From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Death-Master is a character originally created sometime halfway though issue 7, then deleted and restarted halfway through issue 10. To date he is one of my favourite characters and my first (and currently only) 50. Inspiration for the character was drawn from a variety of sources including (but not limited to) DC's Batman, Marvel's Taskmaster (moreso as envisioned by UDON), the Skeleton Crew, Richard Morgan's recurring character Takeshi Kovacs, Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash, Snake Eyes (of GI Joe fame, who else?) and Shadow from FF6 (more as I realize who I've been ripping off...)
The info on this page should be considered OOC unless your character has reason to know it. Generally that would be only a select few characters. I consider this page basically complete (and more than a little long...)
DM can be a difficult man to approach, as he prefers to keep his identity carefully concealed. He generally maintains a professional boundary with his allies, but is fairly loyal so long as he is respected and dealt with fairly. He prefers employers who deal honestly and uphold their side of the bargain. He generally will refuse to work with anyone who has doublecrossed him in the past, and does not forgive easily.
Over time, DM has learned to submerge humane aspects of his personality in order to become a more efficient killer. He is not removed from guilt, however, and prefers to embrace the karmic aspect of the persona of Death. He generally selects those missions which do not directly target those DM considers "Innocents." He has few compunctions against killing if necessary, but prefers to exercise brute force only as a last resort. Truly, he considers assassination to be only a fraction of the talents he can field, and views acts of wanton slaughter as tasteless exhibitions of brutality. He tends to treat even the most routine mission as a serious matter, and always believes there is some new lesson to be learned from everything. In general, he adheres to a highly professional code.
Occasionally, the nature of his talent and his line of work causes him to question his own humanity. To an outsider who comes to know him, DM can often seem cynical or pessimistic. DM considers himself a realist however, and is genuinely confident in his ability to overcome adversity. His main motivation is profit and self-improvement. He tends to judge his fellow mercenaries and operatives harshly, not making friends easily.
DM possesses a rare talent he calls "intuitive reflexes." Any action he performs or sees performed he is able to duplicate precisely, provided it is within his physical ability. The condition is complex, owing to DM's total memory recall and razor-sharp senses plus a third, less easily defineable quality that appears to simply be a by-product of DM's unique brain chemistry. The neural pathways in DM's brain are extremely well developed and his brain has many more neural connections than the norm. It has allowed him to master with relative ease numerous complex specialties in a way that would be impossible for most normal people.
((the exact nature of this talent is explained a bit better below in the backstory section))
In order to best utilize those skills, DM has trained to near-peak physical performance and maintains an impressive training regimen. He is also well versed in a number of extremely difficult to master meditative techniques and has managed - to a degree - to harness the power of his subconscious.
His ability to learn and master new skills quickly has enabled him to perfect numerous armed and unarmed fighting styles, in addition to a multitude of miscellaneous skills. For instance, he is a highly skilled chef and an accomplished dancer, in addition to being able to forge signatures and mimic another's vocal tones.
DM relies on his gear and his ability to employ it expertly to give him the edge against conventional as well as superpowered opponents. As his talent of mimicry requires DM to observe his target with careful scrutiny, a good deal of his gear is focused on recording the movements of a target. A number of his more advanced gadgets are more recent acquisitions owing to his newfound access to Arachnos technology. The following is a list of the equipment he regularly uses, though is by no means a complete list:
-Sword. Recent access to Arachnos technology has allowed him to upgrade to a better quality, high density alloy weapon with an extremely sharp cutting edge as well as an energy-based version.
-Assorted handguns, assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns and other close quarters small arms. Often fields state of the art Arachnos models and heavily modified specialist variants.
-Arachnos Bane Mace, its DNA signature re-keyed to his own, for use in close quarters or at range.
-Assorted grenades, toxins and distraction devices, including a number of exotic types such as a gas that can be deployed via a jet from his left gauntlet or a swarm of small, insect-like micro-inhibitors which bite into the flesh of passersby and disrupt neural activity.
-Armored death mask containing numerous optics (IR, UV) and air filtration as well as a visual recorder.
