NIGHTSHADE

Scarred by violence, forever changed by a man-made virus, and cursed by Fate, Nightshade is a jaded vigilante that walks down a path that is eternally stained with blood and strewn with corpses

Description:

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“I have become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds”

NIGHTSHADE

“From the darkness I strike. Fast and lethal.
And by the time my foes can react … darkness there and nothing more.”

The young woman who came to be known as the Nightshade sees herself as an example of evolution gone wrong. Putting trust in her strength alone, her only instinct is to fight and to survive, while leaving the weak to perish. She lives by no one’s law and she follows only one simple rule.

Kill or be killed.

Her innocence and childhood was lost long before all semblance of a normal life was taken away from her and then she began her existence as a death-dealing machine of vengeance. She accepted it as her ultimate path in this reality. In her troubled mind, she believes that it is her Fate to forever climb mountains of corpses, wade through endless rivers of blood and linger in a world where no light shines and where even shadows fear to tread.

Primary Abilities:

Fighting : Incredible (40)
Agility : Amazing (50)
Strength : Remarkable (30)
Endurance : Remarkable (30)
Reason : Excellent (20)
Intuition : Amazing (50)
Psyche : Incredible (40)

Secondary Abilities:

Health : 150
Karma : 110
Resources : To be determined during introductory game
Popularity : To be determined during introductory game

Bio:

Gasmask
Nightshade is always prepared for the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.

Statistics:

Real Name : Marzanna (“Mara”) Kriegvogel
Current Alias : Nightshade
Other Aliases : The Deadly Nightshade, Marigold, Dark Hunter, Gothic Killer, Shroud, Black Goddess, Jacqueline the Ripper, Desert Rose, Winter Death, The Raven, etc.
Identity : Unknown to the public; real identity known to S.H.A.D.O.W. Company high command
Alignment : Unaligned
Affiliation : None; formerly S.H.A.D.O.W. Company, The Edelweiss
Relatives : Naomi Kriegvogel (Mother, deceased), Raymond Kriegvogel (Father, deceased)
Universe : Hero Television

Base of Operations: Usually mobile; currently Marikina City, Philippines

Age : 19
Gender : Female
Height : 5’11”
Weight : 145 lbs
Eyes : Storm Grey
Hair : Black
Measurements : She can tell you, but she’ll have to kill you

Nationality : New Zealander
Marital Status : Single
Occupation : Vigilante, survivalist; formerly mercenary / private military contractor
Origin : Human altered by viral agent
Date of Birth : 01st of November
Place of Birth : New Hamelin Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Likes : Heavy metal, darkness, ravens, dolls, solitude, gothic subculture
Dislikes : Zombies, bullies, sunlight
Theme Song : “Fade to Black” by Metallica

Powers (4/4) – Taken from the Ultimate Powers Book:

Regeneration/P9 – Amazing (50): Nightshade can rapidly recover from any wound. Cuts quickly close and disease symptoms disappear. She heals at an accelerated rate equal to the Power rank number times the normal amount of time. With time, she can re-grow large areas of lost tissue, especially severed limbs. Lost limbs or organs require a red FEAT. It cannot repair losses that result in death unless she is revived. If such a fatal loss and subsequent revival occurs, Nightshade requires life-support equipment to give her Power time to function.

Resistance to Mental Attacks/D14 – Amazing (50): Nightshade has increased resistance to attacks aimed at the mind and neural system. Such attacks include psionics, neural manipulation, and any other attacks aimed at the Psyche. It does not include emotion-based attacks or magical attacks.

Resistance to Physical Attacks/D15 – Remarkable (30): Nightshade has increased resistance to any physical attack. This includes brute force, chemical weapons, biochemicals, disease, hostile environments, and temperature extremes. She can ignore any physical attacks with Intensities less than the Power rank, and may reduce damage from higher-level attacks by the Power rank number.

Stealth/P12 – Amazing (50): Nightshade can move in ways that cannot be detected, whether while moving or if subjected to later tracking. When she uses Stealth, her rank is subtracted from the efforts of those detecting her.

Talents (4/4) – Taken from the Player’s Book:

Guns: Individuals without this Talent fire guns (all handguns, rifles, and submachine guns, including laser, stun. and concussion varieties) at their Agility rank. Nightshade can fire such weapons at +1CS.

Marksman: Nightshade gains a + 1CS to hit with any distance weapon that requires line of sight to hit (she could benefit when firing heavy artillery, but not when controlling a teleguided missile). Such a weapon in her hands does not suffer penalties to hit from range.

Martial Arts C: This form of martial arts concentrates on holds and escapes. Nightshade gains a + 1CS to her strength for Grappling attacks (including damage), a + 1CS to Strength for Escaping and a +1CS to Agility for purposes of Dodging.

Military: Nightshade’s extensive background with paramilitary organizations and operations allows her to have a +1CS to ALL FEAT rolls regarding military matters. These include knowledge in ambush, concealment, demolitions, heavy weapons, parachuting, radio communications, tactics, wilderness survival, etc.

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A rare sense of humor in the most unlikely places.
In the midst of a radiation fallout, Nighthshade makes the most of the situation.

What’s in a Name?

Marzanna was named after a Slavic goddess associated with death, winter and nightmares. Some sources equate her with the Latvian goddess Mara (Marzanna’s nickname), who takes a person’s body after their death. Some medieval Christian sources such as the Mater Verborum also compare her to the Greek goddess Hecate, associating her with sorcery. On the other hand, her surname, Kriegvogel, is a combination of two German terms. Krieg, which means “war”, whereas vogel means “bird”.

Whether it was by sheer chance or an example of Fate’s sense of humor, or whether such deities exist or not, Mara is very proud to bear the name of a goddess of death.

Background:

CURSED ARE THE MEEK

The girl who would be named Marzanna was born on the 1st of November to Raymond and Naomi Kriegvogel, a retired soldier turned corporate sales representative and an office secretary respectively. While the father, Raymond, was a German immigrant, her mother, Naomi, was a Filipina. Both relocated to New Zealand many years before, having moved from one location to another until they settled in the quiet island town of New Hamelin. The older Kriegvogels were happy, as any parents would be, expecting that their only child would play a role in the world once she grows up.

They were indeed correct in their assumptions, but not in a way they nor anyone else could have imagined.

From the day she first stepped out into the world, the seemingly frail, sickly and docile Marzanna (nicknamed Mara) was labeled as an underachieving eccentric outcast. Her constant daydreaming and lack of interest in her studies was often attributed by other people as laziness and irresponsibility but in truth she was deliberately holding back on her true potential and found joy only in the worlds created by her imagination. She grew to dislike all the high expectations laid upon her by her parents and only wished to live life quietly at her own leisurely pace.

She was nervous around other people and avoided them like a plague. Her first playground was the school library whereas her first schoolmates were the countless books in the history section. Mara’s teachers noted that she developed what they described as an “unhealthy” fascination towards books with graphic descriptions of war, particularly any document related to the First and Second World Wars.

When not in school, she would simply stay at home, locking herself in her room, spending time reading and daydreaming, and then emerging only when necessary. Like in school, she made no friends in her neighborhood and was always distant from her mother and father. Oddly enough, she developed a natural affinity for animals, befriending stray cats and dogs and releasing rodents caught in traps though ironically, her parents never allowed her to have a pet due to her serious allergies.

In light of all this, Mara seemed like a soul living in her own little world and totally devoid of emotion and life.

Her parents’ numerous attempts to alleviate her anti-social tendencies only helped reinforce them. They even thought of seeking psychological help for their daughter but never took the idea seriously until they discovered the eerie sketches in her room.

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The apparition known as Shroud. Also known as a young Marzanna’s “real” imaginary friend.

NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES

What they once thought were childish drawings showed chaotic and eerie battlefields that they found appalling due to the realism of the carnage and suffering portrayed. Most peculiar of all, was Mara’s sketches of a young woman with flowing dark hair and dressed in a black Goth style dress. When pressed, the youngster explained that the woman who called herself Shroud appeared in her dreams, and that she lived in a gloomy land covered in mists. Thinking that their daughter merely copied her drawings from history books as well as created an imaginary companion, her parents decided to let the matter rest.

What Mara did not reveal was that the scenes of violent battles came to her as flashes of images in her mind as if someone else’ memories have been forced upon her, whereas her friend Shroud visited her not only in the land of dreams, but during the waking hours as well. The fact that only Mara could see and hear Shroud did not bother her in the slightest. She actually preferred it that way. For the months to come, Mara would often visit the Fog World in her dreams just to visit the young woman in black whom she considered her only true friend. When alone, they would discuss various topics like two scholars, and both shared their joys and pains like two people who have known each other forever.

Such was the trust Mara placed in Shroud that she never thought ill of her and never questioned her nature or her motives.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN

Her eccentricities have long since made her the focus of many unkind rumors and thanks to her meek personality. She was the target of constant bullying though she never retaliated even in the light of the few physical attacks she received. Neither did she show anger when a student grabbed her sketchbook and tore some of her drawings to shreds, and laughed as Mara quietly gathered the pieces.

When asked by Shroud as to why she never fought back, Mara explained that her parents were against any form of violence and that one should bear such pain with dignity. It was a concept that irked the invisible being, leading Shroud to teach Mara how to intimidate those trying to bully her and even how to physically protect herself.

