Planning an excursion to the former headquarters of Bio-Tek was a logistical nightmare. As Lisa (third in command of the New Renegades and Chief of Tech and Repairs) had pointed out, their path would take them through the territory of two very dangerous Masked factions, and they would end up in the midst of the most dangerous of them all at the end of the trip.
Luckily, they had some of the finest minds in the whole Masked community available, Kyle's amongst them. Kyle hadn't been nearly as bright before he assimilated his brother's knowledge base, and he still hadn't quite adapted to the change, but he knew he didn't have the luxury of an adjustment period. The New Renegades needed him now more than ever.
The higher-ups of their gang were all gathered around a hand-drawn map of their sector of the largest city in the Dead World, known either as Necropolis or Hope, depending on your elevation and who you asked. The lower city, a mere skeleton of a once-great centre of western power and home to the Masked and the lower classes, was known to its inhabitants as Necropolis, City of Shambles and War. The upper city was known to the Dead World Police and higher class citizens as Hope.
Necropolis, the foundation on which Hope had been built by the largest and most powerful of the governing corporations in the Dead World, Paradise Inc., was disregarded like the dirt under a ground-level home; it was only thought of when it began to show up on the floor inside, causing a mess. And to the citizens of Necropolis, Hope may as well have been a myth, for all the effect it had on their every-day lives.
This made finding an accurate map of Necropolis rather difficult; the topsiders didn't have the motivation to create one, and most of the undercitizens didn't have the means. It was rarely important to any one Masked gang what the entirety of their sector looked like; they were usually concerned only with their own borders, and perhaps, if they were more expansion-minded, those of their neighbours.
However, one of their number had a copy of a map memorized, knowledge they had paid the Merchants heavily for back when the Skullboys had first begun their campaign against Ollie Stone's successors. They still hadn't been able to make any sense of the move with the map's help, but the intricately drawn reproduction they were hovering over, was now much more important.
Most Masked knew the compass direction of the Bio-Tek building if nothing else, having elevated it to a strange combination of shrine and graveyard in their haphazard mythos. That made it a prime target for the Fallen Angels, who had moved into the area years ago, utterly destroying the gang who had previously occupied the area, and who had, unlike the Fallen Angels, allowed for peaceful visits by other Masked factions.
The Fallen Angels were a force to be reckoned with. Their possession of advanced weaponry — lazswords, able to cut through solid steel as though it were nothing — was usually enough to dissuade would-be opposition on its own, with their psuedo-religious fanaticism and ruthless devotion to 'cleansing Necropolis of the filth' finishing the job. Marching right into their territory was not going to be easy, if Kyle even got his people there in the first place.
"The highway goes almost all the way there," their Logistics and Financial man Terrence said, pointing out the structure, which dissected the square grid of the old city diagonally on the map. "But that's the frontier between Westville and Merchant territory. Trying to just walk down the road would be suicide, even with the high ground."
"If we head north, and follow the main road closely, we can skim the edge of Merchant territory," Xander noted. His usual difficult attitude seemed to have disappeared with the announcement of the move. Kyle wasn't sure how he felt about the one New Renegade who usually opposed his will being the only one who accepted this plan without question.
"I'm sure we can buy safe passage through their territory," Kyle added. "If we stay on course going north after that, we'll be passing through contested territory."
"Nothing but small, disorganized gangs to stand in our way. They won't stand a chance." Hunter, Xander's subordinate and a boy with the body of a man, seemed sure of this statement.
"We can't blaze through two entire quads of open warfare and not take any casualties," Kyle said. "And any alliance we made would automatically put us at war with their enemies. Moving through contested territory is better than Westville, but not by much. We'll still have to be on our toes."
Hunter scoffed, but didn't say anything. Kyle was positive he was busy assuring himself he could take ten quads of lesser gangs, and all by himself. He'd have talked to Xander about the attitude if he didn't suspect it wasn't all empty boasting. Hunter was a brawler, and he was good at what he did.
"Once we clear the contested territory and head west again, we'll have maybe a quarter quad to go before we hit Bio-Tek. We're going a little out of our way, here, but it beats the direct route for casualties."
He looked around the room at his too-few followers. Casualties were one thing his rag-tag band of true believers couldn't afford.
"I don't see why we don't just blast our way through the residentials, cut some corners," Hunter growled. He clearly had no love for the lower-class citizens who inhabited the mentioned areas.
