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All Roads: The Journey

Post-apocalyptic Earth


a part of All Roads: The Journey, by Aeroron.


Aeroron holds sovereignty over Post-apocalyptic Earth, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

701 readers have been here.


The global setting for All Roads: The Journey.
The post-apocalyptic setting is due to the collapse of Earth's magnetosphere, allowing harmful solar radiation to bombard Earth's surface without rebound. Global temperatures have risen on average 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Approximately 1/3 of the human population has survived this disaster. Refugees are found in significant numbers around the polar regions or underground. Plant life has been wiped out in both delicate ecosystems and extreme climates, but temperate regions seem to retain almost all of their plant life. Animal life has died off in fractions of nearly 1/2 the global population; land animals are scarce, however sea life is plentiful. These issues cause alarm and hysteria for many extremist groups.
Staying indoors and away from the sun has been ordered by the WHO, and this practice is observed globally.
Provisions such as protective clothing and iodine tablets are rare and expensive. Volunteer organizations have mobilized across the globe, however, trying to distribute commodities to any survivors. Notable groups include the Blue Ribbon Movement and the Red Cross.
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Post-apocalyptic Earth is a part of All Roads: The Journey.

1 Places in Post-apocalyptic Earth:

7 Characters Here

Adrian Mossman [1] "Mens sana in corpore sano. Every man should be fit enough to fight and smart enough to make himself useful when the fighting's over."
Annika Petrovich [1] "Give a girl a gun and she can protect herself for life."
Adelaide O'Donnell [1] "I may be short, but I can take on any full grown man, you just let me have at 'em!"
Khan [1] "They say I'm from Roma. Last time I checked, Roma was just a myth, but I guess I'm a bit mythical myself."
Ari [1] Spare me your dreams - there IS no Roma.
Agustus "Gus" Taylor [0] "It'd be so easy to just give up, but I'm waitin' for the Buckley's chance that this'll all get better."

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Adrian had expected the strange man to run off after being thrown to the ground like that, or at least to talk less. Instead, after he had walked no more than 100 feet, he heard the man get up and run after him. When the man caught up, he launched into another string of questions, asking Adrian his name, where he was going, and something about being “Fresco.”

He had hated to speak since the fight, hated the sharp pain in his throat whenever he tried to make words and the harsh rasp that always resulted. These days, his primary means of communication was the collection of notebooks and pens in his pack, but he had his doubts as to whether this man was coherent, much less literate. He continued walking, hoping that ignoring the bizarre man would encourage him to go away.

It didn’t. As the man continued to walk alongside him, his endless string of questions never halting, Adrain felt his initial fear and confusion give way to a growing sense of irritation. He tried indicating the prominent scar on his throat, hoping the obvious signs of tracheal damage would explain his silence, but if the stanger noticed, he gave no indication.

Adrain sighed and turned back to the road, wondering how much more of this pestering he would have to endure.

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#, as written by zolarix
Suddenly noticing the enormously busy street he had wandered into, Alappa came to a sudden stop. At least they aren't screaming in terror, he thought, before immediately scolding himself for showing signs of optimism.

"Just remember kid, the higher you set your hopes, the higher you'll fall. Don't be thinking going to Mecca will make you a new man, and don't be thinking Turkey will 'help you find your identity'. The whole world is a dump, there isn't much to look forwards too. The sooner you realise this, the sooner you can start to be pleased with the little things in life that will be all you've got to make it happy."

The voice of his mentor. An intriguing man. A hallucination of him materialized in front of him... My mind doesn't stop wandering for long he thought to himself, shaking his head to rid himself of the apparition. Worried that he had taken the burden of delusion off of the woman's shoulders, and in return had to carry it himself, he hastily began looking for a place to rest until tomorrow, when he would board a trading ship headed to Australia- with the crew's permission, this time. He needed somewhere quiet, deserted even, somewhere where he would not be disturbed. Luckily, in these troubled times, it was easy to find one of these kind of places even in the most busy of cities.

Alappa left the crowds behind, strolling, as always, through the narrow, unlit back streets as if they were a grand plaza. If he acted the part, his mind could do the rest. As the crowd noise died down, one noise did not. The noise of footsteps, at a faster pace than his own. They couldn't be his own anyway, as he didn't wear shoes. Placing a hand lightly over his knife, not intending to use it but simply to scare, he continued on, more hurriedly now, intending to circle round the stalker, catch him off guard and question his motives at knife point.

He did this around a small building, getting out of line of sight before the man, he assumed by his heavy stride, could turn the previous corner. He began sprinting, intending to catch up with the man and ambush him. This could be done easily due to his bare feet. When he turned the last corner, however, he regretted being without shoes, as the full force of a heavy military boot came down on his right foot, sending him flying as the man released it again once he was head over heels. He did not have a soft landing.


Alappa regained consciousness a few seconds later, knowing now the only person that knew of his "special move", one he used so often back in Greece. It was in fact how they met.

"You always were one step ahead of me, Adam Khan."

"Just like any mentor should be," Khan replied. The familiar sound of his mentor forced Alappa to look up into the bright midday sunlight to take a look at him. Even though he was half blinded, he could see most of his mentor's features. "The army didn't take you, the Ignition didn't take you, and these past seven years didn't either. You look the same as you did back then."
"Which is more than can be said for you. Anyway, you should probably see me in a better light before you make such assumptions. I'm here with some friends. We decided to group up, you know, pool resources and skills. More chance of finding the Oracle that way."
Alappa looked quizzically up at his mentor, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. "The Oracle? What's that? And haven't you found Roma yet?"
Khan smiled at his student's impatience. Although it had been seven years of waiting. "Not yet, but the Oracle is prophesied to be able to tell us where Roma is. Anyway, I'll explain more once we get back to the others. There's quite a few people to introduce you to..."

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#, as written by danm36
Alappa! Of all the people to find in all the places, he just had to find the kid he saved from Greece well over seven years later. The chances were astounding, and the idea of fate - actual physical fate - made the drive for Roma even greater.

The trip back to the apartment was short, Alappa had run almost in a full circle, yet they didn't talk on the way back, despite Alappa seemingly bubbling with excitement of seeing an old friend, correct in both terms. How old was he when Khan had brought him out of Greece? 15? 16? He would be around 23 now, and the change was obvious - a lower voice, stubble even his incessant shaving can't remove, an increase in height... Alappa had changed, and yet he hadn't. Even with his deeper voice Khan instantly recognized him. He guessed it was just another factor of his peculiar origin.

Khan remembered something as they reached the outside of the apartment. "So, Alappa, you still enforcing the nickname 'Al'?"
Alappa returned the gaze with more awe than anything. "You 'membered?"
"Why wouldn't I. You pestered all the way to Turkey," Khan chuckled.
"Well, I still like th'name Al, and it's easier to remember than Alappa." Khan nodded at that. They went in.


Annika glanced up at the thin tanned boy that entered behind Khan. He was shrouded in a cloak but didn't seem apprehensive or aggressive, after all, Khan seemed to be OK around him. The other members of the group were similarly inquisitive.

"Friends, I'd like you to meet Alappa...Al," he corrected himself to the slight embarrassment of the boy. "I met him seven years ago, we traveled for a short while and made our separate ways, but I can assure you that he will be a benefit to the team."
"How?" said Ari, seemingly both the most dismissive and most apprehensive of the group. After all, another mouth to feed certainly wasn't a benefit.
"Because if anyone were to be my protégé... my apprentice..." he gave up finding a simpler term at this point, "... it would be him."
Annika felt a pang of pain at that point. What could this intruder do what she couldn't? He didn't rescue Khan when he was attacked by mercenaries...well, she didn't either, but she was there and that must count for something. Khan continued.
"I met him in Greece when I was looking for Roma where you would expect a place with such a name, Rome, but it was a wastland. The Greek islands held up well, but weren't friendly to outsiders. He..." he pointed to Alappa, "was the only person to successfully pickpocket both my rifle and my PDA." That triggered an eyebrow raise from a majority of the room, after all, they had never seen Khan without either of those. "He was 16 at the time and it was a while before I even realized. I found him trying to pawn it off to some trader, and almost made the sale before I...intervened."

