Skyquake

Omnipedia: The Skyquake

For the building where the Skyquake took place, see King Kurtzberg Tower. For the supergroup forged in the Skyquake experiment at the apex of the tower, see The Astonishing Alliance. For the supergroup forged while evacuating the base of the tower, see The Pentad of Guardians. For the supervillain who underwent Multiple Induced Parahuman Expression during an experiment performed by Doctor Guile, see Beguile. For the rare, disturbing California Meteorological Event, see Thunderstorm🜸 and maybe watch the weather on TV or something. It’s usually on immediately after Sports on your local television affiliates.

The Skyquake was a reality warping, spatiotemporal event that took place during the Emergence Era in Empire City, NY, centering on the King Kurtzberg Tower. The Skyquake was the first known so-called 27-January phenomenon to be recorded, and is believed by some to be the cause of subsequent 27-January phenomena.

The Event

The Skyquake was a localized disruption of Realspace the four-dimensional brane perceivable by most beings in what’s defined as base space/time.

Though his theories had been largely discredited and many who saw potential within those theories felt his methodology was rushed (and more than a little biased), ”Doctor had theorized common elements among the different observed aspects of parahuman expression, and had devised a series of experiments designed to explore and test his hypothesis. This had culminated in a major experiment on January 27 two years after the emergence event, conducted on the upper floors of the King Kurtzberg Tower.

The event did not go as planned, and many of the researchers involved disappeared, never to be heard from again. Throughout Empire City, waves of seeming reality and unreality crashed through the skies causing many unforeseen events throughout the city. It is believed all the research team would have been lost save for the intercession of the newly forged Pentad of Guardians.

The Skyquake is generally regarded as being responsible for a number of paranormal and parahuman phenomena over the next several years throughout Empire City, and is known to have been the origin of the supergroups called the , the , and the Supervillain called Beguile.

History, Hypothesis, and Intention

The Skyquake was the result of an experiment devised by Doctor Aiden Archer to demonstrate evidence for the Supraexpressive Commonality Hypothesis he had been championing since the existence of Parahumanity had become publicly known.

The Five Standard Forms of Supraexpression

In the short period since the Emergence Event, as more information became publicly available, a number of theses surrounding parahumanity had already emerged. One of the most common was later codified into the Ninespace Paradimensional Interactivity Model that has in later years become accepted as at least an early understanding of the underpinnings of parahuman activity. This model, after refinement, first codified the four most commonly accepted major categories of parahuman expression:

  • Zero Point: So-called ‘natural’ or ‘nonspecific’ parahuman expression, where parahuman enhancements and abilities manifest without a specific methodology or intercessory force involved. Often detectable through standard scientific means but lacking in any specific energy signature or spectral effect. (Generally called either zero-point abilities – though they are unrelated to the postulated effect from quantum mechanics🜸 – or referred to as the fluidic energy called vril🜸 by the Vril-ya.)
  • Arcane: Parahuman expression that could be traced back to magical, arcane or occult causes, particularly when no form of divine or xenological intercession could be detected. Often but not exclusively associated with quasiform spectral distortion when scanned using multiprismatic field continuum detection, collation and analysis techniques.
  • Divine: Parahuman expression that could be traced back to some divine force, be it intentional or unintentional, particularly when no form of arcane or xenological intercession could be detected. Also often associated with quasiform spectral distortion when scanned using multiprismatic field continuum detection, collation and analysis techniques.
  • Xenological: Parahuman expression that could be traced back to non-terrestrial causes, particularly associated with some form of quintessence, especially when no form of quasiform spectral distortion can be observed.

The Ninespace Paradimensional Interactivity Model, particularly when applied to parahuman expression among Terrestrial life forms, can generally be classified into the Four Standard Parahuman Expression Forms:

  • Primary Parahuman Expression: Parahuman expression that takes place either without any form of apparent external trigger or which manifests when some form of trigger is introduced while the subject is in a pre-expressive state. Often called ‘natural’ powers or ‘mutant’ powers, which most often express in and around a major development stage such as puberty. Despite a (demonstrably incorrect) general belief that primary parahuman abilities are always zero-point in nature, they can reflect any known parahuman expression.
  • Secondary Parahuman Expression: Parahuman expression that takes place after some form of intentional or unintentional trigger is introduced into someone otherwise apparently completely prosahuman. In particular, secondary parahuman expression is said to occur when the triggering event happens when the subject is not in any kind of pre-expressive state. Secondary parahuman expression generally refers to parahuman expression that either can’t be reproduced predictably or reliably, or requires such exacting conditions for reproduction that it’s considered extremely rare at best.
  • Induced Parahuman Expression: Parahuman expression that takes place after some form of reproducible intentional trigger causes predictable parahuman expression in an otherwise prosahuman individual (albeit with variable forms of success). This parahuman expression can be either permanent or temporary, and may be able to produce a similar tertiary parahuman expression in a parahuman (though often parahuman subjects have unexpected or even dangerous side effects compared to prosahumans).
  • Tertiary Parahuman Expression: Parahuman expression introduced by some form of intentional or unintentional trigger in an already expressed parahuman, which alters, enhances, or augments the parahuman’s existing parahuman expression. Generally tertiary parahuman expression refers to permanent alteration of a parahuman’s expressed abilities. Temporary enhancement or alteration of those abilities, reproducibly or not, is generally considered a form of induced parahuman expression.

