Deseret (Utah), Nevada
Let’s kick off the meat of the Atlas with an area you’ll probably travel to often: the Great Basin. Why will you travel here? Because this is the home of Junkyard, the most advanced city left in the Wasted West. Hell, as far as I know, it’s the only city left in the West. Maybe in the world.
Before you get all jumpy to get there, make sure you bring a lot of water. This part of the country is about as hot as it gets, and you’ll likely be hiking across hundreds of miles of God-forsaken desert to get anywhere. The Basin was bad enough before the ozone layer wigged out. Now it’s an oven.
A long time ago, the people of Junkyard (what’s left of Salt Lake City) engaged in violent athletics called bloodsports. I don’t think they were usually fatal until the TV era. After that, they became big business, and folks wanted bigger, bolder, and bloodier games.
The teams that play them have high mortality rates, but if they get really good, they become the closest thing this world has to superstars. Watch the Mangler walk into a town and get swarmed by fans, and you’ll see what I mean.
Bloodsports are played all over the Wasted West, but their home was and is Junkyard. It’s also where the skullchucker championships are held each September 23—the anniversary of the Bomb.
The most popular of all bloodsports is skullchucker. The object is simple: Two teams of five get in an arena and beat the snot out of each other while trying to get their team’s skull in one of two baskets. One is in the center of the arena and is worth 1 points. The other’s in the opposing team’s starting area and is worth 3 points. There’s quite a bit of strategy involved in a good game, but sometimes the teams forget about the game and start slicing each other up.
Another popular sport is simply called “Pit.” Some fighter or group of fighters jump into this huge pit outside Junkyard and fight another bunch of folks or, more commonly, some captured horror of the Apocalypse. Both spectators and combatants make money by betting. The odds are usually straight up, but sometimes you’ll see some desperate brainer fight something he can’t handle just to score big. It’s sad really. I once saw a scrapper (someone with bionics) fight two trogs just to make enough money to pay off the body docs who gave him a new arm. Body docs reclaim debtors’ limbs by capturing the unfortunate soul and amputating the unpaid-for equipment, leaving the victim limbless, eyeless, or whatever.
Pit is run by a Junkyarder named Judge Tolliver. He’s crooked as a dog’s leg, but he was a real judge before the war, so Ike Taylor and Cole Ballad (a Law Dog that patrols the area around Junkyard—more on that meathead in a moment) leave him alone for the most part.
Most of Pit’s combatants are willing volunteers, fighting for a bounty equal to the danger of whatever they have to fight. But violent criminals are also sentenced to the Pit by Tolliver, who makes more money off these fights because the odds are usually hopeless. If the offender can manage to survive whatever’s thrown at him, however, he gets a full pardon (but no pay).
The Combine sits just on the other side of the Wasatch Mountains. One day, they’ll come spilling through the mountain passes with legions of Black Hats backed by dreaded automatons and cyborgs. It will happen, friend. Count on it.
Our only defense against them is Junkyard and its road-gang allies—and one mean son-of-abitch Law Dog named Cole Ballad. I can’t imagine what kind of woman squirted something as big and rotten as Ballad out her baby-chute.
Personally, I can’t stand this muscle-bound, trigger-happy maniac. He thinks he’s God’s gift to women but has all the charm of a rutting pig. And those are his good points.
Okay. In the name of fairness, Cole is good at one thing: killing. Cole was a US Army soldier, who was captured by the Rebels near the end of the Last War. But its not just his army career that gives him his (fully deserved) reputation.
See, he used to be one of the Combine’s fabled “Red Hats,” the toughest veterans of Throckmorton’s army. Most of them, like Cole, were with the General when he left the Rockies. He says Throckmorton was a good guy for a while. Even protected a few villages from mutie attacks. Then Throckmorton found Hellstromme’s automated factories and everything changed. Throckmorton started wiping out towns that wouldn’t knuckle under to him. And his new recruits, the Black Hats, were truly the scum of the desert. Cole wouldn’t stand for it, so he took off—under fire.
Next thing you know, he’s joined up with the Law Dogs. He rides the desert from the Rockies to Death Valley on his old military hoverbike looking for bad guys to use as target practice. Black Hat squads and spies for the Combine are in serious trouble if they cross Cole Ballad’s path.
