The Seventy-Niners. (last update: 6/24)

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Post by Mayabird » 2008-05-24 11:23pm

Will you be explaining the "Freecers" comment in the next chapter, or at least soon? I was curious what it was all about, and if it was related to that vague mention about whatever it was that happened in California. Some kind of atrocity, I'm guessing.
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Post by Battlehymn Republic » 2008-05-25 12:49am

Is California the only breakaway state of the Union?

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-27 02:01am

Eleven

He didn't know how long he'd lain there, propped up against the sandy embankment. He didn't remember tying his shirt around his leg, though his body armor was off, and his hands were caked in dried blood.

The white-hot agony of the previous night had faded to a mere dull red agony. It was improvement, but not by much. He really had to move. He was getting sunburnt.

Tyrone rolled onto his hands and knees, groaning as the dull pain in his leg sharpened. He clutched his Glock in his hand, half-climbing, half-crawling out of the gully. He made it back to the top, relieved at the lack of gunfire greeting him.

He forced his way over to where his first hiding place of the night was. The fat man he'd shot was still there, and he was already gathering flies. The pistol laying next to him was a 9mm, entirely useless. His knife, though, was bigger and sharper than Tyrone's, and some of the tangle of branches looked pretty straight.

His work done, Tyrone hobbled over to the site of his campfire. There was another dead body there, and the last of Tyrone's water. He drank, before pulling the clothes he'd stuffed into the sleeping bag back out, crawling inside, grateful to be out of the sun.

He remained there for a long time, for the next time he opened his eyes, the sun was low and just south of the Alvarez Mountains. He crawled out, steadying himself on his crudely-hacked cane, before hobbling off in the direction of the gunfire he remembered the night before.

"God-be damned, will ya look at that," he swore as he crested the ridge of a gently-sloped hill. There were two ATVs parked behind an outcrop of rock. Genuine motor-powered ATVs, black and red paint badly flecked with age. He hobbled over, taking a closer look at them.

Tyrone swore again, kneeling down, running his fingertips over the bullet-holes punched into the body of the vehicle. Over the holes punched in the jerry cans mounted in the back. He took a tentative sniff . . . yep, alcohol. Same story with the other one, more bullet holes and scars. Oil leaked from the bottom of the motor, but . . . the fuel cans looked okay. They'd been newly ventilated, yes, but it looked like they'd lost no more than a quarter of their contents each. And, there was a backpack.

Coyotes yipped and howled in the distant mountains as the sun slipped below the horizon. Tyrone worked as quickly as he could, taking the spare and intact cans and hiding them in the brush. One of the cans was a water can, and he dragged that back to his campsite.

A fat crescent Moon hung high in the darkening western sky. Tyrone worked as fast as his leg would let him. It was going to be a long, dark, sleepless night. If he lived, it was going to be an even longer tomorrow.

"You call that a tamale, man?" A voice said. Tyrone looked up and back, catching the eye of a tall Mexican in a Stetson hat. He frowned, looking back down at his plate. His tamale was half-finished, and affair of masa, red chili, and a smattering of beef.

"I don't see anything wrong with it."

"That's 'cause you never had them prepared right," the Mexican replied, settling down onto the end of the bench. Tyrone grunted. It was Saturday. That meant Meat Night and a ration of alcohol for rail-rats like him. He intended to enjoy both.

"There's supposed to be a lot more beef in it than that," the Mexican remarked. "And they call this 'Meat Night.'"

"You got a problem with that?"

"Oh no, not at all," the Mexican held out his hands. "I make my living making 'Meat Night' possible. The
Federales ought to let you have more of the fruits of my labor, is what I'm saying."

"You're a cowboy," Tyrone said, putting down his fork.

"That's right," the Mexican replied. "Vicente Arguello, at your service."

"Tyrone Roberts," Tyrone said, taking a drink of his beer, before scowling. "What are you doing in a rail-rat canteen, then? And why the hell do we have cowboys anyway? Thought free-range cattle destroyed the environment."