Doctor Aiden Archer believed that while these classifications helped to codify parahumanity, they both failed to properly explain parahumanity and ignored the growing number of prosahumans who not only entered the so-called superheroic lifestyle but were able to contend with parahuman heroes and villains on their own level, holding their own and even being triumphant. Holding that the focus on parahuman expression ignored the overall potential and expression among all superhumans, be they parahuman or prosahuman, Archer postulated an alternative classification known as the five standard forms of supraexpression:

  • Vril-Based Supraexpression: As with Zero-Point/Vril-based Parahuman Expression, Vril-based supraexpression reflect those ‘super-powered’ individuals whose abilities were not based upon arcane, xenological, or divine sources but were themselves.In Archer’s definition this also includes any prosahuman who required some form of Vril-Supraexpressed intercession to be ‘super-powered.’ Things like cybernetic enhancements, powered armor, and similar things that couldn’t be developed or maintained without at least paraintellect behind them. [1]For example, the hero Jetgirl is not considered an example of Vril-based Supraexpression despite her technology being well ahead of the curve, because she does not possess a measurable paraintellect … Continue reading
  • Arcane-Based Supraexpression: Magical or occult based Parahuman Expression. Similarly to Vril-based supraexpression, this would include prosahumans who were enchanted, empowered, or granted magical equipment or the like by magi or similar occult based beings. [2]Perhaps the two most famous examples of the latter are the two identical twin Bladesmaidens, one a hero who has been entrusted with the legendary blade Durendal, the other a villain who has claimed … Continue reading
  • Divine-Based Supraexpression: Divine, fae, or infernal based Parahuman Expression. Once again, this includes those who have been blessed (or cursed) by divine figures or granted divine weapons or other objects.
  • Xenological-Based Supraexpression: In what is perhaps Archer’s second most significant break with the Ninespace Paradimensional Interactivity Model, Archer defines Xenological-Based supraexpression as any supraexpression based on Quintessence, regardless of the source or expression.[3]Thus, under the five standard forms of supraexpression, both Shooting Star (who, despite her armor making it seem otherwise, is directly empowered by quintessence) and the original Artifact, whose … Continue reading
  • Discipline-Based Supraexpression: In the most significant of Archer’s break with the Ninespace Paradimensional Interactivity Model, Archer holds that prosahumans who use training, willpower, non-paraintellect developed inventions, and similar parahuman-based gear or empowerment still represent a form of supraexpression. This would include the various heroes who ‘lack powers’ but content with parahumans on their own level. Part of his hypothesis rested on the at-that-point controversial position that all terrestrial life that possessed terrestrial DNA had some capacity to use and manipulate vril, and that whether or not a prosahuman actually underwent parahuman expression, that vril manipulation allowed them to perform feats and achieve or even exceed human limits without crossing over into full parahumanity.[4]Examples submitted as evidence by Archer included Nightstick's seemingly inhuman skill with both tonfa and situational awareness, Jetgirl's ability to decipher, adapt, test, and construct a … Continue reading

The Supraexpressive Commonality Hypothesis

“Some people get confused when we discuss primary parahuman expression, especially when we refer to a triggering event when supposedly primary parahuman expression happens whether triggered directly or not. While we’re still figuring most of this out, the major difference is this: if a triggering event, especially a traumatic one, initiates parahuman expression the parahuman was already tending towards – especially when they’re pre-expressive – it’s a primary parahuman expression. If the triggering event initiates a parahuman expression the parahuman had no tendency towards, especially when it is replicable, it is a secondary expression.”
-Dr. Evan Shapiro
In and of themselves, the parahuman research community (scientific and otherwise) might have accepted Archer’s Five Standard Forms of Supraexpression – as an alternate or parallel classification system to the Four Standard Parahuman Expression Forms, if nothing else – especially since it made a specific distinction between parahuman expression, which is to say the development of parahuman enhancements or abilities through different means, and supraexpression, which referred to the actual transition from a non-participant in the so called superheroic or villainous lifestyle into a willing or unwilling participant in that lifestyle. After all, the model that eventually became known as the Ninespace Paradimensional Interactivity Model was not interested in how a given parahuman used their abilities but instead what the sources of those abilities might be and the methods by which the parahumans received them. ‘Supraexpression’ seemed less scientific[5]It is worth noting that dating all the way back not only to Emergence but to the Pre-Emergence era when parahumanity was still largely being kept secret from the general populace research into … Continue reading and more sociological or even political.

This might have been easier to overcome had Doctor Archer himself not gained a well deserved reputation for arrogance. A paraintellect himself (he and his sister Ainsley both underwent primary parahuman expression, zero-point type, in their mid-teens well before the Emergence Event), Archer had for quite some time taken to dismissing dissenting opinions as ill-informed or utterly stupid, depending on his mood. This had been made worse by his habit of using intuitive leaps to jump over standard scientific methodology to get to his result… and not acknowledging when such methods might bias his results. As it was, Archer had been acknowledged as brilliant and he and his sister had more than enough patents, inventions, and scientific papers to their name to not only make their reputations but allow them to buy the King Kurtzberg Tower in Empire City outright. (They had come from money to begin with, but given their paraintellects, especially before Emergence, they had been able to greatly magnify their net worth.)

Even that might not have been too hard to overcome — scientists didn’t have to be beloved, after all, when they had a tendency to be right. But Archer, in developing his hypothesis, went on to assert that all forms of supraexpression were actually interconnected manifestations of a single phenomenon — including discipline based supraexpression — and that parahuman expression, regardless of form, was nothing but manifestations of that phenomenon that were at best improperly understood. He ultimately developed this into his initial Supraexpressive Commonality Hypothesis, and even in initial publications rejected most assumptions and even observed principles of parahuman expression out of hand.

