First Appearance: May, 1986
Sybil is a humanoid female 5’4” tall and weighing approximately 120lbs. She has coarse, dark brown hair, usually dyed black, and typically worn long. She favors antique clothing and jewelry of pre-1960s vintage, for reasons both of style and of psychic “comfort”. In foul weather, or when appearing under any sort of public scrutiny, she wraps herself in drab, dark-colored, hooded cloaks that make her seem at least twice her actual age.
Childhood and Adolescence
The specifics of Sybil’s birth and parentage remain unknown. She was presumably abducted before she was fully a year of age, and raised in an itinerant “family” at a succession of tenement apartments and trailer homes throughout the United States and Canada. The group’s surname changed with each address, and the heads of the household were known only as “Father” and “Mother”. She believes July 31, 1965, to be her date of birth, based on childhood celebrations, but no confirmation exists for it.
Sybil’s earliest memories include flashes of psychic experience – precognition, psychometry, and telepathy – which were refined and strengthened over time, partly through exercises and games which were part of the Family’s daily work and play. The specific talents of the “siblings” varied, but all were made aware of their specialness and encouraged to develop it.
But Family life for all of the children was also physically and psychologically abusive. Harsh, sometimes brutal, and often arbitrary discipline was commingled with lavish demonstrations of affection and support. Only years later did Sybil recognize that, whatever Father and Mother’s psychological shortcomings, their abusive parenting was conducted systematically – akin to the “brainwashing” techniques of cult groups or prison camp “reeducators”. Both parents possessed some measure of telepathy, which aided their manipulations. They were skilled at blocking or diverting any prying by their telepathic charges, but they seemed less psychically powerful than the children overall, and were in any event outnumbered by them, which may have lent a certain urgency to keeping the Family psychologically cowed and tractable.
The Family always remained secretive and insular, with the children constantly reminded that their discovery and murder was only a misstep away. Children under 10 to 12 years old were seldom permitted to leave the home or its immediate surroundings. Older children would look after younger, passing on lessons of suspicion and fear of what lay outside the family, and loyalty and deference to authority within it. Older children would also travel on “field trips” in pairs or with Mother or Father, learning about the wider world and how to use their powers in and on it. Frequently this would involve petty theft (abetted by telepathy, telekinesis, or the like) of cash or goods to support the family.
At age 11, while the Family was based at a trailer park outside Indianapolis, Sybil and then eldest sister Cass were spotted by police while returning home from a field trip. Upon realizing they were being followed, the two bolted, but Sybil took too direct a path home. Realizing her error after raising the alarm at home, Sybil doubled back to confront the officers, and deftly used her still-developing telepathy to effectively deflect their questions. She might well have averted discovery on her own, but Father and Mother utilized the diversion to gun down the officers, and the family went on the run. Cass was not heard from again, and Father and Mother blamed her for the fiasco, effusively praising a guilt-ridden Sybil for her quick thinking.
All of Sybil’s psychic abilities were remarkably powerful by her early teens, and her unique precognitive ability to constantly see seven seconds into the future made her particularly adept at theft and fraud. She and her older sister Morgan became inseparable co-conspirators and confidants. Both telepaths, the two found they could communicate undetected by the telepathically weaker Father and Mother by psychically “whispering” while in physical contact. Both were also sensitive psychometrists, and shared an affinity for objects that had acquired interesting psychic resonances – old objects with layered patinas of complex emotional history, and especially, given the stresses of life in the Family, items with warm, simple emotional power, like the ratty old stuffed animal of a happy child, or a dried, pressed, prom corsage.
One such artifact, a small china doll, was broken out of spite by 7-year old brother Edgar after he was confronted by Sybil rummaging through her belongings. Her focused wrath manifested in a power the 16-year old had not previously recognized, as the boy was wracked by waves of intense pain that took almost an hour to fully subside even after Sybil’s hate had abruptly shifted to fear, horror, and remorse. Father and Mother were at least as stunned by this manifestation as the rest of the family, and instead of the brutal retribution that intra-Family violence usually inspired, Sybil received only a stern, if noticeably unsettled, berating. Edgar never spoke to her again, and stayed out of her line of sight when possible.
The number of children in the Family while Sybil was a member ranged from 7 to 10. Every year or two a new infant would join the family – “rescued” as Father and Mother put it, from parents who would never have accepted it, and likely would have murdered it as a “freak” whose power they feared. It was never made clear how the Family located these infants, though Mother’s active interest in astrology is assumed to have provided the primary mechanism.
Children in their mid to late teens, meanwhile, would periodically depart the family abruptly, generally explained by Father and Mother by their having “gone away to study” in some exotic and/or romantic place like China or Europe. These departures were often accompanied by long-distance relocations and bursts of free spending by Father and Mother on new vehicles, clothing, toys, food, and such.
