After the wars subsided, the Old World was left in a terrible state. Crumbling economies hadn't invested wartime budgets into infrastructure, and ships, trucks, and other vehicles had been destroyed, or were left in wrecked heaps. For things to get better, trade and mercantile efforts had to resume functioning. Trucks worked in North America, the whole mystique of Mad Max and the post-apocalyptic can-do attitude saw massive rebounds. The east lacked that same resilience, there were all sorts of explanations, the accepting nature of Shinto and Hinduism, the turning of the wheel of ages, the sheer extent of the damage inflicted across the center of the continent. What remained was that the roads were never strongly developed, and with most of the old infrastructure blown away, there were no work crews to man the non-existent road machines. Necessity has a history of inspiring people, and this was no exception.
The Mag Rail
The Mag Rail is a fundamentally simple vehicle. The precursor to the A-Pod was the Mag-Pod. The Mag-Pod generated a magnetic field and a repulsor effect, allowing for actual levitation. This was dependent on a ground effect, meaning that the maximum altitude of the vehicles equipped with mag-pods was limited to a few feet. This was more than adequate for the vehicles mounting them to travel unhindered by the lack of roads, rough terrain, and terrain as varied as swamps, sandy deserts, and expanses of water.
Types of Mag Rails
Personal Mag Rail - The Scarab
The Scarab is a light craft, with room for a pilot and up to three passengers or 400 lbs of cargo. Scarabs are rather short ranged, and were built for military operations. Once the wars ended, the guns were stripped, and the original engines and batteries were scavenged. Repaired and rebuilt Scarabs became commonplace, as well as dozens of other heavily modified vehicles.
The wastelanders are innovative folk, and it wasn't long before they figured out how to repair damaged mag-pods, and then start making their own. Lacking factories and assembly lines, the wastelanders took to converting the hulks of old vehicles into new magnetic rail craft, creating hordes of former military vehicles and other light vehicles with the wheels and treads removed, zipping across the badlands. The resulting melange of technology, merging new with old, innovative with waste created the wasteland chic of the Brotherhood, and the other wastelander gangs who run the Silk Road.
Light Mag Rail - The Landrace
The Landrace is a large vehicle, typically between thirty and seventy feet long, and has a cargo capacity comparable to a bus or a semi truck. Most were retrofit from those types of vehicles, allowing for the movement of measurable amounts of goods. Landraces are ornamented and decorated in the Indian tradition, having esoteric names, and histories behind them, such as the Mohan Tak. Mohan Tak was a 45 ton rail bus that made a twice monthly run between Old Tehran and Hyderabad, decked out in teal and orange, an obscure thunder god painted down the side. The landrace passed through several passes contested by raiders and hostile tribes. The landrace passed through several hands before it was eventually retired, lost somewhere out in the dunes.
Pitar the Warrior was a 55 ton tractor trailer converted into a fighting landrace. The body was armored, and the trailer was reinforced with sponsoon gun mounts, a turret on the top, and internal room to move a platoon of infantry. Pitar the Warrior hired itself as a mercenary, protecting convoys and merchant landraces. The vehicle had a spotted history, as it was as often owned by bandits and raiders as it was by honest mercs.
Heavy Mag Rail
The biggest mag rails were not built from the wrecks of cars or trucks, but from the hulls of ships. These mag rails were large, and slow, but could mount massive batteries and engines, and carry hundreds of tons of cargo, guns, and soldiers. These vehicles are unique, often the center of tribes and wastelander clans.
The Degra was a large cargo ship that washed ashore on the coast of the Red Sea and was abandoned. At five hundred feet long and grossing close to 35 kilotons, the ship carries enough weaponry to gun down a mech company and enough wastelander berzerkers to overrun a small city. Degra currently sits in a hidden berth in the Sinai, currently in a chess match with three other ships, the Melchior, the Fomulhaut, and the Aldeib. The four ships and their clans are jockeying for position in the Sinai, looking to see which will be able to control the crossing, and terrestrial choke point on the Silk Road.
The mag rails are scavenger gear, retro technology, and compared to the flying warships and mecha, they are grossly outmatched. Compared to the flying ships, the rails are slow and clumsy. Against mecha, their armor is somewhere between paper and cardboard. The entire collection of machinery easily goes up in flames and billowing black clouds. In the Cosmic Era, the rails hold a similar position to pirate ships, hold outs of vagabonds, and the remnants of a distant and backwater era.
The Silk Road is the pulsing main artery of the underworld, and a huge amount of criminals, illicit goods, and blackmarket gear passes through it. The road starts on the Atlantic Coast of North Africa, passes across the Sahara, through the ruins of the Middle East, snaking through radioactive cities, badlands, and dead zones. It runs through the near east before fanning out into India and China. The rails carry most of this cargo, burying the criminal aspects in bulk goods, moving from city to city, bazaar to bazaar. There are attempts at patrols, hunting down the contraband, but there are more ships than can be inspected, and the appearances of the ships can change in a matter of hours.
Additional Ideas (1)
1. The Cargo Hauler - the fastest hunk of junk in the Wasteland. Cargo hauler landraces can carry up to 40 tons of cargo, an amount equivalent to a typical tractor trailer load. The vehicles are relatively fast, able to outpace anything bound to legs or wheels. These are the meat and potatoes of the Silk Road, and can be found hauling everything from water to illegal merchandise.
2. The People Mover - similar to the cargo hauler, the people mover is a wasteland bus, moving 20+ people at a time in varying degrees of discomfort. The imagry of the rural bus, carrying people, mail, and livestock is very fitting to the roll of the People Mover landrace. They are much more time sensitive, and thus are typically built for speed. They are frequently in head to head confrontations with cargo haulers.
3. The Pleasure Sled - not everything carried in a landrace is a good, some things are a service. The pleasure sled is a high speed brothel, moving from location to location, partly to avoid bandits, part to avoid dealing with permanent locations, and part because it can be important to move on after a landrace load of prostitutes pickpocket half the people in a village and give the other half STDs.
4. The Itinerant Merchant - similar to the cargo hauler, the IM is a dealer in goods and services, and his landrace is a junkshop with legs. The IM most commonly works with junkers and salvagers, trading parts in a seemingly mysterious system of trade. The merchant is a clocksmith or has the services of one, and a fixer for the wastelands, connecting people with the things they need.
5. The Family Camper - the landrace is an extended family domicile with mobility. These are typically older and in lower quality condition, as they have been passed down from family to family. The campers are the nomads of the Wastelands, moving to follow opportunities and greener pastures.
6. The Expedited - the personal vehicles of wasteland warlords, expedited are high speed landraces with investments in armor and firepower, ensuring that anything they can't outrun, they can outgun. These are the personal vehicles of these bosses. Most smugglers and high end runners have landraces that would fit into the expedited category. They have hidden compartments, concealed weaponry, and plenty of tricks, traps, and aces up their sleeves.
7. The Gunship - gunships are the landraces of mercenaries and they carry soldiers and their wargear as well as ample weapons and firepower. Gunships are relatively expensive and only the most successful mercenaries, townships, raiders, and bosses can afford to keep one of these in operation. The main users of Gunships are so called 'trade companies' that are little more than heavily armed gangs that control important sections of the Silk Road, or have dominated access to local resources.