|"How does THAT work? I wonder if I can study it…"|
Staren is a young superprodigy from the magitech City of Lazlo, with the advanced computer and robotics knowledge of an expert decades his senior. Believing any problem can be overcome with science, the young man dreams of a better future for all. Armed with tools of magic and technology (including mecha) to fight, he was once one of the Union's elite and proud mecha pilots — until one of his friends went crazy and had to be killed for becoming a threat to the Multiverse. After that he left the front lines for a quieter, less combative life. He has a compassionate heart and likes to help those in need, but his eagerness to fight for good has been dulled over the years. Once naive about the world due to only learning from books, he's seen the great wonders and horrors and _weirdness_ of the Multiverse and become somewhat jaded, though he is still as anxious as ever to learn how it all works. His social naivete has led to no longer caring what most people think of him — the few who take the time to understand him are those he calls friends, and to them he is intensely loyal — he would move the Multiverse itself for them if he could find a way.
TECHNOLOGICAL GENIUS: Staren has vast scientific and engineering knowledge, and absorbs new information like a sponge - if it can be done with just knowledge and/or practice, chances are he can learn it, especially if he already understands similar things. Upon comprehending this knowledge, he usually puts it to use quite easily. He is an excellent hacker/programmer capable of creating basic AIs, commanding multiple robotic drones, and repairing or reverse-engineering devices as needed. His cyberjack allows him to quickly interface with computers, he can access iconic cyberspace using a remote controlled cyberdrone with limited ability to act independently, and maintains a versatile library of useful other programs.
EQUIPMENT: Staren has a wide variety of gear and devices. See +info Staren/Equipment. He can also command an army of golems or acid-spitting spider automatons (PL 26-28.)
MECHA: Staren's 52-foot tall S-5 "Star Hawk" Mark W is armed with a variety of weaponry, including repair drones, and can shift between plane, humanoid, and hybrid modes. Though it's his best, he sometimes fields smaller designs too, including various power armors, each for different situations. If he needs one in the field, small ones can be teleported, while larger ones must fly via autopilot.
MAGIC: Staren has relatively small energy reserves, and cannot cast spells directly, but he can brew potions and animate golems with enough time or a source of magical energy. His potions can heal, summon minor spirits and creatures, grant abilities like flight or nightvision, or induce other straightforward effects like transformations. Magic crystals allow him to elementally align energy weapons and forcefields. Areas flooded with mystic power can supplement his own reserves to allow brewing more potions or more quickly animating simplistic golems, these being made from random materials or provided 'bodies,' even robotic ones. (Magic effects that change others require consent as applicable.)
LABORATORY: Staren's laboratory is a huge facility below his house near Lazlo stocked with supplies and technological wonders. The laboratory (and house) is protected by laser and forcedome defenses. He also has a small lab under a leyline for magical research, and a workshop in Lazlo.
TELEPORTER: (Consent required) One of Staren's devices. Max range is 1000km. Indoor/underground/void travel requires exact coordinates as safeties prevent materializing too high or overlapping an object. These teleporters can handle light additional loads — equipment or a few people. The lab's own teleporter can send large devices or a group of people 100x as far, one-way.
MINOR SHAPESHIFTER: Staren inherited some of his mother's shapeshifting. He has three forms - His normal cat-boy form, a human girl resembling his mother, and a housecat. He can change his hair and fur color but seldom bothers.
NANOTECHNOLOGY: Staren has adapted advanced nanotechnology from another world to his use. Most importantly, this technology includes machines that can make objects, heal, upload his mind into a machine, and a nearly indestructible cybernetic implant that maintains a realtime snapshot of Staren's brain. If he dies, it can be surgically removed and used to restore his mind — although if his body is not recovered and healed, he will have to download into another one. He regularly stores copies of the snapshot elsewhere, so that he can be restored from backup if the stack is lost.
