New Providence, Part 1 (of 3)
This is piece of narrative lore for Heroes of a Dark City, a mixed project that involves pen-and-paper roleplaying and serial short stories. I've been working with inspiration and ideas from some friends to create the city. One of the firsts tasks has been to create a setting: a fictional American Big City. So, I give you Part 1 of the New Providence setting.

Be aware that this is not a story, but a description of the setting from the eyes of a mysterious person known only as "the Narrator." It might still be worth a read as it has a voice, personality, and some mini-stories worked into it.

The setting is a modern noir, and the final product will bring you the stories of low-level heroes, similar to DC's Batman or Marvel's Defenders.

(Part 2, Part 3)

New Providence, Part 1 (of 3)

 (~1800 words)

There are many of us, but never enough. There's always another layer to the corruption and the crime. Some of us fight the symptoms, others the cause. Doesn't matter. There's always another fight around the corner.

And there are always more heroes.

We only have one thing in common. This city. It binds us, brings us together, even when we share nothing else. Care for nothing else.

This city, that's like a toxic lover you can't stop yourself from going back to. It's dark and unforgiving — but strong and loving and safe for the moment. It has every sort of criminal you can imagine, and some you can't, from petty thieves to faceless crime lords. It has more crooked politicians than it has shelters for the homeless. It has good cops and rotten cops and not much in between. It has a statue of Justice in front of the courthouse, only she's blindfolded so when she swings her sword she can't see who she cuts down.

It's an all-consuming melting pot. The strange mixed with the everyday, the old mixed with the new, honesty with corruption, beauty with danger. It's chaos.

But it's all we've got, so we have to defend it.

New Providence

So, the city we all hate to love. New Providence. Where to begin?

New Mersea

Probably at the shiny, rotten core. New Mersea. It’s a big island right where the Mohegan River splits and meets Sailor Bay. The first Dutch settlers wiped out the natives, dug their filthy fingers into the land and never let go. The story is so deeply embedded into the American cultural tapestry that you already know it by heart. I don’t want to tell it to you because I’m scared that it won’t piss you off. And it should.

And yeah, the locals pronounce it mercy. Drives the tourists nuts. And you know what? Some genius decided to name the hospital here St. Bartholomew’s Mercy Hospital, as well. And when that burned down in the fire of ‘23, they built another one and called it — you guessed it — New Mercy Hospital. No one knows if the hospital board had a whole lot of humor or exactly none at all. The latter, is my guess.

Windham

Those who sail by New Mersea out on the Bay are blinded by mirrored facades on the fancy high-rises and skyscrapers of Windham. That place is all high-end apartments and offices, though only TriStar and other big shot corps — happily relieved of human conscience — can afford to house themselves there. At the center you’ll find Merchant Street, once named after the street vendors whose stands lined the sidewalks. Now, it’s the home of bankers and brokers. Street vendors brave enough to tout their wares there today are quickly and discreetly ushered away by Prime Star security officers in crisp uniforms.

All the buildings in Windham are imposing, yet two manage to stand out. The New Providence Mercantile Exchange, a futures exchange part of the ECME Group, and the massive nouveau Gothic Carruthers Bank owned by local billionaire Davian Carruthers. Supposedly, his sister Eliza was due to inherit the family fortune, but she mysteriously disappeared. A large inheritance isn’t good news in this city.

Parallel to Merchant Street runs Shellburne Avenue, home to exclusive restaurants and clubs as well as the New Providence Opera House. It houses the biggest stage in the city and a giant banquet hall where the fanciest people hold the fanciest parties and the most extravagant fund-raisers.

Drake Memorial Park

Right now, we’re smack in the middle of New Mersea, and these bloody trees that surround us make up Drake Memorial Park, landscaped in the memory of Doctor James Horner Drake, a pioneer in the field of hematology. A local blood doctor, is what that means. They planted the park with thousands of red maples and red oaks in honor of his work making blood transfusions safer or some-such. And as you can see, most of the park’s foliage is red, and it goes a particularly deep red in the fall. It’s beautiful and quite surreal. Every generation of kids has a new name for this place, like the Scab or the Clot. It sure looks like a big wound when looking down on it from the Evening Star Tower. Well, except for the small part of it that’s green. That’s a story, too. Everything is.

See, back in the 80s there was a sociology major — Lana something… Brewster? — anyway, she was studying the local hospital records for some sociology reason or other, and by happenstance she uncovered old journals from the good doctor’s practice. Apparently, his methods had been, uh — creative. Brewster abandoned her old project and proceeded to interview a bunch of retirees from the clinic, and even some of the doc’s patients — though, turns out there weren’t many left around. He experimented on them, you see, submitting them to untested and risky procedures. He knowingly infected his patients with blood-borne diseases to study the effects, and he threatened or paid off his staff to keep it under wraps.

