by The Shloo
Shoot to kill and can ‘em up.
That’s it in a nutshell. There are few philosophies smarter because when the world’s getting its apocalypse on you have few other choices. Best you get your head round that from the get-go.
I started shooting when I was eight years old. Air rifles mainly, but by ten I was shit-hot with a bow and arrow. Mum always said they’d make the best weapon anyway – when the bullets run out, who’s going to be making new ones? Arrows, on the other hand, are relatively easy to make. I can shape a bow out of a piece of willow – or pretty much any tree with enough bend in it – in less than three minutes. A clutch of arrows will take me another five, tops. Robin Hood would weep at the skill in my fingers.
And I never miss.
Our bunker’s pretty sweet. There’s a room full of bunk beds that are more comfortable than they look, a pretty well-equipped kitchen, a library, a bathroom, a canning room – my Mum’s mantra is ‘waste not want not’ – and a big communal living area. Dad and Zeke worked hard and it paid off. Speaking of Zeke, my brother and I were both trained in and for almost anything you can imagine: hand-to-hand combat, gas attacks, nuclear fallout, weapon making, foraging, first aid – you name it, we went over it. Sewing’s my weak point, truth be told, but at least I’ve stopped sewing stuff to my jeans and Mum says I sew a pretty strong stitch. That’s what matters.
Of course, I’ve not had what you might call a normal life.
Hardly a surprise, is it? Survivalists? Maybe, but we call ourselves “sensible” – what else would you call those not blind to the inevitable? I was picked on sometimes at school, but after the suspension – and the scrum half’s snapped wrist (thanks Dad, for those self-defence drills) – I was left alone. I didn’t go to dances, never been for a sleepover, never even sat with anyone else for lunch. I didn’t get to do any of that ‘normal’ stuff. Getting attached to people only makes it harder in the long run. It would have made me sad once (I’ve got hormones and hopes just like anyone else), but you’ve got to focus on what’s important.
To hell with normal anyway!
Is it normal to sit and wait for Johnny Mutant to come eat your brains? To wait while the nuclear fallout burns through your guts and your brain spills out the bottom of your spine? To pretend there’s hope, that someone out there’s coming to save you? They’re not, y’know. If you don’t want to end up a splatter-fest of ex-human, then you’d better get wise.
There’s no time for frills and fancy, there’s only one prize and that’s life – or at the very least dying on your own terms. I’m old enough to know that. The future is about survival. It’s all it’s ever about. I wised up to that the day I heard Dad telling Zeke that me and Mum were the weak link, that we were the ones who would most likely slow them down and that if he needed to get rid of us, he wouldn’t hesitate. I didn’t understand. I was a good learner, better than Zeke who was a lazy crumb. I was better with a bow and arrow and I could climb a tree in half the time he could. Just because he could dig earth for longer, I was the dead weight? Like digging a hole and carrying heavy stuff makes the difference when the chips are down? As far as I could see, the difference that marked us out in Dad’s mind was that I was a girl and Zeke was a boy – his boy. I was eleven years old and from that day on I hated my Dad, hated him for marking me out as mattering less because I’m a girl, for seeing me as an albatross and not an asset. It was also the day I decided one thing –
I wasn’t going to be left behind. You shouldn’t be either.
Ironic really that Dad was the first to get bit. I had to shoot him; Zeke froze like he’d learned nothing all those years. Typical. So I shot my Dad in the head and then when Zeke got violent a couple of months later – the isolation got to him bad – and went all frothing-at-the-mouth crazy, I shot him too. If he hadn’t tried for the door I wouldn’t have had to do it. We don’t know what’s out there. Still, at least his death won’t be in vain. Mum can pickle anything and what’s left goes in the cans.
So that was the last of our bullets. Mum and me? We won’t need them, we’re prepared.
So, having hit up all contemporary and historic sources available, you’ve discovered that the cause of the apocalypse was either 1) mad scientists, 2) archaeological accident, 3) aliens, chthulhu or mad fairies breaking through to the world, 4) sorcery hijinx.
