Chapter 6 – “The Trial of Fire”
Ocucko had asked that Nardohi stayed behind. He didn’t know Nardohi well enough to trust him much yet and he didn’t want to take any risks in proving himself to Hesmit. He wanted to make sure that his past had been put far behind him, and any rash actions from the Ice Tribe rookie could jeopardize that. Ocucko made a mental note to try to get to know Nardohi better. Trust would be necessary to take on an enemy that had them as outmatched and outnumbered as what they were supposed to be going up against.
The Great Southern Dune Field, true to Hesmit’s word, was actually a sandy desert with proper dunes in contrast to the other locales surrounding Vulcanus. That said, it was still markedly different in appearance from the renowned Dunes of Treason. The sand here was mixed with volcanic ash, which gave it a ghostly gray hue rather than the more familiar yellow dunes elsewhere on Bara Magna. The wheels of the supply wagons on the caravan would sink down into these ashy sands much more than the feet of the rock steeds… an advantage that Ocucko would be sure to exploit.
As the pair crested the next dune on their rock steeds, the caravan came into view. There were four covered wagons. “That’ll be them,” Hesmit announced. “Ready?”
Ocucko nodded. “You have a plan?”
A fleeting look of doubt crossed over her face, but it was followed by steadfast resolve. “No. Is that a problem?”
“No…” Ocucko began, then grinned slyly. “Because I do.”
Hesmit rolled her eyes. “Hah. Very funny. When did you come up with it?”
“On the way. I always think ahead. You’ll do well to learn from these habits of mine, but we can discuss that at a later time. Here’s what I’ve got in mind.” Ocucko pointed to the back end of the caravan. “You pull up from behind and fire a few Thornax shots to get their attention. Keep the pressure on them, but give them a little headstart. We want them to try and outrun you. They won’t succeed if you give it your all; those sand stalkers pulling the covered wagons are overburdened and the wheels are sinking into sand quite a bit so they won’t be able to flee very effectively. So toy with them a little bit.”
Hesmit nodded approvingly, staring out toward the caravan. “Alright, I’m liking this plan; I get to have a little fun messing with their minds. What’s next?”
Ocucko pointed along the route the caravan was taking. “Once you have them all barreling on forward and they think that the attack is coming from behind, I’ll pull around a dune ahead of them and block them off. Hopefully, this will cause the wagons to all veer off in different directions as they react to the unexpected source of trouble. While they try to reorder themselves after the chaos, we’ll board the wagons one by one. By using the advantage of speed that our unburdened rock steeds have we should be able to find the one with the resources your village needs before they all recover from the chaos.”
“You mean that Vulcanus needs.”
Ocucko gave her a questioning look. “…yes?”
“Just saying, I’m about to leave and I’m not exactly proud of how they have ignored the Harvest Faction threat.”
“You can’t blame them for wanting to feel safe. Telling themselves that they’ll be fine as long as they let the slavers do their thing in the north is a nice escape from the actual gravity of the situation, foolish and shortsighted as that may be.”
“Fair enough. I know that they’re still good people; that’s why I’m doing this for them. Anyway, I assume the last step is to take out the guards on the caravan we need and hijack it all the way back to Vulcanus?”
“Naturally,” he confirmed. “Now, go on in and start this raid.”
Hesmit kicked her rock steed in the sides a couple of times until it raised its speed to a comfortable trot. It didn’t take long for the Water Tribe warriors watching the flank to notice her approach. The Glatorian on the covered wagon called a companion over and the two positioned themselves on the open back of the covered wagon with Thornax launchers at the ready. Hesmit lifted herself into a crouch on the rock steed’s back, a signature move of Ackar’s that she had picked up a while back. Clutching the reins in one hand, she lifted her sword in the other and waved it over her head. If that wasn’t a clear enough indication of her intentions to attack, she yelled “Hiya-ya-yaaa!” Immediately thereafter, two Thornax fruit sailed past and the caravan accelerated to as high of a speed as their heavy burden allowed. Hesmit lowered back down onto her rock steed’s back to make herself a smaller target.