"Have to keep the border where it belongs somehow," Vicente replied, shrugging languidly. "Let me ask you. You like doing this work?"

"Keeps me fed," Tyrone replied. "Damned hard to do otherwise."

"I can feed you better, and," a rustling sound. Tyrone's widening eyes met those of George Washington. One of him would buy a lot of Ronnies.

"You're recruiting?"

"Who better than the rail-rats?" Another languid shrug. "Only if you want it bad enough. We're the toughest
hombres this side of the Continental Divide."

Tyrone nodded. He'd heard the stories. "What do I have to do?"

The goldback was dropped on the table, along with four of his friends. "Bring these back to the station
manana. All of them. You got a gun?"

Tyrone swallowed. The goldbacks made it hard to think, but he knew Vicente wasn't talking about state militia-issued rifles.

"Yeah," he replied.

"Muy bueno. What kind?"

A thoughtful pause. "A Glock."

An eyebrow went up. "Pre or post-GFMA?"

"It was my grand-dad's."

An approving nod. "Caliber?"

A frown. It'd escaped all the periods of registration and confiscation by being kept locked in its own little safe, and never talked about. He'd seen it all of five times in his life. The last . . .

"Ten short."

"Good man," Vicente replied, standing up. "Bring it with you
manana. You ride with me, you're going to need it."

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-27 02:02am

Twelve

"Pima County Sheriff's Department, how may I direct your call?"

She sounded bright and cheerful, whoever she was. Paul gave her the name he was looking for.

"Just a moment. Can I tell him who's calling?"

"Paul Thompson, Indiana Rail Authority."

"Okay, just a moment!"

Paul watched the flapping flag on his phone's display. Suddenly, there was a click.

"You old son of a bitch!"

"Yeah, good to hear from you too Robbie."

"That's Sheriff Allen to you."

"Bakersfield was a long time ago, Robert. I picked my side, and you picked yours. We're both still coppers, and we're both still Americans."

"Yeah, we're both coppers. Americans . . . I'm not so sure about."

A nod. "You're entitled to your view. You've earned it. And congratulations."

"Yeah, thanks. What do you want from me, Paul?"

"I want to see how good you California coppers are. We nailed a couple of bandits, with California IDs, trying to blow up the railroad near Mulberry."

"You're calling me about desparadoes?"

"No, these weren't ordinary train robbers. Too clean, too well-fed, and too many explosives."

"Quite a combination."

"Yes it is. One of my deputies suspects these are Freecers."

Dead air.

"Freecers? As in 'Free Canada' activists?"

"Don't play stupid with me, Robert. Everybody here knows about the Terror Diamond, and I'm sure you've dealt with it," Paul growled. A thoughtful glance at a dusty old wall map with four red lines slashed across it.

The first line: Malcontents and misfits tried to escape the United States to Unasur, or to what shipping went to Europe, through Mexico.

The second line: Mexico caught most of them and deported them. Supposedly to the U.S., but in practice, California. Now, to be fair, California did ship most of them back east.

The third line: This described what happened to the rest, the worst of the lot. They were shuffled into Canada . . . where they eventually joined those radicals who objected to something on the list of things they usually objected to: The USCAN Co-Prosperity Alliance, the Morality Boards, the Committee, and whatever other cause de jour troublemakers took up.

The fourth line, completing the diamond: These radicals filtered down south, back into the U.S., where they then proceeded to cause headaches for men like Paul.

"Not all Committee fear-mongering is true, Paul. But, fine, we've got a fiber to the CHRP database. Because you're not a complete son of a bitch, let me have the IDs of your perps."

A touch on his phone's screen and the data was sent.

"I got it. Three up, three down. Whatever happened to due process?"

A shrug. "The law's crystal clear. Look me in the eye and tell me things are better there."

More dead air.

"Point. Let me run this."

