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Zero Killer (Zero Dark Horse Comics)

Zero

(Zero Killer)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game
  • The series is a rather interesting take on post-Apocalyptic life in New York City.

Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed
  • Other Aliases: Zero Man, Zero Killer
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Ajay (big brother, deceased)
  • Group Affiliation: None, formerly the disciples
  • Base Of Operations: New York City
  • Height: 6’0” Weight: 175 lbs Age: Late 20s or early 30s
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Bald


Powers & Abilities

Zero is a “trashman”, a bounty hunter who tracks down renegade gangsters in exchange for food and survival. He is a master of a self defense system born in the cell blocks of Riker’s Island.

In the intervening years since Zero Hour, this style has grown into a martial art with all the complexity and devastating effectiveness of wushu, and he also has great prowess with bladed weapons. Zero relies on skill rather than brute strength to take down gangsters.

He seems rather adept at tracking and stealth and is capable of easily scaling up the walls of skyscrapers. Like many native New Yorkers in this timeline, Zero has developed some natural resistance to radiation.

He also keeps a workshop where he is trying to build a boat, taking marine epoxy glue and other hard to acquire components as payment for his services. As such he has rudimentary skills in carpentry, but truth is the boat could never take him to Africa.

Additionally, Zero keeps several hideouts throughout the city and locations generally considered dangerous.


Context

In an alternate timeline, a more confrontational Cold War between the USA and USSR resulted in a nuclear war in 1973. The fallout of this “Zero Hour” drastically shifted the political and literal landscape of the world, as ninety percent of the human population was killed and the global climate changed.

While most of the world’s governments went into a precipitous decline, the nations of Africa enjoyed a cultural and economic resurgence, having been spared the direct catastrophes of the nuclear exchange. Manhattan Island sank 100 feet, leaving it permanently flooded and populated only by various ruthless gangs that commanded the skyscrapers still standing among the waters.

JOCOM

Short for “JOint COMmand”. JOCOM is the militarized vestige of the United States government that survived Zero Hour. It was formed in the chaos of the initial days of the holocaust, as the military and political elites of the United States fled to secret pre-prepared underground bunkers, leaving most of the civilian population above to perish in the nuclear fires.

A high-ranking civilian official in the Nixon cabinet used the chaos as cover for a military coup, from which JOCOM was born.

Zero (Zero Killer) kicks a man

President Richard Nixon, Vice President Gerald Ford and all but a few select members of Congress were liquidated. The official responsible for the coup promptly suspended the United States Constitution “indefinitely” and imposed a military dictatorship, combining all of the United States armed forces into a unified joint command: JOCOM.

He then took the title of “Director of the Reconstruction of the United States of America”, DRUSA for short.

JOCOM is administered under the pretense of restoring the U.S. Constitution and civilian rule once “the world is again safe for democracy.” The timeline for this transition is unclear.

As its name implies, JOCOM is the central management system for all the armed forces: the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force are all part of the same organization now. They aren’t even called as such anymore, the Air force is now JOCOM-F, the Army is JOCOM-A, the Navy is JOCOM-N, the Marines JOCOM-N/a (“a” is for “assault.”).

JOCOM women are never seen, at least not above ground. JOCOM soldiers will periodically abduct residents of the towers, for unknown purposes. The kidnapped individuals never return.

In the 34 years since Zero Hour, JOCOM has excavated vast subterranean complexes beneath the irradiated soil of the continental United States, for living space, industrial production, hydroponic agriculture. and biological research. The precise nature of this research is speculative, but it’s rumored to involve genetics and human reproduction.

Although there is no evidence the Soviet Union survived Zero Hour, JOCOM’s strategic planners assume the Soviet elites have perpetuated themselves in a manner similar to JOCOM and are still striving for world domination. Thus a “reproduction race”, real or imagined, is taking place, even if it’s only in the minds of the JOCOM ruling elite.

As to technology, the advent of Zero Hour did not slow technological progress. In some ways, it even hastened its advance. All arguments about the ethics of biotechnology and weapons research are totally foreign and irrelevant to JOCOM. JOCOM also employs state-of-the-art military technology, presumably produced in underground industrial complexes.

JOCOM uses much of the same weaponry and vehicles as the present-day United States armed forces, everything from M16 rifles to UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Even more sophisticated weapons and weapon platforms may exist.

The gangs of New York

The ruined towers of Post-Apocalyptic New York City have become micro-sized nation states. Each is inhabited by a gang with a distinctive logo, style of dress, and social structure. Gangs are brutal autocracies, ruled by an all-powerful Lord.

