Catwoman and the Cosmic Era
The Cosmic Era is an extension of the modern era, and everything that exists today technically exists in the Cosmic Era. Sure, there are things that have been lost. Several centuries separate us from them, and there are wars, a dark age, and the information lost when so much exists only in digital or cloud form, and the systems do crash. A fuck ton of furry art, mumble rap, and NFTs are just completely and totally gone. But something like what I would consider the Mythic Stories and intellectual properties remain. Most people in the Cosmic Era know who Superman is, they know Star Wars and the rest of the billion-dollar tentpoles. Many of these properties are still alive, as their stories contain elements of fundamental humanity. That being said, a person in the Cosmic Era has as little in common with Batman's 1950s caped detective as a modern person would have with the 25th century Batman the parapsychic technosavant.
Catwoman exists in the Cosmic Era. With access to things like neko augmentation and encounter suits, becoming a costumed cat-themed hero isn't hard. The issue manifests when a person undergoes treatment and adopts a costume, and they present themselves as a fictional character without the permission or consent of the people who own the IP. This was a minor issue in prior years, as people making costumes from latex, worbla, foam, and home sewing machines had little comparison to a person getting a custom fit catsuit to match the latest media version of Catwoman and then using her augmentations to carry out the career of a street samurai, corporate thief, or general shadowrunner.
In real life, this is what I refer to as the Batmobile clause. There are no laws that say you cannot build and drive your own personal Batmobile. This is a loophole that is used for everything from high-level cosplay to stormtrooper armor for the 501st. The law does state that you cannot make these things to sell them, as it is a violation of the IP holder's copyright. Why does anyone give a shit besides a minor stream of royalty payments? Bad press. If someone buys a Batmobile and then it is used in a hit and run, or is in a car wreck and kills someone, then functionally, the Batmobile's entire intellectual property is tangled in the mess. It is the same functional reasoning as the IP holders denying people the right to use their IP on things like tombstones. It's cold, but a kid with a Spiderman tombstone....well that's Spiderman's grave, and the IP holders don't want that.
As the Cosmic Era dawned, it became much easier to become Catwoman and many other costumed heroes. People did just that, and it turned into a copyright enforcement war. The corporations and interests that held the IP initially had the advantage, as they had legal teams, finance departments, and were invested in large buildings, cornerstones of the entertainment industry. This shifted quickly. The people who were willing to undergo gene augmentation and cybernetic augmentation were already rubbing shoulders with mercenaries, cyberpunks, cyborgs, and most importantly, shadowrunners. They took what they had, and added the real skills to their costume, and became exactly what they set out to be.
The first and likely most influential Catwoman was a staggering surprise. Julia Doll made her debut when she was 55, and appeared with the aura of a mature, powerful, and playful woman. Her costume and gear were understated, not much more than a fashion fit encounter suit and a splash of stolen jewelry. She radiated charm, oozed desire, and her smile could make knees weak and hands sweaty, she was a queen among peasants. Doll made herself famous/infamous for two things: being the first to defy a cease and desist order and causing collateral damage to the IP Holder.
When issued the Cease and Desist, Doll was making a comfortable living for herself doing appearances and a burlesque show out of the Portland Arcoplex. On the side, she was involved with several protest groups, and a fair bit of cat burglary. Her jewelry box lacked for nothing, and her selection of top-tier cosmetics would have been the envy of anyone who saw it. After receiving the C&D, she created a fake identity, got herself hired by the IP holder's holding company as a secretary/receptionist, and started a six-month campaign of terror against the board. This ranged from petty, all of their cava cups being broken, to serious, a server complex being accidentally powered down for six hours. One by one, Doll penetrated the inner circles of each board member and sowed chaos. Sons were seduced, property was stolen, homes were vandalized, and secrets were released. Any board member with a skeleton in their closet found it on the public lawn.
The IP Holder withdrew their C&D from Doll. She made regular appearances while all this was going on, establishing frequent alibis, and they couldn't find a way to link her to their hardships. After this, Doll would go on to become a Cat Mother, helping other women step up into their own power, adopting the appearance of Catwoman, or their own interpretation of the role. The west coast of North America was soon thick with Catwomen, branches of a rapidly growing family.
