how will they know when it is safe to come out? With nuclear radiation you have meters or can use rule of thumb formulates but I don't suspect there will even be much visible change for a clue.
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Karl Hamilton swore as he pulled up to the gates of the skyscraper under construction: the gates were chained shut and padlocked, the incomplete skyscraper loomed dark and rainswept behind them. Obviously the site ninja’s had bailed out on hearing the news.
It had been a bugger of a drive to get this far.
Over three hours to travel around 5 kilometres, with traffic at a virtual standstill. Rain and wind coming in bursts; Police and council workers scattered here and there in their Hi-Vis gear- standing out amongst the crowd as they attempted to bring order to the chaos.
As they queued for the first jammed intersection after the traffic lights had gone out, he discussed options with Calliope; or Cal as she preferred to be called.
Her plan to catch a city train appeared dead in the water- from where he sat they could see a train frozen in between stations, with people climbing down and heading in different directions along the rails under the direction of some railway staff. Buses didn’t look good either- they appeared to have disappeared from the streets. It soon became obvious that she didn’t really have a fall back plan other than to walk back to her student accommodation and attempt to shelter there.
Kicking himself for doing so- Karl found himself telling her about the building where he planned to shelter, and offering her a room at the inn. Surprisingly, she accepted.
Obviously his cranky-arsed demeanour, scruffy beard, long hair and biker sunglasses were not working as expected...............
Then had come the next surprise- Cal knew the city, at least this part- better than he did, and gave him a few hints as to how to sneak through some streets, revealing that an old boyfriend had been a courier driver and showed her some of the secret ways that all cities have that most people do not know exist.
As they inched along one street, Cal reached over and grabbed his arm, pointing out a narrow alley that she used as a shortcut when skateboarding through the CBD to University. Karl, with great misgivings, swung the old Cruiser into the dark chasm between the skyscrapers and crawled forward.
Even going slow, it still proved faster than the street; he kept rolling in first high as he swam the beast through a crowd of people on foot, skateboards and cycles going every which way. Halfway down the block, he had to negotiate 8 steep steps- giving an exasperated look at Cal, he dropped into 4WD, locked the hubs, and crawled down the wet slippery concrete steps with two wheels on the steps themselves, and two on the kerb at the side. Headlamps and driving lights on full and a blast from the air horns kept the pedestrians from under the wheels through the difficult manoeuvre- just as the front wheels kissed level ground, the right rear tyre slipped from the wet kerb, slewing the heavy vehicle sideways just enough to crunch the left rear corner into a steel post.
Karl winced; glared at his co-pilot and then gunned the motor, straightening the vehicle once again amid a tinkle of broken plastic from the rear lamp as it scattered down the stairs.
“It was easy, she said…., you will fit fine, she said………..” He muttered as the 4WD levelled off and crept forward.
Cal shot him the finger.
“At least we are moving….” She pointed out with a wicked grin.
Karl grunted and returned to peering out the rain spattered windshield. Tight in under the looming buildings like this, it was a case of either not raining at all with just the occasional drip; or when the wind would change direction a veritable deluge of water would funnel down from the sky and rattle off the glass with a roar, scattering pedestrians into shelter.
Emerging from one alley then forcing his way through traffic across the street and into another narrow crevice between towering buildings took more time, and once Karl had to get out and manhandle several skip bins which the wind had pushed across his way; when he had made a gap he shouldered the 60 series through, pushing them aside with the bullbar. One tilted and then fell against the side of the vehicle; as he drove forward he heard it scraping all the way along the side. Closing one eye and grimacing at the noise, Karl shook his head.
“There goes the paintwork…what’s left of it…..” he cursed under his breath.
Then, in front of him appeared two squat concrete bollards, with a chain in between, blocking off access to the laneway behind.
Pulling to a halt, he exited the vehicle and looked at the obstacle- the bollards were too heavy to move manually, and sat just a little too close together to allow the 60 series through between them. Which meant one bollard and the chain had to go. On closer inspection the right hand one appeared to be just sitting on the road surface and not bolted down, obviously counting on weight to stop it being moved easily.
We’ll see about that, he thought grimly.
He reached into the back of the cruiser and rummaged for a couple of heavy rated D shackles and his drag chain- a 15 foot length of steel chain rated just about strong enough to hang the Cruiser from. Passing the chain around the bollard on the right and feeding it back through the big hardened steel loop on the end of the chain, he connected it to a recovery point bolted to the chassis in front of his left front wheel, creating a sharp angled triangle between the bollards and the Cruiser. A good hard pull in reverse saw the right bollard slide with the vehicle, then as the chain between it and the other bollard straightened, it pulled left across in front of him until the line connecting the three points became straight on the left of the lane.