Paul waited. Robbie still had that streak of idealism, but he remembered his roots.

"Paul? I got hits. Let me send them to you."

He sat up as his phone's screen flashed. A few moments later, the screen on his desk flashed to life.

"Never saw this in our records. Expired student visas, all three of them. Deported from Brazil in '74," Paul leaned closer. "Our boy in the farmhouse put on CHRP's watch list, and he never made it onto Homeland Security's list. They sure liked visiting Canada a lot. Wonder how they afforded it."

A glance downward, followed by a scowl.

"How did I miss this?" One of the dead bandits was on Homeland Security's watch list. A neo-Con sympathizer. "And don't give me any grief, Robert. This isn't in our database."

"Don't think I was planning to, Paul." Dead air. "My department suspects the neo-Cons have been giving the local cattlemen grief. Hell if I know why." There was a pause. "Would've been real nice to have had a chance to question that boy."

A scowl. "We'll try to keep the next group alive. Plotting against the railroads is almost a rite of passage for these malcontents."

"Hey Paul, I've got to take this call." Robbie sounded almost apologetic.

"Yeah, okay," Paul replied, distracted. "Let me know if you scare something else up . . . I'll be in touch too."

"Will do, you old son of a bitch." The phone's screen flashed off. Paul paid it no mind, as it was on other things. Freecers and neo-Cons. Malcontents after the same thing. And while he had few tears to shed over the fate of a few California cowboys, why the neo-Cons were giving them trouble bothered him.

His screen flashed.

"Hey Chief!" It was Stefan. "There's an all-forces emergency call out of Lafayette . . . There's been an explosion at the Wabash River Bridge."

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-27 02:17am

Mayabird wrote:Will you be explaining the "Freecers" comment in the next chapter, or at least soon? I was curious what it was all about, and if it was related to that vague mention about whatever it was that happened in California. Some kind of atrocity, I'm guessing.
Well, Chapter Eleven doesn't refer to it. Chapter Twelve, however, does talk about it. Or it did since I noticed that there was a question about the Freecers and their connection to California.
Battlehymn Republic wrote:Is California the only breakaway state of the Union?
The Union is, in parts, more state-oriented than not in 2079. The states have quite a bit of leeway in dealing with their problems, leaving Washington to consolidate its hold over the parts of the continent that do it the most good, and neglect the parts of it which are, presently, more trouble than they're worth (sufficiently loud complaints about this fact get the Committee's personal attention. This almost always ends badly.)

So, in principle, California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada, are all still part of the United States. In practice, California is becoming more and more its own nation, encompassing Arizona and Nevada, with significant parts of Oregon and Washington under their sway (and other parts clamoring for Washington to do something about it, but being largely ignored.) A nation that is very careful not to do anything with Nevada and Arizona that might look the slightest bit threatening to Washington's interests in Utah and Colorado.

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Post by Battlehymn Republic » 2008-05-27 03:33am

Odd that neo-Cons are renegades, considering the rampantly regressive nature of the "Morality Board" and the sinister "Citizens' Committee." One would think that they'd be two peas.

I think that the whole idea that standards of living in America will fall so dramatically that Latin America will look good in comparison is pretty far-fetched, but this is interesting anyhows.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-27 08:45am

Battlehymn Republic wrote:Odd that neo-Cons are renegades, considering the rampantly regressive nature of the "Morality Board" and the sinister "Citizens' Committee." One would think that they'd be two peas.
The neo-Cons, somewhat like the old Cons, are lolbertarians/libertopians. The Committee has come to not only reject this as blatantly stupid, they also want to drive the nation in another direction entirely.
I think that the whole idea that standards of living in America will fall so dramatically that Latin America will look good in comparison is pretty far-fetched, but this is interesting anyhows.
Not quite Latin America. The Mexican peso is preferable to the greenback/Ronnie in parts of California and the US, only because Mexico uses one currency. The United States has switched to using a hard resource-backed currency for international/interstate trade (the goldback,) and scrip for those working on the labor gangs (the greenback.)

