After The Wilderness Has Passed


ff_asi_icon.gif castle4_icon.gif ff_cat_icon.gif chess7_icon.gif ff_des2_icon.gif ff_edward_icon.gif elliot2_icon.gif ff_gracie_icon.gif ff_hart_icon.gif ff_jr_icon.gif ff_kendall_icon.gif ff_marlowe_icon.gif
ff_monica_icon.gif ff_nadira_icon.gif nathalie4_icon.gif ff_nick_icon.gif ff_nova_icon.gif richard5_icon.gif robyn7_icon.gif ff_robyn2_icon.gif ff_ryans_icon.gif ff_silas2_icon.gif ff_stef2_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon4.gif ff_tay_icon.gif

Scene Title After The Wilderness Has Passed
Synopsis The Convoy arrives in the settlement of New Chicago and discovers that no matter how much things change, some things refuse to change…
Date July 7, 2021

There’s a crackling fire burning in a pot-bellied stove, set in a dark corner of a small worker’s lounge. Shadeless electric lightbulbs sway at the ceiling on a string, giving the dingy space a hint of cozy comfort. A half dozen steelworkers sit shoulder to shoulder at a galley table, their clothes stained with grease and metal shavings. Handmade respirator masks hang around their neck and metal filings have stained their cheeks around where the masks seal.

By the window near the stove, a lean man in a fur-trimmed leather jacket tumbles a small wooden horse over his fingers, making it look like it’s galloping from knuckle to knuckle. A sound over the wind and rain outside catches his ear, and he palms the horse in a graceful moment of sleight-of-hand. Two children who had been watching him gasp with delight, and he raises a finger to his lips in conspiracy of their shared secret of his witchcraft.

Without another word, the man in the long coat steps out of the workhouse into the misting rain and blustery wind. Beyond the workhouse, the distant sound of power saws and glittering sparks compete for notice in the hazy distance. Ragged hills of scrap metal from disassembled warships, frigates, freighters, and cruise ships obscure the horizon. But he still hears it, a tinnitus whine over the noise of the world. Squinting, the man in the long coat starts ahead across the muddy soil, soon changing terrain from dirt to steel as he begins to climb one massive scrap pile to gain a vantage point on this noise.

At his back, city lights burn bright alongside blasting plumes of flame rising from factory smokestacks. Ahead, the fog and rain gives way to rows of gleaming headlights coming in up the coastal waters. The man in the long coat can hear the sound, ringing in his right ear. His jaw flexes, rain runs in rivulets down his forehead and drips off the tip of his nose. He waits, watching intensely as a military Humvee rolls into view, then a schoolbus, then a truck. It’s a convoy. It’s outsiders.

The ringing in his right ear intensifies as the vehicles draw closer. He turns back, heading down the scrap embankment. He knows where they’ll be going.

He follows the sound.

A Short Time Later

The Convoy
Chicago City Limits

July 7th

The stench of diesel fills the air even with the windows open. Ever since setting out from camp, it’s been getting stronger. Seawater and gasoline. All along the coast of Lake Michigan are the gutted wrecks of ships and land vehicles, shipping containers scattered like Legos with some stacked up like stonehenge. From the freeway it’s clear this isn’t just a ragtag settlement, this is some sort of industrial city scavenging from the wreckage of Chicago’s outskirts.

Out the left side windows of the Convoy are partially-flooded fields. Everything off the highway is partly sunken into the lake. There’s a field of demolished satellite dishes from what must have been some sort of huge telecommunications operation, nothing the likes of which exists in timelines other than this one. Now the mighty bowls of these dishes lay scattered in the ground, some filled with water, others face-down and gutted, looking like rusted steel igloos surrounded by walls of scrapped cars and aircraft.

On the other side of the Convoy is a live salvage operation. The salvagers are too small and too distant to be seen, but they work the coast. Showers of sparks bloom in the fog amidst floodlights and the silhouettes of hulking vehicles. Beyond the coast, out in the great lake, are rickety, narrow, oil platforms burning with flame at their caps. Offshore drilling done right in dead old Uncle Sam’s backyard.

Small scrap houses dot the highway here, but they look more like temporary shelters than anything else. What isn’t lies ahead, where searchlights sweep the night sky, where flames blast up from the stacks of refineries. The Convoy cuts a path down the highway, the only east-west road that isn’t flooded from the swollen Lake Michigan, directly toward the lights and the fire.