Everything Mara learned from Shroud came to the test on one gloomy afternoon when she took a route through a sleazy portion of the neighborhood and she happened along a group of street children abusing a stray kitten. The sight of the helpless animal being tossed and kicked around and its pitiful cries of pain struck a nerve within the young Mara, sparking off an emotion she had never truly felt in all her young life.

Anger. Sheer anger at all the bullies in the world came crashing down upon her like a tidal wave. Without another thought, she stepped forward…

When her vision cleared, she saw herself holding a shovel and around her, lay the mangled corpses of five children. She wondered where and when she had picked up the makeshift weapon, or what had actually taken place. Then instead of worrying about her injuries, she cradled the barely breathing kitten in her arms and ran. Her initial confusion was easily replaced by sadness when the kitten died. Then as she buried the poor animal in a park, she felt another emotion that seemed so strange yet strong to her. This time she felt sorrow, and just as tears flowed from her eyes, she swore he saw another vision of strands of black hair and a black dress swaying in the breeze. Mara thought that she could see Shroud smiling at her before she vanished.

When she returned home late that night, her parents’ concern turned to shock upon seeing her appearance. Bruised and bleeding on numerous places, her clothes filthy and torn and her face and hands covered in dirt, she appeared as if she came from a riot. Mara explained as honestly as she could, telling them that she had run into some troublemakers and had gotten into a fight, but was careful to leave out the gory details of her first act of murder. She also did not mention that she had dragged her victims to a nearby abandoned dumpsite and spent hours digging a hole that was wide and deep enough to bury all five bodies. Instead of the sympathy one would expect from a family, she only earned their ire.

As they scolded about her “uncivilized” behavior and why she cannot be like everyone else, deep inside Mara felt betrayed. No one cared when abuses where heaped upon her, yet when she retaliated in the name of a helpless creature, all of a sudden she found herself being labeled as the villain. Since then, she became even more distant from her mother and father, while her resentment towards what she now perceived as a society without justice rose close to the boiling point.

Sleep would not come to her that night as she contemplated on her experience. Though her childhood innocence was shattered, she felt no remorse for lives she had taken. Instead, there was only a sense of satisfaction that was both frightening and exhilarating. Just as she switched off her lamplight, the mysterious woman appeared at her bedside. With the loving touch of a mother, Shroud soothed the youngster with kind words and sang until the weary Marzanna fell asleep.

Then in a dream-like state, she heard the woman speak to her in a ghost-like voice that sounded like the winds passing through a graveyard. Her words to the young Mara were, “Be strong, little Mara. Don’t dwell on past mistakes. No matter how many times your enemies beat you down, all you can do is patch yourself up, become stronger and stand firm. Then you’ll be ready when the darkness comes.” It was the last time she ever encountered the woman whom she considered as her first true friend. Though Mara remembered the statement very vividly, she could not discern its meaning.

Unfortunately for her, as well as all of New Hamelin, she did not have to wait long to find out.

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One of the very few surviving photographs showing Nightshade during her
troubled childhood days.

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HELL

The darkness that Mara had been preparing for finally revealed itself in the form of a viral outbreak. It began in the water treatment facility of New Hamelin. Shady individuals were auctioning vials of an experimental drug when a firefight broke out. The details of the incident were unknown, except for the fact that the vials were shattered in the ensuing gun battle and some of the contents found its way into the town’s water supply.

Within hours, New Hamelin turned into a bloody warzone as the diseased townsfolk lost their higher sense of reasoning, their way of thinking dropped down to the most primitive levels which effectively turned them into violent, cannibalistic predators. The rarely visited backwater island town became permanently isolated when all communications was cut and power was lost, worsening the already adverse situation.

The young Marzanna Kriegvogel found herself thrown into something out of a horror movie, except unlike the other residents, she kept her cool and had no intention of becoming just another victim. She decided to put everything she had learned from her friend Shroud to the ultimate test. Instead of fear, she felt a childish excitement as she was finally able to strike out other people, and just like the five older children whom she killed years before, she turned even the simplest tools into lethally effective weapons. For the first time in years, she felt truly alive. Her eyes blazed with furious enthusiasm when blood and gore flowed, and her face beamed with a blissful smile for each person she messily killed.

As the crazed victims (dubbed as the Infected) quickly outnumbered the survivors and necessary supplies became scarce, Mara found it necessary to attack and kill uninfected people just to survive. Most disturbing of all, she felt nothing when she was forced to kill her infected parents when they tried to consume her. It was only then did Marzanna learn an important lesson that she would carry with her for the rest of her days.

Survival of the fittest. The strong live. The weak die. And with whatever means at her disposal, Mara had every intention of seeing the outbreak through. Shroud’s words echoed in her thoughts and although she never saw her ethereal friend since that fateful night years before, she felt her presence guiding her through this time of peril.

OPERATION PIED PIPER:
THE PURGING OF NEW HAMELIN

Two months would pass before the outside world realized that something was amiss and elements of the Australia and New Zealand Army, backed up by United States Marines would be sent in to investigate. However, another faction landed in New Hamelin much earlier. Black-clad mercenaries trained and equipped to operate in biological, chemical and radioactive warzones swept through the devastated town as part of their mission codenamed Pied Piper. They shot all infected residents that they could find and searched for untainted survivors. Those few that they located were put to the ground as well. At the same time, they efficiently wiped all traces of the virus.

Such was the trademark of the company known as SHADOW (Special Hunters for Apocalyptic Defense and Outbreak Warfare).


SHADOW Company mercenaries purging the town as part of Operation Pied Piper.

One particular squad happened upon the ruins of a shopping mall and what appeared to be the site of a last stand. The building was barricaded and strung with traps, and when they finally entered, they were surprised to encounter the then eleven-year-old Mara brandishing a bloodied axe. She looked none the worse for wear, and though she was covered in blood, she appeared to have no injuries whatsoever. All around her were the bodies of dozens upon dozens of afflicted townsfolk. The mercenaries were baffled as to how such a young girl could have survived for so long and against such tremendous odds.

Nearly maddened by hunger, thirst, exhaustion and pain after two months of fighting the Infected, Mara turned on the interlopers. They were given orders to capture her alive, a task of which they were able to achieve but not without much difficulty. Mara killed six SHADOW mercenaries with her axe before the rest had the common sense to step back and lob a volley of nerve gas and stun grenades. When those did not work, they were forced to make use of their firearms. The hail of bullets finally put her down, nearly reducing her to a bloody pulp, but her attackers were appalled to see that her terrible wounds healed at a superhuman pace. By the time regular military units arrived, the young girl had been restrained and whisked away. The rest of the town was completely purged by bullet, bomb and flame.

SHADOW Company’s extensive connections and wealth helped cover up the truth on everything that transpired, blaming everything on an accident involving a ship carrying toxic chemicals. The event would forever be known as the New Hamelin Incident. Apparently, it was not the first such outbreak that they have dealt with and neither would it be the last.

In the end, Operation Pied Piper was a success. Just like its medieval-era namesake, the town of New Hamelin was destroyed by a plague and then ceased to exist. Though Marzanna Kriegvogel was the only survivor from the town of several thousand, SHADOW Company made sure that all official reports stated that there were none.

It made a better lesson that way.

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The Xanathos. The symbol of SHADOW Company showing the biohazard insignia
superimposed with a world map and their trademark gas mask.

IN THE VALLEY OF THE S.H.A.D.O.W. OF DEATH

It was discovered that Marzanna Kriegvogel was infected by the virus but unlike the rest of the unfortunate residents of New Hamelin, she did not succumb to the ill effects. The virus did, however, alter her mind and body considerably. These changes include a significant enhancement of her strength, agility and stamina, as well as gaining a regenerative healing factor. As a result, she spent the next few years of her life (or perhaps, her existence) as the most prominent test subject for the secretive Private Military Corporation (PMC) known as SHADOW Company whose public face includes many well known pharmaceutical corporations.

These tests included further exposure to other experimental drugs and pathogens, artificial organ implantation, different forms of torture (including electrical shock and even being buried alive), and even gladiatorial-style fights against infected humans and bio-organic weapons in which Mara always emerged as the victor. The worst effects of these experimentations were enough to kill any normal human several times over and only Mara’s rapid cellular regeneration and her significant resistance to both physical and mental maltreatment kept her from dying, as well as going insane.

Despite the hardships inflicted upon her, she never grieved for her lost freedom. Instead, she bravely accepted it as just another act of cruel Fate.

She eventually grew into a strong young woman and rose through the ranks despite protests from some more radical members of the Company such as Timothy Randall “TR” Edwards, a Company field commander. From a test subject, she became an official employee while her enhanced physique and mental prowess greatly impressed her caretakers and she was inducted into the ranks of SHADOW Company’s mercenary army. Easily learning the skills of the mercenary trade, the then sixteen-year-old Marzanna became their youngest operative as well as the Company’s most cunning and merciless killer.

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Probably the last thing most of Nightshade’s enemies see …

THE BIRTH OF THE NIGHTSHADE

Mara would perform many of SHADOW Company’s (mostly unsavory) operations around the world. The Western Sahara War, the Ogaden War, the Soweto Uprising in South Africa, the Soviet Invasion of Aghanistan, and missions behind the Iron Curtain among others. This does not even include SHADOW Company’s private conflicts with other mercenary organizations, rival corporations and even rogue NEXTs (New Entities with eXtraordinary Talents) that have resulted in tremendous loss of life and property.

