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Ghostkeeper
Ghostkeeper
Michael Ghostkeeper
Cost Characteristic Value Roll Notes
45 STR 55 20- Lift: 51.2tons; HTH: 11d6; END: [5]
39 DEX 23 14- OCV: 8  DCV: 8
36 CON 28 15-
20 BODY 20 13-
0 INT 10 11- PER Roll: 11-
8 EGO 14 12- ECV: 5; Mental Defense: 0
10 PRE 20 13- PRE Attack: 4d6
5 COM 20 13-
24 PD 35   Total: 35 PD (18 rPD)
29 ED 35   Total: 35 ED (18 rED)
17 SPD 5   Phases: 3, 5, 8, 10, 12
6 REC 20   Running: 15" / 30"
2 END 60   Swimming: 2" / 4"
0 STUN 62  
 
Ghostkeeper | Summary
Real Name: Michael Ghostkeeper Hair Color: Brown
Concept: Brick Eye Color: Brown
Affiliation: Canadian Shield Height & Weight: 6' 5" (1.96 m) / 276 lbs (125 kg)
Played By: Herbert Wells Date of Birth: 9 September 1980
Created By: Herbert Wells Place of Birth: Edmonton, Alberta
Cost Powers END
18 Let Me Run Like The Wind: Running +9" (15" total) 2
18 Protect Me From Harm: Damage Resistance (18 PD/18 ED)
7 Show Me VIsions In Fire: Retrocognitive, Precognitive Clairsentience (Sight Group) (60 Active Points); Extra Time (20 Minutes, Character May Take No Other Actions, -2 3/4), 1 Continuing Charge lasting 1 Minute which Recovers every 1 Week (-1 1/2), OAF (Sage, Sweetgrass, And A Flame; -1), Precognition/Retrocognition Only (-1), Blackout (-1/2), Ritual 2 casters (-1/4), Incantations (-1/4)
6 Sustain Me: Life Support (Longevity: 200 Years; Safe in Intense Cold; Safe in Intense Heat; Sleeping: Character only has to sleep 8 hours per week)
Cost Martial Arts
Maneuver Phase OCV DCV Notes
15 Ancient Cree Fighting Style
Axe Hand 1/2 -2 +1 15d6 Strike
Block 1/2 +2 +2 Block, Abort
Legsweep 1/2 +2 -1 12d6 Strike, Target Falls
Throw 1/2 +0 +1 11d6 +v/5, Target Falls
Cost Skills
9 +3 with Ancient Cree Fighting Style
2 AK: Enoch Reserve 11-
3 Breakfall 14-
6 Canadian Shield Package
Bureaucratics 13-
Criminology 11-
Fringe Benefit: Canadian National Police Powers
Monitored by the Canadian Government 8 or less
Monitored by the Canadian Media 8 or less
PS: Mountie 11-
Social Limitation: Subject to Orders
Tactics 11-
Team Base Donation
Team Communicator
Team Vehicle Donation
Teamwork 14-
-1 Everyman Skills
AK: Edmonton, Alberta 11-
Acting 8-
Climbing 8-
Concealment 8-
Conversation 8-
Deduction 8-
Language: English (Idiomatic, native accent)
[Notes: Native Language]
PS: Hunter/Warrior 11-
Paramedics 8-
Persuasion 8-
Shadowing 8-
Stealth 8-
TF: Small Motorized Ground Vehicles
[Notes: Custom Mod is Everyman Skill]
9 Former Police Officer Package
AK: Jurisdiction 8-
Combat Driving 8-
Criminology 11-
KS: Criminal Law And Procedure 11-
KS: The Law Enforcement World 11-
PS: Police Officer 11-
Paramedics 11-
Social Limitation: Once A Cop, Always A Cop
Streetwise 13-
WF: Small Arms
2 KS: Oral History of The Cree 11-
3 Language: Cree (completely fluent)
1 Language: French (fluent conversation)
3 Power: Strength Tricks 14-
3 Riding 14-
3 Stealth 14-
2 Survival (Temperate/Subtropical) 11-
3 Tracking 11-
4 WF: Common Melee Weapons, Common Missile Weapons
200+ Disadvantages
15 Dependent NPC: Tina and Rosie Ghostkeeper (Sisters) 8- (Normal; Group DNPC: x2 DNPCs)
15 Dependent NPC: Anna and Gordon Drumgo (Aunt and Uncle) 8- (Normal; Group DNPC: x2 DNPCs)
10 Dependent NPC: Mari Murakami (Reporter For Worldwide News) 11- (Normal; Useful Noncombat Position or Skills)
10 Hunted: Adam Redwing And The Code Red Gang 8-
15 Hunted: Inoesh 8-
5 Physical Limitation: Has Hundreds of Voices in His Head
10 Psychological Limitation: Always Questions The Morality Of His Own Actions
20 Psychological Limitation: Code vs. Killing
10 Psychological Limitation: Code of Honor (Policeman's Code)
10 Psychological Limitation: Prefers Diplomacy To Force
10 Psychological Limitation: Sworn to Defeat Inoesh
15 Social Limitation: Public Identity
5 Vulnerability: 1 1/2 x Effect Mental Illusions
12 Experience Points
Ghostkeeper | Points Summary
Characteristics Cost: 241 Base Points: 200
Powers Cost: 49 Disadvantages: 150
Talents Cost: 0 Total Experience: 12
Perks Cost: 0 Spent Experience: 2
Martial Arts Cost: 15 Unspent Experience: 10
Skills Cost: 47 Total Points: 352
Background

Michael Ghostkeeper wasn't sure where it was that he belonged, but he knew it wasn't the 'rez'.

Skinny, awkward, gentle, shy and unsure of himself, Michael would have been a natural target for bullies in any setting. Keeping boredom at bay was a constant struggle on the Enoch Reservation, and Mike was like a lightning rod for those who found relief from their own dull lives in taunting and tormenting others. If he saw the other young, bored and restless boys coming, Mike could usually get away without being too roughed up. He was becoming a very fast runner, as avoiding the boys on the rez was a full time occupation. Michael preferred running to fighting back. It wasn't that he was afraid, as the thought of being hurt didn't really bother him too much. It was the idea that he might hurt someone else that he didn't like. Mike decided that he would rather just avoid a bad situation than risk it escalating to violence. After a while, keeping to himself became a habit.

In any case, Michael felt no real connection to any of the other young teens on the rez... except for Adam. Three years Mike's senior, Adam Ghostkeeper was everything Mike wasn't. Strong, charismatic, confident, popular... it was little wonder that, growing up, thin, self-conscious Michael worshipped his older brother. At least, Mike thought of Adam as a brother. In fact, they were only half-brothers.

Like Mike's younger sisters, Tina and Rosie, they shared a common mother, Margaret Ghostkeeper. They also shared their mother's last name as, despite having had four children, Margaret had never married... perhaps unsurprisingly, as no two of her children shared a common father. Mike often bitterly thought that at least the other three knew who their fathers were... although Rosie, four years Mike's junior, saw her father only rarely, and Tina, Rosie's older sister by almost two years, had lost her father in a car accident when she was six. Even so, Michael felt they were better off than he was, as he himself had no idea who his own father was.

When they were kids, Adam's father, Richard Redwing, was seldom seen around the rez, as he was a full time member of the notorious 'Code Red', a vicious all-native gang which controlled a large percentage of Northern Alberta's prostitution and drug traffic. Young Adam had often boasted that his father would get him into the gang as soon as he was old enough.

Despite Mike's doubts that this was a good idea, Adam's Dad had done just that, and from age fourteen on, Adam was not seen at home. Mike was left with no one in his own age group to call a friend. Mike felt he really needed friends, too, as his home life was far from ideal.

For as long as the twelve-year-old Mike could remember, the only thing Margaret Ghostkeeper had paid much attention to was where her next bottle was coming from. Even while others around her worked to improve conditions on the rez for everyone, Margaret simply looked for an easy, if temporary, escape into drunken oblivion. By the time Adam left it was mainly due to the care of Margaret's sister Anna, and her husband Gordon Drumgo, that Mike, Tina and Rosie were fed, clothed and sent to school.

Mike despaired of the toll alcoholism took on his mother, and vowed never to touch a drop himself.

With his father unknown, his mother in a living death, and Adam run off with Code Red, Mike felt alone and isolated. His only solace came in the time he spent with his Grandfather; Margaret's father, Albert Ghostkeeper. Albert didn't live on the rez, but maintained a small cabin in the woods several kilometres away. Mike could not remember when he had first begun making his frequent trips to visit Grandfather Albert, but his time with the old man was undoubtedly the most enjoyable part of his childhood.

Of all his family, Mike seemed to be the only one who made time for Albert. Michael's mother spoke of her father rarely, and then only of the times she had spent with him as a little girl. Like everything else in her life, he apparently no longer meant as much as the bottle. The girls were too small for the long hike.

