Tales from the Wal
"The Walscape stretches out beneath me, but I know I'll never travel those departments. Unless the Rafters are satisfied with my storytelling and return me home before the pigeons come back, I will only be visiting one more aisle. The one directly below. May Sam have mercy. Cleanup in Aisle 57A-2143." --Caleb the Discounted, Infestation Attestation Dissertation
Below is collected much of the varied writefaggotry inspired by the Walmart Apocalypse setting.
No one knows what year it is. The calendars have all been stuck on 2032 for as long as anyone can remember - probably a virus.
This much is certain; whenever a business fell, Wal-Mart was there to replace them. The Detroit auto industry was first, replaced with WalMotor. Then came Walton Electronics. Wal-Volt power. The Wal Apartments. Wal State University. Somewhere amid all that, the governments of earth began to fall - no one really noticed. The Wal was everywhere by then. The Wal was everything.
400 feet in the air, the white girders of the ceiling gleam above. A flicker of movement catches your eye - one of the top-dwellers. You've never understood what they see in living up there - oh, sure, there's less stockers, but it makes it hell to make supply runs. You've got your Rascal out, hot-wired, of course, with the half-back cart and the locator chip fried, and you're on the way to the electronics department. You just hope that none of the other departments have declared Sport on them this week - you don't think you could handle that. Oh, sure, you've got your own Sporting good at your side - a nice little sawed-off model. But you're low on ammo, and you just don't have the barter for more right now - not since the latest Nevergrow incursion.
That's when you hear the telltale beeping behind you. Gunning the engine, you tear off into the distance, as the monolith with the smiley face roars after you.
>SHOPLIFTER. ACQUIRE. RESTRAIN. ACQUIRE. RESTRAIN.
You run off a string of curses that would make Saint Sam keel over with rage, and dart down one of the aisles for housewares - rugs. Rugs everywhere. Figures that they'd restock THIS section today - winter is nowhere nearby, no one needs rugs! And worse, there's nothing you can use to get the stocker off your derrière. You're not going to end up a greeter... not today. Pulling a bootlegger turn, you skid back into the aisle, hoping that the move will shake the stocker off of your ass. It doesn't, but it might have slowed it a little bit.
With no other recourse, you load your Sporting good, aiming for a tire. It blows out - the thing has five more, but the front corner's dragging. You've got a chance. Snapping the overboost, you manage to get across the department line - the stocker comes to a shuddering halt. This isn't its section. It radios off for another one to find you - that'll take a good long while. They're not too organized around here, and the Elecs have taken apart most of them for spare bits. You manage a brief victory cheer... before your Rascal crawls to a halt. Shit... out of juice. One more thing to barter for...
It's cold here. Not frigid, but the AC is always too high. The Elecs like it that way. They say the colds good for the rigs. You have no idea if that's true or not, but you figure it's more pleasant to lug stuff around in the cool, rather than the unconditioned heat of the auto center.
As you draw closer to the Elec zone, you can't help but notice that there are entire swaths of shelf that are missing. It's only when you round the corner to the Elec Shrine of Commerce that you see why.
They've harvested the -shelves-. There's an enormous structure, stretching into the air, boxy and dense. Crackling and hissing noises escape it, and you can see a few Elecs running around, carrying bits. You can't believe the stockers are letting them get away with this - then again, they've probably harvested the stockers, too. No wonder the other departments have been declaring Sport on them... they're intimidated. As you stare, you feel a thump on your back.
"Got the barter?" You unsling your pack, and dump the contents on the ground.
"Fuses, plugs, and 10W40."
"Good man!" The old timer crackles with laughter, his long blue vest-coat bending in entirely unnatural ways as he bends over to scoop up the gear. Must be the way it's stitched. "Come on in. We've got your stuff ready for you. Gonna need a jump for your ride?"
"Ya. How'd you know?"
"Security feed." You nod. A few of your guys have tried plugging into the camera feeds before - it works, just not too well, and always goes dead after a few days. As he ushers you into the building, your jaw drops. You're staring at something made from three stocker hulls, the Smiling faces ripped off, and extra junk Stik-Walded onto the side. The front is what really strikes you, though - it looks like it's carrying the biggest Sporting good you've ever seen. You've seen nevergrow arms that were smaller - and those just shoot big balls-
"You're not one of those guys from the Path of the Smiling One, are ya?"
"Huh? No." You return your attention to the old fellow.
"Good. I know they'd throw a fit. Here you go. Six stock guns - with the chargers. Just point at the shelf, click, and hit your number. You've got about two months before the system realizes that it's not a stocker command. More if you use `em sparingly."
"And... a jump cell. Good luck." You nod, about to head out, and then turn back to him.
"Hey. Why did you let me see that thing? Isn't this-"
"Kid, Auto's the one department we haven't had any problems with. I figure this will keep it that way. Now shoo." You do so, silently glad for the logic by which these guys operate. If you'd been in produce... you shudder.
I've lived my entire life without having to go into a Restroom. I've met people who have: usually have acid burns on them, often smelling of some unidentifiable substance. We would avoid them entirely, but the sinks are a reliable source of water, given that the water fountains are too open to be of use (except to those roving merc bands) and we like to have the soap for some semblance of hygiene.
They tell of labyrinthine halls lined with stalls, patrolled by Cleaners. They fight an endless battle against filth, but they don't realize that they'll never win: the toilets all backed up long ago, and the combined cleaning agents and years of human waste have formed the most horrific slurry imaginable. The guys who go in their always wear masks boots, both of which they change every time.
