Johan Ichabod Lightning, AKA "Johnny", is the head of the infamous Lightning crime family. His rise to fame is well known among the residents of Ghyll and his ascension to the position of Grand Hive-Lord of the Iganefta Back Market is known all too well to the citizens of that fair city. Most of what is known about Mr. Lightning is from his own tales and writings and, as such, must be taken with a grain of salt.
Born the son of poor household domestics who emigrated from Folktown to Iganefta-on-the-Sea in -63 EC, when little Johan was just three years old, Johnny grew up with great luxury just out of reach. His mother was the upstairs maid at the home of Griffin Alastair Bommlehodge, who sat on the Board of the Ghyll Mechanician's Guild, but retired to Iganefta. Johnny's father, however, was a day-laborer of the lowest, cheapest kind. He was unable to find more respectable work and so he worked the docks when the ships were in and as a carter when there was freight to be moved from the docks to the DermPachyges office when the ships had left. Unfortunately for Johnny, his father also gambled and drank quite a bit of the cheapest kind of Ball Lightning Liqueur. Often, he would send Johnny home from a game of whist to collect money from his wife to pay off his losses, threatening to beat both the boy and his mother for any shortages or resistance. In short, Johnny's father brought little to the family and cost them quite a bit.
One night, after his mother had paid off a particularly bad loss, his mother confessed to Johnny that the man she'd married was not, in fact, his real father. It came as no great surprise to Johnny, who had dark, black hair and eyes, that his blonde "father" was, in fact, not. When his father got home, his parents began to fight quite loudly and violently. The fight spilled out into the street causing quite a distraction for not only the Bommlehodge house, but the neighbors as well. So, after taking full advantage of the distraction and stealing a fair amount of the Bommlehodge household silver, Johnny set off to find his own fortune and, if possible, his father.
A Misspent Youth
Shortly after his parents had their last tiff, Johnny, now a young teenager, found himself selling the last of the Bommlehodge silver in the Iganefta-on-the-Sea Back Market and wondering where to find his next meal. This line of thought led him to particular floating whist game run in the back of a bisexual bath-house where his father had lost quite a bit of money. There, he made contact with one Alastair Bledgewater, a former compatriot of Johnny's father, who got him work as a look-out. The pay was small, but steady and, more importantly, Johnny made contact with some of the biggest names in the Ghyllian underworld at the time.
It was here that Johnny met Phillip Vincent Murdstone who was called the Hive-Lord of Hive-Lords. Ser Murdstone took a liking to young Johnny and began to use him as a runner to take care of small jobs. A pick-up here, a drop-off there, small-time jobs that cleared Johnny a few truq, but not much else. It only took Johnny three months to work up the nerve to ask Ser Murdstone for a bigger job with a bigger score. Luckily for Johnny, Ser Murdstone had just returned from a visit to his mistress and was in a good mood. He gave Johnny his "big break": a carry-man on the big Harrabloon Bank Job.
In the Gomin of -51 EC, Johnny, along with Neville Sidgeford, Russell Grimdale, Niles Wammerham, and James "Jimmy Cashews" Cashinawitz, attempted to rob the Iganefta-on-the-Sea branch of the Harrabloon Bank. A particularly large payroll was discovered to be coming through for the Azura Mines. When these five malcontents, later known as the Harrabloon Five, planned the job, they were expecting to clear more than 5,000 Quezloo each. The plan required that at least one of their number get a job at the armored carriage company that had the transportation contract with the bank. Johnny, using his father's contacts with the Carter's Guild, was just the man for the job. Using his job as a cover, Johnny recorded the layout of the bank and secured guard uniforms for his compatriots. On the fated day at the appointed hour, Johnny left the back door unlocked and unguarded, allowing his partners in crime to slip in to a back hallway and intercept the stong boxes on their way to the vault. After incapacitating the actual guards, the Harrabloon Five simply carried the still full strong boxes out of bank and to their own waiting carriage.
