Zane Kicklighter had a wild childhood. For the first ten years of his life, his mother was an activist high school teacher, and his father a freelance construction worker in Platinum City. But sometime after his 11th birthday, Zane’s parents, Simone and David Kicklighter, were visited by a pair of mysterious lost souls called ghost orphans. The ghost orphans phantom-fused with the spirits of the couple, and took up residence in their bodies.
Zane possesses pyrokinesis which allows him to create and control fire. He has also been trained to use various types of swords.
Simone and David’s lives didn’t exactly change after the fusion; it would be more accurate to say that their lives were enhanced. Zane watched as the presence of the ghost orphans made Simone a more tenacious activist, and David an even more skilled construction worker. He also witnessed as his parents took up new hobbies, such as fencing, kickboxing, and other activities in which their new, controlled aggression came in quite handy. But most of all, he thought it was the coolest thing that his parents began to exhibit paranormal abilities, such as astral projection and energy manipulation, as well as enhanced speed and strength.
It was the new normal for the Kicklighters; but that normal would only last a couple of years, as Zane would wake up one morning and discover he had the ability to create and manipulate fire with his hands. His parents (both their human sides and paranormal sides) were ecstatic at the manifestation and development of his hyper-abilities. And those powers would become especially useful when Alva Devine, and a group hell-spawned hunters called reapers, arrived at the Kicklighter home.
Alva and her cohorts were specially equipped with ghost-blades, which uniquely enabled the reapers to extract the ghost orphans from their human hosts, and subsequently send the spirits to hell. The Kicklighters, of course, were not going down without a fight! Simone, David and Zane unleashed the full extent of their considerable powers against the reapers.
Zane discovered that his powers were insanely potent, and despite being just a teenager, he gave the reapers all they could handle. The battle, however, was brutal, and Zane watched as his childhood home was torn to shreds and nearly reduced to rubble. Then the unthinkable happened – the hell-spawns gained the advantage, and Alva was able to slay Zane’s mother. Simone fell dead, and her ghost orphan was whisked away to the realm of the damned.
That was when Disa Philadelphia, the mighty leader of the Veil, showed up. The Veil is a group of noble hunters who hunt down ghost orphans with the goal and purpose of sending them to a heavenly afterlife. As the majority of ghost orphans, however, Zane’s father had no intention of giving up his earthly immortality, even if it meant risking the possibility of hell. As Disa engaged the reapers in battle, the Kicklighters thought their opportunity to escape had presented itself. But Disa was not alone; her daughter and son, Valerie and Peter, were with her.
Valerie immediately went after David. Zane attempted to defend his father, but even with his powers engulfing much of the house in flames, he was no match for the skill of the hunters. The boy watched as Valerie cut down his father, and sent the ghost orphan to eternity.
With both ghost orphans caught, the reapers fled the scene. Disa, Peter and Valerie prepared to disappear as well, before realizing the battle had left young Zane Kicklighter with no parents. The kid had been knocked unconscious during the fight, and Valerie suggested they just leave him. Disa, however, disagreed and after a few moments of debate made the decision to bring Zane home with them. The vast majority of Veil hunters disagreed with this course of action, but Disa was adamantly against leaving the teenage hyper-human alone.
When Zane awoke, he was in Disa’s Platinum City apartment. His wounds from the battle had been attended to, and he had a bandage on his head and a splint holding his injured leg in place. Disa attempted to talk to him, but he was despondent at first. Then Peter, who was only a few years older than Zane, decided to sit down with him and explain the full history of the ghost orphans, the Veil, the reapers, and the centuries-old war that had waged betwixt the three groups. From that day on, Zane looked to Peter as a mentor and big brother.
Peter began to train Zane in several forms of combat and swordplay. And though the orphaned teen could not wield a living-blade like the Veil hunters, he did gain an above average proficiency with katana swords and fencing foils. All of that, along with his ability to wield the element of fire, made him a very formidable combatant.