The Aiden Archer Institute for the Unification of Supraexpressive Research

“Having worked for years in the so-called legitimate paraphysiological, paraneurological, and paracognitive communities — including a significant amount of work done long before any nation’s government was prepared to acknowledge the existence of parahumanity — I have seen firsthand how insular thinking, bias, and a need to preserve orthodoxy in an inherently unorthodox field has led to a stagnation of what is now the most important scientific work humanity can possibly pursue. To that end, I am putting together a multidisciplinary research facility that will not eschew the seer or the mystic in lieu of the scientist. It may cause yet more people to dismiss me, but the idea that a man who can hurl fire across a field with a word and gesture is somehow not an asset to investigating parahumanity while a myopic prosahuman who deep down thinks Paragon flies on wires and Freya’s performing card tricks is essential proves how utterly rotted out the core of this field has become.”
–Dr. Aiden Archer, Ph.D.
Having found little positive reception to his initial publications, Archer did what he did best: telling the world to go take a long walk off a short pier while Archer went and did all the difficult work himself, since it was clearly beyond such ridiculous children. Obviously this did his reputation few favors, but at this point he had little regard for that reputation. Instead, after some of his fellows and university officials at Empire City University gently suggested that a sabbatical might be in order “to let him refine his somewhat more outre assumptions,” Archer resigned his Professorship and his position as the Rossman Chair of Theoretical Physics in a public letter published in the Empire City Times. Within a week he had announced the formation of the Aiden Archer Institute for the Unification of Supraexpressive Research, working out of the upper floors of the King Kurtzman Tower itself — ideally suited thanks to its unique superstructure and steel clad terraced crown and tower. He then began to put together a multidisciplinary organization of parahuman researchers with an intention of taking an entirely new approach to proving his hypothesis correct.

Though one couldn’t be too surprised that a number of the best researchers and scientific minds wanted nothing to do with Archer and his ‘crackpot’ ideas, money, an opportunity to pursue one’s own pet projects, and a diversification of talent helped Archer recruit some impressive assistants. When he first began recruiting mystics, oracles, fae and mythological beings and the like, it didn’t lend itself to greater credibility in the scientific community, but it certainly drew the attention of the sorcerers, priests, discipline-supraexpressed monks and martial artists and more who had to that point been marginalized.

One of his earliest coups was in recruiting Doctor Evan Shapiro, a brilliant scientist in multiple fields, all in his quest to become ‘qualified’ to be a philosopher. Shapiro’s viewpoint would seem to be a perfect fit for Archer’s stated goals. In addition, Archer brought on one of his oldest college friends — renowned artist and sculptor David Clay, who had been attempting to express insight into the so-called conceptual dimensions for years, and which Archer felt gave Clay a unique insight into the work that needed to be done.

Continuing his efforts to find new, productive avenues of research, Archer recruited Cairistìona Kerr. Kerr was a neo-pagan, medieval historial, folklorist and mythologist who had met Archer when she was in graduate school. Since the Emergence Event and gaining access to more productive traditions of magic and ‘alternate perceptual understanding,’ Kerr had studied many traditions, synthesizing them into a hybrid religion and magical tradition that fit her best and allowed her to actually work reproducible magic. Archer, in sounding her out as a potential research assistant, came to realize that in addition to her magical abilities and insights into myth (and with it divine type parahumanity), her abilities had been augmented by a near-latent psionic ability.

Admittedly, Kerr’s abilities were at best minor. She had grown and learned much, but lacked significant strength in her talents. She seemed doomed to be a minor mage, a minor psychic, a minor druid…

But to Archer, she wasn’t a ‘minor’ anything. She was a proof of concept.

Cairi helped him as much as anyone could — taught him and learned from him. Cared for him. Maybe cared too much. And maybe he cared for her equally — but he certainly never cared as much about her as he cared about the unknown knowledge he sought.

And for all of Aiden Archer’s advantages — and they were legion — patience wasn’t one of them. And his colleagues discovered very quickly that what looked like a dream project was rapidly becoming a nightmare.

Unexpected Delays and Difficulties

One of the most appealing aspects of Archer’s research was his stated intent to follow a multidisciplinary approach. During the pre-emergence days when parahumanity was still hidden, it was generally being siloed and hidden away in enclaves ranging from ancient temples to masonic lodges to black ops research facilities. Archer had proposed doing away with these distinctions, bringing arcane, divine, xenological, discipline, and zero-point based parahumanity together for comprehensive analysis to determine their commonalities. This had been very well received in principle, and a good number of interested researchers from all across the parahuman spectrum flocked to his work.

“Look, no one will ever accuse me of either sentimentality or actually liking Evan Shapiro. Give me a choice between him and a dog and I’ll take the dog and then shoot it just for the Hell of it. But he knows his crap, he takes no crap, and he is the one human being on this planet outside maybe myself who’s so self-absorbed that Aiden Archer can’t browbeat him. Like it or not, that’s exactly what Archer needed. Naturally, he tried to fire him, but oops — contract. So he tried constructive dismissal. And that’s when our dear Doctor Archer learned that DETAILS and the Federal Government were willing to ignore a few egregious violations in the name of scientific advancement… so long as Evan Shapiro was watching them happening and commenting on him.

“But then, Archer did contract work for the government. Shapiro got a salary from Tangent Swan. Crazy how that might just mean we wanted him in there even if he didn’t work for us any more.

“Of course, with what happened, maybe we should have let him fire Shapiro so we could shut him down. Ah well. Live, learn, and nearly level Empire.”
–Senior Special Agent Richard Taft, DETAILS

Unfortunately, once there they discovered that while Archer did indeed intend to research across all aspects of parahumanity… his actual methodology remained entirely scientific. Suggestions that certain magical, shamanic, or oracular traditions might not be best studied or understood using the scientific method no matter what rigor was applied to the project at best drew contempt from Doctor Archer, and he quickly found himself frustrated when (for example) magical or divine results refused to be replicable, sometimes apparently through sheer perversity.

