Burnham's Wastelanders

Started by kclace, December 24, 2020, 08:28:16 AM

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Bianca and Vance were huddled around a narrow table within the dimly lit, cramped, steel compound known as "Sludge Island" each picking at a simple meal of potatoes and rice.

Bianca had agreed to let two men, Vance and his friend Lucky stay at the compound for a quadrum or so. After that Vance and his friend planned to move on.

Vance gestured in the direction of the hydroponics room. "This is a nice set up you got here," he said casually.

Bianca looked up from her meal, and slightly adjusted her plasteel helmet before answering. "That took a long time to set up. Before we had it up and running, we almost all starved to death a few times. The soil out here isn't very good for growing crops." Of course Bianca neglected to tell Vance about the many other horrors the inhabitants of the compound had faced over the last year.

Vance nodded in agreement, "Yes, some areas of our world have recovered better than others since the great war ended. Why choose to live out here though?"

Bianca shrugged. "If we lived anywhere else the raids would be much worse. Out here people leave us alone for the most part."

Vance nodded: Well it seems like some kind of order is coming back now. I figure either the Empire or the WIC, Western Industrial Coalition will win out in the end, then it will be back to the good old days of taxes, regulations, prisons, schools, all that nonsense.

Bianca shook her head. "The WIC are militant fanatics. They will do anything to get their hand on atomic weapons. Once that happens, they'll blow themselves up and the Empire along with it just like the nations did before we all went into cryptosleep. That's pretty much why we're out here. There's nothing out here left to bomb.

Vance made a half grin at Bianca. "I guess if you are that much of a pessimist you'll never be disappointed right?"

Bianca nodded. "Pretty much, so what are your plans when spring comes and you're out of here?"

Vance looked around the cramped compound before replying, almost as if he was sizing up what valuables he could steal before he left. "We crossed one of the northern tribes. So we're planning on offering them gifts to get things straight. Once that's settled, we'll probably head back south where it's warmer. Maybe cross this place again in a quadrum or so."

Bianca frowned a little before replying, her face lost in thought as she struggled with opening up the stranger.
"That tribe has been good to us. They buy our raw materials from the mine, and we buy food from them. It's a good arrangement. I wish I could get my hands on some decent medical supplies though. If you come across glitterworld quality stuff, I'd appreciate it if you came back here and sold it to us."

Vance nodded as he sized Bianca up again, picking up at the hints of distress in her voice as she said this. "I can try to do that.  But, if you don't mind me asking, why are you upset about medical supplies?"

Bianca let out a long sigh, "My fiance has the plague. We couldn't adequately take care of him so we sealed him away in a cryptosleep casket.  We can't wake him up without glitterworld medicine or he'll die." She shook her head again. "That was almost a quadrum ago now."

Vance shook his head. "I'm sorry to hear that. We'll do what we can to help." He finished his meal and got up. "Well, guess I better turn in for the night.

Thanks again for having us." Vance retreated to his living quarters that he was sharing with lucky and disappeared from view.

Once that happened, a burly man with long blonde hair, and dressed in a tan parka emerged from his room and stepped into the dining area. His name was Adek and it looked as if he had been eavesdropping on the whole exchange.

"I think he's a liar. Likely try to rob us blind or worse," Adel said a matter of factly.

Bianca shrugged. "We'll find out eventually, but if he can get us the good medicine, we can bring Lovell back."

Adel frowned. "You know those men are marked by the tribe. If we don't take them down, it could jeopardize our trading relationship."

Bianca stood up and raised her voice slightly, still speaking low enough so that Vance wouldn't be able to hear, hopefully.

"You want to just murder them in their sleep? If you want to live like that, you leave this place right now. We're living out here so that we don't have to do stuff like that. We're not murderers!" Bianca stormed out of the dining room, leaving Adel to his murderous thoughts.


One Year Later...

Bianca was sitting at the same table she had sat with Vance at a year before. This time she was alone with her  thoughts and a roll of lit smoke weed.

