Paragon City: Other Worlds Discovered
At the end of the 1970's, much of the US - Paragon City included - found itself mired in a deep economic recession. Crime rates began to rise as poverty and lack of opportunity gripped the less fortunate strata of American society. The use and abuse of illicit drugs had long been a problem for all levels of society, but as the new decade dawned, the growing levels of addiction and drug-related crime in poverty-stricken regions became a focus of national attention.
As they had before with any number of other crime waves, Paragon City's heroes set about trying to make a difference in the War on Drugs. Unlike on so many other occasions, they had much less than total success. The Paragon City hero organization, The Regulators, led the initial charge. Led by the flamboyant and ever-popular Michael White (AKA the Back Alley Brawler), the Regulators had been doing their best to fight street crime in Paragon City since the early seventies. With the new drug epidemic and rising poverty rates, the Regulators went into heavy recruiting mode and tried to swarm Paragon City's streets with costume-clad heroes.
The city saw a number of epic clashes between the Regulators and various street gangs and drug cartels. A former police officer, White worked closely with Paragon City law enforcement to make sure that every criminal he and the Regulators brought to justice would see conviction in a court of law. Of course it didn't always work out that way, but more often than not, Regulator captives (and there were a lot of them) did their time in prison. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be making much of a difference. Certainly crime rates went down, but the drugs continued to make their way onto the streets and into the hands of anyone who wanted them.
Unable or unwilling to try and stem the demand for drugs, the Regulators teamed up with the Dawn Patrol to go after the drugs at their sources. They launched a series of controversial attacks in South America and Central Asia, burning coca and poppy fields to the ground. These assaults, while popular in the US, were not very well received abroad, with over a dozen nations forbidding members of both hero organizations from ever setting foot or flying over their sovereign territory again.
Unfortunately, there was little lasting effect from these bold assaults. The dramatic, albeit temporary, decline in imported narcotics merely left a void that a cartel of chemical engineers rushed to fill. With cocaine and heroin in short supply, the streets soon found themselves awash in a new, laboratory made drug: Superadine, or Supes as it became known on the street. Supes was eventually shown to be a modified version of soldier enhancement formulas developed by the US Army during World War II. When injected, it gives a sense of profound confidence and euphoria along with increased endurance and strength. Beyond these seeming benefits, it is also a mild hallucinogen and powerfully addictive. It was no great surprise that Supes made its first appearance in Paragon City.
Throughout the mid-eighties, Supes became a more and more popular drug, and despite the Regulators' best efforts, it continued to proliferate in the streets of Paragon City. There seemed to be no obvious, organized force behind the drug's distribution. Dealers were simply waking up and finding stashes of the serum in their homes. With no distribution and money trail to follow, it was impossible to get to the source of the problem. Paragon City became a very dark, gritty place to live. Despite the growing strength of the national economy, crime (both street and super villain) continued to rise.
Instead of rising above it, many heroes sunk into a kind of depression, resorting to many of the same techniques and attitudes as the criminals they hunted. The city's heroes became parodies of themselves: men and women in bright costumes who did very dark things indeed. Brutal beatings, the threatening of innocents, and even torture and murder became all too common. While the city's luminaries managed to, for the most part, stay above such base temptations, for much of the city's vigilante population, these were sad times. The attitude that "the ends justify the means," became all too common.
It took a totally unexpected and even bizarre threat to reunite the city's heroes with their morals, a threat that, oddly enough, grew out of the Regulators' continued quest to find the mysterious force responsible for distributing Supes. Thanks to the mystical masters of the Midnight Squad, The Back Alley Brawler was finally able to track the drug back to its source, a secret laboratory beneath a skyscraper in downtown Paragon City. The Brawler burst in upon them, his famous fists flying about him like a whirlwind. When the dust cleared, he had a moment to catch his breath and figure out just what it was he'd captured.
The facility turned out to be much more than a mere drug lab. It was a modern, high-tech, research facility. Not only were they manufacturing and distributing the drug, but they were also monitoring its effects on addicts. As this was a little out of his area of expertise, the Brawler placed a call to the Freedom Phalanx for some technical support. The scientists took the facility apart, freed the captive addicts and made some truly startling discoveries. The mysterious scientists, who resisted all attempts at interrogation, were not concerned so much with addicting America's youth as they were interested in seeing what effect their mind and body altering concoctions had upon the subjects.
The nefarious researchers had learned that, in less than 1% of those addicted to Supes, the human brain undergoes a radical alteration. The result is the creation of a new kind of sense - the ability to see, and even travel to other dimensions. This amazing psychic feat had long been theorized, as had the existence of alternate realities. The researchers had proven the theories true. Although the process drove the addicts quite mad, it also showed them whole other worlds; worlds similar, but yet different than our own. The Freedom Phalanx was unsure what to do with this research. The findings promised extraordinary new discoveries for the scientific world, but the data had been accrued in the foulest, most amoral manner imaginable.
