The Letters Page: Episode 24
Deadline / Lifeline
Tarogath... the destroyer? Or savior? Or just all-around jerk? You decide!
Run Time: 86:29
This is a no-nonsense episode! (Meaning we only engage in minimal nonsense.) It's not the longest episode we've recorded, but it might be the most jam-packed with exciting info!
We start off by talking about the Enclave of the Endlings, including proper pronunciation of the names of many Endlings and their fallen races. Got questions about the Enclave of the Endlings? Submit a question! We'll do an Interlude on the Enclave some day.
More info on blood magic and vampires and such today, around the 23 minute mark. And in the questions, as well!
Shortly after that, we actually delve into more of the details of the OblivAeon event than we've revealed before. Makes sense, as Tarogath is rather important to that event!
Just after 41 minutes in, Christopher said, "Tarogath, who became the villain Deadline, who then became the villain Lifeline." (Italics for emphasis.) Definitely meant hero there. Just talking too fast. Whoops! Lifeline's not a villain.
This coming Thursday's Interlude has already been recorded, but you still have some time to get your Chrono-Ranger questions in! Send 'em our way, buckaroos!
- Jansa Vi Dero, the last Varusiod /ˈjansa vi ˈdɛro/, /vɛˈrusiad/
- Gruum, the last Tromtar /ˈgruːm/ /tramtar/
- Immutus, the last Fortrian /ɪmˈjutəs/ /ˈfortriən/
- Slamara, the last Xarabian /sləˈmara/ /zəˈrabiən/
- Tarogath, the last Procitor /ˈtarogæθ/ or /ˈtarogaθ/ depending on who said it /ˈprasɪtɚ/
- First appears fairly late in the card game timeline - fairly shortly after Vengeance where the Endlings observe the various goings-on on Earth. The Enclave has been a feature in the setting since the Silver Age. They talk about the Terminarch and her mission a bit, but it's more or less the info we have in the Environment description. Worth mentioning, though, that it's explicitly not like a zoo or museum. The Endlings are not put in exhibits, but are being "preserved for all eternity" as residents of the Enclave. There are some beasts there too, which are more like a zoo, but the sapient beings are free to move about.
- Tarogath didn't settle in and socialize with the other Endlings as well as most. He instead used his time to use the Enclave's technology to observe the universe, much like the Terminarch does. He's been there over 700 (Earth) years and has watched many species' ends. This gets to you after a while. Then he sees what he interprets as the beginning of a new extinction event on Earth, corroborated by more of the Enclave's own "early warning" systems. He feels that he can stop this and so steals a bunch of tech from the Enclave (like a ship and the Zenith Gauge as mentioned in the Chokepoint episode).
- His plan hinges on the fact that he sees Earth's situation as one where one race is becoming too strong/important and is drawing the attention of other beings that will wipe them out. He wants to prevent this by knocking this upstart race back into the dark ages, and therefore off the radar of the larger threat. Killing 2/3 of them will allow the other 1/3 to survive. He recognizes that nobody is going to like him for this and that every part of this will be distasteful, but it needs to be done for their own good.
- He meets more resistance than he'd anticipated. This is par for the course for Earth's heroes - they seem to consistently bring more firepower to bear than the relative unimportance of the planet on the cosmic stage would indicate. The average Human isn't particularly powerful, and we're generally outmatched in terms of technological advancement, but our heroes are so much above the average that they're still able to pull off some big upsets.
- Deadline is traveling the world, popping up here and there in major population centers to cause havoc. The unique ability of the Prociters was an ability to see and manipulate ley lines, which allows him to find and destroy a few of them without too much trouble. He's doing a lot of damage in the process.
- Ultimately, the heroes manage to stymie his efforts (but still hundreds if not thousands of people die). He's not actually defeated by the heroes, however. Eventually Jansa shows up (unhappy that he 1. Left, 2. stole a bunch of stuff, and 3. is killing all of these people) and takes him back to the Enclave. He's then not seen in comics for a while. During this time, Jansa explains some of the mysteries of the cosmos to him and that this wasn't an extinction event, but something else.
