Once a Villain
By Zack Bouis
It is 20 years
after the current time in Paragon City, the year 2026. In this time
the city has changed much and yet remained the same. It still remains
a city of heroes, bordered closely by a chain of islands known as
the city of villains. But in Paragon City many things have changed.
In the old gang wars the sides have shifted. Some once thought to
be unstoppable have been brought to ruin. New challengers have made
their mark on the battlefields of the streets and the borders and
territories of their holdings have been altered dramatically. However,
despite all this, some remnants of the old orders still exist, only
now long forgotten....
The stern agent steeled himself as he walked
down the cold dark corridors of the Long Term Confinement Division
of Ziggursky Prison. Stone cold, from his years dealing with superpowered
criminals he did not speak a word to the small man following behind
The lowly prison guard who had been assigned to back up Agent
Oharan felt awed by the emotionlessness the man showed while walking
along the cells of some of the most dangerous criminals the city had
ever seen. Council Archons, along with a few of their vampiric versions
as well, powerful Carnival psychics, and some of the most hideous,
grotesque Freakshow the anarchists had to offer.
Rick Oharan’s hair
had gone grey at a very young age, it had become his distinctive feature
recognized by the criminals he dealt with. He now reached the cell
at the very end of the hallway. The door was almost a foot of solid
steel and he knew that it was also equipped with atomic force field
generators, which could be activated at any time in the event of a
lockdown. He removed his key card and slid it through the slot. He
then punched in a series of numbers, and the combination finally opened
the door. He stepped in quickly, along with the guard, as the door
was programmed to only stay open for a few seconds.
The cell they
had entered was larger than most. It came with the common toilet and
bed as well as a small radio and bookshelf, some of the books on which
had been written by the cell’s occupant. The most distinguishing feature
of the cell though is that laying on the bed in the corner was a blue
skinned man with glowing steel rings attached all the way up his arms
and another on his head as if it were a crown.
Agent Oharan gestured
to the table in the center of the room and he and the prisoner took
seats facing opposite each other. The guard stood behind the inmate,
his arms crossed with a taser in one of his hands.
The blue skinned
prisoner looked curiously at the newcomer, he didn’t recognize this
one. He had many visitors to his cell, since long term confinement
prisoners were so rarely allowed to leave. This was partially to protect
them from the other inmates and also to protect the other inmates
from them. Also, he never had to share the cell; long term prisoners
were always kept in solitary.
The grey haired agent was obviously
going to be the one who initiated conversation. "Mr. Calhoun," he
began, "I am agent Rick Oharan, of the superpowered criminals correction
agency and we would like to renegotiate your parole."
up quizzically, "but I’m in for life."
"Due to your past experiences
as a superpowered criminal we believe that with your cooperation,
your services can serve to benefit the city, and therefore the District
Attorney will reopen your case allowing for a possible reduction in
sentencing," the agent said.
The blue skinned prisoner was very unsure
about the proposal, "that doesn’t make any sense," he said, "even
when I was considered at my most dangerous there were still a dozen
or more guys who packed more power than I did and dealt with a whole
different class of criminals."
The agent responded, "while that may
be true there are other factors that led to our decision."
smiled, "you mean you took the time to read my psych file?" The inmate
had a number of psychiatrists over the years, probably his most frequent
visitors. The file on his psychological analysis must have been huge.
The agent hid his irritation at this statement, "your previous experiences
showed that your cooperation was a higher possibility than other superpowered
The prisoner leaned back in his chair, "alright
Rick, can I call you Rick?"
"You are to refer to me as Agent Oharan,
or Correctional Agent numeric designation, #3688," his voice not even
The criminal made a show of acting hurt, "god, you’re no fun,
whatever happened to Nash I liked him better."
Agent A. Nash died a month ago due to liver disease," was the agent’s
"Alright that’s fine but really why is it that you would
need my help of all the other baddies in here?" he said.
began taking a file out of his jacket as he continued, "well in particular
you have previous affiliation with a group that targeted the specific
street gang which is now under our investigation, in fact you were
the leader of said group."
The prisoner looked onward as the agent
opened up the file. "Under the street name of "FrostFire" you managed
to band together one of the most dangerous gangs Paragon City has
ever seen, in fact it is logical that you would have managed to gain
control of the areas known as "The Hollows" and "Skyway City" if it
weren’t for the efforts of your rival gang the Trolls. The obvious
leader of your gang you formulated strategies that almost succeeded
in driving the Trolls out of the Hollows except for after years of
this effort, the Trolls ranks began to grow and they achieved new
levels of power which eventually pushed you to a rampage through Skyway
City in which several citizens and a small number of heroes were killed.
