Jack is a "reformed" thief with a gift for deceit.
- Sleight of Hand
- Clever Disguise
- Master of Disguise
- Sucker Punch
- Criminal Mind
- Biiiig Family
- Tricky Bastard
- “I might be able to help you with that…”
- The Mask
- Both sides of the coin
- The Dark Knife (nemesis)
- On the Same Wavelength
- It’s not the fall that kills you…
- “That’s ridiculous… but it just might work!”
- Combat Ventriloquist
PHASE ONE: Childhood
As an infant, Jack was found by a band of gypsies, abandoned on the moors. He was raised as a member of the tribe and grew up thoroughly Roma despite his classically English appearance. His exploits as a young man are still spoken of in reverent tones by the campfire. At the age of 10, Jack was able to convince Lord Starkerforth of Hartwick-on-Gibley that he was the orphaned son of the Lord’s long-estranged sister. Two weeks later when “his father’s family” came to claim him, Lord Starkerforth gave him 50 Pounds and a tearful hug, and Jack continued to correspond and visit for years afterwards.
Biiiiig Family: Jack has family wherever there are Gypsies, and his reputation and relationships were solidly established well before he struck out on his own at fourteen.
Invoke: If Jack needs someone followed, cursed, distracted, or roughed up (for example), he can generally find a cousin willing to help him out. If the situation requires a properly dramatic consultation with an old crone to discover a truth about that strange mystic artifact he “inherited” or the bundle of feathers and twigs he found under his pillow, he can generally arrange that as well, with a bit more time and effort.
Compel: The ties of familial obligation bind both ways. Jack often finds himself bailing a cousin out of trouble or helping with various dubious enterprises.
Tricky Bastard: When the family business consists primarily of putting one over on the “citizens”, a naturally gifted young man can pick up a few tricks pretty early.
Invoke: Jack is an easy liar and quick with a story. He can convince almost anyone of almost anything.
Compel: There are some times when it’s just too easy – Jack will often tell a lie when the truth would be a better strategy.
PHASE TWO: The Great War
Jack left to make his own way at the age of fourteen and soon found his niche as a “fixer” around the Wiltshire Army camps. He provided black market goods, acted as a courier, arranged assignations, and generally provided the sort of sub rosa services that grease the wheels of a wartime economy. One way or another, he was noticed, and was doubly recruited: into the service of military intelligence, and into the Century Club. His sponsor into both organizations was the enigmatic BRIGADIER HAROLD EVANS, a retired general who seemed to have been pulling strings in the British military for as long as anyone can remember. Indeed, there was a portrait in his study that seemed to show him at the opening of Fort Stanley on Hong Kong Island in 1841. By mid-1916, the Germans were attempting to explain all of Jack’s exploits as the work of die Unbekannten (the Unknowns), which they imagined must be an entire unit of crack spies. Among other exploits, Jack was single-handedly responsible for the rescue of an entire camp of Allied prisoners of war, and sowed confusion throughout the logistical apparatus of the enemy by infiltrating a printer’s office and switching the labels for ammunition depots and brothels on an entire series of official maps. When Jack returned to England at the end of the war, he discovered that Brigadier Evans had been brutally murdered, apparently the victim of a savage animal attack while walking in his garden.
“I might be able to help you with that…”: Jack developed a particular talent for discerning the wants and needs of the people he chanced across.
Invoke: Jack can quickly ascertain the right bribe or incentive for any situation or person.
Compel: Jack hasn’t met a situation he’s not tempted to “fix”. He sizes up people based on what it will take to buy their favor and often misses the actual character of the person.
The Mask: Jack spent months and months behind enemy lines, often going from one cover to another without a break.
Invoke: When in character, Jack is in character – it is nearly impossible to break his façade.
Compel: Perhaps Jack is always in character? It seems as if his true motives and feelings may be obscure even to him. (Also, he has something of an obsession with masks as objects – he’s a great collector/accumulator of them.)
PHASE THREE: Jack’s First Pulp Novel
TITLE: Jack Incognito and the Aztec Mask Caper
GUEST STARS: Clara Cross and Rex Tesla
Jack Incognito, known to the Kraut and law enforcement alike as “The Unknown,” has larceny on his mind but duty in his heart when he sets his sights on a particularly fine pre-Columbian mask owned by a war profiteer tied to a plot to assassinate the President and replace him with a puppet. Before he can get his hands on it, he will have to score an invite from the reclusive millionaire Ernest P. Featherstone; escape the clutches of Featherstone’s lovely but unstable daughter; overcome a state-of-the-dark-arts security system; and face his wartime nemesis, die Dunkelmesser – THE DARK KNIFE! Get ready for a wild ride as Jack lies, cheats and steals his way… …to Justice!
