Brief History of Detroit
By Booker Killdeer
MoTown, Motor City, Brawl Hall, Detroit; if you hear these words anywhere in North America, you instantly think of four things: Cars, Music, Ares, and Urban Brawl. In the homogenizing age of the wireless matrix, distinctions between places become fuzzy, identity tends toward virtual personas, but Detroit still stands out. It means something to be from Detroit (different things to different people, of course). I grew up in this dirty-ass burg. I’ve seen her fight, I’ve seen her give up, I’ve seen her on fire and I’ve seen her cold as ice. Why don’t you follow along with this little love song to my hometown.
Let’s start with a little history lesson. 1701, the French set-up a fur trading post on the shores of the great lakes. They do pretty good for the next hundred and fifty years, trading hands between the French, Brits, and the US over the course of a couple of wars. In the 19th century, you see the birth of a great underground legacy for Detroit: smuggling. Escaped slaves from what’s now the CAS were hustled through the city and across what used to be the border between old Canada and the US of A. Roll on to the late 19th century and you’re in the middle of the industrial revolution. Factories booming, loads of folks start showing-up. Including Mr. Henry Ford.
Now it’s on. Tens of thousands of people start walking, limping, dragging themselves in from Appalachia, Europe, and the deep south, lots of former slaves, lots of people looking to build something. Build they do friends, this city overflows with people looking for good-paying factory work. They start mixing it up, and you get race riots in the mid-20th, but things are going pretty good. We’re kickin’ out cars left and right, by the train load, by the ship-load. The first interstate: we built it. It’s a party, we got funky music, we got hot cars, we got fresh skyscrapers, beautiful hotels: Everybody wants to be Detroit.
That changed a hundred years ago, friends. Everything was fossil fuels back then, and up until 1972 it was practically free. Then some geopolitical shit went down and it wasn’t so cheap anymore. No one wanted our big, beautiful cars. Manufacturing practically died standing-up. We had a slow fall to the turn of the millennium, my friends. People leaving in the thousands, leaving poorer and poorer folk competing for fewer and fewer jobs going to shittier and shittier schools. De facto segregation, block upon block abandoned and rotting, murder and street crime running rampant. Everyone else got knocked on their ass during the Awakening, Detroit was already there.
In a way, that was a gift from history. While the whole world was reeling from that sucker-punch, we kept on trucking through it. I remember as kid Ol’ Nick Aurelius making those speeches about a new age, about bringing Detroit to the stars and America with it. After I goblinized (at the ripe age of 10 years old, mind you) with the first wave, All I thought about was being an astronaut. My daddy was an engineer for GM before Ol’ Nick put together Ares (that’s right, kiddos, there was a time before Ares Macrotechnology), and he had a scale model of Mars Discovery team’s command module on the bookcase in our living room. I used to imagine flying away from the riots outside my window. Before they closed the schools down, the other boys would call me a monster. A ten year old boy, bein’ called a monster and having food thrown at me. I got in a few scrums, and whooped some 12-year-old ass, I’ll tell you that!
Anyway, after Ares bought NASA, we were damn excited in MoTown. Ol’ Nick consolidated fabrication, breathed a little hope into our lives. My Daddy worked on space stations, I couldn’t been more proud of him. We’d go to Greektown once a month to listen to music, dance, try to be normal. There were a few places that wouldn’t let me in, racists bastards, but Daddy never made a scene about it. My mother died in from VITAS, so he was all I had and he knew it. I was on Cloud Nine in Greektown, so I didn’t notice at the time how pissed-off he was.
I was too young to remember the Ghost Dance War, but I knew damn well that the Natives were dangerous. They were set up on Walpole island for a while, across Lake St. Claire, and they’d talk about them preparing for attacks on the news even after the Treaty of Denver, but they never did. People were coming to the city again. Metahumans like me were passing through on the way to Canada or even Quebec, too.
The Crash of ’29, though, I remember clear as day. I was 17, an ork on the prowl (I did alright for a nerdy ork who studied astronomy at home). I was devastated when Freedom Station went dark. Lights went out everywhere, people were rioting again, the cops went rabid and people were dying all over this city.
The ‘30s were kind of a blur after that. The South rose again and no one really cared. Old Nick retired and died a few years later, Ares’s Myrmidon Security took over policing after the police department was disbanded by the feds, and with the Unification there were all sorts of changes in Detroit. The Greater Detroit Metroplex was established, the Fighting Island quarantine was set-up for HMHVV victims. It was a crazy time of fear, racism, and low-level violence all leading-up to the big show: February 7, 2039. I was on my way home when the riots broke out, had to run for my damn life to the church. We stayed overnight in that basement, door locked tight, waiting for the insanity to end as anti-metahuman extremists ran through the streets hunting us. They lit the church on fire the next morning and we had to scatter. Daddy never made it home, and I never found out what happened to him. Probably better that way, to be honest. Damien Knight had booted Ol’ Nick’s son out of Ares. Myrmidon became just as brutal as the old DPD, but twice as funded, and they did next to nothing during the riots.