-Ablative Kevlar costume. Access to Arachnos technology has allowed him to upgrade his suit with a number of advanced polymers, such as the arachno-fiber weave, for greater protection.
-Miscellaneous surveillance gear, micro A/V recording devices, etc.
-Electronic intrusion gear located in his right gauntlet.
-Holographic image inducer capable of projecting a holographic face and body overtop of DM's appearence. Also able to simulate a form of active camouflage.
-His position within Arachnos has allowed him to "recquisition" greater access to the teleportation network, effectively hijacking it to suit his travel needs.
-Access to a number of customized Arachnos spiderlings which assist in infiltration, surveillance and fire support roles.
Early life and upbringing
He said, "hello, do you speak English?" She said, "a little."
Born to an African-American USMC Veteran of the Pacific and a Japanese war-bride, Hiro grew up the youngest of four siblings. Life after the war wasn't ideal, especially with John Daniels left an amputee and his meager veteran's pension the only steady income in the household. The couple's son and two daughters were raised in conditions of extreme poverty in one of the US' most densely populated, impoverished and crime-ridden communities.
In 1972, having failed to protect their eldest son and daughter from gang initiation, the Daniels were unexpectedly blessed with a fourth child. Determined this time to get things right, Hiro's mother devoted a great deal of time to Hiro's upbringing and did her utmost to ensure he stayed out of trouble. Generally a shut in, Hiro's childhood was dominated by the presence of the television.
A rare talent
The Lone Ranger's muffled title theme and Ami's soft singing fills the small dining room as surely as the morning sunlight from the window. Ami is arranging some tulips when she spies a disturbance outside. Pulling back the curtains, she watches as a younger white man argues with an older black man. It looks like they've gotten into a car accident, but not a very bad one. Still, experience has taught her to record these events carefully in her mind in case there is trouble later. She's always prided herself on being observant, and takes down the license plate numbers diligently. As she writes, something seems to spoil her good mood. At first she thinks it's because the notes have stopped in her throat, or the comotion has upset her, but then she realizes the sound scratching at the edge of her nerves is the mute roar of static coming from the other room.
At a young age, Hiro suffered a freak epileptic seizure. After recovering, doctors examined the boy and found him to be generally of sound health. Following his accident, Ami decided to enroll Hiro in more physical activities, though it remained a challenge since he had few close friends and mostly female family members. At a trip to the community pool, Hiro's family discovered that his good memory, quick wits and talent for mimicry were far more potent than they could have ever imagined. Hiro watched in wonder as a diver leaped from the highboard in a graceful swan dive. Unattended for one fateful moment, Hiro ascended the ladder and stood atop the board. Those watching below looked on in horror as the eight-year old dove for the first time, emulating perfectly the grace of the previous diver. It was an astonishing and surreal sight. Unfortunately, Hiro did not know how to swim.
It was not long before Hiro began to explore the limitations of his talent. It seems that by some quirk of his nervous system, his memory is perfect to the point of total, near-instantaneous recall. On top of this, Hiro's reaction time is extremely quick, about one tenth normal mental chronometry. Combined with his sharp senses, a number of strange synergistic qualities become apparent.
-Much as speed readers do, Hiro is able to quickly observe and process sensory data at faster than normal rates. He does so not by a practised method, but by merely saturating his senses with information and reacting to it at his usual quick pace. Comprehension/retainment of knowledge is not a limiting factor, as he is capable of retrieving the information nearly instantly via his eidetic memory. Because this method is not context specific it can be used for any task, not merely speed reading.
-Hiro's memory is tied to his nervous system in a way that is not entirely understood. Having performed an act (be it a dance step, spoken sentence or roundhouse kick), Hiro is then able to replicate the act nearly identically by virtue of his ability to recall the exact motions used to undertake the act in the first place. This is identical to the process that athletes use to train (or that actors and musicians use to rehearse), conditioning their minds through a form of repetitive exercise in order to elicit a specific, desired response. In Hiro's case, far fewer repetitions are necessary to achieve synchronization between mind and body, and skill degredation is far less likely to occur because Hiro does not normally forget anything.
