Joe Junkman: Birth of a Salesman

Hate to break it to you folks, but my entry into the wasteland isn’t nearly as interesting as you might have guessed. I know it’s a pretty popular rumor, but I can assure you, I was NOT found in a junkyard as a baby. I’m a business man, not a trash messiah. Truth is, I was a traveling salesman in the old days. I’d go knocking door to door, hawking milkshake machines, toys, shower curtain rings, you name it. If I didn’t sell, I didn’t eat; so I became really good at talking to people and perfecting the art of the pitch.Salesman-Clipart

When things started going south all over the world (and especially south of the border), I kept doing what I always did, selling. When we really started losing the war, when the the food lines and rationing were in full swing, I became a sort of national icon while selling ties to a California state senator. The news people said I was proof that the American Dream could weather the toughest storms.

None of that matters now.

I was hitchhiking my way to Vegas when the nukes hit. Unfortunately, I didn’t get vaporized in the blast, instead got stranded in this radioactive dustbowl called “The Mo-Javi.” The Army abandoned this patch of dirt months before the end, leaving the valley as a lawless hellhole for all but the most heavily armed.

When I first arrived in the place we now call “The BLVD,” I spent two whole days with my back literally pressed up against a crumbling wall, desperately trying to avoid gunfire from across the street. We all know what happened after that. ARE General Morris Kass and his legion came storming onto the BLVD, “pacified” the area (he always used that word in his speeches), built the famous wall of trash, installed a government, and appointed The Judge, yadda yadda yadda.

The important thing is what pacifying the BLVD did. As the 47th Legion purged the shelled city, room by room and hall by hall, they left behind a mountain of bodies and weapons. I was never far behind those elite soldiers, stuffing all I could into my bags before scurrying off toward the nearest campfire.

The age of the milkshake machine had passed. The age of canned food and bullets had begun.

-Joe Junkman

Unlucky Charm

I don’t feel so good.

I couldn’t believe it. I went through hell and back to get my measly jug of water, but somehow that bearded bushman had beat me to it. So there I was, looking like an idiot in front of the old soldier and his entire army. To top it all off, my arm was still in excruciating pain after being broken in three places.

It would have been nice if Gray had just let me walk away, but he had to go the extra mile to “help” me. The Australian pulled a chrome tube out of an old leather bag and waved it over my water jug. Surrounding soldiers started chuckling as the tube produced a violent ticking sound.

The bushman raised an eyebrow. “I sure hope you didn’t drink any of this.”

“W-why not?” I stuttered. I honestly had no idea what Gray was talking about.

“It’s contaminated. Radioactive. I’m surprised that jug ain’t glowing.”

Unfortunately, I had already drank about two liters before leaving Urmit’s cave. I was literally dying of thirst, after all. When I told Gray, he and the old man just stared at each other for a few seconds. The old soldier called for one of his men to escort me to the fortress hospital.

Half an hour later, I was placed in a bed and put under observation. I didn’t understand. I felt fine, except for my aching arm. Maybe I was immune to radiation or something; that would be a pretty cool superpower. The doctor told me to wait, said radiation sickness gives you a false sense of security or something.

Turns out he was right. A few hours later, I was puking my guts out. I couldn’t even move. Doctor said he had some anti-radiation medicine, but it was going to cost me a few hundred dog-tags. I tried to explain that all of my money had been stolen by a tribe of spider women.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders and said, “Such is life in the wasteland.”

I just hope this doesn’t get any worse.

-Joe Junkman

The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

It’s not even funny anymore…

After suffering through the perils of the wasteland, I finally made it back to Abundance. I was beaten up, almost eaten by giant mutant spiders, had all my stuff stolen, wandered through the desert without any water, was captured and almost eaten by a disgusting mutant, AND to top it all off I had my arm broken in three places before I was set free.  So…what do I get for my trouble when I walk into town with a full five gallon jug on my back? Nothing. Absolutely friggen nothing.

I walked into town to find that the town was basically empty. The saloon was all locked up. I heard some hustle and bustle from the fortress wall at the end of the street, so I went to check it out. A line of some hundred people stretched out onto the street. Soldier boys all dressed up in black armor and rusty red fatigues kept the peace from the fortress’ battlements. Something big was happening here.

With nothing else to do, I decide to get in line to see what’s up.  I quickly realized that every person coming out of the fortress was proudly carrying a canteen with a funny looking 47 on it.  Over an hour passed before I passed the fortress gates. I couldn’t believe the inside of this place. Everything was just like the old times! The streets were freshly paved, not a pothole in sight. The buildings were blocky, made of white concrete, and electricity flowed freely. Oasis had nothing on this place.

