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  • Rick Canaan
    started a topic RP (Open, Recruiting) The Virus

    The Virus

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    Life underground.

    It was disquieting. Often depressing. It could lead to mania - claustrophobia for some, an ever nagging sense of isolation for others. The walls could close in. The ceiling could. That part was the worst. The ceiling.

    SubTropolis was a long-ago gentrified limestone mine. Back in the nineteen-fifties, during and after the Eisenhower Public Works Project that saw the birth of the nation's Interstate Highway program, hundreds upon hundreds of limestone deposits had been sought after and exploited. Some of those deposits had been deep underground.

    Even though environmentalism had been in its infancy at the time, there were groups active and well established enough, even back then, to prevent the strip mining of the rock needed for highway construction in some areas. Unlike around the Chicago area, where a vast limestone-strip-mining operation had led to a colossal gouge in the ground, areas like Kansas City had approached the mining more environmentally friendly.

    They had gone underground to get the needed limestone.

    Deep underground.

    At its deepest points, SubTropolis was as deep as a hundred meters underground. For on about thirty years, limestone was mined. When it was all said and done, there were literally a hundred miles of vast tunnels spread across the mine.

    The mine then sat idle for over twenty years. Then, a real estate venture capitalist saw in the mine a marvelous new potential. Underground businesses.

    Once this real estate tycoon spent the millions it took to ready the mine for businesses to move in, there were a great many takers. Within the first five years, several tenants moved in. Chief among these were businesses that worked or traded in refrigerated goods.

    Kraft, US Cold Storage, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson and Johnson and many, many more. Most all of the business dealt in food products. Others medicinal products. There were even a couple of large computer firms - the advantage of vast server farms where vital air-conditioning was extremely cheap, was just too good a deal for some of these bigger firms, such as some of the nation's leading ISPs and telecommunication providers to pass up.

    And that was the genius behind SubTropolis. It was underground. The average mean temperature that far below ground is a nice and cool fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit or about thirteen degrees Celsius. Businesses like Kraft and US Cold Storage were able to save tens of thousands of dollars a year on electricity. With refrigeration chambers starting at fifty-five degrees, it wasn't that far to go to get to the temperatures that these businesses required.

    The mine hummed along for well over a hundred years.

    Then, The Virus happened.

    No one knows for sure where it came from. There was some reports on the news channels that it was believed to have started in Buenos Aires. A meteor from space was speculated to be the cause. Then, it was all rendered academic. The Virus spread across the globe with the speed of flock of birds flying over a field. The whole of the anthro race was wiped out in less than forty-eight hours. All seven billion people living and breathing on planet Earth. Gone. Just... gone.

    But not gone. Not quite.

    Transformed. Changed into something else.

    Mutated. Changed into something awful. Transformed into something nightmarish. Into something horrifying.

    The living dead. The dead animated. Zombies.

    But utterly unlike anything seen in any of the even most horrifying movies and vids. These weren't shambling nightmares that people could run from. They were fast. And they were savage. One doctor, before he too had been taken, had characterized their behavior as akin to an animal afflicted with Rabies. But in the case of the zombies, a very horrifying kind of Super Rabies.

    Their muscles had been transformed into something like steel. They were fast. Agile. They could climb and leap with the dexterity of primates. They were as fast as any of the non-sentient cats. If one spotted you, the only safety lied in locking yourself behind closed doors. Heavy doors. The zombies could break easily through doors. Through wood, brick and drywall. Little was a barrier to them once they were on a person's trail.

    In the year since it all began, a very fortunate very few, have been able to find safety. There were very few places which offered this, but because of its nature, SubTropolis was one of these places.

    Just over a hundred people were able to find refuge here. Of the people who found refuge in such places, those who found it in SubTropolis were among the exceptionally fortunate few.

    Food was beyond abundant. There was enough between Kraft and US Cold Storage to last that hundred or so souls well over five-hundred years. There were acres and acres of frozen foods. Just as many acres of stored canned goods. The medical supplies were equally abundant - enough to last the people in SubTropolis longer than the food.

    But SubTropolis had one flaw. One weakness. It was underground. Air had to be pumped into it. Lighting had to be powered.

    The nation's power grid failed within the first months of the outbreak. After that, SubTropolis ran on generators alone.

    For nine years the power lasted. There had been thousands of gallons of fuel in reserve.

    Just today, that reserve ran out.

