Slick / The Pitt / Work Gang 203
Once, a man named Slick had entered the Pitt, under the false impression, that this was a city, a city, he promised himself not to die in, but to escape and return to his home, far south to where the cult had dragged him out from the basement of a house he had hid in. This had been so long ago, that Slick was not sure, it had not been a lifetime, or maybe even a life before his, caught in a distnant dream. For by now, he knew that the Pitt was not a city...
Groaning like beasts of burden, the animal they had been turned into, the dirty and pathetic rabble of the 203th Work Gang was pushing on the Wagon, while the masked dwarf was sitting on top of it, the whip firm in his hand and his face hidden behind a sack of black fabric. Heavy, from the pig iron it had loaded, the seven slaves had to split. Three had to push the wagon from behind, each having to step down into the tracks to push it, while four were spanned in, like oxen, tugging the cargo towards the city. Slick was among the oxen, his legs muscles burning and his face coated both in ash and sweat. "MOVE IT YOU RABBLE!"
The whip of the dwarf was lashing out, yet Slick knew, that he would not aim it at them. Among the petty tyrants of the Masked Overseers, the dwarf was a kind one, who used threats of violence, rather then violence itself. He had not the vile brutality of the crippled giggler, who could flay the skin of a slaves back, with a single lash of his razor sharp whip.
Not that the Dwarf would need to. The Work Gang had made good progress, almost having crossed the empty land that surrounded the holy city. From horizon to horizon, there was nothing. Ruins had been broken down, trees had been cut and everything useful had been scraped or trapped down. In its place, thousands of small smelters had grown, while everywhere the earth had been broken open, with tools, explosives and bare-hands alike, to dig for the so much needed metal. Everything was scrapped, cut down and tossed into the smelters, before being loaded into the wagons, to be carried off, into the holy City.
Slick knew, that a few meters behind them was another wagon, pulled by another work gang. So was one in front of them. This Labor would never end, for when the work-gangs were driven to total exhaustion, they simply would be replaced, and driven into the pitiful barracks, where they were kept alive by a diet of Slop, an recipe picked up from the old owners of this place, even then used to feed the slaves working in the factories. Said owners where long gone, as were their factories, who had been turned into the "Temples of Labor", while their city of old, had grown larger and larger, fed by conquest and blood. Its fires burned day and night, and its Temples never grew silent.
Roaring like a beast, the iron rushed passed them, black thick smoke in its wake. Slick knew that it had to be loaded with guns and ammunition for the war, who´s loot would continue to feed this sickly body of a city. Tracks had been layed, and crude trains, fueled by black coal, transported the resources that needed to move faster and further, then a mere labor-gang could carry it by sweat and muscle alone.The chain in his neck weight heavy, as he stepped into a new track, to push the wagon further. He had learned early, not to count his steps. Only to move onward, endlessly onward.
Pushing into the shadow of the grand city, they came past the outer ring of the holy city. Thousands of ragged, dirty shacks and barracks. Here, the slaves of less skilled labor resided. The smell of sulfur, iron and coal was in the air, as Slicks eye fell onto the hovels, where sweaty men and women in rugs were hammering hot steel into shape. Barrels of blades, stacked crude armor and pyramids of helmets surrounded them, their work overseen by grim Overseers, the white sack hood resting on their faces. These slaves had to fear little, if they did their work fast and efficiently, yet Slick had more then once seen a fool pay the price of defiance, only to be dragged for the sewers, never to be seen again. Children ran over the tracks, small buckets of coal in their hand, rushing to feed the fires to forge the simpler material of war, that needed not, the fine machinery of the temples of labor deeper in the city. Slick´s stomach turned, as he saw one overseer kick one of the kids running, before lashing out on another one, yet the slave had learned to keep his mouth shut long ago. "HALT YOU VERMIN!"
The dwarf on the wagon rose from his seating position, as the procession stopped with an loud groaning. Slick fell down on his knees, as he thanked the heavens for this break. Every second he could rest, could make the difference between live and death!
Looking up from the ground, Slick layed his eyes on the grim sight that crossed the tracks they were pushing the wagon on. A whimpering mass of people, some wearing uniforms, others all kinds of clothing. Prisoners of the distant war, to become slaves of the city that fueled it. Slicks swallowed as he looked over them, once he had been one of them.