Which is the real reason you’re here today with a life sentencing."
Leonard Calhoun, aka FrostFire, stayed perfectly still while hearing
the summarized version of his gang career read to him, silently absorbing
information he thought about himself many a night.
"Alright, so really
what is going on?" obviously the agent had not clarified the situation
at all to FrostFire.
The agent removed a paper from the file and laid
it on the table. It was a biological diagram of a very bulky young
man, with a prominent jaw, protruding tusks, a bald head with horns
sticking out the top. Under the pictures outlining certain features
of his appearance there was a caption which simply read "Grendel."
FrostFire looked up at the agent who nodded at him. "That’s right,
the Trolls have been dead for years but there has been a new drug
being introduced on the streets. It’s chemically a derivation of Superadine
but it has been altered in a way that leads us to believe that it
was engineered specifically for the purpose of quickening human mutations
FrostFire hid his shock at hearing this. A year or so
after his (supposedly) permanent incarceration he got word that the
Trolls had started to die out on their own steam. Their overdosing
on the drug, to gain new powers, had led them to quickened deaths
and after their short success with the Hollowing they had begun to
die out. Eventually, Skyway City had almost been purged of their existence.
He allowed the man to continue talking although the urge to bash in
his head was still present.
"Groups of Trolls have started to form
again, except this time they are different. Their individual powers
are greater and it has become apparent that when they develop a tolerance
to the drug the effect it has on their minds begins to lessen allowing
them to retain more of their human intelligence." FrostFire, wondered
about that one, Intelligent Trolls?
"Now what we need is someone to
help us in combating their presence, so that we can ensure that their
numbers stay down and so we can hope to control them. For this," Oharan
slid the file over to FrostFire, "we have decided to call upon your
previous knowledge of their group."
Silently refusing to open the
folder FrostFire asked, "wouldn’t it be better to dig up some veteran
Troll and let him do the talking?"
"There are no known surviving members
of the Troll street gang," the agent responded.
"Alright then, but
if you want someone who knows about them, there’s probably some old
city historian, or scientist, or cop! so why come to me?" the former
gang leader asked.
"It is more logical to obtain someone who has a
history of combat with the Trolls," was the agent’s reply.
not a hero then?"
"It was the agency’s decision, that we find someone
familiar with the street attitude, someone who would be more familiar
with tactical battles against the Trolls, and someone who was used
to doing things in a more... illicit style." He said all this as though
he regretted his superior’s decision. "And most importantly, you are
no longer considered a U.S. citizen, you have no rights and that makes
"Alright then," FrostFire responded, "you know
I’m not as young as I used to be." It was true. Leonard Calhoun had
started his criminal career as a teenager, now he was a man in his
mid-50's, hid somewhat by his odd hue of skin color, and his naturally
"Excellent," the agent stated, retrieving his folder
from FrostFire’s side of the table. "It looks like we can get started
With this Leonard Calhoun felt a sharp, burning sensation
on the back of his neck, knocking him unconcious. He awoke in what
appeared to be a busy hotel lobby, but upon closer inspection, the
grand, large room had cubicles lined up like in an office building,
one of which he was lying just in front of. He noticed that it was
occupied by a young woman typing away furiously at a computer, and
Agent Rick Oharan staring over her watching the monitor.
agent noticed FrostFire awakening he said, "sorry about that, but
it was to assure that you wouldn’t be able to memorize the path to
"You could have just blindfolded me," he responded
rubbing the back of his head. While doing so he realized that the
metal ring that previously encircled his head had been removed, while
the ones on his arms were still present.
Noticing his realization
the agent told him, "yes, you know those rings are power reduction
bands. Invented to cancel out the powers of the Ziggurat’s prisoners.
The ones on your arms prevent you from utilizing your elemental powers,
while the one that was on your head is put on all prisoners because
it reduces their normal bodily strength."
"So why did you take it
off of me?" and then noticing he was not restrained in any way and
the guard was no longer present he said, "and what’s wrong with you
people? I could just run out of here, there’s nothing stopping me."
The agent responded, "Well even with your normal body strength, you’re
still without your superpowers and if you tried to make a run for
it from here this building’s pretty big and we’d be able to stop you
before you got anywhere."
"Ok," he said walking over to the computer,
"so what’s she doing?"