    Over a hundred souls, in the dark. Scared. The air is running out. If someone doesn't do something soon, SubTropolis, so long a refuge for these fortunate few, will soon become their tomb.

  • Rick Canaan
    replied
    As Geoff and Mickey got busy getting Adrian's radio setup, Ember went to pack everyone some lunches. Nobody knew how long they might be out there, so bringing along food seemed prudent.

    At length, it was all done - Adrian's radio was ready and Ember had a cooler full of food packed away in one of Adrian's storage compartments.

    When all was said and done, slinging his rifle, he said to the group, "I know it might seem best to leave Tobias here, but..."

    He turned to the equine.

    "I don't think anyone else here knows how to run a locomotive. Maybe they're simple, but maybe they're not. If they're not, we might do more harm than good, or worse, we might not even be able to get one started. We'd be in a pickle either way."

    The wolf filled his ample chest.

    "It's a risk we'll need to take. For another thing, we're not coming back here until we have the diesel on its way to Subtropolis. Once we do, we'll swing back to get you, Mickey, and we'll move as much of Geoff's gear to Subtropolis as we can. Maybe at some point, we'll have a look at turning Geoff's facility into a FOB, but first we have too many things to do that are more important."

    "'FOB'?" Mickey asked.

    "'Forward Operating Base'," Ember answered.

    The dog nodded, falling silent.

    "Alright," Ember said. "Adrian, get your truck ready. I'll be riding on the back, on the boom. Geoff, you ride shotgun. Tobias, you're between Adrian and Geoff."

    Mickey approached. Having taken up his drone, he set it up on the bed of the truck and climbed up on it.

    "Here," he said, then, standing up. He picked up a thick cord that was obviously part of the truck's towed-vehicle running light system. He paired the thick cord with a cord that he pulled from the drone. He plugged the two together.

    "I fixed this up while you guys were getting the radio ready. Adrian, you'll need to turn the truck's running lights on for this to work, but it will keep the drone charged. I figure you all won't need it while you're driving, so yeah."

    Ember looked impressed. Take the kid out of direct danger and let him contribute, and he became a valuable member of their team. He gave the dog a commander's appreciative nod.

    "Alright, let's saddle up," he then called to everyone else. "Let's get this show going. To the gun store, Adrian. And step on it."

    Leave a comment:


  • Daryn
    replied
    Geoff tucked into his breakfast, his ears perking up at how well the eggs were done. He looked over to Ember, giving him a nod. "My compliments. These are great!" he said, and meant it.

    When the conversation turned to the matter of Mickey staying behind and acting as their overwatch, Geoff remained silent for the moment. He mulled it over, but he really couldn't see any downside. Mickey would be able to stay out of harm's way, and still look in on Tobias. Meanwhile, he himself could keep an eye on the surroundings and start getting as much gear packed as possible. He knew that he wouldn't be able to just hang around here forever, and the gear he had in his makerspace could go a long way to help fabricate supplies and parts for Subtropolis.

    "Yeah, I have a lot of different software packages and firmware images. Some of them, not strictly legal, but I doubt that's going to be much of a problem these days," he said, showing a toothy grin.

    He looked from Mickey to Ember, to Adrian, unsure of what they'd make of that, or whether they'd care. He decided if it came down to it, he'd tell them of how it was possible to foil GPS, but that wasn't relevant right now.

    Instead, he looked back to Mickey, "Go ahead and update the radio. I'll get my meter and then we can drive outside into an open area. I'll need that so I can tune the antenna." he said, motioning around them, "Trying to do it in here, with metal walls wouldn't give a good result, the signal would bounce all over the place."

    He looked over to Adrian then, "That's why they couldn't do both bands at once. The tuning is different for each. It's not much between 10 and 11 metre, but it's enough that a proper tune could mean a fair bit of range gained or lost."

    He took another bite of his eggs, followed by a slice of bacon, then continued, "I'll have to look at the readings, but one nice thing about that radio is it can store tuning presets. You can't transmit and receive on both bands simultaneously, but you can switch between them. The only drawback there is you won't be aware of any chatter on one band if you're on the other. Still, better than having to retune manually every time."

    The sleep had cleared from Geoff's eyes, and the fox seemed awake and alert, now. Once everyone had finished up, Geoff got to his feet and went into the kitchen to rinse the plates and cups, before returning a few moments later.

    "Shall we?" he asked, gesturing to the stairs.

    Leave a comment:


  • Arratra
    replied
    "Yeah," Adrian replied, "It's a good brand, and the company paid for the expense after the previous one proved to be faulty."