Soon, the Convoy comes to be escorted by motorcycles, two in the front and two in back. Armed, but not armed. The motorcycles are plated in steel and streaked with rust, the drivers giving hand signals to keep moving ahead. It isn’t a matter of force, the Convoy vastly outnumbers the riders, vastly outguns them. This is about courtesy, about getting to know the lay of the land. The stories were real, there is a Mainland city.

Soon, the eviscerated remains of skyscrapers push out of the morning fog. They are lightless and black, skeletal things that have not been reinhabited. They sit at odd angles, askew and sinking into the swollen banks of Lake Michigan. They are tombs of a city long since forgotten. There are no lights in the direction of Chicago, no fires burning, no welcoming committee. Instead, the lights come from an artificial peninsula jutting out of what was once East Chicago, an industrial island connected by freeway bridges and railroad tracks. Now, a walled and fortified city of its own right.

The Convoy is directed to pull off after entering a massive gatehouse, the doors of which are a slab from the hull of a derelict aircraft carrier held by cranes. One by one their vehicles park in a large open-air lot, penned in by another identical gate, this one shut. They’re not the only people waiting here. An unflinching crowd of people dressed for the rainy weather, layered in backpacks and bags, wait outside the gate under the watchful eye of sentries on high catwalks.

Neon signage burns everywhere here, promising rest, trade, and splendor beyond the walls. Under the purple and red glow of neon lights, the riders that guided the convoy wait by the lead vehicle, leaning up against their motorcycles. Tay steps out of Scout, briefly raising his hands in the air, but when he sees the motorcycle riders aren’t even going for their guns he relaxes. There’s four people far higher up who could turn this courtyard into a killbox if they wanted to. But that isn’t what this is. This is a queue, and no one seems interested in playing emissary.

“How long we gotta wait t’see the Wizard?” Tay shouts over the wind, gesturing to the closed gate. One of the motorcycle riders looks up at the sky, tugging his goggles down around his neck while squinting.

“Ain’t long.” He says disinterestedly.

“Can we leave our rides here?” Tay asks, motioning to the lot.

Yea,” one says like it was a stupid question.

Tay glances back at the other passengers in Scout, then past them to the passengers in the other vehicles that are mixed between getting out of their vehicles and standing watch inside. Cat, making her way up through the crowd, pulls her jacket tight around herself and squints against the wind, looking up at the plumes of fire jetting over the wall between them and this city.

“We need a lay of the land.” Tay says to his companions from Scout, and to the newly arrived Cat. “Make sure our maps are right, maybe get a hot meal, no trouble, and we move on.” He’s repeating it to himself, the same thing he’d said over the radio numerous times once it became clear that they’d be stopping in a city this large and this unpredictable.

No trouble.” Tay says under his breath. Not to his fellow passengers, but to the indiscreet cloud of red fog hovering under the truck.

Asi stands stooped slightly in Frizzle's front entry, enough that she can be passed around, but close enough she can see clearly through the front glass all there is to see about their stop site. "Maybe all of us coming up at once wasn't a good idea…" she notes without particular affect. It was what it was, at this point.

And if the toll for entry ended up disagreeable, and a disagreement accordingly broke out, well… that'd be what it was, too, and they'd bloody their way through it with as minimal casualties as possible.

"But fuck if I'm not surprised how well-put together all this is," she thinks aloud in quiet tones, eyes going up to all the neon. The electricity. The whisper of other technology in use, however low-tech it might be. At the very least, she thinks she feels a hum of a radio nearby.

From the cabin of the Wildcat, Des leans left until she’s practically laying over the center divider, her forearm flat against it, propping her up. “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she murmurs with a sort of appreciation. It may have been an obvious comment some short time ago, but the little captain has traveled now, across the globe. Chicago in this state was entirely unexpected.

“Did you?” She turns her face to Edward, eyes wide and inquisitive, looking younger than her years. (Both the actual ones and the ones she presents as.) “I know you did some traveling before…” The Arcology.

Edward glances up at Destiny, distracted. “Hm?” It takes him a moment to find purchase on her question. “Oh, no. No. We stayed away from anything that even smelled like a city. Lisa would always get a bad feeling and…” He closes his eyes, looks away, then up to the distant lights. “Nothing like this.”

Monica comes up beside Tay, her attention shifting up and taking stock of possible sightlines— likely to judge just how much danger they're in at the moment. Even if those nearest them aren't waving guns around, she believes in being prepared. Informed and prepared.