"We got talking and it seemed Alappa wanted to head to Turkey, his other home. We had a fun time making our way through border militia, but for what I possess in a sort of power, he possesses the equivalent in subtlety and swiftness. On our travels he became very interested in Roma. My next destination was Brisbane, so, I guess that's where you were headed?"
"Never was good with a map." Alappa responded.
"Well you almost made it, and, while the place wasn't the Roma we were looking for..." Alappa's face fell, "... we met each other there and a brilliant if slightly eccentric man who provided us the knowledge of where to go next. We are headed to a place called the 'Center'. Ever heard of it?"
"No," Alappa replied bluntly.
"Well, what about this here Oracle in some place called Jakarta?" Annika blurted out, not liking the praise this intruder was receiving.
"Nope, never heard of her...him. Sounds like a 'her'." Alappa once again responded, with his bright blue eyes pointed directly at Annika. While she was proud Alappa couldn't answer her question, his gaze forced her not to show it.
"So," Khan began, "where to now? And don't worry about feeding him, I'll handle that."

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#, as written by Aeroron
“The Rat.
Losing it.
Your call.”

The Rat. Adelaide hadn’t heard that term since she first met Ari at the Terminus; that was where this all began, wasn’t it? That’s where she made her first mistakes, and how she ended up in this convoluted goose-chase. That was how she gained a whole group of people to join her in her quest for Roma- some of them forced into the journey against their will. The full realization of what she had done to Ari slowly dawned on her; a feeling of horror seeped into her skin, making her feel strangely cold in the sweltering heat. She rubbed her freckled arms to get rid of the goosebumps, and silently pondered how she would handle this situation.
She admitted to herself that she wasn’t ready for what she was about to do. But Ari needed this. Ari needed somebody. Maybe Ari needed her.

Adelaide took a shot of her beloved Kirsch. With a deep breath, she headed to the outside balcony to meet the person that she knew would be hunched over the railing, waiting for something- anything- to give him a reason to not lose control.
Indeed, Ari was hunched over the railing. She couldn’t see his face, but she assumed that he didn’t want to be bothered. Probably she was the last person he ever wanted to see; or maybe she was exactly what he wanted. She didn’t dwell on this, however. What mattered was that she had chose to be there, now, and to make things right. Adelaide positioned herself next to him, with her back against the railing, so that they didn’t have to look at each other directly.

Adelaide produced a necklace which was previously hidden under her shirt, and began to run her fingers over the tiny engagement ring that hung on the chain. It was a small comfort, a relic of her past, and a symbol of a joy which she might never know again.
“I don’t think I’m ready for another Thomas. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. But I do know that this world ain’t what it used to be.” Her voice came out too soft when she spoke, however; it was nearly a whisper. She cleared her throat, and continued,

“We’re only people. Just people pretending to be important and invincible and we all just want to survive every night and keep living and maybe find Roma. But we’re still people. Sometimes I forget that, ya know?

“It’s gotta be real frustrating, goin’ after me, and me just mindin’ my own business, pretending to be some immortal researcher. Sometimes I forget to take a step back, an’ look at the big picture- then I miss obvious things like maybe you just want someone in your life. Maybe you’re here for another reason than being sent out from your warren… Maybe I shouldn’t hate Moonie, anymore, because I can’t change what happened to her in the past an’ I can only change what might happen in the future. Well, maybe not…

“Oh, fuck, Ari. I’ll just say it.

“I like you. I like being around you. I like how I know nothing about you, but I feel like I’ve known you for a lifetime. I like how your hair is some uncontrollable mess, and how you have a ridiculous bounce when you walk. And your eyes- when I look at them, I feel at home; like all this- the Ignition- never happened.”

Adelaide nodded her head slowly, to affirm that she truly did mean what she just said. She wasn’t sure how much meaning Ari could gather from her garbled mess of a confession, but she sincerely hoped that she didn’t sound entirely idiotic. He certainly didn’t need another Moonie in his life, after all.
She had been looking straight ahead the whole time, afraid to look in the direction of Ari. If they had locked eyes, she certainly wouldn’t have been able to speak so freely. Now that she had said everything she intended to, she turned toward him.

“An’ I don’t know where that leaves us, but I hope it’s a better place than before.”

Carefully, almost warily, Adelaide traced the sign of the let-hex with the tip of her finger over Ari’s cheek.


This guy’s probably a gouger, Caleb thought to himself. He’s already tried to jump me once. I’d better not let him flake.

“You all best be watching all the good work I’m doing,” he shouted up to the sky, raising his arms in frustration, “I’m not doin’ this for sweat.”

Caleb followed behind the stranger at a respectable distance, wearing a hearty scowl on his face. He judged that the stranger was deaf and mute, but what he lacked in senses was made up for by the sheer amount of weaponry on his person. This man was bristling with weapons; Caleb thought that he looked more like a steel echidna than a person, what with all his tools and his metal vest.

It was clear that the sun would set within the hour. Around these parts, it wasn’t safe to sleep outside at night, though. He certainly didn’t want to shut his eyes for a moment with this stranger around, anyways. They were just on the outskirts of Blacktown, however, and they’d probably make it into town by sundown if they hurried. Not that this was any relief. Stopping for the night in the city was out of the question, as well. There were more ways to die in Blacktown than there were ways to live. He figured that he’d take the stranger through the safest parts of town, and continue traveling through the night toward Richmond. That seemed to be the direction the stranger was heading towards, in any case.

Blacktown was probably his least favorite place in the world- not that he had seen much of the world, but he was pretty sure that he would be hard pressed to find something worse. The slumpies were mostly harmless, but they had no sense of morality, and would often cause as much trouble for travelers as possible. The Cathos, though, those were another matter. Saying that they didn’t tolerate Frescans was an understatement. To be a Frescan in Blacktown meant swift death. “Tryin’ to keep the place livable”, they’d say. That was their reason for killing my kind. And then there was the cannibalism. Nobody talked about it, nobody punished it; it was just something that happened there, and the people would turn a blind eye.

Caleb considered warning the strange man about the dangers ahead, but he figured that it would be just as futile to talk to the man now as it had been before. But for the sake of the Great Ones, he knew that he had to keep this man safe.
Caleb suddenly jumped in front of the man, making a “halt” gesture. He pointed to the setting sun. He pointed in the direction of the city. He pointed to himself and the strange man, then dropped to the ground, and curled up. He suddenly jumped up again, and made the “halt” gesture with a stern face. He took a few steps forward, then pointed to the city again. He watched the strange man for a few moments to make sure that he was paying attention- this was the important part! He discretely moved his head around to look at his surroundings. Then he waved his arms frantically, and made the “death” gesture across his throat.

Pleased with his work, he patted the stranger on the back, then took up the lead. He looked over his shoulder every few moments to be sure that the mysterious deaf man was still there and was heeding his instructions.

Gouger, or gow- a dangerous thief, rogue
Flake- leaving someone’s field of vision
Sweat- working for the sake of work, a favor without a reward
Echidna- a small mammal with quills
Slumpies- “slum puppies” a derogatory term of children born after the Ignition, usually gathered together in gangs.
Cathos- Catholics

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#, as written by Alan23
Ari stroked his cheek gently, tracing the hex sign Adelaide's fingers had traced. He smiled.

"Ranga ,that's a lovely gesture," he grinned. "But - were we in a bad place before?" He indicated the tropical night, circling his arms as if to indicate the world. "Well, we're in A bad place literally, but I doubt that's what you mean, out a t yeah? Or bad time maybe. I dunno." "He reached out a tentative hand, stroked her cheek. "I guess you.. " He paused, carefully searching for wo make it not QUITE so bad i. In fact-""Hey Ari,Stroked" came Moonie's shrill voice from the doorway. It had the vacant tone suggesting her medication was long overdue. "Did you really bring coffee? What did ya trade for it" She giggled. "Rang isn't it about time you earned your keep? I am SO hanging for a brew. And while you make it I need to talk to MY rat, here.

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Persistence was not a characteristic Adrian had expected in this odd man; he had predicted--and hoped--that the man's erratic, almost certainly drug-induced behavior would lead him to wander off and leave Adrian to his travels. Instead, as he went along, he heard the stranger walk along behind him, keeping his distance but continuing to follow him.

In spite of himself, Adrian began to feel somewhat rude. The stranger, while annoying, didn't seem to be an active threat. More importantly, he appeared to be lucid enough to give advice about the surrounding area; if the old map was accurate, he was coming up on Blacktown soon, and he knew nothing of the area or its inhabitants. Furthermore, while the years after the apocalypse had taught him the value of suspicion--and, in some cases, ruthlessness--he was not a hostile man by nature, and potential allies were not so common these days as to simply be ignored.