    That incident had been annoying, though thankfully there had been protocols in place that allowed him to use his phone to report the issue and what he'd been doing.

    This, coming as part of a string of such failures (the company that made them had been becoming infamous for terrible quality control), had proven to be the last straw for the towing company, who had then switched to the more expensive, but far more cost-effective, Stryker-brand radios.

    He paused when Mickey mentioned how quickly he could convert it over, blinking, before nodding. He remembered how quickly the shop had been able to make the switch.

    He also remembered asking why they weren't setting it to do both at once, though he didn't remember how he'd been answered.

    He joined Geoff in giving an affirmative answer, nodding firmly.

    "It is a good plan," Adrian agreed, "I kind of want to keep the eleven-metre band available to us in case someone else uses it, but having all our radios on the same frequency should make communicating much easier."

    Leave a comment:


  • Rick Canaan
    replied
    Once everyone had sat down to breakfast, Mickey meekly raised his hand. He blushed as this brought everyone's attention to him, but he stoically cleared his throat and turned to Adrian.

    "I noticed yesterday that you have a Stryker TN-955 transceiver in your truck. I assume it's been converted to 11-meter band?"

    It was, and had been. The Stryker corporation made high-powered, portable HAM radios. The one Adrian had could transmit at 170 watts. It was also a simple software switch in the radio to convert it to a citizen-legal Citizen-Band radio, or 11-meter in professional vernacular.

    When Adrian answered in the affirmative, Mickey gave a small, embarrassed smile.

    "It'll only take me about five minutes to convert it back to 10-meter. That will give it a much longer range. It will also let me use it as a relay."

    "A relay?" Ember asked, becoming interested enough to put his fork down.

    Mickey's head shrunk down a little in between his shoulders, but he nodded at Ember.

    "Let's not make bones about it," he said meekly. "If I go out there with you, I'll be a liability. I have no experience with firearms to speak of and I don't know hardly anything about tactics."

    Which was a kind way of saying he was scared shitless of what was out there. And being that scared, would make him into a liability. In short, while Mickey was smart, he had not a brave bone in his body. In a stressful situation, if he crumpled, he would have to be dragged away by someone who would probably be much better off using a weapon.

    "If I convert the radio, though, I can operate the drones from here. I've done the math. Converted, Adrian's radio will have a 20-kilometer range. The rail yard is only 10-kilometers across town. I can sit here, in relative safety, acting as overwatch for everybody."

    Ember's brows raised and he glanced around at everybody. Coming back to Mickey, he said, "You can do that - actually convert the radio?"

    Mickey's head shrunk down a little further, but he nodded.

    "How do you know you can?" Ember asked him.

    "Well, while I was gathering up all of Geoff's spare batteries last night and putting them all on for charge, I started studying their controller software on his computer." He gave an apologetic glance at Geoff but then went on. "They use the 10-meter frequency bands for remote control. Geoff's got a transmitter array on his roof for them. We can plug Adrian's radio into the Geoff's computer and I can do the switch. While I was looking through some of the software suites Geoff has, I found that he had the universal 10-meter-radio stuff, too. It turns out his radio is a Stryker, too. It's all done with tick-off boxes in the software. It'll be as straightforward as say, just making sure to put the round pegs in the round holes."

    Ember looked mildly astonished.

    He turned to Adrian.

    "Can he do that? It'll really be that easy?"

    Geoff would answer in the affirmative. It really was that easy.

    Mickey nodded, too. "It's truly a no-brainer," he said. "The way the Stryker is set up, it's impossible to mess it up with the software."

    Ember looked thoughtful. "Well, if you have no objections," he said to Adrian, "it is your radio. But I think it's a good plan. With Mickey back here, safe, we'll have drone overwatch regardless of what happens. I say let's do it."

    Mickey spoke up again. "There's one caveat, though. One of you will have to change the drone's batteries." He gave a shrug. "I'll just land the drone near you guys, though, and one of you can change it. I'll be able to monitor battery levels from here, too."

    Ember looked thoughtfully at Mickey. "A good plan," he said. "Well done." He turned back to Adrian from a suddenly blushing Mickey. "So, right. Unless you object to it, we'll go and grab your radio right after we finish breakfast."

    Leave a comment:


  • Arratra
    replied
    Adrian's rest was also troubled. He woke with a start in the middle of the night, disturbed by a dream of what had happened to Akio, and spent almost an hour trying to get back to sleep while his imagination showed him images of others in Subtropolis sharing that fate.

