The Wastelands, the very term conjures up the image of wind scored rocks, hyper saturated colors, fields of sand covered rusted ruins, and a post apocalyptic society still somehow surviving by the barest margins. This romantic notion does represent a small section of the Wastelands, it is not the only, nor the most common. The Cosmic Era definition of Wasteland is any land that was formerly inhabited that has since become barren, fallen into disuse, and otherwise abandoned.
Urban: the rotting ruined husks of cities, long abandoned. During the Population Contraction, the global population fell over 90%, leaving behind a shell of the world that was. There are thousands of cities that have been abandoned and left to nature. The major cities survived, but in areas that were less conducive to survival, even major cities were abandoned. The hulks remain, full of glittering glass and the ghosts of a dead world.
Steppe: there are millions of square miles of plains that have gone abandoned. Some remain contaminated by war and radiation, but most were simply left behind.
Forests, and Jungles: These regions have seen strong recovery in terms of plant life, and have returned to the wild.
Mountains, Deserts, and Tundra: These difficult terrains were colonized during the Petroleum Era as the demand for living space exploded. Once the population vanished, these regions were left to the die hards and fanatics who refused to leave them.
The Utopia Initiative (< link)</p>
Operates under the aegis of the M12 director Osiris, and the goal is the restoration of the Biosphere
'Do not, my friends, become addicted to water, or it will take hold of you and you will resent its absence!' ~ Immortan Joe
Water Stores: water stores are processing facilities where contaminated and polluted water is drawn in and processed, and pumped back out. A fair amount is held in storage units with easy access. While it might be more effective to not have tappable stores, the initiative plans for the denizens of the wastelands to have access to the water. This makes it less likely that they will stop up or destroy a water processing facility to gain access to fresh water.
Water Wars still break out in the Wastelands, usually in the desert regions. These are typically the product of tribal warfare, with an alliance of tribes and clans gathering together to displace another that has become powerful and entrenched around a water processing facility. This sort of violence is looked down on, as it tends to damage the facilities. The Noddite tech cult has been fostered by the Utopian initiative so that the wastelanders have a religiously instilled reverence for technology and that damaging the Utopian structures is a taboo.
Greenhouses: Also known as biocreches, these enclosed facilities have the task of restoring the flora and fauna of a damaged region. The first tier emphasis is placed on restoring the plant ecosystem, which involves using bioengineered organisms to filter out the toxins and contaminants from the area, followed by successive plantings of colonial and pioneer plant species. The 'heart' of a biocreche is buried under the facility, and is a small bioreactor and cloning system that allows the site controllers to generate and germinate seeds. Auxons and micro-drones tend the gardens and disperse collected seeds. The auxons will carry seeds beyond the greenhouse and will follow plans to reestablish damaged or destroyed biomes.
Robo-Rats, squirrels, and songbirds: Rather than having the typical robotic/insectile looking auxons that are used in other industries, the greenhouse auxons are built to mimic the appearance of small rodents like rats, mice, and squirrels, and small flying animals like songbirds or bats. They use the same survival strategies as their biological counterparts, and thus the robotic propagation of plant and animal species seems miraculous because the agents of it's implementation are easily overlooked.
The Poisoned Forests: One of the most effective bioremediation weapons are slow growing cycads. These relatively primitive plants can grow in adverse conditions and spread easily. The modified plants filter out a laundry list of soil contaminants and package them up in microscopic silicate packets. This cleanses the soil, but renders the environment around them unsuitable to organic life, creating poisonous forests. In the plan, the cycads are displaced by faster growing angiosperm plants, and the duration of a poison forest is approximately one hundred to one hundred and twenty years. The cycads decay, their sealed contaminants are safely dispersed and buried, and new plant life covers it all over. These forests are a constant threat to the wastelander settlements near them, as the seeds and spores that come off of the cycads and other engineered plants are quite toxic. This is going to be related to the predominant pollution type, but concentrated. Thus a poison forest growing over the ruins of a chemical refinery is going to be laced with those same leeched chemicals. Everything about the forest will be permeated with these pollutants as the plants break them up and disperse them.