Karl slackened the chain by driving forward, then retrieved it and draped it over and around the top of the bulbar in case he needed it again.
Another hour of crawling through traffic used up pretty much all the patience he had left before they finally reached their goal; finding it locked and chained.
He looked at Cal.
“S'pose you can’t pick locks…….?” She looked at him non-plussed.
“What ARE you on about? No, I can’t pick bloody locks….”
Shaking his head again, Karl went looking for a prybar amongst the gear scattered in the back of his old 4wd.
Northern New South Wales.
The transfer of gear into the mine went well, especially after Steve suggested they use the two loading dollys chained together to make a 4 wheel cart, with a length of rope on either end to pull it back and forth through the tunnel. The kids easily settled into a semi-circle around one of the small DVD players to watch a movie and snuggled up in their sleeping bags, well-fortified with snackage; hopefully enough to keep them from leaping around and getting underfoot while ‘helping’. After emptying the vehicles, John and Steve parked them in various places nearby in amongst the junior pine trees in the plantation with plenty of distance between them in case a tree or two came down.
They removed the batteries, bringing them into the mine- including the second batteries which all bar the Delica had had installed for accessory usage. All fully charged, they would be used as needed for lights etc if the small diesel generator-which currently sat under the shelter -failed. Heavy canvas tarpaulins went over the vehicles’, weighed down with sand-or rather mud, thanks to the rain- bags along with branches from some of the fresh prunings piles scattered among the trees. The camper trailers they dispersed as well, and chained to trees, just in case someone got any funny ideas about borrowing them. Scraps of tarpaulins and plastic sheeting covered these too, along with more debris to mask their outline.
Now, hours later and tired, John and Steve were digging an alcove into the earth slope a bit to one side of the entrance to make a space for the little diesel generator they used for camping and occasionally for Steve’s work. Steve had carefully selected an area away from the edge of the tree line, and in the area of the hillside than had been collapsed down around the concrete pipe when the entrance had been closed up. This was paying off as the disturbed soil and loose rock was easier to move than digging through the tougher natural nearby.
“I’m having flashbacks, mate.” John gloomily observed as he removed a work glove then examined a burst blister on the palm of one hand. He was holding the mattock and resting after breaking up a layer of soil while Steve shovelled it away.
“I know what you mean.” Steve grunted as he moved another sodden shovelful of the rich red basalt soil. “Dug too many bloody stage 3 fighting positions on exercise way back when to enjoy doing it now. Mind you, I were a touch fitter then....”
“Bull ****, Mate; you were never that fit........” At that moment Sarah came out of the entrance pipe swaddled in a cheap green Bunnings hardware rain poncho near twice her size, bearing a thermos of hot sweet tea, a couple of plastic mugs and a small plastic esky.
“Here she is- popping out like bloody Mario…….. What have you got for us babe?” Steve asked.
“Here you go lads. Something to keep you going.” Out of the esky she produced two big roast pork sandwiches and a couple of salted hot baked potatoes which the blokes quickly hooked into, moving into the dome shelter out of the rain for a moment. While they took a break.
“Oww, darl! That’s hot!- it’s been what, 5 or 6 hours since the power went? How did Karen keep the food that hot this long?” Steve took a slug of water from a cup he had left sitting in the rain to ease the burn.
“Easy.”Sarah replied. ”Karen cooked up a roast with all the trimmings this afternoon after her and John got tipped off. She put it in that old metal army hotbox John scored from a disposal auction; kept it nice and hot till now.”
“Radical. Damned good tucker for a hungry bloke.” John took a swig of hot sweet tea and asked a question.
“Sarah; how’s it going inside?”
“Well, 4 kids and a shi.... uh, heap of gear that needs to be organised....yeah, it’s coming along. Setting up was OK- but getting all the extra supplies sorted has been a bit wild. And I can’t say I’ve ever camped in a cave like this before........ the kids took a lot of settling down; even with a DVD and snackage. They know something is up- can’t put anything past them -” Sarah looked at her husband.”-and Paul, the cluey little bugger, asked if the sky was falling because the moon was so bright and the Aurora as well- and asked if we were hiding from it.”