When Brewster had a whole bunch of damning evidence, she went to the mayor, one Terry Dunhill at the time. Dunhill was one of the first NP mayors of Irish descent and was looking to make an impression. Emboldened by the revelations about Doctor Drake, Dunhill saw an opportunity to push an agenda for urban renewal, starting with the park. There was a lot of criminal activity in the park and many complained about the dense foliage. Dunhill wanted to make it more open and plant some trees in less foreboding colors. He even went so far as to start the reconstruction. But reality caught up with him.

Conservative forces came out en masse, damning Lana Brewster and calling her a liar for trying to smear the good Doctor Drake who they claimed had been, by all accounts, a saint. Then environmentalists stepped up and called Mayor Dunhill’s proposal an ecological disaster as it would see the destruction of the most well-preserved collection of Japanese maples this side of the ocean. Both Dunhill’s and Brewster’s careers were destroyed, and the reconstruction was frozen. What remains of Dunhill’s efforts is a small segment of open, green park, now home to more upscale coffee and ice cream stands. It’s been eloquently named The Green by the city. But most still refer to it as Dunhill’s Folly or the Folly, for short.

Parlor Street

Out along the west side of the Clot runs Parlor Street, which used to be filled with coffeehouses, tea parlors, drinking dens, and bookshops — often in combination. It was a gathering point for anyone and everyone looking for political or philosophical discourse. Debates would sometimes get heated, but all ideas were respected — by being treated with the same deep skepticism. I know I don’t seem like a profound thinker, but I used to hang out there a lot. When was this, you ask? Oh, a fair while back. That’s another story, and one you won’t hear today.

But as New Mersea got fancified, the rents increased and the expensive restaurants and boutiques moved in. The coffee chains — Starbrew and the others — were the death blow to the street of ideas. Now, the shirt off your back won’t buy you a sneeze on Parlor Street. Ideas aren’t tied down, though, so a lot of the discussion moved into the park and then gravitated towards Bedford Avenue as some of the old hangouts re-opened there. But the spirit was lost, somehow. Bedford doesn’t have the broad sidewalks that allow outdoor seating, and the buildings are mostly run-down apartment condos. It’s not the same. Still, if you want to vent some ideas and get them turned inside out, there are some smart people over there. Particularly on the corner of Bedford and De Winter. Place called Nadenkend.

The area past Bedford Avenue is called Bedford, where you’ll find Sturbridge University, NPs most prestigious seat of learning. So the area is full of self-important little shits whose parents pay for both their education and their grades. And a few decent human beings who got there on a scholarship.

Anyhow, enough about the shiny parts of New Mersea.

Fort Stewart

New Mersea splits the Mohegan into two rivers, affectionately named the Middy and the Mariner after a well-known farce by a legendary local playwright. Furlong, I think his name was, lived at the turn of the 20th century. So, if you follow the Middy upriver — that’s on the west side — you’ll see the high-rises get shabbier and shabbier, until you hit a more, uh — rustic area. That’s the old Crawbridge Port. It was New Mersea’s trade port in the early days when the island was the city and the city was the island.

The port still has some of that old time charm. And by that I mean that it’s infested with crime and smells of sewage. A neck of land stretches into the river, and right on the water stands Fort Stewart. Originally built to defend the port, it was refitted in the late 19th century to receive and process immigrants. A couple of decades ago, the city spent a great deal of money restoring it in hopes of attracting tourists. But like the rest of Crawbridge, it attracts more squatters and flies than anything else. And the further upriver you go, the worse it gets.

Crawbridge

Crawbridge is a chaotic mix of every culture in NP, major or minor, which makes it both charming and dangerous. You can get food from pretty much any part of the world down there at a decent price, and it’s known for its thrift stores, second-hand culture, and a lively music scene. A community of darker subcultures thrives down there as well, from harmless occult bookstores and hangouts to crazy and downright dangerous shit like cannibal vampire sects. With rampant drug use and a slew of abrasive gangs and sects rubbing each other wrong on a daily basis, it’s a volatile situation on a good day. The NPPD tend not to cross Baker Avenue after dark unless someone died, which is admittedly most nights. And unlike in Ashbury, there’s no big criminal organization keeping the crime off the streets.

Little Jamaica

The only somewhat culturally homogeneous area north of Baker is Little Jamaica. The name is about as on target as you’d expect in this country. Sure, there’s a minority Jamaican American population, but a big chunk of the residents trace their lineage back to the African Diaspora and the Dutch Slave Coast — what’s now Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. Little Jamaica is an island of relative safety and prosperity in Crawbridge, held together by the common culture of an urban hoodoo offshoot — a mix of animism, Catholicism, urban legends, and Hollywood tropes that has strayed far from its roots in West African Vodun.

Oh, you wanna hear about Ashbury as well, huh? Well, bring me another cup of dirt and I’ll tell you more than you care to know.