styles and systems of of unarmed combat, which Lohit has has blended together and modified to create his own unique and explosive style of fighting, which seems based on the dervish-like dances his “uncle” taught him in his youth. Lohit’s style depends on tightly controlled defensive moves and dodges that he chains together to set up explosively swift and powerful counterstrikes. He appears to be completely untouchable in combat, letting his opponent exert energy and eventually lose his own control, at which point Lohit strikes, almost leisurely, but with highly exacting, pinpoint accuracy and crushing strength. He has an overwhelming preference for nerve strikes and disabling blows as opposed to excessively broad blows, preferring to remove an opponent from combat through the two-pronged method of overwhelmingly disabling him while doing minimal permanent harm and the psychological impact such methods have on a competent combatant who is being stripped of control over his own body. While this is undeniably his preference, he has no qualms about breaking bones, either, and will select a combination of moves that will most quickly and most effectively render an opponent unable to continue fighting. All who have ever trained him have all confessed that Lohit Bagha has demonstrated himself to be not only the most capable student ever taught, but to be far, far ahead of any other, perhaps even the Red Star himself. Lohit does not focus his training on solely combat. This same comment has been made by the various mystics and holy men who’s enlightenment and teachings Lohit has sought over the years. Lohit carries to this day the firmly-entrenched beliefs of his parents and his “Uncle Whitey:” that violence is an evil to be openly shunned at most any cost, and used only against those who are open only to violence. Even then, violence should only be used to enforce the understanding that violence is the worst possible method to achieve a goal. To ensure that Lohit would not succumb to the temptation represented by his ever-growing mastery at administering violence on what was approaching super-human levels, he sought the teachings of as many sage men— those whom he believed to be truly enlightened— as he had teachers of martial skill in order to maintain his spiritual balance. It was, in an amusing twist, this training that helped him meet the goal once explained to him by his uncle: the ability to deliver an always-overwhelming defense, the ability to meet any attack with counter-attack far in excess of what the attacker himself could ever deliver. Lohit learned to draw upon his own will as a source of power. Ki, Chi, Heart, Soul, Resolve— there are perhaps more words for the concept than there are philosophies that revere them. Ultimately, it all comes down to drawing power from one’s faith in oneself, and one’s overwhelming need to achieve a goal. Lohit can not only draw from his will, but his own faith in his willpower amplifies his belief in his ability, which in turn increases the will upon which he can draw. In effect, he becomes a psychological feedback loop for the resolve he needs to stop an opponent. At precious few times throughout his history, such as the video footage of his battle with the Iron Soldier, Lohit has been reported by onlookers to “burn” or “glow” with the energy he is about to channel into a blow. These instances, while extremely rare, seem to allow him to deliver blows so powerful that the force of the blows themselves do extensive damage to Lohit himself. Even then, his willpower and resolve allow him to continue on, as if he were in perfect fighting condition.
  9. There was more to Lohit's refusal than he had stated publicly, of course. While the reason he gave-- an unwillingness to stop directly serving the citizens of the city to which he was currently assigned, and his on-going work in cleaning up the police force itself-- were entirely true, there were other, more private reasons, first and foremost being his belief that he was simply poorly-qualified to be superhero. Superheroes were Paras and Metas and orders of magnitude more powerful than a mere policeman. They could fire lasers from their eyes and fly through the air like rockets and laugh when hit with bullets. Lohit could do none of these things. No; best off to let them find a real Super to be a pretend hero. Lohit was completely unaware of his own power. Certainly he wasn't born a Parahuman, but through sheer determination and willpower he had done something that only the tiniest fractional percent of all humanity could ever hope to do: he had _made_ himself into a Metahuman-- a normal human with exceptional talents or skills well beyond any reasonable human limit. He was incredibly fast, able to react to a situation even before his mind had fully processed it. He could strike ten blows before even the best-trained military man could strike twice. More than one person had witnessed the single time that Lohit Bagha had unholstered his sidearm in a combat situation. Even then, he did not fire at his attackers: he merely used his pistol to swat bullets out of the air as they were fired at him. In spite of his humility, Lohit Bagha did become something of a superhero, at least to the average citizen in his jurisdictions, and an inhuman terror to the criminals he opposed. More and more, the citizenry and even the media, when his work brought some newsworthy bit before the public, were referring to him not so much as Detective Lohit Bagha, but by the much looser translation of his name: "the Red Tiger." As the criminals he targeted became more and more powerful— higher and higher ranking members of major cartels— so, too, did their minions. Over the next decade, Lohit went head-to-head with a number of genuine super-powered parahumans, and always he emerged on top. His name blasted onto the international news feeds just a few years ago, when the Iron Soldier-- the gigantic Victorian monstrosity that continued to upgrade and rebuild itself in its quest for true self-awareness-- felled all eight members of India’s government-sponsored team of costumed parahumans, in a terrifyingly-short twelve-minute battle. Lohit Bagha was on duty when the call came that all available police officers— on duty or otherwise— report immediately to help evacuate citizens and offer what resistance they could to the Iron Solider should the on-scene supers fail to stop his advance. Lohit and twelve of his best men arrived at the scene in time to see Bhālā, the Spear, the last of his teammates left standing member, fall to the mechanical giant. The Iron Solider had barely broken his stride as he engaged and defeated eight of the most powerful parahumans in India. Lohit behaved as if the facts of the situation had somehow failed to register with him. His men stared in hollow disbelief as he marched forward, barking to them “Men, we must allow him to go no further. Take defensive positions and arm yourselves.” Two men advanced, mesmerized, absently drawing their weapons as they followed their superior. Ten others scattered for the safety of the empty buildings behind them. “Metal One,” Lohit clipped with authority toward the Iron Solider as he strode toward giant, “you will leave this place in peace. You will go no further toward this city or these people.” There was not a hint of fear or panic in his voice; there was only the flat authoritative insistence of one charged with maintaining order. The metal behemoth ignored him as he strode forward, not even classifying him as a nuisance. As he stepped casually over Lohit, the police officer’s face set grimly. He doubled into a one-footed stance and, as his body seemed to begin to radiate light, he spun hard and fast, re-issuing his orders to the mechanical threat. “I said you will leave this place. You will not take another step toward this city!” As he whirled around, his leg shot out, low, and connected with the earth under the foot of the giant with a boom that rattled windows. The earth itself shook and split as Lohit’s foot struck and continued to move with his spin, digging a furrow that deepened and widened and caused the earth itself to give way beneath the clumsy iron giant. The giant fell, and the whole world heard the crash. Instantly, helicopter journalists were snapped onto live feeds not just for the region, but for the entire planet. The whole world watched as a single crazed policeman signed his own death certificate with an incredibly lucky blow. However, Lohit did not die. Even as the Soldier was falling behind him, Lohit leaped spinning into the air in a jump that carried him an unfathomable twenty feet or more above the ground and launched himself back down before the head of this colossal opponent. “Do not rise from this position, Giant. You have disobeyed a direct order from a law officer to cease your advance. You may crawl away in any direction away from this place, but should you attempt to regain your feet, I will have no choice but to interpret it as intention to attack this city. This I cannot allow.” Even as he spoke, he snaked back and forth, twisting and circling first one leg, then the other. The Iron Soldier rose up on his hands and knees and studied the man before him, reassessing him. As he studied him, soft clanking noises and the hiss of steam jerked Lohit’s attention and he leapt again, up to the giant’s shoulders. He could see clearly the canon array on the Soldier's back and the damage to the armor that supers had managed to inflict before they were subdued. He ran forward, spinning and flinging himself toward the barrels of the large guns. Study of the video footage shows that in the space of ten seconds, Lohit delivered two-hundred and forty-eight blows, all powerful enough to deform the steel barrels of the Iron Soldier's primary offensive weapons. He backflipped to stand again before the mighty machine, which had already begun to take its feet. “Do not attempt to use your cannons, Giant! It will result in destruction of your own doing. Examine yourself, if you are able, and you will know that I speak the truth.” The Iron Soldier paused briefly. He threw a collapsium-clad fist toward the officer before him, who sidestepped it deftly, bringing his pistol down in a tight arc that chopped in behind the Soldier’s wrist. Instantly, three of the giant’s fingers opened and spasmed, twitching uncontrollably. Sparks spat from severed electrical lines and hydraulic fluid leaked into the sand. “You will cease resisting the order to leave this place. You will leave at once, or I will have no choice but to apprehend and imprison you!” The Iron Soldier, notoriously clumsy when off his feet, continued his attempt to stand. Valves in his torso opened, and without thinking, Lohit fired his pistol directly into four small vents facing him, rupturing the steam lines behind them. As Lohit holstered his weapon, the remaining valves vented radiation-tainted steam at pressure and temperature enough to strip the flesh from a normal man, but Lohit was unharmed; the vents he had destroyed allowed him a large arc in which no steam was vented. Instead, the steam seemed to have been vented into the Iron Soldier's own internal workings. His movements became erratic, and his reactions clearly showed signs of logical breakdown and— if such is possible for a machine— panic. It didn’t last long, but a few moments of what appeared to be fear displayed by something that had in the collective consciousness long ago come to be considered a force of nature cemented the global reputation of Lohit Bagha forever. The Iron Soldier made the final stagger to his feet and shot his good arm toward Lohit, fingers spread in an attempt to grab and perhaps crush his opponent. Lohit dodged, nimbly leaping over the hand and running up the arm that carried it. “I told you, Metal One, do not regain your feet; do not attempt to continue your attack!” With that, he struck a lighting quick, terrifying knife hand directly into the optic sensors that served as the Soldier’s left eye, shattering it and leaving the titan without depth perception. He spun around then, flipping himself over his own shoulder, again beginning to radiate a luminous energy. “You _will_ fall, Machine, if you do not surrender your course of action!” His leg came down like like Vulcan’s hammer, striking the back of the Iron Soldier’s head with enough force to turn his face away and the delta V of the strike threw the Soldier's own stabilizers briefly into false compensation. The Iron Soldier again fell into the sand, this time unable to catch himself on his damaged arm. Lohit leapt into the air as the clockwork giant fell out from under him, and landed in a perfect double-kick strike at the back of the Iron Soldier's neck, one of the few places not armored by collapsium. There were a series of noises— electrical sparks, metal being torn and bent, and steam leaking from a dozen torn conduits. The Iron Soldier’s head was bent backward, and the damage to his internal structure prevented him from straightening his gaze forward. Lohit spun backwards off the giant’s back and moved again directly into his line of sight. “Machine, I have no wish to destroy you. I have heard that you may, in your own way, be as alive as any of us formed from flesh and bone. But I will not allow you to move against this city or to harm those people within it. I give you a last chance: crawl away from here. If you regain your feet, you will see only sky, as I have bent your neck to the heavens. Take to your knees and what remains of your arm and crawl away from here. Do not return.” The Iron Soldier assessed itself, its situation, and became enraged. Metallic noises and the whirring of gears precluded the presentation of large-caliber weapons from various compartments along his arms. He fired with abandon. The world gasped as each bullet— each and every one of them— that should have hit Lohit directly was swatted away by the policeman who used his own sidearm to deflect them. The Soldier continued to attempt to regain his feet, but even as he deflected the onslaught aimed at him, Lohit drew himself into a defensive stance, tighter and tighter and the brilliance began again to emanate, brighter and brighter until the man himself was barely visible. The light ran up and down the metal giant, stopping for a moment here and a moment there, pauses so brief as to only be noticeable during slow-motion viewings of the footage. The ringing of blows on metal was so fast and so powerful as to sound more like a gigantic machine gun than hands and fists brought against the densest steel science had ever devised. The Iron Soldier spasmed and twisted and with each beat of the onlookers’ hearts the Soldier suffered more and more damage. The attack lasted two full minutes. When it was done, the terrifying IronSoldier lay twitching in the sand, each moment producing a shower of sparks or a hiss of steam or a jet of some lubricating or hydraulic fluid. Bare-handedly, or so it seemed, Detective Lohit Bagha had very nearly destroyed the Iron Soldier. As the Soldier continued to test and assess itself, it came to rest with its face and one remaining optic sensor directly in front of Lohit Bagha. It reassessed itself and the damage it had sustained. It took particular notice that Lohit looked completely untouched, and seemed not even to be winded. Lohit stepped closer to the machine, filling its view. Softly, firmly, he addressed the machine. “This place is sacred, and to be protected at all times, against all who would do harm. There is a wall here. It is ten thousand meters high, and it is ten thousand meters thick, and it is infinitely wide. Do you understand, Giant?” The Iron Duke very slowly backed away from Lohit, and even more slowly turned itself across the sand, difficult with it’s legs damaged beyond the ability to walk and one arm missing completely from the elbow. Then it crawled away from the city, out toward the desert, and to the sea beyond. As it began to crawl away, one police officer, running to ensure that Lohit was not mortally injured, was shocked to see that Lohit was to all appearances completely untouched— even his uniform was still pressed and fresh, and his hair was more tousled by the breeze than it had been by the battle. As the junior officer stood in shock, he watched Lohit turn and walk back to his police motorcycle and heard him whisper to no one in particular “Ten thousand meters,” but did not have the presence of mind to inquire about the relevance of the comment. What only a tiny handful of people know is that when he left his battle with the Iron Soldier, Lohit checked himself into a small hospital and was kept there for nearly nine weeks. His leg was broken in three places, his tibia nearly crushed, and his hands mangled almost beyond use. Yet even as he walked away from the battle and swung himself onto his motorcycle and rode away, not a single person had been able to detect his injuries. He had several ripped and torn muscles and joints and suffered burns across a good portion of his face and torso from the Iron Soldier’s anti-personnel steam blast defense. While in the hospital, he showed signs of radiation sickness. Yet in just nine weeks, he walked out, in every bit the shape he was before he encountered the Iron Soldier, and looking as if he had never suffered so much as a paper cut in his entire life.
