We arrived at the former resort town by the big lake, one big enough to barely see the horizon across the lake. At this point, we had quite the temptation to just root here and hunker down for the Winter. We had access to plenty of food by way of fishing, and access to plenty of tools and fuel to do that. We had our selection of rooms. The cost was that securing them would be a nightmare.
While we restocked supplies, we encountered another group. This lot seemed far more friendly; they were locals from the area that hid away when the disaster hit, and they had a plan. Now they came into town to see what they could scavenge, or if they could set up here for the Winter. The men and I agreed to have to a sit-down with them, and we did that in one of the resort restaurants. The leader was an older man by the name of Bob, a retired boat operator and mechanic.
"Look," Bob said, "my people and I know this area well. We've been working here, living here, and moving around here for years. Some of us have been up here for generations, like my family has, making good money off the folks in the Cities playing at being outdoorsmen. You folks, I see, have some steel in you, but you're lacking in the skills you're going to need to make it long-term."
"You're looking to make a deal?" I said.
"You got it." Bob said, "You teach us to do the fighting. We teach you to do the living."
I saw where this would end up. "Bob, you know where will go, right? You've got some young boys in your group, some girls, and not a lot of folks in their prime. You've got old folks and children about to hit adulthood. This deal ain't a cross-train deal; this is fosterage."
Bob chuckled. "You're as quick on the uptake as I figured. True, it is. A lot of us are on borrowed time. Medications we need to keep our problems in check are running low. We're making do with what we find, but we've cleaned out every pharmacy and doctor's office in three counties that wasn't already cleared out. The old folks, like me, we can dawdle on for a while yet but we're gone by this time next year for sure. We've already buried a few, after taking care of them, if you get me. We have a few of the children who also aren't likely to make it for the same reason. Those that remain, however, are screwed if they can't get with another group."
I nodded. Bob here seemed a good man doing what he can. Seemed. I glanced over to the other men, and then to the women looking out from the kitchen, and they nodded their ascent.
"Okay." I said, "It's a deal."
Bob smiled. We shook on it, and my nascent tribe grew once more.