A screenshot from Niowari.
Xae’s an interesting character. She’s talked to various people about her life experiences, more responding to questions than volunteering information.
She’s the one witness to the Balkanization and life in the Barrens that we know of. Surely there are others but no one wants to talk about it. Strange. I said to her, “Weren’t you scared out there, a girl alone?”
“Nah, she replied. “There was a blade challenged me but he brought a mouth to a knife fight. One cut and he lost all interest in the ‘no contest’. Nobody messed with me after that.”
Xae was 12 when her dad died, a quick, ugly way. His body hadn’t cooled off yet and the do-gooders grabbed her. “Orphans need community.” That evening, after a sparse meal, a boy about her age came up, trying not to cry. “I’m on tomorrow’s bus and you prolly cop the next one.”
“Huh. I’ve seen a fate worse than death. Yucky, but it didn’t last long. I’m guessing where you’re going, death ain’t an option?”
The kid just stood silent; Xae felt pity for a moment but extinguished that.
“Hey, mute boy. Why don’t y’all just split? Near as I can figure, no security, no bedcheck.”
The boy gaped … then, “No one ever thought of it.”
Xae’s eyes widened, “No one ev … ” mutters some prickly words about sheep and mice, then calms herself. “We’re busting out tonight. Fools didn’t even check if I had a knife.”
Well, the Barrens went through a dog-eat-dog phase but those always have a high atttrition rate.
The easiest option is the big dog who decides to go it alone, relying on his strength and ‘no limits’ attitude. So the small dogs understand cooperation, strength in numbers, and the pack prevails.
Or a lesser big dog attracts a couple of minions and they do well for a short time. Most likely, they kill their leader in his sleep because some people always want MOAR. If they then don’t kill each other, same cause, a bigger pack of small dogs takes the rubbisn out … and the nomadic community stabilizes.
Junkers tend to specialize and a lot of trade goes on.
And you have the small stories like … Xae notices Jake signalling a message and they walk toward each other. “Xae, you … know Maddog, yeh? Well. he put the word out … if anyone ever messes with you, they haf to answer to him.”
Xae nods twice, agreeing she has a small obligation to settle in the near future. It’s curious, because she’s never even spoken with Maddog. But she wanders through the area and finds him later in the day, a slight nod and a half smile, as a thank you. And that’s enough.
Chivalry grows in strange places.
Did you ever wonder how she got her name?
She was born in 2028 and her father named her after his favorite TV character from before The Collapse.
So in this side story. Lexy is playing Xae. In the Swordmaster canon, Xae is the hero’s girlfriend.
When Xae helped that boy escape, they went their separate ways on the state road. Xae doubled back to watch the Red Sun bus pickup.
Imagine: Early morning, rain. A big grey warehouse. A vast roller door cranks up noisily. Two columns of kids in crude smocks marches out, a guard yelling at them. The bus comes from behind, stops. The kids board, guard laughing.
“You’re going to a better place, ahaha, but you won’t like it. I hear they do human experimentation and a bit of torture in their spare time. Hahahaa!”
Some of the kids are shrieking, others too numb to react.
Xae watches this Hellish visage impassively, from a nearby hilltop. Clenching her fists, she mutters, “These people are going down. And I start with this village of self-deluded fiends.”
The guard never knew what hit him …