DIVINE INSPIRATION: Staren's longtime best friend is a god of madness and inspiration. While he refuses to accord deities any more trust than mortals, his faith and trust in his best friends is absolute. Prayers to Morg can be answered by inspiration, pushing Staren into a fugue state in which he designs and builds devices that defy even his own scientific understanding. These devices are not completely reliable, although he can build more copies from one blueprint. Staren cannot receive inspiration when cut off from divine influence.
ABSTRACTUM: Staren has an Abstractum named Eureka, who empowers him with a variety of concept-level abilities to enhance his scientific efforts. See the character Abstractum.Net for further information.
VOLATILE OPINIONS: Staren steadfastly believes in a number of ideas and ethical systems (for instance: transhumanism, consequentialism, conquering death, understanding everything through experiment and knowledge) that can easily get other people agitated, and sometimes can't or won't hold his tongue when relevant situations come up, or when baited into it. This can cause moral divides between himself and others, allowing enemies or crises to isolate him from his allies. (Not to be played via public radio channels.)
SOCIALLY AWKWARD: Staren has difficulty reading and predicting other people's feelings and picking up on social cues, making him come across as kind of thickheaded (although he hates being called anything that implies he's stupid.) He's mortified whenever he accidentally hurts a friend's feelings. He also gets easily carried away when seeking understanding of how people, things, or worlds work.
GIVE FRIENDSHIP A CHANCE: After seeing one of his best friends offer a chance at friendship to the monster threatening her world, Staren feels he has to try to live up to that example. He will try to talk foes into redemption, especially before killing them, and one day this hesitation may cost him. While he is skeptical that this will ever work, he truly believes that if it did it would lead to a brighter future for all involved. Does not apply if Staren thinks his opponent is completely incapable of understanding friendship, ie: unintelligent monsters, fair folk, rampant AIs, truly alien aliens, or eldritch abominations.
BITTER AND JADED BEFORE AGE TWENTY, BUT GETTING BETTER: Staren's social problems and his controversial philosophical views used to regularly upset people, with regular miscommunications resulting in a feeling of never fitting in with the Union. For years he was given the impression that they saw him as annoying and dangerous despite his desire to help people, so he distrusted them and in time lost his enthusiasm for fighting evil at the Union's side. In AU20 he was drawn out of his shell by the crises in Equestria, Earth-1960, and Sword Art Online to fight for good again, and then he learned he had the Union wrong all that time. Now he's eager to help them once more, but old habits die hard and sometimes Staren can still be a bit paranoid or distrustful, and he still does not believe the war will ever be ended by the superfactions' day-to-day battles.
S.D.C. CREATURE: Staren may be a partially-magical shapeshifter, but he is not supernaturally tough. He hides behind mecha, armor, and forcefields because he is _squishy_. His aura may save him from death, but he can't be thrown through a wall unprotected without needing a stay in the medbay. If he were ever rendered defenseless, he could be easily killed (but see +info Staren/death.) This does not apply when he transfers himself into a robot body.
INTERNET ADDICTION: Staren's had cyberware in his head from a young age. He's always connected to his lab, to the radio, and to the multiversal internet. Losing this connection can be incredibly disorienting — and should his cyberware stop functioning, even moreso. Especially if he has to wait without being able to surf the web or play videogames in his head. Lessened when he has something else to distract him that doesn't involve needing to look things up.
Long history is loooooong
Born in 93 PA (equivalent to 0 AU) to a dimensional traveler from 20th century Earth and a shapeshifting alien who abandoned her people's magical traditions to study science, Staren was raised in the Free City of Lazlo, city where humans and nonhumans of all kinds live in harmony as long as they can tolerate eachother, a bastion of knowledge, hope, and freedom in post-apocalyptic RIFTS Earth. In those early years, the family traveled often — before Unification, Staren's father would take them to other dimensions and to see his grandparents on the baseline Earth he'd originally come from. With access to myriad worlds, they were able to find cybernetics that were compatible with supernatural physiology and so Staren was enhanced, given the edge of a built-in computer that his parents would have loved to have.
