Ok, here's my story opening from that other topic.
Humanity survived. The nuclear war ended many lives, and the nuclear winter that followed it claimed many more, but humanity survived. Without large supplies of food and clean water, and radioactive material drifting to the ground, only the smartest, strongest, or most cut-throat survived. In the social breakdown in Britain that had begun even before the missiles were launched and the bombs dropped, the people who were away from the devastated cities grouped together, forming their own fortress-towns. They armed themselves, and were ready when the riotous city-dwellers arrived, fleeing their stricken homes, having looted all that they could carry. Many of these towns died out, with disease, hunger, or violence claiming their citizens, but the survivors would move on, taking their belongings and finding another community to join, or joining one of the many nomadic gangs that had decided that survival was easiest if you took what you wanted from the towns. However, this was less of a problem by the time that 110 years had passed since the war. The inhabitants of the towns were a new sort of people. They had never known the care-free life of the old world. While the previous generations passed away, the radiation did as well, and many in the towns closer to London decided that it was their turn to loot the city, the majority of the nomads having been lost to thirst and hunger, making travel safer. Tilbury, which had, by some miracle, survived with many of its buildings, and its docks, intact, was more than happy to host the traders from distant towns, who came to trade their goods for the riches of London. Having grown rich on its trade of items from London, and being relatively easy to defend due to having its source of water along its southern side, Tilbury was one of the largest towns in the wastes of southern Britain, and had one of the largest populations, which was important, as the ruins of London were still dangerous, and many scavengers never returned from their hunts.
The motorboat kept a steady speed up the Thames, its crew of newly recruited scavengers ready for their first expedition. It had been difficult to find a working motorboat, but Dave Hind, founder of the Hind Scavengers, had owned one from before the war, and it had been running, with some repairs, ever since. A lot of what the scavengers in his group found was traded for fuel for this, and the new, second motorboat, as these vehicles were what made the scavengers so effective. It allowed them to quickly reach the further away, almost untouched areas of London. Thomas Crick checked the old hunting rifle that had been his father’s. It was held together by masking tape, but it still fired. By the nuclear war, almost everyone in Britain, especially in the cities, had at least one gun. When the police could no longer protect people from the riots, people started to protect themselves. A highly profitable black market for guns began in Britain, selling everything from sport weapons like Thomas’, to military grade assault rifles, and beyond, with ridiculous things like anti-tank weaponry being a common sight above mantelpieces. With the people of the cities lost to radiation, starvation and madness, there were a lot of guns, which were needed by outlying communities, where inter-town warfare and bandit raids were more common.
Thomas gazed at the haunting skeletal dome structure that had once been called the O2, a place where there were restaurants and music. He had been born there, when his father and pregnant mother had moved from the fortress-town of Hertford to Tilbury. Thomas’ family had been taken to the O2 as part of an ambitious plan to make a new town in the shelter of the dome. Life had been hard there, so once Thomas was born, he was returned to Tilbury with his mother. Thomas had declined offers to scavenge from the remains of the short-lived settlement at the O2. The inhabitants, Thomas’ father one of them, had been well protected from attack, but nothing could save them when someone forgot to boil the water from the river.
The small boat followed the curve of the river, going past the remains of the towers of Canary Wharf. Thomas frowned, and turned to the other veteran scavenger beside him.
“Why are we taking the new guys past the usual place?” Thomas queried.
“Boss says we need to make sure that the recruits get good work experience,” the other man said, “so we’re taking them up to Tower Bridge.”
“That far?” Thomas asked in surprise, “but I’ve been on the job for three years and I’ve only been that far twice.”
“Times are changing. Recruits need to have the skill of the veterans, so that we can keep ahead of the other scavengers in the city. Don’t worry about it; it’s all going to be routine stuff.”
Thomas stepped of the boat with three of the six recruits on the northern bank of the river, while the other veteran scavenger went to the southern bank with the other recruits. Thomas reminded the recruits of the timings. They had until sunset to scavenge, leaving time to reach the pick-up point of the motorboat. Being the team without the boat was always dangerous, because an incident affecting the other team could mean that nobody got offshore before nightfall. Thomas knew from the strange noises heard when returning to Tilbury that there were nocturnal creatures prowling the ruins, and he had no intention of meeting them. Then there were the Spies. Thomas suppressed a shiver, thinking of the pale, corpse-like faces that had peered at him from the shadows last time he had been this far into London. They never came out into the light in the day, but what happened at night? Thomas shook his head. Being a scavenger for ten years messed with most people’s heads, but Thomas didn’t want to go mad at 27. He had other things to worry about out here. Certain fears, like the presence of known daytime animals and other scavengers. The recruits behind him were following their training, scanning the ruins around them as the party progressed down the street, but they still couldn’t help glancing back at the towers of Tower Bridge, which stood unconnected now by the ruined bridge like silent guardians of inner London. Thomas stopped as the group reached its destination.