Still, even if the man's intentions were harmless, his insistence on following Adrian was perplexing. What reason could this man have to approach a complete stranger--a visibly armed one, no less--and try to strike up a conversation about believer and stars and whatnot. Perhaps he belonged to one of the bizarre cults that had spring up in recent years; it could certainly explain the signs of drug use. Even so, Adrian mused, having bizarre beliefs didn't mean he couldn't be helpful. If he was looking for a convert, though, he was in for a serious disappointment.

Adrian's speculations were cut short when the man suddenly jumped in front of him and signaled him to stop. He complied, dropping into a crouch and letting the stranger take the lead. As they crept through the grass, he decided to try something. Reaching back into his pack, he produced a notebook and pencil and, keeping his head up and eyes alert to any sign of danger, began to write:

"Apologies if I'm not particularly talkative; injuries to the throat have made speech difficult, to say the least. I can still hear you quite well, and can say short phrases if necessary.

Are you from around here? If so, do you know of any good places to hide and sleep? It would be best if we could be in shelter by nightfall."

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#, as written by Aeroron
Yoko hadn’t been able to sleep that night. Xiao had at least been able to drift in and out of sleep, and for that she was thankful.
She was positively weary, and her head was as foggy as the top of the mountains in the morning. However she knew that the time would soon come that they would have to untangle themselves from their desperate cuddle, and risk all for the slim chance of freedom. There was no window in her quarters, which was simply a refurbished supply closet, but she still had the feeling that daybreak would soon arrive. All too soon.

“Xiao,” she whispered in his ear as she gently nudged him awake, “Xiao, we should wake up. They’ll be coming…”

Xiao gave plenty of slow blinks as he forced himself awake, and looked at Yoko as if pleading for more time to rest. She continued to gently nudge him.
“It’s a good thing you got some rest, because we’ll be needing your strength. There’ll be two of them, maybe- the guard and whipscar’s attendant. We’ll need to take ‘em both out right as they come in.”

Xiao nodded, and looked around the room for something to use as a weapon; he finally decided on using the table leg of Yoko’s desk, and worked quickly to dismantle it. Soon after, they could both begin to smell the burning sugar cane; it was indeed morning. The pair stood by the door, tense and barely daring to breathe.


The lock on the door was undone. The handle turned.

Yoko, startled, jumped a little. In the next moment, she heard the sickening crunch from Xiao’s blow. The guard toppled to the floor. Sickened, and still lightheaded, she averted her eyes as she drove her scalpel into the assistant. Before she even processed the events further, she ran out into the hallway with Xiao, and fastened the lock again. The screams from the assistant could still be heard, and were positively deafening.
“We don’t have much time.”

Dropping the table leg, Xiao bolted through the hallways, holding Yoko’s arm firmly. With the sugar cane being harvested, the plantation home was less populated, so the two were able to escape through the service entrance without being caught. They covered their mouths once they got outside; the air was thick with smoke and debris, and they didn’t dare cough. Yoko ripped off a piece of her dress, and put it in her mouth to avoid coughing, and the two removed their shoes, throwing them deep into the underbrush behind the building.
Constantly thwarted by roots and spider webs, their journey through the uncultivated part of the plantation was slow and tedious. It wasn’t long into their journey when they heard the harsh bell at the top of the plantation building cut through the silence of the morning; the two froze.

“We have no time. They know,” Yoko spat out the strip of her dress.

Xiao turned to her, “They’ll be searching. We need to get lost in the crowds. Soon. Traders district, if we can get there. Make it past the wall, at least.”


Coffee. Coffee is good. Adelaide went ahead and made some coffee for everyone. She was in a good mood, since her talk with Ari had gone well. She figured coffee would also be a good way to welcome the strange man who had apparently just now joined the group. But most importantly, Adelaide was making coffee for everyone to show Moonie she wasn’t doing her any favors.
Adelaide’s heart was already aflutter from recent events, so she watered down her brew with some alcohol so that the caffeine wouldn’t make her jittery.

“Glad to have ‘ya with us,” she greeted the stranger, apparently named Al, “we’re all travelin together, so you can stick with us as long as you want. Safety in numbers, and all that.”

“So, if he’s ye … protégé, does that mean he’s a guide, too?” Annika was sure to carefully pronounce protégé, to remind Khan that she was impressive, too. She seemed perhaps defensive about the arrival of the stranger. “If he is a guide, why wasn’t he at that outpost? Could have saved us a lota trouble.”

Adelaide sensed that now would be a good time to step outside and give Moonie and Ari their coffees. She arrived predictably to a scene of Moonie’s babblings, so she left the coffee outside the doorway, for them to get once they finished their debate.

Returning again to the scene inside, everyone appeared to be on relatively good terms, so she was relieved that there wasn’t any trouble.
“Anyways, Khan, maybe we should discuss our plans,” Adelaide mentioned as she sat down to join the group.
“I think we can all agree that getting to Jakarta would be a good idea, so now we just need to figure out how we’re going to get there. Jakarta is pretty much in the center of, well, the Center, so as long as we got goods to trade, we can easily just hop on a ship, most like. Might be best if we haul off as soon as possible, but ya know, since we’re in PNG anyways, I thought maybe we could check out the Central Trading District. It’s supposed to be pretty impressive. It is the trading hub of the world, after all.”

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#, as written by Alan23
"Goods ain't the problem, though," said Ari, grimly. He gave a guarded smile of thanks to Al, as the latter refilled his coffee mug. "On land, the stuff we got - used carefully, that is - it'll get us to the North Pole and back. That is - if anyone's willing to trade. Moonster, tell us what Rainbow told the warren, that day, remember? The day Honker and Feathergirl jumped the broom."

Moonie's eyes glazed.

"Ah yeah," she giggled. "That was a day, that was. I got ssoooooo stonkered, remember? Faery and Numbat had got hold of that big stash of sleepweed, and Twilight chipped in that whole vat of juice. Night alone knows where she got it? Remember, Annika? It was the best stuff we ever had, afore or since. I reckon if we - "

"Get to the frickin' point, Moonie," sighed Annika. "Ari said to tell 'em about Rainbow, recall?"

"Yeah, s'pose," replied Moonie sulkily, who would obviously have preferred to reminisce about past parties rather than focus on their current plight. "OK, well... Rainbow had this squeeze, see, name of Dingo. he was a good guy, Dingo. Faithful, too." She cast a daggers glance at Ari, who was sitting with his arm draped casually around Adelaide. "Not like some, who let a girl think maybe she - "

"On with it, Monster," growled Annika.

Moonie sighed, opened her mouth as if to protest, then caught Annika's aggressive glance. "Well, see, Dingo, he and some guys - not from our warren, I think - they went on a trip to 'Neesya*. S'posed to be goin' to the Lee*, pick up some stuff. Sleepweed, if I'm any judge. Anyway - OK, Nikka, I'm getting to it, but this is important. He come back, see, with more stuff than you could poke a stick at. An' get this. It was all there for the takin'. Seems he and his mates, they fell in with some skipper, who said 'Bugger the Lee, Jakarta's where it's at," and Dingo and them decided to check his word, see. And know what - he weren't lying, neither." Moonie took a sip of her coffee. "He said there was stuff there for the takin' - weed, poppy, hashy. And no-one was even guardin' it. All dead. Wholeplace stunk like a tomb, dead folk everywhere."

"Why?" Asked Annika. "A lurgy?"*

"Nah. Though that's what he thought, at first. But this weren't no lurgy. See - none of these dead folk had any heads. Nor arms nor legs, many of 'em. So they - by this I mean Dingo and his team - they finally found some girl crouchin' in fear, in a like straw hut. She'd bin there a week, she said. Told some story about men that come down from the hills, took over the village. They weren't interested in the fields - ignored all the crops, be they normal food or drugs. An' they never raped no-one, neither. All they did was... get this... they was eatin' folk!"

"That ain't the first time I heard that, neither," added Ari. And then, reverting away from his street accent, "I've heard quite a few rumors. A cannibal cult, around what used to be Jakarta. First I heard it from a travvie, few months back, but this guy was so wetbrained I didn't pay it much credence. Then from a guy at the Trade Center, but he admitted he only knew it by shave. Then when Dingo told it - well, Dingo's a streetie you can trust. I sought him out, got the whole story. This cult, they believe that the Silver Ships are on their way, but that the ... I don't know, the gods or spacemen, or whatever - they need to be sacrificed to. Cannibalistic rites." He looked across at Al. "Maybe you've heard something similar, I don't know. You too, Khan. It may not be true, of course, but... "

He tightened his grip on Adelaide. Moonie's eyes went hard.