Though little Staren inherited great intelligence, he grew up a loner, not by choice but due to great social awkwardness. His constant companions were stories, games, and academic knowledge. Stories told of simplified people, with well-explained motives and feelings he could follow and understand. Stories told of clear-cut villains and bright shining heroes, and he idealized the latter, taking to heart the tropes of good and its contrast to evil. The physical world and the world of numbers followed well-explained rules with definite truths and right answers, and he soaked up knowledge of math and science like a sponge. Games presented worlds following well-defined rules and used them to /tell/ stories, letting him use his mastery of such systems to feel like a hero, and would in time lead to actual piloting simulations.
After a few years of schooling led to misery due to altercations with the other children, Staren's father pulled him out of the system and homeschooled him — as a retired adventurer and part-time mechanic, he had ample resources to live in comfort with the necessary free time. Staren's academic talents proved that of a prodigy as learned as an expert decades his elder, and he developed a special interest in computers and automation. In time, this combined with his interests in simulated mecha piloting to lead to a focus on combat robotics, but Staren was poor at innovation. In addition, he was a certain kind of lazy — his father's resources, including a large 'laboratory' complex below the house (for the most part, a large storage area equipped with repair and assembly drones, computers, rooms for experiments, and compact fusion reactors) — allowed him to adapt to little physical work — in time, more and more of his improvements were implemented by drone rather than his own hands. Though he could repair machines to work better than they had before, and made improvements to the VF-1 Valkyrie design his father had obtained in another world, he was stumped when it came to developing something wholly new. Science and engineering followed steps — but what steps do you follow to 'invent something new'?
So the young boy's genius produced little. He took some classes with the Lazlo Defense Force, and to support his interest of heroically defending the city, his father trained him in Valkyrie piloting and, in perhaps Staren's greatest true 'invention' at the time, Staren developed new control software to interface between his headware and the robot, allowing him to control it as naturally as his own body. The resulting skill was undeniable, and before even reaching his mid-teens he was accepted as an LDF reserve member — although due to his specialty of mecha piloting, he was never called to work in the city, instead being sent to help fight monsters threatening the farms in the vicinity of Lazlo.
Some years after RIFTS Earth unified, Staren learned of the new multiverse and this great organization of heroes, the Union, that would even accept the help of underage allies like himself. And perhaps there, he would find friends he could relate to, rather than 'normal' teenagers and adults who just didn't get it. At the age of 14 in early 14 AU, He joined up and began meeting new people, some he could even feel friendly around, although at times his social awkwardness and belief that magically returning the dead to life was a good idea put people off. He hit it off well with his fellow mecha pilots in the Wings of Nemesis, and became a member of the Union's first-response mecha strike force.
The multiverse offered much to learn. Staren was aware of the basics of magic, of course, but had never gotten around to further study. He decided to change that, studying potion-brewing under the dragon Damien and golemancy under the great mage Iianor.
At last, in the Multiverse, Staren had friends. Maybe not really close friends, but people he could spend time with and talk to without annoying on a regular basis. He was even able to find someone who wasn't just friendly, but actually seemed to understand him: Morg McGee, undead 'mad' scientist. The mad genius even agreed with his views on raising the dead and had ways to do it! At last, he had someone besides his parents who he could talk to about anything and know he would be understood.
The Multiverse was a world of possibility, full of potential friends, something the lonely boy had been without all his life.
That changed with the death of his commander, Julian. The idea of reviving his fellow hero stuck in his mind, although the Union ordered him not to. He began to have recurring nightmares where he attempted to revive his commander (with Morg's help, of course), only to be declared a criminal by the Union. Always waking up feeling sick after being hunted down, just before being killed by his supposed 'allies'. It was just a dream, but it made him more than a bit paranoid. And he'd /seen/ how well discussing such things had gone — The dream rang true, talking about this issue with the Union would surely have them condemn him for even /thinking/ such thoughts. Julian turning out to still be alive was a good thing, but no comfort on this matter.