    He only managed to fall asleep again when he shoved the images to the side and focussed on something else.

    The dragon was thus rather groggy come morning, when he was wakened again, this time by the smells coming from the kitchen. He blinked blearily at the wolf, before rubbing at his face and yawning hugely.

    "Sorry," he mumbled, moving to the sink to splash cold water on his face.

    That woke him most of the rest of the way up, and he moved to the table to sit down.

    "Geoff's got a point there," he commented, "I'm fair with a bow; not good enough to be comfortable with using one in combat, but I'm familiar enough to get by. And our guns aren't going to last forever."

    He paused for a moment in thought.

    "We should check if the gun store stocks bayonets. They'll be a useful backup for if we run out of ammunition or one of the infected gets too close."

    Leave a comment:


  • Daryn
    replied
    Geoff was woken up by the smell of the cooking food. He loved bacon and eggs, and it seemed like someone had found them in the fridge.

    He made his way down, noting Ember busily working in the kitchen. He raised an eyebrow, waggling his ears to let the wolf know there was no derision there, just curiosity. When Ember explained, he nodded. That made sense.

    "Smells really good, doesn't it?" he asked, a grin on his muzzle.

    Of course, if anyone asked where he had acquired fresh bacon and eggs, the answer wouldn't be withheld. Geoff liked to share information, that's what he had built this space for.

    He took his plate from Ember and sat at the table to tuck into it. At about that time, Mickey stumbled his way into the kitchen. "Boy," Geoff thought, "the kid had a really rough night, it seems."

    "Morning." he greeted but saw that Mickey was still half asleep. Once the meal and coffee were done, then there would be time to talk.

    As everyone sat down and made progress on their breakfast, Geoff finally spoke up.

    "The train yard should be easy enough to deal with. Use your noses, and avoid any cars that smell bad. That's where you'll likely find the turned hanging out." he said, his ears flattening in thought, "You know if you're going to go to the gun store, though, would you mind grabbing a bow and arrows for me? I am terrible with a gun, but I was captain of my College Archery team."

    Geoff shrugged, "It's a high-end place. So maybe it stocked a bow or two. By your explanation, Ember, it sounds like Guns aren't the only thing one can find there, so if you'd check for me, that'd be much appreciated."

    Leave a comment:


  • SliceOfDog
    replied
    For Mickey, the night dragged. He found himself restless and uneasy, and couldn't fully explain why. Yes, he had witnessed the creatures up close today, but he'd always known they were out there, and he'd slept well enough in Subtropolis. As Ember pointed out, this was the next safest place. And yes, Ember had called him out in front of everyone, but they'd worked it out on the roof. They had safety. They had company. They had a plan. Everything should have been fine.

    But it wasn't.

    Mickey paced back and forth for half the night, trying not to wake anyone. He tried to work out what exactly was troubling him, but nothing came. So then he tried clearing his mind to let the tiredness wash over him. But tiredness didn't come.

    After some hours of this, Mickey lay back down and forced himself to lie still. He forced himself to let sleep wash over him. And, eventually, it must have done, for he lost track of the time and woke with a start to the sound of a blender whizzing downstairs. He can't have slept well. His head was pounding and his mouth was dry, and - whether a dream or otherwise - we was sure he had seen someone standing over him just for a moment.

    Akio.

    With glassy, vacant eyes.

    Mickey groaned and rubbed a hand through his headfur. Stumbling into the kitchen, he took a seat and accepted the breakfast that was offered to him with a grunt that was intended to serve as thanks. Then, taking his seat, he leaned his chin on one paw as his second poked food into his mouth, while his eyes sank closed like a newborn pup.

    It was evidently going to be some time before he would be contributing to the plan.

    Leave a comment:


  • Rick Canaan
    replied
    Ember looked at Mickey. He shared the sentiment. He turned back to Tobias.

    "I've never been to any rail yards," he said. "I have no idea what to expect. Well..."

    He shrugged.

    "Other than that there are a lot of trains at them, usually."

    He nodded.

    "But you're right. Our primary concern will be staying away from close-in areas and out of dark ones."

    He turned to Mickey.

    "Your drone is going to be of vital importance. Make sure its batteries are charged, and ask Geoff for as many backup packs he might have. Make sure they're all fully charged."

    He nodded again, sharing glances between Mickey and Tobias.

    "The drone can fly over rows of cars, look down in between them, so we can get some warning if there are some of those things hiding. It's not perfect, but we can use any edge we can get."