Her name and presence in SHADOW became synonymous to outright murder and brutality as she accepts the most dangerous operations against both human and monstrous enemies without question. She even took her love of killing and death to newer heights when she personally detonated a nuclear device that killed over a hundred thousand people in a plague-ridden city in the Middle East. Some say that she pushed the button without showing any degree of facial expression at all as if it was something she did everyday.

Because of the way she dealt with her horrible experiences, as well as being the first teenage girl in the Company’s employ, her supervisor and self-proclaimed guardian, Dr. Kimberly Anne Foxglove gave her the first callsign “Marigold”. In the language of flowers, Marigold means “pain and grief”. Marzanna herself was not impressed by the name as she thought it did not really suit her, especially when she found out its meaning. Nonetheless, she ended up accepting it, noting how good it sounded.

THE FRAGILE FLOWER

Some time later, Dr. Foxglove decided that her apprentice and surrogate daughter needed a partner. This did not suit well with the Nightshade, who having an extreme need for solitude, was very used to conducting missions on her own. She, of course, knew that she had no choice in the matter.

Her first meeting with the girl named Melanie Grace “Meg” Winters was akin to attraction at first sight. The moment she laid eyes on the shorter blond-haired teen, Mara was instantly smitten. To her elation, the feeling was requited as they realized they both had a lot in common. The most evident similarity was that Meg was also exposed to the same viral agent as she. And like Mara, she too survived an outbreak with permanent genetic changes to her body. Unlike Mara, Meg was badly traumatized by her unwanted transformation which nearly drove her to the point of suicide.


Anemone. Just another victim of cruel Fate.

Instead, Meg lapsed into a catatonic shock as if her mind had erected a wall that shut her away from the rest of the world. It was a condition that none of SHADOW Company’s best medicines and physicians could deal with.

During their introduction, Mara’s name was the first word that came out of her mouth after a long period of silence and soon after, their friendship blossomed beautifully. She was given the callsign Anemone which means “fragile, forsaken and unfading love” in the language of flowers due to her innocent beauty. For some reason, she also suffered from tuberculosis-like symptoms that not even her regenerative healing ability could remedy.

It did not take long for her and Marigold to become an inseparable duo, with Mara acting as the elder sister for the emotionally childish Meg, and dotted on her like the sibling she never had. Calling themselves the Edelweiss (Noble White) after a mountain flower with the same name, Marigold and Anemone became SHADOW’s foremost special operations team. They specialized in reconnaissance, sabotage, assassination and other similar military actions for the Company. Regardless of how objectionable or dangerous the mission was, neither of them gave a care as long as they were together. In fact, many employees of SHADOW even thought they made an excellent couple with Mara’s coldness and bloodlust being soothed by Meg’s patient, cheerful and soft-spoken nature. Just as Dr. Foxglove predicted, Meg’s pairing with Mara helped heal her numerous mental and psychological scars, while the seemingly inhuman Mara experienced new emotions that she could hardly conceal.

Except in blood relationship and name, both girls have virtually become sisters. Such was their closeness that they had adapted each other’s traits such as method of speech, talents and hobbies and even impersonated each other just to spite the other members of the Company. Despite being practically imprisoned in a SHADOW outpost, Mara and Meg still managed to bypass the installation’s formidable security on numerous occasions (and return) undetected just to go out on dates, much to the detriment of their employers.

The pair’s altruistic relationship went far beyond mere friendship and they ultimately became lovers. After being alone for so long and having felt alive only when facing death in the butchery of a battlefield, it was the first time that Mara felt true happiness, while the once catatonic and suicidal Meg felt the same. Both promised to stay alive as long as one needed the other, and they even joked about “eloping” and leaving SHADOW Company altogether!

However, cruel Fate once again had other plans …

THE FLIGHT OF THE WILD GEESE

The Edelweiss were not at all surprised when they were “loaned” to a rival PMC, Aegis Defense Services and their own mercenary group known as the Wild Geese. Such arrangements have been made before and both girls did not question their orders even though they were not privy to the full details of the unlikely joint venture. All they were told was that they have been hired to assist the Wild Geese in infiltrating Zimbabwe and rescue its (former) president who had been deposed in a coup. In exchange for restoring him to power, both organizations were promised a share in the country’s copper and iron ore export revenues as well as multiple other security and military-related contracts.

While Mara shrugged it off as just another mission, Meg was apprehensive with the knowledge that the former leader was a cruel dictator who made his fortune at the expense of his people. Nevertheless, they followed their orders as they (almost) always did.

The mission started off according to plan and ahead of the assigned schedule. While the Wild Geese performed most of the close wetwork, the Edelweiss provided sniper fire and heavy weapons support from a distance. Their help gained the admiration of the Wild Geese mercenaries who were at first skeptical of their abilities. At first, everything went smoothly as they successfully rescued the HVI (High Value Individual) but then came some unexpected orders that left the two young female mercenaries aghast.

The encrypted communiqué informed the Edelweiss that their mission parameters have changed. After making a separate deal with the current regime, SHADOW Company decided that they can save a lot more time and money by eliminating the former president and ending their alliance with the Wild Geese. With instructions to evacuate only themselves; they reached the extraction point where waiting SHADOW Company mercenaries fired on their shocked erstwhile allies. The artillery bombardment killed the HVI, some of the Wild Geese and a great number of civilians caught in the middle. Many more died when SHADOW mercenaries landed and gunned down each and every survivor indiscriminately.

It was then that Anemone made a fateful decision. After following every order given to her for so long, she finally felt that SHADOW Company had gone too far. She began shooting at the black-clad mercenaries, providing enough cover for the remaining Wild Geese to retreat, much to the Nighthshade’s astonishment. The latter tried to bring Anemone back to her senses but the other girl only replied that it was Marzanna who needed to wake up. Anemone then proceeded to join the Wild Geese with the intent of leading them to the safety and left a very much-stunned Marigold staring after her.

For the first time, Mara felt uncertain as her partner’s words about SHADOW’s treachery and what has become of them both rang in her ears much louder than any explosion. However, when Meg disobeyed orders and openly sided with a declared enemy of the Company, Mara knew that her partner was now a target. Even before the orders came and after having recovered from her initial shock, Marigold set off on her new mission.

To stalk, locate and then terminate her best friend.

LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD

After having lost most of their officers, the nearly leaderless Wild Geese mercenaries were left to die until the young blonde girl named Anemone stepped in. Despite their reservations, she proved to be a capable leader who kept the wits of the older men together and promised to lead them across the border to a neighboring country. For nearly a full week, Anemone led the remnants of the Wild Geese through hostile territory, fighting off attacks from regime’s military and their own hired guns. Despite taking some casualties, the ragtag group moved on. Anemone soon discovered that an unlikely but welcome ally was helping her and the Wild Geese.

Despite their falling out, Marigold had trailed the group from the shadows and aided them in their trek towards the border. A few times, the lovers communicated with their secret hand signals from a distance, knowing that unwanted ears would pick up any radio chatter. As much as both still shared their feelings for each other, both dreaded their next inevitable meeting.

As their enemies outnumbered and ultimately surrounded them, they found their chances of reaching the border hit rock bottom. After nearly losing hope, Marigold finds an abandoned airfield and leads Anemone and the Wild Geese towards it. At the same time, she assists them in fighting off the opposing force that was closing in.

A long and ferocious firefight followed, and though many of the Wild Geese were killed, the reunited Edelweiss made a reckless last stand to allow the survivors to board a decrepit but still-functioning cargo plane and escape. As swift, shrewd and deadly as the Edelweiss were when fighting from long ranges, they proved to be unstoppable juggernauts when thrown into close-quarters combat. As they ran out off grenades and gun ammunition, they switched to their various melee accruements and turned the battle into a bloodbath as they hacked through human bodies like two living scythes through wheat. The last thing their enemies saw were two girls with hateful violence burning in their eyes. Only their superb physical and mental prowess, coupled with their regenerative abilities allowed them to defeat the impossible odds arrayed against them.

Then just as quickly as the battle began, it was over. Hours passed until nighttime fell, winds blew the stench of death all across the land and vultures fed upon the hundreds of corpses that were strewn all about. More time ticked by before Anemone and Marigold finally stood up to face each other. Both were exhausted and covered with blood. The enemy’s blood as well as their own. Both bore hideous injuries that were still open and bleeding as their rapid healing powers were stretched to their limit. They stared at each other for a long time before Anemone spoke.

She asked Mara why she had helped her, as she was aware that her life was now forfeit. Mara claimed that her orders were to track and kill Meg and not the Wild Geese, so she aided Meg only to have the chance to face her alone. With her usual cheerful chuckle, Meg accepted her lover’s words and told Mara to “get it over with”. As if reading each other’s thoughts, both girls grabbed weapons from the fallen and with a simultaneous nod, their duel began.

Screaming each other’s names, they ran across the battlefield, firing their paired handguns at each other first before switching to their knives. Their blades caused considerable injuries to each other’s already torn bodies until the duel degenerated into a vicious hand-to-hand slugfest. With nothing but their bare hands, they clashed like two Titans on the field. Soon, Mara’s brutality, already fueled by anger and frustration, eventually gave her the upper hand over Meg who has already accepted her Fate.