-Having observed an act performed by another, Hiro is able to judge precisely when his own actions mimic those of an observed actor. This is because his highly acute senses are able to notice subtleties of movement and small details that most normal people overlook, as well as being able to remember precisely the act he is attempting to mimic. Using this and the previous method, Hiro is able to "copy" another's movements (provided they are within his physical ability) and may even mimic their speech (provided it is within his normal voice range).
-His capacity for totall recall along with his sharp senses occasionally allows for extremely accurate intuitive deductions by discerning subtle patterns within seemingly unrelated events. Given enough time to analyze a situation and its participants, Hiro is capable of making incredibly accurate guesses about past or future events, or the motives of those involved. This aspect of his talent is less precise, manifesting as "gut instincts" based on what Hiro has observed. The precision of these hunches is enhanced the longer Hiro has to fully study the complexities involved in each situation and the behaviour of its various actors. This aspect of intuitive reflexes is much more of a learned component, manifesting strongest after Hiro's extensive study of investigative techniques.
-Careful analyzation of a target, especially over a period of time and in a variety of circumstances, enables Hiro to gauge their likely responses to certain conditions. This is done by forming a sort of mental behavioural construct of the person, and often allows Hiro to exploit a critical weakness in his target, be it socially or in combat.
Doctors who have studied his condition have determined no genetic abnormality or detectable external stimulus have played a part in developing the talent. It was originally feared that the boy's capacity to absorb information would be too great a strain on his mind, but as it turns out, the potential capacity of the human memory is theoretically infinite. They named the combination of eidetic memory, sharp senses and quick reflexes which makes this process possible, "intuitive reflexes," a freak talent that should occur in fewer than one in seven billion people.
Life on the street, life in the Corp
Ami finishes pruning the small decorative plant on the mantle piece and dusts around the scabbard hanging from the wall. Hiro watches with fascination as she completes the task, and takes the object down from its mount. The smaller one placed below it looks harmless now, alone without its older twin. As Ami carefully withdraws the sword from its saya, she speaks.
"Hiro, do you know what this is?" The boy nods. The blade now naked, Ami carefully dips a silk cloth in oil and gingerly caresses the blade, making sure not to get too close to the cutting edge.
"In Nippon, swords like this one are common. At one time, only the privileged were allowed to wear them. This sword belonged to a man like that."
Initially picked on in school, Hiro learned to rely on his talent to impress those around him. As he approached adolescence, he discovered it was particularly useful on the court and quickly led his junior high basketball team to victory over their neighbouring schools. Back then, Hiro dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. It'd be easy for him, he reasoned, and he could be the best. Unfortunately, opportunities were few and far between. In order to help make ends meet, Hiro joined a gang despite his families strident efforts to shelter him from such a lifestyle. At the age of eighteen, trouble caught up to him in the form of a deal gone bad. After a nearly week-long scolding, Hiro outran trouble by joining the Marine Corp, at his father's urging. Ami, determined not to lose another child to violence on the street, reluctantly agreed, praying that the military would instill the discipline Hiro needed.
His mind now matured, Hiro was marked as a soldier of incredible potential. His qualification scores were consistently higher than anyone else in his training unit, and each success yielded ever more difficult tasks as his trainers attempted to break him down. As he tempered his body, so too did his mind become sharp with the skills necessary to survive and kill. Nobody was surprised when Hiro was selected for further training of a specialist nature among the ranks of Force Recon. Each new skill he acquired only fueled his ravenous thirst for knowledge, forging him into a better and deadlier fighter. Hiro soon came to epitomize the FR motto of "swift, silent, deadly." While training at Quantico, he also came into contact with other branches of government service who train at the base, seasoning his repetoire with skills observed from the DEA and FBI. Deployment soon followed, and Hiro's unit repeatedly acquitted itself well in the field. After three years in the special forces, and five years in the armed services altogether, Hiro believed he had learned everything that he could from the Corp.
