I Survived 400 Days of Nuclear War (NOT Minecraft)

I Survived 400 Days of Nuclear War (NOT Minecraft)

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Days 301-304 We'd found safety. A place we could call  home. We even fought and bled for it. But   I had to leave. The town found out  I'd been lying about who I was and,   well, honesty was crucial in this  new world we’ve found ourselves in.

So the town council asked me to leave,  quietly. I never even told Alexis,   Lilith, Annie, Meg, or Robby. I knew  they would just try to come with me,   and I needed them to be safe. Everything  I'd done so far was to keep them safe. I'd gotten intelligence from one of the raiders  that there was someone out there in the desert   gathering an army. The old world had fallen,  and now there were groups who wanted to carve a   piece of the new world for themselves. With the US  government fortified somewhere in the heartland,  

retreating from the ever advancing exchange  of nuclear weapons with our adversaries,   most of the United States turned into  a lawless wasteland of nuclear debris. My family wouldn't be safe until I  found out more about this threat,   so I followed the trail of the retreating  raiders through the mountains, knowing   they'd lead me to wherever this army was  gathering. What I'd do when I got there,   I didn't know. But information is power,  and I needed to know what I'd be up against. Days 305-309 The going was tough through these mountains,  even with the use of various service roads   and highways that intersected them. The snow  had fallen early and thick, along with a hefty   amount of ash caught in the atmosphere. It was  best to travel with breathing protection, the   radioactive fallout wasn't dangerous unless it was  against your bare skin, or if you breathed it in.

I was slowly gaining on my group  of retreating raiders. These had   been the guys who survived the attack on  Big Bear plus the few guards they'd left   behind to watch over their supplies. Upon  getting news of the defeat they'd gotten   the hell out of dodge as fast as they could,  even leaving some of their people behind.

I was only a few days behind them now, being  on my own I could move much quicker. Sadly,   I found the remains of a campsite likely  being used by survivors. In the snow was the   corpse of a man, butchered as I'd seen the  cannibals do before. From the looks of it,  

two other people were with him- gone now.  Part of the raider's 'livestock' no doubt.   If I hurried I might be able to  catch up to them and save them. Days 310-313 I could see their camp at night, miles away in the  distance. They had no reason to believe they were   in any danger, so they'd boldly set up fires that  could be seen miles away. Each day I pushed myself  

a little bit harder to close the distance between  us. It'd do me no good to exhaust myself though,   there would be a fight on my hands. Last I  remember there were about five or six raiders   left behind at the main camp, plus whatever  buddies they had picked up on the way out.

With that many people on hand I worried  about the captives they took. The one they   killed and butchered wouldn't last them very long. Days 314-315 I moved at night, approaching the raider's camp  through the cover of darkness. As expected, they  

had left out two guards on night watch. There were  two women tied up to a tree- one older, in her   forties I'd guess, and one younger in her teens.  The corpse I found must have been the father. There were seven raiders in the camp.  Five slept while two stayed up to   watch the captives and supplies. They  didn’t take their job seriously though,   not expecting that anyone from Big Bear had  followed them- yet I had caught up with them.   I couldn't ambush the entire camp at once,  so I would bleed them a bit before I struck.

The cold chilled me to the bone, but I  waited patiently. Then I was rewarded-   one of the guards rubbed his stomach and  made a joke about dropping a deuce. As he   walked out of camp I followed, waiting  until he was squatting behind a bush.   He never heard the end coming as my  knife found its mark in the dark.

I was tempted to lure the other  guard out and finish him too,   then untie the captives and take off- but I  knew better. I couldn't trust two civilians   to keep quiet in the dark, and the last  thing I needed was to fend off an entire   camp of angry raiders with civvies in tow.  One was enough, I'd learned a lot about the   camp and gotten the chance to remove one.  Picking his body up, I walked off into the   darkness with it. I didn't want them to be  alerted, better he just mysteriously vanish.

