From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
The Crimson Firesword is a relative newcomer to Paragon City. He is one of the heroes utilizing advanced suits of powered armor to fight crime and injustice by increasing his strength, speed, reflexes and weaponry. He is fairly unknown to most, but he is rather quickly becoming a name that low level criminals are bringing back to their masters as a force to be watched and feared. He strives always to give his best to overcome evil and protect those that cannot stand for themselves against the many enemies in Paragon City and abroad.
Michael Williams was never one to believe that he would one day be anything more than an average guy. Born in the summer of 1984 in Constitution City, Connecticut, he was in high school during a time of escalating violence and terror, but he never thought that it would reach him or anyone he cared about. He could never have predicted the turn of events that would change his perspectives on life forever.
During his time in school, he applied his innate mechanical brilliance into getting excellent grades in technical classes, focusing on being eligible to get scholarships to MIT. His parents pushed for him to go to college throughout his first two years in high school, but Michael had his own plans for his life. He wanted to see some of the world first and get some life experience outside of the confines of his hometown. He pushed himself hard throughout his time in school, being active in nature, and earned an early graduation from the school board. At seventeen, he was finished and ready to move on to his first big dream: the military.
With the somewhat reluctant permission of his parents, he signed up at the local Marine Corps recruiting office, and put in for any kind of mechanical job for his Military Occupational Specialty. He hoped that he would be able to work on aircraft or possibly humvees or tanks in order to expand his repertoire of marketable skills for future employment. What he got instead was a stint in the infantry. Despite not being assigned to his chosen trade, he embraced the life of an infantryman, citing it to be "A great adventure!" He completed basic training and his MOS school by late 2001, and was assigned to the Second Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was then assigned to company K, an infantry company under the Eighth Marine Regiment. The unit was preparing to be sent on a rotation to Iraq, to serve the United States in a distant battleground. Unbeknownst to them, however, a far deadlier battleground was about to arrive right on their doorstep.
The Rikti Invasion
On May 23, of 2002 the alien race known as the Rikti opened thousands of inter-dimensional portals into Earth space, opening the way for countless numbers of their soldiers and warships to swarm in and attack. One such portal opened virtually on top of MCB Camp Lejeune, where Michaels' unit was preparing for their deployment. The deployment was soon the furthest thing from anyone's mind. The initial wave overwhelmed the bases' unprepared defenses, and most of its combat power was destroyed. By sheer chance, Michael's unit had just left the base on their way to an airfield. The company was immediately ordered to lay low and begin preparing for combat operations against these new attackers. Hardly able to believe their ears, the Marines nonetheless did what was expected of them. They got all of their equipment and held tight.
Confiscating ammunition was problematic, but a number of gun stores in the surrounding area yielded a substantial supply for the rifles. Machine gunners were out of luck, and the Marines didn't have any rockets or mortar rounds either. Nevertheless, they prepared to counterattack as soon as the enemy presented themselves...and present themselves they did. The Rikti, after bombarding the surrounding area and driving the civilian population into what scant shelter was available, began to deploy ground forces. Within a few hours, some of these Rikti troops ran smack into Kilo company. The Marines opened fire immediately, and a smattering of Rikti fell to their fire. Initially the aliens were confused and disoriented, which resulted in further casualties, but their techology was far more advanced than that of the humans, and the fire from company K was not overly effective against the aliens' battle armor. The Rikti guickly rallied and began to fight back more effectively, their pulse rifles tearing into the ranks of the human troops. During the ensuing firefight, 86% of company K was destroyed. Less than a platoon of Marines managed to get out with their lives, and only then because the Rikti appeared to grow bored with the battle as soon as it became apparent that most of the humans were killed. The aliens moved on, trying to find fresh targets to eliminate. The few remaining men of Kilo tried desperately to save their wounded, but the Rikti energy weapons were like nothing they had ever seen before. Many first aid methods were ineffective at coping with such trauma.
