April 4, 2005: The riders
The coastal scrub shimmers in the intense sunlight. At first glance, there is no sign of life on the flat, open blufftops. More careful observation reveals movement in the cypress windbreaks. Riders. Watching and waiting for an opportunity to cross the wide-open plain to the next windbreak of trees, the next opportunity for cover.
Riders are corsairs of the mail, paid handsomely to deliver mail and packages to the outlands. Because it is one of the few opportunities for wealth and prestige available to commoners in the New World, there are thousands of riders swarming the outlands. A good rider can survive because the predators pick off the weak and the slow. A fast, cagey rider can make a handsome living out here, as long as the luck holds out.
Different riders have different methods for getting through. Some try to blend in with commoner traffic and pedal at a leisurely pace, as if they belong. Deakers. When they think they have the angle, they go for it and sprint for the next treeline. But like lions stalking a zebra, predators are always out there, tracking the riders. By the time a rider breaks for it, the pursuit is in full effect.
Bolters think think that raw speed can carry the day, but it rarely happens. Most Bolters are too green or too stupid to understand that pure physicality won't get it done -- there are too many predators.
Lurking behind one treefall, a rider surveys the scene. Rider #555 by Conservation records, Cannonball out here. He looks south along the perilous stretch of jagged coastline stretching from the Remediation Facility at Pillar Point to the next payment station down near the new Ashcroft prison where the old Ritz-Carlton used to be. Seaward, archers on surfboards and kayaks patrol the surf. Rider #555 notes that the tide is out and the reef is littered with tidepools. How many crimes have been swallowed by the crabs in those rocks, he wonders.
Rider #555 is on old timer, formally trained as a messenger in the Old City. He prefers to wait for a crowd of riders to make a break for it, taking his chances that he will be crafty enough to survive among the chaos and violence of a mass jailbreak. Old Wisdom says that one does not have to outrun the bear, just the fellow rider.
Rider #555 knows to watch for trolls under bridges and at creek crossings, and he knows to watch for and avoid the jumps and obstacle courses built by freerangers to bottle up riders for ambushes. He also knows to watch for birds out on the singletrack. Many has been the time that Rider #555 avoided death or capture by noticing a bird taking flight just up the trail, revealing a predator waiting to attack.
Also congregating at the fringe, street youths -- the designated patsies of the Conservation. These unfortunate waifs have an understood Faustian bargain with the Conservation wherein they are allowed to openly smoke tax-free cigarettes and otherwise flaunt the law in return for acknowledging and accepting that they ARE the usual suspects when the Conservation needs to satisfy its arcane judicial bloodlust.
Right now, the air is tense, and nobody is interested in making a break for the next line. Rider #555 leans back into the trees to rest. Rest rarely means sleep in the outlands. Junior riders worry and veteran riders think about the Old Days.
For so many years, the econo-industrial complex had conspired to create the kind of free-market economy they had always dreamed of -- one that completely regulated and controlled prices, wages, and most importantly, resources. Adam Smith's free hand was their own, and it was an iron fist. Their goal was to blockade the flow of resources to the masses, and slowly create two societies, two Americas, two worlds: the Elites and the commoners.
It had started innocently when he was a kid, with a fake oil embargo and long lines at the gas pumps. People were shocked and a little scared, but Conservation spin pointed the finger at OPEC, and the country was off and running after its tail. After that, there was always something: The Enron scandal, tainted meat resulting in the voluntary destruction of millions of chickens and pigs, continued farm subsidies for reduced growing. All of it done to financially and psychologically weaken the commoners.
Finally, there was the push to wireless and satellite technologies. Once the commoners had been convinced to convert to the wireless grid, the Conservation centralized control of all power resources, except for what dwindling stocks of batteries and diesel fuel remained in private hands. From this centralized position of power, the Elite were able to control a nation, overnight.
Rider #555 remembered the day they flipped the switch like it was yesterday.
Continued on April 12, 2005: The Day
|Mileage: 27.65||Time: 2:16:57||Avg: 12.1||Max: 37.0||Weight: 168|
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