Over the last year, the group's wealth and numbers had grown, but she had felt the group's morals slipping. The group used to never indulge in drugs, but after finding a stash of smoke leaf joints, the group had started indulging themselves in the drug liberally. Then there was the decision to start using captured prisoners to work in the mines. It was easy to rationalize, busy prisoners were less likely to escape, but it all seemed like a slippery slope.

She looked at the room that she and Lovell used to share and felt extremely depressed. After a lot of effort, she had found a stash of decent enough medicine to bring Lovell back from crypto sleep and help him fight off the plague. But things were never the same after he woke up. Lovell became paranoid, jealous and abusive. The final straw came after he went beserk and started hitting her. After that, she had broken things off. Lovell had moved on now, unsuccessfully trying to woo the few other women in the colony, and he hadn't challenged her de facto leadership of the group...yet, but they were never going to be friends. From then on he was just another rival.

She also thought about Vance. A few days after Adel had confronted her, Adel found Vance's dead body near a toxic barrel. There was nothing to suggest it was anything other than accidental toxic poisoning, the wastelands could be treachorous like that, but Bianca remained suspicious of Adel, who seemed mostly interested in looking out for himself. She wondered what kind of person he had been when Burnham was a glitter world. No of them ever talked about their old lives much. It was kind of an unspoken rule of the post-apocalypse.

After Vance was found dead, Lucky accused Adel of murdering Vance and then Lucky took off. That bothered Bianca deeply. Being hospitable to guests was something that was extremely important to her. It was what separated this group from the cannibals, fanatics and war criminal, or at least that's what she thought.

Bianca's train of thought was broken when Hannah, a former WIC prisoner turned recruit, came into the dining room.

Hannah: "There's another group of refugees seeking shelter, what should we tell them?"


Two Quadrum's Later

Adel was sitting down on the same chair that Bianca used to sit in, pondering how to pick up the pieces after the hostile tribal raid.  The raiders had crashed through the south wall using sappers, then charged the internal barricades. The group's rifle fire wasn't enough to stop the savages from crashing through the barricades and kidnapping Lovell and Bianca.
That left himself, Hannah, his lover Kimmy, Lovell's son and Bianca's new husband, Graves,
and three prisoners that had been working in the mines.

Hannah walked into the dimly lit room, a grim look on her face.

"How bad is it? Adel inquired.

Hannah shook her head. "We lost the entire hydroponics crop during the power outage last night. There's no food left. It's too bad Bianca had to take in all those refugees a while back. We might have still had some reserves if she didn't."

Adel thought it over for a moment.

"Bianca ran this place like a soup kitchen. A lot of good that did us. Send Graves and Kimmy into the two cryptosleep caskets we have. You and me should be able to tough it out until the next hydroponics
crop comes in."

Hannah nodded, "What about the prisoners?"

Adel shrugged. "You can execute them if you want, but I think it'd be easier to let them starve.
Whichever one dies first can be food for the others."

Hannah, who had executed another prisoner one quadrum ago for no good reason nodded in agreement.

"Anything else to report?" Adel asked.

Hannah smirked. "Yeah, Graves has been taking the loss of Bianca pretty hard, he kind of destroyed that monument he made to their marriage."

Adel just shook his head. "What the hell was he thinking, marrying his father's ex fiancee? I mean I know its the end of the world, but that guy must be messed up. Just keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't do anything really stupid."

With any luck, they just might recover from this, thought Adel.


Two Quadrum's Later

Hannah was sitting at the same table Bianca and Adel used to sit at, pondering the ever worsening situation at the compound.

When Graves walked in, she motioned for him to sit down.

Hannah pursed her lips before speaking, "Adel is dead from infection. That means its between you and me for leadership. Any thoughts?"

Graves sighed when he heard the news but felt relieved. "That makes two casualties from the last raid. It's gotten a lot worse.  The WIC and the savage tribes know of our alliance with the northern tribe. They're all gunning for us now and we don't have enough good fighters. It seems like a fighter is what we need right now. I'll follow your lead."

Hannah nodded, "I agree, I'm the best to lead, but don't beat yourself up.
You may be a pacifist but your skills have kept us alive in other ways."

Graves nodded. "The issue is settled, then. I should get back to the hydroponics garden. Is there anything else to discuss?"

