Act One: Burnt Offerings to a Dead God "I don't fuckin' care what you have to do," the shrill voice of a slaver chimed through the grime coated receiver of the radio terminal. It might have been the catch for the season or the stress involved toward its upkeep, but the warden sounded pissed. "When Shamu don't get fed she gets Cranky, and I'm not keen on having three tons of meat knocking on my door looking for its next meal. Get the ol' bag her dinner or I'm going to pitch you and your boys in the stadium come the next event." "Sure thing boss..." The radio crackled back broken and almost indistinguishable. The fuses would probably have to be checked again but now was hardly the time for it. As the warden hung up the receiver he ran a hand through his matted hair and eyed the numbers on his ledger. Twenty seven new bodies had come in which set the grand total to two hundred and thirteen. Even with generous figures, the overhead costs associated with that kind of figure were more than could be supported with the resources on hand. While the warden was no stranger to conducting miracles, there were limits to even his resourcefulness. Even with the recent staffing from the "Ticks" chapter outside Pleasanton, the current staffing of guards was set at a ten to one ratio. Normally some rifles and an especially bulked out raider would keep things peaceful but at this rate it was getting too packed. If things kept up this way, there would need to be a purge in order to keep down reckless behavior. Examples made to keep the new blood pacified. The warden spun in his chair to face away from his desk and stared out the smoke tinted patch job of his office window. The glass was warped but clear enough to make the kingdom of which he had forged himself since setting up in the Texas Commonwealth. Rails of iron and steel crisscrossed patterns along the sun bleached remains of an amusement park gone sour. Tanks which would have once held water years before had been cleared of debris and surrounded by walls of scrap metal salvaged from ruined constructs scattered about the grounds. According to the pamphlets that weren't burned beyond recognition, this place was once a haven that families would bring their kids to gawk at performing fish. Not all that different from its current state if you took the time to think about it. The tanks get stocked with meat, said meat attracts a customer basis and said customers enjoy family fun entertainment for a small fee. It was a little slice of Paradise cut from the ashes of a bygone world. Sea World. Rather than sporting fancy flipping fish, the tanks of today held more appropriate livestock. The chapter thought he had lost it when he decided to place roots down here. Lacking any semblance of high ground and being centrally located, the park served as little more than an eyesore of prewar architecture. The water and its livestock had all been vaporized in the initial bombardment, leaving nothing but huge tanks dug into the ground. What was still standing was either nothing of value or had long since been raided by wandering parties. Where the rest of the gang saw nothing, the Warden saw potential. If nothing of value could be salvaged from the ruins, then he'd just have to bring something here. As it served, the tanks made perfect cages. The smoothed out cement of the tanks made for almost impossible climbing surfaces and outfitting them with a basic wall and roaming guards completed the effect. Stocking the tanks was child's play. Turning over some of the shit holes these Texans called towns would yield enough supplies to cover food, water ammunition and most importantly livestock. However as the grounds expanded and the tanks found themselves more and more packed, The warden found himself at a bit of an impasse. His empire was suffocating. The chime of the Warden's Radio pulled him from his thoughts, "Boss," a different voice than the whipped lackey from before sounded over the transmitter; "The spectators are filling up the seats over here. If you're still planning on introducing this I'd start making your way down." The warden turned to his desk and lifted the receiver from the unit. "I'm on my way." he mentioned with a cold tone that crackled into the beaten system. Hanging up the voice piece the warden calmly exited his office and made his way across the remains of the park. He didn't often get his hands dirty these days, so walking the grounds was his only real means of gauging productivity as the days went by. As the warden left the building, he passed along several rows of boxed plywood that had been converted into above ground planters. In this end of the wasteland, growing anything at all was just shy of lunacy unless it was constantly watched and tended to. Using ground soil was a joke and even "good" soil had to be chemically treated to yield any results. Luckily the park happened to have plenty of spare hands to tend to remedial tasks. As the warden passed along, he eyed several dozen chained hands