  10. "Bihman, I do not pretend to understand your innermost mind, but I understand your fears as a father and a man of peace. I promise you that I have nothing in mind beyond giving Lohit the best possible chance of being a protector of others that I possibly can. Should the rest of his days be filled with chasing down lost chickens for farmers, I will be pleased, if it makes him happy. Know that I simply wish to ensure he has the _ability_ to protect, should need ever arise. As you saw yourself on the chars, it can arise in even the most sleepy, peaceful of places. Where would you and your people have stood without someone like me then, Bihman?" "The boy will not travel with you today." Bihman answered curtly. "Father--!" "Lohit!" chimed both adults. Bihman continued "Lohit, I am doing this because you are not yet ready to make the decision. You cannot consider the danger that lies in what Sādāṭē offers." "Father, Uncle wishes to train me to defend against that danger--" "Do not argue with your father, Lohit." Sādāṭē ordered. "He is right. You are not old enough, or you would understand that the danger he speaks of is not external, but within: the danger of temptation. One who holds power can be daily tempted to use it as he sees fit. Remember that your vision of right is not the only right, and too often it is not the most right. You will not be ready until you fully understand that the teaching I offer cannot supplant that offered by your father. What I offer must at all times be _guided_ by the things he has taught you, lest you become precisely what society must be protected against." Bihman nodded sagely. "Forgive me, Brother. I did not believe, until now, that you truly understood my fears." "I have known you many years, Bihman Bahga, and in all that time I have called you 'Brother' because I have loved and respected you as one. For the life you have given me since we first met, I should call you 'Father' as well. I certainly respect you as one. "I must take my leave, Brother." He turned to Lohit "and goodbye to you, too, Nephew. I look forward to seeing you both two years hence." "Wait, Uncle---! Before you go, what is the other list? The strangers and their addresses?" "Ah, yes. That. Lohit, I do not know what you have learned of the man once called 'The Red Star;' I suspect that your parents have been less than forthcoming, and for that I am grateful. I should like to have that entire part of my life undone, even if it meant never having been born at all, for the evil I once willingly did. Suffice it to say that at one point, there were very few on this earth who could stand against me. "I wasn't born that way, of course-- not like so many of the metahumans we hear about in the newsreels. And while much of what the Red Star was he was through science and technology, at his heart, he was most dangerous because of his unparalleled training. I dare say that there has been no other human being alive more exhaustively and extensively trained in combat of all types-- hand-to-hand, armed, long-range weapons, tactics, troop movements--- "That list is a list of the men and the students of the men who trained me in the areas that I feel will most serve you, should you decide to take my offer. If for some reason, I cannot keep the appointments I have made for you, then seek these men out. They will help you." "Why should they help me?" "Arrangements have been made. As you find them, you must tell them precisely this truth: “The sun has set in a red fire. “The world will be dark forever should the sun not rise again. "They will then guide you." "Thank you, Uncle. I will consider your choice carefully." "Good-bye, Bihman; I hope to see you in two years." Two years later, Lohit left with his father; Bihman Bahga returned to the village alone. Until he was just before his nineteenth birthday, Lohit studied with his uncle Sādāṭē, the man once known throughout the world as the Red Star, iron enforcer of the will of the Kremlin, and quite possibly the greatest hand-to-hand combatant ever to live. Lohit returned to the village at nineteen, taking a break from his training with his uncle and wanting to spend a few months with his family before joining the Police Academy the following year. It was during this time that the world was stunned by the news that the Red Star, once believed to have died during a malfunction of a fuel/air bomb, had been found and "brought to justice" in communist China. The family of Bihman Bahga was devastated, most especially Lohit. As Lohit was preparing his things for the trip to the police academy, Bihman brought him a creased and worn envelope. Inside was the list Sādāṭē had made for Lohit: names and last-known contact information for the people who helped make him the Red Star. Lohit looked at his father, puzzled. "Lohit, I can teach you all I know. I can hope for you all I can hope. In the end, however, it is your life, and you must live it in the way that most pleases you. Your uncle taught me as much or more than I taught him. It saddens me that it has come to me so late that his ideas are as true as my own. There are those who need to be protected. If it is your wish to be that protector, Lohit, then it is my dream that you be the best possible protection for those who need you. Take this. Finish first you training at the Academy, then finish as you can your training in the world." Lohit looked at his father, inexpressible love in his eyes. There were no words. He hugged him tightly, saying only "I will father. For you, for Uncle, I will be the best protector those who need me can ever have. I swear it." Lohit excelled at the Academy, graduating with the topmost possible honors. No one who knew him expected any less, really. In all his life, he never undertook anything that he didn't throw himself into fully. Before taking a job as a police officer, he took off for nearly four years, tracking down the first and second contacts on the list his uncle had left for him. He trained intensely, with the same single-minded determination he had shown at the academy, and with his uncle before that. He returned to India and took a post as a rural motorcycle policeman, running a seven-town route akin to that which his little village had been on when he was a child. His route was considerably less peaceful than the one upon which he had grown up, and he quickly made a name for himself as being beyond corruption and for never failing to apprehend a suspect, regardless of their wealth , power, or social position. This made him many enemies, of course, but even those that hated him regarded him with great respect and more than a little fear. The most notable point in his early career was almost anti-climactic. Early in the morning hours, as he rode the plains to the next village on his route, he was set upon by eight men, all well-armed and all hired to kill the incorruptible servant of the law. In less than two minutes, Lohit Bahga, rural patrolman, stood over the unconscious pile of his assailants. Securing them and loading them onto his motorcycle and sidecar rig posed more of a challenge than did the showdown, but his reputation was cemented when, rather than turning about and carrying his prisoners to the jail behind him, he continued on to the next four villages on his route, maintaining his schedule flawlessly. Word rapidly spread of his feat, and within weeks, the villages on his route became much quieter, and the inhabitants much happier. As the next few years wore on, Lohit continued his training with those rare masters on the list his uncle had left for him, and he would devote as much time as he could searching for signs of Sadate himself, never having been completely convinced that his uncle had been-- or even could be-- captured. His efforts were fruitless; nonetheless, he continued trying. As word of his formidable police work, devotion to duty, and nearly unparalleled combat skills, and in particular his complete devotion to the well-being of the citizens he served, spread up through the police force and eventually even to the government, Lohit was approached to serve as the Truth, the Indian government's knee-jerk reaction to the proliferation of flag-suit Paras during the 80s. Lohit declined, believing that there was little he could do in tri-colored spandex that he couldn't do better as a policeman. Further, he felt that accepting such a position would actually _remove_ him from his duty of protecting the citizens while simultaneously setting himself up as a pawn of politics, something that he had early in his adulthood learned to despise. "Negotiation and trading with your neighbors is one thing, but haggling and brokering for simple power is reprehensible" he had remarked once during a mayoral campaign in which his stellar reputation among the people was being used to cast the incumbent in a favorable light.
  11. This pretty much aligns with how the Charisma/Comeliness debate went with AD&D back in the ‘80s. People were confused by Charisma, and mistook it for “attractiveness” in terms of looks, which it was not (at least exclusively). I was thinking the same thing, which could really go sideways if you had to start specifying, for instance, different COM scores for different kinds of interactions (COM: male, COM:female, or COM:muscular, COM:curvey, etc. etc.). It gets out of hand pretty quickly, and while it offers a great deal of granularity, it is only nominally useful even in roleplaying.
