Chapter Three: Eden's Landing
"Welcome," the Fat Man said. " To Eden's Landing."
The vehicle slowed down outside of the walled city. Max looked at the wall, at least twenty storeys high, completely constructed out of old cars and scraps found on the road. They were stacked one on top of the other like a pyramid. They were black and charred in spots, where it looked like some battles had raged against the city.
"Charming," Max said.
"Just you wait," the Fat Man said, stepping out of his chair for the first time since Max met him. "You ain't seen nothing yet, traveler."
The Fat Man hopped off the vehicle with surprising agility and walked over to the looming gate. He banged three times on the door, the noise echoing across the desert.
"Who be wantin' to enter?" a loud voice boomed. Max looked towards the top of the wall and saw speakers every few feet.
"Open the fraggin' gate," the Fat Man said irritated. "We have a visitor." He looked back at Max and smiled.
"We don't take no visitors here," the voice boomed back.
"Fraggin' sand devils!" the Fat Man hollered. There was a klunk as a small slot opened in the gate. A gun barrel slid out the slot and pointed directly at the Fat Man's face. There was a second klunk as another opened and another barrel slid out and pointed at the Fat Man's crotch. The guards on the vehicle jumped off the side and came to the Fat Man's side, pointing their guns back at the slots.
Max remained on the vehicle. If worse came to worse, he'd get a ride out this standoff anyway. He stood, surveying the wall. He could see cameras staring or turning to stare at the scene.
"Tell us your business or leave, stranger," the voice said.
"Open this gate," the Fat Man boomed back, standing defiantly. "Open this gate in the name of The Father!"
"And what is your business with The Father?" the voice boomed.
"He's my brother," the Fat Man said, crossing his arms over his chest. He frowned and looked up into the cameras. There was a loud boom and the creaking of old rusty hinges and the gates began to swing open.
The Fat Man turned and looked back at Max, smiling. Max watched as the gates opened like a mouth into Hell and saw the city of Eden's Landing slowly exposed before him. Max looked at the Fat Man.
"As I said," the Fat Man said as he climbed back onto the craft. "Welcome to Eden's Landing."
The driver started the craft and began the slow entry into the city. Max couldn't believe what he was seeing. It was like the cities of old. Large buildings loomed overhead, blocking out the sun. Vehicles and people bustled about on the streets. Street markets were overrun by pedestrians and vendors, each selling and buying whatever they could.
"It's something, isn't it?" the Fat Man leaned into Max and whispered. Max nodded, still gazing around. Shock was the only expression on his face. How did something like this still exist? Max wondered. It was as if the apocalypse didn't touch this city at all. Almost as if someone knew ahead of time, and did everything they could to prevent it from reaching inside the city's walls. It didn't look pieced together like everything else did that was left in this world; it didn't look like Bartertown.
Everything was solid. Everything was whole. Everything was right. Or seemed right anyway.
There was something deep down inside Max, a feeling, that things weren't as they seemed in Eden's Landing. Much like everything else in this destroyed world, the façade it gave out was beautiful and incredible and unbelievable. But deep down in the bowels of the city, there lurked something that would bring this place to its knees.
Just like in Bartertown, Max had a funny feeling that Eden's Landing was too good to be true. As he looked around at the smiling faces and hard-working locals, there had to be someone somewhere in this city that was cautious of this place.
The vehicle slowly moved through the main square, the Fat Man pointing things out to Max, Max looking in turn.
"Look," the Fat Man said, pointing up at a tall building. Plastered on the side of the building, was an enormous face of a smiling man. He looked too well dressed and his teeth were too white and there was a feeling from looking at the picture that he didn't seem to experience the same desolation that everyone else in the world was suffering from.
"My brother," the Fat Man smiled, proudly, but somewhat forced. "The Father, Michael."
Actually, the more Max looked around, the more he noticed The Father's visage on more than just buildings. His image appeared on smaller posters with slogans like 'The Father Praises Your Hard Work' and showed him warmly hugging a road-weary traveler with the words 'Eden's Landing Welcomes You' emblazoned across it. Occasionally, a poster of a scowling Father appeared with the slogan, 'The Father Expects You To Obey the Laws.'
Max took his gaze away from the posters and watched everything move around them, and as the vehicle moved forward into the middle of Eden's Landing, the city seemed to be swallowing them whole.
"I want you to meet someone," the Fat Man said to Max. Max didn't look at him, but he knew exactly where they were going.