Six years had gone by after the cleansing.
In that time the walls of the Northern Wheel had fallen and the once safe habitat had been reduced to pitiful bands of survivalist barely held together by a memory of the bad days turned unbearable.
Central control had been reduced to 5% efficiency. They'd only send patrols to search for survivors. Any unit operations during the day were worse than suicide, techs could hold only limited environmental control for even during night sorties. Everyone that perished beyond the Apex Bulwark came back as an abomination throwing itself against the defenses, chanting the truth of the Hell-Deacon. Rest was silence, toil and maintenance of the last auto-factory. It was running overtime by the order of Central and when they finally wouldn't be able to repair it, then that would be it.

The weather outside the Wheel was worsening by the season and after much talk and preparation it was decided that an exodus was the only viable option in lieu of slow death. A large stockpile would be gathered and fortified within the Southern Spoke walls.



Patrik was the leader of the last strike-squad; it's mission to demolish the autofac so nothing would be left to the enemy. He was one of the elite cyber-enhanced, but many of the implants had lost their power with the Centrals inability to produce the necessary bio-chems that the wet/hardware required for maximum efficiency.


"Explosives in place." chattered the tight-beam. Patrik gave the thumbs up and send a burst-message back. "Blow it up."


As he looked down from the control deck marveling at the explosions, two things happened in unison. Their exit vehicle, hover-APC, was struck by a high energy lance; torn to shreds and the communication desk came to life. It was the freezing voice of the Hell-Deacon.


"Oh please do stay. Your little ploy has been discovered and you've been caught en passant. There are bigger rats in (and between) the walls than you." end transmission.


The next day parcels of meat were left outside the fortifications.


Illustration by Elena Naylor