You have heard so many times this word: from Dommie, Bikini, the devotee of Saint Curie, and now from Trauma.
– I want to – correct you – We want to go to Rad City. We want to become Citizens.
The soldier smiles at you, a smile with no joy, just an automatic courtesy gesture.
– Of course. Like all. You will have your chance. Please, we’ll scratch you for the last piece. We would like to avoid other accidents. Do you keep it going?
You look around: Lance and Beth are fine, but Brandy … no. The stress of escaping has worsened her condition, and now the Bride throbs and raves. Look at Trauma, who has already worn his white mask again.
– Our companion … she is …
He is not listening to you. He approaches the young mutant, holds two fingers on her throat and counts. When he gets up, he looks from behind lenses with no emotion.
– She’s sick. Won’t make it. I can avoid further suffering if you want.
– NO! – Beth is answering, as she embraces the body of her friend. – Don’t try it! She will do it! She is strong! Don’t touch her!
Trauma, disturbed by the screams of the girl, turns to look at the officer, who simply shakes his shoulders before pointing to two of his men.
– You. And you. Standard procedure. Stabilize and transport it.
Without delay the two move toward Brandy, they remove her with courtesy and firmness from the embrace of the Landseeker and begin to treat it: in their fast and secure hands they appear in an instant needles and tubes, extracted from their innumerable pockets. An injection afterwards, here her breath stabilizes and her beat slows.
– Stable – says the first.
– Stretcher – adds the second, pulling out of the backpack what appears to be a pair of iron rods.
They roll off, forming a kind of cot on which the girl lies. The two put themselves on the short sides of the fabric and lift it up without any visible effort.
-Well,- the Official continues, -as by your request, we will deliver your companion. You can follow us with the bikes. The journey will last about 15 minutes, stop when we do it.
Brandy is loaded on the back of a black truck, also marked with the symbol of the Korps. The two stabilized soldiers climb up with her, one who was bent to monitor her health and the other to the Shocker machine gunned on the roof. A third is driving, while the officer comes out of a bigger bike than yours, whose wheels overwhelm your chest.
What follows is the relaxed and exciting journey of your life: you feel safe and secure, as ever since it all started. Your heart goes mad at the thought of what you will find: how is this Rad City made? What do you promise? Who control it? These Trauma Korps … why have they armed? And what do they want?
All these questions will die in your throat when you finally SEE. The sun has risen and the last mists disappear, giving it a decadent but still somehow complete construction: small for a city, big for a factory, an outpost in full swing. And around it … people.
Seriously, you’ve never seen so much. It will be thousands. Tens of thousands. Smell and noise are … devastating. But even in a hellish hell, you can clearly distinguish the various alliances you’ve met during your odyssey to get here.
Wrapped in filthy rags and bloodstained faces, the Seraglio screams and fights. They have assembled crude iron cages and inside them naked and dusty men and women fight in deadly battle. Recognize the Jones Family Group and your heart accelerates by anger, but you know that collisions here are forbidden. Which means what those crazy are doing in the cage, is something that they WANT.
The smell of kerosene and incense shifts your attention to the Church of the inner self conbustion: from pulpits topped with torches, fatty priests celebrate the Mass talking about purity, while Ardenti’s crowds shout their incomprehensible psalms. Not far away from them, other faithful show a different appearance, adorned with silk and feathers. You clearly distinguished the chubby merchant who “helped” you and mentally mentions that he would soon return any courtesy.
Quiet and almost invisible, the Merciful have built their tents in an elevated position, creating a real field hospital for all the infinite shantytowns. An exaggerated line of sick and wounded moves slowly towards the white structures, guarded by armed nurses: a precaution that clearly shows that trauma are not the only one to avoid problems. You know you’ll have to bring Brandy out of them as soon as possible, before temporary care ceases to be effective.
The show offered by Rhapsody there is unprecedented: the crowd under their mobile stages is exterminated and includes members of any other Faction, ready to dance and forget everything for a few moments. Among the singers you seem to recognize the beautiful Bikini, riding on a muscular guitar player with long hair and a white cylinder. Will she or is just your desire to see her again? In any case, their overwhelming music covers everything, even the screams of the Seraglio, making it even more surreal.
