My tooth hurts today, so I'm going to cheat and do a copy/paste for this post. Here's the origin story for Domino, the character that I'm running in the new Mutants & Masterminds game:
Code Name: Domino
Real Name: Paul LeMasters
Occupation: Student/Lucky Dog vendor
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None (orphan)
Place of birth: Unknown, assumed to be New Orleans
Date of birth: Unknown, birth certificate says 10/31/1987
Group affiliation: Nightwatch
Base of operations: New Orleans
First appearance: Nightwatch #1
Height: 6’ Weight: 175 lbs.
Eyes: Blue Hair: Black
Paul LeMasters was found abandoned on the steps of an orphanage in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana in November, 1987. It is estimated that he was no more than a month old when he was found. Given a name by the priest who ran the orphanage, Father Paul Chauvin, LeMasters was raised in this very poor community with little support. Despite this disadvantage, Paul developed cognitively and physically at an amazing rate, easily memorizing anything he could detect with his five senses. Unbeknownst to Paul, several families had tried to adopt him, but Father Paul denied them all, keeping young Paul at his side.
When he reached fifth grade, Paul received a scholarship to attend Holy Cross School, where he excelled for the next seven years. With his amazing muscle memory, Paul found that he could bowl a perfect 300 game after the first time he saw a bowler roll a strike. After watching a no-hitter at a Zephyrs game, Paul became a dominant high school pitcher, with several major league teams preparing to acquire his services after his final year of high school. With a perfect SAT score in-hand, Paul was courted by university after university. At the beginning of his senior year, Hurricane Katrina struck the city and Holy Cross School was damaged beyond repair, like most buildings in the Ninth Ward.
Father Paul had arranged for the children of the orphanage to be evacuated to Houston, but he was strangely compelled to get back to New Orleans. Taking young Paul with him, Father Paul was forced to sneak back into the city. Wading through filthy flood waters, the pair approached the orphanage in the dark. Debris flowed past and around them as they made their way up the steps. When they reached the top, Father Paul crossed himself as he saw the orange spray painted “X” on the door. At the top of the mark was “9/30/05,” the date that the building had been checked. To the left was “NOPD,” and on the bottom a zero, indicating that no one had been found dead inside. The powerful stench of mold almost overwhelmed young Paul, but Father Paul remained steadfast. He marched to the top of the stairs where his office was located, while young Paul remained at the door, illuminated only by the moon. Suddenly, the sound of splashing footsteps took Paul by surprise and he was bowled over by two burly men. A knife was immediately at his throat.
The office where Father Paul had gone remained silent, but from high above, a cloaked man descended onto the two men from a shattered window. The knife disappeared from young Paul’s throat and the snapping sound of a spiral fracture from the burly man’s wrist could be heard over the pounding heartbeat in Paul’s ears, followed by a primal scream of rage and pain. Paul tried to clear his head, but the suddenness of the attacks had left him disoriented in the dark.
“Paul! Get down!” came Father Paul’s shout, but young Paul could not locate its source. All he saw was a masked man squaring off with the other thug, who had drawn a small revolver. The gun fired wildly, the muzzle flash blinding Paul momentarily, while the rustling cloak seemingly swallowed the man completely. The pair momentarily grappled, and the rotten wood floor beneath the pair began to give way. The cloaked man began to fall, and then a final shot rang out. As the cloaked man collapsed through the gaping hole in the floor, the looter grabbed his friend by the arm, eliciting another scream, and bolted for the door, the pair falling down the final three steps into the water. They scrambled to their feet and disappeared into the night.
Paul rolled the fallen hero onto his back, and to his surprise he saw the kind face of Father Paul behind the mask, smiling oddly serenely, despite the terrible, gaping wound in his chest. As blood bubbled from Father Paul’s chest, he rasped out his final words. “Paul,” he whispered, “when one Domino falls, it sets another into motion.” With his last breath, Father Paul withdrew a key from the cuff of his glove and pressed it into Paul’s hand. With that, Father Paul was dead.
LeMasters removed Father Paul’s simple costume, but left the body on the doorstep of the orphanage, where he tipped off the police it could be found. He used Father Paul’s cell phone to make the call, made mental note of all the numbers and contacts in the address book and promptly threw it over the levee into the slowly receding waters. Paul searched the priest’s office and found nothing salvageable there. He discovered a hidden watertight compartment behind a statue, from which he guessed Father Paul had gotten his disguise. He watched over Father Paul’s body for two days from a safe distance until the police arrived to pick it up. They changed the “zero” marked on the door to a “one.” A single tear fell from Paul’s eye. He blinked it away and fell fast asleep, nearly exhausted from his vigil.