"Wizard?" she asks, turning to look at Tay instead. "What sort of wizard? Pinball Wizard? A Gandalf wizard? …The Wizard?" Barely a beat passes before she adds, "Man, I wonder if those big dinosaurs survived the flood. You know, in California?" She may be a little less focused than usual. Too much time cooped up in a bus. Not enough time running, jumping, or punching.

Tay glances over at Monica with a squint. “The Wizard of, like, Oz.” He says with mild exasperation. Though he ventures no guesses about the dinosaurs, he isn’t sure if she’s fucking with him or not. On all counts.

Nathalie is slow to step out of Scout, her eyes sweeping the view as she goes. She's not taken her eyes off the city since it came into view. She remembers it as a very different place. No matter how many ruined towns they've seen, some of them hit a little harder than others. "How long do you expect we'll stay here?" she asks Tay, although she forgets to look at him. "Enough time to sleep in a bed?" The group's been through a lot on this trip so far— the comfort of an actual bed might just be more soothing than the cots and sleeping bags they have available in the convoy. Leaning over toward Tay, she lowers her voice to ask, "Anything we should be on watch for here?"

“Food, water, gasoline.” Tay answers Nathalie. “Maybe another truck, too, if they do more than just take shit apart. We’re down one, but maybe that ain’t a bad thing either. The Pelago’s gas shortage, though…” He glances around, “this place is makin’ new stuff. Might be the solve.”

Chess follows Nat out of the Humvee, those newly blue eyes scanning the area. She isn’t carrying a bow, so as to seem sociable, but her hands in her pockets hold their own miniature arsenal – a tone in one hand, a handful of ball bearings in the other, warming and cooling as she charges and uncharges them out of nervousness. She doesn’t speak, though she does give Monica a curious look at the mention of dinosaurs.

Elliot’s feet scuff the earth as he wanders from Katie to the forming group of caravaneers. “We may be waiting in line in a murder hole,” he says to no one in particular as he rubs sleep from his eyes, “but at least it’s not way too early in the goddamn morning.” He gives a good faith effort to becoming more wakeful, stretching his neck and cocking his head at the strange acoustics of the artificial canyon.

"Don't even joke about that." Robyn looks a bit bleary eyed as she comes up behind Elliot, having made her way up from Speedwagon not far behind Cat. "Though…" She looks around, at the starkly industrial world around them, at this makeshift world that had been built in the wake of the flood, a frown on her face. "I have concerns myself, so I don't blame you." She pays Tay a glance, crossing her arms as she turns and looks at more of the city. "Wild how people back east have no idea this place even exists."

Zee, meanwhile, leans against the back of the front seat to the Wildcat, having been unable to keep curiosity from spurring her into a more woken state when Des and Edward had started commenting on the city around them. "It's wild how no one back home, or at Delphi knew about this place," she remarks, unknowingly echoing her other self. She turns, draping herself over the space between Edward and Des, careful not to collide with Des while doing so.

"You think we'll be able to get rooms to sleep in for the night? Something nice to eat?" A beat, and she leans back, frowning. "I hope the people here are friendly. That'd be nice. Did either of you ever see Chicago before the flood?" Because Zee definitely didn't, not that she remembers at least.

“More important question,” Richard observes from where he’s leaning up against Wildcat to one side of the window that Destiny’s visible through, one foot up to rest on the thick rubber of the tire, “What do we have to trade?” Sunglasses in place, that old bomber jacket wrapped around him like a suit of armor.

“I’ve been plenty’ve places with neon signs before,” he added, a bit wryly, “They rarely give away anything for free.”

“There’s always labor,” Hart offers, adjusting her messenger bag as she catches up to the group. “Work for a meal. Looks like they have a lot of need for people who are good with their hands. Did you see how many things they were cutting apart on the way in?”

"Chicago was a crossroads," Silas says to Asi. "Just like New York was. Lotta steel mills around here, too… good foundation for a city to come together on," he muses quietly. "'Course, what kind of city…"

Silas trails off, shaking his head and giving a faint grin. "Well. Aside from bein' well put together, I mean… but I guess we get to find that out, don't we?" he snickers, affecting a cheer that he doesn't really feel as he steps past Asi to disembark from Frizzle.