Steve sighed- worry evident on his face. Paul, despite sometimes missing obvious clues, occasionally came out with the most surprising observations when you thought he wasn’t paying attention.
“The clever little bloke..... His Nan said when he was born that he was an old soul…….” John reached over, placing his hand on his mates shoulder.
“Yeah Steve-o; and he will outsmart the lot of us before he’s done. Just remember- in spite of our best efforts, kids usually do just fine.” Steve shrugged and took a deep breath.
“I ‘spose so- Anyway; it’s been a bit of a weird day- blame John for it. We could be at home sitting in the dark freaking out with no idea what to do, but instead here we are.........” Steve gave John friendly shove, nearly spilling his tea in the process.
“Get stuffed the lot o’ ye......” John grinned good naturedly. Sarah set the thermos down on a box.
“And on that note, I’ll scoot back into the warm. Give us a yell if you need anything.” Steve pulled his petite wife into a bear hug and lifted her till her feet dangled off the ground, planted a big kiss on her lips, then gently set her back down.
“I’ll be right babe. John might need some Dencorub though- his age is catching up with him....”
“I’ll make sure Karen has some ready for you both. Later, fellers.” With that she turned and went back into the mine. The two men quickly finished the hot tea, sandwiches and spuds then resumed digging. They cut into the hillside to create a flat area roughly the same dimensions as one of the 4 foot hardwood timber pallets they had plenty of; flooring it with one pallet, then making walls and a roof with four more, wired together with old used fencing wire they had found in a big roll near where the pallets were dumped. After weatherproofing it with some plastic drop sheeting and insulating and weighing down the roof with a layer of turf, they set up the small Honda generator then ran a lead into the mine. Cranking it over, they could hear little noise at a range of about 5 metres, and only a growing mutter the closer they got to it.
Moving across to the other side of the mine pipe and on the edge of the trees, they carved out another platform to store the drums of fuel that would not fit into the tunnel, namely the 44 gallon/205 litre drums- the jerries would fit inside the tunnel as they were easier potentially for someone to walk off with; the bigger drums would require more effort. The second platform was very similar in construction to the first and again they covered it with more pallets from the pile. Once finished, they camouflaged it with turf and more pine branch offcuts and broken branches from a recent storm, and from a few metres it was practically invisible, just another low pile of debris among many on the slope. The unused spoil they had flung out in all directions downslope, it virtually disappeared into the knee length grass, and the teeming rain finished diluting it.
As the two tired men put away their tools and readied to move inside the shelter, they heard a faint engine noise in the distance- which developed into the unmistakable notes of several diesel engines labouring in low range up the track toward them. Moments later they could make out the headlights of two or three vehicles through the rain coming closer through the trees.
Watching the lights flicker closer, John briefly though he should maybe have kept one of the rifles out where they were working. Ah well, too late now.
“Steve, you want to go in and tell the mob that we have company coming and put the kettle on, or stay here and do the chatting?”
“I’ll go in; you want me to run and bring a gat* back?”
“Nahhh….I don’t think so. I can’t image these folks will be nasty.….. Just maybe ask Karen to come out if she wants to. She’s good with people, and seeing a woman here as well instead of just a yobbo covered in mud could be helpful.”
“Sure mate; just be careful, hey?”
“No worries.” Steve slipped into the pipe mouth while John waited a bit apprehensively for the vehicles to arrive.
• Gat- slang for rifle.
Copyright AKM. 2013
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Matilda Hamilton stepped down from the bus and took her first breath of the cold night Southern Tablelands air, which started her coughing as soon as it hit her lungs; while she got her breath back she looked around, squinting against the glare from big portable halogen floodlights while clutching her day pack to her. The winter chill nipped at her face and exposed hands, and her expelled breath steamed as it drifted away before a slight breeze. As her friends disembarked one after another, exclamations rose as to how cold it was compared to the warm coach.
Ahmed’s teeth flashed in the dark as he grinned at the group’s discomfort.
“Ohh, harden up you lot….” The group leader/chaperone quipped as he started flipping open the luggage hatches along the left side of the bus. “Anyone would think it was actually cold.”
From where she stood with the other students and their group leaders, Matilda could see they were on one edge of a large roughly gravelled and irregularly shaped parking area, which perched on some flat ground between several low ridges and was crossed by a two lane bitumen road chopping off about a third of the total area. A temporary and rickety looking construction fence lined the lot, which looked full of vehicles and people moving in organised chaos while at the two un-gated openings small groups of soldiers stood, armed with clipboards and notebook computers and wearing brightly coloured safety helmets and hi-vis vests, checking vehicles manifests as they drove in from the direction of the main road.