Dissatisfaction, Shadow Company
Raymond slurps noisily on whatever stall-food he's managed to find at the bazaar, and rejoins his companion. His obnoxious tone is made all the worse when filtered through a mouthful of overcooked noodles.
"Hey, Daniels. Why the hell do you have to carry those things around man? You're makin' people nervous." Raymond gestures to indicate the twin scabbards protruding from one end of Hiro's luggage.
"They're heirlooms, and they're not bothering anyone but you." Hiro replies, and then returns his attention to the gathering before them. The people here are focused on a pair of figures in their midst, urging them on with song, clapping and the playing of unfamiliar musical instruments.
"It's a roda," Hiro says, "as much a dance as it is a fight. There, you see the two in the middle?" As Raymond looks, he sees a man execute a backspring to evade a low sweep, and the crowd's intensity spikes. Hiro removes his jacket and crew shirt to stand barechested in the hot South American sunlight.
"Ah man, this is nothing. You ever seen one of them Intore dancers? I saw one of those guys jump like seven feet into the air, no kidding, back when Lawrence had us out in Rwan-hey!" Raymond shouts after Hiro, who has begun shouldering his way through the crowd towards the fighters in the middle.
"Watch my bags!" Hiro calls back.
With the growing threat of superhuman opposition, Hiro quickly realized that the modern soldier - even the very elite amongst them - was not adequately equipped or trained to deal with the possibility of such an encounter. It was this mindset more than any other that would cause Hiro to seek out other likeminded members of his unit, individuals with colorful pasts and colorful friends among the armed services and defense industry. When the opportunity to leave the military and persue a private contract arose, Hiro jumped at the chance and seemingly dissapeared from the public record. The risk wasn't worth a goverment paycheque, and Hiro had fought in enough conflicts to realize there was no benevolence or public service in a soldier's enterprise. It would prove to be an almost prescient decision as the looming Rikti threat would leave the world - and the world's armies - a shadow of their former self.
While the world struggled to recover from the damage inflicted by the Rikti, the balance of power began to shift. Those organizations who had remained relatively unscathed sought to expand their influence by dominating weaker players. Governments and corporations competed ruthlessly to unlock the secrets of Rikti technology and the incredible potential of Paragon's superhuman heroes, the only force capable of fighting the Rikti to a bloody standstill. Many aspects of the old world survived however, and the secretive hand of the Malta Group emerged to appeal to these interests - endeavouring to maintain a technological and economical edge by whatever means necessary. Such an enterprise required operatives of the highest caliber, and the world's shattered armies were a perfect recruiting ground for disgruntled, underpaid and highly skilled killers unwilling to volunteer for duty (or martyrdom) within the ranks of Freedom Corp. Similarly, soldiers such as these were exactly the kind of unscrupulous individuals Freedom Corp did not want to recruit.
Along with members of his former unit, Hiro dissapeared while deployed overseas on an African Protectorate training mission. Officially labeled MIA, the units dissapearence raised a number of eyebrows among command staff and was the subject of an inconclusive formal investigation. Hiro was inducted into a private military corporation that sprang into existance seemingly overnight. Its members chose to masquerade as whatever was necessary to accomplish their immediate goals - private detectives, international rescue squads, VIP protection services, assassins, saboteurs, hostage takers - whatever the needs of the moment dictated. As such, the group reinvented its identity to suit whatever present enterprise it happened to involve itself in. Amongst the very core of the group - those individuals privy to the entiriety of its clandestine operations - the group was known simply as the Shadow Company. Formed as one of Malta's many unknowing, independant peripheral cells, the Shadow Company worked to further its interests in a mutually beneficial relationship of conflict investment, covertly lead by a man who had risen high enough within the ranks of the Malta Group to achieve the coveted title of gunslinger.
Hiro cut through the rainsoaked jungle like a knife, a retreat vector for the remnants of the unit that had made it through the crash and subsequent clusterfuck on the plateau. His heart beat out the pace of his run as he hurdled through the overgrown foliage, dimly aware of the footfalls of his comrades behind him and of the sporadic, dwindling outbursts of rifle fire that signaled the end of those of his squadmates too wounded to retreat from their positions back on the plateau.
