Friday, October 24, 2014

Make A Black Out Bag!

Jenna of Cold Antler Farm posted a good video about how to Make A Black Out Bag.  In the text she also has a good introduction to The Survival Podcast.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tales of an Exiled Citizen #7: Buried Treasure

Beginning of story
Previous part

I was sad, of course, to see my saplings had been cut down that first night, but it was no surprise whatsoever once I knew that they had discovered the Shelter.  I was actually also relieved.  My worst fear had been that they had dug them up, or at least completely obliterated them.  But there was a tiny stump left revealing where they had been -- not enough to grow back from, mind you, but enough for what I needed them for that next day.

Someone watching me set to work might have thought I had actually expected and prepared for being exiled.  They would soon learn how unprepared I really was, but it would be quite a bit later before I let them know just how much it had caught me by surprise.  In my youthful arrogance, I believed I would never be caught.  But I was arrogant, not naive.  I was well aware of the danger of being found out, I just thought I would always be able to outsmart them.

One problem criminals have had since time immemorial is what to do with their ill-gotten gains.  In the Crazy Age they would actually wash their money to hide its origin.  In the City it wasn't so easy.  My Beans provided a method for other criminals to accumulate wealth in an easy to hide manner.  For me though it made little sense; I could pretty much always get more.  You can only spend so many Beans on "personal services" when you only have 7 Free Hours a week.  While I had figured out how to free up more time for myself, no one else could join me during the times I was supposed to be be working.  With the periodic but random health and cleanliness inspection of everyone's personal living space, it was difficult for anyone to accumulate any kind of luxury goods. So, for the most part I ended up getting practical stuff with my Beans, stuff that wouldn't draw any attention if someone happened to get an extra one.

I didn't just want some form of wealth other than Beans, however.  I couldn't afford to draw any attention to myself by getting the equipment necessary to process the Beans myself.  I had to start with basic tools and raw materials and build everything I needed myself.  It was really rough at first, when my tools were simple and my end product was crude.  It took a long time to get everything set up to run smoothly, with a lot of careful trading.  Like I said, I was not naive; I was aware of the possibility of getting caught, and I did not want to have to start from scratch again.

So, using the Bean tree seedlings as markers, I followed the example of the pirates and buried my treasure.

Part 8: A Hard Day's Work

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tales of an Exiled Citizen #6: In Morning

Beginning of story
Previous part

That first night Outside I dreamt I was back in the City, living the life of crime I had had before I got caught.  So when I finally did wake up, for a little bit it seemed like being Exiled was the dream.  Then as the reality sunk in, there was nothing I wanted more than to go back to that dream world.  And believe me, I tried.  But my body was having none of it.  The pile of twigs and branches may have been softer and warmer than the ground, but they were nowhere near the bed I had been accustomed to sleeping in.  What warmth that had been gathered from the previous day had dissipated, and my clothes would only have been adequate if I had 2 or 3 layers of them.

The discomfort of the cold on my body finally won out over the depression over my situation, and I moved to the other corner of the Shelter where the sun's rays were starting to warm things up.  Sitting there I took stock of the situation.  Thankfully, the Citizens had been very logical and methodical; they only took what they could use, and they only destroyed what they saw as a threat.  Of course, the roaster I had made, falling into both categories, was completely missing -- no surprise there.  Most importantly, the cistern and biofilter appeared untouched.  Of course, there no longer was any roof to feed water into the cistern, and who knew how long the biofilter would last with the shelter no longer fully intact to protect it.  For the time being, though, I didn't have to worry about fresh water.  Which was good, because I suddenly realized how thirsty I actually was, having not had anything since before my sentencing.

The Shelter was designed primarily for growing plants, not for people to live in, so there were none of the amenities like sinks I was used to having in the City.  The output of the biofilter drained into a small covered reservoir, as much as the plants in the Shelter would use in a couple days, which was plenty for my purposes.  I carefully brushed off an access panel so no debris would fall in.  Then I opened it up, took a little water to wash off my hands as best I could, and wiped them on a clean spot on my clothes.  Finally I cupped my hand and drunk my fill of the water.  It definitely tasted strange to compared to City water, which really had very little taste.

