Sunday, June 13, 2010

Malefactor, 610 words

Out in the far reaches of the Mad City, beyond District Thirteen and the patrol routes of Officer Tock's clockwork bobbies, beyond the reach of the Tacks Man, a wide swath of the City lies in ruins. Not the product of some earthquake or fire, some war or storm, the area has been decaying slowly for decades simply because nobody cares about it anymore. Even in the Mad City, urban decay can set in and reduce a formerly vibrant neighborhood to a pocket ghost town. Wild Nightmares and other, stranger monsters have taken up residence in the ruins of the Abandoned District, stalking and squabbling over the territory like feral cats. Over time, the District has been pushed steadily farther towards the edges of the City, and may someday sink into the Nowheres or disintegrate entirely. Though this may have recently changed.

Rumors spread of strange things coming out of the Abandoned District, the native Nightmares fleeing ahead of the expanding border of a new presence staking out its territory. Officer Tock has sent men to investigate, clockwork coppers and conscripted deputies both, but none have returned. The Tacks Man has refused to send his minions forth, though he claims to know nothing of what happens there. Not even the Paper Boys will investigate, having already lost several of their own in hunting down the story, to no avail. All that returns from the Abandoned District is rumor and a cold wind tinged with the scent of machine oil.

In the heart of the Abandoned District, a new power has taken root. Some strange Nightmare assuming the shape of a factory has begun to scavenge and smelt the very substance of the City, forging it into a new urban landscape. This area of the City is slowly being recast into a Streamline and Googie aesthetic, seen through a dark Gothic lens - an anachronistic unfuture seen by midnight. The architect of this change is the Malefactor.

Despite the zeerust futurism of the Malefactor's work, everything has an oppressive air of conformity and sameness. Every sweeping line, every glass panel and neon highlight is the same from building to building, devised by the same algorithms and cut by the same machinery. The novelty of the architecture wears off quickly, once one realizes that there is no end to this but that everything becomes as the Malefactor desires.

The stuff of the Mad City is not all that the Malefactor smelts and reforges. In its factory bowels, the Malefactor gathers up cast-off dreams and memories, captured Nightmares and locals, and especially the Awake. The more deviant, the more the Malefactor desires it. In the same facilities that somehow recast ruined brick and concrete into chrome and glass and stucco, these deviant memories and beings are smelted down and molded into a new form. These monochrome singlesuited unFuture Men are the servitors of the Malefactor, gathering its materials and enacting its will. Though they are individually unremarkable, the Malefactor has many to spare. A single Awakened can produce a small horde of unFuture Men from the smelted power of her madness, so the costs are usually returned amply.

And as its domain expands, so too does the Malefactor. The factory complex has subsumed more and more of the new buildings, and they produce faster and faster. Each of these buildings is a hazard in and of itself and a potential host for the Malefactor's consciousness should the core building be destroyed. Nothing short of razing its entire domain is likely to bring it to a complete halt. If its growth goes unchecked, it may well expand out to encompass the Mad City someday.

No comments: