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Traders come from the south. Four trussed bodies on their sleds. The captives weighed down under piles of furs; the huskies howling and yapping at the driving snow.

They're met by the Last Strikers on the edge of the outer perimeter. The guards keep their faces wrapped firmly in their balaclavas. The four captives are dragged up to their feet and pushed into a crude line as the Director steps out of the sunken tin-and-snow mound of the gatehouse. Thick snowflakes are beginning to gather on his thick goggles.

The Director examines his purchases carefully. The youngest, little more than a girl, is shivering; her eyes cannot keep from glancing down towards her right hand, bound in front of her, which has been crudely - too crudely - wrapped up in thick leather strips as if it were a mitten.

The Director sighs. He leans forward, and takes the girl's hand in his. He smiles at her.

Then he rips.

Ignoring her shriek of agony, holding her tight as she tries, feebly, to struggle away, he gazes down at the twisted, frostbitten hand. Two of the blackened fingers have curled back on themselves. The thumb has broken away entirely; only a jagged stump of bone and oozing flesh remains.

The Director lets go, turns, and begins to walk back towards the gatehouse. The girl, sobbing, falls to her knees in the snow.

The leader of the traders gives chase, babbling, "She must have hidden it from us, she was afraid - we assure you, we had no idea-"

"You took me for a fool," the Director replies, calmly, without rancour. "You tried to sell me dead meat, Leo."

"The winter has been unusually cold - it was difficult to find suitable workers- please, sir, my clients need their copper- "

"Too bad for you," the Director says. "I do hope your journey south is a pleasant one."

Four steps from the bolted iron door, the Director lets the trader halt him, with an offer for a reduced load of the copper sheets that he would sell on for himself. The Director, with a little guile, is able to reduce it further. Finally, they shake hands. The Director gestures to his men to lead the three slaves in. The door opens for them, and slams behind them. The traders spend some time securing their load to the sleds, before heading south once again.

The girl is left, on her knees, alone in the snow.

Basic Information

A small compound, ringed by a perimeter fence made of chain-link and sheet metal and wood, topped with spikes and barbs. In a single tower, perched above the fence, sits a guard with a rifle. Inside the compound, there is no rule; the prisoners themselves scrape out ramshackle dugouts in the snow, begging or bribing clothes, building materials, and food from the guards - as the meagre daily amount they're fed every day is hardly enough to sustain them. The captives are a rough mixture of captured tribals and condemned men and women, sold out to traders by the settlements they've wronged as punishment.

Every morning, the prisoners are roughly divided into two columns - the first heads down into the darkness of the mine itself, where captives are allotted turns at the shaft and wheeling the loads of copper ore down to the Smelting House. The second, smaller column processes the ore in the baking, sweltering heat of the House itself. Favoured captives tend to get the easier or safer tasks - those who are sent down the old, pulley-and-winch elevator into the poorly-maintained mineshaft are less lucky.

The guards call themselves Last Strikers - a crude joke, referring to the refusals to work that plagued the old mine for decades before it finally closed. Shut in their own, more sophisticated dugout outside the compound, some show a level of decency - but they make little more than is enough to live by, and even those who do not show cruelty to their charges are susceptible to bribes.

The crude copper itself is bought up by traders - it's considered valuable for more developed settlements requiring a clean water supply or hoping to keep their buildings' roofs free of corrosion, as well as for jewellery and even (according to rumours about a certain group of barterers) electrical circuits, required by a mysterious group of scientists across the south of the Baltic.

Many prisoners die; from sickness, from starvation, from the agonising physical labour, from the cold - weaker prisoners and loners will sometimes have their precious clothes stripped from them by others - or from beatings or shootings. And as the cold has worsened over the last winter, matters have become worse; fewer traders have arrived and a great stockpile of unused copper sits out in the snow. The Last Strikers continue to work their charges hard, letting the excess metal accrue, fearful of the prisoners' capacity to rebel should their rule slacken. But even the guards themselves are beginning to grow uneasy. A great caravan of weary and starving miners from Svalbard has recently come south, with talk of unbearable conditions of cold, of men frozen to death in their beds. Two Strikers have abandoned their posts in the middle of the night, slipping away into the snow, taking a sled and supplies with them.


A possibility for an origin setting - I'd like to have the player as a condemned miner inside the compound, perhaps a member of a small tribal group, who's forced to slave away for the production of copper. He could attempt to collude with fellow prisoners in order to start a riot, work his way into the favours of a guard in order to escape - or simply try to use his skills to try and sneak over the wall in the darkness. An enclosed space, for some 'tutorial' stuff, a place where we can have rumours about the encroaching cold, a suitably bleak starting environ, it's right up around the north of the map, and - although it might be implausible distance-wise - we could have the slight connection of traders gathering copper wire for use by the scientists for the end-game. The whispers of a name (of the scientists' group) to echo on throughout the game.

Or it could just be a location, of course.

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