Zero Node
Chapter 4: "First Steps on the Death Road"

by Jeff Rand

ATS Explained

The chapter starts with a reference to a Jeffrey's tube. While I used my name in this reference of a tunnel tall enough for one to walk, the term is derived from the jeffries tubes on Star Trek fictional ships. Of course they are not very practical crawl spaces on these ships and serve mostly as tunnels for various cables and utilities.

The title of the chapter refers to an interesting piece of Winter Camp trivia. The Mill Street location is an address in Lincoln Park shared by two Winter Campers with different last names. I don't know if there was a marriage to merge the families, but the campers have more than 12 years difference in age. It could be coincidence that a new family moved into the same house.

Certainly the technology described in the text is of interest to the Wilsons. It would appear that predictions of Alan's future have become more likely.

The game makes reference to five subcamps at D-A, but it is unlikely that this will become a reality. While the Fishcorn Estate has been added to the property, it is unlikely to be developed for camping. The camporee area still exists, but hasn't been used in many years. I attended a day event there in 1969 called "All Out for Scouting" with thousands of others and "Green Bar" Bill.

The chapter makes reference to an inappropriate activity described in Mark Bollman's novel, Channel 120.

The most significant revelation in the chapter is providing the numerical portions of current or former addresses for various Winter Campers, including:

Harold OatleyJohn Howey
Hunt brothersWilson father & son
Mark BollmanBollman brothers
Donohue brothersRon Donohue
Jeff RandBenjamin Osvath
Dave OakleyD-A Scout Ranch

The Mill Street address is not expressed directly in the text. It can be determined by counting the number of words in the chapter.

Jeff Rand
August 5, 2018

Need a refresher? Here's the After the Apocalypse chapter

"I've had enough today," Jeff cried, as he collapsed by the sled.

"How far do you think we've come?" asked Steve.

"I don't know. Ten kilometers, I hope. Only 1990 to go," said Jeff, with a sense of sarcasm.

"That's not bad for our first day."

"What you really mean is we still have 99 days before we reach the end of the road, if we live that long. I am starting to feel my age."

"Jeff, you surprise me," said Steve. "I've never hear you admit any weakness due to aging. I realize you did more of the pulling today, but I'll get stronger and do my share."

Jeff responded, "I have always managed to keep myself in reasonable shape, but three years of being a vegetable has taken its toll. We've been robbed of our real lives for the phony pleasures of NVR. Now we shall surely experience premature death resulting either from our weakness or inability to cope."

He continued, "I did not ask to be locked in the NVR chamber. I really thought we would be there just a couple of days, and then go about our real business. I have always disliked giving others too much control. You may not have known that I did not join many of the virtual activities back at Winter Camp 50 when there was still a chance for a real life. Instead, Mr. Horn and I spent most of the time hiking around D-A Scout Ranch, while the rest of you enjoyed your hedonistic pleasures."

"Thanks for the update on our situation. Perhaps we should set camp next to the rocks. They may provide a windbreak," said Steve, quickly changing the subject.

The ten-kilometer trek had used all of the available daylight hours and more. Pulling the 200 hundred pound sled became increasingly difficult, as they pair trekked eastward from Yakutsk. Travel over the first two kilometers progressed well, as the area was reasonably level and the snow hard packed. The first hill was work, but manageable. However, the second, just a few hundred meters further, diminished any hope of a quick and easy trip to the ocean. Steve and Jeff could not pull the sled through four-foot drifts of powder snow. In fact, just walking was difficult.

Among the essentials packed for the trip were snowshoes. The trekkers had hoped to walk over a hard snow surface without using the snowshoes. It was now impossible. In order to move the sled forward through the deep snow, it required both them to blaze a trail by walking back and forth with snowshoes, before attempting to haul the sled. Even this was difficult in the loose snow.

Fortunately the hard work of moving the sled helped maintain body heat. In fact, Jeff had even removed his glove for a spell during the heat of the day when the temperature topped thirty-below. Now just after a few moments rest in the growing darkness, the pair felt the dreaded cold, and feared the long night to come.

In spite of careful planning, setting up the teepee became extremely difficult. Although setting the poles was straightforward, Jeff struggled to button the front edges together in the bitter cold. He removed his glove, struggled with the tarp for a few seconds, until his fingers became numb. Then he rushed his hand into his coat underneath his armpit. There he warmed it until the feeling returned. He repeated this process dozens of times before the teepee was secure.

Steve set about preparing a hot meal. He, too, struggled with less than nimble fingers in order to light the stove. He had made his own version of large kerosene buddy burner to provide for both cooking and some heat inside the teepee. He prepared a can of mystery mush mixed with some dried beans for their dinner. In addition, he melted snow and prepared several liters of water filling small plastic bottles. These would be taken to bed where body heat would keep them from freezing.

Most of the niceties of civilization were luxuries beyond their means. As a result, there were no activities such as cleaning up or changing clothing before bed. Jeff did decide to defecate prior to retiring and did so in the manner of any other beast. It was doubtful that his uncovered deposit would offend anyone else. Steve went straight to bed together with his pee bottle.

"You know, in the book Minus 148, three stranded mountain climbers learned to relieve themselves of all forms of body waste while in their sleeping bags," said Jeff.

"Well I'm not ready for that yet, but I do hope our burner will last awhile," Steve replied. "I wish we had more fuel. The one-liter per day allocation for the stove may last four hours at most. Then it will be bitterly cold. Even at that we'll be out of fuel in three weeks. What time do you think it is?"

"Hey, I'm having trouble keeping track of the days, but I expect that it's already past 6 PM. Just another 15 hours until daylight."

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