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Winter Castle

Page history last edited by Michael 3 years, 4 months ago

to the Index

 


 


report covers:   23 February, 2140 to 26 February, 2140.

 

23 February, 2140

 

weather report:  light winds from the E, clear skies, mid-day high temperature 73° F.

 

     Science Team S71 slowly awoke in their cryoberths; all seven of them seemed healthy but thirsty. The bolthole computer reported the reason for wakeup as:

 

CODE 1000 EMERGENCY TEAM ACTIVATION SIGNAL RECEIVED

 

     ... not very informative. The time and date displayed by the computer was 2:20 a.m. MT, on the 17th of January, 2002:  about fifteen years after the team had been frozen, and about seven more years than they expected to have waited. The bolthole computer had apparently self-destructed after receiving and decrypting the signal.

     While preparing their equipment and vehicle to leave the bolthole, the team raised the periscope and looked around:  a sunny day on a Rocky Mountain forested hillside. This didn't agree with their time shown by their computer, either. They opened one of the cofferdam exits, and sent Rickert (fully suited up) to test the air.

     Outside, radiation levels were low -- really, within the limits set by natural sources of radiation. There were bugs, birds, and small wildlife visible in the trees.

     Puzzled and still parched, the team went into full "protected from the environment" mode and opened the main bolthole hatch. Outside, they turned on the vehicle radio and began listening for signals.

 

random radio trafffic

     Tony Magnacca was able to listen to some very distant CB radio traffic, in Spanish. There were faint bits of Spanish-language music on AM broadcasts, as well. All of this was generally "to the south". There was nothing on the 31 MHz channel (Science common) or 36 MHz (Zone 5 common).

 

     Once out into the Beulah Valley, they saw the stumps of old utility poles, a few chimneys and cinder block walls, and other signs that civilization (at least around here) was in a bad way. A meter or so of volcanic ash covered the flat ground; the dirt under the ash wasn't notably contaminated. The rusted remains of a few vehicles were seen -- only frames and engine blocks. They found the Saint Charles River and filled their "gray" water tank and one of their jerry cans; the water tested as being safe, or at least as safe as river water ever was.

     Crossing out of the (very small) valley, the team saw the Colorado plains spread out before them -- warm weather, no clouds, no contrails, and no signs of human habitation. 20 kilometers away, to the east, they saw a cloud of dust heading south along what was once Interstate 25. A brief CB radio conversation in English (apparently between the trucks seen to the east) was overheard.

     Traveling across the plains, the team stopped from time to time, examining ruins and wreckage. None of the motor vehicles seemed "futuristic". At the former homes and farms, only the most sturdy materials -- ceramics, metal, glass and masonry -- remained.

 

"Bathtubs and toilets ... "

 

     After a couple of hours of travel, the team reached the Interstate; the roadbed was gravel, volcanic ash, dirt, and broken asphalt, with many ruts and tire tracks. Alongside the divided highway were more ancient motor vehicle hulks, some in neat rows on the former roadside, others piled into jagged heaps, rolled down into the ditch, or otherwise randomly abandoned. Of those vehicles which had a "they were traveling that way" direction, south towards New Mexico predominated. All the vehicles were rusted and covered with a half-meter or so of volcanic ash; some had been salvaged after being abandoned.

     The recent tracks on the highway were a mix of boot prints, shod horses, horse-drawn wagons, motorcycles, cars and heavy trucks. The motor vehicle tires didn't seem to have much tread on them; some cast-off retreads along the roadside were mighty bald. Bits of charcoal were seen here and there on the road.

 

"How can they run trucks but not make tires?"

 

     Turning north, the team followed the highway north for about 25 kilometers, to the outskirts of Pueblo. Here they saw the first evidence of a nuclear war -- bent and melted steel, blast patterns, cracked concrete and asphalt. At least a couple of air-burst nuclear weapons had detonated over the city; given the radiation levels, the explosions had occurred decades ago.

 

Target information on Pueblo from Morrow Project files: 

Delta rocket manufacturing plant, steel mill, 779 megawatt coal-fired power plant,

Pueblo Army Depot (including mustard gas artillery shells).

