An old man and a child go together towards the evening. In the distance, the red dust raises above an ill sun.
All around there is nothing, except the gloomy outline of towers of smoke.
While the two are walking, the old man softly speaks and his voice is like a whisper. In his wet eyes slides the images of past myths. He looks afar and tries to follow the faint scent of his memories:
“Imagine this, covered by wheat, imagine the fruits and imagine the flowers, and think of the voices and think of the colors. And on this plain, up to where it gets lost, trees grew and everything was green; the rain fell, the suns marked the rhythm of man and of seasons.”
The child is all ears but his gaze is sad, trying to look at things never seen. With dreamy voice, the little boy says:
“I like fairy tales, tell me more.”
The old man would love to smile, but its heart is too heavy:
“There is no more time, we need to begin our journey.”
A howl from the distance definitively breaks the spell. Instinctively the child takes the old man’s hand and squeezes it really hard.
“Where are we going now?”
“Our journey in the wastelands will be very long and challenging. We need to know what to expect, and the only way to do this is speaking with the Drop Bear Bytes”
“Yeah, maybe they can help us.”
The child is tired and the only thing he wants to do is laying down and dreaming of his fairy tales, so when he speaks again, his voice is like a whimper:
“Why we need to go?”
The old man sigh:
“Because if we don’t go, even the memories will be dead forever.”
Inside the tent, the smoky air is barely breathable and the child’s eyes start to weep. In a corner, far from the fire, a stuffed koala rests impassively while the time takes its course. The old man is nervous and the reason is obvious: the four figures in front of him represent his only chance to survive. They know everything about the wastelands and the so-called “Broken Roads”.
1st Turn) I’m only an old man and he is just a child, but we definitively have to go on this journey! What kind of dangers lies ahead?
That depends on who you ask, wanderer. Monsters of beast and man lurk out beyond Merredin, some scouts say, but even our most experienced surveyors don’t range that far. We hear tell of unseen dangers in the salt lakes, of raiding parties far more savage than even the Bitch Queen’s Mongrels, and Western Australia’s already deadly fauna and savage weather seeing many a barter crew never made it home from the Waystations. You’re brave to take that boy with you. He’ll see things no child ever should.
2nd Turn) What do you think, there will be the possibility to resolve some encounters without fighting? I mean, I cannot be a good fighter, not anymore at least, I’m too old, but I’m a wise man and I know a lot of things. Do you think that even these skills could come in handy?
The crew came in here not three days ago, on two camel cars trailing a beat-up old wagon. Nine there were in total, and only two hired guns in tow. Said they’d manage to reason with some would-be attackers, something about owing future favours. I got talking to the youngest of their crew – bit of a jackaroo from the sounds of things, with a penchant for engineering. Reckons leader of their crew had won over the head of a settlement with his silver tongue… quite the charismatic fella, apparently, so if you may be able to talk your way out of a few things. And old man… you tell that boy to put that fruit back where he found it, or I’ll see to it he’s not quite so deft with those little hands any longer. We have little patience for thieves here.
3rd Turn) Maybe we should go with somebody else, for our safety I mean. I was thinking about going with a group of people, but I don’t know how many of them and which are the best classes. What do you suggest?
Mate, that’s up to you. People do what they have to in order to survive, some learning tools, some learning guns, while others ply their trade signing up with a barter crew, or forging their own way with the mapmakers who sell their finds to the surveyor’s guilds. I’ve seen small bands survive, but you’re going to want a rounded group the further East you head. Don’t want to find yourself trying to sell maps or new threads to a pack of hungry dingoes, and likewise, you might not be welcomed into many a settlement with 6 gunners all armed to the teeth. The world may have gone to shit, but there’s still something to be said for balance.
4th Turn) Our journey will be very long. Do you think we will be able to use a vehicle? A wagon or, maybe, a car?
You could do worse than try pick up a camel… however you obtain it… if you’ve got a long road ahead, and especially if you’re thinking of venturing deep into the Never Never. Fuel’s as scarce as hen’s teeth and whoever’s got the source is keeping that refinery location close to their chest, but we still see the odd vehicle making it through these parts. Finding a car’s not the problem – it’s making it go that’s really tricky.
5th Turn) These are dark times. I was thinking that we should probably need to bring with us some weapons.
Of course – there’s a decent selection to be found at Kokeby Waystation and of course in Merredin if they’ll open the gates for you. Something for whatever your proficiency is… small arms, rifles, stabbers, slicers, pounders, and a whole bunch of salvaged army weaponry… if you know the right people. That Cole lad from Brookton, quite the tinkerer as well. Worth chatting to if you want to improve your gear. Always on the lookout for little bits and pieces to make enhancements as well, to give you that extra edge.
6th Turn) Have you heard stories about men which can use “magic”? Do you think that something like that can be “real”?
An old prophet from Before said something about sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. I reckon the further into the Never Never you go, you’ll see a few things you reckon are a little… unusual, but in our experience, there’s a reasonable explanation for everything. Magic? Superstition and fireside talk, more like.
7th Turn) Surviving outside will be very hard. Do you think we will find any city or village out there, where we could find supplies?
This is why you should stop off at the surveyors, see if you can barter for a map or at least a pointer in the right direction. Lot of new settlements out there, and a lot of old places now completely dead and gone. Some towns and cities persist… well, remnants of them, anyway… like the farming communities at Brookton and Beverley, the stopover havens in Nungarin and Ardath, and of course the great walled city of Merredin. Any more than that is going to cost you.
8th Turn) I’ve heard stories about mutants in the wastelands. Do you think they are true? I mean, do you really think that such monstrosities really exist?
Seen a few big animals, that’s about it, but we tend to stay local. Blokes seem to live longer that way. We don’t put much trust in the ramblings of those drongos wandering in from the bush. Tall stories, nothing more.
9th Turn) Once someone told me that outside our village, there are strange bunkers, like “old metal dungeons” where it is still possible to find powerful artifacts from the Old World. Is it true?
Again, rumours. Let me guess – some pissed bastard saying he heard it from another pissed bastard who’d been north of the hills? Or old mate who waltzed in from the Nullarbor, with a tan and a mouthful of teeth to boot? Please… don’t waste my time.
10th Turn) Do you have a suggestion about when we should begin our journey through the “Broken Roads”?
Well, they say this all started a good hundred and fifty years ago, some time late in the year 2021. Who can say for sure, though?
Thank you very much for your time. We will continue to follow your project. Best Regards
Please note: the intro to this strange interview is just a humble homage to a very old italian song written by Francesco Guccini. For this reason I ask for his forgiveness…