Now comes the fun part. You can’t do much to change what’s already happened to the world (unless your apocalypse has left an opening for some nifty time travel to mess with key events) but what you can do is minimise the current threat by applying your mad-research skills and all round kick-ass chickness, so gather your gang and get geared up to save the world through archaeology.
Apocalypse by Mad Scientist
Whether it’s a virus or a plague of genetic mutants, your treasure of choice is going to be found in the science labs. Since you’ve already done your research you will have found which laboratory caused the problem so your mission is to break into it and secure that secret cache of antivirus that is bound to be lurking. If there are no live stocks of clever chemical-brew in the ruins, then treasure choice number two is research notes on the virus and antivirus as information is gold. While paper copy is more adaptable, ideally you’ll want to download files from the main system (and you brought your resident genius along for that, right?) but failing that, grab any likely looking external storage devices and yank the hard drives of whatever computers are left.
Make sure you go in well protected and do not, under any circumstances, cut yourself while in the Mad Science Lab – the last thing you want is to pick up the infection or mutate into something weird. Assume the worst at all times. Odds are high that the strange noise you just heard is something nasty that probably wants to eat, infect or kill you for fun. Or possibly all three at the same time. Don’t trust innocent looking corridors. Mad Science Labs, like many other archaeological ruins, have sneaky security measures that remain fully functional no matter how old the site. Make sure you know where your exits are, tag potential cover sites and identify weak points that can be kicked in to create emergency exits for when the inevitable disaster happens. Always scan the high ground before entering a room – many scary mutants nest in the rafters and overhead pipes and vents make for useful alternate routes if something nasty is laying claim to the floor.
Once you’ve picked the site clean of goodies, switch your paranoia up to eleven because getting out is always more dangerous than getting in. Watch out for latent security measures, beasties lurking right by the exit and stray corporate clean up squads who really don’t want you getting away with intel on how they’ve screwed things up; and make sure everyone on your team declares their injuries immediately so you don’t carry any worse infections out into the world.
Apocalypse by Archaeological Accident
As you’ve seen from the mummypocalypse, sometimes archaeology can get you into trouble, what with the digging up of ancient evils and accidental speaking of curses. Luckily, with this kind of the apocalypse, the vital treasures to counter it are usually obvious. Spell books that have curses in often have the counter curses included, ancient tombs have ample inscriptions describing how the resurrected mad god can be put down (with bonus helpful pictures) and sometimes all you need to do is destroy the artefact that caused the mess in the first place.
Unfortunately, whatever artefact you chase is going to be well guarded because even the most brain-dead ancient evil has a basic survival sense. Expect to encounter hoards of minions – zombies, mummies, bugs, minor demons, gold-blind idiots who think a bit of bling is worth serving dark gods… The carnage will be high so make sure you and your team tote the heavy armament. Once you’re past the goons you’ll have the big boss to deal with – he or she will be throwing god-like powers at you so move fast, find solid cover and have a couple of distractions planned so your pre-picked expert can duck in and destroy or counter-curse as needed.
After that, run. Any encounter with a big-bad destroys the building so once you’re certain there’s nothing left that can cause trouble for you later, get out of there fast and don’t let anyone stop to pick up treasure. Not unless you want to see them squashed by falling masonry or eaten by scarab beetles.
Apocalypse by Otherworld Invaders
For this type of apocalypse, your target treasure is going to be specific to the race of beasties that were idiot enough to think they could get away with invading the Earth. Alien invasion usually doesn’t need an artefact to counter it as aliens are easily dealt with by their allergies or a well placed computer virus; but with the rest, all that research you were careful enough to do should point the way to specific exploitable weak points.