The tattered remnants of Kilo company became a sad statistic that day, a mere fraction of the casualties the United States military suffered at the hands of these alien invaders. With the world's military forces largely ineffective against these enemies as a whole, the Rikti quickly stamped out most organized resistance. Michael and his comrades fell back, trying to find somewhere to go and some way in which they could do some good. All of their officers and staff noncoms were dead; what was left of the unit consisted of a handful of corporals, lance corporals and PFCs. Moving only at night and being as stealthy as possible, they moved through the urban ruins that had become the landscape after the first wave of invaders. As they traveled, they began to hear word from the civilian populace that an effective resistance was being made at various locations nearby, particularly in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Marines began to move there as best as they could, all the while evading an increasing amount of Rikti forces that seemed to be headed in the same direction - towards the city of Raleigh.
Resistance at Raleigh
Upon arriving in Raleigh, the Marines very quickly discovered that an underground resistance had formed. The resistance was comprised of the remnants of various Marine, Army, National Guard, and police forces, drawn in from miles of surrounding territory that had been ravaged by the invasion. Additionally, at the very core of these freedom fighters was a small group of superheroes. Led by a man going by the name of Flashbolt, this small group of superheroes had been instrumental in keeping the Rikti from overrunning the city entirely. Apparently, the alien forces that PFC Williams and his friends had been dodging were Rikti reinforcements sent in to try and quell Flashbolt and his cadre of heroes, who had done immeasurable damage to the invasion force sent to take over the city. The resistance had thus far managed to repeatedly defeat these forces, but it was only a matter of time before they were worn down and destroyed themselves. Nevertheless, Flashbolt himself welcomed the latest addition of Michael and his fellow survivors. After integrating into the resistance, Michael and his fellow Marines helped launch guerrilla raids and repel attacks over a period of several months, but never made any real progress in pushing the Rikti back.
Finally, after almost a year of fighting in which Michael had seen most of his fellow Marines and friends perish, with no word about the welfare of his family and friends back home, the Rikti invasion forces suddenly fled, leaving behind a significant percentage of their dead and considerable amounts of their technology. Later, Michael learned, that on that day, Hero 1 had led Omega Team into the main Rikti invasion portal and had closed it, never to be seen again.
Michael returned to the wreckage of Camp Lejeune and spent the remaining time on his contract helping to rebuild the base and the surrounding area.
Finally finished with his military commitment, Michael returned to his home in Connecticut, intent on finding out how his family had fared during this time. As he expected, Constitution City was in ruins, the neighborhood where he had lived was little more than scorched earth and rubble. People were out roaming in the streets, moving debris and trying to put their lives back together. Michael went from group to group, asking if anyone had seen or heard anything about the Williams family. It took him a couple of hours, but he finally learned that the family had survived, and was away in New York staying with his uncle. Able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that his family was alright, Michael set about trying to find ways to help rebuild. For a few days, he moved around at random, lending a hand wherever it was needed, using his mechanical aptitude to do some good. He got some abandoned vehicles working again for some of the families to get around in, and completely by chance, ran into an old friend that he'd known in high school.
Jessica Lagrange hadn't changed much since he'd seen her last. She was still giving more than anyone would expect someone to in a time where desperation was the order of the day. Pretty, petite, and with a giant heart, she was the kind of person whom everyone fell in love with. Michael came across her as she tried to get an old water pump working for some thirsty children. The two quickly fell into an easy friendship, with him laughing at her somewhat hilarious attempts to fix the pump before offering to lend her a hand. She quickly agreed and he put his skill with machinery to good use, fixing the pump and getting water flowing again. After that, he and Jessica continued through the neighborhood together, helping out where they could. Over the next few months of rebuilding, the two of them continued to develop a strong friendship, hardly spending anytime apart. Rebuilding continued at a rapid pace, the stubborn citizens of Constitution City living up to their home's name. Michael and Jessica had by this time decided that they were a pretty good team, and decided that they could both use a good friend after losing so many others. They fixed up an some old rooms in an abandoned series of apartments, moved in, and settled down to try and rebuild their lives after the horrific war.
Normal Life, For Awhile
Jessica and Michael became pretty comfortable after the end of the Rikti invasion. Other areas of the country began to recover as well, and life gradually returned to the way it was. Many of the worlds' heroes had perished during the war, but hundreds of new ones soon began to arise, quickly moving up to fill a gap that had been created. This was a good thing too, because along with the returning prosperity came an increase in crime. The worldwide breakdown of law and order created opportunities for mayhem too good to pass up, and even with martial law in force, the worlds' militaries were still stretched too thin to maintain law and order. Michael and Jessica were largely unaffected by this at first, but gradually it would encroach on their lives.
