From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Graphite is a fictional superhero created for the MMORPG City of Heroes (CoH), located on the Virtue Server and main avatar of the player of the same name (also known as Trier97 and Oudeus). His creation dates back to the PreBeta boards (May 2003) and has been a long term member of Cohguru Forums, Guruverse and larger CoH Community who recently joined The Frontline.
The character primarly embodies that of a "True Tanker" who uses personal strength to defend allies, protects the weak and sacrifices himself if neccicary for the greater good while also exploring such social issues of what it means to be a hero, soldiering on through out all adversaries, challanging fate and earning the public trust. The rapid pace of technology, and its incorpation into the greater human being, is also discussed such as apocalyptic vision, scientific ethics, the stand alone complex and the cassandra complex.
Original inspirations were a cross between the X-men Colossus and Cable, with his nature often being called a gentle giant or silent sentinel. Despite this protective instinct, if backed in a corner there is a tendency to resort to what ever means necessary in order to get the job done. His personality is often most connected with Reese from the first Terminator movie, a man suffering from post traumatic stress disorder who feels little emotion, quietly goes about his business and is charged with nothing less than saving the world. Popular slogans include "the Future is never set in Stone" and the Tanker Motto "Be the First to Die, then Don't Die."
Prelude: History of the Future
In Spring 2003 as a part of the advertising efforts for X-men movie sequel, Dr. Pepper released a rock paper scissors system flash game which included a simplistic character creation system. It was from this game that the first image of Graphite was made, which was of a mulatto male, cybernetic right arm and thighs, left stone arm and chest, black technological belt, and neon purple hair. At that time, the origin was quick and simple about a time traveller determined to stop the villainous organization Crey Industries from crossing human and alien rikti DNA, preventing a post apocalyptic future. Based on the first generation pre-beta system, the ingame origin would have been Cyberware with powers Density Control, Super Strength, Power Punch, Forcefields and Teleportation. With the current system most are familiar with: Forcefields was removed and Density Control made to the Stone Armor primary powerset, the Fighting Pool added to represent his hand to hand combat skills (though later dropped in current builds), Fitness to represent his genetically improved health, and Energy Mastery for his cybernetic efficiency. A Tech (duel Mutant) Origin has been used and Granite Armor has played a significant role for that of Gorignorak.
Inspired by the Shadowrun pen and paper RPG, the player created a fictional new main villian group called the Cybermancy blend around the idealism of the 5th Collumn, mad tendencies of the Vahzilok, technological based anarchy of the Freakshow, and the contain and control programs offered by Crey Paragon Protectors. At an undisclosed future date, this faction of technologically possessed soldiers, motivated by post traumatic stress disorder induced by a unquestional totalitarian regime, turn against the citizens they were sworn to protect but no longer able to identify: resulting in madness, anarchy, cannibalism against the entire natural order, and personal survival by what ever means necessary. Matters were further complicated when the source of the disorder was traced back to a self replicating nanotech virus, originally designed by Crey Industries under military contract, capable of replacing damaged organs with a technological equivalent. Thus the more damaged the soldier became, physically or mentally, the quicker the virus could spread with the final stages of the disorder being pure savagery, uncontrollable violence, inability to recognize sentience, and undead zombie like tendencies. Rapid ability of the virus to spread through depressive states, a collapsed economic system unable to progress forward, coupled from pressure of a devastating fourth rikti invasion, estimates forecast that the entire human race would collapse on itself in less than twenty years.
Peter Thompson was a standard front line and recon unit originally crafted by the before mentioned totalitarian regime in the mid twenty second century, which meant that he was a genetically grown metahuman then trained from birth in case of any future foreign wars. During late childhood, members of the policing units first exhibited signs of Cybermancy which quickly resulted in a wave of chaos and social panic. During the destruction, the planetary War Walls fell and the Third Rikti War began. Pockets of humanity survived, along with Peter and his classmates who were so well isolated for training purposes. Despite living on a conquered planet, stable remnants of civilization remained such as the Pan Atlantic Nation. It was not long before the Free Earth Movement took hold, feeling that survival for survival alone would not be enough to sustain the human race. Through ideals of hope, freedom and heroism, the goal was to inspire humankind towards a better future and thus conducted insurgent raids against alien installations.
