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Book 6, Chapter 50 - The Miracle Tower

 One hundred thousand people had flooded into New City within a week.

Thousands were coming per day. Registering, placement and provisions for these people was a laborious task and presented a great challenge for the fledgling city. The south's burgeoning capitol was growing at an incredible rate and now counted over four hundred thousand citizens!

And the amount of people flowing it didn't show any sign of slowing down. The city was on track to break five hundred thousand very soon.

As the population swelled the burden on the city grew proportionally. Inevitably, people were getting concerned. No one knew when it would end. How much could the city accommodate?

Intentionally or not, rumors were beginning to circulate. A water shortage was on the horizon and as reserves dried up, the new city was facing a dangerous drought! A city of half a million people with no water would be a tragedy. It would be only a matter of days before people started to die from dehydration.

People's lives were in danger, riots could be expected. Left unchecked, it would cause society to collapse!

"This city is no paradise! It'll become a hell on earth!"

A man with sunken cheeks, deep-set eyes and a head laden with tumors stood on a piece of rubble. He waved his hands and shouted at passers by, who listened with growing trepidation.

His name was Croaker. Hardly a name that struck fear in people, but he wasn't a normal citizen.

Croaker was the former leader of a middle-sized Sweeper clan. When he was in charge people feared and respected him. Whatever he wanted he took; be it food, water women or any number of treasures. He never wanted for anything.

But now? He came to the new city with a group of followers and was forced to work. All for what, the basics to live? With the guards and laws he couldn't just go out and take a woman like he used to, or kill those who got on his nerves.

Unacceptable. He wasn't going to stomach it!

After so many years in the wastelands he had learned to be a beast, a predator! A wolf always looking for its next meal. He wasn't going to be domesticated! He wouldn't live the life of a sheep! That would be torture to a man like him.

But this place was a paradise for the sheep of the wastelands. If everyone flocked to these settlements Croaker couldn't live out in the wilds the way he used to. Sooner or later his livelihood would vanish.

He realized it was now or never. Confirming the rumors were true, the agitator spread the news. Greenland didn't have an answer for the water shortage. Sooner or later their precious city would collapse under its own weight.

When that happened, everyone would be forced back out into the wastes. Croaker and his Sweepers would have prey to hunt once again.

Panic was an easy emotion to play on. Croaker and his people stoked the flames, spreading fear throughout the city. Before long their efforts started seeing results and uncertainty grew. The price of potable water in the markets had exploded.

"The city is finished! If you want to live you have to flee. Stay and you're asking for a long, drawn-out death."

Croaker stood upon his rock, spit flying as he spewed his vitriol. His goal was simple, snap up as many followers as he could so that when people fled out into the wastes he'd have a new clan to order around.

"I'll go with you!"

"Me too!"

A number of voices rose from the crowd, pledging support. They were plants, followers that Croaker had disseminated among the people. At his cue they loudly agreed with the doomsaying. Others in the crowd balked, but it was clear they were leaving an impression.

Maybe he was right. Maybe the city was getting too big.

Wastelanders weren't educated. Intuition was what drove them, and what Croaker was saying had been a shadow in the back of their mind this whole time. He was just bringing it to the forefront. His fiery speech got them thinking that this wasn't the small issue they thought it was. Maybe it was as serious as life and death.

It was human nature to seek advantage and avoid harm.

But in the middle of Croaker's impassioned screams a sound cut through.

"You're up here spreading lies to these people. Where's your proof?"

A dark skinned man with skin like wax stepped out from the crowd. He was staggeringly large and on his back was an ax larger than a wagon wheel. When everyone's attention turned to him they instinctively backed off a step.

His name was Black Hatchet. Not long ago he was also a vicious murderer. The ax on his back had spilled more blood than a whole squad of soldiers.

When Croaker saw Black Hatchet step forward a tinge of fear struck him. But he swallowed it back, and with a grim face responded. "Well look who it is. The man Cloudhawk himself commended as a model citizen, Black Hatchet. You used to be a ferocious tiger of the wastelands, but your master throws you a single bone and suddenly you're a lap dog."

A week ago Cloudhawk had stood before the people and awarded a group of citizens. Hatchet was among them, which gave Croaker the ammunition he needed to cast doubt on his opinion.