There’s a joke about having either left the murder hole behind in Ohio, or at least having met their quota for the time being, but it’s in too poor taste even for Gracie. That patched coat of hers offers protection from the wind and rain, but only to a point. The hood of it keeps getting tugged back and she’s given up on it staying in place without her having to hold onto it. She’d rather keep her hands shoved into her pockets. She’s sure she looks like the heroine on the cover of a romance novel wherein she’s pitted opposite some Scottish lord or a highwayman — maybe both — with the way her red curls are pulled and whipped around.

At least until the rain dampens them down enough to give the illusion of having tamed them.

There’s a whole host of reasons for the redhead to be trepidatious, but she’s staring at the corpse of the city, reanimated and unrecognizable. It was a shining beacon in the wasteland that she avoided during her previous forays across the mainland, even though she was the moth and this should have been the flame to draw her in. “I’m sure it’s fine,” she says to herself just as much as she does to Quinn and Elliot. “I only saw like two heads mounted on spikes on our way up.” There’s a wry twist to her lips as she glances around to see if anyone else appreciates her particular brand of gallows humor right now. That one isn’t too macabre.

There's a small snort of a laugh from Nadira as she falls in behind Gracie. "We really should not worry unless they have necklaces of human bones, then we know we have a problem," she jokes. The hydrokinetic reaches up, in the process of tying her hair into a neat(ish) ponytail. She muses on the city and its inhabitants, eyes watchful for anything that seems amiss… or anything that strikes her as interesting. With her hair no longer in her eyes, she glances towards their group in general.

"I can work. I am curious how their filtration system is set up, perhaps find a way to speed it up or channel it elsewhere. Barring that, hydraulics are a wonderful aid in heavy labor. If we need volunteers to work for our meals, consider me volunteered."

On Frizzle, Nova watches from within, eyes wide as she cranes her head to try to see as far as she can in each direction. “It’s like something out of a movie,” she says – she, like Des, is widely traveled, but most of that’s been by water, skirting around vast but empty pieces of earth with few residents.

“Hopefully not a horror movie,” Nick replies, also staying inside the bus where he can hold one of the re-homed rifles taken from the victims of the ambush in Ohio. “So far they seem friendly enough, but we’ll see.” He doesn’t sound optimistic, but then he’s seen the true nature of people, and it’s more often bad than good in his experience.

Not far behind the others exiting Katie, Squeaks’ shoes scuff on the ground when she jumps out of the van. Little time is wasted for stretching when she lands, though her arms do stretch upward and her back arches a little bit. And even less time is spent staring in wonderment at what she was able to see from the window. Without saying anything to anyone she slips away, ducking first behind the van so she can slink along the collection of vehicles that makes up the caravan, finally now taking a bunch of seconds to let her eyes wander and look at all of the things.

At some point in her wandering, definitely not too long after she took off from Katie since it happens while everyone else gathers where they will, the teen appears hauling herself bodily up onto Frizzle’s roof. Her feet make light thumping sounds across the roof as she moves from near the back end toward the front end, meandering while she gazes up at the people standing like sentries.

Just above the windshield, Squeaks stops but she doesn’t turn to wander back or get down from her perch. She raises her right hand instead, kind of like she’s waving. Which she is. She’s waving to the sentry people. The redhead makes a slow turn, so she’s facing just one of the four still up higher than she is, and raises her left hand as a fist and taps it against the palm of her right three times with eyebrows raising in hopeful askings. Will you play rock paper scissors?

Stretching his arms behind him as he gets off the bus and moves past Asi, Kendall's gaze sweeps around, riveting on the group there to 'greet them'. After watching for a minute and determining they're not about to immediately attack them, his gaze drifts around the scenery instead. A lake is different from the ocean, but it's still a big body of water, and honestly he's over it. The activity along its shores, however, is much more interesting.

"Lay of the land, huh." Kendall narrows his eyes thoughtfully. Oh yeah. He is definitely going to go snooping around, and they don't even need to see him doing it. Casually, he steps over behind the bus, checks around to make sure no one else is looking, then vanishes from sight. Hopefully there aren't any rules here like at Delphi.

Popping open the passenger side door on Scout, Ryans exits watching everything. Despite the scouting party’s report, his shoulders are tense. The old man doesn't look impressed. He preferred the deck of a ship and wide open seas.

Back in the bus, another Ryans is having a completely different reaction. JR has been scrambling from one side of the bus to the other l, trying to get the best view of… well… everything. Blue eyes go especially wide with wonder as he whispers out a whoa at the sight of the gate doors.