You'd never catch me anywhere near one of those hell-mazes.
The Disciple of GregEdit
Greg let out a small sigh and adjusted his terry cloth bathrobe, searching the pockets for his method of payment. Just a small payment for his supplies in the form of a trinket. Watches and a flashlight that one could wind up to charge.
"No no.. Sir. Take them. You've done so much for us already. If it weren't for your warning, we'd all have died. No one wants to help our department."
Greg looked up at the much younger man before him and smiled. He wasn't shocked. Who had use for writing materials anymore? He was their most frequent customer. Cataloging the activities of the associates took a lot of paper and a lot of ink. His long association with them had left him feeling he had the duty to warn them of the yearly 'Back to School Sale'. They evacuated their homes just in time to avoid being crushed under the feet of redecoration and stocking.
"Here.." He handed over the watches, "I don't need more than one. Knowing what time it is will keep your people safer than anything else. Just stay out from under the feet of the Stockers." He coughed a bit and leaned heavily on his hockey stick. Not even he was old enough to remember what the hell hockey was, but it was useful for those times he felt unsteady.
The boy looked at him in worry. Greg smiled back and waved him off, "I'm fine.. just old."
"If only this were pharmacy instead! I'd be glad to give you something for that cough."
Greg let out a laugh and patted the boy on the shoulder, "You're a good boy. Thank you. I wish your people could have a more vibrate department, but we all have to deal with the lots we get in life." Another pat before he stuffed the collection of wide ruled notebooks and pens under his arm and headed off. He had so much to do still. So much to still figure out about their world. He'd wasted his youth just getting a grasp on the basic workings of this place. He wasn't about to stop now.
The task was daunting though. He was one of few to know how truly massive The Wal was. He'd walked up and down it in his lifetime. So little time left though.. it made his old body feel all the heavier.
He stopped suddenly.. and peered over his shoulder. A hand stroked his beard in thought. "BOY!" He called. The teenager startled and came over to him, "Forget something, sir? You can have your pick. Nobody else wants all this stuff."
He shook his head and turned around, "No no. How would you like to come with me?" He took the boy's hesitation to answer as a sign he was receptive to the idea even without hearing the details. So Greg continued, "I could teach you. Teach you how to read The Wal. I could teach you that which I spent a lifetime gaining. The ebb and flow here. It's hard work.. and dangerous. You can't be seen by the Stockers but must still be so near them. You'll never want for anything though. Not ever again. Many will trade a kings ransom for what I know.. and what you could know."
The boy looked at him dumbfounded.. "Well..." The old man smiled and added, "Maybe even share your wealth with your home. It would be good trade. You'd live good lives.."
"...I.. Uh... J.. Just let me get a few things first!"
The boy ran off in a hurry. An apprenticeship with the great Sage Greggory! How could he refuse?
Foundation of TyrannyEdit
No one goes to Health & Beauty unless they have to...
Sure, it sounds like a bonanza. Bandages, medicine, tampons, everything you need to keep you going just a little bit longer in this fluorescent purgatory. And soap... goddamn, most of us would kill for the chance to wash our dark places once in awhile.
But H&B's, they're... unpredictable sometimes. Half of 'em are strung out on aspirin, mouthwash, diet pills, and certain more palatable brands of shampoo. They rummage in the makeup aisles, painting and sculpting themselves in the image of the advertising placards they adore. Sometimes you can trade with them, but you never know when mascara-streaked eyes might fall upon you in judgment, and decide you need a...
A Sample of FortuneEdit
Shit! This is bad. You check your Sporting Good for the third time, still out of ammo. Your Rascal lies in a heap not two aisles away mixed with the remains of a stocker - why'd you have to run into one in Foods of all places?!?
The cold humming of the fridges accompany you down the aisle masking any sounds near you. Another stocker could be anywhere around here and you need cover now. Suddenly as you pass an Intersection a huge shadow blocks the lights above. You mutter quick prayer to The Great Sam and close your eyes as a huge metal hand reaches down toward you...
>TRY THIS WAL-MART BRAND CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS SIR OR MADAM! REMEMBER - ITS WAL-LICKING GOOD!
You open your eyes in shock! A legendary sample boy! The huge stocker is clothed in a gigantic apron and plastic hat, is seems insistent on you taking a plate stacked high with meat and potatoes. Quickly you grab the plate and scarf down the filling meal trying to smile and keep the stocker in your sight the whole time. >WAS IT GOOD? "Yes," You tell the metal monster, putting the plastic plate in your pack. Do you think... I could have... one more?" Suddenly the stocker stands up strait is red eyes flashing, >ONLY ONE SAMPLE PER PERSON! The things huge spatula slams down right next to you as you start to make a run for it...
Word around WalBurger is that the Smilers finally did it.
No, not that damned smiling monolith of theirs. No one cares about their freakish shrines. No, I'll tell you what does matter - Eye Dee.
Yeah, that shut you up, eh? There's a rumor goin' around that one of their head priests may have finally located one of the damn things. That's news, big news. Could you imagine what those madmen would do? This may be our last days before we end up packed into a giant Smiling Face! Somebody better stop them before they learn to use it, or we're doomed.
Past the doors were a massive open space, I could hardly believe it. The lights were an odd shade of blue, and there was dirt, DIRT, just spread over thick everywhere, up too a couple feet in some places.
I had heard of this place, but only in rumors: Landscaping and Gardening.
Only a few feet past the door, the floors, the walls, all covered in thick greenery. Everything from grass, to bushes, to every color of flower I had seen in magazines, and then some, even a few short trees. Produce had been looking for this place since as long as I could remember, if I could barter the location, I could very well be a rich man for simply having been there.