Michael was doing quite well in the wake of so much devastation. He had opened up his own mechanic shop shortly after he and Jess moved into their apartment. He had plenty of work to do, and made a decent living off of it. Jessica worked as a volunteer nurse at the local hospital and continued her education in the medical field.
Flesh Stealers in the Night
Michael came home from his shop one night to find the door to their apartment knocked off it's hinges, the wood splintered and what appeared to be blood smeared on it. Immediately he feared for Jessica's life, and his fears were enhanced when he heard her scream from their living room. Giving no thought to his safety, he dashed inside, brandishing a heavy wrench from his tool box. Inside, he discovered his fiancee being closed in upon by three individuals wearing what appeared to be surgical gowns and masks. Various medical implements were in their hands - scalpels, calipers, and hooked tongs were all being extended towards Jess. Her face was white with terror, and she was bleeding profusely from a slash wound on her leg.
"MICHAEL!" She screamed her name as she saw him rush in - then she slumped forward, unconscious. The three men whirled on him, one of them muttering something about fresh parts. His Marine combat training took over at that point, and he attacked the three men. They charged at Michael clumsily, clearly not used to close-in fighting or violence that they didn't have to work for first. He took some minor injuries, but otherwise quickly managed to put all three men down. Swiftly he put a tourniquet on Jessica's leg and brought her to the hospital as quickly as he could. Once he was certain she was safe, he called the police and returned to his apartment. The three men were gone, and he had no way to identify them, save for some of the blood that they had shed during the altercation. The police detective who showed up told him that the men were most likely aspirants of the renegade surgeon Dr. Vahzilok, who had lost his mind in his quest to defeat death by surgically altering human beings and turning them into modern day Frankenstein's monsters. Vahzilok's discoveries were widely distributed over the internet, and he had a large following in many different areas of the world. Even Constitution City, it appeared, was not immune to the spread of his twisted beliefs.
Michael was frantic by this point. His greatest friend was in a hospital, surrounded by medical personnel that he didn't know if he could trust. He felt helpless...and angry enough to break rocks with his bare hands. He wanted to find this Dr. Vahzilok and put an end to his vile research, before anyone else could come after someone he cared about - or anyone else, for that matter. He put in a call to one of Jessica's friends from the hospital that he felt he could trust, and asked her to make sure that Jess only got care from her and a doctor they both knew well. Then he began to walk the streets, looking for a lead on Vahzilok and his followers. He moved through the city like a man possessed. Any thought of letting the police handle things was out of the question. He needed to do something himself.
However, it gradually occurred to him that he didn't know what he could possibly accomplish. Wracking his brain, Michael could not come up with a viable solution. Then, fate found him in a small pizzeria where he stopped to grab something to eat. Sitting on the table beside him was an old newspaper issue. Buried halfway through it was a story about Paragon City, Rhode Island, and its continued quest to restore and rebuild itself in the wake of the Rikti invasion. In one of the black and white photos was a man, encased in robotic suit of some sort, posing for the camera on top of a mound of unconscious thugs. The caption read, 'Newcomer Hero Stops Superadine Ring.'
Michael stared at the article, entranced. He scanned the contents quickly, learning that the man had been born with the power to fire energy from his hands. The hero, who called himself Starbeam, had cannibalized old robots to create an exoskeleton for himself to help use his power to fight crime. The robot suit, apparently, boosted his strength, speed, and agility; it also let him fly.
A Dream Takes Form
Michael was inspired by the article. It seemed so obvious to him - he would find a way to do what Starbeam had done. Then he could do something about the followers of Dr. Vahzilok who had so violently entered his life. He called a friend that he had met while in the resistance back in Raleigh, a man named Jack Carpenter. A graduate from MIT, Carpenter was a brilliant robotics engineer, a pioneer ahead of his time. He had specialized in the analysis of Rikti battle armor during the war, and had scavenged much of it for his studies. Mike hoped that he would be able and willing to help him.