Leave no man behind... right. That's assuming there's enough able arms to carry them all. Just another of reality's little lessons.
Hiro's feet followed the path he recalled from the brief aerial glimpses of the region he'd managed to get before the flight deck began lurching under the pilot's evasive attempts. As he ran, the steadily increasing volume of the rio Içana confirmed the route. Gradually the upward sloping terrain evened out and Hiro emerged into the pre-dawn light standing at the edge of a deep gorge, the river roaring up at him from its depths. He tilted his head back and let the rain fall across his face for a moment while his squad caught up. Brumwell came panting out of the foliage, his black fatigues completely soaked through, followed shortly by Deighton and Vickers, hefting Lawrence on one shoulder.
"The river," spoke Lawrence, Texan accent stymied by his chest wound, "border's just over yonder, boys!" The group began hurriedly unpacking what rappeling gear Vickers had managed to salvage from the wrecked 'copter. Turning back, Hiro was able to make out the distant plume of smoke their blackhawk had made against the hazy sky. He brought himself low to the ground and listened.
"Who the hell are those guys, anyway?" Vickers whined.
"Bunch of stormtrooper rejects," Deighton added. Lawrence mustered up his best 'shut up and work' face but it came off weak as he whinced from pain. Hiro caught Rock eyeballing him and spoke.
"Nevermind them, I'm more interested in whatever took out Vuten's team." Hiro said, silencing the others with a hand gesture and returning his attention to the path they'd just made. All the sounds from the plateau had ceased now, and Hiro knew that until they got across the river and buried their backtrail they weren't in the clear. The rain picked up and Hiro found himself straining to hear over the sound of the heavy droplets. From the forest Hiro heard a deep subvocal noise, distinct from the pressing downpour and punctuated by a loud snarl. He looked at his squad, who had registered that last sound. Vickers had stopped unspooling rope and looked a little white.
"Gimme that rifle," Lawrence hacked.
For a time, Hiro believed he had found his calling within the ranks of Shadow Company. Each new promotion and specialty exposed him to a new world of growth, while his abilities were tested daily in a way that the military could never match. Hiro's squad achieved a sort of legendary status within the ranks of Shadow Company, eventually merging with their commander's bodyguard unit. Cooper Lawrence, special qualification marksman par excellance - had monitored Hiro's progress carefully and knew that together, their team would be the best the Shadow Company - or Malta - had to offer.
As the world rebuilt from the worst of the damage the Rikti had inflicted, the sense of comraderie and nation-transcending unity that had seen humanity through an attempted extermination faltered for all too human reasons. The Shadow Company had achieved the apex of their existance - their skills were for hire on a world stage of new and rekindled grudges, fueled by deep-pockets lined with the wealth of reconstruction contracts and wholesale monopolies on technology the likes of which had not been seen since the first Rikti conscript set foot on Earth. Unfortunately, a mercenary existence in such an arena would be a perilous undertaking - something the Shadow Company would experience first hand.
The Colombian drug cartel resented the designer drugs being manufactured on the estate of a certain Italian ex-general, and hired the Shadow Company to bring the operation to an end and return with whatever was being produced. Neither the cartel nor the Shadow Company could have anticipated the Council's controlling interest in the operation. Returning from a succesful sortie, the helicopters of the Shadow Company were blown out of the sky and survivors were set upon by the Nebula. Hiro and a number of his squadmates were able to escape to Brazil, pursued by a rabid hulking monstrosity - a Council Warwolf. Besting their superhuman hunter would require every inch of cunning and bravery on the part of Lawrence's squad, pushing them beyond the limits of their training and ability.
Ultimately the survivors would triumph, at the cost of Lawrence's own life - the gunslinger would meet his end providing last ditch cover fire for his remaining men.
The near-death experience would make Hiro realize that despite his efforts and considerable progress, he was nowhere near his goal. His talent allowed him nearly infinite potential, but this setback underscored how far he still had to go in order to even come close to attaining the degree of mastery he sought. Liquifying Shadow Company's remaining assets, the four survivors of that day buried their identities even further and fled to a continent half the world away.