I heard rustling in the bushes then. Of course, along with the rumors of Landscaping and Gardening, there were just as many rumors of The Gardeners themselves, who'd take people away for fertilizer. I used to discard the stories as fabrication, but I didn't risk staying there another second.
The Truth of the CakeEdit
I finally held one in my hand.
For years, decades probably, I could remember the yearly restocking for the festival of the Green Tree and the Red Man. The songs will forever ring within my mind, but I distinctly remember The Cake. We lived in an unstocked shelf near the clan of the Mark of Hall (Which was filled with kind, neighborly people who always seemed to know the best thing to say).
During the festival of the Tree and Man, they would get new pictures in their section, and many, many of them referenced The Cake. While I couldn't read what the pictures said (Almost nobody can read nowadays), the few elders who could said that the Cake was mocked and ridiculed. However, even as a child, I could see the glisten of sugar, fruit, and more inside a Cake just from the pictures, and I vowed I would one day taste such a delicacy for myself.
Shortly after the restock for the festival of the Tree and Man, I found traces of the Cake; Broken-open containers bearing pictures of the pieces of fruit used to make the Cake (Perhaps they are still used for this. All I know is that Cooking and Houseware has used their ovens for...unspeakable things). I followed the trail, and managed to catch a band of Nevergrows unaware before they were able to rip open the last of a package of the long-sought Cake!
Holding my breath, I stumbled into the sticky abode of a Restroom to wash my mouth out, to banish the foul taste. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that the Cake was a terrible lie, rightly mocked by the unseen makers of the pictures the clan of the Mark of Hall showed me long, long ago.
I had just managed to wave my arms under the surprisingly clean tap and get a single gulp of water when a noise boomed out.
"CLEANUP REQUESTED IN RESTROOM AB45-SECTION 567!"
I looked up suddenly, and saw a gently pulsing glow above a freshly-thrown switch, and a single sneering face I recognized as one of the accursed Nevergrows disappear back behind the corner. However, I had little time to dwell on that, for I could quickly hear the whirr of a custodial-bot approaching...
You've been out of ammo for your sport for days. You don't have the barter to buy more ammo and even if you did it wouldn't matter worth a damn. You shouldn't have come here, you shouldn't have let the taunts of your friends get to you. You should've born their taunts and listened to your elders. You were warned, you knew this would be your doom, Topdweller.
You've been stranded at the top of a shelf, all your grapple lines are cut and the gutted carcass of one of your foes lays just a few feet away. They thought they could starve you out. They thought they could force you to play their game.
They were wrong, you've been eating the little monsters for days. They throw themselves at you in waves, or they wait until you're asleep and try to get you then, a pair of them even dressed up in the skin of a dead woman and tried to entice you. You killed them all with your sport.
Now you're down to the climbing the blades and claws sewn onto your boots and the grappling hook and chain you keep in your ruck sack.
Your climbing gloves and boots, your climbing chain and grappling hook, all of these weapons pale in comparison to your hate. You hate the NeverGrow and there's nothing you'd like more than to see every single one of them destroyed. The days pass by and one particularly inventive group tries to convince you that they're a search party from Auto.
The fact that one of them can't stop making "VROOOOOOOOM!" noises spoils it. You play along with it for awhile, one of them gets close enough and you snag him with your grappling hook. You pull him in, kicking and screaming all the way and you fall upon him tooth and claw, you slice him open and throw him over the side. The nevergrow respond by shooting at you with a small sport.
The bullets punch through the shelf and you cling to the metal, snaking along and cursing the great Sam for this hell he has created. You hope the bullets strike you so that this hell will end, and at the same time you yearn for one more day.
Eventually they run out of bullets, by the grace of some unknown deity you survive. You briefly contemplate the divine intervention of the great Sam and then discard it. You know for a fact that the great Sam created the great Wal, he created the Wal and he's responsible for twelve nights of pain and terror among the Nevergrow. No the great Sam had nothing to do with this.
You look over the edge of the shelf, the Nevergrow are arguing, you briefly listen in on the argument. Apparently they're out of ammo for their tiny sport as well.
It could be a trick.
To the Lot with it.
You attach your grappling hook to the edge of the Shelf take firm hold of your chain and leap off the edge. The Nevergrow look up and stare at you in frank amazement. You fall two stories and the chain jerks to a sudden stop nearly tearing your arms out of their sockets. You let go of the chain at just the right moment and fall. One particularly Nevergrow is transfixed by your flight and you use him to break your fall.
A manic grin adorns your face as the Nevergrow's body crunches beneath your feet, blood spatters onto the black and white tiles and you lay about you with foot and fist. They come at you with knives and you respond with grace and agility that can only be gained at the top of the shelf.
After you slice open the jugular of one Never grow with a precise claw strike they decide to cut their losses and run.
You don't let them, there won't be a survivor. Not one fucking Nevergrow will survive your wrath. With their backs to you it's all to easy snatch up one of the fallen knives, you're taller than them and stronger so chasing them down and slicing them to pieces is easy.
You spend a few brief moments breathing, your blood lust wanes and is replaced with self pity and fear. There will be no surviving this hell. No one leaves Toy Department alive.
You can only hope to take some of the little bastards with you.
Encounter in the GroceryEdit
As soon as I stepped into the Fresh Groceries section, I could tell something was wrong. It was the middle of the restock period, so while all the food was gone, I could reasonably expect that nobody would be lying in wait in order to grab produce as soon as it was restocked (or gank anyone trying to do the same).