Snarling, the sound of giant mole-rats made him rise up from his seating position, as the first of the beasts was rushing past them, as tall as a car, with an overseer riding on its back. The saddle was held in place by iron rings, dug deep into the beasts flesh, allowing the rider to control it by inflicting pain for any trace of disobedience. Vile and aggressive beasts, they were, and their bites easily festered black and green. Two more riders followed, easily overseeing the group, so large, that Slick had given up on counting already. He did not knew where they were going, yet he was sure, to soon see most of them in the barracks, the brand of labor burned in their chests and their eyes filled with grim defiance. They would learn, just like he had...
The tracks soon were clear, and with a hissing of the whip, and a long, breathless curse, the hodded dwarf pushed the work-gang on. Deeper into the city, they pulled the wagon, now with no other wagon in sight in front of them. The Miasma was everywhere, yet with every step closer to the heart, its presence grew stronger, and Slick welcomed it with deep breaths. Exhaustion and pain slowly faded, making way for a grim nothingness, that he knew would fade quickly. A trog and a ghoul was feasting on a body next to the track, yet they only gave a short snarl at the wagon that crossed past them, before continuing their feast on the body of a luckless slave, who most likely had run out of either power or will to carry on. A work-gang carrying a wagon could make do with a pusher less, yet if a second one died, their fate was in danger as well..
The Wagon grew heavier and heavier, as Slicks hands held onto the chain on his shoulder. His fellow slaves were panting, as the distant sound of the forges finally gave them a goal. The heat here was unbearable, as the air was sticky and heavy with ash. The wagon and the work gang soon were dwarfed into a small nothing, in the shadow of the temples of labor and the noise of thousands worshipping inside it, by fueling the endless machinery of war, the cult needed for its ever hungry expansion. Not all of them were slaves, most where faithful, for it needed skill that no whip could beat into a slaves head. Slick felt the envy sting in his chest, as the chain felt ever heavy on his shoulder. They could feast, while he dreamed of bread, they could sleep while he was whipped to work, and they could rest, while he was pulling this wagon. A lash on his back, brought the slave back to the moment at hand, as the group took a turn to the left, right into one of theses temples. Finally...they had reached their goal.
Inside the great hall, the air was even worse, as molten steel was all around them, stamped into plates, to be turned into bullets, tanks and trains. Where ever slaves could be used they were, ragged and dirty, just like he was. But these were the damned, the ones who would fall over one day, blood running from their mouths, as their lungs would be as black as the coal they shoveled, with little splinters of iron ore inside them. These were dead men. "HALT!"
The dwarf bellowed, as the wagon finally had reached its place. Men so dark, they could be shadows, rushed towards them, a second overseer behind them, the whip tugged under his arm, and a white hood over his head. Slick knew, that the warriors had no respect for this lot. Too weak to fight true battles, they were left to oversee the slaves, and responsible for their work quotas. Mistakes would be punished...and more then on of them had found himself stripped of his mask and whip, before being tossed into the slave barracks, among the folk he had abused.
These fallen overseers would not survive the night in the packed barracks, torn to peaces by a vengeful mob, once able to gain a glimmer of justice in this place, so devoid of any light or liberty. Two times, Slick had seen it happen, both times, he had torn, stabbed and kicked himself, unleashed all the anger hidden so deep inside him. "ON YOUR KNEES YOU MAGGOTS!"
The roaring voice, send the Slave quickly on his knees, togehter with his whole work gang. Soft steps and heavy steps came towards them, yet a mere glimps onto he clean robes were enough to tell Slick, who had been spotted. A blessed citizen...skilled and wise, a master of the machines of the temple of labor. "To increase production, we need more clean pig-iron! From the start, i have been against the use of the primitive smelters..."
The steps walked past them, without any care for the group of slaves. Slick knew, that they had their own special place of the holy city. Somewhere, high above the ground, a place mentioned in hushed whispered, they lived, lives of pure, decadent luxury. So wild were the tales, that Slick would have never believed them, but he had been able to get a small glimpse of one of these places.