"I guess I'm sayin', we need a good reason to go there, if we go, is all." he finished, reverting to his street accent. He didn't actually add that he was unwilling to take Adelaide into any sort of danger... yet the quick, guarded glance he gave her may have given it away. "So, Khan - I'll leave it to your call."

Neesya - Indonesia.
The Lee - Bali
Lurgy - plague

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#, as written by Aeroron
“Oh, hey; what’s this?” Caleb took the piece of paper that was handed to him, “Hey, it’s a message! Not even the divine kind, yeah? Damn, did you just write this? I haven’t seen paper and pencils for years, mate- you must be doing pretty well, to be able to keep this stuff around. I guess I ‘spected no less from someone the Great Ones sent, though. Always got to do important work for important people…”
“Oh, yeah; I should read this, yeah?” Caleb struggled to make out the characters because of the ever-diminishing light from the sky. Besides, he hadn’t read proper English for quite some time. He was much more accustomed to reading and writing the symbols of his warren.

"Apologies if I'm not particularly talkative; injuries to the throat have made speech difficult, to say the least. I can still hear you quite well, and can say short phrases if necessary.”

About halfway through, he stopped to comment, “Ya know, I always wanted a pen. Getting jet roundabouts here can be tough, though. Always gotta make do with blackchar. But ya know what? That stuff is practically given away in the Center. That’s where I’m headin', ya know. I’m gonna get a job- haven’t heard that phrase for some time, ye? – and then I can buy all the things I could ever want. I could get a pen in every color, an’ sample all the crass…”
Reading the rest of the note,
“Are you from around here? If so, do you know of any good places to hide and sleep? It would be best if we could be in shelter by nightfall."

“Hm, yeah, sorry to hear about your throat, mate. I guess that’s why you’re so lock-tongued. I’m from around here, but I don’t plan to stay much longer, you know? This world isn’t getting’ any better, so I might as well go out and do stuff about it, yeah? I went ahead and left my own warren last night, big party, lotsa good music. I’m gonna try to get to the Center- like I said before, yeah? Funny how that works out- but there aren’t any ports inland, of course, so I gotta make it to th’ main docks. Gonna try to pass through Blacktown, to do that. Prolly a bad idea entirely, but hey, we got the Great Ones on our side.”
“Oh, yeah, I should prolly tell you about Blacktown. Bad place. We’re just gonna pass through, and not stay the night. Hope you’re awake!” Caleb laughed, though whatever he thought was funny wasn’t obvious.

Blacktown, like most cities, had the most activity at night so as to decrease radiation exposure during the day. Daytime was truly the most dangerous time there, because snipers and slumpies would try and prey on the non-locals passing through. As long as they were able to hurry through and blend in with the locals, they would have minimal trouble, Caleb figured.
It wasn’t long before they fell in step with several other people entering the city of Blacktown, who also seemed to be outsiders making a pilgrimage through. Located just inside of the city was a vast wall cluttered with fliers, posters, and chalk markings of local warrens. Many people were gathered around it, so Caleb decided he should take a look, too. He was in a reading mood, all of a sudden, anyways.

Apprenticeship – 5 at most, learn sailing, trading- find Cap. Maxwell in Syd.
Trade wanted – sell: 20 count eggs, 3 knives, rope, buy: linen, sugar, wheat
Maps –local, national, international- sold 6 Davis Rd.

“Oh, hey, mate, take a look at this!”
CLODIA project. Spons.: Oracle Corp. Men needed, all applicants considered. Join Central Localized Operation for Defense, Intelligence, and Artillery. Applications considered at Cen. Trading District, PNG.
“Haha, that’s a lot of words, there. Probably aren’t gonna get a lot of people reading that one. Well, let’s head out before we lose what light we got- I don’t have a lantern on me.”

Jet- ink, usually to fill pens
Blackchar- charcoal
Crass – local drugs

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The stranger was finally beginning to make himself useful, though he still insisted on referencing that bizarre religion in every other sentence. Still, the fact that he was halfway literate meant he had already proven himself more competent than expected, and any information on their surroundings was more than welcome. For the moment, Adrian decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, though his beliefs and manner were off-putting to say the least.

Approaching the city, Adrian quickly began to agree with the stranger's assessment; this was indeed a bad place to stay for any period of time. Remembering the advice of his fellow militiamen from the base, he altered his course, avoiding open spaces and staying close to cover.

As they joined a group of travelers, Adrian moved to the rear of the group, eyes scanning the surrounding buildings for any sign of an ambush; most bandits or raiders would avoid a group of this size in favor of easier prey, but those who did attack would be well-armed and ready for a serious fight. An even graver concern was snipers, since any marksman worth his salt would try to neutralize the most dangerous targets first, and the SLR on his back made him a rather obvious threat.

When the stranger stopped to read the various writings wallpapering the remains of what used to be a very large building, Adrian decided to follow suit, quickly scanning the huge wall for any useful information about the town or its surroundings. Even before the other man pointed it out, the CLODIA poster caught his eye.

Before he could stop to read more, however, someone off to his right let out a shout.

SLR-L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle; a large battle rifle formerly employed by the British and Australian militaries, among others.

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#, as written by danm36
After the description of the potential cannibalism, Khan felt less sure about bringing these people to a place where they would just be harvested. Even so, though, the so called Oracle was the closed thing they had to any sort of lead.

"I ain't heard anything of the Shippies being cannibals, although the ones I encountered were more the suicide cult type." He thought for a moment, "Jakarta's a big place. Assuming we can find a ship to take us there, there will definitely be some sort of society against cannibalism," he wandered to the window, "and we ain't getting anything done here."
"You sure there's a safe zone?" questioned Al. Alappa had probably skipped Indonesia.
"Even if the city was taken over by the cannibals, there will always be people against that sought of thing, a resistance. One of the many laws of this world, if it exists, someone's against it."
"So we're really gonna head to J'karta...?" asked Annika, quieter than usual. The story had gotten to her.
"Look, these are just rumours. I passed by the outskirts of Jakarta on my way to Brisbane and everything seemed fine, there will be nothing to worry about."
"And you've got us t'protect ya," added Al. Annika glared at him a little before lowering her eyes.


The group had split up temporarily at the port trading area, something which seemed suitably massive to warrant the name Central Trading District. Whether this was what was know back in Brisbane as the Centre Khan couldn't be sure, but the 'market' stretched deep into the streets, quality of goods degrading the further you got from the ships. The smell here was unique, combining things like fish, perfume and garbage into a mash of a particular smell that, while never wanting to smell it again, had a sought of addictive effect. Khan, Annika and Alappa had gone to scout for potential Jakarta transport while Ari, Adelaide and Moonie had gone to get some food and other goods - something Ari's knowledge of street trading should allow them to get goods dirt cheap. Even though they were supposed to be looking for potential transport, a lot of the time they just couldn't help looking at some of the strange and unique wares in the stands.

"The sol is that?" quizzed Annika, looking at some frightfully disturbing 'food', fish and insects more a stable of a cult's worship than anything else.
"That thing there is a devil fish," responded Al, "or at least that's what they called it back in China. The insects are called mílù de háizi...I think"
Annika said nothing and wandered to a nearby stand. Al, after standing there for a couple of seconds, made his way back to Khan who was admiring a particularly savage kukri and an old world war two pistol.
"What's up with her?"
Khan looked up, "Annika? Not sure, but I guess it's probably your fault." Khan returned to the weapon.
"My fault!? What have I done?"
Khan nodded in appreciation to the stand owner and made his way towards a nearby ship. "Nothing, but maybe she feels that you're intruding on her territory."
"Territory? She doesn't own you...does she?"
Khan laughed. "No no, but... I don't know, maybe she considers herself a student of me or something. I have seen her checking my actions and perhaps even copying me, I don't know..." Khan turned to al, "and then you come along and announce you're my protogé, well, she might have a right to be a little pissed. Either that or she thinks you're trying to get in her pants..." Al blushed a little, and Khan chuckled, "Look, don't worry about it, it should resolve itself soon," Khan turned and began talking to the nearest dock-hand who, after a mess of poor translation and multiple languages, directed him to a ship more suited to the sixteenth century. Annika wandered over, bored of the immediate stands, and Khan announced the news. "That ship over there, that old thing, seems to be our best chance at getting to Jakarta, or at the very least to Indonesia," he turned back to the trading area, "let us go and find the others and we can work out a plan of action from there."