It was less than a year after the incident with Edgar that Mother took Sybil to lunch at a diner in Miami, and introduced her to a well-dressed man named Hector, who left some not very talkative friends in another booth to talk to the pair. Sybil was directed to identify the friends by name and tell Hector their birthdays, which she did. She was also able to name the previous owner of the watch he wore, and was even able to keep from flinching when she glimpsed how he had lost it.
Forbidden to discuss the day’s events with her siblings, Sybil nonetheless shared them in detail with Morgan, who was even more unsettled by them than she. The next day, when Sybil was directed to pack for her trip to “school in South America,” she and Morgan had time for only a brief goodbye hug, during which Morgan’s final thought message was simply, “Run!”
But, ever curious, Sybil remained cooperative as she was left with Hector’s entourage in a dance club parking lot, and returned with them to their boss’s lavish condominium. Disturbed by her psychic impressions of the place – like a desert, dotted with spiky cacti of emotional turmoil – she was nevertheless impressed by her spacious quarters and lavish, if new and emotionally sterile, wardrobe. She spent a few days in well-fed near isolation, finding the thoughts of the few, taciturn “friends” of Hector’s she encountered to be too crude and menacing to want to spend much time sifting through them.
Hector himself finally appeared one night, barging into her suite in a loud and boisterous mood, and announcing that since she knew so much about people, it was time for him to get to know her. Sybil hoped to calm him or deflect his attention, but Hector’s thoughts were too agitated and ugly to shift through productively, and her evasions only angered him. When he produced a knife and began slashing threateningly at her gown, his mind flashing with scenes of what he had apparently already done to other girls, and her own precognition showing what he had in store for her, Sybil froze up in fear. Yet when that fear seemed to arouse and amuse Hector, and when her tears elicited his outright laughter, it was Sybil’s anger that began to rise. Feeling the wave build within her the way it had that day with Edgar, Sybil steadied her breathing and spewed her hate at Hector without restraint.
Collecting herself, Sybil sensed some of Hector’s men responding to the screams, and concentrated on diverting them. It took less effort than she’d feared, as his screams sounded more like a woman’s than his own, and this was a sound they were hesitant to intrude upon. As Hector tried futilely to cut away the pain with his knife, Sybil navigated her way out of the apartment around and behind the backs of his men.
The streets of Miami were less mean for Sybil than for 17-year old girls without telepathy and precognition, and she had soon obtained enough money to relocate to Atlanta, where she settled for a time, working as a diner waitress. One day she averted a traffic accident about to occur outside the restaurant, saving Malik, a local street kid. Sensing the life of crime and abuse he led, and saddened by the thought of having saved him for more of the same, Sybil undertook a semi-clandestine reform campaign, openly and telepathically encouraging Malik’s productive interests and activities, while simultaneously disrupting and discouraging local criminal activities and sending anonymous tips to the police. Each success as a psychic “guardian angel” encouraged further activities.
In 1984, Sybil chanced upon a news item about a mass murder outside Bullhead City, AZ. Two adults and seven children had been found dead, their trailer burned. The identities of the victims were unknown, and the corpses unrecognizable due to the fire and to shotgun wounds to their faces. While nothing conclusively identified the victims as her former Family, the circumstantial evidence, together with familiar items in the debris shown in crime scene photos, were enough to convince Sybil. A dissatisfied customer, or perhaps a friend of Hector’s, exacting revenge? A rival of a customer seeking to destroy their enemy’s source of power? Spies or witch hunters or a hyper-aggressive neighborhood watch? Whoever the culprits, Sybil again feared discovery, and moved to New York City, curtailing her psychic activities.
By 1986, Sybil had slipped back into a measure of clandestine psychic freelancing, generally psychometry of crime scenes or connected objects in hope of being able to track down usable evidence to which the police could be anonymously directed. When the daughter of the Italian ambassador to the UN was kidnapped, it was generally assumed to have been an act of political terrorism, particularly when the Red Brigades terrorist group publicly took credit. A psychic reading of the scene, however, led Sybil to attribute the kidnapping to a cult worshiping the pagan goddess Cybele Magna Mater which planned a human sacrifice. Feeling out of her league and unable to sway the police on the matter, Sybil approached the Defenders superhero group for assistance.
Sybil helped the superheroes find and capture several cult members, and tracked down the ceremony to a secret grotto in the woodlands of northern New Jersey. There the Defenders battled light-controlling androgyne Elagabalus, Fleur du Mal – mistress of vampire plants, and numerous tentacled avatars of Cybele Magna Mater to thwart the ceremony. Sybil threw herself in the path of a light beam from Elagabalus to save the ambassador’s daughter, and would likely have perished if the Defenders’ Starstrike had not delivered one of his trademark overkill energy barrages to fell the villain.