Of course, as soon as the bus stops JR is anxious to scurry to the front and out so he can see without the dirty glass to obscure all this cool stuff.

“This is so cool!” JR crowd out loud as he practically jumps out to the ground.

Marlowe had been a fix-it fiend in the short time following the ambush. Her mechanical repairs, coupled with the assistance of others and a lack of qualms in getting her hands dirty, made sure to get all salvageable vehicles back on the road as soon as was humanly possible, and then some. Some resources were clearly vetoed with much regret (run free, Miss Mony-Pony) but what could be brought along would be stashed throughout for the convoy's future use. In the meantime, Marlowe was no good for conversation, spending most of the drive time in Tinderbox quiet, meditative, resting her eyes, and her ability. Until the alert from Jonathan wakes her to note their escort, she doesn't make much of a peep even as she extracts herself from the makeshift bunk in the backseat. Her eyes grow wide at the sight of the Windy City, and her mouth parts in speechlessness.

Once out of the truck and on solid, unmoving ground again, Marlowe schools her expression to hold back the wonderment and awe. Anybody who knows the woman well enough can tell, though… she's overjoyed. "You said it, Junior, but don't stray too far, alright?" she notes evenly as she passes by JR at a quickened pace, moving to join the others at the front of the group. Splitting the space between Monica and the others from Scout, she settles near the head of their convoy and takes a deep breath. The scent of steel and flame, diesel, grit, fills her nose and the sounds of machinery mirrors the buzz within her. Marlowe's smile twists crookedly, her head tilting. "I heard somewhere that Chicago was supposed to be named after onions," comments the woman in general observation. She smells no onions, but to her what is there is just as sweet.

The sudden bleat of an intercom is startling. Tay flinches, then looks up to a loudspeaker set above the crane-assisted main gates.

«Wayfarers present passes at the gate. Orange-tickets form a queue to the left.»

And as if any of that means anything a handful of the people gathered in the parking pen who didn’t come with the convoy begin separating, removing painted and embossed badges from mismatched lanyards around their necks. Some are bare steel, others have an orange stripe. Those carrying the stripe are dressed like laborers, have heavy tools with them, smaller packs.

«New visitors, proceed inside and follow the yellow-painted line to the fence for processing.»

That announcement is followed by a loud buzz from the intercom and then a whirring groan of the cranes moving into operation. There’s a grinding sound of steel on steel as the slice of bulkhead used as a gate is drawn up from a recession in the ground. Water leaks from gaps in the metal.

«Welcome to New Chicago.» The loudspeaker proclaims.

Tay glances back at the others, one brow kicked up. He notices weapons on some of the inbound visitors; zip guns, hand axes, clubs, basic self-defense. The guards on the catwalks are much better outfitted, military hardware.

“We should find out what their water situation is,” Tay says back to the group, mostly to Nadira. “Might be a way to trade, especially if they’re fuckin’ up the lake with drilling. Pollution might be an issue.”

Cat shifts her weight to one foot as the gate finishes its ascent, resting a hand on her sheathed sword. She glances up at Elliot, looking at him inquisitively for a moment, but then minds her own business as the group is called in.

The people who have been here before line up for badge check. The guards inspect their stamped steel badges with about as much scrutiny as a bouncer checking an ID at a nightclub. Those with the orange stripes are sent up a flight of stairs, following a parallel overhead path that leads toward the coast.

“Workers?” Tay guesses, following them with occasional overhead glances.

The Convoy members who opt to go inside are led by a man in overalls and a winter jacket to follow a yellow-painted line on the concrete about two hundred feet in where they are met with a razorwire-topped chain link fence.

“First-timers get the basic rundown!” The man in overalls shouts, hands cupped around his mouth. “You are guests in the home of Gideon d’Sarthe! It is by his good graces you have the opportunity to rest, to trade, to refuel, and to carry on!”

Cat shoots a glance around the Convoy, looking for any telltale recognition. The name d’Sarthe means nothing to her, but this is a land of coincidences, and there are wayward travelers from far distant shores who may recognize it. That she does see some recognition is vindication.

“If you expect to trade, you will need to be authorized by the trade authority!” The man in the overalls shouts. “You will be issued a trade badge allowing you to sell wares or services in the marketplace!” He holds up a steel badge like some of the others entering had carried. “Head to the Trade Commission to file! It has a bright red flag! You can’t miss it!”