Mílù de háizi [Chinese] - Get lost kid

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#, as written by Aeroron
Caleb was rather consumed in his new reading material that he barely noticed the tall man stepping into his peripheral view. Caleb turned to look at him, whispering under his breath, “Darren…”

The man walked towards Caleb casually with his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, “Leaving the warren, I heard?”

Caleb gave a quick glance over his shoulder to Adrian before he turned to face Darren, “Oh, yeah, yeah, I left yesterday- official like- everyone saw me off.”

“Yeah? I bet there was a get-goin luck, sorry I wasn’t able to be there. Maybe I can make it up to you with a smoke.”

Caleb momentarily looked hesitant, but soon answered, “yeah, I’m glad to get‘a share a smoke with you before I leave… Get some good closure.”

“Closure, yeah?” Darren almost sounded amused.

“Uh, yeah. I mean, it’s, you know, I thought you maybe wouldn’t be happy for me.” Caleb laughed a little; clearly that was a ridiculous conclusion. He took the lit cigarette with thanks.

“Heh. Wouldn’t be happy. Cal…” Darren produced a knife from behind his back, “ain’t nobody steals my girl!” he shouted as he thrust into Caleb’s side.
Screams echoed from the onlookers, who hastily filtered into the adjacent buildings. Within moments, the surrounding area was empty. Caleb fell to the ground, carefully clutching his side.

“She said yous were over!” Caleb screamed back.
Darren pretended to thrust down at Caleb again; he flinched and covered his head, making Darren laugh under his breath.

Noticing Adrian, but not recognizing him, Darren stepped forward, “And what about you, buster? You also gonna lift my bird? Fuckin’ riff.”

Caleb looked up at Adrian, speechless. He was still alive, but he had been seriously wounded; without attention, he would die of blood loss, infection- or, more probably, more knife wounds. Darren stood his ground, holding his knife at the ready, with a singular, horrid fire burning in his eyes.
Luck- a party or celebration most often featuring food, feast
To lift a bird- to steal someone’s girl, to get involved with someone who’s taken
Riff- leave [immediately], disappear

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Adrian froze, his mind trying desperately to adapt to the extreme shift in circumstances for about 2 seconds before instinct kicked in.

No time for the rifle--the straps would take too long to undo, and the man was only a few meters away. Fumbling, he reached into his coat, grabbing his pistol and pulling it free from the holster.

Too late. The man was already on top of him; he was fast, and from his stance and the way he held the blade it was clear that this was by no means his first time stabbing someone. The man tackled him and bore him down, and Adrian, still somewhat inexperienced in close-quarters combat, lost his grip on the .38, which clattered to the pavement less than a meter away.

A stab to the midsection screeched loudly as it encountered the vest's steel lining, and Adrian made use of the man's momentary surprise, kneeing him hard in the groin. Pressing his advantage, he punched him under the chin, then pressed his foot into the man's stomach and shoved him back.

The man recovered quickly, switching the grip on his knife and diving back toward Adrian's prone form, but Adrian was ready for him this time, using his left arm to hold the man at bay while frantically retrieving the pistol with his right. As the man pushed his arm away and grabbed his face, aiming to stab at his unprotected throat, Adrian pressed the pistol into his left side and fired, emptying all six chambers as quickly as his trigger finger would allow.

The man hesitated a second time, the shock of being shot temporarily overcoming his fury, and Adrian once again kicked him off, this time seizing the initiative and diving on the man before he could recover. Pinning the man's right arm with his left, he brought the revolver's handle down hard on his wrist, smashing it three times before the hand involuntarily opened, releasing the knife. Tossing aside the .38, Adrian retrieved the newly relinquished weapon, then went for the kill, and the feeble attempts to push him away soon faded under his merciless assault.

After what felt like hours, Adrian's bloodlust subsided and he became dimly aware that his assailant had stopped resisting some time ago. Abandoning the attack, he got up and stepped over to his companion's prone form, now curled up on the ground in a pool of blood, fingers clutching at his side. Hands still shaking from adrenaline, Adrian fumbled in his pack for the first aid kit, pulled it out, knelt down and set to work.

Somehow, despite his panic and the rising wave of nausea in his chest, Adrian managed to disinfect, close and suture the wound, but it was too late--several checks for breathing and a pulse revealed neither, as the kid, like his attacker, had evidently succumbed to blood loss during the fight.

As his shaking and hyperventilating slowly lessened, Adrian stood up, still numb from the shock of what he'd seen and done. The nausea returned and he gave in to it, retching and dry heaving before stumbling over to a nearby wall and leaning heavily on it, panting for breath. For a time he simply stood there, staring at the crumbling brick as he tried to make sense of those few fateful minutes.

It occurred to him that his only name for the kid had come from his attacker: the man had called him "Cal" before he attacked. Stepping over Cal's lifeless form, he shifted him into a classic "funeral" position, lying on his back with hands crossed over his chest, and closed his eyes--it wasn't enough, but at this point nothing really would be. Sorry kid, he thought, would've stopped him sooner if I could.

Without quite knowing why, he moved to the attacker and stooped to pick up the knife, wiping it clean on the sleeve of his former adversary's shirt. An M9 knife bayonet: sharp, sturdy and surprisingly well-maintained considering the scum who'd owned it. After some consideration, he found he couldn't bring himself to discard it, so after searching the man's belongings for its sheath, he washed it off, wiped it clean again, then attached it to his belt--a rather grim memento, perhaps, but for an incident like this it seemed entirely appropriate.

Remembering his militia instructor's advice on kill confirmation, he considered shooting the man in the head, but decided not to bother: the man was hardly worth the six rounds already in him, let alone a seventh. In any case, he could count at least 20 distinct wounds on the man and estimated that about 2-3 liters of his blood were now pooled under him--enough kill confirmation for even the most paranoid soldier.

As a final insult, he did a quick search of the man's belongings, retrieving a small flask of water and two unopened candy bars, then spat on the man's face as a stood up. Reloading his pistol and making a note to sew up his coat at the next opportunity, he walked away without a backward glance.

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#, as written by Aeroron
Adelaide was pleasantly surprised to find that Khan had conveniently gathered up the whole group in one place. She had previously been afraid of losing track of everyone in the massive Central Trading District; the crowds that gathered here didn’t strike her as the most savory bunch, so she didn’t want to end up alone.

As Adelaide joined the group, Khan began, “Annika and I managed to spot a good-sized ship that’s headed to Indonesia. It’s pretty well worn down- but what isn’t, these days?” he added with a laugh. In this case he was careful to mention Annika, instead of Alappa, to avoid flaring her jealousy.

“Ah, I have something to add, too.” Adelaide mentioned. “You all know by now that I’m a researcher, but you probably don’t know what kind of research I do. I’m a meteorologist- I study the weather and such. And even though I’ve been traveling for a while, I’ve still been able to collect data. Some of the things I’ve noticed have made me worry, though.” Adelaide proceeded to pull out the stack of papers that she was originally carrying with her at the Terminus. “It’s about the sun. The Ignition happened a while ago, but it wasn’t that long ago. About eleven years, by my reckon.”

“Twelve,” Ari corrected her. He was the Yearkeeper back at his warren, and defended his title by correcting her.

“Ah, see, yeah- that’s right,” Adelaide replied as she looked at her paperwork, “That makes it even more troublesome. Ya see, the Spark happened on a peak year of the solar cycle. Cycles are supposed to repeat every eleven years, but it’s already been twelve. It’s overdue. With the atmosphere all fried up, we won’t have the protection that we usually do from solar bursts.”

“So things are gonna get bad?” Annika asked, “Is this gonna bother our sea-travel?”

“Right now it’s hard to tell. But I know that soon there’s going to be a lot more radiation; it’s going to be pretty devastating. Let’s try to hasten our travels so that we get to safer places, instead of staying out in the open like this.” Adelaide replied.

Khan agreed, “Let’s go ahead and leave today. We’re by the docks, anyways. I’m sure we can arrange a boat to Jakarta.”

“Those milits over there look straight-up galah.” Moonie laughed, distracted from the current conversation. “They’ve got their matchin’ little outfits with floggers. Where are they goin’, some kind of mixer?”
The men she was referring to were standing around one of the better looking booths in the Central Trading District, advertising the ominous-looking mercenary program apparently called the CLODIA Project.