Several more buses were lined up along one edge of the smaller area disgorging passengers and luggage, some in uniform, some not. B-Double semi-trailer trucks; including the ones that had come in with her convoy were lined up down the centre of the larger chunk. As soon as they came to a halt forklifts and workers swarmed around them, rolling back the tarped slides and rapidly unloading the pallets, transferring them onto smaller two ton trucks which when loaded left along the road, which continued around the side of the ridge and up a narrow valley and then disappeared around a spur. Smaller trucks, and official looking four wheel drives, both military and civilian, drove slowly through the crowded area and on up the road after being cleared at the gates.
Overhead, somewhat washed out by the bright floodlights, auroras coursed across the sky to the surreal soundtrack of revving engines, loud voices, and the throb of a helicopter echoed momentarily as it passed overhead unseen except for the navigating lights and on up the valley.
Mia and several other group leaders started herding the teenagers into smaller groups, while Ahmed borrowed a radio from one of the unloading supervisors and scared up the first of a few minibuses which they began to fill with kids and their gear. Matilda found herself in charge of a small group of her friends and tasked with moving luggage from the larger bus to the smaller ones when Mia was dragged away to in impromptu meeting. Surprisingly to her, they were the first group loaded and ready to move, and were the first of the series of minibuses to join the flow of vehicles negotiating the narrow road up the valley.
One after another three white late model Toyota Landcruiser 4x4’s –two long bodied Troopcarriers and trailers, with a tray back Landcruiser in the lead- drove into the entrance to the clearing. When the two people in the lead ute saw John clearly illuminated under the brightly lit silver and blue shelter dome, they slowed to a halt; pinpointing him in the bright glare of their driving lights, effectively blinding him and making spots dance in his eyes. John waved with one hand and shielded his eyes with the other. After a moment the engines of all three were switched off, and two figures exited the ute and walked toward him, halting just out from the edge of the shelter.
Both were dressed in some sort of light coloured work uniform, but the glare made it hard to focus on the emblem on their shoulders.
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?” This came from the taller of the two shapes in a fairly aggressive male voice. The other stood quietly, observing and saying nothing.
“G’day, I’m John- my family and a couple of friends have come out here to bunker down in the old mine.” John stuck his hand out and the shorter shape shook back. The taller however stood hands on hips, unmoving.
“This is a bat sanctuary, under the care of the National Parks and Wildlife Service- you can’t just barge in here and set up camp.”
“Yeah, I know what it is, but we’re in the first gallery off the main drive- there were no bats in there and there is nowhere else to go. We won’t disturb them.”
“Huh. How many of you?”
“Eight, 4 adults, 4 kids.” Karen spoke as she crawled out of the pipe and stood up. Stretching her back and even though dressed in jeans, boots and a quilted jacket she gave the tall figure her best Nurse vs misbehaving patient look while squinting against the bright light. It must have worked- John was pretty sure the man actually took a step backward.
“You can’t stay here. You need to leave.” Not quite as aggressively this time. The shorter of the two figures put his hand on the others shoulder and spoke in a calmer, older sounding, and much friendlier tone.
“Hang on Garry; don’t get stroppy. Let me handle this. Go and turn off the lights in the ute, and tell the others to give us a sec.” The shadow known as Garry started to protest.
“But Charlie; we-“The voice became a bit more hard edged.
“Garry. Just go, orright?” With bad grace Garry splashed off muttering toward the truck and turned the headlights from hi-beam to park lamps only; the other vehicles followed suit shortly after.
With the glare gone, John’s vision started to return to normal and the shadowy figure resolved itself into a solidly built bloke in his mid 50’s, around 1.8 metres tall, or 5 foot 11 in the old scale, and wearing the uniform of a New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger. There was more than a touch of Aboriginal in the broad tanned features, and a glint of humour sparkled in the brown eyes peering from under the brim of a battered Akubra Cattleman.
“John, is it? D’you mind if I come in out of the rain?”
“Be my guest.” John and Karen stepped back and George stepped under the shelter, took off his hat and shook water from it and brushed his shoulders as well.
“Let’s start again. Charles. Charles Lazenby. Just call me Charlie, and no- I’m no relation to the actor.” They shook hands again. “Ignore Garry; he’s a good lad, but freaked out at the moment. I guess we all are.......bad business this.” John nodded. Charlie turned to Karen.
