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The eXceptionals, Earth's premiere group of superheroes, stand ready to battle those who would bring ruin to their world. Whether against the worldshattering madness of the first mutant Apocalypse, an invading galactic Shi'Ar empire or the meta-threat known as The End, the eXceptionals will stand their ground and prevail against any odds!
This is a private campaign, based on the Marvel Superheroes first edition rules released by TSR, enhanced with an assortment of houserules. It started in 2003 and went on vacation some two years ago. It combines aspects from the Marvel universe with such diverse settings as the J-rpg series "Final Fantasy", the D.C. comicbook universe, the Hellraiser movies, Cthulhu mythos, Anime series and anything else that strikes the GM's fancy.

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Ichabod at a feminist rally
"no no... saucy wench is meant as a compliment...It's a maiden who is thought to be sassy .... savvy? ...."

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Just a story II
Morgan fell silent for a moment, rubbing her eyes with both hands as if she had just woken up, but before Betsy could say anything she said "I, ehm. They tested those new TransMats today. Needed a volunteer. My shift had just ended so, I thought I might as well. I mean, if anyone stands a chance of surviving a misfire, it would be me, right?"
Betsy nodded, not sure what to make of this sudden shift in direction. Then her friend continued: "I asked them to transport me to Knightsbridge. It would take them an hour or so to analyze the jump, so once there I would have some time to myself. I used it to visit my parent's old estate there."

"It wasn't breaking and entering, not really. It's owned by a group of trustees these days, but I am still the settlor." Another nod.
"I wandered the rooms and hallways, but only their layout seemed familiar. The shrouded furniture made it seem as if I had entered a-", she hesitated before forcing herself to finish her sentence, "a mausoleum instead of my home", her voice almost becoming a whisper in the end.
"Oh Morgan," said Betsy, and gently put her arms around her friend. For a while they both were silent.
"Come, I'll prepare you some tea, guaranteed to bring that famous smile of yours back," she said after a while, but Morgan kept her from getting up. "No. No, I'm alright. I just want to finish this. I'm alright."

There was a box of tissues on the nightstand, and she used up a few before she continued. "Next I visited one of the attics, the one where my parents kept the stuff I didn't want or need anymore as I grew up. It held many nice memories for me, and for a short span I felt better. But then I stumbled upon that chest." Again a pause. "I had to force the lock," and she flit an apologetic smile towards Betsy, "then when I opened it there were a little girl's dress and a satchel inside, both tattered and stained. It wasn't with dirt. The satchel was badly ripped but it still held it's compliment of picturebooks, pencils and a sketchbook."
Morgan looked about her until she spied the crumpled note that she had dropped onto the blanket earlier, and slowly picking it up she carefully proceeded to straighten out the piece of paper.

"There hadn't been many drawings in the book, probably an afternoon's worth." Without really looking her friend's way she handed the still slightly crumpled sheet over to Betsy. "This was the last one I had done. I don't think he ever saw it."
It was a child's drawing that Betsy found herself holding in her hands. It depicted a family of three, father, mother and their young daughter. The creased paper and the traces of crayon had a slightly aged feel to them, giving the whole a certain degree of frailty. The tearstains were obviously recent additions, though. For a moment Betsy couldn't think of anything to say. And when she spoke, it was with a nervous, tremulous quality to her voice. "Morgan dear, you are scaring me just a little bit here. Won't you tell me what happened? I mean, tell me without the theatrics and the stories?"

"I can't." A sidelong glance. "I don't remember anything else. That Sinister fellow told me that I had died when I was young, and- and that I was brought back into this world through some sort of ritual. When I confronted master Stone with that story, he- he confirmed it, damn him! He said yes, it's all true!"
Anger flared inside her of a sudden, but when she saw her friend recoil from her she felt herself grow very weary, as if all her anger, all her energy had drained away in an instant. "I'm sorry Betsy, I never meant to-" but Betsy didn't allow her to finish. "It's alright love. It's just that I've never seen you angry before, and considering what I've just heard that's a bleeding miracle! I know you're not angry with me, so don't worry about it, alright?"
She waited for Morgan to nod, then she said: "Now get on with it, you silly goose! If I had known you could be this long-winded I never would've allowed myself to become your friend. A body needs its sleep, you know."

