Central Bites: Getting around

When the world is under constant threat from an army of mechanical horrors, one might wonder if anyone really wants to get out and see the world instead of hunkering down in place. And – because the world is under constant threat from an army of mechanical horrors – how does anyone get from one place to another when they do?

Surprisingly, the answer to the first question is a resounding ‘yes’.

Unfortunately, the options available to those with restless feet might seem rudimentary by our standards. No commercial liners fill the skies, nor cruise ships the open waters of the globe. Freeways and highways are a symbol of those giant trade routes that feed the Line, and personal vehicles a rarity in all but the remotest of towns.

But not without reason.

The Arc is undoubtedly one of the greatest technological feats from the Age of Awakening. Over twelve thousand kilometres of track connecting the major cities of the northern hemisphere, all of it underground. Even before the event that made it famous, it was already a popular method for transporting goods from one point to another. After the massacre at the far-eastern fortress, however, and the two million souls that departed the world that day, it became indispensable. After all, who would dare travel aboveground once they learned the enemy could track them to their cities and attack them using the very infrastructure designed to keep them safe?

– Ansella Mellord, “A Technological History of Central”

A matter of return on interest

It’s not that Central lacks the resources or technology to create personal vehicles and other machines. Rather, that doing so is often set aside in favour of more immediate concerns.

As of 1345MT, the population of the world comprises some two billion people scattered far and wide across the free territories. Some inhabit the sprawling farms and bed towns north of Central, but the majority live in densely packed towns and cities somewhere on the rungs of Caspian’s Ladder.

Needless to say, the most pressing reason for this arrangement is security. Rather than forming smaller settlements away from major areas, Central generally encourages communities to gather about a denser area that’s easier to administer and protect. Smaller, more compact cities allow the authorities of Central to plan their layouts more closely, to direct resources to those projects that need them most, and to ensure a greater number of residents can benefit from shared services.

Another major reason is scarcity of resources. The RFC expend a significant amount of fuel, metal, and other resources during each wave, driving a need for material and machinery that far outstrips the rest of the world. Because of this, most resources and development focus on the needs of the RFC rather than the general citizenry, and it shows. Vehicles, the resources to power them, and newer designs are all hard to come by, and those who do enjoy such commodities hold on to them rather than chasing the latest trends. Such luxuries are the realm of the great families alone.

Travelling for fun

Cautions and constraints aside, residents often do travel from one place to another. The options available to them, however, depend largely on their proximity to Central.

If you live in the grand fortress itself, then congratulations – you’ve won the transportation lottery! As a citizen of Central, you can enjoy access to a range of options – all completely free, but ticketed – and some of the best facilities available for travelling from one settlement to another. Trains are fast and frequent, open-road vehicles such as cars and trucks are common, and the roar of engines in the skies above the fortress are a sound every resident of Central knows by heart.

If you live near one of the major regional centres, you’ll have a similar range of options, if not as well developed. You can get about the town or city with ease, but travelling outside that protective sphere will require an additional layer of caution. It’s unlikely you’ll run into trouble on your route, but whether you plan your trip meticulously or throw caution to the wind and lean into the weight of statistics is up to you.

And last, the territories themselves. If you live in a settlement away from Central’s reach, you’ll need a good pair of walking shoes to get about town, if not a bicycle or electric car. A major train station, however, will get you from one town to the next. Even still, travelling between settlements is a major affair, often requiring more time, more money, and more caution. Those residents who own their own vehicles often use them to get about town, but the closer you get to the Line, the more likely you’ll head north for the holidays.

Getting permission

Of course, one of the main reasons you’re headed north isn’t just the weather. Sightings of the enemy above the Line are rare, but no one really knows where they are at any given time. Larger forces such as advances or trident groups are easy to detect, but smaller units can slip past defences and into the free territories with ease. Moreover, some hunters can remain dormant for abnormally long periods of time, only springing to life when a hapless traveller runs across them under a pile of moss that’s been gathering for more than a century. Other than local vigilantes who pride themselves on seeking out such dangers on their own, most communities feel wary about travelling into the wilds for extended periods of time unless the RFC have done a recent sweep of the area.

To help with this situation, local branches of the RFC periodically survey areas outside settlements to create safety nets for casual travel. Conducted every few years, a survey team sweeps through an area to draw out and resolve potential threats, investigate reported sightings, and set up equipment to detect any potential incursions in the future. The results of these expeditions are then recorded in a common register made available to the populace so that they can access the latest information on which locations are safe and which aren’t.

Beyond the Line

The one place citizens cannot move about without restriction is the Line. Unless already a resident of one of the nearby settlements, only members of the RFC are allowed on Line bases or any further south than their walls.

For those who do make the trip, carriers, armoured vehicles, and metal plates are the order of the day. Anyone who arrives on the Line is likely to do so via the air, as is anyone who leaves one of the Line bases for a trip out into the field. Tanks and other armoured vehicles carry and protect teams moving into unknown territory, while the infantry move about on foot once an area is secured or the terrain otherwise impassable.

Whatever the circumstances, there’s no such thing as a casual, unplanned trip. Unless on formally registered movements, training scenarios, or expeditions, no teams are allowed into the field without a compelling reason. Even then, timing is crucial. Reclamation duties come immediately after a wave, research trips and surveys during the quietest times, and no one goes anywhere unless during the lead up to the coming wave.

Despite the danger – or perhaps because of it – requests from non-Souldiers to see the Line are surprisingly frequent. Most common among them are survey requests from institutions outside the Arada Institute, such as ecological surveys, mapping expeditions, and equipment testing. In most cases where there is a legitimate use case, the RFC are supportive of such trips, often combining them with simple training exercises to acclimatise new arrivals on the Line to moving about it without dying.

Not all interests are so benign, however. Given its iconic role in amphitheatre stories, production companies constantly push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour by requesting shoots deeper and deeper into enemy territory, while makers of documentaries and treasure hunters believe riches abound in the old cities south of the Aegis Plot. A small number of individuals offer to pay significant sums of money to go on tours beyond the Line not simply for sightseeing purposes, but in the hopes of actively encountering and hunting down rogue enemy units. In fact, the practice of enemy hunting became popular among a substrata of society until a famous incident in 1312MT when a member of one of the great families died at the hands of a hunter, along with their entire retinue.

Even though interest in travelling beyond the borders of civilisation is on the rise, it seems certain that the conditions surrounding it will remain for the foreseeable future. Just as the enemy continue to infiltrate the areas above the Line, however, Central remains dedicated to surveying and protecting areas, all in the hopes of offering residents something they can little afford: a glimpse of a world free from harm.

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