So, this was a character I made for a reaaallly high powered game that was also a sort of collaborative setting building exercise that ultimately went nowhere due to, well, poor GM quality amongst other things, to be blunt. Anyway, I went a bit experimental with the backstory writing, since the whole idea was a time travelling paragon sort of thing, so I both decided to write it up as a series of fictional vingettes and also not go entirely linear with the dates.
T'was a character called the Harbinger was sort of.. Superman by way of The Doctor by way of a million little things I ripped off by way of ANGST. Also I just stole Vandal Savage wholesale, but I needed an immortal caveman for this.
6000 CE (900 FF- from the founding)
He looked to them from a podium, generals, ministers, physicians. His gaze swept over them as he sighed, delivering a report as much epitaph as debriefing.
“The Charlemagne project was a dream given form. A heritage of continuous genetic therapy and educational rigor had produced the finest Emperors the Imperium had known. The glory, peace and advancement they had brought to known space demanded a retinue that could reflect their glory. Could be the hands and guardians of their peace. A gift back unto the Emperor for the gift he had given civilization, to reward him his due with peers, advisors and guardians that did not just embody the best of his work, that /were/ the best of his work.”
“Genetic material was culled from the finest of the subjects of the Imperium and enhanced further still. Life grown around frames of refined materiel. Enhanced with the best technologies. Infused with experimental energies. Trained then, raised then, named then from the deeds and words of heroes, of mythic figures, of the titans of history. Captain Diomedes Plantagenet. Lord Marshal Saladin Musashi. Doctor Aurelian Bolivar.”
He intoned the names as if a requiem, and he took the time to list them all besides, though some began to shift uncomfortably as he did, at one name particularly from the rest.
“For these men and women would take these names and do what had never been before possible. Take these stories of myth, of legend, of history, and make them real, make them truth. So great was our Empire that this would not simply be a gift to our Emperor, but to mankind itself. Our dream, to show that an Empire had been made, where legend was not simply birthright, but birthed.”
“That dream failed.”
“The why of it is still not understood. Some believe that an imperative to devote oneself with indomitable will and refined tactical intellect to the well being of the Empire lead to those that decided they must control it to do so. Some others maintain it was the simple corruption that comes with both an elevated state, coupled with an elevated station. Ego deciding upon an ethos of engineered genetic fitness, that their warlike purpose and strife heavy lives lead them to see only themselves as worthy, and those around them as weak. Others still point to the unnatural charisma of the one who would proudly call himself Ganelon-“
A brief catch in his speech, one quickly stifled.
“To gather his brethren to his will. The point remains that it happened, and a conspiracy of engineered superhumans would have seized this Empire whole, barely stopped in brutal war by those of their own kind who remained loyal. The point remains that it speaks to an endemic flaw in this process. Even now, the lives, deeds, the sheer existence of the Table of Peers undergoes a process of historical nullification, lest our enemies understand how close we came to destroying ourselves from our own folly.”
“Unfortunately, this council has seen fit to ignore my final recommendation. For some believe it is possible that as this was a flaw, it can be corrected. And so, instead of the final destruction of all subjects I have submitted to this report, it has been decided that the survivors of the Table of Peers, both renegade and loyalist, will be placed into stasis for study. And as loyal warriors of the Empire, I and my brethren submit to the will of this decision. But I will say one last time. We should not have been made. And we should not live. Even now the rumours abound of those of us that might have escaped and are in hiding. Finding ways to breed. And if not, to modify humans instead in their image. To train descendants in their ethos of superiority.”
“The Charlemagne project was a noble dream. A heavenly dream. But if the reach of a man does not exceed his grasp, then what is a heaven for?”
6100 CE (1000 FF)
The bunker shuddered violently from the explosions overhead, lights flickering, the ceramsteel ceiling beginning to crack and rain down shavings of metal as a herald of imminent collapse. A heavily bloodied figure hunched over a large crystal cylinder, shaking fingers moving almost quickly enough to blur over a panel etched in relief into the crystal.
