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In the short story I'm trying to recall, the main character wakes up from what was supposed to have been a test of some sort of suspended-animation technology, and was only supposed to last for a couple of weeks, to find out that a number of years have passed (I want to say 70-ish?) and the world has gone to pieces in the meantime. I don't recall the details of the apocalypse.

Upon exiting the "tank," as I'm pretty sure he refers to the suspended-animation apparatus, he has to fight for his life against some sort of battle-bot-gone-berserk, although it's been damaged in some way so he is able to defeat it fairly easily. He then sets off exploring, and pretty soon discovers some sort of community that's being ruled over by a former comrade of his, turned post-apocalyptic warlord. I forget exactly how he gets in, but the former comrade recognizes him and starts to make nice, to a suspicious extent. It soon transpires that there's another one of those battle-bots roaming around somewhere - this one is undamaged, but somehow or other its identification has been scrambled so that the warlord-fellow (who should have "admin rights" as it were) is unable to get close to it. He's hoping that the main character will have retained his "admin rights" and can deactivate the battle-bot, as (I think) it's guarding something valuable.

I forget exactly where the story goes after that, but here's everything else I can remember:

  • The story is told in the first person.

  • I read it sometime in the 00's, but I'm pretty sure the story itself was significantly older - 70s, 60s, maybe 80s.

  • At some point it may have been available on the Baen Free Library, back before it was so sadly reduced a few years ago. If that was where I encountered it, I think it would have been part of a larger multi-story anthology, rather than a standalone.

  • I believe that the suspended-animation technology was intended to be used for a long-term interstellar mission of some sort, which of course got short-circuited by the world falling apart.

  • The battle-bots may be named for some sort of breed of dog. I want to say "bassett" but I know that's not really it, my brain is just substituting the tanks from Rick Shelley's "13th Spaceborne" series.

  • I very specifically remember the main character thinking to himself, about the battle-bots, that he wouldn't be able to go up against a fully-functional one "with its dander up." That particular phrase has stuck in my head.

  • One of the main character's first thoughts upon waking up is that the air in his "tank" is stale and unpleasant, and that he'll have to have a talk with [can't remember the name] about his pet project's air-conditioning capabilities.

  • I remember something about wheelbarrows?

  • I think there's a girl involved, somewhere. I think she's an inhabitant of the community controlled by the main character's ex-comrade-turned-warlord, and either she stumbles across the main character when he's creeping around the outskirts, or the reverse, but I'm very shaky on those details.

Unfortunately I don't remember any names, invented words, unique catchphrases, or anything else that's of any use when searching. Google (understandably) isn't very good with abstract descriptions of story contents.

Any or all of these details may be completely off base (though hopefully not all of them!) I've put down everything I can remember, as best I can remember it, but I could easily be conflating multiple stories here, or making some things up out of whole cloth.

  • 2
    This has a distinct flavor of Keith Laumer, but I can't place the story. – Mark Olson Mar 28 '18 at 0:47
  • Yes! I think you're onto something, because I was just thinking about some of the anthologies I read from the BFL, and Keith Laumer's Odyssey kept popping into my head. It's not in that one, though, I checked. – Joseph Montanaro Mar 28 '18 at 0:55
  • The start of it sounds like the start of the game Fallout 4... – Robotnik Mar 28 '18 at 4:09
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    Not the answer, but the headline alone reminds me on Idiocracy. There "world has fallen apart" means "everyone is an idiot". – Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '18 at 7:22
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    All of Laumer's Bolo books are great. – Tony Ennis Mar 28 '18 at 11:05
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The Night of the Trolls, an early Bolo story by Keith Laumer.

The protagonist is an astronaut who was in hibernation as a dry-run for an extended space mission.

Some of your details don't match up but I'd check it out and see if that's it. You're right about the girl, the former crewmember turned warlord, etc. There are 2 Bolo robot tanks, the Greater Troll and the Lesser Troll.

The ending, how the protagonist deals with the Greater Troll, is pretty cool. In fact this is a pretty darn good Laumer story.

You can read the story in its original magazine publication here.

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I suggested this story as an answer to this old question The name of a SciFi story I read in 1980 about a sleeper person but no answer was ever accepted there.

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    That's it! It's on Gutenberg, three sentences and it was obviously the one I was thinking of. Shoutout to @MarkOlson who hit the nail on the head with the Keith Laumer suspicion. – Joseph Montanaro Mar 28 '18 at 1:07
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    @JosephMontanaro welcome to scifi.stackexchange! That was a very well written story id question indeed. – Organic Marble Mar 28 '18 at 1:17
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    Keith Laumer: fighting trolls since before the internet was a thing. – Pharap Mar 28 '18 at 14:16
  • The short story Night of the Trolls is revisited by Laumer and expanded into a novel The Stars can wait. Same universe different ending – william machnis Apr 1 '18 at 9:09
  • I can't read his post-stroke work; a sad change from what it once was. – Organic Marble Apr 1 '18 at 11:58

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