2 of Clubs
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
|2 of Clubs|
|Real Name:||Jerome Baxter|
|Known Aliases:||Clubsie, Deuce, Yataro Shimazu|
|Nationality:||United States citizen with no known criminal record|
|Occupation:||Bouncer (The Lounge, Steel Canyon)|
|Place of Birth:||Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A.|
|Base of Operations:||Paragon City|
|Known Relatives:||Raymond Baxter (father, deceased), Akima (mother, deceased), Toshiro Shimazu (grandfather, deceased)|
|Natural ability with dual blades, great physical feats through control of body|
|Knowledgeable in Bushido and the ways of the Samurai; experienced body guard and bouncer|
|Shimazu Clan daisho (katana and wakizashi)|
|Former member of the Action Pact|
Jerome's heritage on his mother's side dates back to the ancient Japanese Clan Shimazu. The clan was considered the first to successfully claim foreign territory in the name of the emperor when they successful invaded the Ryuuku Islands, early in the 1600's. Many prominent families within the clan settled the islands and today live on the largest of the islands, Okinawa. Although their way of life has changed over the years, partly because of adapting to the shifts in culture and also due to the natural progression of time, the remnants of the clan still hold fast to the teachings and customs of their forefathers.
His grandfather, Toshiro Shimazu, a very prominent figure among his people, was one of the few on the island that still carried the surname of the clan. Unfortunately, his wife died after bearing him a daughter, Akima. With no sons to carry on his family name, Toshiro had dreamed of the day when his daughter would honor him by marrying a young man chosen specifically by the clan elders. He could then bestow the family and clan name upon his son-in-law, thus insuring that the bloodline remain intact. Yet, Akima had other plans and when her father sent her to study in America, she made a choice that would get her disowned and banished.
Akima attended the University of California in Los Angeles. There, she experienced freedoms that she never dreamed possible, especially if she was still in Okinawa. The women in the Shimazu Clan were expected to be submissive and obedient; always content to follow each and every plan set out by their male leaders. Marriages were pre-arranged and the female voices were not to be heard unless called upon. In America, which was at the same time experiencing a big step in the movement towards gender equality, Akima realized that she could control her own destiny.
Knowing full well that if she returned to her home in Okinawa she would be forced into a marriage with a man she didn't love and more than likely didn't even know, Akima decided to look for love while she could do so freely. That's when she met Jerome's father, Raymond Baxter, an African-American man who was both scholar and athlete. The two fell in love and planned on getting married after they both graduated. When Akima sent news of this to her father, he ordered her to come home immediately, before she disgraced him and the proud heritage of the clan. Akima ignored her father's wishes, understanding that her disobedience would most certainly get her expelled from her family forever.
Tragedy After Tragedy
Despite the looming consequences, the couple still planned to be together. Yet, as fate would have it, right before they were to be married, Raymond was drafted to serve in the United States Marines. He went through basic training and was set to be deployed to fight in Vietnam. The couple chose to postpone the wedding until Raymond returned. Shortly after he was deployed, Akima discovered she was pregnant. She dreamed of the day that Raymond would return to her and their future child; a day in which they could be married and start being a family. But the choice to wait was a decision that Akima would come to regret. Two weeks before Jerome came into this world, Akima received word that Raymond was killed in action.
Alone and grieving, Akima had nowhere to turn to for guidance and direction. All of the letters she sent her father were sent back unopened and she knew full well that she would never again find a home amongst her people. Sadly, Akima barely knew Raymond's family, which was spread out along the west coast, so she found no help from them either. For nearly four years, she did her best to raise her boy, the only reminder of the man she loved. Eventually, the constant depression and heartache took its toll on Akima and after a bout with pneumonia, she died. With no family stepping forward, young Jerome was placed in care of the state.
After a year of bouncing around from adoption center to foster home and foster home to adoption center, Jerome was finally going to be adopted, but by a very unlikely source. His mother's father, Toshiro, had kept one letter from his daughter; a letter which sent news of Jerome's birth. Any bitterness and harbored anger he had towards Akima, quickly turned to sadness and guilt over the way he chose to handle his daughter's actions. Feeling like he could no longer blame a child for the shame brought on by his daughter, Toshiro traveled to America in hopes of locating the boy. Toshiro found the boy and officially adopted him before taking him back to live with him in his native Okinawa.
