Five Minutes To Midnight
When the Enclave was built, it was anticipated that it would soon blossom into a font of industry and development. Haulage held all the necessary supplies to get the Enclave on its feet, and was intended to hold the various trade goods that it would produce for export.
The Plague hit after the Enclave had been set up, but before its industry had properly got up to speed. When refugees arrived, it was the natural place for much of the population to settle.
The Haulage Deck is a nest of empty shipping containers which have been repurposed as accomadation. Chains, cranes, and enormous electromagnets dangle from above. The biggest — the Grapevine — has several houses dangling from it.
Haulage borders on the outside of the Enclave. At one edge is an Overcity fortress, staffed by miserable corpacops, that guards the airlock out to the wastes. From time to time, Overcity expeditions head out, and will often employ locals for disposable labour.
Haulage is run by a group who used to be called the Amalgamated Union of Stevedores, and are now just called Steve — a term used interchangably for a representative of the AUS and the AUS itself.
- Space. The deck’s a big, empty area full of shipping containers that are easy to make into houses, so people aren’t crammed in as tightly as they would be in other decks.
- Trade. Overcity visit Haulage a little more frequently than the other underdecks, since cargo from outside the Enclave passes through it. It’s common for its handlers to skim a little off the top to make the numbers rounder and sell the extra on to Steve.
Important things in Haulage:
The Chrome Lotus
The beliefs of the Chrome Lotus sect are a fusion of Chan Buddhism and posthumanism: they still believe that the Eightfold Path is the way to end suffering, but they see mechanical augmentation of the human body as a way to develop many of its factors.
The Lotus are:
- Elegant. They recognise that there’s no sense in replacing their bodies with machinery if the machinery isn’t an improvement. Their augs are sleek and elegant, not big and stompy.
- Technological. They embrace advanced technology, especially augs. They seek the best, which means they need to be talented enough hackers to bypass the firmware on it.
- Altruistic. They’re one of the few groups in Haulage who genuinely want to help people out and make their lives better, and they’re not afraid to sweat the small stuff like food and shelter while they’re still sorting the fine details of their grand plan to upload everybody into incorruptible bodies of steel and plastic.
The Calicos were originally allies of the Blackwood family, back before they were called the Calicos. Now they’re your bitter enemies. There was a deal a long time ago to cooperate and take the local hydroponics facility off of the hands of its current owners — but when the Blackwoods arrived fresh after handling the diversion, your “allies” had locked themselves inside and were calling themselves the Calicos.
The Calicos control the plant to this day, and whenever you need food Ma Calico makes you pay through the nose.
The Calicos are:
- Treacherous. They threw away an alliance with the Blackwoods for a hydroponics plant.
- Proud. They’re nouveau-riche: they make a big deal of their house name. They swing it about everywhere, spray the boar’s head wherever they can, and have elaborate initiations.
- Hedonistic. They like big parties, and aren’t stingy with the invitations. They make a big deal of the hospitality ritual: if you bring a bottle to a Calico party then your safety is guaranteed until it’s been drunk. If you arrive as an unwelcome guest, the most common response is for some hulking Calico thug to grab your bottle and down it in one.
- Hot-headed. It doesn’t take much to get the Calicos to spring into action.
You guys. A sprawling extended family whose members occupy an entire stack of cargo crates, and are important enough to be in regular contact with Steve. He needs a point of contact so that if there’s a problem he knows whose heads to knock together until something gets done, and as the biggest family in the few surrounding stacks, you’re it.
The Blackwood clan itself occupy a stack of eight or so containers, with your HQ and anything sensitive in a secure container at the top. The lower floors of the stack are living space for the rest of the family, and keeping the nearby few stacks in order is your responsibility: you have a pretty broad remit to collect rent on Steve’s behalf, keep an eye on what’s going on and generally make sure things stay orderly enough that Steve doesn’t have to get involved himself.
The Blackwoods have an ongoing agreement with Steve to house one of his Grid transmitters: this is a rack of computing about the size of a few kitchen appliances that sits on the top floor of your block, and gives the local area its connection to the Grid.
They call themselves Qing (it’s pronounced “Shing”), but as much as they claim to be descended from the Qing dynasty, the truth is they don’t have a drop of royal blood to go round between them.
The Qings have adopted the standard pattern of reasoning that nationalists everywhere fall into: Things are bad now; therefore they were better in the past; therefore we must emulate the past as much as we can, based on our deeply biased and flawed understanding of it.
