In a once bright and shining jewel on the East Coast, organized crime has begun to run rampant. The citizens live in constant fear and apathy, Fed up with the corrupt police force and brutality of the local gangs.
As if stepping from the pages of history a relic of a warrior has begun to fight back. A towering suit of armor with glowing red eyes strikes fear into the hearts of those who would do harm to the innocent.
The story told from the perspective of Tacitus O'Neil, The curator of the Gloucester City Museum of History. Tacitus was paralyzed from the waist down when a gang war spilled into his museum. Still trapped within his chair, Tacitus' bitter narrative combined with his search for reason has turned him into an excellent investigator.
Step into a world of high-tech steam power and onto the gritty streets as our armored friend fights against corruption and Tacitus tries to solve the deeper meanings behind the actual source of it in Gloucester.
The stink of the city is strong tonight. This town used to be the jewel of the Atlantic. We had the best theaters, the best harbor and even the best bars you could ever ask for in a city. Ya know what they say though "shit draws maggots" well Gloucester was the biggest, smelliest pile on the whole east coast and the maggots still ain't stopped rolling in. It's because of the low life scum that this city has gone to shit.
Apathy is the name of the game now in Gloucester; people are too scared of the gangs to care or to stand up for themselves anymore. It's also because of these gangs that I am the way I am now. It's odd, the things you consider when you aren't able to walk. I ain't no cripple who's ever looking for a handout or a hand up mind ya, but it still weighs on a man's mind not being able to stroll down a street with a gorgeous broad on your arm.
Ever since it happened, I've had the strangest reoccurring dream. If you were to have it, you wouldn't even pay attention to it 'cause to you; it's too normal even to care about. To me, this dream is the worst thing my mind could show me. There I am, walking down the hallway of my museum and I have to hop a rope to fix another display some punk kid kicked cockeyed again. That's it, just me jumping over a rope. Every single time after the dream I wake up pissed off that I was sleeping in the first place. Told ya, too normal to give two shits about but that's my life now that I am stuck in this damn chair.
As I wheeled past an alley, I saw a small group of Asian thugs gathered around a woman. They were all wearing a white bandanna tied around their arm or neck. They were White Lotus Cartel members.
"Give me your cash lady, and no one needs to get hurt!" the smaller of the group yelled. The woman handed her wallet over. He shoved her to the ground amongst the discarded beer bottles and rubbish that had piled up for weeks here. The larger man blew her a kiss as the group walked calmly out of the alley and past me.
Scum and victims, the lot of them. This dame ain't even trying to stand up for herself. The worst part is that she probably has this happen every other week. Apathy, I told you. I could see the museum coming into the foreground as I continued down the sidewalk. Even this jewel has seen better days. Her high brass dome used to glimmer before it was covered in tarnish and pollution. The front was made of stately granite blocks now covered in graffiti and scaffolding from the fire. Nothing here is sacred anymore.
I rolled now into the museum's main lobby, where there stands a beautifully posed family of mammoths on a long journey across Siberia. The display is in excellent condition and was wonderfully arranged down to the finest detail. There is even a saber-toothed rodent scurrying out of the way of a footfall that will never come. The polished marble and lignite tiles that checked the museum lobby gleamed brightly under the setting sun as it shone through the massive glass entryway of the museum.
"Hello, doctor Neale. We just got a new shipment of displays in today, dark ages I think. Do you want me to catalog it for you?" Anna said, her red hair as beautiful as ever framing her freckled face. It's a pity that she has to be trapped in Gloucester with the rest of us animals, but I do have to admit that those green eyes and her perky attitude always pulls a smile across my face whether or not I wanted it.
"Sure thing, Anna. Remember to keep an eye out for that helmet I have been expecting. We can't have our knight stand headless too much longer; the kids are starting to get freaked if ya know what I mean" she's still young herself. That dame's still got big ideas and hope, both of which are all but extinct in Gloucester now. I continued to wheel past the display of early Homo sapiens. This was a family group which was studying the tracks of the other display's mammoths. The men in the hunting group all carried spears and were adorned with pigments. We haven't come as far as we thought. We are still primitive, violent beings.
Not that my cave is any better. I have a system mind ya, but it is still visually a disaster in here. I wheeled around a stack of books taller than myself and through a sea of papers and the odd artifact placed here and there. I really need to organize this area. It's like the Royals are having a yard sale. I deftly made my way to my desk and began to read an old text about arms and armor from the 15th century when a photo of my wife and son caught my eye. I gently lifted it from its resting place. I ran my finger along the jawline of my wife, hands trembling as I shut my eyes. Caroline, you would have never let me get this bad.