In India, China and Japan Hiro would find the answers he sought. He spent a fortune persuing rumour and legend to learn at the feet of masters. In months Hiro learned what had taken ascetics and masters of the martial arts lifetimes to accomplish. Feats of human strength, endurance and precision that required a lifetime of dedication and were completely unaccessable in the west were made available to Hiro, and to the surprise of his tutors, he prospered. Under Hiro's direction, the survivors of the Shadow Company would reinvent themselves, elevated beyond the ranks of the common mercenary to the superhuman mercenary elite.
"You're sure this will work?" Raymond's chatter immedietly breaks the serenity of the setting. Sitting in ranks, the monks do not turn to look at the distraction. Hiro knows he has disturbed their concentration nonetheless. This is the fourth time he has seen this demonstration, and each time the utmost silence is required.
"Wait outside," Hiro orders, "and don't come in until you're called for." Raymond starts to protest, but Hiro silences him with a glare that sends him packing out of the shrine and back into the monastary hall.
Turning to refocus his attention on the thin man lying on the slab before him, Hiro watches as his attendants start the soothing chant again from the beginning. Hiro watches the rise and fall of the naked man's chest, and each subtle movement of the man's muscles as they relax. As the trance continues, Hiro watches the rythmic pulsing of the veins in the old monk's neck and how it slows with each drawn breath. Over the course of twenty minutes, the man's breathing becomes imperceptable to all in the room save Hiro. Five more minutes, and Hiro watches as the man's breathing and heartbeat stop completely. Now the monks are quiet. For three and a half long minutes, the shrine is a silent tomb.
Hiroyuki watches with awe as the man's heartbeat slowly resumes. Breathing follows shortly, just shallowly at first, but soon honest respiration occurs. The monk's head turns in Hiro's direction, and his eyelids slowly open.
Beyond simply perfecting his fighting style, the secrets of the East allowed Hiro to transcend that final crucial ball and chain - the limitations of his body. Hiro would assuage his fear of drowning by learning how to master his respiratory system, controlling unconscious bodily processes and entering a state of near-hibernation to allow his body to survive for long periods without fresh oxygen. Through intense concentration, Hiro would gain control over other bodily processes as well, to the point of being able to reduce his vital signs so low that to a casual observer, he very well may appear dead. Resuscitation techniques would allow him to return to functionality from such a state as well as assist in the healing of serious injuries over time. Such techniques were learned from multiple distinct tutors, each representing the pinnacle of a lifetime of dedication, and yet Hiro mastered each of them in a fraction of the time. By this method, Hiro would attain the perfection he sought.
Adopting the persona of Death to invoke terror in his opponents, Hiro took the mercenary scene by storm with a number of high-profile assassinations. The reputation of the Deathmaster grew on the battlefields of the world as an uncannily talented killer. His trusted former comrades provided what little support he needed, allowing him to remain a completely self sufficient operator. As his identity was completely concealed, rumours about DM's capabilities and powers were only bolstered by his continuing string of successes. Each succesful job garnered more offers of employment and more opportunities to perfect his skills. In a world where superhuman enforcers and bodyguards were becoming the norm for the truly wealthy, the Deathmaster found his niche. His stay in the limelight would be brief however, as his past caught up to him.
After extensive investigation and undercover work, the CIA and Interpol were able to uncover the Deathmaster's identity. One of the Omega Watch's most capable field operatives had been able to make contact with a man that appeared to match the description of an assumed-dead USMC Corporal, who she believed with certainty to be the man behind the mask. Eventually earning his trust, she would lure the Deathmaster into a trap sprung by Agents of Longbow, resulting in his capture. It was the desire of the CIA for such a talented operative to be within their employ on a permanent basis, and they were willing to blackmail Hiro with his military record as well as Interpol's growing list of cross-border crimes.
