From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
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Calvarium is both my global handle and my first real "character". The concept was originally that Cal should be a dark/cold corruptor along a more traditionally villainous line, but I found it difficult to play a character somewhere between Satan and Snidely Whiplash.
There is a lot of my off-line personality in Cal - he is sometimes blunt, usually quiet, fiercely loyal, philosophical, with no love of political correctness and a fondness for good imported beer. I have described him as 10 percent Frank Castle and 80 percent plain old Cal, with a remaining 10 percent juicy semi-fictional details.
As ever, any canonical or factual errors below are entirely mine.
The Story So Far
Calvin Brontë was born to a devout Irish Catholic family in Russell, Kentucky. He grew up with a love of nature and sports. There are never many ways out of small towns like the one Cal grew up in, and he knew this. So, it became important for him to turn his two favourite things into a way to leave home and make something of himself. When he graduated high school in 1993, and the University of Kentucky offered him a football scholarship, Cal decided he'd study veterinary science there.
"Colonel" Johnnie Beauchamp, an oilman from Louisiana who'd retired to Kentucky to raise horses, offered Cal a stablehand's job his first year in Lexington. It was then that Cal met and fell in love with the Colonel's daughter Alison. The Colonel wasn't overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of his Allie running around with a poor boy from coal country, but Cal was kind to her and good with the horses. Cal continued to work for Beauchamp Farms when he could, sweated his way through four grueling seasons playing linebacker for the Wildcats, and finally graduated with a degree in biology in 1997.
He proposed to Alison on graduation day - they were married nearly a year later in Paragon City, RI. Cal would continue his studies at the university there; jobs for Alison, who'd gone to school for nursing, would be plentiful.
Cal's next step would have been veterinary school, but someone had taken notice of him during his college ball days. Cal's ferocity was evident in the unforgiving way he planted ballcarrier after ballcarrier on the fields where he played. Cal was thick and muscular, and followed a strict diet. He seemed to be the kind of person who knew how to whip others into shape, and cut a fine figure in his uniform. Essentially, he was healthy, young, and fierce in combat - just what Arachnos was looking for.
Arbiter Diaz of Mercy Island approached Cal under cover one day, assuming that the headstrong, inexperienced young man would jump at the chance to become a troop-training consultant for his "paramilitary Étoile Islands defense organisation, not unlike our version of the National Guard". Diaz named a significant salary figure which would include very comfortable housing arrangements.
This looked a lot better to Cal than four more years of school. Alison was also very pleased to have an opportunity to see a place she'd only read about in the papers. It was settled. The newlyweds moved to St. Martial to begin their lives together, both unaware of Arachnos' true motivations. Although there were some mentions of Arachnos in the news, evil plans and political machinations never quite seemed to reach the Bluegrass State; both Cal and his wife felt the sensationalists in the media weren't to be trusted anyway.
Calvin Brontë thus became associated with Lord Recluse's neo-fascist organisation, as a "morale and fitness consultant".
Cal soon learned that Arachnos was not the ivory tower that Arbiter Diaz had made it seem to be. His first assignment after moving Allie and himself into St. Martial was fourteen weeks of recruit training in Mercy Island. Although Cal would not be assigned a post like a typical Arachnos soldier, he would experience firsthand the primitive process he was being paid to help streamline. His instructors were cruel, the training reinforced obedience through fear tactics and intimidation, the food was terrible and lacked proper nutrition, and there was propaganda as far as the eye could see.
Cal saw a few similarities between recruit training and his pre-season football camps. Thinking of his training instructor as his coach helped get him through the fourteen weeks of hell, and placed him near the top of his recruit class. This was what Diaz had predicted. Cal next traded his mace and helmet for a tailored business suit and began his consultant work in earnest. Regular discussions with the Arbiter corps and even Lord Recluse's chief technological lieutenants led to some sweeping changes in the training programme.
