Williams, Robert Moore – “Refuge for Tonight” (1949)
The United States has been destroyed and occupied – not, surprisingly, by the USSR, but by the “European Federation,” who unleashed the yellow flu on America, then nuked DC, then sent over “aid workers” to make sure no one was re-organizing. We open with a man named Jones falling for a trap set by a woman working with three hidden men. The woman, by the by, initially comes across as a skilled survivor but is quickly reduced to bumbling damsel-in-distress/love interest for Jones – much like Bette in “Easter Eggs.” This is more than any of the women managed in the previous year, but it’s still tough to call this progress.
Anyway Jones and the others join forces and go on the lam from the Federation troops chasing them, ending up in what they think is a mountain silo from which they can launch nuclear weapons back at Europe, but which turns out to have been a secret laboratory now occupied by a number of American survivors. One of these survivors is Jones’s old boss, a scientist driven mad when his highly-publicized test of an interstellar space drive failed some time before. Right as the Federation army breaks in, the scientist’s madness clears (triggered by his recognition of Jones), it turns out the failure was a fake, the functioning space ship is hidden under the lab, and everyone blasts off except for one guy who heroically stays behind to buy them time. Jones and Jean figure that Earth will be nothing but “some minor planet” to their grandchildren, and that America had “lost a continent – and won the stars… It seemed a good bargain.”
As is common with works like this, characters reminisce from time to time on the most banal things that they miss from civilization – as when Jean hungers for the “simple satisfactions of living in a world that was gone forever: fat babies and washing-machines and a roast browning in the oven” or when Jones laments the fact that advertising is gone forever. None of these things go on in the rest of the world, apparently.