The caper came off so smoothly that they would have gotten away with it, if not for one Kathryn Pearl Blatherwill. Katie was a teller at the bank who immediately fell in love with Johnny Lightning in spite of, or perhaps because of, his dastardly character. She was sure that getting caught would help him "see the error of his ways", and, risking her own life, triggered the silent alarm. The City Guard arrived in record time, catching the would be thieves before they were even a lele away from the bank. During the ensuing battle Neville Sidgeford, Russell Grimdale, and Niles Wammerham were shot and killed, but Johnny and Jimmy Cashews were taken into custody. After their speedy trial, at which Katie Blatherwill was the only Bank employee to testify against the men, the two young miscreants were sent off to one of the several Iganefta-run work camps in the Azura Mines.
A Career Change
It was after having discovered the joys of hard work that Johnny decided to dedicate himself to the easy life. He and Jimmy Cashews found themselves in the same chain gang in the Mines and immediately started planning their escape. This was the beginning of a life-long working relationship for these two compatriots of crime. Another theme in Johnny's life that started in the Mines was the practical application of theoalchemy, for it was here in the mines that Johnny first got a glimpse of industrial EctoMechanauts. Those magical constructs sparked his imagination and inspired many ideas for improved bank robberies, not to mention escape. However, it was Jimmy Cashews who pointed out the undeniable value of the essences which powered the EctoMechanauts in the Mines. The young men knew value when they saw it and, more importantly, what that value could get them. So, with that in mind, Johnny hatched a plan to discover the secret of the EctoMechanauts' animation.
Early one morning, when a new shipment of fresh, unactivated EctoMechanauts arrived, Johnny and Jimmy arranged to be in a good location to observe the animation procedure. They watched very carefully as the theoalchemist/delivery man actived each construct, memorizing his every move. After the last one had left the delivery cart, the two enterprising young men announced themselves to the theoalchemist and made him an offer he couldn't refuse: get them free from the work camp or they'd tell the world the secret of the EctoMechanauts. Two days later, the enterprising lads were free. But, as they were flat broke, they once again turned to crime to earn their supper. But, this time, they had a new twist. They started their own guild: The Fraternal Union of Cartmen (FUC).
They started their new "business" by strong-arming the local cartmen into the new Fraternal Union, as they called it, but soon they had people looking to join up. Of course the three-quarter unanit tall EctoMechanauts who accompanied the Brothers on their rounds may have helped. No doubt the mysterious accidents that happened to those who refused to join and pay their dues helped change a few minds, as well. And, of course, the fact that after five years, the only decent paying work was gotten through FUC didn't hurt membership either. Several times the larger mercantile houses tried to bring in splakkers and break the Union, but Johnny and Jimmy knew how to play that particular form of Bindlet Ball. The street fights were bloody, but the military-grade EctoMechanauts FUC had "invested" in paid off. The Union held together.
Johnny used this powerful organization to slowly, but surely, take over the Iganefta-on-the-Sea Back Market. Starting by having his FUC brothers "accidentally" misroute important shipments, he collected money from all parties involved in the freight transaction in the form of insurance. If the merchants paid enough, Johnny insured that their goods got where they were going. If, however, the merchants refused to pay up, well, let's just say the phrase "it fell off a cart" originated here. And, of course, Johnny made a bit of coin off those transactions as well. So, while Jimmy ran the Union, Johnny collected for both of them and at every opportunity.
The Twilight Years
Now, in his old age, Johnny has started to consolidate his more legitimate holdings. Of course, the fact that they were made with the proceeds of several years worth of funds from the FUC pension plan is not mentioned in Johnny's presence. Likewise, no one talks about his time spent in the Azura Mines. He leaves the collection of insurance to the younger members of FUC, merely advising them in the most ruthless means of advertising and collection. Most days he and Jimmy can be found sipping very strong umlaut tea at the Folktown Social Club in Iganefta-on-the-Sea. Johnny keeps an office there and, rumor has it, he even has an illegal whist game there every week. The "Grand Hive-Lord of the Iganefta Back Market", as the fine editors at the Folktown Records have dubbed him, is often found dispensing sage advice to the younger members of the Iganefta underworld, however, all of Johnny's money comes through one of his regular businesses. Most of which have to do with the creation, transportation or maintenance of EctoMechanauts, though he also deals in imports to and from Folktown as well as at least one fine restaurant, and, of course, the Social Club itself.
--Doctor Phineas Crank 23:08, 18 Nov 2004 (EST)