The Ridden do not have any custom Wreckers in the same way as other factions; they own no manufacturers, have taken control of no robotics labs. What they do have is endless manpower, time, and a willingness to try dangerous experimentation that would never make it through any respectable R+D lab. The Shocksphere is the perfect illustration of both the desperation and the ingenuity of the fanatical recruits Smith attracts. By cannibalising the roll cages common to cheaper, non-automated pre-collapse trucks and forklifts they have managed to cobble together a Wrecker that is both extremely effective and very dangerous. Originally the cages were desirable simply as a source of strong yet lightweight material that could be used to reinforce damaged Loaders, it wasn’t until two enterprising young men thought to raid a rusting funfair that application of gyroscopic technology was considered. Seeking to impress Smith they managed to steal a small canister of oxyacetylene from a damaged Jetflare and set to work, hidden beneath an ancient corrugated iron roof deep in the slums of Canary Wharf. The final design was truly complete when one inspired member of the amateur design team thought to hook up a transformer to the gyroscope and managed to electrify the entire outer shell. Not only does the powerful charge generated keep the Sphere safe from human hands, it will disrupt any Wrecker unfortunate enough to be rammed by the crazed meatsack wired into the cockpit.
When you volunteer for Dr Vemeer’s surgical processes it is a clear indication that you place little value on your human existence. Being grafted to an Arga Jetflare is simply a confident declaration of your acceptance of the fragility of the human condition and a defiant shout into the void. When you join with this Wrecker your life expectancy can be measured on a very short timeline. Long before it was put to use in combat the Jetflare was already considered a dangerous machine to work with, explosions were frequent and the environments it was placed in were full of hazards. Smith has made the acquisition of more Jetflare’s a primary objective of Ridden scavenger teams; he knows that his repurposed technology has real problems penetrating the more advanced armour of custom Wreckers. This Wrecker makes even the thickest compound plates look like polystyrene as it melts its way into the vulnerable control centres of its enemies. The question is always the same, can you stop the Jetflare before it melts its way through you.
Arga 'Loader' XII
Loaders are as old as the robotics industry itself; even before the Robot Revolution, augmented suits could be found shouldering the heavy burden on docklands and in warehouses across the globe. They are a generic machine, whether it’s an Arga, Smithson or Havel, it was hard to revolutionise beyond the bipedal shape workers had grown accustomed to. In order to sell their latest machines, manufacturers competed to add durability and strength and the Arga XII was the market leader before The Collapse. Now these loaders form the core of Smith’s uprising, designed to be operated by poorly educated labourers, it has been a simple matter to carve the meat at his disposal to mesh with the basic neural interface they are built with.
“Boss, y’know the forklift that we just used to get that scrap loader off the truck?
“I’ve got an idea…”
As with many of the Wreckers the Ridden have acquired, their original purpose is no longer their primary function. The Dunham HaulMaster is probably the most outrageous example of the lengths at which Ridden tinkerers will go to weaponise even the most mundane of machines. There is nothing complex in the additions they have made to this compact little powerhouse, after all, if one sharpened length of metal won’t do the job, simply add more. The HaulMaster that we see in combat is a supercharged ramming machine, punching metal spikes through armour plates, gears and circuitboards with equal abandon. If this Wrecker were merely a simple battering ram then it would have been long superseded by the more inventive Shocksphere, it does however have one trick that sets it apart. The HaulMaster was originally designed to shift huge loads from truck to warehouse, from ship to shore; lifting and carrying a Wrecker barely troubles the powerful hydraulic systems of this power lifter. Able to pick up and dump the heaviest of enemies, the Ridden have adapted their tactics, using swarming Loader attacks to overwhelm enemies stranded in their backfield by the HaulMaster
Dunham 'Snoop' III
Many years ago men ventured deep into mineshafts searching for the dark seams of coal that powered industrial revolutions across the globe. The life of these pioneers was fraught with danger but for many of them, a small yellow canary in a cage was the difference between life and death. Later, as the world moved on, small tracked vehicles risked cog and gear as they probed unidentified packages, searching for explosive threats to human life. As robotics came to dominate industrial sectors some simpler, older technologies marked themselves out as too useful and cost efficient to discard. The Dunham Snoop is at its core no more complex than the radio controlled cars popular as toys in the twentieth century. Used by engineers, rescue workers, miners and the military; Snoops have been melted, blown up, crushed and abandoned in every environment on Earth.
