The supreme leader of the Black Century awoke on what was once a very nice guest suite inside Mega-City Alpha. He had fallen asleep in his t-shirt and jeans again. It was one of his favorite t-shirts, referencing a series of video games known as Call of Duty from the early twenty-first century. The jeans were pretty good too. Hopping out of bed, he went to put on a pair of checkerboard Vans and brush his teeth. Instead of a shower, he applied deoderant. Breakfast was a few handfuls of sugary cereal. The basics out of the way, it was time to go to work.
The GameStation room consisted of a solid screen that curved around a corner to another. On the floor in the center was a biometric sofa that looked something like a bean bag chair. The screen saver was currently on, showing an aquarium of exotic fish. He clapped his hands and it dissapeared. The first person view of the dictator came up.
Over a hundred of the raiders were genetically linked to his controls here in the suite. Mostly he used the dictator. The dictator had started life as a very tall, muscular soul, with a half-rotted face. Now the leader dressed him in something that looked between Cobra Commander and Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Appearance was everything, when you dealt with a legion of bloodthirsty cannibals. A voice synthesizer helped too, made the dictator sound like a cross between Bane and Darth Vader. His aide was droning on in the boardroom.
"Five hundred infantry." He was saying. "Fifty-seven tanks. Eighty-four trucks."
"The numbers dont mean anything." The leader said, through the dictator. "The Colonists have those Plasma weapons."
"It is possible we can overwhelm them through sheer numbers." The aide said.
"And then what? Pillage everything? Rape the women, and eat the survivors?"
The aide looked nervous over the top of his glasses. "There are certain protocols that we have established."
"Here's the problem." the leader said. "No one had these sorts of weapons. Everyone used small arms. And then, suddenly we have this great technology from the time before. How long were we fighting the Piss Yellows?"
"Approximately three years."
"Three years, of skirmishes and major battles. And then gone. In one round from these Colonist, what was left was hardly worth mopping up."
"We have benefitted from the lack of competition." The aide said.
The dictator leaned in close. "Do you know the difference between a cannibal and a regular person?"
"No." The aide stuttered. "No, I dont."
"A cannibal looks at you and sees a piece of meat. A source of foodstuffs he can use. If you dont give a cannibal something new to do, some new target, he's going to look at you and get hungry. Are you interested in becoming dinner?"
"No. No sir."
"Me neither. We need this colony. We need it burnt to the ground, and all its secrets revealed."
The aide said coughed slightly. The dictator wondered if he was getting sick. A sick aide would be no good. He would have to go to the meat pens, and he would know it. What was his name, anyway? Once there had been an aide named Sephers. Sephers was a good one, kept the books straight and troops fed. Some idiot had let loose with a stray burst from an AR at a banquet table and Sephers had caught a slug right between the eyes. The dictator had had the man flogged, but it turned out to be a fairly valuable warrior, so an execution was out of the question.
The dictator opened up a picture-in-picture in the GameStation room to the feeding pens. The livestock area looked a little overcrowded. Some of them were crying, and almost all of them were naked. He sighed. If you stressed the herd out, frightened them to much, the meat tasted worse. You fed the people. You kept them warm and safe. You gave them a place to shit and sleep. And then, you thinned the herd a little, and slaughtered what you needed. You cooked the meat and seasoned it if that was available. There was a variety of things you could do with pork, and long pork was still pork. There was a bored looking raider standing guard to the pens, and the dictator opened up an intercom channel to him.
"This is your leader." He snapped. "Find some clothes for the meat."
The raider jumped up, panicking. "What do I use?"
"Use sacks if you have to." The dictator said, "But keep them covered."
From there the dictator jumped back into his usual body for public appearances, and set it walking with the GameStation controls. It was always good for the men to see him visible, lest anyone get any ideas.
He had the barest inklings of what the program was used for before he found it. A way to remotely control prisoners, and send them off on televised deathmatches. Once a man was infected with the virus most of his willpower shut off completely. He became little more than a puppet. Such puppets had allowed the dictator to rise to the place of power he possessed. He was a one man Hydra. If one body was killed in a battle, another took its place, wearing the same clothing, possesing the same synthesized, mechanical voice. The men took a sort of superstitious fear to him, which worked well for his purposes. Immortality was hard for primitive cannibals to overcome.
Most the time he appeared before the Upper Caste of the Mega City. These were the raiders who had distinguished themselves, through battle or some other skill. He had encouraged them to adopt a larger tone of civility than the rabble. Standard rules applied, mostly unspoken, such as,
1.Cook food before eating it, whenever you can help it
2. Avoid wearing trinkets made from human flesh
And to these he had stretched the rules further. Wear a uniform. Avoid beating the whores in public. Think about not eating all the children, sons could be useful. His goal, his utmost, striving, goal, was for the Black Century to become more than just a strong group. He wanted it to become a country, like Imperial Rome or Nazi Germany. He had appropriated much of the imagery, the strong use of black and dark grey, occasions of bright red. There was hope in the dictators heart, beneath all this. If man were to survive, he would need to be strong. The world was ruined, from what could be seen. What hope did they have otherwise?
The dictator scanned through the comm channels, from inside the GameStation, until he found what he was looking for. A patrol was about to leave out, headed through the west gate. He cut into their traffic. "This is your leader." He said. "Do not disembark until told to do so. I will be joining your expedition."
The patrol was light. Eight people in two vehicles, light technical trucks for quick capture. The commander saluted crisply, in his dark grey uniform with a red beret. The rest of the raiders were adorned in the standard black patchwork of scavanged clothing that bore the mark of their tribe. At least they are in black, the dictator thought. Uniformity does make a difference.
"My lord." The commander addressed him.
"Commander." The dictator said. "The purpose of this patrol?"
"Number of targets?"
"Four possible. Two male, one or two female."
"Use non-lethal force, unless challenged directly." The dictator said. "We need the stock for the pens." To their credit, the raiders did not grumble about this, or contradict him. The dictator made certain he had a heavy barreled Assault Rifle for himself, just in case.
The patrol left through the west gate, making good speed. Outside the west gate was a derelict section of the Mega City itself, that had succumbed to Rot at a somewhat greater speed than the sections inhabited by the Black Century. Far enough in it, among the sands half-swallowing doors and windows, a scavenger might be tempted to find shelter, and look for food. It was a great big honey pot of a trap, an easy target for the raiders, who constantly needed fresh meat for the pens.
A twinge of sadness came through the dictator as he sat on the biometric sofa in the GameStation room. Times like this he wished he could go out in the real thing, feel the wind through his hair. But still. He resolved to straighten his puppets back, and look presentable for the men. Appearance was everything.
They found the stragglers when the convoy took fire.
It was nothing too major. Light small arms fire from a handgun, or a pair of handguns. The bullets cracked near the trucks harmlessly. The reaction, or in the dictators eyes, overreaction, was nearly immediate. The entire convoy opened fire on the burned out, half buried structure where the muzzle flashes were barely visible.