tending the crops diligently while held at gunpoint. He smiled as he cleared the fields and crossed into the stadium. In the early years, doing anything that even considered this level of growth would have been little more than a wet dream. While gated, Sea World sat in the middle of a valley and was a complete nightmare from a tactical stand point. The grounds were too far spread out and defending the location took nothing short of too many guns and raw man power. Yet another one of countless reasons that long term sustainment of the site seemed unrealistic in the beginning. Truth be told plans had been set in motion to abandon the location and leave the livestock to rot in search for new digs. It would have been a near crippling loss for the chapter, but as it stood it didn't look as if there was much else of an option. Without a means to defend the ground, growth became a damning catch 22. Too much would attract attention and bring along larger raiding parties against them. Too little would mean risking burning out. The only alternative would be if the property could not be defended, it would have to be made so that no one would want to attack it in the first place. An impossible endeavor in the post-apocalyptic wastes of central Texas. It was only after a blessing in disguise fell into the warden's lap that things finally began to turn around. After that it only took some lessons in marketing. And you know how Wastelanders can be such saps... The warden slowly made his way onto the elevated platform that overlooked the stadium and light bore down onto his face. At one time, the walkway was designed for an announcer to call out to their audience and announce the jest of one’s performance. Staying true to the business applications of the old world, the warden continued its use. As he stepped to the edge of the platform the crowd erupted into a wave of overjoyed cheers. Every seat in the rafters was packed and several more were forced to stand along the stairwells. This would be a profitable evening indeed. A crooked grin crossed his mouth as one of the raiders in his chapter handed him the jury rigged remnants of a prewar megaphone. The handle of the device was duct taped into place and its power supply was converted from electron charge packs. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job. "Good evening San Antonio!" The warden's voice echoed along the rafters and was answered back by a wave of cheers. "Welcome to Sea World! We have a wonderful show planned for you tonight." As the warden riled up the crowed into a maddened frenzy, the silhouettes of no less than twenty bodies were corralled into the pit of the arena. Unlike the men and women tending to the life source of boxed vegetation, these prisoners were unshackled. Another difference from the bound farmers was the condition of this livestock. From the stands you could see the lot was all men, fit and healthy. These were clearly not slaves of service. As the moved, two slavers with Chinese assault rifles marched them into the center of the pit before falling back to the crew entrance of the arena floor. As the slavers made their exit, a manufactured wall of spikes cut from rebar sealed off the area. Despite being bound in muscle and clearly hardened from the wasteland, it didn't take an expert to understand that these men were scared. "Tonight's show will be brought to you by Rotgut!" the warden continued from his throne atop the rafters. "When you have to drink something and absolutely don't care what it is, Try Rotgut! Bringing your attention to the center of the stage, are warriors of The Corpse!" The name of the province cued a barrage of cheers from the crowd, "Battle hardened by that radioactive strip of hell they stand here tonight to face off for your amusement against the champion you know and love. Let’s give it up for our challengers!" Another cheer echoed through the stadium as the warden continued. "And now the moment you've all been waiting for..." A slow pause was added for effect as the crowd went silent. "In the Red corner of the arena painted by the blood of her foes. Weighing in at five thousand, three hundred and fifteen pounds. You know her, you love her! Let’s give it up for.... SHAMU!" Like a cue, the champions name erupted the crowd into a near riot. At the far end of the stadium, bathed in an off color tone of red sat a huge gate cast from steel I beams. A single guard stood above it separated off from the crowd with four diesel generators. One by one he made his way along them and cranked them into operation, releasing an echoing hum of sound from the blood drenched section of the arena. As the units chimed to life, the massive bulk of the gate slowly lifted itself above the arena floor. As the gate shifted, a blackened passage could be seen from the stands that echoed the booming growls of an angry God. As the shadows of the passage gave way to figure, the warriors of the corpse found themselves pale in the face of hopelessness. The warden