They were build high on top of the tallest buildings, connected by stable, metal platforms, far away from the three rivers, and above the ground to keep them save from the Trogs and ghouls. He had been send to pull material up to such a place, where he had seen it...plants! Green, living plants! It alone had made it feel like a place so alien and distant to the city below, that it might as well could have been on the moon, yet Slick knew, that these places existed, and that the blessed citizens, missonaries, priests, warleaders and other leaders of the faith resided there...far above this dark city!
The chain was stripped from his shoulders, as the hodded dwarf, released them with a grunt, before driving them into the cattle path of the unwashed masses of slaves, who´s shift had ended. Through caged paths, Slick wandered with the horde, towards the three rivers...towards the barricades. For his shift had ended!
Not even a generation ago, the Cult had marched to war before. The Conquest of the Pitt, and the vast hordes new converts, slaves and material, had fueled the prophets ambition, and he had ordered his first wave of expansion. United by the glorious faith in he-who-slumbers, the warleaders had raised the black banners, and pushed outwards. The Scrapper Union of Pennsylvania was crushed in the battle of Phillipsburg, the Army of Überboss Fredrick submitted to the faith, after its leader was beaten to death in single combat by the Warmaster and the most feared enemy of all, the mighty Lone Tree republic, crumbled under the Cult onslaught, with the Skull Monolith in the silent ruins of Charlston being the last remainder of this once mighty city. Nothing seemed able to stop them...
It was the Bristol, that an arrogant Warleader choose as a new treasure to plunder that would for the first time, show the greatest weakness of the cult. Here, an entire host perished, as the People of Franklin had been prepared and waiting. There was no victory for the Cult in these Mountains, as nature itself seemed to be placed against them. Casualties mounted, thousands died...and every inch of ground taken was lost by the end of the week, simply retaken from dead, cold bodies no longer able to defend the conquest. In the end, it was this, that halted the cults advances, as the Prophet declared that it was time to rest, and gather strength, for the true enemies to the west and north. But that had been conquered would remain silent. Its people either converted, enslaved, killed or so deep in hiding, that not even the slave-catchers of the Pitt could hunt them down. One could now wander from Charlston to Phillipsburg and not meet a single soul outside from the cults outposts and fortresses, dominating their land as grim guardians. For they oversaw the slow deportation of everything useful to the City of the Pitt, the slow beating heart of the Realm of Monolith..
Cthalpol the Iron had been send to the Franklin border, to secure the peace of the prophet and guard their conquest. Unlike the rest, he had come as a student, not as a master, eager to once more learn a new way of war. The ancient supermutant had been soaking up every single maneuver his enemies had unleashed on him, noting down every tacticum and every single trick he could witness. The ancient super mutant himself had studied and experimented with his men, testing their mettle again the men of the mountains, and after year, he was content with the result. His iron host was an army worth of his name, and worthy of his banner. And when he had gotten the order to march north, to finally test them again a new foe, Cthalpol had grinned, if he still had a full mouth to do so.
Up, they had marched the long 81, cleaned and repaired, like all of the roads to the holy city where to be, as the holy decree of the prophet had proclaimed. News of the war in the west, north and east had traveled quickly, as the cult was mobilizing the sleeping reserves in the south. Soon, every Warleader would raise his banners, and march to war, for the crusade had been proclaimed. Yet, news of a new ally had spread with it, and Cthalpol, had been send a message of prophet himself.
The Beach and rundown boardwalk had been filled with fires, to allow the Vanguard of the Iron Host to arrive, even in the middle of the fog. Crude boats, cut from the wood of Virginia now littered the beach, as Cthalpol landed in the sand. The ancient super mutant sank deep, as he slowly made his way away from the boats, towards the waiting mass of faithful. "Lord Cthalpol...we have awaited your coming! The faithful have ga.."
The Warleader grunted as he walked passed the kneeling missionary. "Unload the boats and provide my host with quarter and food! And bring me to the mortal they call Suttbray!"
"DAL THRO! DAL THRO!"
The Vanguard was chanting loudly, as more and more warriors left the ships, jumping onto the broadwalk and the sandy beach. Material, weapons and supplies were unloaded, orders shouted into the singing, as the gathered people were pulled in, forced to carry and pull ropes. The Warleader left them behind, as he ventured into the city. Quickly, a figure was rushing towards him, daring to remain standing in his presence. With a kick from one of his bodyguards, the worm was kicked onto the ground. "Speak, whelp!"