However, it was completely silent. Normally the sounds of the cartbots pushing chains of carts hundreds-long filled the air. They were beautiful to watch if you had nothing better to do, and a pain to wait for them to cross if you needed to get past them (I will always remember the cry of "NO PLAYING ON THE CARTS" as my childhood friend was immolated by an electrical charge the cartbot emitted onto the cart chain he was trying to clamber over. Only in the most desperate of times have I ever crossed a moving cart-chain, and even then I usually got the edge of the charge numbing my arm for a few hours afterwards).
Looking around a corner, I could see the cart-chain, spilled across the floor, and an overturned and gently smoking cartbot sitting in place, it's center a smoking hole I could see right through. I was immediately on-guard, since the only thing that I'd ever heard of that could do this would have been a rare Sporting Good. However, looking nearby, I noticed that the rafters were better-illuminated than normal, driving away a handful of bats that resided there. I didn't think anything of it as Lighting was adjacent to this area, and they tended to be fairly introspective and private folk.
Then I heard a subtle, audible "clink," as if a shelf of glassware had been gently shook, once. Then I heard the noise again, and again, louder each time. I noticed the glow in the rafters was getting brighter and brighter, but before I could flee, they rounded the corner. One of the Lighting people was in front of me, and had some large elaborate contraption of multiple round panes of glass in his incredibly clean hands (The Lighting people were very odd about keeping clean, cleaner than most outside of Makeup, saying something about "Tiny invisible creatures crawling on you all the time"). Behind him was another Lighting person tugging a generator and a Sporting Good lightstick, one larger than I had ever seen before.
Upon noticing me he quickly stooped down and yanked the cord, gunning the generator to life and causing the lightstick he held (Attached to the generator by a wire the thickness of my thumb). I dove behind a nearby shelf of canned meat (Long since expired, they were bulged out like balloons I once saw as a boy) just as they fired...whatever it was. A beam of white light so strong it hurt my eyes lanced past and into the linoleum I had just occupied, melting it to bubbling slag in a small explosive pop and pelting me with grubby flooring pieces. The beam swept towards me, following my leap, and as soon as it hit the pallet of cans, there was a series of bangs louder than any I could recall, and something hard struck me in the back of the head.
As I blacked out, I could only recall the smell of cooked rancid meat, and hearing one of them say "We should truss him up and take him back. The Lensman wants to examine the insides of this one while he's still breathing..."
'Tron Prayers of SamEdit
"Line 0: There is no CEO but Sam, and to say otherwise is != and heresy.
Line 1: The Wal is all.
Line 2: And we are Sam's People, blessed within the Wal
Line 3: While (We return our blessings to Sam), He protects us
Line 4: For (Sam is the glory), Creator of the Wal and everything within.
Line 5: If (Sam is doubted or the Wal is not judged to be infinite), return to 0."
I Sling the Bloody ElectricEdit
You hear a war cry and you spend a precious moment looking behind you. The walking wounded have taken up sport and 'Tron weapons and they're charging the Smiler ranks. Some are missing eyes or ears, or limbs and still they have weapons in hand. how can you do any less.
You charge the Smiler lines, even with all the casualties the wretched fanatics still manage to get a few people past the kill zone of your tribes master stroke and so you reward them for their dedication to their cause the only way you know how.
Your people are better at killing, each strike of your electrogauntlets proves that. But the smilers have more people to throw at your tribe. You don't know if your tribes 'Tron will be enough to see the end of this day, but by Tesla you intend to go down with blood on your tongue and hatred in your heart!
The cry rings out among the smiler cultists "ABOMINATION!" it's is repeated and carried and chanted and the cultists drive their secret weapon before them. Greeter Zombies, the Greeters shuffle forward, their eyes milky and white, pus leaking from wounds that refuse to heal properly. Their teeth are yellowed and jagged and their skin varies in shade but it's never quite human, yellow, blue, purple, red, always the color of a wound or infection. The moan piteously and alternate between stock greetings and sobbed entreaties for the sweet release of death.
The monument to your clan's tron stomps forward and opens fire, Sport guns combine with 'Tron and Lightning, Lasers, and Bullets scythe into the ranks of the Smiler forces like a gust of wind air from the Lot itself. Heedless the smilers and greeters charge into the fire with a screamed prayer to the great Sam.
Your friends lie dead at the microwave guns, and your lover lies in a medic's tent far behind you at the corp of your village. You're quite literally the last defender standing. Your people and the smilers have been fighting for days, they're on the ropes and so are your people, either way the Smiler Crusade ends today.
You drop into the honor stance and bring your lightning wreathed fists up to bear. If you're going to die you might as well go out swinging. Then you hear it, the hum of probably the loudest electric engine you've ever heard. You resist the temptation to look behind you.
The smilers however are staring at something behind you with a mix of rage, hatred, loathing, and fear. You glance behind you and then you see it.
Dozens of shelves welded together to create a box shaped hull, neon tubes welded onto the surface blazing in a kaleidoscope of color, six massive legs that shatter the linoleum of the floor with each step. A pair of armored turrets and an observation blister for the pilot.
You fire and another thunder bolt sounds out the death of a Sam Cultist. Ozone competes with the smell of cooking meat and you carefully place your 'Tron gun on the ground. You're completely out of batteries and you've probably touched your last piece of 'Tron, but by Tesla it was a wild ride wasn't it? You look down at your gloves and you pull up the sleeves of your nut and washer chainmail jacket. You find the activation button and power dial on your right gauntlet, you press the activation button and crank the dial up to eleven, then you do the same for your left gauntlet. There's a brief moment where nothing happens and you feel your gut lurch. You did right right didn't you? You're absolutely sure you accounted for- and then the power field springs to life, your fists crackle with lightning.