New York Defenders
Impressed by Sybil’s courage and abilities, the Defenders asked her to join them, and she, flattered by their praise and by Starstrike’s none-too-subtle romantic interest, agreed. Her talents greatly enhanced the team’s operations, though compensating for her limited personal mobility and the short range of her telepathy required teamwork and practice. While Starstrike would often contrive reasons to carry her himself, her inability to endure hypersonic speeds meant that she more commonly traveled on Valkyre’s cloud steed over long distances. Over the next three years, Sybil was vital to over a dozen major investigations, and participated in major battles versus both mortal foes and supervillains including Shee-Ariel, Dr. Pestilence, Imhotep, Quasar, and Skylon.
The group dynamic of the Defenders was quite comforting to Sybil, who had been quite lonely since leaving the Family, and whatever interpersonal conflicts the Defenders had to offer were trivial compared to the Family’s engineered psychodrama. If she sometimes found Starstrike’s personality unsettlingly intense, and his attentions a trifle smothering, those too were minor grievances compared to her past life. When the Defenders mobilized for a mission to aid an alien civilization under some form of attack in the Tau Ceti star system, Sybil, while apprehensive, would have accompanied the team without a second thought, but her relative physical fragility raised serious concerns. In the end, she remained behind with Starfish-Man as the Defenders went to their uncertain fate.
Contact with Philadelphia’s new System Four superhero group was reassuring, particularly as supervillain activity began to heighten in the Defenders' absence, and Sybil quickly cultivated a friendship with the new team. She felt a particularly warm bond with Psion, as the first telepath she had met since leaving her friend Morgan. Recognizing him as a much more temperamentally compatible potential paramour, she was troubled by the feeling that pursuing a relationship would feel like a betrayal of the missing Starstrike.
Sybil’s conflict was unfortunately rendered moot by an attack by a large force of supervillains on System Four’s Liberty headquarters during one of her visits. When she was grabbed by the fiendish armored psychopath Violator, Psion failed in a last ditch attempt to disable the carbide buzzsaw the villain held at Sybil’s throat, and she suffered a fatal, near-decapitating, wound. Efforts by Psion to psychically heal or resurrect her proved futile, with analysis after the fact suggesting that the soul of so formidable a psychic may have been that much less firmly anchored in her body than that of most mortals. It has also been noted that Sybil appeared to make no effort to use her psychic pain attack on Violator, but speculation as to whether this was for some technical reason; because she realized precognitively that, with her trapped in his choke hold, it would not have diverted his saw anyway; or simply because of her visceral distaste for using the power; will of course never be settled.
Heightened Intelligence – Sybil’s intelligence is classed as unmeasurable by conventional testing systems, which are not considered to produce meaningful scores above a 200 IQ. Her unconventional and spotty educational history has, in some respects, limited the knowledge base on which that intelligence can draw, but her capacity to absorb and retain new information remains superhuman.
Precognition – Sybil sees seven seconds into the future at all times, though she is normally only "peripherally" conscious of this view. Her own actions may change this future, and she is instantly aware of such alterations, but she is no more capable of "running hypotheticals" based simply on contemplation of alternative actions than is any mortal. At a subconscious level, this power is thought to be the basis for Sybil's heightened agility.
Psychometry – Sybil can read psychic vibrations (especially emotional residues, but sometimes images as well) from objects with which she has physical contact, or sometimes from areas she occupies. The duration of such residues varies with their intensity, but extremely powerful emotions, or cumulative vibrations built up over time, may endure for years, or even centuries.
Telepathy – Sybil's ability to send and receive thoughts has a range limited to about 150’. She is highly skilled, however, at utilizing and manipulating that information. She has extensive training in practical psychology which, coupled with her precognitive ability, makes her highly effective at not only making "suggestions" to influence a target's actions, but subtly directing his very thoughts, building upon the target's expectations, desires, and fears. These abilities may only be applied to a single target at a time, but depending on circumstances, and with effort, Sybil can keep a number of "plates spinning" simultaneously. She can operate a simple "mental switchboard" for up to 32 minds at once, but this precludes undertaking more subtle applications simultaneously. If she desires to resist telepathic examination herself, Sybil can not only seek to simply block such attempts, but also has some ability to think in two channels to deceive eavesdroppers.
Aura Burn – Sybil's pain-causing ability has a range of about 15’. While she little understands the ability herself, having used it only twice, psychic researchers have found that similar attacks upon a target's aura cause tremendous, incapacitating pain throughout their body. This pain is probably greater than is capable of being generated physically, and will affect persons with neural damage, amputated limbs, etc. under circumstances where pain cannot normally be felt. The effect can last for minutes, hours, or days, and may also cause lasting mental illness and/or chronic maladies such as cancer or autoimmune diseases.
Sybil speaks American accented, high-school level Spanish and French