  12. Sādāṭē stood before them now in nothing but a simple breechcloth tied around his waist. He looked like nothing so much as he looked like a man who had been blow up and then stitched back together again in a macabre patchwork of scars over scars, skin grafts, lumps and twists. His legs were completely mechanical, one of them twisted slightly, showing damage that was at least two decades old. Showing here and there through his flesh was clear evidence of some sort of mechanical secondary skeleton. A few plates and pieces here and there and a series of small machine motors and pistons that race in and out of one forearm. Only his face and neck seemed untouched. save for the rheumy pink eyes that now glowed as if lit from within. Lohit noticed that it wasn't just his eyes; his whole body began to glow, wisps of phosphorescent reds and pinks rose from his skin and curled around him like smoke. His voice changed, too, taking on a crackling inhuman static-filled quality. The air around him vibrated and burned. He looked at the would-be-tyrant on the ground in front of him. "Not you. Not your men. Not your spies. There is nothing here for you but death." The Colonel's eyes opened wider even than his slack jaw gaped. "Th-- th.. The Red Star!" He yelped, genuine fear in his voice. "You know me." Sādāṭē stated. "I-- I.. I-- You're the Red Star!" he repeated, dumbstruck. "Then you know that you have no hope. There is no offense you can raise that I cannot crush with a thought." As if to demonstrate, the air around the suddenly-terrified villagers exploded outward with a deafening "whoompf" and swept away from them in every direction, as if a bomb had gone off. Every trace of the camp that had existed here for months was swept away, into the river and beyond. The Colonel began to laugh. "You cannot let me leave, peasant." The chuckled again, as if he had found some new leverage. "You cannot send me away from here, knowing that Russia would make me a very wealthy man just for the name of this village you are hiding in!" He laughed again. "Perhaps we should come to some sort of an agreement, Russian?" "You will leave here. Russia will not reward you; they will not find me here. They do not take kindly to liars who seek payment." "Then what is to stop me from returning? This place is good for business, Russian." "You will leave here. You will not come back because I am also leaving here. And for the rest of your life, I will be just behind you. Do not attempt to come back. You will not survive it." The villagers had rounded up the weapons of the men on the chars and sent them to their boats. They motored upstream to Lohit knew not where. They did not ever return. When they arrived back at the village, it was nearly nightfall, and the entire village knew everything that had transpired. Sādāṭē was instantly the most feared man the village. Even those who had known him only as the friendly albino with the limp that tutored the children and fixed their machines could not look him in the eye. He was no longer Sādāṭē. In the minds of all those old enough to know the name, he was the Red Star, and the people were terrified. "Must you leave, Uncle?" "I must, Lohit. But you and your family have done very well for yourselves, and you always will, so long as you remember the teachings of your parents." "I remember also the things you have taught me, Uncle." It had been just over a year since the incident on the char. Lohit had faithfully continued his training, and many of the other village children and even some of the adults, fearful of the return of the Colonel or someone like him, and also sought training. "Then remember all that you have learned, Lohit, from all your teachers. Continue to practice what you have learned, and learn all that you can." "Why must you go? We are at peace now; no one has come looking for you here." "They will, Lohit. Do you not see the different way the villagers treat me? They fear me. No one can live long under fear before they seek to resolve it. Either someone will give away my secret, or someone will attempt something unfortunate in an effort to rid the town of me. I want neither of these things to happen." "Why do they fear you? You have never before or since wielded your power, Uncle. Is it your appearance?" "No; Lohit. They are older than you. They remember the man that I was. The man that your parents rescued from himself." "Who were you before?" "It doesn't matter, Lohit. What matters is that you take a lesson from this. What you see now is the second face of violence: having seen what I am capable of doing-- and do not ask me what that is, for I will not tell you, Little Cub. Ha! Little Cub! You are growing so quickly, Lohit! And you have matured so much. You are nearly grown into your name, 'Red Tiger.'" Sādāṭē laughed again, then continued: "having seen what I am capable of, they fear as individuals that I may single them out as targets. "I do not want them to live with that fear, Lohit, and I do not wish to remember who I used to be. I must go. Only then will the village feel safe from me, and only then will I be safe from the village." "Safe from the village?! Uncle, even should they band together to strike you down--" "LOHIT! Remember what I taught you? What your parents taught you?! It is now and always shall be the hallmark of evil to force your will onto another for any reason other than to stop that person from harming another. What you suggest is unthinkable. Better that I should leave. Before I go, though, meet me atop the char with the river bluff, the place that your training began in earnest." Later that afternoon, atop the char, Sādāṭē laid down a shovel and lifted a large clay pot from the hole he had dug. "Here, Lohit." He handed the pot to the dark-haired boy. "I really did have treasure prepared for you up here." He winked. Inside this pot is the last of my possessions from my life before. I have prepared it for your family, to see you through times of trouble. I know Bihman well, though, and I know that he would give it away a thousand times to help others before he saved it once for personal assurance. Inside the pot are coins and gems collected from the empire your parents convinced me to leave. I know that Bihman will put them to better use than those from whom I took them. "I will leave after the evening meal; as you now know, there are more reasons than just the sun that I prefer to travel at night. When I leave, you will find an envelope in my room. Inside are letters of referral I have collected-- in some cases flat-out bought. If you truly wish to be a policeman, Lohit, then those letters will get you to the academy. I can get you in the door, but the work is up to you." "Uncle.... Uncle I don't know what to.... Thank you, Uncle!" Lohit hugged the man so hard and so long that were his legs not already machine they would have been crushed. "Thank you!" "There is money, too, Lohit. Under my mattress. I have left a fortune to your family. Do not be ashamed to keep the money that I have prepared specifically for you. If you wish to excel in your studies for your career, it will help you to not have the distraction of working for your tuition and lodging. Use it wisely and sparingly, and it will be enough." "Thank you for this, too, Uncle." "Let's go home. I'm sure that your mother is waiting supper for us." The next morning, Sādāṭē was gone. Lohit gave his uncle's treasure to his family and found the envelope that had been left for him. In it was money and several letters of recommendation, as had been promised. There was also a short file of contact information for various people of whom Lohit had never heard. Also inside was a list of locations and dates, one per year, starting five years hence. None of these things made any sense, but they were addressed to him. He would keep them until he knew what they were for. In the meantime there were his chores, and training. His uncle was no longer around to guide his training, but he could continue to practice what he knew and expand on it as best he could. Many of the other children-- and some of the adults-- continued to dabble in the training as well. But by the time Lohit was thirteen, he was the only one who still found time, every single day, to master his discipline. It was also about this time that he realized what the strange list of dates and places where. Lohit was well upriver with his father. He was familiar with the city in which they found themselves; they had been here nearly every year since Lohit was a child, whenever the rivers swelled with the rains. It was also the first location on the cryptic list that Sādāṭē had left. Lohit realized with casual interest that the date on the list was two days ago. His curiosity was piqued, and he kept his eyes open for anything that might be worth his notice. As he and his father found a place to set up shop, a band of beggars passed by. One, filthy and crippled, walking with the aid of a stick, fell out to rest in the shade of the stall. "You there!" Lohit shouted. "We are trying to conduct business here! Please, rest somewhere else lest you be in the way of our customers!" The beggar didn't look up. "And you, Little Cub, are two days late." "Uncle!" Lohit was overjoyed and shocked at the same time. "Uncle, how did you come to be here?" "I helped your father establish his business practices, Lohit. I knew you would be here, though you should have been sooner." "The rains were slow this year, Brother-in-Law." chimed in Bihman, happy to see his old friend. "Tell us, what brings you to this lowly state, Brother? Do you have need of the money you left to us?" "Nothing of the sort, Bihman; nothing of the sort. I travelled thus by choice; there is still a handsome bounty on my head, and it didn't take long for word to spread that I had been living in your village. I felt it safer to be Untouchable, for even those in this culture who desperately want to hide would not consider posing as such." "So why did you come at all then, Uncle? Would it not be safer to disappear again, to move as far away as you could?" "There are many safe places for me, Lohit, and I travel constantly. Still, I made a promise that I would be here today, and elsewhere at other times. I am a man of my word." he winked. "Brother, surely it isn't wise to leave an itinerary of your travels pre-planned...?" "I have done nothing of the sort. As I said, I travel constantly. I merely left thirteen certainties, should you or your son have need of contacting me." "And what need should we have? You have left us quite wealthy, at least for life in our village, and have bequeathed to my a son a future I likely never could have. You have left us largely without need at all, and while it is always a joy to see you, Brother, we both know that it is neither safe nor wise." "Bihman, you have taught your family many things. I have taught Lohit more beyond." "I know of your teachings" Bihman dismissed, displeasure clear in his voice. "Still, Bihman, the boy will become his own man, and will have to follow his own path. There are many ways to do good. Some can do as you do: serve as an example of the right way to treat one another. Some will spend their lives serving others in whatever meager way they can. There is still a need for another type of good work, Bihman. There is a need for those who protect those who cannot protect themselves." "Such need exists only because so many do not live right!" Bihman protested. "They choose paths of violence and greed and evil--" "Bihman, my old friend," Sādāṭē started softly, love and acceptance of Bihman's opinions clear in his voice, "you are completely correct. But as you say, there are those that choose to live thus, in spite of all the good examples like you and your family that are in the world. And it is because of those people that there is a need for those who choose to protect others. Remember, Brother, how we met. Who I was. The evil I represented to you until you taught me the wrong I was doing. But when you do, remember also that the good I was called to do in ending the wrong was possible only with the exact same methods." Bihman stopped. He had heard it all before, many times, even before Lohit was born. For the first time, though, he gave long consideration to his old friend's words. "Perhaps, Brother. Perhaps I am old and getting ill in my thinking, or perhaps the experiences that led to your fleeing our lives have forced me to rethink some of my beliefs, or perhaps because some small part of me has always known that what you say is true, but whatever the reason, I will give time to think through what you are saying. But I tell you with absolute certainty today that the boy is too young, too impulsive, too filled with adolescent fire to make the decision wisely, so today, for his own good, I must tell you no. He will not travel with you today." "Father! Think of my future! I wish to do precisely this-- I wish to be a policeman so that I may help people and protect people--" "That is fine, Lohit, but I believe that Sādāṭē has more in mind than catching those who would steal goats!"
  13. "Is this not how wars begin? Violence getting bigger and bigger until countries are killing hundreds of soldiers every day?" "No, Son. That is the result of the way society handles violence today: the constant reassurance that violence will win if one tries 'just a little bit harder' and 'with a few more guns'. I am talking about offering an absolute, insurmountable resistance: a mud bluff ten thousand meters high." "I don't understand." "Lohit, come. Come here, and knock your uncle down." It took a great deal of coaxing and explaining, but eventually Lohit understood that Sādāṭē was trying to prove a point, and it was best demonstrated through wrestling. Lohit moved in quickly, and without knowing exactly how, found himself flat on his back. He tried many more times, all with the same results. "Uncle, I'm tired. Please, let's go back to the village. I need to bathe, and it's late. We haven't done any chores today." "Of course, Lohit. We shall return home and do our chores. If time permits, perhaps we may even find time to dance." "I do not think I feel like dancing." Lohit spent several days thinking over what his uncle had tried to teach him and reconcile it with what he believed in his heart to be true. 'When you correct a child,' he reasoned, 'you must back that correction with a steadfast refusal to allow any tantrum to work, or else you have failed to correct the child. You have only taught him to carry his bad behavior further to gain his goal.' He pondered on it from this angle for a few afternoons and at last made up his mind to at least hear his uncle out again, from the beginning, and see if his ideas did indeed contain some grain of value. Just as he made up his mind to speak again to his uncle, gunfire rang through the village. Lohit snapped to attention and even before he had gained his feet the adults and many of the children were racing for the docks. Bihman Bahga's crops, replanted and not yet well-leafed were again ablaze. The bow of his boat was held out of the river by the rope mooring it to one of the small village docks. It had been riddled with bullets and ruined. Four men stared back from the camp on the chars, waving their rifles. "The chars are our business. There is nothing for you here." Lohit was stunned. Nothing in his life had prepared him for such malicious and treacherous actions. His mind reeled and he felt unsteady. He felt a weight on his shoulder and his head lolled absently toward it. His eyes found Sādāṭē's hand on his shoulder and slowly his mind cleared. His uncle's eyes burned into his. Lohit simply stared back into his uncle's gaze and nodded. The next week the policeman came. Lohit didn't even notice. He had spent every free moment away from chores and lessons with his uncle, in secret, learning that what he thought he knew about violence and the skills of war wasn't even enough to qualify him as naive. On the one hand, he was awed at the skills, prowess, and knowledge of his uncle. On the other, he was terrified at the very same skill and prowess that his uncle demonstrated. "Why, Uncle? Why do you have all this horrible power within you and not use it? What is it like to fight against the rage inside you, daily controlling your urge to kill?" Sādāṭē threw back his head and laughed. "Lohit," he chuckled, "you do not understand yet what I have been trying to teach you. Believe me, there is no longer any hatred in me, and I can honestly say that I've never had a true desire to bring about the end of another man's life. Having the ability to do so does not mean having the desire, any more than holding a shovel makes you want to dig a hole. In fact, it doesn't even guarantee the _will_ to do such a thing should you truly have to! "No, Son. You still misunderstand. As you are learning from me what your parents cannot and will not teach you, I learned from