One time Mike had suggested to Auntie Anna that maybe she could help him take the girls to visit Grandfather Albert's cabin, but she dismissed the idea out of hand, saying, "You shouldn't be visiting that old shack, Michael, and you're sure as hell not going to drag your little sisters out there!". Mike didn't know what had happened to cause Albert's children to ignore him like they did, and he was afraid to ask. He promised Auntie Anna that he wouldn't visit Grandfather's cabin anymore... then he was careful to never be seen heading in that direction. He couldn't stay away, so he would just make sure he wasn't caught.

It wasn't a sense of duty that kept him coming back to the cabin in the woods, it was sheer delight in his Grandfather's company. Unlike everyone else in Enoch, who were either embracing the modern world or escaping it like his mother, Albert seemed to have sidestepped it completely. Alone in the woods, he lived a self-sufficient lifestyle, hunting, trapping and fishing like Mike imagined his ancestors had done for centuries. The seeming simplicity of Albert's lifestyle captivated Michael, and he wanted nothing more than to live there with the old man, away from bullies and bottles and gangs.

"Not now", Albert would tell him, "You have things to learn yet from the new world.". Then he would smile, "But I can still teach you about the old..."

And teach Michael he did. Woodcraft, fishing, hunting, trapping... over the years he imparted to Michael all the old skills of his mother's people. Although Albert usually hunted with a rifle, he even taught Michael to use a bow and arrows. Time seemed to lose all meaning when Mike was with his Grandfather. He often snuck back home in the early morning, sure that he would be punished for being out all night. Margaret, however, never seemed to notice. Or perhaps, Mike often bitterly thought, she simply didn't care.

Even more than the skills he learned - lost skills few of his people would ever again know- Michael loved the stories.

Grandfather Albert filled Michael's head with tales of Cree warriors and chiefs; the stories, history and legends of his people.

Michael's favourites were those of his own ancestors, especially the legendary warrior Thunderfist. Thunderfist lived in a time of legend, long before the coming of the white men. Thunderfist's stories always seemed somehow different from the other tales Albert taught Michael... more exciting, more alive. Thunderfist was a sort of Cree demigod, for he posessed the power of all of the spirits of his own warrior ancestors... or, perhaps, they posessed him. In any case, having hundreds of spirits dwelling within him caused Thunderfist's body to transform into something much more than mere flesh, so as to withstand the strain of being avatar to such otherworldly power. Hosting so many warrior spirits made him the greatest of all warriors... strong as a hundred men, swift as an eagle, he protected his people not only from enemy tribes, but from monsters and evil spirits of all kinds. Of these evil beings, the greatest was Inoesh, the wicked, shapeshifting trickster, who forever sought to dominate and control all the people of the earth.

Grandfather Albert told Michael many tales of Inoesh's endless attempts to corrupt and divide the First Nations people, and to conquer the lands of men, and of Thunderfist's epic battles to stop him.

The story of Inoesh's ultimate defeat by Thunderfist was the culmination of this legend. This tale related how Thunderfist somehow found the portal to Inoesh's own realm, drove Inoesh through it, and then sealed the door which led from his realm to the world of men, trapping Inoesh where he could no longer affect the lives of human beings.

"This great victory was not without cost", Grandfather Albert would recite, eyelids half closed as he remembered the tale, "for with the evil entity finally vanquished, Thunderfist's great power also disappeared. The host of warriors which had dwelled within him had remained on the other side of the Dark Portal, in Inoesh's evil realm, in order that they could continue to bar the door to our own world.

"Great Thunderfist, weakening without their mighty force to sustain him, soon passed over to the spirit world himself. Before he did, however, he uttered a Prophecy...

"Thunderfist said to the Cree people, 'I have vanquished Inoesh and sent him back to his evil realm, far from the world of men. He has been defeated and sealed there, and will be long in recovering his strength.

" 'However, be warned, people of the plains! Evil such as this can never be destroyed forever. Though it might take a hundred generations of men, Inoesh will one day be strong enough to overpower his guardians and return to the world of men. When that day comes, that he not be unopposed, I shall return as well... for just as Evil never completely disappears from the world, neither does Right and Truth! When Inoesh returns to the world of men, I shall return to you also.

" 'I, and my children and theirs, and all the warrior spirits who follow me shall lend our power to my most worthy descendant, that he may allow us to battle Inoesh through him... Just as I have been the host and tool of my own ancestors, another of my line shall be the Avatar of his forefathers, to have the strength to destroy his ancient foe! When Inoesh returns, look to the line of Thunderfist for the new Avatar to battle his dark power! Remember, Children of Thunderfist, for we will all be called upon when the darkness falls again!'

"And we always have remembered...", Grandfather Albert would always end, "so when the time comes to again fight Inoesh, we shall not be unprepared. You are of Thunderfist's line, young Michael... and you must be prepared for the day when Inoesh returns.". Mike always promised he would remember the tale, and tell his children if he ever had any. This always made Grandfather Albert smile a sad sort of knowing smile...

It must be hard to be so old and so alone, Michael always thought.

While Michael spent as much time as possible with his Grandfather, he was very busy at home as well. As he got older, Michael felt a responsibility to help out his younger sisters and his mother. He took odd jobs after school whenever he could, but work was scarce on the rez. In theory, the Ghostkeepers had enough to have all their basic needs met, but, despite Gord and Anna's assistance, Margaret's drinking often left them short for school supplies and clothes... even the grocery money went to booze more and more often.

Michael often felt like he should hate his mother, but he couldn't. Margaret was a victim, he felt, of her own poverty and ignorance. Many others in Enoch took the same route, but Michael vowed that he never would. This made it very important to him that he bring in more money than their meagre social allowance... which made his lack of success in making any money all the more frustrating. He was often tempted to quit school and work full time, but he knew deep down that without some sort of education, his future would be the same as his present; the self-enclosed, isolated poverty of reservation life. He fought hard to keep the quiet despair at bay. It was always there, however, and no doubt contributed to thirteen year old Michael ignoring his common sense when, a week after school ended for the summer, Adam came by with an offer of work.

Michael knew two years had passed since Adam had run off with his father's gang, Code Red, but he was still shocked to see the changes in his older half-brother. Almost seventeen now, Adam was nearly fifteen cm taller than when Michael had last seen him, and had packed on hard muscle, filling out his expensive jeans and leather jacket impressively. Jewellery adorned his fingers and neck, and his eyes had a cruel glint in them Michael didn't remember from before. Adam had taken to life in Code Red like a hawk takes to the air, and it was hard for Michael not to be swept up in Adam's love of his new life. Adam made it sound exciting, albeit dangerous, and the evidence of the wealth he was accumulating was almost overwhelming in contrast to the simplicity Mike was used to. He was only mildly surprised to hear Adam planned to change his name to Redwing, his father's, as soon as he turned eighteen. He was more surprised by Adam's offer to take Michael with him.

"You'll earn more in a month than your mother makes in a year, Mikey.", Adam smiled at him, idly lighting a smoke.

Michael coughed as the acrid odour enveloped him.

"She's your mom, too, Adam.".

Adam shrugged. "You want in or what, Mikey? Or you gonna stay on the rez all yer life, eatin' crumbs off the Man's table?"

Mike almost asked 'what man?', but let it go.

"I can't leave school, Adam. And I've gotta keep an eye on Mom, and Rosie'n'Tina."

"School?", Adam laughed, coughing a little as he did, "Awww, sh*t, Mikey, they really got you brainwashed!"

This time it was Michael who merely shrugged.

"Okay, man, no problem...", Adam went on, "come work with us fer the summer. You don't like it, come back fer school in the fall. Meantime, you can make a lotta coin fer a little work." Adam grinned his broad, winning smile, "I won't make you do nothin' you don't wanna do, I swear!". He placed his hand roughly over his heart and held up his right hand, cigarette still burning in it, in mock sincerity.

Michael hesitated. The evidence of the money to be had was all over Adam; his clothes, his jewels... the magnificent black Harley Davidson bike he had roared back into town on. If he really didn't have to do anything he objected to...

"... Gimme a day to think about it, Adam."...

When he left with Adam, Michael didn't say goodbye to his Grandfather. He told himself that it was just because he didn't have time to, and he wouldn't be gone all that long, anyway. The twisting knots in his stomach gave lie to that excuse, however. The truth was, Michael knew that no good could come of this. He knew that he should tell Adam to go without him, that he, Michael, wanted no part of Adam's criminal "family". Yet, somehow, he couldn't. Things that seemed so clear when he was alone seemed to twist and change when Adam spoke. As always, Mike found himself, once again, unable to resist his half brother's persuasion.

Which is how he found himself hurtling like a javelin down the highway on the back of Adam's black motorcycle, thin arms clinging to Adam's trim waist for all they were worth, heading away from Enoch and the only life he knew, toward the unknown of the Edmonton streets... and Code Red.

