This is the second half of the article, for the sake of those reading on smartphones and other long-read-averse conditions. The first half is there.
Notes about organizations (part 2)
Now that we have covered some quick basics about the Gendarmerie Nationale…
The GIGN (Groupement d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) is an elite unit tasked with special operations – particularly high-risk hostage crises and anti-terrorist ops. Although the unit remains generally discreet, operations average between 50 and 100 per year – several hundred hostages have been freed and many more arrests have been made.
As of this writing, the GIGN is believed to be the most active anti-terrorist law enforcement unit in the world.
The GIGN was heavily covered by international news during such operations as the 1976 Djibouti hostage crisis or the 1989 Marseille hijacking. Both of which are considered strong successes in difficult circumstances.
Highly controversial orders have also been followed. Including an assault in New Caledonia in the 1980s that left a number of hardline independence activists dead in unclear circumstances.
Since the 1990s, focus has shifted away from the military gendarmes to an equivalent civilian unit in the Police Nationale called RAID. RAID personnel trains closely with GIGN gendarmes, use the same techniques and weapons, etc. but are civilian police officers. Other, similar units such as the BRI have since emerged – which one is being favoured seems to depend on complicated political influence issues.
Back when the GIGN was the main tactical response force, it developed something of a media mystique. Which can be loosely compared to the cultivated rep of some Special Forces units in the US – say, Delta Force. But the law-enforcement context allowed for dodging the French strains of anti-militarism.
Although the GIGN is a cross between the British SAS and the American FBI’s Hostage Rescue Teams, it professes a policy of keeping deadly violence to a minimum. Its stated objective is to seek arrests rather than kills.
The unit’s signature .357 magnum revolver (a Manurhin MR73) was a symbol of this bullet-placement-over-sheer-firepower philosophy, though its use gradually receded.
Hand to hand combat techniques (based on an extensive krav maga training program) are also stressed for non-lethal assaults, as well as K9 tactics. Dogs are for instance taught to neutralise the driver of a moving car – or to immobilize handguns using their jaws.
EPIGN and ESIGN
The EPIGN (Escadron Parachutiste d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) is an airborne gendarmerie unit. It was created in 1971 as the EPGM.
This curious unit works in a grey zone between law enforcement and military ops. They were often seen in French territories where armed insurrection is a possibility, or securing French embassies in countries at war.
Back when our French Gendarmerie superhuman characters were created, the EPIGN often worked as support or additional operators for the larger GIGN missions – especially overseas. It has since ceased to exist as an independent entity, and was merged with the GIGN.
The assumption behind our French Gendarmerie characters was that superhuman operatives would be supported by a similar structure, ESIGN (Escadron Surhumain d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale). And that ESIGN would share bases and infrastructure with EPIGN, due to its small size and unpredictable deployments.
The earliest concept for this character was thrown together during the late 1990s. One of the emblematic French sounds of that time — at least for me — was the band Dolly, from my hometown of Nantes.
It was a firmly 1990s grunge rock sound with something of a punk side, and a guitars-heavy wall-of-sound effect. P.J. Harvey meets Pearl Jam, or somesuch. Unfortunately the band didn’t last long. They called it quits after their bass guitarist died in a traffic accident.
Je ne veux pas rester sage was IIRC the biggest hit, helped in part by the curiously memorable lyrics.
History (part 2)
Sophie went on to become a top ESIGN operator. Over the next ten years she participated to more than 300 tactical operations to stop superhuman threats against France, French citizens and French interests.
Since she could fly faster than any jet fighter and had the power and flexibility to engage almost anything on her own — if only to concentrate enemy action on herself and away from civilians and ordinary cops — she was frequently the first responder to emergencies.
Ms. Robais was often glimpsed on television and famously defeated major superhuman threats. But it always was as a faceless tactical operator wearing the anonymous black, hooded military uniform of ESIGN. At best one could guess her gender, if that.
Sophie married then divorced a colleague during that era. She had a son, Nicolas, whom she mostly raised as a single mother on Gendarmerie bases.
She remains on amiable if somewhat distant terms with her ex-husband. He has since become a private security consultant in the UAE area.
Comme la montre a son tic-tac
On the 16th of January, 1997, Robais was in Chamonix . She was helping the local gendarmes set up a high-altitude rescue training exercise.
The powerful, insane superhuman Thierry Saint-Jean had attacked the vacationing Badinters as a terror attack inspired by his reactionary ideals. Badinter was chiefly known for the abrogation of death penalty 16 years before, and his wife Elizabeth was back then a famous intellectual and feminist writer.