Although there were many who respected and loved Cloudhawk for giving them a new lease on life, there were as many personalities as there were citizens. No two people thought exactly alike. So where there were supporters there were certainly detractors - especially those who had suffered at the hands of the Green Alliance like Croaker.

Black Hatchet was one of those who adored Cloudhawk. He wasn't going to let this piece of shit spit on his leader's name.

Eyes wide, he pulled the ax off his back. "Finding a home in the wastelands is not an easy thing. I'm not gun' let you ruin this one!"

"Look at this rabid animal protecting his master! This city of yours is no home. It's a tomb! You might be willing to die but are you going to force all these people to go down with you?" The fear was gone. Croaker even stretched out his neck theatrically. "Go on, cut my head off if you think you can. Show everyone what you are."

Black Hatchet's eyes were so wide the skin at their edges threatened to split.

"Hah! You don't have the fuckin balls. Why? Because killing is against the rules. There's no freedom here! You can't live the life you want! What do you get for what you're giving up?" Croaker turned to the rest of the crowd. "Better to take your chances out in the wastes. Someone gets in your face, you kill them! You want someone's woman, you take her! Booze, food, water - there is no limit to what you can have if you're strong enough to grab it."

Croaker's arrogance was in full bloom.

"Yeah?" A calm suddenly came over Black Hatchet. "I just heard somethin' you might wanna hear. Leader Cloudhawk's made a tower that can make water. Starting today our stores have doubled."

The claim caused a ripple of surprised whispers among the crowd.

Croaker looked back at him in disdain. "Bullshit."

Greenland had enacted strict limits on water usage. It was based on body weight - two liters for every hundred kilos. It was enough to ensure survival but it meant some of the heftier mutants were using a dozen liters a day.

It sounded like a lot, but really it was just enough to survive. The wastelands were hot and dry, water evaporated quickly. While the water they were given was enough to survive it wasn't enough to be healthy, much less to wash. Not that it mattered at that level, most wastelanders had never washed in their lives.

But if the amount of water they were given doubled that was something else! That would be enough to drink their fill and have some left over. The quality of life would improve dramatically.

The question was, could this be true? Water was precious! Where could Cloudhawk find so much of it?

Black Hatchet raised his voice so everyone could hear. "I just heard it. It's true, they're called Water Towers and they're built already. Ya'll can go get water right now. See for yourself."

Everyone's eyes lit up. It made sense, if water really was in short supply why hadn't they reduced rations already? Instead they were increasing them. If what he was saying was true then all these frightening rumors were lies!

Black Hatchet swung his eyes back toward Croaker. "As for you standin' there talkin' shit, makin' people scared. That's a crime I won't ignore. I'm part of Greenland's police force now, and as captain I'm arresting you for stirrin' up trouble!"

"You...!"

Croaker hadn't seen this coming. He began looking around for a way to escape.

Black Hatchet shouted, "Grab him!"

A group of people leaped out from the crowd to cut off Croaker's escape. Rumors had alerted the police to this little gathering. They made sure to hang around and watch the scene. Now Croaker had nowhere to go. Him and his supporters were dragged away without much of a fight.

That evening, the reservoirs were officially revealed to the people. The so-called towers were relics of Cloudhawk's own design. After some tinkering in Greenland's labs they were produced and revealed as Greenland Water Towers. The people called them Miracle Towers.

The first one Cloudhawk had made was a three meter tall pot set on a trapezoid base. Its open top made evaporation a problem and plenty of dirt found its way in to contaminate the supply.

Hellflower got her hands on the design and made a number of improvements, starting with a lid. It was now an oval-shaped reservoir with devices to test water pressure installed on the inside. A tap at the bottom allowed the water to be extracted.

But why were they called Miracle Towers?

Because those who came to draw from it quickly discovered that the water seemed limitless! Suddenly everyone's heart was put at ease. With these towers what had they to fear of a water shortage?

Those popular, naysaying rumors were totally put to rest.

The next day. At the execution grounds.

Croaker and thirty others charged with spreading dissent were marched into view. Black Hatchet announced their crimes, relayed the evidence then in accordance with the city's laws sentenced them to the guillotine.

The execution raised his hand. Thirty heads fell to the sound of roaring cheers. In troubled times severe methods were sometimes necessary. The city was still young and snakes still hid in the bushes. Agitators needed to know what their actions would reap, otherwise there was nothing to stop the next bunch of assholes from trying.

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