On night two I made my move, confident  that I knew how many I'd have to deal with. Approaching the camp was easy in the dark,  and the snow helped muffle the sound of my   footsteps. The two on guard were more  alert than their counterparts last   night- obviously spooked about having  one of their own mysteriously vanish. Getting to within thirty feet of the tents, I  raised my M4 and took aim. Four trigger pulls   later, the guards were down. But the tents were  coming alive with men and women scrambling for  

weapons. That's when I took out a little  treasure I'd found on one of the raiders   back at Big Bear- a fragmentation grenade, the  old pineapple style. Probably from Vietnam,   which explains what it was doing in the  national guard armory the cannibals had raided. I tossed it at the entrance to one  of the tents just as it was getting   ripped open. A second later the grenade went off,  

it didn't kill everyone in that tent, but  whoever survived wouldn't be in shape to fight. I switched my attention to the second tent,  and with half their force neutralized the   survivors were easy enough to pick off as they  tried to make their way out of the tent. I was   glad I'd traded my hunting rifle for the M4, the  superior rate of fire made all the difference.

As the dust settled I made my way into the  camp. The first tent was still alive with   the sounds of the wounded. I brought my knife  out but then caught the eye of the older woman,   still tied up to a tree. I turned from  the tent and cut their ropes away,   telling them to follow me into the darkness.  I didn't like leaving loose ends like this,  

but I knew those raiders would die  from their wounds during the night. Days 316-320 The woman's name was Clara, and her daughter  was Alana. I'd guessed correctly- the corpse   the cannibals had butchered and left  in the snow had been the husband.

I was torn about what to do with the  two. They would slow me down too much   in my original mission, and I thought  about sending them back towards Big Bear,   but they were far too scared to travel on their  own anymore. That left me with only one option,   so I turned from my objective and headed  west, back to the desert. I just so happened   to know of a small community that would  gladly take them in, and keep them safe.

Using my map I was able to find a road that could  take us out of the mountains and to the desert,   but with no snowplows to clear the path anymore,   it was going to be a hell  of a hike to say the least. Days 321-324 Clara and Alana had fled from north of Los Angeles  after the bombs fell. Like many communities in   SoCal, they were also dependent on electricity to  pump water to them. Once the power grid went out,   so did the water, prompting survivors to  migrate by the hundreds. Many had gone north,   hoping to escape the bombs in more rural  northern California. Some had gone east  

towards the heartland. Others, like Clara  and her daughter, had gone south like we   originally did in the hope that the military  bases in San Diego had survived the attacks. It'd almost been a year since the world  went upside down, and anyone left alive   after that time was suffering from serious  PTSD. The three of us tried to talk about   our past in that funny way that people with  trauma will do, where they dance around the   painful bits. We didn't mention the old world or  our previous lives, consolidating it to “I used   to do this...” or “I used to do that...”.  And we didn't talk about the people we'd   lost since then. It was an unspoken agreement  between all survivors I'd come across so far.

One thing we did discuss was the state of human  affairs in the new world. How quickly people had   turned on each other, becoming predators. I told  Clara and Alana about a quote I'd heard once,   something about how civilization only  survives for minutes after the power   goes out. Whoever had said it had been dead right.  Here we were, three hundred and twenty something   days after the end of the world and I  was chasing leads on some army gathering   to carve out a slice of Southern California  for itself. Utterly unthinkable a year ago.

Days 325-329 Alana twisted her ankle, and ended up with a  bad limp. I could see the horror in her eyes   as she realized how much she'd slow us down.  The part that upset me the most was that it   was aimed at me, and I realized that she was  thinking I would end up leaving her and her   mother behind. The thought gave me a cold  chill, was this what the world had come to? Clara wrapped Alana's ankle and helped  her isolate it as I whittled a crutch   for her from branches and reassured them  both that I wasn't leaving them in the   wilderness alone. Clara didn't quite believe  me I think, because she kept highlighting   her skills as a former nurse- skills that  are extremely valuable in this new world.

