Orion Assante was a member of a wealthy aristocratic family in the post-apocalyptic world of Grendel during the era of Pope Innocent XLII. He had two sisters, Neki and Cesti, with whom he was very close. He was the head of Labor for the BASIC System, one of the corporation-states in the west of North America. He was a principled man determined to help the people of his System.
Assante's family converted from Greek Orthodox to American Catholicism during the Great Unification. As a teenager he began to lose his faith, a situation not made better by his father being excommunicated by the church. Despite this his family became wealthy and achieved high social status. Orion Assante grew up in a life of privilege. As members of the aristocracy, he and his sisters enjoyed a large house, wealth, and even household servants. By the age thirty-seven Assante began his crusade against the Catholic Church. The Church had become powerful, its leaders vain, vapid, and decadent. Pope Innocent XLII was building a massive Tower at new Vatican, Vatican Ouest, located in Colorado, which was draining the coffers of its parishioners.
God and the Devil
Assante went to the Board, the central governing body of the various Systems, to create a committee to investigate the Church. He sought to eliminate a law which gave the church funds matched by the government for any money raised. Led by his boss and ally, Sherri Caniff, they approved his committee and he went to visit the Pope. During his meetings with Innocent, Assante would provoke him, trying to throw him off balance by angering him. Innocent quickly grew to see Orion as a thorn in his side.
However, he not only went after the Church through official channels, but also through a shadowy cabal of four wealthy aristocrats, the Deva Princes, to which he belonged. Some of them were in favor of his committee, and others wanted to assassinate the Pope.
Orion continued to keep close tabs on everything that the church did. He was very good at using bureaucratic processes to study and outmaneuver the Church. He and his sisters, who often gave him treasured advice, witnessed the televised broadcast where Grendel emerged once again as an individual, after so many years as a symbol. He attacked a Church service, stole the offering money, and scattered it among the crowd outside. This masked figure, who so openly defied the church, instantly became a secondary focus of his teams efforts. Orion later witnessed the devil firsthand while showing his sisters the horrors of the church bazaar. Grendel's brief tussle occurred not only with C.O.P., but with Pellon Cross. Cross was a particularly deadly member of C.O.P., and had not been fully active in the field for several years. His involvement with the church only deepened Orion's sense of what was going on.
He utilized two assistants, Sharon and Fadi, to investigate the Church. They discovered that the Church was hiring an inordinate number of LASERUS-Solar employees. Unfortunately, digging up this information brought Sharon to the attention of Pellon Cross, who had her killed. This was only the first of many deaths that would weigh on Orion's shoulders as he continued his battle against the Church.
Orion quit the Deva Princes, whom he thought were too extreme and yet also too slow to action. His committee seemed more effective. During his digging into church affairs Orion found more information implicating the church, including banned schematics of a working atom bomb. Bringing this information to the Board produced more results. Orion's commission grew more powerful, capable of limiting the church's televised broadcasts despite Innocent acquiring rights to virtually every sector. Innocent responded by summoning one of Orion's primary contacts within the council, Sherri Caniff, to the holy Inquisition. As soon as he heard the news, he had Fadi on the case, and quickly located the man whose false accusations allowed the holy Inquisition to make the summons. They were able to find enough dirt on the man to not only make him publicly recant his accusations, but commit suicide in order to take the easy way out. Innocent was even further angered by this news. He now directed Cross not only against Grendel, but also against Orion. It was soon after that Orion gained even more information into the the church's dealings when he learned from the African Pope that Pope Innocent had ordered over six hundred tons of bananas from the fledgling nation of SCAUR. At the time he had no idea of the implications of this seemingly bizarre move.
