The Last And First Overmen: A Novel of the Last Superheroes
By Jave Harron
(Note: The previous pages were the written account strung together by Doctor David Risona attempting to recover the individual personalities of all the significant metahumans in this historical account. However, given the limited capacity of Heritage's mainly biological neural network, and number of personalities, separating personas is a difficult task. Even a posthuman must take care to untangle the separate strands of each personality. Obviously, the account is incompletely and erratic with its order and pacing. Serious editing still must be done. Below are other notes and newspaper clippings found on Risona's desk.)
...In the absence of a capable leader and the deaths of most of their costumers, the Tercio Cartel practically vanished from existence. Different crime lords fought amongst each other for the scraps of the once powerful underworld empire. However, the market for illegal and dangerous superpower-granting drugs has been largely ignored in favor of new legal and proven safe drugs...
...With the proliferation of civilian owned meta-technologies and products, there was no need for power to be centralized by a small clique of metahumans. Common criminals had easier access to the technologies, but so did common people and law enforcement. No longer were metahumans given the massive budgets they once were (though many government and private agencies still retained a team of metahuman security specialists)...
...Due to the personality backup system in the Secondmen's nanotech implants, most members of the Secondmen were revived. However, due to the loss of the Newark Enclave, their personalities were transmitted to backup copy-bodies under construction in the Nexus. Due to the time involved to build a new body from scratch and ensure the personality remains intact, the other Secondmen would have still been unable to assist Heritage during the final battle. In addition, other personalities had been recovered from Heritage's mind. All other members of the Secondmen, as well as Outback, Roadrunner, Union Jane, and the girl formerly known as Yoko Hirota, were all recovered. The possibility of reviving historical figures (such as Tesla) also remains a promising venue for future research...
(Addendum: A significant portion of Heritage's original personality has been restored and "untangled" from others. Proud at the role he played in ending the "age of superheroes," he took the new alias "Legacy" as a reminder of his own actions that made it possible.)
Notes: The story is fictional, as are the technologies and individuals inside of it. However, Unit 731 is a historical reality. Additional notes on the characters are mentioned below.
The Last And First Overmen: A Novel of the Last Superheroes
By Jave Harron
Certain historical mentions in this novel were real, such as Unit 731, Nikola Tesla, and many of the firearms mentioned. Many of the metahumans in "The Last and First Overmen" were inspired by a combination of existing superheroes and original ideas. Many superhero "types" were used straight up, exploited, and subverted. Below is a list of the primary and supporting metahumans in the novel. Many of the characters are named using alliteration, having the first and last names start with the same letters or sounds, in true comic book fashion.
The Title: As for the title, it is a reference to two primary things: Olaf G. Stapledon's "The Last and First Men," and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Here, many of the metahumans are paralleled to Nietzsche's Overman, creating values through strength alone. Since the novel covers the opening and end of the "Age of Superheroes," the title worked well.
Society for Justice and Democracy: The SJD was both a homage and parody of many of the "famous" superhero teams. The Justice League was one major inspiration, as well as the X-Men's international roster. The fact that NATO has a top officer from each member country contributed to the idea that each should also have a metahuman representative as well. Since the SJD, like NATO, is an organization with roots in the Cold War, each member had to come from a different country. Likewise, the international roster was a means of paying homage to various "international" superheroes. The name was made to seem evocative of "Truth, Justice, and the American Way." Since the team was more international, this was changed a bit, and some irony is mentioned by characters for many un-democratic tactics used by the SJD.
The Archon/Demiurge: The Archon was created as a much darker Superman. As the result of the fusion between an alien entity and a human, the Archon is unknowable to the other metahumans (keeping partially with the Gnostic theme). In similar Gnostic themes, only those with the "proper knowledge" could be saved. Ironically, this group is the Secondmen, rather than the SJD or Retrogressors. An inspiration for him was the site "Superdickery" with some real comicbook covers of old Superman comics showing the Man of Steel acting like an arrogant jerk. Dr. Manhattan from Alan Moore's excellent "Watchmen" was another. He is made to be a "Nietzschean Overman" type superhero, though ironically a nihilist. The sales of the metahuman products to the common person made him decide to try to destroy the world when he did. In Gnostic theology, the Demiurge is the creator of a false, material reality that tries to deceive people, while the Archons are his top servants.
Matador/Tercio: The Matador was made to show a character from a not-very democratic state in the real life 40s and 50s, Franco's fascist Spain. He was added to create a fascist in the classic sense of the term on a team for "democracy," as a reference to certain political policies during the Cold War. As long as a state wasn't "Communist," it could be allied with, though it may not be democratic, capitalistic, or free. Matador exploits "democracy" for all it's worth, and then uses the Society to indirectly help him start a new enterprise, the Tercio Cartel. Deciding to screw politics, he takes the handle "Tercio" and starts selling drugs on the black market. Both of his names relate to bullfighting and Spanish history. The word tercio refers to a lancer in Spanish, and his (largely unused in the book) weapon is a diamond-edged lance that can slice through anything. As a druglord, he initially decided to make a profit off of addiction, but expanded into superpowered drugs as well. He retained the Retrogressors as his personal bodyguard and hit-squad, and they shared his fascist views. His utter contempt for the "common person" trying to rise above their station eventually drove him to join the Archon.
Union Jane: Originally, Union Jane was designed around a certain idea: That many significant leaders of the UK were conservative women (of a sort), from Boudicca to Queen Elizabeth to Queen Victoria to Margaret Thatcher. Union Jane was originally intended as a Thatcher-inspired metahuman that waved the Union Jack around. However, her politics were toned down to make a more generic "patriotic" character. Since Captain America had his shield with the Stars and Stripes, what would the British version be like? The Royal Air Force's symbol is a "bullseye," and I thought it would be a nice touch for her to have an indestructible shield with the RAF bullseye on it, as a means of mocking her foes to hit it. She used a bow and arrow due to the weapon's significance in certain British legends (such as Robin Hood) and history (such as Welsh longbowmen helping in the Hundred Years' War). Her name comes from the "Union Jack" (the nickname of the British flag) changed to a more feminine form. Her feelings for Zeitgeist are hinted at, and her politics were made more "liberal" by having her be a Beatles fan and progressive supporting civil rights in the 60s.
Zeitgeist/Prometheus: See Secondmen.
l'Etonnant: His name means "The Amazing" or "The Astounding" in French. His last name, Petiot, is a reference to the French serial killer Marcel Petiot. He's a hundred-year old racist wizard. His three main sources of inspiration were Marvel Comic's Dr. Strange, the historical Charles du Gaulle, and plenty of French stereotypes. As a racist French bastard, l'Etonnant was deployed during the decline of the French colonial empire and relished in killing the "inferior races." His disgust with a multi-ethnic society forming in France, the US, and the rest of Europe is what ultimately drives him to turn towards the Archon. The other is the fact he has no qualms about kissing ass to save his own skin when against someone more powerful than he is.
Outback: Outback is the only non-powered member of the SJD, and makes up for it by knowing science, engineering, survival tactics, martial arts, and ways that even baseline humans can level the playing field (similar in many ways to Batman). In a world of metahumans, it is unsurprising his Australian SAS training included methods that baseline humans can fight back against superpowered ones with. An idea present in this story was that an individual metahuman can still be defeated by a quick thinking normal human. And the fact nations would have specialized commando teams for dealing with metahuman threats is also likely. His name, "Max Reilly," is a homage to Mel Gibson's character "Mad Max" from "Road Warrior," and the Australian thriller writer "Matthew Reilly." His hobby of writing thrillers is a direct reference to Matt Reilly. He shares the same name and nationality as a character in my other work "Infoduel," but little else. As a baseline human among metas, he is more aware of the differences between the two, and is one of the more sympathetic members of the SJD.
Kensai: Named for the "Sword-saint," Kensai is a homage to the superpowered swordsmen of countless anime and manga. The Muramasa blade she used was (mythically) considered to be a blood-thirsty blade. When she holds the sword, she loses all control of herself, and wakes up after the killing is finished. The historical Muramasa was probably misunderstood, while the one in "Overmen" takes its cue from anime tropes. As a schoolgirl with a magic sword, Kensai is the youngest member of the team. Her bloodthirsty sword would seal her fate when the Archon takes control of her through it. However, she is revived later on as the normal girl she once was.