I pulled Clara aside at night and explained  that her and her daughter were safe. I wasn't   going anywhere and I wasn't leaving them  behind. She didn't have to prove she was   valuable to me. I'd made a promise to  get them to safety and I'd die trying. Clara collapsed into tears as she  gave me a hug. I held her for a bit,   feeling that she'd been holding in those painful,  wracking sobs for a long time. When we made our  

way back into the light of our fire she'd dried  her eyes, putting a brave face on for Alana. Days 330-333 The trek down the mountains was tough, made  worse by the mix of snow and ash that clogged   the roads. We were good on supplies thanks  to stuff we scavenged from the raiders- well,   non-human food anyways- but Alana was slowing  us down significantly thanks to her injury. After a week of travel we spotted the tell-tale  puff of smoke from a fire down a dirt road. I told  

the girls to hide and made my way to the source  of the smoke, looking to scout it out and make   sure we weren't traveling near any danger. The  trail led me to what looked like a small cabin,   the puff of smoke coming from a chimney. I  manuevered around to try to get a look inside   the windows from the treeline when I heard the  click of a safety being flicked off and a deep,   grumbling voice like gravel saying,  “Freeze right where you're at.” I slowly turned and came face to face with  the business end of a shotgun. Wielding it   was an older man, the rough and tumble type  who spend their entire lives on the edge of   civilization. For him the end of the world  had probably slipped by with little change.

“Who are you, how many with  you?” I answered him truthfully,   told him it was just me and two survivors  I was escorting to safety. His steel gray   eyes narrowed suspiciously, charity was not  a common feature of this brave new world. I told him the truth while he kept that shotgun  leveled at my chest. I could tell he had no part   with the cannibals prowling the mountains, for  one there was freshly skinned game drying on a   tanning rack which meant he ate animals  not people. He listened quietly without   interjecting as I told him about our escape  from the city, the community at the Salton Sea,   even the attack on Big Bear. Then he  surprised me with an unexpected question. “How many people have you killed?” I told him the truth. “As many as  I had to to keep my people safe.”

He nodded and the shotgun dipped  slightly. Then he told me to follow   him. He'd disarmed me so I didn't have  much choice. We went to his cabin briefly,   long enough to pick up a pair of crutches,   then he turned to me as we headed out the door.  “If you're lying, you're as good as dead.” I appreciated his honesty.

With him behind me and shotgun at my back, I took  him to the girls. At first they were alarmed,   then upon seeing the terror in their eyes he  dropped the shotgun almost apologetically,   a look almost like shame in his eyes. “Now, now, I'm sorry ladies,  didn't mean to scare you none.” He introduced himself as Watson and  handed over the crutches so Alana   could walk more easily, then invited  us to come stay the night at his cabin. Days 334-339 We ended up staying at Watson's cabin  for a few days as Alana's sprain healed,   at his insistence no less. I learned quickly  that he was a rather hard-baked man, but with   a surprisingly kind interior. In his world  though, even before civilization collapsed,  

it didn't pay to wear your kindness  on your sleeve. Alexis would have   disagreed- that thought triggered a deep  pain in my heart which I quickly buried. I asked Watson if he was concerned about  raiders and scavengers moving through the   mountains. He'd also tracked groups of them  moving through what he called 'his land',   and discouraged any that got too  close. I believed him entirely,  

I thought I could move silently but Watson  had snuck up on me like an absolute ghost. It was good to eat real meat, though  he lamented the fact that game was   becoming scarcer and scarcer up here.  I told him that Big Bear was having the   same problem. We both hoped it was just a  temporary readjustment to this new world. That's when Alana surprised me by blurting out  an invitation that he join us. “You can't stay   up in these mountains with game running out,  you should come with us.” He got that hard   look in his eyes again, this was a man used to  living alone and I could tell the thought of   a group made him very uncomfortable.  “We... could really use your help.”

