Originally founded by European settlers in the colonial period, Chamberlain has a long history stretching back to the early 1700s, enduring successive waves of prosperity, disaster and conflict. Throughout the 20th century, it has seen increasing levels of superhuman activity, particularly since the so-called "mystery man" explosion of the mid-thirties. Conspiracy theorists claim that Chamberlain is a major transport hub for extraterrestrial and supernatural entities. Although dismissed as crackpots by the general community, recent events suggest they are far closer to the truth than anyone ever imagined.
Colonial Era (1690 - 1774)Edit
Late 1600s: Local tribes leave the Challahasse Valley following a particularly savage winter, claiming that the region is haunted by evil spirits. Oral traditions tell of a shambling white stranger who brought plague, fire and famine to the Challahasse one year before the exodus. Later occultist historians have tentatively identified this figure as The Book Master.
Early 1700s: European settlers arrive via the Challahasse River, founding the settlement of King's Towne. Despite warnings from nearby tribesmen, the settlement thrives in the fertile valley, becoming a major trading center by the 1750s, renamed Port Chamberlain by the predominantly Anglo-Saxon community.
1773: Chamberlain is decimated by an unknown plague; historical documents describe streets littered with blackened corpses and fires raging through the West shore (aka Radcliffe Corners). The "Black Scourge" rages uncontrolled for at least two years, after which the records fall silent.
Revolutionary Era (1775-1860)Edit
1777: British Forces arrive to take possession of Port Chamberlain, encountering a population lain waste by disease and starvation. Survivors report that Death and The Devil waged war in the heart of the city, obliterating thousands in the process. Noting the stench of rotting flesh in the air, the British beat a hasty retreat in the face of the plague. Chamberlain is effectively quarantined until the end of the war.
1800: Gradual economic recovery as trade resumes on the East shore. Renamed Chamberlain in 1810, the city enters an era of increasing prosperity which lasts until the Civil War. Meanwhile, Radcliffe degenerates into a vast ghetto teeming with smugglers, brigands and cut-throats. All semblance of order breaks down on the West shore, with local gang leaders assuming the power of feudal lords.
1855: Reports of a mysterious masked vigilante begin circulating around Radcliffe. Dubbed The Deathspeaker by the local press, he is Chamberlain's first recorded costumed hero, described as "a tall, gaunt figure clad in a flailing ebony cloak". Armed only with a black rapier and a matching set of revolvers, he launches a prolonged reign of terror against Radcliffe's criminal element, successfully driving the gangs off the streets by 1860. His true identity is never revealed, but reports of a similar vigilante are made as late as the 1890s.
Western Era (1861-1890)Edit
1861: Chamberlain's male population dwindles as volunteers join the Union Army during the Civil War. Crime and corruption spills over from Radcliffe as black marketeers seize control of the city's administration. Crooked politician Earl Makepeace is elected mayor, founding a dynasty of murderous autocrats. Chamberlain descends into the abyss over the next seven years; it is rumored that Makepeace sold his soul to The Devil in return for political power.
1868: Riots and looting break out across Chamberlain as returned veterans go to war with Radcliffe's crime lords. The Deathspeaker resurfaces after an eight year absence, followed by several masked adventurers including The Six-Shooter, The Pistoleer, and The Chamberlain Kid. The four eventually team up under Deathspeaker's leadership to drive the scum back to Radcliffe.
1870s: Criminal activity spirals out of control on the Westside, leading to a final confrontation between Earl Makepeace and the Night Raiders. In the ensuing conflict, half of the city is burnt to the ground by a catastrophic fire set by the Crimelord's followers. Hundreds die during the first hours of the inferno, although the East Shore survives largely intact.
Earl Makepeace escapes the conflagration, fleeing with several bodyguards down to Port Kingston. Each are gunned down by The Deathspeaker within sight of a departing steamer; Makepeace's bullet-ridden corpse is left hanging from the gates of Gallows Hill as a reminder to Radcliffe's criminal element. Vigilante justice has been served, but at a terrible price: Chamberlain has been reduced to a charred, smoking ruin, its streets literally festering with bodies. Casualties are estimated to run into the thousands, leaving a newly homeless population to starve on the banks of the Challahasse.