them what they have already taught you and what they taught me before you: Violence is _not_ a means to an end. However, I know-- from my own life and the history of the human race-- that it still has unparalleled power as a defense and as a tool to lead others _away_ from it. But know this: "It will only work as an effective tool so long as it is delivered without hate, without retribution, and without the slightest hesitation. It must be used as a fence to lead a simple animal to a gate, though which it may enter and be warmly accepted. It must be delivered with care and genuine compassion. It is difficult to explain to one so young, but if-- The old man stopped, struck with a fresh inspiration. "Lohit, you know that your parents love you, and that everything they do to and for you they do for the purpose of making you the best person that they can make you." "I know." "Think of the times that they have done things that have pained you: when you slipped away from your chores and played with your friends until well after supper, you were made to do your chores and go to bed without supper." "I remember, Uncle." he said, sourly. "Do you think that they did this to hurt you?" "No, Uncle. I know better. At least, I do now." "And have you stayed away beyond supper even a single evening since?" "Well yes! ...but not without asking permission first...." he added sheepishly. "And have you slipped away from your chores since?" "Sometimes. But not often." "And when you do?" Lohit laughed. "I am given good reasons to not do it again!" "That is guidance, Lohit. It is hurtful until you understand the importance of the guidance. And that is what I speak of: When you deliver violence, it must never be for malice, lest you become what you defend others against. It must never be to cause humiliation or suffering. It must at all times be exclusively to protect others. It is wrong to force your will onto another, Lohit, and when you master violence, it becomes very easy to do. I know this. I know it well. "Which brings me to the other thing that you must always remember: you cannot give in to the temptation to use violence to push back. You must never try to force another to adopt a certain behavior. You must only use violence to stop a behavior, to defend others from violent actions. When you use power, Lohit, use it only to send the clear point that intolerable action ends with you. "Further, you must use your power absolutely. Remember the lesson of the mud bluff, Son. You must never leave your opponent wondering if he might succeed should he try violence again, with greater force. Every bluff you build must always be ten thousand meters high. Leave no question that your defense is impenetrable, and that there is nothing but madness in trying again." The two talked and sparred more and the hour grew late. As they walked back home for mealtime, the entire village was far busier than it should have been. Talk and talkers raced from group to group as Bihman Bagha stood by the well and patiently waited for the people to settle. Sādāṭē set Lohit on the path to his house and wandered over to talk to his 'brother-in-law.' Lohit was vibrating with excitement when the men came home some hours later. He listened to them talk, unable to hear all their whispered words, but catching enough to piece together the day's events. When the policeman arrived, the townspeople were quick to point out their behavior, their threats, the burning crops, and the destruction of Bihman's now-nearly-repaired boat. The policeman had gone out to the chars to speak to them; a small handful of men from the village had gone as well. The men were met at gunpoint, threatened, mocked-- one man had been hit in the chest with the butt of a rifle and suffered broken ribs. The policeman was given the choice of a painful death, or a regular payment in exchange for keeping the villagers— and other policemen-- away from the operation. Lohit was crushed to learn that the policeman had accepted. When he did so, the men with him left, cast off for the village without him, forcing him to wade and swim back to the shore. None would look at him, and there was no doubt that whatever respect they had for him was now forever lost. Lohit himself was heartbroken. He never really knew the man, but had always imagined what an honor such a noble life was, and he could not imagine throwing it away for scraps of money. 'Could not the policeman have simply returned with more police? Was it not their job to protect society from people like the men on the chars?' The next morning Bihman and Sādāṭē rose even earlier than was their custom. Had Lohit not come into the habit of waking well before sunrise to practice what his uncle had last taught him, he likely would not have known. They headed to the docks, and he followed behind them. As they approached the river, they were joined by a handful of other men carrying scythes and hooks and shovels. Bihman chided them their implements and forbade them to follow until they laid down their arms. When Bihman stepped into a boat, Lohit leaped out from the men in the group and climbed into the boat with him. "Lohit!" Bihman reprimanded him sternly. "This is no place for you. There may be danger where we are going." "Father! I wish to come! I wish to help! You have taught me always to face my problems and those problems of others that I have agreed to share as my own. This is my home, Father, and I wish to a part of all that goes with keeping it safe!" "Lohit!" he father snapped angrily. "Bihman." Sādāṭē said softly, a cold resolute promise in his tone. Bihman Bagha looked at his old friend. Lohit watched in amazement as his uncle's eyes, unseen under the cloak he wore even at this early hour, suddenly glowed with a pinkish light. "He _will_ be safe." Bihman's face sobered. He said nothing for a moment, then nodded. "Very well, my son. This is your home, as you say. You may join us." The boats left the dock as soon as the sun had risen clearly. Bihman was resolute that their advance not look like an attack. He merely wished to meet with the men on the chars. Sixteen armed men waited on the bank of the char. "That's enough. It's time for you to turn back and return to your goats and your huts. There is nothing here for you." Bihman stood. "I am Bihman Bahga, and I will come to stand on the land I have farmed all my life. We are not armed, but have come to speak." "We can hear you well enough from your boats." "I will speak to your leader, and on dry land." Confused, or perhaps amused at what they took to be ignorant arrogance, they beckoned the boats ashore. By the time they had dragged the boats out of the water, two more men-- one in a miltary-style outfit, and clearly the leader; another man-- large and directly flanking him at all times-- had appeared. The leader grinned. "You amuse me, fisherman. What business do you think you would have with me on my island?" "My name is Bihman Bahga. My village has entertained your company for longer than has been welcome. It is time for you to leave this place." The man in the fatigues was suddenly less amused. "Listen to me, peasant. I am Colonel Fatuk Hareem Jael, and these are my most trusted men. In our years, we have killed far more dangerous opponents than the rag-covered filth that stands before me now. We will stay here until we are done here, and we will be back the moment we feel like returning, and it will be that way for all the days of Colonel Fatuk Hareem Jael, do you understand me, peasant?" Bihman spoke again, unperturbed. "You surely have some means of contacting your airplane. It is completely understandable if you prefer to leave under the cover of night, but it would be best for all if you were gone by sunrise tomorrow." The Colonel's eyes bulged. The veins in his neck strained against his skin. "Animal! You sick, disgusting animal! You foul, filth-riddled beast of mud! " he roared. "I defy you-- I _dare_ you!-- to give me one singular reason that I should not butcher all of you like the diseased vermin you are!" His hands shook with rage and the men surrounding the villagers raised their weapons. "Most importantly, I think" began Sādāṭē in a low, calm voice, "is that you will not be able to." "WHAT?! How DARE you! How _dare_ you speak to me with such -- such _insolence_!" he roared and spat, and when his thoughts finally returned he continued raging in what sounded to Lohit to perhaps be Turkish. "Guards! Kill them! Kill them all!" Even as they braced to fire, six men fell. Four more fell while the others gawked in confusion. One man screamed as he felt his neck crack then felt little else. One shot rang out. Terrified, Lohit couldn't help but look. One gun fired. Sādāṭē held it skyward, over his head even as the man with his finger torn off inside the trigger guard slumped to the ground, hacking for air around a crushed trachea. Sixteen men. Perhaps as much as two seconds ago, the men of the village were surrounded by sixteen armed men. All those men lay at their feet, broken and beaten. The villagers were just as stunned as Lohit. The Colonel was dumbstruck. "FATIM!" he yelled to the big man beside him. The muscular soldier leapt forward in a diving crouch, drawing a pair of pistols as he sprang. He never had a chance. In the space of a shocked look, Sādāṭē shot forward, inhumanly fast. The big man had no way to alter his course. Lohit fought hard not to vomit when he heard the sickening wet cracks and thumps as Sādāṭē's fist buried itself deep inside the big man's face. Sādāṭē stood quietly over the big man, assessing him. When he spoke, he spoke in nearly-flawless Turkish, laced with only the trace of a Russian accent. "Your men are not dead, Fatuk Jael. Some may right now wish it, but they are not dead." "The same cannot be said for yours, peasant!" roared the Colonel. Sādāṭē spun around in time to see Jael raise a pistol point-blank to Bihman Bahga. Lohit screamed. He ran forward, desperate to protect his father. Even as his feet churned in the loose soil he knew he could not help. The world slowed down. Everything took on an eerie, too-real surrealism that was beautifully frightening. He saw the bullet leave the gun, drawing a coil of powder smoke with it. He saw it spinning and dancing toward his father. He absently wondered at how it didn't fly flat, but dipped down then up then dow-- then there was a hand. A hideous, scarred pink thing with red and white wounds tearing jagged lines through the flesh and metal cables and braces where bones should have been. There was a soft but violent thump and a muffled clang as the bullet tore into the hand and struck some bit of plating and the worldbegantospeedupandsuddenly Lohit was standing, straining against the hold one of the village men had on his tunic. Sādāṭē was standing beside Bihman, leaning over precariously, his arm outstretched and flowing into the twisted mockery of a hand that had caught the bullet meant for his father. His other hand had a firm grasp on the Colonel's wrist and as the world returned to the dizzying speed it held since the villagers had been ordered killed Lohit could hear the cracking of bones even over the Colonels screams of pain and impotent rage. "How dare you! How dare you touch me!" "You, too, will live, Fatuk Jael. You will live, and you will leave this place. You will not call your airplane. You and your men will get into your boats and leave. You will take nothing but your lives and be glad to have them." Sādāṭē didn't even look at him. Instead he studied the bullet he had caught. Absently he tossed it toward the Colonel and began to check his hand for damage. The Colonel screamed in fury. "I will return, Freak! I will return with an army six hundred strong; guns and rockets and bombs! I will burn this village from the very memory of the earth--!" Sādāṭē turned to him, as if noticing him for the first time. He let go his hold of the man's shattered wrist. The Colonel instantly swung at him with his good hand and was blown to the ground with a snap kick to the midriff for his efforts. "You will not return. Not by yourself, not with an army. Not tomorrow or next year; not ever. There is nothing for you here." He stepped back and opened his robe, letting it drop to the ground. Lohit had never seen his uncle naked. In fact, he had never seen him in anything but his robe, shoes, and thin silk gloves. Even when he slept, he slept almost completely covered under a sheet or blanket on even the warmest nights. Lohit had never questioned that it was a simple practical fear of the sun that forced an albino to take such measures. He never _dreamed_---
  14. The boy spit dirty water from his mouth as he shook it from his face and hair. He stood in the neck-deep water and defiantly proclaimed "I need to be aware of nothing more than the evil that seems to dwell forever in even my closest loved ones! I need to know nothing of fighting, for I will not do it. Violence is the worst way to gain accomplishments, Uncle. I will not become like so many other unfit simpletons, using violence and fear to take what they want from others. Violence has no purpose other than to create disharmony in the community. It takes a fool to wield it like a club. No matter what comes of my life, I will not be a brutal, foolish, disharmonious simpleton, taking what I will and throwing fear and threats at others for my own amusement." Sādāṭē seemed both furious and disappointed. He roared a grunt of frustration then spoke to the boy, voice strained and urgent. "You are absolutely right! You are right; your mother is right; your father is right! Violence is the poorest choice of tool! You cannot use it as a plow, for it is a hammer! But Lohit, will you please listen to me-- listen more openly than does your father-- and accept that while violence is the last resort of the selfish, so too is it a shield! It is the shield that protects society from those who wish to use it as a lever!" "Violent action has never brought happiness to a people! Not once!" "But it has protected all people at one time or another." "No empire built on violence has proven itself permanent; all are gone or are going." "Because violence has stopped those empires from continuing on!" "Precisely! What one group seizes by force, another group sees as being accessible through force!" "Violence from _outside_, Lohit. Violence from outside has stopped these empires." The boy blinked, confused for a moment. "I do not see the difference: violent action is violent action. Something is either right or it is wrong." "That is your father talking, Lohit. That is because you are still a child, and painting the world with simple colors using broad strokes. You are looking at violence as one all-inclusive equal thing. There are, in fact, three faces of violence." "Explain yourself." "Simplicity itself, Lohit," he stated as he hauled the boy grudgingly back into the boat. "There is the first face of violence, the one with which everyone is familiar because everyone fears it. This is violence as a fast and cheap way to seize all that you can hold. Fighting, killing, destruction for the simple purpose of eliminating an obstacle or getting what you want when you want it. It allows you to take what you will without having to accept the needs or desires of others, and keeps you from having to learn the thoughts and ideas of those who differ with you: your opinion rules and your sword makes your opinion truth." "That is the nature of violence, Sādāṭē. That is why it runs counter to harmony. However, at the end of the day, no matter how many swords you wield, only the truth can be the truth. That is the undoing of conquest through violence." "Does it matter? Does it matter if your ideas are completely backwards to the universe if the ten thousands under your rule all agree to pretend that the truth is whatever you determine it to be? What does it matter if you are the worst dancer in the world if all the ladies of your court compete to dance with you and boast forever of your skill? "This, youngling, is the second face of violence: fear. Once you have shown yourself willing to grasp violence and swing it as a hammer to smash everything in your path, those in your path will forever fear that you may use it on them. Your conquests are maintained by fear; your rule is maintained by fear. You will never have respect, but there are so many for whom that does not matter: they have lived so long in fear of something that simply having the fear of someone else is good enough. Many do not even know the difference. "This is the reason most people hate violence. Certainly, the reasonable man has no use for it simply because it denies cooperation, community, harmony-- but most people, they hate violence because they fear it will be used on them, and they are not strong enough to realize that they, too, could wield it in defense of themselves. As most people do not choose violence as their first option, they tend to