When Grendel appeared at the mass commemorating the rebuilding of the Bazaar that he had damaged, Orion witnessed his even more direct and violent defiance of the Pope. He found himself not only interested, but admiring the masked devil in both his technological ingenuity and actions. He watched as Grendel took out Pellon Cross after an aerial pursuit and once again evaded capture by C.O.P. After hearing news about the banana purchase, Orion used his authority to continue investigating the church's financial records, discovering that current records were exact duplicates of accounting records from over a hundred years prior. Given this new information and the inquisitional summons of one of the council members, Assante brought to the council's attention the danger of any or all members being summoned by the church. The brilliance of this move was the appeal to the council's sense of self-preservation. Since most members were either Catholic or at least baptized, the church had jurisdiction in summoning any member to appear before the holy inquisition. In pushing the council to rule that all members were immune to the church's inquisition, Assante also made sure to insure his own immunity from any summons the church would produce. The very next day C.O.P. accusers were at his door with a summons to the high tribunal of the holy inquisition, and Assante was able to turn them away. The Pope was infuriated by this action. Assante was rapidly growing from a thorn in his side to a major obstacle in his not fully known objectives. When the church began targeting those close to Orion he remarked that he had begun to feel (ironically) like Christine Spar.
After confirming the lead on the bananas, Orion brought the news to the Board's attention. The council members were unwilling to pursue the questionable nature of this transaction and even those on the council who were not influenced by the church were unable to assist him. Orion quit his committee and took things into his own hands by contacting the news media and publicly making accusations against the church. Because of his status with the powerful church and his open defiance of the council's orders, Orion went into hiding. It pained him to have to distance himself from his sisters, but they believed that they could do more good for his cause exactly where they were. Meanwhile, the remaining Deva Princes were arrested and tortured. Orion was beginning to feel seriously hounded.
Orion set up his base of operations in a hidden structure near Mt. Rushmore deep underground. His father had constructed the cavernous compound when he first learned that he would be excommunicated from the church. From there his underground rebellion continued to grow. He recruited new members that did not have family ties that the pope could exploit. A group calling themselves Orion's Sword even sprung up without his knowing, publicly protesting the church. Orion's team crafted the ability to interrupt any church broadcasts for a limited period of time and Orion began making brief televised appearances during church time. Their own broadcast override was overridden by none other than Grendel. This was not entirely unwanted, as Grendel continued to make televised appearances mocking the church and its followers. They shared the same goal, even if they had very different motivations and means. Orion's main fear was that Grendel's obviously crazy and violent approach would become associated with his own attacks on the Church.
A Final Straw and a Final Battle
Orion came back into town to see his sisters. His contacts were able to infiltrate high levels of security within the Vatican tower, and Orion was presented with the opportunity to get into the tower in disguise. With his new access he discovered the room at the highest point in the the tower, but couldn't get past the unexpectedly high security. Assante got some good news from Fadi, who thought she might have discovered the true identity of Grendel, based on his high tech scores in school many years ago. Prior to entering the church, Orion demanded that his sisters retreat to the safety of the mountainous compound. They finally agreed, but at that point it was too late. The church had C.O.P. staking out the Assante household. When his sisters fled they were persued and fired upon. Just when the chase seemed to be going in their favor, a garbage truck pulled out in front of them and the ensuing crash killed everyone involved.
Orion was crushed by the deaths of his sisters. Where the pain could have killed him, Assante's resolve was strengthened. He was determined to bring an end to it all. Fadi gave him the address of their current Grendel suspect, Eppy Thatcher. Thatcher lived in a miserable apartment building. Assante arrived and was shocked to find Cross, now a vampire, standing over the broken window in Thatcher's apartment. Cross had also been targeting Thatcher as Grendel, and had fought the vigilante resulting in Thatcher's fleeing just moments before. When Cross saw Assante he lunged at him with the speed and agility of an animal. Cross stood over Assante ready for the kill. Orion had to think of something and took two pieces of broken wood and made the shape of a cross. This caused Cross to pause, remembering that it was Innocent who had turned him into a vampire; he now sought him out and ignored Orion.
Cross scaled the outside of the main church tower by hand while Assante flew behind him in his car. Within minutes Cross was nearly at the top. Orion reached the top of the main spire with Cross and, remembering Christine Spar's notes, used the chemicals around him to light Cross on fire. Cross went sailing out the spire's window, crashing down on the ground over a kilometer below. At the top of the Tower Orion found one of Innocent's lackeys, who had taken in the stray feline form of Tujiro XIV (who had fought Christine Spar so many years ago and now has risen to become Pope) years before. It from him that Assante discovered the truth about Innocent's great weapon, the Sun-Gun. Orion rushed out to rally his army to destroy the Sun-Gun, while Cross regrouped his legion of vampires for a second attack, and Thatcher as Grendel prepared for his final assault.
