In the budding age of steam technology, Freddy Fitzgerald risks everything to write the story of a lifetime.
After stealing an ancient map from under the nose of a notorious gangster, Freddy Fitzgerald and Thaddeus Lumpen embark on a quest to find a lost civilization.As news of the map leaks, Freddy and Lumpen find themselves racing against a violent army of archaeologists, gangsters, mercenaries, scuttlers, and scarlettes.
But their destination has its own secrets, secrets which can make even the strongest go mad.
Discovering Aberration is a cerebral adventure set in an alternate Victorian era. From a country on the verge of revolution to a sensational confrontation on a remote island, its final, chilling secret just might push you to the brink of insanity.
Chapter 2. A Brief History of Victania, Scuttlers and the Rise of John-Joseph Heller
At this time, many Victanians, particularly the higher class, considered their country to be the intellectual leader of the world. But throughout my wanderings I became unexpectedly acquainted with worlds view of Victania, a view so different from any I had known, even from the lower classes, that I was practically forced to rethink my view of my country. Victania’s knack for pure invention was known the world over. But even this could not overshadow the country’s less than ideal reputation in almost ever other regard.
Throughout my travels when my nationality was made known I commonly experienced one of two different reactions from those who had once visited her. Either my new acquaintance would begin to poke about my person asking if I had brought along any piece of technology they could purchase in hopes of reselling it at a profit, or they would sneer and describe my country in the bleakest of terms with words such as “vile” used passionately and often.
I had grown up rather poor, lost my parents at a early age, then found myself matriculated into scuttler culture before I took up my walking stick and left Victania for the east. Certainly I had a less than pristine view of Victania. But vile? Even I was floored by so strong a word used so often.
As it turned out, Victania was not only famous for her confounded politics, wide spread colonies, heftily split economy, and overbearing bureaucracy, but also for her pompous, self important, and overbearing attitude to the world in general.
I didn’t realize until upon my return, but much of what the world said about Victania seemed to be true in a manner of speaking. There were exaggerations and misconceptions but even so, Vicania’s overbearing faults became suddenly apparent to me almost instantly upon my arrival. And so, I suppose, this is the way it must have been within Victania for many years prior, I simply had not the perspective.
Victania was a country in schism, vastly divided in terms of class, welfare, religious ideology, education, social norms, and just about every other aspect affecting the day to day lives of the countries citizens. These vast rifts created a chasm within Victania like an earthquake splitting apart the ground, allowing muck and grim to slip within the crevices, to fester, to grow, to breed, and then to slowly leak out onto either side of the divide.
Corruption and organized crime thrived, as one might expect, but perhaps most interesting and unique to Victania was the culture of violence which erupted in the ranks of the youth. It was this sub-culture that bolstered me when I was at my weakest, but it too was the culture that bolstered a much more infamous man in a much more nefarious manner. That man was John-Joseph Heller.
One offshoot of this culture of violence (for there were many) was manifest as a complex network of “scuttlers”: a prolific smattering of unaffiliated groups with strange reputations. These tightly knit groups of mostly young men declared their gang standing with hair styles like the donkey fringe, rat tail, scuttle weave, multicolored ribbons about their arms or ankles, and various styles of hats or jackets.
The tools of their trade were simple, effective things: iron knuckles, saps and the like. But the iconic tool of the scuttler arsenal was a woven leather belt with a heavy iron or brass buckle used to decrease intelligence one wallop at a time. Though they sometimes stole and fenced goods in order to fuel their passions, they were popular among the public for their theatrical displays of violence which were performed with dramatic aplomb. To put it simply, they lived to fight.
As an example, let us revisit a scene from my younger years which left an indelible impression on me. Twenty five years earlier, on a cold February afternoon much like the afternoon when Lumpen shoved a map before me babbling of adventure, a mother and her young, impressionable son walked to the market, hand in hand. The air crisp and cool meant the food would be fresh and savory, and the boy Franklin skipped with thoughts of a sugary apple ripe in his head.
This market was always a place brimming with matronly types wrapped in thick wool jackets, one or two even donning fake molded animals about themselves in an attempt to replicate the taxidermies of the wealthy. Their children slipped from their coats and chased one another down the street. Carts were arranged in semi circles outside the shop doors with second hand goods of every kind on display, the cold blessing everything with a slight sparkling aura.