“Those guys look serious, Moonster. You probably shouldn’t say that too loud. We’ve been able to stay out’a trouble so far, let’s not get ourselves killed too quickly, yeah?” Annika scolded.
Moonie thought her joke was definitely funny. Furious to have opposition, instead of laughter, she retorted, “I’ll bet that Alappa guy could take ‘em, and you couldn’t. Even Adders could do it, I bet.”

Milit- soldier
Galah- ridiculous, silly (describing people in particular)
Flogger- long coat, cape
Adders- A new nickname Moonie has made for Adelaide. Double-meaning with a reference to the adder snake.

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#, as written by danm36
"CLODIA... CLODIA..." Khan muttered as they ambled away from the stand.

"What is it?" quizzed Annika, picking up his quiet voice.

"I don't know... It must be something big if they are thinking up acronyms in these days..." he glanced back, "...but I have never heard of such a thing. The only Clodia I know is Clodia Metelli, a sort of poet I think. I honestly cannot think of a suitable acronym for, missing the 'd'".

"It may not necessarily be an English acro...acrononym...whatever. After all, this isn't an English country." she proudly announced matter-of-factly. Khan felt a little embarrassed at that. He decided to change the subject. Hopefully this CLODIA thing didn't involve the guide network.

"So, Adelaide...Adders," he added with a smirk, "I've heard of this whole twelve year sun cycle thing and that it could mess up stuff like, well, like electronics," he glanced to the pouch on his waist, "what damage you can expect, other than the standard sun-burns?"

Adelaide though for a moment, before chiming up. "The surface of the oceans may once again boil like they did in the early days, or at least cause it to steam," she paused, "so I guess there will be no fishing again. Electronics, like you noted, will probably be affected by EMPs from the sun, and, well, cancers may also be prevalent."


"Wait, the seas will boil?" quizzed Annika. Of course, she was nine when the magnetosphere disappeared, "like, tea and such."

"Yes. Didn't you see them when you were younger?"

"No, after the ignition I kind'a stayed at home for a couple of weeks." she looked sad, and Khan, given the chance, once again changed the subject.

"Well, this is the majestic swan of the seas we'll be taking!" he announced, gesturing at the rotting wooden cutter gently swaying in the breeze.

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#, as written by Alan23
"So why's that a problem?" asked Ari, keeping his face perfectly straight. "I mean, it's not as if we eat fish raw, right? We ain't dholes. Surely having 'em ready boiled would be -" he was unable to keep a straight face any longer. "Sorry, Adders," he grinned, just as she opened her mouth to give what may or may not have been a straight answer. He brushed a stray lock of hair from her forehead, a clumsy attempt at forgiveness for teasing her. "Truly, though - and I ain't too happy about this - I can't see as it matters much. I mean, seriously, how long have we got anyway?" It had been a thing he'd been thinking about for many years, and he'd long ago become reconciled to the obvious answer to his question. "We're the last generation either way. Maybe we got thirty years, maybe we got three? T'ain't like we gonna fret about future generations, is it?"

Moonie's reaction - especially since she was obviously at the lowest point in her intellectual cycle, and long overdue for her dandy - surprised even Ari. She was a blur of motion, moving so quickly that even his reflections were not quick enough to deflect her slap. She was not strong enough to cause him actual pain, but her ineffectual flailing caused the ragged edge of her nail to catch his cheek, drawing a thin line of blood.

"How dare ya say that, Ari the rat?" she screamed, causing several heads to turn and look at the group. "Like how dare? Her anger caused her to flare into street, and she let fly with a long stream of invective, which only Annika and Ari could really follow, but which might be roughly translated as a strongly held opinion that just lying down and giving up constituted a sin against human nature, and was tantamount to weakness - this kernel of opinion interspersed with various snippets of commentary concerning Ari's lineage, sexual habits and shortcomings in general.

"Like we come down from monkeys an' fish, just go give up?" she finished, by way of a summary to her spiel. "We jus' gonna lie down and kark?" Tears had formed in her blank eyes. "So why don' yer just jump in the surf, then, if you say there ain't no point goin' on, huh? Why do people Grak? Ain't no point makin' no bubs, if we're the last folk, is it? Ain't no point bein' decent to each other, or doin' stuff at all!"

She quickened her pace, walking ahead of the group, as if unwilling to be associated with Ari, or even anyone who was willing to walk alongside him. She sniffed, and raised her hand - even from behind, the others could see she was wiping a tear.

It wasn't the first time Ari had seen Moonie fly into one of her spontaneous rages, but they'd been none since they'd discovered the effects of the dandy, and he'd been hoping that her brief bouts of lucidity had somehow damped the frustration that caused them. Obviously he'd been wrong.

He stared gloomily at the battered hulk of a boat that would, it seemed, be taking them on the next stage of the journey. The thought of however-many-weeks cooped up with Adelaide and Moonie sniping at each other like she-cats almost made him wish the end of the world would get a move on!

Swan of the seas
, he muttered to himself. More like a fuckin' goony-bird. Still - with any luck it'll sink before the sea dries up totally!

Kark - die (from the noise made by a death rattle)
Grak - one of the Streeters' many slang terms for the sexual act

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CLODIA project. Join Central Localized Operation for Defense, Intelligence, and Artillery.

It was a chance to be a part of something, to have something to do. He'd had such a chance before, back with the others, but that was all behind him now. In any case, he'd been wanting a direction for his wandering ever since he left, and PNG was as good a destination as any other.

In any case, he'd had enough of traveling alone. A brief inquiry with some of the locals pointed him toward a caravan in need of a guard, where his body armor, military rifle and combat scars provided enough of a resume for him to be taken on board.

Starting out as one of the caravan's small squad of guards (there were 9 in all, including him), he was usually posted in one of the positions near the caravan's middle, while the veterans--the ones who had been with the caravan since its beginnings--took up the more important positions in front and on the left, right and rear flanks. Here his hunting experience proved even more useful than it had in the militia, as the constant threat of night raids demanded alertness, patience and sharp eyes from everyone on watch.

One night, about 3 weeks into his journey, this experience was put to the test. He was on first watch--first was the most dangerous, as it encompassed the few dark hours between the time the caravan settled into camp and sunrise, the ideal time for raiding parties to stage an ambush--and sat behind one of the caravan’s carts, a medium size wagon made from welded-together car parts and designed to be pulled by pack animals, far enough from the campfire that it would neither reveal his position nor affect his night vision. The few animals that shadowed the camp provided a welcome distraction, and he was careful to track every movement that caught his eye, a practice that served to keep himself alert and awake as well as prevent threats from going unnoticed.

A movement off in the distance caught his eye and he automatically shifted his gaze to track it. There, behind the truck: something was moving slowly; its size and movements appeared human, not animal. Slowly, he raised the scope to his eye--he'd been forced to remove it from his rifle after it suffered damage in the fight, but while it could no longer be sighted properly, it was still useful for observation. Studying the target, he quickly confirmed his suspicions: the shadow was a man, crouching about 300 meters away and holding what appeared to be a rifle, though he appeared to be moving closer rather than lining up a shot.

Taking care not to move too quickly, Adrian reached over and tapped the shoulder of the guard next to him. Conrad, one of the older guards with whom he was currently alternating watches, started slightly, then straightened and turned slightly to follow his gaze.

"Contact. 'leven o' clock," Adrian rasped, the words causing a sharp but bearable pain in his throat, "by the truck."

"I see him."

Something was odd. The contact was moving a little too quickly, with the impatient, nervous gait of someone who is unaccustomed to stealth, and must consciously remind himself to move slowly and stay low. Hardly an ideal choice for a raiding party's point man or advance scout, and it seemed unlikely that a freelancer would try to take on a group of their size. Looking closer, Adrian watched the man's head; it kept turning, glancing off to his right. Moving slowly into a crouch, Adrian pointed this out to Conrad, who donned a pair of old cold war-era night vision goggles--Adrian himself had repaired these a week ago, fixing the straps and jury-rigging to power supply to accept a new battery--and followed the man's gaze.

"Wait...9 o' clock. Tree stump.” Adrian turned his head, careful to to keep the original target in his peripheral vision. The movement of a rabbit briefly caught his eye, but no human shape emerged. Peering closer, the magnification of the scope aiding his search, he focused on the stump. A protrusion, only noticeable with the aid of a telescopic sight, caught his eye, as he focused he recognized the unmistakable shape of a gun barrel extending from the underbrush.