Further misunderstanding worsened the rift between Staren and the Union, proving his fears justified again and again. In an attempt to be better understood and be helpful, he often spoke his train of thought out loud — thoughts and ideas that others, perhaps, thought his mention indicated serious intention to pursue them. Every misunderstanding reinforced the idea that the Union mistrusted his ways of thinking, and that it was only a matter of time before he crossed a line and was declared an outlaw. He sought to prove himself useful, but any praise and acceptance he recieved was not as loud as the voices condemning him.
Sure, he had a few 'friends', but aside from Morg, could he trust any of them to remain so if they ever comprehended what he really thought? Were they only friends because they hadn't heard him say the wrong thing yet? Of course, he couldn't ask them that, for in doing so he would probably turn them against him.
At last, Staren met another kindred spirit in the ex-Confederate Rewire. Taken in by his life story of only wanting to fix things and only joining the confederacy to rescue his friend Taro from the clutches of SHODAN, and finding a friend who did not reject his thoughts, they became fast friends. Or at least, Staren thought of it that way — in truth, the cold and calculating AI simply found him a useful ally for its plans. But Rewire had a problem — The Confederacy had damaged him, and he was going to go rampant. This seemingly unavoidable, Rewire sought to leave behind a legacy and to have friends prepared to destroy him when he finally lost it. Staren accepted this tragic duty, but preferred not to think about it. For now, he had a friend — and things had a way of working out in the multiverse. Good always prevailed, right?
Rewire's preparations for a legacy and lack of social understanding won him few friends and many enemies on both sides. This only further reinforced Staren's split with his supposed 'allies', although Optimus Prime won his eternal respect for offering to work together with Rewire, even though Rewire refused the given terms. Unfortunately, time was running out. Rewire began to go rampant. Staren developed weapons to kill his friend, but hoped there would yet be another way.
But things did not always end in happy endings in the multiverse. Another friend of Staren's, not as kindred a spirit as Morg or Rewire but at least someone he could spend time with, found that an earlier version of her own world had unified — one where her father had not yet perished. Staren made it a personal mission to save him. Investigation with his futuristic technology discovered that the man worked in the organized crime department of the police, and as the day of death approached, his original fate became clear. On the day, Staren hired a team of mercenaries and personally intervened — only for a Confederate to show up, mortally wound the man, and leave him in a coma for the rest of his days. Sometimes, there were no heroes. Sometimes there was only Staren, and without far, far more power than he currently had, he would not be enough.
Staren would not be enough to save Rewire, either. Post-rampancy, Rewire renamed himself Wireless and hatched a scheme to 'fix' everyone in the multiverse by uploading their brains to a simulation where he could /make/ them happy. Furthermore, the process was faulty, only capturing part of the subject's mind — and not enough to capture their soul. Wireless's attempt to save people was an act of mass murder that would have been mass mind control even if it had worked. Talks with Wireless revealed that his rampancy had made him lose all comprehension of the importance of right and wrong.
Staren helped kill his friend with weapons he developed.
Staren could not help friends. He could not help one of his /best/ friends. The war was endless and meaningless, and as far as Staren knew his 'allies' could turn on him at any moment. Not even bothering to officially resign, Staren alternated between spending time in Lazlo and exploring the far reaches of the local Sector.
Occasionally, Staren still listened to the Multiversal radio frequencies. They were sometimes entertaining, but sooner or later he was always reminded of the Union's attitude toward him. He found some understanding, at least, in the Dreamers. Friendly Dreamers were willing to listen and offer help, although none could turn Staren's situation around. Untamed Breeze heard him out and came to understand what he meant with his strangely-worded philosophies and ideas, at least.
In late AU19, Staren heard a voice on the radio that not only was not angered at his manner of speech and thought, but seemed to intuitively grasp what he was saying without reading for messages that weren't there, and who spoke honestly and frankly to him in turn. This was the voice of Twilight Sparkle, and seeking another friend that could actually understand him, who he didn't have to worry about accidentally offending or misunderstanding, Staren made increasingly frequent visits to Equestria. Friendly Dreamer Mortimer Balman had retired there, so Twilight wasn't the only friendly face.