Then I saw Watson melt and go flush with  color. The hard-edged mountain man had a   real soft spot and Alana had apparently nailed  it. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe he had   a daughter once too. Maybe she was out there  in the real world- or had been before the   bombs fell. I had my suspicions based off his  tender behavior towards Alana during our stay,  

but I knew well enough not to probe. Watson  seemed like a man that enjoyed his privacy. Days 340-345 When Alana was finally able to put weight  on her foot, we set out once more. I was   anxious- every day on the road was one day  more that the threat to Big Bear might grow.   I had to find out more about this gathering  army, how big it was, who was leading it,   what its plans were. Would they attack Big  Bear again, this time with far greater numbers,  

or would they head elsewhere? What would I  even do if they did plan on attacking Big Bear? Lots of questions with no answers,  and I was anxious to start finding   some- but first I had a promise  to keep to Alana and her mother. To my surprise, Watson agreed to accompany us. The   way he looked at Alana only confirmed  my suspicions- he once had a daughter,   or someone like her at some point in his life.  Personally, I was glad he decided to join us;   he was clearly a very experienced tracker and  woodsman, and skills like his could come in handy. We moved much faster now with Alana's healed  ankle and Watson to show us faster routes,   and soon we were out of the mountains and  entering the desert. Our destination was  

just south west of us, only a few days  by foot now that the snow was behind us. Days 346-350 We took the long way around, skirting the lake  by its western shore in order to avoid coming   close to Slab City. Before the war it had been  a lawless community of drifters and outcasts,   after the war we'd been warned that it had  become a growing hub for raiders and worse. At night we were able to camp inside the  abandoned buildings that dotted the edge   of the old communities that once ringed the  Salton Sea, and it was nice to have shelter   overhead again. Felt more secure in case  of raider attack as well. Until we were   near the safety of the farms though,  we lit no fires and ate our food cold. Watson slinked off one night, muttering something  about a 'feeling' he had. The man disappeared  

into the desert as silent as a panther, and just  as deadly. An hour before sunrise he returned,   dragging with him a man dressed in worn  traveling gear and with hands bound in   front of him. Throwing him to the floor of our  shelter, Watson spit on the ground next to him. “Scout. Had a feeling we were being  watched last night. I was right.” The man spit out a steady stream of  profanities, and Watson smacked him   with the butt of his shotgun, warning  him not to do it again in front of the   women. When Watson turned the double barrels  around to face him, the man quickly complied. We questioned him thoroughly and were  chilled at the news. He was indeed a  

scout for a smaller force prowling the Salton  basin area, looking for survivors to scoop up.   That force had clocked in on the farms and  was planning a visit soon. The thought of   what they might do if the community found  itself unprepared chilled me to the bone. When we were done Clara asked what we were  going to do with the scout. Watson volunteered  

to 'handle' the situation and catch up with us as  we set off. There was a familiar look in his eyes,   and I shook my head. “No, where we're  going there's law and order. We'll   turn him in there so he can receive a fair  punishment.” The group nodded in agreement. Internally, I agreed with Watson. But maybe,   just maybe, the world needed a little less  savagery if it was going to be re-civilized. Days 351-355 I was surprised when I finally laid eyes on the  farms again after half a year. Things had changed.  

Ruslana had been an effective governor since  our little group had left to go up to Big Bear. The entire area had a crude fence that you could  tell was still a work in progress. Some parts were   more complete than others, and even incorporated  concrete barriers. They must have found some way   of moving the heavy blocks which meant they  might’ve found a fuel depot and plenty of fuel   stabilizer. Without it gasoline goes bad within  months, which is why most of the world could no   longer drive despite there being billions of  gallons of old gasoline just laying around. There were even guard towers being erected  every few hundred meters, and we got spotted   long before making it to the front gates.  A delegation of riflemen came out to meet  