At first, life with Adam's gang actually wasn't so bad. In fact, it was kind of exciting, hanging out with outlaws. Michael hadn't been sure what to expect, but he had imagined a dark, shadowy warehouse headquarters full of nefarious men in suits with guns. Instead, Adam took him to an inexpensive, but nice, townhouse in the west end, where he was to stay with Adam and a large, friendly and smiling thirtysomething Cree man named 'Jimbo'. Like Adam, and most of the other Code Red members Michael was to meet, Jimbo wore jeans and a leather jacket... and carried a gun.

Everyone Adam introduced him to seemed to have a gun... or two or three. Mike was all set to explain, when asked, that he himself had only ever fired a rifle. No one asked, however, or offered him a gun. Neither was he asked to do anything even remotely illegal, as far as he could tell. Instead, he was put to work as a driver.

Mike had been driving on the Rez for years, but wouldn't be fourteen, and therefore eligible to acquire his learner's permit, until September. Adam had laughed when Mike had pointed this out, and had promptly provided Mike with a fake ID proclaiming him to be eighteen. So Mike had become a chauffeur.

He occasionally drove for Jimbo or Adam or other gang members, but he was mostly put at the disposal of a Metis girl named 'Bev', who was apparently the girlfriend of one of the Code Red higher-ups. Michael spent a lot of time driving her around the city to shop. Other times, he would drive Adam or other gang members to apartment buildings, houses or condos, where he would be told to wait outside with the engine idling. What went on inside, he never knew, nor did he really want to ask. Adam was paying him three hundred dollars a week, which seemed like a fortune to Mike, and he hadn't had to do anything yet but drive a car. Before Mike knew it, it was the end of August.

"Adam,", Mike said one morning, "I've gotta go home. School starts in a week."

"I told you, Mikey, forget school."

"I can't, Adam. I need to go back. Besides, I haven't seen Gra...". Michael didn't know why, but he suddenly found he didn't want to mention their Grandfather to Adam. In fact, just thinking of Albert brought a sharp stab of guilt to Mike's stomach. Awkwardly, he continued, "...seen Mom, or the girls, all summer."

Adam rolled his eyes, "Look, Mikey. I told the guys you were solid. Fer Chrissake, you've been wantin' out of the rez forever! I'm gonna look like an a**hole if you bail on me now. Jus' stick around a little longer. You'll see... once you start in with the real work, you'll be makin' so much coin you'll never wanna quit!"

Michael sighed. "I'm sorry, Adam. I just don't want..."

"A grand, Mikey."

"What?"

"I'll give you a grand just to stick around a little longer. On top of your regular cut. Screw school. It's not goin' anywhere if you want out later."

"Adam..."

"C'mon, Mikey. A thousand bucks just to stick around and earn a little more. What's yer problem?"

Michael stared into Adam's face. There was something there he'd never seen before. Fear, perhaps... he wasn't sure. Adam seemed almost desperate to have Michael stay.

"Why, Adam?", Mike asked slowly, "What difference does it make if I stay or not?"

He was watching Adam intently now, or he might have missed the momentary flash of fear- definitely fear- that flickered across Adam's features.

When Adam spoke a moment later, his voice was so smooth and calm Mike almost thought he had imagined it. "C'mon, Mikey... I just miss my brother, that's all. Stick around a while. It'll be fun."

Mike couldn't remember Adam ever calling him 'brother'. Ever. For some reason, it terrified him when he did. It terrified him even more when he opened his mouth and heard his own voice saying, "Okay, Adam. Just for a while."

Micheal Ghostkeeper really didn't want to be standing on an Edmonton street corner with his jacket pockets full of crack vials. It wasn't his idea, that was for sure.

The early September wind was already bringing a promise of the coming winter. As its icy kiss found its way down the back of his neck, Michael hugged the leather jacket Adam had given him tighter around his thin frame. The faint clinking noise the vials in its voluminous pockets made caused Mike to wince with guilt. How had he ever let Adam talk him into this?

The fact was that Adam could always talk Michael into anything... but this was different. It was creepy how readily he had agreed to continue to work for Code Red. Why?

Mike didn't want to be here, he had had enough.

He just wanted to go home.

With that thought, Grandfather Albert seemed to appear in front of Michael, as clearly as if he really were standing there on the dirty street. His mouth was moving, but Mike couldn't hear him. Then he recognized what words the lined lips were forming. They were Cree. They meant, 'Come home'.

(I can't sell cocaine), Michael thought, (this is insane. What am I doing?)

Whatever spell Adam had put him under was broken. Driving was one thing, and even that had often made his stomach hurt with guilt. If he did this, Michael would no longer be able to kid himself that he hadn't really done anything wrong. Michael didn't know why he'd agreed to sell crack, but he was changing his mind right now. He didn't care what Adam said or did, Mike was going to go home. Before his resolve could fade, Michael wheeled about to march out of there.

He nearly collided with a thin young man in a faded jean jacket. As Mike stepped back, startled, he saw that the man... or boy, maybe, surely not more than eighteen or so... clutched a twenty dollar bill in his hand, concealed so that only Mike could see it. "Help me out, man?" the bedraggled figure asked in a quiet, raspy voice.

Michael stared for a moment, unsure what the dirty youth meant... until Adam's words of instruction came back to him and he remembered what he was supposed to be there doing. He tried to hold on to his resolve.

"Uh, no, sorry, I, uh, can't...", he offered weakly, as he tried to move past the young man. A desperate look in his eye, the rumpled figure sidestepped in front of Mike again.

"C'mon, man,", he hissed, "I'm cool. You got that jacket on, that means you got the goods. Just help me out and I'll be outta here."

He waggled the twenty for emphasis, staring intently at Mike. Michael was suddenly aware that, thin or not, the unsavoury would-be customer was about fifteen centimetres taller and at least ten kilos heavier than Mike was. He knew someone from Code Red was nearby watching him, but would they help Mike if something violent happened? They wouldn't be very happy if he'd tried to run from a paying customer.

"C'mon, man... come ON!", the man hissed again, becoming more agitated by the second.

Maybe I should just give him what he wants so I can get out of here, Michael thought. As soon as he considered it, however, he could see Albert's face again, shaking his head slowly and sternly, .

Michael drew a deep breath, and the world grew calm and still.

"No,", he said, his voice strong and firm, "I don't have anything for you."

With that, he turned and began walking, calmly yet quickly, away from the incredulous youth. When he heard the angry shouts from his hidden gang 'escort', he ran, and ran, heart pounding in time with his legs, each step seeming to bring him closer to home.

Michael was amazed at how quickly life seemed to return to normal once he was back in Enoch. After the initial relief he had felt when he stepped off the bus, he had begun to worry that Adam or Code Red would come looking for him. However, as the weeks went by and nothing happened, he began to relax. He still worried, though, and sometimes wondered if there would be some sort of retaliation. In a way, Mike wished he hadn't thrown all the vials of crack cocaine into a dumpster. At least he would have it if the gang showed up demanding it back. He felt good, however, about giving the faded leather jacket to the first panhandler he had come across.

By November, winter was already upon them, although the cold and snow was only a hint of what lay ahead. The soft blanket that already coated the reserve gave Mike a feeling of comfort, though, and the events of the summer were already fading.

Things at home were somehow better, too. He remembered how Tina and Rosie had squealed with delight when they saw him. Mike couldn't believe how big his little sisters were getting. They were thrilled to see him, and had spent days bugging him for details of everything he had done over the summer. Mike found himself inventing a lot of half-truths, as he couldn't bear to dim their shining, admiring eyes with the squalid reality. As far as the girls were concerned, Mike's summer had been a wondrous adventure. He was thankful when they had eventually had enough of his stories... his imagination was really beginning to feel the strain, as was his conscience.

Surprisingly, his mother had even seemed like she had missed him.

"You've grown, Michael.", was the first thing she had said when he had walked in the door, then she had hugged him, softly but tightly, for what seemed a long time. She had been drinking less since his return, and seemed somehow warmer and closer than she had been in a long time. Mike didn't know what had brought about the change, and didn't realize that his disappearance- and, more importantly, his return- had finally made Margaret realize how much her children really meant to her. Michael found they were talking more, becoming less like strangers and more like a family again.

Still, it was with some trepidation that Michael asked her, one November afternoon, about his father. Margaret's brown eyes widened for a moment, and she drew a sharp breath. Mike held his own. He hadn't asked about his father in years, and he still remembered the last time he had. It had not gone well. His mother had gone into a rage, screaming that he wasn't to ask about that man, ultimately hurling her half-empty bottle against the wall and screaming incoherently. Mike cringed slightly, waiting for another outburst. Instead, Margaret drew a ragged breath, then fumbled for a cigarette and lit it.

"Why... why do you want to know about your father, Michael?", she asked softly.