Despite being called a war and was sustained by the remaining population, in reality it had close to no effect on the larger, more secured occupation forces. Fate as it seemed was locked in, little hope remained, and Cybermancy continued to whittle down central cells, as towns were now called, one by one. In his twenty years of service, things only continued to get worse: most of Peter's classmates had been killed and he was soon thrust into the category of elite despite having little pocessing to its effect. The one item that seemed to make him unique was an immunity to Cybermancy for his meta ability to turn the cellular structure of his body into a dense granite like stone allowed him to prevent foreign nanoware from interfacing and then be systematically crushed under this weight. Despite research, the metahuman geno was still random and uncontrollable. This trait was not even passed on to his two sons, Kyle and James. However, Kyle proved to be the last remaining chance of creating a better future.
Originally believed to be an early developed form of super speed, Peter's youngest son Kyle demonstrated the meta ability to slow down time. It was believed that if placed in a strong enough emotional state, time itself would be reversed and the next individual he would be in contact with would be thrust back in into the past. Unfortunately it was only hypothetical and kill the boy of seven at the same time. Horrified by what was proposed but realizing the alternatives, Peter reluctantly agreed but only if he be the one sent. Due to his immunity and elite status he also proved to be the most logical choice. It worked, and despite being disorientated Peter found himself in the early twenty first century and the heart of Paragon City: the legendary Era of Heroes: a golden age of peace and prosperity, despite being in disrepair from the First Rikti War, for that spirit was still in grip. After being granted a hero license, Peter renamed himself Graphite in hopes of writing a better timeline for the future is never set in stone.
A Girl Named Cassandra
"From Greek mythology, Cassandra (Greek: Κασσάνδρα "she who entangles men") (also known as Alexandra) was a daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy whose beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy. However, when she did not return his love, Apollo placed a curse on her so that no one would ever believe her predictions." -Wikipeida
Similarly in science fiction, a Cassandra Complex is any person who has divination power but is unable to convey that message to others or are unable to effect the course of that future. This theme is explored in great detail in the movie Twelve Monkeys, where the main character played by Bruce Willis travels to the past but is diagnosed with Schizophrenia while exhibiting symptoms of paranoia and clinical insanity. As he continues to travel back and forth in time, it becomes unclear where he actually is from with evidence suggesting he is just crazy.
This concept has been incorporated into the personality of Graphite to the point where it is unclear if the memories and events that surround his life are fictitious, perhaps even implanted, delusions. Due to the scientifically ground breaking equipment that is used, all details regarding Graphite's existence before his arrival in Paragon has been classified Top Secret. Desolate environments from home could just be places of warzones like Boomtown and Faultline. His futuristic equipment may simply be highly advance prototypes, reversed engineered from Rikti designs. Mean while the worse traits of the Cybermancy could simply represents his greatest fears in a symbol that is easier to combat. War can have a very scaring effect upon the human psyche, so perhaps these visions of the future of a yet determined timeline are merely false constructs of his mind unwilling to deal with the reality of what has happen. All because he and the others he interacts believes these to have happen does not mean they are actually happening. This leaves the question to be asked: is he is really from the future or just a highly advanced, highly demented survivor? In a world where the impossible is the most probable, ether case could be true or even both at the same time while the image of what makes a person crazy continues to blur.
Further complication occurs with an idea known as apocalyptic vision: as technology continues to progress, humanity begins to the see the future of its own demise. With the creation of nuclear weapons, for the first time men possessed the power to not only kill each other individually but also the collective whole to the extent of the entire planet more than a hundred times over. Telescopes can observe astrological phenomenon such has black holes, nearby supernovas and incoming meteorites. The birth of AI and its potential to be more intelligent then us is said to be just around the corner along with its potential to replace us as a species. It is as if men can now see his own death to the point it is not a matter of if but when.