Mad faeries are vulnerable to standard household goods such as salt or iron and can be stopped large scale by permanently shutting down any portals to their home world. If accidental activation of an artefact caused the portals to open in the first place, then, naturally, destroying the aforementioned artefact is key. Make sure your team is kitted out with four leaf clovers to break fairy glamours, and keep stocks of St John’s Wort, Red verbena and rowan to counter fairy spells. Holy objects also work well against your fairy enemy.
Solutions for a cthulhu apocalypse are tricky as most survivors are said to go mad, however if you can keep your sanity, look for artefacts relating to the Elder Gods and try summoning them up and appealing to them to intervene. Otherwise, stay away from coastal towns as these are where their loyal worshippers flock to and under no circumstances go near the sea. Unless you happen to have nicked some major weaponry capable of splattering the fell beasts.
Apocalypse by Sorcery
Doesn’t matter whether your apocalypse was caused by resurrected ancient witches or modern mages getting a bit excitable on a Saturday night, the main key to stopping the magical mayhem from getting worse is going to be their spell books. Whether it’s a traditional tome bound in human skin, a cute moleskin jobbie or an app on their iPhone, everything you need to know about undoing their spells will be in there, just don’t make the mistake of trying to use the other spells in the book. Burn it. Salt it. Scatter the ashes. Move on.
For lack of a book, the artefacts to look for will be either staffs, wands or some piece of gaudy gimcrack jewellery that emits a strange glow at inappropriate times. Usually to be found on the main magical offender but check out any shadowy people lurking nearby as the obvious suspect may simply be a puppet ruler. In all cases, the goal will be to get close enough to nick said artefact and destroy it. With any luck, the backlash of power will take out the naughty magic user. If not, they will be weakened enough for you to use the more traditional methods of decapitation or a few dozen rounds from a semi-automatic.
Once the main threat is neutralised, efficient body disposal is essential. Burn the body, salt the ground and scatter the ashes in as many different places as you can sensibly manage to avoid a sneaky resurrection as the last thing anyone needs is an undead sorcerer prancing around and getting up to shenanigans.
Thanks to samueljedwards for prompting this.
We’ve talked about dating post apocalypse and about picking your team, but why would you bother? A simple human truth, we are gregarious. We need society, or we end up painting a face on a basketball.
So it’s inevitable, depending on the kind of apocalypse you might be better of alone than in a group, you will still seek out others. You will never know there intentions. in 28 Days Later our heroes head to the army base which should b safe, but rape is apparently on the agenda, even with children. Other members of your own species may want to steal your equipment and supplies, or worst case scenario, they may just plan to kill and eat you.
How then do you know who is a threat and who isn’t? Simple answer, you don’t. Never trust anyone. Your best friend when credit cards bills were your biggest problem, might cut your throat for a can of beans now the world has ended. Until you have worked and fought together you can’t even begin to trust them.
In which case what do you do? Well you can chance it and as they stab you in the back be thinking ‘but they had such an honest face’. you an get yourself a basketball, paint a face and shun humanity until society re establishes itself in pockets.
Or you can try and take a balanced view. When approaching a new person do so armed, with some emergency supplies buried nearby so if you are over powered and let for dead you aren’t completely without resources. Try to establish quickly what benefit each of you can bring to the table. Think of it as any other relationship, you each need to enhance the others survival chances to make it worth the risk. Unique selling point people. What have you got that is worth letting you live for? Failing that, be faster and more ruthless and take their stuff and leave them for dead.
Whether you’re trying to set up a new library or museum, have a natural curiosity for the past, need to research your next archaeological expedition, are missing useful survival/rebuilding skills or just need some handy historical nuggets to aid in the trade of ancient treasures – recovering lost historical records is a must. Now, assuming that the internet has been totally wiped during the apocalypse (I know! Calamity!) , this means searching through likely places to collect any surviving documents.
Your first choice for all things historical. If the building is relatively intact and there’s no impending doom then it’s best to leave all those books in-situ and gather together a willing crew to help fix it up and make it defendable so you can preserve all that lovely knowledge from future disaster. This will also give you an excellent place to bring books and other documents recovered from elsewhere and will make it easier for your fellow survivors to find what they need to educate themselves on the essential skills.