Out of the smoke where your settlements produce facing wall used to be come more smiler cultists. Their faces are painted yellow and they have "master crafted" weapons in hand.
"FOR YOUR HIGH PRICES YOU WILL BE PUNISHED!" The Smiler bears down on you, in one hand he has WalCraft Sword and in the other he clutches shield made from some cloth straps and the plasterboard planks of a shipping crate. His uniform is spotless and and his eyes are full of religious fervor.
You take aim with your 'tron rifle and pull the trigger. KRACKA-KOOM, thunder fills the air and the stink of ozone fills your nostrils as lightning bursts out of the wide, silvery dome of your 'tron gun. The bolt of lightning slams into the smiler cultist and he dances to a rhythm played out by the patron gods of Watts, Volts, Ergs, and Ohms. You work the lever mechanism on your 'Tron gun and a battery ratchets out of the weapon and clatters down onto the waxed floors, it smokes and stains the linoleum as you load a second battery into place.
"HHHIIIIGGGGHHH PRRRIIICCCESS" snarls another smiler cultist, this one's fat, he barely fits in his uniform and he has warhammer clutched in his fat, greasy fingers.
Combine An Owl and a Bungee CordEdit
"JUST DO IT!" You hear them coming before you see them and you swear. You place your package in the Razkull's basket and use a pair of bungee cords to tie it down, then you leap into the Razkull's seat. "JUST DO IT!" You turn the key and rev up your Razkull's engine. The electric motor hums to life and you can see that you have a charge level of 75% that should be enough to reach your destination. you strap yourself in and burn rubber, your Razkull screams across the linoleum tiles and leaves a long trail of black skid marks behind you. "JUST DO IT!" but they're on your heels, insane really, the speeds you're going at are unsafe, to catch up with you they'd have to- You hear a loud crunch and a crash and the clattering of cans upon linoleum. In your rearview mirror you can see a Rascal with an overhauled engine and a large swoosh mark pained prominently on the hood careening towards you on the side.
You dodge it instinctively, it's only then that you see the Greeter.
He slams into the metal bars that keep objects from flying through your windshield space and clutches feebly at you. You can see past him, just barely, but enough to see where' you're going. "JUST DO IT!" the crazy bastards want your package, and they're willing to risk death by collision if that's what it takes.
"Wh- Whe- Whelcuum tooo Waaaalmurt" Croaks the foul smelling thing that rests it's shattered body upon the hood of your Razkull. You ignore it and focus on the aisle in front of you. You memorized the way to the settlement, barring the caprice of Sam this should be a sure thing. "Pleez," The Greeter locks it's milky, pus weeping eyes on you. "Pleez help me." You reach down to the holster on your boot and grab your 'Ware. You press the muzzle of your nailgun against the eye of the Greeter. "Thaaaank Hyuuu-" You pull the trigger, a nine inch nail is propelled deep into the greeter's skull. His body goes nerveless and he tumbles off the hood of your Razkull into the aisle behind you.
"JUST DO IT!" You see a Swoosh Cart behind you, it bounces over the body of the greeter, tumbles and spills its occupants into the aisle. Their bodies hit the linoleum with a loud, twisted crunch. They leave red greasy smears on the black and white tiles. A quartet of Swoosh ATVs suddenly pulls out ahead of you and you gun your engine, managing to push past them by some miracle granted to you by the patron saints of NASCAR. The swoosh ATVs follow you without fail, there's two people on each of them, one driving, one clinging to the driver, none of them wear helmets, all of them bear the Swoosh. Two of them draw sport from a holster of their ATVs and start opening fire. "JUST DO IT!" you press a button on your dashboard and a small compartment in your under carriage empties. Sharpened metal jacks hit the floor and spread out behind you. You increase your speed as much as you dare. one of the ATVs hits the jacks and spins out of control, the riders go flying and hit the ground like ragdolls.
You're near the end of the line, almost safe, you turn a corner and then you see it, a barricade of sacks, probably full of rice or some other food stuff. Doesn't matte what it is. There are Swoosh Nazis behind it and they won't need guns to kill you if you hit the barricade at the speed you're going. You see you're only chance out of the corner of your eye. A ramp, it's safety rails looted long ago by some enterprising aisler. You turn your razkull and drive up the ramp with your finger pressing on the "turbo boost" button as hard as you possibly can. Your razkull flies over the air and clears the barricade with an inch to spare. Your bumper smashes into a swoosh Nazi's face and pulps his skull. You ride on across his corpse completely undeterred. "JUST DO IT!" that was way to close, you adjust your rear-view mirror, one of the swoosh Nazis is clinging to your cargo basket, You hit cruise control, turn in your seat and aim your 'Ware. "JUST DO I-" you fire and the man's scream becomes a burbling cry.
You turn around and hit cruise control again, once more in control of your Razkull you add in an extra burst of speed as you make the final stretch. You approach the Hardware fort and slowly ease off the juice as you come within range of the wall mounted nailguns. Within a few moments the door to the structure opens and a burly man dressed in overalls, plaid cloth and a hard hat comes out. He's got a large suitcase with him. He approaches you calmly and within a few moments he's leaning on the bloody hood of your Razkull with a disinterested air. "You got it?" he asks. You point to your cargo basket and he checks the box for the components you were assigned to transport. He nods to himself and straps the suitcase to your cargo cage with the bungee cords before making a "away you go" gesture. "Don't be a stranger now!" he says in a jovial tone. You murmur an appropriate response, Turn your Razkull around and gun your engine, its time to go home.