    Ember then turned to Tobias.

    "Try to get some sleep. But if you can't, try to get as much detail into this map you can remember. The more we have, the less guesswork we'll be forced to do. But I do want you getting some sleep. Understood?"

    He then rose. And yawned, his body suddenly straining toward a mighty stretch, too. After it was over, he looked down at the two.

    "I'm going to go check on the other two, then I'm going to be getting me some rack time, too."

    He shared looks between Tobias and Mickey again.

    "We've all had long days. But now we're safe. Geoff's been living in this building of his for a year. Alone. If that isn't safe, I don't know what safe is. Which means, take deep breaths, try to forget about today and try to get some sleep. We'll all be glad of a good night's rest tomorrow."

    With that, Ember was headed back down to the garage.

    As to Geoff's and Adrian's questions, there was just no way to know. There just simply wasn't anyone alive who could study the Turned in hopes of finding answers. Or if there were, none of this group had ever encountered any of them.
    *****


    The next morning found Ember up, and he'd found Geoff's stash of coffee. If the smell of that brewing hadn't woken everyone up, or the smells of bacon frying in a pan on the stove, then the sound of the blender suddenly coming on certainly would. When the rest of the group started filing into the kitchen, in their various states of wakefulness, they found Ember busily making breakfast for everyone. There was a big skillet of scrambled eggs sitting on the table, and plates laid out. Toast, too, and Ember was just serving bacon from a skillet on the stove onto a paper-towel-covered plate.

    His ears perked up as everyone started coming in, his tail wagging. He was even wearing one of Geoff's aprons.

    "Sorry," he said, grinning. "My grandma used to let me mess around in her kitchen. I can make a mean breakfast now, as a result. Pull up chairs."

    Turning back to the counter, Ember took the decanter out of the blender and poured a large glass. Turning again, he extended the glass toward Tobias.

    "An egg, a whole carrot. An apple, milk and spinach leaves. I added some salt for flavoring. Drink up."

    Once Tobias had taken the glass, Ember joined everyone at the table.

    "Alright," he said, taking some food onto his plate. "Let's plan this. First we do the gun-store raid. If that's successful, and there's still time left in the day, we try to hit the train yard today, too." He bit into a piece of bacon and gestured with the remainder. "No idea is too dumb to get out. But we aren't leaving here until we have a solid plan. So let's sound off, everybody. Let's come up with a plan."

    Leave a comment:


  • Arratra
    replied
    Adrian finished securing his truck as Geoff retracted the cable.

    He looked up when the fox spoke again.

    "Not sure," he replied, straightening, "Some species out there have some unusual biologies, but... as far as i know, the Virus attacked everything sapient equally."

    Which actually brought up quite a few questions about how it actually worked, especially since it seemed to have left regular wildlife alone.

    He nodded when Geoff suggested going upstairs.

    "Right. We need our rest," he agreed.

    Besides which, he was indeed tired; a lot had happened in the time since he'd driven out of Subtropolis.

    Had it really only been one day? It felt like longer.

    Turning, Adrian led the way up the stairs.

    Leave a comment:


  • Daryn
    replied
    Geoff gave the truck's batteries a few more minutes of charge before he pulled the charging cable. They'd only managed to raise the truck's battery level by 5%, but it was just over 70% before, so range wouldn't be an issue.

    As he wound the cord back onto the charging loom, he glanced over to Adrian, pondering. He had a slightly far off look. His earshad gone flat as he seemed to be mulling something over.

    "You know..." he began, "I wonder if there are species that the virus just doesn't effect."

    He made his way back to Adrian, then gestured to the stairs. "If he wasn't turned, then he'll probably have figured out how to survive. There's no way of knowing, now, though. Anyway, let's get upstairs. We're all ready here, and we've got an early start tomorrow.

    Leave a comment:


  • SliceOfDog
    replied
    Mickey leant in and stared at the paper, trying to take in as much of Tobias' explanation as he could. Yet he couldn't help but get distracted by the mention of cars and the image of the containers. He squirmed a little where he stood.

    "I don't like the idea of walking between a bunch of cars," he admitted, "those creatures could be hiding in any of them. Or under them!"

    A subconscious glance under the table.

    "And what about those containers. What are they, old trains or shipping containers or something? I don't want to be a coward, but wouldn't that be a prime hiding spot?"

