February 2008 Archives
[By Angelika St.Laurent]
"We could just as well have walked, sir," objected Grace. "It's only an hour from the station, anyway."
"I want us to look official," answered Kim, steering the car up the wide road. To their left, the blue sky reflected in magnificent Cayuga Lake. Sheer cliffs loomed to the right, where the rock had been blasted away to make room for the gently curved road.
"Sometimes I wonder, whether you joined the police just so you could drive a car, Sergeant Chen," went Grace on.
Kim didn't answer, but he couldn't suppress a smile. There was a reason why he had picked the young corporal to come along. As so often, Grace was right on: there had been other motives, too, to be sure. But if he was honest, he had joined the police because he loved cars. What other profession offered so many opportunities to drive?
"I need you to keep your eyes open, today," he said.
"What are we looking for, sir?" she asked.
"I don't know," he shrugged, turning the car to the entrance of the big auction hall. "Anything, whatever it is, as long as we can show it is criminal. This whole business disgusts me."
"There must be a lot of money in it," she observed, pointing at one of the busses parked in front of the hall. "If they bothered to drive a bus all the way down from Detroit."
"There sure is," growled Kim. The fools were a fine deal for anybody who needed cheap labor, and an even better one for those who acted as their agents: Fools too stupid to ask for proper security, who'd take a bottle of cheap cider just as happily for a salary as hard $100 coins, were just handy, if there was a new railroad track to be shoveled, a channel to be built, or an old electricity damn to be replaced. And the worst of it, nobody was likely to ask for them, if an accident happened.
The cities were happy to see them leave - radiation-damaged young men crowding the streets did nothing to improve the image of new prosperity and rebuilding. And the mothers, well, they had been too poor and unimportant for anybody to bother to evacuate them when the bombs fell. They were no more likely to be able to protect their sons now, than they had been able to protect their unborn babies nineteen years ago.
"The mayor wouldn't be happy about it," Grace mused, scrambling out of the car.
"No," said Kim, slamming the car door, "But sure as hell, they'll stop the business here in Ithaca, if we'd find anything. I heard the word 'slavery' more than once down on the Commons."
They walked into the auction hall. Most of it stood empty, but the corner where the contracts were signed was crowded. Kim walked over to the first desk. He quickly read over the contract lying on the table. The face of the young man signing it was tense with concentration. His name was probably the only word he had ever learned to write.
"I'm Sergeant Chen, from the local police," he said slowly to the young man, "Your contract tells you, that you will be paid a thousand dollars a day. If they don't give them to you, you come and speak with me."
The man nodded vacantly.
"You know how much a thousand dollars are?" Kim asked him.
The man's eyes glittered. He raised all his fingers. "Ten times a hundred," he said proudly. Kim wasn't sure, if he was proud of the promise of being paid minimum wage, or of his ability to count.
"Sergeant Chen, what a pleasant surprise!" boomed a voice from behind.
Kylan Greenboom, the contractor who had won the bid for rebuilding the Six Mile Creek dam, sped towards Kim.
"Sergeant, I assure you, there is no need to be worried at all. My men have everything under control," Mr. Greenboom declared loudly, "No need to trouble yourself. In fact, if you ask me, I find these poor young brain-damaged men much less violent than they are defamed to be. I always feel that they are grateful that we give them a chance of an independent life.... And not to worry, we'll keep them safely away from bars and public spaces. They won't cause any trouble in the city."
"I will need copies of all the contracts," Kim said stiffly, "Along with copies of their identification cards."
The contractor scowled. Copies were not cheap. "I'll bring them down to the station, tomorrow," he promised.
"Have you found anything?" asked Kim back in the car.
Grace shook her head. "No, but I bet there is enough money involved that we'll find something sooner or later."
"Dad, we have a big problem."
"They're on the edge of the field this time - mostly camped out in the forest."
"That's an improvement over last time."
"It's fifty, though."
"I think so. I tried to get close without them noticing, but I'm not sure."
"Fifty? Did you call the Sheriff?"
"Mom tried - the department's up in the northeast corner right now on something similar."
"All right. I guess we can't let these folks get too settled. Where are the shotguns?"
"They're still on the back of the tractor cab. What do we do?"
"We ride over and tell them to go away, just like the last three times. Get up here, and get the guns ready."
This is a rather different direction than the rest of Upstate 2050, but a friend sent me a link discussing an alternate version of New York State, explained here in more detail. The boundaries are very different, but make sense in their own way, and the development trajectory seems to have been very different.
The different boundaries and smaller country make me think that the "Upstate-Downstate" relationship there would be completely different.
I wonder what that might look like in 2050?
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