The propaganda stayed, to give the troops focus. But there were modifications to the troop diet - healthier food became the rule of the day, as well as twice-weekly consultations with medical science. The doctors were there to enhance performance in ways that physical and verbal abuse could not. Hormonal supplements and various stimulant drugs added to the ferocity, obedience, strength, and stamina of the average trooper. Cybernetic implants were added where necessary for Recluse's more elite soldiers, such as the Bane Spider batallions - the more hideous or technological members of Arachnos' army were left entirely to the scientists.
Under Cal's new programme, Recluse watched his troops become stronger, fiercer, more willing to fight for his cause, and this pleased him. He decided to meet his new efficiency monitor in person for the first time, and offered him the first test of a new technological advancement - a neurological implant that would deliver all Cal's stimulant-supplement programme through electro-synaptic means. Once implanted in the hypothalamus, it would stimulate the owner's brain to produce the chemicals necessary in just the right amounts, with no regular injections or further cybernetic manipulations required. Still naive in the ways of his employer, Cal gladly accepted surgical installation of this device.
He was unaware that Recluse had also included a small "insurance policy" to prevent his new wunderkind from seeking employment elsewhere. An ELF-pulse radiowave receiver was included with the implant that when activated, would overload the device and detonate it from its location deep within Cal's brain.
The Beginning of the End
Years went by; as Cal continued to make improvements to Arachnos' training division and his marriage grew in depth and love, he began to catch glimpses into the darker heart of Arachnos. The hideous cybernetic modifications of the Tarantula troops, the sadistic pleasure the Fortunata took in peeling away the minds of their hostages layer by layer - something called Project Fury and the pitiful, voiceless, many armed things that lived underneath the Web in Grandville - the Rogue Islands Police and their mistreatment of the local citizens.
These things, among others, worried Cal. He began to feel that he'd made an unwise decision despite all the strength and stamina he'd gained since the implant, the good life he and Allie had been living, and the pride he felt in watching his changes improve troop quality so dramatically. He began to whisper these misgivings to Allie late at night, and she listened well - in May 2002, when the first Rikti invasion had the planet confused and frightened, Cal and his wife made the decision to escape their comfortable prison. For a few more years, Cal did his best to conceal his discontent while seeing the proper travel documents forged. He planned a getaway to Paragon City, where he and Allie had begun, and would send for her once he was there. Once again, however, someone had been watching. Thanks to some well-paid informants, Lord Recluse knew of Cal's plan nearly before Cal himself did.
In February 2006, Recluse sent Cal on a recruiting operation to Paragon University. Cal would represent "Itsy Bitsy Incorporated," a front for Arachnos that purported to manufacture waterslide and ladder attachments for children's swimming pools, and try to recruit engineering students for the technical arm of Arachnos. Cal's opportunity had arrived, his papers were in order, and the time for action had come.
A few hours later, as Cal's aircraft landed at Paragon City's Rabinowitz International Airport, troops he had helped train burst through the door of the large condominium in St. Martial that he shared with his wife.
Men Cal's programmes had made into killers arrived at a small brick house in eastern Kentucky just in time for Sunday dinner with the family.
Heavily armoured Arachnobots leveled a horse farm in Lexington, killing all the stock and its owner.
The man who was once Stefan Richter was now the only person left for Cal to turn to.
The End of the Beginning
Cal had tried to contact Alison and let her know it was safe to meet him in Paragon City, but there had been no answer for four days. For just as long, no response came from the Colonel and his wife at home in Lexington, where Cal had planned to send Alison until everything was safe. Likewise, there was silence from eastern Kentucky, where Cal's family lived. Something seemed wrong, and he cut his trip short for a return to St. Martial to check out the situation.
Cal found his home in its broken state and a suspicious lack of police investigators surrounding it. While surveying the damage inside, Cal came across Alison's torn and defiled body. It was evident she'd put up a struggle, and just as evident she'd been maliciously assaulted in more than one sense - not only her body, but her clothing were a shambles. By the time Cal arrived, Alison had been dead for four days - someone had removed her jaw bone from the bottom half of her skull, as well. Cal felt his sanity shatter like brittle glass.