picture themselves as the victims of someone who does. No one wishes to live in fear. Sadly, many of them-- forgive me, Lohit, but your father himself is one-- are so consumed with the idea that violence equals destruction, disharmony, and fear that they forget the third and most important face of violence." "Uncle, the 'second face' you talk about is nothing but the end result of what you are calling the first face. Considering it somehow different is nothing but a perversion of words--" "Not at all, Boy. Not at all. You see, the second face _is_ the end result: it is the memory of how violence was applied, and nothing more. When violence is used as a weapon, the victim remembers being a victim, and will always place himself in the position of victim when in the presence of his tormentor. But the third face of violence is the most pure, even by your own standards." "You will not pervert my understanding, Uncle. In spite of everything you have told me, I know that you are not a person other than the one I have always known, and so I love you and respect you as I always have, but I will not let that respect cloud my belief. There is absolutely no situation in which it is preferable to attack another person." "No, Son. There is not. However you, as your father before you, and many, many thousands of others before and after him, are failing to accept one simple basic law of human nature!" "What law is that? Surely you don't suggest that it is natural for all men to secretly wish to harm others?" "No; of course not. However, it is an easy-to-grasp fact that all men are different. That some men are more greedy than others. That some are more aggressive than other. That some men are simply too greedy, too self-centered, too unwilling to yield to consider mutual concession? That some men are too easily frustrated to ever rise above their baser instincts?" "I see where you are going, Uncle. You cannot tell me that it is okay to force yourself onto others simply because they are stupid or uneducated or easily frustrated--" "No, Boy! No! That is _not_ what I am saying! Listen, Lohit, time is short, and I am now begging you to _please_ listen with a more open mind than does your father: "There are those in the world who will resort to violence. There are likely as many reasons as there are people who will do it, but it can all boil down to a combination of personal weakness, greed, frustration, and an unwillingness to bend as the wind requires. These are the people who will always see violence as a perfectly reasonable option to achieve their goals." "So you believe that it is perfectly acceptable to give them the violence they seek. To meet violence with violence. I disagree." "It is not only acceptable, Lohit, it is _necessary_." "How can you say that? You know as well as I that violence solves nothing! You yourself taught me of Ghandi and many great men who solved great tensions with discussion, by meeting the vital needs of those of who squabbled and convincing them to differentiate between their needs and their desires--" "Child, I am not saying that it is _ever_ correct to deal violence to anyone. I am saying, simply, that there are those people from whom violence is the only acceptable defense-" "Violence is never a defense, Uncle! It leads only to more and more violence-" "Lohit! Calm yourself. What I am trying to tell you will be difficult for you to hear if you insist on picking out only those things to which your parents have taught you to object! No please, for your uncle Whitey, sit quietly and listen to _all_ my words and the ideas they express. Absorb them; study what I say. Then, and only then, should you speak." He waited a few moments for the boy's reaction. Lohit calmed himself, the effort of absorbing his uncle's complex ideas showing clearly on his face. Finally he exhaled, drooped his shoulders, and announced with more tranquility than he felt and more maturity than his years should have allowed "I'm ready, Uncle Sādāṭē." "Very well then. Lohit, I must first ask you a question." He pointed to one of the chars that shielded them from the view of the river. It's bank was unusually high, owing to the back-cut of the water currents and banyan roots that spread out from this part of the river bank. “Do you see the bluff of that char?” "I do, Uncle." "Can you climb that bank, Little Cub?" "No, Uncle. The bank is too high and steep and the mud too soft." "And if I told you that there was a great treasure atop that char, would you then want to get to the top?" "Yes, I would, Uncle." "Would you let the steep bank hinder you, and leave the treasure there?" "No, Uncle. I would find a way to climb that bank." "What do you suggest, Lohit? How should we scale that bank and retrieve the treasure?" "The bank seems to be scarcely four meters, and there are the tops of trees and roots near its crest. We could throw ropes to the trees and scale the ropes. Or perhaps we could raise a ladder from the boat, if we anchor securely bow and stern." Sādāṭē paused for a moment, to ensure that the young boy was focusing on his plans to scale the bank. "Those are both remarkable ideas, Lohit. But suppose we try them. Suppose we bring ropes and ladders only to find that we are still two meters from reaching our goal? Suppose the ladder is too short, and the ropes not long enough to return down so that we can secure them?" "Then we should find longer ropes, of course!" the young boy brightened, happy to abandon the world-shaking talk of violence as a necessity and focus instead on this new game. "I agree; longer ropes certainly seem to be in order. But suppose we return to our home and braid our ropes into longer, heavier lengths and return to this bank. We throw our ropes, only to find that the floods have pushed up more mud and the waters have receded and the bank is now three meters higher than before?" "Then we should lengthen our ropes again! We can tie them together right here in the boat We could tie strings to rocks and use the strings to pull up the heavy ropes!" "A wonderful idea, Boy! Suppose, though, that as we began pulling up our ropes, the bank rose until it was again two meters longer than our ropes?" "Uncle," began the boy, puzzled, "I do not understand this game." "Let me ask you another question, Lohit. Suppose I told you that there was great treasure atop this char, and when you looked up, the bank was ten thousand meters high?" "It would be impossible to get the treasure! No one could scale a mud face of such height! I do not think that mud can even be stacked so high as ten meters, let alone the cliff you're talking about!" "Lohit, I swear to you, there _is_ great treasure atop this very char. I swear upon all the love I have for your family, and all the love that you have for me that upon the top of this char is the greatest treasure I can ever hope to give you." He paused again, waiting for his words to sink in. "I do not understand, Uncle. The chars shift with every flood and drought. How have you managed to keep treasure hidden in such conditions?" "You will have to get to the top; you will have to see the treasure that I have prepared for you. I had planned to wait until you were older, but recent events, and the fact that you are on the cusp of something that will determine your path in life, have convinced me that it is now time to pass it on to you." The boy was apprehensive. "I don't understand..... Why would you give me treasure? Why would you stay here if you had treasure? What have I done to deserve unearned wealth? You don't make sense, Uncle!" "Lohit, it is nothing you have done; it is what you will do. It is who you are. Now come; let's get up to the top." The older man watched with amusement as his adopted nephew spent the next two hours and then some trying to scale the short mud cliff. True to the boy's earlier prediction, the mud was too steep and too soft to allow it to be climbed. Exhausted and filthy, the boy finally quit, his frustration plain. "Uncle, it is not possible.... there can be no treasure up there.... you could not have climbed up there, especially with your stick, too...." The older man simply smiled. "Lohit, you are almost there. You must continue to try." Obediently, but with a clear prediction that the task was hopeless, the boy set half-heartedly back to his task. "Uncle!" he called out. "Yes, Lohit?" "Perhaps we _should_ go back to the village, and find a ladder or some rope?" "When we return, Lohit, it will be as I said: the top of the bluff will have grown two more meters. Our ropes will always be almost long enough; long enough to make us believe that if we just had a bit more, we could make it." The boy slid back down into the water and rolled onto his back against the slick mud. "Then Uncle, there is no hope." "Lohit, I made it up there. I left your legacy atop this very char." he smiled slyly. Lohit thought for a bit. He looked up at the sky, staring to get a bit darker where it streaked through the banyan canopy. "Then there must be some other way." Sādāṭē beamed; his face split and his voice roared with joy. "Well of _course_ there is, Lohit! Of course there's another way! And it's much easier, as well!" Angry, Lohit turned to him "Then why did you not tell me? Why did you let me strain and fail and get completely filthy with mud?! Why have you let me stay here all afternoon doing something so stupid?!" Sādāṭē roared another belly laugh-- no derision, but pure joy. "Because, Little Tiger, you kept trying the short path ahead of you." "You make no sense, Uncle." "Then come, Lohit; get in the boat and I will pole us around to the other side." The boy swam slowly, rolling in the water in an attempt to wash away what clumps of mud he could, then climbed in the boat. As his uncle poled the small boat around the char, Lohit could see that on the side less exposed to the river the bank had not been washed as abruptly. It tapered nearly completely into the water. He could also see that it was not truly a char as he knew them to be, but simply a bit of the river bank that the flood waters had cut through as they receded, leaving this piece separated by a section just large enough to pole the boat through. Even then, the banyans had not given up. Their massive roots bridged the gap overhead, completely hiding the small boat. Sādāṭē grounded the boat, and two strolled leisurely up the gentle slope into the copse of banyans. The older man made sure to lead the boy near the bluff edge that he had so fruitlessly tried to scale. "So" spoke Lohit "tell me of my treasure, Uncle. Is it a statuette? A gem? Coins?" Sādāṭē spread his arms wide about him. "It is this, Lohit. It is this place, and your future." The boy clearly did not comprehend. Sādāṭē continued, unperturbed. "In this place, Lohit Baga, I shall train you. I shall prepare you for your future." "My future, Uncle?" "You wish to be a policeman, do you not, Lohit? You wish to spend your life helping those who cannot help themselves?" "You know I do, Uncle." "Then I shall train you to be the best policeman that I can. But to do that, Lohit, you must at all times be a protector, and to truly be a protector, you must understand the violence that you have been taught to abhor." "I understand violence, Uncle, and there is no place for violence in a just society. Violence cannot protect; it can only destroy." "Lohit, I tried to make you understand the third face of violence. I could not. But perhaps your exercise in getting to this point, up here, will help you to understand. "You knew that you could not scale the bluff. Yet you tried. Why did you try?" "The more I looked at it, the more it seemed that it might be possible. You yourself said that you had been up here." "But you failed, did you not?" "I came very close, a couple of times!" he defended. "And that was the problem." "The problem was that the mud was too soft and slick." "The problem was that even though you never quite made it to the top, you came close enough to believe that with just a tiny bit more effort, you might make it. So you tried, over and over again, you tried." The boy said nothing, but stood sheepishly. "When did you make it to the top, Lohit?" "When I quit climbing the bluff, and we came to this side of the char." "Precisely. And so it is with violence, Lohit." "I keep saying that I don't understand, and you keep answering with things that I do not understand much better, Uncle. No riddles, please. I will listen to you. Explain to me what you mean with the third face of violence." The older man spent a few minutes composing his thoughts, trying to break his ideas into concepts the child might more readily grasp. "The third face of violence, Lohit, is discipline. It is rebuke." "Everyone knows that, Uncle. Any action rewarded with an unpleasant punishment--" "It is more than discipline, Lohit. It is complete and total rebuke. Denial. It is the unquestionable rejection of an action or school of thought. It is like your mud bluff, Lohit. With the bluff, you came so very close that you continued to try, no matter how many times you failed. You began to wonder about ropes and ladders and other things that you could add to your plan to scale the bluff so that ultimately you might be able to do it. "It never once occurred to you to abandon your behavior and try something completely different. Why? Because none of the rejection you were given was so thorough as to remove from your mind all doubt that you could not succeed in your methods. Each attempt got you closer. You never made it, but you continued to get closer, and each time you failed you were bolstered by how close you had gotten. Now imagine, Lohit, if that bluff had been not four meters, but ten thousand meters. If I had stood you before such a bluff-- ten thousand meters high-- and told you that should you scale it, you could claim whatever treasure I had to offer you, would you have struggled so powerfully against the first four, time and time again?" "Well of course not. Knowing that I could not make it four meters would prove I could not make it so many more!" "And that is the third face of violence, Lohit: rebuke. Protection. Denial." "How is that violence?" "Of itself, it is not. But violence as a tool to protect others-- when used thusly, it _must_ be absolute. You see, Lohit, there are many, many undesirable things in the world today, and there are many people who see violence as a tool to take what they want, as we discussed earlier." "Are not these men met with violence? From police? From armies?" "They are; they are indeed. But not in any useful way. They are in reality, little more than kept in check. You see, civilized people want to believe that they and their society is somehow above violence, and over many generations have placed rules upon themselves about the sort of violence that they will use even to protect themselves. "Those rules, Little Cub, are the reason that they will never stop the violence that is used against them. The violence directed toward them they meet in kind, both in type and in measure. They simply resist, and they do so as equally as possible. Much like your river bluff, you see." "No, Uncle. I do not." "Lohit, you continued over and over again to scale the bluff because while you never succeeded, you never failed badly enough for you to decide it was impossible. The same goes with the violence that is used to 'protect' society from the violence outside of it. Society will not allow itself respond in such force as to demonstrate conclusively to those who would attack that their behavior will not be allowed. "When violence is used to protect, Lohit; it must be absolute." "Absolute?!" "Killing is wrong, Lohit, even in the worst of times, and even thoughI learned that many years too late, I do not pretend that it is ever right. I am not telling you that violence must be carried to its ultimate end. What I am saying is that any force set up against a violent attack or action must -- and there can be no doubt there, Lohit-- it _must_ be so clearly competent, so absolutely undeniably impenetrable and irresistible as to _force_ those who would use violence as a tool to accept that they have chosen the worst, least-effective possible method for achieving their goals." "I believe I am starting to understand you, Uncle but I do not know that I agree with you." "Right now, you do not; I have no doubt. But in time, when you enter the world, think of what I have said to you. Remember that violence as a shield _is_ effective, but it is only effective when the violence offered in resistance is more than capable of completely crushing of the initial attack. There are those who _will_ choose violence. It is easy and seductive. They must be shown that violence will not work. The only way to do that is to offer such a level of violence in return as to make them understand that they have no chance pursuing that path. They must be _forced_ to look for some other way of meeting their goals."
