Podcasts/Episode 185

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The Letters Page: Episode 185
Creative Process: Expatriette Foes

Original Source

Primary Topic

Expatriette

Intro

Greetings from the distant past!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:33:34

What ancient words you hear now... can this hoary old record still hope to have any relevance in this new world of today?

Well, let's see! After some goofs (or are they seriouses?!), we go into making up villains for our favorite gun-toting cyclops! (I mean, first we do on-topic goofs, because, how could we not?)

After about an hour of villain creation, we take your questions! What do we do with them? Nothing responsible!

Join us next time for a team-up Writers' Room between your favorite misty magician and your also favorite grumpy arcane academic!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Overview

  • Expatriette is introduced in July ’82 in Mystery Comics vol. 2 #53. Her backstory limited series Emigrant’s Song gets going that same month, but they don’t want to make up antagonists that are unique to that story. [This is a retcon in some way - her video game bio says that ES #1 was her first appearance, but the Multiverse Recap Episode of the podcast placed her introduction in MC vol. 2 #21 in March ’81.]
  • Let’s break her life into a few eras.
    • In the early ’80s she’s Murdery Teenager. She’s young and dangerous and was, by far, her most anti-hero stage as well. It’s also very concerning to have somebody this young being this murder-prone.
    • The late ’80s has her Starting to Reform in that she’s starting to cross over more with things like the Freedom Five and Young Legacy. She’s still firmly in anti-hero mode and kills people with guns, but things are starting to shift a bit. She’s more “young adult” than “murder teen”.
    • The ’90s is when she starts hanging out with Setback and makes the transition to non-lethal ammunition. Her book, Terminal Ballistics, covers the the transition over the course of its run from ’91 through ’95.
    • The Quiet Time from the end of TB through the start of Dark Watch where she doesn’t have a “home book” but still shows up in a number of places. She’s got an important roll in Setback’s Run of Luck limited series in ’98, for example.
    • August ’99 sees the start of Dark Watch, and the team book is seen as kind of a 2000s title despite the just-barely-still-the-’90s start date. [Possibly a misstatement, potential retcon as previously DW vol. 1 #1 started in July ’99.]
    • Quiet Time part 2 from 2012 through 2014 between the DW volumes.
    • Dark Watch part 2 from 2015 onward.
  • Regarding the latter half of that list, Expat and Setback don’t really change that much from the founding of Dark Watch to the end. Mr. Fixer, NightMist, and Harpy do have some changes between the two volumes of the team book. “They ‘evolve’ in their magic stuff more.” NightMist tempers herself a bit and leans more into her mentor/teacher role, Harpy grows into her abilities and is more competent, and Mr. Fixer just becomes more desperate to just die. Or to kill, he doesn’t really have a preference, but his mental state is definitely degrading.
  • Now that we’ve gotten that laid out, for a prompt of “Expatriette foes” we probably want to be looking for those first three eras more than the latter half where it’s more likely going to be “Dark Watch foes” and we already have a good handle on what they’re dealing with in that time. As such, Early ’80s, Late ’80s, and Mid ’90s are when we’ll be doing things today with the caveat that if they come up with an idea along the way that’s more suited for being a Dark Watch villain they won’t avoid working on it.
  • Starting at the beginning, we’ve got this teen who’s really good at killing people with super powers. How do we make this new character somewhat sympathetic/somebody that readers will want to actually hear more about? Maybe we have somebody with powers who’s got a block or small neighborhood under their thumb - somebody who’s carving out their own little fiefdom in Rook City. He’s either small-time enough that the Chairman doesn’t care and he claims that “Even the Organization doesn’t come in here” due to his grip on the area, but the reality is that he’d be crushed if he ever actually ran afoul of them. But he has powers - maybe he’s got some kind of psychic field that he produces so that he can make people forget about him so that Organization people don’t notice him.
  • Anyway, there’s this guy who’s set up shop as a small-time kingpin and is making life tough for the downtrodden and homeless people on his turf. Like, maybe it’s really more of a homeless shantytown that he’s set up shop in, and he’s got the people in line by forcing the kids to be pickpockets for him and whatnot. Expat might get some positive response from the readers if, in the process of being a killer for her own reasons, she helps out these people who have fallen through the cracks of society. Spoilers, when she eventually kills this guy, the Organization fills the power vacuum he leaves and basically just has the people doing the same things this guy was. The Chairman really did see this guy as not worth bothering about, but isn’t going to let an opportunity pass by and so just installs some minor underling there to run things after Expat does her thing.