He froze, then relaxed when he realized the barrel’s owner did not seem to be focusing on him and did not appear to realize he’d been spotted. This guy was good; he’d managed to approach to within about 120 meters without being spotted, and would likely have gotten closer were it not for his less competent partner giving his position away. He was well camouflaged and clearly well-versed in the art of concealment, and his movements were so slow and methodical as to render him nearly invisible in the dark. The barrel that had given him away appeared to belong to a kalashnikov pattern rifle, a tool far more suited to close-quarters raiding than sniping (in any case, no sniper worth his salt would have bothered to approach this close).

Moving extremely cautiously, Adrian turned to focus on his original target, who had moved about 50-60 meters closer in the intervening time, and raised his rifle. In the corner of his eye he saw Conrad do the same, training his M16 on the man closer to their position.

“Fire when ready.”

Adrian nodded in response, then raised the rifle, wrapping the sling around his left arm to steady his aim. Very carefully, he lined up the sights, raising them somewhat higher than usual to compensate for bullet drop. He took in a measured breath and let it out slowly, his finger gently pulling back on the trigger. As the last of the air left his lungs, he held his breath, keeping his body as still and relaxed as he could manage, and applied the last bit of force to the trigger
In an instant, he felt the rifle jerk back into his shoulder and the deafening crack of its report split the night, followed immediately by the man’s strangled cry as he dropped to the ground. Adrian saw the closer target move off to his left and somehow remembered to duck behind the cart just as a group of rifle rounds kicked up dirt all around him. Some of the rounds hit the side of the cart, making loud pinging sounds as they punched through the thin sheet metal, and Adrian felt a sudden impact in his side as one of the rounds found its mark.

As adrenaline overcame his brief shock, he heard another set of gunshots, these ones coming from a few meters away. Poking his head up, he saw the second man taking cover behind the stump, unharmed but unable to move for fear of Conrad’s suppressing fire. Bits of dirt and wood flew up around the man’s position as the M16 continued to blaze away, firing short bursts in rapid succession. Seeing an opportunity (and realizing that Conrad’s magazine could only sustain this kind of fire for a few seconds), Adrian raised his own weapon, popping off shots as quickly as he could manage, opting to fire straight through the target’s cover rather than catch him out of it. His gambit paid off, and as one of the L1A1’s powerful rounds struck the man’s leg, he lost his balance and fell forward, out of the stump’s protective cover. In an instant, Conrad emptied all his remaining rounds without stopping, hitting the man twice and ending his life.

By now the other guards were awake and rushing towards their position, some frantically readying their weapons as they rushed to aid in the caravan’s defense. As they converged, several more bandits--a small raiding party for whom the two men had clearly been acting as advance scouts--appeared in the distance, but outnumbered as they were, they quickly withdrew under the group’s combined fire.

Examination of the wound in Adrian’s side revealed little injury, as the car and vest had absorbed nearly all of the bullet’s force, causing it to penetrate less than half a centimeter into his midsection, leaving a wound that was bloody, but shallow and relatively easy to patch up. From the two bodies they recovered a few days’ rations, ammunition, a damaged molotov cocktail, and some weapons: an AK-74, an old Enfield bolt-action rifle, and a well-worn but functional Indonesian army pistol. Adrian let the others take the rifles, none of which seemed preferable to his current piece, but laid claim to the pistol, trading his old revolver to one of the other merchants in exchange for spare magazines, replacement parts and ammunition.

Over the next view days, the group maintained a level of vigilance bordering on paranoia, only gradually beginning to relax as the bandits showed no sign of avenging their dead comrades, having apparently decided to pursue easier targets. This suited Adrian, who’d seen more than enough bloodshed for one trip, just fine.

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#, as written by Aeroron
“She’s right, you know.” Adelaide admitted, watching Moonie storm off from the group. Adelaide put a hand softly on Ari’s shoulder.
“You know what I think?” She asked with a cute ring to her voice, “I think you’d ‘ave come on this journey even if Icy hadn’t twisted your arm. I think that deep down, you’d have come anyways. I think it’s because you don’t really believe what you just said- that life ain’t worth the trouble. You wanna be a part of something bigger than us-more important than any of us individually. You want to go to Roma because it’s a new beginning, and you definitely want a part in that.”
And before Ari could reply that there was no Roma, or some such thing, Adelaide quickly added, “You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to find Roma. After that, I’m going to sleep for a week, and eat all the food in sight! But we gotta get there, first, so keep your chin up, yeah?”


To say that Adelaide abhorred sea travel would be an understatement. She liked to think that it was perhaps worse than getting stabbed with a knife, but she’d rather not try the latter to find out. All the positivity she had when she was talking to Ari was suddenly drained as soon as she came face-to-face with her home for the next few weeks- Swan of the Seas.
She felt sick, even though she had not yet stepped foot on the ship. She considered getting sea-sickness pills, but they’d probably be costly for the amount she would need on this journey. Besides, she didn’t want to seem frail by letting the group see that she needed medication. She’d tough it out, she decided.

According to Khan, who had graciously arranged this length of the journey, the wooden cutter in front of them was captained by a man named Emil. As if on cue, the captain stepped from his ship to meet them. Adelaide noticed that he was nothing like captain Mark, who was notable for his ridiculous and easy-going attitude. He immediately struck her as aloof and generally displeased with everything, due to the way he carried himself. His clothing was surprisingly thick and elaborate, and she wondered how he could manage to not faint from heat stroke. His well-groomed appearance contrasted starkly with the run-down wooden ship behind him.

Addressing the group, he started, “I’m not too thrilled to be takin’ any travvies. I’ll have you, though you’ll have to pull your own weight on this trip- especially since this trip is a bit out of my way. I was planning to go the straight 36-route. And the bad lands, eh? Why you all would want to go there is beyond me. Anyways, I’ll need you to work on this ship since a few of my crew got in a scrap last night, so I ain’t taking them with me- they’re banned from coming on-board.”
“Here’s the deal,” he started. It was clear from his tone that he wasn’t about to compromise. “You all will have to pull your own weight by fixing my ship, here. I’m not waiting in port any longer, so it’ll have to be repaired while we’re out at sea. We can lower you down on platforms and lifeboats and such to fix this side, here. Anyways, I have all the timber we’ll need in the hull, so everything’s set. The sea is getting clippy, so I’m anxious to head out as soon as possible.”

“Oh,” he added, “welcome aboard. Don’t touch anything.”

A real charmer, thought Adelaide. She didn’t know what made her more noxious, now- the captain or the thought of sea travel.

Emil waved for them to follow him on deck. “I’ll be showing you around the ship, so you can get an idea of what needs fixing.”

“I’m surprised he doesn’t charge for the tour,” she whispered sarcastically to the group. She felt proud when Annika laughed.

“We’re on the deck, now. There are a few rooms on this floor that you should know about. Here’s my quarters, and here’s the mess. The mess will be closed for my use promptly on sunrise, mid-day, and sunset. It’s open for your use, otherwise. You can cook what you catch, although you might want to stock up at this market, here; I’m not stopping to fish often.
So we’ll head down this ladder, here- watch your step- you’ll have to fix this, too. And here we are in the hull. This half is designated for cargo. Don’t touch it. On this side is where you and my crew will be staying.”

Luckily, it seemed that beds were the one redeeming thing this ship had to offer- the beds were in excess, enough for both the group and his crew. Furthermore, they looked quite cozy, and came with soft blankets. Most of the beds were bunked, though some of the top beds seemed to be in need of structural repair.

“Oh, your friend here,” the captain motioned at Khan, “mentioned to me that your last trip had a bit of an… aggressive... crew. I can assure you that there won’t be any incidents with my crew. Cooper and Tai Soong here are luff, so no one’s going to harm the prets.”

Adelaide sighed; she wasn’t looking forward to fixing the ship, but at least it would keep her mind off of her upset stomach. Besides, having something productive to do would make the trip seem faster.

36 Route: the fastest route to hit all the major trade regions, one after another. Here, Emil was describing the China leg of the journey.
Bad-lands: the captain is referring to Jakarta, Indonesia, here. This is a common colloquial term, due to rumors of recent events
Mess: a kitchen and dining hall. In the case of this ship, a whale oil stove and a long dining table.
Luff: a slang term for describing homosexual men. It doesn’t have a crude or particularly impolite connotation.
Prets: pretty young lady. In this case, it’s used to describe multiple ladies, but it has no logical plural.