Panzermensch: Panzermensch was a German pastiche of Iron Man with elements of Bruce Wayne. He is a self-made engineer that becomes obsessed with protecting his copyrights, for fear his enemies could reverse engineer his own devices for use against him. German for "Armored Man" (though sometimes used in the context of "cyborg"), he was clearly intended as an "armored hero" type fighter. His last name, Sauer, means sour or melancholy. It was a homage to a philosophical cyborg from the "Xenosaga" series of JRPGs, Ziggy. While not a fascist or Archon follower, Johannes Sauer does use his position in the SJD to stifle research into any and all other types of powered armor by lobbying for ever more and more broad "design patents." His monopoly is supported by the SJD's pundits as well as several lobbyists. His anti-climatic, offscreen demise was meant to show the ignoble end that even a genius may fall to by being rash and unreasonable.
Roadrunner: Of all the SJD members, Roadrunner was the least fleshed out. Originally, she was merely the "token black person," but developed somewhat into being a "speedster type" and mute. Her fondness for a certain avian cartoon character gave her the name "Roadrunner." Her primary use as a speedster is scouting and chasing fleeing enemies, but she can be careless at times (such as her actions during the Motown Massacre). However, she was following the Archon's lead, and the Archon acts more like a sledgehammer than surgical knife, as is shown later on. Her presence on the team as the "token black person" became a sign that the SJD was changing with the times, leading to Matador's (and eventually l'Etonnant's) disgust with the way things were changing.
The Secondmen: The Secondmen's name has three primary sources. The first was a reference to Olaf G. Stapledon's novel "The Last and First Men." In there, the race of basic humans creates an enhanced new species, the "Second Men." Keeping in touch with their transhumanist philosophy, the Secondmen allude to this novel. Zeitgeist himself did read and enjoy Stapledon. The second inspiration was the idea of the Singularity. In transhumanist thought, the Singularity is a period of exponential technological advancement. Things that had once taken hours then would take minutes, and things that took minutes would take seconds. The third idea was the name of the American Revolutionary "Minutemen," who were able to be "ready to fight in a minute." Since the Singularity would be accelerating things, and they also fought for the ideals of the Enlightenment, "Secondmen" was an appropriate name for them.
Zeitgeist/Prometheus: Zeitgeist has very libertarian politics and economics, as referenced by his (fictional) association with the Austrian school of economics. With a name referring to the "Spirit of the Era," Zeitgeist was at first a poster child of "wonderful" pulp science but later a more pragmatic individual. After his initial time travel experiments produce unusable results, he becomes the "brains" of the SJD. His teleportation, time camera, and "gravity ray" (a tractor beam styled device) make him able to use a variety of creative strategies. As he travels through the world and across universes, he sees things that make him realize the Archon he knows is more than meets the eye. His quest to save his own world, despite the fact it is but one in a sea of infinite others, gives him the motivation to don the armor of "Prometheus." As the one that steals superpowers from the few "gods" that hold it, Wilhelm tries to distribute them to the common person. His first name Wilhelm is Nietzsche's middle name, and Wagner is a deliberately ironic mention of the anti-Semitic composer and friend of Nietzsche.
Ixchel: Ixchel is the current girlfriend and partner of Prometheus, but also from a parallel universe. In particular, she is a main character in my sci-fi short novel "Shores of Eternity." In her world, she is a Mayan techno-priestess in an alternative universe where a Mayan theocratic technocracy rules (more information on her society is in "Shores"). Named for the Mayan moon goddess, her abilities focused on hacking and reprogramming both organic and electronic computers. She used this with a pair of retractable claws with nano-circuits embedded in them, called "reproggers." She has been to the "Nexus" before, and seems to have a thing for inter-dimensional men, as shown in "Shores of Eternity."