    Leave a comment:


  • BrutusRat
    replied
    Tobias perked his ears up as the two of them joined him at the table, holding that ragged scrap of paper in his hands. It was absolutely covered in drawings, but they were far from random.

    "This...I figure could be helpful to us when we finally get to the station. I used to work there, and I remember what the place looked like when I saw it last. To keep us from needing to make a lot of stupid mistakes, I figured I could draw up a map.

    With that, the horse dropped the paper on the table and ran his fingers across it, pointing out several specific placements. "This here is where we're going to come in from. It'll be right up front, but we have a lot of cars to navigate through. The main control box is what we need, and that's over here.

    He slid his finger past what appeared to be at least seven rows of containers. "Once we get in here, we can move the tracks and get to the actual transport. Everything I need should be in this room, and then we just need to get to the main car and start hooking up. We're going to need to do this as bright and early as we can to make sure we don't get ourselves killed."

    Leave a comment:


  • Rick Canaan
    replied
    Ember relaxed immediately. His weight went akimbo, his shoulder slumping to one side, a grin pulling his ears forward. A kid bullshitting with a good friend.

    "Mayyybe," he said. "But maybe just on the shoulder. K?"

    Then the wolf was following the dog downstairs.

    How long had it been since he'd had this? There was his squadmates in the Army, sure. But that was always on some kind of quasi professional level. Here, it was different somehow. He'd just made a connection, a real one. Ember felt something giddy rise up inside him. Were they becoming a family?

    Either way, Ember made his way over to the table and snagged a chair. Turning it around he plopped down into it.

    "Yeah. We're all ears," he said. "Let's hear it."

    Leave a comment:


  • Arratra
    replied
    "Good point," Adrian commented, nodding in understanding, "This place can't handle much more than the... five of us."

    Shaking his head and sighing at reminding himself of Akio's sacrifice, he turned at the beeping.

    "Agh..." he muttered when Geoff explained, annoyed with himself, "I should have figured... My truck's got a long range, even with a load. You need big batteries for that."

    The exact figure still surprised him somewhat. Six times that of a long-haul semi?

    Though to be fair, it was designed to tow those...

    Adrian turned back to Geoff when the fox spoke of another dragon, one he'd taught.

    "Huh. We'll need to keep an eye out," he noted, "If he learned much from you, then there's every chance he's still alive."

    Leave a comment:


  • SliceOfDog
    replied
    As Ember finished his story, for the first time since heading up to the roof, Mickey allowed himself a smile. It wasn't much. Just a weak, tired lift of his cheek. Barely visible.

    But real.

    "Thank you," he said, "That means a lot to me."

    The dog paused and looked out over the horizon. It looked different with his real eyes compared to the drone. Brighter, somehow.

    "I'd like you to teach me. How to be a real soldier. I mean... if you'll have me."

    Here, Mickey stood to look Ember in the eyes. He even flashed a quick grin.

    "Would you hit me again if I saluted?"

    When Tobias called up, Mickey was quick to respond, pleased to hear his new friend regaining a bit of vigour. He jogged to the ladder and stuck his head over the top, looking down.

    "I'll be right down, buddy! You might need to explain it a bit slowly, though. I'm... heh, I'm learning."

    With a last nod to Ember, Mickey made his way down to Tobias and sat on the bed, ready for the horse's pitch.

    Leave a comment:


  • BrutusRat
    replied
    With a pencil to paper, Tobias was hard-pressed to be anything less than focused, but he caught wind of the first few sentences and that seemed to keep him listening through the whole story. He imagined himself in that kind of situation, but instead of being one to help coach, he immediately placed himself in the position where he was the one who needed help. It paused his writing a bit as the story went on, and he even got a chuckle out of the old instructor's name. His spirits, as low as they have been, were up again by the end. If they were going to survive this, they'd need each other. Everyone had something to bring to the group.

    Hopefully, his little addition would save some lives. He put his pencil down and pulled himself away from the table, struggling to keep his legs steady enough to call up at the pair, though namely he knew at least one of them would have an idea of what to do.

    "Hey up there, can one of you fellas come take a look at this down here? I got somethin' I think will be real helpful comin' up soon at the railyard." He stepped back away from the ladder to make sure there was room, holding onto the single piece of paper in his hands like it held nuclear launch codes or something. For the first time, he actually -looked- as hopeful as he felt.

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  • Daryn
    replied
    Geoff perked up his ears as Adrian proposed making his place an outpost, of sorts. He rubbed the bottom of his muzzle, thinking about it for a few moments.