Lying supine on the ground and helpless, Meg only smiled as Mara crawled up to her, raising her hand and ready to send her fingers into the blond girl’s eyes as the killing blow. Yet Mara hesitated, and for a few seconds, the cold-blooded killer that was Marigold suddenly transformed into the timid and docile child from long before who only wanted to have a friend who would accept and understand her. That very instant, she could not bring herself to kill that one person who took that role and filled the enormous void in her existence.

Suddenly, a shot is fired from behind. The high-caliber round nearly obliterates Mara’s heart and sends the raven-haired girl slumping down onto Meg. Crying and calling out to Mara and unsure whether she was dead or not, Meg looked up to see some SHADOW mercenaries standing over them before darkness claimed her.

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Gas masks are like guns.
It’s better to have one and not need it,
than to need it and not have one.

REVELATIONS

Some time later, the girls woke up in separate holding cells. It was then that their nemesis, Timothy Randall Edwards, revealed himself and explained the direness of their situation. Because of Anemone’s act of insubordination, her partner, Marigold had been tagged as a traitor and loose end as well. And since the Edelweiss were technically no longer part of the Company, they have been turned into measly test subjects once again. Both friends were forced to watch each other being cruelly tortured. Though Mara seemed to tolerate the pain up to the point of laughing about it, much to the exasperation of her tormentors, Meg soon came close to her breaking point.

Mara waited for an opportunity to escape which indeed came on one cold and dark night. She received some unexpected help from her guardian Kimberly Ann Foxglove who promptly unlocked her cell. Mara manages to overpower her guards and escape but at the cost of Dr. Foxglove’s life. After sneaking into the armory and carting off as many armaments as she could, Marigold throws away all sense of control and goes on a murderous rampage. Her frenzied spree kills a large number of Company soldiers and unarmed employees and only a few lucky ones escape. She locates Anemone in the laboratories, seeing that she has been very badly beaten and already close to death. Standing above her was TR Edwards who pointed one gun to her head, and another at Mara. Around them, were the strapped and unmoving bodies of young girls like themselves.

During the standoff, Edwards reveals to them that the virus that devastated New Hamelin was called Omega 666, and that it was an experimental substance created by SHADOW Company. He explains that SHADOW has always been anticipating a great upheaval that would lead to the destruction of the planet. To allow a select few to survive (namely themselves) they developed Omega 666 which was a chemical that was theoretically meant to alter a living body’s basic functions that will allow survivors in a post-apocalyptic environment to breath and ingest almost anything.

Edwards then admits that he and his followers secretly stole a number of Omega 666 samples and planned to sell them on the black market. However, unknown individuals attacked the meeting place. The unfortunate result was the release of the chemicals into the air and water and the transformation of the entire population of New Hamelin into crazed killers. Despite the loss of their grand experiment, SHADOW stumbled upon something much more important in return.

Mara, being the only survivor of the outbreak and the first to display the more beneficial effects of Omega 666, became SHADOW Company’s most important factor in their project known as SHARD (Superior Humanoid Automaton Rapid Development). Using Mara and Meg as focal points, other experimentations were made, mostly on young children in order to create the perfect soldier and assassin that can survive in almost any environment. He then tells them that aside from Mara, Meg was the only other child who survived the pitiless and excruciating process of being used as a guinea pig with her physical body still functioning and her mind still sane.

The arrogant SHADOW officer goes on to disclose that Meg was just a normal girl attending a school in Finland but ran away due to being sexually assaulted by her own father and brother, and the mental abuse reaped upon her by her mother. She lived as a vagrant until a slavery ring abducted her and was later acquired by SHADOW Company. Then to add more insult to injury, Meg was used for the Omega 666 experiments that turned each and every day of her existence into a living Hell. Only her fateful meeting and friendship with Mara prevented her from completely plunging her into the realms of insanity.

Having realized the true extent of Meg’s suffering, an enraged Mara attacks TR Edwards and despite being shot twice at point-blank range with his magnum, she hands him a horrendous beating, mostly with her portable spade. With one eye gouged out and nearly all the bones of his body broken or ground to dust, Mara crucifies him. She then picks up his magnum, places it in Meg’s hand and together, they send the last round into his head. With Edwards dead, the two Edelweiss were eager to make good their escape.

Mara, however, looked back at the bodies in the lair. All were unmoving but still alive. All had been terribly mutated or disfigured to some degree by Omega 666. All of them were experiencing pain that she nor Meg were willing to even imagine. Disgusted at the horrors inflicted upon the unfortunate girls, Mara takes it upon herself to execute each and every one of them as Anemone turns away. By the time she was finished, all two hundred or so test subjects have been put out of their collective misery.

Carrying the still conscious but weakened Anemone on her back, Mara makes her way to the outside and realized to her horror that the base was actually an abandoned and retrofitted oilrig in the middle of the ocean. Worst still, explosions suddenly tear through the structure as missiles from US Navy aircraft (such was the extent of SHADOW Company’s connections) find their mark. Unable to locate an escape vessel, the two girls take cover and stay in each other’s arms, intending to meet their fate together.

With her injuries too severe for her healing ability to cope, Melanie Grace dies with a peaceful smile etched on her face but leaves a very distraught and shaken Marzanna to cry over her lost love. Realizing that she cannot live in a world without her best friend and dear lover, Mara stays behind. Holding her hand and laying beside her, she closes her eyes as the rest of the oilrig explodes around her. Cradling Meg’s head to her chest and shedding tears, her last words were, “I regret nothing,” before a fiery explosion engulfed her. She felt glad that death had finally welcomed her.

Regrettably, the Grim Reaper was neither ready nor willing to accept her.


Marigold and Anemone during an operation in Pripyat, Ukraine - the site of the Chernobyl Disaster.

THE FOG WORLD

By all accounts, Marzanna Kriegvogel should have died and perhaps joined Anemone in whatever they considered as an afterlife. Instead, she awoke to find herself alone and walking across a cobblestone street. Looking at herself, she was surprised to see that she was whole and uninjured and that she was wearing the black Goth dress that she wore in her first Halloween date with Anemone. Not sure whether she was alive or dead, or whether she was awake or just dreaming, she explored what she believed was a deserted town almost completely obscured by a fog. The fog was so thick that she could hardly make up the details of the streets and structures although they struck her as somewhat familiar.

Mara breaks into an antique shop and steals two custom-made automatic pistols, and some time after that, she came upon an ominous building. In it, she saw as well as heard the first signs of life in the seemingly dead town. Sticking to the shadows, she gets a glimpse of several black-clad figures. In the middle was an operating table, not unlike the ones seen in a hospital’s emergency room. On that table was a girl. She hears the girl scream. It was a familiar scream. Anemone’s scream. And when Mara sees her lover being slowly cut with scalpels by the dark-clothed men, she charges in. With both pistols blazing hot lead, she mows down all of her targets.

When she checks on Anemone, she is horror-struck to see the girl transformed into glass. Inside that glass, a yellow and greenish substance seemed to flow through her like blood. She swore she heard the now crystalline humanoid speak in Anemone’s voice.

“This is Fate. My Fate. Your Fate. The Fate of all those who cross paths with you.”

Before the words could even register in Mara’s thoughts, the hollow glass statue that looked like Anemone shatters, spraying Mara and everything else with shards and the vile yellow-green liquid. For the first time in years, Mara felt enormously ill as her superhuman resistance to disease and toxins failed her.

For the second time, she brought herself out of unconsciousness but instead of a foggy world, she found herself in a hellish reflection of the town. It was dark. Buildings were burning. Dead bodies littered the streets. And this time, she was not alone.

Memories of her fight for survival during the New Hamelin outbreak came rushing back, but this time instead of the feral Infected she had faced when she was just eleven, she was confronted by hideous physical manifestations of everything she fears and hates. For what seemed like hours, days or even weeks, she fought a nearly endless and atrocious battle against monsters created from her own psyche including a dark version of Anemone and both their families. Undaunted, Mara fought the abominations with anything that came at hand, just as she against the Infected did all those years ago.

Tired but strengthened by anger, she bested every creature that came at her. All except one …

On the rooftop of a shopping mall, Mara battles a dark version of herself and is defeated. With a barbed harpoon still in her chest, she screams a curse at Fate and falls off the rooftop and into the cold darkness.

Marzanna wakes up again, but is befuddled when she sees that she had been sleeping at a child’s bedside. Unlike the other two worlds she had gone through, this third one most resembled the real world she was used to. She looked around and saw not just the usual items seen in a child’s bedroom, but also oddities such as rough drawings of battle scenes and a ghostly woman in a dress.

She looks back to the bed and sees the sleeping form of the young girl whose blankets seemed to conceal her face. Curious, Mara was about to reach forward and see who the little girl was when her eyes pass by the girl’s desk mirror.

She could not help but stare at the reflection. Moving with deliberate slowness as if time was playing tricks on her, she gets a good glimpse of herself in the mirror. Then it finally dawned upon her like a sudden flash of lightning. The woman who called herself Shroud … the woman whose very demeanor and attire inspired Mara to become what she is … the woman who visited and sang her to sleep when she was a child … the woman whom she had conversations with and who convinced her to be ready for what she called a “darkness” … the woman who inadvertently unleashed the virus that led to New Hamelin’s destruction was actually … herself.

