The origin of Chase Arcanum




What am I doing here?

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Until recently, I was an associate professor of historical studies at Paragon U specializing in archeolinguistics- decoding and translating ancient languages or codes- rarely done in field work lately. The team just faxes or emails hi-res images to me and I translate in the air-conditioned comfort of an academic’s office. That is, when the air conditioning worked- and associate professors’ offices cannot be called comfortable by any stretch of the imagination.

Paragon U provided a heftier teaching load at lower pay than my pervious place of employment, but the university had its own incentives for me. The subbasement of the library holds a large archive poorly catalogued relics from decades-old expeditions and forgotten oddities bequeathed to the school by patrons. This treasure trove of mysteries to be re-discovered, codes that were never cracked, and tomes that hadn’t been read in centuries was the reason I accepted the position.

Paragon U- the only university where- at least once a semester- you’re told, “I couldn’t finish my term paper- I had to save London.” The campus with the largest proportion of super powered students on the planet- Take troubled teens coping with the ability to grind concrete with their teeth, give them the stress of final exams, tuition payments, part time jobs, and mix in all the alcohol found on most American campuses, and can you expect anything less than utter madness?

Ok, that’s what you’ve probably heard, but most of it’s a myth. Despite the way it’s portrayed in the sitcoms, you don’t see spandex suits in the classroom. You don’t have half of your class fail to show up when a super villain team threatens the city. Final Exams rarely cause spontaneously displays of pyrotechnics. – rarely.

Sure, there are titillating tales of elemental-controlling frat boys giving sunbathers sudden weather changes- and there has been an outbreak of teleporting panty raids- sure, we have to test our athletic teams for “metas” so we won’t be banned from the bowls, and yes, we do have insurance premiums at twice the national average thanks to fears of “scientific experiments gone wrong,” but people have been here long enough to get tenure and never actually WITNESSED any powers in use.

It would have been hard for me to witness anything, myself. I set up shop in the near-forgotten museum / library archives. It was everything you’d expect from such a place: dark, poorly lit rooms filled with row after row of overfilled shelves containing cardboard boxes, crates, and linen-wrapped packages, smelling vaguely of mildew.

Still, it was better than the coat closet I’d been issued as my official office. I don’t know how I was expected to hold office hours there- there was no way I could fit myself AND a student inside without SERIOUS invasion of personal space and great risk of inappropriate touching. Not that fraternization was possible in such a small space- geometrically speaking- unless one of the parties was double-jointed…

Heh… oh yeah… What WAS her name?

I digress…

Where was I? The archives…

It’s amazing how much of what’s now “unknown” is actually well-documented in these sequestered spaces just waiting for someone to re-discover them. In those chambers, you could find relics of scrolls from Alexandria, Illuminated manuscripts from the 5th century, and exploration journals from the 19th & 20th. There were inscribed scarabs, staves, shards of pottery, and pre-aztec gold tablets- and that was only what I found on the first shelf.

I recruited a few exemplary students to help with sensitive items, drafted alot of less-stellar students in desperate need of extra credit, and proceeded to catalog, document, decypher, and digitize our finds.

I know I don’t look like your stereotypical bookworm. I paid my way through college by selling my soul to Uncle Sam for 4 years: Army Airborne Infantry. I’d planned to go into commsec- cryptography, but something in my teen years delayed my security clearance. By the time I was cleared for that task, I was ready for outprocessing. I manage to stay in shape running PT with the ROTC kids. I can still smoke those wannabe-butterbars.

Besides, I was single, mid-30’s and surrounded by gorgeous co-eds. Of course I’m going to keep in shape.

Anyway, while digging through a stack of 19th century records, I stumbled across references to the Circle of Thorns- English dilettantes dabbling in the magical arts, led by a “Baron Zoria.” It seems Zoria was looking for “the lost underground city of Oranbega.” It all seemed rather amusing- and I needed an April Fools research project for my student assistants, so I started digging into this. I figured I’d plant false artifacts and send them on a merry goose chase.

Until I started actually finding other pieces of the puzzle- and the story started to fall together. At first, I thought the students were playing a joke ON ME, but the evidence was too solid- the documents too authentic. Oranbega was real- and located under Paragon City. The circle of thorns had found it, made a pact with the ancient powers within, and remained a supernatural force to be reckoned with to this day.

Now, this might not be news to you supers, but it was to me- academia has a general disdain for anyone going into “heroic studies.” Fighting crime has a rather brutish reputation, and most scholars consider the entire field the realm of pseudoscience, charlatans, or muscleheads.

I, on the other hand, was fascinated. I have to confess to becoming a bit… obsessed. I began digging deep into the vaulted stores, requesting access to private archives, digging deeper into the thorns, the occult, and the people who fought them. I even spent my vacation time on expeditions to archives in Moscow, Cairo, Bogotá, Tokyo, and New Delhi.