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#, as written by danm36
It wasn't long before the ship left its moorings and drifted out to sea with the grace of a drunken whale, it's mast casually flinging from left to right. Khan was used to it while Adelaide, meanwhile, clearly wasn't. Annika decided to tend to her, while Khan went back on deck. He was surprised to find Alappa up there too, leaning over the edge on one of the sturdier looking railings.

"Sea sick?" calm asked with a slight hint of humour. Alappa turned round, slowly, to face him.
"No man, nah. Just...not a fan of the water..."
"How come?"
"Saw men drown," he turned back to the water, "good men..."
"I'm sorry."
"Hey, don't be, they deserved it for what they did, but still... what a way to go, eh?"
"You still think you can work on the ship?"
"Sure as elios is bright."
Khan patted him on the shoulder and went back to the rest of the group.


Huntac watched the skiff depart leaving an oily wake in its trail. He'd been watching the boats all day and took no interest in anyone leaving, only those arriving. Barly 20 minutes later, the boat he was waiting for arrived. It was a sleek and ultra-modern machine that stood out greatly against the other vessels, not least by the sound of a powerful engine bringing in to dock. Engines anywhere were rare, and to hear something that didn't sound like it was tearing itself apart was exceptionally rare. As a consequence, half the market had turned to watch the ship, and then lost almost all interest when the noise of the engine subsided. Huntac casually made his way to the unloading ramps to great the men and women leaving.

The first person off was an extremely thin man in standard survival clothes. Aside from his build, the only other extraordinary detail was that he was wearing glasses that still contained glass, rather than just the frames as a fashion statement. His name was Petr, and in his old life he was a systems engineer who, until now, had maintained a small post-ignition trans-Australian radio network.

The next person was a young Chinese woman. She was originally called Sun, although the new world, still heavily populated by English speakers, necessitated that she change it to something less loaded, and as such, she was now referred to as San. She wore a heavy canvas overcoat with the front pocket stuffed with a notebook and pens in what was, for what Huntac could remember, an extremely stereotypical fashion befitting a scientist. Somehow the ignition had caused a massive spike in her IQ and, as such, she was designated the data analyst.

Closely following her came a girl, no older than Annika, with a military rucksack more suiting for a small horse. Her name was Yuni and she, like the male who preceded her, wore traditional post-ignition garb. What she hid was a keen knack for machines. Not electrical systems or 'light hardware' like Petr, but standard mechanical things like motor vehicles, power generators or satellite dishes.

The final person was a man more befitting of Huntac or Khan. His name was Miller and, like Huntac, he was what was traditionally understood as a 'guide', featuring a large backpack to which was strapped a scoped assault rifle. He looked like someone well in retirement by old world laws, but Huntac knew that he was barely any older than himself. Upon seeing Huntac, is stern façade gave way to a more friendly appearance.

"Gamma Indigo" Huntac quizzed
"Tesla Hotel" Miller replied, and the two shook hands. "It's been a while!"
"That it has Miller! I welcome you, and your staff, to PNG."
"Been wanting some retirement..." replied Miller half heartedly as he wandered towards the market. He turned back as Petr asked a question.
"Why are we here again?"
"You got the report didn't you?" replied Huntac. This team should have been fully filled in already.
"Yes, but, an entire team got wiped out?"
"That is correct. According to the guide who got the report out, it was a gang of local mercenaries." replied Huntac, reinforcing the briefing.
"And these mercs. Still around?" chimed up Yuni.
"No, I dealt with them personally, but there is sure to be others. Anyway, neither I nor the other guide found out who their employer was."

"And this 'other guide'," accused San, "where is he now?"
"From what I gathered, headed to Jakarta with a strong lead to Roma." Petr stifled a laugh. "Look, you're employed by the guide network. We know Roma exists, we just don't know where."
"It's not that, it's that he's going to Jakarta. What's there, the...Wish Granter? The all seeing eye?"
"The Oracle."
"Yeah... that. Doesn't he know what a state Jakarta's in? Surely he could have quizzed some other nutcase. What about that guy we were trackin' in... where was it... Brisbun'? Augustine or somethin'? That crackpot should have a room full of data now."
"Our guy's been there, and he's got a list of potential locations. We need double confirmation from another source, that's all."
"Yeah, the scientific method an' all that." Petr sighed.

"So!" chimed up Miller, eager to move away from the port. "This is where we say goodbye then?"
"It's been a good two minutes."
"Aye it has. So, where you headed?"
"Taking a stop off at 'oz, then probably China or Japan. I'll follow the winds."
"Well, good look. You're a free man now!" Miller caught himself "Uh...sorry about your team."
"No worries. In all honesty, I'm surprised at how quick they got you lot out here." San tutted at this and began walking in the general direction of the Satellite station. Petr followed, then Yuni. Miller shrugged, then did a mock salute and casually followed on. Huntac boarded the ship and began on the voyage back to Australia.


elios - 'Greek' for the sun

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#, as written by Alan23
Ari was pleased rather than otherwise that Emil regarded maintenance of the ship as part of the fare. He'd been flookie ever since leaving Brisbane, and badly needed a distraction. And he certainly saw Emil's point - as Captain, he'd have gone the 36 route no matter what. He'd heard all sorts of stories about the badlands.

His main reason for needing distraction was something Adelaide had said. Ari was used to dealing with pressure - life on the streets did that to you - but it had always been simple problems. There was a new stash fo food discovered, the dholes had gone troppo, this gang or that was disputing their territory. The problem that faced him now was one that he could not even put a name to.

I think it’s because you don’t really believe what you just said- that life ain’t worth the trouble. You wanna be a part of something bigger than us-more important than any of us individually. You want to go to Roma because it’s a new beginning...

He wasn't sure if this news was good or bad. The connotatiions of the sizzle had been unpleasant, but at least unambigious. The world, or at least the human race, was finished. Not good news, but at least there was a clear path. You ate, drank, got wasted, passed the time until the end. And nothing mattered too much when it came down to it. Now and then, a creed or movement grew up which gave hope, and if you wanted to pretend they had a case, and were able to convince yourself, well and good. For Ari, that degree of self-deception had always been beyond him.

And now, there was a small fragment of hope, dangled before his psyche, the way an older child teases a younger one by handing them back their stolen possession, and then snatching it away as they reach for it. Was Roma just a dream? A fantasy. A way to pass the time, the way a trapped prisoner will hack at the bars with their own nails, simply to hold out a faint hope? Khan seemed to believe in it, which stopped it being just a game. And Adelaide, even.

Thoughts went through his head. Adelaide. Her smile, her occasional bouts of anger. Her skinny legs, her propensity to blushing, her weaknesses and her strengths. Adelaide and he. Hand in hand. A new generation.

He pulled his thoughts up short. Adelaide had been quite frank about the end of the quest. Food and sleep. Not a mention of a union, a future, a life.

And yet...

And yet, he'd bent another fucking nail, and the restaint harnes was hurting his wrist as he hung over the side of the ship. And his stomach craved something salty and scaly, and there wasn't a fishing stop slated for another three days at least. And that evil, snakky, destructive, blook with her bright rays and searing heat, laughed down at him, delighting in sizzling into nothing any dream he might convince himself he held.

* * * * *

"Come on Ad. Try to keep it down, this time, eh?"
Annika held the spoon to Adelaide's mouth, coaxingly. Things were a tiny bit better. The ranga could, at least, hold water down now, and had even managed half a dry biscuit. Even mention of solid food, however, made her face take on a green tinge.

Moonie entered, chewing on a seaweed bar, a stock of which she'd found in the mess - and which tasted so horrible that even the starving would use them only as bait. The crew called the bars "lenbas", a joke which Moonie felt she might have understood in past times, and resented being beyond her now.

"So hiow's Adders?"

"Moonster, don't call her that. She - "

And , in mid conversation, Moonie's eyes suddenly glazed over. It came from nothing, and with no warning.

"The poor girl," came an alien voice. "Annika, such suffering is neither neccessary, nor desirable."

"Moonie, what ya goveretting like that for? Ya taking the - ?"

"Heavens, child of the steppes. Have you not considered the implications of - heena? Tablet forms of which are procurable from the purser of this vessel. A most efficacious preparation of substances, capable of, at least mitigating, the most virulent forms of mal-de-mer."

"Ah," laughed Annika. "You're back, eh. Haven't seen you for years. So where ya bin hiding, Angel?"

"Why," laughed the thing speaking through Moonie. "In here of course."

Flookie - distrait
snakky - the qualities possessed by a whore, used as a general insult
blook - "cunt" (in perjorative usage)
Goveretting - speaking (phenetic rendering of Russian word)