"Well, Mar... mom, I mean...", Mike took a deep breath, then started again, words tumbling out of him like a release of pent up emotion, "Well, I mean, he was my father, and I don't know anything about him, I don't even know his name or what he looks like or anything, Tina and Rosie at least know who their dads were, and Adam...", Michael stumbled on his brother's name, but continued, "Adam even has the chance to know his dad, and I, I mean, I...", he drew another breath to steady himself.

"Well, don't I even get to know my father's name?"

With this last plaintive plea, Michael fell silent, watching Margaret, not sure what to expect next.

She took a deep drag of her cigarette, then exhaled slowly.

"I can't tell you his name, Michael,", Margaret said at last, her voice so soft Michael had to strain to hear her, "'cause I don't know it myself."

This was the last thing Michael had expected to hear, and he simply stared at her.

Margaret turned to look Mike in the eyes.

"Back then, when Adam was a toddler, I lived with your Aunt Anna. She used to look after him a lot while I... well... while I went out to the bar. A lot."

Margaret looked away and began to rock slightly, back and forth on her stool in the small kitchen, nervously dragging on her smoke as she talked.

"I was real young back then, even though I'd already had Adam. And I was lonely. Rich had already taken off, and I felt trapped here on the Rez, just me an' a baby."

She paused, drew a long drag of her cigarette.

"I guess I couldn't handle the responsibility too well...", she snorted, then looked sidelong at Michael, "'course, I suppose you already know that."

Her eyes dropped.

"I know I drink too much, Michael... but back then it was really bad. The stress of havin' a baby, and I was really missing my dad... he and I used to spend a lot of time together, before...", Margaret's voice trailed off as she stared into empty air, "Anyway, I used to go off on real tears, Michael, bad ones... sometimes for days. Sometimes I'd lose track of whole days. I guess I was tryin' to escape from myself..."

Margaret chortled, "I guess I must'a had some interestin' times..."

She turned to look at Michael.

"I can't remember your father, Michael.", her gaze fell to the floor, "I can't remember bein' with anyone at the time... you know, when you was... you know, conceived. I don't remember anyone at all. I can't tell you, 'cause I just don't know. I wish I did."

Michael didn't know what to say. His mother had finally opened up to him, and there was nothing for him to find out. He stood a moment, at a loss for words. Then, slowly, he asked, "Why didn't you ever tell me this before? I mean, all these years, I thought you were just keeping it from me, but...", he trailed off, helplessly.

"I'm sorry, Michael.", Margaret's voice had dropped to almost a whisper, her throat choked by emotion, "I'm truly sorry. You got a right to know... to know where you came from, an' I can't even... I mean, I didn't mean to... I...", tears began to roll down her cheeks, and she drew a deep breath.

"You don't know what it's like, to find your body changing, an' you don't know why... And then to realize that you're pregnant, pregnant and you don't even know how or why, or who...", another breath, a gasping one this time, "I mean, I hadn't even been with anyone, I mean... To get pregnant and to not even remember it, I was so ashamed..."

Margaret crushed out her already-lifeless cigarette, trying to compose herself, "I even planned on, you know, on ending it...", Mike felt his chest tighten a little, "but Anna... she talked me out of it... she said it'd be okay..."

Somewhere inside of Margaret Ghostkeeper, an emotional dam had burst.

"I'm sorry, M...Michael... I was so ashamed, I didn't... I didn't... I don't even know...", her eyes squeezed tight, words could no longer escape her lips, as silent sobs wracked her whole body...

Michael found himself weeping, too, as he moved across the room to hold his mother tightly...

"It's okay, mom,", he whispered, hugging her against him as she continued to heave and sob, "It's all right...", he rocked her like she was the child and he, the parent, "It's okay, mom, I understand...

"I forgive you."

In the following days, Margaret never mentioned their conversation. Her mood, however, was lighter than Mike had ever seen it before. It was as though an invisible weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She was even laughing and joking. She didn't even touch a drop.

Michael, on the other hand, felt weighed down by the bizarre account, or rather, non-account, of his conception. He had always thought he would one day find out from his mother where he had come from. Now, it turned out that she didn't know any more than he did. Michael's head was spinning, and he knew of only one person who could help him sort things out. In the two months since he had returned home, Michael had been so ashamed of getting mixed up with criminals that he had avoided visiting the one person he most wanted to see again. There was nowhere else he could go to help clarify things, however, or to at least ease his mind. He could no longer put off seeing his Grandfather.

As he set off for Albert's cabin, he was careful to head in the wrong direction first, then circle around, taking some time to obscure his tracks in the snow. Mike still didn't know why no one else spoke to Albert or wanted Mike to visit his cabin. He had thought for a moment that his mother had been going to tell him, the night she had admitted she knew nothing about his father, but the moment had passed, and he hadn't wanted to open another potential old wound, at least not right then.

Michael felt a flash of shame as he realized that he was the only member of Albert's family who still saw the old man, and Mike, too, had been avoiding him. The closer Michael got to the cabin in the woods, the more he looked forward to seeing his Grandfather. Michael wished now he had gone sooner, but he had felt too ashamed of what he had been doing over the summer to face Albert. Mike felt like he had somehow betrayed his Grandfather's teachings by leaving with Adam to work for Code Red, and he still felt a little apprehensive about what the old man would say. Then, as he neared Albert's clearing and the dark shape of the old shack appeared, he felt a sudden flash of fear. Albert was very old... how old, Mike wasn't even sure. What if something had happened to his Grandfather while Michael was gone? No one else came out here, they wouldn't even know...

A cheery plume of smoke rose from the old chimney to greet him, and Michael let out a sigh of relief as he approached the cozy cabin in the woods. Mike knocked twice, as usual, then let himself in. As always, it took a moment for Mike's eyes to adjust to the interior dimness. Once they did, his heart warmed as he saw Albert sitting at his tiny table, near a merrily snapping fire. The old man looked just as he had the last time Mike had seen him, nearly six months earlier, his dark face wrinkled with lines of laughter and of sorrow, his shock of white hair hanging in twin braids. He was just setting a worn old teapot down. Steam rose from two cups, one in front of Albert, one before an empty wooden chair. "Sit down, Michael.", grandfather Albert said, quietly but with warmth, "It's cold out. Have some tea."

Albert sipped his tea silently while Michael briefly talked about his sisters, how glad he himself was to be back in school, and how much better things had been at home recently. Then, with a deep breath, Michael recapped everything that had happened to him over the summer, starting with Adam's reappearance. Albert didn't comment, only nodded, even when Mike told of the vision he had had of Albert which had finally driven him to return home to Enoch. Michael wound up his tale with his mother's emotional admission that she was as in the dark about Michael's origins as he himself was. Then, he stopped, uncertain how to explain why he hadn't come to see his Grandfather sooner.

Albert warmed up Mike's tea, then casually asked, "So now that your mother has told you all she knows of your father, what do you plan to do next?"

Michael shrugged. "There's not much I can do about finding my dad, I guess. I'd always thought Margaret would tell me when she was ready.", he sipped his tea, "I guess I'll never know."

"Perhaps not,", Albert said calmly, "or perhaps you will find out when you are meant to...", he took another long taste of his own tea, then, with satisfaction, carefully put down his empty cup, "But, either way, it could not hurt to ask about him."

Michael looked at his Grandfather quizzically. "I did ask, Grandfather. I told you that. Margaret didn't know anything."

"I know that, young Michael.", The corners of Albert's mouth twitched in the almost-smile he always had when he was teaching Mike something new, "Margaret is not who I meant you should ask."

"Who, then?", Michael put down his teacup, "I mean, who else would know if she doesn't?"

"Come sit by the fire, Michael,", Albert got up, and motioned toward a spot on the wooden floor, "It's past time you paid your respects to your ancestors."

Michael had smudged with sage and sweetgrass many times before, but the words and the rest of the ceremony Albert was teaching him were new.

"Lemme get this straight,", he asked, "The ghosts of my dead ancestors are gonna tell me who my dad is?"

Michael was torn between curiousity and scepticism.

"I did not say that your ancestors were going to tell you who your father was, Michael,", Albert corrected him, "I said that their spirits would know, and that I would show you how to ask them."

"Uhh... right.", Michael's brow furrowed, "Isn't that what I said?"

"What the spirits know and what they choose to share with the living are two very different things, Michael.", Albert replied, barely suppressing a grin, as if at some private joke, "If you are open to their wisdom, however, and respectful of them, they will often show you, if not all you wish to know, certain things you need to know."

Michael's back and expression straightened.

"I wasn't trying to be disrespectful, Grandfather", he said earnestly.

Albert smiled softly, "I know that, Michael. Are you ready to begin?"