This is perhaps the most powerful threat of cyberization. It has been argued that when you create a machine to do the work of man, you take away a piece of the man. If man is nothing more than organic matter, pieces and parts, then perhaps all of it can be replaced in whole. If machines are growing smarter perhaps we are choosing to grow dumber to the point where humanity becomes the automaton. As AI continues to grow and replace us, there is nothing to say it is truly superior to us. Emotion, dreams, hope, philosophy, art, culture, and intangible connections; rage, hatred and love. None of these concepts may be guaranteed to be in our future selves our our creations as scientific life advances. This is what it is meant to be a Cybermancy; a walking yet unliving technological death.
And if we can for see all these possibilities coming together, ultimately will any of us be able to stop it.
The Anti-Crey Movement
Why is it that we hate the corporate world that modern time seems destined to evolve into? Businesses after all are merely soulless entities at the command of people. They neither are right nor wrong, but rather an organization and consolidation of power in order to have large scale impacts. Perhaps it is that surrendering of will by the means of the worker on the basis of survival, were the later fears the loss of control and identity with no true guarantee of security. If a corporation is indeed morally evil, is it simply because its leaders are in the name of greed, or is there something more for by playing a small part we are part yet unable to stop that evil?
In the simplest sense, this is what the villain organization Crey Industries represents: greed, power, order, and control. Modern science fiction has the conundrum from its anti-heroes. From one perspective they are rebels, do-gooders, today’s Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to a desperate poor. But from an insider perspective, they threaten what exists and what they have. These anti-heroes can become what they hate most; they symbolize fear and terrorize those who have at most to risk loosing and in a simple name become Evil. After all who’s the evil doer: the husband security guard with a wife and three kids trying to put a meal on the table, or the idealist, above the norm, brash vigilante who by taking means into his own hands becomes a threat in the name of social justice?
People with good reason misunderstood the word Anarchy which simply means disorder, revolution, chaos and change. It is a transition from the order that exists today to a new order that has not yet fully formed. And moments such as these can produce an individual’s greatest virtue or downward spiral into darkness all in the name of best intentions. The term Anti-Crey does not have to mean the complete destruction off, but also 'its opposite of' or 'in opposition of'; each of which is very fine line that individual perception chooses to make. After all for many , evil like beauty, may simply be just in the eye of the beholder.
Arriving in the 21st century, Graphite had no clear plan or path to follow. The world did not fall apart from a singular traceable moment but a series of seemingly unconnected events. Temporal mechanics is actually a very complicated subject, for the universe is the result of many cause and effect relationships, interwoven to form a rich tapestry. Pull too hard at one stray seem and the fabric of space-time could fall apart. Further adding to the paradox was the possibility of alternate dimensions, for that there was no guarantee that even if one individual could change fate that it would only serve to create a new identity. Still, he was a soldier with standing orders to change the world and in the memory of his son he had to at least try. Going after the military contractor who created organic nanotechnology before control was lost seemed to be the best available option, in other words stopping Crey Industries.
As a legitimate business organization, few but the upper echelon of politicians, generals, and heroes were aware of Crey’s sinister nature outside of ever present yet faceless rumors. Fewer still have the financial capital able to tackle the entity legally. To date, the evidence for a court case based on corruption wasn’t there. Among the waves of new heroes after the Rikti War, one of them known as The Proletarian felt that it would take the rogues of society to banded together to bring the beast down. He would become Graphite's first mentor in a relationship that carried well over a year. And of course Proletarian's powers stemming from a Crey Industry accident held no bias sway or possible conflict of interest, but rather plausible facts against the dangerous company... Joining the ranks of the Anti-Crey Movement as a lieutenant, Graphite found himself fast acquaintances with radicals, revolutionaries, and conspiracy nuts: each of these in themselves modern heroes and had bad dealing with the corporation, liking nothing happier to see it taken down. In truth, the group was too small in numbers to have any lasting effect and was disbanded by time Graphite reached security level ten. However, it would leave its mark personally for many felt like him that in the name of a greater good what ever it takes might be what it takes in order to succeed, for survival ultimately was on the line.
Can you destroy a technology? It after all is a mere application of an idea, and an idea has no body to burn, no blood to bleed. Worse still, a bad idea can act like a virus as it infects individual to individual, furthering hate and destruction. For the pursuit of knowledge, the atomic bomb was created and even Einstein has said it was a mistake that he wish could be reversed. But now that mistake has almost a life of its own, and with it threatens a world.
