A couple of dune buggies have started shadowing us. These ones have hides strapped all over so from a distance they can be mistaken for the wooly-elk-rhino buffalo creatures of the plains. I mean, sort of, for like half a second. Maybe it works better on the Welkinos themselves. Don’t herd animals have poor eyesight?
I have to assume these folks hunt the wooly-elk-rhino buffalo creatures of the plains since they have harpoon guns affixed to their dune buggies. Have harpoons ever been used to hunt large land animals before? Or was that murder technology only for whales? Maybe all the big land animals were hunted to extinction before the harpoon was invented.
I said “So nobody can live on these plains huh?” pointedly to Martialla and Lucien but they didn’t acknowledge my rightness and instead started discussing the possibility of trying to attack the buggy people and stealing one of their machines. How are you supposed to get the drop on someone half a mile away that’s seven hundred times faster than you? They didn’t have any good answers for that. Dig a pit maybe and somehow lure them into it? I said maybe we could try to talk with them and that was ignored as well.
I think Martialla crashed our plane somewhere around Winnemucca. According to a report I did in junior high Butch Cassidy robbed a bank there in 1900, getting away with thirty thousand dollars which is the equivalent of three quarters of a million bucks in today’s dollars. Well not today, but you know what I mean. Why was there that much money there? Winnemucca had a thriving brothel district. I got sent to the principal for explaining what a brothel is in my report.
I bring this up because I am relatively sure that there are no big cities anywhere near Winnemucca yet around the same time the buggies showed up off the northwest we spotted what looks like a ruined city. As I said once we got over what’s left the Rockies the land turned from a giant muddy shithole into a land green and fair. Well no, more yellow and stabby than green and fiar, but plants instead of dumb dirty desert is the point. But then there’s a big black scar up ahead and looks to be miles and miles wide of dead city.
Maybe we’re farther off course than I think and we’re nowhere near where Billy the Kid stole the hooker’s gold but what city could that be? Boise? I don’t think Boise Idaho was that big. But as Martialla loves to point out things could have changed between the time when we were frozen and before the entire country collapsed. Maybe in 2050 Twin Falls was a huge metropolis, easily the equal of New York City or Paris or Tokyo and then was hit by an intercontinental ballistic missile.
I suppose we’ll find out soon enough because we’re headed that way more or less, assuming that the Welkino whalers of the tall grass don’t murder us before we get there. After we stopped for the day Paul and Martialla went off a ways to have some private time, leaving me with Lucien in the semi-darkness.
On this side of the non-Rockies the “northern” lights aren’t as bright as they are across the mountains, which makes no sense, but there’s less grit in the air so it’s still pretty bright during the night. In the movies whenever people “camp” for the night they have a campfire, but we never do. I don’t think any of us knows how to make a fire. On the plus side Paul has gotten pretty good at weaving grass into a pallet or sorts so I was laying on an itchy mat instead of atop a writhing mass of grasshopper-octopi bugs.
“So, Lu, can I call you Lu?”
Lucien looked up form some piece of junk he was fiddling with “I would prefer that you didn’t.”
“Fair enough” I said magnanimously and attractively “So Lucien, how are you holding up? Waking up the future, disco is dead, whatever else was going on in the seventies is done, world gone to hell, it’s quite a shock. You going crazy? You getting the crazies on me buddy?”
He thought about it for a moment “I think I’m alright. This is technically what I trained for. The world isn’t what I expected, I thought I was going to fighting the Russians. I guess this isn’t so much different from that. I also thought I would have access a lot more equipment and support, but that’s always the case in the military. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an after-action report that didn’t include the phrase – we had higher support expectations. Not one that was being honest anyway.”
“Did your training include anything on how to deal with future feral psychos like Paul?”
He smiled thinly “I think Martialla has that situation under control, if I’m worried anyone I’m worried about you.”
I grinned “You’re not getting sweet on me are you?”
He shifted uncomfortably “I mean to say that you’re a civilian, this . . . was never on your radar. It’s not possible to truly prepare yourself for this circumstance but at least they tried with me. You were minding your own business before. All things considered you’ve handled it admirably but you’re showing all the signs of someone who’s undergone serious trauma. If you were in my unit and it was possible I’d have you taken off duty and spend time with a mental health professional. A lot of time.”
I raised an eyebrow “Did they do that in the seventies? I thought everyone being in therapy was a fad that started in the nineties. I thought all those kids in Vietnam who said they were messed up were laughed out of the service for being pussies.”
He shrugged “Maybe things were different in the states, psychoanalysis is a proud Canadian tradition, in my time, where I came from. Although not as much in the military admittedly.”
“Of course, stiff upper lip and all that.”
“Same thing. So what’s the prognosis Master Sergeant? Am I going to go totally batshit like Paul?”
He shook his head somberly “No, not like Paul.”