While this man shouts, others on the other side of the fence are unlocking the chain-link gate and pulling both sides open to an already bustling plaza filled with open-air stalls, echoing with music, the bark of animals, and the distinct smell of fried street food.

“You are responsible for your own actions! Fuck around, find out! Laws are not enforced evenly! Don’t cause trouble, you won’t get trouble back! Keep your head down, your eyes up, and welcome to New Chicago!” He finishes his greeting, one it sounds like he’s said numerous times from how little passion there is behind it now.

Up above on the workers’ catwalk, a man in a long, fur-trimmed coat rests against a second story doorway. His hood shadows his features, rain dripping from the trim. He hangs back, and as Tay looks up to follow the workers, they fail to see one-another.

“Fuck around and find out,” Tay muses. “Fun place.”

At least one member of the convoy doesn’t disappoint Cat’s searching look.

“Oh you have got to be fuckin’ kidding me,” Richard exhales with a brief, helpless chuff of laughter, one hand coming up to rub over his face, “Of course. Of course that sonuvabitch is in charge…”

He looks up at the man in overalls, murmuring to those closest whether they get the reference or not, “Could be worse. At least it’s not John Logan.”

"Gideon d'Sarthe. Figures…" Robyn frowns as she crosses her arms, shaking her head as she takes a few more steps forward, towards Cat and Tay. "Gideon d'Sarthe, at least where I come from, is a reputed modern mobster," she notes in a low voice. "So it's in our best interest to follow whatever rules there are here rather closely." She looks up at the loudspeaker, eyes searching around for anything or anyone else noteworthy.

"Hard to say how this has tempered him, but I have seen how he can help a community flourish, even if it's through underhanded means. I think we'll be fine. Things certainly seem rather organised if nothing else." Oddly enough, she seems a bit more relieved than she was a moment ago, as if hearing Gideon's name puts her at a strange sense of ease.

A hand moves to her chin, a sly, extremely unserious smile forming on her face. "I wonder if Marie's here," she questions to the open air, before letting out a small laugh. Certainly a joke she has no intention of following through on.

"This place sounds cheery," Zee grumbles, looking between Des and Edward for any further thoughts. "Ah well… I guess we can't complain." She sits up a bit, shifting back so that her elbows prop against the back of the front seat. "I should make sure Kendall isn't causing trouble."

Which brings a brief flash of nervousness to her face before it passes. "Any idea what those of us who aren't trading should do? Just… stay put, in the cars until we have some place to go? I don't really want to wander too far."

Spades manifests at the Wildcat's front passenger door, rapping a knuckle at the window. His opinion manifests in saying through the glass, "I'm off to see what passes for a hot meal around here. Any takers?" He glances between the passengers. "Bound to be at least something inventive cooking on a gas burner out here."

“Well, shit, it almost sounded like we were at Disneyland there for a second, orange ticket queue and all,” Chess murmurs wryly to those by Scout. “Also this city gets up way too fucking early for the Apocalypse. You’d think the benefit would be at least sleeping in a little.”

The name D’Sarthe draws up a brow – she knows who he is but she’s never had reason to meet him. “Guess he’s the wizard, then. Not too surprising, from what I hear.”

She huffs a short laugh at Tay’s comment. “You don’t usually get that honest of a description of a place from its welcome wagon. Kinda admire the honesty, even if the admission of not having an actual equitable justice system might be bad optics.”

Her blue-eyed gaze scans the orange-striped laborers and then the plain-badged ‘wayfarers.’ “How long are we staying? We might be able to trade the bikes for something.”

Guess there are rules after all. And it seems like it's probably best if Kendall did, in fact, get one of those passes, otherwise he'd probably have to spend the entire time in hiding. Annoyed, he reappears from wherever he had tried going off to and heads for the gate, looking at the others to gauge their reactions. A barely overheard mention of 'mobster' catches his attention, and he looks over at Lowe speculatively. She's not that far off from it herself, right? Maybe not 'crime' per se, but… guess this Gideon guy shouldn't be messed with here.

There is something in Monica's psyche that reacts to warnings of this kind with the immediate urge to both fuck around and also find out. For the pirate and free spirit, this welcome has her hackles all the way up. That irritation brings her attention back into sharp focus, eyes on everything, cataloging as much as she can take in. For the sake of the group, she behaves herself, but her discomfort is clear. In a minute she might start hissing like a cat.