  • Oh… Expat actually thought that this would help these people and so the Organization moving in and nothing changing just reaffirms her prior attitude of “nothing ever gets better;why bother trying?”
  • In order for Expat murdering this guy to not look totally bad regardless, we’ve likely got to play up how bad he is. He’s not just running the area, but lords it over the people and really makes his presence felt. The “using powers to oppress people without them” angle is also likely a specific trigger for her given her mother. Gotta get the readers on the “this guy’s gotta go” bandwagon.
  • He’s a little one-note thus far. Maybe he’s something of a recurring villain for a few years that culminates in his death - maybe she has him dead to rights a few times and gives him a chance to reform/lets him live in a “trying to be good” bid. Finally, she has enough of this and kills him only to find that doing so still didn’t change things for the better. Playing up the hopelessness of it is appropriate for the era. They can probably get away with “killing” him at least once before the end. Like, she shoots a thing that causes a building to collapse on him or something, which he survives. Then later she guns him down in cold blood and he’s really for sure dead.
  • They pause to come up with a name for him: Lowlife. He’s king of the scum; he knows he’s scum, but he’s on top and that’s what’s important. He’s got powers with active and passive components. First, he can “heal” by transferring a wound to somebody “beneath” him - somebody who’s life is lower than him, one might say. He chain smokes terrible smelly cigars, but his lungs are just fine because he can move the adverse effects to somebody else and, as a result, several people working for him have developed terrible lung cancer. That’s the passive thing. The active thing involves the maladies he still suffers given his unhealthy lifestyle and living conditions and the fact that he can project the sensations of these things onto nearby people. He uses his ill-health offensively by distract/incapacitate opponents.
  • How do we define people who are “beneath” him? Let’s say that it’s just based on the area. Like, he sets up his “base” and can affect a few blocks around there and the people living in that zone are under his thrall and are therefore available for him to transfer things to. Or there’s a “submission” component, in that if the person accepts that he’s the boss of them for whatever reason, that’s enough for him to get his hooks in. Expat eventually takes him down because even if she kicks him out of this area, he’ll get back on top somewhere else and start over.
  • An idea for how Expat gets to him is that she subverts one of his lieutenants and gets him to betray Lowlife. Like, if he’s no longer recognizing this guy as his boss, Lowlife will try to offload something to him at a crucial moment and it won’t work. Christopher thinks that physically getting into his presence in the first place is tricky. Additionally, now that we know how his power works, it’s easy for her to “kill” him only for him to recover. She can shoot him or whatever and leave him to bleed out, but he just passes that on and other people suffer instead of him. At the end she’s fighting through whatever sensations he’s sending her way and she’s had to isolate him enough that he can’t just pass on whatever injuries she gives him.
  • That makes for a good early villain for her. She can just unload on him and he can take it by passing the injuries on. That leads to a moral dilemma as well as whenever she hurts him, she’s inadvertently hurting some innocent person instead.
  • Next up, we have that late-’80s/early-’90s, pre-Setback period where she’s kinda sorta making a move in what might eventually result in her not just, y’know, murdering people all the time. A potential idea here is to have the foe be a “rival”, or if not somebody really fitting that term directly, somebody who is like what Expatriette was like back when she debuted. Like, she’s trying to be good and do things the right way, but she’s not used to it yet and then we have this other person coming in and doing things in the “easy way” that she’s used to is a temptation for her to revert to her old habits.
  • We could have some criminal that Expatriette successfully captured for trial and whatnot after doing things the right way eventually get released and start doing crime again (including some deaths) and then the “rival” just kills him. Expat thinks to herself that if she’d just done that the first time, these later deaths would have been averted.
  • From there we can continue to push this character darker and darker; they also serve as a “what if Expatriette hadn’t had intervention from other heroes?” counterpoint. This is where she would have wound up if it weren’t for Legacy et al. being a good influence on her. We could just have this character be around for a while as just another anti-hero in the Sentinel Comics roster until the writers decided to use them for this purpose.