Mike nodded. Together with Albert, he chanted as he lit the sweetgrass and purified the small room, before placing it in a clay bowl to continue burning. Next, in the same bowl, he lit the bundle of sage Albert had prepared and smudged himself with it, drawing the thick smoke over and around his body, all the while chanting the prayer to his ancestral spirits Albert was teaching him.

Albert bade him to sit crosslegged before the burning herbs, staring across them into the dancing fire. Although the words Michael chanted in Cree were new to him, they felt familiar as well, almost like something he had once known and forgotten...

I Honour you who lived before me...

Spirits of My Ancestors...

Share your Wisdom, Speak to me...>

As Michael chanted the words Albert had taught him, his eyes slowly began to lose focus, the cabin seemed to recede, all sight and sound around him faded away until, in all the world, only the words and the fire remained.

Michael had no idea how much time passed in this fashion before the random flickering of the fire began to resolve itself into clear images...

((...Michael recognizes his Mother's small house, then sees Margaret herself... the remote part of his mind which is not concentrating on performing the chant wonders if he is seeing the past, until Tina and Rosie appear, laughing, helping their mother to carry laundry... the flame twists into new shapes, and Michael sees a car full of angry young men with weapons... the car is approaching Margaret's door... Michael recognizes the three men in the car, Code Red members all, as two of them lean out the windows, breath steaming in the cool air... Margaret looks up from loading the washer, perhaps hearing something, begins to move toward the front door, the young sisters trailing behind her, still joking between themselves... they are nearly at the door when it explodes into shards, shattered by the force of hot lead bursting forth from cold machine pistols... Michael cannot hear the men in the car, but can see that they are shouting something as they fire blindly into the small home... Margaret and the girls appear to begin screaming as violent red flowers blossom, first across Margaret's chest, then down, down... Tina's face disappears in a red mist as Rosie's arm flies clear of her body...))

Michael screamed in terror, body drenched with sweat, chest heaving, then gasped for breath as he realized he was still in Albert's cabin.

"Wha... wha... what the hell was that?", Mike gasped, heart pounding.

"I thought the spirits were gonna show me the past, my dad... that... that was a nightmare! What the hell was that?! That never happened!"

Albert pressed a clay mug of cool water into Michael's hands, then, as Michael gulped it down, slowly said, "The spirits of your ancestors don't always show you the past, or what you ask to see. They will show you what they feel you need to see, or nothing at all. Sometimes, that is the past. Sometimes, they feel you need a glimpse of the future."

"The future?!", exclaimed Mike, "That was the future? What future? When? When's this gonna happen?"

"That I cannot say," Albert replied, regarding Michael with a sad and serious look, "but if you saw it now, it means that you needed to see it now."

"Now?", Mike sputtered, "But I... but that's... ", he broke off, his face growing pale.

Without another word, he bolted from the small cabin and, feet pounding furiously in the snow, raced toward home...

Margaret Ghostkeeper smiled to herself as her young daughters struggled to help her with the large laundry basket. Their 'help' was more of a hindrance, but that didn't matter. It was nice to see them laughing and giggling, and Margaret took great pleasure in the simple joy of a domestic chore done with her family. Tina and Rosie weren't too young to remember how bad things had been until recently, but they didn't really understand about Margaret's alcoholism, or how hard she was working to combat it. All they knew was that mommy was a lot nicer lately, and that made them glad. They giggled as they helped mommy by piling clothes into the washing machine, racing to see who could do it faster, while Margaret rearranged their lopsided load.

Margaret paused, looking up with a slight frown. That sounded like a car engine, going far too fast for the fourty klick limit enforced within the residential area. She turned to take a step toward the front of the house, determined to phone their parents if it was those damned Prichard kids again...

The back door of the house flew open, slamming against the inside wall as Michael burst into the house and raced down the hall, yelling "Get down! Get down! Get dowwwn..."

Margaret's eyes were wide with shock and bewilderment as Michael threw himself at the three of them, knocking Tina and Rosie flat on the floor before doing the same to her. Tina's eyes were as wide and confused as her mother's, and young Rosie began to cry... Michael, flat on the floor between them, held each girl down with one arm. Anger replaced Margaret's shock, and she pushed herslef to her knees, opening her mouth to demand just what the hell Michael thought he was doing... Michael reached forward, intending to pull her back to the floor...

His cry of "Stay down, mom! Get down..." was all but drowned out by the roar of the car engine outside the door, and the even louder roar of dozens of pieces of lead hurtling at supersonic speed through the thin wood of the Ghostkeeper's front door...

Margaret had just enough time to turn her head and see one of those tiny pieces of lead grow impossibly large... then she saw nothing, ever again.

Michael would never forget the sight of the back of his mother's head exploding, as a tiny entry point in her right eye became a six centimetre exit wound in her skull.

As the sound of thunder faded, receding along with the growl of the Code Red enforcers' car, Michael's own furious howl grew and expanded until he felt the very walls around him tremble, while, beneath his arms, his bewildered and terrified young sisters did the same...

Later on, Michael would wonder why Anna hadn't even tried to stop him from taking Uncle Gordon's rifle from his hunting closet, the one Gord never remembered to keep locked... If he could have seen his own eyes, full of fury and death, set in a face still splattered with his mother's blood and brains, he would have wondered no more. Michael was a vision from hell as he ever so gently pushed his younger sisters into Anna's uncomprehending embrace, then helped himself to Gordon's rifle, shells and truck keys.

Ten minutes later, he was burning down the highway toward Edmonton, mind full of revenge, heart full of pain, soul full of guilt...

Shivering as the light snow began to fall, Michael wondered if he had chosen the right hangout after all. He had been sure the Code Red hit squad would show up at this safehouse. The car they had used in the attack on his mother's house was nowhere in sight, but Mike was sure they were either inside already, or would come here sometime tonight. As more snow began to accumulate, Michael started to have doubts. How much did he really know about the gang and their procedures, anyway? He thought he had picked up a lot over the summer, but he had never exactly been a full initiate.

The cold snow was cooling the heat of Michael's fury, as well. The rational part of his mind, which had virtually shut down since seeing his mother's head explode, was beginning to resurface. As it did, Michael began to become aware that sitting on the roof of a strip mall facing a gangsters' hangout, holding a loaded rifle with murder on his mind, was not exactly evidence of clear thinking.

As he began to process the events of the night, Mike's shivering increased, no longer entirely due to the cold. He had thought that he was safe from reprisal, that Adam and his new 'family' had allowed Mike to return to his old life, and he had closed the door on his brief involvement with outlaws.

Clearly, he had not.

Mike didn't know if Code Red had intended to kill him and failed, or if his family really were the target, or if they simply hadn't cared if anyone was home at all. Whatever the exact message they had intended to send, the gist of it was clear, 'you don't simply walk away from Code Red'.

Again, unbidden, the horrific image of his mother's death replayed itself behind Mike's eyes, and his waning anger rose again.

A car sidled up to the house, its overloud engine drawing Mike's gaze outward once more.

Not just A car. THE car.

Mike's knuckles grew pale as he gripped the rifle, then smoothly cocked it, raised it and sighted. Figures emerged from the vehicle, their laughter and voices full of bravado even from Mike's vantage point across the street. He sighted down the barrel, trigger finger tightening... one squeeze, one squeeze and the gangster closest would never be able to commit another act of murder... Mike's finger continued to squeeze, a millimetre from discharging the weapon...

A cloud of white vapour enveloped Mike's head as his held breath escaped into the chill air. With shaking fingers he carefully uncocked the rifle, engaged the safety, then unloaded it. As his anger dissipated, he slumped on the convenience store roof like a deflating balloon, and began to gently weep.

"I should have known you wouldn't have the guts to do it, Mikey.", Adam's disgusted voice drawled.

Michael's head snapped up. Adam stood a mere four metres away, the collar of his leather jacket drawn up against the falling snow. Michael stared uncomprehendingly, too emotionally spent to think straight.

"Margaret's dead, Adam.", he said dully.

"Just Margaret?", Adam sneered, "Those bozos can't do anything right."

Adam's words made no sense to Michael.

"What... what do you mean, Adam?"

"Well, I figured they'd get you, too, and hopefully the brats as well."

"Tina and Rosie?", Mike asked softly, "Adam... what's wrong with you? How can you say that? We're your family!"

"Wrong!", Adam's shout hit like a slap, "Richard Redwing is my family! Code Red is my family! The only one I need, now!"

Adam pointed an accusing finger at Mike, "You coulda been part of it, Mikey! I told Richard I could count on you! But look at you- you're pathetic! Your own mother dead, and you couldn't even take revenge when you had the chance."

"She's your mother too, Adam.", Michael's voice was barely audible.

"Don't you mean 'was'?", Adam sneered.

The sadistic, twisted grin on Adam's face was the most evil expression Michael had ever seen on another human being.

"What's wrong with you, Adam?", he asked, rising to his feet, fists clenched, "How did you become like this?"