Grunting, the soldier of house Suttbray looked up, before spitting out the worlds, as he looked into the armored super-mutants disfigured face. "Lord Suttbray is one his way back."
A grin moved on the mutants lips. "I shall wait here then...tell that to your master, whelp!"
Far behind him, the black banner of the Monolith was raised, while the warleaders eyes moved onto Point Lookout. He could not help but ask himself, how many unfaithful may fear its sight inside the city...
A3-18 Boston, CIT, The Institute -
Little was left of the three that had stood before her. The false body was coated in the blood of the two humans, as the first black coated false-men arrived. They were a different breed of the same kind, and Marie felt the same disgust rushing over her, as she looked at them. Her hands shivered, as false lungs took deep breaths, letting the air circulate inside her. Even the air in this place felt wrong, false and sterile. She had to find this place, and tear it apart. This place, and everyone inside it, should not be!
By now, both sides of the corridor were blocked off, as the black robed false-men had surrounded her. The pulsating pain in her head grew greater with every second that passed, until finally heavy boots turned her around, as she looked at titan among the false-men, and a slim womanly figure among them.
“A3-18. Emergency Override. Director’s Authorization Code 03492 Zulu Arcus Tempest. End all active subroutines.”
A high pitched sound filled the body and mind, Marie had found herself in, until something in her mind popped like a bubble. Gravity became an enemy, as she fell. Her body, occupied and not her, turned into a prison. Her eyes twiched, as she was locked away, helpless, dammed to endure..
"ASHUR...ASHUR THEY ARE HERE...DONT LET THEM GET HER..."She could not move, wrapped and locked away, the small window in front of her the sole light around her. Yet there was a scary voice, so far in the distant...but her mother was so close, and there could be no danger when mother was around."ASHUR...oh my god..please NO! NOOOOOO!"
The gaping wound in her head was bleeding heavily, as the body of the Synth was slowly getting back on her feet. Her component resting in her hand, coated in crimson and sparking. It was impossible, for if the lack of the component wouldnt have killed her, the bloodloss sure should have...yet here she stood slowly, glaring at the man in the power armor. With a hissing scream, she tossed the component his way, "I AM THE HEIRESS OF THE PROPHET!"
Then her hands took distant hold of the black clothed guards, and from the middle of the corridor she tore and broke bones, with a singular movement of her hands. Flesh and bones were torn under her distant grab, and the first shot of laser hit her, yet by now this body was beyond pain. It was death flesh, kept alive by Maries will, and her wrath for this heretical beings all around her. "YOU ALL SHOULD NOT BE!"
A neck broke like a twig under her fingers, as she rushed towards the man in the metal armor. Twenty meters were sperating them and his dying guard, but Marie had to get her hands on him, end him once and for all, before more of this appeared. Roaring in anger, her hands reached for him...yet it was not his bones she got her fingers on. Stopping in her tracks, she lifted the woman up, before wanting to smash her against the wall.
This was the moment when the laser hit her right between the eyes and the world around her turned into light...
Marie woke, strapped to the back of her guardian. Moments passed, until she could move her shivering fingers to her forhead, yet there was no light, nor scar where the laser had hit her. Yet she knew, that her taken body must have been turned into ash, burned to cinder by the heat and leaving nothing behind. Taking a deep breath, Marie streched herself, before giving her guardian a kick. "You can let me down now! I can walk from here.."
The deep, monotonous voice of the guardian answered with the same uncaring grunts she was used to, and before long, she was back on her feet.
It was then, that she realized that she was in a tunnel! Dark and silent, the world around her once more shrank down to a mere fraction. "Didnt i told you to evade enclosed spaces..."
Her hands began to shiver, as she desperately began to search for the source of light, spotting it far in the distance in front and behind her. "Is the Heiress afraid of the dark.."
Marie wanted this brute to die this very moment, yet this was not how it should be. Her mind felt numb, as she slowly climbed back onto her guardians back. "Take us out of her..."
She felt sick, and buried her face in her hands. "Just get me back to where i can see the sky...and feel the wind!"
For the rest of the agonizing moments in the Tunnel, Marie could feel the box again, quaking and falling, screams and crying outside of it. She hated these memories, yet also could not deny, that she wished herself back into the box, her mothers warm voice always close and near..