–Michael Turner, Cosmologist, University of Chicago
“The universe is made mostly of dark matter and dark energy, and we don’t know what either of them is.”
–Saul Perlmutter, leader of the Supernova Cosmology Project headquartered at Berkeley Lab
“Various types of dark energy have been proposed, including a cosmic field associated with inflation; a different, low-energy field dubbed “quintessence”; and the cosmological constant, or vacuum energy of empty space. Unlike Einstein’s famous fudge factor, the cosmological constant in its present incarnation doesn’t delicately (and artificially) balance gravity in order to maintain a static universe; instead, it has “negative pressure” that causes expansion to accelerate.”
–Donald Driver, DUSEL Astrophysicist, Butt Mountain
From the last will and testament of Reynold Raymond (March 25, 1966 – )
I don’t know how long this will last. After what happened to Johnny… Well, I just don’t know. These things, these powers, they are unpredictable. And the task I’ve assigned myself is dangerous. I just want to make sure that if I don’t make it you know who I was and why I did what I did. So I’m going to write this all down and hope you never have to read it.
You never met your grandpa Richard, but he and your grandma Linda had five kids. I was the second, a year and a half behind Holly. Amber, Rick, and finally, baby Traci, came along about every two years. You’ve got good family, they’ll treat you right. Don’t be afraid to go to any of them for anything you might need
I was born in a little house in Roanoke, VA. Grandpa was a miner and while we moved a half dozen times while growing up, we never left the mountains of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky. Your grandparents were simple people doing a good, hard days work and happy to be blessed with enough to provide for their family. My childhood was a lot like yours, hiking mountain trails, fighting with my brother and the boys that picked on my sisters, hunting, fishing, and camping. All the things I’ve tried to share with you. It was a good life and we were happy.
I never wanted to be a miner, so dad helped me get a job with a local electrician, Willy Watson, when I turned 16. It was good work and work that I enjoyed. But when I graduated high school, Willy told me that if I didn’t go to college he’d fire me. And he did. Best thing he could have done for me. I figured as long as I was going to college I might as well go away to school and I got a partial scholarship to the Technical Career Institute in New York, NY. Again, thanks in no small part to Willy. At TCI I couldn’t decide between the electronics or climate control programs, and so I ended up getting associate degree’s in both.
The big city, New York, was fun for a young man in college. Full of exciting things to do and adventures to be had. I saw my first supers, rode the subway, and saw more than my share of Met’s games. But while I was away at school, your aunt Holly had gotten married and then pregnant, grandpa was killed in a mine collapse, and your uncle Rick had joined the army just as things were starting to escalate in the Middle East. I missed the mountains, my family, and a simpler life. So I came back to Virginia because my family needed me and because I needed them.
I worked for Willy for a short period, before going to work for Blue Mountain Plumbing and Heating. That lasted a little over five years until mismanagement caused the business to fail, leaving me without a job but with a journeyman plumber’s license. That’s when I went to work for Virginia Tech, where I met your mother, and where your story begins.
Danielle, your mother, was the one who interviewed and hired me for the maintenance position at Virginia Tech. We didn’t hit it off immediately, she was a HR Assistant looking for a handsome professor and I was a blue collar grunt wearing a tool belt and changing light bulbs. But it’s hard to ignore your old man’s charm, and eventually I got her to let me take her to dinner. Then I talked her into going steady. And two years later I talked her into marriage. A year later we were proud parents. Four years later we did it again and became the family you know today.
We were happy, very happy. Things were good, your mother was running the HR department for the school and I was doing well enough that my boss submitted me to be lead for the new facility they were building in the Kimballton Mine for the federal DUSEL project.
I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I want you to know the full story, the truth. If you tell anyone about this the government will deny it all, so this is just between us. It can’t go any further. Consider this my last request.
Officially, Butt Mountain didn’t make the cut. The DUSEL project was awarded to the Homestake gold mine, outside the town of Lead, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I’ve been there. It’s real. They do plenty of research out there. But what most people don’t know is that Butt Mountain and the Kimballton mine were deemed an ideal location for a second lab, one that the government didn’t have to disclose to the public. That’s where I worked.
Both facilities are vast sites with hundreds of miles of tunnels already carved into the stone. Each capable of hosting a comprehensive suite of experiments in all major fields of science. At Homestake, the emphasis is on astrophysical research including studies of gravity, neutrinos, and dark matter, the mysterious form of matter that is invisible to our current means of detection, but whose ubiquitous presence throughout the universe has been indirectly confirmed.
It was a good job, it was challenging, paid well, had good benefits, and most importantly let me spend time with my family. I didn’t get the lead, but I was a supervisor. Like any place I’ve ever been, there were good people and bad, there were interoffice politics and bureaucratic headaches to deal with, but I enjoyed it and there was always something in need of fixing.
I don’t want to go into the details about your mother and I’s break-up. There are some things I think you don’t need to know. We loved each other for a long time, and maybe we still do, but there are things that happen to people that change them sometimes those things change them so much that they no longer fit together. Maybe that’s what happened to us. Suffice it to say that we were having problems before I had my accident.
The day that the accident happened, May 20th, it was a Thursday; I was doing my usual routine maintenance on the labs systems. I knew that one of the scientists was going to be running some experiments in the deeper chambers and so was making sure that everything was fine. I returned to the security station just as the announcement to clear area’s 51 through 64 came over the intercom. The guard, looked up at me and asked if I’d seen Gerald Gromm, a guy on my crew that was a bit of a dullard, on my rounds, because last he’d seen Gerald he’d been heading toward unit 63. I said that I hadn’t and told him to call up and postpone the experiment until I found Gerald or cleared the area. He said he would and I headed back into the tunnel as he picked up the phone.
I found Gerald in a bit of a compromising situation with a pretty young secretary named Maggie, apparently, oblivious to the announcement being blasted over the intercom. They weren’t happy to see me, and I wasn’t happy to find them taking a ‘break’ in one of my labs. After some shouting and scrambling for clothes I got them out and moving back down the tunnels.
I don’t know why the experiment didn’t get stopped. But one second I was walking down the tunnel with a couple of embarrassed and pissed off love birds and the next I was being hurled backwards by some invisible force. I blacked out and when I woke up I was in the infirmary with Gerald and Maggie. The doctors said we were lucky to be alive and at that moment, feeling like a thousand pound weight was being pressed down on me, I wasn’t so sure.
The doctors let Maggie and I go, we were fine, a few scratches and some bruises, nothing major. I asked the doctor about the pressure I was feeling, but they could find nothing and told me to get some rest. Maggie didn’t say anything; she just glared at me and walked out. Maybe it was because I’d seen her naked, maybe she was just a bitch. Gerald wasn’t so lucky, he’d gotten pretty beat up, some broken bones and some internal injuries, nothing life threatening, but still, he’d gotten the worst of it.
In the coming weeks my weight fluctuated wildly. I broke two scales as my weight shot up to a thousand pounds and then vanished nearly as fast leaving me weighing less than fifty pounds. Through it all, my shape never changed, I never felt any difference other than that constant pressure that pushed in on me. I brought this to the attention of one of the lab guys, Donald Driver. He ran some tests and determined that while my mass never changed my weight seemed to be under some sort of gravitational force. Through a series of after hours tests and experiments over weeks and months he came to the conclusion that I had some how been saturated with dark matter, an invisible, impossible to detect form of matter that scientists believe makes up 70% of the universe and coincidentally the focus of the experiment I’d been caught in.
It was shortly after this discovery that a bloated and over muscled Gerald smashed through a granite wall and rampaged through the mine before escaping to the surface. Apparently the dark energy had affected him as well. Two weeks later he and a flying superwoman calling herself Dark Magdalene robbed a bank and killed a policeman, a security guard, and injured 10 others. Somehow the accident had given them super powers, powers that they were not using to help people.
My own side effects seemed more detrimental, sometimes I would feel so heavy that I could hardly move and I would bend or break tools and equipment without meaning to. At other times I would feel so light and dizzy that I couldn’t keep my feet on the ground. Donald became my answer man and confidant, your mother was at her wits end with all the accidents that were happening around the house. She was afraid, and rightly so, that I’d crush or drop or somehow hurt her babies.
