Surveillance footage of a masked vigilante in Berkeley, California, goes viral on social media the week prior to the Shift’s monthly emergence, not for the first time drawing widespread public attention on the Bay Area as the latest canvas for a string of elaborate pranks attributed to a collective of anonymous creatives known as the True Believers. While most of the general public remain fascinated by the group’s entertaining antics—die-hard fans even traveling to San Francisco hoping for firsthand glimpses—the attention generated on the area has also drawn the scrutiny of a more dubious audience.
For months now, a handful of unaffiliated parties have been keeping a close watch on the Shifters of the Bay Area, each with their own agendas for doing so.
Magneto, having again founded this divergent world’s Brotherhood of Mutants—though now under the more inclusive title The Acolytes—unsurprisingly seeks to recruit new members into his ranks, regardless of whether they subscribe to his organization’s underlying aims of ascension: for Shifters across the globe to finally surface from their shadows into the dominance, if not equality, of a superior race marked by the powers and abilities beyond those of ordinary humankind.
The lesser-known Libra, although similar in his extremist quest for societal reforms, is of a separate breed of villainous, bloomed from the traumas he’d suffered in childhood that spawned his notion that “life is all just a matter of balance,” which eventually devolved into an obsession with restoring a balance to the universe—by usurping and/or overthrowing the powers of superheroes.
Additionally driven by his zealous loyalty to the Apokolipsian religion of Darkseid—itself seeking to eliminate free will from the universe—and armed only with the superhuman gift of persuasion, Libra reorganized his own underground circuit of miscreants, a now affluent crime syndicate satirically dubbed The Society. Despite being merely a front for his believed destiny to serve the New God, The Society has nonetheless been steadily growing in numbers and strength, largely thanks to Libra’s tactic of luring in followers by manipulating the natural greed and violent tendencies of common felons, the superpowered and the ordinary alike.
Up until May, these two parties in particular have silently maintained their respectful distance from the Bay Area, wise to the policing presence of a loosely organized group of heroically aligned Shifters who call themselves The Assembly. Magneto, for one, has much at stake. As part of his duplicitous means of controlling the Shifters under his refuge, many of whom are neither villains nor anti-heros, he’s kept most of his group in the dark regarding the existence of other Shifter enclaves in the world; and he remains unwilling to risk a discordant confrontation.
Libra, on the other hand, sees the mainstream media’s swelling interest and focus on the Bay Area as the ripe opportunity he’s been waiting for, and begins his launch of a long-planned, coordinated attack.
As with other Shifters of the scientific persuasion, Libra has been closely evaluating the patterns of The Shift for years, the resources that he commands earning him a significant advantage. Utilizing the sharp minds of his key strategists, Blacksmith and Talia al Ghul, along with a young correspondent known only by the Deep Web handle “Fr4nk31”, Libra has not only managed to prove his theories of the global shift-inhibitors, but also to pinpoint the exact frequency on which its particle waves are transmitted. After months of ongoing research, this discovery eventually enabled him to record the transmission, which later led to the development of his own version of the shift-inhibitors, capable of reproducing the same transmission used by O.M.I.T. that has been suppressing Shifter emergences for the better part of each month. Despite his device being far more limited in its range, currently only able to be broadcast via pre-existing channels such as radio stations and WiFi networks, suddenly in the hands of The Society and its corrupt leader is the power to subjugate an entire enclave of Shifters on a whim.
The consequences of such a whim—merely a ‘test’ of the device’s effectiveness and range—was seen during the third week of May, when no alter-identity in the Bay Area is known to have surfaced.