The road gangs hate him only a little worse than the Black Hats. Cole isn’t interested in wiping them out—he knows they’re part of the defense against the Combine when it comes stomping over the Rockies—but he leaves their bones bleaching in the desert when he catches their raiding parties in the act of chasing caravans.
The long and short of it is Cole Ballad is a savior if your nose is clean. Let him catch you on the wrong side of right, and he’ll shoot first and try to think up some questions later. (He’s not all that bright.)
The Devil’s Playground
Somewhere along old Confederate Interstate 40 is an area of the Mojave called the “Devil’s Playground.” I think it’s called that because of all the strange rock formations. I don’t know for sure. Tourist books weren’t available when I was there looking for salvage.
Near the end of the Reckoning, Devil’s Playground took on a whole new meaning. Give a place a bad name, and the Reckoners feel obligated to populate it with something evil. If you’re ever given the opportunity to name something, please call it “Happy Valley” or “Place with no Monsters.” Okay?
All right. Back to business. The Devil’s Playground was actually the Confederate 1st Armored Infantry’s playground. See, this is where the Rebels tested their latest powered body armor. And what do you think they tested it on? Mojave rattlers, of course. You can still see their bones lying about the desert nearby.
You might also see the ruins of the Confederate outpost. When General Harlow was chasing the LatAm troops to the coat, the 1st Armored Infantry stopped at their home base for recharge and repairs. The worms were waiting for them. A score of rattlers and hundreds of wormlings burst out of the desert and swarmed the surprised Rebels. No one escaped. I only know what happened because I pulled a slug out of one of the crushed battlesuits I found bleaching in the sun.
The biggest road gang in the area is the Dust Devils. There are well over 100 fighters in the group, riding everything from motorcycles to pickups. Another 50 or so are kept in big busses at the rear. These are mechanics, kids, and a couple of junkers they use to beef up their rigs.
The Dust Devils are always on the move, raiding as far away as Montana, California, and Mexico. Needless to say, that takes a lot of spook juice, so the gang has their very own tanker truck full of the stuff. I’ve seen them refuel this thing at Junkyard. It’s got machine-guns in spiked nests up top, and there’s always a complement of six motorcycles and two old Southern Alliance AFVs nearby to watch over it. Fuel is life to these gangs, after all.
The Devils are everything you’d think they’d be: mean, rotten, and murderous. The worst of the bunch is their leader, a scrawny but persuasive man who calls himself “Sirocco.” He rides in a massive, heavily armored dump truck— one of those really big ones. The back has been turned into an armored command center/home for the jerk. There’s a manned machine-gun nest Junkyard on top of his “house” and a rocket launcher on the cab. Sirocco is well protected.
The head Devil’s favorite punishment is to chain his enemies to the back of his dump truck and drag them across the desert while he watches from his “back porch.”
For over 200 years, Fort 51 was the US Army’s top-secret weapon’s research laboratory. Everyone knew it existed; they just couldn’t get close enough to see what was going on there. It’s isolated in the southern deserts of Nevada, far enough away for some privacy, but close enough to keep an idea on the Confederate base at Roswell and occasionally conduct secret raids or experiments on them.
Fort 51 got hit hard when the bombs fell. It had some sort of defense—something like what Hellstromme had in place at Denver and Deseret—but the system failed. The place is mostly a crater surrounded by a maelstrom.
Still, an old Army captain I know says there were literally miles of underground laboratories beneath Fort 51. I don’t know if they were deep enough to survive a direct-hit from a ghost rock bomb, but if they did, there’s got to be some incredible loot down there.
There are still a few active defenses around the ruins. Besides a passel of walking dead, a number of functioning warbots keep curious scavengers a healthy distance from the ruins.
Joan and the schismatics. Sounds like an old punk band, doesn’t it?
This is the Joan who split from the Cult of Doom after the Virginia City Massacre. She and a handful of other schismatics holed up in an abandoned silo somewhere out here and founded a new sect of the Cult of Doom. They still believe norms are doomed to extinction, but they’re not interested in hastening the process. In fact, they think evolution has to run its normal course.
Joan’s base is rumored to be in a secret bunker beneath one of the old silos. She hasn’t been seen by too many folks. New Doomsayers are trained by schismatic “missionaries” in the field (these are the ones you and I see).