Badges and lines and processing don't sound good to Nathalie, either. She gives Tay a nod as far as what they should look to be getting for the trip ahead, but she opts not to speak as they go through their own special welcome. She's seen worse, but also has seen much better. But in a post-apocalypse, it seems inevitable that some sort of Immortan Joe overlord type set himself up. It's probably best for the city's stability that they're not sticking around for very long.

"What the fuck," Elliot says quietly, appearing more annoyed than anything. Maybe there's an apocalyptic timeline where everything isn't run by some sort of Mafia, but at this point he'd be surprised to find it. He works his jaw and he swallows repeatedly, then snaps his fingers next to his ear sharply. The frustration remains, whatever he was trying to accomplish with the behaviors not having panned out. As the gates open into the market he scans the convoy for Squeaks and beckons her over with a tilt of his head.

Squeaks abandoning all efforts to make friends with the people charged with keeping order — or whatever they’re doing, maybe they’re just statues made to look like people — and turns squinting eyes to the intercom sound. Her hands flap against her sides with a huff, not really sure what to make of the names being dropped but mildly blasé toward the rules and warnings. It’s the same anywhere, and it should really just be shortened to that much.

Folding her arms against the small of her back, Squeaks looks around at the people all starting to peel off toward the gates. For a second, probably at least until she notices Elliot’s motions, she watches the process. She tips her chin up as a reply that she saw him, and makes short work of climbing off the roof of the bus. In just another few ticks, the teen finds her way through the group and falls in beside Elliot, looking very much like she’d been there the whole time.

Asi frowns at the announcement that rings out, sighing as she looks back to who remains on the bus. Between the lot of them, there'd be someone to watch their goods– their lives they carry with them on their metaphorical backs. She eventually dips her head, and announces, "I'm heading out, too. Be back with news." and clambers down the stairs to follow after Silas, relying on mundane senses only as she melds in with the group. She feels naked with her sword left behind on the bus, and tries not to telegraph the comfort she at least takes from the knife tucked into her clothing.

After the announcement, Captain Ryans glances about for the queen of the Pelago and moves to join her. He gives a nod to Monica before addressing Marlowe quietly, “This is quite the set up.” It was impressive. A part of him felt they could learn from it. “Think it might be worth asking for an audience with d’Sarthe?”

Meanwhile, the youngest Ryans suddenly appears at Chess’ side. “This place is huge. I wonder what is on the other side of the fence. What do you think they eat?” He seems excited to find out, but rules.

After a beat, JR suddenly asks, looking down at Chess. “What's Disneyland? That a city too? You go there?” It is such a serious inquiry.

“It’s where parents take their kids to soften news of the divorce,” Gracie responds out of the side of her mouth almost reflexively. Her head turns JR’s direction, but her eyes stay on the forming line and the gates beyond, distracted as the ground rules are laid out to the visitors. News of who’s in charge has her brows furrowing in confusion, and much like Cat, glancing around to gauge the reactions of others.

The rapping knuckles on her window startle Destiny to sit up straight in her seat, head turning sharply to see who’s catching their attention. A big smile replaces the surprise quickly. “I’m definitely heading in,” she tells Zee over her shoulder as she reaches to unlatch her door and push it open. She disembarks with Spades’ assistance, keeping a tight hold on his hand even once she’s got her feet firmly planted. She’s excited. There should be good potential for establishing trade here. Not just with New Chicago, but wherever others who have come to trade here are from, too.

Marlowe's initial enthusiasm suddenly dampens as the overall-wearing man acting immigrations officer starts the welcome with naming their host. Introspection begins at bright red flag. Reaching out with a hand to place on Monica's shoulder, it's meant to reassure and soothe, and likely achieving neither, at least acknowledge. "Did I sound like that back home?" she asks skeptically. A short nod from her shows she agrees with Ryans on securing a possible audience with d'Sarthe, and she moves to secure the large duffel of her tools on her back.

"Disneyland was just about as big as the Pelago, people-wise," Marlowe offers more contextually to JR, giving Gracie a side-eye. "Brought together by a man with a love of trains and sharp business acumen. Anyway. Tell you more. After we get something hot to eat."

Gideon d'Sarthe is a name that adds another layer of sourness to Silas's general unease; another ghost he hasn't met. Redd had found employment with the d'Sarthe Group, which does not paint the rosiest picture of the man.

