John Jack: A 1960’s-style super-secret-agent-type. He’s supposedly a “mercenary-for-hire” but somehow always winds up working for the good guys – whom he insists usually repay him by trying to assassinate him. Very suspicious of super-science, and thus paranoid about pretty much the entire core. Was blown out of his own realm into core earth Scotland in a weird-science accident and was recruited by the House of Roses on an experimental basis thanks to his success against a minor Dalek incursion there (“More funny robots. Fine. Where’s my gun…). After all, they wanted to investigate a report about urban combat involving the Ouratha, so an experienced, disposable, anti-robot mercenary fighter seemed like a reasonable addition to their novice agent team.
Benedict (refuses to use his real last name until he regains leadership of his house and possession of his lands): A semi-medieval swordsman, archer, and minor mage, Benedict was exiled for dabbling in forbidden black magic. Believing that it was gray at worst, Benedict attempted to use an artifact from an ancient ruin – a magical mirror – to scry out his accusers. Instead, it hurled him and his few loyal retainers into a world which is – at least in his eyes – apparently some sort of annex to hell, or at least a realm of probably-unholy sorcery. He’s no longer so sure that his personal magics aren’t black…
Still, Benedict – tramping about London with a batch of men at arms, waving a sword, and ranting about usurpers stealing his realm – was another natural recruit for the House of Roses. A primitive-weapons specialist was always useful in a trip across the manifold, if he died it would be a small loss, and if he was flexible enough to accept a greater reality, he might work out well.
Kevin Sanwell was on record as one of the first generation of Openers – one of the earlier youngsters to vanish into the Manifold. His apparent youth threw some doubt on the that identification – but time varied in the manifold. He came to the attention of the House of Roses thanks to their undercover connections with The Colonial Era, where he (and his personal cadre of agents) occasionally worked for the British Secret Service – and was confirmed as an Opener (and apparently one with a substantial power reserve) when he forced open a gateway into Crusader to rescue some people from a Cult of Kali. That also served to link Kevin with Arpherion – one of Crusader’s more mysterious mystics. Evidently he’d been hopping between the realms for some time and – in his occasional appearances in core – even managed to get away with a lot of minor magic there. They made their initial approaches through Robert Smithfield, one of their contacts in The Colonial-Era Secret Service. Openers were rare, and valuable, and worth going to some trouble to accommodate – and they needed one for their latest mission in any case. A few minor special privileges were easy enough to arrange – and turning a blind eye to those two shapeshifting “ferrets” he kept with him was a minor matter.
The mission was to Greenweld – a recent colony world, with a population of a mere 40,000 or so, and one which had fallen to the Ouratha. As usual, that had been more annoying than dangerous to the human population – but now there were reports of the robots engaging in urban combat operations and of martial law: those few locals who could do so without an external gate had fled into the myriad worlds of the Manifold, and – of course – all reports after that had ceased. They needed to find out what was going on. If the Ouratha were resorting to violence, something must have changed.
The briefing – by “M” – was more than a bit chaotic. Kevin found it hard to believe that he was getting paired with Jack and Benedict – people who weren’t even wearing proper clothes and didn’t know anything about the Manifold – while they both found it hard to believe that they were supposed to have to work with some inexperienced kid and his pet ferrets.
Still: the job was clear enough. Find out what was going on, and report back. The House would be providing a heavy flit, directions for a route through the manifold that would take them most of the way, military-level Smartclothes and hand weapons, and a modest budget.
Unfortunately, neither Jack nor Benedict were willing to do much shopping, although they did wait for Kevin to pick up his personal gear (the House didn’t approve of bringing too many weapons and supplies to a mission briefing) – so they took the flit (Do either of you two know how to drive? How to work a Gate? Great. I’ll have to do it all) and headed out for the New York gates to Crusader – where Dr Vu was driving an icebreaker through Manhattan in order to sink it. After a brief battle the group helped destroy his ship but – as they would later discover – picked up Dr Vu as an invisible hitchhiker. Kevin took some time out to rescue a bunch of children from a collapsing bridge and picked up a trio of core youngsters who were upset about the changes in Crusader as it went from world of superheroic adventure to transport hub.
Heading to Highway – a realm of insane car chases, killer trucks, ravening biker gangs, road warriors, and similar troubles, but one which was linked to an immense variety of other realms – the group had a brief battle with some bikers, and took an offramp into the African deserts of The Colonial Era, where Dr Vu became apparent… It seemed he’d been a minor tech/spy until he’d been accidently exposed to an experimental device of Ryan’s, and had become a grossly-overpowered mad supervillian. Fortunately, he got saner the longer he was out of Crusader, although Benedict was deeply suspicious of such personality shifts. Kevin, more experienced with the shifting roles of the Manifold, was irritated – but more accepting.
Kevin quietly – and privately – recruited the three kids (Danis, Gevin, and Tabard) and gave them some training along the way: he didn’t have too many agents at the moment, and he was heading into a combat zone. It wasn’t a bad deal for them and it would let him pull them out of other troubles. As reckless as they were – they’d willing climbed into a vehicle and left with three bizarre strangers in a world full of supervillains and weird horrors – they’d probably get into trouble of some other sort soon enough anyway.