Another hour passed before I finally got to the front of the line. I came before a table in front of the only two story building on the base. Two guards fumbled with paperwork. The first asked for my canteen. With sharp pain in my arm, I removed my pack and presented the five gallon jug. The two soldiers turned to each other with smarmy grins. One of the goons spoke into a walkie talkie then asked me to step out of line. A few minutes later he showed up.

The notorious James Gray appeared, along with a bald old man wearing a black leather greatcoat covered in medals. The Australian recognized me this time.

“Hey there little buddy, you’re not lookin’ so good. Whatcha got there?”

I presented my jug once again and explained that I had discovered a sustainable water source. I told them that I would just need some workhands to assemble a caravan. The old man let out a light chuckle. His voice was roached out, like he hadn’t had a drink in ages.

“Old Gray here beat’cha too it, son.” He said, placing a fatherly hand on the bushman’s shoulder.

My eyebrow still hasn’t stopped twitching…

-Joe Junkman

Living Legends: General Kass

Few know the reason for the war. Fewer are willing to speak of it.

Forming a technological powerhouse with Australia, the Aztec-Roman Empire (ARE) produced 99 legions to seize the United States. Rising above the rest was the 47th legion, stationed in the state of Southern California. After the horrific siege of Los Angeles, the 47th earned a fearsome reputation due to the sheer number of sacrifices collected by General Morris Kass. After the battle, the Aztec-Romans continued into the high desert, leaving a trail of blood soaked skyscrapers in their wake. From that day forward LA would be known as “The City of Angels.”

At the end of the war, Kass found himself in the relative safety of the Mo-Javi valley. While fiery mushroom clouds illuminated the valley walls, the General ordered the construction of bunkers to survive the incoming nuclear winter. Over the years, the 47th legion’s shelters grew in size and number until they combined into a fortress with electricity, running water (when available), paved streets, and thick concrete wall meant to keep out the wasteland’s unwashed masses.

kass-rough

A VERY early sketch drawn in 2011 (Credit to Ben Wright)

As the world around him deteriorated and society devolved into tribes and guilds, Kass maintained military discipline and the traditions of his people. Everyone in the Mo-Javi knew of “The 47” who lived behind ivory walls and refused to help those in need. Realizing that he was at an increased risk of attack from unorganized wastelanders and that the rations in his legion’s hypercube would eventually run out, General Kass founded the town of Abundance. Skilled workers from the Guilds of Academia were hired to train settlers in the arts of farming and animal husbandry. In exchange for food, the General provided the townsfolk protection and established trade routes.

Though many fear the old man, Kass truly cares for all of his subordinates. After every battle, the General ritually repents for each soldier lost under his command. Although General Kass will take educated or experienced wastelanders into his ranks, he cannot feel the same connection that he does for his original ARE veterans.

Though the General is often perceived as a hero of law and order, every action the old man takes is for the gain of his legion. Abundance provides him food. Trading routes provide him steel and gunpowder. The people’s trust provides him an army who is willing to fight and die so that ARE veterans might live.

Though he would never admit it, Kass hopes that the ARE’s capital city survived nuclear annihilation and will be sending a rescue party as soon as they are able. In another life, the General had a daughter, but was forced to leave her in the spire city of Tenochtitlan.

Living Legends: James Gray

Gray

Seeking to capture the west coast of the United States, the Australian army created a new type of soldier, the Bushman. These elite warriors specialized in survival and desert combat and were equipped with the finest weapons produced by either the Australians or the ARE. 100 squads were formed, each comprised of 25 soldiers. It is believed that only one of the Bushmen survived both the war and nuclear annihilation, James Gray.

                As a Bushman, Gray’s only goal is to survive. Before amassing his wealth of dog-tags, James Gray was willing to steal from or kill anyone who got in his way. Seeing Gray’s potential, the commander of the 47th ARE legion, General Morris Kass, hired Gray as his personal courier and assassin. As the years passed by, Gray became something of a wasteland celebrity. On Kass’ behalf, he has made deals with nearly every faction of the Mo-Javi and was instrumental in stopping high-profile raider attacks and mutant threats.

Despite his fame, James Gray chooses to cut himself off from others. More often than not, the Bushman traverses the Mo-Javi alone. Those few who are brave or stupid enough to follow him usually end up crippled or dead. Though he keeps an outwardly tough and even crazed persona, the truth is that Gray is haunted by shadows of his past and feels that any who follows him will meet the same fate as the rest of the Bushmen.

You can follow his wasteland exploits on Twitter: @thelastbushman