Friday, May 10, 2013

Character profile: NEBULA


Professor Ariel Sheratan, a research astronomer, had been researching the practical applications of stellar energy as a power source aboard the privately-owned Next Element Space Station (N.E.S.S.). Her hypothesis was that the energy possessed by stars could rival the efficiency of nuclear power as an energy source, if it could somehow be harnessed.

In order to more closely study this stellar energy, Professor Sheratan built a one-of-a-kind telescope (the Nebulous Starscope 1.0) designed to analyse the spectra of light observed in outer space. While observing stars aboard the N.E.S.S., Professor Sheratan witnessed a supernova explosion through her telescope—an explosion so blinding that she was knocked unconscious. When she came around, she found herself in the clinic, under the watchful eyes of the only other two people aboard the N.E.S.S.:  Professor Fergus Hadron, her research partner, and Dr Celia Gray, the on-board surgeon. She could hear them whispering to each other at the other end of the room.

When Ariel opened her eyes, she could not see and instead felt an intense heat around her face; she heard screams of agony, the ripping of metal; she tumbled from the gurney and found herself face down on the floor. She was finally able to close her eyes, and was met with only silence. Confused, Ariel attempted to stand but did not yet have the strength. Why doesn't someone help me? She didn't know how long she sat there when she was finally able to summon the strength to stand. Keeping her eyes closed, for her silent contemplation had given rise to an impossible theory, she fumbled about the clinic; she found her way to the equipment cabinet, though not without obtaining several bruises. After rummaging around in the cabinet, Ariel found what she sought—Extra-Ultra Violet (E-UV) Protection Goggles (the solar equivalent of bulletproof glass)—and put them on. Tentatively, she opened her eyes ...

With a pang of sorrow, she saw the destruction around her. Angry smoke billowed, concealing part of the room. She stepped through it and cried out mournfully. Covered in debris and surrounded by smoke lay her colleagues, so impossibly still it could only be certain they were dead. Tears flooding from her eyes, she pushed her way through the wreckage and out from the clinic. On the observation deck, everything was as she had left it, except that her telescope’s lenses were cracked and burnt. She looked around wildly, unsure of what to do. It took her only a few moments to decide. She grabbed her telescope and her sheaf of notes, and made her way to the dock. Flinging herself into an escape craft, she punched the access code to open the external shaft into the keypad. Ariel steered the craft out of the station, leaving behind the destruction but not the overwhelming guilt.

Ariel looked in the rear view monitor and saw that a shimmering haze was emanating from the N.E.S.S.. As it was expelled, it folded back on itself and around the craft, almost as though trying to envelope the space station and conceal it from sight. She thought she saw something dark moving away from the ness, though she couldn't tell what it was at this distance; only a moment of puzzlement was allowed to her, however, for even as she pondered the mysterious haze and equally odd shadow, a blinding light suddenly engulfed the space station. When it cleared, in place of the N.E.S.S., there was only a void.

Now more terrified than despairing, Ariel rammed forward the lever that would bring the escape craft to warp speed and belted herself into the seat to await the thrusting sensation she'd come to know so well from previous return voyages to her own solar system. It wasn't until she was back in her home galaxy, unsure of what to do and where to go, that Ariel realised her eyes hadn't been the only part of her body affected by the supernova incident. With horror, she looked down at her arms and saw they had turned black as the space surrounding her; black, but speckled with light, as though the night sky had been drawn to her and clung to her in place of skin. Her eyes drifted down and she saw that her clothing had burned away and this starry phenomenon had spread across her entire body. She wanted to cry, but no tears came. She was left only with the sensation that plagues the tear ducts when one is devastated but has run out of tears.

Ariel suddenly felt faint and lost consciousness. When she awoke, she found herself amid the wreckage of her escape craft, frightened but otherwise unscathed. She climbed out of the wreckage and saw she had landed in a great, open, sandy space. The desert. Ariel slowly spun in a circle, both because she was still dizzy and in order to take in her surroundings. Wherever she looked, she saw the same golden expanse, no direction offering any more suggestion of safety than another. Shifting her gaze to the night sky, she saw a single cluster of stars to the east. Taking this as a sign, she rummaged in the wreckage for her telescope and notes, also discovering the survival kit. She threw the lightweight blanket—which she found alongside a water canteen, some bandages and matches, and a compass—over her shoulders and began walking wearily towards the stars in the distance.

As the night faded into the dawn, Ariel became increasingly troubled; she was fast running out of water—her weariness prompting more sustenance than might usually have been enough to sustain her—and there was no shelter in sight. More than anything, she was afraid she would come across someone, not being able to dismiss the thought as irrational ... Who could I possibly find out here? Then, just as the sun crested the eastern skyline, she saw something unusual out of the corner of her eye. She hurried over to a sand dune and realised something concrete was protruding from it. It looked like a wall! Ariel frantically dug at the sand, after only a short time revealing a low concrete wall inset with a heavy metal door. She tugged at the rusty bolt and found she was easily able to open it.

She crept inside and lit a match. It looked like an abandoned bunker; perhaps somewhere scientific experiments had been conducted. She could see cracked flasks strewn across the floor, the latter stained with the fluorescent colour of chemical spillage. On tables, dried up solutions within intact vessels and notebooks yellowed with age but still fresh enough to write on, gave testimony to the hurried escape of the bunker’s occupants. In the corner, she found an old cot. She shook out the blanket covering the thin mattress and sat, finding it not an uncomfortable place to rest. A small door was nestled in another corner and Ariel crept over to it, nudging it open to reveal a small wash room. The showerhead, toilet and basin were a welcome sight, but only wishfully until she tried the tap and found that the water ran reasonably clear after several moments. I think I’ve found my new home.

Months later, holed up in her bunker, Ariel was finally able to prove that impossible theory she had in the moments after regaining consciousness. A previously unobserved stellar light frequency, on an invisible spectrum, had filtered through her Starscope when she observed the supernova explosion. The unique lenses of the instrument, having been designed specifically to analyse the composition of stellar light, had enabled Ariel to see the invisible frequency. And it had somehow been harnessed inside her body, without causing her any physical harm. With nowhere to go once it had extended to all her extremities and transformed her fair skin to ebony, it travelled her eyes, almost as though attempting to escape. When she had regained consciousness in the clinic, her lack of control coupled with her lack of awareness of her condition, had caused the stellar energy to project from her eyes and destroy everything in sight; including her unfortunate colleagues.

Over her time in seclusion, Ariel learned to control the emission of stellar light from her eyes. But her eyes did not appear as normal anymore; they were, instead, glowing spheres as brilliant as stars. To keep them hidden, she must always wear the E-UV goggles.

Today, she continues her research; but rather than seeking discoveries about the practical applications of stellar energy, she searches desperately for some sort of cure for her condition.  Though it did not cure her, one of her experimental serums allowed her to change her skin back to normal. It was never a permanent change, always shifting back to her star-speckled skin after some time; by taking doses of the serum regularly, she was able to hide her condition and return to society, if she so desired. Still overcome with guilt at the deaths of her colleagues, however, she wished to remain hidden until a permanent cure to both aspects of her condition could be found. But her research brought her to the attention of a secret organisation dedicated to fighting evil forces that plague the world.

Ariel was recruited to fight alongside other members of this organisation and, in memory of her lost friends, she decided to take on their nickname for her as her alter-ego. And so, she became Nebula ...




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