It was in the third year following the Bomb over Bravo that the Lonestar entered its proper Industrial Age. Like the common cactus plant, which grows upwards and triumphant upon the dross and rot of its older self, the workcamps of New Bravado stretched outwards and upwards towards the sun.
Progress is exponential, theory dictates, and given the time, space and safety in which to grow, a population may reobtain and surpass their previous technological eschalon by degrees. In the relative peace of the 03’ PHW (Post-Hiway War), the people of New Bravado were given this opportunity in spades.
Ramshackle tents and shacks were replaced piecemeal by proper frames, walls and roofs. The land was tilled and tamed by the same kind of stubborn folk that have always made these rocky scrublands their home. Bit by bit the landscape took upon the shape of a settlement, and progressively a town. Isolated, on the edges of sand and fire, New Bravado became nonetheless a destination on the minds of the brave, entrepreneurial, and desperate.
The Ox was completed in the first four months of that year, thanks to the efforts of two Doctor O. Sam-Manual Sung and Doctor B. Squire but its maiden trek between the town of Essex and New Bravado was not until some two months later. A pilgrimage, the train was attacked by a band of Tainted, Natural Ones and Lascarians and nearly derailed. The Ox Killers, a new identity ostensibly under the power of Holy Mother Queen Jasper, claimed the effort - nearly provoking a war between the Railroad Commission and the Tribes Disparate in the weeks following.
Felicity Redfield, CEO to the Railroad Commission, genius inventor and investor, saw opportunity where others saw conflict and negotiated a contract with the Tribes Disparate that served them both. Holy Mother Queen Jasper would keep the Ox Killers at bay, using her own soldiers as railjacks to defend the Ox as it makes its way across the Blastlands - and in return her nation state reserves the right to ship wares up and down the line between New Bravado and Essex without surcharge and to gather yearly in the boomtown for the purposes of political summit. Shale, brother and right hand to the High Mother, negotiated the bulk of this contract and it is his ambassadors that reside in New Bravado to this day.
As a stone rolls, the town and its reputation gained inertia; the ruins below lent New Bravado the sheen of opportunity as again and again delvers dragged up artifacts and rarities that made them not humble spelunkers panning for gold, but wealthy gentlemen and women whose reputation was only outstripped by their wealth.
It was the stories of these first delvers that drew the attention of the wastes. Three hard years stole the hope in the tired eyes of Braves and those affected by the Hiway War. Three hard years made meanness comfortable in the hearts of itinerants and refugees. But three hard years were the fallow fields in which hope would again take root because as cyclic as human wickedness is, so too is the goodness of man and the belief that better times are yet before him.
And so the Lonestar arrived; in wagons, or flatbed trucks, on foot, or in the greasy cabins of the Ox, and by sea. The second Indulgence came and went, taking with it lives and contracts but affirming its place as a Bravado Tradition. The Punkerport grew, as did the Junkerpunk’s general resentment towards the Railroad Commission - a kind of offhand rebellion that did more to legitimize the RRC as the ultimate power and the Junkerpunks as their anti-establishment counterpoint.
The town grew at pace in the later months of that third year, developed a haphazard culture, a half dozen work crews, infrastructure to support the delving population and the kind of halfway houses that their occupants never really leave. Private contractors sold their finds out of The Maw or liquidated them for brass to be sold up the line in Essex.
The town developed a kind of comfortable cadence of capitalism that lasted all of two months. In the summer of that third year disaster struck in the form of western raiders that descended upon the muddy, radioactive caldera That-Was-Bravo in the first year post-bomb; Firebrands.
Festooned with bullet-casings, blast-glass and all the same bravado the town touted, the Firebrands blew up a section of track halfway between the burgeoning boomtown and Essex, rendering the rails unusable and the Ox’s goods forfeit for scavenging. Their motivations are largely unknown, though their penchant for explosions is common knowledge.
Now, some two months following, the track’s re-completion looms. The alleys and streets of New Bravado are temporarily dark. With no way to ship down the line, the town has become isolated. Little information enters or leaves as the only mechanism by which a layperson may easily migrate is currently decommissioned at the empty rail station just south of Essex. There are whispers of strangeness, of the Mortis and her servants, and of returned persons who have no business among the living. As a scientist I am hesitant to record these claims lest I give them credence. But as a scientist I must also acknowledge that there is no more uncommon dirt than that tread by the Braves.
An old adage rings in my mind as I pen these final sentences that bring us to the contemporary state of the Town Bravado and Her Outlying Territories. This is a place that bends but does not break. That endures and endures and endures again. A roughshod and rowdy testament to the hubris of man that waxes and wanes as surely as the moon. For never in the history of the Lonestar have I known a place to render its people so stubborn or staunch. Nor have I known a scrap of land so dearly loved and returned to.
So go west, you young and yawning; you beleaguered and bastards. Go make the world your children will live in. Go find your fortune in the sharp angled hills and dusty wells of the Worlds Before and Below.
This author lost their home when the Hiway war began in earnest. The world we live in now is not my own nor do I have the energy left in my tired bones to reclaim it. Instead I will pen your triumphs for those who follow after. Go forth and succeed knowing your victory is immortal.
Dr. Pernathius Goodfellow
August 03’ PHW