The Union Cross Reboot: Part 1

The following is an outline that retells the story of the first installment of the Union Cross series. The goal was to create a simplified, grounded version of the story that better reflects my current state of mind as it relates to God, demons, miracles, and brain science.

The story opens up with Walker, the prophet with yellow eyes and brown dreads, receiving a vision about upcoming events.

David Johnson is an inner city kid who struggles with anger issues and severe headaches. He is trying to turn over a new leaf after spending six months in jail. He was charged with assault after severely injuring four of the seven kids who tried to jump him after school. His grandfather attempts to get David transferred into Foxxburgh-Wellington Academy, a private school that combines martial arts (combat arts) and academics. It's too expensive and David's grades are too low for a scholarship. The school will allow David a chance to be admitted if he can defeat its best student, George Dean, in an exhibition match. David loses the match by technicality, but impresses the school enough to earn admittance. David, however, who never wanted to attend the school to begin with, decides to think it over. 

Meanwhile, George Dean is completely humiliated, having been beaten within an inch of defeat by a 'nobody' from the inner city slums. George's father, president of the wealthiest weapons design and private security firm, viciously berates him for his performs as well. That night, while George sleeps, he is approached in his dreams by a demon who promises to help George restore his reputation, gain his father's approval, and exact revenge on David Johnson if he agrees to let him in his heart. George agrees.

In one of several attempts to woo David Johnson into transferring, The Foxxburgh-Wellington Academy has arranged for him compete in a Combat Arts Invitational Tournament; the grand prize is $10,000. David decides to compete, and does very well until the semifinals. George Dean uses his demonic power to kill David's opponent, just as David was striking him, making it appear as though David has just killed his opponent. This is an incredibly devastating moment for David Johnson. George Dean also uses his power to influence the audience's behavior and reaction. And as the accusations fly, his anger begins to well up. The police arrive on the scene to arrest him. At this point, David's fear and anger finally take over and David attacks the police. His hands begin to glow orange, and his fists burn his attackers. One of the officer's affected by George's demonic powers pulls out his gun and shoots. Just before the bullet reaches impact, Walker suddenly appears, grabs David by the waist, then they both disappear.

The next moment, David and Walker are in the woods. Walker has teleported them both there. David, confused and still angry, attacks Walker. Walker easily subdues him, knocking him unconscious.  David wakes up in a type of infirmary, where he meets Walker and Dr. Michelle Roman.

Walker apologizes for knocking him out, then explains himself. Walker is an agent of a CORE, an organization that seeks out and destroys demons. Walker had been following him for months. Dr. Roman, a CORE neuroscientist, explains that David's headaches, natural combat skills, and his burning fists come from something called the "M-Verse."  

The M-Verse, known in neuroscience as Miraversadine, is a neurotransmitter that is activated by faith-related thoughts and emotions. When released, it triggers superhuman abilities. The neurotransmitter is found in two parts of the brain: the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Amygdala. The Anterior Cingulate Cortex, or the ACC, is the part of the brain that deals with decision-making, self-control, and discipline. When the M-Verse is active in the ACC, it represents a positive brain reaction, giving you control over your powers. The Amygdala is the part of the brain that deals with fear, panic, and aggression. When the M-Verse is active in the Amygdala, it represents a negative brain reaction, giving the powers control over you. Dr. Roman explains that David's outburst at the tournament was a result of Miraversadine flooding his Amygdala. 

Walker explains how all the miracles in biblical times are a result of the M-Verse. The strength of Samson, the precognition of the prophets, even the miracles of Jesus himself were all made possible through Miravesadine. This means that we can all have access to the same power.

When David asks about his headaches, Roman and Walker explain that it's a result of him subconsciously suppressing the commands that the Miraversadine is trying to send to his body. This is happening because David has been trying to avoid the way he feels about God, instead of facing it. CORE agents are trained to use M-Verse in the correct way, and use those powers to battle demonic forces.

Roman explains what has happened to George Dean. If a higher amount of Miraversadine is released into the Amygdala, a person's powers can manifest as an inner demon, an independent collections of desires existing within the brain. The only way David can clear his name is to unlock his M-Verse powers completely, confront George Dean and free him from the demon's hold.

David doesn't want to be involved with any of it, and wonders why Walker or another CORE agent can't take George Dean down. Walker explained that he tried to engage George's mind, but the demon's hold is too strong. George can only be stopped by David because he is the source of George's pain. There is a chance the demon's hold on George would soften, if George confronts this pain. There is also a chance that the demon's powers increases.

David decides to stay at CORE headquarters and train. However, when George threatens David's grandfather, David leaves before he is finished training to face off against George Dean, who is now donning an armored suit prototype called the DeanMachine, created by Dean Enterprises.

David Johnson appeals to George that he can be free of the demon's hold on him. George ultimately refuses. The battle is intense. David wins and saves his grandfather. George is presumed dead.

David, cleared of all charges, decides not to attend Foxxburgh-Wellington. Instead, he chooses East Central High School, where his presence can have a better impact. George, however, is not dead. He has survived.