Michael took a step forward, and stopped, staring into the cold, empty eye of the machine pistol in Adam's hand.

"I guess you'll never know, bro'.", Adam said lightly.

Thunder and lightning burst forth from the cold metal in Adam's hand, noise and yellow flame...

Then it stopped, instantly, as though a switch had been thrown... Michael could see, just for a moment, small, dark spheres suspended in the air before him... bullets, frozen centimetres from his chest...

Then Michael felt as though he were drawing a breath, a breath that wouldn't end... a wind, a storm was filling his lungs, expanding them until he felt he must burst... his head began to swirl, a million thoughts that were not his own spiralled around inside his skull... his head, his body, the very essence of his being strained to expand beyond its limits as something, somehow, poured into Michael, filling him, expanding him... he felt himself being stretched like elastic, like a balloon expanding to the point where it must inevitably burst into untold fragments... Michael would have screamed had he been able, as the sensation grew unbearable, terrifying, the pain beyond anything he had ever even imagined, as every tissue in his body expanded beyond endurable limits, but though he opened his mouth, no mere breath could escape the vortex drawing, he felt, the very fabric of the universe tightly into his own frail body...

As quickly as it began, the unbearable expansion ended.

Michael tried to exhale... then he felt a freight train smash into his chest. The world spun crazily, and Michael was floating, floating lazily through drifting snowflakes... when something hard and cold and dark slammed against him, it took a moment to realize what it was...

'Oh, asphalt', Mike thought, then fell again, this time into deep, warm darkness...

An eternity later... a scratching noise produced a dancing, sputtering yellow light, which grew brighter, then gently flickered, fluttering, illuminating a lined, creased, white-framed face full of concern and love. Grandfather Albert sat at the foot of the bed Michael was lying on, placing the candle he had lit on the wheeled table beside him, next to a gently beeping, pinging machine which traced a jagged green line across its face, over and over. Michael tried to sit up, then winced with pain.

"Don't try to sit up yet,", Albert's gentle voice admonished him, "your ribs are badly bruised. Those were nine millimetre bullets your brother was using. Very nasty. You're going to need to rest for a few days."

Michael's head was swimming. He felt he might be sick. The room seemed to be spinning around him, the bed he lay on -a hospital bed, he realized- the only solid piece of reality.

"Bullets...", his voice was a croak. Albert held a mug of cool water, helped Michael sip it. It appeared to be the same clay mug Michael had drunk from in Albert's cabin, earlier that day... or had it really been only a day?...

"You've been unconscious for several hours now,", Albert told him, as though in response to his thoughts.

"They will come and check on you soon. I thought we might have a few words first."

Michael tried his voice again, " 'Bullets', Grandfather? What...", he drew a slow breath, let it out, "What are you talking about?... Adam shot at me, I remember that... and now, I'm... in the hospital..."

"Adam shot you with ten rounds from a machine pistol, an Uzi I believe they call it.", Albert said lightly, as though discussing the weather.

"The force of the impact knocked you off the rooftop you were standing on. You passed out when you hit the parking lot below. Some neighbours phoned the police when they heard the shots... you were taken here, to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, when they found you unconscious."

Michael's jaw hung slack, eyes locked on Albert as the old man continued, "They're going to want to ask you some questions when they know you're awake. You might want to just tell them you slipped off the roof in the snow. Given what happened to poor Margaret, they'll accept it if you tell them you don't know why you were up there. Adam took Gordon's rifle with him when he left, so they won't need an explanation for why you had it. Anna won't tell them you took it."

Albert frowned, slightly, shaking his head in admonishment, "Poor Gordon, that was his best rifle, too. You shouldn't have borrowed it without asking."

"Uhh... sorry...", Michael said weakly.

Albert continued, "Adam and his gang cleared out of that house before the police arrived, so they won't ask about that. Since you don't know where they went, I wouldn't bring that up, either."

Albert fixed Michael with a stern glare, "I think you should tell them everything you remember about your 'summer vacation', however. It might help them. It certainly will help you."

Michael stared at Albert. Slowly, carefully, Michael spoke, "So, let me get this straight, Grandfather... Adam shot me in the chest ten times with an Uzi, so I fell off the roof of a building, so now I'm in the Alex with some bruised ribs, so I'll need a couple of days rest, and since Adam took Gord's rifle I don't need to tell the cops I had it, but I should tell them everything I did with Code Red over the summer."

Albert smiled, nodded.

Michael thought for a moment. "Grandfather?...", he asked, slowly. Albert waited until Michael continued.

"Why aren't I dead?"

"Oh, that...", said Albert, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "Yes, I was getting to that..."

This time, it was Mike who waited patiently until Albert continued.

"You are still alive, Michael, because you still have work to do in this realm. So your ancestors protected you from the bullets and from the fall. It was a bit of a rush job, you might say. You were supposed to train for another decade or so... your mind isn't quite as prepared as we would have liked.", Albert shrugged slightly, "Still, we do what we can. We have time yet, but perhaps not quite time enough to start over looking for another. We'll make do."

The spinning in Michael's head increased. Now, it felt like his brain had been replaced with a hornet's nest. A very, very disturbed one. He had never had so much difficulty concentrating.

"Make do with what, Grandfather? What do we still have time for?", he managed to ask.

"We still have time to prepare you.", Albert answered, "At least a decade, maybe three or more. There's a crack in the door, but it's not open yet.", Albert frowned slightly, "I wish we could stop it from opening, fix the cracks, but I don't see how.", he shook his head, "Still, there should be enough time to prepare you."

The hornets in Michael's head were louder, and seemed to be racing around the inside of his skull.

"Prepare me for what?", he asked, barely able to hear his own words.

Albert looked him deeply in the eyes.

"We need to teach you to harness the power given to you by the spirits of your ancestors. They require a living being through which they can focus their energy onto this material plane. As the most worthy living descendant of Thunderfist, you are now his and his descendants' earthly avatar. We must teach you to harness the abilities thus conferred to you, so that you and they can oppose the power of Inoesh when he returns to the physical world."

"Oh...", replied Michael, "okay."

Then he passed out.

For the next five years, it seemed to Michael that he almost literally didn't rest. Every night, and every day he didn't have school, he would leave Gordon and Anna's house and slip through the woods to Albert's cabin. There, Albert taught Michael to quiet the hundreds of buzzing voices in his head through meditation, keeping his head clear while allowing the ancestors who now dwellled within Michael to show him, in the flickering firelight, the occasional glimpse of the past or the future. Michael also continued to learn the ancient ways of his people. Only now, when Albert taught him new things, it seemed more like remembering something he had forgotten long ago.

Through it all, Mike worked diligently at his schoolwork as well. Albert still insisted that Michael had as much to learn about the modern world as about the world of the past.

When he wasn't studying his books or learning from his grandfather, Michael spent as many hours as he could spare with Tina and Rosie. Deep down, Mike still felt like it was his own fault they had lost their mother. As the girls' older brother and closest living relative, he felt his responsilbilty toward them deeply. Even when Mike took a year of study at the U of A, he remained at home, preferring the long commute to separation from his sisters... and from his Grandfather's teachings.

However, after a year of college, Michael was growing restless. The frail, skinny kid Mike had been had grown quickly over the last few years, and in his place stood a powerfully built, heavily muscled athlete. He could feel the power inside him, and he was anxious to put it to good use. He had accepted, gradually, that the stories his grandfather had told him of Thunderfist and Inoesh were all true. Michael believed, now, that the spirit of Thunderfist and all of his descendants now resided within his own body, giving him mystical strength and resistance to harm. He also knew that this power had an ultimate purpose, to one day drive the strange, evil force known as Inoesh back to its home plane and, once again, imprison it there. However, in the meantime, he needed to hone his abilities as Thunderfist himself had- by protecting and helping people. Thunderfist had been a great hunter and warrior. Mike reasoned that, as there were plenty of grocery stores, and wars all took place on foreign soil now, neither hunter nor warrior were good options. After a lot of thought, Mike concluded that the best way to put his abilities to use in the modern world would be in the police force.

With some trepidation, he told Albert of his desire to leave school.

"There is much in the world,", the old man said, "that can best be learned by experiencing it, not by reading about it."

Mike took that as approval, and he applied to, and to his delight was accepted by, the Edmonton Police Service.

The only thing that cooled his elation was that it meant much less time spent at home. Both Tina and Rosie would be done high school soon, and he worried about what would become of their little family then. Anna and Gordon were kind and loving, however, and Michael trusted his sisters to their care. For their part, Tina and Rosie accepted their aunt and uncle as the only parents they now had.

Michael often wished that Tina and Rosie could get to know their grandfather as he himself had, yet, somehow, something inside of him knew better than to suggest it. He was beginning to realize that Albert couldn't be there for Michael's sisters the way he was for Mike.