In her shock, she failed to notice the girl - her younger self, wake up. As much as she wanted to run away in both anger and shame, Mara recalled the words of encouragement she gave to herself as the apparition she named Shroud. For some time after that, she would remain by her younger version’s side as both friend and advisor. She influences the once unassuming and meek younger Mara into becoming more aggressive which eventually leads to her take her first human lives. On her final night with Mara, she gives the cryptic and final warning that would allow the young Mara to survive the coming outbreak. With her task done, the older Nightshade smiles, stands up, and then walks out of the room of her lost childhood.

REIGN OF UNHOLY TERROR

After walking out of the room, she was met by the thick fog once again. When the fog dissipated, she found herself in an alleyway. She figured she was still in the Fog World until she heard a commotion ahead. A female voice grunting in fear and then pain. The sound of a body slumping unto the cold ground. The mocking laughter of male juveniles.

Advancing further, she arrived in time to see a group of young men in the motley of the street standing around the battered body of a decently-dressed old woman. Two of them were going through their victim’s purse when another spotted her. In their eyes, she was just another potential victim although her Gothic attire and her obvious lack of emotion took them aback.

The scene brought back flashes of images of five children mistreating a tiny kitten. That instant, Mara knew what to do. With her automatic pistols empty, she used her bare hands to dispatch of the miscreants in the most violent fashion she could think of. It was over in less than half a minute and the once arrogant and cocky punks were now lying broken on the ground, including one whose spinal cord she ripped out. She had failed to save the old woman but she did not care. As she stood there, she watched the blood of her victims pool all around her like a vast ocean. Combined with the knowledge that Anemone was gone forever and that she was alone in the world, Nightshade found her new calling.

Vigilantism. And so began her journey down a colder and darker path. So began the destructive cycle of intolerance, persecution and murder that would shake the foundations of every law-abiding community.

As much as she disdained society in general, Nightshade decided to focus on the criminal elements that all established authority could not (or would not) stop. After settling down in her current location (somewhere in Eastern Europe), she began her personal war through small and cautious vigilante actions such as intervening when she witnesses a crime (or what she perceives as a crime) being committed. However, she later began stalking her prey much more aggressively. Many local criminals disappeared outright, while those bodies that were discovered were horribly beaten and mutilated, some beyond any form of recognition. Many even whispered they were the actions of a real world vampire.

In order to sustain herself, Nightshade pilfered money, weapons, ammunition and other necessary items from various sources (such as commercial establishment, police armories and criminals) and made use of the least likely places as personal safe houses (such as sewers, derelict buildings, etc), but soon after, she began receiving funds and supplies from an unknown benefactor. This unlikely supporter also provided Nightshade with documents that allowed her to travel to different places around the world.

As she traveled from town to town, city to city, and country to country, she spread fear and death like a plague and then vanished as quickly as she came. Battles were waged in the form of open firefights or silently in the shadows with both evildoers and innocents caught in the crossfire. One of the most notable victims of Nightshade’s unchecked killing spree, were Anemone’s immediate family whom she blames for all the suffering her lover endured, as well as every member of the slavery ring that abducted her.

By the time her body count had rose to an unbelievable degree, Nightshade had battled (and slaughtered) a host of different enemies from common urban criminals such as street gangs, rapists, pedophiles, muggers, gun-running militias, corrupt police and psychopathic killers, to larger groups such as organized crime factions, drug cartels, white supremacist groups, religious cults, human traffickers and the like. She had even battled paranormal threats such as vampires, lycanthropes, demons, extra-terrestrials, wayward NEXTs and the occasional SHADOW Company kill-team and on occasion, their bio-organic weapons.

A few people dared call her a hero who works outside the confines of the law, while most see her as just another dangerous criminal. The religious see her either as an avenging angel or as a demonic entity unleashed. The superstitious believe that she is the ghost of a victim of a crime who has come back to wreck vengeance on those who wronged her. The various law enforcement agencies consider her as nothing more than a glorified serial killer.

In the criminal underworld, Nightshade has become a bogeyman, while the media was polarized due to conflicting views and they referred to her by a number of names. The Dark Hunter. The Gothic Killer. The Black Goddess. She was even called Jacqueline “Jack” The Ripper by the British press due to her extremely gruesome methods of killing. A rare survivor of one of her attacks even heard her say the word, “Nevermore”, prompting some members of the press to refer to her as The Raven, after the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Only a few (living!) individuals are aware of her “real” callsign as Marigold during her days as a SHADOW Company mercenary.

On a personal level, Mara could not care less about what other people thought or said about her and her actions but by then, she had also attracted the (unwanted) attention of NEXTs leaning towards both sides of the law. Through her skills, shrewdness and determination, she had escaped every attempt to both capture her and assassinate her, and had emerged victorious in many direct battles against much more powerful opponents.

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Nightshade proves that traditional zombies can make good shields.

A NEW BEGINNING

As careful and prudent as Mara was, her lucky streak did not last long. A long and arduous hunt for a group of serial killer NEXTs who called themselves the “Devil’s Rejects” led her to the Philippines and when Mara confronted them, she was nearly overwhelmed. Although she was able to dispatch all of her opponents, she was left a broken and bleeding wreck with injuries so horrid that her regenerative powers could barely cope.

After evading the police, Mara meets (and nearly kills) a college student named Joel Chavez. Seeing the young raven-haired girl not as the dangerous killer that he had heard about but as someone in need of help, Joel takes the badly hurt Mara into his home and successfully hides her from her pursuers. It took Mara almost two days to recover fully and during that short span of time, she found an unlikely ally and kindred spirit in her host.

Learning that Joel was a loner, an anti-social outcast and held mostly the same interests as her, Mara saw him as different version of herself, and despite their rough first meeting, she grew fond of him. It was a feeling she had not encountered since she met (and lost) Meg, but was quick to hide it. She also learned that Joel had lived alone for years ever since his parents died in a terrorist bombing, and he declared that her coming to his home and his life was the best thing that has happened to him.

At present, the raven-hairedm stormy-eyed beauty continues to live alongside Joel as his unseen home partner, ironically performing the same role she did as an imaginary friend to her younger self. She stays mostly in his basement during the day where she spends her time training, stockpiling ordnance and resting, and then comes to the upper floor only at night. She admits that she enjoys Joel’s cooking, as well as engaging in activities she used to do with Meg such as playing videogames, boardgames, roleplaying games, etc. She and Joel even play music and sing songs together which are the very few times she is seen smiling and laughing.

Yet in the light of the sense of normalcy she has experienced in Joel Chavez’s home, Mara could not (or would not) suppress her urge to go out into battle again. Despite her previous setbacks and numerous close calls, she continued her vigilante mission while using Joel’s humble abode as a temporary safe house. She would leave his place unseen in the dead of the night, and then return at a much later date when her hunt was finished. Joel, in turn, did not mind her nocturnal ventures which at times made the news, while Mara felt more at ease with the young man being around after living alone for so long.

She knew that until she could find a more suitable base of operations, she could not move as freely as she did in the past, knowing that she might place her new friend’s life in jeopardy - the very first time she had felt the desire to protect someone ever since Meg’s demise. Things took a complicated turn when she realized that Joel had already fallen for her and despite her deliberate (and sometimes violent) attempts to push him away, his feelings did not change.

Then one day, she finds an envelope on her basement bedroom with her original callsign on it but bearing no return address. Opening the envelope, she finds a typed message inviting her to the upcoming Hero TV contest. Along with it, was the guarantee of sponsorship from different companies as well as the promise of material reward. Finding this sudden proposal all too good to be true, and knowing that she had been compromised and with the threat on Joel’s life now much greater than ever, Mara wonders who could have learned of her whereabouts as well as their motives.

Her unknown benefactor who had been inactive ever since she stayed in Manila? One of the criminal organizations that she had crossed swords with in the past? A NEXT with a bone to pick with her? Worse still, it could be SHADOW Company coming back to haunt her like a vengeful spirit. Just the same, Nightshade decides to prepare for the worse and even thinks of leaving Joel’s home permanently, a scenario that was much more preferable than seeing him die just as Anemone did.

After confiding with Joel, it was then that the young man suggested that Mara take a new callsign to help disguise her true identity from her ever increasing number of enemies. After a (nearly violent) discussion, Marzanna finally chooses the flower called “Nightshade” as her new nom de guerre (name of war). In the language of flowers, “Nightshade” means truth, whereas the “Deadly Nightshade” stands for silence. Though the former meaning is highly unlikely for someone like Mara, she accepted it because she admitted it sounded better than “Marigold” and that it represents the acceptance of her troubled past. The latter meaning, however, perfectly suits her often quiet demeanor and stealthy approach to combat.

Whether she would return to the clutches of SHADOW Company, forcibly or otherwise, or should she accept the far fetched invitation to appear on Hero TV remains to be seen.

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Mara reminisces about her days with SHADOW Company.
She always volunteered for the most dangerous missions and sometimes in the
most biohazardous locations in the world.

