His name was Malachi Morgan and he was the son of Chicago’s most notorious millionaire, but he wasn’t like his father Mal fell far from the tree. He decided, at nineteen, to reject his wealth and make it on his own. He worked in speak easies, bathtub distilleries, and washed dishes in the food kitchens. He walked the streets cold and hungry some days and his friends weren’t the wealthy and powerful. He hobnobbed with, dappers and flappers, Joe’s and palookas, the kind you’d find on skid row. A good night was getting ossified with a single Sheba and still having a few mazumas left for the next day.

In the roaring twenties, the city was rife with crime. Mafia and magnates alike bought or shot their way forward. The aldermen were corrupt and the police willfully complicit. If there was a crime, you could blame it on any hobo in skid row and nobody was the wiser.  The hobo got locked up, and at the least had three squares a days ,and sometimes a little dough for his trouble.

Crime was business, and business was good.  Empires don’t run themselves and as the roar of innovation began to overtake the world, Morgan steel would need its heir. Mal couldn’t hide in the streets forever. His father wanted him back.

One night Mal’s father orchestrated a bust on the speak easy his son was working at. The raid got botched when someone pulled out a tommy gun and started shooting the place up. It was a massacre, 14 dead, and all of them under 20. The city cried, but Mal didn’t. He knew everyone of them. They had scrapped and saved, to buy him drinks, and bake a cake, for his 20th year alive.  They were dead because they knew him, because they cared for him.

That night forever altered his life. He took his trauma and created an alternate persona: a masked vigilante who dispensed justice in the dark of the night.

The Great Crusader gave hope to a city mired in economic depression and ruled by the gluttonous greed of old money. With exposure, evidence, and a good district attorney on his side, the Crusader cleaned up City Hall, then the police force, then the rich, and finally the mob.

He confronted his father and brought evidence against him. Tragically he took his own life rather than face prison. Upon his father’s death, he claimed his heritage and utilized his father’s immense company resources to secure the streets.

The company had hired a controversial scientist named Crowley. His work with magnets and electricity had earned him a reputation as not quite being ‘all on the trolly’. Crowley joined The Great Crusader, and with his help, Mal fashioned himself into a modern-day Hercules. Electro dynamic armor, bullet resistant weaves and wireless long-range radios all wrapped in a bright and colorful costume to inspire hope.

He was unstoppable, fighting everything from bank robbers, to tax fraud. Nothing could touch him, until Andronico the Greek, using a stolen Tesla Shock Pistol, managed to rip through his armor and send him hurling off the side of a railway.

That was when he met Sigil, who was just a kid then, but strong as steel. The kid, in nothing more than silk stockings, and work boots, took him back to Crowley, saved his life, and then defeated the Greek by himself. Sigil, or Casey Connor as he was known without a mask, had been closely following The Great Crusader. He’d fashioned a costume of his own and had been making a few headlines. After the Greek, the two became partners.

***

Malichai Morgan

Rebel teen, Great Crusader, fallen hero.

Malachi opened one dull yellow eye. The dreams of the past had been so sweet. He could see a light, but not much more. Just a fuzzy splotch of green and grey. Was he blind? He didn’t know. His body was stiff, and his senses dulled. What happened? Where was he? Had he been injured?

He was numb across his whole body and barely had a sense of lying down. Had he fallen? Was there brain damage? Would he recover?  Where was Sigil? He reached for his Tesla Wireless, but his arm was numb and only flopped at his side. He focused and sat up. His vision still blurry and only one eye seemed to work. He reached for his face and barely managed to grope at himself pathetically. His fine motor skills were reduced to feeble baby-like pawing. With great effort he managed to stand. He had one good sense left; he could hear.

The wind whipped around him, and thunder rolled in the distance. He was outside and it sounded cold, or maybe cold was all he could feel. Maybe cold was all he had left. Maybe he was dead? Death had come. Yes, now he remembered. Dr. Death had killed him.

One foot lumbered forward, and against all odds he didn’t fall. He could walk, that was a start. Malachi again reached for his wireless and heard it clatter to the ground. He turned and tried to kneel, but his balance quickly failed him. Out of instinct he put his hands out and he managed to avoid planting his face to the street. He struggled to locate the wireless and shouted out in frustration when he couldn’t. He dragged in a dry and hollow breath then shouted again. Nothing but a raspy reed-like sound came out, and he realized the wireless wouldn’t help him. He stood again trying his best to understand what little his senses offered him. He then realized he wasn’t numb all over.

It was slight at first, almost unnoticeable, but was growing every second. The mounting sensation then began to spread across his body, consuming his every thought. He hungered like never before. An unrelenting beast of desire screamed and raged from his gut and bones.

Malachi Morgan, the Great Crusader, surged forward, no longer adorned as the bright protector of Chicago. He lumbered onward as his shredded cape followed behind. His bright blue Tesla weave now stained and oxidized, his utility belt broken and covered in rust. His skin was a decaying mess, and his guts were slithering slowly out of a hole in his side.

The hunger was everything. He had no idea of how long it had been since he ate.  A day, an hour, there was no such thing as time for him, only hunger. He heard a scream, the sounds of a fight, but they were far away. Voices meant people, people meant life, life was what he needed. He surged forward stumbling to the sounds.

More voices nearby.  A woman and a child: LIFE! His mind screamed as he lumbered onward, violently writhing and grasping where he heard the sounds. And when his numb skin touched live flesh it was as if the world exploded with joy in his head. The warmth, the feel, the taste… the taste!

What had he done? The voices were now gone, everything was silent, as was his hunger.