A mysterious hole in the ground containing a large slab of metal in it was intriguing enough that we stuck around Wyo despite the fact that it could have just been a big piece of an old sign for the world’s largest rocking chair. We lost even more people to the monotony of excavation. I suppose that’s the drawback of enticing people to fight for you purely on the basis of fun and profit – once there’s no longer any fun or profit to be had how are you going to keep them down on the farm?
Once we had done enough digging that it clear that we had no interest in killing Sordee the rest of his facepaint 127 people crept into town in small groups. All in all those small groups ended up being more than a hundred people with more than two dozen fighting vehicles. Ten of these vehicles were heavily armed and armored, which is a lot of heavy armed and armored vehicles by the standards of the day.
Martialla pointed out unhelpfully that if they had participated in the defense of Wyo they could have shifted the balance against us. When I told her to stop being a nervous Nelly she pointed out even more negatively that if they wanted to they could probably recapture the town/slaughter us right now since most of our horde had left.
She’s a real buzzkill that one.
While our people weren’t super pumped about digging for days the 127ers approached the task with something bordering on religious fervor. They dug into the ground like it owed them money or slept with their spouse or both. Someone on our side did bring in a six-wheeled segmented machine with a digging blade/drill/saw/arm on the front. Where the hell did that come from? Was that with us the entire time and I never noticed it? Why would someone have that? Did they just build it right there? Wherever it came from it was helpful.
Even with a freaky digging machine (note to self-Freaky Digging Machine would be a good album name) the work was mostly people hauling buckets of dirt and breaking their backs like in a movie where they dig up an old Egyptian tomb that unleashes a horrible monster or a curse. Or a monster’s curse. Or a cursed monster. People in movies really shouldn’t be digging up old tombs. Of course that would be a pretty boring movie if they didn’t.
While the excavation was going on some of the people that weren’t interested in digging but hadn’t left yet took what salvage was left from the battle and hammered together some more vehicles. These future mutants don’t look like much but I’m impressed by their ingenuity. Maybe that’s the blessing of junk-mobiles, they’re low tech enough that they’re kind of modular? One gets smashed to bits and you just add those bits to something else.
While we were digging some of the Wyomins that headed for the hills came back to town. I don’t know if they were expecting us to have left so they could go back to their homes or if they wanted those battlefield scraps but they looked disappointed either way. Some of them talked to the 127s and eventually they came into town and jointed the fun. Most of them anyway, some of them went back into the mountains. To die I assume.
On the third day we found an edge to the metal and when we dug down alongside that we uncovered a door and what was left of a twisted catwalk and/or ladder. At this point Martialla once again brought up that what she’d really like to have is some ground penetrating radar. I hate when she does that. I’d like to have an ice cream sundae and a beer that isn’t made from squashed armadillo testicles but it aint going to happen. There’s no use in pining after the impossible.
They turned the digging machine on the door but it didn’t do shit other than permanently damage the hearing of everyone in a fifty-foot radius with the sound of screeching metal. Our most powerful explosives (which Martialla said weren’t very powerful but what the hell does she know about it?) didn’t crack it open either. Additional digging uncovered some massive slabs of concrete, and I mean massive. Like Hoover Dam massive. I wonder if that thing is still around. I can’t remember if they said that the Hoover Dam would last forever or if it would fall apart in like a week without maintenance. It was one of the two.
A guy with giant hands and spindly chicken legs told us that based on what he was seeing it would take weeks or months to dig up the whole thing. He speculated that this was an underground complex that had been buried and then the earth shifted and part of it had been broken open. He suggested that if we did some directional boring (which sound boring!) in a spot where he claimed he could tell there was a fissure that might get us some answers faster. Seemed as good an idea as anything. I admit that at that time I was losing enthusiasm for the project, I probably would have agreed to almost anything. Almost.
The man with the plan and the giant hands was right. They carved out a reverse step pyramid into the ground to the south and they dug into a collapsed section of concrete, torn asunder by the mighty power of the earth rolling over like a lazy cat on a couch. At this point the digging became even more slow and boring, painstaking I suppose you’d call it. Which is a strange word. Seems like it should mean that you’re betting an amount of pain. Language is a funny.
Now then, once they started pulling out debris and bodies it became a lot more interesting. At first it was some big twisted sheets of metal. And a bunch of smaller chunks mixed in with the dirt and concrete. Then came the arm. Aside from being dark blue, almost purple, it was a perfectly preserved arm. Actually preserved isn’t even the right word, it looked like it was still alive. When you touched it, which I did, it felt like touching, you know, an arm attached to a person. I’m not expert on wounds by any means but the ragged end didn’t look like anything I had ever seen. The arm had been ripped off and there was stuff dangling but it didn’t seem like it was damaged if that makes sense. It was as if a super realistic dummy had been made and then you tore its arm off.
Clearing out more rubble revealed pieces of what looked like giant metal coffins along with a staggering array of pieces of human bodies. It was simultaneously less and more horrible because they were toy-like and bloodless. It seemed like you could just stick them back together like some kind of demented puzzle. But you couldn’t. Because by all accounts they were actual body parts.
Eventually came to what looked like a piece of a roof that had been twisted down like a pipe cleaner and after digging underneath that and clearing away more dirt (and other stuff) we were inside a what used to be a room. Scattered through the dirt (and other stuff) were more intact pieces of the metal coffins, enough that you could decipher their original size and shape. They were as large as a small car and each one appeared to contain just one body. By the flickering light of a lantern filled with glowing bug-guts I looked over at Martialla.
“Well this is about the damnedest funerary practice that I’ve ever seen. Is this a modern mummification deal? Are we going to find traps and a big room filled with gold donkeys?”
Martialla shook her head “This isn’t burial. Well, it is because they’re literally buried, but they’re not dead. Or they weren’t rather. Not when they went under.”
“What are you talking about?”
She pointed to the wall where you could just barely make out, in large block letters with a red and white background written in both English and French “Bio-Stasis 7”.