Orion's men and Pellon's vampires came into conflict with the drug-induced crowd (which Grendel had drugged) amassed to worship, as well as the church's army. Thatcher flew to location of the now-revealed Sun-Gun to attack Innocent directly. The ensuing battle ended with the destruction of the Sun-Gun and the Tower as Grendel threw the pope in front of the active beam of the Gun, vaporizing him. The rubble of the church tower came crashing down upon the drugged up and unsuspecting heads of the worshipers, as well as the church officials and vampires. Many of the vampires would survive and flee to regroup. Thatcher flew away, burning, and Assante fled in one of his men's cars.
His earlier identification with Christine Spar had grown, and he was now on his way to becoming the next Grendel, even growing a white streak in his hair like Hunter and Christine. The church had been brought to its knees, and Innocent's legacy was finally over. Assante had won the war, but his job was not over. Now he would need to rebuild.
After the collapse of the church the people were scattered and afraid. Orion Assante leaped at the opportunity to rebuild an even stronger nation than before. Orion's Sword continued operations, and through the television network that they had developed they filled the air waves with public service messages directed at the people. Orion's Sword continued to combat the vampire plague both at ground level and through television messages geared towards educating the population on how to spot and deal with potential vampires. Pellon Cross and a portion of his vampire hordes consequently moved to Las Vegas where they ended up taking over Caesar's Palace and changed its name to Grendel's Palace.
The committee for which Orion had worked while combating the church appointed him to head the reconstruction efforts, further legitimizing Assante's role. One of his first moves was to organize the remnants of C.O.P. C.O.P. had fallen apart, and was now composed of smaller, localized bands of militia. Orion brokered deals with C.O.P, reorganizing them into a larger collective. Eventually C.O.P. merged into the greater Orion's Sword, becoming the primary defensive and law-keeping force. Next Assante focused on bringing the nation as a whole back together. Through bold leadership and political trickery, Assante maneuvered the public into voting in a landslide for bringing the nation back together as one national entity--Calmerica. Orion constructed the capitol of the nation's new government on the grounds where Vatican Ouest once stood, a building known as the Sun House.
Sherri continued to be a larger and larger portion of Orion's life, as a support structure and also finally as a romantic partner. While it was pleasing to neither of them, Sherri became a de facto ambassador for Calmerica and spent much of her time abroad. In order to help assist Orion with the daily works of running Calmerica, Sherri sent over Emanuel McDoon from her work in Australia. "Manny" was a psychic, and as such was able to read the thoughts of those in Orion's presence, and communicate with Orion directly using his telepathy. Manny became an indispensible part of Orion's work, and allowed him to be a firm but fair leader. By knowing the true intentions behind those he dealt with, Assante was able to manipulate any situation to his advantage. By this point Assante was known by a nickname that was previously only used behind his back, Grendel. Starting with the forces of Orion's Sword as a term of respect, Assante eventually became known as the Grendel Khan.
Globally Calmerica was also not without issues. The nation of Great Japan continually sought more power, and through forcing embargoes on Calmerica they attempted to cripple the rising power. With food supplies at risk it was important for Calmerica to develop a self-sustaining food supply. Assante fought back at Great Japan on several fronts, eventually creating an Australian branch of Orion's Sword to combat subliminal propaganda that Japan was putting out on Australia's airwaves. The Australian Orion's Sword forces were met with great enthusiasm, and funds needed to be diverted to continue growth. Eventually Australia eliminated their rather weak military forces alltogether, choosing to use Orion's Sword as their primary means of protection.
The Australians were pleased with the direction things were going, and the country as a whole thrived after the arrival of Grendel's Sword. Eventually the Australian president invited Assante over for talks. The Australian president was no great leader, and with the support of the Australian people they sought to merge with the Calmerican government to form UNOW, the United Nations of the World.