Morgan smiled sheepishly. "I guess you're right. Here's the deal, then. I had wanted him to deny everything. I needed him to. Instead, he revealed that the Hand had taken an interest in me when they had heard of my father's plight." Betsy didn't seem to comprehend. "It was the Hand who gave me my life back." Now understanding seemed to dawn in her friend's eyes. Understanding, and sympathy. Still she kept her silence, waiting for a sign from Morgan that she had told all there was to tell.
"It was because of their interest in me that the Chaste -that's the very secretive order of warrior-whatever that master Stone belongs to- that they started to observe me as well. But according to master Stone they never found out what it is exactly that the Hand hoped to achieve by giving me-" and once more she finds herself struggling to find the right words, though it's not the words themselves that cause her to hesitate, but what they might possibly entail. "Giving me my life back," she finally finds the strength to whisper.

"The only distinct memory I used to have of that night is of me cradled in my father's arms as we approach the portico, with a sparkler in my hand and my mother herself opening the door to the hallway, her eyes reflecting the little stars that sprang from my hand. I never understood why she had been crying."
"My father had told her a truck collided with the Jaguar whilst we had been shopping for fireworks. The Police and insurance had taken hours to settle, hence our late return." She shrugged and had to stifle a yawn before finishing, "I don't think she believed it. Not for a second. She never complained though."

They spoke a while longer, but the hour was late and the ordeal had left Morgan feeling physically drained. After Betsy had poured her some tea and had spoken some comforting words they both agreed that a good night's sleep would see them both fit to continue exploring these revelations a bit further in the morning. They bade one another good night and as Morgan drifted away into dreamless sleep she imagined she could hear a static-filled song playing over a pair of old speakers, saying:
"Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
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Just a story
Betsy looked up from her book on U.S. history when Morgan slipped into bed next to her. "My, I didn't even notice you entering the room dear. This Zinn writes in such a compelling manner it's hard not to get drawn into his stories. Guess I'm lucky you're not one of those ninja ey, going 'round hurting those the Malignant One might care about?"
A delicate smile had played on her lips, but they quickly took on a sterner cast when she took a closer look at Morgan. Her friend appeared lost in thought, giving no indication of even having heard her purple-haired companion. Instead, she was looking at a crumpled up note that she held in her hands.

"Morgan," Betsy said, while gently tapping her on the shoulder, "are you feeling well?"
This startled her friend slightly. "What? Well? Of course I do, why shouldn't I," she blurted, "I was just-"
She stopped midsentence, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Seconds passed before she let out a drawn-out sigh, a gust of breath to take away all tension and anxiety she only just now realized she had been experiencing. When she opened her eyes, she could see her friend's face through some wayward strands of her black hair. "Would you mind terribly if I were to tell you a story, Betsy," she quietly asked.

Betsy shrugged in a theatrical, non-commital way, took up her bookmarker and with a flourish put Zinn aside. "Shoot," she said with a smile, "just as long as it doesn't involve my brother, you tend to lose even the minuscule amount of sense you pretend to possess whenever you start babbling about him. You know it embarrasses him to no end whenever I mention your undying, almost zealous devotion to him?" At that Morgan gasped in mock horror. "You haven't told him, have you? You wouldn't dare!" A wicked smile was all the answer she got from her friend. "Some friend you turn out to be," she said sulkingly. "Keep that up, and I'll be forced to inform Shin on the content of all those other dreams you've been having of late." This time it was Betsy's turn to appear panick-stricken. "But I haven't had any dreams about him! And besides, how do you know?" Then it seemed to dawn on her. "Oh, I see. Touché. Just get on with your story already, will you?" Morgan nodded, and as Betsy settled comfortably into her pillow she began to tell her tale.

"It must've happened almost sixteen years ago. The snow had begun to come down the week before but it had been nothing like the storm that now raged across the Isles. New Year's Eve would be a quiet one if it would not wind down soon." Morgan cleared her throat, gathered her thoughts and began her story in earnest.