The cistern was massive, taking up the entire north wall, as it needed to be to store the winter rains through the summer heat.  It also helped moderate the temperature to prevent occasional frosts from killing plants inside the Shelter.  With the glazing gone, both those functions would soon cease.  Still, checking the hatch, the level was pretty close to full, so it would be all I needed well into summer.

When the water system had been fully intact, it was quite a testament to the Founder's genius.  The angle of the collection grate encourage debris to wash down while the water ran in.  The first few minutes worth of rain was shunted off so the roof was relatively clean by the time the water started filling the cistern.  Everything worked by gravity or capillary action, no moving parts were involved.  In addition to supplying the needs of the plants, the water worked with the passive ventilation system to keep the temperatures moderate during the summer.  I wonder how long the Founders had to work with that to get that balance just right.

With my thirst slaked and the chill of the night burning off, I decided it was time to stop admiring the handiwork of the Founders and start the work of the day.

Part 7: Buried Treasure

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tales of an Exiled Citizen #5: A Life of Crime

Beginning of story
Previous Part

They had a saying in the Crazy Age: "Crime doesn't pay."  I realize most of you will just have to take my word for it.  Not many people know a lot about the Crazy Age, other than what has been passed down in whispers.  The main reason I do is because while most kids in the City would spend their Free Hour playing lazer tag or exploring the latest VR world, I would head to the Library.  That's what I truly miss about the City.  Thousands of books, lined up on shelves, filling an entire room.  I know, it probably boggles your mind.  And some of these books had hundreds of pages yet could still fit in your pocket.  Many of the old ones were locked up because the pages threatened to crumble at one touch.  I doubt I could have read them all in an entire lifetime.

Anyway, it was kind of ironic that they said that crime doesn't pay in the Crazy Age, because back then, it frequently did.  Indeed, towards the end, making money and committing crimes became almost synonymous.  They even were afraid to prosecute some of the biggest criminals for fear of collapsing the economy.

In the City, though, it is a completely different story.  They monitor everything you buy or sell, or even throw away -- and you are supposed to report every gift you give or receive.  If you throw something away that you are recorded as having bought and haven't reported as receiving as a gift, you are automatically suspected of a crime.  Similarly, if you bought an unusually large amount of something and didn't give it away, that was considered suspicious, too.

This seriously limited what kind of profit could be made from a criminal enterprise.  Anything durable would show up when it was put into the disposal units for recycling.  Anything too large would be hard to hide from the monitoring.  Anything that required a lot of raw materials to make would show up in the buying records.  About the only thing that was left was stuff like food and "personal services", neither of which could you really accumulate much of.

Until I found the Bean tree, that is.

Ultimately, the Beans were consumable, so they didn't show up in the disposal units.  However, their potency lasted for years, so they didn't spoil like food.  They were small enough and valuable enough that you could have a fortune in your pocket.  And since I got them from Outside, they didn't show up on any buying records.

In the end, that is what got me Exiled.  Being a drug dealer was bad, but for a brief while, I actually made crime profitable in the City.  That was my crime for which I got the ultimate punishment.

Part 6: In Morning

Tales of an Exiled Citizen #4: The Shelter

Beginning of story

Even in the last rays of sunshine, the first glimpse of the shelter brought on a new emotion: shame.  My pride had failed me once again.  It took 3 weeks of exploring before I found the shelter, even though it was only a 20 minute walk away from the City.  But all the trips I had made to it left a clear trail which they had obviously followed.  It wasn't enough to make sure that no one could use the passage I had found, they had to destroy the supply, too.

The shelter had been a marvel when I originally discovered it.  It was obviously the work of the Founders.  It must have been a prototype for the systems the City was based on.  The glazing appeared to be the same material as the Dome is made out of.  Now, since I am not a researcher, I can't say that for certain, but as a maintenance man it certainly seemed to be identical to what I worked with.  That's why they took it all, and how I knew at first glance that they had been there.  The framing for the glazing was missing, too, so it would not have even been possible to replace it with a lesser material.