Marksman: Marksman is actually a combination of two characters from my larger comic book/soft sci-fi multiverse: Marlene and Thomas. Thomas was the protagonist of "Necessary Evil," a modern man turned into a posthuman commando. Marlene was the titular character of "Daughter of the Machine" about a girl raised by an artificial intelligence. Both characters have extensive familiarity with firearms, survival techniques, and high technology, and both are posthumans. Originally part of the "Machine," they formed a specialist body for sniping, convert operations, and commando tactics. Their weapon of choice, unseen in the novel, was a mini-rail-gun the length of a musket with a high tech scope on top, and surprisingly retro bayonet.
Cybrid: The "Cybrid" is another character from "Daughter of the Machine" and makes an appearance in "Mother of the Machine." His real name, David Risona, appears in some form in quite a few other stories of mine. The Giovanni Risona of "Father of Lights" is a fantasy-steampunk analog of the scifi version that appears in "Daughter." Risona uploaded his mind into a computer, along with the minds of friends and several AIs he consults as advisors, forming the "Machine." Marlene was the orphaned girl he raised and augmented with cybernetics, and made her own body, the Marksman. Cybrid works as an all-round technician, though his quite capable of holding his own in combat. Generally, he prefers his custom-made caseless firearms or tranquilizer darts to energy weapons.
Bektashi: Bektashi was one of my personal favorite characters to write. As an immortal, cynical swordsman, he started off as a religious Arab fighting Crusaders to being a cynical atheist. For an added touch of irony, he prefers firearms over swords, since firearms "make it easier." His cynicism was influenced by the character of John Constantine from the "Hellblazer" comics. His longevity was a further subversion of the trope of the "angsty immortal." While suffering from boredom for a while, Bektashi eventually finds a new cause worth fighting for passionately with the Secondmen.
Heritage/Legacy: As the primary character in the modern plotline, Heritage is a civil engineer with a passionate interest in old buildings. As an urban explorer, he investigates them out of an obsessive interest in the past. Urban exploring, also known as "infiltration," is a real life subculture that exists among certain history fans. While technically illegal, many people still infiltrate old structures out of interest. His skill in infiltration, coupled with his interest in history, goes well with his powers. At first, his powers are related to solely drawing mundane (though highly trained) human personas in, but eventually learns to channel metahuman personas. The way he defeats the Archon shows that even those forgotten by history (such as the unnamed victim numbered 1314 of Unit 731) could affect history at key points. After his sacrifice and "death," he becomes reborn as "Legacy," having directly helped end the era of metahuman elitism.
Splicer: Splicer originally came from a parallel universe where non-European civilizations became the dominant ones. His world's own backstory was inspired by the plot of a rock opera by the band "Ayreon." As the last human alive, he eventually comes into contact with a benevolent alien species that arrived too late to prevent humanity's extinction, but not too late to revive it. He has powers to genetically modify himself in real time, and also allowing him to be a more versatile operative. However, biology does have its limits, which draws him towards enhancement technologies offered by the Secondmen, as well as the chance to save other worlds from destruction.
The Retrogressors: The Retrogressors are the metahuman supervillains that work for the ruthless Tercio Cartel. Their name is a combination of the prefix "retro-" and the word "aggressor." They envision a world where the strong dominate the weak utterly and completely. They despise the ideas of the Enlightenment, freedom, and equal rights in fairly standard comic book supervillain fashion. However, their own philosophy is inspired by a violent strain of neo-Luddite activism, similar to the fascist and racist philosophy of Julius Evola. Each of the members has some sort of violent trait associated with the worst of nature they represent.
Gateway: Gateway represents an all-consuming hunger. In nature, certain animals have been known to kill for sport rather than just food (including humans). Despite being a member of the Retrogressors, Gateway is a soulless materialist that enjoys all the pleasures of the developed world. Such hypocritical behavior is not uncommon amongst many self proclaimed "Luddites" today. Inspired somewhat by the soulless and hedonistic lifestyle of "American Psycho" protagonist Patrick Bateman, Gateway is a literally hollow person, and more of a self aware void in the universe than a person of flesh and blood.
