When I woke up, Chuck and Curtis were arguing about something. Something about food. Curtis was on his third or fourth candy bar from the vending machine all while planning on plowing through a couple of cans of ravioli from the Allen Stash.
Chuck was lecturing Curtis on how we needed to make our food last and ration it appropriately. Curtis was calling Chuck a stuck up old worry wart who only wanted to be a fascist dictator over everyone in his "bunker".
We had been in the shelter a few hours and already the fighting was underway.
They stopped fighting when they saw me stand up and get a coke from the pile. I ignored them as I opened and drank about half the can before going back and start unpacking my gear. While I rested, i came to the conclusion that my parents and sister were dead and I hoped that they had not suffered too much.
I also decided that when things settled down and we were able to leave the basement, I was going to get back to Dallas and my family's home. Once there, I would make my decision about what to do next.
"Have you guys gone upstairs to check?" I asked looking at the door.
Both shook their heads.
"Chuck," I said without looking up while I unrolled my sleeping bag over my sleeping pad, "tell me about fallout. How long will it be dangerous and do you think we actually received any here?"
Chuck paused before speaking, "I think there is a good chance we could receive immediate fallout from Houston, but also eventually from San Antonio or Austin if they were hit. we could also get some from places further west, it all depends upon the wind. Fall out starts to decay right away. It starts losing its efficacy within 24 hours but that depends upon how much is received at your location."
"Do you have one of those devices that can read radiation like they have in the movies?"
"A survey meter? Yes, I grabbed one from one of the labs upstairs. But that is only good for measuring the radiation in a single spot. What we need is a dosimeter. A dosimeter reads the amount of radiation received over a certain time period. The best I can do is measure around the basement and make sure we fallout particles are not getting in".
"What about air? Surely, we must be getting air in here or we would be suffocating"
Chuck walked over to the far cinder block wall where there was a small door whose base was a foot off the ground and which could not have been more than four feet tall. In the middle of the door was a crudely cut hole stuffed with a really large brillo pad or soemthing like it.
"This is the door to the steam tunnel system" said Chuck. I cut a hole and filled it with several air filters which should catch any charged dust or particles. This fan can be placed in front of the hole and operated with this handle.We can draw air into the shelter with it should it become necessary" A battery operated fan sat on the floor next to the door.
The only thing we can't measure is what it is like outside. The general rule is to wait one to two weeks in a shelter to make sure the radiation level has fallen far enough and it is safe to go out".
"Can we last that long down here?" I asked.
"IF we monitor our supplies we should make it for a few weeks at least" Chuck answered looking over at Curtis, "What will get us will be boredom and routine. I tried packing books and magazines, but even those will get boring after a few days"
So we started unpacking food and water and tried making it somewhat organized. At least Chuck and I were. Curtis kept playing with his iPhone or digging through the snack when weren't watching or poking around looking for another diversion. It was at this time he spotted my gun case.
"Dude, what's in here? What is it? Like a gun or something? Let me see..."
Without asking, he unziped the soft sided case and started to grab my shotgun out. I put my hand on his and carefully extracted it from the case making sure his was nowhere near the trigger. I was sure the shotgun wasn't loaded, but all guns are loaded in my book. Especially when there's an idiot around.
"Don't ever touch this without asking." I said.
"Don't be such a d*ck, dude. I'm not gonna break your little gun."
Chuck inserted himself in the conversation before it became more heated. "Come on, Curtis, cool it. Guns are dangerous. Um, what kind of gun is that Mike?"
"Its a Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun. It's nothing special just a normal shotgun you can buy at any sporting goods or guns store. You can use it for hunting, skeet shooting or home defense. I have two barrels for it and have the shorter one so it fits better in the case and in my truck. Say, have either of you ever handled a gun before? A real one?" I said specifically looking at Curtis.
"Never" said Chuck emphatically. "My parents never kept a gun in the house and did not believe in having them around"
"So what made you ask if I had one? Do you share your parents beliefs? What changed?"
"If what happened, happened like we think," said Mike waving his hand in the air at nothing, "I think there will be some people who will resort to violence. In that case, having a gun around might be useful. I like to think I look at things logically and it stands to reason that bad people will take advantage of this situation. I am hoping that this conflict was not widespread and the authorities have things in hand when we come out, but I don't want to take any chances".
"What about you Curtis?"
"I have shot plenty of guns in Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. They got this chain gun that is awesome..."
"Curtis, in real life. Have you ever handled a firearm of any sort?"
"Nope," turned red and looked down. "Hey Mike, I'm sorry for calling you a d*ck. You know what? Maybe when we get out you can take me to shoot skeets or whatever they call those things. What do they taste like? Do you like pull the feathers off and eat them or something?"
Curtis is clueless and says things like that but he's like a little kid and you can't help but like him. I had always wondered why his parents were such jerks leaving him at school for the holidays.
I laughed. "Curtis, skeets are clay disks you shoot in a contest or just for practice. Sure, when we get out we can go skeet shooting. You'll probably be good at it with all those video games you play".
I put the shotgun back in its case and set it next to my sleeping bag. The next few hours were spent setting things up for our time "down below". Besides the water, power and toilet facilities, we had to check our food supplies and come up with some sort of planning, We didn't want to eat too much too soon and spend the last few days rationing a bag of Cheetos.
Chuck had cleaned out his checking account and purchased several bags of groceries the day before. Besides his own money, his brother had "Paypaled" him three hundred dollars before shipping out while his parents had sent one hundred dollars by Western Union.
With that money and his own, Chuck had actually bought quite a bit of food. Most of it was in the form of canned and dry goods. He did, however, pack an ice chest with bread, cheese, lunch meat and some fresh fruit. His reasoning being that a couple of days of normal food might help us all adapt to our new surroundings.
With Chuck's purchases, The Stash from my dorm and the contents of the vending machines, we probably could make it stretch four weeks or more. Chuck decided to pull a number of candy bars, protein bars and some of the single serve cans and earmark them for travel food when we left our underground confines.
The subject of how Chuck came to be in possession of so many keys was revealed as well. First Chuck and some of his friends wanted to find out what the mysterious steam tunnels under the school were like so they poked around the building until they found the entrance in the basement study lounge. Then they made duplicate keys and explored the tunnels between the nearby buildings. Some time later, using their key making skills, the same group copied the ones for the vending machines. The intent was not to steal sodas or food, but to store pizzas in the cold soda and water machine for late night study sessions.
Back in our underground quarters, another subject came up; What to do when we got out?
Chuck wanted to find out how the local area was doing and if things were "bad", then he wanted to work his way back north to Minnesota. His parents had told him they were leaving Minneapolis to go stay with a rural relative near the Canadian border. Curtis assumed he would go back to California, but he was also hoping he could just go to Austin and catch a flight home. I, of course, had already decided I was driving back to Dallas. I didn't know what I would find there or even if Dallas was still on the map. I needed direction and a plan just to keep going.
Both places Chuck and Curtis were a long way away and I had hope they weren't thinking I was going to drive them home and be on my way. That would be a bridge we would burn later on.