Adding to Archer’s growing frustration (and his continued decline among not only the scientific community but popular culture) was his attempts to work with observers and representatives from some of the alien civilizations that had made contact with Terra since Emergence. A number of representatives of the InterPlanet Consortium (an organization that had found and helped train Paragon in his later teen years), including at least one whose intellect was clearly on a par with Archer’s own found his theories less revolutionary and more quaint, and Astra T'Lioa, Successor-Presumptive Autocratress of the Thaumaturgic Empyrean, there in the first place as a favor to Paragon, took rapid offense, leaving with both her retinue and multiple offworld researchers in her wake.

Archer could have taken these setbacks in stride, save that literally for the first time since he underwent his own primary parahuman expression… the work was proving far more difficult than he had anticipated. While he had several early successes, he found himself increasingly chasing red herrings.

And, perhaps most galling of all… his harshest critic didn’t turn out to be some royal alien mage or godling or even a paraintellect scientist like himself… but Evan Shapiro — the thoroughly prosahuman scientist and philosopher.

And worse, Shapiro’s criticisms had the gall to generally be valid.

“Listen to me, you snot-nosed ferret faced laughable excuse for a scientist! I have been nominated for three different Nobel Prizes in three different fields while you were grubbing along in government cubicle farms!”

“And I once successfully hitchhiked from Grantham to Independence City without getting mugged, have a bronze swimming certificate, and once took first prize in a Jazz performance contest alongside my brother!”

“…what are you talking about?”

“Oh, sorry. I thought we were talking about uninteresting and irrelevant trivia from our own lives. Regardless, you’re still wrong. Somewhat louder, but wrong. But then, at this point you either have to realize that or start to figure out why you didn’t actually win any of those Nobel prizes.”

Dr. Aiden Archer, Ph.D. and Evan Shapiro

A New Alliance and a New Approach

It would be easy to dismiss everything Archer and his project tried to do, but truth be told he was beginning to make some significant progress at least in limited areas. It probably helped quite a bit that he was conducting his experiments in Empire City, where a number of Ley Lines converged in interesting ways — with several of them converging straight through the King Kurtzberg Tower. Where in many parts of the world a given parahuman had one form of parahuman expression, in Empire City it was significantly more common to have two or more — quintessence filtering the arcane, say, or a zero-point parahuman who could drain divine energies out of a divine parahuman. It’s not impossible that with more time being spent and a less driven and inflexible research schedule, Archer could have succeeded.

Unfortunately, might-have-beens and never-weres are essentially the same thing.

It was in and around then that there were two last recruits who joined the Aiden Archer Institute for the Unification of Supraexpressive Research. One of them might have been able to pull Archer back from the brink… but the other was determined to throw him over the edge.

The first was Doctor Ainsley Archer, Aiden Archer’s fraternal twin sister. She and Aiden had fallen out some years before, but David Clay was friends with them both (some say more than friends with Ainsley, really), and despite everything she cared about Aiden and wanted to make sure he didn’t collapse entirely.

Ainsley had found her calling in medicine, focusing her many talents to both medical research and the practice of medicine. Though she mostly only practiced Internal Medicine, she had also certified in surgery, ENT, Physician – Emergency Room, OB/GYN, pediatrics, epidemiology, and clinical pathology. Where Aiden sought a unified field theory that included all aspects of their nine-dimensional world, Ainsley sought to help people, understand the processes of life, and rid the world of disease. She had long since essentially yielded up the King Kurtzberg Tower to Aiden in exchange for almost never contacting him.

But, David Clay remained his best friend, and Cairi Kerr was also deeply concerned. And despite everything, Ainsley loved her brother. So she took a leave of absence and joined his project — essentially just in time to prevent him from going heavily into psychedelics as a Hail Mary for his project.

It’s possible she could have been a governor on Aiden — gotten him into a better place, and maybe even save him. Utterly possible, really.

Unfortunately… another recruit showed up at the same time. This one was a volunteer, and he didn’t simply show up ready to help. He showed up with a whole new procedure to offer Archer. A series of rituals that followed scientific principles that reinforced several of Archer’s more esoteric assumptions[6]A better word might be ‘biases.’In many ways, his arrival practically seemed like a gift from an angel.

Of course, fallen angels still count. The recruit in question? One Doctor Stanley Giles… aka the literal original mad super-scientist Doctor Guile. Doctor Guile showed up with his daughters and, at that point, no warrants for his arrest, so Archer agreed to take him into the project.

Doctor Guile’s Master Plan

Naturally, Doctor Guile wasn’t there to help Archer. He had seen the possibilities of much of the prep work that Archer had done, and saw an opportunity to harness it for his own uses. Further, much of the work that Archer had been trying to do covered ground that Doctor Guile had already been over, giving him an invaluable perspective of Archer’s work.

At the same time, Archer and his core researchers — setting aside research assistants and the like, now pared down to David Clay, Cairistìona Kerr, and Evan Shapiro — knew Doctor Guile’s reputation and absolutely knew the mad scientist couldn’t be trusted. And perhaps at that point things could have been turned around.

Unfortunately, that was when Terrance Simon published his first significant paper.

The Quantum Mechanics of the Fae

Doctor Terrance 'Terry' Simon was a brilliant if somewhat troubled research working out of Columbia University. He had gained a certain amount of notice and notoriety thanks to his association with style icon Sonata DuLay, but otherwise was just another face in the crowd. All that changed when he published Demonstrating Quantum Entanglement Between Unlike Elementary Particles Via Isolation of Paramystical Lepton Analogues and the Transitional State Between Matter, Energy, and Thought via Extension Through a Seven Dimensional Model[7]Unlike Archer, Simon had been both conducting his research into the cross-convergence of the essential spatiotemporal dimensions (at the time believed to be the three spatial dimensions plus what … Continue reading. 

