|KRON: THE JUNK YARD OF HIO|
Back before the big one, Kron was a city in decline. With a serious lack of major industry in the area, the local government had been accepting waste disposal and storage contracts to utilize the empty space that was hollowing out its former borders. As the waste products, scrap materials, and nanite-tainted resources built up in the dumps around Kron, it got so bad that residents had to wear protective gear, and get their dwellings sealed to prevent illness and poisoning.
Ironically enough, this saved Kron when the big one came. The place was already somewhat radioactive, and putting a little fallout on top of that didn’t really do any significant harm. And most of the northern bioweapon waves found their nanites and tailored viruses incompatible with the existing pollution and nano-fauna. Kron was just too toxic to be poisoned. And since the residents had top of the line BCN gear to begin with, the fatality rates were low. At least, at the beginning.
As an isolated city far from any of the major detonations, the townsfolk of Kron found themselves besieged by refugees. Some raided them, others squatted on toxic dumps without protective gear, and others brought disease. In particular, the plague-ridden survivors of Colum acted as a vector for particularly virulent strains, that could adapt to even the toxic environment of Kron, as long as they had human hosts to germinate within. Unofficial estimates lay a full 20% of the first year’s disease deaths in Kron at the feet of Colum refugees.
The refugees also brought starvation, and a shortage of resources. Food had always been an import in Kron… The land around it was too toxic to grow good crops. After the big one, the townsfolk had no choice but to try to purify selected areas for cropland… But there was nowhere near enough to feed everyone.
Finally, after about half a year, the townsfolk decided “No More.” The survivors overthrew the interim military government, armed themselves, and started shooting refugees, bandits, and incautious travelers. A few people were spared… All those not killed were branded with a burnt F on their hands and forehead, (For “Freeloader”,) and told never to come back. The corpses of those slain in the Kron Massacre were thrown in a few abandoned coal mines, and forgotten.
A few days later, patrols started reporting strange intruders at the mines. These intruders turned out to be the first reported ghouls in the Hio land… The current running theory is that the MORTE virus originated in Colum, and mutated to its present form thanks to toxic-driven evolution in Kron. After a few attempts to clear the ghouls failed, and resulted in the spread of the virus to wounded soldiers, the city set the mines afire and collapsed the entrances. The mines still burn to this day, sending pillars of smoke up to wreathe the settlement, and occasionally causing smoking sinkholes to swallow buildings and the occasional unwary traveler.
Kron struggled on in isolation through magic’s rise, and the wars. They did so by sealing their borders, sending out raiding groups to nearby settlements, and building some serious fortifications. Their status as the pre-fall regional junkyard worked in their favor… They had plenty of bits of machinery and chemicals to construct weapons of all types, not to mention a nearby national-guard base that they’d preserved from looters.
Eventually, though, as more and more of the population died to sickness and gradual poisoning, they realized that they could not remain self-sufficient. When the Cleveland enclave made contact, they started trading with Hall-Mart, an arrangement that let them get the chemicals and nanite strains they needed to slowly cleanse parts of their croplands, and grow progressively more food. Eventually, it got to the point where they realized that they were fully dependent on the synthesized chemicals that only Hall-Mart could provide. At that point, the mayor conferred with the council, and signed up with the Cleveland enclave. No longer would they be isolated, no longer would they be alone. For better or worse, they were Hall-Mart consumers, now.
Since then, life’s been decent enough for the average resident. Hall-Mart provides the chemicals they need to keep their food and water relatively pure, and they provide a fortified outpost for trade purposes, and whatever salvage from their dumps that Cleveland might need. In the ten years that Kron’s been under Hall-Mart management, they’ve become a major link of the “Sickle Road”, a route that starts with Cleveland in the north, and ends up in Poor Smoth in the south. The town of Kron numbers about 20 thousand “natives”, and 5 thousand adventurous souls from Cleveland, who accepted a hefty bribe of Hall-Mart shares to move to the frontier. More Cleveland immigrants trickle in every now and then, with varying degrees of success.