More men arrived to take Cal into custody, and to yet another meeting with Lord Recluse himself. There was no fight left in him; Cal went willingly to the throne room in Grandville.
There, four things were laid upon the huge table between Cal and his employer; first, the photos of Beauchamp Farms and Cal's own childhood home, both in smoking ruins. Next, the stripped and polished, naked jawbone of Cal's deceased wife. Finally, a small transmitter device, which Recluse activated immediately.
Calvin Brontë, Arachnos defector, collapsed upon the throne room floor. Black Scorpion and his men dragged the body away for immediate disposal per Recluse's instructions.
A matter of weeks later, Arachnos troops in Mercy Island began to report skirmishes with a figure in heavy armour - its helmet-piece appeared to be a chromium skull with no mandible.
Each of the nine troop casualties they found had the phrase "5 32:35, per calvarium vindico" branded upon its mandible with what might have been an arc welder. Each mandible had been ripped from its respective skull and laid upon the chest of the victim.
Before long, the reports began to refer to involvement with the armoured presence as "Calvarium incidents".
Cal was the kind of fellow who wore his heart upon his sleeve, an affable country boy with a slow drawling voice who nearly worshipped the ground his Alison walked on. He loved his family and knew the value of hard work, although he was quite naïve - but one thing that remained constant throughout his childhood and early adulthood was his ability to hold a grudge.
If you were on the other side of the football field from Cal, he'd do the best he could to tear your head off and then buy you a beer in the name of friendly competition (even offering to pour said beer down the bleeding stump of your neck in case the head-tearing was successful - which it never was). If you were his friend, he would have your back in any situation, come hell or high water. If you were his enemy, you were wise to keep your distance.
Cal was usually friendly and slow to anger, but his anger lasted a very, very long time. People that knew him best noted a quick, dry wit and intelligent demeanour that sometimes went unnoticed due to his size and strength.
He was a big, lovable moose with a loud laugh, a keen sense of loyalty, and a hot temper.
When Cal's family and wife were killed, the checks and balances to his negativity were gone, revealing a quiet, brooding man whose sense of loyalty had turned into stubbornness, even temper to explosive wrath, faith in God to fatalism and determination.
The essence of Cal remains true. He's still a big, loyal, stubborn moose at heart. He still holds certain people dear to him - his approach is merely different than it used to be. The smile and laugh he used to get so much mileage out of are almost never observed any longer; his inner workings are hidden behind veritable stone walls of mental defence.
Every good emotion has a dark side. Cal feels he's using the darker sides of the positive emotions he's always had for people in general to bring himself some peace. So far, there has been no peace.
Cal has been seen on occasion attending shows put on by The Cape. Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast, or so it's said. He's not very social, and rarely speaks, preferring to keep to himself and drink copious amounts of alcohol. Every once in a while, though, he's been persuaded to try having a little fun (although the Golden Giza is much more his kind of environment); there have been reports that he's quite the step dancer once he's soused enough and someone plays the right traditional tune. He seems to enjoy many different sorts of music, particularly classic rock and country.
Cal generally prefers to work alone and does not go out of his way to make friends. He has done contract work for As Seen on TV, helping build their notoriety on a temporary basis, and is currently a member of the League of Mayhem. Cal likes the people in both these organisations pretty well, but still remains leery of establishing too many close relationships.
Organisations that have earned his enmity include Arachnos, Ouroboros, and to a lesser extent, Longbow (Cal bears them no ill will, but believes his cause to be just and above mortal law - Freedom Corps continuously gets in his way, which is not something he feels he can permit. If they would leave him alone, he would return the favour). All other organisations he's been in violent action with are merely unfortunate bystanders that have chosen the wrong man to irritate.
Cal's armour is a mixture of Arachnos and Vanguard technologies, being primarily composed of reinforced titanium. It possesses a conductive exterior and is well insulated within, preventing Cal from electrocuting himself or causing his implant to go into another overload state.