 

     The team was more and more convinced that the clock in their computer was "off". They followed the "modern" truck route, which skirted around the ruins, forded the Arkansas River, and continued north towards Colorado Springs.

     The amount of wrecked 20th Century vehicles along the road increased as the team traveled north; the ash-covered remains of towns and farms stood on both sides of the Interstate. Fort Carson, mostly to the west of the Interstate, seemed to have suffered at least one surface-level nuclear weapon attack of more than 500 kilotons yield. 35 kilometers from Pueblo, they realized that far greater destruction had visited Cheyenne Mountain and the surrounding areas; there was almost no radiation, but the highway deteriorated into a horse-trail, winding among the fallen overpasses and collapsed bridges.

     Turning away to the west, where the sun was descending behind the peaks, they followed an old highway (US 24) up along Fountain Creek towards Manitou Springs (another 25 kilometers) -- the nearest of their caches was in that area. The road had once been choked with broken-down or abandoned cars, but someone had come along in the subsequent years with a bulldozer and cleared a lane. The mountainsides were covered in verdant forests of pine, fir, and blue spruce; but some examination showed a dense pattern of ancient fire-burnt stumps between the current trees. Any 20th Century structures had been burned down at the time of the Atomic War, presumably.

 

"How old are these trees?" -- "I don't know, I'm not a forester."

 

     In the darkness, the team halted in the small clearing containing their cache. The concrete structure was further concealed by a half-meter of ash, but had not been disturbed. They unscrewed the bolts, removed the lid, and observed the contents with joy:

 

Entries shaded in green are available later to share, in whole or part, with Recon team R-54.

 

cache contents - universal - 3.0 cubic meters

quantity

item

volume

1

14.5x20 runflat tire and wheel, for Commando vehicles (or regular military 2.5 ton and 5 ton trucks, for that matter); normally laid flat on the top of the cache; weight about 150 kg; uninflated but looks the same since it's a runflat. They are randomly set up for either left or ride side usage ... this one is a LEFT side tire.

0.8

1

vehicle lube set:  19 liter can of API GL-5 gear oil, 5 liter can of lube oil, 5 liter can of chassis grease

0.1

1

box of 18 (one of each size) resistweave coveralls, without patches

0.4

1

box of 6 sets Project-issue underwear (socks, shorts, tee-shirts) -- two each of small, medium, large sizes

0.1

2

sets of Project-issue personal equipment (belt, suspenders, ammo pouches, holster, canteen, compass, KCB-70 knife, field dressing in belt pouch)

0.1

2

pairs of Project-issue black leather boots, sort of random sizes

0.1

2

cases of LRP rations (each case is 5 boxes, 12 meals per box, 4.2 kg per box), total 120 meals

0.1

1

box of 12 M10A1 filter canisters for M25 gas masks

0.1

1

case of 2880 rds 9x19mm ball ammunition

0.1

1

case of 1200 rds .44 Magnum ball or soft point ammunition

0.1

1

case of 1640 rds 5.56x45mm ball ammunition

0.1

1

case of 2000 rds 5.56x45mm linked ammunition (twenty Stoner-system 100 rd. plastic tubs), 4 ball to 1 tracer

0.1

1

case of 920 rds 7.62x51mm ball ammunition

0.1

2

cases of 800 rds 7.62x51mm linked ammunition (four cans, each with a 200 rd. belt), 4 ball to 1 tracer

0.2

2

cases of 210 rds .50 cal linked ammunition (two cans, each with a 105 round belt)

0.2

1

case of 500 rds 12 gauge Magnum buckshot ammunition (in five "30 cal" cans)

0.1

1

case of 2500 Stoner-style links for 5.56x45mm ammo, and 1800 M13 links for 7.62x51mm ammo, plus linker/delinker tools for each caliber

0.1

1

case of Morrow batteries:  280 MP-AA "camera batteries", 10 "radio batteries", and 2 "vehicle batteries"; total weight 12 kg

0.1

 

cache contents - operations "A" - 3.0 cubic meters

quantity

item

volume

1

demolitions kit, minus the case of C-4

0.1

1

case of 30 M112 C-4 demolition blocks

0.1

1

case of 2 M183 demolition charges

0.1

1

case of nine Armbrust-300 anti-tank rocket launchers

0.4

1

case of twelve M371A1 90mm HEAT rounds

0.5

1

case of twelve M590E1 90mm canister rounds

0.5

1

case of 21 HAFLA-35L incendiary launchers

0.5

1

case of 1 clip of M74 incendiary rockets for M202A1 flame weapon

0.1

2

cases of 6 M18A1 claymore mines (12 mines total)

