“It was the beginning of the 90s. Humanity had recovered from World War 3, and…”
“Wait! World War 3?”
“You don’t even know about World War 3!?”
“Ah… World War 2 was with the Germans and the Nazis, right?”
She narrowed her eyes, but nodded slowly, “Yes… it was the one with the Nazis. World War 3 came after. In 1962…”
“Isn’t that the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis?”
“So, you do have some knowledge.”
“And… the Korean War?”
“That happened in the 50s. Do you want my explanation, or do you want to keep interrupting me!”
“Sorry… please continue.”
I had already learned a lot. It seemed like this world was similar to my world up until the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Well, their might have been other differences, but at least the basic premise lined up.
“So, was there a Cold War?”
“Cold War? What is that? There was just World War 3. I don’t remember what happened in Cuba, but it was followed by the bombs falling. Moscow… New York… Washington DC… St. Petersburg…”
“And then, the end of the world.” I finished.
“No, Idiot! Are you even listening?”
I blushed. I had just assumed that was the end of the story. Then again, didn’t she start her story in the 90s? So, the bombs falling wasn’t the end of the world? I found that hard to believe.
“A ban was placed on nuclear bombs that same year. The devastation was simply too great. Both countries backed down to lick their wounds.” Katarina seemed to read my mind and explained what happened next. “Russia and the United States had been cracked, but not broken. However, the hatred between the two countries burned, and it was only a few years later when they officially declared war.
“Other countries were too terrified to get involved at first, but after five years of conflict, the western countries ended up on the US side, while China eventually joined Russia. It became a war between democracy and communism, and it lasted another decade.
“Over that time, half of the world’s population was wiped out. In exchange, technology boomed. Computer development exploded at an alarming rate. Laser weapons were invented. Then Plasma weapons. Fusion and Fission power was refined and perfected. Medicine advanced by leaps and bounds.”
“Fission? Weren’t people scared of nuclear?” I asked in surprise, remembering the nuclear battery my watch supposedly had.
“Nuclear bombs aren’t as scary as people thought. There is a flash of radiation, and then the heat. People nearby died of cancer, but once anti-rad and anti-cancer medications were developed, it was no scarier than any other bomb. Once you’ve seen a fusion-powered plasma bomb melt a city and its people, a nuclear bomb just doesn’t cause much alarm.”
I wasn’t a professional when it came to history, but the cold war had caused people to grow terrified of nuclear power. To this day, when people thought of clean power, nuclear wasn’t even considered. It seemed like dropping the bombs and finally getting it over with was like ripping off a band-aid for this world.
Now that people had already felt the worst that nuclear devastation could cause, they were more willing to cope with it. Plus, Japan had been bombed in WWII, and both cities were rebuilt without problems. If bombs created a hellish, radiated landscape, then Japan’s success made no sense. Although, radiation was a problem in this world, was it from the bombs, or something else? I continued to listen with great interest.
“The war finally ended in 1977. The Soviet Union was no longer able to support itself and its entire government collapsed. China fell apart in 1982. There was no divisive victory so much as both sides became too tired and too weak to continue. However, the United States persevered while the other countries collapsed and fell into chaos, including complete government reforms. Democracy had won, and so began a decade of rebirth. Technology continued to advance at an alarming rate.
“Anyway, that brings me back to where I wanted to start.” She shot me a wry look. “Technology was exploding. Percos were starting to become common. The human genome was unlocked and genetic modification became more prevalent. Diseases were being cured at an unimaginable rate, and people could increase their strength, intelligence, and abilities with just a shot. This created the 5S standard.”
“Don’t you mean 6S?”
“Six? Don’t tell me you’re going on about sorcery? That was a technology developed in the war. It was a way to turn normal citizens into weapons. Only the military concerned themselves with such a stat.”
She shook her head. “Anyway, it all culminated into the creation of the colonies. We began to realize our presence on Earth was far too destructive. Countless species had been destroyed. The ice caps were melting. We began to realize the only way to survive was to take humanity out of the equation. Thus began the Allco Biodome project.”
“The colonies!” She blushed. “I mean, they weren’t domes. Don’t know why they call them that. They were mostly built underground, usually right under a renewable power source, like windmills, damns, or solar energy plants. Their goal was simple. To create a self-contained environment where humans could live out the rest of their days without a single footprint against the environment.