The folks who try to sneak out of the country tend to view Mexico as just the bumpy, unpleasant, bandit-ridden part of the road to where they really want to go. Namely South America, whose homegrown version of the EU has weathered the last century a bit better than the actual EU (only insofar as they're too far away to be of interest to the GFMA and the Russians.)

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Post by Mayabird » 2008-05-29 11:06pm

When you say "hard resource-based," does that mean the goldback is actually on a gold standard of sorts, or something else?

I'm hoping Tyrone makes it. I know you won't say to not ruin the story, but I'm rooting for him.
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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-30 01:57pm

Mayabird wrote:When you say "hard resource-based," does that mean the goldback is actually on a gold standard of sorts, or something else?
Yes. It's pegged to a standard basket of valuable minerals and resources, including those in stockpile, those in use, and proven reserves. There are adjustments made based on population, arable land, food reserves, and fraction of the population involved in production and manufacturing.

In theory, a person could go to a bank with a large pile of goldbacks, and demand their equivalent in metals, and could sell a large pile of metals for goldbacks. Only local banks don't really carry enough stockpile for the number of goldbacks they hold, and it's illegal for private citizens to hoard large quantities of the "standard basket" minerals and metals anyway.

For nations, it's a somewhat different story. One I hope to explore in later installments.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-31 04:57pm

Thirteen

Raul Ferierra heard nothing but the purr of tires on pavement and the hum of electric motors as his driver skillfully traced a path through Rio De Janeiro's streets. Up on the distant mountaintop, O Cristo Redentor kept watch over the city, His open arms putting in Raul's mind the vision he knew he would see when it would be his time to go.

He was very old-fashioned. And there weren't many in Brazil, or the rest of Unasul, who'd dare take issue with it. Raul had a firm grip on the vast economic machinery of the Brazilian Miracle, and at 71, lived very comfortably.

The car passed a row of multi-story apartments, a former favela. A group of children gawked at his car. He smiled at them through mirrored glass. It looked nothing like the all-electric taxis and utility carts that swarmed the street around it, not with the dedicated compartment for the fuel-cell.

He passed into a much better neighborhood, bright sunlight reflecting off glass-faced high-rises. The glare becoming dappled, broken up in the foliage of trees; he was almost where he wanted to be.

The car turned, and Raul was greeted by a large stretch of green, surrounded by more trees. The car pulled up to the curb, gliding gracefully to a halt.

"We're here, sir. Shall I fetch him?"

Raul gazed out the window. Several young men were out on the grass, playing an impromptu game of football, the black-and-white ball passing quickly between fast-moving feet.

"Oh no, Octavio," Raul replied. "I will fetch the boy myself. Let him enjoy his game a little longer."

His driver smiled. "As you wish, sir."

Raul leaned back, watching the young men play. It reminded him of his youth, only he played in the dirty streets of a favela, and could only dream of seeing the sort of money these young men took for granted.

His wrist warmed and he put on his glasses. Ghostly letters filled his field of view. He was expecting a call this afternoon. Raul sighed, taking his glasses off.

"If you would, Octavio?"

"Yes, sir," his driver said. In moments, the door was swung open for Raul, and he gingerly stepped into the tropical heat.

His heart warmed at the sounds of young men running around the field, shouting exuberantly in Portuguese. Some had stripped their shirts off, tanned physiques coated in a sheen of sweat.

Raul sat at the bench where the shirts were. Within a few minutes the game wound down. He spied one of the young men.

"Antonio! Come here!"

The young man's head snapped up. "Sir," he said, fairly running over.

"No no, call me 'Grandfather,' you have earned the privilege."

"Yes si . . . Grandfather," Antonio Ferierra stammered. "How did you know I was here?"