When Mike contacted him and told his friend what he was planning, Jack turned out to be extremely enthusiastic about the idea. He invited Mike to his lab in New York to see something that he had been working on; Mike agreed to head out on the next available flight. He went to the hospital again to check on Jessica, and finding her in the good care of her friends from work, left the hospital and went to the airport.
The next day, he met Jack Carpenter in New York City. As it turned out, Jack had something amazing to show him. Once Mike arrived at his lab, Jack excitedly bustled him down an elevator until they were several sub-levels below the ground. Carpenter had built a secret extension to his lab, allowing him to work on what he called "A pet project!" Carpenter dug out several schematics for something and tossed them to Mike. Mike unrolled them to discover that they were, in fact, designs for an exo-skeletal suit of entirely human construction, but based on much of the technologies used by the Rikti battlesuits that Jack had collected during the war.
Mike was astounded. Jack looked at him and said, "It's all theoretical of course. I managed to complete all the reverse-engineering, but building the thing isn't exactly my area. You're the wizard with machinery."
Mike nodded. Then a determined look came over his face. "You remember what I told you about Jess right?"
"I'll help you build it, if you'll let me use it." Mike said.
Jack's eyes widened in surprise at first, then he grinned. "Aww hell Mike. If you build it, you can keep it. Just as long as you bring me along for the ride so I can see it in action."
It was Mike's turn to be surprised. "You mean-"
"You're going to need help maintaining the suit once it's complete, and who better to make refinements and upgrades than the man who designed it. I figure between my brain and your mechanical aptitude, we'll make quite the team! Besides, I'm going to need viable field data to make improvements and updates anyhow!" Jack sounded even more excited than when Mike had first arrived. "What do you say?"
Mike stared at the designs, his innate mechanic's intuition noting areas that wouldn't work, or were inefficient. He admitted to himself that Jack would need someone on the practical side to make the thing work. His face tightened into an expression of determination. "Jack? You've got yourself a deal."
Jack smiled hugely and stuck out his hand. Mike stretched out his and the two men shook on it.
"How do we go about making it? Nothing like this has existed until recent years. There would have to be customized machines built to make this kind of micro-robotic components, or something to that effect. Think how complex this is going to be!" Mike exclaimed, realizing for the first time how truly difficult this task could end up being. He began to wonder if they were getting in over their heads and felt doubt for the first time since having the idea.
Jack laughed. "I know, I know. I've already got that particular base covered; I've got a couple of friends fairly high up in the works who owed me some favors. I managed to get some very specialized manufacturing equipment delivered and installed in here, along with some tinkering from various robotics experts. Come on, I'll show you the fabrication bay."
Jack led the way down a stairwell to a different area of the lab, one with all sorts of manufacturing equipment and a highly sophisticated computer interface. "This is where she'll be built. This facility has everything we need to construct the armor and maintain it, as well as install necessary upgrades. This part is all yours. Just let me show you how to use the computer."
Mike looked around eagerly and nodded as Jack powered on the diagnostic analysis computers and began explaining the interface to Mike. Within a very short time, Mike was using the automated production facilities in the hidden underground lab as if he had been doing it for years. An hour later, Mike Williams was hard at work, inputting the design plans into the computer and firing up the equipment. As he worked, Jack ran simulations based on the design changes that Mike came up with, and between the two of them, they managed to make every system as efficient as possible. At the end of two weeks, the armor was fully fabricated and ready to be field tested.
The final seal on the suit hissed as Mike settled the helmet over his head. The armor reached full activation immediately and the startup diagnostics ran flawlessly, although they announced several minor errors and malfunctions. Even with that, however, all of his heads-up-display functions kicked on and ran just the way they had planned.
"Comm check," Mike said.
Jack gave him a thumbs up sign and said, "Check. Can you hear me now? Good! Heh. Always wanted to do that."
Mike rolled his eyes beneath the helmet. Then he tentatively tried moving around and promptly crossed half the room before he realized what he was doing.
"Look out!" Jack called from the observation booth. Unfortunately, he was too late. Mike finished crossing the intervening space of the test chamber and clanged into the opposite wall, toppling backwards onto the floor.
Ruefully, he started to laugh. "It's uh.....pretty responsive," he remarked.
