Visitors to the Undercity
The majority of Mega-City One citizens have no desire to visit the shadowy world of the Undercity. Even in the direst of emergencies, most would rather face the radioactive wasteland of the Cursed Earth rather than the ruined streets and buildings far below the massive slabs of City Bottom. Many remember the terrible monsters that have occasionally emerged to threaten the City and believe that the dark underworld is crawling with similar creatures. Others are more straightforward and associate prestige with how high they live in the massive cityblocks – the very idea of living on City Bottom is repugnant; the thought of human life existing beneath the ground would fill them with horror and disgust. Most, however, simply do not know – or care – that the Undercity really exists, too wrapped up with their everyday lives to bother with semi-mythical places.
A small minority of citizens are prepared to risk life and limb by organising expeditions to the old cities. The adventurous, the desperate, or the just plain greedy, dare to venture below the City into the darkness despite the Justice Department strict prohibition of the practice. However, any visitor must be careful to ensure that they can exit the Undercity as easily as they entered it – City Maintenance squads quickly seal up any holes and fissures that they find, which can leave the unfortunate intruders stranded in the dingy caves and caverns!
The Justice Department also have a vested interest in keeping the Undercity under control. Despite existing beyond their normal jurisdiction, judges are occasionally sent on missions into the darkness in order to eliminate some terrible threat or apprehend some particularly important fugitive. On more than one occasion, judges have been dispatched on the request of the Undercity dwellers themselves to deal with some new terror, but this is very much the exception rather than the rule. A chronic lack of judicial manpower has ensured that regular Undercity patrols are a thing of the past, but there is still a form of regular law enforcement. Judges can choose to take the Long Walk into the Undercity when they retire from active service. Each takes an oath ‘to bring Law unto the Lawless – until death!’ but the midnight world of the Undercity is very different to the bright lights of Mega-City One and only the most exceptional lawman can last for long.
Probably the most common visitors to the Undercity are members of the Citi-Def, intent on gaining some ‘real-life combat experience’ without the inherent risks of starting a Block War and the certainty of a long stretch in the Iso Cubes. Before the Apocalypse War, the Justice Department would allow carefully selected groups of Citi-Def access into the Undercity, and during the conflict the old cities even acted as a base for many units of guerrilla fighters, allowing them to launch lightening attacks against the occupying Sov forces before fading back into the shadows of the buried streets and buildings. Following the extensive rebuilding programme that followed the massive destruction, many of the old entrances to the Undercity were sealed over and the judges decided that to allow visitors to the subterranean world was simply too risky and difficult to administrate. Modern Citi-Def squads must take a more clandestine approach, sneaking in via the sewer system or even boring through the rockcrete foundations of their cityblocks.
Most Citi-Def squads take great pride in the fact that they are always ready for enemy action, and to this end they tend to over-prepare somewhat, often carrying awkward or inappropriate heavy weapons or specialist equipment when embarking on a training mission. However, there are still the small minority of units that believe that they can deal with anything that the underworld can throw at them armed only with a handgun and a flashlight. It is usually only Citi-Def Officers and Jaeger squad commandoes that will embark on training missions to the Undercity – the normal citizens that make up the ranks of the Citi-Def militia are either disregarded as unsuitable or are simply not interested in crawling about below the sewers, preferring to watch game shows and soap operas instead. A typical Citi-Def training squad will consist of an Officer accompanied by three to six Jaeger squad commandoes, equipped with spelunker suits and Nightrider rifles with high-powered flashlights. Most carry enough rations to last for some considerable time, but some will be expected to live off ‘the land’ – surviving on only what they can catch and kill. Most find that they would rather go hungry.
Undercity dwellers tend to regard visiting Citi-Def as little more than an irritation – no matter how stealthy and well drilled the part time soldiers attempt to be, with their noisy equipment and blazing lights they cannot help but be conspicuous. Most tribes and troggie clans are prepared to ignore or avoid the intruders, knowing that they will soon return home to their own environment as soon as they get bored or hungry, or get killed by something bigger and meaner than them. Others, such as the peaceful Philadelphian trog tribes, will offer to act as guides, skilfully steering the intruders away from anything really dangerous in return for some small trinket or piece of technology.
Attracted by the fact that the Undercity is outside of the jurisdiction of the Justice Department, many large criminal cartels have had the idea of establishing a permanent base below the streets of the Mega-City. This is often a very expensive operation – transporting the raw materials to build a secure building from the surface world to the Undercity without attracting the attention of the judges is an almost impossible task that requires elaborate planning and an enormous investment of resources. Many fall at the first hurdle, attempting to bore a tunnel large enough to transport large construction vehicles and robots through the slabs of City Bottom. Naturally, this is a rather noisy and conspicuous business that rarely goes unnoticed!