“And you are;-?” She introduced herself, and he should hands with her as well.
“So, you’ve settled in, what; 8 of you? Look, I’ve got another dozen or so bods I need to squeeze in, mostly National Parks staff and our families. Maybe another ½ a dozen later if they get rounded up and make it here. I’ve been in there enough times over the years; there is enough room for all of us without getting in each other’s way. Are you set up in the first gallery off the drive?” Karen spoke up.
“Yep; we set up there, mainly to keep away from the bats- didn’t want to disturb them. Plus, they freak the little ‘uns a bit......” Charlie chuckled good naturedly.
“Yeah, they do that- it’s a love/hate thing with bats and kids- either one or the other. If I get time tomorrow, I’ll catch a couple and do a talk for the kids on them and safety- it’s actually what I do a lot of the time at work- liaising with scientists and schools and doing talks on the little buggers. In this mine they are little ones; mainly Common and little Bent-wing bats, plus last time we looked there was a colony of Eastern Horseshoe’s .........ehhhh, I get carried away; I DO love the little furry buggers........Anyways, we’ll set up in the second gallery further down- it’s actually bigger and had a door/wall put in as well- we were going to set up monitoring equipment for a research project on the bats a year or two ago, but money got siphoned off after the last election........you know how that goes.”
“I understand.” John said. “And just because we got here first doesn’t mean we own the place. By all means, come in. We even put the kettle on for a brew when we heard you coming. You need a hand to unload?”
“Mate, I won’t say no to either. Been a bugger of a night all round - a brew will help settle the troops. You mind if we run the vehicles under the awning here and unload?”
“Nahh, go for it. We’re done unloading ourselves. After all; it’s your mine.” Charlie chuckled again.
“Hah! Not really. It’s actually on private land- owned by the corporation that built the subdivision and owns the pine and eucalypt plantation. Based in Sydney somewhere, but we never hear from them. NPWS just keeps an eye on the bats. Did you have much trouble with the grille?”
“No, the padlock was a cheapie so we chopped it and replaced it with one of our own. Then when we started moving stuff in, we just unbolted the grille and set it aside. We’re planning on putting it back when we leave- you can have the keys to the padlock if you want as well.”
“Good on yer. Most folks would have just used an Oxy torch and cut it out or dragged it off with a winch and chain- we put it in to stop feral dogs and pigs getting in. And the local kids of course- been some rock falls down the deeper bits. Anyways, we need to get inside- we’ve had an interesting drive- I’ll tell you about it later.”
The heavy set ranger waved the trucks forward- one after another the Landcruiser Troopies- all National Parks vehicles- came through and dropped their passengers. Apart from George, there were another 3 rangers (including Garry, who turned out to be a tall gangly red head, and a nephew of George’s Irish born wife Colleen, who was also in one of the trucks) plus several of their wives and an assortment of kids and hangers on, ranging from a 2 year old to a couple of teenaged girls around John’s daughter Matilda’s age. Karen went back up the pipe to organise some food for the new arrivals while George and John started shepherding them into the shelter and then down the tunnel.
Far to the north and unseen by most human eyes, the north polar icecap-which is still in the height of the polar summer and thus in mostly constant daylight-continues to suffer the heat and to lose ice cover. Meltwater pours from glaciers in the mountains of Iceland, inundating some farms and small villages. Seismic activity began to increase, micro quakes building in swarms as the heat melts millions of tons of ice and snow cover from the volcanic zones there and the ground moves to regain equilibrium; much as it does when mega dams like the Hoover dam were constructed- the weight of water causing similar swarms of micro quakes as the ground settles when the dams fill.
Greenland, Canada and the North Eastern USA feel the heat as the dawn line approaches, with an angry sun preparing to rise above the horizon- a few knuckles of weather systems along the eastern seaboard boil briefly then fall apart, leaving the continent bare to the onslaught. A thick fog develops over Greenland from melting ice and is continually stripped away by the hot rising wind, only to be replenished as ice melts rapidly- seeming to sublimate directly from ice to steam, the process appears to move so fast. There too, low level seismic activity begins to increase in erratic leaps and bounds.