The implant itself has been described before, although since placed in a consistent overload state it has also increased Cal's agility, resistance to damage, and healing factor to an incredible degree.
Cal's helmet, while a fairly astonishing piece of artwork, also has several important functions. It provides an air filtre for hostile environments such as Oranbega, low-light motion detection, radio communications monitoring, and even a live, wireless streaming audio player that he often uses to tune into broadcasts from The Cape.
The armour also includes boots with independent solid-fuel cells and small, individually mobile retrojets, which allow Cal to fly when necessary. As he draws the most power from being grounded to the earth, he almost never uses this flight ability in combat, but it is convenient for travelling long distances.
The most important parts of Cal's equipment are his modular inhibitor bands, small metal bracers that absorb and redirect his excessive synaptic energy. They fit into the gauntlet portion of his combat armour, and he wears them constantly even if only in civilian clothing. If not for their dampening effect, he would emit so much amplified electrical energy that his physical body would detonate in a matter of moments. This was once central to Cal's plan for Lord Recluse.
Cal assumed that if he removed his bands in Recluse's presence, he would end both their lives (and possibly those of several important lieutenants) in one devastating stroke. He hoped this would make way for a newer, better regime to take charge of the Étoile Islands while freeing him from this life to join his beloved Allie in the world to come - but his plans have recently changed as detailed below.
Personal effects Cal always carries include a small photo of Alison, as seen above, and his wedding ring, which he has moved from his left hand to his right since her death.
Powers and Abilities
Thanks to the malfunctioning implant in his brain, Cal's synaptic activity has increased by many, many orders of magnitude. This overabundance of electrical activity has its benefits and its detriments. Cal is nearly impossible to kill by non-magical means, as his recuperative abilities are off the scale.
The implant tends to overstimulate Cal's adrenal glands as well, causing incredible spikes in his strength and fight-or-flight responses. He's learned to maintain this high epinephrine level for extended periods of time, contributing to his fearsome damage potential.
Cal can also redirect excess bioelectric charge through the bands he wears; Cal's lightest "enhanced" punch has been compared to a taser shot. His strongest attack breaks down his physical body for a couple nanoseconds and reforms it in another place - the resulting release of energy has caused inanimate objects to explode. Some living creatures have been known to survive an initial strike from this lightning-like discharge, but they are few.
Limitations and Weaknesses
- Cal is susceptible to users of magic, particularly those who deal in fear or confusion. He particularly enjoys exercising his wrath upon magical beings before they can use their abilities upon him. This hatred is particularly evident in the case of succubi, with whom Cal has had several dealings in the past. He despises trickery and deception as employed by these creatures, since they attempt to detract from the faithfulness he feels his late wife still deserves. Fear and confusion are a large part of Cal's emotional makeup, although those are overshadowed by wrath and vengeance.
- Electricity always takes the shortest route to ground. Because Cal's strengths lie in his bio-electrical discharge abilities, he does his best work close-in. Those who can stay distant from him have an advantage.
- Since Alison's death, Cal has fallen prey to alcoholism. Alcohol reduces his inhibitions, making it easier for him to access the wrathful feelings he needs to keep himself going. It is, however, self-destructive behaviour; part of him does not care if the alcohol kills him before he has a chance to do so himself. The rest of him is too stubborn to let himself die so easily (this is why he'll forgo drinking before an important battle).
- Cal's desire for vengeance and tendency to fall into rages have led him into some nearly suicidal situations. He no longer cares for his own safety and has run headlong into dangerous situations with no concern for his teammates. At times like this, the only thoughts in his mind are those of wrath and destruction; enemies become hurdles to be jumped over on the way to the next goal. He can be rash and dangerous, impatient and crass; his unfulfilled desire for vengeance is the only reason he has not yet taken his own life.