smiled from the stands as he watched the carnage take place below him. Shamu was his blessing. What began as a strand of the worst luck occurred following the hell of a Texas dust storm. Winds that could rip a man from his feet tore through the compound as the slavers within it took what little solace they could from the park's few concrete structures. Entire sections of wall were flattened and lethal debris was swept across the grounds with violent breath. As if the night couldn't get any worse, a hulking silhouette moved through the storm as if she owned it. Finding the tanks of livestock battered by winds, the creature gorged itself on the flesh of the imprisoned. Perhaps it was luck, if not for them the beast might have been more apt to come after the Warden and his Men. Whatever the reason, as the chapter weathered the storm, they arose the morning after to the battered wreckage of their camp. At its center, lay the unconscious heap of a behemoth wrapped in electrified fencing. At some point through the night and possibly made blind from the chaos of the storm, the beast managed to come into contact with a stretch of electric fencing. Rather than keep its distance from the device, pain angered the giant of a creature. When the current of the fence refused to let up, the beast attacked her wire opponent and found herself tangled in its embrace. Both generators had been blown from the surge and were left as little more than smoldering ruin. An irony of which was not lost on the Warden. Somehow, his chapter had stared death in the face and managed to survive. Some of the members called it an omen. The Warden called it his Pet. ******************************************************************************** The sounds of the arena continued to bleed over the horizon, resulting in the hail of screams and broken bones. The sounds of the crowd mixed with the eerie calm of the evening air, giving the entire display a surreal tone. To the others in the tank, they knew that it would not be long before they too graced the surface of the stadium walls. As the party kept up their jaded charade of playing smuggled cards and pitching one liners, many of the fellow prisoners looked upon them with glares. All it would take was one wrong gaze by a guard. Just one cue that the lot was a threat to keeping the dreary mood of the tanks and it was allover. This wasn't your average slaver pit, and it was clear that the other inmates did not approve of the light hearted disregard for how dismal the situation was. "Bones..." The voice of an man called out from behind the gate, too far out for the inmates to see it's source,"We got another one, picked him up on the 105. Made a bit of a fuss on the way. You got room in that hole?" The hulking frame of the guard who responded before shouldered his rifle and turned to the sound of the voice. Sounds of chuckling echoed from his body as he stepped out of sight. "Well look at this one..." his voice sounded out, "We a fucking old folks home now? You say this one gave you trouble?" "Yeah, started a shoot out and jumped Bolo when the fucker ran out of ammo. Knocked out a few of his teeth and buttered up his face pretty good." The guard called bones cackled out once more at that, "No shit... We'll have to give him some shit for being shown up by as tiff. Welcome home old man, Hope you enjoy your stay." The sound of a man spitting echoed from the edge of the tank followed by the grunt of disgust by the voice of the guards. The sounds of force on flesh rang out, possibly a knee to the inmate's face. Perhaps the butt of a rifle, it wasn't clear. After the tangle subsided Bones' silhouette shuffled back into sight through the boards of the makeshift wall, dragging a grey haired man by his beard. In a practiced motion the gate was opened and the battered prisoner was chucked into the tank, landing hard on his shoulder. His cheek was torn open on the left side and one of his eyes swollen shut. From how the man landed on the shoulder, it was clear that the arm had likely been dislocated before he had gotten there. Flashy Injuries that look a lot worse than they sometimes are. Bones laughed out like a hyena as he closed the gate behind the man and continued his patrol around the tank. The grey man spit once more a mouth full of blood onto the cement grounds of his cell and lifted himself onto his good arm. Leaning up onto his knees he tried to brace the remains of his dislocated limb beneath one of his shins and pull it into place. His bloodied face winced in response to the action. Dislocations are funny things. They're loud with they happen and louder still when they're reset. While not overly serious, they hurt something wicked. As the man pulled against his arm, no semblance of pop echoed out. It might have been the angle of the leverage, but for whatever reason the limb did not set itself. Gritting his teeth and closing his eyes, he pulled at it again. If he was going to get out of here, he'd need full function of his body.