As I stare south straining to see through the smoke plumes still rising from the landscape, I hope to see something that I can identify with the Las Vegas I remember, the Las Vegas I know and love. It doesn't happen, there is nothing that vaguely resembles the Las Vegas in my memory. The smoke plumes are now combining with the on coming night, making it that much harder to identify something, anything that could viewed as Vegas.
Well, that's Vegas, no doubt about it as this is where the speedway is, or was. Across Las Vegas Boulevard, to the east, is Nellis Air Force Base. That's the target destination for me, and I am going now. Not waiting for the sun to rise. I begin climbing my way out of the ruins of the speedway in the direction of Nellis. After what seems to be a few hours I make it back to the road from which my memory begins, or ends.
There's a red glow coming from north, faint, but visible in the dark of night. To the south, towards Vegas, there nothing. Not a single light where the city of neon once stood. Despite the heat, I had many cold shivers looking at where Vegas should be. It made no sense, maybe the smoke was so thick it blocked out the famous Las Vegas Strip and all of it's modern marvel hotels and casinos, maybe.
After walking for about 30 more minutes it suddenly hits me that I am now on the runways of Nellis. I climbed no fence, I was not stopped by base security, I dodged no aircraft landing or taking off. Something is not right at all. Nellis is the busiest base in the United States, no way I would get this far unless something drastic has happened, and now for the first time, I recognise the deafening silence.
Totally guessing at where I am on the base, I stumble around through abandoned vehicles to find shelter. Most of the military vehicles I find have been destroyed or vandalized beyond use and enough to not provide any shelter at all. Finally I find an aircraft hangar that is almost left in tact. The large doors of the hanger were bent open just enough for me to squeeze through.
Not two feet inside a voice rings out through the silence.
"Halt where you are. I SAID HALT WHERE YOU ARE ASSHOLE!"
I stop dead in my tracks, I can feel the tension and the muzzle of the gun pointing at me.
"On your knees, NOW!"
I comply, hoping this is base security protecting the weapons. I could easily explain myself once identification has been made.
I hear the sounds of boots clicking on the concrete, a light pierces the darkness. I strain to make out two individuals walking toward me and a few others along the wall of the hanger.
"A pilot, a fucking pilot."
I wait for someone to respond, then the flashlight taps me on the shoulder.
"You're a pilot right? You got the uniform of one. Did you scavenge that? Did YOU? You sick sadistic . ."
"Yes, yes I am a pilot. Oregon National Guard, United States."
That sounded weird even to me. Of course I was from the United States ! We are in the United States ! I was nervous, I was rambling I guess.
"Oh, hear that Curtis, we got ourselves a time travelling pilot ! What time did you travel from? 2000? 2010? 2015? We aren't fools, we know you can't speak of your missions or assignments. Come on, get up, sorry for the handling but we had to make sure you were a Friendly."
Grabbing the extended hand, he helped me to my feet, brushed me off a bit, not that you could tell.
"Sorry captain, again, we didn't know, it was dark."
Captain? This guy get hit in the head? Is he talking to me?
"That's ok, I understand" I replied, even though I was more lost now than two days ago when this all started. It was two days ago, wasn't it?
"What's going on here? What's happening? Why is there no power? No emergency services? Did we have a volcano erupt? An earthquake?"
The two blank stares I was now looking at told me all I needed to know. They have no idea what I am asking, almost as if I was speaking in another language.
"Sir, I think you may have a concussion from the looks of that bandage on your head. Let me look at it, I am a trained medic."
"No I am fine, I already looked after it as well as my leg, I am fine. Please, answer my question, what's happening?"
"You really don't know? You aren't hurt?"
"I am fine, now tell me."
"Well sir, I don't know where to start. I have not run into any posts that didn't know what had happened. This is strange, what's the last thing you remember?"
"Waking up in a puddle on Las Vegas Boulevard, maybe two days ago. Posts? Are you speaking of bases? Or computer chat room posts?"
With a heavy sigh and scratch of his head, he sat down on the floor in front of me. Took out a cigarette, lit it, and took a long hit off of it. Offered me one, and I took it. It tasted one million times better than that water.
He then explained what was going on. The state Vegas is currently in all stemmed from the 2022 wars for oil. Seems that the world ran out, or nearly out of oil in 2015 and managed to continue normalcy until 2022. He spared me the hows and whys and just gave me the facts. The United States invaded the Middle East in 2022, not one country, but the whole dang region! Thinking the rulers of the region were holding out on them, hording oil, giving false inventory levels. That sparked China to attack the United States. This segment of war last 3 years. Surprising as the world ran out of oil in 2015 and now he speaking ten years after and war taking place. I guess the militaries of the world had their own storage of oil. After the United States defeated China, they became gravely stretched out. This is when North Korea attacked, and they were ruthless. Invading the continental United States, destroying all the major cities.
At this point the year was 2028 and the world was ruled by the former North Korea. The new organization was a little strange, NKUA was where the United States once was, only now it was under full Korean control. Outside of a few regions of America still being held by militias and splinter divisions of the former United States Armed Forces, the country was a state of Korea.
At this point I couldn't take any more new information, I stood up and walked to the hanger doors to get some air.
"Sir, you really need to stay here, it's not safe at all out there, sir, sir."
"Yes, yes, I am just getting some air. My name is Rich by the way, no need for the sir talk anymore I guess."
"Yes, sir, er I mean Rich. My name is George, pleasure to meet you sir, er George."
Well, George was a grunt at best but took well to the military way of life, so well he can't let it go. Comforting in a way, one thing that screams normal in a very abnormal, strange world I find myself in. This world, so different from the last image I have before all of this. Taking off from the National Guard Base in Wyoming, that take off was amazingly beautiful. Just as the sun was rising in the east, I was lifting my C-130 Herc into the blue Wyoming skies.
Holy shit ! That's new, new as in newly in the memory banks! I was flying out of Wyoming . . .sometime . . .in the past. Well at very least it will give me something to focus on as I search around the base for a clue, a way out, a way back to normalcy.
"George, we need to sleep. I will need you and . ." not recalling the name of George's partner.
"You and Pat to go with me tomorrow to search through the base, for something, some things. Then into Vegas."
"That's not possible sir, er, Rich. No one wanders around in the daylight. It's not safe. If you like, we can go off now for a few hours, but not off of the base. Daybreak will be here soon enough and we need to get back here before then."
Thinking for a minute, I decided to call it a day. I needed rest, and being around other people is a nice change to all of this. Hopefully I can learn a bit more before we go out.
"George, I say we just stay put for tonight. We can set out right after dusk tomorrow, the more time the better !"
George smiled and went over to Pat I presume to get back to whatever it was they were doing before I walked in.
I turned back to look out of the open hanger doors at the darkness. The skies must have been clearing as a full moon was well above the mountains and shining some light on the base. It was nothing that I remembered. The runways that were once massive, clean areas were now strewn with all sorts of debris ranging from tumble weeds to shells of aircraft and tanks. The tank shells looked very odd as this was an Air Force Base, but then again, what hasn't looked odd?
Towards the far end of the base, also the point where the moon light stopped being useful, I could make out what seemed to be some lights, or fires. Missing from the scene was the Nellis Control Tower, not sure where it was or is now.
Taking one last glimpse at the moonlit scene, I turned around and found a nice corner of the hanger to lie down in. Quickly I fell asleep, anxious for what tomorrow shall bring.