In a city of publicly endorsed heroes, secret identities are not always necessary and this was the case for Peter Thompson. Unused to the concept, he served openly and public about his powers, who he is and why he was here. Most believed him, many thought he could be crazy, but all realized his genuineness and that he aided in an area of great need among the declined super hero population. For over a year after his arrival, as Graphite he protected the innocent and became a prominent member of the League of Titans based in Riverhaven. And for over a year, his search for the development of the Cybermancy would lead no where. Dead end after dead end against the various villainous organizations would lead him right back to Crey’s footsteps. He would hack, data mine, and collect information, yet this proved folly as every traceable track led to no evidence of immoral research or illegal military contracts. To find the evidence he new had to exist, to find an original strain of the TechnOrganic virus, he would have to go underground, he would have to develop a new persona, become a vigilante and he would have to become Gorignorak.
Initially an attempt to become more resilient, the eight foot tall golem Gorignorak would represent Graphite’s greatest strengths heightened in an unstoppable degree. By petrifying not just his epidermal layer but every muscle, nerve and bone, no force save psionics could subdue him. Using a complicated system of nanoware bonding and lubrication, he was eventually able to obtain movement within this form. His earth shaking english ton mass became a fear full sight as it approached, and with this added confidence in this “granite armor,” Graphite’s will guaranteed guard to any ally. It also provided perfect cover to raid the most heavily guarded Crey Facilities, though it didn’t take long for them to put two and two together and thwart every search for highly classified clues. Dubbed a Heroic Terrorist by muckrakers and lawyers alike, two choices were before him: give up and back off or unleashing his full might. Never one give in easily, he would choose the later.
From his training, Graphite was well aware of guerrilla style tactics he could use to strike any and every facility in Paragon. Advance teleportation technology designed for the quick port battlefield first harnessed by the Rikti, further gave him the means. The plan was actually crafted by a sophisticated AI program known as the Doctor, to scare Crey into action and make a mistake in their haste. The execution was flawless. With in two weeks of August 2005, thirty five secret laboratories were ether damaged or destroyed with no loss of human life. Billions in tax dollars and corporate assets were reclaimed along with the compromise of forty three highly sensitive programs. In the stock panic, multiple subsidiaries were auctioned off, resulting in a lost twenty one facilities, fifteen terminations of contract and two thousand, three hundred jobs. Further more, overall media activity was tripled, raised an astonishing seven times user activity over the internet. Since the attacks, vigilantism is up seven percent with copy cat crimes against Crey up eleven percent, though no link has ever been proven.
Order was restored and Graphite brought to justice when he voluntarily gave himself up outside of a Project Revenant facility, claiming it to be a breeding ground for Paragon Protectors who were being equipped with experimental control matrix nanites. Crey of course dismissed the accusations and that the high concentration of Protectors was to ensure the safe keeping of the research being stored inside. Investigation into recites of sales showed for the development and delivery of nanotechnology for the pharmaceutical use of chemical validation. Neil McIntosh, formerly of MI6, was attached as an investor and his relationship with the Malta Group has been in question for some time. Still in the early stages of design, all relevant material was being packaged for shipping out of the city due to the sensitivity of the work and potential imminent threat, which was realized and destroyed in the raid. If he was right about the ripple effect, safety of the future seemed secure but the issue of Graphite’s personal future would be a whole other issue.
Blood From a Stone
Fear is perhaps the ultimate human emotion. It can be said that all human actions can be governed out of a state of love or a state of fear. Fear of being rejected; fear of being abandoned; fear from harm. The dictionary definition is “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Indeed people prefer to not be afraid, of those things that terrify us and go bump in the night. Yet it is also most tied in the most basic of animal instincts, to cause fight or flight in a dangerous situation. To the Norse Vikings, fear was simply a tool to be harnesses. Every man has it, the question is what you chose to do you do instead.
Yet through it all, we learn to trust. The dictionary again defines trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.” As an intangible quality, trust found in a relationship binds people together and must be slowly earned over time, via day to day experience. Trust also creates a position of weakness and we reluctantly grant it to others. And of course, for perhaps our own safety, trust has its limits. So what happens when we begin to fear the people at one time we had fully trusted?