Both sides of the coin: Jack genuinely believes in the mission of the Century Club, but also genuinely believes that the shiny thing over there should be in his own pocket.
Invoke: Jack is at his best when doing “bad” things in a good cause.
Compel: Jack has become accustomed to a certain moral buffer zone. If he becomes uncertain that he is “fighting for the right,” his performance in all areas will surely suffer.
The Dark Knife: One of the few people on either side of the war that had any idea that “The Unknowns” were actually one rather ordinary-seeming man was The Dark Knife, a shadowy figure said to be a Bulgarian intelligence agent working on behalf of the Triple Alliance. The Dark Knife tracked Jack’s movements and they eventually confronted each other in the ruins of Drégely Castle in Hungary. The two were evenly matched, and the fight lasted for hours (with both participants moving in and out of the shadows) until Jack finally got the drop and landed a knife blow that knocked his opponent unconscious. Jack carried his limp enemy’s body four miles to a training encampment and left it there, mask intact, before sneaking off into the night. They have been rivals if not enemies ever since, always looking for opportunities to foil a plot or stop (or preempt?) a heist. More than a decade later, they are still at it.
Invoke: They were very evenly matched. During his marathon fight with The Dark Knife, Jack eventually learned how to anticipate his opponent’s moves as if they were his own.
Compel: Jack really has no idea how to recognize The Dark Knife without the mask, but feels that he must follow up any lead, no matter how slim. [NOTE: If I were really writing this, it would of course turn out that The Dark Knife is Jack’s twin sister, separated from him at birth for whatever reasons…]
PHASE FOUR: Jack Incognito, guest starring in…
TITLE: Alex Petrenko in “Lady Liberty Lost”
Someone has stolen the Statue of Liberty and only Alex Petrenko of the Burns Detective Agency can solve the crime! It’s “set a thief to catch a thief” when her psychic senses pick up the notorious Jack Incognito and she reels him in to help her secure the return of the Lady to her proper home.
On the same wavelength: Jack and Alex seem to have some sort of psychic connection that goes beyond her normal abilities. Perhaps it is his gypsy upbringing, perhaps kismet, but they really know how to get under each other’s skins!
Invoke: When Alex and Jack really need to communicate beyond the means normally available, they can do so. The connection also helps them combine their efforts in certain ways – imagine Jack using his vast experience as a liar to nudge Alex in the right direction during an interview or interrogation, for instance.
Compel: Jack is all about secrets, and it seems that they’re getting harder and harder to keep with Alex around.
It’s Not The Fall That Kills You: During the rescue of Lady Liberty, Jack is forced to the roof of a skyscraper by the evil Luther Lawless. It seems all is lost, and Lawless simply cannot be allowed to win! Jack hops up to the ledge and jumps as Lawless looks on in amazement. When the blackguard reaches the edge, he sees a hole through the canopy above the doorway and Jack has seemingly vanished.
Invoke: If there’s a way down, there’s a way out…
Compel: Sometimes gravity wins… confidence and planning can only take one so far.
PHASE FIVE: Jack Incognito, guest starring in…
TITLE: Rex Tesla, Science Hero versus the League of Shadows!
Nikola Tesla has been kidnapped! Rex Tesla, the great man’s son-from-another-universe, must rescue him before the Madame Phantom and the League of Shadows gain the horrible secret of the one invention Nikola never dared to build… an invention so dangerous, it would threaten the very Earth itself! A Science Hero can do all of the analysis, but it’s going to take a people person to get the full story of what’s really going on. Luckily, Rex has brought in Jack Incognito to grease the wheels and loosen the tongues. Can a Science Hero rooted in logic and a Scoundrel rooted in deception bring the Light of Truth and Science to a populace accustomed to Darkness?
“That’s ridiculous… but it just might work.”: This is sort of the opposite of “Pseudoscientific Gobbledygook”. Consider the following exchange:
Rex: We have to decouple the Strontonium Field Oscillator and reset the power core, but there’s no way we can possibly make it in time!
Jack: Couldn’t you just… reverse the polarity
Rex: That’s ridiculous! But… it just might work!
Invoke: Years of seeing situations through the eyes of undercover personas have left Jack with an ability to cut to the heart of a problem and find a solution where the experts might get bogged down in the details.
Compel: Sometimes a lack of knowledge coupled with an excess of confidence just winds up making one sound stupid. Or do something stupid.
Combat Ventriloquist: When Rex and Jack are captured by low-level League of Shadows operatives and waiting for a higher-up to arrive and question them, Jack sows confusion by throwing his voice in imitation of some of the individual guards.
Invoke: Jack can throw his voice. Really well. Well enough to start a fight between two guards or convince someone to leave the room, for instance.
Compel: Both embarrassing and dangerous to get caught. Also, anyone that knows about it might ask him to use it as a party trick!