us- it was obvious the farms have been having  issues with raiders and other bad characters. Luckily several of the patrol that met us  recognized me, and I was greeted with lots   of back slapping and questions about how  everyone was doing. I waited until they   brought me into the camp so I could catch  everyone up at once. They had radioed ahead   and Ruslana was there to greet me, we both  embraced warmly upon seeing each other,   then she looked worried as she  asked about the girls and Robby. I told them about Big Bear and the  attack, and everything I'd learned   since then. Ruslana's face went serious,  I wasn't telling her any news- her and  

her people had been hearing the rumors of  a gathering army for months now. Plus they   kept having trouble with raiders from Slab  City, hence the fences and guard towers. But what we could do about any of it,   I didn't know. I was hoping Ruslana  would help me figure that part out. Days 356-360 It was nice to be able to relax for a  change, and the farms even had water   heaters set up so you could take a warm  shower. It felt like heaven on earth,   specially after the weeks and weeks of  trudging through the mountains. I missed  

Alexis and the rest fiercely, but I drove  those thoughts away anytime they invaded. Ruslana and I deliberated on what we could do. She  had been growing the community slowly but surely,   accepting survivors from the cities as  they found them. The place had a name   now too, it was officially  Farmbridge. A curious name,   but she explained it had won by majority  vote. Farm for obvious reasons, and the bridge   part because everyone hoped the settlement  would serve as a bridge to a better future.

One thing was clear, Farmbridge was some of the  most valuable real estate in SoCal right now,   and raiders had taken notice. They'd fended off  two attacks from Slab City before they gave up,   but caught scouts in the hills on a regular basis. Then we got word that a convoy  bringing in survivors and supplies   from the ruins of the city had been  attacked by Slab City raiders. Two  

survivors had made the marathon run  to get to us and try to raise help. Ruslana and I grabbed our gear as she  delegated orders to her lieutenants. She   grabbed four of her most experienced shooters  and headed for the gates. Watson picked up on   the commotion and was quickly beside me as  we marched to join them. Once we got there,  

Ruslana held up a hand- I didn't have  to come, this wasn't really my fight. Ruslana was a veteran of the Russian invasion  of Ukraine, but she wasn't a tracker. Watson and   I could both do the tracking necessary to find  out how many had attacked the convoy and which   direction they had traveled. Ruslana reluctantly  agreed, she didnt' like putting others in danger. Days 361-365 It took a few days to reach the site of  the attack, though we moved as quickly   as we could. The raiders had stripped  everything from the makeshift wagons,  

rough constructions that had been built on  top of an old car chassis by Farmbridge's   engineers. We were having to remake the world  with technology not very well suited for it. There were several corpses in the desert, some  were survivors and others raiders. At least Slab   City raiders- or Slabbers- weren't cannibals, they  hadn't butchered the bodies. But the survivors   would be taken as slaves, and potentially  sold to cannibals. We had to move fast. Days 366-368 The tracks led north along the coast of  the sea, almost mirroring the route we   had taken on our way south. The Slabbers were  steering clear of Farmbridge and going the long   way around the massive inland lake. Once we  got to the northern tip our suspicions were  

confirmed- the tracks now turned south  and east, in the direction of Slab City. Days 369-372 Salvation Mountain was visible in the  distance, a massive artificial hill   created by an artist and painted in brightly  colored paints. It was a famous landmark and   a real gem of the desert- a huge splash  of color amongst the dusty decay of the   Salton basin area. But without someone to look  after it, the bright colors had long ago faded. This was technically the  outer perimeter of Slab City,   and we moved only at night now. We had  too few numbers for an all-out assault,   and Ruslana didn't want to risk war between  Farmbridge and Slab City, though looking in   her eyes she knew it was inevitable. My  hope was that when it came, Slab City   didn't have the backing of this mysterious  warlord gathering an army somewhere east.