- Back on Earth, the Progeny event happens (there will be a full episode just on this stuff eventually).
- Shortly afterwards, the Void Guard are in space and are fighting in the Bloodsworn Colosseum. (aside for newbies: the Colosseum is a cosmic arena that teleports from planet to planet and makes inhabitants of the planet fight the gladiators - think a traveling circus, but instead of fun for the whole family, it's more about blood sport. If the natives win the fight, the Colosseum leaves, but otherwise it just hangs around and can just wreck the population as people continue to fight until nobody's left. Sometimes they'll also capture people as a new gladiator - Sky-Scraper is one such example.) The Void Guard were captured to be new gladiators, but a new challenger appears - Lifeline (this would be the source for the art on the preview card we got from his deck, "Cosmic Immolation", although the issue number on that can't be from the same issue given that it's #714 when cards from his villain deck are in the 750s).
- There had been clues for some time that something big was coming (OblivAeon) - Captain Cosmic and Infinitor, Deadline himself, Progeny, etc. - and Jansa explained this to Tarogath. She's not a fighter and so can't really help directly, but he can and she gives him the opportunity to go and help. She gives him some new gear (and he gets a weapon from another of the Endlings - an axe) and off he goes.
- He heads to the Colosseum, which has been the end of a few races over the centuries, to fight through the gladiators and gain power by absorbing their essence (plus, it's a good gauge of how strong he is). Once there, he notices the human Void Guard and they recognize him. In the end he helps the Void Guard escape (the implication is that they fight first, but it's not said outright) and they all have space adventures together for a while before returning to Earth. More finger-pointing regarding what he'd done previously, but he's vouched for by the Void Guard at this point. He's still not terribly welcome anywhere, but he doesn't have time to worry about that as he still needs to train up/prepare for the fight to come.
- First up, a trip to the Temple of Zhu Long where he fights some ninjas (his general modus operandi is to find a source of power and then "fight it") and then hangs out for a while. He doesn't really get much out of his time there other than learning that blood magic is a thing that exists. Blood magic is not entirely different from his natural ley line manipulation, only dealing with living creatures instead of planetary systems.
- He goes off to find a nexus of blood magic, the most powerful he could find. This turns out to be the Court of Blood - which is full of the stuff. It sounds like they're doing their standard exaggerate for comedic effect thing (blood running over the floor, through the walls, there's probably some in the ceiling, etc.), but this is literally the case. Vampires are a particular variety of blood mages, and there are plenty of them here. They fight (of course), and he also learns how to draw on the power here. This makes him a darker character (I mean, he's already killed thousands of people, but this willingness/ability to use the life force of his opponents, and himself, to attack them is a bit more visceral), but also gives him an additional edge.
- This leads into the Skinwalker Gloomweaver event in short order. As mentioned in the Gloomweaver episode, Lifeline manages to wreck Gloomy's day at first given that the body he's using is made out of blood magic. The Rotting God form was a different matter, though, and Lifeline was knocked out quickly once that got going. Void Guard (the human heroes he works with the most and who are the most comfortable with working with him - they're a team of misfits, but have a generally positive/idealistic outlook and are a good foil for Lifeline's "negative Nancy" outlook - they work together well, but probably aren't necessarily friends) helps out, though, and eventually Dr. Medico traps Gloomweaver's essence within his OblivAeon Shard.
