Background (Kalos Universe)

From WestGuard

Background (Kalos Universe)

Optimism and fairness

In the Kalos Universe, sometimes things do not work out the way we think they should. That's life.

Moral clarity

Good and evil are evident, but far from overwhelmingly obvious. People of good will can (and will) differ on not just means but on ultimate ends. Some questions of morality and ethics have "no right answer," although the concept of a "right answer" is at least theoretically imaginable. "Good" people do not kill outside a clear moral framework such as war or revenge, but the concept of "war" can be extended to apply to a number of situations that do not involve armies or uniforms.

An uncomfortable facet of the Kalos Universe is that the broader good, which by nature tends to the self-constrained and heterogeneous, is at a systemic disadvantage when opposing an aggressive, unified force of evil.

Weirdness

On the surface, the Kalos Universe closely resembles our own. Alien contact, if any, happened long ago, or to a very few people. Magic is minor, or hidden, or unreliable. The gods, if any, work in mysterious ways rather than by descending to Earth to fight supervillains. The acceptable borders of pseudo-science are a little looser than in our world, but society takes no notice. The Kalos Universe is a world of low-level oddness, and self-policing strangeness.

Of course, undeniably supernatural, paranormal, and inhuman elements do exist. Some strangeness has become "usual", if not "normal". Most people try not to think about it.

Posthumans

The first half-dozen posthumans who made their presence widely known appeared during World War 2, as part of the Red Army fighting the invading forces of Nazi Germany. Soon, similar groups of posthumans appeared, fighting for the Axis (primarily in Europe and Africa) and for the Allies (primarily in Europe and the Pacific).

Despite their incredible powers, posthumans have had a subdued effect on world affairs. Posthuman geniuses have given mankind extraordinary scientific and medical advances, but in nearly all cases those advances have been released gradually by the governments of the world (ostensibly to prevent the destabilizing influence of sudden leaps in technology).

Similarly, at the behest of conventional authorities, posthumans have generally refrained from involvement in everyday politics and diplomacy. The exceptions to this rule have traditionally been condemned as terrorists and threats to all of humanity. This phenomenon was most evident during the McCarthy era, when a small handful of politically active posthumans calling themselves the Committee For The Advancement Of Mankind were convicted in absentia of violating the Smith Act.

Rarity

There are fewer than 800 posthumans worldwide. Approximately 200 of these are in North America, roughly 100 of which are in the United States. Posthumans, particularly those who originate in the Americas, have a slightly greater than average tendency to migrate to the United States.

Role in society

In general, society pigeonholes posthumans the same way it does every social group: accountants are boring, Irishmen are pugnacious, young girls like horses, posthumans are flamboyant and dangerous. But not everyone thinks that way, and individual posthumans can and do easily overcome such stereotypes, which hardly have the weight of prejudice.

Posthumans are somewhat more likely to change their role in society than normal people; in this they resemble celebrities (who swing between "flavor of the month" and "where are they now?") or professional wrestlers. Some posthumans have retired, gotten hugely fat, died, converted, become corrupt, run for office, or slacked off and wasted their potential.

Because posthumans are so rare, they do not constitute their own subculture. For better or for worse, any role they fill is in the context of human society.

Influence on the law

Posthumans are not common enough to have had a significant impact on the law. Posthuman crime is so rare that exceptions have yet to be made for it; what is against the law for humans remains against the law for posthumans, and the penalties applied to human crime has, thus far, been deemed sufficient for posthuman crime.

One exception is the issue of incarceration. No "superhuman prison" has been established: conventional prisons have had to cope as well as they can with posthuman inmates. In practice, posthumans have a higher than average number of escape attempts, and a much higher than average number of successful escape attempts.

Historical impact

Changing history is hard, even for a posthuman, but it's not impossible. Manufacturable devices of posthuman origin are rare, but they exist, especially in military hardware. Some posthuman inventions have even become pervasive (such as cell phones), enriching both society and their inventors. Cultural and political inertia are difficult to overcome, but not insuperable. The rewards of changing history can be all the sweeter for the effort -- or the posthuman can fail at her goals while still altering history forever.

Even those with superhuman Intellect can't always predict the future.

Origins

Paranormal abilities in the Kalos Universe typically fall into one of seven broad categories: alien, artificial, birthright, magic, science, training, and transformed. There is necessarily some overlap between these categories, but one origin will generally be dominant.

Alien

Alien visitors to Earth are extremely rare. The only posthuman publicly known to have originated from another world was Draconian. However, Atlanteans and Lemurians also have their origins on another planet, although they first came to Earth tens of thousands of years ago. Thus, Antiope was also technically of alien origin. Even so, "alien" is among the rarest origins of posthumans in the Kalos Universe.