There are always situations beyond our control, we fear this, but shake it off and trust in time it will all work out all right. Or in other situations, we trust others will protect us from our fears. The English philosopher John Locke was first to propose the idea of a social contract between those in power and the masses. The masses grant them the authority to control us or act on our behalf, with the understanding that we trust them to act on the publics best interests. This in essence was the basis of modern government and if we begin to fear them, then we the masses always retain the right to rebel.
In a City of Heroes, the public is under relentless threats with out the power to defend itself. They trust the heroes to act on their behalf and provide protection against the combined forces of villainy which would do them harm. Some how the citizens make it work and live out their day to day lives, or perhaps it is merely the only choice they have else be completely consumed by the fear of such threats. In this spirit, these heroes become more than just individuals with immeasurable powers, but icons of goodness, protection, and the best traits human begins have to offer: the willingness to sacrifice towards the benefit of another.
Many might ask why he would do it, why Graphite would risk becoming someone to be feared and in essence become in the perspectives of others a dangerous villain. Much like Lex Luther, Superman’s most famous villain, People naturally hate those that have untamed power over them than cannot be controlled. How can you trusted someone who ultimately isn’t human? Others more over still continued to never see Graphite’s action as a problem. They continued that trust, for they feared Crey Industries actions more, and felt he was still acting with the best interests in mind. Yet blind trust can be as dangerous as unconditional fear, for absolutely power corrupts absolutely. Thus conflict begins to fester, and violence always has a cost.
The reason a man acts might be hopelessly complex with out one simple answer. Indeed there may not even be a good reason, riding on gut, instinct and emotion. For Graphite and his raids, it can be boiled down to this: he thought was doing the right thing; action was more important than inaction and hoping to show that with enough energy even one man can make a difference. Make a loud enough shout it will scream through out the ages. Yet in such a manner, it violated public trust and the consequences were severe.
Held by secret military tribunal as an enemy combatant, Peter Thompson was convicted of Corporate Terrorism and actions unbecoming of a Hero, a controversial decision and many questioned the motives of our government or that all details were properly disclosed along with maintaining the rights of the accused. Further, Graphite’s status over the following year became one of mystery, subject only to the facts of hearsay and rumor. Some believed he was placed in special protective prisoning, others a victim of evasive tests to reverse engineer his abilities, perhaps self imposed exile such as temporal stasis, or possibly even recruitment into the Malta Group which they orchestrated from the beginning. No one knew for sure and all of it could be reasonable. What was certain is that the City would be forced to carry on with out him as times continued to get worse, as numerous collections of villainy and diabolical plots began to rise with in the Rogue Isles. In all respects, they would have thrown away the keys. However in truth, Graphite would still be needed for sometimes all we need is a little help from our friends.
The Future is Ours: Eidolon Eight
It is interesting that history seems to continually repeat itself. Evil begins to fester, becomes a threat to the safety of others, Good takes the call to action and battles Evil, Evil is defeated by Good but is not eliminated, Evil begins to bide its time till it can rise again. This forms an endless cycle through time, documented in every thing from classical literature to personal experience, making it perhaps the greatest reoccurring theme in the psychic of mankind. We want to believe that Good will defeat Evil, that some will always stand to face it: the classical modern use of the word “Hero.” Yet we also know that qualities of Evil such as greed and cruelty can never truly be stamped out for they exist first and wholly in the minds of men. Many would say it is an unwinnable battle. Many would also say that Good doesn’t always win, justice is not always served. So why do we continue to fight? Why continue an endless struggle? Why, why, why stand for something perhaps meaningless and futile?
To quote the Matrix: “It’s because we choose too.” Hope: the ultimate human delusion. In the end a blind belief that through our struggle, every thing will work out for the best. For those with every thing lost and nothing to gain, it becomes a fundamental need. Simply put, without hope during the dire effects of conflict people have shown through their melancholy to give up, face death and die. It is a key trait for our survival as a species: “fight on, never give up.” “Hope for the best; expect the worst.” “Hope that tomorrow will bring about a better day.” Our language is laced with the metaphor that those who have hope also have the will to live on in order to see a better tomorrow.
More to Come
Hero on the Frontline
Epilogue: Sunrise - Sunset