Content Warning: Ablest Language and Attitudes
Suddenly, Doctor Aiden Archer, Ph.D. wasn’t simply a crackpot who couldn’t look past his conclusions before he’d even done the work. Now, Archer was a crackpot whose work had been eclipsed by a ‘colleague’ who didn’t begin to have his credentials or (at least by Archer’s lights) intellect… and even though Simon’s work clearly suggested Archer’s theories had at least some credence, Archer could only see himself being relegated to a footnote in some book written by some idiot savant with borderline personality disorder!

Doctor Guile was more than happy to lend a sympathetic ear, of course. So much of his work had been tarred by the same brush as Archer’s — castigated for the breadth of his vision, while inferior minds were credited with achievements that amounted to riding his coattails. And he knew full well, as he made clear to Archer, that once that had happened, there was only a very short window of opportunity to regain the respect of one’s peers or forever be remembered as the nut in the art deco tower. And of course, Doctor Guile had actually uncovered significant evidence that could take Archer’s hypotheses and demonstrate their validity in a reproducible, clinical setting… and be vastly more impressive and comprehensible to the average layman than Terry Simon’s grubbing around with fundamental particles most physicists could barely understand.

But… well, Doctor Guile completely understood why Archer’s associates — even his sister — were resistant to accepting his help. He could hardly blame them, and besides, he had every confidence Archer would be able to achieve his goals. It would just… take a few more years, that’s all.

Aiden Archer and Doctor Guile began planning out the ‘first’ major experiment using Doctor Guile’s evidence and reinterpretation of Archer’s theories that same day.

The Experiment and the Refraction Effect

The substance of the first Archer/Giles Experiment was designed to use the unique properties of the King Kurtzberg Tower (with a few additions and alterations) to create a projective locus allowing for a group of researchers following certain rituals (reformulated for scientific rigor, of course) to begin an active exploration of the multiple vril-enriched dimensional branes that interacted with one another when unlocked by Terran DNA and guided by active thought. The result would be an entirely new form of exploration, with each trip rife with scientific wonders and new understandings of the full dimensional cosm of the universe — understandings that even the alien civilizations that had so flagrantly insulted Archer (according to Doctor Guile, of course) had never even begun to approach.

“Obviously I knew Doctor Guile had his own agenda. After all, I was conscious, had eyes and ears, and hadn’t recently suffered head trauma. Likewise Clay, Kerr, and Archer’s sister Ainsley knew this was a disaster in the making. But, Archer was convinced he had accounted for all of it, and given Doctor Guile’s willingness to stay in the building but out of the lab and his near insistence I observe without directly participating, ‘to ensure the experiment’s validity,’ our only possible recourse would have been to walk out. None of the others were willing to do that, and while I couldn’t have possibly cared less about Aiden Archer’s fate at that point, Ainsley, Cairi, and David had shown me kindness and that at least deserved someone to be on hand to report on the manner of their death.

“I should have realized Doctor Guile wanted me there for an entirely different reason. But then, it’s hardly ego when it really is always all about you, right?”
–Dr. Evan Shapiro

Naturally, Ainsley Archer, Cairi Kerr, David Clay, and Evan Shapiro all protested — Shapiro in particular having little but harsh things to say. Archer was ready (once again) to throw him out of the building, but Doctor Guile interceded — after all, the last thing they wanted was for DETAILS to show up and start dictating scientific methodology to them. No, Doctor Guile full on insisted that Shapiro be on hand to observe the experiment and be prepared to react should there be any cause for concern. After all, then no one would have reason to doubt Archer’s triumph. When Clay accused Guile of having his own agenda, he offered to let the initial ritual experiment take place completely independently of Doctor Guile himself. He wouldn’t even be in the room. Goodness, if it would make Clay feel better, he wouldn’t even be on the same floor. After all, it wasn’t about him, now was it?

Admittedly, it would come to no one’s surprise that it was indeed all about Doctor Guile’s intentions. In fact, he fully expected that of everyone on the top floor of the King Kurtzberg tower, only Evan Shapiro would survive. In fact, he was counting on that. And naturally Doctor Guile was willing to recuse himself.

After all, the real experiment wasn’t on the 77th floor. It was on the 38th.

Doctor Guile knew far more about the subject at hand than Archer realized, of course. He’d been experimenting on such things since before Emergence itself. Indeed, the most significant reason Archer’s Five Standard Forms of Supraexpression model had encountered such a poor reception was Doctor Guile and his associates poisoning the academic and scientific wells against it. Doctor Guile knew full well that Archer’s model was accurate, even if his core conclusion — that all forms of supraexpression were vril-based — was flawed. Archer so publicly researching this project gave Doctor Guile an opportunity he’d wanted for years: a successful induced parahuman and supraexpression comprised of all four forms of parahuman expression and five forms of supraexpression simultaneously. Knowing that some parahumans were ‘edge cases’ (like Freya, who was both technically a divine and arcane parahuman, or Mason ‘Centurion’ Temple, who was both a zero-point and xenological parahuman), Doctor Guile believed he could channel and harness the power of Archer’s experiment to create a parahuman who was empowered by every possible form of parahuman expression. His test subject? His own daughter Beatrice Giles.

So, rather than simply helping create the conditions for the scientific ritual they called Archer/Giles Experiment One, Doctor Guile had carefully designed the experiment to act like a dimensional lens not for the seven dimensions that Terry Simon believed comprised the universe, but the nine dimensions Doctor Guile had already identified. That lens would focus on the 38th floor as a locus, then refract out to the ground floor. Of course, it was likely that no one on the 77th floor other than Evan Shapiro would survive, and it was equally likely that anyone on the first floor or in the immediate area would be torn apart by temporal shear.

But, well, that’s science for you.