0.2

1

case of 4 M16A1 anti-personnel land mines

0.1

4

cases of 2 M19 anti-tank mines (8 mines total)

0.4

 

cache contents - operations "C" - 1.0 cubic meters

quantity

item

volume

1

case of 72 empty Stoner system magazines

0.1

1

case of 120 empty Ingram M10 magazines

0.1

1

case of 48 empty M14 rifle magazines

0.1

1

case of 24 empty HP-35 pistol magazines

0.03

1

case of 30 M26A1 fragmentation "defensive" hand grenades

0.1

1

case of 16 M34 white phosphorus hand grenades

0.1

1

case of 16 AN-M8 white smoke hand grenades

0.1

1

case of 16 M7A3 tear gas hand grenades

0.1

1

case of 16 AN-M14 thermite hand grenades

0.1

1

case of 20 Mk3A2 explosive "offensive" hand grenades

0.1

1

case of 25 Mk 1 illuminating hand grenades

0.1

 

cache contents - food - 1.0 cubic meters

quantity

item

volume

20

cases of LRP rations (each case is 5 boxes, 12 meals per box, 4.2 kg per box), total 1200 meals / 420 kg

1.0

 

     It took them an hour to remove all the supplies; during that time Harlan and Bob went hunting. Using the M14 rifle, Harlan shot a mule deer in the forest; he and Bob dressed it out and hauled it back to the camp.

     The huge pile of supplies took a lot of work to store on or in the vehicle. The spare tire was hoisted up by the winch cable, on the front of the hull; all the LRP rations were tied down atop the hull, along with some other gear. The 90mm rifle rounds were a puzzle, but "we can't leave them behind".

     In the end, the "tunnel" between the main compartment and the rear hatch was mostly filled with supplies, leaving only a space at the back for Bob Rickert to man the rear machine gun.

 

The interior of the vehicle is now "full" --

keep in mind that the volume (not including the motor compartment)

is only about 12 cubic meters.

A person takes up at least 0.6 cubic meters (high-density economy seating on an airplane).

Plus of course the existing supplies take up space.

 

     While cooking the deer meat, along with some selected LRP meals, the team discussed their situation.

     Two-person watches were set during the night. Tony set up the long antenna for the PRC-70 and listened to distant signals ... the night never got below 59 degrees F.

 

24 February, 2140

 

weather report:  light winds from the SE, clear skies, mid-day high temperature 74° F.

 

     By the morning, Tony had some interesting news to report from listening to the radio.

 

He rolled an 01 on his Signals skill.

 

     There had been several stations in the early evening playing tango music, with some announcers and singers using a South American dialect of Spanish; and at least one "Mexican AM" station playing ranchera, norteño and tejano music. Between interference, some very thick dialects, and a generally not-very-strategic set of topics, not much was learned from those.

     Also in the early evening (beginning around 8 p.m.) was a shortwave broadcast at 6080 kHz; "The English language program of the Voice of America." The bit which Tony heard included a "Learning English" segment, for people whose native language was Hausa; and a weather report, including some location names on the west coast of Africa. The English sounded sort of like Jamaican or Trinidadian accents. At least once the station gave the date:  February 24th -- several weeks different from what their computer was still displaying.

     All of these radio stations had either faded out or signed off by 10 p.m. Mountain Time.

     The team drove back down the valley to Colorado Springs, and headed south along the Interstate. Before noon they passed Pueblo again.  At the ruins of Colorado City, they noticed that horse and wagon tracks led off west into the mountains, in the direction of Rye; they turned that direction in the hopes of learning more about conditions.