Genimals are animal species that have been engineered to survive and thrive in the toxic conditions found inside poison forests and other contaminated zones. Most are oversized insects with special gut flora designed to consume and metabolize pollutants and contaminants, to break them down faster than the cycads. Like the cycads of the forest, the genimals are typically hostile to humans, and their flesh is poisonous. They have been engineered to have a symbiotic relationship with the plants, so when a group of wasteland farmers start clear cutting and burning the cycad trees, the genimals become enraged and attack.
Ruins: this ranges from the ruins of cities, industrial centers, the remnants of large battlefields, or the actual wreckage of large ships that have fallen in combat. Major source of activity for Scrappers and salvagers. reclaimed materials are used for new construction, rather than opening new mines.
Wasteland Trading Corporation: there are simply more ruins left around the world than there is man and robot power to reclaim. The timeline to recover the lost resources and valuables of the Petroleum Era is nearly nine centuries. There are salvage and waste companies that have deployed ships and vehicles and work crews to accomplish these goals, but most of these are based around high value areas, such as the cores of dead cities, sunken naval assets, and such. They aren't going to deploy any work cruiser to salvage the ruins of a three centuries abandoned middle American town. Rather than pursuing less lucrative contracts, the Utopia Initiative rewards scavengers and scroungers by supporting a vibrant trade and barter system. Wastelanders who dig up the old things can take them to trade stations, in wastelander camps and townships, and trade them for whatever passes for currency among them. The Initiative simply keeps these merchant and trade camps stocked with the sort of things wastelanders would want, like water, filtration systems, clothing, survival gear, and so forth. In return for these nearly worthless things, the wastelanders bring in mounds of detritus from the wastelands, old weapons, tools, busted pieces of old tech and retro tech, precious metals, cultural artifacts, and so forth. Some is saved, most is recycled. The very act of the wastelanders breaking into the ruins accelerates their demise. A house intact will last a century, but a house broken open is gone in twenty years.
An unintended consequence of the Utopia Initiative and the Wasteland Trading Corporation was the birth of the Silk Road. The worst part of the Wastelands is a belt that extends from Saharan Africa, through the Middle and Near East and swings north through Mongolia and ends at the ruins of Pyongyang. This in many places followed the ancient overland trade route of the Silk Road. The WTC was successful, and it taught many of the wastelanders who were trapped/unwilling to leave the Wastelands a new mode of survival. They started trading other things that people wanted, things that were worth more than relics and junk. These wasteland warlords horded weapons, and dealt in human trafficking, drugs, and anything else that was contraband. This grew, with the wasteland traders making contacts among the worst of the worst around the world; Armas in Europe, ShadowLaw is Asia, the Python Patrol in South East Asia. Through these groups they were able to link outward to terror groups like Amerikka Command, the Black Dragon Society, the Mafia, and the Yakuza. The WTC had inadvertently created the United Nations of criminal organizations and syndicates.
Vault: Vaults are repositories of precious materials and valuables that have been recovered, typically precious metals and artifacts of historical or technological value. These are secure locations that are a major part of the Silk Road economy, safe houses for goods.
One of the ironies of the Cosmic Era and the Utopia Initiative is that it requires a certain segment of the global population to purposely live in subhuman wasteland conditions. Should the world powers come together and decide to end the Wastelands, they could do so easily. There are many empty spots scattered through the Solar System. The wastelander population could be lifted out of ruin and relocated to rural farm areas, the under served geofront communities, empty spots in the new arcologies, or even to colonies on other planets. Much of the goods gathered by the WTC are deposited in vaults. To the Cosmic Era, old books, utilitarian tools, busted tech and the rest is junk. The Vaults are trash cisterns with some loot sprinkled on top.