On the other hand… as much as he's been urging others not to judge people by their other selves, it'd hardly be fair to start doing it himself. Keep an open mind, he admonishes himself. But keep your eyes open, too. The PA's spelled things out pretty clearly, and from it, a few inferences can be made — d'Sarthe, it seems, most likely doesn't put a lot of stock in fairness, and is likely much more interested in making sure the trains are running on time, with minimum fuss. Tread carefully. Something else is nagging him, too, but he can't quite put his finger on it. Something about the oil rigs they'd seen out on the lake on the way in.

Well, whatever it is, it'll come to him. He starts to turn back to tell the others he's heading out, but Asi's got that one covered, it seems; he gives a faint grin in her direction before turning his attention back to the city ahead, with its queue lines and processing and… whatever else it is New Chicago might have in store.

Looking quite good for someone who nearly died, Castle hangs back near Chess, keeping a close eye on everything around them, ready for the slightest sign that they need extra time to escape. They don’t intend to get caught unawares again. There are so many questions they want to ask, but— they will let those more in charge of the convoy do the talking— while they watch the ones doing the talking on the other side. And those not doing the talking, especially.

Back near the back, Stef unloads a few belongings with her, items she has not allowed to leave her possession, except for the time when she wasn’t really herself, and pulls the backpack up against her back, looking from under the veil of dark hair at the lights. “Interesting, never thought we’d see bright lights and a big city in the middle of all this,” she whispers softly, voices husky and deep, almost tired. Her pale blue eyes shift toward Asi, as if asking a question of the woman, and getting an answer without even needing to ask it out loud just by looking at her, but that’s not what she addresses.

She addresses the fear and worries that rise up around her. “Everything becomes symbol and irony when you’ve been betrayed.”

It sounds like a quote.

With a soft sigh, Tay turns around and looks at the group. He pulls up his walkie, speaking to both the crowd and those still on the vehicles. “Forty-eight hours, then we reconvene at the vehicles. This might be our last chance at a hot meal and a warm bed, so take it or leave it. Anyone who ain’t at the vehicles at sun-up in forty-eight hours gets left behind.”

Tay lowers his radio, then looks over at Spades and the small group forming around him. “Count me in for a drink,” he says with a nod, turning to face the bustling marketplace of New Chicago. It may smell of gasoline and sweat, but in a way that also feels like home.

As the group makes their way through the chain-link cages, the man in the fur-trimmed jacket watches them depart, working his jaw open and closed, trying to abate the tinnitus ring that will not go away. It does no such thing. Instead, it moves, following the group.

Following the impossibility he sees in them. Lowering his hood, the man in the fur-lined jacket narrows his eyes and wipes rain from his brow.

“What the fuck.”


A Short Time Later

d'Sarthe Administrative Building
New Chicago Waterfront

Within old brick walls and behind tall windows of grimy glass, the offices of Gideon d'Sarthe maintain a veneer of old-world. Potted ferns flank windows framed in patterned drapery. Music plays on an old record player, lilting notes of Van Morrison rising into the air. Moondance shuffles along at a languid pace amid the click and clack of typewriters, where a half-dozen young men and women in pressed shirts and tidy vests hand file trade reports. These clerks work under a haze of cigarette smoke wafting from the desk of the shipping overseer, smoking a cigar while reviewing hand-written reports from the security team.

"Huh." The Overseer says, plucking his cigar from his mouth. "Gas truck?" He mumbles to himself, turning in his high-backed swiveling chair to the windows at his back that overlook the marketplace. He is half-lit by neon signs burning outside and uses the heel of his palm to rub away grimy condensation from the windows. Most of the vehicles are hard to make out at this distance, but the school bus pops in canary yellow against the brown and gray.

"Hey uh," the Overseer mumbles, picking his cigarette back up from the ash tray. "Looks like we had a fucking convoy come in."

The person he's speaking to only pays him partial attention from their desk, finishing their own review of an important document. The Overseer raises his brow, as if expecting them to hear the expression. They, understandably, don't.

"Let me take care of that." The Overseer insists, stepping over to the administrator's desk, pressing down the files with two fingers so they can make eye contact. "You should go do what you do, mingle. Invite some of them up here, see what they're about. Give 'em the works."

The Administrator tilts their head to the side, imperceptibly raising one brow at the request.

"And uh," the Overseer continues. "I'll go let the Big Boss know what just rolled in." He flashes the Administrator a smile. "Teamwork."

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