Arthur Wilcox was never much of a "people person". Being a gun collector, and more specifically one prone to immediate action over reason, he enjoyed the lone time he got from this somewhat undesirable personality. His only close friend was Weston Meeko, an Asian-American guy, though kid would be more accurate, with a similar fascination for guns. The kid was from Arkansas, and had moved to Mississippi, where he met his Girlfriend, Anne Strickland. Wilcox was from New Orleans, Strickland was from Houston.
Whether it be tuning into the live feed of the Malta Trade Deals, a debate that had been going on since 2013 which was trying to fix the economic relations with the Soviet Union, or watching your standard, run-of-the-mill, tv shows to kill time, Wilcox had a quiet and slow life. That was until the Berlin Wall came down in May 2014 and West and East Germany declared war on eachother over several different border violations and disputes over trade. Wilcox's time in the National Guard was a hectic one. The Cubans managed a few good raids on Biloxi with torpedo boats and attacks along the Southeastern Coast were also decently successful. It wasn't much compared to the Spetsnaz landing in New Orleans just about a year before the Great Flame. It's likely not many of them got out of the small part of the city they still owned when the warheads came down.
When June 7th arrived only Strickland and Wilcox were near the coast. Meeko was visiting relatives a bit inland after his draft card had arrived. The two never saw the kid again. Wilcox practically had to pry Strickland out of his car so that they'd be some of the first people to make it onto a boat. A plump fisherman and his son offered them on for a dollar and immediately cancelled the payment when all of them saw the horde descending upon them. The boat was nowhere near full when the mushroom cloud came into sight, and has barely any more people when the shockwave hit.
"DETACH US AND GO, NOW!" the fisherman had said
A family with an infant and a near 10-year old daughter was thrown back by the spew of water caused by immediately going to full speed. Wilcox could almost swear that he had seen Weston in the crowd, holding up his thin, spindly arm to try and get Wilcox to stop the boat. But he couldn't even if he had noticed Weston. He was in shock, unable to move anyway, as he looked over to the smoke cloud peeking over the rooftops.
18 days later nearly 5 million people were flooding south by boat, 21 million were fleeing through Mexico, and many were being stranded in the Chihuahuan Desert, no supplies or help. Some opted to go on foot, dying from the heat and limited food and water. Wilcox and Anne ended up in Cancún for a week before heading even farther south and ending up beached at Cartagena after several stops for food, water, and fuel. It was here, in July 2019, in which the attempt at managing the humanitarian crisis of nearly half the North American population truly began, and at the same time ended. There was never enough supply to manage the amount of refugees, cripples, and overall injured people streaming in.
Disappointingly, Wilcox found that the few guns he had at Cancún had been stolen before they set off for Columbia. No guns, limited supplies, and a quickly descending realization that they didn't have long on this earth. It was a strangely releasing feeling, being so close to the end and not knowing when exactly it would be. The sight of Cartagena was a welcome one before they encountered a rogue speedboat which nearly tipped their own fishing boat 10 degrees to port. After swimming ashore following accidental beaching, the fisherman and his son left the duo to their own to try and find repairs for the boat. They were likely picked up in a random sweep by the Public Purification Corps, or PPC. Basically a dummed down version of a terrorist organization who's only goal is to kill people, the PPC dealt with killing those intensely sick with radiation poisoning to ensure that the cannibalistic nature of the new society formed across the planet south of the equator could be safe and flourish. It was founded by some of the radical thinkers of Cartagena who accepted the way things had to be for the circle of life, and also those who were plain and simply clinically insane. At first the long-term thinkers who founded the PPC had good intentions, and smart ones, to Wilcox, at least when he had just arrived. He was even swept up in their propaganda attempts to weaken the remnants of the local military government for their operations to expand easier, for a short time. Though he quickly left this, and returned to his less than lovely life with Strickland. Soon after it came under the control of several unsympathetic and half-insane criminals.
The two were only truly bonded through shared trauma and an unspoken mutual benefit pact. Their relations between the arrival in Cancún and the beaching outside of Cartagena was something of an unspoken pact to never speak of in public. At least, while they were sober enough to think about it.
Since reaching Cartagena the two became fairly influential in the politics and trades in the American Quarter. The American Quarter was a large slum made up of almost completely American Refugees which wrapped around the north and west side of Cartagena. Only about half of the buildings in the American Quarter were actually pre-nuclear, and the prices showed. $500.00 dollars for a single room in an old office building. $675 for a barely furnished room. And finally, if you were somehow able to get it, likely through drug trade or mercenary work, you could buy a high level room for $1525 on average. Everything costed more. But it was also alongside the fact that food was incredibly high priced outside of human meat. So you'd be unable to buy a room if you weren't involved with the Black Market. Wilcox and Strickland, though, were able to pool their money together and eventually get a high level room after taking guard jobs and smuggling all sorts of things.
But now wasn't time for reflection. Wilcox had Cancer. He could stay in Cartagena, die slowly and quietly. Or make his presence known. Fight head-to-head with the PPC and die a worthy death. Wilcox, being the man he was, chose the latter. But for now he'd be restricted to dialogue and low-profile killings. He had a long way to go before he reached the end of his final chapter: Mors Horologium. The Death Clock.
Merci pour la lecture!
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