Hesmit sheathed her sword and reached for her Thornax launcher. She fired off fruit from a sack on the rock steed’s saddle as quickly as she could reload it. She knew she wasn’t a very good Thornax shot. As far as ranged weaponry went, she tended to stick to her bola, but she had been forced to forsake it for this task. It would be impossible to use from the back of a rock steed or the interior of a covered wagon; she was going to have to make do with a Thornax launcher. With this inexperience combined with her rock steed’s gallop and the distance to her target, she knew she was destined to miss. Blinding clouds of ash kicked up by the sand stalkers pulling the covered wagons only served exacerbate the situation. It was just a matter of inciting sufficient panic to allow Ocucko to scatter them from in front. If my shots are completely inaccurate, she figured, I might as well at least make them frequent!
Suddenly, she heard a burst of frantic shouts and the individual covered wagons began to veer off in different directions, two to the left and two to the right. Everything was going according to plan. As the dust cleared, she saw Ocucko riding side-saddle in order to make himself as hard a target to hit as he possibly could. Riding side-saddle, or hanging off one side of the animal, required skills that Hemit herself had never learnt; animal riding wasn’t a priority for a future first Glatorian who would spend her life in the arena. She saw him chase after the covered wagons on the left. That meant she would have to search the wagons on the right. She spurred her rock steed to its maximum running speed and it quickly narrowed the distance to the nearest covered wagon. She barely noticed as a Thornax fruit grazed her shoulder.
Hesmit knew most boarders attempted to mount speeding wagons from the front end. She guided her mount left, feigning as if she intended to overtake the wagon in order to board it in the expected manner. The driver swerved the covered wagon to the left at breakneck speed in an attempt to give Hesmit the canvas-coated side of the wagon, but she simply fell back while simultaneously rising into a crouch once again. The guards on this wagon had likewise expected a more orthodox attack and had rushed to the front, leaving the back of the wagon open for Hesmit. As she had intended all along, she leapt onto the back of the wagon, sword raised. As she recognized the armor of the two Glatorian that spun around in shock to face her, she realized this was the wagon she had harassed in the first place in her attempt to panic the caravan.
It was only in retrospect that Hesmit realized how intimidating she must have appeared. The sun had been to her back as she had mounted the wagon. The unprepared Water Glatorian would have heard a resounding thud as her boots made contact with the wagon’s heavy wooden floor in the direction opposite of where they had expected the attack to come from. Then they would have turned to see a confident lone warrior, weapon lifted, silhouetted by the blinding the sun.
Hesmit wasted no time and launched herself at the nearer Glatorian, a male. She collided with him and the two crashed to the floor due to the violent bucking of this primitive animal-drawn vehicle’s floor. Hesmit bashed the Glatorian over the helmet twice with the hilt of her sword in an attempt to stun the thrashing opponent, but then felt a weapon connect with her side. As she was thrown off of the first Glatorian, she grunted and looked up to see a female Water Tribe Glatorian rising over her and preparing to lower her weapon.
Hemit reacted quickly and swung her sword up to parry the blow; then she reached up as the enemy stumbled from the combination of the recoil from the parry and the bouncing of the floor. Hesmit grabbed the opponent’s hand and threw her to the floor. Hesmit and the other Glatorian now both struggled to their feet on the unstable floor.
The male Glatorian raised his weapon over his head and came at Hesmit, but she swung a wide arc with sword and caught him in the shins before he had the chance to deliver his blow. He clumsily crashed into Hesmit and then rolled off of her and skidded across the floor and out of the wagon.