“Well people,” he said, “welcome to the Tower of London. Remember, I want you to stick with your partner, and be back here with all you can carry when the sun begins to slip away. You, kid with the scoped rifle, you stick with me.”
The scavenging mission went well. By the time agreed, all of the members of Thomas’ team were back at the agreed location with their massive rucksacks full of loot. The Tower had been a stronghold against the rioters for a long time in the years before the nukes arrived, and in its walls, retrofitted to the point that the nuclear blasts left the inner structures intact, there was a multitude of weapons and ammunition. As with all of the places of order which fell after the war, the residents had focused on protection against the nukes, not on sustainable food. Ironically, almost as many had died in the Tower seeking refuge than had historically died imprisoned there. Thomas congratulated his band of scavengers, and then led them off to the rendezvous point for the boat. As they walked, there was a sudden crack from a firearm. A recruit collapsed next to Thomas. Without any orders being given, Thomas and his followers dashed for the ruins, seeking cover. Another shot rang out, and was followed by more, but Thomas kept moving. One of the recruits, the one with the scope, stopped.
“I’ve spotted him!” he shouted. He raised his gun, looking through the scope, and pulled the trigger. There was a click as the old gun jammed. The recruit never had a chance to sort the problem, as a bullet punched through his head.
“Jim!” the final recruit shouted, turning back to her stricken comrade. She started to turn towards him, and Thomas tried to stop her, but she lashed out at him and dodged past as Thomas leaned back to avoid injury. Seeing that there was no help for her, Thomas ran on. He had noticed how much time she had been spending with the other recruit, and it was clear here that love had undermined her judgement, and then ended her life. Thomas had always known the dangers of London, and never wanted anyone to care for him to the point that his death endangered their life. Thomas knew that losing loved ones was terrible, and didn’t want others to feel that pain because of him.
As the sound of gunfire faded away behind him, Thomas slowed down. He ducked beneath a hanging metal beam and carried on. He was sure that the attackers would have no idea where he had gone. He began to form a plan of how to get back to the rendezvous point. He wasn’t prepared for the rifle-butt that met his face when he rounded the corner.
As consciousness returned to him, Thomas saw his attacker, who was standing over him with two accomplices. She looked incredibly ill, with a sickly face and dilated pupils. She smiled, revealing rotting teeth and damaged gums. The man and woman accompanying her were both smoking cigarettes which were no doubt looted from a shop somewhere. Thomas had heard of people like this. They were addicted to drugs of the pre-war era, and spent their lives trying to satisfy their cravings. Of course, they weren’t very welcoming to those who approached their drug supplies.
“Look what we have here,” the woman said, “a scavenging little townie. What do you think we should do with him, eh?”
“Let’s throw him in the river,” one of them said, giggling in a worrying fashion, “and see if our civilised little townie has learned how to swim.”
“Sounds good. Let’s-”
The addicts were cut off as a few small canisters arced towards the group and a series of small popping noises occurred. A hissing noise began as gas began to rise up from these cylinders. The addicts stepped back, confused, then turned and ran. Gunshots rang out as a group of silhouettes became visible through the cloud of gas. As one of the drug addicts took a hit and fell to the floor, voices could be heard.
“Don’t goddamn shoot! Jesus Christ, why are all you locals so trigger happy?” asked an exasperated male voice.
“Hey, a few dead looters will do the world a favour,” replied a female voice. Deciding to take advantage of the argument, Thomas carefully picked up his rifle and crept towards the three figures that had saved him, trying to hold his breath for as long as possible. It was going dark now, so Thomas’ approach wasn’t obvious. He went as close as he dared, then spoke up.
“All right, stay calm or this guy gets it,” he said, pointing his gun at one of the people. They wore khaki, and had military rifles and gas masks.
“Mate,” said the one that Thomas was threatening, “we don’t need to get on the wrong side of each other.”
“Sir,” one of the people said urgently, “it’s getting dark. The Watchers will come out for the body of the guy we killed.”
“Look mate,” the man Thomas was threatening, who was obviously in charge, continued, “put the gun away and we’ll give you a shot of the antidote for the gas, then we can all head off to our nearest camp. Nobody dies, and we get out of here before anything dangerous arrives.”
Thomas thought about this. He was pretty sure that the Watchers that the other man had referred to were the same as the Spies, and that the gas would be lethal if the group were carrying antidotes around with them. He wouldn’t last long anyway if he stayed in the ruins alone, so he either died, or took these people for their word.
“Fine,” Thomas said. He lowered his gun, and the leader of the group walked over with a syringe. After assuring Thomas that it wouldn’t hurt a bit, he injected the antidote.
“Good,” the man said, “nice to have you onboard. Now let’s get out of here.”
“Sir?” the female member of the group said, “it might be a bit late for that.”
All around them, gazing from the shadows, were dully glowing green eyes, framed by pale faces.