The Union Cross Card Game

The Game
Title: The Miracleverse (Or Union Cross)
Background: Unlike most nerds, I'm not the biggest fan of trading card games. They involve a lot of people. They have a lot of complex rules. I just haven't found one that I like yet (I am always open to try new things if you want to send a few games that you think I'd like). I like Solitaire. It's addicting, relaxing, and challenging all at the same time. Last year, I discovered Golf Solitaire. And I was so inspired by the format that I came up with my own version using characters and themes from the Union Cross universe. Coming to a Walgreens near you! (Or not).

The Rules

Game Engine: The game uses a 52-card deck with golf solitaire rules. Like any card game, there are four suits. However, instead of the normal suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades), the suits are based off enemy factions from the Union Cross universe. There are 14 cards in each suit. Numbers one through nine are normal. Numbers 10 through 14 (instead of 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace) are the special cards within each enemy faction. Below are the four enemy factions and their corresponding special cards.
  • Drones (Sam Olson, Jasmine Dean, Rolando Vega, Justin Kace, Nathan Drock)
  • Capitals (Styes, Slater Lee, Andrew Graham, Tynisa Morgan, Crunch)
  • Netherverse Demons (Cael, Oni Orochi, Yuri Orochi, Coraa, Drega)
  • Government Agents (Larkham Rugal, Jason, Zach/Billy, Kim, Falcon Jim)

Main Characters
The following are the main characters are in the game. Use them like you would a Joker in a Golf Solitaire game. You are only allowed to choose main character per game. Heroes have a special meter's bar. When full, that player can access that character's special move. Player build that meter by clear cards from the tableau. Each character has a strength, and weaknesses, and a special move.
  • David Johnson
  • George Dean
  • Marcia Miguelas
  • Walker
  • Carolyn Cross
  • Turner Johnson
  • Benjamin King
  • Timothy King
  • Terrence Bowman
  • Stephanie Bowman
  • Israel James
  • William Katz
About Each Deck
Each suit represent an enemy faction. Each faction has five special cards. The hero must use a special attack in order to remove a special card from the tableau. Each special card has a special move when drawn from the stock deck during play. The higher the special card, the stronger the move is. Drones can absorb energy (Special moves get taken). Agents poison. (Time limit. In 20 sec Assemble three cards in succession or game over). Capitals injure (Special moves disabled for 60 secs). Demons can blind/cripple (For 60 secs, players are unable to clear numbers above 5).

The Theory Of Fighting Game Storylines

Fighting Games
I grew up on fighting games. Street Fighter II. Tekken I through IV. The King of Fighters. Marvel vs. Capcom 1&2. There are a few others you could toss in (Project Justice, Super Smash Bros., Bloody Roar, Plasma Sword). 

Take a look at any commentary related to fighting games of the late 90s and early 2000s and one of the common criticisms is that most fighting games lack good storylines. (Neatherealm Studios has tried to change that perception with their brilliant "Story Mode 2.0" concept used in Injustice and the recent Mortal Kombat installments.)

Many of my favorite fighting games have a unifying plot device that revolves around some sort of tournament. What I have discovered, however, is that tournaments severely limit the realism and plausibility of those game storylines.

Why Fight?
With all due respect to Ryu and Paul Phoenix, fighting simply to prove you're the best is insipid and boring. If Marshall Law wants to open a restaurant, why fight in a tournament? Go apply for a business loan. Start a Kickstarter fund. Knock over a bank. Why fight? Gen Fu (from Dead or Alive) competes because his granddaughter has a "terrible disease" and needs the money for medical bills. Admirable, but shallow and highly implausible. If you're that desperate, use your awesome fighting skills and pull a John Q. Why fight? Where's the motivation to fight coming from? If it's for revenge, why wait to get it in a tournament that has rules that may restrict you from exacting that revenge? 

The villain is one of the most vital pieces to any story, and many fighting game villains suffer from the same limitations. Shao Khan. M. Bison. Orochi. They all have grand plans to take over the world. So they form a tournament?  World domination through tournament fighting makes no sense.

The "tournament" is a plot device used to gather several characters under one story, all trying to reach the same prize. Trying to carry eight to 10 character stories per game is hard enough. It becomes virtually impossible to do with the use of the tournament, which limits the ability to expand characters central to the story. It's why the vast majority of fighting game-based movies don't work (the first Mortal Kombat is still the best effort of the bunch).

What My Fighting Game Will Do Differently
As it relates to my fighting game storyline, it's important to me that the characters all have there own reasons for fighting each other. I want a soap opera. I have a soap opera. Everybody's story is connected to each other. Yes, there are actions and events that affect everyone. However, not every action affects every major character.  

My fighting game storyline will use characters from Union Cross, Project M, and all of the short stories I've published over the years. There won't be a prize – no money, no company, no magic relic. 

The storyline will follow several individual issues and histories. Think of it like a novel-in-stories, or like a short story collection with unifying themes. Those themes include God's purpose for us, demons, miracles (beings with superpowers), brain science, forgiveness, repentance, etc.