The other night, as my fingers hammered at the keys of our old typewriter at the Press, I was paid a visit by Jubal Quintus, the Vault-dwelling veteran of the Wastelands and an overseer of the Trade Post in the far region of Kronbelt. Jubal is a man of few words and a sharp eye and able hands. He’s wandered near and far and seen a great many things with the rise and fall of many suns over this settlement. His experience has also allowed him to develop keen senses and a skillful talent for gathering scraps and junk to craft smart sturdy structures for himself and the Trade Post.
Recently, the Vault-Dweller was one of the few “hired” by the Old Man, Gill, to guard the stranger’s tent at the Stygian crater. It’s not a job that’s paid much for their efforts yet beyond some cryptic words and philosophical rantings from the Old Man. Apparently, the Old Man, supposedly a collector of rare valuables, has interest in not only larger Fragments (currently being bartered, crafted, and kept close at hand by some of the Wastelanders) but also in certain objects, namely Metal Containers and Steel Scalpels. As far as the Press is aware, neither of the latter objects have made an appearance in the hands of any Wastelander.
In any case, the hunt for rare collectables was not what brought Jubal to my office as the fire above made its slow decent to the horizon. He had bigger thoughts preying on his mind…some of which he’d been thinking for awhile. Gill’s appearance and his pointed speeches toward the Tin Man gave Jubal’s thoughts further fuel to ponder. He felt the need to share them with me, given my own obvious obsessions with digging up the ruins of what came before the Fall.
What follows is some of our conversation there in the offices of the Post-Apocalyptic Press as the dark night fell around us:
Jubal Quintus: “I look around this place and I see wonders from the past. All this accomplishment from before The Fall and I can only figger that we, humans, did that ourselves. Back before we needed masheens to do everything for us, back then maybe we knew how to make things, like this place here.
Then, maybe, the Tin Men came or maybe they came after. Maybe they wiped us out, maybe they didn’t. Maybe ours is the last of his kind, maybe not. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that he’s keepin’ us dumb and doin’ it on purpose.
With the ease of them masheens, we ain’t gotta learn to make nothing, no tools an’ guns and chairs. What we ain’t able to dig up from the past and dust off to use, we make from them masheens…mostly to kill each other with. I think we’re the livestock, like sand hippos, an’ he’s keepin’ us like this, maintainin’ his order by makin’ it easy.
Folks is lazy, an’ he knows this, so he gives em the ol path a least resistance an’ let’s human nature do the rest. But, now we got a moment, a great opportunity, to maybe change it all. The crystals and ol’ Gill, ya see.
Folks been figgerin’ the crystals make the salvager work, but that ain’t fact yet. Might be, they make Tin Men work. Might be, they make flying fightin’ masheens work. Ol’ Gill shows up, so does the flyin’ masheen.
An’ we seen the Tin Man fall now. Just once, but now we know, it ain’t no god. It can fall, just like us. Now may be the point in time when folks can rise up and reclaim the glories a the past.”
Sandusky Kayvon: “I’ll admit the things I’ve dug up…they are things I don’t really understand, mind you, but I know some were made by human hands. I’ve wondered, could we still do that? Are we capable of it? Looking around, at the way we live around here…it’s hard to say.
Perhaps I’ve been guilty also of taking certain things for granted. Things like the salvage masheen and what it provides, while knowing full well, from the ruined evidence around us, that we could do more.”
Jubal: “And that there is the problem. We all want it easier. It’s hard enough as is. Something’s gotta give us the push…whether we want it or not.”
On the Topic of Gill:
Jubal: ” I heard his rant with my own ears, but I think he’s a shady, lying, sneaky ol sunuvbitch.”
Sandusky: “Yeah, from what I’ve hard, I don’t think Gill is trustworthy either. I suspect he’s toying with us a little. Maybe he’s no different than the Tin Man in that sense? One old man of flesh versus one old man of metal.”
Jubal: “Yeah, I think ol’ Gill is pullin a fast one on us, but he may also have the know how to help with the other, ya know.”
Sandusky: “Still, Gill has said things…about ‘doing for ourselves’ and other such. There’s something to that, even if it is wrapped up in his paranoia. You thinking we should pay a little more heed to his suggestions? Try and take that one salvager for our own? Maybe try and use the old man for our own needs while he’s trying to use us for his?”
Jubal: “Yeah, I gotta say, I’ve been tryin to figger a way to say all this to the people for nearly as long as I been here, but the old man showin up finally provided the kick in the ass I need to step out from the background an say it. I been calling it the Contra Tech Cabal, though in truth, it’s just been myself an a few others who believed in it. I think, for sure, we should use ol’ Gill as much as we can, but I ain’t so sure we give him them crystals without him first provin’ what they do. It’s too important for folks to be doin’ on a whim, s’why I figgered I’d give this all to you an see if you felt like givin’ it a voice.
Way I figger it, he needs us. Once we got what he wants, we stick it to him, tough like.
But, if he turns out to be on the up an’ up, it might be a good idea to let him work his stuff an’ if that’s the end of the Tin Man, well, there might be worse things.
“This could be a threshold moment for folks, hate to see it missed.”
By the end of our long talk, night has fully formed over the Wastelands. The Vault Dweller checked his gear, wished me well, and slowly walked out into the dark toward refuge at the Trade Post. I was left to step back from the small details and ponder the larger view of the current events.
I wondered if Jubal’s thoughts were already silently shared or softly whispered by other Wastelanders.
I decided the Vault Dwellers words, accurate or not, were worthwhile and important.
I imagined they might give others reason to pause and think on things previously unconsidered.
I sat down before the old masheen from before the Fall, flexed my tired fingers, and hammered again at the typewriter…