  • Adam suggests that their threshold for what level of crime warrants a death sentence gets lower over time (but never reaches something silly like “jaywalking”). Unlike Lowlife, who had to die just due to the era of Expat stories he appeared in, they don’t necessarily need to kill this one. They can just get put in prison at this time and then show up periodically afterward. Possibly even showing up as a Dark Watch villain later on. They’re the kind of villain who goes to ground easily, but by the time DW is a thing it will have moved past the “temptation for Expatriette” role in a story as she would have gotten past that “easy way/right way” decision by then.
  • Regarding this early story involving them, though, Adam suggests that maybe to end it we have Expatriette resorting to more extreme methods than she is comfortable with at this point. Christopher disagrees - make it look like she’s going to have to make that choice, even have this villain goad her into making that choice, but have her succeed in doing a right thing regardless (her planning abilities in the fore: she sets up the situation herself so that the villain will think that the extreme measures are going to be necessary and she uses that mindset against them to lure them into a trap).
  • Adam’s still not convinced unless this is later in the ’90s than we’re talking (we’re currently looking at a character “introduced” in around ’92, but this story would wrap up by ’94 or ’95). His idea had been, sure, this person is trying to convince Expat that the killing is necessary and she needs to just toughen up and accept it. They’ll make it easy for her: kill them or they’ll kill a bunch of people. Adam’s solution here is that Expat just hits them with a car (using comic book logic that “you’ll survive” because she didn’t shoot them or whatever). Still an extreme “solution”, but not going all the way.
  • That sort of solution really does nail down the timing of when this has to happen. If it was an early encounter, there’s no way that Expat holds off on just killing them when put in that position. If it’s in the Dark Watch era or later, she comes up with some more elegant non-lethal solution. This sort of thing would need to be in that ’90s era.
  • As such, the name needs to be something appropriately edgy like Knife Face, Kill Chick, Bloodletter, or the Stabstress. Adam says that something like Bloodletter reads more like somebody who’s exsanguinating people rather than guns, though. Christopher points out that, historically (and even somewhat these days) bloodletting was a medical procedure. That can be this lady’s (they decided this was a woman) worldview - “Things are effed, yo. I’m letting the bad blood out to make room for the good.” She’s “healing the city” by killing the bad people. This explanation brings Adam around.
  • Does Bloodletter have powers? Not in the ’90s, but after this encounter with Expat leaves her alive, but in really rough shape she comes back with enhancements. Let’s keep going here. Adam suggests that there’s some shadowy organization that finds criminals who have extensive injuries and fixes them up at the cost of having to work for them. Christopher suggests that they already have several organizations/people who do this sort of thing (say, RevoCorp), but let’s not worry about making another today. Let’s just focus on Bloodletter.
  • Christopher suggests (and Adam thought of it as a gag as well) that when she starts showing up again, she starts doing a thing where she uses blood to draw a letter on things. Y’know, a blood letter. This results in the idea of a plot where she’s literally playing hangman. She’s got the mayor trussed up in the town square or whatever in a noose (and with a laser cage around him or something so that the heroes can’t just save him directly) and the heroes have to go around town finding the blood letters she’s written. There’s a lot of potential mileage for “letter game” as a shtick. She could even have a crossover event where she works with Crossword ("Bloody Sunday Times!").
  • Anyway, what’s the nature of her “rebuilding”? It should probably be something with a downside or limitation (needing regular injections of something or other, say) - something that reminds her that getting hit by that car wasn’t a net positive. She might be “better” than she was in the moment while fighting the heroes, but there’s a significant “worse” to deal with regularly. She’s also likely more deranged at this point (she becomes a gimmick villain for one thing - oh, so she can be Bloodletter in her original incarnation, but she’s Blood-Letter later on). They’ll think about it. Meanwhile…
  • What’s her real name? Adam throws out Adrienne Zanthos for the A-Z pun once she’s a letter-gimmick character. Christopher is convinced on the gag, but thinks maybe different specifics. They haven’t used Allison yet, so maybe that. There’s a little discussion if her name would have been mentioned during the Bloodletter days, but the ’90s didn’t necessarily give that information so they think they can get away with it. Anyway, they land on Allison Zahn.