However, an organisation that is able to establish a base is able to reap the benefits. The most typical Undercity base is used as a manufacturing plant, able to churn out anything from illegal weapons to drugs without much chance of discovery by the judges. In theory, the cartel should be able to flood the streets of Mega-City One with untraceable contraband. In practice, things rarely work out that way.
The Undercity dwellers themselves are a major headache. Unlike the temporary visits by the Citi-Def squads or the transient, nomadic fugitives and refugees, the criminal cartels clearly intend to stay on a permanent basis. Many tribes naturally take great exception to this invasion of their territories and will do their best to make the intruders lives as difficult as possible – sneaking in to steal anything that is not physically fixed down or simply murdering anyone they encounter.
A typical cartel base is a collection of modular, pre-fabricated buildings that has been constructed in a specially cleared area of an old city, or a repaired and re-fitted ancient ruin. Unable to connect to the City’s power supply, the cartels must ensure that there is a powerful generator available which includes more than enough power to run all of the outposts needs. Large lighting rigs illuminate the surrounding area, and 30 – 50 human guards are supposed to ensure that the Undercity dwellers keep their distance. A team of construction and assembly robots toil endlessly at production lines, churning out illicit contraband, which must somehow be smuggled into the Mega-City. Short of investing a huge amount of capital by installing one of the new teleport systems (which are unreliable even in the best of conditions), this will require a tunnel, which usually leads into some structure located on City Bottom – an old warehouse or Ecom unit is the most common – but the need to maintain a stable entrance into the world above is often the most difficult part of the operation, as the judges and City Maintenance alike will waste no time sealing the fissure without warning.
Mega-City One has had more than its fair share of wars, natural disasters and invasions. Some citizens have become so accustomed to citywide death and destruction that they have established a well-practiced drill, which is put into effect as soon as the first signs of a threat appear. Thousands of citizens pack up whatever that cannot bear to part with and make for the relative safety of the Cursed Earth or the Undercity until the danger has passed, taking elaborate measures to escape over the city wall or burrowing through the slabs of City Bottom.
The residents of the Undercity usually avoid the refugees if at all possible – they know that these ‘upsiders’ will only enter their shadowy home in the most desperate emergency, and they themselves should hide should the threat extend below the Mega-City. Sometimes, though, the fleeing citizens find no safe haven as the crisis has a dramatic effect on life in the Undercity. The corrupting influence of the Sisters of Death was able to reach into the simple souls of the deep troggies during the Necropolis crisis, sending them on terrible rampages of death and destruction. During the Judgement Day war, the dead of the Undercity arose to attack the living, just as happened all over the entire world, and the most recent influx of refugees found themselves fighting side by side with the Undercity dwellers. Many thousands of troggies, human tribesmen and refugees were killed in the brutal hand to hand fighting. The Undercity has never quite recovered from the repercussions of this terrible battle – especially considering that some of the undead remained animated after the defeat of the necromancer Sabbat. The Apocalypse War resulted in the population of the Undercity almost doubling, as many of the citizens that had fled to hide from the occupying Sov forces had no homes to return to afterwards. Others discovered that the life of an Undercity dweller was more exciting than their own tedious existence and decided to stay, a few simply did not believe that the Mega-City One forces could possibly have defeated the apparently unstoppable Soviet war machine, dismissing any subsequent news reports as propaganda intended to flush them out of hiding. Some were still suffering from the Block Mania contamination and had become so involved in fighting the various Undercity tribes that it has simply never occurred to them to go home!
What constitutes a refugee party varies enormously, from a lone individual fleeing via the sewer system to a massive, hundreds strong column that has made its way beneath the ground by using enormous construction vehicles or robots to bore a huge tunnel. Many blocks have established an evacuation drill that is put into effect at the first sign of an emergency, but in the event of an actual alarm most citizens will panic, grabbing the first thing that comes to hand (no matter how inappropriate or useless) and fleeing. Most refugees will be unarmed, but about one in ten are equipped with small arms or hand weapons.
A citizen fleeing from the judges is often prepared to take desperate measures to avoid a long spell in the Iso Cubes. Those that can afford it make use of a perp runner, a criminal highly skilled in smuggling fugitives out of the jurisdiction of the Justice Department. Even though it is the closest ‘judge free’ area, few perp runners will take the effort to deposit their charges into the dark underworld. Boring a tunnel through City Bottom is a time consuming, costly exercise that often attracts the attention of the very people that the runners are intent on avoiding. In any case, even ruthless criminals find the thought of life in the Cubes preferable to struggling for survival in the Undercity.
Most fugitives that find their way below ground make their way unaided, squeezing through fissures or navigating through the sewer system. It is usually only the most odious of criminals who are prepared to try to make themselves a new life in the Undercity – vile murderers tempted by the lack of judicial interference hampering their ‘fun’. These individuals often join with the most violent Undercity tribes, frequently rising quite high in rank.