Also look to the ruins of universities and other educational institutions as they’ll have their own libraries you can raid. And by raid, we do, of course, mean take the books and documents to the main library so it can be built into the collection and properly catalogued and archived. Any duplicates of texts you find can either be put into store, or traded to neighbouring bibliophiles.
Also consider setting up a copying house so that the more fragile documents can have their contents duplicated before they crumble to dust. This also lets you pull a Library of Alexandria any time you’ve got travellers with interesting documents passing through your settlement – insist on getting copies of anything useful before they leave. Unless the power’s back on and you’ve got someone with a knack for kicking photocopiers into action, this will mean copying things out by hand or by arcane sorcerous means, but the time spent will not be wasted.
Like libraries, museums provide a handy source for historical information. (Also shiny treasures that your local evil overlord might be interested in, but that’s another post…) It’s likely that the apocalypse and later looting has caused significant damage to the public collection so what you’re going to want to do is find any basements or secure underground storage rooms that may have been overlooked. And don’t forget to investigate the gift shop. The replica artefacts may have been looted but there may still be guide books or artefact related history books. This will serve you almost as well as the real deal. Once you’ve secured all the good stuff, get it back to your shiny new library for the in-house librarian to attend to.
Art can be a valuable information tool – it can tell you how people thought, what they did, or just what things tickled their artistic fancy. However, it’s not the most portable of things and is extremely vulnerable to damage. It will also have been high on the post-apoc looter’s grab list, so by the time you make your visit, it’s likely that all the good stuff will be gone. Again, don’t forget to check out the gift shop as a well stocked one should have plenty of art books with explanatory text which will give you the benefits of the missing art in something a little more portable and less appealing for bandits to steal.
Similarly, the visitor centres for sites of historic interest should prove to be quite useful for your research needs. Well, the visitor centres and gift shops. You can benefit from a long gone tourist board’s attempts to sell bumph to its visitors and it’s likely that the books and maps will have remained relatively untouched.
Book shops, antique shops and just about any shop in a popular tourist site is going to be host to all kinds of interesting things. Aside from the glorious treasure trove of history (and other) books, there’s old maps and replica maps, photos and replica artwork, old music sheets, antiquarian travel guides – pretty much all a girl needs to get a good grounding in the necessary information for a post-apoc expedition.
People are hoarders, this we know to be true. So at some point you’ll want to poke around any empty houses that are left standing and see what goodies can be found. This can be done in combination with regular supply scavenge runs – multi-tasking is always a good thing! In addition to the spare copies of books and maps, private diaries and correspondence is worth looking at. You won’t want to miss the chance that your long dead house-owner knew something useful.
If it’s historic records you want, then hitting somewhere that had a high quantity of bureaucrats will be a goldmine. Whether it’s the local town council offices or a military base, somewhere there is going to be a room with boxes upon boxes of archived paperwork just begging to be nosed through. Historians will be overjoyed to find decades of memos and supply invoices and will happily spend months compiling it into patterns. For those of you with a need for something a little more tangible – find the right set of papers and you could have intel on some interesting new sites to explore. Sites that were hidden well enough that they survived the looting and assorted apocalyptic events and might just have a hidden cache of weapons or other useful bits that people forgot about when the apocalypse hit. Always make sure you check to see what security measures are in place so you know how to bypass it when you get there.
Research now will save you a lot of trouble later.
Right then, ladies, tempting as it is to dive straight into tomb raidery fun – the first thing we need to talk about is research. Do you know how your apocalypse began? Do you know how to stop it getting worse? Do you know where the other communities of survivors are living? Do you know if they’re friendly or a bunch of insane cannibals who worship brand name gods? If the answer to any of this is no, then finding out what’s been happening is your first priority.
