About After the End - Stories of Life After the Apocalypse:
In a drowned world, the descendants of surface dwellers remember the cities that were lost, the inhabitants of ocean floor colonies cling to outmoded customs and scavengers search the flooded ruins for anything that might be of use. In a world ravaged by droughts, two college students come face to face with how the other half lives. A lone explorer traverses the icy wasteland that used to be Europe. A group of children travels across a zombie-infested America in search of shelter and safety. After a robot uprising, a police officer is assigned to clean-up duties and finds an unexpected miracle among the ruins. And in a world blasted by electromagnetic solar storms, a nineteenth century technology suddenly becomes the sole means of long distance communication.
This collection contains eight stories of life after the apocalypse of 24500 words or approximately 85 print pages altogether.
Without hesitation, he stepped into the gloom. Rachel followed him, careful not to damage her suit on the jagged edges of the door frame.
Inside, it was pitch dark. Jason’s helmet lights didn’t help much either, since they only pierced the gloom for a meter or so ahead. All Rachel could tell was that they were in some kind of corridor with doors on both sides.
“Okay. You take the right side and I the left.”
Jason worked methodically. He opened every door on the left side of the corridor, scanned the interior for anything useful and closed it again.
Rachel needed more time per room. She was not nearly as experienced as Jason, not nearly as skilled at moving her head so the helmet lights shone into every corner of the room, not nearly as quick to distinguish between useful items and junk.
The rooms had obviously been offices of some kind before the cataclysm. Furniture was strewn about, desks, chairs, filing cabinets, all slowly rotting away. There were empty pots, the plants that had once grown in them long dead and gone. She also found pens, cheap plastic ballpoint pens soaked to the point of uselessness, staplers, hole punchers, paperclips, all sorts of office equipment. Occasionally, she also spotted the faded remains of papers and files.
In one of the offices, she even found a plastic figurine, a woman holding some kind of weapon. Probably a heroine of the time before. It wasn’t worth much, but it was nice, so Rachel picked it up and put it in her bag. Jason would probably laugh at her, but who cared? Besides, it wasn’t as if he never brought back useless souvenirs either — Rachel had seen his collection of small toy vehicles.
“Anything?” Jason asked over the suit com.
“Check for computers and phones — they usually contain all sorts of valuable materials,” Jason said, “And check for copper pipes.”
“I’m not a complete newb, you know?”
“And anyway, there are no computers and phones here. No pipes either.”
“Yeah, they usually took the phones and the computers first. Check, if you can find a printer or a copying machine.”
“There’s nothing like that here,” Rachel replied, “Nothing bigger than a stapler.”
“Check the stapler,” Jason instructed, “Sometimes, they used staples made from copper or stainless steel.”
“Will do, boss.”
Rachel cut the suit com and swore. For though Jason hadn’t said anything, the undertone in his voice was unmistakable. Lauren would have known. Lauren would have remembered to check the stapler without prompting. Lauren would have found two dozen useful things in these offices and in half the time, too.
Rachel picked up the stapler, struggling to pry open the unfamiliar piece of equipment. And once she did, what she found were not staples made from copper or stainless steel, but just the normal kind, the sort that would rust within an hour of exposure to the air. Just her luck.
“Ray, come here,” Jason said over the suit com, “Second last door on the left. I found the bathroom.”
Bathrooms meant pipes, which meant copper. And copper was valuable. So Rachel skipped the rest of the offices and headed for the second last door on the left, where Jason was already busily dismantling the copper pipes with his thermal lance. He handed the pipes to Rachel who packed them onto a cargo floater and somehow managed not to make a mess of it for once.
Jason and Rachel had been partners for three months now. They’d already done a few small jobs together — private houses, small shops and the like, most of which had already been stripped by amateurs — but this was their first major expedition together.
And of course, Rachel wanted to impress Jason with her professionalism, wanted to show him that she was as good as Lauren, his previous partner. Lauren who’d been brave and funny and beautiful and the most skilled scavenger in the colony ever.
She was dead now, killed by a rival scavenger’s harpoon during her last big expedition with Jason. Jason had brought her back, even though he’d been badly wounded himself, but it had been too late. Lauren was gone. And Rachel, who’d only just graduated from amateur to neo pro, suddenly found herself in the position of her replacement.