April 12, 2005: The Day

Continued from April 4, 2005: The riders

The Day was predicted on August 14, 2003 when a massive power outage left millions without power, some for days. In just 3 minutes, 21 power plants shut down, affecting a number of cities, including New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Toronto and Ottawa, Canada.

A riders waystation
Gateway to the coastal plains
The notorious
Ashcroft Prison

Officially, the government announced that it was unclear what caused the outage. Possibilities floated by "sleeper" members of the Conservation planted in critical media and government positions included a lightning strike in Canada, a fire at a Con Edison power plant in New York, an outage at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, a dilapidated infrastructure, rats in the wires, and of course, terrorism.

The outage stopped trains, elevators and the normal flow of traffic and life. In Michigan, water supplies were affected. Hospitals were forced to switch to costly emergency generators. There were panicked runs on stores for food, water, batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and cigarettes.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, later revealed as a Conservation Prior, revealing the Conservation's lack of concern, told panicked citizens, "Our advice is to go home, open up your windows, and drink a lot of liquids."

The Conservation was not concerned because the Blackout of 2003 was really just a dry run for their planned political, social, and economic coup.

Years later, when they flipped the switch for good, the Conservation did not even bother with cover stories or media misdirection. By that time it didn't matter, the commoners were powerless to respond.

Resource strangulation was only one facet of the Conservation's plan for global domination. Another pincer involved economic emasculation. Specifically, in the early years of the 21st century, the Conservation continued to hammer home an increasing number of tax breaks for the Elites. This increased the wealth of the Elites and resulted in fewer and fewer services for the commoners. There was no Draconian clampdown, no overnight Armageddon, rather, the Conservation slowly weakened public infrastructure through calculated neglect. Bridges collapsed, roads deteriorated, schools shut down, security vanished.

Resources and revenues were concentrated into the hands the Elites, who lived in highly secure Enclaves throughout the land. As fewer and fewer resources and services were available in the Outlands, social order began to decay. Commoners were provided with just enough necessities to forestall massive rioting, while a carefully selected array of disposable commodities gave commoners "luxury items" on which to spend their scant funds.

Purchasable commodities were mostly limited to perishables like entertainment, alcohol, cigarettes, prescription drugs, and fast food (with no power and no trees left for making fires, fast food became standard fare for most commoners). The Elites were interested in creating a true disposable society, with commoners as the disposable items. The Elites wanted a continuous turnover of new buyers for their high-margin goods -- the shorter the collective social memory, the better.

Currency slowly disappeared, and there were few paying jobs for commoners. Most employment opportunities were shipped overseas. Teenagers flown in from the Philippines and Bulgaria filled service industry positions in the Enclaves. All that was left for commoners was work amongst themselves in the outlands. Barter returned.

Conservation allotment checks kept some currency in circulation, but only the predators and some riders were ever able to accumulate more than a few Reagans in their pockets.

Spending and socialization was fueled by the ubiquitous TV, which had become the Elites' greatest orb of power. Socialization began years before The Day, as a way to prepare commoners to mindlessly accept the new social structure envisioned by the Conservation. Bombarding citizens with TV programs such as Cribs, Pimp My Ride, Trippin', Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Monday Night Football, and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the Conversation successfully highlighted and validated the Cult of Entitlement.

Rider #555 was pulled away from his memory string by a low murmur that was making it's way through the riders staged at the edge of the trees. A Deaker and a Bolter were preparing to make a break across an expanse of wide-open coastal plain to the next windbreak.

This was a common pairing, because it virtually guaranteed that one rider would make it while the predators chased down the other rider. Inevitably, once the predators attacked, riders on both sides of the plains would launch themselves into the open in a full-scale jailbreak. The desperation, fear, and dread were palpable. Riders were literally riding for their lives (as well as handsome payment).

Predators were very single-minded in their approach. This made them terrible foes, but it also provided an Achilles' heel for riders to exploit. Predators acted as a team, stalking, chasing, and attacking only one rider at a time. However, when a large group of riders broke for a windbreak, the pack of predators would pinball from one rider to another like a fox in a chicken coop, incapacitating as many riders as possible. Later, when the dust had settled, they would return to the fallen riders to claim their spoils.

Rider #555 and the other riders fleeced up their gear, double-checked their bikes, and prepared for action. Back in the day, Rider #555 had seen a movie about somebody called Ryan. The movie had started with an unbelievably horrific battle scene on a beach somewhere in Europe. Every time Rider #555 ventured out onto the plains, he was reminded of the carnage of that scene.

Here under the trees, all riders were brothers and sisters, but out in the open, it was every rider for themselves. This was the rider's code, and everybody knew it. Rider #555 had not survived being a rider this long though by being naive or chivalrous. Like other veteran riders, Rider #555 survived the rushes across the plains by using his fellow riders as human shields against the steel, bone, and chert weapons of the predators. Of course, there was no defense against the computer and satellite weapons of the Conservation, but the Conservation rarely got involved in the daily affairs of the commoners -- except of course for routine intimidation and remediation.

Something told Rider #555 not to make this rush -- and he had long ago learned to listen to his spirit guides. Standing down, Rider #555 retreated deeper into the windbreak to wait for a better opportunity.

He was working a prison run, which was one of the worst types of deliveries to make. Technically, no outside contact of any kind is permitted with prison installations, but because the guards also receive packages and get a cut of the deliveries to prisoners, they mostly look away. But a rider can never feel safe on a prison run. The guards make random busts to keep up appearances and satisfy their superiors in the Elite Enclaves, but often they simply kill the rider and take possession of the entire delivery.

To avoid the vagaries of Elite law and order, many riders worked for messenger crews. As part of a crew, a rider received some protection from the Elites and a steady stream of deliveries -- in exchange for a hefty cut. "Meet the new boss," Rider #555 mused, "same as the old boss -- everybody wants their goddamn cut."

Rider #555 had long ago determined that the benefits offered by a messenger crew were mostly bullshit. Crew riders died and disappeared as often as independents. As least as an independent Rider #555 was free to live or die as he pleased.

Continued on April 19, 2005: The wind


Mileage: 20.46 Time: 1:51:36 Avg: 11.0 Max: 29.6 Weight: 170

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