- OblivAeon happens. Early on, Lifeline, Tempest, and Visionary are fighting in the Maerynian Refuge (the island where Tempest's people live on Earth) against Empyreon (pronunciation! it's not Em-Pyre-on, it's more like "imperial" only with the -on instead of -al) - a minor "energy dude" villain from Vengeance, and recurring Captain Cosmic enemy, now a Scion of OblivAeon with a significant power boost. Empyreon (who will get more explanation later) is basically a hollow shell full of energy and during this fight he's just blasting Lifeline with it. Lifeline can absorb it, however, and thinks he can take whatever can be thrown at him to win on his own. He's on track to be overloaded, though, and Tempest and Visionary try to get him to work with them. He ignores them and is about to die when Tempest (being shielded by Visionary) interposes himself to take the energy blast instead and the two of them manage to beat Empyreon. They try to turn this into a "teachable moment" about teamwork.
- Later, Jansa contacts Lifeline to inform him that OblivAeon is actually present there on Earth and warns him that she's not convinced that anything can be done to stop him. She's taking the Enclave with her into a pocket dimension outside of reality that she's set up in the hopes that they can ride things out there. She wants him to come with her, but he refuses [the "conversation" at around 30:55 is pretty hilarious - especially Adam's Lifeline voice].
- He heads to Fort Adamant, which is under siege by Aeon Master and the Aeon Men (who are made of the energy of OblivAeon himself - they're the manifestation of his own essence that he can commit to perform an action). Lifeline shows up to help the heroes, including the Void Guard, already there and starts absorbing the energy of the Aeon Men, which he can do easily but only one at a time. He meets up with the VG and talks about needing to use teamwork (which they're already well aware of, but are glad that he's finally come around). The plan is to get to Aeon Master to pull the same absorbing trick, which might kill him, but with teamwork it just might work. They manage to pull it off and Dr. Medico is able to stabilize Lifeline so he doesn't explode or anything after taking in that much energy. Once Aeon Master is taken care of, the Aeon Men go down too. Woo! Teamwork!
- Still not giving us the full story with OblivAeon himself until we get to that specific episode (although, like in the ARG, they call out Ra as the start of the actual fight with him directly), but will continue with hints as we talk about heroes directly involved.
- In the second main phase of the fight with OblivAeon himself (where he's this impossibly tall giant of an enemy), Lifeline manages to do some massive amounts of damage to him due to the power boost he had from absorbing Aeon Master and cracks the form of OblivAeon. This also causes a backlash of energy, though, which takes Lifeline out of the fight. That being said, being part of 2 Scion fights and landing a big hit on the Big Bad himself is nothing to sneeze at.
- Where does he appear in regards to the comic publication history (while he's in the Silver Age Enclave, he himself doesn't seem particularly Silver Age appropriate)? Was he introduced early, but later given motivation? How was that motivation received by the audience? Did different writers show him as more or less sympathetic? What's his relationship with other Endlings like (incap art shows him with Bloogo for example)? There's only one, fairly recent, "Deadline" event, that includes several fights with different heroes. Tarogath as a character predates this by a little, but not back into the Silver Age. He was a background filler character in the Silver Age (as were some of the other aliens), but didn't have any dialog or anything - they were only fleshed out my later writers. Tarogath just turned out to be the most important such character. He was introduced to push that feeling of "everything is going wrong" that was the run-up to the OblivAeon reveal and so there weren't "different writers'" take on him. He was also introduced knowing that he'd become a hero after the horrible actions of his introductory story. As mentioned up top, he's kind of an outsider within the Endling community, but he does have a friendship with Bloogo, who does die when the Enclave is damaged leading up to his becoming Lifeline (there will be an Enclave of the Endlings Episode).
- What does he know about OblivAeon? Initially, nothing. It's only after Jansa retrieves him after his villain arc that he's told about him (Jansa knows a lot).
- Was it actually OblivAeon who destroyed his people? It was an ancient entity who has not had a name for the majority of its existence, but is known as Faultless (as it is not at fault for its actions). It used to be the personification of Order, but has been (to simplify) been twisted into a being of Chaos and is eventually a Scion of OblivAeon. It destroyed the Procitors due to their manipulation of ley lines to almost perfectly order their planet and so Faultless was drawn there to destroy them.