Luckily for us, Slabbers were  still largely disorganized,   it was an every-man-for-himself settlement  that rarely ever cooperated on anything except   an existential threat to its existence.  This gave us the advantage of teamwork. Watson and I scouted the settlement  together at night, me wrapping around   to the north and him to the south. There  wasn't one main holding area for captives,   rather it seemed as if the Slabbers were organized  in small groups and each group had its own pens.   This was good news for us, maybe we could get  in there and make it look like a prison break.  

It was important the Slabbers didn't  find out it was an organized rescue by   Farmbridge. If they did the entire settlement  would then have vendetta against Farmbridge,   and though they didn't cooperate well  together, they had numbers on their side. Our people were on the northern outskirts  of Slab City, which played to our favor.  

We should be able to get in and out, hopefully  without causing much of a ruckus. And if we did,   other Slabbers would be too far away to  get there in time as long as we were fast. Days 373-375 The desert was wide open here, only a few  wadis to hide in. That meant we couldn't   sneak up close the way we'd like to.  We'd have to hit them hard and fast. Two of Ruslana's shooters stationed themselves  several hundred meters out in the desert on   small rises. The rest of us crawled along a  wadi until we were as close as we could get,   still leaving about a hundred meters  between us and the structures housing   about a dozen slabbers. The next nearest group  was half a mile away, we'd have to move fast.

Ruslana spoke a single word into her  radio and the shooters got to work.   Almost simultaneously the sound of two rifles  firing split the nighttime silence. We were   already up and running as two  Slabber corpses hit the ground. But there was a third we hadn't seen, he  must have been napping outside or something,   because he immediately poked up from behind  a stack of tires and brought his rifle to   bear. One of Ruslana's men was shot before  we mowed him down with return fire. There   was no time for grieving or first aid,  more than one life was at stake here. I still had a few grenades left, so I tossed  one in the direction of one of the structures   as Ruslana went to work on the lock to the captive  pen. A slabber happened to run out just a second  

before the grenade went off, cutting him down  with shrapnel. The rest huddled by the doorway,   peering out to fire at us, fearful to  run out into another tossed grenade. That was perfect, the fear kept the slabbers  holed up as Ruslana finally blasted the lock   off the gate in frustration, freeing the  captives. One of Ruslana's shooters on the  

high ground had a night vision scope for his  rifle and dropped a Slabber none of us had   seen as he snuck up on us. Probably saved all  our lives. The other rifleman kept up steady,   accurate fire on the doorways to  force the Slabbers to stay inside. We retreated in pairs, two of us laying  down fire for the rest to rush back,   then alternating. We couldnt' win in a standup  fight, so our goal was to keep them inside their   shacks until we could get away into the  desert. With the blood pumping in my ears,   I grabbed the hand of one of the survivors and  rushed back into the wadi we had taken on the   way in, it gave us just enough cover to remain  out of line of sight of the slabbers behind us.

Watson jumped in behind us, carrying the  wounded squad member over his shoulders.   His face was red with exertion, but he  refused to leave the man behind. Under   the cover of our two riflemen on high  ground, we hightailed it into the night.

Days 376-380 We moved as fast as we could, putting  distance between us and Slab City- but   to our surprise there was no pursuit.  Maybe we had killed that group's leader,   or maybe the slabbers had simply cut  their losses. It didnt' seem right to me,   and one look at Watson's face told me it didn't  sit right with him either. Something was going on.

We made it to the north side of the Salton  Sea, far enough away that we felt safe from   any slabber patrols or scavenger teams. When we  finally had a chance to take a breather, one of   the captives told us rather disturbing news. The  slabbers had started to organize themselves into   a bigger entity. Some guy who's name they hadn't  caught was apparently putting the law down- by   force if necessary. Some slabbers were resisting,  and ending up in shootouts that weren't in their   favor. It made sense now, the slabbers we rescued  the captives from were probably more concerned   with holding on to what property and power  they had than chasing down some escaped slaves. 