Appearance and Personality:

Marzanna Kriegvogel possesses a form of beauty built upon youthfulness, composure, tranquility, self-possession and loveliness. She stands at roughly five feet and ten inches, a feature that often makes her stand out especially in some countries. She is gifted with a figure that is neither voluptuous nor skinny. She has stormy gray eyes that are both alluring and intimidating as she always seems to stare right through people. Her lengthy, straight and jet-black hair reaches down to her waist and flies about in sweeps. Each move she makes is accentuated with a cat-like grace and a gentle elegance that many find seductive.


A rare close up of Mara without her mask.

If not for her present berth, one might have mistaken her as a celebrity model, or even a princess from some faraway nation. Instead, Mara was thrown into a world of where her exceptional beauty is now synonymous to bloodshed, misery and death. It is a beauty that she now usually hides behind an emotionless mask.

Mara speaks with a very distinct accent, which some say (ironically) stemmed from her lack of contact with other people. A loner since her early years, she does not waste her time engaging in conversations about topics that she is not interested in. Instead, she often speaks only when spoken too, and even in those times, she speaks as little as possible until she or the other person leaves. The only notable exceptions of people she has been very much friendly with were her caretaker and doctor Kimberly Anne Foxglove, her lover Melanie Anne “Meg” Winter, and her new friend Joel Chavez.

The usually quiet, lonely and pessimistic Nightshade is also very much obsessed with the concept of Death, the darkness and everything related to it. Because of this, she prefers grim and depressing colors such as black or gray. This is often reflected in her choice of clothing such as her abhorrence of sunlight and the Gothic attire that she has started wearing on a much more regular basis. She admits missing the black uniforms she used to don as part of SHADOW Company.

Unlike other empowered beings (NEXTs), the Nightshade has no dual identity or real world alter ego. Hence, she spends much of her time in hiding and comes out only when she has to. Having no family, no circle of friends, no separate occupation … she has nothing to live for except herself.

Despite having lived most of her life in a male-dominated organization (SHADOW Company), or perhaps because of it, Mara developed an interest in the same sex culminating with her close mother-and-daughter relationship with Kimberly Anne Foxglove and finally her altruistic love for Meg. So far, Joel Chavez is the only male she has taken a true liking for although she strongly discourages him from having any hopes for a relationship.

Combat Doctrine:

Because of the defensive nature of her present powers, Nightshade relies on everything she gained from her para-military upbringing, her instincts, and whatever weapon she can get her hands on.

Nightshade was well-trained by her instructors in SHADOW Company, many of who were former members of prestigious special forces units, and uses her combat knowledge and skills to the utmost. What she lacks in experience, she compensates for in terms of prowess, a grim resolve and a strong killer instinct.

She excels in guerrilla (some say terrorist) tactics within hostile territory against enemy weak points and tactical positions using unconventional actions such as assassinations (long-range sniping of important enemy personnel and vehicles), lightning-fast hit and runs and ambushes, sabotage and sapping, and even bombings. Using stealth, the immediate environment and the darkness to her advantage, Nightshade also makes use of her version of psychological warfare where she mutilates the bodies of criminals, leaving them in the open for all to see and putting fear into their hearts.

When possible, she avoids reckless frontal assaults and knows the value of retreating to re-assess a situation and in order to fight (and probably die) another day.

As much as she is against the use of animals in combat, she did make use of them when the opportunity presented itself. This included instances such as tossing a criminal into a tank full of piranhas, another one into a lion’s cage, and leaving a badly crippled and bleeding crook in the sewers to be eaten alive by rats.

Nightshade is very much different from other vigilantes (the self-proclaimed heroes) because she operates beyond the traditional system of law and order. She sees the criminal justice system as a waste of time and taxpayer’s money as well as being a flawed, bureaucratic mess that tends to pay more attention to the rights of criminals than to the rights of their victims. Other than that, she is not motivated by the need to seek justice or vengeance, but by the need to exterminate those she believes deserve to die.

For Mara, words such as “honor”, “glory”, “compassion”, “justice” and “fairness” have no place on a battlefield. She would take any unfair opportunity against her opponents in order to defeat them and accomplish her mission. She is known to maim and kill unarmed, weak and helpless enemies with the same merciless violence as any other. She is also not adverse to utilizing torture on captured enemies in order to gain whatever information she needs.

In Nightshade’s eyes, the entire world is a war zone, and hence, there are always casualties, whether one likes it or not. This explains why she has no regard whatsoever for any collateral damage or loss of life resulting from her vigilante actions. For example, if a villain would run into a crowd of civilians or even use one as a hostage, Nightshade would not hesitate to open fire with an automatic weapon or use explosives just to take down that single target even if she ends up leaving many dead bystanders. Not even the elderly or children are spared from her violent purges.

Her absolute absence of respect for the law or concern for the lives of others has effectively branded her as a remorseless and cold-blooded killer who is no different from the very criminals that she hunts and kills. In the end, she could not care less about what others say or think of her.

Sniper kz2
The latest version of the Black Kit.

Equipment / Possessions:

CLOTHING / ARMOR

As a vigilante, Nightshade changes her attire depending on her mission (or her moods). She is often seen wearing dark (usually black) street clothes, a modified version of a SHADOW Company uniform and other military BDUs (battle dress uniforms), and more recently, Gothic dresses. Though she considers the latter as the most impractical of the set, she liked the impression that they make on the NEXT community.

She often seen wearing some article of clothing that partly or fully covers her face such as head scarves, balaclavas, tunic hoods, sunglasses and (her favorite) gas masks.

THE BLACK KIT

For some time, Nightshade had been experimenting with and crafting her own BDUs using materials and technology acquired through various mean. Despite numerous modifications as a result of research and actual combat testing, the basis of her latest outfit is an odd mixture of the latest in military accessories and certain aspects from the uniforms of World War I and II. Referring to this latest BDU as her “Black Kit”, it is made from cotton and wool and heavily impregnated with chemicals such as hexamethylenetetramine to withstand radiation, chemical and biological/viral attacks.

The overcoat has four front pockets with button closure and a row of five buttons, reinforced elbows, and blouse bellows for increased mobility and adjustable cuffs. The trousers have two tilted slash-style pockets, two rear pockets with button closure, a button fly, reinforced seat and knees (which also contain internal pockets for padding), and a partially elastic waistband. Beneath the outer garments, a plain gray t-shirt, undershorts and socks made of moist-wicking material are worn.

Leg-bindings (traditionally known as puttees) made out of narrow pieces of cloth are wound tightly and spirally around the leg from ankles to just below the knees, and serve to hold the trousers close to the legs and limit the worst effects of fighting in muddy conditions.

The Black Kit also comes with the heavy tunic jacket made of cotton drill backed up by ablative materials, making it resistant to heat and fire. It is double-breasted with a set of brass buttons and is completely water proof. It also has a concealable hood that can be zipped into its own bellow when not needed. In addition, the tunic jacket contains multiple layers of impact absorbing beta cloth and kevlar. Like the rest of the Black Kit, the tunic jacket is chemically protected against hostile environments. A microclimate cooling system, built into the jacket, composed of a network of narrow tubing that provides 100 watts of heating or cooling to the wearer.

The tactical gloves are thick and lined with Kevlar and nomex, providing limited protection from impacts and useful in handling razorwire, yet still allow Nightshade to perform tasks requiring precision such as operating a computer, disarming a mine, and pulling a trigger.

The tactical boots a standard military-issue marching boots with hob-nailed soles for grip and have steel inserts to protect Nightshade from booby traps like pit spikes and other battlefield hazards. The maintenance kit comes with an anti-vesicant dubbing which can be rubbed into the marching boots. This protects her feet from environmental damage caused by chemicals that seep into the ground (mustard gas, etc.).

To protect the joints, Nightshade procured elbow and knee pads made out of thick, high-density foam and covered with durable nylon to protect these sensitive parts from impacts and other similar injuries.

Another distinct feature of Nightshade’s Black Kit, is the heavily modified World War I-era respirator unit. It is made up of five elements - the gas mask, the hood, respirator regulator and air tanks. The most basic piece of the respirator unit is that protective mask that fits tightly against the face. It has two layers, one made out of silicone rubber, and the outer layer is fitted with Kevlar for additional protection against most projectile attacks. It has large eye pieces made of a double layer of toughened glass treated with an anti-fogging compound. The goggles still provide excellent peripheral vision and can be covered with removable tinted inserts. A flexible voice emitter covers the mouth area, enabling more understandable speech and also allows the use of communications gear. There is also a screw attachment for the breather valve and a drinking tube designed for a special canteen adapter. When the respirator regulator and oxygen tanks are disengaged, the built-in side filters can block most microscopic airborne particles and droplets. Along with the mask, a rubberized fabric hood covers Nightshade’s head and neck providing additional environmental protection.

The respirator regulator is the most complex part of Nightshade’s breathing gear. It contains several layers of particle filters, a battery powered fan which draws air into the regulator, through the filters and then forces it up the breathing pipe therefore making sure that only clean air is blown into the mask. Should the system be compromised, then the constant flow will force air out of any hole, and not draw it in, thus preventing toxic particles from entering the system. An exterior display panel allows fellow guardsmen to see how the regulator is functioning and to see how toxic the atmosphere is. Aside from the particle filters, the regulator also samples the air for toxic agents and will automatically introduce antidotes into the air supply to be inhaled by the wearer. The regulator’s satchel also contains a flask which feeds water supplemented with soluble stimulants and nutrients that feeds into the gasmask, allowing the wearer to operate far beyond human physical norms.