Through the sea of townie dresses, the back and forth of shop keepers and the frames of carts, my heart began to bound as I witnessed my first scuttler emerging from a dark alleyway. Like a vision of legend stole directly from my adolescent mind, he hopped atop a crate and stood erect. Upon his grim face was caked red and white war paint, a blue ribbon tied round an arm. Banners rippled in the chilling breeze, as if to usher in his heroic speech which I watched with bated breath.
In the deep voice of a seventeen year old, the scuttler called out as he began to prance like a peacock, “I am Damien of the Limping Squirrels, and I’ve entered your territory! This market belongs to the Nob Stoppers, does it not? Show yourselves, you putrefied ingrates! I am here to ask of thee, what are you gonna do about it?! Eh?”
“Mother!” I cried deliriously happy, joy so displayed on my face that my cheeks quickly grew tired of smiling.
Rolling her eyes, my mother grabbed me, tugging me away. She had witnessed this scene a hundred times before and knew the best course of action was to simply wait it out, perhaps gossip a bit with the other waiting ladies until she could once again resume her haggles in peace.
“I want to watch!” I cried, dragging my feet.
“You can watch just fine on a bench away from all this ridiculous nonsense.”
From the far end of the market appeared another man, face battered in white, head decorated with a bouncing aged top hat too big to stand still on its own accord. He bellowed to his challenger in his cracking voice, “I am Richard Ulysses Maximilian Haggard the third of the Nob Stoppers and I have a retort for you my dim witted mud fish. We ain’t goin’ nowheres! Have at thee!”
Within an instant, all about us sprung scuttlers in hiding as they leaped into the market and commenced beating one another, fists flying through the air like hail, belts removed in quick tugs and lashed about. When a buckle hit the skull of an opponent, a mighty dong rang out accompanied by a slurred cry. It was all my little heart could handle to see such glorious, manly violence. Scuttlers fell to the ground and rose back up into the fray while others simply exchanged blows for blows. Minutes past and with it came bloodied noses, blackened eyes, scuffed knees and rattled cages. And then as if choreographed, the lot of them stopped and in a single motion retreated in all directions as the authorities, brandishing canes and foul language, chased the scuttlers back into the alleys.
For a magical moment, all was quite and still. I could hear my own heavy breathing, feel my heart beat, my blood pumping through my veins like a train billowing along the tracks. And then the crowd resumed their haggles and carried on with their day like it was any other.
Around that same time in the darker regions of Victania, another uprising of counter culture was taking hold. Rather than the open aired street fighting of young men, the violence was much less public, and much more notorious. Child fighting was building an underground surge of momentum in the filthy bars and rat infested shadows of the ghettos. And within these pits of violent atrocities, the lad named John-Joseph Heller was beginning to make a name for himself.
John-Joseph Heller was known for his vicious tactics in the underground rings, or so the story goes. Biting, eye gouging, and sharpened slashing fingernails were almost a guarantee of gore. And gore was what the crowd of debt ridden gamblers and blood lusting drunkards came to see. When John-Joseph Heller’s fights became too much of a sure thing, story has it he moved on to more risky fights with grown men and even starved dogs. Though he was scarred often, he was never beaten. But as he brought each opponent to his knees, John-Joseph Heller was also growing up and his vision began to extend further than the ring.
When he grew older, he cemented his name in the public conscious as a new kind of scuttler. Entering the streets, he made scuttling a matter of dark pride, handing down vicious anointings upon each oh his challengers, marking them with shameful scars as he stood over their battered bodies. They say that is the origin of his iconic knife, the thick blade with the blackened wooden handle. When John-Joseph Heller scuttled, his opponent left the fighting grounds marked with a wicked, shameful scar.
With John-Joseph Heller on the streets, the scuttler groups either feared him and broke apart one by one, or took the act of scuttling professional as they dug in their heels and became the organized gangs they are today. This left the major cities of Victania split territorially between a wide range of young gangs, mercenaries, smugglers and other forms of organized crime. And in the middle of it all was John-Joseph Heller.
But on the day Lumpen decided he was feeling adventurous, John-Joseph Heller’s street fighting days were well behind him. At this time, he had disappeared from the public eye almost entirely. That is except at night when drink flowed well and spirits were low, stories of his exploits might be heard in pubs round the slums as they were told in hushed voices. The rumors of his current activities were many. Some said he had been killed, others said retired. Some went as far as to claim he had repented for his sins and had taken up lodging in a remote abbey. But anyone with any sense knew that he was still about in the shadows, perhaps still the leader of his old gang of scuttlers, The Deansgate Mob.