Father Paul’s funeral was a short affair, attended by few. Most of the Ninth Ward evacuees remained out of the city, and there were few workers available to handle entombments when there was so much work to be done. Father Paul’s body was kept in storage until the archdiocese was able to claim it and place it in their mausoleum. Paul held back tears until he found himself reliving the moment of Father Paul’s death in excruciating detail. When the gun went off for the last time in his mind, he fell to the ground, doubled over by his guilt.
It was weeks before Paul found the key’s lock. He knew it was for a Wells Fargo safety deposit box, but he had no way of knowing which branch it was in. Temporarily employed by Entergy, the local power company, Paul worked in the city as one of the few allowed to remain within the city limits. As part of the crew working to restore power to Wells Fargo, Paul used the chance to work his way to the deposit boxes. Finally finding the correct box, Paul emptied its contents into a backpack and went back to work until the end of the day, when he deliberately let it slip that he was only 17 years old. Freed of his obligation to the company, he picked up his final check and went to work.
The backpack contained several items, including a 16mm movie reel. Paul headed back to the orphanage, equipped with a gasoline-powered generator he had borrowed from Entergy. He knew Father Paul kept old equipment of the type he needed. Pulling out an old Bell & Howell projector from the audio/visual storage room, Paul threaded the film from memory, marveling at the age of the celluloid, which had been spliced in several places. Using a moldy bed sheet as a screen, Paul watched as his future unfolded on old linen.
In a series of clips dating back to before talkies, men dressed in cloaks and simple domino masks explained and demonstrated what it means to be the next in succession in a long line of costumed adventurers called Domino. “From the time of the American Revolution,” the movie explained, “there has been someone called Domino fighting injustice. Sometimes from the barrel of a gun, sometimes from the blade of a sword, other times with empty hand, but always fighting to preserve justice and the ideals of decent people, Domino has prevailed.”
“Under usual circumstances the passage of the mask goes from father to son, but when that is impossible, a successor receives these instructions. If you are watching this, your predecessor was unable to train you him or herself. Follow these steps carefully, and within a few years you will be ready to take up the mask.”
Paul shut off the projector and paused quietly in the dark to think. Was Father Paul waiting for me to turn 18? Was that what the desperate trip to the orphanage all about? Why was I selected? My memory tricks? The fact that I have no family? He turned the projector back on and finished watching. In the last few minutes it was clearly Father Paul behind the mask, talking about taking advantage of modern technology to keep up with criminals. First thing I need to do is transfer this film to digital storage, Paul thought to himself. Wait. Does that mean I’m doing this? Of course it does. I owe Father Paul everything.
Paul watched the film again in his mind. Every detail burned into his memory, he made his plan. Digging into the backpack, he found a passport in his name for which he remembered applying when he was 16, $50,000 in cash, the key and deed to a French Quarter apartment, a Credit Suisse account number, and a detailed map of Northern China, with a mountaintop marked in red. Perfect, Paul thought, I already speak Spanish, French, and Creole. I always wanted to learn Mandarin. Also in the backpack was a simple black leather mask, sculpted to match his facial features on the inside, but padded within to disguise the contours of his face. Attached was a Post-It note reading, “When you’re ready.”
While he waited for his visa to be approved, Paul celebrated his 18th birthday being courted by baseball scouts and college admissions representatives. He told them up front that he was not interested in their proposals, but they were not dissuaded. He ate at the finest restaurants in the French Quarter, many of which were still open for business. The meals, complete with visits with the head chefs, arranged by his hosts, were exquisite. He had no idea that food could taste so good. Some of the chefs graciously showed him their techniques. Paul absorbed everything. The manual dexterity of their sous chefs was simply astounding. He had never seen knives move so fast. He asked if he could try preparing some vegetables and was able to replicate precisely the style of the woman he had watched. “Wow,” she said, “you may have a future as a chef.” Paul smiled for the first time in weeks, but kept his thoughts to himself.
Two Years Later
The China Air jet landed nine minutes ahead of schedule at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. As Paul LeMasters stepped off the plane and down the ramp to the international terminal, no one was there to greet him. Forgotten by those few acquaintances he had left behind, he wouldn’t have been recognized if anyone had watched him. The way he carried himself with inner peace and confidence belied his tender age. He stretched for a few minutes to relieve the kinks from the 14-hour flight. Then the twenty-year old took a cab to his French Quarter apartment and unpacked. The last item he unpacked was the leather domino mask. He put it on. He was ready.
To Be Continued…