Deadman's Switch, Part One - History of the Switch Deadman's Switch, Part One: History of the Switch

Long before most people began worrying about the potential Y2K problem, survivalists throughout the United States were massing supplies and making fortifications all over the country. While most were rather conventional affairs - a sturdy bunker surrounded by a barbed wire fence, for example - a few very rich, very determined people managed to acquire deactivated Atlas-E, Atlas-F, or even whole Titan missile complexes (without the nukes, of course). These massive underground structures had been shut down since the 1970s, and a few people had been living in converted silos for nearly two decades before Y2K became a major concern. Quite often these retrofitted silos were beautifully designed and furnished and were capable of supporting a family of five for decades, even if cut off from all outside assistance.

One of these "survivalist mansions" was located near the town of Valentine, Nebraska. In 1978, James E. Mulgrew purchased an Atlas-F silo for $65,000 and spent three years and another $200,000 turning it into a home for his family. He believed that a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union was imminent, and outfitted his stronghold with the best equipment - radiation sensors, security systems, supplies to last sixty years, and an arsenal capable of taking out a force of thousands. Unfortunately the foreseen war never happened, and the outstanding loans that Mulgrew had taken out to create his mansion were called in by the banks, leaving him bankrupt and the banks with a structure that they had no idea what to do with. Completely stripping the place would hardly be worth the money, and moving the supplies would take thousands of man-hours that would have to be paid for. In the end the weapons were removed but everything else was left in place as the banks hoped that someone would eventually come along and take the place off their hands.

In the summer of 1994, the banks got a welcome visit from a group of six investors who wished to purchase the facility. The banks took their offer and handed over the keys to the six men who made up the OSA Investment Group (Geoffrey Caldecott, Jim Curtiss, Byron Hailey, Mike Russert, Tim Landry and Cooper Wheeler), leaving them with an almost fully-equipped shelter for the end of the world. However, ten years had taken their toll on the structure; some of the food had spoiled or was broken into by rodents, the bottom two levels in the silo were underwater from a crack in the foundation that had allowed water in from the well, and either dust or slimy mold covered everything. With a lot of work and almost another hundred thousand dollars, though, the silo was repaired and refurbished by the fall of 1996. Most of the supplies and foodstuffs were salvageable, and the investors also added an extensive machine shop, a huge power generator, massive fuel tanks and a central elevator that made transporting materials into the silo far easier than bringing individual boxes down the stairs. Until repairs were complete, the six men lived inan old church that had been built in the 1940s and had never been removed, even when the silo was installed.

By 1999, life for the investors and their families had settled into a regular pattern - check on the outside world to see if the end had actually come, perform routine maintenance of the silo, and keep on purchasing supplies (just to be on the safe side). The seven children attended classes that Mrs. Hailey taught, there were dinner parties and social functions, and life had some semblance of normalcy...

...until December 31, 1999.

When New Zealand went down, Caldecott (who was regarded as the group's leader by most) ordered the silo closed and sealed, knowing that this was the moment they had prepared for all this time. From their secure location, the nineteen people watched as the world broke down, first on television and, when the electrical grids shut down, from radio reports and CB conversations. For the first year, everyting went on much as it had... for the most part. Occasionally the "Bunker Lords", as they had come to be called by their neighbors, ventured out to nearby towns for fresh food and information, which was growing ever more sketchy and contradictory. Because of the area's isolation and preparation by most of the local populace, life had changed little for most of them, but their worry grew as the silence from distant relatives, friends, larger cities and the government persisted. Occasionally a drifter would bring news of some far-off place... but very little of it was good, and soon groups began leaving to try and find out news for themselves. Very few ever returned. After the harsh winter of 2000-2001, when almost a thousand people in Valentine alone froze to death or succumbed to disease, a deal was struck by several towns with the Bunker Lords: if people from the towns ever got into trouble or needed supplies, they could come to the Bunker for assistance. As time passed and the next winter approached, people began hauling mobile homes and RVs to the Bunker to live, feeling safer being so close to fortification.

By 2003, Bunkertown (as the new residents took to calling it) had become a reality, very similar to the way it is now. Groups of people began to haul back semi trailers and used them like giant bricks, filling them with dirt, rocks and debris and making a 35-foot high wall out of them that encircled the trailers and could withstand shots from a tank gun. The few hundred occupants led stable, relatively safe lives until that winter, when the Triplicate Plague swept across North America and effectively wiped out all communities within a hundred miles that didn't completely cut themselves off. As the disease ravaged the people outside the Wall, those living behind it were faced with keeping themselves alive at all costs. Until the summer of 2005, Bunkertown allowed nobody to enter; guards were authorized to shoot on sight if anyone tried to scale the outer fence, and hundreds were mowed down by machine gun fire to keep them from storming the walls. Every few weeks expeditions would be sent out to scavenge for heavy weapons at military bases and National Guard armories that had not been picked clean already, or for building materials and fuel or other resources not likely to be produced again anytime soon. By this time, Bunkertown had been given a new name by the few local survivors of the Triplicate Plague: Deadman's Switch.

By the fall of 2006, Deadman's Switch (or just "the Switch") had amassed enough supplies from scavenging to become known as the largest trading center within three hundred miles. With a fleet of eight semi trucks and dozens of smaller vehicles, the Switch could appropriate massive quantities of supplies in days, stripping whole towns for their raw materials. Since then the Switch has grown more and more famous, and is easily the best known trading post in northern Flatland and southern Dakota regions. Almost anything (weapons, good parts, food, fuel and drinking alcohol, even prostitutes and illicit drugs) can be had for a price in the Marketplace, and a makeshift shantytown has sprung up outsice the main town gate where Freebooters, Grease Monkeys, and con men can ply their trades without provoking an armed response from the Blackshirts (the town guard).

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This page was created on December 10, 1999.
Last modified on February 10, 2005.