The towers are grouped into two Clusters: Midtown and Downtown. The Midtown Cluster is dominated by two gangs: the Black Cats and the True Bloods, while the Downtown Cluster is dominated by the Disciples and the Riffs. Not everyone lives inside the structure of the gang hierarchies. There are “trash men” such as Zero who undertake commissions from the Tower Lords on a for-hire basis. Usually these missions consist of hunting down renegade gang members.

Although gang society is savage and essentially criminal, it also has all the richness and complexity of a medieval, feudal culture. Although at odds with everyone, the gangs will hire Zero for ’official‘ business, while maintaining a strained relationship. And it’s easy to find work since Zero is starting to get quite the reputation as a trash man (manhunter).

Black Cats

The Black Cats inhabit the Chrysler Building. They are one of the most powerful gangs in New York, natural enemies of the mighty True Bloods. Black Dahlia leads the Black Cats. The Cats generally go about bare-chested.

It’s also common for them to file their teeth into sharpened, carnivorous fangs. Generally, gang members tattoo the Black Cat logo across the chest. ”Cat’s claw” slash tattoos are worn as a sign of distinction and high rank.

Jokers

Although not the largest gang, the Jokers are considered one of the most dangerous, simply because their ranks are made up of so many psychotic individuals. They are shunned by virtually every other gang due to their unpredictability and instability. The Jokers inhabit the Pan-Am building and are led by Kingston. Their logo is, appropriately enough, a Joker’s face.

The Jokers wear white facepaint and decorate their skin with card suit tattoos. Each suit indicates status in the Joker hierarchy. Diamonds are the lowest, reserved for newly inducted members. Next highest is clubs, followed by hearts. Only the most vicious, brutal members are allowed to wear spades.

The post-apocalyptic Manhattan of Zero Killer

True Bloods

The True Bloods occupy the Empire State Building. AC is their Lord. The ’Bloods are one of the most powerful gangs in New York, constantly at war with the Black Cats, because of the proximity of the Chrysler Building.

Other gangs

Aside from the Cats, the only gangs that rival the True Bloods are the Disciples and the Kings, both of whom are located Downtown. The Bloods and the Cats dominate Midtown.

The Disciples occupy the North Tower of the Twin Towers. Deegan is their Lord. They are one of the mightiest and feared gangs in New York.

Bruckner is Lord of the Kings, one of the most powerful gangs in New York City. The Kings occupy the South Tower of the Twin Towers. They are a very powerful gang. Together with the Disciples, they dominate the downtown cluster of towers. Zero and his brother used to belong to this gang.

Other notable gangs and their respective areas are:

  • The Hoods (New York Life Building)
  • The Ghost Killers (20 Exchange Place)
  • The Cryin’ Devils (American International Building)
  • New York One (1 Penn Plaza)
  • The All-Stars (40 Wall Street)
  • The Rumblers (Ruins of the Triboro Bridge)
  • The Nightstalkers (Woolworth Building)
  • The Savage Skulls (GE Building)
  • The Rogues (Met Life Tower)

The tower dwellers have more limited access to technology, and more often than not it is employed to serve the vanity of powerful gangsters and gang lords. Things such as electricity, plumbing and heat are a privilege reserved for the powerful few. A few gangs downtown even practice cannibalism.

Rules

Most gangs employ a “code” of tribal justice based on group loyalty. Breaking the code is immediate paramount to getting kicked out or getting killed.

First, admittance into a gang – which includes protection, food and habitation – follows a ritual of vicious beatings where a young tough has to prove himself through feats of strength and cruelty. He/she usually has to slay another aspiring gang banger in hand-to-hand combat in order to get “trashed in” into the gang and getting the tattoos.

Second, gang members can never attack each other, except in a “one-on-one” duel in order to settle disputes, which must be accepted by both parties, and which often results in both parties dying. A gang lord challenged, however, may choose a second to fight in his stead.

Third, there are only two ways of leaving a gang: by expulsion through breaking the code or by death, which is referred to as “blood in, blood out”.

Fourth, should a gang member somehow completely loose face he isn’t allowed to redeem himself by challenging a one-on-one, but neither can he be killed being a member. Instead, he will be cast out, becoming a social pariah living in a limbo. Such rare cases usually don’t survive long without gang support, and being recruited into another gang is difficult given the tattoos.

The religion of La Via

La Via de Dios y Esuchristus (The Way of God and Esuchristus), commonly shortened to simply “La Via”, is the name of a syncretic religion that has evolved in the towers since the advent of Zero Hour. La Via is a mix of Santería, Vodou, Rastafarianism and Christianity.