Donald and I worked to control this force that seemed to surround me. I learned to use my power to first levitate and then fly. We measured my strength and found that I could at times lift four or five thousand pounds. But in the end it was a struggle to control the energy. I could expel it, but it would come crushing back. I could contain it, but my weight and strength at such times were incredible. In the end we conquered the energy with the help of technology. With the help of some bracers and a helm I was able to more fully control and manipulate the dark energy and dark matter that both saturated and flowed around me.
I learned to control my strength, flight, and density. I even learned to project the energy in powerful blasts. I was a super. I could help people. I could make a difference. It was something I’d dreamed of as a boy. There was never any doubt as to what that meant; I had to stop Maggie and Gerald.
Your mother wasn’t pleased by any of this. She wanted a normal husband with a normal job who could be a normal father. I could have been more understanding. Looking back, I can see how this changed everything for each of us. We tried to make it work, but in the end it was just too much change for both of us. When the government removed Virginia Tech from the project, your mother and I were out of jobs. She filed for divorce and took you to Central City to find a normal life.
I helped the police stop Maggie and Gerald before going north. With my access to Butt Mountain revoked I went to Washington and joined a support group for individuals affected by super events. It was there that I met Johnny ‘Atomic Man’ Johnson, Lenny ‘Stalker’ Landers, and Bethany ‘Corona’ Birches. The four of us made plans to form a super team, we were going to call ourselves the Capital Crusaders and try and make our mark amongst the growing super community of the Washington DC. That fell apart when Johnny died of radiation exposure as a result of his accident. Then Lenny decided that crime paid better than being a vigilante hero. When Beth met a lawyer and became pregnant it was over.
My Washington career was over after stopping half a dozen muggings, saving a tour bus from going into the Potomac, and putting the Doppelganger away. It seems like a bigger list than it actually was. When I contacted Vanguard in Central City to see if there was room for another hero, I was happy to hear him say that if this is where my family is, it’s where I should be. So here I am, the latest hero in Central City.
I’ve got a little business going that allows me time for you kids and is flexible enough to allow for some heroing. I’m seeing some wonderful ladies, though I haven’t decided on any one in particular. I’m getting my life back together after three years of chaos. And that’s my story.
Hopefully, you’ll get to learn it all from me and never have to read this. But if I die doing the right thing, then I died for the right reason. My only regret is that I didn’t get to say goodbye.
Reynold Raymond a.k.a. Radiant
Danielle Drayton (35): Divorced 2004, dating, HR Coordinator
Rebecca (12): 7th-grade, likes boys, make-up, and pop music, claims to be misunderstood
Reynold Jr (8): 3rd-grade, likes trucks, guns, and anything with a ball
Richard Raymond: deceased (1987 mine accident)
Linda Raymond (62): Retired, recently dating, amateur bird watcher and photographer
Holly Horton (42): married (Hank-43), 3-children (Chuck-16, Brenda-15, Jill-13), restaurateur
Amber Anderson (38): twice divorced, childless, PR office assistant
Rick Raymond (36): Army – lost leg in Middle East, builds custom ATV’s, married (Shari-24), 1-child (Richard-5)
Traci Raymond (33): Central City lawyer, single, dating, 1-child (Tami-15)
Donald Driver (28): DUSEL Astrophysicist
Jimmy Johnson (14): Son of Atomic Man, little brother/big brother guardianship
Jessica James (33): Barmaid/Waitress at the All-Powerful Sports Bar and Grill
Barbra Brooke (38): local channel cable TV host
Samantha Stillson (30): Central City police officer
Gerald Gromm – GERALD – None to bright but strong super villain
Maggie Manchester – DARK MAGDALENE – Former secretary turned super villain
John Johnson – ATOMIC MAN – deceased (radiation poisoning)
Lenny Landers – STALKER – batman-esc villain
Bethany Birches – CORONA – wife, mother and legal assistant with light powers
VANGUARD – Central Cities most famous superhero and mentor
DOPPLEGANGER – shape changing villain in Washington DC