Hesmit once again found herself on the floor looking up at the female Water Tribe Glatorian, but this time they were the only two fighters left on the covered wagon. As the foe once again prepared to attack, Hesmit didn’t even bother to attempt to block the blow to destabilize her opponent. She rolled to the side and instead used the split-second gained to reach for her Thornax launcher. Hesmit narrowly avoided the attack, but she stuck to her intended plan and grabbed onto the opponent’s weapon. As the foe tried to lift her weapon for another attack, she also inadvertently lifted Hesmit to her feet. Hesmit then unloaded the Thornax launcher into the Water Tribe Glatorian at point blank range. From such a short distance, the shot delivered more than enough force to stun its target. Hesmit picked up her enemy before she had the chance to recover and shoved her off the wagon’s back end.
Hesmit then rushed to the front and threw the Agori drivers out of their seats and steadied the sand stalkers to an even trot to reduce bouncing while she rummaged through the contents of the wagon to see if this was indeed the one with the right cargo.
Ocucko glanced over his shoulder to see Hesmit flanking the wagons to the right, exactly as they’d planned. The ones on the left were all his. He continued to hang off of the right side of his rock steed. By tensing and flexing his limbs to match the gallop of his mount, he could use this side-saddle position to steady his aim with the Thornax launcher. From atop the beast, his accuracy would have been at the mercy of its bouncing gait.
His careening rock steed was overtaking the nearest covered wagon without much difficulty. He pounded on past it and continued toward the foremost covered wagon, narrowly avoiding a volley of Thornax fire from the wagon he had just passed. He predicted that the guards would have expected him to go first for the one near the back before taking on the other wagon. If that was correct, they would consequently be unprepared as he used his advantage of speed to pass up the overworked sand stalkers.
As he pulled up beside the unsuspecting driver of the leading covered wagon, he loosed a Thornax fruit. With the accuracy he had firing from his current position, he was able to hit his target right in the helmet and the Agori was knocked from his perch. Ocucko only watched for a moment as the driver flailed and fell into the sand to the wagon’s right; yelling, but relatively uninjured.
Ocucko threw himself toward the wagon and succeeded in grabbing the edge of the driving platform. He quickly found himself hanging over the edge of the rickety covered wagon as it violently bucked. A Water Glatorian guard loomed above, but the opponent was knocked off his feet and fell right past Ocucko and into the sand below as the wagon received a forceful thrust forward. As Ocucko lifted himself up and clambered aboard the wagon, he realized what had happened. The covered wagon, now driverless, had slowed down and the wagon behind it had pounded forward at the same pace, leading to a collision. That’s what had thrown the Water Glatorian over the edge.
Before entering the canvas-covered part of the wagon, Ocucko snapped the sand stalkers’ reins a couple times to keep them moving. The wagon continued to careen forward at an excessive velocity.
As he leapt inside, he saw a male and a female Glatorian with armor indicative of the Jungle Tribe. They must have been hired out as supplementary guards. The Jungle Tribe had probably been promised payment in the form of a fraction of the caravan’s cargo.
The two opponents immediately found themselves considerably disadvantaged. Ocucko swung Frostfire in a wide arc with wild abandon. In the narrow confines underneath the canopy of the covered wagon, there was little room to maneuver and the Jungle Tribe warriors were forced to back up towards the open rear of the wagon. As the two enemies caught on to Ocucko’s intentions, the female Glatorian rushed at Ocucko as a final attempt to prevent him from winning. Her risky charge was destined for failure. Ocucko smacked her mid-stride and she gasped as she was thrown backwards. Her body collided with the other Glatorian’s and they both tumbled out of the wagon.
Ocucko quickly discovered that the wagon he had just taken did not possess the cargo they were looking for. The crates were packed with volcanic rocks. This was all low-grade construction material, not the critically-important alloys Hesmit had indicated.
Ocucko clambered into the driver’s seat of the covered wagon. He would probably not be able to get his rock steed back on his own. They were trained to return upon hearing a whistle that Fire Tribe members knew. He snapped the reins until the sand stalkers rose to their top speed. He noticed that two covered wagons had returned to their original route and one had wandered far off and stopped. That must have been Hesmit’s first target. Then he saw Hesmit on her rock steed. She was making a break for the two wagons that had returned to the envoy. He guided his wagon toward the same location.