Across North America, as in Europe, fires spring to life as temperatures soar; unfought they grow rapidly, pushed by the strong winds and forming into massive fire fronts. As the day progresses, these fires obliterate some farming areas, small towns etc and begin to push into regional cities and incinerate thousands. Buildings, people, animals, all go up in flames if caught in the way. Unrelenting heat makes life difficult for those cowering in inadequate shelters, and many thousands more suffer debilitating and in many cases fatal heat stress.
Chemical and fuel depots go up in flames, violent explosions adding toxic fumes to the mix of smoke and ash, killing many more as waves of flame push west and south with the wind. Nearby areas sweltered, heat stroke being the main killer as temperatures continue to rise.
As the noon line passes the Rocky Mountains, the North American continent is either ablaze or baking over much of its area. The further into the heartland away from coastlines, the hotter the temperatures rise, even into the high sixties degrees Celsius, unlike the coasts with no nearby massive bodies of water to act as a heat sink and moderate temperatures.
Near Chicago, by the late afternoon grassfires that sprang to life from sparking electricity wires charged by the flares push east with the winds that change direction as evening approaches; joining together into several fire fronts miles across. Flames spread rapidly across the baking suburbs and industrial areas leaping from lot to lot, here and there slowed by wide areas with little fuel. Fires spot ahead of the fire front; as the hot dry winds approach storm force across the mostly flat country, flaming debris is carried for miles before smashing into buildings; opening them to burn in their turn when force fed oxygen by the wind. More debris blows through the centre of the city from building to building, smashing glass and allowing fire to take root and eventually turns skyscrapers into flaming torches- as their structural steel softens some fall, adding to the destruction.
A violent smoke cloud, loaded with toxins from burning homes and industrial facilities, pushes east and drops sooty fallout for hundreds of miles downwind as the heavier particles fall to the ground and water, polluting both. Finer particles push higher and make their way into the upper atmosphere where they disperse further, joining those from other massive fires.
In Europe as night falls, fires continued to run out of control and eat into the cities fringes. The heat lessens but sits still well into the forties Celsius.
Storm systems restart from the atmospheric imbalance of heat and moisture, and rapidly intensified; outbreaks of thunderstorms sprang into existence as supercells form and punch upwards to unprecedented heights, pulling moisture higher and higher until it froze and began to fall again. Swept up again and again in the incredibly turbulent conditions, massive hailstones formed which fell as the cells spent themselves across Europe, sewing more damage and spot flooding across a devastated continent. In Moscow, millions jammed the tunnels of the Metro, with hundreds dying every hour from injury, illness or plain violence. Authorities struggled to maintain control; agitators were either shot out of hand, or dragged to the surface and thrown from exits. Others clamoured at the steel shuttered entrances, begging to be let in.
Across the western Pacific, the dawn line continued its inexorable progress, chaos and mayhem in its wake.
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not a pleasant situation.
I'm minded off the recent solar eruption that's the biggest ever seen apparently.
and todays 'mini heat wave' had to start somewhere.
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Sydney CBD, underground.
Ronnie Jordan led a frightened group through the winding underground ways beneath the City of Sydney. Consisting of his parents, younger sister and her boyfriend, and his two youngest sisters aged 8 and 10; he guided them toward a hoped for safe dry place to wait out the flare.
Known within UrbEx circles as Fubar, the 24 year old State Rail worker had since his early teens spent a lot of time exploring under Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong; and as an adult now spent his holidays doing the same under Paris, London and Rome. He was one of the few to get into the WW2 Bankstown bunker under western Sydney after it was sealed off; he had also got into the unused sections of tunnel and platform under St James railway station that had been used for air raid shelters during WW2, as well as many other bunkers forgotten to most of the general public.
Caving did little for him- he much preferred UrbEx- urban exploration of man-made or altered structures- the more out of bounds the better. During the filming of the Australian horror movie The Tunnel, set underground in the unfinished and abandoned platforms and tunnels of the St James railway station in Sydney; he had snuck in and out of the sets at will while dressing as one of the staff or contractors, and played pranks such as disrupting power and lighting, generating strange noises, and releasing buckets of cockroaches and rats to freak people out.
Now however, he was deadly serious and leading his family through a series of tunnels, drains and large conduits. The incoming storm and its resultant stormwater runoff through these underground tunnels complicated things, causing the need to backtrack and avoid flooded sections, and making the route a lot longer and more difficult than it usually was.