The Adepts of the Iris, in their green water robes, almost seem to disappear into confusion and noise. Lowering numbers to all other groups, you see them seated in complex positions to meditate, or intent on their curious ritual mutilations. You know how important it is to get sorrow, but you’ve never even seen anyone commended as much as Saul. Those strange monks have all your respect, and soon you will tell them the brave work of their companion.
Separated from all the others, Children of the Hyean maintain as always their arrogant and superior behavior. You have killed several of them, but if someone has recognized you then you will not see it. They don’t speak to anyone who doesn’t bring their brand, waiting for their turn in silence and dignity. Strange people. Perhaps, in other cases, you would have appreciated them a lot more. Perhaps there will be a chance.
The giant gathering of the cult of Saint Curie is the only one in size to approach Rhapsody rave, but the show they offer is far less pleasing. Almost all of them mutated and ruined by radiation and insolation, they nibble and roam the lurid Pontifexes that blesses them with their lips. A macabre and hallucinating circus, but with a primitive power that you can’t describe well.
The Landseeker don’t have a whole area for them. Faithful to the nomadic spirit that distinguishes them, each group has its own terrain, some neighbors, others less. You can clearly see the symbols of the animals from which they are named on their shoulders or arms, accompanied by omnipresent arrows. Some are trading, but far from the area of the Inner self combustion.
Smoke and noise of motors comes from the Prebellum. See inventors intent on building things you don’t understand and warriors wearing metal armor and tatters, wielding giant and threatening weapons. Their workmanship is fabulous and Lance’s eyes illuminate, anticipating the exchange of ideas and components.
The Brides are for you a true vision: you’ve never seen so many women together, and although many of them carry signs of mutation or scary scars you are totally enchanted by their primitive beauty. Your first instinct is to deliver them to Brandy, but before you can do something … someone … hits you.
For a moment think of an assault: a Hyena, or a member of the Family, has not resisted and moved to avenge . But no. Is not it an aggression, but a … hug?
– You did it, bastard! You did it!
Raised from the ground, almost choked, you find yourself in the arms of Galvax. The Prebellum has some extra scar and is wearing new clothes, but the sincere smile is always the same. Laugh and return the smile and the hug while he’s putting you on back on the ground.
You have been telling your respective journeys since you were greeted: with the Inner self combustion the giant avoided the territory of the Hyena, moving in force and tranquility until meeting with others Prebellum on the go: in a huge and well-equipped group they had no trouble getting Rad City safe, virtually unbeatable by brigands and well-intentioned. When you think about the fatigue you’ve made to get here, you bite your lips and swear the Saint.
But it was a great trip and you met great people. Beth smiles at you, while along with the Chainbroker accompanies Brandy to the Curtains of the Merciful. Lance joined Galvax as a stamp, and the two exchanged their compliments for the inventions they wear. You did it, and now … yep, now?.
Now, you finally realize that the gates of the city are closed. And they have never been open since you are here. Exactly … how do you get in Rad City?
Ask the question to your restored friend, who shrugs.
– You know nothing, huh? Have you ever heard of bleeding?
Shake your head.
– Ah … well, my friend, let’s put it this way. Everyone can ask to join Rad City, that’s true. The point is … not everyone does.
– Are there any trial? Ask as quietly as possible, even if your brain starts running far away.
– Yes, my friend. There are trials.
You are asking which trials, but something interrupt you. A siren, similar to what you heard at the entrance of the city, also overlooks the music of Rhapsody. Everyone looks to the Outpost, and you see it: from one of the terraces, someone looks at you. An impressive man and, dressed in a shameless way and surrounded by Trauma Korps. One of the latter has what appears to be a loudspeaker in his hand.
– Welcome to Rad City. Even today, they are about to start bleeding. If you overcome them, you will be considered Citizens. If you fail, you can do two things: come back home or die. That’s how the Trauma Korps are sworn. Humanity stand.
Many members of all factions run to the gates of the city, from where the soldiers go out. They organize all of them in groups, without much interest in their age or health. Swallow yourself thinking of when it will touch you, which trial will overcome you and if your accumulated experience will suffice to survive.
But this is another story, Citizen. A story you will create from you in our world of Rust and Dust. Soon, the doors of Rad City will open again: Prepare your Shocker. Check your equipment. Remember your knowledge and murmur a prayer to the goddess, if there is one.