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The date is in the cliched not-so-distant future, in the similarly cliched world not so different from ours. As the world continued to bicker and argue about legislation and resources and companies no firmer than the paper money in their hands, a small faction of ecologists were rising up – determined to make a stand. The government was too wrapped up in their own games to find the alternative energy they demanded, and so they made a stab at it themselves.

But what lay too far beneath the surface, no one could have expected.

From the ground rose a substance people took to calling vitae – the Latin term for life. They named it such after the then-President’s emphatic speech that whatever this was, it was going to spell out a new era of humanity – a new life. Scientists were gathered to study it. Laboratories were built, applying it to making machines run, cars more efficient, heat our houses.

For a time, it worked.

But then something began to happen. People began getting sick – showing signs of strange abilities and behaviours. Children could tell what their parents were thinking. People were suddenly able to work more efficiently, more quickly. Some grew stronger, others grew smarter. Houses were burnt down because angry teenagers had realized that if they thought hard enough, they could light their bed on fire without ever striking a match…

Comic books had become reality, and there wasn’t a single person that knew how to deal with it. Many people tried to act as if nothing had changed. Tried to pretend that there had always been pyromancers in the world. Tried to act as if they hadn’t seen all of this first on the silver screen.

A few brave souls stepped up in the police forces, and special divisions were made. But it was chaos – were those touched by vitae better than the ones that hadn’t? Or was this to be a segregation of races again – among people that only months before, had all been the same?

Mother and child had a line drawn between them, brother and sister, best friends torn at by suspicion. But we tried to live normally, and the vitae spread. Some powers seemed harmless. Others forced the creation of a new type of mental asylum. Scavengers in the vitae pool – dubbed vampires, for their penchant for seeking out this new life fluid – had found a new mineral clustering at the bottom of some of the pools. Red in its natural forms, the experts dubbed it praesidium – another borrowed Latin term, this one tracing back toward “protection”, as it was found to be the only thing that could negate the effects of vitae in any way. Asylums built rooms out of the stone, throwing dangerous vitaeists into them to keep them calm – sane – normal. When bound by the praesidium, individuals were truly bound – unable to use their newfound abilities.

It was quickly discovered that the binding could not be used preemptively.

And so the world struggled for years, decades with the answer to how to deal with this new turn of events. Each world leader had a different idea – each incoming president a new scheme. Each one started off well, and ended derailed, and a new leader was elected. Coalitions were formed, nations united that had long been enemies, friends were made out of desperation in some attempt to make sense of their universe.

And finally, it happened.

One man arose from the public, not a vitaeist but one untouched entirely. Charismatic, he spoke of a time when vitaeists and humans would be able to live in harmony with each other. Regulations that both sides could agree on. Facilities specializing in training and honing the abilities of the gifted – and similarly, restrictions on when and where abilities could be used. He was an equalizer that spoke to both sides of the matter. He was exactly what the people needed to hear, and they raised him up on a pedestal.

And that was when it all changed.

It’s been twenty-five years since Kristoph Dietrich overthrew the government of the country – the government of the world – and set up what he called the Syndicate. With him came the most powerful and frightening man the world had known, and even in the graphic novel the world had become, some still had trouble accepting that he could be real. All anyone knew was that he was called X – and no one dared ask any further.

X, along with his team of vitaeists, were the true dictators. Each of them were hand-picked, the most powerful and talented with their strains of vitae. The people called them the Stripes, so noted for the silver streak that banded their onyx uniforms. X and the Stripes were the head of the military, a predominantly vitaeist heavy arrangement with twelve factions placed strategically around the world. Each faction had a Stripe they reported to, identified only by number. No one knew where X based himself, and those that cared to look had all come back empty handed. The armed forces answered to the Stripes, and the Stripes answered to X.

And above all others, the Triad had emerged.

A group of three vitaeists gone horribly wrong, they arose as the bogeymen of the new world – seeming to be the only counter to X’s power. Because when the military rose up, the Stripes struck them down. When a Stripe needed to be struck down…the Triad came. Where little was known of the Stripes, less was known of the Triad – save for the fear they inspired in the hearts of the people, both vitaeist and untouched alike.

Most of the rebellions against him failed. His Stripes were fast, some of them given the ability to teleport from their vitae, and be it through vitae or other skills, it seemed that X knew what everyone was thinking, no matter where they were. So the people kept quiet, trying to find ways around the rule – determining which was worse, the rule of the Syndicate or trying to lash out against an enemy they couldn’t see.

But one began to flourish, albeit predominantly underground. A man by the name of Jordan Williams and his wife gathered their friends and began planning. None of the outright attacks, none of the anti-Syndicate propaganda…just planning. Beginning to learn the system. Trying to find a way to bring down the high and mighty without losing their heads in the first round. They were certain X knew of them, but perhaps…perhaps they struck his fancy. Perhaps they amused him. It was hard to tell, but they weren’t about to question.

It’s been twenty-five years since the Syndicate arose, and fifteen years since Jordan gave his life to save his daughter, sacrificing himself to the Triad in order to do so.

I am Torene Williams. And this is our story.

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