At some point I can’t recall, reading the ancient tomes became much easier- a second language- or third- or fourth. I could look at a shelf of artifacts and pull out the single occult relic of value- I could practically FEEL its aura. My eyes were opening onto a world much larger than I’d ever imagined.

My digging didn’t go unnoticed. A rather exclusive society of occult researchers, scholars, and heroes, calling themselves the “Midnight Squad” frequently thwarted any campaign the Circle of Thorns cooked up. It was only natural that they’d have people watching over the same archives I’d grown so attached to. I must have crossed a threshold, because one of them, a hero known as Arcane, paid me a visit.

Arcane was an older, scholarly looking gent who preferred to dress in slightly dated gentlemen’s attire and had an annoying habit of using shadows as doors. One moment, I’d be alone in the archive, the next- he’d appear behind me, announcing his presence with that casual tone of the British “old school” gentry.

You should know the type- that proper, unfazeable air of calmness that’s so overdone it almost seems to be a parody- No bad news- no matter how bizarre- could ever put him off:

“Arcane, a 6 headed hydra just occupied the ruins of the Parthenon.”
“You don’t say… did you notice its coloration? Was its torso a quadruped or serpentine? Well, never mind, I’ll have a look for myself. Tea?”

He was either the most composed man on the planet, or absolutely insane.

In our first few encounters, he tried to deter my research- smuggle away artifacts I shouldn’t be handling, create haunting spectral illusions just within my peripheral vision, that sort of thing. When that failed to work, he spoke to me directly, warning that the Art isn’t meant for dabblers and without discipline and training, the power could tear a mundane apart.

I was always a stubborn sort.

For reasons he never disclosed, he acquiesced and instead offered his guidance. It was a sudden change- and to this day and the events that have transpired, I still wonder what brought about the shift. Did I do something- show something- that suddenly convinced him I had promise? Did he foresee what was to come? All I know is that he told me that if I continued to improve, he would eventually sponsor my entry into the Midnight Squad. I wasn’t interested in heroics, but I never turned down a good resource- and the Midnight Squad could always use more scholars…

But one line still haunts me. Just after mentioning the Midnight Squad he tensed, grew distant, and said, “Soon, midnight will pass, and the 13th hour will be at hand- the witching hour- all furies most evil will be unleashed. Be prepared.”

He never spoke about it again.

Less than a month later, the Rikti appeared, the invasion began, and the fusion bomb destroyed the Midnight Squad’s headquarters. I was never inducted- never even had a full month’s of guidance in the Art.

Arcane’s MIA and presumed dead. The Circle of Thorns is more active than ever, and nobody knows if or when the Rikti are going to return. In the back of my mind I know that Arcane’s 13th hour is at hand. It’s not a time I can stand by passively as an observer or scholar.

So here I am.

No, I don’t have a spandex super uniform. I’m not going to criticize the lads and lasses wearing them- especially the lasses- but it’s not for me. Combat isn’t a good place to be distracted by a wedgie when the spandex rides up. Field khaki’s and loose white shirt suit me fine. Besides, it means I don’t have to change between operations and classes. If I wore spandex to class, enrollment would plummet.

As for my “super” name, I’m not too imaginative. “Chase” is my birth name- no sense trying to learn another. The way I see it, battle isn’t the place to have an identity conflict. I can just imagine it:

“Hey blizzard, he’s on your right!...”
“yo! Blizzard! BLIZZARD!”
“Umm.. Scott, YOU’RE blizzard, now remember!”

I’d rather not add to the confusion, so it’s Chase Arcanum, in tribute to the fallen. The last part roughly translates to “Student of Arcane” and it seems somewhat fitting. Whatever role I’m about to play, I’m deeply in his debt.


My first week as a sanctioned “hero” was spent addressing the recent upwelling of gang activity in Paragon’s Atlas Park. I’d planned to work solo- if I was going to make a fool out of myself pretending to be something more than an aging college professor; I wanted to have as few eyewitnesses as possible.

As luck would have it, my activities were quickly discovered by a post grad student at Paragon U- a lovely young lass with a promising future in genetic research and a penchant for pyrokenetics. I mustn’t have appeared too foolish, as we’re now a team on the streets of Paragon and off. I never would have considered trudging through the sewers in search of bad guys a “date,” but somewhere between smashing skulls and tracking down the Lost, I fell for her- hard.

Fortunately, she felt the same. We were married in a in a small ceremony accompanied with family, colleagues, and a few of our new friends in the superhero community. Well, they were there for most of it. During the reception, we had to scramble- London was having some trouble.