So, I was right in my belief that the Haven Council was talking with our new neighbors. I was also right when I said that they would claim to be ex-marauders. The Council has decided to take them at their word, which I guess I’m ok with. Trust has to start somewhere. But before starting any kind of trade agreement, they wanted to be sure that the new kids were telling the truth about leaving their past behind. And that’s where I came in.
I was part of an inspection team. The Council didn’t want to send any of the official Haven diplomats because they’re too high profile. Our neighbors would know they were being tested and assessed. So they sent me to get a read on this group on the down-low. Officially I was a bureaucrat in charge of a Haven inspection team to check for slaves, drugs, weapons of mass destruction, and so on. Pretty much anything that’s considered illicit or would prove our neighbors have not left marauding behind. It was a fairly superficial deception and one that our new neighbors no doubt saw right through. I think Haven wanted them to know that they were being assessed with more than just an inspection team, but didn’t want to be totally blatant about it.
So I spent the better part of half a week over there while the inspection teams went over every inch of this mobile little town. They have a number of vehicles, but there’s a core fleet of campers and trailers. They then set up shop in a neighborhood or area that is easily defendable. So they have a permanent settlement, but the heart of their settlement can be packed up and moved in very little notice.
Which makes sense, because they’re marauders.
Ok, maybe I’m not being fair. The inspection teams found no slaves, no excessive weapons stockpiles, no significant amounts of illicit substances, and no one I talked to seemed to allude to any kind of marauding. Here’s the thing though: they didn’t admit to any marauding at all, past or present. We already know that these guys have ex-marauders among them, so to not even admit to that? It makes them sound coached.
There was also a severe lack of women. I’d say the ratio was about 10 men to every woman. So is this because the majority of women are used as slaves? The women who were there were clearly not slaves, though they also were clearly not equals. It reminded me of things I’d seen and read about biker gangs. A kind of institutionalized sexism where the women were seen as subservient to the men, almost to the level of property, and would periodically get passed around. I really got the feeling there was a similar arrangement here. It’s abhorrent to me, but to call it slavery? It’s not.
Everyone was forthcoming when I asked questions and started conversations, but at the same time I can’t shake that they’re hiding something. Then again, everyone is hiding something in this day and age. There’s plenty I keep hidden for myself, so I can’t fault them for doing the same.
So now we’re back in Haven and The Council will likely decide to be friendly towards our new neighbors and open some sort of trade. And on the surface, there’s no reason they wouldn’t. There’s no reason to believe that these guys aren’t trying to make a new life and leave the violence behind. And yet, I just don’t buy it. I’m wracking my brain, trying to figure out if there’s something I noticed without realizing, some warning sign that I’m only aware of in the back of my mind. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just prejudiced. We all survived this plague on a healthy dose of paranoia. Maybe it’s hard to turn it off. Or maybe I’m right and these guys are going to come at us when we’re at our most vulnerable. We’ll see, I guess. If they are marauders, they can’t keep their nature hidden for long.