Solar Plants: The Utopian Initiative is decentralized, but there still exists a demand for electricity to keep the various installations running. Rather than rebuilding the old electric grid, or tying the initiative into existing power sources, solar power plants were built. These exist as shrines to the project, glittering works of glass and panels. They convey the power they generate to other facilities via underground feeds. Like with the water facilities, the power stations have nodes and hook ups to recharge battery systems, to give wastelanders a reason to protect and not destroy the stations for their components.
Gas Fields: Situated over the remains of landfills, fracking operations, and natural gas seeps, Gas fields collect vapors from the ground as well as atmospheric processing, producing useful fuels and hydrocarbons for limited and retro-tech use.The equipment used by wastelanders isn't always electric. Most of their gear is still based around primitive combustion engines. The creation of Gas fields was a concession from the Initiative to keep the human element of the equation mobile.
D-Storm Monitoring Station: half tsoukalocity monitoring station, half dimensional vault, repository of dimensionally contaminated materials, converting them into either inert matter or hypermatter fuel for exotic reactors.
Crystalline Resource Extraction: There are a few places, in some of the worst corrupted parts of the wastelands, typically the hearts of massive dimensional fatigue events, locations where the cores of dimensional storms opened and raged, the ground become contaminated. The resulting contamination manifests in the growth of large crystal structures. The crystal is composed of metal salts, volatile materials, and other valuable resources. The base level material is easily crushed and smelted down into valuable raw materials. There are certain serious downsides. The crystalline material is fragile, and if improperly handled, highly volatile. If hit with sufficient shock or electrical charge, it will detonate. These explosions can ripple through a crystal field and quickly tear open a fresh dimensional fatigue tear. The higher purity crystals are valuable for their energy storing properties, and are highly sought after for the robotics and synthetic intelligence manufacturing industry. Quantum circuits with the proper chips of this crystal form some of the highest performing computer systems ever imagined.
Seibertronians highly prize this crystalline material as it is almost impossible to create new seibertronians without it. The crystals are formed into cores, and house the power directly connected to their cortices, and functions as their 'battery back-up' or as some view it, the receptacle of their soul. The main source of Seibertronian crystal comes from the international black market, while a smaller amount comes from synthetic sources created in their science labs. The sentient robots are working towards being able to create or harvest their own raw materials, and not being reliant on human scum, materials embargos, and resource throttling.
Note: The Crystalline Substance is the remnant of an Imbrian resource gathering system. Rather than basely dig holes in the ground to tear out the minerals, they would fire probes containing nano-machines that formed crystalline matrices from ambient raw materials. Having been offline for thousands of years, the system has gotten buggy, and rather than producing the proper crystalline materials, it is just punching out volatile composites, a sort of explosive collect all. The most important application of this ancient technology was the growth of entangled crystal matrices, commonly called tzo crystals. These were the basis of the Imbrian Nebiru array and allowed for true faster than light communication, and teleportation.
Running the Roads
The infrastructure of the old world is gone, the roads are broken, the bridges have fallen, and there are no police, no paramedics, and no firefighters coming in care of an accident. The Cosmic Era moves through the air on cargo ships and freight liners equipped with A-pods, 50 kiloton cargo cruisers flying through the air at 200 miles an hour. Things are different on the ground. The vehicles that carry the Wastelanders have to be reliable and capable of handling rough and broken terrain. The most common vehicles on the Silk Road are cheap cheap hoverbikes, mag-rails, and striders. The first two vehicles float above the ground on magnetic fields, and the third is a trash can half mech. There are certainly other vehicles, retro-tech dune buggies, offroad vehicles, conventional airskirt hovercraft, and so forth, but they are so widely varied, and only represent a small section of the vehicles used.
