Aftermath: Book 1: Secrets of the Wastelands
4:35 PM, Day 437
On the horizon of a vast frost-covered field of tall grass, a vehicle zoomed homeward. It’s massive spiked wheels propelling it smoothly over snow and plant-life alike. At it’s controls was a minifigure by the name of Drake Venture.
He smiled and gazed at the sun blazing on the horizon.
“Today has been a particularly good day,” he thought, “well, minus that little problem this morning...”
He was pursuing an outstandingly valuable weapon called the Ancient Fang, which had been juggled back and forth between his crew and the band of elites known as the Black Mercenaries. This morning he had lost the Fang to them again. Though not without a fight, of course.
“The darn guys even thought to sabotage the old Behemoth.”
He bared slightly to the right and greeted a fellow driver whose Snow-trekker was stopped nearby.
As Drake’s Snow-trekker changed course, the piercing light of the setting sun was obscured by a familiar sight; the Fortress. As far as Drake new, it was the single largest community of Minifigures as far as the eye could see, and probably further. Inside was a huge multi-leveled complex of dwellings, shops, roads, parks, alleys, you name it. The place stood nearly 300 feet high and extended 114 feet underground. It offered solace from the harsh and unpredictable extremes of the Wastelands.
Drake’s job within the community of 7,000 or so Minifigures was that of a fortune hunter. He lead his small crew consisting of James Navig (or Jimmy, as he was always called), and Tarx Amran on expeditions in search of objects of great power and value. Drake piloted his prize possession, the Behemoth, during these adventures. It was a massively powerful vehicle capable of ramming through whatever got in its way, and surviving the resulting damage.
“And now I suppose I’ll have to get inside it and take a look at the damages.” Drake thought.
He was nearing the entrance to the Fortress. Upon seeing the entrance gate and the line of vehicles slowly filing in, he reduced the vehicle’s speed until it was slowly rolling along the icy grass, then steered it into place at the rear of the line. It occurred to him that he would most likely meet Shanra Onyx when he went in for dinner at the Dining Hall. The two of them had been good friends, until she joined the Black Mercenaries, and since whoever their current employer was wanted the Ancient Fang as badly as Drake did, the two of them rarely met under friendly circumstances. She was sure to be in a foul mood.
“Hey, Venture!” called a voice.
A huge Nebula tank rolled up behind Drake’s Snow-trekker. Rob Rench was on the upper deck.
“Rench? What’re you doing so close to home?” Drake asked jokingly.
“It’s finally time to hand over my research from the dugout!” Rench said.
Drake recalled that he had been living in the “Dugout” a research facility for the past 2 or so months.
“It must be nice to take in some fresh air again, huh?” He laughed.
“You bet. Now if you’ll excuse me...”
The tank broke off from the line and crossed through the special access energy gate, bypassing the line of entering vehicles completely. Drake chuckled to himself.
By now, it was time for Drake to enter the Fortress. A security guard glancing curiously at the old robes and vases in the back of the vehicle, verified his Venture Co. ID and allowed him in..
Before entering the Fortress’s main room, one had to pass through the Factory Hub, a huge side room of the Fortress where all manufactured goods were made. Drake gazed at the minifigures manning drills, presses, vices, and welders of all kinds, spraying sparks and debris on to lower levels.
The road sloped upward into the central room of the Fortress. Vehicles entered into a mid-level between the upper living centers and the lower storage rooms, separated by two sets of large, sloping metal platforms called the Steppes. Driving a vehicle up the Steppes was virtually impossible, so any driver wishing to progress further into the Fortress would have to utilize lifts manned by security officers.
A squad of white-armored Coalition troopers patrolled nearby. The Coalition was in charge of maintaining order and safety in the Fortress and outlying areas. Drake didn’t consider himself a part of them, since he was officially a member of the defense and exploration group known as Venture Company, although the two were closely tied.
The second lift in a row of 4 lowered to allow his Snow-trekker to board it. The Coalition officer in an adjacent glass booth greeted him and looked over the vessel apathetically. When he was satisfied, he threw a lever and the lift began to slowly rise.
At the top, Drake drove it across the open floor of the Fortress Central and into the public garage near the Steppes. Inside were several other Snow-trekkers and a valet driver waiting to take his vehicle. He slowed, then jumped out and landed with a thud.
Jimmy and Tarx were supposed to be waiting outside to help unload what they must have thought to be a large stash of loot. Drake heard someone jogging towards him.
“Didn’t get much today, huh?” Said Jimmy’s telltale young, accented voice.
Drake turned to see him beginning to rummage through the Snow-trekker’s cargo.
“Oh, i got plenty. Take a closer look.” He said.
Jimmy pulled out an ornate looking white leather cape, giving Drake a curious glance.
“That’s a frostcloak, not just any old cape.” Drake said.
