by the Peoria Piledrivers
Peoria, 160 miles south of Chicago and 170 miles from St. Louis, with a metropolitan population of 300,000, is located on the bluffs of the Illinois River. It is believed to be the oldest settlement in Illinois. Peoria was selected out of 80 cities by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the site of the Northern Regional Research Laboratory. It is the home of Bradley University, the Peoria Symphony orchestra, and a new arts and science center available to many civic and professional organizations.
The mere presence of Chicago seemed to emphasize the divided nature of Peoria. Peoria was an industrial city that needed to unite with its agricultural neighbors in order to avoid confiscatory taxation from the political machine in the north. In the eternal battle between Chicago and downstate, Peoria was caught in the middle. When the blight struck, tensions increased. City dwellers felt betrayed by the farmers' inability to feed them, and the farmers felt that the blight was somehow a product of big city science and high living. Thus it was singularly appropriate that the Peoria Ag Lab would do for edible algae what it had done for penicillin -- create a process that made it commercially feasible to produce large quantities of the stuff. It does seem a pity that the official announcement of the process started the first of the Great Food Riots, the Chicago Stampede.
The most savage fighting was around food distribution and storage facilities. Many refrigerated warehouses were disabled or destroyed by looters. Grain elevators were likewise hit. Predictably, more food was trampled than eaten. Tear gas contaminated much of the food not destroyed or stolen. As the remaining food was distributed on the basis of political patronage, the rioting worsened. Millions left Chicago, most fleeing to the south and eating anything/everything in their path.
It is impossible to say how many of the rioters actually had Peoria as their goal, but of the 2-3 million who fled Chicago, at least 1 million made it to Peoria. This included some 200,000 oddly (but heavily) armed people who had been a part of the assault on the Rock Island Arsenal.
Very little of Peoria survived. The rioters were met by a hastily organized coalition of National Guardsmen, Army Reservists, and State Police; an even more hastily organized coalition of local police, street gangs, and area hunters calling themselves the Peoria Urban Defense Squad (PUDS for short); and a surprisingly large and heavily armed group under the personal command of the mayor. It was called the Mobile Ordinance Brigade. Area farmers fought a guerrilla action on the rioters flanks and rear.
The defenders tried to protect important city facilities such as electrical substations, the water purification plant, industrial centers, the Ag Lab, and Big Al's Speakeasy. Unfortunately, the rioters followed the path of greatest resistance. They overwhelmed anything that was defended, assuming that the only thing worth defending was food. The vastly outnumbered defenders put up their best fight at the Ag Lab. Naturally this was where the rioters made their most determined human wave assaults. The destruction of the Ag Lab stopped further research, but a single brave scientist was able to save the discovery. Taking a culture of Chlorella peoria, along with plans and schematics of the crucial growth vat equipment, he escaped the fighting to Spring Bay (#3 on the map), a Peoria suburb just over the Illinois River. Thus it was in the suburb called Spring Bay that the green goo that would save mankind grew.
An area which had held over 300,000 people, and had been invaded by millions, had been reduced to under 50,000. The population of the city itself had been cleaved from just over 150,000 to a little under 15,000. Peoria city government set up shop in Spring Bay and Mossville (#2 on the map). Most of the remaining inhabitants were remnants of the rioters who settled down into three major locations: Bradley University (#4), the downtown Peoria Civic Center, (#5), and the East Peoria Caterpillar Tractor Industrial Plant (#6). Few buildings in the rest of the city remained standing, but the desperate and the insane continue to live in and off of the rubble. Unwary passersby were the primary source of income (and entertainment) for these people.
Once thngs had largely settled down, the local government began quietly auctioning off Chlorella peoria "starter kits." The resultant influx of wealth and favors financed the toughening of Peoria's defensive systems, as well as the eventual rebuilding of the Peoria Speedway.
While local forces do not patrol outside of Spring Bay and Mossville, they will make raids on suspected sources of trouble. They do not hesitate to fire on any unknown person or vehicle not given clearance by CB to approach the city.
Newcomers who can pay their own way are welcomed. A common method for gctting started in town is by autoduelling. While originally cool to the idea, Peorians have become strong supporters of autoduelling... as long as it stays in the arena.
The area around Peoria is not completely pacified, as three gangs (descendants of rioters) hold sway over the ruined part of the city. Two of the gang settled in the Civic Center and at Bradley University, and cause the city relatively few problems. It is widely suspected th current Mayor Aldo "Don" Giacobazzi Jr. developed his own "Food for Peace" program, and is trying to incorporate these groups into outside arms of the Mobile Ordinance Brigade. The East Peoria gang (known as the "E.P.s," or "Eeps") is rather independent, and will attack most anything that looks edible-- including people. They control the only other intact bridge in the area, the Franklin Street drawbridge running into the former dowritown area.
Most duellists and arena staff are transported between the Speedway and Mossville by an underground mini-subway, built in the viaduct under the old Interstate-474 northern bypass. Other duellists choose to live outside the protection of Peoria. While they are allowed to drive their autoduelling vehicles to and from the arena, many choose to park their "highway" vehicles in a special parking area when visiting the arena for a competition. This allows them to keep their somewhat more visibly customized vehicles at the arena. Chrome makes too good a target on the road.
Peoria is also the home of the first city backed autoduelling team, the Peoria Piledrivers. Unlike other autoduelling groups, the Piledrivers receive a salary and have their vehicles provided to them by team sponsors. Competition for entry into the team is quite stiff.