"The little girl had been five. To be more precise it had been the evening of her fifth birthday, and her father had finally arrived home again from one of his many trips overseas. All day long she had been anxious, fearing that some event or other might prevent him from making good on his promise to see her on this very special day. She might've been young still, but she was getting to be old enough to start putting value in these small social contracts."

"Her father had arranged to come and pick her up after preschool had finished for the day, but sadly the fierce storm had delayed his flight, causing him to arrive late, and the girl had whiled away the time she spent waiting for him with drawing her father a family portrait. When he finally did arrive she was so excited that she forgot to hand it over to him though, and it remained in her little satchel until-- well, until very much later, I'm afraid to say."

Betsy was attentively listening to her friend's story. She knew that something had been bothering Morgan these past few weeks, but apart from some cursory remarks she had not dared to thoroughly probe her friend as to the cause of these troubles. She knew Morgan would confide in her when she felt ready to.

"Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe.
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"Wait for me"
Flocks of snow drifted slowly in and out of the cones of sodium illumination outside the windowpane. No soul seemed willing to venture outside on this cold winter's night, lending the street Will's home stood on an air of desolation. The snow seemed to smother everything in a blanket many inches deep, evoking within Morgan the image of a shroud clinging to the hollow contours of a life long since departed. With a sigh, she rearranged the old blanket that Will had scrounged up for her around her shoulders, and tried to settle comfortably into the large lounge chair that she had pulled up to the window earlier that evening.

The bell of a nearby church tower lamented once then fell silent, as if shame at having desecrated the hallowed stillness had taken away its will to chime. It was no use. She had been determined to finish up her report on recent events this evening, but once again coherent thought eluded her. The same malady seemed to take hold of her mind every New Year's Eve, for as long as she could recall. But this time New Year had come and gone three days ago, yet still the fog refused to lift.

It felt as if she was moving through a world trapped in shades of grey, with no firm boundary between the reality outside of her and the demons within. Memories drifted in and out of focus, pieces of a life she was supposed to have lived. And once, just once, the grey had given way to a vision of purest white, and she thought she could feel little flocks of cold touch her skin as she lay there, the warmth flowing from her body. It reminded her of the little twinkling stars of a sparkler slowly winking out and that had made her sad.

The cat stretched its paws out wide and alternately plunged his nails in Morgan's flesh or retracted them completely. She did not recall the cat settling in her lap. Nonetheless she welcomed the sharp, short bursts of discomfort, it allowed her to once more try and read the book she had taken home from the library that afternoon. Konstantin Simonov, it said on the spine. They were translations of his poems, and her father had been very fond of the Russian. With one hand she kept the book from sliding to the floor while with the other she caressed the soft, furry creature that lay purring in her lap.

Will found her early the next morning, bunched up in one of his old chairs with the cat still curled comfortably inside one of the disheveled blanket's folds. It looked up expectantly when it heard Will enter, and after it had moodily yawned it jumped down to the floor and sauntered out of the room, knowing that food would soon be brought to it in the kitchen. Will lightly touched the back of his hand to Morgan's forehead. After three days and three nights her fever had finally broken. Relieved, he tidied the blanket about her peacefully breathing form when his attention was drawn to the book she must have been reading. Stains had blurred the ink of some of the letters on the pages shown, but the damage was slight. It read:

"Wait for me

Wait for me, and I’ll return
Only wait very hard
Wait when you are filled with sorrow…
Wait in the sweltering heat
Wait when others have stopped waiting,
Forgetting their yesterdays.
Wait even when from afar no letters come to you
Wait even when others are tired of waiting…
And when friends sit around the fire,
Drinking to my memory,
Wait, and do not hurry to drink to my memory too.
Wait. For I’ll return, defying even death.
And let those who do not wait say that I was lucky.
They never will understand that in the midst of death,
You with your waiting saved me.
Only you and I know how I survived.
It’s because you waited, as no one else did.