Hearing impacts and a screaming woman when she came on site seconds later, Adjudant-chef Robais “performed a fully kinetic immediate entry”. That is, she body-blocked Saint-Jean through a concrete wall.
After 25 minutes of brutal fighting, Saint-Jean was taken down. The worst of the damage was a crushed forearm for Mrs. Badinter, whose life had been saved by seconds.
However Ms. Robais had intervened while wearing running trousers, sneakers and a tank top. Mr. Saint-Jean had seen her face – and it was assumed that there existed footage of the fight featuring Sophie’s unmasked face.
At that time, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin had been considering making a PR move by having one of the “ninjas” take on a more American-style code-name and public presence. In order to serve as a sort of national hero.
Government spokeswoman Catherine Trautmann suggested Adjudant-Chef Robais, since her face had already been exposed. Robais being an attractive female officer, the choice of the Marianne symbolism wrote itself.
After meeting the Adjudant-Chef, Jospin was receptive to Robais’s informal behaviour as a way to relate with French urban youths. Furthermore, Sophie’s distinctive Marseille accent was still sufficiently audible to deflect criticisms of Parisian elitism.
Her personal charisma and poise were also considered ideal for the mission. The Jospin government had begun its push toward a community policing model, and Marianne could be the flagship of this more modern approach to law enforcement in France.
(The community policing approach met with strong political resistance, and was buried by the following government. Which strongly favoured a model based on arrests and repression.)
Sous un p’tit air bonnasse
A DST (Direction de Sûreté du Territoire – National Security Executive, a counter-intelligence agency) team made Sophie Robais and her relatives disappear, then created new IDs for them.
Sophie was now Ms. Nemo (“No one”). Her son Nicolas became Alexandre Nemo and her aged father received a completely new identity unrelated to his daughter’s.
Skin-tight costumes were considered, and worked well with Ms. Nemo’s striking physique. But it was finally decided to have fashion designer Thierry Mugler draw a more conventional outfit inspired by the Gendarmerie Nationale’s tactical uniforms, with a slim tricolour sash.
A star is born
As “Marianne”, the former Sophie Robais made her debut during the Summer of 1997.
The official announcement was met with scepticism. However, the memories of the Chamonix takedown were still fresh enough to make it clear that Marianne was an alpha-class superhuman.
Several televised interviews of Marianne telling about older, declassified ESIGN operations in an informal style with lots of gesturing and occasional mild profanity were big hits. They helped convey that the newly-minted official heroine was a powerful, experienced tactical professional with a genuine concern for proper usage of force.
Marianne was regularly deployed for PR and diplomatic events, the later often being a subtle show of force. However, ESIGN scheduling constraints soon necessitated cutting down on those. The cruising speed became 2-3 PR/diplomatic events a month.
Marketing studies demonstrated that youths-oriented, feel-good events were the most efficient. Particularly after a well-known TV sequence showing Marianne rebuilding a children’s playground and two basketball courts in Marseille’s impoverished quartiers nords within less than a minute, at the request of a local youths association.
About half the PR work concentrated on those during the early 2000s.
Life’s a wave
Marianne has also been deployed abroad, particularly in 2003 to reinforce the Operation Unicorn forces in Ivory Coast. And on several occasions to provide “tactical assistance” to the superhuman forces of other EU and allied countries.
However, since the 2010s, tension had been growing between Marianne (and thus a small majority of ESIGN personnel) and other officials. ESIGN has gradually specialised in derailing superhuman attacks, with its ties with other law enforcement forces weakening.
By the early 2020s, ESIGN was essentially moving in a different world, with but light interactions with other commands.
Likewise, ESIGN has repeatedly been politically blocked from intervening in non-superhuman and low-superhuman situations. This resulted in unnecessary casualties, but allowed for putting the spotlight on units more politically aligned with the brass and the government. Positions with ESIGN also have become toxic for the career advancement of senior officers, due to police unions pressure.
The fate of ESIGN is increasingly unclear. As one of the last remains of a dead-and-buried approach to less repressive policing, there’s a strong pressure to want to get rid of it. But this would create a glaring vulnerability to superhuman attacks. Especially if Marianne’s sheer power is no longer available.
That Marianne remains more popular than every single person up the chain of command for the last 20+ years is another clear problem. For years a rumour that she would run for President kept being floated. Despite not making any sort of sense on any level.
The Marianne symbolism
In 1792, shortly after the French Revolution, the Republic came up with a symbol for itself and its stated values – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Freedom, Equality, Solidarity).
The emblem was the depiction of a young woman, wearing a Phrygian cap (a type of headgear popular among revolutionaries) and a Classical Greek dress.
This character, called Marianne, has been used as a symbol of every French Republic since. On coins, stamps, sculpted busts in city halls, etc.. She is often used to personify the Republic, for instance in satirical drawings.
