Fantastic Tales of Avalon City
In legend, Avalon is the place where King Arthur is taken after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann to recover from his wounds. Welsh, Cornish and Breton tradition all claim that Arthur had never really died, but would inexorably return to lead his people against their enemies. References also state that Avalon is where his sword Caliburn (Excalibur) was forged.
Welcome to Avalon City! It’s a city of millions, a sprawling urban midwestern metropolis, full of crime, corruption, and violence. It’s a city where the rich and elite—few as there might be—control nearly everything. It’s a city where crime prevention and public safety are privatized, where police forces are owned by corporations. It’s a city with a huge, disenfranchised but hardworking underclass that will do what they must to make ends meet.
Avalon City is a place of extremes, a place of deep, concealing shadows and stark, antiseptic light. It’s a place of heroes and villains, exemplars of justice and personifications of evil.
The city is broken up into 50 wards. The First Ward is in the heart of Old Downtown, also nostalgically called Chi Town. From there, the numbering of the wards switches back and forth from north to south. Even numbered wards range toward
Wisconsin, while the odd-numbered
wards slough toward and even into
what used to be part of Indiana. It’s
now been given over to Illinois, over
Indiana Governor Quayle’s rather
The city is about two miles thick,
and the streets are laid out in a very
controlled manner. (That’s one of the
benefits of being able to build a city
with modern planning techniques; you
can make it really easy to get around.)
The crescents are the streets that run
parallel to the rim of Chicago Bay,
which is lined by Bayshore Drive. The
next street out after Bayshore is First
Crescent, and they proceed out from
there until you hit Tenth Crescent, just
inside of Interstate 90/94, which forms
the outer boundary of the original city,
less the later annexations.
The funny thing about the crescents
is that they really don’t seem to be
curved when you’re standing on them.
The curve is nearly imperceptible.
Heroes & Villians
You see heroes- known commonly as metas or metahumans, and officially as Deltas- saving people, stopping disasters and thwarting villains. But who decides who’s worth saving, what’s really a disaster, who’s really a villain? Just about anyone the media calls a “hero” is either sponsored by one of the big multinational corporations or the federal government. Do they do good things? Sure. But they do it on the company dime, and that makes them beholden to company policy- probably.
Then there’s the villains. Some of them are bad, some of them do things that would make history’s greatest monsters proud, and they do it for personal gain or revenge or for no reason at all. But most people who get painted with that “villain” brush are often Deltas without a corporate sponsor. They’re off-book. Unsanctioned.
So where do the Metas come from? A while back, during the second world war, they started cropping up. You’d find people who could fly or teleport or burn things with their eyes, and nobody knew quite what to make of them. They all had their own spin on the origin story. Aliens, radiation, traumatic injury, super-science, whatever. Some of it had a kernel of truth; some was pure bunk.
Here’s what we know now: Deltas have a particular gene sequence that enables their powers. The potential for these powers is in every man, woman, and child, but it’s only turned on for certain people. Different things can turn it on, but— like getting cancer from smoking or dying from a lightning strike—it doesn’t happen to everyone. There’s no reliable way to reproduce it.
At least, there wasn’t until roughly about a decade ago. The corporations rounded up a bunch of the unsanctioned Deltas, shipped them off to R&D, dissected them and studied them and poked and prodded to see what made them tick. And then, apparently, one corporation figured it out. And the technology spread.
Crime and Punishment
Like the rest of the world, all policing—crime prevention and investigation, public safety, and so forth—is privatized. Each corporation has its own private police force, each one happy to take your cash for the privilege of their protection. If you can’t pay, you’re on your own.
Crime, as you might expect, is rampant in those places where nobody can afford corporate security. It’s an accepted fact of life. In the nice parts of town, most of the crime is white-collar, corporate espionage and embezzling and that kind of thing. Out in the Drops, anything goes. It’s only illegal if it steps on the toes of someone who can actually do something about it.
The Deltas help some. When the corps need some good PR, they send their pets into the sprawl to stop big, high profile crimes . . . when they’re not busy perpetrating crimes on other corporations, at least. Sometimes you also get unsanctioned Metas, non-corp supers who will help a neighborhood out for maybe some free room and board or just a heads-up if the corporate Deltas come knocking. They’ve got to keep a low profile, though. Stop too many crimes and you’re stepping on the corporation’s’ toes, cutting into their bottom line. And that, of course, is illegal.
You’ve got three socioeconomic strata in Avalon City. First, there are the rich. Politicians, CEOs, and other bigwigs who are tied to one or more corporations and who can afford luxury and safety. They make up maybe a half a percent of the population, but they hold the lion’s share of the power and money.
Then you’ve got the wage slaves. They work for the corps, so they get protection and security and a place to live and a monthly wage to spend at the company store. But they aren’t called “slaves” for nothing. You sign with a corporation, they own you in perpetuity. Hell, they own your corpse when you die—you know, for science. Leaving one corporation for another, or just going your own way, is called “defection” because it’s illegal. It’s a crime punishable by a good long time in prison—also privatized.
Then you’ve got everyone else. They eke out a living and returnt to their less-than-modest homes; they work at local stores or out of their homes, making just enough to scrape by, and the only security or protection they get is the occasional uninterested ACPD patrol.