One of the interesting things about the fanfic project is that it exposes a lot of story telling areas that need to be addressed. This time I’m going to look at the world that is not in Connor’s upper caste. All of those humans that aren’t soldiers but just trying to survive. I also want to look at the world outside Connor’s camp (especially since we now have the post season 2 altered timeline).
The vision we’ve been presented has been decidedly dystopian. L.A. is in ruins. Bones litter the landscape. If the images are to be believed, it’s dark a lot. But…it’s been some time after Judgment Day. While these sorts of images make sense for the years immediately following the nuclear nightmare, must it always be so? Even in areas ravaged by war, there are oases.
I can’t help but wonder what would Skynet do with the humans in its work camps? I think that the humans would be on low rations and be worked by Skynet in tasks so menial that it wouldn’t want to waste more resources than necessary dealing with them. Also, the jobs have to be so innocuous that even if the humans tried to effect some mischief, nothing critical would be lost. Also, if my ultimate goal is the extermination of the human species, why would I even have work camps…wouldn’t I just kill on sight?
Clearly Skynet has a specific thing it deems humans to be useful for. I think it’s refuse collection, sorting, and disposal. If I’m Skynet, the only reason for work camps is for humans to clear up the bones, materials, and rubble of Judgment Day and the war that followed. Not only would the landscape be easier for my machines to traverse, but it would also eliminate many opportunities for cover by the resistance. Also, it allows me to collect recyclable materials (steel, aluminum, titanium, endos) that will make it easier to keep my own army running efficiently.
Also, we have anecdotal evidence that not everything was destroyed. In “Goodbye to All That”, Derek made mention of hunting deer in Griffith Park. If there’s no deer food, there’s no deer. Obviously areas did survive and proceeded to return to a wild state (nature is funny that way). Given the years that have passed, why isn’t it more like that all over the region? I’m not talking forests and meadows, but maybe weed-overgrown vacant lots?
I propose that the world of 2027, even the war-ravaged world, isn’t as bleak and rubble-strewn as we’ve been shown in the past. In fact, with less available cover, it’s likely even more dangerous. It’s in the interests of the rebels to keep things in a decrepit state. For Skynet, it seems easier to to keep things neat.
Another thing to consider is the people and where they live. A lot of folks aren’t going to be soldiers. Many will be ill or injured. Many will have no desire to go in harm’s way. Some will see only profit incentive (there are always profiteers). Some might want to fight but there is simply not enough equipment to spread around. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see that this group of non-soldiers is going to be the overwhelming majority. What is their world like?
These tunnel trolls will likely have a more “normal” existence than some of the images we’ve seen have led us to believe. We’ve been seeing a collection of refugees that seem to be little more than an anarchic collection of throw-aways. Is this realistic?
Humanity has shown a remarkable ability to organize in even the meanest of situations. Opportunists will try to better their lives by making others pay (commerce). Others will try to organize within the bounds of what the ruling class allows (local government). Some enterprising types not yet invited to join the warrior class will hire themselves out as either enforcers or protectors. Perhaps a sort of constabulary is created so that there is less need to call on the military elite…in fact, the idea might be that the less they are around, the better…so long as metal is nowhere to be seen.
There is little doubt that the severely limited resources will likely create a persistent squalor. Perhaps some attempts are made to ensure some degree of sanitation, but the squalor will also be a necessary tool where farming and ranching aren’t options: vermin of various sorts will provide food.
Certainly there will be prostitution. It’s not the world’s oldest profession for nothing. There will be a need of healers to take care of basic first aid. Some sort of exchange system will be set up, likely based on bartering of goods and services (cf. prostitution). Beyond the necessities, some will find a way to survive by entertaining. Singing, music performance, art…there will be some who will be successful doing this.
It’s important to remember that you will have two generations living together with vastly different world views. You’ll have those who remember what it was like before Judgment Day, and you will have the young who will either not know anything different, or who will forget that things were any different. Humans are amazingly adaptable given enough time. As long as the soldiers are able to keep them secure, the people will tend to find ways to make their lives bearable. After 16-ish years, they’ll have had to.
The key to everything is finding food and water, first and foremost. Next comes fire and other sources of power for light and climate control, and clothing. These are pretty basic items for a colony of humans to continue living. The hardest will likely be food. Sure, vermin can be allowed to breed and you can capture them to eat, but in any reasonable scenario there has to be a more reliable source of food. This means going out and harvesting whatever is available while stockpiling what can be stored for when there are lean times.
Obviously the primary source of nourishment will come from vegetation. While the occasional animal will add variety, and discovered caches of preserved goods will be a godsend, the fact is that it will be gathering, not hunting, that will ensure the chance of sustainable survival (allowing, of course, for the possibility of instant death by terminator).
Water gathering will be a constant activity as humans need water for many things. Of course a cistern system will be set up. There will also need to be a method of cleaning the water of the more immediately dangerous pathogens (esp. parasites and microbes). That will require power in every method available. Unless there is a large fuel supply nearby, fire won’t be used solely for boiling water. Certainly some solar methods will be built to passively clean the water to a usable level. One of the biggest keys will be using captured robot energy sources. If/when a resistance pod can capture a power-generating facility, things become much easier for all.
When Worlds Collide
The trick for making this all work is that the military/ruling class has to maintain the idea that they are the same as the tunnel trolls but with the added responsibility of keeping them safe. This likely means that the soldiers are going to get more/better food, medicine, clothing, quarters since they have to be capable of fending off killer machines at any moment. Co-existence requires them, then, to share… to not think themselves better, just in a different situation.
Of course there will be resistance groups who go the other way and horde all the good stuff for the ruling military class and basically does Skynet’s work in regards to the lower class. That’s the danger since the humans would start fighting among themselves plus fighting Skynet. That’s not exactly a sustainable course for victory.
The fact is, as has been the case so often in human history, the ones with the guns will ultimately dictate the terms. Since there is a monolithic common foe, it’s more likely than not that any tribal class inequities will persist in a secondary state as long as Skynet is a threat. Should Skynet be defeated, it’s likely that there will be trouble.
Sunny Days and Picnics
There is little doubt that even if it’s cleaned up, post-JD Southern California isn’t going to be a place you’ll want to spend your vacation time. Still, the Sun is going to rise every morning in the east. Plants will do as plants do and try to get a foothold everywhere they can. The animals that have survived will feed on those plants. As Skynet has no interest in those animals, they will do what animals are very good at doing. As Dr. Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “Life will find a way.”
It’s not completely out of the question, if Skynet isn’t actively monitoring a nature-reclaimed area, that a couple could have an afternoon picnic in the middle of a meadow-like area and live to tell the tale. Skynet is not everywhere and it’s not all-powerful (as is evidenced by a relatively small group of fighters being able to battle it for so long). The world is a nightmare, but it’s not Dante’s lower levels of hell.
The only question for the people is whether or not they’ll live to rebuild. That’s sort of up to John Connor and his allies and is out of the hands of the commoners. All they can do is the best that they can.