Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Electromancer, his Foe, and the Worm

The year is 1929, and Edison and Tesla have survived both the Apocalypse and the War of the Currents.  They're both old men now.  Edison has locked himself in his labs with his electric elephant in order to protect himself from the electric ghosts outside, and Tesla talks to pigeons and absentmindedly instructs his devotees in the finer points of Electromancy.

Everything in the Pre-Apocalypse section actually happened, although I've messed with the chronology and details a bit.  (Flames didn't really shoot of Kemmler's skull, but he did start smoking.)


Thomas Edison was the seventh child of a Canadian rebel who fled to Ohio.  He was self-educated, and never had any higher schooling. He worked humble jobs: selling newspapers on trains and operating telegraphs.  He invented the phonograph when he was 30 years old.  With the money he received from selling that invention, he opened the world's first industrial research lab. In the early 1880s, Edison sat at the center of a small empire of invention.  He is widely known as the Wizard of Menlo Park.

Edison's labs in Menlo Park were massive, spanning several city blocks and pushing their basements deep into the earth.  He was determined to collect all possible tools and substances, and so he did.  Backed by powerful financiers like J.P.Morgan and the Vanderbilt family, Edison was able to hire teams of engineers, inventors, geniuses, and madmen to invent the modern light bulb.  By 1880, he was pressuring major cities to modernize by installing power grids and electrical lights.

Then a Serbian showed up.

Nikola Tesla was the son of a Serbian Orthodox Priest.  He struggled with his health when he was younger, avoided being drafted by taking an extended "hike", and although he aced every test administered at his university, he never graduated.  He was quickly employed by telegraph companies who recognized his genius.  He came to New York in 1884, after a long journey by ship.  After a mutiny on the ship and subsequent robbery, Nikola arrived with only four cents to his name and a letter of recommendation.  He was hired by Thomas Edison  the same year that Edison's first wife died of a morphine overdose.  It was six years before the Apocalypse.

It didn't take long for Tesla to improve on Edison's designs.  When Edison offered Tesla $50,000 dollars to refine his shitty generators, the Serbian was quick to accept the challenge.  After doing exactly that, Tesla inquired about payment.  Edison told him, "Nikola, you do not understand our American humor."  Tesla quit.

Tesla founded the Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing company, which quickly went bankrupt.  Tesla was not a businessman.  So Tesla dug ditches.

Edison's industrial invention house churned out more and more marvels.  Edison filed over 1,000 patents, including things such as X-rays and stock tickers.  In England, a whole new genre of literature arose called "Edisonades", in which a brilliant young inventor uses his inventions to solve some great problem.  So Edison grew rich and popular.  Something of an American ideal.

Edison was trying to encourage cities to adopt his electrical lights.  He also offered to build the plants and the electrical systems that would power these lights.  Edison used DC electricity.  DC electricity had a problem: it couldn't travel long distances, which meant that generator stations had to be built near where the electricity was used.  Edison and his financiers stood to make a lot of money by building all these power stations.

Edison's main rival was George Westinghouse, who owned a powerful mustache and patents that used AC electricity.  Unlike Edison's DC power, AC could travel long distances.  but AC also had a problem: no one could figure out how to build an AC motor.  AC couldn't power anything.

Once again, the Serbian showed up.

Tesla invented the long-coveted AC motor.  Westinghouse bought the motor, hired Tesla, and entered into direct competition with Edison.

Thus began the War of Currents, where Edison's invention-industrial complex fought with Westinghouse and Tesla to bring light to America's cities.  AC and DC technologies were not compatible.  They did not blend.  There could be only one winner.

Edison was practical minded, if nothing else.  So he set about to discredit Westinghouse and AC power in the eyes of the public.

To do this, he staged a variety of demonstrations to prove how dangerous AC power was by electrocuting dogs, cats, cattle, horses.  He secretly funded the push for the electric chair as well.  J.P. Morgan and Edison had enough lawyers to sentence dozens of felons to their electric deaths.  The first man to be executed by the electric chair was an illiterate German named Kemmler.  It took them two tries.  When he finally died, his blood vessels had burst, flames were shooting out of his skull, and the onlookers were trying not to vomit.

Edison's publicity campaign continued to escalate.  He even electrocuted an elephant and filmed it.  (Note: not original audio)

This war of electrocutions and lawyers might have continued to escalate, had the process not been rudely interrupted by the Apocalypse.


Edison, the Doomed

The Wizard of Menlo Park eventually lost the War of the Currents.  Now, in 1929, this ancient creature has succumbed to insanity and paranoia.  He resides within his old Menlo Park laboratories, and is too terrified to leave.  He believes that he is being hunted by the ghosts of the men who died by the electric chair in Sing Sing Prison.  He is right.

At night, the electric ghosts can be seen prowling the grounds, searching for an ingress, or some crack in the surface of the Menlo laboratories.  But Edison has warded the place too well, and so the furious ghosts linger, waiting for the old man to die so they can claim him.

Edison owns the surrounding blocks around the laboratories, and he has turned those into a no-man's land of explosives and electrical traps.  He formerly had ex-marines patrolling the grounds as well, but now the only retainers he can afford are a street gang that call themselves the Batch, a scrofulous group of junkies, mutants, and other degenerates.  They sometimes foray out into the other neighborhoods, armed with straight razors and electric batons.  They are funded by the Wizard, and in return they make sure that no one comes knocking on his door.  Ever.

Edison lives in only a small section of his laboratories, attended by a few euuch servants and protected fiercely by Topsy, the elephant that he electrocuted.  After the apocalypse, Edison's Electric Elephant was raised from the dead and installed as his guardian.  In her empty eye sockets, Edison finds his only small bit of solace.  If Topsy can learn to forgive him, perhaps the ghosts will as well.  He has difficulty sleeping if he cannot hear Topsy nearby, quietly humming with 10,000 volts.