"You were right. You were right and we were fools, though I don't know if that will console you when you wake and hear this. We made more, as you knew we would. They seized all of you, freed those of a like mind, and now.. Now the empire burns, worlds burn, the galaxy burns, humanity burns, time itself splinters. And the chief architects of this hell do not even remain to face the consequence of their war. They flee through temporal streams, to forge unbreakable chains of slavery in more primitive eras that would give them dominion over a universe, over all that is. And in the desperation of our efforts, all we could obtain to counter this was you. We have channeled such chronal energies as remain to us into you, in the hopes of bolstering you, to fix you into time as unchanging against the shifts your kin will make. We-"
A pause, with a wracking cough covered by a hand that came away covered in blood.
"I am sorry, you are sorry, we are all sorry. But you are all that is, and though we made you strong beyond reckoning, I do not know if you can truly bear the weight of our hopes, and the weight of our penance."
A flare of blue white energies then, the cylinder vanishing into them just as the bunker collapsed entirely.
5 billion BCE
There came a day when the Old Gods died.
A cosmic conflagration ended their time and shook reality. Impossible warfare of incomprehensible technologies, peerless might. For elevated beings temporally adrift, there was no finer scavenging ground in the space time continuum for energies and artifacts alike. And the desperate struggles of one man against many were certainly easy to lose track of or even ignore amidst such furious Gotterdammerung.
A man who might have won his struggle then and there all the same, if he could have ultimately borne the sight of noble beings dying and sacrificing for each other all around him, could have turned from their plight, for all that he knew their futile destiny. His timelost enemies laughed and seized an opportunity to flee with ill gotten gains, mocking his soft and noble heart.
The Big Bang
It is a jarring shock to such precious few that have managed to glimpse the creation event and survive that it is sound that first assails them. That of laughter, harsh, dark, triumphant, shrill and cacophonous. For a twisted assemblage had gathered, battened on stolen power, and made ready to realize fell ambitions in ways beyond even their wildest hopes.
And then, a hand, reaching out, bright and golden and giant. Laughter dying in throats as fear finally finds itself a borning in the gaze of once untouchable tyrants. A voice called out then, sure and strong, a clarion call pronouncing judgment.
“I bled for the Old Gods, and they bled for me! Bled power into me! They will not birth and live and fight and die over a universe transformed to nightmare!”
A golden god reached forth his hand, and stolen power was sundered and scattered, even as that gifted to him was expended. Enemies fleeing in desperation in every direction, to every corner of time on sheer survival instinct. The warrior was left alone to sigh softly at that he had told himself it would have been that easy. Later he would wonder if enduring to see what came next was the result of his own innate gifts, the lingering touch of granted power, or, in his quietest moments, the reward of some unseen force underlying the universe itself. At the time he could only lose himself to weeping in awe and wonder at being able to look around now and seeing the elegant dance of a forming universe, of a grace and beauty and promise he could never allow to become the hell of his own future.
He had inspired, intimidated, cajoled and pacted his way into this warhost of primitives, but he needed an army to fight an army, and they weren’t exactly otherwise thick on the ground in these parts. Still, one of their leaders was as obstinate as he was disturbing in his inhuman resilience and his capacity to learn.
“Alright, are we clear on the plan?”
The thick haired barbarian grunted as he shifted his mighty thews.
“I am clear on the part where I will eat their hearts for power!”
He rubbed at his temples.
“I think you are the worst person I have ever met, Vandal the Savage.”
The barbarian just laughed and clapped his shoulder.
“Hah! You are a funny man, it is a good thing in a friend.”
The warrior groaned.
