MAXWELL HARCOURT REAPER
Twenty-seven years old, a former Army Ranger deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and a few other places he can’t talk about. No living relatives. Skilled in reconnoissance, containment tactics and close-quarter combat. Wounded six times, twice fatally, but is still alive thanks to his “party trick” – an unusual ability to temporarily stop his heart from beating and thus avoid bleeding to death. This ability he has had from birth – he was technically “stillborn” and pronounced dead but had only stopped his heart as a panicked reaction to birth. His heart resumed beating as his frantic mother clutched at him, and as a child he occasionally terrified his mother, teachers and girlfriends by “dying” when he did not get his way. His ability remained merely a method of pranking until he joined the Army and was wounded in battle. It was then he discovered that his ability to control his heartbeat allowed him to survive otherwise fatal wounds long enough for emergency treatment to be effective.
However, a secret that he had not revealed to anyone is that during those periods when his heart was stopped, he had begun to see visions – ghosts or other spectral figures. When wounded in Afghanistan, he clearly saw his mother smiling at him, and only afterwards learned that she had died that day in a car accident.
Concerned at what he perceived to be possible brain damage from stopping his heart too much, and upset that his repeated “deaths” in military operations seemed to have no lasting benefit to the civilian population, Max left the Army hoping to find a more meaningful life in Los Angeles. But like many returning soldiers, he found civilian relationships difficult. The closest bond he has felt with a woman was the brief encounter with Sophie; and she was snatched from his life almost immediately, and he was killed again. But for the first time, he died saving others, and was recruited by Virgil Cicerone (Sophie’s father) into joining the Crisis Strike team. At first it gave him a mission-based reason for relationship with the other members, but that has rapidly escalated into friendship and respect. Besides, now his unique ability, along with his tactical and command skills, can now be put to use actually saving lives. And whether Sophie is a ghost or a hallucination, they do make a pretty good team.
Max realizes his strange ability and military training has a purpose now. He dies in battle to save the lives of others — over and over and over!
One of the rare “money guys” with a conscience, Cicerone is the president and owner of Cicerone Applied Electronics, a small but successful firm that develops and designs electronic devices. Cicerone himself is no engineer, but his best friend Sam Mahler was an electronics whiz who unfortunately had no skills with finance. Cicerone recognized the value of his friend’s abilities and set about making sure that both of them did well by it. Mahler himself passed away years ago, but Cicerone continues the firm with new talent that he prides himself he has the skills to recognize. Cicerone’s real abilities are with people – he knows the levers that motivate individuals to do what he needs them to do. He can be manipulative but not evil – his late wife considered him romantic and his daughter considered him overprotective but loving. Cicerone has been badly shaken by his daughter’s murder and the Crisis Strike team is his way of fighting back. To a certain extent his loss has tweaked his natural people skills a bit closer to the sociopathic edge, but Max’s experience with the psychological effects of combat trauma in leadership situations gives the two an understanding that helps Max keep Cicerone from turning the Crisis Strike team into simply a vengeance instrument.
DR. EMIL MADISON
A brilliant scientist and comic book geek, and not necessarily in that order. Madison’s knowledge of quantum electronics is surpassed only by the depth of his understanding of the Marvel Universe, including all DC crossovers and alternate timelines. Although Madison’s inventions could win him Nobel prizes and lucrative contracts, they would be taken from him and could possibly destroy the world. However, by remaining with Cicerone, Madison gets the ability to create the incredibly cool super-secret Crisis Strike team (which he was allowed to name), do heroic work, snap out witty remarks of scientific awesomeness, and generally live out the fantasy he’d always dreamed of. He even has a hot assistant who is not only smart but totally digs him. He can tell.
Yes, Cicerone knows how to work Madison’s levers.
“Smart but scatterbrained” was one of the notes on her high school counselor’s report, and, unlike most such notes, this one was reasonably accurate. Extremely intelligent but giddy by nature and interested in everything, Marissa is playful, fad-conscious, and likes to tease. Her grades suffered only because she thought homework was stupid and she had better things to do. Though she managed a Master’s in electrical engineering (mainly because the teacher was cute) her academic career was unremarkable gradewise and she did not get many job offers. Cicerone however realized that she was perfect for his needs and hired her – with the understanding that she is to ensure Dr. Madison remains with the company. To her own surprise, this cosplay role actually fits her personality quite well. As a result, the actual work she produces has increased markedly, and she is a valuable asset. She is developing a bit of a crush on Max, though, which could be trouble.