Michael loved being a cop. It felt like what he was meant to do. He still went to Albert's cabin as often as possible, and constantly looked for evidence that might show Inoesh was returning to earth. However, Michael honestly wasn't sure what form an invading evil spirit might take in the modern world, and Albert's advice to 'trust in the spirits', while comforting, was not terribly concrete. When Mike was on duty, Mike could feel sure of things. He felt like he was really making a difference in the world, helping people.

The only thing that worried him was how the other members of the Service might react if he told them of the great abilities, and duty, which were his. Having finally found a place where he felt he belonged, Michael didn't want to risk losing it. As much as possible, Michael tried to hide the full extent of his strength from his fellow officers.

They knew he was strong, though. When Mike pushed in doors, they had a tendency to burst into kindling. No perp ever got away when Mike had a grip on him, either. As a matter of fact, few suspects ever got away from Mike at all, and none of those on foot. Some of the other cops swore he was part jackrabbit, he ran so fast. Then there were the cops who began to refer to him as "Iron Mike", a nickname Mike himself hated, after a suspect Constable Ghostkeeper had brought in tried, unsuccessfully, to sue the EPS after literally breaking his hand on Mike's jaw.

In two years on the force, Ghostkeeper earned quite a reputation. No one fully realized the extent of Michael's strength, however, until the day he was assigned to a back-up unit sent to assist the Special Task Force on Organized Crime, sometimes referred to as the 'Gangbusters' by the other cops. A major bust had gone badly, and now about a dozen members of the Native gang known as Code Red were in an armed standoff with police, holed up in a crackhouse which had turned out to be an armed -and armored- fortress.

Mike's job was supposed to be 'crowd control', maintaining part of the outer perimeter around the house occupied by the gang. Mike fully intended to do his job, too, despite the hairs that had risen on the back of his neck when he had heard the name 'Code Red'. Mike had not seen Adam since the night his brother had shot him, but he thought of him often. If and when Michael did, eventually, catch up with Adam Redwing, he intended to demand the answers to a lot of questions. Until that time, Michael wouldn't let his personal feelings about Adam's gang interfere with his duties.

So he thought, until he happened to glance at the house at the same time one of the gang members inside was risking a quick look out. It was a momentary glimpse from a hundred metres away, yet Michael felt his insides go cold. Even in that brief glance, he had recognized that face. Not Adam's... it was a face he had seen in a fiery vision, and in a half a thousand nightmares since. One of three faces which had haunted Michael day and night for years. This one had been laughing, Mike recalled, laughing as he had emptied the magazine of his machine pistol into Margaret Ghostkeeper's house.

Michael felt a cold rage rising within him. This was not the murderous fury which had driven Mike to perch on a rooftop in the snow clutching a rifle years ago. The years since that day had only reinforced the lesson he had learned then; murder was not something Mike was capable of. The icy grip that held Michael now was the unbreakable certainty that justice must finally be done.

Michael did not even hear his partner's questioning shout as he turned away from his post and began walking steadily toward the house. Neither did he take note of the angrier shout of the Task Force leader when Mike marched right by him, past the circle of police and vehicles. Unhurried, inexorable, Mike advanced on Code Red's urban fortress.

Michael did hear the panicked threats to 'Back off!' from the young men with guns inside the crackhouse, but he ignored them completely. By the time the desperate criminals inside realized that Mike really wasn't going to stop advancing, he was almost at the door. Mike was unable to ignore the rain of lead as Code Red members who still had a line of sight on him opened fire... but only because he found the way the impact of multiple bullets shredded his uniform to be extremely annoying.

Code Red discovered Michael's annoyance as their 'impregnable' armored door burst inward from the impact of the twin thunderbolts that were Mike's fists. Gangsters screamed in panic as, outside, Michael's fellow officers looked on with stunned expressions. Within the crackhouse, the sound of automatic gunfire erupted again, then stopped... another burst, quickly silenced... another... Between the deafening eruptions of gunfire came the sounds of shattering wood and plaster- and terrified shouting.

Seventy-five seconds after Michael entered the building, all was silent within the structure.

Then, from the doorway, something creaked... as a massive figure slowly emerged from the smoke-filled interior, face impassive. Mike strode deliberately toward the Task Force leader, dumping the three unconscious figures he had been dragging in his powerful fists in an unceremonious heap at the nonplussed Lieutenant's feet.

His uniform hanging from his powerful frame in tatters, his face an expressionless mask, Michael calmly, almost conversationally, informed his superior, "There's nine more inside, sir."

It might have been a trick of the flickering red and blue light, or a slight grin might have snuck onto his face as Michael added, "No hurry, though. I don't think they're going anywhere."

Mari Murakami, a young reporter from the local Worldwide News affiliate, had been on the scene with a cameraman. The next morning, Michael was front page news. The Edmonton Ledger proclaimed, 'Lone EPS Metahuman Storms Gangland Fortress'. The Edmonton Star was more succinct, 'Super Cop Cracks Crackhouse'. Mike had winced at that one. Although he was expecting it, his stomach still felt queasy when he arrived at the stationhouse and learned that he had been summoned to Captain Burton's office... immediately.

When he entered the Captain's office, Mike removed his uniform cap. Captain Burton turned her dark, serious face up to regard Mike as he entered, then turned her attention back to her desk. Both daily newspapers were lying next to a stack of official papers on Captain Burton's desk. As the Captain ignored him, letting him stand before her desk, Mike began nervously toying with his police hat. He feared he might never be allowed to wear it again.

Finally, Captain Burton turned her head again toward Mike, and looked him up and down appraisingly. It was with a supreme effort of will that she betrayed no sign of her amusement at the sight of the hulking law enforcement officer twisting his cap in his hands like a schoolboy in the principal's office.

"Constable Ghostkeeper.", Captain Burton said, her tone deadly serious.

Mike swallowed hard, and stood at attention.

"I just spent an hour on the phone with the Chief of Police.", the Captain said, "Care to guess what the topic of our conversation was?"

Mike swallowed again as the Captain shuffled the newspapers in front of her meaningfully. Before he could decide whether or not the question was rhetorical, Captain Burton continued, "The Chief was rather forceful in his opinion of what should be done about you, Constable."

The Captain regarded Mike steadily.

"For once, I'm inclined to agree with him. Someone like you doesn't belong in the EPS."

Michael felt the floor fall from beneath his feet. His worst fears, it seemed, had been realized. He straightened his back, struggling to remain composed, "I... I understand, ma'am. I'll have my locker cleared by..."

Captain Burton interrupted as though he hadn't spoken.

"Have you seen this, Constable Ghostkeeper?", she asked.

Michael took the paper she handed him. It looked like one of the many official notices which decorated the precinct's bulletin board. With a questioning glance at the Captain, he read, 'Royal Canadian Mounted Police - CANADIAN SHIELD is accepting applications for the position of Canadian Shield Operative...'.

Mike looked up at the Captain, puzzled.

"Canadian Shield?", he asked, "The Super Mounties? They only recruit superheroes... what's this got to do with me?"

Captain Burton leaned back in her chair, regarded Mike, her head slightly tilted.

"I hope for your sake, Constable Ghostkeeper,", she finally said, shaking her head slightly and releasing the smile she had been holding back, "that the application process doesn't include an IQ test."

...

Canadian Shield Headquarters:

A thin man with an unusually prominent forehead stands, relaxed but attentive, before a large oak desk. The seated figure behind the desk leafs through some papers, frowning ever so slightly.

"Is there some problem with my report, sir?" the thin man asks. His tone is polite, with the merest hint of incredulity that suggests any problem that may exist surely does not lie with the precise, concise summary the seated man is perusing. With a faint smile, the seated figure at last lays down the open report.

"There is one thing, Latete...

"Your scans showed no signs of mental illness, correct?"

The thin man considers the question a moment before responding.

"Well, sir," he replies, "I have yet to encounter any metahuman, myself included, who falls entirely within what is usually considered to be a psychologically 'normal' range..."

A wry smile from the man at the desk.

"However, this Michael Ghostkeeper certainly falls within the accepted parameters for our organization. I assume you ordered the additional deep probes we performed due to the unusual source he postulates for his metahuman abilities. His belief that his ancestors inhabit his body and give him his power is almost certainly delusional, yes... unless you believe in ghosts. However, given his cultural background and the heroic folkstories his maternal Grandfather raised him on, it is, in my opinion, a healthy delusion... a coping mechanism, as it were, to help him rationalize and accept his metahuman powers... which were, no doubt, inherited from his unknown father."

"Hmmm... no doubt.

"You mentioned his Grandfather. Your scans showed vivid memories of this Albert Ghostkeeper's tutelage. Is this the man who trained Ghostkeeper?"

The black and white photograph the seated man slides across the desk is of an ancient, weatherbeaten face, eyes so dark as to seem black in a lined, somehow sorrowful visage framed by long, flowing white hair. The man called Latete examines the picture thoroughly before replying.