Outraged at the betrayal, Hiro refused and instead elected to serve his time. Prosecuted to the full extent of the law and convicted by secret military tribunal, Hiro was to await execution in the most secure prison on the Eastern Seaboard unless he accepted the Omega Watch's offer of conditional pardon. Fate intervened as Arachnos Operatives stormed the facility, personally escorting a number of the superpowered incarcerated to the Etoile islands and precipitating a mass jailbreak.
Rejecting the label of 'Destined One,' Hiro strode out to make his own fortune on the proving grounds of the Rogue Isles, wary of Arachnos for the same reasons he distrusted his own former government. At first relying solely on his skills as a bodyguard, thief and assassin, he soon had enough money to live comfortably and to acquire better weaponry, unafraid of getting his hands dirty. It would not be long before the Deathmaster would be drawn into the web of Arachnos' plans, as Kalinda's prophecy unfolded regardless of Hiro's desires.
Along came a Spider
Hiro perused the marketplace setup along Port Recluse disinterestedly. Safe within his holographic disguise, he looked every bit the part of a Sharkhead vagrant, toting his oversized wino-bag. He approached the meeting place cautiously, wary of enforcer patrols. Not that they'd be much of a challenge if they started anything, but he didn't want to draw attention to himself. No telling what kind of optics were crammed into their drones.
The bouncer started up his "sorry pal-" routine when Hiro clicked off the face of his disguise. The bouncer's cigarette fell out of his mouth and Hiro shouldered his way past him into the small warehouse, dropping the disguise and pulling his hood up over his skull mask. Incandescant thermal optics drank in the subtleties of the interior, supplementing whatever Hiro's sharp eyes missed. He spotted his usual supplier and beelined across the floor to get to her before any of the family muscleheads spotted his shipment.
"He-y DM. Good ta' see you!" Jan sleezed, hoping the Deathmaster would be in a good mood. "Got your stuff right here in back, you got any college money for me? Cash only, please." She flashed the hooded mercenary a wide smile. Instead of a response, Hiro produced a suitcase out of the paper shopping bag and popped it open ontop of a wooden crate. Jan surveyed the cash quickly and then looked around to see if anyone was scoping.
"US dollars. Where's my gear?" Hiro rasped through his mask's modulator.
Five minutes later, Hiro had everything he needed to continue doing what mercenaries do. When everything was finished, he left the trailer and gave Jan his thanks.
"Oh hey, some guy was looking for you." Full stop.
"Yeah? Who was that?" Said Hiro.
"Dunno. Some Arachnos guy, spooky lookin'. Thought he was here to bust up my clients. Told'em you'd left already." Jan replied. It paid dividends to keep your supplier happy.
"Thanks. I'll be in touch."
It is inevitable that anybody trying to be a somebody in the Etoile islands will have to deal with Arachnos in some capacity.
In Deathmaster's case, his usefulness as an assassin and a potential dupe piqued the interest of a number of discontented Arachnos Operatives. Originally hired as a deniable asset, Hiro was quickly framed for the rogue operatives own crime - the murder of an Arbiter, a conveniant cover that would allow the malcontents enough freedom from scrutiny to persue their own goal: the destruction of Lord Recluse's lieutenant, Ghost Widow.
Forewarned of their treachery by a hesitant Fortunata among the conspirators, Hiro doublecrossed them at the crucial moment, slaying his comrades before they could implicate him for their crime. Switching sides to protect the Ghost Widow and her bodyguard Wretch exonerated Hiro in her eyes.
It would not be long before one of her personal attendants had tracked the Deathmaster's movements to a warehouse in Sharkhead. There, Huntsman Fury would offer Hiro a place of employment within the Wraith Spiders, Ghost Widow's elite. Tired of pursuing his operations beneath the nose of Arachnos, Hiro considered the offer carefully and agreed to Fury's terms.
Although highly skilled, DM is not invincible and has endured his fair share of defeats. He accepts these grudgingly, always analyzing the encounter afterwards to screen out undesirable factors. A remarkably adaptable combatant, DM firmly believes that every person or group has a weakness that can be exploited. To this end, his fighting style is geared towards minimalism - only what is necessary to complete the task at hand with certainty - and his vast inventory of skills and talents ensures he always has something to bring to the table.