    "You know..." he said, "I did sort of set this place up for that. Though, I'd been preparing for just myself. I'd never imagined that there would be other survivors. Now that we've met and I know that there is a distinct possibility of other survivors, I think we need to think a little bigger."

    Geoff paced a bit as he thought about it. "What I've done here isn't too difficult to reproduce elsewhere. Electric cars have batteries we can repurpose for storing power. Solar panels are available. Not plentiful, but there are a few around. Most of them aren't being used. It would be a good idea to have a place like this in several areas of the city."

    His musing was cut short by the beeping of his equipment. He went over to see what the issue was, then his eyes narrowed and he frowned.

    "So, about that recharge?" he began, looking over to Adrian, "I'll be able to give you about fifteen more minutes of charging here. Then I have to stop. I wasn't expecting to charge a vehicle as big as yours, so I threw together a quick and dirty circuit without a one-way flow. To charge you up completely, I need to make some changes to the circuitry. Not hard to do, but I'd have to take everything offline to do it."

    Geoff shrugged, looking at the charge level of Adrian's truck, "On the upside, you'll still have plenty of juice. This charge will add about 5% more to your batteries, at least." He looks over to the pickup, "That one needs to be fully charged, and I can do that on this circuitry without issue. I figure that one is more important for tomorrow, anyway."

    Geoff gets a wistful look in his eyes, "You know..." he says, "You remind me of someone I used to know. Barek Cloudwing was his name. A big dragon, white scales, built a lot like you." he pauses to look over Adrian, then continued.

    "I have no idea what happened to him. He used to come here before the Virus struck. He was a good student. Learned things really quickly. He wasn't here when the virus hit, so I have no idea what happened to him."

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  • Rick Canaan
    replied
    Geoff's equipment would soon give a warning tone. When he and Adrian looked, they would note that Geoff's batteries would only be able to give Adrian's truck about fifteen minutes worth of charging. Geoff would know why immediately, of course. When he read the display, it wouldn't take him but a moment to realize that Ohm's law would be the culprit. Adrian's truck held almost as much charge as did Geoff's household batteries. They would equalize in 'Charge Pressure' and only a reverse-polarity-prevention diode would stop Adrian's batteries from starting to charge the household batteries.

    Adrian would have always known his truck had big batteries, of course. It was an industrial grade vehicle. It was capable of lifting and pulling tons. But he might not have known how big, precisely. When Geoff read the figures on the display, they would both learn that Adrian's truck had almost exactly six times the charge capacity of the average long-haul semi.

    At seventy-percent charge, they were holding almost as much charge as Geoff's batteries when fully charged.

    On the bright side, Geoff had been able to get the pickup working successfully. But they were going to need a generator-powered charging system if they wanted to bring Adrian's truck back up to full charge. But... with the solar arrays Geoff had, they'd both know at least Adrian's truck wouldn't have to ever go without charging. It would just take over ninety percent of his batteries' capacity to bring Adrian's truck up to seventy-something percent. However, given that it took four days for Geoff's batteries to reach full charge from near zero with the solar arrays, and that was accounting for sunny days, they'd only have a very limited time frame during which the charges could be done.
    *****



    Ember paused, turning back around to look down at Mickey.

    He listened silently until Mickey was finished.

    "I can't even begin to relate to how that must have been like," he said, when Mickey at last fell silent. "I could ever only dream of what it would have been like to have all that stuff, to be able to travel to all of those exotic places."

    A pause.

    "And safaris?"

    Ember shook his head, blinking at the notion. "I used to watch TV shows about it, but never in a million years did I think I would ever be able to go on one."

    Ember came and squatted down next to Mickey.

    "But I know this."

    He held the dog's gaze intently.

    "Aren't any of us your father. We aren't your board members, either."

    Ember shook his head, looking down and gnawing on his lower lip some, as if thinking about how best to put what he wanted to say into the right words.

    Finally, he looked up at Mickey again.

    "I had this instructor once," he said. "Close-Quarters-Combat Instructor. We had a few of guys who were a lot like you in his class. Soft, not sure of themselves. Always afraid of never living up. Some of them even tried showing off - to try to prove to the rest of us that they weren't as useless as we all thought they were. One was a talker, always telling the rest of us how he'd done this and that, how much he knew. A regular know-it-all, you know?"

    Ember chuffed.

    "Criminy. Did we all ever hate him. There was even a few of us who talked about giving him a 'Blanket Party'."