The Vanishing Point, Time Unfixed
Joshua Epoch could only move at a crawl, but that left him more fortunate than Doctor Tomorrow, whose limp body slumped to the wall suggested a paralysis his futuristic technology might not get the chance to repair. They were both doing better than the crumpled, now lifeless body of Matthew Hunter, Last of the Linear Men. Cruel and perfect features leered down at them all in cold and contemptuous triumph, an imperator of future dominion, outlined in shadows cast by spark showers from sundered machinery.
“Sad. When they write the songs of my triumph, that the end will have been such anticlimax.”
The man had a thoughtful look as he made his way to machines pulsing with chronal energy, working to fuse strange crystals to them.
“I suppose I can always lie when they ask. Hell, when I am master of time, I can simply rearrange details to more befit my person.”
He tsked as he worked.
“What you gnats thought to accomplish against me is beyond my comprehension. Time travel has made you arrogant, forgetful of that you are but men, lesser and weak, alone and flotsam before a god.”
A fist emerged then from a distortion effect, sending the would be temporal tyrant sprawling. A voice sounded out from within it. A voice that had once been that of a god in truth, and for a moment, a conqueror that had strode across burning worlds perhaps trembled.
“They are men, and greater thus than a god could ever be. For it is men that truly understand sacrifice. It is men that can understand beyond any being the price you pay for time. To buy just enough of it, dearly enough, for the hope they have earned to be fulfilled.”
The ancient enemy of the imperial overmen emerged, and the rage and judgment in his features fell to stricken sorrow at the sight of his friends.
It allowed his foe time for a taunt and a smile in response.
“Greatness comes in such fragile packaging then.”
The battle that followed was quick, frenzied and desperate. In a last moment, the overman managed a leap into an energized time platform, laughing in triumph as the warrior rushed in a blur to half failing machines and worked quickly. Laughter turned into blood curdling screams that echoed for some time as the overman vanished, the ancient warrior moving to kneel in silence over the body of his fallen friend.
It was Epoch that finally managed to speak.
“What did you do?”
The warrior did not even look up, still staring silently to Hunter’s body with tired, haunted eyes.
“Antigonus was the most ambitious of us all. A wild, mad dreamer beyond even my crèche brother. Only he could have conceived of merging himself with time, found a way to make it so.”
The warrior sounded half admiring, almost.
“So I gave him what he wanted.”
A confused look from Epoch at that.
“I sent him through time. To all time. To every time. He felt himself superior to all other time travelers. And now he is. Forever. But who else will ever be able to say they have traveled to every single time at once?”
The warrior fell silent again, simply cradling Matthew’s head as his eyes teared up, for his friend, for himself, for his enemy.
Left in silence to ponder the cold horror of this triumph, even if it was for the sake of a man who had just tried to torture and kill him, Epoch could only hope that it might be true that there truly would be an end to time.
This, the warrior told himself, was a mistake. He could tell, for how right it felt, how true to his purpose. Teaching these races war, leading them in battle across stellar expanse. It was like being home again. It nauseated him how good it felt.
It was not that he was opposed to the idea of changing time. He was in a very real way fighting his own future after all, and while his experiences with the Old Gods seemed to have fixed him against being changed, he had no reason to feel his future was similarly fixed. So he and his four pointed star were there, if you looked, in ways strange and wonderful, and sometimes terrifying, scattered across space and time, mixed up in various events, woven into various stories.
Still, this was a mistake. But there was nothing to be done for it, faces looked to him now. Tamaranian, Thanagarian, Khund, and a score of others, in hope, in eagerness. Waiting for the speech to martial them to warships that some of them barely understood (and there at least he had no plans to teach them) to lead them to salvation against his kinsmen and their alien janissaries. He hoped that when this passed into legend, they would at least remember honour to go with their martial spirit. He hoped this defeat would at last put an end to his seeming endless war with his brethren, that persisted no matter how few of them ever seemed to be left.
He hoped those were not very pretty lies he was telling himself.