Statesman decided that humanity should not - could not - profit from suffering of this sort. Should word of the radical research -- and the horrific means through which it was achieved become public knowledge, it would only encourage other madmen to follow suit. Statesman and the Back Alley Brawler agreed to take the secret to their graves and all the Freedom Phalanx technicians were likewise sworn to secrecy as well. But the funny thing about science is that, just because you want to unlearn something, doesn't mean you can. The metaphorical cat was out of the bag. Other dimensions existed and it was possible to see, maybe even travel, into them. Human curiosity could not be contained.
One of the technicians involved in the Freedom Phalanx's investigation was Dr. Brian Webb. A young, brilliant physicist who had helped perfect the Cosmic Crown that gives The Comet Queen her powers, Webb strongly disagreed with Statesman's decision and soon thereafter resigned his post at the Freedom Phalanx and went into business for himself. He sold his teleportation device patents in exchange for the venture capital needed to start his new research and development company: Portal Corp.
Blessed with an eidetic memory, Dr. Webb knew everything the Supes researchers had learned about peering into other dimensions. As much as he abhorred their methods for moral reasons, he also eschewed their research methodology as being impractical and unscientific. Dr. Webb correctly reasoned that the ability to pierce the dimension barrier was not unique to the chemically modified brains of Supes addicts. Rather, the addicts just happened to be tapping into some greater cosmic law. Dr. Webb set out to discover the science behind that law.
Four years later, in 1988, he did just that. Webb created an inter-dimensional portal that allowed him - or anyone for that matter - to simply walk from one world to another. He announced his discovery to the world at large the very next day, calling a press conference that resulted in global media frenzy. Webb actually took a group of reporters and cameramen from every major media outlet through a portal and into a dimension where Paragon City had never existed and the Europeans had yet to discover the Americas. They returned to Paragon City, stunned and amazed. Webb then presented them with a videotape collection containing proof of his visits to over fifty different parallel dimensions in the past day alone. He described worlds that were nearly identical but for small details (stops signs were green) to places where history had changed dramatically (the Axis had won World War II.)
World Reaction to the announcement was something just short of panic. The implications for such a discovery shook many people to their very core. What did this mean for various religious doctrines? Where were these dimensions and what harm could they do to us? If we could go to these dimensions, what was to stop some their residents from coming to our world? As it turned out, it was this last question that would have serious worldwide repercussions for many years to come.
Statesman expressed profound regret that Dr. Webb had used the Supes research despite his desires. Nevertheless, Paragon City's greatest hero and his comrades could not help but be intrigued by the Portal Corp's new technology. Knowing how important first contact with other worlds can be, the Freedom Phalanx began sending its members along with Dr. Webb and his explorations. They wanted to make sure nothing dangerous followed the good doctor back. Unfortunately, they failed in this duty. While exploring a world where America had lost to Nazi Germany, the team ran afoul of that parallel Earth's greatest hero: The Reichsman.
The Reichsman, an alternate version of our world's Statesman, led the Amerika Korps, an elite super powered hero organization that helped preserve Nazi rule over the former United States. Intrigued by these other-worldly interlopers, The Reichsman captured Dr. Webb and his explorers, tortured them to death, and ended up extracting a great deal of data about Webb's home dimension. Data is all well and good, but the Reichsman decided he wanted to see for himself, and so he led Amerika Korps through the portal and back to Paragon City.
It didn't take long for the super-powered fascists to earn the attention of the Freedom Phalanx. Queen Comet, a prominent member of the Phalanx and friend of Dr. Webb, saw the alternate Statesman come through and, having been briefed by Portal Corp about the world Webb and his escorts were exploring, she quickly called for back-up and bravely fought off the invaders until helped arrived. Although seriously wounded, she managed to hold on until Statesman and the rest of the Phalanx arrived.
The ensuing battle raged through the Portal Corp laboratories and spilled out into the city streets. The Reichsman was every bit the equal of his all-American counterpart, and the two nearly beat each other into the ground. Fortunately, the rest of the Amerika Korps did not measure up to the Freedom Phalanx (apparently in his world the Reichsman did not take kindly to potential rivals, and thus their training had been somewhat lax.) With his henchmen defeated, it was only a matter of time before the evil Statesman fell. To this day he remains frozen in suspended animation within the Freedom Phalanx's main headquarters.
Portal Corp was destroyed in the battle, but investors retained the rights to its technologies and had plans to continue the research. However, Dr. Webb's wife sued the shareholders and tied the entire estate up in court until 1998, when the company opened up under new management and with new funding. Although no contact has been made with the Axis America alternate reality since then, the Rikti Invasion certainly proved that the world had not seen the last extra-dimensional visitors.