The legacy of Doll is less about her vamping her way through an old boys club board of directors and more about the number of mother-daughter relationships she created, and the women she helped. Almost without regard for what they did while in the costume, a large number of her 'daughters' would become prosperous, and have stabilizing impacts on those around them. They created families. Many were biological, taking husbands (or wives) and having or adopting children. Others were adoptive families, a single Catwoman having street kids she took in, cleaned up, and set on the right track. For every minor criminal Catwoman who made the news loop, there were nine who went unnoticed, because getting a few kids out of the gutter doesn't warrant news coverage.
The Savage Hell-Cat, Activism, Terrorism, and Praxis
Kittridge Earthsea was a child when Julie Doll retired, having no direct connection to the First. She grew up in a geofront gutter, constantly barraged with the drugs, violence, and forced inequality of the undercity. Her home was notoriously dominated by a large and vocal sect, the Hohle Wehrmacht. Also known as the Underground Nation, or the Cave Nazis, Der Hohle Wehrmacht was a political organization in the Geofront, had elected officials, and were even a major factor in geofront security. In short, they were modified and augmented NeoNazi sect operating in the open, under a major arco-city.
Why had nothing been done to get rid of them? The powers that be in the arcologies have never horribly cared about the quality of life in the geofronts or the favelas around the towers. In fact, the worse things are on the outside, the tighter their control over the inside becomes, and the fortress-like security of an arco with its private army of police, the Hohle Wehrmacht were never going to be a threat to the people in the golden tower.
Earthsea cobbled together her gear from the discarded refuse of the tower and adopted Catwoman as her mantle of power. This was important, as she was an erupted parapsychic and had considerable ability. She was strong, fast, and had supernatural senses. Once equipped, Earthsea would run roughshod over the Hohle Wehrmacht. She operated in a vigilante mode, taking them out when they were alone, or breaking into their various safehouses and holes, some she robbed, others she burned. This would have gone on without notice from above, but some of the men she was hitting had ties in the tower, moving money and drugs for their masters, thousands of feet above them. This drew two things, tower security, and private bounty hunters, into the geofront.
The Knightfall War marked the zenith of Earthsea's power and her demise. Several hundred security personnel flooded into the geofront with the intent of driving Earthsea and other anti-Wehrmacht groups out into the open. It was a grasp for power, wipe out the opposition, and jail the protestors. In addition to the troops, almost a dozen bounty hunters participated, most notable being the self-styled anti-hero Knightfall. Knightfall was a Batman expy, but had white armor, silver gear, and was very much about killing people or breaking them to where they would be crippled for life. When the sun rose, dozens of security people were dead or missing, several hundred were injured. Knightfall was found decapitated and disemboweled, and several other bounty hunters were likewise slaughtered. The events drew national investigation, and a number of arco officers were investigated and taken into custody. The Hohle Wehrmacht was greatly reduced, many being crippled and maimed. The common mode of injury was the application of claws to the face, the throat, or the groin. Most died of blood loss, and many who survived were left with missing eyes, missing vocal cords, severed legs, and a nightmarish number of mutilated genitals.
Earthsea was never seen again after the Knightfall War. There are dozens of stories about how she escaped, and relocated to another city, or one of the newly elected arco officials was Earthsea in disguise. The truth was much more depressing. Earthsea pushed herself into a parapsychic burn, driving her powers into overload so that she could kill as many of the NeoNazis as possible. She knew that anything less would be defeat, or worse. Once the fight was done, her body was exhausted, her wounds numerous, and the only thing that had kept her going was drawing on the power parapsychics touch. When the burn went out, there was nothing left to keep her alive, and she died.
She has a secret shrine under the city, and it is kept by a very small very secretive group who tend it.
The Catwoman IP Holder learned about Earthsea and immortalized her as the Savage Hell-Cat, and portrayed her as an absolute villain. The new character became popular and was adopted as an icon for pro-violence activism. After this, the character was 'redeemed' and then retired from print.
Moynahan Pfeil might be the most famous, and most destructive of all of the Catwomen.
She worked as a low-level secretary at a modest city corp. She was meek, impressionable, and always to deferred to others. This applied when her requests for vacation were denied, or when her supervisor pressed her to change her attire or even undergo cosmetic Neko Augmentation. This demeanor lasted all the way to the point that she was targeted for physical assault and disposal. Pfeil was left for dead, having suffered a serious concussion, and being tossed into a sewer disposal line.
In many respects, Moynahan Pfeil did die. When she got up, the secretary was gone, and in her place was a new Catwoman. The corp in question, where she had been groomed and modded for a one-shot gang bang and then headlong dive off a balcony and into a sewer, was the Catwoman IP holder. She wandered the geofront for a while, having forgotten large portions of her identity, but having become reckless and seemingly self-taught martial arts from nowhere. Over the next six years, she would increasingly perfect her costume and equipment and carve out a niche as an untouchable thief and bounty huntress.
Pfeil eventually found her way back to the site of her rape and attempted murder, and started a revenge campaign worthy of John Wick. Bodies piled up as she literally climbed the tower seeking her revenge. Much like Earthsea's rampage, Pfeil seemed unstoppable. The rampage only ended when she caught her old boss, went hard femdom on him, and before anything actually sexual happened, she took both of them over the edge. The supervisor missed the sewer line and splattered against ferro-concrete while Pfeil seemingly vanished and was never seen again.
The truth was simple, like Earthsea, Pfeil was an erupted parapsychic. Her powers were not so much physical as they were, of all things, probability manipulation. She was able to perfectly time gaps in security systems, dodge bullets almost without noticing them and have an unerring sense of where to go and what to do to get the result she wanted. This included her dive off the balcony with her rapist, manipulating probability so that he died painfully, lingering for a while with shattered bones and ruptured organs, while she vanished into the same sewer line that rescued her before.
Why was Moynahan the Greatest? The answer is very simple, almost every bit of her revenge was caught on camera. She walked through a building proud and powerful. She disabled and crippled those who opposed her, remembering grudges against people she hadn't seen in years. She did it in absolute calm in an outfit that inspired a generation of copycat costuming and latex fetishists. She could not be marginalized, radicalized, or ignored, and her appearance brought not just her grievances to the fore, it brought the entire Catwoman mythos back into the mainstream of popular culture.
The Corporate Cat
Halsey Straub was contracted by the IP Holder to undergo very minimal genetic augmentation, and largely only adopted costume equipment to become the first serious backed Catwoman. With previous Catwomen, it was decided that they were too sexualized, too liberated, too violent, and not commercially viable. Most would be considered terrorists by most measures, felons by the most lenient. They wanted something more socially acceptable and marketable. Straub took the contract, and the rest has become a warning story.
Straub was trained and coached to become a shadowrunner, with the idea of making the character one in the series as well, and accordingly, she had a full support team. This ranged from a vocals coach and team of writers to having fitness trainers and tech specialists work with her to have the best of the best equipment. When her team started looking for work, real shadow work, they didn't find any. Real shadow ops people made sure the film crew and scouting crew never found anything associated with shadow work. The studio and team were then forced to start just making shit up and staging things so that they could make it look like the new Catwoman was a serious runner, one that was on the 'good guy's side, hunting bad runners and criminals. They wanted to capture the iconography of the character and rewrite it.
There were two fatalities. Victor Hernandez Magnusson, the lead producer of the venture died of a sudden and unexplained heart attack, and Halsey Straub fell while attempting a sketchy strato-parkour jump between two arco towers. There was an attempt to cover up the accident, but it was blown open by the news, who unexpectedly found extensive evidence of the unsafe working conditions and how Straub signed on to smile and sign autographs for sick kids ended up trying to make a jump over a thousand feet up with no safety equipment. The entire affair turned into a near bankruptcy indictment against the studio, and many of the support staff were barred from the industry with several being handed prison terms. The most startling outcome was a number of people within the studio senior executives were demoted, placed on administrative leave, or exiled from the city and forced to live in the wastelands with their biometrics deleted from the system.