"Natalie here is pulling up all the known information
we have on a certain Troll leader. In fact, I’m surprised you haven’t
asked me about the name that was under the diagram of the Troll I
showed you," said agent Oharan.
"Yeah... what about that?" the former
Outcast leader said taking a moment to reflect on what he knew. Grendel
was the supposed leader of the Trolls, but in truth he was little
more than an urban legend who had arisen to explain who had been the
first to bring all the Trolls together. But few, in the gang had ever
been known of seeing him and although he had apparently accomplished
legendary feats of brutal strength it was questioned as to whether
he truly existed. With no real leader to guide the Trolls Atta had
taken the reigns. After the Hollowing no one could question his order
and he had become, in reality, the ultimate Troll that Grendel only
ever was in legend.
Oharan responded. "Well there has already been
a self proclaimed leader of these new Trolls, he claims to be the
actual Grendel who led the Troll gang all those years ago." "Of course,
this is a second hand account and we’ve also had reports saying he’s
the reincarnation of the monster Grendel from the story Macbeth, or
some mad scientist who’s masterminding this whole incident."
last one doesn’t sound so unlikely," in actuality, FrostFire’s assumption
was that this new Grendel was just some overzealous Troll who realized
he could gain authority in the gang by claiming to be their past great
leader. But... that made less sense than any of the other theories.
"Wait a minute!" the former Outcast exclaimed. "The Trolls never decide
their leaders by an influential title. Everything in the Trolls is
decided by fights or Superadine tolerance tests. It would be going
against their structure for one guy to just be decided leader."
Oharan looked at the Outcast leader quizzically. "Well we know that
these Trolls have more rational reasoning than the former ones. Perhaps,
they have a new system."
"Look, you brought me here because of what
I knew about this gang and I’m telling you, either these Trolls are
completely different from the ones my gang fought, and I’m useless
to you. Or this new Grendel has done something for him to have respect
in this gang." FrostFire said.
Oharan paused for a moment before saying,
"alright, we’ll proceed with the assumption that the Trolls are still
competing for power through contests of strength. But, in the meantime,
we have access to the most advanced database on superpowered criminals
in the world. Anyone you want to look up right now?"
"Ok," he said
approaching the computer, "Um, Natalie?" She paused in her typing
for a moment to look up at him. "I want you to look up Keystone, he
was my right hand man back in the day."
After punching in some keys,
the woman replied with "searching," as a loading screen appeared.
"Accessing file on former Outcast Lieutenant, Keystone. After the
incarceration of Outcast leader FrostFire he attempted to operate
the Outcast street gang himself, but soon after a power struggle between
him and SemiConductor, a factious member of the team, caused the Outcasts
to fall apart with the different factions battling for power, Keystone
eventually died in one of these battles. Shortly after the gang was
disbanded entirely." After delivering her tale, Natalie again turned
to stare at FrostFire, who was really starting to get weirded out
by that odd, blank look that woman had.
However, this was a lot for
him to reflect on. He had speculated that the Outcasts had probably
fallen apart after his incarceration but he had just suspected that
they died out slowly with the cops and heroes beginning to lean on
them more. But no, his most trusted friend and his second in command
had been killed trying to hold the Outcasts together. Who was this
SemiConductor who managed to tear apart his gang? And then he remembered,
she had become a Lieutenant a long time before he was brought in.
Oh yes, a she. The only female member of the Outcasts ever. She was
really different too. He often thought that she would have done better
in the Freakshow or the Skulls. The Outcasts embraced violence, if
only to inspire loyalty. But she was ruthless, and ambitious, but
he had never given it much thought at the time. There was more important
stuff to worry about then. Of course, it was a little late to do anything
about it. Or was it?
"Nat, look up what happened to SemiConductor
after the Outcasts were disbanded." Natalie looked at him, obviously
annoyed at his abusing her name like that. "Damn," thought FrostFire,
"what the hell is with these people and names?"
"Searching," the little
computer geek said for the second time. "Found, the Outcast SemiConductor
was incarcerated for five years after the disbanding of the Outcasts.
Upon release, she began a profession as a social worker, and also
held programs to aid reformed supervillains."
"What?!" "Wait a minute
that can’t be right you’ve got to f***ing with me," was his outraged
Abruptly surprised that someone could use such crude language
in her hallowed cubicle sanctuary, the computer technician replied,
"I assure you sir, I am not f***ing with you about anything."
the hell is this about?" FrostFire thought to himself. SemiConductor
was probably the most violent Outcast he had ever met in his life.
