The rail car clicked over the tracks.
Cable groaned, stirring inside.
Cable tried to sit up, and two things happened. One, his head immediately protested in agony. Secondly, he hit his aching head on the lid of the sealed rail car. With another pained moan he dropped back down to the cart’s floor. He tentatively touched his cheek and hissed at the flare of pain it brought. The bone was broken for sure, and by the puffy soreness beneath his fingers, it was probably swollen to the size of an apple. He couldn’t see his own hand in front of his face- the cart was pitch black. It was also cramped, his knees were almost into his chest.
Anger replaced pain and fear, and he kicked the lid of the cart.
“Let me out!” He shouted angrily, kicking up into the lid repeatedly. “Let me out!”
There was no answer. Cable growled and dropped down with a huff against the cart’s bottom. The tracks clicked by.
He wasn’t certain how long he lay there. It could’ve been five minutes, it could’ve been days for all he knew.
Abruptly, the tunnel shook. Violently, and then the air seemed to roar, as if it was being torn to pieces. Then there was shouting and the loud cracks of gunshots, muffled by the cart’s lid and walls but amplified by the tunnel.
The gunfire went on for a long while, and some wide shots hit Cable’s prison, making him jump in surprise and fear. Then, a few more shots from the opposing end were fired, and all went silent.
He lay there for moments longer, minutes, hours, days, before the cart’s lid suddenly cracked open, and he had to squint his eyes as light poured in.
“You alright, kid?” An authoritative voice asked.
Cable didn’t respond right away, letting himself slowly adjust to the light, his eyes tearing up from taking in too much light.
When he could see properly, he fixated his gaze on a man looking down at him. He was definitely older, with a shaved head and a heavy goatee.
“Who are you?” Cable asked, and his voice was a hoarse rasp. I sound like I just swallowed a handful of nails. He thought, wincing at how he sounded.
“You can call me Team Leader, until we get out of here.” Goatee Man said, and Cable furrowed his brow at the man in response.
“Don’t glare at me. We just did you a big favor.”
Won’t even tell me your name and you expect me to trust you just like that? After today, I’m going to have trust issues for the rest of my life!
Cable’s brow furrowed further at Team Leader as those thoughts went through his head. “We?”
Team Leader nodded, and extended a hand for Cable to take. He ignored the hand, and the tribal sat up to finally get a look around at what had happened. A whole section of the tunnel had been blown inward, likely by an explosive, and rubble covered the tracks. Aside from Team Leader, various others milled around the tunnel, all carrying some kind of high-tech weaponry, unlike anything he’d ever seen. These weapons were raised and their wielders were tense, as if they expected an attack.
A glance at the ground near the cart revealed Knight Erring, lying on his back. There was a scorched, blackened hole were the visor of his helmet used to be.
Cable jumped down from the cart, stumbling as his head reeled with dizziness, and Team Leader caught him by the arm to stop him from falling. Cable glanced over, just realizing now how massive the man was, and how large gauntlet closed around his arm was. Until, he realized, the guy was just wearing a very bulky suit of armor. He glanced around, and realized all the soldiers were, except they wore helmets. Cable experienced a moment of fright, hastily thinking these were more Brotherhood, until realizing that wouldn’t make any sense, and that the armor these guys wore looked nothing like regular power armor.
“What do you want with me?” Cable asked, glancing up at Team Leader, who still held his arm in a vise-like grip.
“We’ll tell you everything in a moment. But first we have to get out of here, this place will be crawling with Brotherhood any moment.”
“I don’t have a choice, do I? Coming with you, that is.”
Team Leader smiled widely, and Cable found himself a little taken aback by the easy grin. “No, you don’t. Keep up.”
With that, Cable’s arm was released and he stumbled back, unprepared for it. He glared at Team Leader’s back as the older man walked away.
“Alright, people!” Team Leader began, waving a finger in the air, the servos of his armor whirring to power the motion.
“Let’s move out!”
Immediately the powered armored soldiers began to file back out of the hole in the tunnel, with Team Leader in the rear. They didn’t glance back to see if he was following. Cable jolted, then hurried after them, out the hole.
The air outside was brisk and he shivered. But what he saw outside immediately took his breath away.
Seattle spread before him. It must’ve been a metropolis before the war. Massive sky-scrapers competed with the Space Needle for height. Down below, streets stretched into winding, crisscrossing boulevards. Platforms, added some time after the war, ran between buildings, creating a second set of walkways and crossings if one wanted to avoid the streets. What he really found interesting, however, was that some sections of the city had power, and were beacons of light.