That being said, Hiro is physically a normal (albeit highly trained) human incapable of the sorts of feats of strength, agility and displays of clearly paranormal ability many of his foes and peers are able to perform. He prefers to engage in fights he knows he can win and to perform only a supporting role against targets which would require massive firepower to deal with. While able to hold his own in fights against many superhumans, he views every second spent in such an engagement as a moment of incredible risk and seeks to end such confrontations as soon as possible.
Hiro retains a healthy fear of drowning from a childhood accident. Though not debilitating, it can often be a distracting factor.
Hiro's talent for discerning an enemies' weakness can be confounded by enemies with unpredictable fighting styles or abilities. This is one of the main reasons Hiro often chooses to monitor his targets carefully and test their abilities before engaging them personally. In an unexpected confrontation with an unpredictable opponent, Hiro is at a disadvantage relying on only his own skills and not on foreknowledge of his opponent's weaknesses.
Allies and Enemies
Former Malta Operatives Rock Brumwell and Leonard Deighton, as well as their technical assistant Raymond Vickers. The foursome are old comrades and all are still active in the mercenary field, as such they regularly exchange information. They are among the few people DM considers friends that are aware of his true identity. DM's continuing relation with them is not entirely one of comeraderie as a result. By putting them to work for him often, DM is better able to monitor them for any signs of betrayal.
Huntsman Fury is a bit of an enigma to DM, but respected for his ability. DM's usually quick and accurate personality assumptions have so far failed to penetrate the shell of Fury's faceless armored suit and unpredictable nature. As a result, DM maintains a healthy professional distance from his Commander at nearly all times, at least until he has a better idea of Fury's motivations.
Aura Crush is DM's direct superior within the Wraith Spiders Special Operations division. The two have formed a friendship based on their similar methods and outlook. DM genuinely considers Aura his friend, and would be willing to go out of his way to see her safe, but is reluctant to unmask nontheless (he doesn't make the same mistake twice). In contrast, her strange parasitic augmentations make her a bit of an alien in his eyes.
Warbird Ticonderoga is another fellow Wraith Spider. Though the two don't interact frequently, he enjoys her company and level-headedness. Though the two are different in many respects, their outlook and goals seem to match in a number of ways that elevates Birdie above the mass in DM's eyes. DM trusts her to have his back in a fight.
Tessella is a Fortunata Mistress and Commander within the Wraith Spiders. Generally distrustful of telepaths, DM kept his distance until a recent event that led to Tessella temporarily losing access to her powers. He considers her competent and a more than adequate Commander.
DM holds a grudge against the CIA's Omega Watch for their blackmail. He also lays personal blame on Agent Six, the undercover operative who betrayed his trust to her superiors. The organization is privy to DM's real identity and it is for this reason that DM anonymously financed his mother and sister's return to Osaka following the death of his father. It is also the reason he lives under an assumed identity (among other reasons).
-DM's abilities cannot be traced to his DNA. He really is a normal human. His abilities are entirely psychological in nature, a combination of blind genetic luck and heterosis, with some form of unknown conditioning that cannot be accurately identified or duplicated.
-DM possessed no memory whatsoever of his life before the age of 7 and was prone to occasional fugue states (sleepwalking) as well as difficulty sleeping, until his sojourn in Asia. This is a result of the strange "re-wiring" conditioning his brain seems to have undergone following his epileptic episode. His subsequent delving into mysticism and meditative exercises has alleviated these problems.
-Though incapable of any sort of true mental or technological telepathic shielding, he does possess a pretty strong will as a result of his extensive training and mental exercises. His vast and encyclopaedic memory may also temporarily overwhelm an intruding telepath unless they are accustomed to dealing with such influxes of information.
-DM is left-handed, but has trained himself to be nearly ambidextrous.
-DM has no recurring symptoms of epilepsy. It appears to have been an isolated episode, or a temporary symptom of something more.
-DM is NOT an elaborate Nemesis doppelganger. Some things just bare mentioning.