Exposition (Initial Situation)
Nuclear? We Hardly Know Her
Randy Bragg is a failed politician from the small town of Fort Repose, Florida. Out of the blue, his brother Mark, a high-ranking military official in the Strategic Air Command, contacts him and drops the worst nugget of gossip ever: the Soviet Union is prepped to launch a full-on nuclear war against the States.
Yeah, if they could just not do that, that'd be great.
Mark sends his wife Helen and two children, Peyton and Ben Franklin, to sit tight in Fort Repose while the whole nasty business goes down.
Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)
Life Under the Mushroom Cloud
And the nukes are just the start of it.
Although Fort Repose is miraculously spared the nuclear strikes and resulting clouds of radiation, they're left without electricity, supplies, and hope for long-term survival. Their challenges are painful and numerous, but Randy takes leadership of a group of survivors, which include his former flame Lib McGovern and local doctor Dan Gunn.
Everyone pitches in to rebuild new lives in the wreckage, and for a few months at least, things are going as well as you can hope for in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)
Some Bad Hombres
Then the highwaymen appear. These gangs of roving criminals assault and rob anyone unfortunate enough to stumble across their path, which isolates Fort Repose even more than it was before. After a while, the baddies get bolder and start doing their business within town lines, murdering and robbing several people in their homes, including Jim Hickey.
As the rotten cherry atop this disgusting sundae, the highwaymen brutally assault Dan Gunn while he's making a house call, stealing his medical equipment and leaving him for dead.
A New Sheriff in Town
Furious at the depravity of the highwaymen, Randy takes matters into his own hands. After gathering a group of armed men, he drives a truck around Fort Repose hoping to entice the thieves into an attempted stick-up.
It totally works. As soon as the highwaymen approach the vehicle, they're blasted to bits with ease, though Malachai Henry, who's been part of Randy's crew since the beginning, is tragically killed in the fight.
Deux Ex Helicoptera
Roughly a year after The Day, planes start flying low overhead Fort Repose. That's a good sign. Even better, they seem like good guys. Jackpot.
Then, one day, a helicopter lands near Randy's house, and from it emerges a group of military personnel. They're surveying the areas that were considered "contaminated" during the war. After looking around, they're shocked by Fort Repose: it's in better shape than most places spared nuclear fallout. Although they offer our heroes an opportunity to evacuate, they all turn it down—they've spent too long rebuilding their town to leave it now.
Our heroes also learn that the United States won the war against the Soviet Union, though that seems like a meaningless afterthought after everything they've been through.