“Welcome to the Royal Wasteland. King County. Oz.” Cable glanced over at Team Leader, who had spoken. He noticed that the entire squad had stopped when Cable had, although that might’ve only been because Team Leader stopped with him. The goateed man was looking out at the city himself. They stood on a hill, which the tunnel had been crossing over, and it provided a nice view of the city below.
“Oz?” Cable asked.
Team Leader nodded. “Seattle’s nickname before the war was ‘The Emerald City.’ In a book, a city of the same name was the capital of a fictional country named ‘Oz.’ It wasn’t me who named it, but I think it fits.”
“I know what Oz is.” Cable said defensively. He’d never actually read the children’s book, but he’d picked up on references from other sources. Team Leader just smiled, still not looking over at the tribal. Cable wanted to punch him in the face.
“And you can guess that the wasteland got its name from the county title before the war.”
“I did guess that.” Cable said, almost snappishly.
“Easy, kid, no need to get worked up.” Team Leader set off once more, and urged his people to fall in with him.
Cable struggled to keep up. His head still pounded and the Power Armor these people wore seemed to make them faster, along with increasing their height. Still, it appeared they were slowing for him, if only slightly.
They went down into the city, passing under the massive towers. Cable caught himself craning his neck to stare up at them and immediately schooled himself, looking forward once more. Keep your head on, man. You’re not some back-country Brahmin-herder anymore. You’ve seen plenty of places like this!
But he hadn’t. He’d seen sights, oh yes, but nothing to the scale that Seattle, this ‘Emerald City,’ was.
“Where are we going?” Cable asked, breathlessly.
No one answered him.
“Where are we going?” He asked again with a lot more heat.
“Keep quiet, kid.” Team Leader hissed back.
Cable snapped his jaw shut, and grit his teeth to keep the immense frustration he was feeling. He was running through the ruins of a city with complete strangers and no answers. And his face hurt.
“We’re here.” Team Leader said abruptly, the entire party stopping. Cable almost ran into the Power Armored man in front of him. They were nowhere special. Just the middle of a side street, with ruined buildings on three sides and the main avenue they had come from behind them.
Team Leader nodded to the soldier to his immediate right. “Jean, if you would.”
Cable gaped as ‘Jean’ pulled off her helmet, revealing a head as equally shaved as Team Leader’s. He just stood there in surprise for a moment as she walked up to a man hole, crouched, and held her face over it. Cable thought he say a light flash towards Jean’s face before she rose again, and set her helmet back on.
He was about to ask what that was supposed to do, before the manhole cover began to slide away. Jean immediately descended down the hole on a ladder. Most of the other soldiers followed.
“Just…” Cable began, before he stormed up to Team Leader, who had been headed in Cable’s direction anyway. “What is exactly going on?”
“We’re taking you down into headquarters.” Team Leader said, the infuriating smile gone. Cable was relieved for that, but suddenly the man looked quite serious.
“What headquarters?” Cable asked hesitantly.
“Our headquarters. The headquarters of the Cause.”
Cable blinked. “The Cause?”
Team Leader nodded. “My name is Abel, and I’m the leader of the Cause. Our goal is to maintain a semblance of order in Seattle. We guard settlements and towns, hunt down raiders, and put down any sort of malcontents. We’ve kept a good portion of the Royal Wasteland safe for a long time now.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because what you’re about to see will require that we can trust you.” Abel’s voice suddenly got a lot more intense, and he locked eyes with Cable. Cable was uncertain how he’d ever mistook Abel for jovial. That gaze could freeze a man solid. “We’re going to be putting a lot of trust in you. But first I have to ask: can we trust you?”
Cable bobbed his head quickly in a nod. “Yes. Yes, you can trust me.” Cable felt… odd. There was some excitement at what could be happening. Was Cable actually getting somewhere? It was all by chance, but he’d been hoping for a moment like this ever since leaving the Temple of Trials. Didn’t someone once tell him that his whole life would really just be a collection of random events that he would have no control over? Of course, that thought brought anxiousness. There was an edge to Abel’s voice that Cable really didn’t want to explore.
Abel nodded in satisfaction. “Good. What’s your name?”
“Come on inside, Cable.” Abel began, heading towards the man hole, the not so far off lights casting the building’s shadows onto the side street.
“Welcome to the Cause.”