The Skyquake

On January 27, the experimental ritual took place. Aiden Archer, Ainsley Archer, David Clay, and Cairistìona Kerr, each backed by a number of research assistants in secondary roles, invoked a series of powers and activated a series of mechanisms and systems while Evan Shapiro observed from a secure location. Doctor Guile and his daughter Beatrice, in the meantime, were on the 38th floor with Beatrice waiting in the locus point.

The initial shock of the Skyquake proved vastly more powerful than anticipated, and a polychromatic field of energy, thought, reality, and time flowed across Empire City from the apex of the King Kurtzberg building. However, five friends who had been in the area when the Skyquake began ran into the building, helping to contain panic and evacuating all the floors even as shockwave after shockwave tore through Empire City’s streets and skies.

This was followed by an aftershock which blasted the Archers, Clay, and Kerr bodily across the conceptual and temporal dimensions and created fractal closed temporal realities trapping the five people who had evacuated the lower levels in universes that otherwise had never existed. The other researchers supporting the ritual? Simply disappeared and were never seen again. And in the locus, Beatrice Giles was completely remade, ultimately becoming what the world came to know as the malevolent Beguile.

The Pentad of Guardians, Beguile, and the Astonishing Alliance

It is possible the entire King Kurtzberg Tower would have been compressed into a singularity (possibly destroying the Earth in the process) or that space, time, and concept would have all been irreparably shattered at least in Alternate Universe ⎇001JW, except that the five people who ran in to evacuate the building escaped their unreal universes, transformed into the Pentad of Guardians. Reaching the 38th floor, the Pentad drove off Doctor Guile and Beguile alike, then went to 77 to rescue all that they could of the research team. And though they could pull back the primary researchers — all irrevocably and in some cases horribly changed — none of the secondary researchers could be saved. And in one sense, Aiden Archer, Ainsley Archer, David Clay, and Cairistìona Kerr never emerged either. Instead, the heroes who would become known as Doc Astonishing, Obliteration, The Rasp, Mnemosyne, and Upsilon emerged instead.

Consequences

It would be simple to blame my experiment’s results on Doctor Guile. Unfortunately, that would be deception. In my hubris and my rush, we invited disaster, enabled Doctor Guile to do something unspeakable to his daughter, and nearly destroyed ourselves. In particular, my sister, now called Obliteration, cannot interact with the world without her retention suit. David Clay is a living statue as the Rasp. Mnemosyne has lost her identity and individuality. Upsilon is incarnate darkness. And had the Pentad of Guardians not pulled us back, none of us would have survived. And let me be as clear as possible: this disaster was entirely of my own making, and restitution is my responsibility.Doc Astonishing
Boy, Doc Astonishing’s a peach, ain’t he? Accepting full responsibility for an ‘experiment’ that a two year old could have told him was a terrible idea, wreaking havoc all across Empire City, including Christ knows how many secondary parahuman expressions we don’t know anything about yet, the literal creation of freaking Beguile, the maiming of the people who were closest and most loyal to him, and let us not forget a few dozen secondary researchers who won’t even be declared dead for another seven years. It takes guts and a real strength of character to make an admission like that. So, you know, I realize I’m just being a bitter little curmudgeon when I ask why the man is both not in jail and still owns one of the most iconic buildings in Empire City? I guess I still have a lot of work to do on myself, huh?Antonym

The overall fallout of the Skyquake has been difficult to assess. Actual property damage was moderately low, and mostly related to vehicular accidents or the similar as the reality distortions played over the area. The Skyquake took place at night, when most offices in the building were closed, and the civilian population in the building were primarily on lower levels, which allowed the swift action of the five people who became the Pentad of Guardians to evacuate most of them. While there were still some people remaining in the building – most notably janitorial, maintenance, and security staff, none were above floor 60 as part of the experimental protocol and Doctor Guile had managed to clear floors 34 to 42 to ensure he would not be interrupted. As the refractive effects seemed to be limited to floors 77, 38, and the ground level, remaining bystanders (to anyone’s current knowledge) escaped without harm or injury.

Naturally, the multiple research assistants who vanished during the actual participation in the ritual were another matter. However, all participants, researchers, and other personnel connected to the Aiden Archer Institute for the Unification of Supraexpressive Research had signed extensive legal releases and other forms of comprehensive indemnification as a condition of work. Further, the Institute itself had organized as a Limited Liability Corporation, which also provided a certain degree of legal cover.

Naturally, these were still challenged in various courts and venues. The cases in question were generally settled by the Institute, which itself was liquidated. The Institute itself technically leased its offices and lab space in the King Kurtzberg Tower, which was itself managed by a separate legal entity. Aiden Archer, now going almost exclusively by the name Doc Astonishing, made a significant (and very public) effort to support the families of those affected, though generally this assistance came with strings attached — most notably enjoining the beneficiaries from discussing the matter publicly. In a practical sense, the Skyquake passed into history surprisingly quietly[8]Over the years, a number of rumors surfaced suggesting that some potential victims of the Skyquake weren’t satisfied with these solutions or were willing to go to the press or otherwise on the … Continue reading.

The Pentad of Guardians

One consequence that couldn’t be so easily dismissed was the creation and origin of the Pentad of Guardians. Due to a number of reality-shifts and distorted time, it was difficult for the hundreds (if not thousands) of evacuated civilians to identify the people who had organized their rescue, but there was never any question that whoever they were, they ended up becoming the Pentad. For most Empirical citizens, however, this was seen less of a consequence and more of a net benefit. Most of the Pentad remained hostile to Doc Astonishing over the years, as one could imagine, but the Pentad and the other members of the Astonishing Alliance ended up developing a strong working relationship, particularly when they were all part of The Excelsiors, and after enough time had passed the friendship they felt for the Alliance outweighed their resentment towards Doc Astonishing[9]Well, okay. Antonym pretty much EXPLETIVE hates Doc Astonishing, but hey. You know Ant.. And, given that all five of the Pentad truly loved their powers, abilities, and affiliation, it was difficult to demonstrate how they were damaged by the experience.