The name “Marianne” was common among the lower classes back in the late 1700s, conveying that this woman wasn’t some fancy noble.
Marianne looks about 31. She’s vital, attractive, well-muscled and obviously physically active, with warm eyes and an open smile. Her tanned skin and the tiny lines on her face are typical of an outdoors lifestyle in sunny climates.
Her dirty blonde hair is usually kept in a plain queue with a cheap, brightly-coloured scrunchie. In her civvies she usually wears sporting clothes or light summer dresses.
The Marianne uniform is a fitted, more elegant version of the plain Gendarmerie tactical uniform. It includes black leather light combat boots, very dark blue (almost black) and tight-fitting fatigues, plus a sports-style jacket of the same colour. Unlike the usual uniform jacket, hers stop at belly button level and is tight and fitted.
This variant jacket is worn over a white or light blue shirt or T-shirt.
Accessories and note
The most colourful part is a slim sash in blue, white and red in a tricolour pattern, the extremities trailing off her right hip.
Marianne has occasionally whimsically added an old version of the female Gendarmerie uniform hat. This campy-looking bit of headgear was retired from service years ago.
Marianne’s regulation magnum revolver is kept in a shoulder holster under her jacket. It is seldom seen or needed.
Marianne is a simple, active, relaxed woman with a powerful mixture of vitality and aplomb. She has an informal, straightforward approach to most things and is remarkably warm and good-natured, often laughing. Even as a law-enforcement officer and a mother she maintains a distinctly raggamuffin lifestyle.
Unless one has also served in the French armed forces and can spot telltale locutions and habits, one would never guess that she’s a senior non-commissioned officer with les médailles de chez médailles.
Having lived as a dreadlocked backpacker and beach/ski bum for years, she has a sparse lifestyle. She prefers to do most things (such as cooking and home improvement) by herself. Most of her free time is spent raising her son, a quiet teenager who prefers academic pursuits. He wants to become an historian.
Marianne is at heart a protector, especially since she became a mother. Her normal M.O. is to try to defuse violent situations by talking with the opposition.
Ms. Nemo is charismatic, sincere and kind. Her preference for talking has allowed for the peaceful resolution of many potentially deadly situations, especially since she doesn’t come across as a conventional authority at all.
She has extensive experience with this sort of situation. And is a trained police negotiator with experience ranging up to negotiation during French Foreign Legion peacekeeping ops.
If the situation has to go tactical, Marianne doesn’t fight like a super-heroine but like an elite military SWAT operator who clearly has a krav maga background.
RAID Commander – “Group A and B have gotten the kids clear. Group C, execute the hostile.”
Marianne – “Marianne to all points, that’s a negative for Group C. We don’t even know if it’s a real bomb. Fall back C, I’m going in.”
RAID Commander – “Totally unnecessary risk.”
Marianne – “I’ll scoop him up and fly straight up before he wakes. If it’s not a real bomb harness he’ll live. If he detonates in my arms, then all the damage done will be fuzzy shots of me flying naked. Exiting site with suspect in three, two, one.”
“Is it OK if I speak French ? I don’t speak Dioula, sorry. Look, guys, the whole weapons confiscation thing… well, first, you know me and it’s pretty useless to point them at me. Second, I’m not here to take them by force, I know your situation is complicated. Look, is it OK if I come into the village so we can talk ?”
“Jah love, moça. Jah love.”
“Oh fatche de pitié, il impressionne degun ton flingue. Laisse tomber, va, personne va t‘en vouloir.” (“Oh honey please, that gun of yours ain’t impressin’ no one. Just give up, ‘t ain’t gonna make you look any worse now.”)
DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 06||Str: 18||Bod: 13|
|Int: 07||Wil: 05||Min: 10|
|Inf: 08||Aur: 07||Spi: 07|
|Init: 034||HP: 100|
Adaptation: 07, Analytical smell/tracking scent: 08, Continuum control: 10, Directional hearing: 06, Extended hearing: 06, Flight: 12, Invulnerability: 13, Sealed systems: 08, Super-hearing: 06, Superspeed: 09, Systemic antidote: 06, Telescopic vision: 04, Telepathy: 12, Ultra-vision: 06
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Adaptation only works on Skills, and can only Adapt Skills from the ancestry line.
- Adaptation allows for Adapting Familiarities (each is considered the equivalent of 3 APs in a Skill) and Expertises (each ’weighs’ 6 APs).
- Adaptation represents spoken instructions, and is thus often useless in situations where the ancestry line person doesn’t have the time to describe what to do.
- Continuum control must avoid the Observer Effect (see below).
