This post has the following content warnings:
Mar 24, 2019 3:18 AM
stevenchainsaw & imrainai in caravaneer
Permalink

Chairman Brass's office is impeccably clean, more than it's flashy or expensive. It can't be expensive, really; nobody in the bunker has used money in generations, and they mostly have no idea which things would be cheap or expensive in a world that still thought in the relevant terms. His chair is leather, though. It's the only leather chair in the bunker. Nobody around here has any idea how to make leather chairs anymore.

"Sit down," says the chairman, motioning to the wooden chair on the other side of his desk.

Total: 138
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

Nick sits. He is still taller than the chairman this way but not by quite as much.

Permalink

"I apologize for calling you in here on such short notice," says the chairman, without sounding like he's actually apologizing at all. "The situation is relatively urgent. Would you happen to know where your mentor Olaf is? Did he say anything to indicate that he might be going somewhere?"

Permalink

He shakes his head, with a slight concerned frown. "I haven't heard anything."

Permalink

"I see," he sighs. "How would you say your training is going? I know you haven't actually visited any of the surrounding settlements, but do you have reason to believe that you can survive in the desert for any length of time?"

Permalink

 

"I at least think I would probably be better at it than someone who hasn't studied it at all..."

Permalink

"That may be the best we have, at the moment. Olaf appears to have left the compound last night, against a direct order to stay. We have no idea where he is or what he may be doing, but it's imperative that he be brought back as soon as possible, for obvious reasons."

Permalink

"Yes, of course."

Permalink

"I wish I could give you your first assignment under better circumstances, but at the moment, I must ask you to visit the surrounding settlements and see if you can learn anything. You'd do well to start with Silos, which is due north of here. We have a little money and a pistol, but not not much ammunition for it, so you'll do well not to use it unless necessary. Avoid fights. Return with news as soon as you have it, or, better, with Olaf." He sighs again. "It's possible, though unlikely, that Olaf will refuse to return to the compound, in which case you may be forced to use your weapon against him. It probably won't come to that, but if it does, we'll understand."

Permalink

He nods solemnly.

Permalink

"Well, then. If you have no other questions, you'll do well to load up on supplies and leave as soon as possible. The storeroom is open to you."

The chairman offers him a pistol and twelve bullets.

Permalink

He accepts them with another grave nod.

Next stop: the storeroom, where he carefully assembles a selection of the most durable foods available and packs them along with a supply of water into his travel bag. Is it still a travel bag if it has never in its life been used for travel? Well, that question won't be relevant for much longer.

After considering the rest of the available items, he adds in a roll of duct tape and a few extra packs of matches. Basic survival gear—a compass, a knife, a metal bowl that can be cooked with and then eaten out of—already lives in the bag at all times, but he double-checks that too and exchanges a frayed roll of twine for a neater one from stores.

And then, he supposes, it is time to go look for Olaf.

Permalink

The desert is hot and empty and apparently devoid of other travelers, at least for the moment.

 

Permalink

 

 

It's also very...

...big?

 

He knew that, of course, on an abstract intellectual level. It is not news to him that the world is large and contains many things, most of which at least locally are air and sand. But it's one thing to know that and another to see it. His eyes refuse to believe in the evidence before them, at first, and he has to reach up to confirm that the sky is farther away than he can put an outstretched hand.

There is so much room.

He has never in his life had this much room.

It occurs to him to wonder how Olaf ever managed to come back.

 

But regardless of his opinions, he doesn't at the moment have a better idea for what to do than pursue the mission he was given. He heads north.

Permalink

The town of Silos - if it can be called a town - is about twelve hours away. It is not, in fact, exactly due north, but it's close enough that he should see it from a ways out and be able to adjust his course accordingly.

It... actually seems to be totally devoid of people. There's a cluster of maybe a dozen buildings, all right, and a water well, and some carefully cultivated hives full of insects, but there aren't any people milling about.

Permalink

 

...well.

He examines the exteriors of the buildings, carefully and methodically, trying to determine the purpose of each one. If the people of the town don't live in its visible parts but instead live near or beneath it, perhaps they're all away at the moment. Or maybe they're just hiding. If a town populated entirely by Nick and people relevantly similar to Nick lived in a world where strangers sometimes wandered past, they would definitely have a system set up to alert them in this eventuality so they could all hide until the stranger went away.

Permalink

The buildings are small one-room huts with mud walls and thatched roofs. Most of them are structurally compromised in some way - this one has a caved-in roof, that one is missing a wall.

One of them, the one nearest the insect hives, is making sounds. Very small sounds, the sorts of sounds that occur when someone is moving about their environment and setting things down and picking them up again, without thinking about whether this will attract any sort of attention.

Permalink

Hmm. So perhaps there just aren't very many people.

This also seems reasonable. If Nick had the opportunity to live in a small town in the desert with no other people in it he would definitely absolutely do that.

 

...is there... some way to politely inform a person who is in their house that you are outside their house and want to interact with them? If this was home he would—well, if this was home he would understand that in theory you knock on doors but in practice he would just make sure to never visit a non-public place unexpectedly unless his business was urgent. He supposes his business is in fact moderately urgent. Do surfacers knock on doors? He can't recall if this was covered in his lessons. It seems rude to just try it. Having one's door knocked on is probably pretty alarming if one isn't used to it.

Permalink

After a few minutes of this, the door opens. The man on the other side of it looks startled, but only a little bit, like he sometimes has visitors but today is the wrong day for them. He's old and very frail-looking, and is wearing patched-together wool clothes and carrying a walking stick.

"Heyyo! You shoulda knocked."

Permalink

"Oh, I'm sorry," he says, softly and earnestly. "I didn't want to interrupt."

Permalink

"That's all right, that's all right," he mumbles. "I'm never doing anything important. Come in, come in."

Permalink

"Thank you," he says, with a small smile. Into the house he goes.

Permalink

The house is very lightly furnished - there's a ceramic cup and a plate on the floor with some seasoned insects on it, and there's a fireplace without a fire, and there's a wooden chest, and there's a pile of blankets in one corner that might be something like a bed.

"Are you Lintu? You don't look Lintu. I know you're not Pullid. I'd say you're Drekar, but they knock."

The man offers Nick another glass of water and another plate of insects. They look like they're probably crickets or locusts or something.

Permalink

He accepts this offering gratefully. His supply of food is finite and it is good to be given more of it.

"I'm not any of those," he says. "I'm looking for news of my friend Olaf, who is late returning from a recent trip. I'm concerned he might have run into trouble."

Permalink

"Olaf," says the old man, mostly to himself. "Olaf, Olaf. Ahhh. Sort of middle-aged guy, pale-ish, red hair?"

Permalink

"Yes, that sounds like him. Have you seen him?"

Total: 138
Posts Per Page: