From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Where did it all go wrong?
I reckon it was my childhood. It’s always someone’s childhood, according to those damned psychiatrists.
I had the sort of upbringing that any other two-bit no-name would’ve had. My mother dumped me into this world around the same time the second big war was closing shop. Her husband barely really noticed, what with the cloud of booze stinking up his vision.
She gave me a name, but it ain’t worth spit now.
Grew up as any other scummy urchin did, back in the day. I had my fair share of fights in the schoolyard, and brought home grades that would’ve left any high-class folks in tears. Not mine, though. When I got home from a day of sleeping under trees and skipping classes, my mother was right in my face about picking up a skill. Carpentry, shoemaking, spit-mopping…she didn’t care so long as I’d start pulling in a buck.
Went straight into the trades after I finally got out of my wasted childhood. I bounced from job to job, but my sunny disposition never let me hang onto one for longer than a month or two.
‘Course, this led me to the shadier side of the workforce.
I joined up with one of the smaller gangs in Paragon City. I think they called themselves the Roofwalkers, or some other kind of stupid moniker. I started to drift away from my parents, but I didn’t really care. They’d failed me, anyway.
Our track record wasn’t something I’d brag about at the bar, after hours. I spent more time behind bars than I did pilfering cash registers. We were small fish, though, and the courts never left us to rot for more than a few days.
One day, though, we decided to make our big score. The new power plant, one of those atomic things, was getting a shipment of some kind of nuclear stuff. I still don’t know what it was, but we knew we’d be able to hock it for some bigtime cash.
This is where I learned about how much another man’s word is really worth.
The cops didn’t chase us down. No, we had full-fledged superheroes coming down from the sky to take back the power plant’s goods. Honest-to-goodness metahumans. All my gangmates panicked after the first few fireballs took the fight out of our getaway car. I bet they didn’t even hear me cry for help when my seatbelt melted shut, and I was stuck next to a box full of isotopes.
Taught me to drive safely, I guess.
The damned heroes were all greenhorns. No control. Sloppy. All I remember was a flash of light, but I overheard some of the doctors when I came to. I’d had a small nuclear explosion go off right all over the crummy jumpsuit I’d been wearing that night. They said my chances were nil, the bastards.
I reckoned maybe they were right.
But, an angel came calling to set me straight.
Well, a nurse, anyway. She changed my gauze and brought me crummy pudding for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After they realized the Geiger counters weren’t going nuts around me, that is. She looked so damned heartbroken when she brought me the mirror for the first time, and I saw her tears when she knew I’d seen my new complexion. Usually, a crying sweetheart meant I was doing my job, but this time I actually felt…sorry. I told her to buck up, ‘cause it wasn’t like I had much to lose in the first place.
I still remember the feeling when I saw her face light up at that crummy, two-bit witticism. She asked me to talk about myself. Given I’d never been asked that sort of question before, I decided to oblige. Afterwards, she started to talk about -her- self.
Said her name was Winter. Winter Summers. And I damn near killed any man that decided to laugh when I shared it.
I spent a few weeks in the hospital, with Winter as my one and only bit of nice company. Sure, lots of other folks came by, but they were mostly scientists, doctors, or cops dressed up in labcoats to feel important. Seemed my temperature just kept going up, and soon I might become a threat to everyone around me. I figured that meant my number was up. After all, why not just off a punk like me if I’m this dangerous?
But no, one night I drifted off to sleep, and woke up in some kind of metal bodysuit. The lab monkeys said it’d keep me cool enough not to accidentally blow up the city.
The idiots actually looked -surprised- when I broke out, a few nights later. Just needed to cut a few coolant lines here and there, and I was able to freeze the guards solid in seconds. I decided to run for it back to the Roofwalkers’ hideout, seeing how that was my only real home at the time.
Damn if it didn’t feel good to give those scum a bit of payback. Lenny actually knifed me in the shoulder, but that just set off another painful surprise. Turned out I could control all the radiation that my body’d soaked up from the explosion. I could nuke or freeze anything that got in my way.
I was a supervillain.
At least, that’s what I tried to be. Sure enough, I got in a brawl with another superhero during my first heist in the suit. The cops didn’t catch me that time, but I got sent packing with my tail between my legs, as the saying goes.
It was maybe the third or fourth bank job when the finally locked me up. They weren’t sure how to contain something like me, but the cell was pretty damn impressive.
But, I’d barely started trying to escape when I had a visitor. Winter’d heard about me on the news, and came to try and set me straight. Fool I was at the time, I told her to get lost in a lot more words.
A few hours later, someone came to spring me from the joint. And to my surprise, it wasn’t just some Paragon streetgang. It was a bunch of card-carrying Commie supervillains. I don’t remember all their names, but a guy called the People’s Sickle took a real shine to my abilities. Even came up with a new name for me to use.
I wanted to sock him for that stupid nickname, but I figured it could wait until after I’d gotten out of my cage. Naturally, ‘Chillnobyl’ was all over the papers the next morning, so I couldn’t really argue about it much for anything
I had a good run with Sickle and his Commie pals. We did a lot of good jobs, and I was barely in the slammer for more than a couple days. I never got much fame, being one of the ones the heroes always took down, but at least I got paid.
But Winter…Winter kept coming to see me, each time. She wouldn’t give up, damn her persistence. I can’t remember when, but I started to take a shine to her again when she actually got permission to come in and give my suit a check-up after one of the boyscout knuckleheads gave it one smack too many, and I started overheating.
My career as a supervillain kept looking like it’d pick up at any moment, but my chances died off painfully and slowly. The Commies started breaking up after a couple years, and soon it was just me and Sickle. Don’t get me wrong, we were a damn good duo, but he was starting to go weirder in the brain as time went on. Got fixated on this one hero, called him his arch-nemesis or something.
Eventually, the two threw down, and neither made it back. Sickle speared the guy’s power suit, and they both went up in a flash of light. The boom threw me clear before the heat could melt my armor into slag metal, but I sure as hell didn’t wake up ‘til long after the cops took me in.
Seemed they’d decided I was the one responsible; don’t ask me how. I guess they just wanted a scapegoat so they could call it a closed case. I got my biggest sentence ever, and spent a good 15 or 20 in the Zig. They’d made up a custom cell just for me, so they could keep my armor locked up somewhere on the other side of town. Winter came almost every day, bless her stupid optimistic soul.
I remember when I asked her why she was wasting her time on a scumwad like me, and she just said “because I know you’re better than that.” Maybe she just wanted to say she fixed one of life’s losers, but when you’re a con serving over a decade because your only buddy just blew himself and his ‘archnemesis’ up for no reason other than being a Commie lunatic, a line like that really hits home.
We kept talking as the years rolled by. She started to get a few lines on her face. I got a few more. She kept me in the know about the news, though a lot of it frankly didn’t interest me much. I just wanted to hear her pretty little voice.
Eventually, my release day came, and Winter was waiting for me at the gate. We were both older now, but we’d also barely been apart, discounting the whole imprisonment thing. A couple years into my sentence, I decided I’d drop the life of crime so I could finally stop making her waste her days away for me. I’d get a real job, and give her a real life.
Hell, I didn’t even need the suit. Over the years, scientists got smarter, and they gave me some needle injection that solved most of my problems. Sure, I was still ugly as sin and a funny color, but the nano-things in my blood kept my temperature down to normal levels.
Life looked like it was finally going to give me a break.
I should’ve seen it coming, really.
I spent months saving up my piddling paychecks. Hard to get a good job when you’ve been a convicted supercriminal for years. But, after a lot of hard work, I was finally able to take the big step forward and be ready to ask Winter to seal the deal.
I invited her to a picnic, over in Eastgate Park. I heard a lot of guys dropped the question there. Something to do with ‘ambience’. Anyway, after a really crummy couple of sandwiches I’d thrown together, I told her there was another reason for bringing her there, that day. I took her by the hand, and said thanks for everything. I got down on one knee, just like I’d seen in those schlock romance pictures.
After a big flash of light, I woke up in the hospital.
They said it was some radiation-powered hero that crash-landed in the park. His powers set off a hell of a bang when he touched down, but he was going to pull through.