I am tired of being a victim. I have given enough, lost enough to those low life scum, and it's time for them to settle their tab. Johnny law isn't any better than those gangs, seeing as half of them are marked, and the other half may as well be. There are still people in this city who deserve better than the life Gloucester has been giving them. Somebody needs to stand up for the masses. Ya hear about guys and gals all dressed up in costumes gallivanting around other cities cleaning up the streets. Why hasn't it happened here?
"Doctor Neale, I have gone through the new shipment, and I thought I would let you know that the helmet you were waiting for has arrived" Anna's voice drifted in from the doorway, breaking my gaze from my family photo.
"Thanks, Anna, I'll be right there to inspect it." Anna especially deserves better. That dame is too damn smart and caring to have to deal with this city and its underbelly. Even with a thick skin, the dark side of Gloucester gets to you eventually. Thankfully it hasn't appeared to have touched her yet. I wheeled into the loading bay where Anna was standing. She had a tablet in her hand with a small round device which was emitting a red beam. She was using it to scan the boxes as they came in to update the museum catalog while two enormous burly workmen carried in each crate.
"Ok Anna, where is it at?" This particular piece is more important than a mere headless suit of armor, but I can't let her know that. She doesn't need the baggage that comes with knowing the truth. That is also the reason I am personally overseeing "renovations" of the east wing. The less she knows, the better off she is.
"I have it over here Doctor," she said motioning to the workbench "It was strange actually, it was sitting on the loading dock before the truck backed in but the scan was fine. It's almost as if the crate had arrived on its own..." Her words were cut short as the crack of wood rang out across the loading bay "you morons! These aren't boxes of tires; these are priceless pieces of our history you are destroying with your ugly meat hooks!" It ain't often I get to see her this fired up but if those looks could kill I'm sure we would have a bigger mess on our hands than a broken crate full of halberds and swords. Like lightning that one is, I can tell ya that.
"Gentlemen, do be careful, will you? She is right and besides that particular crate would hurt more than just a strained muscle I assure you. These swords have been used in combat and still hold quite the edge."I couldn't help but crack a smile as I gestured to the sword blade that had cut through the timber crate like butter.
"Absolutely Doc, we didn't mean no harm. Jimmy's just new is all. He's sorry, ain't ya Jim?" Harvey said shooting the other workman a glance almost as sharp as the sword blade that sat just inches from jimmy's belly.
"Yes-sir, Mr. Doctor Neale sir. I didn't mean no harm" it was clear that dolt had no idea what it was he had been carrying till he had seen that blade. The whole situation was pretty amusing.
I've been waiting for this helmet for awhile. It was a piece I had been responsible for finding on the same year that ..... Well, never mind that. Caroline wanted to see that piece reunited with the rest of the suit so badly. It's a pity she won't be able to now. I rubbed my tarnished wedding band for only a second with my thumb. This is a hard topic for me to deal with.
"Anna, I'm going to open this case, you wanna see it?" I was only being cordial. She gets far more excited than I do anymore and I'd hated to be the one who deprived her of the reveal as it were. The light seemed to beam from her eyes at the offer. She was like a kid who was just told she could eat as much ice cream as she wanted.
"Absolutely doctor Neale! I'm all done here anyway. That was the last crate, right Harv?" Harvey just waved as he and Jimmy climbed back into their truck. Their truck was one of the older models with the water tank located behind the cab and a steam condenser to either side of the cab. The beast roared to life as Harvey fired up the boiler again. The truck sputtered and coughed as the furnace began to warm. The engine let out a gurgle then the truck lurched forward and out of sight.
"Well, here goes nothing," I said as I started to crack the lid. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Anna's face light up with anticipation as the helmet began to catch the light. "Well ain't that a thing of beauty? they did a beautiful job cleaning her up, don't you think Anna?" I was obviously more interested in the helmet's pattern and craftsmanship than the condition it was in, but it was beautiful. They had managed to clean up the bronze nicely while also leaving the detail work and signs of battle damage alone. The light shone warmly off the reflection from the visor. It was like staring into the past. This had not looked this good since it had been in use a few thousand years ago.
"Wow, they did!" Anna piped up with a smile in her voice.