The Silenced Catwoman
At nearly the same time Straub was doing her brief stint as Catwoman, Katherine Mosi was well into her career. Mosi was not officially considered a Catwoman. She did wear an encounter suit and domino mask, but she had no Neko mods. Rather, Mosi was a heavy gear runner who ended up being associated with Catwoman considering her use of synaptic amplifier clips, which resembled cat ears. In shadow running circles, Mosi was known as a rigger and favored heavy ground vehicles, hoverbikes, and when she could get her hands on them, mecha.
Mosi had a relatively short, but high profile, career. As a rigger and runner, she was involved in the unbelievably successful raid against the New Nuyork Stock Exchange. Working with a team of cutting-edge hackers, thieves, and cyberterrorists, they managed to steal a billion dollars worth of stock, bearer bonds, and crypto. Mosi's role was as heavy muscle in the job, and she delivered in spectacular fashion, arriving inside the city walls driving a Panther light mech. The resulting thirty-minute occupation of the Stock Exchange saw Mosi engage and destroy a large number of heavy law enforcement vehicles, wipe up a large number of wojek police 'bots, armored police, and even seriously engage the Reflex team that dropped in from orbit in their own lance of mecha.
Mosi's Panther was destroyed, but not before she took down two of the Reflex team mecha (a Spider and a Firestarter) severely damaging a third (Hermes) before the lance commander's Wolverine destroyed her main weapon and then power core. Mosi ejected and escaped, as it seemed she had an electric motorcycle attached to her ejection pod. Mosi and the rest of the crew escaped, and after this stunning raid, they vanished. It is suspected that Mosi has retired to a non-extradition country, or even off-world to live out her retirement. The news and media have made it obvious and apparent that she was killed in her mech and that her Panther, the Black Cat X Path shouldn't be praised with people making models of it, or being modded into games.
The Title of the Catwoman is up for grabs. The IP holders have been very keen on putting a new face inside the cat mask, considering how destructive the past Catwomen have been, and how anti-establishment, anti-corporation, and anti-sexualized they have been. They want a woman in the suit to smile, wave, sign autographs, do holo-sims, sell toys and video games, sell skins for female avatars, and the rest. They do not want anyone with any shadow running skill, connections, or contacts within that side of the economy. Thus they have trotted out a number of cat suited vaguely ethnic women who are pretty, but malleable. They are groomed and preened, have their lines chirped into their ears, and none have found a grounding in success beyond the superficial element of women in skin-tight suits are going to find.
There is another reason.
There is very much a currently active Catwoman.
Elizabeth 'Lizzy' Simpson is the current Catwoman and was among the vague and soft women picked to play the role on a regional level. She quickly retired from being a costumed cosplayer and moved laterally into the corp's internal security and affairs division. She is routinely on hand for Catwoman appearances, has a hand in picking new women for the suit, and running security details around them.
Lizzy is stealing talent. The girls who have real ability, real competence, she moves to where they can find better work than dressing as a light bondage fantasy girl. She has an official costume, and a number of unlisted modifications, and she has been an active runner. Her jobs have been very low profile, and the IP Holder is her most common target. She has no fight with the IP but makes money by moving things they've stolen themselves, over the years. Her network of women she's moved are her extended family, and like Julia Doll before her, she is building lasting relationships, not selling a corporate product.
Lizzy's gear is slightly different. Instead of a basic encounter suit, she has a Sneak suit and a cat fascia. When she slips into the suit, she vanishes from electronic eyes, and all of her biometrics are silenced. It is common knowledge that she has the ability to use skillsofts, downloadable skill packs plugged into her brain. What isn't known is that she has her own organic memory core and that while on the job she has languages, legal programs, and other clerical skillsofts loaded, when she dons the ghost gear, she has multiple martial arts, recon programs, hacking programs, and more slotted into her head.
Catwoman exists within the Cosmic Era, both as intellectual property and as a role that some very dangerous women take on.
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