As they travelled under Macquarie St a deep roaring noise began to get louder, and when it rose to be almost deafening Fubar paused and told them to put their hands on the roof and walls of the tunnel in order to feel the old concrete and brickwork vibrating; shouting loudly to be heard over the tumult he explained that there was a large stormwater channel which ran underground just above them, carrying hundreds of tons of water per second when it rained as it was now up on the surface. He also told them that the occasional loud bang or crunch they could hear was debris such as shopping trolleys, building waste etc which had been illegally dumped down drains and culverts bashing into things as it travelled with the storm water on its way to the harbour.
Continuing on a short ways further, they found the way blocked since he had last been here several years before- a heavy steel door was in place covering his preferred route- smooth and featureless on the outside, with seriously huge hinges recessed down one side. It looked new- maybe weeks or a couple of months old at best- there was still brick and concrete dust around the base of it- in which he could see many footprints where people had gone through, but none coming back. Diverting around the doorway he could also see what looked like some type of recently installed armoured conduit- probably for communication lines of some sort- probably fibre optic he surmised. These branched off in several directions, now he came to think of it, he had seen the armoured conduit in a few places since they started the trek including what looked like a huge junction box of some sort in an excavated alcove near the noisy tunnel just behind them.
Must be an entrance to a bolthole built by .Gov, those self-serving bastards; he thought to himself- ignoring for the moment that he worked for them as well. This route stymied, he turned and backtracked. Unbeknownst to them, as the group moved out several small cameras watched them walk past go, relaying the images to the command centre deep within the bunker owned and run by the New South Wales state government and the City of Sydney, and located a few hundred metres away and tens of metres deeper.
Further back, he found a service conduit which led them in a wide arc around where he suspected the bunker to be, then along a Sydney Water drain where they clung to an elevated walkway while dark stormwater thundered by underneath and finally into an old 19th century tunnel leading more toward where he wanted to go- a sub-basement of a Victorian era building that had been demolished and a small park built where it had once stood.
Moving along the 100 metre long tunnel, he stopped as a strange spindly shape appeared in the gloom about 25 metres ahead of them, sitting in the centre of a branching of the corridor- some sort of sculpture, he thought. Occasionally, people built things down here, usually for some odd reason of their own, although more formal sculptures and even shows were held in some of the larger chambers as special events.
Coming closer, Fubar observed that it seemed suddenly to move and pivot on its base, then started to make a whining sound as part of the right side swung up and pointed in his direction. Suddenly worried, he started to turn to tell the group behind him to stop when a series of flashes lit the tunnel, and he felt something kick him in the chest several times with tremendous force. Spinning under the impact, Fubar hit the brick floor and lay stunned as more short stroboscopic flashes of light and staccato roars of sound erupted, knocking his family down one after another. Struggling to breath in the suddenly acrid smoke filled atmosphere and fighting numbness in his chest, he passed out. His fallen Petzl headlamp and the torches carried by his family lay on the ground, their beams playing in several directions, illuminating the fallen family, walls, and one the strange sculpture now wreathed in grey smoke.
A few minutes later the machine beeped quietly then folded into itself as a dark clad figure patrolled quietly past and approached the figures jumbled across the ground. They observed the scene momentarily, spoke quietly into a throat microphone, and then knelt beside the bodies examining each in turn. One of the shorter ones was still panting quietly; an arm extended and a quiet cough echoed dully from the bricks. The small body twitched and was still. The figure moved on.
Fubar coughed and came awake to see a shape looming over him. Gasping, he tried to speak.
“Look out…….the machine……my sisters………” The figure knelt beside him.
“Sorry buddy; wrong place, wrong time.” The hand came up, and a round point blank to his head took Fubar away.
The figure reloaded and holstered the pistol before examining the bags and pockets of the fallen, and switching off the torches and lamps then tucking them inside one of the groups bags. A set of night vision goggles were folded down and turned on, then the figure began dragging the bodies and their packs one by one back past the now quiescent sentry and into a narrow alcove nearby, where they were piled up and covered with a blanket then camouflaged with rubbish and detritus from the tunnel. In silence the figure moved back to the robotic sentry and replaced the partially used magazine and bag containing the fired cases, then faded back into the dark.
Another muted beep and the system rearmed, standing guard once more in the tunnel like an alert spider.
Northern New South Wales.
As they worked to unload the vehicles, Charlie revealed that they had come from areas west of Lismore, and had heard the alert while at a work meeting at a NPWS works depot. The local general manager had been on site for the meeting, and approved the staff taking what supplies and vehicles they needed and head for shelter- better than leaving it where it could be just plain stolen. They would regroup back at the depot when it was safe.Various groups had headed in different directions to start gathering families and friends, some to shelter in buildings, while others went for old mines such as this one and others in the Drake region west of Casino. Still others headed for the old Naughton’s Gap railway tunnel near Casino itself. The drive over here had taken twice as long as usual due to the traffic congestion and bad weather, but had been mostly uneventful.