I lost my left hand during the street battles over the next few days. There were riots like that in Seattle, St. Louis, Boston, Philly, everywhere. In the aftermath, Ares re-branded Fighting Island as the Ares Combat Arms Brawl Park. They wanted to funnel all of the city’s aggression into their pockets. The Zug Island Quarantine Zone took over HMHVV containment, and Myrmidon cleared out the dregs of Fighting Island’s squatters, most of whom had been pushed there by anti-metahuman housing practices in the first place.
Ares bought the Predators, and started plugging loads of money into them, promoting Urban Brawl in a big way. Recruiters were in all the neighborhoods, getting tips from Myrmidon or trawling prisons for the baddest of the bad. That’s how Brawl Hall started. Around then Myrmidon was rebranded Knight Errant, and expanded nation wide, using their “success” here as proof they could handle whatever else was up.
The ‘40’s were better for Detroit in some ways. We had Urban Brawl to distract us, and let me tell you, there were a lot of guys my age thinking it was their way out of the streets. Ares was doing well, and when Ares does well Detroit does well, but for us, orks and trolls I mean, things were still rough. Officially we had the same protections under UCAS law, but the real story was a lot different. Humanis showed-up to the party, and that was just the overt violence. You couldn’t get a job in no hospital with horns, good luck getting hired by Knight Errant as an ork, or doing much outside of warehouses or construction as either. Trolls had it worse, still do I suppose.
Anyway, Reverend Carlisle started the Mission for Ork and Troll Opportunities and Rights (MOTOR) about that time, 2045. It was just thirty of us in rundown old church then. Sons of Sauron got their start about the same time, but they didn’t make it to Detroit for another few years. We had our own underground neo-anarchists, though. A gang of muskrat french guys started calling themselves the House of Windsor, spouting off about establishing the Windsor Free City. No one really took them seriously before they bombed the old Ambassador Bridge. The pawns hunted them down pretty ruthlessly after that
Bishops of Truth formed then, mostly out of anti-Knight Errant rage. Ford tried to replicate Ares’ success in Urban Brawl with major investment in Combat Biking. The Ford Cougars are a ranked club, but the Ford Arena couldn’t hold a candle to the Ares Brawl Park. In ’46 Ares won the bidding war to host the first International Urban Brawl World Cup, and Detroit had never seen so many foreigners in town at once. They held the games in Flint, which was as much a barren as half of Detroit then, but had a few more wild things running around it.
By the fifties, I was working for a start-up trying to make a better kitchen multimodal soy cooker. My cousin was playing for the Detroit Nightmares, my wife was pregnant with our first kid when all that craziness in Bug City went down. They told us it was VITAS, another outbreak, and the whole ‘plex was on the edge of panic. I thought we were in for another round of race riots, but when a nuke went off in Bug City things calmed down. No one believed the VITAS story after that.
MOTOR continued to grow, Orktown started getting national recognition as an example of what orks are really like. We allied with the Ork Rights Committee, and tried to get the Sons of Sauron on board. We almost had them until six meta-human ears were found skewered on the Spirit of Detroit statue. I almost switched to SoS, too, after that, but I had my baby girl to think about. Besides, forty-four years old isn’t the time to go street-fighting.
Dunkelzhan’s assassination, SURGE, and the damn comet threw us back into chaos just like everyone else in UCAS. We hadn’t really recovered by the time Crash 2.0 hit. I was out of work for a year and a half, almost offed myself twice. We pulled through it, my Cindy’s stubborn enough for the both of us, and naturally Ares wining the Probe Race was all we could talk about until the Gagarin footage started beaming in. The rest you probably know. We’re still fighting for our rights in this city, and we’ve made good progress over the last thirty years, I’d say. My baby girl Orxanne is grown and scaring the hell out of me with this Orxploitation band project, but she’s doing a lot better than her daddy or her granddaddy ever did.
I don’t know about this whole new “Or’zet” language that’s gotten so popular. MOTOR and the others of my generation have worked all our lives to be treated the same as humans, not try to differentiate ourselves with nonsense words. I’ll bet my left foot Sons of Sauron or Pit Bull Union came-up with that idea.