This time, Kyle refused to hold his tongue. "The minute we—"
Xander held up a hand, stopping Kyle short momentarily. "Xander, I am the commander," Kyle sputtered, embarrassed that he had allowed the younger boy to silence him with a gesture.
"That you are, Stone. But Hunter is my subordinate. His behaviour reflects upon mine, and it's my duty to correct it." Kyle watched in surprise as Xander rounded on Hunter. The big guy blinked, not used to being in this sort of situation.
"The minute we breach one of the barriers between the main roads and the residential areas, we'd have Dead World Police all over us," Xander said, his face nearly touching the taller boy's. "They know they can't control us or all the main roads, but if we start stepping on toes, interfering with the little people who work their big machines, they'll rain down twelve brands of targeted tac-nukes on our sorry asses. Is that what you want?"
For a moment, Hunter looked defiant, but when Xander's iron gaze wouldn't falter, his finally did. "No," he said, averting his eyes.
Hunter flinched, and his eyes shot straight forward, staring at something far beyond their walls. "No sir!" he barked.
Xander stared at him for a while longer before turning and nodding at Kyle. "Go ahead, Stone."
"Er, thanks," Kyle said, more than a little confused. He gave Xander one last curious look and went on. "As Xander said, we can't just go barging into the residentials. Beyond trouble from the DWP, we won't have the tools. We're travelling light; weapons, rations, and credits only. We'll sell everything that isn't strapped down to help us buy safe passage with the Merchants and extra supplies for the trip, and buy the necessities back when we take the Bio-Tek building. Questions?"
"What have we got for vehicles?" Terrence asked.
Lisa fielded the question. "We've got three speeders, but we'll sell one of them. It's a piece of junk, it wouldn't even make the trip. The other two will be used for recon. They're not armoured enough to survive combat or powerful enough to cart supplies. On top of that, we've got two trucks and a busted hover-car. We've never been able to get the thing to go faster than a walking pace, but its repulsors are pretty powerful. It'll be good a good pack mule."
"And weapons?" Terrence asked, looking automatically to Xander, their "Chief of Security".
"We're strapped for guns and explosives, but that's nothing new," Xander started. "I've got enough firepower for my security team and everyone in this room, but beyond that... Well, we have more melee weapons than we could possibly use, at least. Tons of knives and clubs, pipes, chains, crowbars, a couple swords, three or four fire axes and a handful of hatchets." He gave Hunter a sideways glance and leaned against the wall, apparently debating saying something. "And a laz-sword with a low battery. I wanted to save it for a special occasion, but I guess this will have to do."
A wave of gasps swept the command centre. "You found a laz sword and didn't tell me?" Kyle said, astounded.
"Like I said, I was saving it," Xander replied, shrugging it off.
"Where did you get it?"
Xander glared at him. "Where do you think? From a dead Fallen Angel."
Kyle's eyes widened. "There was a Fallen Angel here? And you killed him? Why wasn't I—!"
"Ollie himself!" Xander cried, standing straight up and throwing his arms in the air. "It's not a big deal! The guy was on a Pilgrimage. They're not supposed to come back. Nobody will miss him. The battery is low because he was supposed to use the thing to off himself honourably after 'cleansing' as many 'heathens' as possible." He crossed his arms in front of himself and leaned back against the wall, muttering, "Didn't even get to draw the thing before I dropped him. Some Fallen Angel."
Kyle glared at Xander, angry almost equally as much at himself for not being able to find fault in the logic, and for not knowing about it in the first place. He was meant to know everything that went on with the New Renegades.
He sighed and shook his head, clearing out the thoughts that choked his brain like a thick smog. "I'll deal with you later," he told Xander. "Are there any other questions?"
No one spoke up.
"Good. Everyone get to work. We leave as soon as we can get an Appraisal from the Merchants."
With that, Kyle left for his personal quarters.
Xander watched him go, shaking his head slowly after he had left. It was then that he noticed that the room was still full, its occupants apparently too shocked by the developments for the order to register.
"You heard the Commander. Get moving!"
As though a dam had suddenly burst, the command centre was suddenly surging with activity as everyone rushed to follow their orders.
This should be an interesting ride, he thought to himself.
If Stone doesn't get us all killed before we even leave.