     A couple of hours driving along a well-maintained dirt road brought them deep into the Wet Mountains. Ahead, among the trees, they could see some rooftops, smoking chimneys, and other signs of a community only about 30 meters from the highway. Bob Rickert and Harlan crept forward to spy a bit; they found a large, formerly-ornate castle. Ramps, stained-glass windows, towers, battlements, heraldic crests on hanging signs -- it looked somewhat Ren-Faire-ish. A dusty cleared space around it held some livestock pens, low scruffy shacks, and a few long-defunct motor vehicles. Some men and boys were doing chores:  sawing wood, grass-whipping the undergrowth, carrying a dog ...

     A stray noise by Bob revealed the team's presence; they stood up and approached the castle. The locals paid attention, and in fact half-a-dozen more people appeared on the battlements with muskets and bows over the next few minutes. Nothing aggressive, but the castle's inhabitants clearly were ready to defend it.

     A short conversation with a few of the men nearby revealed that the place was named the Winter Castle. The locals told the Morrow Team of a community, named Bazaar, in the Wet Mountain Valley to the west, where trade was conducted and visitors were more common (and welcomed).

     After only fifteen minutes, the team turned their armored car around and headed out of the mountains. They drove down to Walsenburg on the Interstate, and then turned north-west towards the Wet Mountain Valley. They noticed recent tire-tracks on US Route 160, towards La Veta Pass and the San Luis Valley.

     Colorado State Highway 69 led them towards Bazaar (roughly on the ruins of the old town of Gardner); it was a small, palisaded town. A couple of kilometers south of the town, along the rutted remains of Highway 69, was the wreck of a rusted, shot-up armored vehicle -- recently shot up. The townsfolk obviously saw Team S71 approach, due to the roostertail cloud of dust the V150 raised.

     The team halted near the shot-up vehicle, took a look at it, and decided to visit the town carefully. Most (but not all) of the heavy weapons visible atop the palisade were phony or broken. With care and a judicious avoidance of weapons display, peaceful contact was made with the residents; the team were brought in and fed a hearty meal -- corn, beans and mutton made up a lot of the local diet. The correct current date was also provided.

 

News in the Tradelands

 

     The Tradelands are a coalition of small, independent towns in the Wet Mountain Valley, to the northeast of the San Luis Valley.

     For decades, the Tradelands were raided by the Wastelords once or twice a year. Sometimes the Wastelords were driven off, sometimes they had more success. About ten years ago, the Wastelords were taken over by, or conquered by, a more powerful outfit; they kept the name but soon changed their ways. They still came over the mountain passes about once a year, but their demands were ... more specific. They mostly preferred young men, and Ancient knowledge and equipment; and they even provided support and protection in a few cases:  medical assistance, driving off other raider outfits, and the like.

     Some of the young men drafted into the Wastelords returned to the Tradelands from time to time, and said that a group of a few dozen outsiders ruled the group, using their powerful Ancient science. They have a cave in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, on the east edge of the San Luis Valley, called Shelter City. The Wastelords' leadership were attempting to impose a new attitude on their army:  "Knowledge is Power". They were teaching some of their warriors to read and write the Ancient language, even.

     In May last year, the Wastelords conducted "tribute trips" of an unprecedented nature -- early, and far more damaging. They didn't take too many more young men, but went out of their way to gather valuables. In fact, they even took away some things (water pumps at the village of Ebb, for example) that they had installed in previous years.

     Most of the loot was traded with the Cartel, or with merchants in Styx, for war materiel -- guns, ammunition, scrap tanks, tires, etc.

     The biggest towns in the Tradelands -- Bazaar (formerly Gardner, CO), Dry Fort, and Spilunk (formerly Silver Cliff, CO) have formed a military alliance against the Wastelords. This alliance has tried to send spies into the Wastelords lands -- none returned; they suspect there are Wastelord spies in the Tradelands. 

     Back in August the California Liberation Militia had spent a few days in the Wet Mountain Valley, helping with infrastructure projects. They also assisted the Bazaar armsmen in driving off an attack by the Waste Lords. The CLM had the same kind of silent armored trucks as the chiefs of the Waste Lords -- and this team.

     A captured attacker had revealed that the Wastelords had planned on press-ganging a dozen or more men from Bazaar, for their army.

