Kip Cantorum whistled long and low.
"Why Paragon Protectors, exactly?" he queried.
Jon filled him in on his conversation with Dr. Goldsmith, omitting none of the details.
"Ouch." The blonde, bearded engineer settled back into his chair, pulled on the beer in his hand.
"Well, I can understand your interest," he continued. He frowned, staring into the distance. "I don't really know that much about them, per se, you could try talking to Kirsten Woods, though. She might have more information than I do."
"I just need the basics, Kip. I've never even heard of them before now, and I've certainly never seen them. What can you tell me about them?" Jon sipped his beer, set it aside, leaned forward eagerly.
"Well....." Kip considered. "There are lots of rumors, of course, you can find out about that in the tabloids. Hard facts? Harder to come by."
"Give it a shot...." Jon encouraged.
"Well, I do know that the vast majority of them work exclusively for Crey, there's never been any doubt about that."
"Crey...." Jon winced.
"Yeah, Crey. Don't really know why, but the rumors are that Crey has something to do with their.....hum.....manufacture, I guess you'd have to call it."
"Manufacture? They're robots?"
"Um....no. They're human enough, although sometimes it's hard to tell, they all seem to be wearing the same uniforms and the same helmets, which completely cover their faces." He shook his head. "Just about anything beyond that is just rumor and speculation. I've seen them, plenty of times....Crey uses them as security and shock troops, any time you're in a Crey high-security area, you're bound to see them....but I've never actually spoken to one of them. Well, once....and the woman simply refused to answer me. Gave me the creeps." He took another gulp.
"Wonder why....?" Jon mused, leaning back into his chair, bringing his steepled fingers up to his chin.
"You got me...." Kip rejoined.
"Hypnotised? Brain washed?"
"Who knows. Maybe she didn't brush her teeth that morning and was afraid I'd notice her halitosis."
"But you see how easy it is to start speculating about them," Kip continued. "With so little information, and their constant presence in huge numbers around Crey installations, they practically beg for someone to start making up some answers."
"You have any idea why Goldsmith would tell me to check them out?"
"Well....." The engineer started doodling on the tabletop with a wet fingertip. "....since you were talking to him about your prostheses, and he mentioned your claws....Well, maybe I should explain it this way....
"One of the very few things that we do know about the PPs is that they have powers.....real ones....and it's speculation about how they got them that brought up the 'manufactured' theories. Crey has been accused of everything from baby stealing to the assassination of President Kennedy. And yet nothing ever sticks, and Crey always manages to come out smelling like a rose. But some people argue that the PPs were just ordinary people, and Crey gave them their powers."
Jon nodded understanding.
"The odd thing is that all of the PPs have one of the same three sets of powers. They aren't like the average Hero on the street, or like Hero Corps, where you never know what kind of abilities you may be looking at. That's one of the reasons that people in the know have argued that their powers aren't natural to them, but given to them by Crey."
"Okay, I'm following you so far. And that means....?"
"Well....one of the three kinds of PPs has a full set of metal claws, just like yours, imbedded in their arms, that they extend when they go into battle. In fact, now that I think about it...." Kip paused, staring into space. "I could swear that some of their moves even look like yours."
Jon sat forward suddenly, hit his beer can with his metal elbow, failed to snatch it out of mid-air flight, jumped up cursing and shaking beer and foam off of himself.
Kip jumped up and ran to the kitchen, returned with a roll of paper towels, and the two blonde men busied themselves cleaning up the mess.
Kip held a plastic trash can out for Jon to dump soggy towels into, then dropped it on the floor, settled back into his chair, as Jon perched on the edge of his.
"Okay, let's play that one over again," Jon began. "What do you mean about their moves?"
"Hmmm....? Oh, yeah, the PPs....." The blonde, bearded man paused for consideration. "Nothing, really, I mean, I'm sure that anyone with weapons even remotely similar to yours would have to use much the same postures, motions, in order to use them effectively. But....and this is just one man's opinion, mind you....it did seem to me that some of your motions were....well....strangely similar to some I've seen PPs make. Some of the fine details. That's all."
Jon's eye lit with excitement. "Then....Goldsmith really might have been onto something, after all, right? There might be more than just an accidental similarity....there might actually be some sort of relationship between myself and the PPs."
"Well....yeah, that's the way my mind works, anyway."
Jon sat back on his chair, frowned in thought. "You said check with Kirsten....okay, I can do that. You say they're always around Crey installations...but I can't honestly say that I've ever seen them. A Crey installation, that is."
"Nah, you probably wouldn't. You'd have to go to Brickstown or Founder's Falls, or Crey's Folly, or one of the other high-security zones to see them. I told you they use the PPs as shock troops....mostly because they need them. Those places are rough, even for a hero."
"Hmm.....is there a reason for that? Say, a reason not to build in Atlas?"
Kip considered. "Not that I can think of. Most of the property Crey owns now, they had before the Rikti war. There's no way anyone could have known back then that those would *become* dangerous areas. It has to be just a coincidence...."
Jon knit his fingers, stared at the floor thinking.
"....unless...." Kip continued, his eyes unfocused.
Jon looked up quickly. "Unless....what?" he prompted.
"Well....it doesn't sound very likely....but the only thing I can think of is to wonder if Crey didn't *do* something to cause those areas to become dangerous."
Copyright terraforming.com, November 26, 2012