“Anything special about it?” Asked Jimmy, “You know, besides the obvious?”
“Yep. Apparently, it gives the wearer ‘control over the forces of ice’.” Replied Drake.
Jimmy unhooked the cloak’s clasp and put it on. Nothing out of the ordinary happened.
“Hmm, well, it feels colder... Thats about it.” He said, smiling.
“That’s pretty much the day’s catch for you.” Said Drake, “A lot of antique items, but nothing useful.”
Of course, items like these were equally as valuable as weapons and other commodities, since the higher class citizens of the Fortress paid handsomely for things like these.
“So, did you two fix up the Behemoth while i was gone?” He asked.
“Uh, yes...” Said Jimmy, “more or less. Good thing you didn’t chase after those black mercs. They took care of the brakes too.”
The two of them carried the few items that Drake had found out of the garage and over to the Steppes Drop, a mezzanine overlooking the part of the Steppes that lead to the lower level storerooms. With nothing else to do until Tarx brought the Behemoth over to pick them up, Drake put down the items he was carrying and walked between two of the massive pillars that held up a railcar line above the Steppes.
“I don’t see how you can stand that!” Said Jimmy.
“What?” Drake chuckled.
“Standing right on the edge of a 150-foot drop...”
Drake glanced down at the floor below him and shrugged.
“It’s pretty much my job.”
Within a few minutes, Jimmy spotted the Behemoth heading to their position from the Motor Hall. The huge green vehicle came to a skidding halt, looking just as imposing as ever. Tarx emerged from the open cockpit and made his way down a side mounted ladder, landing with a thud after jumping from the bottom rung.
“Ok, let’s load this stuff up and head home.” Said Drake.
He grabbed the frostcloak and took it up to the Behemoth’s rear platform. He was about to climb up to the cockpit when Tarx began to speak.
”In case you two were wondering, i’ve found out from Menar Pellon who the Ancient Fang was to be delivered to,” He said with his usual tone of indifference, “A minifigure named Pranon Drek. I’m still not sure why, though.”
Drake couldn’t recall meeting a ‘Pranon’ or a ‘Drek’ anywhere.
“Do you know anything about the guy?” He asked both of them.
“Only that he was a Coalition Council member from a while ago.” Said Tarx. “Apparently, he was dishonorably discharged.”
Drake was surprised to hear that. He didn’t know that any Council member had ever been removed against their will.
“Pellon? Do you even trust that creepy guy?” Asked Jimmy incredulously.
“As much as I trust any of the black mercs.” Tarx replied coolly.
“I’ll probably see Shanra when I head to the Dining Hall.” Drake noted, “I’ll see if i can learn more from her.”
“I hope you aren’t planning on stealing the Fang back.” Tarx said sternly. “Not really. Just wondering who finally ends up getting it.” Drake replied. “C’mon, let’s head home.”
‘Home’ for Drake and many other Minifigures was Maraxus, the oldest and most densely populated section of the Fortress. As the Behemoth rounded the furthermost corner of the Motor Hall, he was greeted by the familiar sight of the central chamber of Maraxus, lit by a single overhead floodlight. The ground was covered in sand, and the many structures within the area were covered in rust and dust. Minifigures walked, drove, and hovered this way and that, and Drake was greeted by the sounds of voices and machines reverberating throughout the chamber.
“Well, i’m going in for dinner.” Said Jimmy. Without hesitation he vaulted over the side of the Behemoth and on to the ground below.
Drake remembered to activate the Behemoth’s new comm systems. He flicked a switch, and within moments he, Jimmy, and Tarx were all connected to the Coalition Comms Center, which allowed Minifigures in the Fortress and nearby areas to communicate with each other. The speakers of the comm device buzzed wildly with a mash-up of voices. Drake tuned it via a control dial until there was only a soft static tone.
“Can you guys hear me?” He said tentatively into the device’s microphone.
“Yebp, ak eu?” Was the response. Drake tuned the device further and repeated his question, then Jimmy’s voice came in loud and clear.
“It’s working now!” Said Drake. “Let’s try and use this thing more often.”
He waited for Tarx to jump off, then headed for the Garage, where many of the Fortress’s citizens parked, maintained, and modified their myriad vehicles.
The entrance to the Garage was at the base of a rusty old tower at the north wall of Maraxus. Vehicles exited through a passage next to this tower. A Coalition trooper squad was positioned in front to check for thieves, smuggled goods, and the like. Their squadleader, a well known trooper nicknamed ‘Rookie’, greeted Drake as the Behemoth rolled into the garage entrance tunnel.
After a short, straight forward drive down the yellow lamp lit tunnel, the vehicle arrived in the garage. It was a towering square chamber with several outer decks and a spiral ramp leading to each. The sound of the machines inside was like thunder. The Behemoth had a designated garage on the 2nd floor, where Drake gave it continual modifications. It was here that he drove it to await another artifact-hunting trip out in the Wastelands the next day.