The tears finally burst forth.  For decades, the shelter had stood, unattended, collecting the rainwater, absorbing the heat of the sun, keeping the plants inside healthy from the extremes of the climate outside.  Now, because of my folly, that system was destroyed forever.

Knowing that they had already been there, the shelter was as I expected when I got there.  My big beautiful Bean tree was gone, with just a burned out stump to show where it had been.  All the seedlings I had planted had been cut off at ground level.

Even though my day had not been very strenuous physically, I still felt exhausted.  If I had only been smart enough to take different paths to the shelter so as not to leave a trail, I might have been able to live a somewhat comfortable life there.  Still, it was getting dark, and I had no place better to go for the night, so I walked down in.  Even without the glazing above, the northeast corner of the shelter still had soaked up the warmth of the evening sun and would keep me from getting too cold.  I gathered up all the little branches I could to make a rough mattress.  It was by far the least comfortable thing I had ever slept on up to that point.  Were I not so exhausted I doubt I ever would have gotten to sleep.  I was glad I did; tomorrow was going to be a long day.

Part 5: A Life of Crime

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tales of an Exiled Citizen #3: Outside

Beginning of story
Previous part

Walking through the exit door closest to the Hall of Justice was surreal.  It was the only exit door that was ever used, and then only by the Exiled.  Even though I had been Outside hundreds of times before, it was different, having all those people watching, instead of doing it in secret, and knowing that I would never be coming back in.  At least that first time I went Outside, I was able to do it with a sense of wonderment.  I can't imagine the sense of terror and bewilderment other Exiles felt when confronting the Outside for the first time.

I was feeling something else, though, too, as the Exile door shut behind me.  Despite their love of spectacle, no Citizen would want to follow an Exile Outside, and there was just too much area to be monitored.  So, I was truly free.  Finally I no longer had to worry about who was watching me.  Okay, technically that was not true, but I didn't know it at the time.  But as far as my fellow Citizens were concerned, I was already dead.  My friends and family were mourning and my enemies rejoicing.

Suddenly I did feel a sense of bewilderment come over me.  I finally had my freedom to do anything I wanted -- but I had to decide exactly what I wanted to do.  From now on, every decision was mine to make.  It was no longer a question of what I could get away with or what I had time to fit in.  My schedule for the rest of my life was one giant blank.

Finally a bit of panic set in.  While I was far better prepared than most for Exile, it still was a death sentence, so I walked out that door with nothing but the clothes I was wearing.  It was better than nothing -- I suppose they could have gone for the humiliation of Exiling people naked -- but thankfully they had that much decency.  Still, while my clothes were perfectly adequate for the controlled climate of the City, they were not up to keeping me comfortable Outside.  My luck was with me though, for my exile began in early spring; the unbearably cool nights of winter were over, and the blistering heat of summer was still several months away.

Logically, I knew my next move was futile, but in my state of mild panic, I had to try.  I made my way over to the secret entrance.  I'm not exactly sure what I was hoping to do, had they caught me sneaking back in I almost certainly would have been executed.  I guess I thought maybe I could sneak through the ventilation system and gather up some supplies to help me with my Exile.  When the air vent finally came into view, all my hopes were dashed.  The tree had been cut down, and there was a pile of ash and char where the base of the trunk had been.  Not that that mattered much, I barely could have gotten my arm through the freshly welded grate over the vent.  No one would ever be using that as an entrance again.  I truly was never going to see the inside of the City again.

I sat there on the burned out stump for about an hour in a stupor.  My mind wandered back over my life.  My family had had such high hopes for me, and here after two short decades, when I still should have had a little more than half my life ahead of me, I was looking Death in the face.

The amber glow of the setting sun roused me from my reverie.  There was one logical place for me to go for the night, the source of my criminal activity: the shelter.

Part 4: The Shelter