“I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’”
- Howard Beale, Network
The urban blight known as the Annex lies on the western edge of Hamilton. It is a city in miniature with its own skyline, mass transportation system and emergency services. In the late sixties, city planners broke ground on the Annex to usher in a new era of city growth. Engineers drained swampland, built ambitious public spaces and constructed affordable housing. Legislators named the streets to honor local social activists and civil rights leaders and its schools after beloved authors of children’s literature. The summer of 1972 strangled the Annex in its infancy and it never recovered. The area suffered a three-day power outage during a record-breaking heat wave. The following week saw the cataclysmic collapse of the Berrigan Towers, a low-income retirement community that houses hundreds. The ensuing investigation revealed fraud on a massive scale, substandard building materials, political bribes and kickbacks. With many of its officers under investigation, the police force had to contend with a serial arsonist, fugitives from a prison escape and a surge in looting, assault and murder.
In the decades that followed, most of the area’s businesses and middle-class families fled from the rampant crime and decay. What was designed to be a self-sufficient, model community degenerated into a slum rivaling the poorest neighborhoods of Glassworks and Fairmont.
Mad as Hell
The Annex Police Department (formerly known as Hamilton’s 11th Precinct) is rife with corruption. While its few honest officers attempt to maintain law and order in this urban war zone, the majority of the force is less a police department than it is an organized crime syndicate subsidized by taxpayer money. The vice and homicide squads collect protection money from local businesses, fraternize with criminals and maintain a motley army of junkies and snitches at their command. The brutal lieutenant that runs Internal Affairs is the worst offender, supplementing his income with bribes to support a decadent lifestyle. Idealistic rookies are often sent to the 11th for “a tour of duty in Hell,” either as a warning to get in line or punishment for departmental infractions.
The Annex is in a sad state of affairs. Everyone knows what’s happening but nobody is willing or able to do anything about it. Nobody, that is, save the ones exploiting the situation for their own benefit. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Bratva invaded the Annex to deal in contraband, underground blood sports, narcotics and prostitution. These gangsters exploit legitimate businesses (such as Petrovich Waste, Inc.) as fronts for their criminal activities. The group’s pakhan, Viktor Ozerov, holds court in Krasnaya Strela, a vodka bar with décor meant to emulate a Russian railroad car. As a former officer in the Red Army, Ozerov was privy to a covert program involving the creation and shepherding of super soldiers. His contacts in and out of the military afford him an unusual entourage of retainers, including the indestructible bodyguard Tarakan. The residents of the Annex are often caught in the crossfire between crooked cops and Russian mobsters. A few of them prefer it this way.
Things Have Got to Change
One company has an alternate vision for the Annex: D. J. Sharrif, Inc., a tobacco firm best known for its premium Turkish-blend cigarette brands (Sultan, Vizier, Dragoman and Odalisque) wishes to sponsor a new urban renewal project. Its wheelchair-bound matriarch, Fatima Sharrif, offered to move her global headquarters to the Annex on the condition that it secedes from Hamilton and renames itself Fatima. Such a move would bring thousands of jobs and a much needed boost to the local economy but opponents of the deal say that D.J. Sharrif’s business practices are unethical, if not illegal. Despite the grim conditions of life in the Annex, not all of its residents are ready to admit defeat. Scarlet-clad members of the Watch patrol the streets to take their neighborhoods back from the drug pushers, violent criminals and masked vigilantes. As a result of a recent crime wave, the Watch has teamed up with local street gangs to impose an unofficial curfew in trouble spots. The Monday Zone 1 Gang, also known as La Basura, takes its name from the Annex’s primary garbage route. The curfew has not proved to be a success, due in part to the violent means used by the Watch to enforce it. The Monday Zone 1 Gang does its fair share as well, but sees the curfew more of an entrepreneurial opportunity than as a way to police the neighborhood. With all these groups clashing, it’s hard to see how one person can make a difference.