- Although he recognises the importance of contacts and acquaintances, Cal does not attempt to make friends. Friends can be used as tools to "upset the apple cart". He is convinced that if you care for someone, that makes them vulnerable to people that will use them against you in some way. By extension, this makes you vulnerable. Therefore, if he has positive feelings toward someone, he's resolved never to tell them so or let the feelings show in any way. He's used up his quantity of love for other people in the past five years... or so he allows himself to believe.
- Cal has no love at all for Arachnos, which is well known. Not as well known is his disgust for Ouroboros, whom he feels are meddlers and deceivers. He does not know the nature of their involvement with the time stream, but became aware of their existence and soon approached them for help as they had once approached him. The deal he proposed was as such: for his assistance with their time-meddling, they would allow him to return to a time when his wife was still living (with his knowledge of the future intact), so that he could prevent her death. Mender Silos refused to assent. Since then, Cal's relationship with Ouroboros has been extremely strained. He's encountered some Menders in social situations and attempted to pick fights with them - this severe distrust of time-travelers extends even to those who have nothing to do with Ouroboros. As far as Cal is concerned, they are all shady dealers.
- Black Scorpion recently revealed that he was responsible for the technology behind Cal's hypersynaptic implant and armour and ensured that the implant would not kill him outright when detonated. They share a common enemy in Lord Recluse, and have established a tentative alliance for the moment. The villain also developed the inhibitor bands that keep Cal's nervous system from overloading itself, thus keeping him alive. This may prove to be Cal's ticket to eventual vengeance, or may be Black Scorpion's method of keeping Cal in check. Cal continues to work with Black Scorpion occasionally, although his reasoning is his own for the moment.
Either way, Cal feels that he owes the Scorpion a small amount of gratitude for the technology he's provided. He continues to observe his patron for signs of duplicity - if Black Scorpion somehow manages to get between Cal and his shot at Recluse, then he will become a target.
- Lord Recluse's men have found that not all casualties confirmed to be from Calvarium incidents have had the jawline brand. Personnel records show that the common element shared among the nine branded corpses was assignment to St. Martial for a building security exercise on the same day in February 2006.
- Cal has also been seen in the company of Vanguard, who are paying him to take some of the security backlog in the former White Plains neighbourhood of Paragon City. The efforts to repel the Rikti threat are concentrated there. Cal does not trust Vanguard, but acknowledges their technology is superior to his own. He's begun integrating some of their armour schematics into his personal equipment.
- Lately, Cal worked with several of the arbiters in the Grandville area, who are not permitted blatant disregard for Recluse's policies but have agendas of their own. Cal used the information he gathered to make himself appear contrite in the presence of Lord Recluse, who became aware that Cal's implant did not work as he intended ((will fix this section later, details on Project: Destiny)).
- "Calvarium" is a medical term for the entirety of the human skull that does not include the mandible. The Latin phrase found on the jawbones of the soldiers means "I avenge by way of the skull". Reference "Calvary", the Latin term for Golgotha (Hebrew for "place of the skull".) "Calvarium" is also the name of a Venezuelan death-metal band that Cal's player has never heard of.
- "5 32:35" refers to Deuteronomy (the fifth book of the Old Testament), chapter 32, verse 35. To wit: To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. (King James version).
- I never understood why a character had to have a theme song. Cal has not, in the official sense. But there are three songs that make me think of him: "Man of Constant Sorrow", particularly the Jerry Garcia version from Pizza Tapes, "The Mission" by Queensryche from Operation: Mindcrime, and "This Night", which is performed by Black Lab (Passion Leaves a Trace) and was used in the promos for The Shield season six.
In conclusion, OOC
I am beginning to find that patience is a Virtue (hah!) when allowing characters to develop; if you just give them time, they will eventually begin to speak to you on their own. Cal was frustrating me for a while, but one night over a beer in the Golden Giza he finally opened up and began telling me his story. Some folks are just quiet like that; maybe he had to get to know me a little first. Many thanks to anyone who's ever interacted with him for helping him grow. You know who you are.