Artificial

Artificial life forms -- androids, sentient robots, and other kinds of constructs, such as golems -- are virtually unknown in the Kalos Universe. Posthumans whose origin is artificial are among the rarest of an already rare breed.

Birthright

The "birthright" origin means that the posthuman was born with or destined to develop superhuman powers, and encompasses a number of different sources. What these have in common is that the paranormal ability is natural for the organism (or the result of a prenatal transformation), rather than the result of an external modification, and that the organism is native to Earth.

In contrast to the Mainstream Universe, there is no single inheritable genetic trait which accounts for posthuman abilities. The term "mutant", in the Kalos Universe, is not usually associated with posthumans, nor has there been any scientific evidence for Homo sapiens potens. "Mutant" is generally a pejorative term only used for noticeable mutations or developmental deformities (although the latter use is technically incorrect).

Magic

Magic and the supernatural are virtually unknown in the Kalos Universe. Character whose powers are achieved either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult natural laws are among the least common of all posthumans.

Science

Technology in the Kalos Universe is only slightly more advanced than our own. Even so, the practical application of science is one of the most common sources for posthuman abilities.

Training

Training alone, without resorting to technological augmentation, is virtually never enough to bridge the gap between human and posthuman. Training is among the rarest sources for posthuman abilities.

Transformed

The hero was once a normal human, but became superhuman through some outside agency, often an accident or experiment. The source of the transformation might have been magic or science, but unless the individual's posthuman abilities are distinctly "scientific" or "magical" in nature, the posthuman is generally considered "transformed". One exception is the case of a transformation which occurred before or during gestation: such individuals are considered to have the "birthright" origin.

Transformation is the most common origin for posthumans.

Extraterrestrials

Earth has been visited by aliens many times in its history, although few are aware of this fact. Most of these visits were well before 3000 BCE, which is when humans began recording history. Some may have even been before the evolution of Homo sapiens, approximately 200,000 years ago.

However, since the beginning of recorded history, extraterrestrials have only openly visited Earth twice: Draconian, who came to our world in 1951 after escaping the destruction of his home planet (inspiring the film The Day The Earth Stood Still), and the Isopterans, who invaded Earth in 2009 (inspiring numerous "alien invasion" films in the following years). Some experts believe that a third group of aliens, the Shran, has visited the Earth, but there is little evidence for this, and the claim is disputed.

Even though the Isopterans landed on five different continents, and the conflict was reported by every news medium, a significant number of people do not believe that extraterrestrials exist (roughly 30% of the polled populace of the Unites States, for example).

Magic and the occult

Magic and the supernatural in the Kalos Universe is even less common than posthumans are. Many people believe in ghosts, gods, and magic spells (roughly 90% of the polled populace of the Unites States, for example); only a handful of people have seen them. Unlike the Mainstream Universe, there are no competing pantheons sending emissaries to Earth to do battle, and there is no scientific evidence of vastly powerful supernatural entities.

That being said, the supernatural in the Kalos Universe can be divided into a few distinct types. The most common type is actually not supernatural at all: rather, it is extraterrestrial. It may be an extraterrestrial artifact which is believed to be "magic", it may be the result of genetic tampering by nonhuman scientists at the dawn of time, or it may even be a species which was originally transplanted from another world. In any case, although it may be thought to be "magic" or "supernatural" (and categorized as such), it is, in fact, the result of alien technology. The majority of the heroes and monsters from the age of myth (in the rare cases where those myths have some basis in reality) fall into this category.

(tbd by Sean -- occultism, etc.)

Finally, there is the legitimately, indisputably supernatural: entities and powers for which science offers no satisfactory explanation, if it admits of their existence at all. Such entities, such as Aktzin, are rare and elusive.

Technology

Technology available to the public in the Kalos Universe is only slightly more advanced than that of the real world. However, super-technology may exist in secret government or corporate laboratories, where it is studied and slowly introduced to the world at large in order to minimize its disruptive influence on the status quo. In some cases, a posthuman invention has been reverse engineered so that less powerful versions of the device may be gradually introduced over the course of several decades. This was the case for lasers and nanotechnology, for example.

Because posthumans are exceedingly rare, there is no uniform method of coping with or neutralizing their abilities. Items designed to block or neutralize posthuman abilities, such as white thought generators, are rare, expensive, limited in their application, and experimental (and often morally dubious).

Time/Dimensional travel

The ability to travel through time or to alternate dimensions, while theoretically possible, is virtually unknown in practice. As far as the public is concerned, no time or dimensional travel technology currently exists: such devices are the realm of science fiction. Exceptions are plot devices which cease functioning or leave our universe after their purpose in the story has been fulfilled.