He smiled despite himself as he walked down halls of silver and gold, of shining living crystal. He made his way through elegant, impossible towers that spired into the clouds, looking out at verdant seas of exquisite greenery, of the brilliant blue oceans beyond. He had seen the creation event itself, and somehow Atlantis always took away his breath all the same.
He would miss it, like he had missed nothing else. The people, the culture, the achievement, the potential. Even, especially the endless petulant arguments between Arion and Mastermind as to whether science or magic was more important to Atlantis’ glory. Even Vandal the Savage’s endless, ridiculous schemings for power in the middle of a utopia. Somehow they only felt endearing now.
He came to a window and looked out just quietly. So lost to himself that he missed the woman coming up behind him, sliding an arm around his waist, and placing a soft kiss to his neck.
“So solemn and brooding my love. You have not seemed thus since we found you decades ago.”
Concern crept into her voice amidst gentle teasing and adoration as she continued. “And I had long thought your spirit finally healed, to match your body.”
He could not bring himself to look to her, he could only speak quietly.
“I am so, so sorry. I lost track of things. Of them. Of myself. I thought they were beaten. I thought it was over. I thought.. I started thinking three dimensionally again. Like a fool.”
The rising bitterness in his voice compelled her to use her own strength to turn him about, to gaze to him in worry and force pained and misted eyes to look to hers.
“Tell me what troubles you. Tell me what is wrong and we will face it together my love, as we have faced everything. Tell me what I can do.”
The sky outside began to darken unnaturally, and it was all he could do to pull her close in his arms and whisper.
“Just hold me. Hold me until forever comes.”
The warrior hated the near futures of the nexus time. They not simply spawned in some ridiculous number, they were also, quite often, either ridiculous of themselves, dystopic, or both. At least this one had less pouches.
“Shock you, you shocking shock! Shock you right in the shock!”
About the usual level of pointless nonsense jargon though.
He just let the gang rain down blows on him until whatever drugs they were on wore off and they moved on. He didn’t feel like the trouble other solutions would bring him. Not when he wasn’t even here on personal business. He simply gazed up at the sky and waited for the gigantic hologram of the mechanized demonic religious figure to coalesce.
“Behold my children, the glory of the Cyber Satanic Pope! Turn your cerebral anti-bibles to page 666 for today’s nega-sermon!”
This is what happens when you let mischief demons steal a time machine. Every era where the Master Mage wasn’t quite up to snuff seemed to always result in some damn thing he swore to never speak of again, as experiences go.
The armor was heavy, and he stank of sweat. Not for the first time did he regret his pact with Merlin to let his power be channeled into the seal that was keeping demonic activity out of Camelot, allowing the strength to grow here that would let it purge the foul creatures from Europe.
Still, anti demon seals apparently didn’t actually cover dragons.
“Alright, are we clear on the plan here?”
Vandal Savage snorted.
“I am clear on my plan to use that dragon’s bones in a ritual to give me the strength to topple Arthur from his pretender throne!”
The warrior rubbed his temples.
“You are the worst person I know, Vandal the Savage.”
“You know perfectly well you love me.” A pause. “In a manly way. I only tried that the one time in Athens.”
He had very little time before the asteroid would be drawn down onto earth, and the force channel that guided its path seemed to make disruption impossible, pounding a fist on the console before him. He had to hand it to Savage, even his own genius couldn’t reprogram equations of such constant and sophisticated evolution that they bordered on sentience. At least not without more time. Which was ironic enough to goad a laugh, then a frustrated cry.
“Damnation Savage, there are easier ways to commit suicide!”
The ancient barbarian snorted from where he was bound.
“Not for me, you know that.”
The warrior’s eye twitched.
“Then I do not suppose I could talk you into living.”
“I have done everything, seen everything, ruled everything. Fucked everything. There is nothing new under the sun for me. Nothing left for me to live for.”
A wild light flashed in the warrior’s eyes, and a blazing force of inspiration with it in the eyes of a man who had been birthed to lead billions.