Hesmit saw Ocucko in the wagon’s driver seat. He quickly waved one arm in a sharp side-to-side motion – the gesture they had agreed upon to indicate that they had not yet uncovered the cargo. He heard Hesmit issue a series of loud whistles and before he knew it his rock steed was galloping next to his covered wagon. Well trained, Ocucko thought.
It didn’t take long to make it to the next covered wagon and Hesmit and Ocucko, now reunited, found no guards on the next wagon. The Water Tribe had concentrated their guards in the front and rear wagons of the caravan in order to make it nearly impossible to board the wagons as long as the envoy kept itself in the original order. Unfortunately for them, Ocucko and Hesmit had scattered the wagons and broken up its orderly structure. Now they were vulnerable.
Hesmit recognized the cargo immediately. It was exactly what they had come to get. After tossing the driver out, Hesmit took the reins and Ocucko stood in the open rear to guard their flank. One of the Water Tribe Glatorian had unhooked a sand stalker from its wagon and was now riding bareback to confront the hijackers, but it was a futile gesture. Alone and badly beaten, Ocucko had only to fire a Thornax fruit at the sand stalker’s head. The creature was startled and rose up onto his hind legs, braying loudly. The Glatorian was thrown off.
Ocucko came forward and lowered himself into the seat beside Hesmit. As he glanced at the two rock steeds that were easily keeping pace with them, he began to chuckle to himself bemusedly.
“What?” Hesmit asked as she looked to see Ocucko smiling to himself. “Has the sand started to tickle under your armor or did you just figure out how silly you look without a respectable Glatorian helmet?”
“Hey!” Ocucko cried out. “This wide-brimmed helmet has many advantages. Not the least among those is that it keeps the sun out of my eyes so that I can actually see my opponent on a day like this. And that it can deflect Thornax fire more effectively, as you discovered firsthand in the arena. I could go on all day.”
“No, really, though. What’s so amusing?”
Ocucko sighed. “Truthfully? I haven’t been able to something like this where I can look back and feel proud of my actions for a long time. No enemy fatalities, no one lost, a good cause to fight for… Our task in the northlands will not be so clear-cut. We will have to kill members of the Harvest Faction and the Skrall army. We may even lose people, though it’s my goal to keep that from happening regardless of what I keep hearing about our odds of success. We will be doing the honorable and right thing in taking them down, but it will not be pretty – have no delusions about that. Just for today, though, I might be able to fall asleep without being ashamed of myself. The last time I was able to do that...” Ocucko shook his head. "It's been too long."
“If that’s how you feel about this endeavor, then I’m happy to help. You’ve convinced me that I can trust whoever it is that you are now, regardless of whatever you are remembered for. It will be my pleasure to aid you in your quest to the north.”
Ocucko leaned back and tilted down the brim of his helmet to block out the sunlight and give himself a chance to sleep. “Welcome to the team, Hesmit,” he murmured.
Chapter 7 – “Atero”
Leaving Vulcanus had not been the most pleasant occasion. Ackar was livid, Raanu was worried, and Hesmit was stoic. She’d made up her mind and didn’t want to hear their complaints. As far as she was concerned, they had brought this upon themselves when they had neglected to aid the northern villages. Meanwhile, Ackar and Raanu were forced to begrudgingly accept the resources that Hesmit and Ocucko provided.
The threesome set a course for Atero on sand stalkers rented with Hesmit’s ample savings as Vulcanus’ second Glatorian. The plan was to buy the supplies that would be needed for the journey as soon as they got to Atero. Ocucko expected they would need a resilient vehicle, preferably something along the lines of a disused war machine. He was worried that the price on such an investment would be too much, but Nardohi insisted that he could pay for it. Nardohi had made a substantial sum in the trade of precious minerals mined just beyond Iconox by acting as a high-risk situation guard. Few Glatorian wanted to risk the hazardous weather on the high peaks in order to be employed as guards. Nardohi had been able to name his price, and he hadn’t set a low one. He had preemptively transferred his funds from Iconox to a repository in Atero before heading into the Flaming Wastes to enlist Ocucko.
