A VISION OF PROGRESS

by Chris Cotgrove

Amidst an urban wasteland formed of sprawling derelict buildings, fifty kilometers wide, the tarnished statue of a beautiful angel, reaching skyward as if to plead with a now long absent god, as the rain runs down her face like a flood of tears. Walls, huts, and barricades made from wrecked, rusted cars and gnawed bones rise around her.

Entire streets lie deserted, inhabited only by rats...or worse. A single street lamp, perched atop a twisted black metal pole, shorts in time to the failing heartbeat of the city. Strange symbols are etched into metallic walls, and painted in blood on brick. The continual drizzling rain forms pools of black, stagnant water, which sometimes runs together to create dark, polluted lakes.

On the distant horizon, a large black-brown cloud hovers over Cannibal Sector One, composed entirely of bloodsucking flies. The swarm stares down upon a multitude of what can only be described as monsters - cannibalistic humans, mutated by toxic waste, scream at the sky; packs of hungry Carrien crowd around a fresh kill; the ragged form of Digger, Mort's first and most lethal Manchine, making his way back to his terrifying home in Salvation Tower - a small herd of carnivorous pigs run back into the safe darkness of a sewer outlet, narrowly avoiding him.

The graceful, predatory form of Bloody Valentine vaults over a series of warped, broken girders, glances around, and pirouettes onward toward her next victim. The hulking shape of a fanatical Ex-War Criminal, encased in a suit of dark, rune-covered power armor, patrols his corner of "God's Holy Empire".

A sense of depression and decay, mixed with the ever-present aura of fear, is the only atmosphere near the Cannibal Sectors; that is, until the perimeter fans break down. A primordial stench washes over Downtown, the result of over 500 years worth of neglected, overflowing sewers and too many un-named corpses; merely the herald of what is to come.

The inhabitants of Downtown have woken up to find themselves in a nightmare made real, where the only way out is death - or servitude to SLA Industries; which for some equates to the same thing. Far from the derelicts of Downtown, past the clean streets of Suburbia, in the tower of glass and steel that is Mort Central, the dark god of technology watches over what he has created...the Big Picture he has only just begun to realise.

Welcome to Progress.