Subject: Brian Mixon, subject number 8891-80-10 NEST arcology survivor
Surviving the event was luck, surviving the aftermath took some skill. Partly what you knew, and a lot of learning. We started off with some really good people, but we scavenged all wrong. It was too easy in the beginning. By the time we knew what to do right, we'd lost some people, and it had gotten a lot harder.
Moving large appliances takes some strength, even with robots to help, and it stands I'm a big guy, and kept in shape with marshal arts. I could use my foot to open doors most people would need a crowbar for. So lacking a new supply of ovens and water heaters - I stepped up for RAT duty. Besides, volunteering for such a dangerous job would get me a lot of tower credits so my girlfriend and I could leave easy - and of course, the unsaid part about us getting a little extra on the side of what we took from old buildings.
In the beginning, we looked for guns, goods, and gold. Seems right - yeah? Self defense, food stocks, tools, and money for when trade reestablished. But that is all short sighted, and presuming this was going to be a quick thing... interval? Era? Service interruption? Whatever.
Well, all that stuff is interchangeable. Pretty much any nine-millimeter handgun will fire any nine-millimeter and vice versa. Food is food wherever it comes from. Money was kind of worthless, but also available from a lot of different places.
It took a while to realize that the priorities were wrong. Go for industrial tools and seeds for long term agriculture, not a few weeks food. Too many guns amongst quarreling people would be a problem, and they weren't the best weapon all the time anyway. Look for personal effects to help keep morale up and make life in the NEST bearable. An old photo-album or stuffed toy could be worth more than a metric ton of gold, you know.
You can find a gun almost anywhere, if there are a lot of reanimates, search somewhere else. There is only one "Mr. Stuffles", you can't present just any picture of an old lady and call it great grandma. Those things are both harder to find, and only in one location.
By the time we started on the difficult runs, we'd lost a lot of RATs looking for the less important stuff. We were also looking for bigger and harder to transport stuff - medical machines, power tools, military vehicles - which made the man-power troubles worse. And there was a rather hideous policy put in place that forced criminals to work as a RAT in lieu of other sentences. If you're too lazy or untrustworthy in normal situations, and not smart enough to avoid getting caught, you shouldn't be in a scavenger team. I could fill this entire project with stories about people going AWOL, over their head, or trying to double cross the team. Still might.
But yeah, by waiting, a lot of the important stuff ended up already taken, or damaged by the elements, or just plain crawling with reanimates. Other scavengers and treasure hunters were a problem too. Both in the city itself, and in trying to break through the NEST underground to get in. Not only did that take our stuff and damage our equipment, but if reanimates go in behind them - bad news all around.
Citizens were a bit less of a problem, they didn't go too far into the city. But when you did meet them, watch out! They got really paranoid about the thousands of places one could be ambushed in an unfamiliar city - and were really jumpy with the missiles, artillery barrages, and radiation guns. Reaniamates were bad and all - but having your skin melted off by an X-ray cannon through a wall? Yeah. I have more nightmares about that and the friends killed that way than anything else.