DR. DAMODAR SHARMA
The team medic and industrial spy. Cicerone realized that a medic on standby would likely be necessary as the Strike Gate went into operation. When Dr. Sharma showed up – a skilled surgeon from India, with considerable emergency field experience, he seemed too good to be true. And Cicerone trusts those instincts. Some checking revealed that Dr. Sharma actually is employed by the Calcutta-based ICC Technologies. Word that CAE is sitting on revolutionary new technology has been rumored, and ICC is paying Sharma well to find out more about it. Unfortunately for Sharma, everyone on the Crisis Strike team knows he is an industrial spy, and they’re not shy about baiting him. But Cicerone sees no reason to get rid of Sharma; he is an excellent doctor and besides, the enemy you know, etc. In any case, the secret to the Strike Gate is Madison’s phase-space trinary algorithm, which Madison keeps in his head and only enters when the machine is to be activated. And Sharma is far more interested in the Phantom Coil, seeing in it great medical potential for keeping fatally injured people in stasis long enough to be repaired. Since Sharma is a nice guy, always springs for pizza, and no one wants to see him fired from his spy job, the whole team conspires to give him slightly bogus information to pass on to ICC. Sharma himself is complicit in this, though he has every determination to find out what he can.
When Sophie said that she and Max made a pretty good team, she wasn’t kidding. Somehow, her spirit bonded to his in death, and now she is his guardian ghost on missions. They have a growing rapport – even a fun-give-and-take (though only Max can see her) and there is a secret determination on both their parts to figure out some way to be together.
The FBI’s Unusual and Dangerous Development Division is America’s secretive domestic defense against threats for which there is neither legal nor technological precedent. The UD3 is tasked with investigating and, if necessary, eliminating dangers to national security posed by unexpected breakthroughs in scientific and/or paranormal fields of research. The UD3’s investigations include such freaky but increasingly-likely possibilities as force fields, time travel, negative matter, quantum entanglement, antigravity, zombie outbreaks, and of course, teleportation. Currently, the UD3 consists of:
UD3 DIVISION CHIEF COLE NANTAJE and BACHO
Iron-hard and seemingly ageless, Nantaje in many ways is the UD3, especially since the division’s funding source was created in an alternate timeline and only Nantaje can access it. Nantaje makes the tough decisions about what technology can be allowed to develop and what has to be suppressed – by lethal force if necessary. Nantaje is assisted by his Spirit Guide Bacho, who is invisible to everyone else (except Letoa) but whose presence is unquestioned within the UD3. Bacho cannot interact with the physical world but his otherworldly senses and wisdom can provide invaluable guidance across multiple timelines.
SPECIAL AGENT RICHARD SCALES
As fussy and humorless as only a man who grew up with the name “Dick Scales” can be, Agent Scales is nonetheless an invaluable member of the UD3. Literally a “man without fear,” Agent Scales has faced some of the worst horrors that illicit bioresearch and paranormal phenomena have been able to cook up – and they just pissed him off. The unknown makes him angry, and he can be ruthless in its elimination.
SPECIAL AGENT HOWARD GLASS
Big, jovial, and slightly amused by the universe, Agent Glass finds the UD3 a fascinating place. It routinely provides him with new and interesting developments, and he sets about analyzing them with his brilliant intellect and unique intuitive leaps. Glass rarely ventures into the field himself, but his analysis is invaluable and he has no problem directing the more bloodthirsty agents such as Scales and Hauschild to eliminate potential threats.
SPECIAL AGENT GRETCHEN HAUSCHILD
A vivacious, platinum-haired pixie, Agent Hauschild is five feet two inches of pure bloodthirsty badassery. Her favorite weapon is her MRGL SuperSix 40MM grenade launcher with thermobaric rounds, and her biggest regret is to leave a building still standing when she finishes an assault. She likes to blow things up and generally takes point in any UD3-assisted raids. Twitchy and impulsive when not in action, she was considered too reckless and brash for standard FBI work, but she fits right in with the UD3.
PROBATIONARY AGENT YSOBEL LETOA and MANAIA
A former LAPD detective recently fast-tracked into the UD3, Agent Letoa’s police experience and determination have long been secretly assisted by her own Spirit Guide, Manaia. As with Nantaje’s Bacho, Manaia cannot affect the physical world, but he can sense danger and impending threats, and provide wisdom and advice. The LAPD’s lead investigator of the mysterious teleporting vigilante known as Countdown, Letoa was the first to recognize the presence of a paranormal presence when she and Manaia faced down Sophie herself in full-on Guardian Mode. Realizing that the UD3 would allow her greater authority and resources for investigating, Letoa used her knowledge (and her recognition of Bacho’s presence) to strong-arm her way into the division. She is now out to prove her worth and bring in Countdown – whatever it takes!