How easy this will be will depend a great deal on how long it has been since your apocalypse event was triggered. If it’s been many years since the world went a bit haywire, then be prepared for missing or exaggerated information as stories alter through the years. But if the apocalypse event has only just happened then there’s a better chance of the majority of facts gathered being accurate, so now is the perfect time to collate survivors’ accounts. You need to know how the apocalypse started, who was involved, if there’s any danger of it happening again and what the post-event reaction was. (Future generations will thank you for this. Future history students, however, may want to throttle you for providing so many primary sources for them to comb through and write essays on.)
Now the fun bit: travelling around and talking to people. This is where you’ll need to be equal parts investigative journalist, spy, explorer and ass-kicking adventurer. (If you can’t manage all these skills at the same time, then make sure you hang with a crew who can help out. Especially with the ass-kicking. There’s likely to be a lot of that needed.)
Start with your local community. Find out where everyone has come from – if they’re from the place you’ve settled into then prod them for stories about what happened when the apocalypse hit; if they’re from elsewhere then as well as finding out what happened in their home town, you can pester them for accounts of their travels, stories they may have heard from other travellers, danger spots, resource dumps, other settlements they may have passed through or avoided. Anything you can find out will help your community in the long run and give you all a better chance of surviving.
Once you’ve tapped everyone local for their stories (or found someone who can continue to do so in your absence) then it’s time for story-gathering adventures on the road.
Your priority should be finding out where and how the apocalypse started (unless the apocalypse was caused by a natural disaster then you’ll already know the essentials), but you also need to find out about the other settlements near you. Not least – who they are, if they’re willing to trade or lend teachers for skills your own community is missing, if they need to be avoided and what they know of other settlements and the start of the apocalypse. This is important because you can’t be certain that there won’t be more related trouble to follow and you shouldn’t rely on someone else to find out these things and pass it along. Plus making new friends is always a good thing.
Finding out the source of the apocalypse will depend on the apocalypse that has just been.
If some naughty virus was to blame, then you’ll need to know if there’s any vials of something nastier lurking in the same place or if there’s an antivirus. You’ll also need to know if the idiots who created it are planning further shenanigans because the last thing you need is a more advanced strain wiping out the survivors. Or a mutated super-monster. Or a mutated super-monster carrying an advanced strain who will turn other survivors into more mutated super-monsters.
With an alien apocalypse, the key will be learning about your enemy and finding out their weakness so you can spread the intel to the rebel forces and help with the retaking of your planet. There’s a good chance you won’t actually understand anything the aliens are saying or what’s in their written records or computer systems (unless you happen to have a linguist savant in your crew. Or a psychic. Or a half-breed sleeper agent who’s gone native. Or a rebel alien from the invading/another repressed race who, quite handily, knows English or the dominant language of your region. Or Daniel Jackson. ) – so the key here will be sneaking in as close as you can and observing them. If they’ve captured any humans, then you’re on Team Jailbreak and there’ll be useful things to be learned from the prisoners.
The same can be said about a faerie apocalypse, although you may find that some of the faerie forces are amenable to compromise that lets both them and the surviving human race share the world. (And there’s a better a chance of them having a common language you understand.) Find out what they want, find out what they’d be willing to bend on, and if they’re being difficult then find out where their main base is and where their weak spots are then get the hell out of there and regroup with the rebel forces. (Unless there’s some mystic doohickey in the heart of their fortress that you and your crew are confident about getting to and destroying to send them back to faerie-land.)
A machine/AI uprising apocalypse will give you a wealth of digital information for your records but you might find it a bit hazardous to get at it. EMP blasters will come in handy here, although there’s the risk of all digital data getting lost after use. Make sure you have a genius hacker on your team as you’ll need help dealing with the machines’ surveillance and having someone who can code a machine virus on the fly is always handy.
Share the Love
Once you’ve found things out, don’t keep them to yourself. The key is to document everything. Even the things you take for granted. Get images. Digital data may be of questionable use if the power is a bit dodgy so try and print out paper copies, then make copies of the copies and stash them somewhere that will stay safe long term.