  • Christopher thinks that she doesn’t need guns as Blood-Letter, somehow she is the weapon now. Simply getting sharp claws seems passe. Adam suggests a “whip tongue” in an effort at something unusual/extreme. Her body was broken and rebuilt: what do they give her in the rebuilding? Christopher suggests something they don’t do much: part detachment. He’s not thinking “cyborg” but more like she has great control over her body and that makes her a bit malleable in the way that a “stretchy” character would be, but to a greater extent where she can move parts around in unnatural ways. Adam is concerned that that kind of power type is more like a ragdoll-like character whose arms are just stitched on in the first place (or something). They’re getting a bit far afield from “bloodletter” as a concept.
  • Getting to the alphabet gimmick, maybe as part of her recovery/rebuilding process she needed to reestablish some mental things as well. This could include reading/literacy and the flashcards used to help that process were part of her “programming”. Now, she can be going about her normal life, but will see a letter somebody put on a sign or something that will trigger her and off she goes to get to murderin’.
  • In trying to think of non-cyborg options, they return to the “whip tongue” joke idea. Without going so far as to be “part detachment”, they could still do form-control in terms of being able to harden her skin to prevent damage and still do stretchy power stuff. Like, “whip tongue” isn’t her power in particular, but she could do that if necessary. Weird, non-robotic body distention stuff has potential to be gross/weird without tripping over into funny. That can still be used as an excuse for reattaching a severed arm too - again, it’s not part of her gimmick, but it’s something that she can do. If they were modeling her in the RPG, she’d have like a d6 in Part Detachment. It’s something she can do, but it’s not central to the character’s operation.
  • Given that the letters that people can put in the environment are part of what “activate” her and/or give her orders, they like the idea that the “keys” to her can get passed around. She winds up “working for” a number of different string-pullers over time. That also leaves us with a story hook that involves her getting free and tracking down all the people who have used her in this way. “Defending somebody they dislike” is a fun, but fitting Dark Watch story.
  • One more - let’s look at a mid-to-late ’80s one where she’s starting to see benefits of doing the hero thing. Christopher suggests a motorcycle-themed opponent. Like, somebody who just rides a motorcycle, but also has a gimmick themed around it somehow. How about the bike can turn into a “suit” that the person wears to fight. Like one of the wheels acts like a shield and stuff like that.
  • What’s their villainy? Are they just a tough that got his hands on this transforming motorcycle and does crimes? Maybe figuring out what the motorcycle is/where it’s from is a starting point. After the standard “fell into a vat of radioactive motorcycles” kinds of suggestions, they do come up with something related to him already being a biker and something happening to him and his bike that wind up “bonding” them in some way. That’s why he can turn it into other stuff.
  • They play around with ideas like his gang’s souls being bound to the bike and that lets it be animated or that the gang’s cursed to ride until they die and this last guy just gives in before his time and so needs to let the “bike ride him” (and so it’s a suit he wears) to stave off death. It’s a stretch. This kind of “curse” thing might be too much, so let’s dial back a bit.
  • The gang is riding along when some magical cataclysmic event happens. He’s the only one to survive, but as he still crashed he’s really messed up in the process (wear all of the appropriate safety gear if you’re going to ride motorcycles, kids!). Between whatever magic was going on and the rest of the bikers dying, there’s enough mojo for something weird to happen to his bike, which protects him now (thus the suit thing it can turn into now). He’s mostly covered in road rash, which won’t heal, and is kind of used to fill the same kind of narrative niche as “roving monsters” did back in the Golden Age as just a guy who rides around and causes trouble (later being used as hired muscle for others, or once he’s been established he can be out for revenge following an earlier defeat or something). That can lead to a funny bit where this guy is wrecking up some area that some other bad guy would rather he not and so he goes to Expatriette to try to get her to help take care of the problem. He winds up as a bit of a jobber villain and we get a bunch of different interpretations of him over the years.
  • With the scarred up face and everything, let’s just go with Road Rash as a name.