- How did Jansa know this was going to happen, did she warn anybody, why did she allow it? The "early warning" systems in the Enclave kind of gave her a heads-up. Tarogath was a fairly young Procitor (which partly explains his impulsiveness) but was also pretty introspective and just happened to be the one she picked - she has her reasons for who she picks, but it's not necessarily logical from our human perspective. She allowed it because she's not a fighter and can't prevent destruction, she just has her duty to preserve a selected representative.
- We know that Deadline precedes Progeny, how much damage had Deadline done and what was left for Progeny to really destroy? Was the Chairman concerned about the damage Deadline was doing? As stated, lots of people died and Deadline caused a lot of damage, but he didn't really destroy anything completely. He did damage Rook City, but nothing too far out of what the Chairman would put up with as acceptable collateral from any other super-powered fight and figured he'd still manage to profit from it in the end. If Deadline shows up and you see it on the news you'd think, something like a distant terrorist attack ("that's terrible, those poor people") whereas Progeny is more like discovering that a series of nukes have been set off all over the country - its a bit different of a scale.
- After Deadline was defeated did he retreat to the Enclave or did Jansa come get him? Jansa, as mentioned in the overview.
- Did F.I.L.T.E.R. try to intervene? No, they wouldn't go after something as major as Deadline seemed to be. There would be a bunch of cost-benefit analysis before they'd commit.
- What did the Endlings think of his actions? There are a lot of them, and they have their own reactions, but most probably think it was an awful thing to have done (although some Endlings aren't nice people to begin with and were probably fine with it, but not for his actual reasons). Why he did what he did was hard for anybody to understand.
- Can we take a moment to recognize that Tarogath is adorable? Sure, why not, I guess.
- What kind of planet did the Procitors inhabit? Very similar to Earth before all of the ley line manipulation to give it the orderliness that eventually brought Faultless to them. The similarity is part of what made him think that he knew how to save humanity (by killing a bunch of them).
- What was he like, personality wise? Different as Lifeline? Pretty similar, but as Lifeline who has more information, he's a bit less sad but more arrogant.
- Did he get any friends as Lifeline? He teams up with Void Guard, and is allies with some others, but he's always standoffish. Might change a bit in the future. Nobody's really had time to get over his villain turn.
- Why didn't he skip straight to "help fight OblivAeon" instead of trying to kill a bunch of us for our own good? Did he and K.N.Y.F.E. discuss the terrible future they both saw? He didn't know the actual threat - he assumed it would be more like what happened on his world and is "super misguided". Even after he knows what's happening, he still tries to do everything himself rather than working with others and didn't even really meet K.N.Y.F.E. until they're already on the battlefield.
- Does he see himself as a hero, or does he recognize that he's "sacrificing his soul" as it were? Deadline is one of the few villains who knows that what he's doing is evil (and not "for the sake of evil" like Gloomweaver or Spite). The Chairman and Baron Blade act selfishly, and know that what they're doing will be bad for others, but it's not just mustache-twirling villainy. Deadline isn't out for himself and recognizes that the heroes are right to try to fight him, but he needs to to it anyway.
- We've been told that the Naturalist is his nemesis due to the thematic relationship to the Earth as a system, but what did the other heroes think about Deadline's reasons for his actions? Who are the other heroes most involved in the Deadline event? Naturalist is a nemesis, in addition to the theme reasons, they have a big scene together in one of the comics during the fight to point out their relationship specifically. Scholar and Visionary have strong reactions too (Scholar regarding ley lines, Visionary on the theme of trying to stop a bad future). Since there were many fights that were part of the event, most heroes were involved in one way or another (all of the major teams are namechecked), but since there wasn't one climactic fight scene ending of the event, there wasn't anything as meaty as the Naturalist's scene to vie for the "nemesis" title. Later, as Lifeline, there's a lot of reticence to accept him, but also not much time for them to come around. Seeing his actions working alongside them during OblivAeon goes a long way, even if they don't actually forgive him.