    Ember blinked at Mickey. Maybe the dog wouldn't know what a 'Blanket Party' was. He let it pass, though, and went on.

    "When the instructor got wind of it, he took some of us aside. You know what he said?"

    Ember gave Mickey a nod. His eyes flicked intently between Mickey's own. There was amusement in Ember's. Nostalgia, too. That instructor must have been quite a guy.

    "Well, he said, 'Some people were just never given a chance to prove themselves. Some of them have been prevented for long enough, that they aren't even sure if they can. Some, when they tried, were met with scorn and ridicule. But how is a guy supposed to know? How is he supposed to learn? If any attempt they make is met with dismissal? They're made to feel worthless if they don't get it on the first try?'"

    Ember nodded at Mickey. He knew he was probably mangling up his instructor's words, adding to them what he, Ember, himself felt about them, but he knew he was probably on the right track, too.

    "He then told us, that those of us who had natural aptitude were to take these guys under our wing. A couple of us groaned, of course. Like, who'd want a bumbling idiot following us around all the time, right? But you know what the instructor said? He said that if the ones we took under our wings graduated with passing marks, he would put us in for promotions."

    Ember smiled.

    "I learned something by the end of that class. I took this guy named Greg Smith under my wing. God, was he ever a mess. He couldn't get anything right. He was always showing off and bragging. But me? I was motivated by wanting to make Specialist early. So I worked hard with him. I showed him everything. We practiced and practiced. In the end, he graduated with not only passing marks, but with top marks."

    Ember smirked.

    "I didn't get the promotion. When I asked the instructor what happened, he just looked at me. Then he said, 'What? I'm just a lowly instructor. What makes you think I have the power to promote people?' I must have looked mighty disappointed. The instructor laughed. He was this old, hard bitten sergeant. Laughter was just out of place on his face. His name was Vince Carter. Yeah, heh, just like in that TV show. I asked him what was so funny. You know what he said?"

    Ember gave Mickey a nod, grinning.

    "'You took a kid who didn't know squat and taught him something. You helped him excel. But you did it for selfish reasons. You wanted a promotion out of it. But what did you get instead?' Nothing?" I asked. 'If you believe that,' he then told me, 'then you're in the wrong outfit. The Army is about brotherhood, kid. The man next to you. You lived up to the Army's highest credo.'"

    Ember sat back on his heels. He smiled at Mickey.

    "I felt like I was walking on clouds when I walked out of his office. Me. A kid from Pittsburgh. Man, that was high praise."

    He then nodded at Mickey. He looked somber, but also sincere.

    "Now, you're the man next to me," he said. He nodded again. "We'll get through this. Just think, use your head and realize something." A shake of Ember's head. "You don't have anything to prove to us. Aren't any of us your dad. We aren't those stuffy old board members. Just stay alive. Help us stay alive. And we'll be helping you stay alive, too."
    *****



    Tobias could hear every word Mickey and Ember were saying. Where he was sitting, at the dining table, put him close enough to the roof-access ladder and hatch to be able to just catch everything as it was said.

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  • Arratra
    replied
    "Yeah, I think we might have," Adrian admitted,

    He remained silent while Geoff worked on the lock, letting the fox focus, and listened with interest as he explained what he was doing, wincing slightly at the mention of Tokyo, and the reminder of Akio.

    Adrian made a mental note to see if they could retrieve the ashandarei at some point, if they could find some way to do it safely. Akio didn't deserve for his weapon to just be left to rust, but he wouldn't want them retrieving it at the risk of their lives. Not after sacrificing his own for them.

    As Geoff worked on the pickup's computer, Adrian folded up the jack and retrieved the wheel-trays, before putting them back in their locker and shutting it.

    "Hmm? Oh, good idea," he said when Geoff suggested topping up his truck's batteries, and quickly moved to the rack of charging cables. It took a moment to find one that would fit, but once he did, the dragon quickly pulled it over to his truck, opened the charge port, and pushed the cable home.

    The tone the truck gave off was deeper and longer than the pickup's, more a "boop" than a "bing", and the charge metre next to the port lit up, showing how much charge was in the battery at that moment, and displaying the fact that the truck was indeed charging.

    "There we go," he muttered, stepping back, before turning to Geoff.

    "Say, Geoff? What do you think of turning this place into an outpost from which we could do further scavenging missions, once we've got Subtropolis back up and running? There's power, food, water, and shelter; not enough for more than a handful of people, admittedly, but... that's more than enough for a scavenging team to work with."

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