I’m dabbling with NaNoWriMo this year, so for this month you may get some of the more gamable setting ideas I’m working with. Because what the world really needed was more superhero serialized web fiction .
A Rosen-Tesla Event (also known as a Superpower Event or just Event) is a spontaneous release of explosive energy that always grants one or more individuals superpowers and leaves behind deposits of Cohenite (more commonly called The Substance).
The occurrence and effects of Events remain unpredictable, though several competing hypotheses await sufficient testing. Typically, a seemingly random place and time becomes ground zero for an explosion that grants nearby individuals powers. They can appear anywhere on Earth and at any time or date, with an almost-perfect distribution across the calendar year and inhabited geography.
Events became common knowledge after World War II, and it is unclear exactly when they began. Though they are a global phenomenon and many governments consider them a state secret, it is believed that up to half a dozen of them occur each year, and the frequency has not changed since they began.
An initial theory about the Events was forwarded by Nathan Rosen in 1946, with Nikola Tesla posthumously credited due to the use of many of his broadcast power equations in the research. These facts were not declassified until 1976. Rosen always believed, but could never prove, that Events were initiated by deployment of atomic energy and bombs, but could never prove any correlation, particularly due to the frequency remaining constant despite changes in the use of atomic energy.
The first non-classified Event, which introduced them to the world, was in 1949 near Salvador, Brazil. Declassified documents indicate that the governments of previous Event sites had been able to cover them up previously, though no details are included, so it is uncertain how many events happened before the Salvador Event. This did finally explain the masked heroes that had been poorly-kept secrets for the past several years, as the Salvador Five did not conceal their identities and were quite forthcoming about the source of their powers to the news media. Enough other powered individuals have come forward since 1949 that the general theory is understood, though individuals and governments are still believed to conceal most Events.
Frequency and Effects
Unless certain governments are concealing a greater than expected concentration of Events within their borders, each calendar year sees from zero to six Events across the entire Earth. These events are loosely correlated in frequency with population centers, and always include at least one human individual within an approximately five meter radius.
Rosen’s research suggested that potential Events were totally random and far greater in number than observed Events. Due to some peculiarity of the phenomenon, they would only catalyze from potential to actual Event when at least one human being would be included within the blast radius. Since so much of the Earth’s surface is unpopulated, there could be thousands of Events each year that are never actualized, and potentially millions if Events are not limited to the surface of the planet and can, instead, occur in the air or underground. What appears to be a random occurrence might display predictable patterns with sufficient data about exact Event locations and times.
Witnesses of Events, forensics, and the rare video recording detail a standard pattern to the phenomenon. All individuals within five meters of ground zero feel a buildup of static electricity, which some have compared to the sensation of being near a lightning strike. Those outside of the radius have provided less standardized impressions; it’s possible that those that noticed anything were simply reacting to the genuine stimulus evinced by those within the radius. Approximately three seconds later, a wave of heat erupts from ground zero; a shockwave of sufficient force to fling most individuals within the area away precedes a burst of hot air of nearly a thousand degrees at ground zero. The heat rapidly tapers off, but is sufficient to ignite or melt nearby objects. Individuals in between a solid object and ground zero have received serious burns and explosion trauma in addition to their superpowers as they are not able to be flung free of the blast. While the heat and shockwave drop dramatically past five meters, an Event in an enclosed location frequently blows out windows, doors, or even weak walls. The effect is in many ways similar to a small fuel-air bomb.
Any human within the five meter radius seems to inevitably develop superpowers, usually quite soon after the Event. Anyone outside the radius, even only shortly outside, does not develop powers. No animals have been documented to have developed powers, despite a few high-profile fraud “wonder-dogs.” Individuals that enter the radius of the event during the three seconds between static and explosion do not reliably develop powers, despite insistences from seminars purporting to train people to react quickly enough to run into the radius of a nearby Event.
Superpowers from Events
Main Article: Superpowers
All individuals within the radius of an Event gain superpowers. Unless classified Events provide disputing information, all individuals receive powers within a related “theme” or “flavor” of application. For example, the Stars, the USA’s premier superhero team in the 1970s and 1980s, are believed to have all received their powers in the same Event and have different applications of telekinesis: Liberty gained a personal telekinetic field that allows her to perform extreme feats of strength and durability, Patriot gained an ability to fly and shield himself while flying, and Banner gained a more “traditional” telekinetic ability to lift several tons of objects within several yards of herself. A more recent group, the vigilantes known as the Nitro Grade and assumed to be part of the same Event seem to display various flavors of energy emission: two can fling plasma, one wreathes himself in fire, another can generate intense sound, and the fifth can create lasers and other forms of light.
Most individuals that have gone on record about their powers describe an immediate intuitive understanding of them within moments of the Event, though there is frequently a period of training required to make full use of the powers. These powers remain with the individuals for the rest of their lives, can be inherited by offspring, and cannot currently be detected by genetic science (though certain individuals that cannot turn off aspects of their powers might be detected by such symptoms). The science behind powers is currently poorly understood.
While an Event that hit a tightly-packed crowd could theoretically empower dozens of individuals at once, the largest known group Event is currently the Kuala Lumpur Event of 1987, which empowered twenty individuals in an apartment building. Averages extrapolated from known data suggest that an average of only a dozen individuals per year have received powers from an Event since 1945: from one to twenty individuals per event and from zero to six Events per year. This would result in less than a thousand “first generation” supers worldwide. Based on expected birthrates (due to inheritance) and mortality, most authorities expect that the incidence of superpowers is close to one in three million individuals.
Main Article: Cohenite
In addition to granting powers, the ground around an Event is laced with the metallic substance officially termed Cohenite (but more commonly referred to as Hyperium, Philosopher’s Stone, or just The Substance). First researched and named by Morris Cohen while Nathan Rosen researched the physics of the Events, the transmutation or insertion of Cohenite into the area around an Event is suspected to be the main reason for the heat wave: an extremely powerful chemical reaction. Most Events are quickly harvested by concerns that don’t want to reveal exact numbers, but it’s believed that around 100 kilograms of Cohenite are produced by each Event.
While not an element and not thoroughly understood by modern chemistry, Cohenite has several extremely valuable properties. It alloys very easily with most metals while retaining desirable properties, with up to 50% of the weight of the alloy being comprised of the substance before it becomes brittle or otherwise unstable. Since Cohenite is extremely light (2.1 g/cm3), this means that alloys become extremely light while retaining their strength and conductivity. While the chemistry is poorly understood, evidence suggests that simple alloying procedures with Cohenite naturally produce carbon nanotubes within the metal.
Cohenite is, thus, extremely desirable in many industrial applications. Due to its rarity, a kilogram can easily go for $1,000,000 US. There is a fierce competition between governments and private concerns to secure the site of an Event for the financial bounty of its Cohenite.
While it is commonly understood that Nikola Tesla’s experiments in Colorado Springs centered around broadcast power, certain interviews have often been read as indicating a deeper involvement with Events than simply a posthumous use of his notes. Particularly due to rumors that the Allies had small cadres of supers that were integral to willing World War II and in place years before atomic testing, many believe that Events began much earlier than reported. The estates of several friends of Tesla have produced correspondence that might allude to his quest to empower individuals for the US government. Under this theory, Tesla invented a method to produce controlled Events that was reliable but too expensive for general use. However, this method opened a door, and some unexpected interaction with atomic energy, radio waves, or even the Age of a Aquarius (sources differ) led to an ongoing recurrence of the Events out of anyone’s control. Documentation, should any remain, remains highly classified.