Taking a tourist trip to the buried cities is a relatively recent craze. Naturally, the practice of arranging package trips to the Undercity is highly illegal, but this only adds to the attraction. For an extortionate fee, groups of citizens are smuggled below City Bottom, taking rooms in a once majestic hotel or famous landmark, while costumed entertainers provide re-enactments of historical events for the tourist’s amusements. Many of the visitors are attracted by the opportunity for sightseeing, but they are frequently disappointed – it is too dark to see anything in most of the Undercity.
Most of these tours are arranged by totally unscrupulous conmen, intent on draining their customers of cash for as little work or effort as possible. Others are more sinister – chump dumpers who simply abandon their charges in some dark corner of the Underworld to be killed by troggies or some monster, or even slavers who had no intention of taking their customers to anywhere other than a Cursed Earth slave market.
Even if tourists have been forewarned of the dangers of the Undercity, they are usually poorly equipped to survive below ground, often bringing no more than a vid camera and a bad taste in clothes. Some tourists are intent on a ‘hunting trip’ to the Undercity, loading up with heavy weapon and determined to bag a trophy – similar to the ‘dinosaur hunters’ that have been venturing into the Cursed Earth for many years. The Undercity is a very different environment to the Cursed Earth, however, which requires a very different approach – many hunters have failed to take this into account and have paid the price.
Most Undercity dwellers, except the most territorial and aggressive, tend to ignore and avoid sightseers. A non-violent exception is the pathetic troggie sub-breed known as wretches – the cadaverous, blind creatures tend to crowd around the visitors, begging for a few scraps of food. This approach does not normally work, but the tourists seem to regard the creatures as ‘charming’ parts of the scenery. Naturally, all tribes will react against any violent act, often tracking down and swiftly eliminating any group that seems to be a threat to them.
Seedy bars and clubs in the Mega-City are full of tales of the riches of the United States left abandoned in the old cities before their entombment. In a city where any pre-Atom War artefact is considered a priceless collectable, many of the more gullible citizens are prepared to risk life and limb in order to visit the savage underworld beneath their feet. Many pongo’s can make a fine profit selling ‘treasure maps’ detailing the locations of valuable items. Most of these are simply copied out of old atlases, giving a vague idea of some famous landmark that may still contain some valuable item, others are completely fictional pieces of artwork that ‘guarantee’ the owner will find huge riches, but bear no relation to reality. A few are genuine, accurately showing a location rich in valuable items – Gloomingdales department store in New York is a favourite, as it once claimed that it stocked ‘everything’, or the old United States Mint in Philadelphia, still reputed to hold millions of credits worth of old coins.
Most treasure hunters are enthusiastic amateurs, who believe that they can conquer the Undercity equipped only with a spade and a flashlight. This is almost always a fatal mistake – most landmarks are occupied, or at least claimed, by the various Undercity dwellers, who take great offence to upsiders arriving on their territory unannounced to steal their property. Others come better prepared, with diggerbots, ultrasonic scanners and adequate lighting as well as a selection of weapons to keep the threat of the troggies at bay. Most realise that they have been hoodwinked and quickly give in – everything truly valuable that was left behind has long since been looted or broken in the years since the long night began. Some are more patient, or more stupid, often spending a fortune in time and money tearing old buildings or monuments to pieces seeking valuables that no longer exist. The United States Mint, for example, has been visited by so many different groups of fortune seekers that the fortress like structure resembles a honeycomb, riddled with tunnels and pits and verging on collapse.
A few treasure hunters actually become successful, finding a cache of priceless lava lamps or un-opened self-assembly book cases, which he then sells for a fortune on the antiques black market. These exceptional individuals can make a very good, if illicit, living from their subterranean activities. Others make a living by scavenging illegally through the Mega-City sewer system, seeking valuables other citizens have accidentally flushed away. Even these ‘sewer scrapers’ are sometimes surprised by what they find washed up in storm drains or channels.
The Junk Prospector
The Mega-City antiques market places a great deal of value on artefacts from 20th and 21st Century popular culture – items that a contemporary individual would regard as rubbish or of short term worth. Ancient newspapers and books are often banned by the judges, which only adds to their appeal – old copies of the New York Times, comic books or one time blockbuster novels find their way onto the Justice Department’s vetoed list, boosting their ‘collectable’ value no end on the black market. Other items can be legally owned, but are extremely rare. Ancient craze items such as Rubik’s cubes were at one time produced by the million, but only a handful have survived into the 22nd Century. Even packaging is valuable – tins, bottles and even carrier bags can fetch millions. It is not unknown for a collector to kill in order to obtain some rare item that was simply thrown away by its original owner.