- Continuum control is limited to the plausible actions from her ancestry lines.
- Continuum control requires oft-lengthy preparation work to locate and communicate with the ancestor.
- Telepathy extends in time as well as in space and has a +40 Special Temporal Range Bonus.
- Telepathy can only be used to contact people on her ancestry line.
Acrobatics*: 06, Animal handling (Dogs): 05, Charisma (Persuasion): 09, Martial artist*: 06, Medicine (First aid): 04, Military science: 06, Vehicles (Land): 05, Weaponry (Infantry weapons): 06
Expertise (Board sports, ESIGN/GIGN tactics, Mountain guide), Languages (French, Portuguese, Jamaican English, English, a few dozen words of vernacular Algerian Arabic), Local Hero (France), Credentials (French government, police and military – Medium), Rank (equivalent to Captain).
ESIGN (Gendarmerie superhuman squad, High), the ancestry line (High).
National heroine, gendarme.
- TACTICAL RADIO HEADSET [BODY 04, Radio communications (Encrypted): 07].
- Manhurin MR73 .357 magnum revolver [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 06, R#02, Recommended STR 03, Drawback: Long reload time].
DC Adventures RPG
Marianne — Averaged PL 15
Invulnerable and super-strong ● 24 points
– Impervious Fortitude 4, Impervious Toughness 10.
– Enhanced Advantage (Diehard).
– Immunity 4 (Disease, environmental cold, environmental heat, radiation).
– Immunity 2 (All suffocation, pressure, vacuum – all Limited 1 to Half Effect).
– Enhanced Strength 3 (Limited 1 to Lifting).
Super-senses ● 13 points
Senses 13 (Acute Extended Tracking Olfactory, Extended Tracking Rapid Auditory, Distance Sense (Auditory), Ultra-Hearing, Extended 2 Rapid Visual, Darkvision).
Flight and superspeed ● 66 points
– Superfast fighter — Enhanced Dodge 3, Enhanced Parry 3, Close Attack 5, Defensive Roll 2, Evasion 2, Improved Initiative 5, Instant Up, Move-by Action, Ranged Attack 4, Takedown.
– Supersonic — Flight 11, Speed 8.
– Superfast actions — Quickness 9.
Ancestry Line ● 7 points
– Ancestral Mentoring — Variable 1 (Flaws: Limited: Only to use skills from her ancestry line, Quirk: Ancestor must be able to explain to Marianne what to do, Slow).
– Retrogressive Telepathy — Comprehend 1 (Spirits along her ancestry line), Feature 2 (Mind link with ancestry line).
Close Attack 5, Defensive Roll 2, Evasion 2, Improved Initiative 5, Improved smash, Improved trip, Instant Up, Move-by Action, Ranged Attack 4, Takedown.
Benefit 2 (ESIGN officer), Benefit 1 (Popular in France and beyond), Connected, Contacts, Diehard, Equipment 2, Languages 3 (English, Portuguese, Jamaican English), Leadership.
Athletics 3 (+18), Acrobatics 4 (+8), Deception 3 (+6), Expertise (GIGN operator) 10 (+13), Expertise (Mountain guide and board sports) 6 (+9), Insight 6 (+8), Perception 6 (+8), Persuasion 6 (+9), Ranged combat (Firearms) 1 (+9), Treatment 4 (+7) (Limited 2 to Stabilise and Revive), Vehicles 4 (+8) (Limited 2 to common land vehicles).
Heavy Pistol, Radio headset.
|Unarmed +15, Close, Damage 15|
|Revolver +9, Ranged, Damage 4|
* Without Superspeed
- Responsibility Marianne is a symbol of her country (almost literally) and leader of its premier superhuman defense force.
- Relationships Her family (mother, father, brother and son).
- Secret Identity Marianne’s real name is Sophie Robais.
- Old Debts Individuals on her ancestry line may call upon Marianne to perform certain tasks.
- Trade-off areas Attack/Effect PL 15, Dodge/Toughness PL 14, Parry/Toughness PL 14, Fort/Will PL 14.
- Point total 267. Abilities 98, Defences 23, Skills 23, Powers 110, Devices 0, Advantages 13. Equiv. PL 10.
On the uncapped scale (see the OMACS II document), her Strength becomes 18 (drop the Limited to Lifting Strength), her Stamina becomes 13, and she gains 2 further Ranks of Enhanced Impervious Fortitude.
Source of Character: Homemade.
Helper(s): John Colagioia, William Peterson, David Johnston, Kal El, Eric Langendorff, Ultimate Powers Book (Marvel classic supplement), rpg.net’s Tangency forum for their Canadian skiing experience. Original M&M stats by Mister O..