After graduating from high school, Zane was enrolled in Platinum City University. All Veil children attended PCU, where they received degrees in their chosen areas of study, while continuing to train in the secluded Deep Wing of the campus. Disa and Peter insisted Zane be allowed to train with the other Veil children, and though many of the prominent hunters were weary of the prospect of having an outsider join their ranks, most were not in the habit of questioning the two greatest hunters to ever walk the face of the Earth. And most of all, Disa’s judgement had consistently proven to be sound over many years. They trusted her.
Initially the other Veil students made Zane feel like every bit the outsider he was, however, the young fire starter’s easygoing demeanor and self-deprecating sense of humor eventually endeared him to the others. They were also impressed by his fighting skills, and riveted by the stories he shared from his years of living as the child of two ghost orphan parents. But most of all, it was his fierce commitment to the Veil’s cause that ingratiated him to his fellow students. Zane was an orphan no more.
It was in his third year as a student at PCU, when a ghost orphan by the name of Derek Loman arrived on campus, and announced the onset of a chain of events that he claimed would lead to the downfall of the Veil, and the rise of the ghost orphans back to the place of dominance over the hunters they once held. The first event would be the arrival of thousands of ghost-orphaned humans on PCU’s campus, where they would march silently around the Central Administration Complex for seven weeks. Zane was walking through the campus quad, when he saw the multitude of paranormal beings making their way across the Lebanon Memorial Bridge.
In the third week of the silent march Zane received a visit from a paranormal being called a sonic wraith. The vast majority of ghost orphans could only phantom-fuse to one human spirit for the duration of a person’s life, before being forced to leap to another body because of the death of its host. Sonic wraiths were a special brand of ghost orphan, for they could de-fuse from a spirit at any time, live outside of human bodies for long periods, and even split their spirit amongst a number of hosts simultaneously. Sonic wraiths were rare, but extremely dangerous.
The sonic wraith that came to Zane’s dorm room that night called itself Agriya. The ghastly creature floated before the nervous, but intrigued students for a long moment, before revealing that it had known his parents. Furthermore, the being told Zane that his parents actually were not dead. Agriya explained the paralytic mythos behind sonic wraiths, then claimed that he could be reunited with David and Simone, if he truly wanted to. Zane was weary, but his love for, and memories of his parents were powerful, and he made up his mind to do whatever it took to see his parents’ faces again.
Agriya instructed Zane to travel to a small cemetery, not far from Platinum City University, where he would find a tree-pod grave adorned with the name “Cross Hutchinson.” The student left the campus, hopped a train, and traveled about a half-hour north to the gravesite. Once there, the sonic wraith reappeared, and instructed the young man to begin digging. It took just a few minutes of clawing the dirt away with his hands, before he found a small, ornate box. Agriya assured him that all he had to do was open the box to be reunited with his parents.
The box was sealed by a strange substance. Luckily, the sealant was susceptible to his pyrokenetic abilities, and he was able to break through it. Zane took a deep breath and opened the box. Within seconds, the boy knew he had been lied to, for a blast of dark light was unleashed from the box, and dozens of other ghastly sonic wraiths poured out of the box and into the sky! Zane began to unleash blasts of fire at the creatures, but the projectile flames simply phased through the wraiths.
Zane had no idea that the small box he had unwittingly opened was an important artifact known in ghost orphan circles as the Ark. It was a storage unit for a squad of sonic wraiths that Disa Philadelphia had attempted to hunt down and catch some years prior, during her 40-day ghost orphan slaying rampage, that had come to be known as The Flood. They had avoided detection by encapsulating themselves in the special container, where they could safely wait until Disa’s wrath had blown.
Agriya had decided, however, not to unleash the sonic wraiths until a more strategic moment presented itself. With the march on Platinum City University possibly serving as a precursor to the fall of the Veil, as well as an apparent alliance being cemented between reaper queen Alva Devine and a group of renegade ghost orphans, led by the diabolical Virginia Ice, Agriya had determined that this was indeed the time. Zane watched helplessly, as the malevolent spirits circled high above his head for a few moments, before suddenly turning, and rushing west.
Zane – and the Veil hunters – would soon learn that the sonic wraiths had found their way into North Platinum City Hyper Max Penitentiary, and subsequently into the bodies and spirits of hundreds of convicted felons. The young man had unknowingly unleashed hell.