1880s: Chamberlain undergoes a long period of restoration, gradually emerging as three distinct regions: Greater Chamberlain (East shore), Radcliffe (West shore), and Empire City (Northern districts). Numerous satellites form on the outskirts of each sub-city, fueled by the discovery of gold out on Shackle Ridge. Immigrants flood in from Europe and Asia to mine the fields, leading to a sudden economic recovery throughout the 1880s. The horrors of the previous decade are soon forgotten, although The Westside retains an unsavory reputation for white slavery and opium dens. Port Kingston becomes the city's main red light district, with bars, casinos and dance halls catering to every conceivable vice.
1887: With street violence on the rise, new sightings of The Deathspeaker are reported in the news, particularly around the Gallows Hill district. Most are dismissed as baseless rumours, until Police Commissioner John Galloway confirms that a "caped figure" has been systematically terrorizing local gangs around the docklands. Dime novels and penny-dreadfuls popularize this elusive phantom, often depicting him as a supernatural being. Regular sightings continue over the years, despite the general consensus that the Deathspeaker would have to be an old man in his sixties by now.
1888: Having grown somewhat opulent during its five year gold-rush, Chamberlain invests its considerable wealth in the field of electrical technology, building a state-of-the-art transport system comprising one of the largest tram networks in the country. Work also begins on a subway complex rivaling the Paris Metro, eventually covering more than 150 miles underground. Arc-lighting is introduced to the central business district, extending north to Empire City and west as far as Gallows Hill, while factories and workshops are established in Radcliffe's industrial sector.
The Reign of Horror (1890-1900)Edit
1890: Chamberlain is now a world-class metropolis on par with London or New York, having gained a reputation as one of the most technically advanced cities of its time. Steam-powered automobiles are a common sight in the downtown plaza, experimental airships soar majestically overhead, and elevated tramways weave throughout the rapidly expanding suburbs. Inventors and entrepreneurs pour into the Empire district, pushing the limits of industry and innovation, leading the press to describe the city as amongst the most prosperous in the United States.
However, in contrast to Chamberlain's growing affluence, Radcliffe is - once again - descending into violence and anarchy. A second wave of immigration sweeps in from Eastern Europe, resulting in various enclaves forming around the red-light districts of The Westside. Local police shun the area, considering it too dangerous to patrol at night. Reports of "unholy rituals" make headlines on an almost daily basis: The Deathspeaker is seen fighting a group of "demonic phantasms" on Gallows Hill; eyewitnesses claim that the masked vigilante was mortally wounded in the struggle. Vanishing shortly after this encounter, his true identity remains a mystery, although conspiracy theorists claim that his spirit haunts the Westside to the present day.
The Golden Age (1938-1948)Edit
Historically speaking, the Super-Patriot project of the late thirties achieved significant success rates. Code named Operation Eagle, contemporary records estimated that over 70 percent of military test subjects were endowed with enhanced physiques and superhuman endurance.
Variants of the original formula were simultaneously developed by the private sector, ostensibly to provide the home front with a virtually indestructible National Guard in the event that the Axis powers attempted to invade American soil.
These variant formulas were administered to civilian volunteers; mainly police officers, state troopers and similar law enforcement officials. Although the programs were classified top secret, it is known that at least seven hundred experiments were performed across the United States between 1938 and 1941.
The result was a proliferation of 'Chemical Warriors' entering the war effort as special operatives. Others remained behind to protect the home front from spies and saboteurs, frequently dubbed 'Mystery Men' by the local press. Judging by the propaganda of the period, Operation Eagle was an unqualified success, at least in the eyes of the American public.
The Decline (1949-1957)Edit
Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that the variant formulas had unexpected - and sometimes tragic - side effects. Test subjects often experienced increasing levels of paranoia, lapsing into extreme violence and insanity within four to five years. This wasn't a major issue during the war, as their rage could be directed towards the enemy, and most of the super-patriots worked solo missions behind enemy lines.