Smith has put these little warriors to work in any number of tasks. They have served as spies, messengers and even personal workshop assistants; it is in battle though that they have become invaluable to the Ridden cause. They are the very ultimate in disposable technology; requiring no complex interfacing or brutal surgery, they have been kitted out with every frustrating and infuriating hazard delivery systems the Ridden can lay their hands on. Whether it is laying down an oil slick or dropping Shocknets, the Snoop is a pest only its maker could love.
The toxic power structures that have been established after The Collapse have unsurprisingly repeated the predicatable patterns of social evolution. It is often said that nature abhors a vacuum and the crime syndicates, industrial unions and corrupt corporations that have seized power bear little difference to the bought-and-paid for governments that they have succeeded. In some respects, they are more honest than the political machines they have replaced; naked ambition and ruthlessness no longer has to be hidden behind a veneer of respectability. In this new civilisation, only an elite few can enjoy the trappings of power and luxury that marked the World Before; for the large majority of survivors, the world has become a bleak place indeed.
Work is scarce in the World After; monetary systems have been abandoned and fuel has become the most valuable currency. Coal, gas, batteries, anything that can power a Wrecker has value and the factions that rule covet these above all else. Any fuel more efficient than wood is far too valuable to be used – functioning batteries can be traded to the Full Metal Dragons for luxuries such as canned goods and medicine; the location of a thin seam of coal is priceless to the Carbon Combine. Since the intervention of the Empyrians, cold and disease have become the greatest threat; the scarce remnants of humanity now huddle together in sprawling shanty towns for warmth. Whilst they may have imposed some form of order on the world their edict only outlaws direct acts of murder. Without power, starvation, exposure and disease have become very real threats; it seems the new overlords see these as acceptable ways to die.
It is no surprise then that amongst this hardship and deprivation a movement has begun. Anger and jealousy make for fertile fields in which to sow discontent and in the lawless urban sprawls there is a rich harvest to be gathered. The first generation of children born into the World After are told stories of life before The Collapse, of television shows and fast food, of central heating and robot valets, of a world where comfort and entertainment reigned supreme. In the fetid slums, tinpot demagogues spit discontent from the roofs of rusting SUV’s and the masses listen. It is a competitive environment for these self-appointed voices of the people, the factions have swiftly become adept at controlling the people with access to basic luxuries. Supplying the location of an as yet undiscovered tanker of diesel to Ivory House could be rewarded with a swift change in living arrangements and a way out of the ghetto. Only a few have seen the seeds of their words blossom into practicable action.
One such orator has had a measure of success though; gathering to him the angry youth of an unequal world. Karl Smith is a charismatic man who speaks of pride and of rights and of a way to balance the paradigm. He is a beacon to the disenfranchised and he has conceived of a new way to secure the future. In the abandoned docklands, rusting Loaders are strapped to makeshift sleds and dragged deep into the sprawl; in the ruins of office blocks, obsolete networks are cannibalised by roving gangs of scavengers. Rare fuel caches are no longer traded for temporary gain. In the darkest depths of civilization tortured gearing screams as long dead machinery is resurrected from corroded graves.
The Ridden embody the pain and rage of a lost generation; with no prospects, no future and no dreams they have turned to the one man who offers an alternative. In their eyes it is better to live for fleeting moments of glory in battle than scratch out a meagre existence amongst the ruins of a more decadent age. Undergoing brutal surgeries, they have found ways to mesh with machines designed for a more advanced culture. Many don’t survive the process and are reduced to drooling vegetables; their synapses fried by control stimulus meant only for Machinist minds. Their sacrifice is nothing to Smith, he has plenty of meat to play with and with every speech more pawns flock to his cause. What matters are the successes, and with each day that passes more and more young men and women volunteer for the process. Soon he will have his revolutionary army, machines of oil and steel and meat will remind those in power of their fragile grip on the world. For now though, they wait; the only evidence of their existence found on the fractured walls of fallen skyscrapers. A symbol daubed in red; four violent slashes of paint in a stylised ‘R’, a visual scream of frustration; The Ridden cry out for justice.