The religion is very decentralized, with worship based on small, personal shrines to Esuchristus maintained by lay people. There are also larger ritual gatherings on Mardi Gras, Easter and Christmas.

The line between monotheism and polytheism is blurry in La Via. Esuchristus is Jesus Christ, understood to be the Son of God. But La Via adherents also believe in the existence of a number of lesser deities and spirits, of whom Esuchristus is the master. These spirits include Babalu-aye, who governs sickness and health, and Ghede, the angel of death.

Africa is an important part of the mythology of La Via, closely associated with the promised land of Israel in the Torah. ”Zion” and “Africa” are interchangeable terms in La Via. Marijuana smoking is an integral part of ritual worship, and adherents of La Via believe in the apotropeic (evil-warding) power of certain substances, such as mercury. Followers commonly wear a small glass vial of mercury around the neck.

A monastic community exists in Fort Tryon Park, the northernmost tip of Manhattan and the only portion of the island above water. The Cloisters Museum located there has been converted into an actual monastery. Both men and women may take monastic vows, becoming matronas and patrónes.

Some of these ascetics separate themselves from the world, devoting their lives entirely to preserving pre-Zero Hour historical records and scientific knowledge. Others wander the towers as mendicant friars, providing religious services to the lay inhabitants.

La Via is widely respected by all castes of New York society. The gangsters are generally superstitious and have a great deal of reverence for the matrones and patrónes. The tower lords support La Via because they increase their own social standing by doing so.


History

Zero and his older brother Ajay were among the most sadistic members of the Disciples, the gang that controlled the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. They were greatly feared and assumed to be the future rulers of the Disciples.

An ambitious rival named Deegan stalked the secretive brothers and discovered their true intention was not to rule the Disciples but to build a boat and sail to Africa. Deegan led some fellow Disciples to destroy the partially-constructed boat. Seeking revenge, Ajay challenged the other Disciples under the gang’s rules of one-on-one dueling. Deegan’s right hand man Southpaw accepted the challenge and killed Ajay.

Having lost severe face, Zero left the Towers. Finding rough sanctuary with the True Bloods in the Empire State Building, Zero began constructing another boat in secret. To fund this project, he became a bounty hunter for hire by the other gangs of New York. Building on his fearsome reputation, Zero quickly became the favored enforcer-for-hire for most on New York’s gang leaders.

Zero was given a unique opportunity when he was approached by representatives of the Emir of Sudan. The emir was sterile, a fact that would have cost him most of his political capital if it became public. To cover this up, he contracted with an American biotech firm to create a viable embryo cloned from his tissue.

The Blackhawk carrying the embryo had crashed in New York City, its contents now being held by the Disciples. In exchange for recovering the package, Zero would be given passage to Africa.

Wildcats tribe members in Zero Killer

Accompanied by a young woman named Stark who sought to free her lover Charlie from Disciple captivity, Zero infiltrated the Towers. Despite their best efforts, the two were captured. Though he has fled in disgrace, Zero was still a Disciple and thus able to claim the right of one-on-one challenge. Deegan submitted, sending Southpaw forth as his representative.

Zero revealed his earlier suspicion that Southpaw had only won by using poisoned blades, a violation of the Disciples’ dueling rules. He then confirmed his accusation by taking one of Southpaw’s blades and slicing the Disciple warrior with it, resulting in Southpaw’s swift demise as the toxin took effect.

Stark, having escaped their captors earlier, used the distraction of Zero’s duel with Southpaw to set the Disciples’ marijuana crop on fire. In the ensuing chaos, Zero was able to corner Deegan alone and ascertain the whereabouts of both Charlie and the Emir’s package.

Both had been traded to Dahlia, head of the Black Cats gang in the Chrysler Building. Zero promptly killed Deegan, after which Stark and Zero escaped the Towers separately but reunited afterward and proceeded to the Chrysler.

After helping Stark to free Charlie, Zero confronted Dahlia on his own and managed to secure the emir’s package before making his own escape. Zero was now on the run from every gang in New York – even the ones he had not directly challenged would consider him a dangerous liability due to his rash actions – but he no longer cared.

As he looked into the rising sun, he could see the helicopter of the emir’s representatives coming to retrieve him and the package.


Description

Zero is a slenderly built colored male. He is usually seen in simple, trashed clothing that allows him free movement, such as a pair of Khaki-colored shorts and a white, sleeveless shirt. His legs and feet are bandaged for protection.

On his chest, underneath the T-shirt, is tattooed a black X and on his stomach the text Disciples from his gang days. While he may carry weapons, such as small throwing knives or stars or some melee weapon, these are usually kept concealed on his body until needed.