Jack grinned. "Yeah. Just take it easy and give it some time. The suit uses a neural command interface that will adapt to your brain signals and eventually grant you more refined control. With practice the suit will learn to interpret your movements more accurately. Just be careful. We are underground, and if you start knocking down walls, all eleven levels above us will come crashing down."
Mike nodded slowly, and got back on his feet with great care. He cautiously moved around some more, and as Jack said, it got easier as the suit adapted to his neural impulses. Soon he was able to move normally, and the armor didn't over-augment his physical abilities. Once he could walk and run normally, Jack sent him through a number of different tests.
"Jump up and down."
"Turn in a circle."
"Step forward. Now back up."
"Do the macarena. Just kidding on that one."
After several basic tests, they decided that it was time to try the flight boosters. The test chamber was fairly large, so Mike would be able to hover and execute some basic maneuvers in the safety of the lab before taking the suit out of the building. He activated the boosters with no problems, much to his and Jack's surprise. The suit was apparently adapting better than they could have hoped for. Mike was able to get the hang of flying relatively quickly and spent some time practicing before Jack suggested that they call it a day. "It's getting late. Maybe we'd better finish up tomorrow."
Mike was reluctant to stop, but agreed. He wanted to get out and hunt down the men who had attacked his best friend, but Jack was right. He was getting tired, and it was getting late.
The Real Test
Although the actual fabrication of the suit took very little time, it was another three months of diagnostics and tests run by Jack before an actual field test could be conducted. When not involved in the controlled environments of the lab tests, Mike spent most of his time puttering around the lab impatiently. Due to his near constant pestering, Jessica's friend finally ended up telling him that Jess had been spirited away someplace safe by family members and that she would call him if she had news. As his experience with the armor grew, Michael began to itch to get some real practice. Finally, as the days of tweaking, reconfiguring, and sometimes repairing wound to a close, Jack Carpenter pronounced the armor ready to go.
Mike enthusiastically donned the suit, powered up, and headed out of the base using an access tunnel that was built into the lab's fire escape chute. Exiting from the back alley the lab was near, Michael hit the boosters and climbed up into the sky of New York City, reveling in the freedom, speed and power the suit granted him. He was so caught up in all the fun he was having that he almost forgot what he was out to do. "I hope I'm not interrupting," Jack's voice sounded through the commlink, "But you did plan to find some bad guys to beat up, didn't you?"
Mike ignored that. He looked down from an altitude of several hundred feet, noting that the armor's visor automatically zoomed in to give him an eagle's view of what was happening below. He noted to his amusement that several small groups of people were staring at him and pointing from the ground far below. Apparently his exit hadn't been completely overlooked. He scanned around a bit more, and finally noticed something near Central Park; a young woman was in the process of being mugged by three rough looking men. Reaching behind him, he pulled a complex looking device off of a magnetic coupling on the back of the suit. He kicked on the boosters to full and headed in the direction of the mugging. The suit covered the distance with amazing speed, and in less than a minute, he was on top of the thugs.
The young woman screamed as he cut the boosters and landed behind the men, the sidewalk cracking with the impact. The thugs whirled on him, astonished. One of them was wielding a baseball bat, another had brass knuckles, and the third was carrying a .45 caliber pistol. Mike stood and assumed a fighting crouch. The brass knuckle-carrying thug sneered at him disdainfully. He waved off towards the northeast. "You must have made a wrong turn, pal - Paragon City is thataway."
Mike didn't answer him. He just lunged forward and planted a solid kick on the man's chest. The ruffian vaulted backwards, slamming into a group of trash cans that were stacked on the sidewalk. The second man swung his bat in a vicious circle. Mike's arm swung up, his thumb hitting a switch on the device he held in his hand. Red energy flickered along the two telescoping metal rods of his beam sword, and the bat bounced off while simultaneously catching on fire. The thug swore and dropped his weapon; then he moved in to swing at Mike's head with his fist. Mike let the blow land on the hard shell of the armor's impervium alloy helmet and watched the criminal drop, howling and clutching at his bleeding and broken knuckles.