  15. The airplane was gone the next day, but seven of the armed men remained behind. Most of the first strangers loaded things into their boats and began to move back upriver, the boats much lighter with only a tiny fraction of the cargo they had held when they first arrived. Most of the tents had been struck, but three tents remained on a single large char. Life was almost immediately normal again, or close to it. The seasons changed, and the water receded and the time came to plant the chars. Biman-- perhaps intentionally, or perhaps by luck of desirable soil and water currents-- had selected a large char adjacent to the camped char to begin to farm. The first day, the strangers simply watched him. The second day, they suggested-- menacingly-- that he would have better luck on a char further removed from them. Biman smiled, thanked them for their concern, and told them that he felt his legumes and rice would do best here, and that perhaps when they were ready to harvest, the strangers might join the village in a feast. The strangers simply repeated their belief that Biman's crops would meet with certain failure on that char. Or the next. Or any char adjacent to the one upon which they were camped, and quite likely on any adjacent to those. Biman wasn't an especially stubborn or proud man; he simply believed that left with no choice, people would naturally seek to get along. He continued happily to farm the chars he had selected, and a few of the other villagers followed suit. It wasn't too much later than the chars most closely located to the camp burned completely. Many of the farmers were devastated; the village as a whole was in shock. Biman simply replanted while the other farmers moved further out from the camp. Weeks later, Biman's crops burned again. Lohit was stunned. It actually took him some time to wrap his mind around the idea that a group of men might intentionally do so much harm to others: Lohit's family was relatively fortunate in that they could survive with a bad harvest now and again, but many of the villagers would be reduced to beggar's portions before their next crops came in; many others might actually be reduced to begging. He took to discussing it with Uncle Sadate, and for many, many nights it dominated their conversations. Whitey, a few days into the conversation on the evils of men, knew that Lohit's beliefs and backgrounds would compel him to do something to right the injustice. Late one afternoon, when the dust turned the sinking sun prematurely red, as he danced with the children, Sādāṭē saw Lohit approaching. He merrily excused himself and begged them continue on without him. He walked swiftly to meet his nephew, grabbed him firmly by the wrist and offered no explanation beyond the word "Come." Obediently, Lohit followed. Sādāṭē led him to the river bank, where they climbed into the small boat Biman used to farm the chars and made their way to the swampy banyan forests and as far into them as they could move. When they could no longer see or hear the village, Sadate stood up in the boat and gestured for Lohit to do the same. "Today" he began firmly, "you learn to balance." "Uncle, I don't under--" Sādāṭē stomped violently on the side of the boat, rocking it in an instant to nearly swamping. By reflex, Lohit spun and pivoted on one leg. using the momentum of the other to keep him upright. As the boat settled, he swept his trailing leg low and in front of him, settling himself into a crouch. "You dance well, Little Cub!" Sādāṭē laughed. "Dance?! You nearly sank the boat!" Sādāṭē stomped the edge of the boat again, this time, as it rocked back to right itself, he leaped onto the gunwale with both feet, forcing it to lurch back, further than it had before. Lohit began to whirl again, and as he felt the second disturbance in his footing, knowing that he could not correct, he leapt into the air and rolled over, both legs flailing around in a tight circle. When he touched down, the boat had settled and he spun off his excess momentum, landing lithely in a three-point crouch. "Uncle have you lost your mind?! Did you bring me out here just to force me to swim?" "No, Lohit. I did not. I brought you here to teach you to dance." "I know how to dance, Uncle. I have danced all my life. For as long as I can remember, you have danced with us. But Uncle Sādāṭē, I do not see what dancing has to do with trying to throw me from a boat." Sādāṭē was a long time in responding. He sat in the boat and exhaled a long, slow sigh. "Lohit, I have taught you more than you know. Your father, he would not approve of everything I have taught you and the other children, but dancing-- there is beauty in dancing, Lohit. There is joy and celebration. A village cannot harbor ill will when it dances together." "And this is why you love to dance? Why you dance with us so often?" Whitey sighed again. "Lohit, what do you know of fighting?" Lohit blushed slightly. He knew more than he knew his parents would approve of. Certainly he was no bully or thug, but he was a boy, and boys played rough, and sometimes they would fight. He himself had been in a few fights. Still, he was an obedient child who did his best to stay true to his beliefs and his teachings. "Fighting is the last resort of those who will not open their minds to cooperation. It is how the frustrated insulate themselves from the solution to their troubles." Sādāṭē laughed again. "Very good, Lohit! You sound just like your parents!" There was no derision in his laughter; something had truly warmed his heart, and laughter was the only way he could express it. Lohit was confused by his uncle's reactions. "There is wisdom in their words" he stated, a bit defensively. "Yes;" Sādāṭē grinned. "there is a great deal of sage truth in their words and their teachings, Lohit, and it is my deepest hope that you and your brothers and sisters live your lives knowing that, and helping others to live as your parents do. Your parents are beyond any question the most decent human beings I have ever known." He paused here, almost as if considering whether to continue speaking. When he began, his words were softer, nearly whispered. "Your parents are the reason that thirty-five thousand people you nor they will ever meet are still alive. It is a debt I will spend the rest of my life repaying." He simply stared at the bottom of the boat for some time. Lohit tried to digest his uncle's words and alien demeanor, but only made himself more puzzled. He opted to wait for Sādāṭē to speak again. "Little Cub, I must ask you to keep a grave secret." "Any secret that can harm a man or his spirit is best not shared, Uncle. You know that." "This is a different kind of secret, Lohit. There is no malice in it. It is simply a truth that has never been told, and must never be told if I am to repay a debt. However, Lohit, it is a truth that I want you to hear while I am able to share it, for I doubt that your parents ever will reveal it to you.” "A grave secret, Uncle?" "It is not harmful; it is not earth-shaking. Calling it that is my little joke. You see, Lohit, it is a secret that one of us must take to the grave. If it is me, then you will be able to share it one day. If it is you… Well, if it is you, then I fear I have failed in keeping a vow to myself." "I promise you as my own blood that I will share this secret with no one, Uncle." "That is the secret, Lohit. That is it completely." Lohit stared, waiting. "I am your Uncle Whitey, your mother's albino brother. However, Lohit, I am not your mother's brother. Nor am I your father's brother. I am, so far as I have ever known, brother to no man. I am not even Bengali, Lohit." Lohit was both confused and stunned. This was a very complex joke, or a poorly-thought-out prank. "It's true, Lohit. I am not even an albino." "But your skin, Uncle---" "I am a white man, Lohit. As fate would have it, I have always been very fair complected, even for one of white skin. My hair is pale beyond blond, but I must treat it with chemicals to strip it to brittle yellow that you know it to be." "This is not the same--" "Please, Boy; let me finish. Thank you. As I said, I am not Bengali. I am Siberian, Lohit-- a 'Russian' to most people's way of thinking. I was once called upon to carry out a grave injustice. That is how I met your parents. "I had never known people quite like your parents. In a very short time, they made me question my beliefs and taught me many things about people that I had never truly believed before. I was to carry out a military strike that would have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, Lohit. I am not proud of that. However, the things your parents made me see--- it changed who I was inside. I could not do it. I sabotaged the mission so that it could not be carried out, warned the targets, and fled here with your parents. In time, your parents wed and started a family. I have been unable to do so, as there is a bounty upon me even to this day. Yet I have proudly served your parents and helped them prosper as best they will let me. I owe them no less for the life they have given me." "They made you an albino?" Sādāṭē laughed. "No, Son! They could not do such a thing. That was my own devising. As I said, I was always very fair, and I would have stood out like a beacon amongst the people of this village. Certainly it would be madness to hide here. That, Lohit, is why this was the perfect place to hide. And of course, if you're hiding, you should never stand out. That is why I have gone to such measure to stand out. Surely such an oddity cannot be a man in hiding, eh?" he winked. "I find the sun in this region unpleasant, even after all these years of being in it. It burns even your skin when you are not mindful of it; it positively crisps mine. I realized that should I simply shield myself from it at all opportunity, I would become even more pale as months went by. And it is simplicity itself to bleach my hair. Perhaps I could live better if I went off on my own journey, but I feel compelled to remain with your parents and help them with their family." "But your eyes, Uncle. Surely you cannot bleach them pink!" "I cannot. However, pink they are. In my youth, they were as clear and grey as river ice, but that was before I was chosen...." his voice trailed off into some buried memory, snapped back almost instantly "The color they are today is the result of one of many things I endured during my previous life, Lohit. Fortunately, it doesn't stand out on an albino, does it?" he winked again. "I do not know that I can accept-- or even understand-- what it is you are saying to me, Uncle, but I believe both that it is the truth and that it should remain a secret within my family--" "No, Lohit! It must remain a secret between you and me. Your parents know my secret, of course, but they must never know that you know it. If they did, they may more closely scrutinize the things I do to protect them and your village." "I do not understand. Do you still fight, Sādāṭē? Do you conspire to kill others?" "No, Lohit. I only dance." He said, happily. "I dance with the children, and teach them all I know of dancing. I race with the children, and when the sun allows it, I play sports with them. I teach them many games that they enjoy, and dances that they will perform for themselves just for the entertainment." He smiled, seeing the children dancing in his mind. "You fear that my parents would not let you dance?" "Lohit, what do you know of the dervish?" "The Sufi Muslims? They have a spiritual tradition that includes an energetic spinning dance as part of their prayer ritual." "This is true. And this is why your parents tolerate my incessant dancing with the children: there are many Muslims in our village, and most see it as nothing more than sport that suits well into their beliefs. But the Sufi and the Mevlev are not the only Darvesh to have walked the earth. While their dancing ritual is at least seven centuries old, at one time, there were many dervish upon the earth. In this part of the world, the Hashashin used a frenetic whirling dance as a tool of assassination; closer to my own people, the Gypsies of Romania were once fierce warriors feared for their own powerful and quick spinning attacks. Even today, Cuopera, an elegant spinning dance, is rooted in a powerful fighting technique used by shackled slaves to overthrow their masters." "And the dances you teach us...?" "Are the rudiments of many, many fighting techniques, Lohit." The boy looked shocked and disgusted at the same time; the taint he felt upon himself was plain on his face. "No, Lohit. I have not poisoned anyone's spirit. Such a thing isn't possible: no man can ever be made evil if he isn't willing to be. And as I said: all of these things have become beautiful dances. A root in violence doesn't not prevent something from transcending it. You're a Bhuddist, Lohit. You of all people should be able to accept that." The boy remained silent for a long time, pondering everything the cloaked man before him had revealed. The boat lurched from beneath him, snapping him back to reality. Even before his focus returned fully to the world, he saw a blur heading for him. Already bending backwards to keep his balance, he let himself collapse into a back stretched arch, falling down onto his extended arms as the boat oar his uncle swung flushed a rush of wind and a stream of water across his face, missing him by inches. He drew his arms in and threw his feet skyward, wrapping Sādāṭē's forearm between his calves and levering the boat oar from his hands with a quick twist as he continued on through his impromptu backflip, both to defend himself and to distance himself from a close family member turned crazed homicidal stranger. As he cleared vertical, he coiled and sprang back, completing his flip and springing up to his feet--- nearly three feet beyond the bow of the boat. He landed perfectly, save there was nowhere to land. As he darted into the water, Sādāṭē laughed loudly and extended a hand to help him back into the boat. "You move beautifully, Lohit; like the tiger for which your great-grandfather was named. Your balance is impeccable, and your reactions are swift, built on good instincts. But you need to be more aware of your surroundings if you are to become a good fighter; combat uses many dance floors."
