Saturday, 28 June 2014

Background to Apocalypse Isle

Want to disappear?
Want someone disappeared?  

Away from the shipping lanes. 

Off the grid.  

Out of sight.  

Out of mind. 

Definitely not out of harm's way.

Once a tropical paradise, the island is now home to modern day pirates, smugglers, gun runners and others seeking to avoid the rule of law.  

While pirates tend to raid coastal areas using fast, lightly-armed boats , they have been known to attack settlements further inland if the opportunity arises.  
Typically operating in small groups of less than a dozen men (and women) they sometimes form a temporary alliance with other bands to attack a tempting, but well-defended target.  Leaders are elected, and removed, based upon their prowess in combat and the success of raids.  Very rarely does an alliance between differing groups last long enough to cause serious problems to the balance of power on the Isle.

Further inland, the self-appointed Governor-General holds sway, with heavily armed 4x4s patrolling the dirt roads near his fortified compound. In return for tribute the settlements receive protection from pirates and bandits, but mostly from the forces of the Governor-General.  Some say he used to be the ruler of a country somewhere in Africa, others say that he is no more than a pirate himself.

His "army" is one of the most organised and powerful groups - rumour has it that the Governor-General has a foreign-backer supplying his forces with weaponry and ammunition.  Despite this advantage, his troops lack sufficient numbers to capture and hold the larger settlements on Isle.

Akulaville is the largest settlement in the south,  possessing enough weaponry to deter all but the most serious hostile least for now.  

If you keep your wits about you and have something to trade, you can find pretty much anything you need in the narrow streets of the shantytown - if you don't then you are more likely to find a sharp blade between your ribs and an unmarked grave.

Homes are typically built from a variety of materials - wood, breeze blocks, corrugated iron, bamboo - whatever is available.  Fire is a real danger, due to the proximity of buildings to one another, and the town has been rebuilt a number of times as a result.  

The settlement is surrounded by a wall, again made of whatever was to hand, and a number of watch towers to give warning of an approaching force.

Smaller hamlets, often no more than a handful of huts, are scattered across the Isle - their inhabitants trade food and information with all sides, in return for being left alone.  

In some cases the original farmers have long since departed this world, replaced by groups or individuals more interested in a different sort of crop.  

When strangers approach for the first time it is always a tense affair, for both sides.  A sudden unpredictable move... harsh words... followed by a brief exchange of gunfire... and one side or the other flees into the treeline.

The Isle and the bays surrounding it, are littered with the detritus of war, a reminder of the occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War. 

Beneath the coastal waters, barnacle-covered hulls of shattered ships slowly rust away,  their deadly cargo long since forgotten. 

Occasionally, a storm will stir up the seabed, and reveal its secrets.

The shore itself is riddled with tunnels and bunkers like the scars of some virulent disease, while further inland the jungle slowly reclaims an abandoned airfield.  

Land mines and other unexploded ordinance represent yet another hazard to unwary travellers.  Despite these dangers, the locals continue to scavenge old battlefields in the hope of finding something worth salvaging.

Fuel is in limited supply, and most make do with more primitive forms of transport.  Even for those with a vehicle (and fuel) travelling by road can be perilous unless you have an armed escort. 

Most of the vehicles on the Isle are either remnants from a time before the current chaos, or have been "liberated" from the cargo of an unfortunate merchant vessel, including a whole consignment of box van, which have proven to be surprisingly reliable given the less than ideal circumstances.

The alternative is to travel by foot ... less conspicious, but still not without danger.  Can you trust a guide, or are they in league with the local band of pirates?  

Will he, or she, steer you clear of trouble along a hidden trail... or lead you into an ambush?  

Is that freshly dug ground by the road an unmarked grave, or a boobytrap?

The dense jungle of the northern end of the Isle still holds many mysteries, dotted with the ruins of an ancient civilisation.  Its varied topography is home to a more than a dozen varieties of poisonous snakes, but the most deadly predators stalk the jungle on two legs. 

Every so often an expedition will set off to explore the north and disappear without trace.  Occasionally, a delirious survivor returns with talk of head hunters, black magic and strange lights in the sky.