We never stop for too long near the Fashion 'Part, it's too dangerous. The painted, shiny women that come out to mock us won't hurt us, but if the mood strikes someone to snatch some pretty gems? Well...they come. Big things.
They're at least ten Shelves high, big as Sec-bots! Covered in thick, black hair that's held back by their Sporting Good proof, blue armor.
I've seen them do awful things to anyone young, dumb or confident enough to pick a fight with their smaller friends. They can rip a man clean apart, stomp him into chunks and eat the pieces.
You never go to the Fashion 'Part.
We'd done it, we'd found the exit we'd been searching all our lives for and it was completely beyond our grasp. Hundreds of greeters stood between us and the doors. Still, we had enough of this nightmarish hell and prepared. All of us grabbed our Sports and whatever armor we could fashion and charged the exit. Our sports thundered, our bats quaked in our hands, I could feel the clawing of the Greeters and kept going desperate to reach the doors. Suddenly I was free, the crush was behind me and I was somehow alive. I looked around for my friends and family but had no time to ascertain their assuredly grisly fate. The doors creaked and opened for me and I was through! I was free! I looked about the darkness around me and saw the sign that chilled me to the bone. I fell to my knees and wept. The sounds of greeters shambling towards me meaning nothing to my ears.
"Welcome to Wal-Parking!"
Legions of power armor wearing genius electricians stood massed in rank, their blades held aloft as lightning arcs across them. Their expressions grim and sullen, ready for desperate battle.
A voice rings across the group.
"THE PIGEONS ARE COMING! THE PIGEONS ARE COMING! READY YOUR SWORDS!"
Taming a dog is almost unheard of among the Petmasters. Controlling such a ferocious and massive animal is a sign of a true gift with animals, a portent that that particular individual is designed for grand, and often treacherous, fate.
The last one to accomplish such a feat, generations, is only spoken of in hushed whispers during the initiation of a young Petmaster. Evelyn the Unforgettable, an extraordinary and terrible woman, was said to have to led the Pet and Animals aisle to countless victories against the other departments. It is also uttered, though only in confidence, that she nearly brought the department to total ruin and was betrayed by the very people she fought for.
(Sample dialogue of a Gangstar from Jewellery):
You see this motherfucker right here with his pants falling down? Why do you think his pants are falling down? No, it isn't because he likes it like that. It's because, in a society as individualistic as the Gangstar lifestyle, you gotta fend for yourself. And when you don't have any bling, when you barely have enough to eat, you're given whatever hand-me-down clothes you can find. Those trousers are just too damn big for him and they endanger his life frequently. No, no, you can't try to help him. He needs to learn to take care of himself, to learn how to get. To grow strong. No, I don’t care if he’s 35 years old, he still got to work for it.
You mean the Hardware Redoubt? Can't say I know too much about them, can't say anyone really does. They just stay holed up in that wood and stone fortress of theirs. I don't know of a sporting good in existence that could get through those walls. I've heard of some from there who left, in self-imposed exile. Never actually met one myself. Anarchitects, we call 'em. You might find one of their 'off-the-grid' dwellings every now and then, but they're usually just about impenetrable save for small slots where they might barter for food or items in exchange for their strange constructions of wood and metal.
The Journal of Viator Sliteye age 14
Day 74 of my exile
After my month living with the Topdwellers, I believe I have gained their trust. I have been given free access to weapons after my raid on the on the Elecs caravan. As I expected, my adaptations(see page 370) helped in both the climbing and the fighting that followed the release of the meat hooks. After we had disabled the 'TronBoyz, we carried off a bumper crop of 'Tron weapons, armor, and (my favorite spoil) a large ant farm. Rufus was extremely helpful in carting away the goods. After the raid, my hosts have presented the clothes of a Topdweller. I understand that this is theTopDweller form of adoption and accepted the gesture. I currently only go in half-dress to display my animalistic nature. I must stop writing now as we are moving and my companion, Rufus the Dire spiny-tailed gecko, is needed for the transport of the Elec goods.
The gecko TopDweller,
Life at the TopEdit
You check your surroundings, straining every sense, no beating wings, no bird calls, no clattering of talons on steel. Safe, for the moment. You quickly run through your list of required items and check your safety equipment. You attach your grapnel chain to a series of claps on your jumpsuit with that done All safety checks are clear and you reach into one of your many pockets. You carefully grease up your grapnel and then you place the hook on the zipline. You push off from the light fixture and within moments you're flying through the air along a steel cable with nothing more than you're own strength and a steel chain standing between you and certain death. Despite the lubricant on the grapnel a hideous shrieking fills the air sparks fly where the metal of the grapnel contacts the metal of the zipline. You've hit terminal velocity, you're going as fast as physically possible for an object falling through the Wal's atmosphere. It's one of the few thrills you're allowed in the life you live.
The sheer speed is an intense thrill that's all its own. You can feel your blood boil, but your arms are aching and the aisles of the Wal are rushing up to meet you. You have to get off this wild ride. You bob your body just so and you fly loose from the zipline, you're free falling through the air, even if you had a nearby perch to nab with your grapnel the forces involved would just tear your arms off. You carefully fit the grapnel into a velcro loop and reach down to your belt. You pull the chord and crack silk. A carefully stitched and lovingly made parachute blooms out behind you and the sudden drop of speed is almost like being struck physically. you reach behind you and take hold of two special chords, and with these you carefully steer yourself towards one of the shelfblock tops, its almost impossible to miss, the shelf itself is the size of a small building. You hit the shelftop in a tangled heap of cloth, chords, and clattering metal.
