The waters of Lake Michigan stir with a long forgotten malevolence, the kind of deep rooted evil that could only have come from the depths of Hell itself. Few were aware of this dire threat, for few were left in the wake of its swift risings. Some residents of Sheboygan, one of the poorer mayoralty cities on Lake Michigan, managed to escape with their lives after a night of horror and blood and terror. But few believed their stories of flopping fish men lurching out of the frigid waters.
Even after the mythical serpent Jormungandr kills Europe and northern Africa, some people just aren’t willing to believe that the world has changed. Or perhaps they can’t believe.
Milwaukee was a mayoralty city of respectable size in the years following the Serpentfall. Not as prosperous as Chicago or Detroit, but it managed to gather a sizable fleet of loyal pirates to its flag. But the mayor of Milwaukee at the time was a greedy, short-sighted man, who dreamed of the grain, ore, and gasoline vaults held in Chicago. So, in early 1948, Milwaukee staged a daring assault on the Windy City.
The battle was fierce and bloody, but the Milwaukee invaders were beaten back. Not to let their enemies rest, the Chicago fleet turned around and raided Milwaukee, burning buildings and taking anything of value. Milwaukee was reduced to a ghost town like so many cities in the Poisoned Lands before it. But such was not the end for it.
In mid 1949 a mysterious figure came to the ruins of that city. He wore a strange wooden mask of African origin, and was accompanied by a small but strong force of loyal warriors and soldiers. He claimed to be Carl Zeidler, former mayor of Milwaukee who went off to fight the war in 1942 and was supposedly lost at sea, returned now to restore his rightful position. He called himself the Warlord of Milwaukee, and immediately set about gutting the lower levels of City Hall, turning them into a smelting factory. He gathered slaves from everywhere he could to work the forges to build weapons and gear for his growing army.
Among his slaves working in the reconditioned Milwaukee City Hall were a low-life bank robber named “Araby” Schmidt, who had served quite a time in jail even before the Serpentfall. He was shackled together in the forge with fellow slave Thoroughgood, an older man with a wild beard and even wilder ideas. The third man in their particular chain was an aged coot named Rufus Thaddeus Scott. When the enforcers weren’t paying attention Rufus spoke in hushed tones with his chained companions about his life before slavery, how he had traveled all over the Poisoned Lands and even the Drowned Coast back east.
One dismal January day in 1950, Rufus let Araby and Thoroughgood on his secret. A year ago, Rufus and a group of “freelance entrepreneurs” made their way into the ruins of Washington DC, which had been devastated by the mega-tsunami like most of the cities on the east coast. But, they managed to find in the mud-filled ruins a secret chamber below the Pentagon, which contained powerful government secrets. They were forced to leave, but not before Rufus memorized the way and had a map built. But not just any map – he had this map tattooed on his very back!
Rufus offered to cut Araby and Thoroughgood in on the score if they helped him escape. They agreed, and over the next few days they tried to come up with a plan. Little succeeded, but the strangest amount of luck was about to come their way.
On a grey, cloudy morning, such as most mornings in the Poisoned Lands, the slaves were gathered together in the mess hall for a meager breakfast of sludge porridge. They were then lined up for an impromptu inspection, as it seemed the city had a visitor. A portly man wearing dirty white robes and bearing the symbol of the New Konfederacy inspected the slaves while the Warlord of Milwaukee spoke softly.
After the inspection, Araby, Thoroughgood, and Rufus were assigned smelting duty, and after the meal were taken up stairs by armed enforcer. Just then a terrible commotion ran through the building, followed by shots being fired and the screams of the dying. Seizing on the opportunity, Araby leaped at one of the enforcers but took a grazing bullet wound.
Just then, flopping up the stairs behind them, came the source of the commotion. A band of mutated fish-men, borne from the depths of Lake Michigan, flopped and hopped with crude spears gripped in their webbed hands. The lake had spewed forth its vengeance, and Araby, Thoroughgood, and Rufus saw their salvation. Unfortunately in the fight that followed Rufus was stabbed to death by one of the fish-men, but ultimately the other two managed to survive.
They had few options. Staying in Milwaukee did not seem like the thing to do, so acting quickly Thoroughgood pulled out a knife carried by one of the dead enforcers and began to free their ticket to the sweet life – the map tattooed on the back of Rufus Thaddeus Scott! With the skin map in their possession the two continued on up to the smelting floor, dealing with a few more enforcers before equipping themselves as best as they could.
They looked out from the third story building and saw a mass of confusion. Outside the fish-men from Lake Michigan were swarming over slave and guard alike, savagely killing with impunity. Throaty cries in broken English from the fish-men proclaimed the glory of the Leviathan in harsh mocking laughter. But amidst the chaos the two men saw two avenues of escape.
One was a jeep parked nearby, equipped with a turret-mounted machine gun and some clearly unusual engineering that even Thoroughgood, experienced mechanic that he was, did not recognize. The jeep bore the emblem of the New Konfederacy and the seal of the Grand Kounty of Birmingham. The second option was a small seaplane, a Noorduyn Norseman, parked in the meager harbor that had so far been overlooked by panicked survivors and attacking fish-men. They could see the name emblazoned on the side – The Brutal Luck.
Deciding to take their chances with the plane, Araby and Thoroughgood fled City Hall and made their way carefully to the docks. They had to fight off another wave of fish-men, but managed to make it to the Brutal Luck without sustaining permanent injuries. Thoroughgood fired up the engines while Araby manned the rear swivel-mounted machine gun, clearing the way for their getaway.
As the Brutal Luck took to the skies, they looked back to see the Warlord of Milwaukee, Carl Zeidler, in his African mask, shaking his fist in defiance at them as the flopping fish-men from Lake Michigan returned to the watery depths with their prizes. Milwaukee had once again been reduced to little more than a hollowed out shell of a city.Survivors:
- “Araby” Schmidt, gangster
- Thoroughgood, mechanic.