Questions

  • Has Expatriette’s time as a murderous anti-hero impacted her life in the Dark Watch era? Has a child of one of her targets grown up and come seeking revenge? They don’t necessarily see a child of a former target coming around - at least not yet. That’s more likely in the RPG era. Oh, wait. No, they could see a 2010s book where some teenager comes to find her specifically for the parallel of her being a teenager when she killed their parent way back in the day. Certainly her history haunts her in the Dark Watch era, but she’s also putting in the work to get past that.
  • We’ve seen that Citizen Dawn doesn’t really consider Expatriette a problem worth caring about - what would Amanda have to do in order to actually get her mother’s attention/wrath besides just directly attacking her? Has Dawn ever put out a death warrant for her daughter? No, Dawn has never just sent people off for the explicit purpose of killing her. It’s an almost suspiciously absent thing. From her point of view she doesn’t have a daughter (any daughter of hers would have powers, after all) and Expatriette is just another bothersome “hero”. Expat getting some powers would go a long way towards getting Dawn’s attention, but that’s basically the only thing short of her assaulting the Citadel. The only time we really see her get through to her mother was when she manages to enlist her aid during OblivAeon.
  • Does Expat have any notable “mystical” foes or is her role in dealing with such entities to shoot things or get mind controlled while NightMist takes care of things? She fights a mystical motorcycle man! Otherwise, not really because that’s not the focus of her stories and in the team stuff she’s providing cover fire for NightMist to do her thing. Sometimes there would be cases where NightMist does something to augment Expatriette’s ammunition in some way, though.
  • Given Expatriette’s paranoia and tendency to plan in advance and have contingencies for her contingencies, which foe does she worry that she’s least prepared for? They don’t think that she’s particularly paranoid (unless we’re talking about pretty early on). She is all about planning, having backup plans, and knowing where the nearest exits and weapons are. She’s also very Stoic (in the classic memento mori kind of way). As such, she’s not really afraid of dying, which makes the question of which villain she worries about/is scared of interesting. Would it be Zhu Long due to what he did to Mr. Fixer and Setback? Mr. Jitters simply because he makes her feel fear? She’s afraid of betrayal, which is why Zhu Long turning these friends that she’s worked very hard to have against her is hard for her.
  • Were there any wannabe heroes that Expat went after in her “super killer” phase that survived (or had family that swore revenge)? Well, in her first appearance she’s after the Wraith (who doesn’t have powers, but Expat thinks that surely she must due to all of the things attributed to her). They joke a bit about her just leaving when she finds out that Wraith doesn’t have powers, but that’s also literally what happens. She wins the fight and has got Wraith dead-to-rights, but once she is convinced that Wraith doesn’t actually have powers she lets her go. The question of her killing some prospective hero who left family behind is interesting. There’s potential fodder for a Writers’ Room there - some “sins of the past” kind of story could get slotted in somewhere after Dark Watch. Likely more than one person - like you get a bunch of people whose lives were touched by Expat’s murder-teen past who band together.
  • When she blew up the Wretched Hive, surely there were some villains in there that survived and took it personally, so who would that be? That wasn’t a notable character death moment (like, it’s possible that somebody died in that attack, but not even somebody as notable as an Organization Underboss). Doing that definitely painted a target on her back, though. Of course, that’s exactly what she wanted at the time.
  • Citizen Slash shows up as a mini-Nemesis in Vengeance, did any other Citizens make it their personal mission to take her out? There were some early cases (mostly just generic Citizens), but after Dawn shows her “displeasure” at people going after her in that way on their own the first few times, people kind of get the picture and stop. Those who try to go after Expat and fail even have the issue where they not only went after her without orders, but then lost to somebody without powers.
  • With Parse’s story, we learned that she inadvertently created Highbrow when she dealt with Head Doctor - does Expat have a similar case in her rogues gallery? She created Blood-Letter when she disabled Bloodletter.
  • Did she have a case where she found she couldn’t kill her target for whatever reason? Lowlife took a few tries. There are more examples, surely.
  • If Citizen Dawn was in a room with Citizen Dawn, the Chairman, and Zhu Long and has a gun and 2 magical bullets that she’s assured will kill whomever she shoots with them, who does she shoot? Zhu Long and Chairman. They are in agreement that those are absolutely the answer here. They, by far, bring the most misery into the world and have the fewest downsides to killing them. There is part of Expat that holds out some small hope for her mother’s redemption (see: their OblivAeon encounter).
  • Citizen Dawn’s depiction generally has some blue/purple highlights in her otherwise very blonde hair - are those natural? Are they static color or do they shift like an aurora? The colors in her hair are “natural” in that she doesn’t dye them to be there. They do shift and are reminiscent of the aurora borealis - fitting because the reason she has them is due to her connection with light and the aurora in general.
  • We learned that the main difference for Grace Charles between the two realities we’ve seen her in was that in Vertex she absorbed a bunch of radiation, but in Universe 1 she absorbed a bunch of temporal energy, but what difference is there for Owen? Is Owen an Omega? He’s not an Omega, but his powers are pretty consistent in terms of being about suppressing/amplifying his sister’s powers. There is some potential reality where she doesn’t get powers and his are just dormant as a result. His powers are a result of being born in Ravenswood and all of the weird Void stuff going on there (not to say that he’s doing Void Magic).
