he hears his master's voice
A depiction of superheroes in the golden age.
Prologue 1 (The First Special)
BackgroundPrologue 1 (The First Special)
Fear was good on the battlefield, someone had said. They had said something or another about the rush of adrenaline, the battle-trance, the out-of-body feeling that allowed a soldier to hold his head up while bullets chased down his comrades left or right. Fear was good, that person had said, because both fight and flight alike tapped into the most basest elements of fear itself. Arnie Hutchinson, at the time, had agreed.
Fear was good, sure.
But alcohol was better. And Arnie Hutchinson, naturally, agreed.
The poison of choice this time around had been sake, ‘borrowed’ from one of the Japanese conscripts. It was cold, he had warned, and liable to taste like shit. Arnie, for as agreeable as his mood was for the day, was inclined to agree. Yet as he emerged from the trench, the taste of sake stained the roof of his mouth, along with what he suspected was his heart leaping out through his throat. He had almost fallen on his first step over the top, his legs quaking beneath him.
Fear was good, alcohol was better, and a little bit of each was to blame, to be certain. Woodrow Wilson, as well. Alcohol did strange things in strange times and in the worst places. As all around him succumbed to a hail of lead, he found his mind gripped in ironies. Inwardly, he thought to himself; “I fucking voted for you, Woodie!” Arnie was a Class II, married, and drafted when all the lonely Class Oners were depleted from of conscripts. Of course, his folks back home were like to geld him if they found out he hadn’t signed up to get blown away crawling from a trench. He was not a patriot. But he was an American.
From his peripherals, he spotted a geyser of flames erupted from the ground, and the intensity of screams rising with it. Someone blown to red mist. Someone immolated. Neither were good for an open casket, although he imagined the former was less painful than the latter. Imagination was a terrible thing. Arnie found himself thinking of sweet Evelyn, in tears as she stood overlooking a wooden box, scraps of meat within like the haul of a butcher. Arnie-meat.
Arnie raised his rifle, and then the maelstrom overtook him. He felt the most uncanny of sensations, like the agony of a muscle cramping, and then tearing, and tearing some more. Grey smoke rose from the ground beneath him, clogging his nose with the charred taste of smog. Through it all, he turned his head to look.
That’s my arm… on the ground. And my guts and… I’m fucking falling apart aren’t I?.
Arnie Hutchinson felt himself shatter.
Hello God, my name is Arnie-Meat. I did have sex before marriage, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Now, I think I’ve just been blown to bits, so I hope you can also overlook the time I pissed on Agatha’s cat. My word, is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? I don’t think that’s very Catholic of you, sir. Not very catholic indeed. I’ll absolve you if you let me into Heaven, though.
His pieces, disembodied and fragile, flying into the arms of angels.
Evelyn will be disappointed of course. Arnie-Meat’s considerably less handsome than Arnie, if I do say so myself. Much more defined facial features. Or, rather, facial features at all. Did I ever mention that I got blown up? Because I did, you know, I most certainly got blown up.
He was one, and all, so many pieces, floating.
Arnie Hutchinson had felt himself shatter. And then Arnie Hutchinson felt himself born again, sinew and flesh looking for one another, re-embracing like the tight embrace of lovers, bone snapping in place with bone. Puss seeping back into unnatural pores that closed off, as his form was re-assembled. Then there he was, naked and whole upon the battlefield. Almost as if by instinct, he retrieved his rifle from the dirt, and continued his charge.
One bullet took off the left part of his head, reducing his vision by half but for a mere moment before the chasm of his skull began to calcify and mend itself. He felt the slime of his eye form into a sphere as he regained his vision, his attention focused upon a gun nest. He laughed and praised the heavens as a machine gun eviscerated him, as his guts wound themselves within his exposed belly like a serpentine mass of pink and held themselves in place, the folds of his body closing in upon itself.
He had a gift from God, he realized, and a bullet for each one of his foes.
"For these are special times indeed."
Prologue 2 (Inquisition)The First World War, the Great War, and the War to end all Wars. Tens of millions sacrificed in what was meant to be the last confrontation of man, their lives sapped away and harvested into red mist over four years, three months, and two weeks. Yet in and of itself, the Great War had been a harbinger of worse times to come – industry and technological sophistication had grown exponentially and became weaponized. Perhaps even more despairingly, was the rise of the First Special.
Arnie Hutchinson of the Associate Power of the United States of America, designated ‘Lazarus’. Reduced to smithereens by mortar-fire, his organs and flesh had regenerated from molecules, and rendered him whole once more. He became an invincible infantryman who could not be stopped by any form of weaponry, ballistic nor chemical, that single-handedly subverted the grueling notions of trench warfare. He had no need to cower and hide. He stood, he charged, and he conquered.
There were tactical limitations to the impact of a singular entity upon the battlefield, but the mere existence of Lazarus demoralized the opposing forces, and raised the morale of their own coalition. Arnie Hutchinson, soon promoted to Captain, was a figure blessed by God himself, a sign that the powers above deigned to crown them victor. The Great War would soon end with the advent of the First Special.