"Unmistakeably. Young Michael's memories are extremely vivid. As my report indicates, Michael spent a great deal of time with Albert Ghostkeeper both before and after his metahuman abilities manifested themselves.".

"Yes...", the slight frown returns to the seated man's face, "It's the 'before' that concerns me."

The man at the desk lapses into a thoughtful silence...

When he feels enough time has passed, Latete prompts, "Sir?"

The seated man sighs, then closes the file before him.

"Your scans have never failed me, Latete. He cleared the regular psych tests, as well, and the troubles in his youth and with his brother don't appear to be security risks. Thank you for your time, and your usual professional thoroughness."

Latete nods once, precisely, then smartly turns and leaves.

Once he is gone, the man at the desk sighs, relaxes into his chair, and turns to gaze out his window at the river flowing lazily past. He briefly considers ordering another check on the information which is troubling him, then sighs again. Why waste taxpayer dollars verifying information which he knows has been checked and verified already by the best investigators in the country?

In his long career, the seated man has seen many strange things. With sudden resolution, he decides that one more needn't worry him. With all of Canada to protect and watch over, it's not really worth losing sleep over.

So what, he decides, if Albert Ghostkeeper died a year before his grandson Michael was born?

He still did a good job training him.

Personality

Michael Ghostkeeper is a very gentle, almost shy man who believes that there is good inside of everyone, if they are just given a chance to find it. Although reasonably intelligent, Ghostkeeper is not what one might call a 'deep thinker', and is guided more by his emotions than by logical thought.

In any situation, given the chance, Michael would rather talk his way to a peaceful solution than fight. On the other hand, if talking fails, Mike is ready and more than willing to exert his not inconsiderable brute strength to subdue anyone who intends harm to innocent people.

His strength, however, is always used to protect and defend, not to destroy. Mike strives not to harm anyone more than absolutely necessary, and never, ever to kill. Mike has a very strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. In all aspects of his life, Mike strives to do what he thinks is right. He long ago decided that the only time he ever gets into serious trouble is when he ignores his conscience, which he now believes is not just an abstract part of himself, but a warning from the spirit world.

Ghostkeeper believes he has been granted his tremendous powers for a specific reason; he must eventually, inevitably, sacrifice them in order to re-imprison the malevolent entity known to his family as Inoesh back in its own realm. The fact that Michael's ancestral spirits have inhabited his body means that this evil force has managed to escape from its centuries-long exile in its own dimensional plane of existence. Whether this means Inoesh has physically manifested itself on Earth is, as yet, unclear. Michael takes his responsibility to detect and fight Inoesh seriously. However, until he actually finds some evidence of the entity's activity, he feels that there's not much that he can do except be vigilant.

In the meantime, he intends to use his powers as his ancestor Thunderfist did; to protect and serve the innocent.

The ability to use his powers openly now almost makes up for how uncomfortable he feels with his sudden celebrity. Immediately upon his acceptance into Canadian Shield, Worldwide reporter Mari Murakami tracked him down and 'ambushed' him. Although reluctant to have more publicity than he already had experienced, Mike was overwhelmed by Murakami's enthusiasm and exuberance, and more than a little taken with her charm and good looks, and agreed to an interview. When he again made the front page, in a story picked up nationally, and run in the Edmonton Ledger under the banner,'Local Hero Joins Nation's Defenders', Mike regretted his decision, as he soon began to realize what it meant to be recognized wherever he went.

Even though Michael still hates publicity, he somehow can't bring himself to object too strenuously to Mari Murakami's continuing habit of shadowing him everywhere he goes, supposedly to cover his exploits...

When he is on duty, Michael does his best to keep on his 'game face', to project an aura of competent authority. He still thinks of himself as a cop, not a superhero, and acts accordingly. Michael has a great respect for the badge and what it symbolizes, and expects the same from others. Although Ghostkeeper still feels like he isn't really a 'superhero', he is nonetheless starting to find enormous satisfaction in the use of his superhuman powers.

Those who don't know him well often think of him as cold and serious. This is due to Michael's tendency to overcompensate for his inexperience with an assumed air of authority. In fact, Michael is a little unsure of himself. He does, however, find great joy in helping others, and in exercizing his duties. Despite Mike's efforts to act in a 'professional' manner when on duty, his natural tendency is to joke and make others laugh, and his sardonic wit tends to come through. Despite the tragedy he has seen and experienced, both in his personal and professional life, Mike feels at peace with the world, and light of heart, doing what he feels he is meant to do.

Michael believes his body contains the spirits of many hundreds of his Cree ancestors. As a result, he feels a little like he is constantly being watched and judged. While this sort of sensation might make some feel angry or paranoid, for Mike it's more like being visited by elderly relatives; he feels as though he must always be on his best behaviour. Ghostkeeper doesn't sense the individual thoughts of these spirits- he simply feels them like a constant presence, a background noise in his mind. This constant clamour can at times become almost overwhelming, and Michael needs to meditate daily to keep himself centred and focussed. The only one of his ancestors with whom he can directly communicate is the spirit of his maternal grandfather, Albert Ghostkeeper. Albert is Michael's guide and mentor. Michael returns to the Enoch Reservation whenever his duties permit, ostensibly to visit his aunt and uncle, Anna and Gordon Drumgo. While there, he always visits his Grandfather's cabin, to commune with his grandfather's spirit and hear his wisdom. Albert always has the kettle on.

Tea, in fact, is about the strongest thing Ghostkeeper imbibes. He rarely even drinks coffee, and has never touched alcohol or other drugs. He has used tobacco, but only on occasion, in spiritual ceremonies- never recreationally or habitually.

Michael remains devoted to his younger sisters, Tina and Rosie, and spends as much time with them as possible. He is even helping out with the rent on the apartment which they share in downtown Edmonton, only a few blocks from Mike's own small apartment. Aunt Anna and Uncle Gordon visit him and the girls whenever they are able to, and vice versa.

Michael would dearly love to find his half brother, Adam Redwing, and ask him some pointed questions.

Quote

"Okay, kid, calm down... it's okay. If you shoot me, the ricochet might hurt someone. We don't want that, now, do we? How about you just put down the gun and let's talk..."

Powers

Michael Ghostkeeper's body is inhabited by the spirits of hundreds of his ancestors. These spirits can channel their power through Ghostkeeper, granting him the strength of many men, and a supernatural resistance to physical harm, including the ability to withstand great extremes in temperature.

The strength his ancestors give him allows him to run at speeds of up to 90 km/h. Michael recovers from injury and fatigue much faster than any ordinary human, as well. Mike requires very little sleep, usually getting by with an hour or so each night. Although he is not yet aware of it, since reaching adulthood, he has begun aging at half the normal rate.

(Had things gone as Ghostkeeper's grandfather had intended, Michael would have been much older when he became his ancestors' avatar, and he would have also gained their knowledge and skills.) Ghostkeeper naturally posesses exceptional reflexes and speed.

Michael meditates, daily when possible, with a ceremony involving fire, sweetgrass and sage. He finds this meditation is necessary in order to quiet the hundreds of voices inside his mind. Michael's Grandfather has told him that, given enough time, Ghostkeeper's mind will merge more fully with the spirits of his ancestors within- as his body has already done- but for now their presence is a distraction. Through this calming ceremony, Ghostkeeper can already occasionally commune with these spirits. When his ancestors have something vital to impart to him, Michael sees a vision in the flames of events in either the past or the future. This happens fairly infrequently, and only when the spirits feel there is something Michael needs to be shown.

Michael has learned the skills of a Cree warrior and hunter from his grandfather. Ghostkeeper knows how to survive and thrive in the wild, how to track prey and live off the land. He is striving to master the ancient fighting techniques his grandfather's spirit has taught him. If he someday comes into posession of his full power, Ghostkeeper will have the skills of hundreds of warriors; as it stands now, he has not actively practiced his woodcraft skills in many years, and is a little "rusty".

Appearance

Michael Ghostkeeper is a large and powerfully built Cree man. His height, powerful frame and lean, smoothly muscled build combine with his dark, reddish-brown skin to make him an imposing figure. He has piercing brown -almost black- eyes and close-cropped, jet black hair. Mike's high cheekbones and square jaw contribute to the rugged good looks which have helped make him the focus of so much unwanted media attention.

When on duty Michael wears a form-fitting short-sleeved black pullover shirt. It has a thin red trim around the high collar and the sleeves, and a small red maple leaf on each shoulder. The Canadian Shield emblem is emblazened over the left breast.

Ghostkeeper's pants, fitted to allow maximum freedom of movement, are based upon his old Edmonton Police Service uniform. They are black with a wide red stripe running vertically down the outside of each leg, from his red leather belt to his black leather calf-length boots. Thin black leather gloves with red trim around the wrist complete Ghostkeeper's "uniform".