Other parts of his laboratories are filled with strange and dangerous things.  Edison is afraid to go near them. He is not a scientist, and doesn't understand most of the things in his laboratories.  The three most dangerous parts of his labs are the rooms where he was trying to build a device that could close all the extraplanar rifts that were opening across Rhode Island.  That experiment failed so famously and terribly that it needs no explanation.  The other dangerous part of the labs are the X-ray chambers, which are also haunted by strange, drifting creatures attracted to the materials stored there.  There is another ghost there, a young man named Clarence Dally, who worships Edison and who died after volunteering as a guinea pig in Edison's X-ray experiments.  Lastly are the sub-basements, where Edison invented the powerful electrical weapons that he began employing in 1903, when the War of the Currents became literal.  Most of the weapons involved eldritch trappings that Edison didn't understand, and some of them walk and skitter through those darkened halls.  Edison swears he can hear them down there on quiet nights.

Edison abhors visitors, and is loathe to unseal the front door.  But if he thought there was someone who could do it, he would beg them to please, please, for the love of God, go to Sing Sing prison and destroy the electric chair, Ol' Sparky.  Give the ghosts some peace, and perhaps they'll forgive him as Topsy has.  (Sweet, faithful Topsy.)  Do it quickly, before Edison dies and his eternal soul is set upon by the lambent spirits of New York's worst murderers and felons.

Tesla, the Electromancer

Nikola Tesla keeps to himself these days.  You won't find him in any of the speakeasies. Westinghouse gives him a small stipend to live on, and so Tesla lives on the fifth floor Hotel New Yorker. Tesla no longer invents anything but he is still mentally active.  He spends his time writing, obsessed with matters of spirituality and the transmission of energy.

 His intellectual "doodles" can only be understood by a handful of people in the world.  In Europe, a number of interests have expressed interest in obtaining the notes of the master electromaster himself.

The rest of the fifth floor is filled with electromancer adepts, who seek to learn from the Master himself.  Ever since the Apocalypse made it possible, Tesla has dedicated himself to mastering the arts of electromancy, and has so far been unsurpassed in that regard.  Of course, Tesla has not escaped the corrupting effects of magic.  A forest of small tentacles growing on his belly sometimes escape the confines of his shirt (followed by his apologies), and he always keeps his left hand in his jacket.

Like all mages, he is also insane, but it is a gentle sort of insanity.  He never sleeps.  He is disgusted by jewelry, round objects, being touched by hair.  He is obsessed with the number three, and walks three times around buildings before entering.  He talks to pigeons, and is in romantic love with a certain white pigeon.  The aspiring electromancers that attend to him are terrified of the pigeons, and claim that they are aspects of an extra-dimensional entity with some unspecified interest in Tesla.  They cannot mention this to Nikola, as he becomes very upset when someone criticizes his little birds.  Just the same, the other electromancers would be interested if someone could get rid of the pigeons.  Although, a couple of their members have disappeared after swearing to do exactly that.

Tesla has little motivation beyond the present.  He is absorbed in his writings on post-Apocalyptic spirituality and directed energy.   However, there are a lot of his half-finished projects at his old laboratory, the Wardenclyffe Tower, which sits 60 miles out in no-mans-land.  He would be very grateful if someone could go there and retrieve his old experiments.  He's not interested in finishing the anti-gravity vehicles or the directed energy weapons, but it'd be nice to have them on hand.

He's also somewhat interested in seeing his old nemesis Edison again.  To tell him that he forgives him.  Yes, that's the reason.

Westinghouse, the Worm

George Westinghouse is dead, but his consciousness lives on inside the carnivorous sewer-worm that devoured his flabby, failing body in 1914.  This creature has terrorized Staten Island for over a decade, where the locals know it as "Westinghouse the Worm".  While the creature sleeps, George Westinghouse is able to speak through the worm's garbage disposal-like mouth.  Westinghouse was a fervent nationalist, and he has promised a vast fortune to anyone who is able to go to Niagara Falls and restart the Schoellkopf Power Station in order to reduce New York's dependency on Universal Electric.

Universal Electric is run and owned by the naked mole-rat people that everyone disparagingly refers to as "pinkies".  They sell New York electricity from some unknown source at extravagant rates, and yet everyone is careful not to insult their yellow-booted technicians, lest the pinkies cut off their electricity and collapse the ground beneath their house.

George Westinghouse hates those little pink fuckers.  Just bring me a big bag of their heads, he says, and he'll authorize immediate transfer of funds.  From the depths of the worm's primeval brain, he plots their doom.  Sometimes the worm-thing chuckles in its sleep.  That's Westinghouse, imagining the sweet crunch of mole-man skulls between his teeth.  I mean, the worm's teeth.

Two Spells

Edison's Insult
Spell Level: Wizard 1
Range: 150 ft.
The caster telemagnetically accelerates a metal object no bigger than 5 lbs.  With an attack roll, the caster can inflict weapon damage on a target by launching the weapon.  This spell can also be used to accelerate bullets, which travel as well as if they had been fired from a gun (and do equivalent damage), as long as the bullets aren't solid lead (and most bullets aren't).  This is also much quieter than shooting a gun.

Tesla's Retort
Spell Level Wizard 3
Range: 240 ft.
This spell is identical to the lightning bolt spell, except that it does 1d10 damage per caster level and behaves like actual electricity, i.e. it seeks the nearest grounded surface.  You need a conductive surface between you and your target, unless your target is below you (and the ground is the nearest electrical ground).

And here's some Serbian music to play while you think over all the stuff you just read.

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