 

 

     Besides their Morrow Project equipment, the names given by the "California Liberation Militia" made it pretty clear they were actual 20th Century persons. Team S71 decided on pseudonyms for themselves:

 

  • Doc:  didn't choose one

  • Karl:  Thomas Magnum

  • TJ:  TC

  • Tony:  Orville Wright

  • Noelle:  didn't choose one

  • Bob:  Rick Simon

  • Art:  AJ Simon

 

     Once the team learned of Spilunk, a famed center of learning, they were determined to visit the monks and learn more history. Leaving Bazaar, the drive up along the Wet Mountain Valley showed scattered sheep farms, fields (not very exciting in February), and ruins. They passed by Ebb, a currently-deserted seasonal camp, and came to the strange rocks and spires where the monks of Spilunk lived.

     The monks proved to be somewhat anticlimactic as "masters of knowledge", but they did know the date of the Atomic War:  November 18, 1989.  Most of the monks had been sent to Spilunk by their families, as "excess" boys. The team decided not to stay with the monks overnight, and drove back to Ebb.

     Ebb had a well, cistern, palisade wall, and a set of poles for four large tents -- plenty of material for a Morrow team to make a safe camp. Tony set up the long antenna for the radio and began listening for interesting transmissions.

     Not long after sunset, he found a high-frequency transmission on the 7.5 MHz band:  "Calling any Morrow Project teams, please respond. This is Science Team S-50." That frequency was the Zone 5 "common channel", and based on signal strength was probably being transmitted from the San Luis Valley. The team gathered around the radio, and after a bit of discussion, the decision was made to reply.

     About fifteen minutes of discussion passed, with long pauses on both sides as each group decided how to respond to questions. S-50 was trying to persuade S-71 to join them in the San Luis Valley, where civilization was slowly being rebuilt. S71 was unwilling to say much about where they were or what their mission was, and began packing up their camp. As soon as S71 signed off, they began driving generally south, heading towards New Mexico, with TJ using the PRC-5 night-vision goggles so he could keep the vehicle on the road.

 

25 February, 2140

 

weather report:  light winds from the SE, clear skies, mid-day high temperature 77° F.

 

     After midnight, team S-71 was approaching the old Interstate highway again. TJ could see a distant truck convoy moving south through the darkness, using their headlamps. Since the convoy probably couldn't see the team, they decided to wait a bit and ease onto the highway behind the truckers, staying hidden by darkness and dust.

     By dawn, the convoy was near the New Mexico border, and stopped at a roadside Clean Water Clan cistern and food-stand. The Morrow Team halted a few kilometers back, and watched the truckers buy some water and food from the CWC.

     After the trucks pulled off, the team drove up to the cistern/food stand, and bought some water and tamales. A couple members of the Project team prowled around the two-room adobe, noting that it had a CB radio and a simple, rusted motorcycle.

     Upon leaving, the team decided that they would find a ruin to hide out for a day, since they were very tired from the long drive.  They found the ruins of Raton, NM to be useful for that, and nested there for the rest of the day.

     During the day, some team members prowled around the ruins. They noticed that a masonry building in the old downtown area contained an unbreached bank vault.

 

26 February, 2140

 

weather report:  light winds from the SSE, 10% clouds, mid-day high temperature 70° F.

 

     After breakfast, the team used an M19 anti-tank mine to blast a hole in the bank vault door; and then used the vehicle's winch to tear down the door (well, really, the door and frame). Within the vault were several dozen safe deposit boxes, a moderate amount of paper money, and several bags of coins. The team tore open some of the boxes, and took various watches, jewelry, and a couple of knives and handguns, plus a bag of quarters, nickels and dimes, and a sack of random paper money. With their new-found wealth, they drove south to Las Vegas, NM.

     Arriving at the town, they observed through binoculars for a while. Near the old rail yard was a Cartel parada; the town itself stood nearly a kilometer away, across a shallow creek. Less than 300 persons lived in the town now; most of the locals lived in haciendas and ranchos scattered about the valley. Visible in the town itself were a school, store, church, bordello/casino, hotel/bordello/casino, and a few other commercial establishments. The town didn't look very hostile, so the team approached and spoke with a gate-guard; he explained that they should keep to the speed limit and follow the Cartel's rules.

     Driving up to the downtown area, their silent green truck drew some attention ... they parked nose-in at the Plaza Hotel, and began to take turns with bathing, meals, etc.

 

on to Settling In

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