  16. So.... He grew up in a rural area, where there were no regular police stations or civic buildings. Let's say he was rather poor. Makes sense, as even today, rural India tends to run to the 'seriously destitute' end of the spectrum. His family lived well-- better than many others, but not wealthy or even 'middle class.' His parents were vendors who set up a semi-permanent shop in his home village: Ooh! Let's have them be fishermen, because then I can google up all kinds of pictures of that part of India with the bayous and those neat trees with all the stilt roots! Mangrove? Is that right? Okay, they were fishers and merchants, with a semi-permanent home in their village, where they would fish when the fishing was good, and they raised and sold fruits as well as they had the luxury of owning a small amount of land upon which they grew a small grove of fruit trees. When fishing and fruiting were "off," they would travel the area a bit, setting up a kitchen along popular trade routes and twice a year they would take a stall in an urban bazaar to trade fabrics and clothing. Okay: sounds like a really nice life for a poor kid: an idealized concept of high-end poverty. Always enough money for food and bills and perhaps a fun thing or two now and again- perhaps a couple of small vacations during his life-- but nothing particularly "luxurious." We can reinforce that by including that his family was well-off enough to afford a vehicle: an old Royal Enfield for which his father had fashioned a sidecar and trailer. This allows for the modest travel of his family, and limits the scope of their trading operations to just what could be carried thusly. Well done, Me. If you see me before I do, pat myself on the back for you, would I? So what would be the turning point in this life? Bad guys, of course. We know that most of these fictional heroic characters in stories of good-vs-evil become good guys as a response to finding their lives filled with too many bad guys. Are his parents murdered? No; that doesn't fit in with the idea of the character. He doesn't have enough money to make bat-themed weapons. Besides, something so incredibly horrible at a young age might shake his belief that there is an inherent goodness in mankind. So whatever the turning point is, his parents have to be with him throughout-- and perhaps after-- to continue to reaffirm the idea that good action is its own reward. Clearly, something pretty bad should happen. Something relatively long-term, so that it makes sense it would follow him as a motivator. Got it! His village, near water for fishing and rural enough that a police "patrol" is a single man on a motorcycle every few weeks whose primary role is settling squabbles-- This is a _great_ place for a hideout of sorts: lots of poor people who don't move around talking to other people, and precious few police. Moreover, a place to anchor boats and perhaps even land a plane or two. Cool. Now we've got a couple of bones! No story skeleton, but a couple of bones. At some point in his youth, his village had to deal with some sort of organized crime. It was this interaction that serves as the turning point for young Mister Bāgha. You know what? Screw it. Time to flesh this story out a bit. Lohit Bāgha was a native Indian, born to native Indians of Bengali descent. Like most third and fourth generation Bengali living in India, he grew up in what, to western eyes, would be abject poverty. However, amongst the population of rural India, his family was remarkably well-off. No one-- even the majority of urbanized Indians-- would have considered them fortunate, but the fact remains that while his family worked very hard, daily, to facilitate their lives, and while they had precious little by way of luxury, Lohit and his siblings never truly wanted for any basic needs, and lived slightly better than most of the others in his small village. During the three months before Lohit's birth, the area around his village had been suffering from unusual dryness, and the dust hung constantly in the air, giving the sun a bloody-orange cast and painting the moon nearly crimson in the summer sky. His parents, not especially superstitious, but cautious enough, chose to give him the name "Lohit," or "reddish in hue." Lohit was the third child and eldest son of nine siblings and was raised by his parents and his uncle Sādāṭē ("Whitey"). Sādāṭē was not his actual name, but a nickname that referred to his albinism. Lohit-- and quite possibly no one in the village, save Lohit's parents-- ever knew Sādāṭē by any other name. Lohit's small village was situated near the eastern borders of India against Bangledesh and was on the edge of the Ganges delta as it passed into the Sundabans. Many families made their living here farming or fishing, and a few even did both. Lohit's father was more entrepreneurial (unusual in a culture with perhaps the most oppressive caste system ever devised), spurred on perhaps by his brother-in-law's guidance. What Whitey was unable to do in the fields he more than made up for with business acumen and financial leadership. Many of the people in Lohit's village lived and worked on the Chars formed by the annual floods; many Char-dwellers found themselves unable to leave the Chars simply because of governmental fear of illegal immigration: the shifting nature of the Chars leaves most Char-dwellers without a permanent residence, and unable to secure documentation from either nation. Lohit's father and uncle had, over the years, helped many Char farmers secure documentation from one nation or another, and those who remained in the village tended to be very loyal to Lohit's family. No one was ever so bold as to ask just how documentation was secured, and so far as anyone ever knew, no one had ever been asked to pay so much as a dry goat for the favor. This was typical of Lohit's parents: both were raised Hindi, but had lived under a heavy Buddhist influence. Lohit and his siblings were raised to believe that all life was sacred, and that there is a fundamental "good" that dominates humanity. Many times, it may appear that this goodness is missing from one individual or another, but more likely it is simply buried under fear or misplaced desire. All good done in this life will be rewarded in the next, and the greatest good that anyone can do in this life is to bring out the goodness inherent in others. This desire to do good by and for others may have been the sole motivator in helping many people secure the documents they needed to gain access to the workings of government, from simple health care to the feeling that casting a vote helps a person control his own destiny. Lohit's family had always fished when the waters were rich, just after the floods started to recede, and farmed the fertile soil left behind when the rivers were back in their beds. They grew primarily legumes and potatoes on the driest parts of the Chars and cultivated rice around the boggy edges. Sadate had shown Lohit's father, Biman, how to bank the soil of the outer Chars to provide dry ground for growing jute, from which the family would braid rope, weave fabric, or trade as raw fiber. When the rivers started to rise but were still placid, Biman would take his wife and the eldest daughters by boat to various small towns where they would set up shop vending and trading, bringing much-needed cash into the family. When the waters began to drop, they would return in time for the peak fishing season. Once the Chars could be planted, Biman and the women would load trade goods and dried foods onto their motorcycle and they would head for the trade roads, setting up kitchens at the busiest intersections. Life for Lohit and his family was always busy, but it was very good: his home was larger and in better repair than most in his village, and his family's diversity in their work allowed him a great deal more travel than most others in his village. Further, the payoff for the never-ending work of his family resulted in a higher level of cash income than most of the other villagers. Combined with the fierce loyalty of the many Char farmers who had gained a measure of citizenship through the actions of his family, and his family's embrace of the concept of helping others through good acts and kindness had made his family rather affluent. Certainly, influence in a poverty-stricken area might be meaningless by more urban standards, but as a whole, life was good for the clan of Biman Bahga. Still, like most people, Lohit had daydreams of a more prosperous and glamourous life. While he had seen many places and many people, most of the people he saw were very much like those people of his own village: fishers, farmers, traders-- those who travelled as work as opposed to those who travelled for the joy of travel. The most glamourous thing Lohit ever saw was the lone motorcycle police officer assigned to his area. The officer was stationed four or five towns over, and rode a regular circuit that carried him to Lohit's little village every four or five weeks. He would ride into town on a motorcycle much newer and in far better repair than the one owned by Biman Bahga. There was no sidecar and no rattan baskets hung from the forks or rear fender. There was no trailer in tow. There was only a recently washed (if dusty from travel) motorcycle with fancy luggage and a light on a pole. There was shiny chrome and beautiful paint. As he rode to town, children would begin to run alongside him, and he would slow and toot the horn repeatedly. Then he would sway wide from one side of the dirt road to the the other until he would stop across the road, and help whatever lucky child he had stopped near clamber onto the back seat and he would take off again, with the light blinking and the siren howling the half mile or so to the well in the center of the village. Here, he would park his motorcycle and hand the child a small bag, from which the child would throw small bits of wrapped candy to the other children as they ran to the well. All the while the small man with the little belly would laugh and dance excitedly with the children. Soon the adults would come; the candy would be gone, and business would begin. Lohit rarely chased the officer for the candy. Certainly he would take it when it was tossed his way, and twice he had been lucky enough to ride on the back seat to the well and throw candies to his friends. But candy wasn't what attracted him to the police officer. Lohit was fascinated by the uniform. The policeman's uniform was always quite dusty from the ride, and his face and arms bore a day's grime. But still, the creases were visible in the trousers and the starch of the collar usually held up well. The buttons were all the same, and the shirt tucked perfectly into the waist of the pants. The various badges and patches and insignia represented some sort of authority or power that Lohit did not yet fully understand, and he was fascinated by it. He was perhaps the only child that stayed while the adults came forward to conduct their business with the officer. Such boring business, too. Lohit knew from school and his parents that policemen captured criminals and brought them to justice, even if they had to spend weeks and weeks hunting for them. Lohit knew that this was their way of protecting the rest of society from harm, and he understood the value of this job. But clearly, there was no criminal in his village. The policeman never came here to arrest a farmer or fisherman or to search for clues of a crime. Certainly there were many reasons for this, most of which could be laid squarely on the simple fact that the people here were too poor to rob and too busy to rob someone else. Still, there were always minor disputes: goats grazing on a neighbor's land without compensation; damage done to a loaned fishing boat; debts not being paid according to schedule-- things of that nature. There was no courthouse here (and just barely a need for one) and over the years the policeman had become sort of a traveling arbiter for small disputes owing to both his knowledge of the law and the inability of most of the villagers to find the means or the time to travel to a real judge. He and the villagers had slowly come to an unspoken agreement that he would serve in this capacity so long as his decision was heeded, and they would abide by his decision so long as no formal arrests or complaints were made. This fascinated Lohit. Not the unusualness of the situation, for it was the only situation he had ever known, but the idea that here was a man dressed in a fine uniform, clearly a powerful man, who had been charged by the government to help people. This man who commanded so much respect actually made his living helping people, and his perpetual smile and chuckle were doubtless the result of the satisfaction that such a life must bring. Lohit dreamed of such a life: of wearing fine clothes and riding a fine machine and spending his days from sunup to sundown traveling the horizons helping people. Surely this must be the most satisfying job in the world; the greatest way a man could spend his life. Lohit never failed to marvel at the somber agreement of all the parties adjudicated by the officer, and never failed to notice that, even if they did not get the decision for which they had hoped, they nonetheless seemed happier simply to have come to a resolution. Indeed, this was surely the greatest way that a man could hope to earn a living. From time to time, Lohit would discuss his dreams with Uncle Whitey. Often they would sit in the shade of the door's awning in the evening, when the sun was waning. Uncle Whitey wasn't particularly afraid of the sun, but he was always careful of himself. When he had to venture out into the sun, he usually wore over his clothes a long heavy robe that dragged the ground slightly, and always wore full shoes over his feet lest they should peek out from beneath his robe while he was walking or working. He looked almost like a religious figure, with his face hidden deep within the hood of his robe and his walking stick, always with him whenever he left the house: Uncle Whitey had a limp from an injury before Lohit's birth, and he said walking great distances tired him. He was afraid if he fell he might strike his head; if he fell unconscious and his robe failed to cover him, exposure to the sun could be life-threatening. Still, in spite of his condition, Uncle Whitey loved the outdoors. He would often sit in the shade and watch the children play, and was never far from Biman's side when there was work to do in the field. Most of all, he loved to watch the last of the sunlight vanish from the day, and often he would sit under the porch awning and watch the children play until it was too dark to continue. Many nights, if the sun was obscured and light enough remained, Sādāṭē would even lead the children in whirling dances, tiring them out until there were no complaints when it was time to get ready for bed. More often than not, if Sādāṭē was sitting and watching, then Lohit would sit by his side and the two would talk long into the dark. Sādāṭē had a special fondness for the boy, who was startlingly intelligent and markedly precocious for his age. Lohit, for his part, enjoyed talking with Sādāṭē, who treated him as an equal of sorts during their talks. They had talked many times of Lohit's interest in becoming a policeman, and Sādāṭē had reminded him of his position in the family, and his responsibilities. When it was clear that this was not just a passing fancy for Lohit, Sādāṭē would tell him of the perils of being a policeman, and even the difficulty associated with one of Lohit's social ranking trying to become a policeman: even the lowliest officer held a caste higher than that of Lohit's family. Still, Sādāṭē would tell him, hard work, earnestness, integrity, and money would go a long way toward making it at least possible. Certainly it would take a great deal of money, but Sādāṭē assured Lohit that so long as it was his goal, and so long as he worked hard for it and never shirked his duties to his family and the village, then there was a good chance that he may one day become a police officer. When Lohit was seven years old, he saw his first airplane. Strangers had come down the river just before the waters began to rise- many men in a great many boats. They set up camps on some of the chars and worked late into the night with the goods from their boats, never venturing into the village and rebuking any approach by any of the villagers. Then, one day while the waters were high, an airplane landed on the river. It roared up the river, noisily crawling from char to char until it neared one of the strangers' camps, at which point it grounded itself up on the muddy soil and nine men got out. The airplane was something completely new to the villagers-- they knew about airplanes, of course, but none had ever been so close to one before-- and many boats began to drift cautiously toward it. A score of the older children simply swam out toward the char, hoping to gain a better view of the airplane or perhaps talk to the pilot. Lohit had not gone to the plane: there had been many preparations to make that day. Biman had gone, against Whitey's advice, and at the evening meal told a strange tale of unfriendly strangers with guns hanging from their shoulders menacing anyone who approached the char, warning them to tend to their own work and ignore what was going on in the chars. Still, Biman had extended to the men an offer of a meal. It was met with laughter and derision, yet Biman had not rescinded. Whitey cautioned Biman to heed the men and not return to the chars, believing that they would be gone soon enough and life would return to normal. He announced to the children that any of them going near any of the camped chars would be soundly whipped until any ounce of disobedience within them was rattled loose and forgotten.
