A major part of the changes between Heroes? and Professionals has been the attempt to fit a broad spectrum of exceptional things into a consistent set of laws under which they operate. This document is intended as a short primer into the most important concepts.
In The Beginning
Since the very beginning of the universe, two major forces have been in constant conflict: Creation, and Destruction. In their purest forms, they are raw energy, and correspond roughly to what one might label as "God" and "Devil", with the caveat that these energies are not distinct enough to say that either of them is a single entity; they instead resonate throughout reality, guiding events as it suits their purpose. Creation gently nudged along the formation of matter at the event we know as Big Bang, adjusting a young universe to suit its purposes. Destruction set about to decay, but for the time being, things were good - and boring.
The First Angels
Creation, in its almost mindless pursuit to construct new things, enabled the self-organisation of complex molecules, assembling the first life as bacteria. The actual living matter was almost disregarded by Creation; instead, it began to mold the energy patterns of life to its purposes, creating its first (and mightiest) servants - Archangels. Existing at a very single-minded level of consciousness, each of them was tasked with a seperate field of overseeing reality and defending it against Destruction. In creating life, the Symphony sprung into being, tethering all of life to each other.
Things were good - and about to change.
Lucifer and the Angels
The Archangel of Light came into being with a minute, but dramatic flaw: his consciousness included the potential to expand. Gradually, Lucifer became distant from the other Archangels, his mind growing ever more complex. While Creation oversaw the further swelling of its ranks with less powerful angels, Lucifer thought. For the first mind to possess free will, everything was new, and everything new took a long time to assimilate. Still, even if only slowly, Lucifer grew smarter - and angrier.
Mankind and The Fall
Turning their attention to the material world, the angels found that the physical life Creation had once abandoned had prospered on Earth, ever growing and developing until humans appeared on the scene. After only a few thousand years of observation, it became clear that there was a new power on the scene - man, infused with latent amounts of Creation and Destruction, and possessed of the mental ability to eventually discover and tap into these powers. Lucifer believed that this was an opportunity, but the other Archangels were having none of it - what should they care about the material world? Clearly, physical life was a mere fluke. Lucifer's thoughts spread through the domain of Creation, swaying angels who had been infused with some of his essence in their creation. Disagreement became resentment as Lucifer created a faction of angels who were very much interested in the physical world.
Finally, the other Archangels decided that they could not let Lucifer remain with them, lest he eventually sway even more angels from the "true path"; they banished him and his followers. With no place to go, Lucifer attuned himself and his followers to Destruction, vowing to use the power to defend Mankind.
And yet, thriving on the power to decay and destroy, they became corrupt and selfish, embracing their dark desires and becoming demons. Lucifer himself became Ruler of Destruction's domain - Hell.
Soon, angels and demons clashed in a bloody conflict over mastery of the physical world. In a few hours of our time, the two powers devastated a fledgling humanity, killing many in the fighting. Realising that this was what neither side wanted, they began to draw up conditions for an armistice, postponing their fight until the end of the world - the Apocalypse.
The so-called Eternal War therefore quickly went cold, but raged on behind the scenes as the various rules of the Stability Pact were quickly undermined by both sides in a new game of cloak and dagger.
The first Paladin
The angels still had a rather poor understanding of mankind, none of them possessing free will - but the demons were not encumbered by such problems. The demons had much more success in infiltrating humanity, while Creation had to rely on a rather heavy-handed approach to keep things at bay. Finally, Creation built a new group of angels, the Grigori, specifically to deal with mankind. The Grigori were much better at subterfuge and freely mingled with humans; in doing so, they realized that humans themselves could take place in the Eternal War. Some Grigori even intermixed with humans, creating a race of offspring called Nephilim - Dark Angels, born as humans and yet possessed of supernatural powers.
After a quick search for a suitable candidate, the first Paladin was created. Blessed with the power of Creation, an ordinary man could channel supernatural powers and fight demons whereever they appeared, on almost even footing. With no angel and demon directly meeting in battle, the Stability Pact was upheld.
A full analysis of the events surrounding Mark Simmons is out of the scope of this article; see his page for more info.
In any event, Mark's stint as Paladin triggered several important changes in the balance of power, chiefly among them the widespread release of supernatural power among mankind (see Metahumans) and the power shift away from Destruction through Lucifer abandoning his position of power and beginning to strive for redemption.
Heaven and Hell
Today, Heaven and Hell constitute the vast majority of the afterlife, with the Limbo a rather smaller part run jointly by both Creation and Destruction.
Entrance to Heaven is considered a reward for a good life. Heaven is, from a strictly rational point of view, structured like a massively parallel meta-simulation, running a different scenario for every inhabitant. With its ability to simulate just about everything, everyone can suit his afterlife to his personal preferences. Heaven also includes common areas, where souls can talk to each other or the angels. There is no hunger or pain in Heaven; anyone put into a simulation of a dangerous situation will without fail survive the experience, or rather fail to die or be injured. Objects that would injure become insubstantial, even the highest fall leads to a soft landing. Of course, some souls reject these limitations; Heaven even accomodates them by allowing them to feel hunger or pain within their own simulation, but even so, there are no crippling injuries or 'second deaths'.
Everybody passes through Limbo, but few stay for a long time; it is decided here where a soul goes after the death of its body. If no decision can be made either way, the soul can be sent back into a new body, effectively reincarnating the person.
If a soul is punished to stay in Hell, it will see the flipside of Heaven. Here, hunger and pain are not only present, but almost mind-numbingly intense - as are all negative feelings. Within Hell, there are only few places that are "comfortable", and food is brutally fought over, even though it only silences hunger for a bit - it doesn't actually taste like anything or feel satisfying. Unsurprisingly, large tracts of Hell are always at war with each other over the few comforts Hell has to offer. It is on these battlegrounds that souls fall deeper and deeper into depravity until they are mere shadows of their former selves. In a sense, joining into the senseless conflict is a temptation; souls that are strong enough to resist it and keep themselves together can be redeemed, usually towards reincarnation.
Angels and Demons
Created where the supernatural energies of Creation and Destruction interact with the physical world, angels and demons are in many respects similar, yet distinct forms of life. Angels have no physical body and thus occupy soulless bodies - usually, the recently dead. The power of an angel regenerates the body it occupies, restoring it to life. In this form, angels are to a certain degree limited in their power by what their human body can do; these limits can be transcended, but this requires that the angel sacrifice his position to everyone who can read the Symphony. Even so, angels can be tough opponents; they are not bound to any one body, and thus require special measures to permanently kill. Also, they can read and manipulate the Symphony, ranging from such simple tricks as enhanced perception and affecting probability to outright breaking the laws of physics by locally altering reality at a fundamental level. It is said that Archangels are capable of even greater feats, with reality literally twisting around them to suit their goals.
Demons typically only possess one body, but that body is nigh-indestructible. The constant fighting in hell has led to the evolution of a 'standard demon body' that is geared for combat, heavily armored, immune to most toxins and equipped with natural weapons, as well as wings. For demons that infiltrate mankind, a set of modifications is made, generally involving a painful clipping and reshaping of the wings to a smaller, foldable configuration, as well as the ability to fuse a mimicry of human flesh onto their skin, effectively allowing them to look mostly human. This disguise has only two caveats: the wings, which fold around the torso but can be seen when the demon is undressed, and the blood-red eyes which are sensitive to light, leading most demons to either operate at night, or else opt to wear strong sunglasses.