“But that is just it man! You have never lived for anything!”
“What has Vandal Savage done, except for the gratification in some way of Vandal Savage, delayed or otherwise? For edification, pleasure, gain? When have you ever had the experience of dedicating yourself to another? Living for another? Truly being for another?”
Savage eyed him incredulously.
“You can’t possibly think that has any appeal for a man like me.”
“Ahh, can I not? Let us say you finally figured out how to die, you genius you. Can you tell me some corner of your fine mind is not wondering if this one thing you have not done, and we know you have not, truly has anything to it? That if at last you are finally to die, will it be not with peace, but with frustration that comes from a sense of incompleteness, like.. like just one more mortal?”
Savage scowled deeply at the warrior for a long moment. Then his eye twitched.
“First, if you don’t start using contractions regularly I’m going to strangle you, invulnerability or no. Second, you are the worst person I have ever met.”
“You know you love me” The warrior paused. “In a manly way.”
“Sparta was entirely manly.”
“In a different manly way!”
The theatre was packed, but it had nothing to do with any film listed on the marquee. Rumours had spread like wildfire of recent events, and the newsreels were the only way to catch anything resembling a living glimpse.
"This is RKO, bringing you the news of the world! Dateline, Europe!
"Nazi forces chase British and French troops all the way to Dunkirk, where their unstoppable supermen prepare to inflict a slaughter straight out of a nightmare!"
Newsreels were not exactly known for their sense of restraint. What was by now stock footage of the Nazi ubermenschen played at this point to a chorus of boos that had a sense of fearful strain to their bravado.
"But just when all hope seemed lost, coming in with the rays of the sun themselves, a new hero to stand with the forces of freedom!"
Footage and displayed photos then of this new hero in action, and if they contained a few ones from incidents taken after Dunkirk, the audience were too awestruck to care. A flying man, all perfect features and lantern jawed, hair framing his face that did nothing but give him an enhanced sense of the regal, even imperial power. His uniform had a military looking cut, a side fastening jacket with a central, encircled, four pointed starburst and high backed gloves. And there he was, hurling tanks or melting them in flashes of energy, punching out Nazi supersoldiers, and carrying a damaged battleship of cheering soldiers to a port.
"With this courageous titan standing rearguard, an incredible effort came forth from the British people, from their navy right down to their fishing boats triumphed in an impossible rescue, evacuating their forces from the brink of disaster!"
Some footage of the flying hero, alongside some boats.
"But who is this mystery man? The British people have taken to calling him the Dunkirk Spirit, though from his own cryptic comments, we know he calls himself the Harbinger. But Harbinger of what?"
A great big question mark spiraling out over his face.
"As his valiant fight against the Axis continues, we can be sure that the tomorrow this new hero heralds, is a better one for us all!"
Closing footage of the man in flight again. The crowd erupts into wild cheers.
The blaze of the fires cast the cold sculpted beauty of the ubermensch simply called Superior in an unholy light, his usually immaculate blond hair wildly unkempt. Dresden was bombed into an inferno, Superior ripping up a burning building whole from the ground to smash apart over the Harbinger’s head, then flying up in a blur to vapourize the rubble in a pulse of crimson energy from his hands. The smoke cleared to show a staggered, but still standing Harbinger. The sight goaded a scream of pure frustration from his enemy, that quickly became mockery as he charged.
"In all this time, have you even stopped to think why you even are alive to try and stop me! Or is your head too thick with that repeating single track of 'honour. duty. empire. humanity.' to have room!"
The Harbinger met Superior's charge with gritted teeth, an intercepting punch that flattened a city block in the shockwave, and a gaze that held a very out of place sorrow.
"I do not, I think, have to accept points about my intelligence from a man who conceals himself as the servant of a one testicled lunatic dwarf with a ludicrous mustache and scientifically inane ideas about racial purity."
Superior's laugh was as wild as the anger in his gaze as he wiped blood away from his mouth.