The air tank component provides six hours of recycled air and is necessary for environments with very little or no oxygen at all. They can be switched off when the environment has sufficient oxygen then engaged when there is a lack of it, or should Nightshade’s filters run out or (in a worse case scenario) if the respirator regulator unit fails.

Another notable aspect of the Black Kit is the black hooded poncho or cloak that doubles as a shelter-half as protection against the elements, as well as for concealment.

The Black Kit comes along with accessories for personal stowage such as a bandoleers and an ALICE (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) pack to which Nightshade can attach a variety of bags, pouches and other containers to the belt and straps. These include canteen pouches, ammunition and grenade pouches, flashlights, radios, and others. The ALICE pack automatically comes with an extra poncho (to be combined with another poncho in order to make a tent) , and a dry tin canister that is well-sealed from the environment and good for storing perishable items.

One of the few updated bits of technology found on the Black Kit are the SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground-Air Radio system) tactical headphones that also serves as earmuffs to protect Nightshade from the effects of very loud explosions and sonic attacks, and an AN/PVS-7B model night-vision goggles that can be worn over the gas mask. Perhaps the most sophisticated of all, is an experimental cloaking device that bends light around the user which Nightshade stole from one of SHADOW Company’s laboratories.

In game terms, the Black Kit provides the following abilities based on the Player’s Book and combining the elements of the various armor and suits provided in the Equipment Section:

Kevlar Lining: Protection Vs. Physical Attacks – Excellent (20)
Biohazard Suit / Gas Mask Assembly: Protection Vs. Disease, Radiation & Toxins – Incredible (40)
Asbestos / Fleece Lining: Protection Vs. Cold, Fire & Heat – Remarkable (30)
Tactical Headphones: Protection Vs. Sonic Attacks – Excellent (20)
Tinted Goggles / Eyepieces: Protection Vs. Light Attacks – Excellent (20)
Micro-Climate System: Proection Vs. Weather Conditions – Remarkable (30)
Voice Scrambler: Sound Manipulation (Own voice only) – Remarkable
Breathing Apparatus / Nutrients Tank: Self-Sustenance (temporary; 6 hours oxygen, 3 days equivalent of food / water) – Excellent (20)
Night Vision Goggles: Ultravision – Excellent (20)
Stealth Camouflage: Invisibility (Physics; Self only) – Incredible (40) / -4CS to be hit with ranged attacks; -2CS to be hit in melee combat
Electronic Countermeasures: Non-detection (electronics such as radar, sonar, thermal vision and motion detection) – Incredible (40)


Let’s see … who am I gonna kill first? Decisions. Decisions.

WEAPONS / TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Mara’s acquaintance with her childhood imaginary friend, Shroud (later revealed to be her older self), coupled with her natural talent for wielding weapons, allowed her to learn self-defense at an early age. During the New Hamelin Incident, she made use of everyday implements such as shovels, baseball bats, pickaxes, hatchets, knives and even garden scissors and a chainsaw with deadly efficiency against the Infected.

During her early days as a mercenary, the Nightshade employed a vast array of equipment and conventional firearms including assault rifles, light machine guns, rifles, shotguns, submachineguns, handguns, knives, explosives and other weapons provided by the Company. Ever since her “retirement”, she now culls her instruments of destruction from common and organized criminals and outside military sources during her operations.

Nightshade often customizes her weapons for greater effectiveness with both standard and custom attachments including magnified optics, red dot and holographic sights, hybrid sights, night vision and infrared scopes, laser designators, flashlights, grenade launchers, sound and flash suppressors, bipods, high-capacity magazines and various ammunition including hollow point or armor piercing bullets.

She is also not beyond using weapons most often associated with terrorists such as improvised explosive devices, chemical weapons (including World War I era mustard, phosgene and chlorine gas) and even a suitcase nuclear bomb which she successfully detonated during a mission for SHADOW Company.

Because of her immense strength, Mara is able to carry a much larger load of weapons, ammunition and other assorted equipment on her person. By bearing the weight that can bring down even the strongest of normal humans, she can turn herself into a walking armory. When facing overwhelmingly powerful opposition, Nightshade equips herself with (normally) vehicle-mounted weapons such as anti-tank rifles, miniguns, autocannons and missile launchers that have been modified into hand-held models. Depending on the scenario, she would carry the heavy weapons as separate parts and assemble them when they are needed.

INSTRUMENTS OF DESTRUCTION

Aside from the Black Kit, the Nightshade carries a load-out that includes but is not limited to the following:

* Standard Miscellanous Equipment

- Weapons Cleaning Kit: 4 sets of brass cleaning rods, universal handle with adapters, accessory adapters for each rod, 12 brass jags for barrels., 10 wire brushes, 6 wool mops, 4 plastic slotted tips, 3 utility brushes, 3 round breech and choke cleaning brushes, Choke cleaning brush handle, 100 patches, cleaning cloth

- S.O.P.M.O.D. (Special Operations Peculiar MODification) Kit: Rail Interface System, cheek pad, flashlight, visible and infrared laser illuminator, red dot sight, holographic / reflex sight, Hybrid sight, HAMR sight, variable scopes, night vision / infrared scopes, ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight), flash / sound suppressor, extended magazines, heart sensor / motion tracker, weapon attachment (flamethrower, grenade launcher, shotgun, bayonet)

- Camo Kit: Face paint, spray paint, camo netting, tear-gas powder, extra poncho

- Demolition: Kit hip pouch w/ quick clip belt, dual blasting cap crimper, tube and fuse cutter, Benchmade Pika folding knife, Gerber DET Multi-tool w/ cap crimper & C4 punch (includes sheath), Nextorch T6 High output flashlight, ballistic safety goggle Kit w/ interchangeable lenses (includes sheath), cap box, bolt cutters

- First Aid Kit: Bandages / band-aids, wrapping, surture kit, disinfectant, styptic, cleansing pads, antibiotic ointment, serum / antidote, various tablets, IV bottle, first aid guide, First Aid Guide

- Survival Kit: Poncho, compass, compact binoculars, water filter, vitamins, water purifying pills, multi-tool knife, fire-starter lighter, waterproof matches, flare gun with 3 parachute flares, small flashlight, insect repellent, mini-cooking can, metal mirror, 5-piece mess kit, twine, needles, 1-quart canteens x2, 3-quart water bottle x1, radio, emergency beacon, plastic bags, flameless meal heater, towel, extra socks, sandbags x4, magnesium flares x6, tritrium glow sticks x8, “The Zombie Survival Guide”

- MRE Packs (x3): Various main course / side dish menus, freeze-dried pears, soda crackers, apple jelly, cheese spread, peanut butter, cherry nut cake, oatmeal cookie bar, soda crackers, chocolate covered cookie, mini tabasco sauce, powdered fruit drink (usually orange, lemon or pineapple), powdered cocoa, instant coffee, popsicle stick (for stirring), beverage mixing bag, plastic spoon, salt, pepper, sugar, non-dairy creamer, chewing gum, hand sanitizer, moist towelette, chewable mint, matches, tissue paper

- Others (Ball cap, wristwatch, wrist-mounted GPS, balaclava, 2 pairs of handcuffs, 50ft rope, folding grappling hook, digital zooming binoculars, encrypted radio, extra gloves, extra batteries, head scarf, backpack, drag bag, extra gas mask (with hose and filters), infrared signaling pen, mission map (unmarked and coded), notepad, toiletries (toilet tissue, organic soap, towel, foot powder, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash), local currency, celphone, I-Pod Classic, sunglasses, “Balisong” butterfly knife, Cayenne pepper spray, Oxyacetelene Mini-torch, emergency parachute, lockpicks and skeleton keys, explosive gel spray, etc.)

* Weapons Load-Out (Melee)

– “Spetsnaz” Entrenchment Tool x 1 (treated as club (blunt side), axe (edged side))
– “Spetsnaz” Ballistic Knife x 1 (treated as single-shot target pistol; concealable)
– “Predator” Bowie Machete x 1 (treated as sword)
– “Trench Knife” Modified Ka-Bar x 1 (blade is treated as knife; spiked hilt guard is treated as brass knuckles; contains a sharpening stone, fishing line and hooks, precision compass, mini-first aid kit, waterproof matches)
– Tomahawk x2 (treated as axe; black-anodized; throwable)
– “Gerber” Folding Axe x1 (treated as axe, black-anodized; throwable; concealable)
– “Mercworx” Combat Knife x 1 (treated as knife)
– “Krauser Mark VI” Combat Knife x 1 (treated as knife)
– “Relentless” Combat Knife x 1 (treated as knife)
– “Blackhawk Tatang” Combat Knife x 3 (treated as knife; black- anodized; throwable)
– “Tonfa” T-Baton x 1 (treated as club)
– “Kunai” Throwing Knife x 8 (treated as knife; black-anodized; throwable)
– “Balisong” Butterfly Knife x 1 (treated as knife; concealable)
– Garrote Wire x 2 (A red result on the Grappling column indicates that Nightshade can use the wire to strangle her target. If the target needs to breathe, she/he must make an Endurance FEAT rolle ach round or become unconscious for 1-10 rounds, and dead 10 rounds after he is unconscious, if Nighthsade keeps strangling him. It does Typical Edged Weapon damage each round and can cut through armor of less than Monstrous Strength Material rank.)