The most important vehicles on the Road are the medium (20' - 60') mag-rails. These 'pocket ships' carry the bulk of things transported long distances along the Road. They can have a decent sized crew, include cramped living space, can carry 20-50 tons of freight, and are decently quick. This being the case, the pocket ship rails are the most popular targets of raiders and ravagers. To overcome the inherent banditry of the no honor among thieves wasteland raiders, the rails have to come up with their own survival strategies.
The Wild Wastelands
Mercenaries are a common deterrent for raiders. To keep the bandits away, hire bandits of your own. This is a popular career for ex-military and other highly skilled, highly trained personnel who are exiled from the arcologies. Hiring a mercenary can be as simple as having a few extra armed people willing to fight aboard a rail, it can be an escort of armed people on hover bikes and boom buggies, or could even be a mercenary rail, bristling with it's own guns, replacing cargo space with weaponry. The danger of mercenaries is that they fight for pay, and sometimes mercenaries can hijack a nice shipment, keeping it and the rail for themselves.
In the past, relatively vulnerable vessels have run in groups to avoid predation. Rail convoys function on the same principle. If there is one raider rail attacking them, it can't attack all 12 in a convoy, and the 12 rails might have enough deterrent firepower to dissuade the raider from even attacking them. The convoy system is fairly common, as rail operators likely know each other and have common destinations. Likewise, there are clans among the wastelanders, and they will find common ground in their alliegances, and then in self defense.
There are clans, seitches, tribes, and security interests that all have their own territories, that they police and defend. While not proper nations, these groups will charge tolls for travelers and merchants passing through their domains in exchange for this protection. This can be exciting because there is always friction. There are bandits and raiders who exist without nation or alliance, and there are always other groups fighting for resources.
Forts, Brothels, and Taverns
Also known as the communal resource, the economic and social centers of the Wastelands are typically clustered around fortresses, brothels, and taverns. The fortresses are typically the ruins of old Petroleum Era buildings, but the present walls are typically easy to defend. Likewise, it is easy to set traps, ambushes, and find cover in the ruins of cities. The presence of streets makes for easy travel for rails. The taverns and brothels set up shop easily inside the shells of the old buildings.
Fort Megalomart outside of Cleveland Ohio is a large Wastelander Fortress almost in the center of the AmeroZone of the Atlantic Federation. Formerly a massive retail outlet, the wastelanders turned the building into a fortress and hanger for mag-rails. The roof is buttressed up, and is it's own mini-township. At any given time there are five to ten mag-rails present and several dozen competent combatants. The fortress is a major hub in the North American territories, and traders can be found from across the continent. It is aligned with Amerikka Command, and is protected from the Federation with a shroud generator.
Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves
The people of the wastelands are colorful, pragmatic, inured to violence, and exist in a technocratic dichotomy. The difference between the wastelanders and the residents of the arcologies is the same difference as between the Flintstones and the Jetsons.
Mercenaries are wastelanders versed in combat. They sell their guns and swords and gunships to the highest bidder.
Salvagers and Tinkers are the men and women who scrounge up the pieces of a shattered past and the litter from the future and build a present out of it. They build everything from the shelters and water collectors to weapons and cobbled together robots.
The common 'folk' of the wastelands are nomads and settlers, people looking to find a place to live. They are the hardscrabble peasants, the rank and file workers.
Exiles were born and raised in the cities, inside the arcologies, and for whatever reason, they were cast out of those gilded fortresses. They range from quivering victims, to becoming bosses and warlords on their own.
Mutants differ from any of the other groups as they are bound together by their common afflicted state. The wastelands are a vile and ruined place. Mutants suffer from cancer, radiation sickness, environmental poisoning, and most disturbingly, taint and contamination from exposure to strange radiation from dimensional fatigue events. This has created entire pocket races of humanity, breeding true among their own, new flesh, new races.
Outcastes are similar to exiles but they left the great cities of their own volition. They tend to be leaders, warriors, eccentrics, or are veterans, those driven insane by arcanotech, and so forth.
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