But the slabbers wouldn't be opposing each  other forever, because this mystery man was   winning the struggle to unite Slab City. Soon they  would be a unified force, and a serious threat   to Farmbridge. Perhaps most disturbing though  was that the slabbers had already sent a team   of representatives to meet with this growing  horde out east. They were looking to join up. If we were going to survive what came next,  we needed information- now more than ever.   Ruslana decided to use boats to cross the  Salton sea and get to Farmbridge faster,   but Watson and I had a different plan.  We were headed east. We'd pretend to be   raiders or scavengers looking to join up for  a bigger score, and find out what we could.

Ruslana tried to talk us out of it, but our minds  were set. Then she hugged me goodbye once more,   assuring me she would do everything she could to  prepare her people for the coming war. To Watson,   she gave a kiss on the cheek as thank you  for saving her man. Watson turned a bright   red and for a moment the two lingered near each  other. Watson was probably in his late fifties   and Ruslana was only fifteen or so years behind  him. In the old world, maybe people would've  

batted an eye at the pairing, but in this new  world you took love where you could find it. The thought made my heart hurt again  as I thought about Alexis. Once more,   I buried the thought. There was work to do. Days 381-385 We only had a general location and rumors to go  off, but we knew one thing for sure- wherever this   horde was gathering, it was somewhere east. It  would also have to be near highways and a former  

town or city to support that many people in one  location. That narrowed things down considerably. Lake Havasu was the obvious choice in my opinion,  plenty of fresh water and a highway ran through   it. Watson agreed, and we went north from Salton  up the 111 until we got to the ten interstate.   We'd follow that east until it intersected  with the 95 and then take that north to Havasu. With just two of us on solid pavement,  we could make good time. As we made camp   I did some rough calculations and was  surprised to discover it had been just   over a year now since the world ended.  It was hard to tell from the passing of  

the seasons because SoCal didnt' really  have them- and now with global cooling   from all the dust in the atmosphere, it  was generally cool and cloudy every day. I couldn't believe how far and how fast  humanity had fallen in just one year. Days 386-389 We spotted the checkpoint from a distance,  recon'ed it out at night. Fifteen or so raiders   manning a rough barricade at the junction of  the 10 and the 95. They were very well armed,  

this wasn't desert trash. This had to be a part  of the main group we'd heard so much about. I wanted to go around them, but Watson disagreed.  This was an outpost, controlling traffic through   the two highways. He thought we should present  ourselves as hopeful recruits, and told me to   trust him- he knew a thing or two about dealing  with people like this from his old life. We approached the outpost in broad  daylight, rifles slung over our   shoulders. Watson told me to let him do  the talking as a few of them approached us,   rifles leveled in our direction. “We're looking for opportunity,  

tired of scabbing off the ruins or whoever happens  to come along. Heard there was a boss out here,   planning to make big moves. Figured he could  use two more good guns.” The raiders laughed,   but their leader seemed to take in Watson's  words. He nodded his approval. We had heard right,   but it wasn't up to him if we could join  or not- that would be up to the bosses in   Havasu. His job was to monitor traffic and  collect taxes from anyone using the roads. I was surprised, turns out they were taxing  people using the roads for trade. I guess  

it made sense- you couldn't enslave or  kill everyone you came across if you   were trying to build something. There  was plenty of that, we were assured,   but mostly from communities that resisted.  Plus the boss granted each of the major   groups the right to go on 'hunting trips'  outside of the territory once in a while. We asked for his name and were  corrected, “Not his name, her name.” General Latray she called herself. Her  followers called her the Iron Lady.  