At the dining hall, Tarx and Jimmy were seated at a table with Matt Feren, one of the mysterious silver armored Alpha Troopers who lived in the Fortress. Apparently, they were around before the Awakening, when all of the Fortress’s Minifigures gained consciousness. Like all Alpha Troopers, Feren refused to even mention the subject. As Drake came to take a seat, Feren looked up from his dinner with the casual smile that he had virtually all the time.
You can never tell what an Alpha Trooper is thinking. Drake thought.
“Ah, Drake. How goes the search for the Ancient Fang?” He asked.
“Found it, and lost it again.” Drake said disappointedly.
“Those Black Mercenaries must be proving to be quite troublesome.” He said to no one in particular. Drake nodded.
“You know, i heard they sold three of those lighting tridents to a group of Aquanition thugs, then stole em’ all back the next day!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“Seems like thats all they care about,” Jimmy continued. “The coins.”
The three of them continued to talk about the various things troubling the Fortress, and Drake left to put in his order at the restaurant’s front desk. As he turned away, he saw a group of black armored Minifigures walking hurriedly out of the dining hall. Within them was Shanra Onyx. He walked forward and peered closely at the group.
“They’re Black Mercenaries alright...” He thought
Then he noticed one of them, a black and grey armored man, carrying what appeared to be the Ancient Fang. He trailed after them excitedly, trying to remain somewhat hidden.
They continued out into a side alley, then up a flight of stairs leading to one of the plazas of Maraxus. Drake was about to climb the stairs after them when he realized that one of the Black Mercenaries was still there. He immediately ducked back behind his spot of safety.
“Oh great, it’s him.” Drake thought.
He didn’t know the Merc’s name, but he was aware of his ability to become nearly invisible during combat. That ability had caused Drake’s crew many problems in past battles, and the Merc knew how to use it well.
“I’ll need to be awfully careful.” He reminded himself.
The group of Mercs had situated themselves off to the side of the plaza, appearing to be waiting for something. No more sunlight shone from the skylights above, leaving only the dim yellow glow of the Fortress’s standard light fixtures to illuminate Drake’s path. He stealthily made his way up to a small platform overlooking the plaza, and stood in wait.
No more than a few minutes later, a male Minifigure in expensive looking red and black garments appeared and made his way over to the Mercs.
“This must be Pranon Drek.” Drake thought. He considered heading back to the dining hall, since Jimmy and Tarx would no doubt be wondering where he went, but he was still interested to see what became of the Fang.
Shanra spoke to Pranon, but Drake couldn’t make out what she was saying clearly enough. When the two of them seemed to reach an agreement, Pranon handed over a bag of what Drake assumed to be high valued coins. The two of the swapped items simultaneously, then parted without saying a word.
“Well...” Thought Drake, “There goes the ol’ Fang. I suppose it’s just another weapon anyway.”
He climbed down from the platform when both Pranon and the Mercs were gone, and was about to call Jimmy and Tarx when the platform in the direction that Pranon had left was ignited by a blinding flash of light, joined by a harsh crackling sound.
Drake moved cautiously toward the source of the blast and saw Pranon laying nearby, motionless. He rushed to make sure that the blast had not been lethal. His limbs tingled as he approached, and the scorchmarks on Pranon suggested that he had been hit by an electric blast.
“Hey! Can you hear me?” Drake grasped Pranon’s shoulders and gave him a slight shake. “Are you ok?”
“Of course i’m not!” He coughed angrily. “Who do you think you are?!”
“Sorry, here, let me help you up.” Drake stammered. “I’ll get you to a med clinic.”
He began leading Pranon awkwardly back across the plaza.
“Hold on!” Pranon exclaimed suddenly,
“The Fang! Where’s the Fang?”
Drake was unsure what to say. “Someone must’ve taken it.” He thought.
Upon hearing a flurry of footsteps nearby, Drake turned to see Shanra moving towards them.
“What happened?” She inquired, looking more upset than surprised.
Pranon spoke before Drake could explain, “A blast, a blast of some sort. Hit right next to me.”
“Any idea who it was that attacked?” She asked.
“No. Took me completely by surprise, they did.” He grumbled.
Shanra turned her gaze to Drake, glaring. “And what do you think you were doing?” She demanded. “Still can’t leave that Fang alone?”
Drake was caught off guard by the accusation. Before he could think of a response, the Black Mercenary that had nearly spotted him earlier materialized next to him and chuckled in a strange, synthesized voice. With a jolt, he realized that this merc had likely been watching him ever since he had spied on the handover of the Fang.
“Nevermind that.” She said quickly, “Let’s get him to a med clinic.”
Edited by Ringoster, Feb 14 2012 - 01:49 PM.