May 4, 2020:
A rural town, a rusting railroad track. Ancient hills, round with age; tired old trees. Rusted train wheels, a burned-out M1A1 overgrown with mold. Barefoot children. Rival gangs of teenage boys, living partly in the woods, partly in metal shipping containers. Double amputee on a wheelie board: veteran of the Disaster.
Doctor Hopewell, volunteer. The doctor chose to volunteer. To escape a life he feels is broken, like this compost of backwater villages he now serves. To escape a city unequivocally broken, to hide from his blasted and blackened heart, to hide from the ubiquitous black object hovering immobile over his blasted, broken city.
Doctor Hopewell leads a team of volunteers. Physicians and staff from other places: Finland, Australia, Cuba, offworld. Staffing a humus of broken clinics provided once-upon-a-time to demonstrate the Federalist Authority's concern for its people. Where "clinic" means: concrete shell of stripmall storefront, filthy and bare, where lighting and toilet fixtures are torn from walls, kitchens and laundries dismantled, and packs of stray dogs dig for amputated limbs buried under broken parking lots. Where enterprising entrepreneurs organize laundry businesses capitalized with the clinic's missing machines, enterprising food services companies quote impossible rates, and Resistance people turn up from time to time to replenish the drug supply, or to loot it, depending.
Doctor Hopewell accepts these occasional tokens from The Resistance because they're offered freely. But, he has no sympathy for a movement he views as hopeless, irrational, and naive. Doctor Hopewell believes in realism. He believes his patients are dying; that he's working his staff to death; and that his sole realistic personal option is suicide, perhaps after first euthanizing the others. Thus he monitors the drug supply for future opportunities.