Manhunter: Like Outback, Manhunter possesses no metahuman powers of his own. However, he is very well trained in wilderness survival, jungle warfare, and anti-metahuman tactics. His weapon of choice, a hunting crossbow, allows him to strike swiftly and silently. He represents a methodical predator, killing and stalking a foe with ruthless efficiency. Of the three Retrogressors, he is ironically the only one most at home in the wilderness. He has an eye-patch like cybernetic sight that allows him to target foes more efficiently.
Hazmat: Hazmat's own individual name, Hiro, was selected due to the irony it would have for an English speaker. As a member of the historical Unit 731, his own background as a bioweapons specialist and mad scientist fits well. As a living disease incubator, he produces many toxic organisms and chemicals for the Cartel to use and sell to the highest bidder. As a believer that disease separates the strong from the weak, Hazmat becomes increasingly ruthless even after leaving Unit 731.
Other Metas: Two other groups of metas were mentioned but not elaborated on too much in the text, the Defenders of the Red Star and the Pantheon Initiative. The Defenders of the Red Star were the Soviet counterparts to the NATO-backed Society for Justice and Democracy. While their founding members were Russian and Chinese, they would split after the Sino-Soviet border skirmishes. The Chinese-backed metas were assimilated back into the People's Republic of China's own metahuman teams, and the Soviet Union retained control of the Defenders of the Red Star. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a few of the metahumans on the team turned to the Russian Mafia for "work" due to Russian government budget issues, along with more mundane soldiers and athletes. The Pantheon Initiative was originally going to be a supernatural-themed team of metahumans, but was kept out in favor of greater focus on the SJD, Secondmen, and Retrogressors.
Night-Witch: Night-Witch was the founding Russian member of the Defenders of the Red Star. In real world history, females were allowed to join the Red Army, and a few did as fighter pilots, snipers, and even infantry. Night-Witch was a nickname given by Germans to Russian female fighter pilots. In this novel, the metahuman Night-Witch was a female Russian pilot who had a near supernatural ability to achieve air superiority in almost any sort of aircraft. She was able to teleport her plane short distances, and never seemed to run out of ammunition or fuel while she was in a plane. During the Cold War, she was often referred to as "Strategic Air Command's worst nightmare" for that ability. She was romantically involved with Long March for a while. After the fall of the Soviet Union, she remains as decorated veteran and honorary lifelong member of the "Defenders" while organizing the Russian Federation's own nascent metahuman program.
Long March: Long March was a Chinese man that found he had a metahuman abilities during the Chinese Civil War. Originally, he worked on his family's farm and found he rarely ever had to stop for physical rest. When injured by a stray gunshot to the chest, he recovered in near record time. He would soon find his own abilities of regeneration and effectively infinite stamina. He would later become one of Mao Tsetung's top operatives, and would be nicknamed "Long March." It was rumored that Unit 731 tried to capture him with the intention of vivisecting him, but he escaped. He was romantically involved with Night-Witch until the DRS split into Soviet and Chinese members. He reluctantly returned to the PRC, but has lately been rumored to becoming involved with his old flame since the Cold War ended.
Blue Max: Blue Max is an Indian metahuman mentioned in passing once. A member of the Indian Navy's naval aviation wing, he flies a heavily customized fighter jet based on the carrier INS Viraat. Like Night-Witch, he is a metahuman with powers associated with aircraft. However, his power derives from a strange prototype jet that allegedly had supertechnology of unknown origin incorporated into the body. He can control the plane through thought, and does not need to be in the cockpit to do so (but his concentration is significantly greater there). His jet is stealthy, can hover, seems to have near limitless fuel and munitions, and is as armored as a battleship. A young man, details on his personal life are kept confidential. He is the most widely known Indian metahuman around the world, always deployed with the Viraat to trouble spots.
Huckster: Magical mobster who associated with Aleister Crowley. His escape attempt in Detriot would spark the Motown Masscare, where several SJD members ignored collateral lives to kill him once and for all. Originally, he was thought to have had something to do with the disappearance of Matador, but this was just a ploy by Matador. He wanted a way to remove the metahuman crime lord so he could step in and fill the vacuum.