"I asked your mother," the elder Ferierra replied. "Come, let me give you a ride home," a pause, his eyes twinkling. "We need to have a talk."

A sour look passed over Antonio's face, but he nodded, turning away. A minute or two later, he returned, and they walked back to the car, grandfather and grandson.

"Speak English to me, Antonio, and tell me how you are?"

Another frown. "I'm fine, Grandfather. School has been busy, but it's over now."

"So I've heard," Raul replied, also in English. "I am proud of you, Antonio. You are exceptionally bright, and your professors give you nothing but high marks."

Antonio blushed, his frown persisting.

"Thank you, Grandfather."

"You know I don't hand out praise lightly, be proud of your accomplishments. You have a bright future ahead of you, Antonio. That's a very rare thing in this world."

Octavio pulled open the door, and the two men slipped inside.

"I imagine you are wondering why I've picked you up today," Raul said. In spite of himself, Antonio nodded. Raul smiled, leaning back in the seat.

"What thought have you given to your future?"

Antonio bit his lip. "I don't know," he finally said. "They're starting a new fusor in Minas Gerais, and I have thought of applying there."

Raul nodded. There were a handful of those in the world. Most in Europe and Russia. Only in the last two decades had they made their way to the Western Hemisphere.

"You have a promising career administering part of my empire. All you need to do is ask."

The frown deepened. "I can make it on my own. I want to make it on my own."

Another smile. "Stubborn like your father . . . like your grandfather. I appreciate that quality in a man most of all." Momentary silence settled in between them. "Still, Antonio, I have an offer to make you."

"I said," the response died with a chopping motion.

"Hear me out," Raul growled in the voice that cowed three decades, and a continent's worth of corporate governing boards. "You have a bright future ahead of you, Antonio, but you know little of the world outside Brazil."

"I know enough."

"Boy!" A look that could melt steel. "Never let me catch you saying that again! I grew up in a favela, a shantytown like the ones on the far coast, run by Petrobras. The world is like them. Dirty, poor, and violent. Ruled by thugs, imposing their will on those who would do anything for their next meal."

A heavy silence descended, broken only by the purr of tires and the hum of electric motors.

"We are lucky. But fortune is fickle. You must understand this, Antonio. You must understand it on the level that I have. The United States is getting their first fusor. That is where I feel you should go."

More silence. Finally, Antonio blinked, looking at Raul. "They are?"

"Yes, Antonio. In the state of California. I feel you will learn more there than you could in Minas Gerais."

A thoughtful look, followed by another frown. "But I..."

"And you will. I will secure your entry into the country, but otherwise, you will stand and fall on your own merits."
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Post by Battlehymn Republic » 2008-06-02 03:49pm

Very nice. Interesting look at a place that often gets passed over in future stories. I think that in Brazil UNASUR is called UNASUL. What's a fusor?

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-06-05 01:04pm

Battlehymn Republic wrote:Very nice. Interesting look at a place that often gets passed over in future stories. I think that in Brazil UNASUR is called UNASUL.
Oops, Portuguese versus Spanish. Easily corrected.
What's a fusor?
Well, it takes deuterium atoms and smashes them into other deuterium atoms until they become helium atoms and a fair bit of surplus energy ... i.e., it's the (in that time) commonly accepted shorthand term for a nuclear powerplant utilizing fusion.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-06-24 09:12am

Fourteen

"Good morning President Rossbach," the Turkish ambassador said, shaking Stanley's hand.

"And a good morning to you too, Ambassador Temiz," Citizen Chairman Stanley Rossbach replied, returning the handshake with interest. His lips twitched at the use of his old-style title, and he sternly resisted the impulse to look at the camera he knew was hidden in the Green Room.

"It is a beautiful morning," Ambassador Mustafa Temiz said. "You have a beautiful city, Mister President. My delegation was most impressed by our tour of the Potomac Seawall."

"Thank you, Ambassador," Stanley replied, bristling. The Turk was playing a dangerous game. "I trust you had a good night's rest."