As a consequence of Joan being here, there is a fair amount of Cult of Doom activity in the area. It seems Silas didn’t take to well to Joan pulling a Martin Luther.
Get comfortable, amigo. This is a long story. But it’s worth it.
The Mormons settled Utah in 1847, under a religious leader named Brigham Young. They traveled out there from the Midwest to escape religious persecution. A lot of folks didn’t like the Mormons (or “Latter Day Saints” as they call themselves), and after some ugly incidents in Missouri and Illinois, the feeling was mutual.
The Saints were citizens of the United States until the Civil War came along and made Utah one of the “Disputed Lands.” Then Brigham Young declared that Utah would become the sovereign state of Deseret until such time as the war was decided. I don’t know exactly what happened, but Deseret remained its own country right up until the bombs fell.
Hellstromme, who had been evicted a long time ago, had left some kind of weird shield in place over his factories. When the bombs fell, the part of Salt Lake City called Junkyard survived. The city proper, and about three-quarters of the Mormon population, vanished in a skull-shaped mushroom cloud.
The Mormons who survived were none-toopleased about the “sinners” being saved while the “Saints” suffered. Some said God had forsaken them. Others claimed it was a sign that the purest of the Saints, those who had survived, were to move on and find a new, untainted place to live.
The latter argument won out. Every last surviving Mormon gathered what possessions he had left and formed a massive convoy. They disappeared North, and no one’s heard from them since.
If You Can’t Beat ’Em
That left a bunch of heathens in charge of Junkyard. They weren’t the best apples to fall off the tree, and they sure weren’t the shiniest.
When food ran out, most Junkers (don’t confuse them with “junkers,” brainer) left the city and joined the growing road gangs. Those who were left rallied around a tough old Junker named Ike Taylor. Ike was a factory foreman before, and he quickly realized that his community would soon come under attack from the larger road gangs.
So he came up with a unique plan. Instead of fighting them, Ike decided he’d join them. The grizzled, bald-headed, factory-foreman and his right-hand man, Doc Schwartz (who is a real junker), converted some of the surviving factories into refineries. Then they hauled ghost rock in from the nearby Wasatch Mountains and distilled it into spook juice.
When the gangs inevitably came around, Ike invited them in and did the unthinkable—he actually showed them the city’s defenses, including flamethrowers powered by spook juice, heavy machine guns, and even a few grenade and rocket launchers.
I’m sure he didn’t show them everything, but all the local gang leaders have seen enough to know that taking the city will be incredibly costly. Ike then told them they didn’t have to try. If they could bring the Junkers food and other salvage, the Junkers would trade them for spook juice to fuel their many vehicles. All the gangers eventually agreed, and Junkyard has became an iron oasis in the desert.
It’s a foul, dirty place, and I can’t say I approve of keeping raiders in business. But I do understand survival, and Ike’s secured that for his people. Still, I’d have to bring them down except for one other factor in their favor.
Junkyard and its allies are all that’s keeping the Combine from spilling over the Rockies and into the Great Basin. And that’s far too great an advantage to pass over.
A Brief Tour of Junkyard
So what can you find in Junkyard? Lots of junkers, and I do mean the non-capitalized variety.
Junkyard has power, the electrical kind, that is, and therefore attracts scores of junkers looking for juice to power their bizarre experiments. A power outlet comes free with most apartments (which rent for about $300 a month for a one room flat), or a brainer can rent a daily hookup at one of the factories for $25 a day.
Not a bad deal, overall. It also helps Doc Schwartz and his friends keep an eye on visiting junkers and monitor their experiments. That way they can keep some loser from blowing the whole city to Kingdom Come from a failed experiment.
The other reason junkers love Junkyard so much is because of the trade goods that come into the city in exchange for its spook juice and other manufactured goods. Lost technology fetches a higher price here than most anywhere because there’s always a buyer, and trade caravans full of junk arrive daily. Anything from toasters to highly experimental prewar government tech is a commodity in this busy place.
Bionic augmentations were first pioneered here in Junkyard. A lot of Junkers lost arms and legs in the factories, and I guess replacing them with metallic constructs seems preferable than going without.
Then there are losers who hack off their limbs on purpose just to get an arm strong enough to crack skulls like eggs. Most of these folks fight in Junkyard’s second biggest industry: the bloodsports (see page 72, friend).