This has caused some trouble. Some Kron natives are claiming that the corporate immigrants get major price breaks, and are stealing all the best land, while natives have to struggle to maintain the land they own, and often go bankrupt and have to yield it to corporate creditors. Hall-Mart’s offer of debt counseling and budget management seminars was met with angry scorn, and a sizeable underground movement has arisen, with the goal of bringing down Hall-Mart by any means necessary. The saboteurs call themselves “The Smokers”, and utilize the mines under Kron as a lair. No one sane goes down there, and the heavy rock tends to cut down the operating distance of drone signals, so Hall-Mart’s been having trouble rooting them out.
In May of 2208, Kron shipped the bulk of its Kron garrison to Zane. The Smokers immediately struck the remnants of the Kron garrison, burning buildings, stealing material, and killing as many soldiers as possible. Ironically enough, it was the Kron militia that prevented it from being a total slaughter, turning their guns on their own friends and neighbors for the benefit of the corp. The Smokers have since drawn back into the tunnels, and Hall-Mart has brought in fresh reinforcements, so the situation has somewhat stabilized, for now.
Kron is a town where you’ll want to wear a respirator and at least light protective gear when you’re outdoors. The smog from the burning coal mixes with the pollution of new industry, and the ground is often coated with a light dusting of ash, and the occasional trace of old-era toxins from a leaking waste dump. Exposed skin is a serious risk here, and most homes are equipped with Hall-Mart made chemical misters just inside the front doors, to get the worst of the stuff off visitors. Natives have a little resistance to the miasma, immigrants either adapt or die, but everyone gets their lifespan shortened just from living in Kron. Still, the toxicity of the environment keeps disease down and many predators out, so you could call it a double-edged sword…
There is no real metahuman prejudice in Kron, and mutation is perfectly acceptable to the average native. Less so to Cleveland immigrants, but the ones that stick around usually learn to keep their prejudices quiet. It helps that most people you see on the street are heavily garbed in protective gear anyway, so physical looks don’t tend to matter as much.
Magic is another matter. If you show off your magical abilities in Kron, expect to get regarded with suspicion. The place was a strong bastion of Christian faith before the fall, and some people still have problems with “witchcraft”. The younger generations are losing this reservation, as they drift away from religion and enjoy the magic-friendly Hall-Mart propaganda such as the “Psyker Squad!” TV show, and the “Parry Hotter” simflicks. Still, there’s enough of the ugly kind of faith in town to leave a few burning crosses around on unpopular magician’s lawns.
Kron has a few major problems, that seem to be around for the long term.
One, is that the people of Kron were right bastards to their neighbors up until Hall-Mart took over. Kron was a town that suffered greatly due to refugees, true, but the fact that they ended up slaughtering refugees and raiding other settlements around them for food endeared them to no one. Kron does not have a good reputation with anyone except for the Cleveland Enclave. Others will trade with them because they must, but many still bear long-smoldering grudges. The Free Traders, in particular, never go to Kron.
The second issue, is the ghoul infestation.
As it turns out, setting mines full of ghouls on fire and collapsing their tunnels around them isn’t enough to kill the hardier victims of the MORTE virus. Ghouls don’t seem to need as much air as humans do, and their claws are suited to burrowing. Ghouls don’t mind toxins, and generally find Kron a pleasant place to live. There’s certainly plenty of meat to be had! Not only that, but the necessary dress code of respirators, masks, and protective garb means that a smart ghoul can conceal his or her deformities, and operate somewhat freely within Kron society. Most ghouls aren’t sane or intelligent enough to pass, but the ones that do can be hard to spot.
Needless to say, the average resident of Kron hates and fears ghouls. Ghouls are shot upon sight, hidden ghouls are shot the second they’re identified, and folks who exhibit ghoul-like behavior are shot on general principles. The town offers a high bounty on ghouls, and acts as a regional center for several ghoul-hunting mercenary groups. Recently, Hall-Mart’s been getting in on the market share as well, testing out several products designed to detect and identify ghouls. Ironically enough, this has resulted in many smart ghouls aiding and abetting the Smokers, in an attempt to dislodge the corporation before they can be hunted down.
Kron is a great, sprawling toxic junkyard that’s survived against all odds. Though relations with its parent corporation aren’t always smooth, and it’s got its share of problems, it is likely to be around for years to come. A stable trading post and (somewhat) safe haven against the terrors of the waste, it is home to a hardy breed of proud survivors.