It would have taken an act of God to reform her into a model citizen
who actually cares about people!
"I have to go meet her now," he said
addressing the agent leaning against the cubicle wall.
said, "what? absolutely not, I was considering allowing you to contact
old allies for combat purposes but this would be taking time away
from the mission and I won’t allow that."
"Fine," FrostFire retorted,
"but the first chance I get I’m gonna go see what the hell has happened
"Where is her practice?" FrostFire said addressing Natalie
"Its out of a ward in Lagrange Medical Center in Skyway City."
She said before Oharan could stop her. Normally, her robot like way
of responding to commands was a good thing.
FrostFire smiled at Oharan
and he stared back. He knew that at the first chance that was given
he would slip out and try to talk to SemiConductor.
"Come on," the
Leaving Natalie at her computer, he took FrostFire
to a back door where they went down a few flights of stairs leading
to a small dark room with only a single lightbulb hanging above them,
illuminating a table with a map of Paragon City on it.
"I was expecting
something out of Star Wars, with holograms and giant computers and
stuff," FrostFire said upon observing the room.
"Yeah well, this works
just fine," he said deciding not to humor the prisoner.
what it used to be?" FrostFire asked with a smile.
Agent Oharan decided
to ignore it. "Probably hit too close to home," FrostFire thought
As they came to the solitary piece of furniture, FrostFire
saw three other men come out of the shadows, all wearing police uniforms.
"I’m still not impressed," he thought to himself.
Oharan stepped up
to the map and cleared his throat, "ahem, all groups of Trolls we’ve
seen so far have been in the Faultline area, here, here, and here."
With each "here" he placed a thumbtack on the spot indicated.
the groups we’ve seen have been from 20-30 in number but we suspect
that their numbers are over 100. Any of the groups containing Grendel
have been significantly larger. Now, lucky for us they’ve showed up
in Faultline so we don’t have to worry about them doing much property
damage or hurting civilians. They’ve injured one or two heroes since
we’ve spotted them but nothing else since then. Mostly," he gave a
look to FrostFire, "they’ve been fighting amongst themselves, however
it hasn’t resulted in a death toll capable of thinning their numbers
"What about the dam?" FrostFire spoke up.
was decommissioned years ago," he responded giving an unreadible look
"Anyway, there will be three teams sent in. All SWAT
trained and SWAT equipped officers. FrostFire, will be the field commander
for one of these teams." This caused the police gathered in the room
to stare rather accusingly at the blue skinned man in their midst.
"As though they didn’t already have a reason to stare at me," he thought
to himself. But sincerely he knew that the men here were the commanders
of the men he’d be fighting with and they all felt as though this
was not one of the men to which they should entrust their soldiers
lives. Although he understood their distrust it didn’t improve his
opinion of them any, after all they were cops.
Acting unaware of the
apprehension present in the room, Oharan continued on with his explanation.
"We’ve sealed off the area so that no one can get in but us, and any
heroes who want access to the zone will require top level clearance.
Any Questions?" He looked up and saw that his companions in the room
were still staring at each other, apparently the last part of his
speech had been lost on them. "Oh well," he thought to himself, "we
might as well get it on with."
Moments later FrostFire found himself
flying over the city in a military attack chopper. He was grateful
that they hadn’t knocked him out for this journey, but he was blindfolded
and they even removed it when they were halfway through Skyway. It
was definitely different to fly over Paragon City like this, they
exceeded all but the fastest flying heroes. But, FrostFire would have
preferred a slower flight. He wanted to be able to see how the city
had changed while he spent all those years in prison.
As they entered
Faultline, FrostFire noted that it looked pretty much the same. Of
course, there was almost no way to make this place look worse, but
there was more than aesthetic differences. There were significantly
less villains in the area, probably due to the loss of the dam, which
was a target for almost all of the asssembled lowlifes here. As they
got farther in, he noticed a huge group of people amongst the slanted
wrecks of buildings. Then he heard the beat of drums and the grunts
and roars which could best be described as ten foot wild boars feasting
on each other.
It had been a long time since he’d seen anything like
"This is what we brought you for," said agent Oharan, yelling
over the helicopter blades. FrostFire then noticed him taking a small
disk shaped device out of his coat pocket and scanning it over the
power reduction bands on his arms. The glowing faded away and Oharan
unclasped them himself.
"I know its been a while since you’ve used
your powers so lets hope you get it back quickly," the agent said.
Still not wanting to fully release FrostFire on the world, he half
said, half grumbled, "Good luck."