“Twenty-five of these things were built across America. Each able to house 100,000 people. They were self-contained cities were all waste was renewed. Of course, they were just prototypes. Eventually, Allco wanted to build megadomes. There would be no cities left, and all people would live in these sealed-off little worlds. People volunteered for it excitedly, and they were just starting to fill the domes when the virus came. No one knows for certain where it came from, but I heard it spread out from the Wuhan territory of China.”
“No… some think it was deliberately released by surviving communists angry about the destruction of their regime. It was believed to be a bioengineered weapon aimed against Democracy.”
“So… basically COVID.”
“I don’t know what COVID is. Whatever, it’s called the MGV, the mutagenesis virus. In short, everyone infected with the virus either resisted it or changed.”
“You saw the revenants?” she asked.
I remembered those pale creatures with clawed hands and gave a nod.
“That’s just one possible mutation. The newly infected are mindless creatures. Their skin decays and falls off, and seek the flesh of other humans. We call them ferals, because they’re little more than animals.”
“So… zombies? This was a zombie apocalypse?”
“What does this have to do with voodoo?”
Ah… I guess there was no George Romero… so the night of the living dead scenario wasn’t in their public consciousness.
“Sorry, please continue.”
“They spread very quickly in this form. They bit anyone they could see, and then that person turned into a feral as well within a few hours. The flesh eventually rots off, and after a few years, some of them began to mutate. That’s when we ended up with the mutants. They’re smarter and more capable than the ferals. They can use weapons, and fight with tactics.”
“I see, you said there were multiple types?”
“Fiends, Revenants, Grunts, Beasts, and Skinwalkers: collectively called Mutants… those are the five types of humanoid lifeforms you’ll find in the wastelands. They’ve regained their intelligence, and some of them have formed societies. Some of those societies hate humans, while others get along with people as a turbulent peace. Still, the vast majority out there are rabid, so be very wary if you see one. Ah, rabid is what we call mutants that kill without reason, they’re mutated ferals that failed to fully develop their sentience, if that makes sense.”
“I guess so,” I nodded. “So, rabid mutants are the main threat?”
“Well, that’s just what the virus did to humans. The disease ended up jumping to infect a variety of wildlife as well. It’s hard to say what you’ll see in the wasteland. There is any number of mutated beasts.”
“If the mutations came from a virus, then why are you so focused on radiation?”
“Hmph… isn’t that obvious? Without people, there was no one to take care of the nuclear power plants. Worldwide nuclear meltdowns were what put us in our current state. When the first one went down, people realized they were in trouble. A lot of good people gave their lives trying to shut down every remaining one safely. Many heroes from those days, all dead now… They stopped most of them, but we still ended up with three meltdowns, which spread radioactive waste across the United States.”
So, it wasn’t the bombs that ruined us, but the meltdowns caused after everyone turned into ferals. It was like the Chernobyl disaster. No, that was just one plant, and people were able to respond and eventually stop and contain it. These were probably larger plants in an age less scared of nuclear power. There were three of them, and no one managed to stop or contain them, so for seventy years, they’ve been pumping radiation across America. This didn’t even mention the plants that existed in other countries.
“As for the colonies, those biodomes shut their doors when the virus started spreading. They waited in safety while the entire world outside died. They didn’t even let people in who were clean or had reserved a spot. It was a place built to support 100,000 being used for only a few thousand people. Well, a few did open their doors eventually. Some turned into cities, opening up trade with the outside world. Others eventually collapsed, and the people all left. Only 13 colonies exist to this day. The others were ransacked by raiders, destroyed my mutants, or met some other grim fate.”
“Every colony has its own history. Some are democratic, others are authoritarian. Some kick out all of their unsavory people and send them to the waste. Some maintain strict population controls by regularly kicking people out by lottery. Some even send out teams to do trading and resource gathering. The result is you can still run into a colonist now and then, forced into the wasteland to survive. People like you…” She stopped in front of me and then nodded to the side. “We’re here.”
I snapped out of my thoughts as I looked at the building she indicated. I had never seen the building I had been in from the outside. That was one of the reasons it would have been impossible for me to find it without this woman. At least, she knew where she had entered. I even saw the window where she had leaped in and landed on me. Looking over the building, I saw a sign that was faded with countless years. It said ‘Allco Offices’. Like that, I had finally returned. I gave out an audible breath of relief.
Click. She cocked her gun and pressed it against my head.
“Now, I’ve been more than accommodating. All of the food, please.”