Over time, Toshiro became everything a boy could ask for in a grandfather. In fact, Toshiro was much more like a father to Jerome, who in turn, was like the son Toshiro never had. Any love and affection that he failed to give to his daughter, he lavished upon his grandson. With Jerome, he was able to pass on all the knowledge and teaching that he had once hoped to pass on to his own sons. In a few short years, Toshiro changed his attitude; from never wanting anything to do with his daughter to accepting and hoping her son, his grandson, would carry on the family bloodline and proud name of the Clan Shimazu. The ultimate sign of this reversal came when Toshiro gave Jerome the Japanese name, Yataro.
Way of the Samurai
As Jerome grew-up in his new environment, it was amazing at how quickly he adjusted and blended into his grandfather's way of life. He studied with the clan scholars at their local schools and excelled in every area. He trained heavily in the Martial Arts and spent large portions of his days in meditation, searching deep within to unlock his full potential. Of course, his grandfather taught him how to master the dual blades of the Clan Shimazu. Jerome became quite proficient weilding these blades which Samurai call their daisho; the katana and the wakizashi. By the time Jerome had reached his mid-teens, he was one of the most well-respected fighters in the clan.
Like all young men, Jerome went through the tests and rights of passage to become a Bushi; better known as a Samurai or gentleman of the clan. The training he had received from his grandpa and the other leaders was more than enough to make Jerome's success almost automatic. And he did pass every test that was placed before him, all except the last. The final obstacle involved a journey of solitude into the unknown; the goal being to search deep within to purge anything that would contradict the code of the Clan Shimazu Samurai. Yet, this quest for enlightenment would bear much greater importance than anyone could have perceived in the bigger picture of Jerome's life journey.
One Journey Ends, Another Begins
On Jerome's solitary adventure, a struggle took place within himself to purge anything that may hold him back in achieving what his grandpa had so yearned for him. With each locale he visited, he found his heart more and more troubled. He knew that a Samurai must be willing to do anything and everything for the honor of his clan, family, and people. However, deep down, Jerome could not stomach the thought of taking another life in pursuit of this kind of honor. He felt that an opponent could be subdued and defeated in a manner that may very well bring both honor to the victor and the opportunity for redemption to the defeated. Nevertheless, Jerome knew far too well the expectations of his clan elders, who would see this type of thinking as a weakness. Like his mother had done before him, Jerome feared that he too would bring shame to his grandfather and the proud name of his family.
Even so, Jerome returned to his people, fully prepared to receive whatever disgrace and punishment for his failure that his elders felt necessary. Yet, his heart felt much more pain than he could have imagined when he arrived home; deeply saddened by the news that his grandfather had died while he was away. The loss was a crushing blow to Jerome's spirit, for he never got to say goodbye to the only person which he could truly call family. After a time of mourning had finished, he appeared before his clan elders for their ruling on his status. They denied Jerome the title of Samurai, but in what they considered to be an act of grace, he was allowed to stay among them with his respect and dignity intact. Even though he could very well have chosen to stay with his grandfather's people, Jerome decided it was time to move on for his next journey in life. With his grandfather gone, he felt a burning desire to return to the land in which he was born. For all of his life on Okinawa, he had dreamed of learning more about his "real" father and the American family from which he descended.
So, Jerome packed his belongings, including his daisho and several reminders of his life on the island, and he traveled to America in order to start the search for the remnants of his paternal family. His first stop was the place where he was born, Los Angeles. Very similar to the way he quickly adapted to the lifestyle introduced by his grandfather almost sixteen years prior, Jerome found it very easy to adjust to the American lifestyle. In fact, after a brief time of watching and learning, Jerome was able to blend in like he was a normal U.S. born, African-American male. Because he was born in the United States and was therefore a citizen, he had no problem getting work. He started a job in construction as a laborer and he was able to make ends meet just enough to afford an apartment and pay his bills.