Like I cared.
They said my powers kept me alive, even though I took the brunt of the explosion. They’d already replaced my nano-things and everything. I practically threatened the doctors to take me to Winter, and they obliged.
She was sleeping like an angel. When I saw her breathing, I damn near bawled like a little girl. I stayed by her bed all night, ‘til she woke up.
She asked me what I was going to ask her, back in Eastgate.
I told her.
She said yes.
That was the happiest day of my life. I gave her one hell of a smooch, and said I’d go get the ring in the morning. The hospital had stored it until they could leech a lot of the excess radiation out of it.
I picked it up the next morning. Gotta love modern technology. Went to see Winter as soon as I could, but when I got there, she was still sound asleep. I waited by her bed until she woke up, ring waiting and ready in my pocket.
She smiled at me.
I smiled back.
Then, she asked me what I was going to ask her, back in Eastgate.
I was stunned for a bit, but thought nothing of it. I told her again, and she said yes again. We kissed again. I gave her the ring. Doctors said she’d need a few more days of rest before they could let her go, so I went to get a good night’s sleep.
Next morning, she asked me why she was wearing such a beautiful ring. Then, she asked me what I was going to ask her, back in Eastgate.
The doctors broke it to me before I realized. The explosion had given her brain damage. She was perfectly normal, but she’d lose all her new memories when she fell asleep.
My perfect Winter, frozen in time.
They said she’d have to stay in the hospital until they could find a cure, and I just nodded. I figured these doctors could cure anything nowadays, so surely she’d be up and ready in no more than a few months. I visited every day.
Almost a year later, I went to see her again. She smiled, and asked me what I was going to ask her, back in Eastgate.
I told her again. She said yes again. We kissed again. It felt a little less great than the day before, which felt less happy than the day before that, and so on.
I could feel it all slipping away like a melting ice cream cone. I told the doctors she needed a damn cure as soon as possible, and they just looked at me like I was some sort of pitiful lost puppy dog. Irreparable, they said. Should count my blessings, they said. I’d only pay 80% of the usual hospital fees, they said.
I told them what they could do with their damn discount.
That night, I went to get my old suit. I blasted my way into the hospital, and took Winter with me. I ran off into the night with her, not sure where to go next. I got us a cheap motel room out of town, to bide some time while the heat died down.
A couple weeks later, I had the weirdest day of my life.
Sickle came to see me. Turned out the explosion didn’t kill him. He’d just been blown into another dimension, or something stupid like that. I didn’t really hear what he was saying, seeing how I was trying to figure out if I should kill him for getting me locked up, or thank him for getting me cooped up somewhere that made me realize that I really loved Winter. I told him the whole story, and he said he’d make it up to me by keeping an eye on her when I couldn’t. He also said he’d heard of some place where I might find a less legal way of treating her condition.
We came up with a plan. Tapped the local wires, and found out an important date. That night, I left him and Winter at the motel, and headed for the Zig. I felt like a damn fool trying to break -into- the slammer, but sure enough, I wasn’t the only one who smashed their way in.
Some of the spider-chumps actually looked like they recognized me when I got onto their damned theatrical airplane. Can’t fault the press for trying, I guess. Found myself on the roof of a fortress with some of the cream of the crop of the underworld, along with a few hundred other losers. I followed the process, and got myself in with the organization.
Soon, I’d become infamous enough on the Rogue Isles to bring Sickle and Winter over to a secret location. I was working harder than ever before. I stopped holding back, and made sure I got the job done and done well. I stopped thinking about whether or not I was leaving frozen or bubbling corpses in my wake, and just concentrated on one thing.
I had to pull together enough money to save Winter. I had to save her before the feeling from that first day her face lit up and she said “yes” would melt away forever.
I only care about one life, now. Sickle keeps an eye on her while I’m working, but in the end he’s just another piece of scum that just happens to be useful to me. Her life’s all that matters. Not mine, not anyone else’s…just hers.
Just my Winter’s.
God and Hell as my witnesses, I’m going to save my Winter. Pity those that get in my way, because I will show them no mercy.