The next step was to unite with SCAUR (South America). Orion plotted with a drug kingpin, Diamond Diego, to overthrow the SCAUR government. He and Manny visited him, and Manny used his powers to imbue Diego's drug supply with positive feelings about UNOW. Anyone who took the drugs would like UNOW. Diego planned to double-cross them, but Orion took that into account. Diego had the leader of SCAUR killed and replaced with an ineffective new leader. Soon their economy was in a shambles and they welcomed UNOW's entreaty to join them. Orion was going to have Diego killed, but Pellon Cross did it first.
Earlier, Sherri had become pregnant. Unfortunately, she had a miscarriage, and Orion was crushed.
Orion visited Africa to quell their worries about UNOW's expansion, but Sherri was kidnapped while they were there. Orion fell apart emotionally, and Fadi started a relationship with him to keep him stable. The kidnappers demanded that UNOW disband. Orion and his advisors put together a complex plan where by Africa was fed fake news signals that said that UNOW agreed. At the same time, they invaded Africa through a sneak attack, freeing Sherri and capturing Africa's nuclear weapons, the only ones in the world. Orion, Sherri, and Fadi now began a successful triangular, romantic relationship.
However, their success was mitigated when Fadi found out that Great Japan was secretly behind the kidnapping, not Africa. Also, their main general, Oskar Berlinetta, was getting very aggressive and wanted to move his army across Asia to capture China and Great Japan. Orion had to constantly argue with him to keep him in check.
It was a very stressful time, made even worse when Sherri died suddenly from cancer. This was the final straw for Orion, who had otherwise done so many hard things in his life, and he fled the seat of government in a deep depression. He hid out with Manny in his old base near Mt. Rushmore.
Fadi took over the government, using a hologram of him to give commands, but she could only do it for so long. Berlinetta kept harassing her and eventually threatened to use the nukes to attack Great Japan unless he met with Orion in person.
Meanwhile, Orion was terrified by the idea that he might be becoming Grendel--literally possessed by the Devil. He had Manny find Eppy Thatcher, who had survived his fight with Innocent. Thatcher was insane but apparently no longer possessed. Orion couldn't get any sane comments out of him, but their conversation inspired him to rebuild Innocent's Sun Gun. He rushed back to the capital, demoted Berlinetta, and had his scientists build a Sun Disc. He then used it to destroy Great Japan entirely. He was now in charge of the entire world, and took the official title of Grendel Khan.
During his last many years as Grendel Khan, Orion started slipping from his earlier mastery of politics. Sherri was dead, and Manny had also died. Fadi soon died as well, but not before she made him promise to have an heir. He married Laurel Kennedy, one of his new advisors. She knew about his promise to Fadi, and manipulated him and the government for her own good. However, they found out that she couldn't have any more children, and so Orion undertook his last major new initiative: he used the advanced science of the day to have himself impregnated.
All this time, the vampires were imprisoned in the Grendel's Palace casino. However, some of them had broken out, and were making plans to achieve greater freedom for all their kind. One of them, Zebra, thought that Orion would notice these plans, and tried to assassinate him. He was stopped by a forcefield. Reminded of the vampires for the first time in decades, Orion sent a fleet to destroy VEGAS. Some vampires survived and fled to the desert, however.
Orion finally gave birth to his son, Jupiter. He spent most of his time raising Jupiter at this point, and was proud of him. However, Laurel used this time to take over even more of the government, and when Orion finally died, she announced that Jupiter was too young, and made herself the leader of the world until he was older. She led a corrupt reign for the next ten years.
Unknown to Laurel Kennedy, Orion knew that she was trying to manipulate him, and built a cyborg named Grendel Prime under a secret program named Project Athena. Years after Orion died, Grendel Prime rescued Jupiter from Kennedy until he was old enough to take back his throne by force. Orion saved a holographic recording of himself that Grendel Prime could show to allies, in case he needed to prove that he was carrying on Orion's orders. Orion had also taken some important technological components out of the Sun Disc, knowing that Kennedy or her successors would misuse it. He put these parts into Grendel Prime, so that he could reactivate it when Jupiter really needed it--as indeed he did. When Jupiter finally tool control, he showed a final hologram from Orion to Kennedy, in which he told her how he knew about her schemes all along.