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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 ExpressionOmnipedia PopupMultiple Induced Parahuman Expression is the result when a prosahuman is subjected to several different parahuman aspects and trigger events either simultaneously or sequentially in an effort to diversify the resulting parahuman's powers, intensify those powers, or both. 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, spatiotemporalOmnipedia PopupA spaciotemporal event or manifestation is one that exists in the three spatial dimensions in addition to at least one temporal dimension. Much of the time it is assumed this means linear-time, but it can be any or all of the temporal dimensions. Spatiotemporal events tend to involve space/time distortion or warping. event that took place during the Emergence EraOmnipedia PopupThe Emergence Era is the first of the four eras that comprise the Age of Heroes in alternate universe ⎇001JW. It comprises everything from the Emergence Event (when Paragon publicly saved Earth from an extinction level event) through to the founding of the Justice Wing Institute for Parahuman Studies (marking the beginning of the Halcyon Days 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/timeOmnipedia PopupMost creatures who are born within a given dimensional brane possess the capacity to perceive the dimensions that make up that brane, even though all dimensional planes connected to any alternate universe in Actuality are part of a nine-dimensional construct. 'Realspace' is the 'central' four-dimensional brane all others seem to layer off of, and Realspace natives typically can observe the three spatial dimensions and have an awareness of linear 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:

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 FormsOmnipedia PopupThe Four Standard Parahuman Expression Forms refer not to methods of expression but to the 'type' of expression, distinguishing (for example), a parahuman who expresses through arcane means from one who uses some kind of scientific formula or is blessed by a deity.:

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 prosahumansOmnipedia PopupProsahumans are human beings who show no signs of parahuman enhancement or abilities beyond what is now termed the parahumanic threshold. 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:

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 HypothesisOmnipedia PopupThough still only in its preliminary stages, the supraexpressive commonality hypothesis posited that rather than reflecting a multiple, paradimensional basis for parahuman abilities -- a view that had been gaining significant credibility in the admittedly young field of parahuman research -- all parahuman abilities were in fact expressions of vril, up to and including quintessence, which he claimed was a field effect formed by still-uncharted field interactions between different manifestations of vril. Though she had not worked or published in the scientific community for many years, noted paraintellect and industrialist Theodora Holt referred to this as 'the kind of idiotic apophenia we're supposed to outgrow in college about the same time we figure out sangria tastes like kool-aid mixed with urine., 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⎇023RL to ⎇001JW Conversion NoteThe King Kurtzberg Tower, were one to go looking at its rough address in the New York City of our own universe, is best known as the Chrysler Building, which is one of the greatest marvels of Art Deco design on the New York City skyline. The name 'King Kurtzberg' comes from the original plan to name the building for its architect, one Aldrich Kurtzberg. Aldrich means 'wise old ruler,' and a good number of people called him 'king' as a nickname, and when the owners were dedicating the building they thought it would play well to go with the more regal sounding name. Of course, in ⎇023RL, we might recognize a good amount of this story as being a rather blurred and divergent pastiche on the story of the 'Fantastic Four,' making the King Kurtzberg Tower something of an ersatz Baxter Building. And since the visual look and so much of the definition of the Fantastic Four was done by Jacob Kurtzberg -- a giant among comics artists and writers without whom the landscape of popular culture would never be the same. Oh -- wait. You're not sure you've heard of him? Well, that makes sense. He went by a pen name. You might know that one: 'Jack 'King' Kirby.' 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 dimensionsOmnipedia PopupAccording to the Ninespace corrolary to String Theory, there are three sets of three dimensions that make up each alternate universe, all existing as multiple branes within a nine dimensional construct making up the Actuality -- aka the so called multiverse. According to several Ninespace theories, three of the dimensions refer to space, three to time, and three to conceptual thoughts. There are several definitions for the conceptual dimensions, but the most commonly referenced are insight, intuition, and imagination. 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 EmpyreanOmnipedia PopupThe Thaumaturgic Empyrean is a coalition of worlds where magic and the arcane spurred technological and sociological development instead of scientific principles. It is, for lack of a better phrase, a Constitutional Autocracy. There has been no real success in explaining exactly what this means., 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 prosahumanOmnipedia PopupHumanity as a whole is made up of parahumans -- those with enhancements or abilities beyond known 'normal' capacity, and prosahumans, whose abilities fall within the usual statistical mean. 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.Author's Note'Doctor Aiden Archer, Ph.D.' is pretty much how Archer introduced himself at least until the Skyquake changed everything. I've mentioned it elsewhere but to make it clear... Aiden Archer is a pastiche of Reed Richards -- and Reed Richards, as I've said elsewhere, is a complete sociopath. A great character, mind -- but a complete sociopath. However, over time he's also been influenced by 'Doctor Rick Dagless M.D.,' the protagonist of the parody show-within-a-show of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, as portrayed by Matthew Holness. 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!Author's NoteAs with many of the heroes of Empire City, Terry Simon is a pastiche on Marvel's Hank Pym -- specifically the comic book iteration, as opposed to the MCU's version as played by Michael Douglas. Unfortunately, at this stage of the narrative this includes undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. That said, Archer's ablest and offensive comments in no way reflect the views of the author.

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.


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 RealspaceOmnipedia PopupRealspace is the colloquial name for the 4-Brane 'universe' at the center the full nine dimensional universal construct. The '4-brane' refers to the three spatial dimensions and the linear temporal dimension which natives can perceive and exist within. 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.

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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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’WispOmnipedia PopupSonata DuLay was one of the first breakout heroes of Empire City, eclipsing her partner Bauchan almost immediately. She has actually gone through a number of heroic names, though she was also one of the first major regional heroes to have a public identity. Besides Will O'Wisp, her most famous callsign was 'Sprite.' By the end of the Halcyon Days era, she typically just went by her civilian name..
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.
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