"Would you like to do the honors, darling? You've earned it with everything you do here." I figured, with my current condition and with her spunk being the only reason we are still open, It only seemed right to let her have this. "By the way Anna, will you stop calling me Doctor Neale? I keep telling you that you can call me Tac, all my close friends do." a small smile crept across the stern visage that I usually wear. It was adorable that she was constantly so formal around me. After her working with me here for as long as she has it was like she expected the building to come down if she called me something else.
" Doctor Neale, I mean Tac, you are too kind! Thank you, I only do what I can here, but I would love to see him fully assembled. Let's go!" She chirped excitedly like a kid who was let loose in a toy store as she skipped off. I might as well follow her, make sure that the helmet sits right. As I rounded the corner, I could see Anna standing on a short stool reaching up to place the exquisite helm on the armor's shoulders.
"It still amazes me doctor Neale that such a Goliath warrior existed in antiquity. It is truly a relic of a bygone age... There, Perfect!" She exclaimed as she stepped down off the stool.
"It looks perfect Anna," I said while admiring her work. You would be proud of it too Caroline.
The night is my favorite time here. The grand history of Man cast on the backdrop of the natural world that surrounds him. I typically wheel around a few times before heading to the East Wing. It's quiet and peaceful, unlike the streets. The White Lotus Cartel has started to move in on Grady's turf, so there are bound to be some scuffles between them soon.
I wheeled into a small workshop. It isn't nearly as much of a disaster as my office is. Bits and pieces of medieval armor and weapons lay around the room carefully cataloged and shelved. One gauntlet lay wrist up with a large magnifier over it. I began working diligently on it. This piece was nearly complete.
* * *
Through the dark museum, all was quiet. Two shadowy figures could be seen softly walking through the medieval armory section of the museum, flashlights in hand. The bobbing lights passing quickly over each display as the men walked by. They stopped in front of a case that held a highly decorated two handed Claymore hung amongst many other blades.
"This it?" One of the men whispered, motioning to the sword in the case.
"Yeah, that's the one. Let's get it and get outta here. These suits of armor are kinda freaking me out" the second man pulled a glass cutter out of his black bag and affixed it to the glass. He didn't notice the pale red glow emanating from the visor of the Goliath suit of armor Anna placed the helmet on earlier.
While the first man was affixing the glass-cutter, his partner was leaning against the granite column next to the display case. A sharp hiss struck out of the darkness. With that, a short stainless steel bolt flew through the air and hit the man's hand with a sickeningly wet and dull thud pinning it firmly to the pillar. The man looked at the now heavily injured hand and let out a blood-curdling scream of panic and pain.
"That does not belong to you, O'Mally." a dark, almost inhuman voice rumbled.
"Oh shit! Danny, you alright? Let's get outta here!" O'Mally tried to free the bolt from the wall. It was buried deep in the pillar. With little other option, O'Mally looked into Danny's eyes and deftly ripped his hand free of the bolt. A large brass gauntlet jutted from the dark and grabbed O'Mally by the shirt collar. O'Mally was lifted a clean three feet into the air until he came face to face with the massive helmet, the red light from the visor emphasizing the terror that could now clearly be seen on the heavyset Irishman's face.
"Tell Grady this museum is not his personal armory. Next time he visits unexpectedly he will see his men on display!" the armor growled. With that, the armored giant threw O'Mally aside like a rag doll, and both men fell down the stairs of the main entry into the lobby. Scrambling to their feet, the men ran swiftly out of the museum, the shadow of the armor visible on the balcony. The red light of the visor shining brightly against the pitch black gallery.
The sound of their feet pounding the pavement echoed clearly through the city streets as they ran from the museum. O'Mally needed to half carry Danny because he was losing a lot of blood from his hand. A patrol car drove around the corner, and the two darted into an alley and out of sight.
"Holy shit, holy shit! Danny boy, you ok?" O'Mally asked under a shortened breath. He wasn't cut out for this anymore, not since the gang had moved underground and Grady stuck him behind that desk.
"Sean, am I gonna lose it?! Am I gonna lose my hand to that fucking metal psycho?" The blood looked drained from Danny's face completely as fear tap danced through his eyes.
"Naw Danny boy, naw. You'll be okay. The doc can save it, he will save it" O'Mally said as he lifted Danny up and they both shuffled off to a small police precinct visible at the end of the alley.
"Who the fuck was that guy anyway Sean?" Danny muttered as they entered the precinct doors.
"I don't know, but gears for brains has no idea who he is screwing with. No idea at all.." And with that, they ducked into the doorway.