Hannah hesitated before replying nervously. "There is one more thing. Lovell and Bianca were spotted scouting our position. They're with the savage tribe now."

Graves eyes were wide open. He looked down, humiliated.

Hannah continued, "I don't know what they did to brain wash them, maybe Bianca and Lovell did this because they hate you. Regardless, if they come within range of my rifle I'll have to shoot them."

Graves shuddered. "I understand, but I hope it doesn't come to that." He abrubtly got to his feet and went to the hydroponics room.

Four Quadrums Later

Graves sat in the same chair Hannah used to sit at. Behind him, the central part of the compound which had been dug out of a mountain was burning out of control. Blood and mangled bodies lay everywhere. The WIC and one of their elite grenadier squads had finally broken through their defenses and decimated the compound, killing Hannah and injuring the rest before they were finally driven off.

Before they could recover, another WIC assault squad attacked. They killed one of the group and kidnapped another. After that Eaton went catatonic.

Now it was just him and three other survivors. Everyone was looking to him to lead.

He was alone in his thoughts. He wanted to flee the region, but with winter setting in and Eaton being catatonic, he felt that wasn't an option.

He sensed that time was running out...


Two Quadrums Later

Under Graves leadership, the colony recovered, gained a few new members, and returned to a measure of normalcy. But then it suffered another catastrophic defeat
when raiders from the Western Industrial Coalition once again used sappers to break through the walls of the compound and rush the ill prepared colonists. Now it was just Graves and Skippio, a defector from the local pirate faction.

After the battle, Graves, who had hid in his room the entire time since he never fought in battles rescued Skippio and tended to his wounds.

When Skippio woke up, he groaned in agonizing pain.

"Ugh, what happened? Did we lose again? Skippio asked as he looked up at Graves.

Graves nodded, "I'm afraid we're the only survivors, everyone else is either dead or was kidnapped."

Skippio grimaced, "How bad are my wounds?"

Graves pursed his lipos before answering, "You got shot a few times, but the bullets went clean through. I got you patvhed up. No signs of infection so far."

Skippio nodded glumly. "Thanks...I don't suppose we have any beer left do we?"

Graves shook his head and patted Skippio on the shoulder. "We ran out yesterday."

Skippio chuckled glumly, "Figures." "Well can I ask you a question then?"

Graves nodded. "Sure."

Skippio, "You went into cryptosleep before the bombs dropped right? What was your life like before?"

Graves smiled a bit as he conjured up ancient memories of the old Burnham. "I was just a kid. I went to secondary school, ran track.  Prom, Yah know all that nonsense. Then one day it all ended.
I ran into a cryptosleep shelter and woke up who knows how many centuries later. What about yourself?"

Skippio nodded slightly, a pensive expression on his face as a flood of memories came back to him, some happy, but many sad.

"I was a bad man back then. I did some things that I regret. Does that make me a bad man here?"

Graves shook his head. "You seem alright by me."

Skippio grinned a little. "Thanks Graves, I think I'm going to get some sleep now."

Three days later...

Skippio had fully recovered but Graves, crushed by depression and loneliness, had fallen into a catatonic state.
Now Skippio was alone, the sole survivor in a massive sprawling compound. There was plenty of food and protection, but everytime he walked by the compound's cemetary in that ashen desolate landscape his heart sank further.

It made him think about what he had done to wind up in that old cryptosleep prison over a millenia ago. The night that he burned his own house down. Ostensibly, he had done it to collect insurance money, but the truth was he did it because he wanted to. Screw the world, burn it all down. That's what the voice told him to do then then and that's what the voice was telling him now.

As night sank in, he gave in to his dark desire.

Everything burned.

As Skippio walked away alone through the barren wastes, he looked back for a moment at the fiery conflagration and smiled. He had forgotten all about Graves in his excitement.

Now nothing seemed to matter. All was right again.

Inside the compound, Graves burned... The end had come at last.




MODS of Note:

Simple Industrial Factions to represent the Western Industrial Coalition. (Hard to fight!)

Rerowth: Biomes of the Rim Wasteland. (Never had a happy ending on this biome even though I always delete the bugs at the start of the game).