Ocucko learned quite a bit about Nardohi in their campfire discussions, just as he had hoped to. He realized that Nardohi was not as naïve as he had originally led Ocucko to believe in the Flaming Wastes. He was simply desperate. He had a few dramatic stories about heroics he had performed in his job as a mining guard. Ocucko didn’t know for sure whether or not they were true, but they sounded legitimate enough. Ocucko knew that the risks of being a mining guard included many of the things Nardohi described.
Nardohi and Hesmit also filled him in on more details about the current political situation. Contact with the northlands had been largely cut off. Settlements up there were most likely in dire situations as they held off assaults from the Skrall or their Harvest Faction puppets. However, the intervals between slave drives to the south indicated that the slavers were making long trips to get there. That meant it was unlikely the northlands had completely fallen and the Skrall and Harvest Faction were probably largely restricted to the northernmost areas even now. This did raise the question as to why the Harvest Faction wanted slaves from the south in particular rather than continuing to prey on the northlanders that had yet to fall. There had to be some reason, but only unconvincing conjectural explanations had been proposed.
Nardohi and Hesmit both sought to end the slaving raids that were now stretching into the south. If the northlanders were still resisting as expected, then the Skrall advance had to be pushed back for their sake as well. There were rumors of a place far into the northlands named Refuge or Asylum or Sanctuary or… something like that. It was said that it was taking in refugees and fugitive slaves and that it had yet to fall to the Skrall and Harvest Faction. Some even claimed it was larger and more diverse than Atero in the south. If that place did indeed exist, those people had to be saved. The Harvest Faction and Skrall would undoubtedly drive them from their homes, enslave them all, or exterminate the problematic populace if things continued as they currently were.
After a few nights on the open desert, they made it to Atero.
“Well, this would seem to be the place,” Ocucko announced. Before them was a sandy clearing among the tents and cloth canopies of the salvage bazaar. They had followed the directions of a few merchants to locate the lot that belonged to an Agori who specialized in repairing and selling ancient motor vehicles. He’d started out as a lowly freelance salvage worker, but had become a legend in Atero’s merchant community after striking it rich by finding a cache of disused (and, at that time, inoperable) war machines from the Core War. After expending every bit of his meager savings and taking out a dangerously high-interest loan from a shady Jungle Tribe artifact broker, he managed to repair the vehicles. By charging exorbitant sums for the incredibly rare technology, he had made up the difference and become rich.
“Ugh, talk about uuuuugly! These battered wrecks probably have sand rat nests in their underbellies,” Hesmit scoffed. “Are you sure this is what we came for, given the prices these things are supposed to accrue?”
Ocucko was ready with an answer. “Definitely. The only reason these look so ugly is because they are just what we need: resilient. They’ve lasted ages and they’ll still hold up to a lot of punishment. You’ve never seen these in action, but I recognize them. They’re deadly.”
“I can handle the cost and I trust your judgment,” Nardohi started. “Just figure out which one we need and I’ll make sure the seller doesn’t extort us out of money we could use on something else, but this gets priority even if it costs nearly everything. They say the Harvest Faction has deadly motor vehicles – plenty of Kaxium-class ones – and we need something that can face up against that.”
Before they were able to find the merchant, a number of Glatorian with various different colorations indicative of diverse Tribes marched over to meet them. “Travelers, hold still a moment!” the one in the lead, a Glatorian with Fire Tribe armor and a spear, cried. “We need to speak with you!”
“That’s not happening,” Ocucko grunted. He had a fairly good idea where this was headed. “No, we’re not handing over our valuables and you will regret attempting to take them without our consent. I guarantee that.”