Personality

Zero is a bounty hunter who tracks down renegade gangsters. Needless to say, this way to make a living doesn’t make him very popular! He keeps to himself, and generally just tries to survive. It’s rumored he lives somewhere in the No Man’s Land of the Empire State Building. For unknown reasons he just tries to avoid the Twin Towers at any cost.

Gangsters fear and hate him. Privately, he dreams of freeing himself from the brutality and decay of life in New York. Thus, he plans unrealistically to build a boat that can take him to Africa, the only place in the world rumored to never have been touched in the nuclear fires of the war.

He probably realizes that its impossible, or then he doesn’t know how very, very far away Africa is, but still he has got to try… as he once did with his brother, until better options reveal themselves.

Zero used to be a sadistic and cruel man along his brother, and it’s reputed that there was nothing they wouldn’t do. But something made him have a real change of heart after his brother died. Things seem to mentally have taken their toll too; the ghost of his dead brother, Ajay, visits him at times of great stress, and from whom he gets advice.

Apparently he feels very guilty about his past actions and failures. To outsiders Zero will appear to talk by himself, but he will refuse to discuss what just happened any further if detected.

In combat he is rather brutal, a casual killer and both his guts and brutality surprise enemies. This hints at one of two things; he is either supremely confident in his combat abilities, or then he secretly has a death wish, allowing him to join his dead brother. Although on a mission, trying his best to keep his distance to people, he will help those sincerely asking for his help.

He appears to be a good guy now, although he is far from a softie, but he does his own weird things. As a loner he doesn’t even talk to most people, and is generally very distrustful, which is a healthy attitude in post-Apocalyptic New York City.

Most people know but a few details about his background, and he is most reluctant to discuss the matter further. In fact, he does get very irate and/or reticent whenever the subject comes up. Likewise, he will get upset if people try to get too close to him.

He appears to be exceptionally disciplined and seems to endure lots of bad memories from the past. He will not fight needlessly, but will spring into action immediately when threatened. As explained, he has particularly painful memories from the Twin Towers and about his dead brother.

While the new religion of La Vie is widespread in New York City it is unknown if Zero is himself a really follower (his brother was), although he doesn’t seem to have any problem with it either.


Quotes

“You three. Black Cats. Get on the ground, face down. Hands behind your heads.”

“The next one goes in your eye. Get out.”

[Clarence about Zero] “I think he used to be someone, someone kind of important downtown. In the Twins. The North Tower. That’s what I heard. I get this vibe from him, like it’s kind of not cool to ask. He keeps to himself. He’s a good guy, you know ? Does his own thing. He’s just not into talking or whatever.”

[His gang tattoos show just as he’s to be skinned alive by the Disciples] “Blood in, blood out. Remember that, Deegan ? Ajay, you killed him one-on-one. You wanted to kill me, too. But you couldn’t because I got trashed into the Disciples a long time before you — remember ?! Once a Disciple, always a Disciple ! Blood in, blood out !”

Stark: “You’re True Blood ?”
Zero: “Hah. No. Definitely not. A.C. just lets me stay here. To scare the Christus out of the Bloods. I’m a reminder of what happens if they get out of line.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Zero

Dex: 06 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Manhunter, scavenger
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 04
Init: 017 HP: 035

Powers:
Sealed Systems: 01

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Martial Artist: 06, Military Science (Tracking): 05, Thief (Stealth): 05, Weaponry (Melee, Thrown): 06, Vehicles (Water): 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Martial Artist includes Techniques (+1)
  • Sealed Systems protects only against radiation (-1)

Advantages:
Area Knowledge (New York City, The Twin Towers), Confined Headquarters (Hidden hideouts around the city), Familiarity (Carpentry), Language (supposedly Spanish)

Connections:
A.C. – leader of the True Bloods (Low), Black Dahlia – leader of the Black Cats (Low), Clarence the technician (High), Stark (Low)

Drawbacks:
Guilt (death of his brother and past actions), MIA (Not Discussing His Past)

Equipment:
Usually none, but may carry bladed weapons on occasion.

Notes:
Zero doubtless has further as yet unrevealed Connections among the various gangs of New York, and most likely a few more non-displayed Skills, such as, for example, Weaponry (Firearms). He possibly has a MIF or Traumatic Flashback drawback related to the Twin Towers as well.

By Dr. Peter S Piispanen

Source of Character: Zero Killer #1-6, Dark Horse Comics

Helper(s): rexmundi.net/zerokiller/main/index.html (defunct), Roy Cowan (History Section)

Writeup completed on the 20th of January, 2013.

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