  • Does Owen’s suppression powers only work on humans or could it work on aliens whose powers are “natural” to them (say, Maerynians, red Thorathians, Discordian/’Void Creatures, or Aeon Girl)? Any effect on robots/devices? It wouldn’t work on magic or robots. Nor would it work on aliens whose powers are inherent to their biology like Maerynians, but aliens who have “superpowers” could be affected (so red Thorathians could be affected). “Magical creatures” are probably unaffected, but it would interact strangely with the Void.
  • If Owen used his powers around somebody whose body had been altered as part of their having powers, could he kill them (specifically thinking of Muerto, Dr. Medico, and Myriad here)? At the point at which we’ve seen him so far, he’s definitely not powerful enough to suppress anything to that extent. As a thought experiment extrapolating Owen’s powers to the furthest extent: Myriad probably not. If he did so, his body would just fall apart into the constituent bugs and once they were far enough from Owen they could re-form. Muerto is also unlikely - he might be able to disrupt Muerto’s control over the electronics and whatnot, but that wouldn’t “banish” him and he could just re-form somewhere else again. He probably could suppress Dr. Medico to death, though.
  • What would his power do to either of the Hakas? Interesting. He could probably take away their strength/healing, but the linked immortality thing wouldn’t be affected. He couldn’t use his powers to kill them, but he could get them to the point where they’re much more vulnerable (which could have an effect of making it more likely for them just happening to be dead at the same time, even if they’re not both there in front of him).
  • How does Grace perceive time while within her slow-time bubbles? Her consciousness is split and is in some ways limited to whatever rate time is passing in her bubble, but she’s also aware that time is passing faster outside the bubble and she can use the fact that she’s slowed down relative to it to, say, plan on what to do after she gets out. Unfortunately, that means that when she was completely frozen in time for a year or whatever to hold off the black hole thing, she was conscious of that full duration.
  • How about if she’s in a fast-time bubble? Similar to the above, the fact that her consciousness is split lets her kind of get around the fact that time is running faster close to her.
  • Given that Time-Slinger’s charge of chronal energy is finite and CON isn’t telling him about that problem, could CON find a way to siphon some off of Grace to recharge Jim without killing her? No, Grace absorbed a bunch of chronal energy and that changed her rather than her powers simply being a manifestation of her containing that energy still.
  • Does Time-Slinger see Grace and Owen simply as students, or does he have a slightly more parental view on them? Possibly even to the point of adopting them? If there is any possible chance of Jim adopting them, that’s a future so far down the road as to not warrant consideration at this time. They’re being taken care of now, and that’s the thing that really matters and so he doesn’t really have a need to see them as more than students. If there are students who, at this point in the story, he has that kind of outlook regarding it would be different students, not the Charles siblings.
  • Is Grace’s hero name going to be Time Out (a play on Owen’s name Quiet Time)? No. Her name is a single work beginning with I. It’s also not a play on her brother’s name.
  • [Ethical conundrum:] Let’s say that Citizen Hammer had 10 citizens held hostage and threatened the hero that, unless they left, he would torch the civilians. If the hero charged the villain, who promptly kills his hostages as threatened, to what extent is the hero responsible for their deaths (noting that of course the villain is responsible as well)? How about if the civilians were only in danger in the first place do to the hero knocking Hammer into the building they were in to begin with as part of the ongoing fight? They agree that there’s no deflection of blame from the murderer here, but the question of the hero’s culpability is interesting. They think the hero is - if you know that a certain course of action will have this bad result, then you’re responsible for taking that action.
    • This prompts Christopher to adjust this scenario: the villain has one person in a chair near them and is holding a knife to their throat. They also are holding a dead-man’s switch in their other hand that, if they release the button, will set off the bomb in the next room where a further 10 people are held. The hero facing off with them has fought them many times and is 1) capable of defeating them and 2) knows that the villain is perfectly capable of murder. The villain states that they want to kill the person in the chair. If the hero tries to stop that murder they’d probably succeed, but not before the villain could release the trigger to kill the others. In order to save those 10 people, they need to stand by and let the villain kill the first person. [In case you hadn’t noticed, this is basically exactly the Trolley Problem, only with a specific personal malice involved.] Adam’s response to this is, all things being equal, he tends to be a pragmatist and saving the 10 at the expense of the 1 is how he goes.
    • Christopher counters with saying that the person in the chair is Adam’s brother and the 10 people are all strangers, in which case Adam saves his brother (whether or not that’s the right thing to do, he knows that that is what he would do).
    • What if the 10 people are friends instead of strangers? Still saving his brother.
    • What if the 10 people are family members and the person in the chair is Christopher himself? Adam’s stumped on that one. The answer is apparently to distract the villain and count on Christopher to be able to take care of himself.