Alex punched the keypad outside his door, entering his bunker after a very productive salvage run. He pushed open the door, thinking back to the day he moved into this place.
It was so long ago it seemed like a dream. He was only a young teen back then, wandering aimlessly through the wastes. He had spent countless days and endless nights shivering in fear and cowering in the shadows. That all changed when he met the old man. Well, he was old compared to most of the people that you see nowadays. The old man came across Alex in an old school where Alex had been hiding. He took Alex in and took him under his wing. He taught Alex how to not only survive in the wastes, but to really live, even how to thrive in this bombed-out shell of a world.
Gideon was his name, and he was as hard as the shell of a giant scorpion. Gideon could put a bullet through the eye of a mutant at two hundred yards and he could sneak up on a panator. Even to this day Alex kept the panator head on the wall in the bunker to remember him by. To Alex, Gideon was the ultimate survivor and could do no wrong. Gideon had invited him into this bunker with the condition that Alex do what he was told and keep the location an absolute secret. Alex had kept the secret and done what he was told.
For three long years Alex had lived, hunted, and gone on scavenging runs with the older man. Gideon taught him how to tape down loose bits of armor so they didn’t rattle when you move. He taught Alex how to track mutants and how to shoot. Alex learned so much under the tutelage of Gideon that he was no longer the same person anymore. Three years later and Alex had gone from being a whimpering child to a hardened survivor. Now people looked up to him, they expected things of him. Alex was the one they looked to when they needed something. If quality salvage was brought in from somewhere dangerous, Alex was the one carrying it. All thanks to the three years Alex had lived with Gideon.
Then one day Gideon disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared. One day he was just gone from the bunker, leaving no trace of even being there except for a letter. He had written a letter to Alex, which Alex still carried to this day. It meant more to him than anything he had ever found in this world. In the letter Gideon had said:
“Alex, you have grown into a man now. You have been a good son and I am proud of you. Keep the bunker as long as you want, I leave it to you now. Change the key code like I taught you and keep it a secret.
Be a good man and stay alive out here Alex. Maybe one day we’ll meet again.”
Alex never learned why Gideon had left, and Gideon had never said anything about leaving in the three years he lived with him. One day he was just gone and that was that. Alex decided that it was just Gideon’s way of teaching him one final lesson before he left. The lesson that everything changes, people come and go, especially in this harsh and unforgiving world.
Quite often that was true in this world. People just disappeared all the time, never to be seen or heard from again. Alex knew the truth of what happened to them better than most though, he found the bodies. Eaten, burned, crushed, riddled with bullets or any one of a dozen other ways to die in this barren landscape. Alex had seen them all out there, but to this day he had never seen another sign of Gideon. As far as Alex was concerned that was a good thing, not finding a body meant that Gideon was probably still alive out there somewhere. Maybe he was teaching someone else how to live in this shithole of a world.
Alex did what the letter had said to. He changed the door code and kept the bunker a secret. He tried his best to be a good man and stay alive out in the wastes. Whenever he could, he tried to emulate the soft spoken man of granite that had taught him. He smiled at the traders and gave good trades to the people who needed them. He even tried to teach others some of the things he had learned out there in the wastes. Occasionally he even gave food away, when he could see that someone else needed it more than him. He only hoped that one day Gideon might learn of what he was doing and give him that old smile and nod of his. More than anything Alex wanted to hear that soft gravelly voice say “Good job boy, now let’s get goin’ eh?” like he did when Alex was younger.
Walking through the corridors had been getting more and more lonely again. The walls closing in and seeming more like a tomb than a home. What Alex knew was the safest place for twenty miles, he now often dreaded.
“Maybe this is why Gideon left?” Alex thought to himself. “Maybe he just needed to get out. To see the world and range farther out. Is that what I need to do? Should I take off and see how far I have to go to be comfortable again? Was the old man feeling like this before he found me? Did he only stay for me? I know I sure as hell would want to see someone use this place instead of seeing it fall into ruin. Maybe I should go. Maybe I should go scouting for a person instead of for things. Look for someone to ‘keep the torch lit’ like Gideon used to say.”
Alex continued his musings on into the dark of the night. While he disassembled the weapons and cleaned them, he thought of the first times he had done this. Gideon had taught him how to clean the guns, “Take good care of your tools boy, and they will take care of you” Gideon used to say.
Perhaps it was time to pass on what Gideon had taught him. Time to make another survivor out of a whimpering child. That’s what a good man would do isn’t it? That’s what Gideon did, and he was certainly a very good man. With that, Alex had decided that he would start looking for someone to teach, someone to give the gift Gideon had given him. He would make sure that there would be one more good person living in the bunker, and then he could go look for Gideon.