"Yes, yes, Mister President," Ambassador Temiz replied. "We appreciate your hospitality, and your grasp of the gravity of our visit."

Stanley nodded. Diplomacy by video-conference was cheap, face-to-face diplomacy wasn't. "Would you think me rude if I say I'd like to get right down to business?"

The Turk grinned. "Not at all," he replied. "My time here is precious. The more productive we can make it, the more benefit there shall be to our respective nations."

"Agreed," Stanley said, mentally sighing with relief. The first sentence without the use of the Citizen Chairman's dangerously outdated title.

"Yes," Ambassador Temiz said, sinking into the chair across from Stanley. "I believe you should know that we are watching your negotiations with UNASUR and the GFMA with significant interest."

A nod.

"We are disappointed that we were not given the opportunity to bid. Yeni Ufuklar is building a remarkable service record in the years since its incorporation."

Another nod. "And I apologize for that," Stanley said. "You do understand that certain political realities bind our hands in the matter?" He could think of three offhand. First was that UNASUR and the GFMA were much closer. Secondly, involving the GFMA kept the heat off the UK, and what was left of the EU. Finally, Turkey was a Russian satellite state, and involving them would've offended both the EU and the GFMA.

It was the Turk's turn to nod. "Of course. These are trying times the world finds itself in. Perhaps they would be less trying with more brotherhood in the world, no?"

His heart jumped. It wasn't a pleasant feeling. The smile on Stanley's face was entirely faked. "Yes, it would be. History tells us that these things are cyclical, though."

"History is only cyclical to those who aren't paying attention. Or, perhaps, it is cyclical because nobody pays attention. After all, if history repeats itself, and the unexpected always occurs, then how good are we at learning from experience?"

"Shaw," Stanley replied.

"You're ... well-read, Mister President," Ambassador Temiz said. The surprisingly remained unspoken, though Stanley saw it on the Turk's face. "Regardless, we would wish this pass through the cycle be the last one. Ideally because we'll all be in space, instead of here, fighting over the last scraps of a grossly misspent natural bounty."

A nod. "Agreed," Stanley said, unwilling to say more. "I have been authorized to make an offer to Prime Minister Ramsaur's government."

An eyebrow inched upward. "Indeed?"

"Indeed," Stanley replied. "The Committee has authorized me to bring Turkish observers onboard for our negotiations regarding the New Mexico spaceport. I am also interested in hearing what your government would have to say regarding a lease of Cape Canaveral?"

The Turk's astonished look was immensely satisfying.

"I will, of course, convey your words to my government," he finally said. "I must ask why, though?"

"We don't trust either UNASUR nor the GFMA," Stanley replied. "It would be . . . inconvenient if either attempted to cut a deal with California, or tried anything that might spoil the deal for the other."

"I see," a thoughtful look. "And would I be correct in assuming Cape Canaveral would be the incentive for my government to mediate?"

Stanley nodded. It wasn't quite as desirable as Spaceport America, or Baracoa, but leasing it to the Turks would have advantages of its own. Like placating the Russians, for one.

"I need to speak with my government," Ambassador Temiz said, at length. "You understand that this isn't something we can act on immediately."

A reassuring nod. "Yes, Ambassador. Take as much time as you'd like. Not too much, though. Our negotiations are ongoing, and UNASUR and the GFMA will get suspicious if I try to tie things up too long."

"Thank you, Mister President," the Turk replied, standing. "I will see what I can do about expediting matters with my government, but, alas, a response may not be immediately forthcoming."

"Do what you can, Ambassador," Stanley said, shaking the Turk's hand. With that, he made his way back to the Oval Office. There was a call he had to make.

Sinking into his chair, he tapped the screen on his phone. He leaned back, waiting for the connection to be made. At length, the screen flashed, signifying a successful connection.

"Good afternoon, Raul! I have some news for you . . . "

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