And spread it around. Tell people what you know and what you’ve found. Give copies of gathered histories to other settlements so they have their own history archives. If getting hard copy documents is difficult then collect stories and tell them to everyone you meet so they can pass them on. The content may alter slightly depending on the teller, but the essentials should remain relatively intact. Find artistic types to write songs or paint pictures of events. The important thing is the transfer of information and keeping it in the collective consciousness.
Always remember: knowledge is good – a well informed survivor will last longer and increase the life expectancy of those around them.
Zombies in the streets are just so messy. If it’s not chunky pieces of rotting flesh waiting to ensnare your best heels, it’s groaning hoards trying to eat you and there’s only so long you can ignore it all before something must be done.
Taking care of the moving zombies should be your first priority as these are the ones that will be the most pesky. You really don’t want to have to fight past them in the January sales so instead of barricading yourself in a building and hoping they’ll expire on their own, consider taking the initiative and clean up your town’s streets.
We suggest doing this in two stages:
Stage One – The Free-Range
Zombie traffic is the worst thing about your zompoc. There’s so many of the buggers that shooting them individually is both time consuming and a serious drain on resources; so what you need to do is find a mass kill solution that will wipe out the lot with minimal risk to the non-zom parts of the population.
Now, no matter what species of zombie you’ve been plagued with, one common characteristic they all share is the ability to sniff out uninfected human flesh. With proper preparation, you can use this against them with a zombie trap. A really big one. Preferably on the edge of town where it won’t ruin your primary living environment.
You’re going to need two parts to your trap. The funnel, where you drive the random wandering zombies into one hoard with nowhere to go but towards their doom; and the end zone, where you despatch them.
For the funnel, pick a straight main road so the zombies can feed through to it from the side roads. Consider barricading any nearby parallel roads or putting blocks up at junctions so there’s nowhere for them to go but your route. You could also have one of the more athletic of your survivor crew ready to play bait to any wanderers that have gotten lost and herd them to the main group.
Then comes the end-zone. This is the tricky bit. If you’re mechanically minded you could set up a length of razor wire on a cunning device that will slide across and behead the stumbling hoards. This will work great unless they’re really short and you’ll still have to clear the bodies away at some point so our preferred option for the end trap is fire.
Fire is, and always will be, the most effective final solution but you want to be careful when and where you start burning so if there’s not a handy pit on the edge of your town then either find a place you can block off to built a zombie cremation area or hotwire some abandoned construction equipment and dig. A pit gives you the benefit of a steep edge the zombies can’t climb out of quickly once they’ve dropped in and can be covered up easily once you’re left with a pile of zom-infected ash.
Whatever you use, make sure you have exits for your daring human bait to use as you don’t want them shut in with the hoards. Have rope ladders ready as back up options, or borrow a crane so you can drop a suitable chain into the trap to haul out your friends.
Once the zombies are safely contained, then you set them on fire. You’ll need plenty of accelerant to get the optimum temperature quickly – consider showering the zombies with something flammable as they feed through into the trap, that way you only have to ignite and wait.
Repeat until you’re as sure as you can be that all the streets are clear.
Stage Two – The House-Bound
There will be zombies trapped in rooms all over your town. Taking care of these can be done by searching house to house and killing them on a room by room basis, or you can adapt Stage One by opening the doors and drawing them into the streets. For your best chance of success, be orderly and target one area at time, that way you can set up street blocks to drive your zombies to the main funnel and then despatch them using your preferred method.
Then once you’ve taken care of all of the moving zombies, you can start getting rid of the chunky corpses. We suggest loading them up in trucks or wagons and taking them to a burn pit on the edge of town. Wear suitable protective clothing as you don’t want to get infected by zombie remains and always make sure you have some sharp-shooters on guard in case you missed one of the wandering dead.
Then with your town nice and clean you can get started on long-term rebuilding – but keep an eye on your borders and be ready to deal with zombie tourists…