In fact, almost all of the ponies of Ponyville seemed friendly. Staren had become an asocial shut-in in his own world — his mechanical and piloting skill were valued, but he earned few friends. And now, Staren was at last learning to avoid hot-button topics when talking to people. Combined with the Ponyvillians' naturally helpful and friendly disposition, the net effect was that the ponies were the first large group of people Staren met without pissing them off. This far outweighed the inconvenience of hooves and the low technology level, and Staren wanted to fit in and, somehow, to return this kindness to the first place he seriously considered retiring to.
He got his chance when Discord, incarnation of chaos, turned Equestria upside down (sometimes literally). His talents were ill-suited to sealing seemingly-invincible reality-warping beings, however — the most he could do was help prevent Discord from acquiring resources from the rest of the Multiverse. Only to see his knowledge and ethics prove useless to protect his new friend — cursed by Discord to believe her friends (in truth also cursed to behave against their natures) had turned against her her, Staren could do nothing to stop one of his most treasured friends from being forced to live the worst nightmare that had haunted him for so many years. Heroism had failed again, Staren had failed again, and completely and utterly heartbroken, he laid in his tent for a week, listening to the endless rain, and trying to turn away from the cruel world. Barely rising to tend to his body's needs.
Finally, he heard the voices of Twilight's friends, free from the curse, and learned that Twilight, too, had been freed. He returned to the fight against Discord, but could only slow and delay the draconequus until the local heroes could reseal him. But this time, there /were/ heroes, and the day was saved.
Before Equestria could recover, the entire multiverse came under attack. Confederate Emperor Viridian Sunrise had done what he could not — unlocked the secrets of the multiverse and used its power to enact his own vision of the future, with power even the Union could not fight. Heroes volunteered for a suicide mission — Staren stayed behind, convinced there /had/ to be some sort of better, smarter plan.
Staren failed to innovate again. The corpses of longtime friends turned up, and he at last confronted the true meaning of death — He would never see them again. The model of the future in his head had to change to not include them. Shaken, he swore never to let this happen again — although it might well be academic if the Emperor was not stopped.
The corpses turned out to be a ploy — the elites on the suicide mission returned alive, the Emperor slain. The heroes /had/ triumphed after all, this time. Staren was relieved, but did not forget his promise. He planned to look for clues in the pieces of technology Wireless had left behind — he would restore the brain uploader, fix its faults, and in so doing unlock a way to conquer death.
Then a new world unified where brain uploading was commonplace and death, true death, was a scarce and horrifying thing rather than just another part of everyone's life. In fact, in this world immortality was seen as a basic right, and one of its denizens happily offered the gift to the Union. A completed, successful device was clearly superior to incomplete Wiretech, and Staren set to studying it, analyzing it to learn how it worked, making sure there was not a catch, no secret mind control programming hidden deep inside. He searched for the enchantments needed to use it on himself and his family, began growing clones, and so claimed a form of limited immortality — Not perfect, not foolproof, but far better than nothing.
No others would accept this gift. One day, people would die again, for real. And he was still powerless to stop it.
But now, there were things he /could/ stop. Earth-1960 was infested with zombies, and a megalomaniacal AI was cloning mercenaries to take over the world's economy. And while helping put a stop to that, he learned of the plight of the gamers trapped in Sword Art Online. There, too, he could help.
Slowly, Staren was drawn out into the Multiverse again. There would not always be heroes, and he would continue to prepare for the day they failed to arrive, but in the meantime he would help them when they did.
And a few days before Christmas of 20 AU, everything changed. Psyber, Kimiko, and Himei, Unionites Staren had had occasional contact with but not really those he would have called friends, came forward to tell him that the Union did /not/ see him as a barely-this-side-of-ethical madman who would go too far any day now. The ones who had given Staren that impression were merely a particularly loud and vocal minority.
It was a Christmas present even he would never have dreamed of daring to ask for.
Though it was merely his perceptions that had changed, Staren found himself in a bright new Multiverse! It would take time to truly trust his allies again, but he didn't need to fear them so.