* Weapons Load-Out (Firearms; details to be given later)

– Handguns / Machine Pistols x 4
– Assault Rifle x 1 or Battle Rifle x 1 or Submachinegun x 1 (or x2) or Light Machinegun x1
– Shotgun x 1 (or x2) or Battle Rifle x 1 or Sniper Rifle x 1
– Launcher x 1 (grenade launcher or rocket launcher)
– Special x 1 (disposable flamethrower, compound bow or crossbow)
– Heavy x 1 (anti-tank rifles, heavy machineguns, miniguns, auto-grenade launchers, autocannons, missile launchers; reserved for “special” occasions; depends on availability and GM’s approval)

* Weapons Load-Out (Grenades and Explosives)

– Fragmentation Grenades x 6 (treated as fragmentary grenades)
– Smoke Grenades x 2 (treated as smoke grenades)
– Tear Gas Grenades x 2 (treated as tear gas grenades)
– Nerve Gas Grenades x 2 (treated as knock-out gas grenades)
– Flashbang Grenades x 4 (treated as flash and sonic grenades)
– Stun Grenades x 4 (treated as concussion grenades)
– WP (White Phosphorus) Grenades x 2 (treated as incendiary canisters)

– Semtex Blocks x 2 (treated as standard explosive; timed or remote-detonated)
– Satchel Charge x 1 (treated as high-explosive; timed or remote-detonated)
– Sticky Bombs x 2 (treated as concentrated explosive; adheres to target)
– “Claymore” Mines x 2 (treated as concentrated explosive; wire or laser-detonated)
– “Bouncing Betty” Mines x 2 (treated as standard explosive; motion or pressure-detonated)
- PDM (Pursuit Deterrent Munition) Mines x2 (treated as standard explosive; wire or laser-detonated)

(Possible / Suggested) Sponsors:

Blackwater Worldwide

Aegis Defense Services

Executive Outcomes

ArmorGroup International

Pathfinder Securities Services

Hunk 17
Nightshade supports herself by acquiring supplies and equipment through
(mostly) illegal means such as infiltrating and stealing from SHADOW Company labs

Secrets (Some things that even Nightshade is unaware of …)

THE FLOWER IN THE FOX’S SHADOW

During Nightshade’s “Reign of Terror”, she received material and financial support from an unknown benefactor. Though she accepted the aid that was given, she never sought the identity of the person (or persons) involved, how they always kept tabs on her locations or the reasons behind their support. Little does Nightshade know that her mysterious benefactor is none other than Dr. Kimberly Anne Foxglove whom she believed had died during her escape from the oil platform base. Not only is Kimberly Anne still alive and well, but she survived because she had earlier injected / infected herself with a safe but less potent version of Omega 666 - the results of which she discovered and then kept to herself.

Despite acting as the closest thing to a mother figure for both Mara and Meg, she was deeply jealous of their relationship and nurtured that feeling of resentment like an open wound. Now secretly a SHARD herself, Kimberly Anne has cast off the disguise of the caring guardian and has shown her true colors.

She had known about the dissension within SHADOW Company’s ranks which was led by TR Edwards, but kept the knowledge a secret with the hopes that the other faction would make a mistake and expose themselves. The gamble worked when Edwards and his followers captured the Edelweiss in the aftermath of the mission in Africa. It was then that Kimberly Anne came aboard the oil rig and released Mara. She then allowed the guards to shoot her, knowing full well she would recover from the wounds, and that Mara would wreck havoc upon the dissenting members of SHADOW herself.

After the Edelweiss successfully terminated TR Edwards, Kimberly Anne originally planned to see the two girls perish during the missile attack on the platform. Though Anemone died, Nightshade not only survived, but she grew strong from the hell she had gone through. As surprised as she was, Kimberly Anne made the best of the setback by secretly supporting Nightshade’s bloody crusade against the criminal underworld. Except for a few skirmishes with SHADOW Company mercenaries to give her former charge the impression that she was being hunted, Kimberly Anne made sure the organization stayed out of Nightshade’s path.

She has also discreetly sent Nightshade on “vigilante” missions that were in reality done with the Company’s interests in mind. It was also she who traced Mara’s whereabouts in Marikina City in the Philippines and personally delivered the letter for Mara to find. Her reasons for having Mara join the latest season of Hero TV are unclear, except that it is probably in the interests of SHADOW Company.

Or her own!

A TRIP TO THE TWILIGHT ZONE:
THE FREYED ENDS OF SANITY

Up to now, the true nature of the Fog World eludes Mara. She still wonders if she had actually traveled through space and time, or into a dimension born from her troubled mind, and if she did, how or what could have allowed her to do so? If such is not the case, then she wonders if she simply imagined the entire event and is slowly descending further into the depths of madness …

DEATH IN THE FAMILY

After spending some time with Joel Chavez, Mara discovered to her horror that Joel’s parents were among the civilians that died when she exploded a bomb that targeted a corrupt politician during a rush hour traffic. Up to now, she still contemplates on whether to tell him the awful truth or not. She dreads such a moment, not out of fear that Joel might seek revenge, but that his selfless love and longing for her would turn into a vengeful hatred - the only kind of hate that she knew could hurt her.

Notable Quotes:

“One should learn how to take pleasure in death. The scent of life flowing out of one’s body. The scent of burnt gunpowder and blood. The sound of one’s last breath.”

“I’m not a hero. I’m just a killer with issues. LOTSA issues!”

“Look what I found! I’m gonna kill someone with it!”

“Fate is a cruel mistress.”

“Zombies. I hate zombies.”

“Children. I hate children.”

“Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.”

“It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.”

“With great power comes the abuse of great power.”

“Say ‘hello’ to Disco for me!”

“You can’t possibly fathom the depths of just how f***** serious I am.”

“When plannin’ revenge, always remember to dig two graves. One for the dumb enemies and one for the smart enemies.”

“Anyone claimin’ innocence is guilty of wastin’ my time.”

“Good night, you bastard!”

“Justice may be blind, but it can smell money a mile away.”

“That which doesn’t kill me will be so thoroughly dead when I’m through with it!”

“Hey, can I borrow your face? My ass is on vacation.”

“Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda. Didn’t.”

“Ask not, ‘Why kill the criminal?’. Instead ask, ‘Why not?’.”

“I don’t care who wins or who loses in this war. I just wanna grab the chance to dance in the pits of Hell when this is all over.”

“Rain or shine, you’re goin’ down!”

“One look at you, and I know why some animals kill their young.”

“Just coz I’m not carryin’ any weapons, doesn’t mean I should think happy thoughts.”

“Do I look like a cop to you?!!”

“I’m in the ass-kickin’ business, and business is good.”

“I’m gonna shove my foot so far up your ass, I’ll be wearin’ you as a boot when I’m finished!”

“Let me put you outta my misery.”

“I regret nothing.”

“Nevermore.”

Trivia (Things about Nightshade that you don’t know … or don’t want to know!):

* Watched the 1968 version of “Night of the Living Dead” a day before the New Hamelin Incident.

* Was once invited to become a member of the Suicide Girls - a website that features softcore pornography and text profiles of Goth, punk and indie-styled young women. She politely refused but admitted that she was flattered by the offer.

* Her favorite campaign setting in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game is “Ravenloft”

* Her favorite authors are Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe

* Aside from sketching and playing music, she writes anime-inspired yuri fanfiction in her spare time.

* Aspires to become a singer and hopes to become a member of a band one day

* Her wish partly came to pass when she filled in as a temporary replacement rhythm guitarist and lead singer for a death metal band in Norway. She had to wear an armor-like disguise just to hide her identity

* She avoids sunlight like a traditional vampire

* Is the subject of one of Joel’s poems, and is the (anti)heroine of his stories

* She respects animal rights but admits that she will never be a vegetarian

* Her celphone message alert tone is the theme of the “shower scene” from the movie “Psycho”, while her ring tone is the trash metal song “Stupid M*****f*****” by Mindless Self Indulgence

* Though she is known to prefer heavy metal, she has begun singing the same 1960s era rock and roll and folk music that is often played in the Chavez household as it reminds her of her childhood days

* Sings in the shower without realizing it, much to Joel’s enjoyment

* Thinks her butt is getting bigger every year.

* She can’t for the life of her, beat Joel in Monopoly

* Enjoys cosplaying for Joel

* She is camera-shy, hence, her apprehension towards appearing on Hero TV

* Mara, along with Meg and Joel, is terrible at Math

* Needs tutoring in Tagalog.

* Discovered Joel’s secret stash of pornography on his computer

* Provided anonymous first hand information to the writer named Max Brooks that helped him publish the book “The Zombie Survival Guide”

* Aside from zombies and criminals, she absolutely hates children and refers to them as “little monsters”

* Has become an avid collector of Gothic and Victorian-era dolls.

* She talks to the same dolls whenever she is alone, treating them as imaginary friends

* Joel played a nasty joke on Mara by hiding one of her dolls … and never tried it again. If there is anything worse than seeing Mara getting angry, it’s seeing her cry.

640px 10 noscale
Despite having cut off her connections with SHADOW Company, Nightshade is very much
aware that her former employers are watching her every move.

NIGHTSHADE

Hero Television: Philippine Edition CwazyWabbit