"Gods. You haven't stopped with the no contractions either. I can't believe I used to find your formality endearing."
"If it consoles, I wonder to this day how I used to find you inspiring," was the Harbinger’s simple reply.
Superior's laugh trailed off into a half feral snarl, and in the furious assault that followed, managed to pull the Harbinger into a hold, slamming him into the ground over and over, deepening the crater he was forming beneath them as if in rhythm to punctuate a series of outraged yells.
"Kill him they said! We freed you to lead us, and kill him! If you leave him around, they will find a way to use him against us! Gods above I nearly butchered them all then and there! So proud of being made as we were. The sheer presumption to even think that! You were unimaginably lucky to have never met the second generation Tristan, they were a joke! Barely worth cannon fodder."
The Harbinger managed to bring his legs up into the hold and kick outwards with practiced skill, sending Superior hurtling back.
"So you kept me around for a trophy."
The Harbinger's effort to press his momentary advantage was halted by the force of a thunderclap from Superior bringing his hands together, even that boom was defeated by renewed laughter.
"I and mine were megalomaniacs Tristan, not idiots!" A darker laugh. "At least not idiots in that way. Damnit, I was going to fix you! There was a flaw in you, and I was going to make it better! You could have joined us! You were our brother, my brother! I loved you! I love you! And if those travesties of inferior genetics hadn't taken you, you would be at my side right now, you would be building a better world with me! I would have fixed you!"
Superior was screaming again, waving his hand around at the burning city. "And now look at where we are instead! Look at what you've reduced us to! What’s left of us! You and your precious, righteous hunt!"
The Harbinger paused, and began to laugh, in rich tones of his own. Superior just stared.
"It is just, oh Ganelon, the last time anyone suggested our flaws could be fixed in the name of a better world, I replied that we should all be immediately put to death. It- it's just funny."
The Superior's eyes widened in surprise for a moment.
"You used a contrac-"
The Harbinger used that moment to hurl himself forwards, tackling Superior and pulling him to the impact point where a massive cluster of bombs was about to land.
If the Harbinger was uncomfortable, he kept it to himself. The studio was a gaudy, glitzy thing compared to any other location he preferred to give interviews in, but there was a promise of proceeds to charity in an amount he felt could not be ignored.
"On the 40th anniversary of your famous battle with Superior, do you have any thoughts you want to share with our audience? They'd love to hear from a living legend."
The man's smile was a fake, plastic affair in the Harbinger's eyes. He missed the newsreels, they were at least completely upfront about existing to manipulate the people. He knew the anchor was looking for a usual answer. 'Honour. Duty. Empire. Humanity.' He thought of his brother's voice, and all he wanted to do was weep.
What could he say? He could speak of the hyper-quantum math that had him live out most of his time these days in 20th century Earth, which seemed for some reason to be the critical nexus of all time and space for those who would guard such things. He could speak of having laid low so many of his own brethren. Of decades of ‘conventional superheroing’, if you could call it that, not knowing if any of it would be enough to ensure this timeline did not end with his future. He could speak of not knowing whether to grieve or feel triumph over the point he had reached.
He paused, and his gaze was introspective, his silence drawn long enough for the anchorman to grow visibly uncomfortable before the Harbinger finally spoke.
"I used to think, I struggle with still thinking truly, that my power is a flawed thing, that past a certain point all power is such. But I cannot deny that I have managed to do some good in these past decades, that better yet, far more importantly, my power has inspired others towards good, towards building a future that I dare to hope will be a better one that we might have ever known as a people. That doing my part for being the herald of that better future, my mission, it is not simply to counter the evil of others, but to nourish good. That when I doubt, when I despair of the nature of my own strength, there is much in what my- what Superior would have called a 'lesser people', to encourage me to keep going. That with so many having been able to believe in me, in the strength I wield, I am a forerunner to them believing in their own one day."