Yet, his search was providing results that matched his worst fears. After visiting several of the adoption agencies that he had been placed in as a child, he was able to track down some of his father's family. Far from the dreams and hopes of finding a caring family that would lovingly take him in and tell him everything he always yearned to know about his father, he instead got the cold shoulder. He learned that his paternal grandparents were both deceased and many of the other relatives either didn't return his attempts at making contact or denied his existence altogether. The only information that he was able to retrieve about his father was from some old Vietnam buddies of his, who said that he was a "good friend" and that he "gave his life for his fellow man."
The 2 of Clubs
Rather than pick up and leave after the disappointment of his findings, Jerome felt that his search for his destiny was far from over. Yet, he resolved that if he was going to stay in America, he needed to find a differnt line of work; one in which he could better apply all of the principles taught to him by his grandfather and the clan elders. After much searching, he left the construction industry to become a night club bouncer and contracted body guard. Both required not only proven fighting skills, but the ability to control one's emotions and the constant awareness of all of his or her surroundings. Jerome fit this bill perfectly, so over the next few years, he jumped around from bar to bar in the California area. Along the way, he established quite the reputation as a competant and capable enforcer.
Three years later, Jerome left California for the northwest. Working his way through Portland and then into Washington state, Jerome took a job in a night club just outside of Seattle. The place was called The 2 of Clubs and had quite a bad reputation because of its "dark" environment and the dirty transactions that took place under its roof. In fact, a visitor could almost be guaranteed to show up any night of the year and witness or participate in a bar-clearing brawl. Jerome was called in to clean house and help turn the bar into a respected establishment again. Using everything he learned growing up, Jerome did just that. Through discipline, hard work, and at times by using physical means, The 2 of Clubs or "The Deuce" as it would come to be called, was transformed into one of the nicer dance clubs in the area. Jerome's name became so synonymous with the place that customers would see him on the street and say "Hey look, there's that 2 of Clubs guy!"
The success that he had achieved in Seattle helped to establish quite the postive reputation for Jerome in his field of work. Night club owners from all over and even Hollywood starlets and famous performers began to request his services. Through the pipeline, a casino owner in Las Vegas had heard about Jerome and contacted him about a open postition. The casino was having serious money issues to which the owner attributed both internal and external factors. By bringing Jerome in, he felt many of these problems would be solved. Although he was at first reluctant to leave the home he had made for himself in the northwest, Jerome decided that it was best to move on and provide a helping hand to the casino owner that so desperately needed a ray of hope.
Upon arrival at the casino, Jerome made an immediate impact, similar to the one he had made in Seattle. He helped to clean out the drug dealers, unsavory prostitutes, and any other trouble-makers, opening up the floor to money-spending tourists and more respectable gamers. Although the casino was located off the main strip, it was starting to draw some of the "higher" rollers away from the larger casinos. Yet, even with influx of customers and increase in postive business, the casino still struggled financially. For quite a long while, Jerome had suspicions that the floor boss and some of the employees were pocketing money and running illegal side ventures on company premisses.
Previously unable to catch anyone in the act, Jerome's chance came early one morning, after his shift. Out in the back alley, the floor boss and several of his flunkies were beating a man, nearly to death. Apparently, the man owed money and when he revealed he was unable to pay off his debts, the floor boss decided the man would pay with his life. Of course, it took no longer than a second for Jerome to react. He immediately sprang into action, taking down the victim's assailants with fluid precision. In the end, the only one standing was Jerome; the attackers subdued and a man's life saved. The police arrived on scene and took the "ex" floor boss and Jerome's now "former" co-workers into custody and an ambulance was called in to attend to the badly hurt, but thankful man. Eventually, the aggressors were each sentenced to prison terms and much to the amazement of the appreciative casino owner, the cash flow problems at the casino were resolved. That night, Jerome found his destiny, his true-calling in life, as a crime-fighter and protector of the innocent.
After staying a short while longer in Vegas, Jerome decided that he wanted to see more of America. He felt that there were many other places around the country in which he was destined to carry out his "new" mission in life. So, he traveled to Texas and then the midwest, continuing to work at bars and night clubs as a bouncer. Yet, he began to live a double-life. After his shifts, he sought out opportunities to fight crime and help protect his fellow American. Dressed in black and donning a mask, Jerome would work in vigilante-type style to help clean the streets of each new city he visited. Very much unlike his job as a bouncer, in the world of vigilante crime-fighting, his swords became fair play. He proved correct his theory that he could subdue an enemy without taking a life.
Although he only dealt with criminals on the street level, he made an impact in each community that gave its residents hope. People in the communities began talking about a "Samurai-like masked man" appearing out of nowhere to save someone or stop a robbery in progress. When a person he saved first asked what his name was, he remembered his days in Seattle and replied "I'm the 2 of Clubs!" Not surprsingly, Jerome became a hit in the news with the headlines in the paper the next day reading, "2 of Clubs, Dealer of Justice". Of course, he wasn't in it for the glory or the fame. In fact, his vigilante status and rogue reputation made it difficult for him to establish good relations with the local police departments. Yet, he still managed to keep his identity a secret and when he felt he overstayed his welcome, he simply moved on to the next city.
Paragon City U.S.A.
Tired of uncooperative police officers and the threat of constantly being exposed, Jerome decided to take his talents to the one place where superheroes were welcomed with open arms; Paragon City. He registered at City Hall in Atlas Park and eagerly hit the streets like most incoming heroes do. In Paragon, he was able to fight crime with the cooperation of the P.P.D. and the sight of another hero was nothing new to the citizens he encountered. Jerome took a job in Steel Canyon as a club bouncer in a bar called The Lounge. He was allowed to live in the apartment above the establishment and the income was sufficient enough to allow him to live his double-life. Early on, with no family or friends that could be threatened with the exposure of his identity, Jerome often threw caution to the wind and went in full throttle against the street gangs and thugs he came across.
Now Jerome had already encountered a wide variety of criminals around the country, but he was very surprised at how diverse the villain groups were in Paragon. Unlike the normal street gangs and members of the mob, these law-breakers often had superpowers of their own. Jerome also noticed a drive inside them to continue to committ crime even though the probability that they would be caught was very high. Realizing that he could not take down every villain in the city on his own, Jerome felt it was time to align himself with other heroes who shared his principles and beliefs in enacting justice. Although he had already worked with several different teams of heroes, Jerome knew that involvement with a super group was the direction he needed to move towards.
The Action Pact
It came to Jerome's attention through his contacts on the streets, that a supergroup called The Action Pact was actively recruiting. After doing some research, he realized that the ideals the group saught to uphold were very much in-line with what he hoped to achieve: protection of the innocent, preservation of truth, dictation of justice, and preservation of life. Jerome felt that if he could find a home anywhere, it would be with The Action Pact. So, he applied for membership and was contacted by the leader of the group, the mighty and valiant World Champion and the supreme model of what an Actioneer should strive to become. After clearing up some questions and concerns, Champion notified Jerome that group officers would meet with him for an interview.
A few days later, Jerome was contacted by several officers of The Action Pact: Epic Man, Johnny Turbo, and Space Age. Just north of City Hall in Atlas Park, they met with Jerome and asked him a series of questions about his powers, his intentions, and his reasoning for wanting to join the group. Satisfied with his responses, Epic Man announced that 2 of Clubs was herefore a Actioneer; thus giving him a comlink and his first orders. Over time, he got to know several other members of the group; including Ballistic Beetle, Meta Vindicta, Hornet Lass, Midnight Boy, The Amnesia-Man, and Psi-Bastion. Although he never really became very close to anyone, only partaking in some light banter with Turbo and Beetle, Jerome felt very much at home amongst them. Jerome was always ready to fight alongside them in their continuing battle against the forces of evil in order to protect his new home and family like the warriors of the clan he was fashioned from.
Jerome was very happy and content in the The Action Pact, but something was slowly pulling him away. Deep inside, Jerome felt the call to return to his solitary life. Although it pained him to leave his new friends and family behind, he could not deny the urges of the spirit within. So, he withdrew his membership from the Pact and began yet another new journey down a road previously untaken.
((TO BE CONTINUED... :) ))