The lead Glatorian clenched his jaw. “My apologies! We’re not thieves like those unrepentant so-called scavengers that roam the wastes – ”
“Enough,” Ocucko cut in. “We’re not looking for a fight. For right now, at least.”
The Glatorian seemed taken aback. “I apologize! I must have made the wrong impression: we’re with the security staff of the Free City of Atero and we wanted to warn you about a danger that’s been brought to our attention.”
“Make it quick,” Ocucko snapped. As embarrassed as he was at having misjudged them, Ocucko was not about to start making apologies.
“We were recently tipped off that a Vorox has been hiding in our streets for many years and has remained unnoticed. As soon as we heard, we sent a team into that district to exterminate the vermin. We found our entire team, defeated.”
“I’m sorry for you loss,” Nardohi mused.
“No, it wasn’t like that! The Vorox had tied them up. We just… wanted to keep you informed.”
Hesmit looked unsure of these guards. “You mean to say your entire team was subdued by a single Vorox? A Vorox you tried to kill and who subsequently spared all you men? A Vorox who’d remained unnoticed for years – meaning he hadn’t been causing any trouble – and who doesn’t seem interested in bloodshed? What’s the security threat we need to be knowing about?” Even as the guards began to squirm with discomfort, Hesmit didn't cease her line of questioning until her point had been made.
“Well, it’s not exactly like that – I mean, it’s a Vorox after all – you know how they always resort to violence sooner or later and you see it’s, uh, it’s – ”
“Ugh, shut up,” Ocucko brushed off the guard. “I can see where this is headed. Vorox have a reputation for lawlessness, so everyone finding out that it was roaming the streets and that you hadn’t done anything about it in years made you look bad. Now that it’s humiliating your troops, you look worse. Now you tell any armed visitors you see in hopes that someone will play the hero and take care of this thorn in your side that you can’t handle because you lack the skill! Get lost already. We have more important things to do than listen to your whining,” Ocucko sneered without any attempt to veil his derision.
“I, uh, we’ll be going,” the guard said, rounding up his people and backing off.
“You do that,” Ocucko muttered once the guard and his people were out of earshot.
A yellow-armored Agori exited a tent set up just across from the vehicles. “Why, hello!” He greeted. “Let me see: three heavily-armed Glatorians staring intently at my merchandise, one of them carrying a weapon from the same era as these beauties that I maintain and sell. You lead me to believe that you came here specifically to see me, am I not right?”
“Dektor, I presume?” Hesmit inquired.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’ And that’s also a ‘yes’ to your question if you hadn’t gathered!” He emitted a slight snort of laughter, apparently amused with his own choice of wording. “I can guarantee you that these vehicles are quality merchandise, not substitutes cobbled together by parts acquired from those thieving scavengers.” Ocucko made a mental note that scavengers were of ill repute and known for theft in modern society; the city guard had scorned them first and now Dektor was as well. He still found it amusing that even this Dektor was trying so hard to distance himself from the scavengers – he had clearly once been one himself and Ocucko was sure Dektor must still employ scavengers to obtain replacement parts usable material for the upkeep of his vehicles. “Now, do you have any ideas about the specifics of the vehicle you want?”
“I can see a few from here, but what all do you have in the manner of Thornatus class vehicles?” Ocucko asked.
“Let’s see what I can do for you, my esteemed clients! I’m sure there is something here that will suit your needs.” He beckoned to them and approached a line of large vehicles – Thornatus class. “What will you need this vehicle for?”
“We’re heading north, far north. It has to be able to handle the terrain beyond the Black Spike and White Quartz Mountains and it needs to be capable of taking hits. Firepower is less important than structural strength. I was looking for a Thornatus V4 variant.”
“You’re lucky you came to me – but then again, of course you knew you had to come to the best, which my vehicles most certainly are –”
“If you’re looking for battered relics. Impress me,” Hesmit challenged. “I’ll bet you half my monthly salary as second Glatorian those are just pieced together from junk stolen by scavengers.” She left out the part where she’d just quit that job.