Where she'd come from or who she had been  in the old world nobody here knew. Their   gang was one of the many picked  up and absorbed into the fold. We were given directions and told to behave  ourselves in the Iron Lady's territory. There  

was no looting, stealing, or fighting without  permission from the Iron Lady or her bosses. Then,   they gave us directions to Havasu- but not before  we paid our toll. With money being worthless,   we handed over some of our foodstuffs  and ammo- the currency of the new world. Days 390-394 I was surprised to see semi-regular foot traffic  on the road up to Havasu. There were groups of   raiders using the road on their way to god  knows where, but also civilians- even some   trade caravans. The civilians all had the same  haunted look in their eyes from living under   an oppressive dictatorship, and the trade  caravans included many slaves. I couldn't  

help but wonder if this wasn't what one of the  ancient empires of the world may have looked like. There was civilization here if you  can call it that. An oppressive regime   of the Iron Lady's own making that  endorsed slavery, sanctioned murder,   and violence to keep everyone in line- but it  was undeniable that this was in fact a growing   civilization. Havasu had attracted thousands  of survivors it seems, and when the Iron Lady   showed up she'd wrangled all the survivors under  her iron thumb to build a world in her image. Watson had lived most of his life in the  mountains, with no boss in his life save himself.  

The steady streams of caravans and civilians being  bullied by raiders bothered him to the point I   caught his finger straying near the trigger of his  rifle on more than one occasion. I had to remind   him that we were here to gather information. We  couldn't do anything for these people, not yet. With a weary sigh he agreed, and  we continued our journey to Havasu. Days 395-399 We had been told to report to a specific  building on the outskirts of Havasu Springs   Resort. The former resort community served as a  southern base of operations, with Havasu city,   north and on the other side of the lake,  being the Iron lady's seat of power. I let Watson do the talking again, following  his lead. The raiders respected strength,  

so when our would-be recruiter tried to intimidate  us we both responded with veiled threats. That   seemed to please him, and he welcomed us into  the ranks. Unfortunately, things were hectic   at the moment, so we'd have to cool our heels  for a few days until we could get sorted out. The raiders clearly had some military veterans in  their ranks, because they were working to unify   the various gangs and raider enclaves together  into some semblance of organization. No easy task   given that all of these people were naturally  extremely selfish and prone to looking out for   number one first. We'd be assigned to one of the  gangs soon, until then we were given directions to   makeshift barracks where we could hole up. Until  then we were in quarantine, we could leave the  

barracks and have a look around, but were limited  in where we could go for the time being. This made   gathering intelligence difficult, and I was  growing increasingly frustrated by the day. Day 400 I had questions I couldn't find answers to  cooped up in the barracks waiting for our   assignment. Who was the Iron Lady? What  were here plans? How many people did she   have under her command? Did she have enemies  we could potentially contact for help? Each   day that I went without finding answers was  another day that my friends were in danger.

I left the barracks and Watson reminded me not to  test the boundaries of where we had been allowed   to wander- clearly he could also feel my growing  frustration. There was a recreation area which the   raiders were making full use of, with a tennis and  basketball court. Tourists once flocked to this   beautiful resort, now it was home to a base of men  and women who had chosen to survive the end of the   world by killing, enslaving, and exploiting their  fellow man. It was sickening, and I almost wished  

a nuke would fall here right now- if the war was  even still going on. Maybe it had finally ended,   with no more cities left to vaporize and the  survivors tearing each other apart for the scraps. I turned away from the courts in disgust and  nearly ran straight into a young brunette   carrying a load of laundry. It spilled  everywhere, and I almost helped her pick   it up until I saw the slave collar on her  neck and remembered the role I was playing. “Watch where the hell you're going, you idiot.”  I grumbled out. I had to be committed to my role.

The girl looked up as she scooped up the laundry,  “I'm so sorry, I didn't expect you to...” But her voice trailed off as we  locked eyes and I felt my face   go white as a ghost as my knees turned to jello. “Chris- Christina?” I barely  managed to mumble out. But  

there was no mistaking her. Same  pretty, almost almond-shaped eyes,   and small scar on her left cheek from when  she fell off a scooter as a kid. It was her. My ex-fiance who had broken up with me  just three months before the world ended. Now go see how this story all started  with I Survived 100 Days of Nuclear War,   or click this other video instead!

2022-10-04 21:07

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