However, this mental instability caused serious problems after the war, as most of the super-soldiers could not be safely reintegrated into the civilian population. The less powerful ones were institutionalized in secure facilities, where they usually died within a few years, but the more dangerous renegades had to be hunted down and euthanized to protect the public. The affair was covered up in the interests of 'national security', and all knowledge of Operation Eagle was buried in classified documentation by 1951.
It was during this time that costumed vigilantes seemed to vanish from the headlines, as all of them had been marked for termination - even those who had no connection with the Super-Patriot Program. The government was taking no risks - unauthorized versions of the serum had been synthesized, and anyone wearing a costume could be a potential 'loose cannon'. Many former heroes disappeared during The Purge, betrayed by the country they'd fought to protect only a few years before.
Only a handful of super-patriots managed to survive; a small number of vigilantes who had gone underground in the late 40s. Unlike their dangerously unstable comrades, this group had suffered no psychological damage, retaining both their powers and their sanity. Being highly intelligent and superhumanly powerful, they managed evade their trackers during The Purge, adopting new identities and blending into the general population (as they'd been trained to do during the war).
However, with the advent of the Cold War, the last of the Super-Patriots find themselves on the run once more. The Soviets had started producing their own 'Chemical Warriors', and they wanted to analyze the source of the variant formula.
The survivors were now forced to defend themselves against a vicious two-pronged attack: the US Government wanted them dead and the Soviets want them alive ... and only time could tell who would survive The Sanction.
By the year 2032, Chamberlain has become a sprawling maze of ruins covering most of the Eastern Seaboard. In a world devastated by environmental disasters, the city is facing imminent starvation, with 25 percent of the population effectively homeless and resources dwindling literally by the hour. Entire sections of the conurb have been cordoned off to house the "itinerants", along with the various freaks, mutants and borgz flooding in from the Suburbs. Survival rates in these "Red Zones" are extremely low due to violence, disease, and malnourishment; cannibalism is becoming rife in the ghettos and back alleys.
DATELINE: FRIDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2032:
THE NATIONAL WATER SHORTAGE IS NOW IN ITS SEVENTY-THIRD DAY. GOVERNMENT SOURCES REPORT NO END IN SIGHT. RELIEF EFFORTS HAVE BEEN MINIMAL. OVER THREE THOUSAND PEOPLE ARE REPORTED TO HAVE PERISHED IN THE LAST WEEK ALONE.
FOOD SHORTAGES HAVE EXACERBATED THE PROBLEM. RIOTING HAS BROKEN OUT IN THE WESTSIDE. MILITARY FORCES ARE ON HIGH ALERT. MEANWHILE, THE HOMELESS RATE IS SAID TO HAVE REACHED TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT. EXPERTS WARN THAT THE ECONOMY CAN NO LONGER SUSTAIN ITSELF. ECONOMIC COLLAPSE IS NOW IMMINENT. A STATE OF EMERGENCY HAS BEEN DECLARED.
SENATOR JOHN MAKEPEACE HAS ORDERED A COMPLETE CORDON OF THE INNER CITY'S RED ZONE, DESCRIBING THE ENTIRE AREA AS TOO DANGEROUS FOR 'DECENT PEOPLE'.
QUOTE: "THE RED ZONE WILL NOW BE USED TO HOUSE CHAMBERLAIN'S GROWING ITINERANT POPULATION. INTERNMENT WILL BE MANDATORY. OUR HIGHEST PRIORITY IS GETTING THE SCUM OFF OUR STREETS ".
IN OTHER NEWS, THE SERIAL KILLER KNOWN AS 'M' HAS STRUCK AGAIN. HIS LATEST KILLING SPREE CLAIMED FIVE LIVES IN CHAMBERLAIN PLAZA. VARIOUS INTERNAL ORGANS WERE MISSING FROM EACH VICTIM. POLICE STILL HAVE NO LEADS IN THE CASE.