  17. The Tiger. inspiration: A large crux of things. A couple of months ago, i stumbled across an over-the-top Bollywood film titled "Singham." As I looked for more hilarious clips, I learned a lot about the movie, primarily that it was actually a remake of a much more serious drama (of the same name) and I got sidetracked researching that movie as well. More recently, my eldest has been asking religiously-oriented questions and has had her interest piqued by the "weirdness" of Hinduism and Buddhism, yet both kids have taken a fancy to a short run of History Channel programs focussing on east Asia, in particular the Bengali. My surprise at having learned that Bengali are the single largest ethnotype on the face of the earth-- it seems somehow wrong that western heroic fantasy doesn't feature much in the way of Bengali characters who aren't deranged hypnotists masquerading as carnival fortune tellers. My undying love of the old-even-before-I-was-born movie serials and their portrayal of all-powerful yogis and swamis. My unending hatred for Batman. Hate the character; hate the concept; hate what that Watchmen guy (was it Moore? I don't remember) did to him even more, turning him forever from Batman (who was only barely tolerable, for brief moments, on the rarest of occasions) into "Batmunch, the Uber-jerk." My almost-appreciation for a couple of key elements of the re-imagining of Batman that has now been in place for so long that most fans today have no idea that this is _not_ the grinning, laughing Batman many of us remember from our own youths. The fact that I have never made a character who actually worked in law enforcement. Yeah; sounds stupid, as most of my characters are the "uphold the law" type, and nearly all of my favorites are "good guys," heroic or not, but I've never made an "official" good guy. I have stumbled across a score of stories on the net recently about the involvement of Indian police involved in riots, beatings, etc-- usually as participants. They can't _all_ be like that, any more than it's fair to assume that _all_ of our own policemen are arrogant, above-the-law jackasses who became cops specifically for the gun-toting off-duty privileges it affords them. I mean, there has to be at least _one_ exception, right? Those are the major contributors to my inspiration. There are several others, of course, but those are the biggies. The fact that they have all piled in on me in such short order has _compelled_ me to do something with them, even though I generally don't turn back to creative writing until the weather starts to cool (go figure). So-- what do I like from each inspiration? (Another "con" to this method of creation is the incredible verbosity! I guess that's the problem when you write eight words a minute but type almost as fast as you can talk. lol ) From the re-made movie "Singham," I like the larger-than-lifeness" (tm) of the character. I like the look of character as well: athletically built, but with a build that suggests lots of hard work as opposed to hours in the gym body sculpting: big arms without 'cut' or 'relief' or whatever the latest buzzword is for 'over-exagerated and incredibly unnatural-looking definition) attached to strong but not-too-wide shoulders that slope naturally, as a well-worked trapezius would dictate. There is also the "he look-a like a _man_" thing going on with the firm facial features and serious set of his expression; the wide chin-- even the "cop" mustache works better for him than it does for most men who chose to wear it. He is a very imposing and yet-- far more importantly-- very _believable_-looking guy. A build that states power, but with an over-all physique that demonstrates endurance and motion as opposed to the typical muscles-on-muscles action hero that looks like he'd be Hell on wheels for twenty minutes, then gasping for breath as his body is wracked with the lactic acid that even a few minutes of intense strain would produce. From the original movie, I really liked the integrity and determination of the character. This is actually one of the very few things I like about Batman-- not Batmunch. I'm sure that Batmunch has just as much integrity and determination, but they never really come into play for Batmunch: he's too busy making sure he has ten thousand plots to destroy all his friends well in place, "just in case," and in his spare time, he's too busy either proving that he is God over every molecule of his body or brooding about how miserable and lonely it is to be so devoted to being such a total schmuck. One thing completely missing from Batman that I found to be very important to both versions of the Singham character (particularly the original) was a very deep belief in the general "goodness" within his fellow man. While he accepted that many men did not properly know _how_ to act for the good of others, and that others were afraid or simply unable to do so, he believed that most were willing to do right by others, to do good for others, and strove not only to do the right thing himself, but to always be a very public example of right action, no matter how overwhelming the situation. To be fair, the first Singham was not the evidently-superhuman that the second was, and was a bit more cautious in his dealings with 'the bad guys,' but he did not ever cower before them, either. So right off the bat, I've got a Bengali character who is a policeman. He's in India for several reasons: it's the correct nod to the largest parts of my inspiration. I am happier setting this character amongst the "bad cop" stories I've been reading lately than I would be simply cloning him and painting him some other color and moving him to the US. Besides, putting him in India lets me make him a motorcycle officer with a rural or urban jurisdiction (not many rural bike cops here in the US) and it lets me put him on a Royal Enfield. Not really a great piece of equipment unless you live in the country that makes all the parts, but they have a certain "look" that works well for the character I am imagining. In keeping with the naming of the character (I'm told that "Singham" means "lion" or some such thing in a language that I know nothing of), I have decided to call the character "Bāgha," the Bengali word for "tiger." I can do that because on paper, I never, ever have to pronounce it. So what do I derive from Batmunch? I know: it's the question that super-hero and super-heroesque fans have been waiting for me to answer. So I offer this: The original Batman character worked extremely well. I never much liked it, but it was cohesive and worked well within the parameters of its own world. Batmunch never did. There. I said it: Batmunch is completely broken as a concept. No one that fanatical or driven to put themselves through so ridiculously much can claim that they are motivated by the love of dead parents, or even the love of living ones. The only "love" involved here is pure and simple narcissism. Batmunch isn't doing this to make the streets safe or any other glorious "greater good" reason: he's doing it for his own personal ego trip, constantly proving to himself that he is somehow superior to every other human being he encounters. How do I justify this conclusion? A man with his wealth who really wanted to do something for the "greater good" could do what Bill Gates and many others of nigh-inexhaustible finances are doing: funding research to irrigate the desert, cure disease, etc. Oh; I see. He wants to do something _specifically_ for NewYo-- uh, Gotham. Fine. He can build a thousand-bed hospital with income-adjusted fees; he can organize massive meals-on-wheels programs; he can subsidize electric bills or build shelters for the homele-- Oh. He wants to do something for _crime_. I gotcha. Okay: he can build and donate a new prison. He can build better weapons for the police department-- he can put his own privately-funded troops on the street, at the beck and call of "Gotham" police officers. Hell, he could put _walls_ up at Arkham Asylum! There's an idea. That place has apparently had a massive shortage of walls, since it seems impossible to keep anyone in there long enough to even meet their court date. But _NOOOOooooOOOooooOOOooooo_! Batmunch does none of these things! Instead, he invests untold millions in gadgets that let him prowl around in his skivvies and do hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property damage to buildings financed by taxpayer money or the homes of the working poor or the very buildings in which their meager wages are earned. Yeah. That's better. Fight crime, my eye teeth. Batmunch exists because he's a self-righteous prima dona who is clearly every bit as sociopathic and hopelessly deranged as the people from whom he claims to be defending Gotham. On top of that, he spends endless hours brooding about how the people whose homes and livelihoods he has destroyed by attempting to carpet bomb the Penguin into submission just don't seem to appreciate him enough. What a dick. Batmunch redeemed: A young boy witnesses the murder of his parents and dedicates his life to making sure such evil is erased from the earth. He dons a giant bat costume, studies some king fu, builds some exploding gizmorangs, and spends the next few years picking off criminals with the aid of a sniper rifle. Nowhere near as heroic, but more acceptable than the crap most of his fans are swallowing. So let's back up just a bit. Let's assume that our character has always been taught by his parents that there is an inherent "goodness" in everyone. Let's say that he has been raised to believe that the good you do in this life will be rewarded in the next. Let's say that his close-knit family taught him love: that they loved him, and encouraged him to love them and others. It rather makes sense that such a pretty-much normal kid would not only enjoy other people, but want to actively help them: to love them, and perhaps be loved by them as well. It's easy enough to see that even in western culture. Factor in a religion that resulted in a culture of "doing right leads to reward" (instead of our own more-popular-in-the-west "believing right leads to reward") might yield a warm, friendly young man who is quick to help and slow to criticize. Now the turning point. Why a turning point? Yes; it sounds cliche, but the fact of the matter is that we ordinary human beings are every day the sum total of our reactions to every situation we have experienced up to that very moment. We are also terribly boring as adventure characters: "Okay, Steve. You come home from work. It's been a horrible day: the boss has been crawling all over you about those TPS reports, and the numbers are way, way down." "Do I have enough money for some weed and a hooker?" "Nada. You just paid the mortgage and the lights, and payday's still ten days off. You could possibly do one or the other, but let's face it: nothing in your life has really prepared you for successfully purchasing either one." "Okay. Well I guess I'll go home and watch four-and-a-half hours of television." "Television was pretty boring: it was mostly reruns, but you found a strange level of comfort from the familiarity of the dialogue. Now you have to decide: are you going to shower first, or go straight to bed?" "Not sure. How's my deodorant doing?" "Let me check....[rolls dice ominously]..." See what I mean? A 'turning point' doesn't really have to be as contrived as you might think: it's simply the point at which something happened that made this character react in a way that was counter to what the majority of people in that situation would have done. For example, the majority of people who watched their parents get gunned down would probably have lived fearful lives, or dedicated a large chunk of their personal fortune to law-enforcement initiatives, or perhaps even joined the police force to help protect others from the same sort of thing. But then there's the one nutjob who makes a bat costume and goes on extended jags of violence and wild destruction as his own coping mechanism. You know: that whole "if you can't beat them, join them but do it in a way that lets you present yourself as being completely in the right" thing. So... what was the turning point for young Mr. Bāgha? To find that out, we need to know a little tiny something about his background. We don't really need a lot of detail, but we do need to set into motion some sort of situation in which becoming a policeman seemed like a good and right thing to do.
  18. Well, I'm not sure if it's "no constructive criticism" or "no interest." Either way, though, I should be safe to continue: if there's no constructive criticism, it could be because there's not a large enough sample to determine routine flaws. If it's because there's no interest, well then there's no chance I'm bothering anybody. So off to the next one: This one starts off a bit different, as I originally did this for a friend who wanted to understand just what the thought process is to making a character "that works." Yeah; there are lots of definitions of what a "working" character is, but from our conversation, I think he was looking for one who's background and origin story-- no matter how "out there" shaped him to be the hero he is today. I just shot my mouth off a bit and then went into creating the character (at length). There was meant to be a second part: a "making the background match the character (because we've all done it that way, too), but it never happened because I swung through his neck of the woods on vacation shortly after the first part and we hashed through it in a series of actual conversations (the uncool, old-fashioned, spoken-out-loud kind). Either way, and in spite of the outdatedness of a lot of the references in the first part (directed to my buddy, before the character background starts out), I've decided to leave it in simply so that 1) there is more to criticize and 2) you can kind of see where some of this goofiness comes from. So let's begin.
  19. that is one heck of an understatement
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