Charlie showed John his ute with a 600 litre diesel tank squatting in the tray, along with components for several LPG gas BBQ’s they had been expecting to soon install in a camping area- complete with two full 5 foot cylinders of LPG. His nephew was actually a licenced gas fitter before becoming a ranger, and so could set them up easily, and George explained that Garry was actually a much more chilled out character than he first appeared- he was just worried about his wife and baby daughter who were on the way in a second convoy of two vehicles- an hour or so behind them; Garry having actually left in one of the long wheel base Troopcarriers with another ranger immediately they had unloaded, in order to find and escort them in.
The rangers had plenty of tools and equipment with them and were better situated for fuel than John and his mob, but appeared a bit light on food and other consumables John thought. Their camping gear was a bit random too, running from proper sleeping bags and some top notch kit though to improvised swags and blanket rolls, but it all seemed serviceable enough. Charlie had mentioned that the two vehicles still to arrive had stopped in Casino to try and source some more food before catching up- but were now not answering their radios. He wasn’t really surprised as the atmospherics were sending all their radios haywire at distances greater than a few kilometres line of sight.
Moving the gear into the mine was an easy job, washed down with lashings of tea and biscuits provided by Karen and Steve in the mine kitchen on their gas stoves. After they had brought everything they could through the pipe and were now moving it on down to the room they had set up in, Charlie paused for a quick break and filled John in on the rest of their trip. He said that the rain had pushed west from the coast and was now up into the foothills of the Great Divide, and it looked like being a half decent flood even if the rain stopped now. If it kept up, he said he expected it would be more of a moderate to major rather than a minor to moderate flood, and across multiple catchments. He said he just had that feeling, but couldn’t nail it further than that by way of explanation.
His wife Colleen was passing with a bag of clothing ; she put it down then pushed her rich auburn hair back off her freckled face and fixed her gaze on him. In her best Country Antrim brogue she asked.
“Now Charles, and what would you be basing these ‘feelings’ on?” He winked at her.
“Sorry darlin’. Secret Blackfeller men’s business……..Couldn’t tell you even if I wanted too……. If I did…….”
“I know, I know, one of your spirits would come and trip you over. I still reckon my army of little fellers in green suits would give your mob a fair fight…….”
“I doubt that. 30 odd thousand years of local knowledge over your 15 odd minutes, ya tourist…..”
Laughing, Charlie pulled her over and gave her a kiss, and then they picked up their loads and headed down the tunnel. John went back out to tidy a last few things before coming in himself. Charlie had showed him another sheltered spot nearby within a few hundred yards- a small disused quarry from the early mining days- where they had stashed the NPWS vehicles. John had then moved the Discovery and its trailer down there; but after a natter with Steve and the others opted to leave the other vehicles dispersed where they were. Just in case.
He looked at his watch- well after midnight: - no wonder he felt shattered and foggy. He hadn’t done this much physical work in ages- tomorrow would suck.
He paused before entering the tunnel.
Was there anything more he could have done in the time given to him? He thought about his brother, hoping Karl was safe, and Karen’s sisters; Jenna and Kim- nothing from either of them to acknowledge the warnings. Not a praying man; he still sent a silent plea to whomever might be out there to keep his family and friends safe before heading underground to his family.
Copyright AKM. 2013
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That is sad about the coming and going of the new group. Hope you get back to the guy holing up in the under construction building with the smart mouth young cutie.
GOOD STUFF MATE!!! I can say mate can't I? Or am I just sounding silly as I feel when I say it? I am adopting crikey though cuz I like the way it sounds. I'll trade goober for it.
I'm looking forward to see how they all get by once they emerge to a changed world....
Will it be a devastated wasteland? a smorgasbord of abandonned consumer goods? Who will claim power, the .gov or the mob? Will there be mutant, biker, zombies?!
Ooohh how exciting! Great writing AKM.
Personally i'm rooting for the dude in the train tunnel with the 'Op shop' survival kit... I can relate to his financial situation at the mo.
|action, adventure, australian survivalist fiction, fiction, paw scenarios, shtf, shtf fiction, survivalist fiction, teotwawki|
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