“Ah, you won’t remain a skeptic for long! How about these two? Treads for rocky and snowy terrain, spacious passenger decks, are these what you’re looking for?”
“You’re the one with the experience, boss, even if I’ve been making snarky comments,” Hesmit admitted. “What do you think?”
“The one on the left is a Thornatus V4 anti-infantry assault platform. It’s nice, but we’d need to remove some of the weapons emplacements to accommodate passengers if we take along a team the size I’m expecting plus their gear, ammunition, and supplies. It also is lacking a few things that the other one has… and those are some things we could use. The one on the right is a Thornatus V4 troop transport. I find it more appealing. It won’t require major renovations and it has a type of ramming grille we used to call a sledgehammer grille, designed to tear its way through objects on impact, buildings included. That would be invaluable. I’m also guessing it’ll run faster than the assault platform despite the fact that troop transport variants are among the bulkiest Thornatus vehicles. Much of that bulk is engine space so that it can apply excessive torque to the treads; not to mention that the other one is overburdened in elemental launcher emplacements. That troop transport has an elemental rock launcher on the high platform. If fired too frequently within a short amount of time, it might become temporarily discharged and unable to be fired, but it will still be able to fire off considerably lengthy volleys before it reaches that point.”
Both of the Thornatus V4 vehicles were in many ways similar to the more modern Thornatus V7. They had the same basic chassis structure, but it was overall larger in scale and, unlike the V7, it was not a convertible. The front wheels were locked into a position equivalent to the V7’s attack position – the position with the front drive assemblage pushed outwards. Ocucko wanted this because it would allow for many passengers.
Dektor gave them a price estimate for both vehicles. The troop transport, as Ocucko had expected, was about half again the price of the firing platform variant, but he asked Nardohi to buy the V4 troop transport anyway. Nardohi then contested the decision.
“Should we really be paying more for less firepower?”
“Didn’t we agree beforehand that…” Ocucko trailed off as he saw Nardohi wink at him. That’s when Ocucko caught on that Nardohi really was going to get the troop transport; he was just trying to get Dektor to drop the price. He was doing precisely what he had said he would – preventing them from getting extorted out of money that could be used on additional supplies.
After a lengthy ersatz argument between Ocucko and Nardohi, Dektor interrupted with an offer to get them to make a purchase; he would sell the troop transport at the cost of the weapon platform variant. Nardohi immediately agreed. He and Dektor then moved into the tent to discuss funds transfers.
“Quite the shrewd businessman, isn’t he?” Ocucko commented of Nardohi now that Dektor was out of earshot.
“I hear quite a few Ice Tribe members have become skilled in such skills of trade and business these days due to the mineral wealth around Iconox,” Hesmit answered. “The people of the Ice Tribe are the ones you usually go to for your business needs, especially if you want quality goods and official documentation. Not like those scavengers that most likely steal half that trash they sell.”
Again, the hate for scavengers. Ocucko wasn’t sure if theft was common these days, but it seemed like scavengers were frequently blamed for such crimes. He thought it was odd that people would look down on scavengers on a world as broken as this one – a world were reusing and repairing the so-called “junk” and “trash” should be the name of the game. All he could figure was that maybe there was some truth to these claims of theft and that had tarnished the reputations of all scavengers. He suddenly realized just how little he understood about the workings of society since he’d disappeared into exile.
“I wouldn’t have known. I’ve been away for too long.”
“Gosh, I just realized – you’ve never seen Atero in all its glory after all that time in the Wastes, have you? It’s become a real symbol of unity after having been a neutral ground during the length of the Core War and then surviving the Shattering. Have you ever been here before?” Ocucko shook his head. “Afraid not,” he declared.
“Well, come on, then, you ancient outsider! It’s time someone showed you the wonders of the Free City of Atero. Those two will be chatting about money for a while. We have the time.”