- How was his reception by Jansa after his defeat? As stated, he was in a lot of trouble - she considered locking him up like one of the dangerous Endlings. "His story is one of no forgiveness." Given his willingness to act, she allowed him to go out to help during OblivAeon, though.
- What does the Pandemonium Key do? It shows potential futures - it's part of the "early warning" systems of the Enclave. It's very powerful, but dangerous tool to use - the Varusiod who created it went insane pretty quickly afterwards.
- When trying to destroy the Earth, did he make efforts to avoid destroying the Maerynian Refuge? He doesn't really know about them at this point. Their homeworld showed up briefly on the Enclave's systems, but since some managed to escape they fell off their radar. His methods of finding important points to destroy never would have brought him to the Refuge as they're not important to the survival of the planet.
- Did he make any apologies to heroes as Lifeline? Any offer to have one of the heroes to become an Endling if things go wrong? He shows contrition and accepts all blame placed on him by others, but since he still thinks he was acting correctly given the information he had, he offers no apologies and expects no forgiveness. Has has not and cannot forgive himself, so why would anyone else do so? He can't make any offers regarding Endlings - there is a separate story involving a human Endling (Interlude fodder - my guess is Eternal Haka).
- How does he feel about Tempest? He's not an Endling, but they're still a race that's almost been wiped out. How does Tempest feel about him? Lifeline learns about Tempest's people later. Tempest sees how Tarogath got to where he is and how he made the decisions he did. Lifeline sees Tempest as "not strong enough" to do what it takes to save his people. This came up in the Empyreon fight and culminated in the "teamwork" lesson.
- Is Lifeline a Vampire (given the Blood Mage connection)? What's the difference if not? Vampires are "creatures of blood magic", but he "uses blood magic". Vampires have gone through specific rituals to basically "become" blood magic. Lifeline is kind of an "energy vampire" in that he can draw energy from others, but he doesn't need to do so to live/doesn't drink blood, etc.
- One of the preview Lifeline cards shows him fighting Skinwalker Gloomweaver in Dark Watch #18, which is also when Nightmist becomes the gate - how long was Skinwalker around that he's still around in the middle of the OblivAeon events? What are the similarities and differences in the types of blood magic involved? First off (as has been mentioned previously, but possibly after the question was submitted), the ARG events are not during the OblivAeon events, but lead up to it. Skinwalker, Void Guard in the Colosseum, and other events all happen in this lead-in time. The blood magic for Gloomweaver here has more to do with the reanimation of tissue - not keeping things "alive" for an unnatural time (like the vampires). It's a pretty broad category of power and could also have just been called "gross magic" considering that it pretty much covers all of the gross magical stuff that goes on.
- Deadline's species looks familiar, is this a crossover with the Reptilian Sulph-Orcs from Galactic Strike Force? No, the Sulph-Orcs are not Procitors. That being said, the GSF setting is the same setting, only very far in the future (and shouldn't be seen as the "ending" of either the Tactics or RPG timeline - it's its own thing).
- Tactics - The main difference between the two futures is that in this one he joined Jansa to return to the Enclave before it went into the pocket dimension. So, he's still there. The Enclave is outside of reality for the time being in both settings, and could possibly make a reappearance, but leaving the way it did isn't something that's easy to reverse.
- RPG - He got hit with a giant influx of energy when OblivAeon hit him, but there's not really a safe way to output it. So, he decides to form something out of it and basically allows the energy to form itself in this process. He creates some living entity out of it, but this is apparently a big reveal and so we don't get to know what/who it is at this point and have to wait (we'll be told "within a few months"). Since he can't return to the Enclave, but isn't particularly wanted on Earth, he goes and has space adventures. He works with Void Guard and other heroes occasionally, but he's out there trying to find his own place in the cosmos. He's not looking for redemption, but could find it nevertheless.