Years of training make sure that when you hit Shelf Top you roll just so. Nothing is in harm's way and all of your gear is carefully stowed. It would not due to get impaled by one of your own knives during a descent to the aisles, your people are not so numerous that gatherers can be allowed to destroy themselves with their own ineptitude. You loosen the cords from yourself and your parachute falls away to become a tangled mess on the shelf top. You quickly check your surroundings, no birds, no humans, no robots, no other noticeable ground threats. You spend ten minutes carefully folding and stowing the parachute, you may need it later. Then you walk over to the edge of the aisle and look down. You feel a slight pull in your gut, even from up here everything looks so confined and cramped, it makes you feel insignificant, helpless. You shake your head vigorously to dispel those thoughts and remove one of your meathooks from your belt and gauge the distance to the other shelf. You can make that jump.
You give yourself the room you need for a running jump and you charge across the shelf top full speed, you send all the force you can muster into your legs and your honed muscles send you forward across the gap. Of course you don't make it to the other shelf top, there isn't a human alive who can do that. You do however make the arc you wanted. You swing your meathook forward, catching the tip in an inches deep crevice in the shelf space, the impact jars your arm and if you keep this up you'll be feeling the pain for days but you're TopDweller, you do what is required of you, no matter how painful, humiliating, or difficult you keep calm and carry on. You pull yourself up onto the shelf and switch the meathook over to your other hand. You've got some climbing to do if you want to get your mission accomplished and it's best if you keep the fatigue as spread around as much as humanly possible. You spend the next 3 or 4 hours (maybe you should get a timepiece?) leaping across aisles as you make your way.
You leap across the aisles, this time you have both meathooks in hand and you use them to scale the shelf until you reach a proper vantage point. From here you watch the battle royale take place. This will not do, you need those pills. You reach into your pockets and you retrive it, the forbidden weapon. Birdseed, you approach the edge and remove the cap of the small jar and carefully consider altitude and angle. Then you casually flick your wrist and cap the jar. birdseed flies out into the air it lands among the goners. The flying man is the first to notice and he immediately grounds himself, though he still sees fit to fire lasers into the crowd of Goners. It starts with a rustle, then a sound of flapping wings, one, then two, then a dozen, then thirty, then fifty, then the sound of a hundred wings all beating in time fills the air and death descends on the crowd below. You affix your grapnel to the edge of the shelf, attach the chain to your safety line and you leap, entering the fray.
You slam into the back of a fully grown axebeaked finch and drive it into the hard linoleum floor. It screams in protest and you silence it by brutally slamming one of your meathooks into it's jugular. You slam the other meathook into it's eye and hold the beast down as its death throes play out, then you stand and retrieve your hooks. You look around yourself, the birds are tearing into the goners with a ferocity few could say they've ever witnessed first hand and lived to tell the tale. The birds are doing their best to go after the group of grounder warriors but their machine expert seems to be using some odd glowing bubble to keep them at bay. The pills are in that bubble, you need those pills. You steady yourself and charge forward, towards the bubble and towards the supplies your party needs. It is agony, heat unlike anything you've encountered plays over each micron of your skin that passes through the bubble. It takes less than a second, it feels like forever.
You almost pass out from the pain but you force yourself to stand. The strangers stare at you and you ignore them. you crouch, check the sell by date of the pill bottles, yes, still good. You begin shoveling them into the bag. One, two, three. The Sportsgrounder locks eyes on you. Four, five, six, he opens his mouth to speak. Seven, eight, nine you briefly look up, the Goners are dead and the birds are feasting. The Sportsgrounder is saying something but you aren't listing to him. You turn and leap through the force field. Agony,
But you're prepared for it this time and you work off the pain by swinging your hooks at anything stupid enough to get in your way. You have what you came for, part of it anyway. You charge across the aisle full tilt until you're out of range of the birds. You leap and slam your hooks into the shelf, you begin climbing. You're going to need a vantage point. After all you only have one item, and you have six more items to go. Hopefully the other six retrievals will be this smooth.
It doesn't take that long to find what you need, though figuring out how to get it is the major problem here. Goners, more than twenty of them besieging strange group of people, a man in pointlessly ostentatious golden armor, studded with gemstones, wielding a blazing, diamond studded sword. a woman wielding a steel spear, on the back of an enormous crab, her skin is blue and she seems to have developed natural armor plates on her body in some strange sympathy with her mount. A man wearing purple and gold cloth, draped over plastic padding, a shotgun in hand, his clothes declare him to be a "yellow jacket." Above the three hovers a man who wears a set of car batteries on his back, his boots spray fire and the strange gauntlets he wears blast the goners with bolts of burning incandescence. They appear to be guarding a collapsed display, pill bottles coat the ground, some crushed underfoot. The ghost image of a busty young woman declares that Age'B'Gone makes her feel like a 16 year old. You need those pills.
“One hand over the other now, oh and don’t look down,” Crikey says, giving him advice before the trial to come, “Now get up there and do Irwin proud.”
He slaps his companion on the back, causing him to stagger the last few steps before the shelf. You take a deep breath and make sure your pouch is securely attached, its contents softly rustling at your touch. You begin your ascent, the handhold readily available from the imprints worn into the metal from generations of climbers. There’s a ragged cheer as you pass the point of no return, past the “Ask Employees for Help,” sign and the judging face of Sam.
“Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look –“ your mantra broken as you reach for your handhold and find yourself slipping on a pile of bird shit. Your feet planted firmly but your upper body flailing, you fall forward into the pallets of rawhide bones. They scratch the skin and a few fall down to the linoleum below. You swear you can hear the packs of corgis already yipping towards it. With a shudder, you wipe the bird shit from your hand and continue your upward ascent.
With a groan you haul your way atop the final shelf, hours have passed and the worst has yet to begin. You stand, hand shielding your eyes against the harsh light so near the lamps. You reach into pouch and draw a fistful of birdseed, the rustling draws faint coos. You hear the flapping of wings, the whirring as the great ‘tron guns follow the winged devils, and prepare yourself.
You drop the seed over the side of the shelf.
The flock dives after it.
With capture sphere in hand, you dive after the flock.
His Holiness, most exalted Executive Samael Walton the First, Bringer of Low Prices, Bearer of the Sacred 25 Pound Diamond, and Persecutor of the Heretics looks on the works of the hated 'Tronboyz. The heathens have torn down the very shelves and used them as the most basic building blocks of the structure. Holo Emitters stud the outer surface, showing ghostly blue, red, and green images of the heathen's gods. Neon tubes stretch from the base of the structure to it's very apex, and it is crowned by fat a silvery disc that spews lightning bolts into the air. Samael shivers in the icy air and briefly wonders what happened to the Expedition of Crusaders, Seasonals, and Tech Support Priests who were ordered to find a way to alter the temperature in this department. Surely the favored of Sam would be able to overcome whatever dark works these Heretics wrought to create such a frigid atmosphere? But he does not ponder it long for he has work to do.
The exalted Samael retires from the observation post and carefully makes his way down the steps of the wooden structure. The Lumber would have been costly but promises of aid during future raids by the Suburbanites against the heathens bought him the wood at the low, low price of one tenth of his congregation. A bargain by any true Smiler's standards, after all making more new converts was easy enough, getting building materials at a discount was not a feat performed every day. The exalted Samael exits the observation posts and greets the group of believers with a benevolent wave of his hand. They are dressed in black, and gray, and white with carefully sewn and embroidered vests that bear the sacred smile. Some bare the wounds from pitched battle with the heretics hoping for divine healing from the Great Sam, others have not yet had the privilege of stepping into the fray to test their faith with steel and fire and hope for the Smiling One's favor in the test of Faith to come.
The Exalted Samael attends to his flock the best he can, he places a hand on a lightning burn and calls upon the Smiling One's beneficence to speed the healing of the carbonized flesh. He stands before a man who lost his leg to a mercenary's chainsaw hand and kneels, he spends five minutes begging the one who built the Wal to grant this man a new leg to perform deeds of faith in the name of the Smilers. He stands before the group of faithful smilers, those who have proven their faith in combat and those who have to do so and with tears in his eyes he thanks them for their service and begs the mighty Sam to grant his people victory soon. He feels a hand on his arm, Joseph, his aid has come, obviously there are urgent matters that need his attention. The Exalted Samael apologizes to his congregation, with blessings gained and miracles promised they disperse to tend to their duties.
Joseph is a short man, balding, he wears the typical smiler uniform but like the Exalted Samael's uniform his is made with gemstone decorated buttons and fine silk. Unlike the Exalted Samael he wears a harness and from it dangle dozens of clipboards, he holds one in his hand now and taps it with a ballpoint pen. "The casualties are starting to pile up and the Doctors are incensed, you stiffed them on their tithe of personnel when you traded some of the flock away for the lumber, which while useful, isn't going to be healing the wounds of our Crusaders." Joseph is the only man who can speak to the Exalted Samael like this, after all he is the only true confidant Samael has ever had.
"Have the wounded given to the Doctors as a tithe, not as useful as healthy subjects for their...amusements but we have more than enough to pay our overdue...promises 3 times over." Samael briefly examines one of the sapphire gems on his chest and absentmindedly begins to buff it.
"Well that solves our Limb'B'Back and Age'B'Gone issue but we have the Anarchitects to worry about." Joseph makes a few notations on the iridescent blue plastic clipboard he's holding and picks up the navy blue wooden clipboard that dangles from his chest harness. "They're pissed that you went over their heads with the suburbanites and now they're threatening to suspend their trade agreements."
Samael chuckles quietly and stops buffing the dull-looking sapphire, there perfect. "Send them the Sacred Diamond as payment, keep it a secret get a glass replacement or something from one of our trade partners. We can say that one of the heretics stole it right under our noses and use it as a way to stoke righteous fury in the congregation."
Joseph makes a note on the wooden clipboard and drops it, then he snatches up a metal one. "One of the Tech Support Priests returned from the Expedition to reverse the curse that the heretics have placed on this area."
"Oh?" Says the Exalted Samael looking up from his ruminations on all the troubles the "Sacred" 25 Pound Diamond has brought him in the 3 or so years he's carried it.
Joseph spends a brief moment flitting through the pages on the clipboard. "and I quote 'Eternal Damnation, Blue Screen of Death, error will to live not found.' We couldn't get anything more out of him, he died," Joseph checks his gem studded fob watch. "Fifteen minutes ago. Roughly six hours after he returned from the expedition, to our knowledge the only survivor."
Samael ruminates on this and sighs. "So be it, we do not have any more men and women to waste on foolhardy objectives. We must cut straight to the heart of the matter. We must attack that garish abomination and strike its very memory from the history of the Wal!"