Nodding to himself he got up and sauntered over to the kitchen, ready to attend to his other guest's needs. Erzulie has her work cut out for her with this one, he thought.
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And Ellory makes three
"What the fuck did she do that for? Ellory, quit fucking laughing at me, this isn't funny!"
Elijah thought it prudent to intervene on Ellory's behalf, after all it wouldn't do for Gregory to alienate their second-most valuable asset. Again.
"Latte to go! I figured you more the black -hold the sugar, sugah!- type, Greg. By the way, could you stop dribbling all over Ellory? I mean I know you dig her and all, but-"
"Man, shut the fuck up! This is just- it's fucked up, that's what it is. I mean what, is she compliment-retarded or something, that crazy-ass bi-"
"Yeah yeah, why don't we talk about it later? After you've gone and cleaned yourself up? I mean, talk about a facial..."
With Gregory stomping off towards the restroom Elijah picked up a bunch of paper towels and mopped up most of the detritus from Morgan's rather blatant answer to Gregory's advances. Hearing the restroom door slam behind him he glances over at Ellory. For a moment both are silent, then laughter fills the Coffee Bean. It is Ellory who manages to control her mirth first.
"So. You still hanging with that looser?"
"A friend's a friend, Ellory."
"Sure. Then why didn't you warn him, being friends and all? It wasn't all that hard to guess what the two of you were discussing at the door, y'know. I mean, you've spoken with her, you know her take on -quote/unquote- "superheroes"".
Elijah couldn't help but grin. Pointing at the seat just vacated by Morgan, he said: "I'm irritable today, what can I say? This seat taken?"
Ellory shook her head. "Not anymore."
"Then don't mind me," and as he sat down he could not help but notice the comfortable residual warmth of the seat's previous occupant. "Anyway, I tried to tell him, but you know how Greg can be when..."
He mimed an ample bosom on himself and pursed his lips.
"-Every- girl knows. Son of a bitch had it coming -a- -very- -long- time, I can tell you that. Frankly, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner."
"Yeah, well." Elijah shrugged, not wanting to be forced into defending Gregory's behavior, because as far as he was concerned, there was no defense. "So, what do you think of Miss high and mighty? You got close I take it. She for real?"
"You're kidding, right? Sure she's genuine! Either that, or Hollywood is missing a celluloid angel!"
"You certain? We can't afford any slip-ups. That whole Bushwhacker thing has made our agenda somewhat unpopular, to put it mildly."
"I know, Elijah. I'm not your brain-dead catcher friend, in case you haven't noticed."
"Never mind, I'm being an asshole. It's just that we're down to four members. Worse, funds are low, we're approaching rock-bottom. If the server goes offline, we might as well call it quits."
"Morgan's loaded."
"Morgan hasn't proven-"
"Yo! I figured out what it is, Eli!"
"Greg, not n-"
With what he hoped looked like a carefree flourish he sat down opposite Elijah, next to Ellory, and with a self-satisfied smile on his face Gregory in one fell swoop repaired the dents Morgan had administered to his ego.
"She's a dyke!"
Ellory's expression was a master-class in incredulity.
"What? You think I'm fumbling or something? What, what, what?"
"If she's gay then I'm mother Theresa, Greg. She's got a boyfriend in Tibet, she was just telling me about him when you showed up."
This visibly piqued Elijah's interest.
"It sounds about right..."
Ellory gave him a frown. "What, she having a boyfriend? You told me about that yourself!"
"Ah- no. Well, I did, but I didn't know anything about Tibet. But I did some research after seeing her paintings, and they were certainly not Japanese in style, and not quite Chinese. But perhaps some Tibetan influence... didn't think of that. What else?"
"Let's see. What we didn't yet know: Trip to Tibet, parents die in accident. Blames her government, says the accident was really an incident involving a government-supported metahuman. Stays in Tibet for three years-"
At that Elijah finds himself letting out a drawn-out whistle, but much to his saccharine so does Gregory. He hates it when that happens.
"I'm sorry," he says, "do go on, please."
Ellory flashes him a quick smile, just to let him know it's okay.
"That's it. The rest confirms what she told you. Heard about senator Kelly, came to America hiking on a friggin' freighter, and now she's trying to fit into Western society again."
"That's all very fascinating an' all, but I have the feeling you left out the most important part, L." Gregory gave her his best innocent look, but Ellory didn't have none of it. She hated the dumb fuck, and she hated him even more when he reduced her name, reduced her, to merely one fucking letter.
