2 Chapter 2 – Fort Valley

    In one such compound in Fort Valley Virginia, we begin our story. It was one of the more significant compounds encompassing the entire floor of the valley which was approximately twenty- three miles long and three miles across at its widest point, narrowing at both ends.  The residents of this fort had been fortunate over the years to both find this defensible area with the relatively fewer beast attacks.  For history buffs, Fort Valley was of historical significance due to it being George Washington's last fallback point during the Revolutionary War against Britain should things have gone poorly.  It was also naturally fortified valley between both the North and South Fork of the Shenandoah rivers, encompassed on three sides entirely by the Massanutten mountain range and only having a small gap on the north which allowed passage into the valley. It would have been a nearly unassailable position with the technology and forms of transportation available at the time, having to traverse both rivers and mountains to gain access. While it wasn't quite as effective against evolved beasts, it provided a significant buffer against most.

    This buffer, combined with walls fortifying many of the easier ascents and a massive mile-wide compound in the middle of the Valley surrounded by a human-made lake on all sides, provided for the survival of its residents.  Not that there hadn't been a considerable amount of loss, but they had survived where many had not.  Currently, there were about 50,000 residents in this stronghold, the vast majority of which lived within the enormous walled compound at the center of the valley in multi-storied concrete apartment-style buildings. Fortunately, concrete was something they could make plenty of with the plethora of limestone, sand, iron, coal, and gravel present within the mountains and valley. These residents were descendants of those from all along the East Coast of the United States and Southern Canada that had joined the fort at various times during the first couple hundred years of the exodus when travel, while still dangerous, was still even possible.

    On the top floor of one of these apartment complexes nicknamed "The Habs" by their residents lived a boy of twelve years old named Kip. He lived alone in a tiny apartment only about a hundred feet or thirty meters square.  Despite the size, this would have been considered the lap of luxury as most families of three to four were required to share a similar space. The only exception being those brave enough to live outside of the walls of the city where random beasts still roamed. Kip didn't feel like it was luxury though, in fact, the extra space reminded him of how alone he was. Kip's family had been on one of the many salvage teams that brought back food, resources, and bits of technology from the "Old World." These brave souls that ventured out into the wilderness had a terrible survival rate yet had been a necessity for the ongoing operation of the compound. The salvage team his parents lead, and of which his sister was a part, was the best of the best having completed countless missions successfully. They brought back priceless technological components that would never have been able to replicate and boosted near-perfect survival rate having lost only one member in the past five years. This level of loss was unheard of as the average salvage team member had a near 50% casualty rate over that same period.

    Since human nature hasn't changed all that much over the past thousand years, this had brought both admiration and jealousy of his parent's team from some who feared their growing influence.  You know, mostly the type of politics that likely helped to bring about the near extinction of the human race. Do we learn from our mistakes? Of course not.  Much of this political squabbling had gone extinct over the years as the only thing that had honestly begun to matter was survival. With the cessation of attacks over the past near fifty years and the emergence of "Evolved" individuals, political jockeying and power grabbing had already started to rear its ugly head.   One of these individuals, Banner Rawle, was a twenty-something up-and-coming political superstar granted with multiple evolved attributes. Banner also happened to be the one that Kip blamed for the disappearance of his family.  Banner had gained much influence over the elected council of elders and had convinced them of the importance of a particularly dangerous mission to retrieve materials from an ancient power plant over fifty miles away.  This same mission had been rejected many times due to its danger and the small likelihood of there being anything of value to salvage.

    Unsurprisingly, Banner had also been rejected recently by Kip's older sister Skyla who Kip thought was not only the best sister in the world, but one of the most beautiful, intelligent, and talented individuals he knew.  Skyla was also considered probably the most powerful of their generation of "evolved" individuals as well. She possessed talents in both body improvements, telekinetic, and extrasensory perception.  Rare abilities that have only manifested in a few and rarer still for an individual to possess more than one.

    Despite the importance of his Family-lead salvage team, they had been sent out on what most considered to be a near-suicidal mission.  To add insult to injury, when they were overdue for a return, no one was sent to help or even investigate what had happened to them. Frankly, it smelled of a cover-up, and since nobody else was going to help, Kip had decided that he would. When he had found a copy of the mission report and a map of their planned route in his Father's papers, it had cemented his plan. This investigation/rescue operation is what Kip was currently preparing for, having already packed everything that he thought he would need for an extended trip outside of the walls. He refused to believe that they could be dead and gone like everybody kept telling him. Why was everybody so quick to give up and so slow to provide actual help? Even if he failed, he didn't care.  He didn't think he could go on living without his family anyway, so from his perspective, the worst that would happen was that he would join them in death.
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