I studied Mac, and she glanced over at me. We both sucked in one last breath of clean air as the doors to the bunker opened. The rest of the team stood behind the blast shield, ready to flood the area with gamma rays if anything forced its way in.
We hefted our packs and walked out, the doors closing with an ominous thud.
Following the concrete tube, we walked into a brilliant light that seared my eyes and forced me to turn away.
Tears ran down my cheeks as Mac touched my shoulder. “Put on your Uplink.”
The moment it settled over my eyes, the light dimmed, and a pre-war map displayed our destination and directions.
“Bet none of those streets still exist,” Mac said.
“It’ll auto correct as we go and send back updated information.”
“Let’s hope they don’t need it,” Mac said.
I swallowed and nodded. We needed to survive and bring back the needed components so we could all make it another hundred years.
Mac and I worked our way down the mountainside, but the endurance training hadn’t prepared us for the uneven terrain, choking undergrowth, or burning sun. After a few hours, I was sweating, my legs ached, and my feet hurt.
“At least the chiefs were right about nothing surviving,” Mac said. “Haven’t even seen a squirrel.”
Peering through my Uplink, I wondered if it would be able to identify a squirrel if we saw one.
As the sun dipped low, Mac pointed to a dilapidated shack in the distance.
Fear filled my throat. “It’s not structurally sound.”
“Nothing’s gonna be, and there might be tin, iron or gold.”
I thought back to our training. The risk was minimal, and the training said people had kept gold and silver jewelry before the war. I followed Mac.
The front steps had rotted away and the door hung off its hinges. Mac stepped inside, her weapon drawn. I drew mine and followed behind her, the weight of the gun cold, slick and foreign.
After a hundred years, there was little to find. Tattered drapes twisted over broken windows and trees sprouted up between rotted floorboards. Bits and pieces of debris littered the floor, but I couldn’t identify most of it and neither could my Uplink.
“Over here,” Mac said.
I followed her to what had once been a kitchen. Cans of foodstuff lay scattered across the floor, their exteriors corroded and labels worn away.
“Lots of metal in here,” Mac said. “Looks like copper plumbing too.”
“But no neodymium.”
“Didn’t expect there to be. Let’s hope the chiefs are right, and there’s still some of that in the old battery factory.”
“Assuming the factory is still there.”
“Better be,” Mac said.
I opened my magpack and withdrew the despacer. After a few minutes, I’d reduced the usable metal down to the size of a fork and loaded it into my magpack.
“Curious?” Mac asked as she held up a couple of rusted cans.
Mac grinned and popped open the can.
“What is that?” I grimaced. The smell was nauseating, and the greasy brown contents looked worse than the smell.
“Looks like canned meat product.” Mac stuck her finger in the gelatinous goo.
“Do not eat- I can’t believe you just did that.”
“Tastes better than it smells.” Mac grinned and offered me the can. “Sure you don’t want to try a bite?”
I shoved it away and swallowed back bile. “Positive.”
Mac sat down beside me and we split a tube of foodpaste.
I glanced over at the can of gooey meat. “Could you imagine eating that?”
Mac shrugged. “They needed more calories than we do.”
“They weren’t confined to an underground bunker.”
I rubbed my legs. “We should find a place to spend the night.”
“This seems as good as any.”
“Sure the walls won’t come down on us?”
“Haven’t come down in a hundred years. Doubt tonight will be the night.”
I considered that for a moment, and while it wasn’t a logical argument, I was too tired to argue.
The high-pitched chirping of our Uplinks woke us and warned of a huge creature moving at twenty-five miles-per-hours in our direction. Fear swallowed me as a huge mass of fur and claws barreled through the rotted walls.
The beast gobbled the contents of the meat can and swung its shaggy head towards us. Mac stood frozen beside me as it snarled and reared up on its back legs.
Gunshots deafened me and pounded through my head as a pre-war robot shot the creature.
The creature roared and charged the robot.
I steadied my breathing and aimed my weapon.
As the creature knocked the robot to the ground, I pulled the trigger.
The creature flew across the shack, knocking down the rear wall, and then exploding as it smashed into a tree.
“What the hell kind of gun is that?” the robot asked as it stood up.
“You’re not a robot?” I asked.
He laughed as he removed his helmet. “Knight-Captain Wyoming reporting for duty.”
“Knight-Captain?” I looked up at the strange man. The top of my head barely reached his shoulders.
“You’re not from around here,” York said.
“But you are. We thought no one survived the war.”
He gave me a lopsided grin. “Glad to prove you wrong. But we should move before the smell of blood brings something nastier.”
“Where to?” Mac asked.
“There’s a checkpoint not far from here. On the way there, you can tell me what two civilians are doing up here in the wilds.” He motioned to their strange weapons, the Uplinks over their eyes, and their odd gear. “And you can explain all of that.”
Civilians. So more than just the military had survived.
I looked at Wyoming and then over at the dead creature. Those of us in the bunker were supposed to be mankind’s ticket past the apocalypse, the start of a new future. I thought about what we’d been sent to retrieve and what we’d already found.
There were other people. People that lived outside the bunker.
The future of mankind had happened, and it had happened without us.