The Pentad’s Role in (partially) Validating Archer’s Hypothesis

Perhaps ironically the Pentad actually helped validate some of Aiden Archer’s thesis by their very creation. A singular event channeling spatial, temporal, and conceptual dimensional energies through and around them literally created subrealities that seemed tailored to their experiences, reinforcing the idea that sentience could directly affect such things (arguably as a manifestation of Vril). Further, the five heroes each represented not a form of parahumanity, but one of Archer’s five forms of supraexpression — with Jetgirl herself representing the ‘Discipline’ supraexpression while remaining prosahuman. In effect, the fractal timelines created the ideal conditions for each Pentad member to exemplify one specific form of supraexpression.

The Astonishing Alliance

If the Pentad of Guardians got to become the heroes they always wanted to be while being able to continue their lives more or less normally, with only one of them (Topaz) having to shift to a public identity (which admittedly delighted her), the Astonishing Alliance ended up the dark flip side of that coin — irrevocably altered, with only one of them being able to maintain any secrecy about their identity at all… even as their lives as they’ve always known them have been completely destroyed.

This even extended to their actual bodies — not a single member of the Astonishing Alliance returned to Realspace in the same body they left. In fact, of all of them, only Aiden Archer himself could be said to even be in a recognizably human body.

And yet, rather than seek vengeance or even turn away from Archer, the five have ended up working closely together. Archer — now Doc Astonishing — has dedicated his work to both improving their situation and ultimately restoring them to normal.

It just seems to be taking a while.

The Alliance’s Role in (partially) Invalidating Archer’s Hypothesis

Ironically, the Astonishing Alliance’s experiences — unlike those of the Pentad of Guardians — did not serve to validate or even demonstrate Aiden Archer’s original Hypothesis. Indeed, there is no reason to suspect any of the five continue to have terrestrial DNA in the first place, much less unlock a conduit to vril through it. On the other hand, none of the fives’ abilities can be neatly categorized into the Ninespace Paradimensional Interactivity Model’s four forms of parahumanity. Instead, each seems to have been reshaped by a pairing of the temporal and conceptual dimensions into embodying some principle or aspect — and those principles and aspects, rather than reflecting inner desires or hopes (as with the Pentad of Guardians) almost seems to deny each Alliance member some inner desire or hope. Finally, regardless of what their individual bodies are composed of, each has had their hair replaced with what looks like luminescent fiber optic strands, each glowing a specific color.

The same colors, in fact, as seem to define the Pentad of Guardians.

  • Doc Astonishing: Aiden Archer, the man who could hear nothing but his own opinions, was channeled through the divergent-temporal and intellect-conceptual dimensions, his aspect being redefined into Perception. His hair is a gleaming green, and his body has a slight greenish cast to it now, but his abilities (which give him unparalleled perception around himself, the capacity to see things from other peoples’ point of view, and the ability to misdirect the perceptions of others) means he can look any way he wishes, of course.
  • Obliteration: Ainsley Archer was channeled through the linear-temporal and intellect-conceptual dimensions, her aspect being redefined into exterpiation. She emerged from the experiment as a form of fluidic plasma energy constantly radiating at thousands of degrees celsius while also causing atomic bonds near her to decompose and disintegrate, forcing Doc Astonishing to hold her in a magnetic containment shell until he can build her a retention suit that allows her to release destructive energy, with her hair flowing out like an orange-red crown regardless of the helmet. Ainsley does not appreciate this.
  • The Rasp: David Clay is channeled through the counterpartal-temporal and imagination-conceptual dimensions, emerging as a one and a half metric ton golden statue with no sense of touch or taste and sounding like his words are spoken through a metal culvert. He has a golden radiance he can infuse into objects and materials, allowing him to perceive the potential for what it may be — be it sculpture, engineering, or so many more things — and reshape it accordingly. Between his voice and the sculpture he is now the Rasp, with the aspect of exaltation.
  • Upsilon: Upsilon emerged from the experiment seemingly formed out of liquid darkness which connects her to the darkness all over the world, with only glowing white eyes, hair which gleams white-fiberous, and a red ϔ on her chest. Her aspect is obfuscation. She claims to have been sent through all the dimensions but this seems unlikely.
  • Mnemosyne: Cairistìona Kerr was maybe the only one for whom the experience was exhilarating, as she was channeled through divergent-temporal and insight-conceptual dimensions, giving her the ultimate epiphany… but in one sense nothing at all emerged. Beyond crystal-blue hair of many shades and luminosities, she has no constant face or form, but instead appears as a reflection of a memory of the beholder, especially ones which have degraded with time. The effect even extends to photographs, drawing, even the memories of people who knew her before. Literally none remember who Cairistìona Kerr was or what she looked like. There is only Mnemosyne, swift as thought, telepathic, and as ephemeral as a moment of nostalgia.

Lasting Effects, or the Lack Thereof

Over a relatively short amount of time, Empiricals barely remembered the Skyquake. It was just another weird event in a world of weird events. Ultimately both the Pentad of Guardians and the Astonishing Alliance joined the Excelsiors, and over time the circumstances of their expression have become less relevant to the people they serve.