The Mormons had outlawed bionic augmentation for a while when it first appeared, but they got over it by the turn of the last century. The first augmentations were huge, ugly contraptions. By the time electronics became common, they got sleek and sexy. You could even hide bionic limbs beneath synthetic skin.
These days, a few of the old body docs survive, but the bionics they stick in people look like throwbacks to the 1800s. They’re big and clunky and prone to jamming up just when you need them most. That’s why they call folks with bionics “scrappers,” because it looks like their augmentations were made out of scrap metal. The docs must be low on high-tech parts.
If you lose a limb, I recommend you live without. If you can’t handle that, make sure you can pay the bill. The body docs sometimes make “loans” to folks who have a good chance at making money off the augmentation (such as in a bloodsport). But those who don’t pay find themselves hunted by the body docs’ hired thugs. The unfortunate debtors’ bionics are amputated, and they’re left limbless and penniless in the understreets of Junkyard.
The most gallant figure in the desert has to be Lancelot. Of course that’s not his real name, but this Frenchman has a taste for the dramatic.
Lance (his real first name, I think) was one of those few foreign troops that came over here during the Last War. He got stranded and decided he didn’t want to know how bad France got hit, so he stayed.
Lancelot doesn’t look much like what you’d think—he’s black and his “horse” is a motorcycle—but he is a handsome fellow. Oh, and did I mention he’s a Templar? He’s been playing the game a little longer than me, but I can still kick his tight ass if I want to.
Lancelot’s “knights” are a ragtag collection of wasteland warriors he’s gathered about him. One, I think his name is Samuel, is a squire. The others were simple biker scum who saw in Lance something better than raping and pillaging. I’m not much for reform—I’d just as soon skewer somebody and clean the gene pool—but Lance has a real talent for bringing out the best in folks. Roger was like that. Maybe that’s why I—uh. That’s not important.
Anyway, Lance calls his group the Omega Knights because “omega” is the last letter in the Greek alphabet, and he figures his band are the last “knights” in the world. For such a smiling hero, Lancelot can be a little pessimistic when talking about the long term.
The gang’s trademark is their lances. Yup. They actually carry around long, metal lances they use to spike bad guys and monsters with. They have guns too, of course, but a biker who sees his buddy impaled on a stick at 50 m.p.h. doesn’t usually have the stomach left to fight.
Queens of the Road
As biker gangs go, the Queens of the Road aren’t that bad. They do their fair share of raiding, but they never kill and usually only hit the most wealthy caravans. They get away with this because they’re all incredibly beautiful women, and most of their victims—caravans coming to and from Junkyard—are typically guarded by men. And as we know, it’s easy to make a man drop his gun by making him think about his other weapon. Know what I mean?
The leader of the Queens is Jenny Quaid. She’s everything a male chauvinist pig looks for in a “biker babe.” She’s large-chested with a skinny waist and loves to wear corsets and tight vinyl pants. Back in my time, gals like her set women’s rights back a hundred years. These days, I reckon she’s proved she and her girls are the equal of any man.
Cole Ballad once told me he found one of the Queens staked out in the desert, left for dead. When he asked her why Quaid had deserted her, the biker said she’d shot a caravan driver after the Queens had robbed him. Quaid has a strange sense of honor, but it’s better than none at all.
This is where Silas Rasmussen, the Mutant King and founder of the Cult of Doom, first began his war against the norms.
Virginia City sits high atop the Sierra Nevadas. It was a silver mining town ages ago. Once that dried up, it became an Old West tourist trap. Roger and I drove out there from our honeymoon in Vegas. It was a quaint little place.
That was a long time ago. Now there’s nothing left of Virginia City but ruined buildings and the skeletons left from Silas’ assault.
The Great Basin
The Great Basin might only comprise the Nevada and Deseret areas, but it has three of the four largest survivor settlements around. Most of the territory is quit hostile and littered with critters best left alone.
Probably the fourth largest survival settlement around. Weirdness abounds here, with groups like the Fellowship of MIRV running around in public (not to say they are the only ones).
Arguably the largest settlement. Junkyard was part of Salt Lake City, but when the bombs dropped, only this section survived. Not by some stroke of luck, but cuz good old Doc Hellstromme covered it with a massive shield.
Groups/People of Note
Queens of the Road
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