"Shut the fuck up, Greg, nobody's interested in your infantile wisecracks. And the name's Ellory, you fucking jock."
"Oooh, hissy fit," went Gregory, miming a cat clawing at some unseen prey, "but you know what I'm getting at, don't you, L? I bet she tried to 'get it on' with you, and you're just pissed I dropped by and blew your chances!"
Ellory wished she still had her latte, but thinking about the reason why she was without a drink calmed her down considerably, and she even managed to smile sweetly at Gregory, picturing him sitting there covered in milky froth and brown slush. With a warmth in her voice veiling the cold feelings underneath, she made it sound as if she was complementing him on his astute observation. "You know what, you must be right. Every girl who ever gave you the shoulder must be a lesbian! I didn't think it possible, but you're getting more pathetic by the day." The last she managed to spit out in a decidedly less friendly tone of voice.
Confused by Ellory's smile and intonation, it took Greg a while to parse her words. Just the opening Elijah needed to try and get the meeting on track again.
"Ellory, did you just say she came over here on a freighter? Why would she do that, she is supposed to be loaded!"
"She is, but she isn't touching any of it. Something to do with her time at the monastery. Still, she hinted at the possibility that if the right incentive came along, she might be willing to activate her assets."
"I'll activate her assets alright, heh heh."
If Elijah had nerves as strong as a certain Man of Steel, then to his utter amazement he found Gregory's remark to be as effective as Kryptonite in cutting right through them. Elijah snapped, and with a voice embarrassingly fraught with emotion, he spit out: "Gregory, you either shut the hell up, or you walk out that door right now. This is what we've been waiting for, and-"
"Heh heh, it su-"
"I haven't finished yet, Gregory," Elijah found himself spitting at his friend, "-Don't- fucking interrupt me!"
With a stunned expression on his face, Gregory for once decided that prudence might indeed be the better part of valor, although he couldn't fathom the why of Elijah's sudden outburst.
Forcing himself to calm down, Elijah continued in a somewhat strained tone of voice. "Alright. Look. Both of you, this is what we've been waiting for. We got the will, we got a few good men-"
"And a gorilla," Ellory managed under her breath. Somehow, it was always much less bothersome when Ellory interrupted him.
"A few good men, but no means. With her at our side, with her 'assets'," and he gave Gregory a glowering stare, but his friend seemed too cowed to dare utter even a single syllable, "we could finally get our message out."
"So how about it, Ellory? Think you could get her to attend our next meeting?"
"Think so. Seems she's eager to make some friends, you know. She knows Bianca, that Comms Major that every guy seems to have the hots for, but that's it. Anyway, I'll ask her tomorrow, we're doing lunch together."
"At the Bean?"
Ellory shook her head. "No, she invited me over to her place. She's staying with a friend, but she's out of town for now. Says she doesn't like it when it's too quiet around the house."
"That's good." Elijah thought for a moment, then gave them both their instructions. "Ellory, try and get her to loosen up a bit, perhaps get her to go out and have a couple of drinks or something. We need to be certain of this. Let me know how it went, but don't tell her about our little group just yet. And Greg?" Gregory looked over at his friend, still a bit uncertain about the mood Elijah was in. "You have two days to come up with a foolproof way to make your apologies to Morgan. Make it believable, because if you fuck this up, you're out."
Gregory began to open his mouth, but whether it was to protest or brag, Elijah couldn't care less. He cut him off before he could even finish one syllable. "No fuck ups. You know how important this project is to me. You're a good friend and I've known you for years, but fail me now and I'll never forgive you. Ever."
Gregory was quiet for a moment, then with a curd nod assured his friend he understood. "I won't fuck this up Elijah. I promise."
Elijah put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "I know, Greg." Then making sure he had both their attention, he said, "Let's do this. Soon, we'll have the means to rid this whole campus of the filth that has been hiding within our midst for far too long. And one day, not even those eXceptionals will be safe from our just cause." He paused, then held his right hand floating a couple of inches above the middle of the table, and solemnly said: "Homo Sapiens Laurifer." Catching their eye, he waited until they too had held out their hand and repeated their creed. "Next meeting in seven. And you two better make sure she's here, or don't bother showing up at all. I'm off to inform our benefactor. Dismissed."
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