A Comparison of the Skyquake’s Supraexpressed

Pentad Point Floor 1 (Pentad of Guardians) Floor 38 (Beguile) Floor 77 (Astonishing Alliance)
Green Shooting Star (Quintessence) Beguile Doc Astonishing (Perception)
Black Antonym (Divinity) Beguile Upsilon (Obfuscation)
Gold Topaz (Vril) Beguile The Rasp (Exaltation)
Red Hearth (Arcana) Beguile Obliteration (Exterpiation)
Blue Jetgirl (Discipline) Beguile Mnemosyne (Predilection)

 

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References

References
1 For example, the hero Jetgirl is not considered an example of Vril-based Supraexpression despite her technology being well ahead of the curve, because she does not possess a measurable paraintellect but developed her gear herself. The villain Damselfly, on the other hand, would be considered an example of Vril-based Supraexpression because her original powered armor was built for her by the parahuman ubertech called the Carnagesmith.
2 Perhaps the two most famous examples of the latter are the two identical twin Bladesmaidens, one a hero who has been entrusted with the legendary blade Durendal, the other a villain who has claimed the infamous blade Murgleis Under the five standard forms of supraexpression, the two technical prosahumans would still be considered arcane type parahumans.
3 Thus, under the five standard forms of supraexpression, both Shooting Star (who, despite her armor making it seem otherwise, is directly empowered by quintessence) and the original Artifact, whose empowerment was entirely dependent on the would be considered examples of Xenological-based supraexpression.
4 Examples submitted as evidence by Archer included Nightstick's seemingly inhuman skill with both tonfa and situational awareness, Jetgirl's ability to decipher, adapt, test, and construct a jet-propelled suit in near-isolation, said suit literally making the prosahuman one of the most powerful heroes in Empire City in the early days of the Emergence Era, Broadhead's seeming ability to hit with any shot that absolutely had to land to save the day, and his protege Crosspointe's seeming ability to hit with any shot whatsoever.
Spoilers for Forebears and Interviewing Trey
Before all of this, Archer had the chance to see Evan Shapiro directly manipulate vril while still apparently remaining prosahuman.
5 It is worth noting that dating all the way back not only to Emergence but to the Pre-Emergence era when parahumanity was still largely being kept secret from the general populace research into parahumanity was almost entirely scientifically based, without regard to the insights that arcane or divine parahumans might have been able to provide.
6 A better word might be ‘biases.’
7 Unlike Archer, Simon had been both conducting his research into the cross-convergence of the essential spatiotemporal dimensions (at the time believed to be the three spatial dimensions plus what would later be described as linear time) and a hypothesized symmetrical set of conceptual dimensions, with [linear time] as a dimension in common. Though much of his work had suffered similar derisive reactions from the orthodox scientific community’s as Archer’s, his experiments demonstrated the existence of certain predicted fundamental particles that seemed to account for both the arcane and divine through a conceptual dimensional projection. He named these particles faeons, and was able to not only observe their effect but harness their properties, letting him become the new hero called Bauchan and (far more significantly to popular culture) turning Sonata DuLay into the laughing, high flying Will O’Wisp.
8 Over the years, a number of rumors surfaced suggesting that some potential victims of the Skyquake weren’t satisfied with these solutions or were willing to go to the press or otherwise on the record, only to disappear mysteriously. Independent investigation including by noted detectives like Foolhardy or Nightstick have not been able to substantiate these rumors, however.
9 Well, okay. Antonym pretty much EXPLETIVE hates Doc Astonishing, but hey. You know Ant.

6 thoughts on “Skyquake”

  1. To ensure that I’m getting this:

    Primary Parahuman Expression is what both Evvie and Danni did.

    Secondary Parahuman Expression is what happened with the Lieutenant.

    Tertiary Parahuman Expression is what happened when the Second Beacon gained some of the First Beacon’s powers.

    and Induced Parahuman Expression is what the Service is doing to the Freelance Bums.

    Did I get that all right?

    1. Primary Parahuman Expression is what both Evvie and Danni did.

      Yup!

      Secondary Parahuman Expression is what happened with the Lieutenant.

      It could be interpreted that way, but could also be interpreted as Induced Parahuman Expression. (All of the) Secondary Parahuman Expression’s what happened to Topaz. Or, for that matter, all of the Astonishing Alliance and Pentad of Guardians other than Jetgirl.

      Tertiary Parahuman Expression is what happened when the Second Beacon gained some of the First Beacon’s powers.

      Yup. Or what happened when Lynette Hardesty ended up in a gynoid shell.

      and Induced Parahuman Expression is what the Service is doing to the Freelance Bums.

      And what Doctor Guile did to Beguile. Yup, pretty much.

      1. My understanding is that the main difference between Secondary and Induced is that Induced is repeatable. Given that they used up a one-of-a-kind mystic artifact to power up the Lieutenant, I really don’t think that’s repeatable.

        …On the other hand, it was a planned ritual that everyone involved thought should work and did. Presumably if they could get a supply of those same unique and priceless wonders, it would work again. So, I can see arguing for Induced on that basis.

        Honestly, the most worrying thing is the implication that what Dr. Guile did to his daughter is repeatable and would probably work on anyone. I mean, it’s not like they’re gonna let him back into that building, but …oof. The idea that you could have another skyquake event and create another Beguile is…pretty terrifying.

        1. I think you’ve got the right of it on the induced versus secondary for the Lieutenant.

          And you’re absolutely right about how terrifying Doctor Guile’s intentions were — there is absolutely no doubt that this was meant to be a proof of concept with the idea that it would be reproducible. And while it’s unlikely he’d be able to return to the King Kurtzberg Tower (or that it would still have the materials and conditions needed), one has to imagine a number of people or places would be willing to invest in a system that would potentially allow them to create one or more Beguile-class parahumans.

          Though, admittedly, it’s pretty well understood that Beguile herself has little interest in either such experimentation or commodification. Or, one imagines, potential competition. But then, it took some time for Doctor Guile to properly internalize certain… changes… in the dynamic between his daughter and him.

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