The particular period of history that the Qings have chosen to fetishise is the late Nineteenth Century, and the ruler they go to for inspiration is Empress Dowager Cixi (“See-chee”), who they see as the last great Empress of China before the Republic ruined everything. The Qings aren’t picky, though, and happily take inspiration from whatever period of Chinese history suits whatever they are trying to do right now: often several at once. It’d be laughable if they weren’t also armed to the teeth.
The Qings occupy a compound consisting of three stacks with a perimeter of stakes and barbed wire keeping visitors out. Beyond that, there’s a great deal more turf that has Qing allegiance, even if they don’t share their nationalism.
The Qings are active in the community, in a sense. Haulage doesn’t really have a centralised police force: Steve expects whoever is in charge of an area to keep charge there. But when things get too much for the local families to handle, the Qings are who Steve sends in. Taking inspiration from sensationalised Western accounts of capital punishment in Imperial China, the Qings execute their enemies through gradual dismemberment, and prominently display the remains. There’s a great deal of friction between them and the Chrome Lotus (and, indeed, most of Haulage) over this, but Steve’s line is that they don’t care what the Qings do to people Steve has said they can kill.
The Qing family are:
- Brutal. The Qings have a policy of making it absolutely, abundantly clear what a bad idea being their enemy is.
- Lawful. They might resent Steve, but they toe his line: largely because he lets them do things that they want to do.
- Calculating. The Qings are cold and calculating: they don’t make decisions based on their values or their beliefs but on what they think is good for themselves.
Haulage has a high population, and sometimes — well, often — people fall through the gaps. The Sweepers keep the streets clean, by keeping people off them. They find folks who are sleeping rough and don’t have any obvious ties, bludgeon them ’till they stop moving, and then sell them on to the sweatshops in Manufacturing. Or, if the stories are right, to rendering plants and food vats in Reclamation.
The Sweepers realised long ago that their business would get them at the wrong end of an angry mob if they weren’t careful, so they’ve made a point of courtesy, reliability, and integrity. Friends and family get first dibs on buying their loved ones back, at a generous discount. A deal with the Sweepers is about the most solid currency you can have in Haulage. Steve recognises them as a necessary service (well, necessary to Steve, anyway) and, more importantly, recognises the tidy profits that they send his way; but he has made it very clear that that recognition will last exactly up until the point that the Sweepers overstep their bounds. Because, for all they make polite and pretend to be professionals, they’re still at their heart kidnappers and slavers.
The Sweepers are:
- Honourable. They make a point of doing their business above board — except, of course, for the poor sods they’re actually abducting.
- Mercenary. They are primarily motivated by cash, and they tend to assume everybody else will be too.
- Connected. Their business involves contact with external parties in the Undercity far more than many of the factions in Haulage. Only the Qings rival them for access to other sectors, and the Qings are happy to sit in their compound all day and grumble about the past.
It’s not clear whether the groups of old men who run the many bars, markets and mahjongg halls near the gates to Transit are really all that’s left of the secret fraternity that straddled organised crime and legitimate politics in 21st Century China. If they are, though, they’ve fallen on hard times since then. Without political connections to speak of, the Hongmen have adapted. They exploit their monopoly on the entrance to Transit and milk their trade connection with the Overcity for all it’s worth, buying and selling luxury goods from up above.
The Hongmen have earned the bitter resentment of the Qings: not just because they’ve cheerfully embraced whatever elements of the modern world they need to survive, but because the Hongmen really do have some heritage to flash about. It’s immaterial for all practical purposes, of course, but it doesn’t half make the Qings spitting mad.
The Hongmen are:
- Gregarious. They like to make a big show of their hospitality and generosity: even — especially — to their enemies.
- Stylish. If you’re not doing something with panache, you might as well not be doing it at all.
- Mercantile. They don’t shy away from violence where it’s appropriate, but their favoured force multiplier is money.
The Outposts are the series of watchtowers along the northwest end of Haulage which protect the airlocks out to the Wastes. For any of these to be opened would be a potential disaster: while the Khaki Plague isn’t infectious enough that it would be a guaranteed end to the Enclave, it would certainly be enough of a threat for the Corps to irradiate Haulage until people stopped moving.
The Outposts are here to stop things ever getting that far. They’re manned by corpacops from the Overcity, and they are not at all happy to have to spend their days guarding the Undercity from its own stupidity.