The third man drew a bead on him then and squeezed off his entire pistol magazine. Mike stood stock still as the bullets bounced and skittered against the armor. The heads-up-display registered the hits, then indicated status green for no damage. In response, Mike swung his sword at the man, the energy blade set to produce just enough output to stun him, rather than killing him. The man screamed as the blazing weapon sent a wash of ions and protons over him, shocking him into unconsciousness. With all three criminals dispatched, Mike turned to the cowering woman, who stared at him in terror. He picked up her purse from the ground where the three men had dropped it and handed it to her.
"Here you go ma'am. Try to get home safely."
The fear in her eyes changed to amazement, and she took her bag somewhat hesitantly, as if she expected a wave of energy to hit her too. "T-t-thanks.......ummm....sir..." She tried to look him in the eyes, but they were hidden behind the opaque visor of his helmet. He nodded to her and turned away, just as a group of news vans began to pull up to the curb where he was standing.
"Uh oh. Not looking for publicity this close to the lab," he muttered to himself. Swiftly he deactivated the sword, sheathed it, and kicked on the boosters, rocketing away as the camera men craned up their recorders to try and capture his image, while the reporters began to talk into their mikes and relate the story, crowding around the still dazed woman Mike had just rescued.
The Crimson Firesword
As he circled the area, trying to shake off any kind of surveillance so he could get back to Jack's lab inconspicuously, he thought about what the mugger had said to him. "Paragon City is thataway, pal." He realized then that once he'd made a dent in the efforts of the Vahzilok back home, what would he do? There were countless others who needed protection from all manner of villains, and not just in New York, or Constitution City, or Raleigh or any one place. Paragon City and many other locations around the world were in constant danger of being overrun by injustice and crime.
He thought about Jessica, and realized now that he had stepped onto this path, there was no walking away from it. There was no going back. He'd have to talk to her about it of course, and he hoped that she would support him. Even if she couldn't, it was too big for him to walk away from now. He and Jack had opened a doorway once they had made the suit - there was no way to close it now. He had power with this armor, and now the responsibility to use it for good.
Jack's voice cut into his reverie. "Mike? You ok up there? I saw the fight through the video feed! Nice moves, man!"
"Yeah. Nice moves I guess. Listen, Jack? I'm heading back in. We've got to talk, and after that, I think we're going to have a lot of work to do."
Home and Beyond
Mike and Jack discussed the benefits of setting up multiple labs for the use and basing of the armor. The one in New York was already established, having the benefits of Jack's sponsors behind it. If they could get the government or Jack's private sponsors to increase his funding, then they could funnel some of the money into constructing other, smaller outposts for the new hero to operate out of. Putting other bases in Constitution City and Paragon would be hard to do, however. Jack didn't think that his sponsors would be willing to just throw in on the cost without some kind of tangible return on their investment. So Mike suggested that Jack make some scaled down, less powerful versions of what they had created for sale to the military, while keeping the real armor a secret. With all the Rikti armor Jack had lying around, it would be easy for him to come up with some more suits - snd with the Rikti defeated but not completely driven from Earth, the various military forces of the world would need better weapons and armor to defend the planet. Jack agreed that this was probably the best way to get the government on their side. He agreed to talk to his sponsors about his "latest" breakthrough and more funding that he didn't actually need, and Mike headed back to Constitution City to get things ready and start converting his shop into a base.
While he was getting ready to leave, he saw that that morning's edition of the New York Times had an article about his antics near Central Park. Apparently the man he'd hit with the sword had woken up screaming about a red robot and his burning sword. The news reporter had taken that description and dubbed the unknown hero "The Crimson Firesword." As Mike put his rented truck on the highway towards Connecticut, a large tarp covering the bed where the armor rested, he decided that he liked the sound of that.
Michael Williams is a man who strives to do what he believes is right. A fairly quiet young man, he doesn't usually say much unless he believes that it has some merit. He is genuinely very friendly, but doesn't always go out of his way to start conversations with people he doesn't know. Despite all of the unpleasant things in his life to date, he still believes in trying to make things around him better. His fiancee, Jessica, has also had a large influence on his personality, making him realize that helping people is something that he should strive for. To that end, he has created his armored suit and assumed the mantle of The Crimson Firesword, so that he may help people who cannot defend themselves. As a former Marine, he knows what his responsibilities are to the people around him and to his country and world.