Captain Hutchinson would return to America in the 1920s, having taken a brief excursion in China and Japan. He would come to find that America had entered a period of prosperity, known by many as the ‘Roaring Twenties’. It was a period of social and cultural upheaval, of art, of equality, of automobiles, of telephones, of suffrage, of motion pictures and electricity, and of movie stars. It would also prove to be a time of the Specials – as more and more seemed to appear throughout the globe. This development and the scientific basis behind it stunned scientists, who could not fathom the cause of their manifestations.
Nonetheless, the Roaring Twenties were a period of modernity and acceptance, and the Specials – fearsome though there abilities were – were accepted, and allowed to prosper.
All the same, the Twenties had a darkness to them. Prohibition – the ban of alcoholic beverages – led to a new era of organized crime. It was the Roaring Twenties, a time for all to prosper, and the criminal ranks were no exception. Of particular note were the Chicago Outfit, led by Johnny Torrio and his factotum Al Capone. Both of them were notorious ‘gangsters’ as well as outed Specials. After all, with great power, came the facility to use them for crime. Many did just so.
Prosperity, of course, was not immortal. And eventually the Roaring Twenties died with a whimper. Soon came the Great Depression. The economic strength of the nation collapsed by two-thirds, and rich and poor lost all they had. The Jazz age was over, and music was bleak. Regrettably, as the Jazz age faded, issues that had been brushed aside by the times resurfaced.
The Specials were here, and they had reason to use their powers for ill, for they had lost as much as everyone else had, and to survive, they had to find some way to get it back.
These are perilous times.
These are the times of the Specials.
---“Ness, Eliot. Chief Investigator. You new?”
The man spoke impatiently, staring into a closed gate of monochrome. His trench-coat was too large for him, yet he – the man with the noble nose and the dark hair parted clean down the middle – stood with a powerful confidence. He leered at the chrome door, as if it were a student being put in his place by a particularly haughty schoolteacher. A meek voice emerged from behind the closing.
“Yes, sorry sir. Chief Investigator, sir.”
“Very good. Let me in quickly and I’ll think about saving your castration for next time.” The gate parted, left and right half screeching pneumatically. Eliot Ness strode past the emasculated rookie, eyes looking down the corridor that presented itself. On all four sides he was beset by the grey of steel, no windows, no ventilation. Some said that the corridor created a claustrophobic illusion of sorts, the idea that it was the maw of a metal colossus closing in on its prey. Eliot Ness had no time for this poetic nonsense.
At the end of the corridor was a pane of glass, a pufferfish staring at Eliot from the other side, floating upon nothingness. Its voice was a croak, “Good morning Eliot. Did Bart give you trouble?”
Eliot parted his hair once more and nodded in response, “I’ll never understand the turnover for glorified doormen. Randall was dull and couldn’t remember faces, sure, but he was an amicable enough man. No matter, to the Nexus please.”
The glass-pane shimmered, its surface pulsing in patterns like a pond, a rock skipped upon the waters. Eliot stepped through it, and emerged in a room of blackness. There was a single desk, with pen and paper, a few notebooks, newspaper clippings, and a large crystal of glowing white. The Investigator took off his trench-coat, wrapping it around a century old oaken chair. He cleared his throat, before prodding the crystal with a delicate finger. “Lot, parameters, if you would.”
An uncanny voice spoke from the crystal, part wasp-like buzz and part siren. “As ever, Eliot Ness, your long term goal is the toppling of the Chicago Outfit.”
“Targets of note?”
“Johnny Torrio is the leader. Known Special, but nature of manifestation shrouded in rumors. Said to be calamitous. Al Capone second in command. Unhinged. Known Special, superhuman physique and size manipulation. Direct conflict inadvisable.”
“Existing operatives either un-compatible or otherwise occupied. Your first objective, assembling a group of qualified individuals, Specials or otherwise.”
Eliot sighed as he leaned back in his chair, “That’s rather vague, Lot, any leads.”
“We have found that orphans that reach maturity have a compatible psychological profile to the tasks at hand.”
“… you don’t say.”
Concept: Alternate history, where superpowers have emerged in the wake of World War I. Plays heavily upon the treatment of superhumans, and follows their lives as we bridge from the Roaring Twenties into the Great Depression. Initially hailed as a beacon of modernity and a new era of humanity, the Great Depression saw superhumans as people that were exploited, scapegoated, or corrupted in the wake of financial disaster.
Organized crime has become an easy way for the empowered (often referred to as ‘Specials’) to make a living. Of particular renown are Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, known Specials who have elevated their Chicago Outfit into America’s foremost crime syndicate.
You - whether you come from pure or unsavory walks of life - are a member of a specially recruited task force under one Eliot Ness, seeking to combat the corrupt and corpulent ways of the Chicago gangsters, who feast on ill-gotten meals while all around them starve. You may be a Special, you may be someone well equipped to deal with Specials. Either way, blood is promised.
Please, by all means, let me know if you have interest/questions!