The absurd prices that some citizens are prepared to pay for an old Wellington boot or a Sylvester Stallone movie poster naturally attracts many perps into ruined Cursed Earth towns and cities, or the buried conurbations of the Undercity in search of valuable junk. The savage environment or its inhabitants kill many before they can find anything of value, but a few manage to locate a valuable ‘seam’ of junk. Some still speak of the legendary Filmore Faro, who rediscovered the town of Memphis in the Cursed Earth and made his fortune selling Elvis memorabilia to the Sov block. Some still speak in awe of his priceless coat made from ring-pull tabs, but always seem to ignore the fact that he was driven completely insane as his brain was fried in the radiation saturated wasteland before he chanced upon the old city. The chance of making a huge profit always outweighs the dangers.
The Justice Department
The forces of the Justice Department are usually the only legitimate visitors to the Undercity. Unlike most intruders, the judges make use of the great Undercity Gates instead of having to find a tunnel or fissure through City Bottom – although it is not unheard of for a team of judges to be dispatched through a hole, even if it only to see where it leads. However, the judges lack the manpower to do anything other than make occasional visits, usually only when there is some pressing emergency brewing in the dark underworld. Unlike the Cursed Earth, there is little or no monitoring of the Undercity, no circuit patrols or Hotdog Runs to give an occasional update of the situation below the city. It is often years between missions – the judges often find that any information that they possess is hopelessly out of date when embarking through the Gates.
Occasionally it is the Undercity dwellers themselves who request the presence of the judges. They are fully aware that the great judges are able to deal with threats that they have no chance of coping with – troggies have emerged to request help against the terrifying Vampire Cloud and to end the insane domination of Brad Evil, for example. The judges know that the troggies will only emerge into the hated light in the most desperate of situations and usually take their complaints seriously enough to investigate.
More often, though, the judges will venture into the Undercity to deal with some menace that has emerged to attack the citizens of Mega-City One. These threats vary from the relatively mundane – such as Slick Willy and his troggie cult’s abduction of dozens of upsiders to act as slaves in his mad plan to bring the Mega-City crashing down in 2099 – to quasi-supernatural monsters emerging to bring carnage to the roads and pedways – for example, the werewolf attacks in 2105 or the Holy Fiend murders of 2114. Most residents of the Undercity know enough to make themselves scarce whenever the judges venture into the Undercity – even the dumbest troggie realises that trouble always follows the black clad lawmen and he will need to find a safe place to hide until the shooting stops!
A judge’s standard issue equipment is usually enough to deal with anything that the Undercity can throw at them. With their access to the large Undercity Gates, the judges are also among the only visitors who are able to bring any vehicles with them, although anything larger than a Lawmaster will have great difficulty on the shattered streets.
The Undercity Long Walk Judge
No judge is expected to remain on the streets forever. Even the toughest lawman knows that, one day, their usefulness will come to an end and they will be forced to retire. However, it would be foolish to expect old judges to live out their final days lazing around in a Crock Block. Once retired from active service, there are still several valuable roles that they can fulfil. The most experienced are given the opportunity to pass on their knowledge gleaned from their decades on the streets by becoming Judge Tutors in the Academy of Law, training the next generation of Cadets in the statutes and application of the Law. Others are given administrative roles in Sector Houses, where they are able to offer guidance and assistance to their former colleagues. But there are always a few who find such tasks tedious. The only alternative is known as the Long Walk, when a retiring judge is given the opportunity to leave the confines of the Mega-City to bring the Law to the Lawless in the wastelands beyond the Justice Department’s normal jurisdiction. Most who decide to ‘take the hike’ choose to venture into the radioactive wasteland of the Cursed Earth, but the blackness of the Undercity is also an option. The Long Walk Judges are practically the only official law enforcement that exists in the shadow-cloaked underworld. A judge who becomes disillusioned with the Justice Department is also given the opportunity of taking the Long Walk, but most choose to simply renounce their authority and become a normal citizen. Unfortunately, the threat of the Long Walk has been used in the past as the ultimate disciplinary measure, particularly during the reign of Chief Judge Silver and the second term of Chief Judge McGruder. Corrupt judges suspected of committing some terrible crime were permitted to take the Long Walk as the honourable alternative to a sentence on Titan or a Cursed Earth work farm – unfortunately, beyond the strict control of the Justice Department, these highly dangerous individuals tended to run amok. Some of the most notorious maniacs and murderers to wander the Undercity and the Cursed Earth were former Long Walk judges.
A judge taking the Long Walk is marked by a great ceremony. Twenty-one judges flank their departing comrade, each saluting him with a single shot as he passes. The traditional lament is recited as he exits the Mega-City for the final time. As the gates to the City clang shut behind him, the judge is alone for almost the first time in his life. From now on, he can only rely on himself – there is no back up, no comrades to come to his aid should he get into trouble. He has only his training and experience to keep him alive in a new, hostile environment. It takes a truly exceptional individual to survive longer than a few months as a Long Walk judge.