(New poll up if you haven’t seen it yet.)
Friday, March 7, 2036
Search and Research
I scratched my head. “That is a Heehaw… if they’re up from Atlanta, they’re burning a lot of fuel.” We have the real Heehaw on Planet Georgia — the Harlow-Easton Hauler — the rest of you call any truck built on the Ford RE100D design a Heehaw. Here, some drivers snap the last three letters off the “HE Hauler” badges, just for laughs, but these guys had removed them entirely. We have one for our trips to the markets at the old freeway. It’s a great truck for local trips; it goes 80 km running full-electric on a full charge with a moderate load and a top speed of 50kph, but the newsies had to be traveling 3–4 times that today and using the diesel to get around quicker. Even with a light load, that meant they were burning 15–20 liters of diesel, easy: two or three weeks’ ration for us, minimum, and we get extra because we’re a farm. They had the aero-cap up to protect their equipment and help with the mileage, but it wouldn’t help that much. These guys had connections.
Fortunately, the newsies soon emerged from the apartment and walked right by us without saying a word. They looked more than a little unsatisfied with their interview, although I’m sure they would find something to take out of context. They didn’t even pay attention to the camera in Serena’s hand.
“Hey,” I said as they climbed into their van. “Maybe you could give me some contact info? In case I run across someone who isn’t treating their guests right?”
They brightened. “Good idea. Thanks,” the mike guy said, and passed a couple cards out the window.
“Peachtree Road?” I said, looking at the address. “Where at?”
“Uh… Midtown,” he said before backing out and driving away. The cards were the same as what Serena had filched earlier. Peachtree Road, or at least parts of it, are a prestigious address. But they could just as easily be using one of several maildrop outfits; “#301” could be a corner suite or a 15x15cm mailbox.
Sean and Mary joined us out front. “That was weird,” Sean opined. “They looked around, and turned off the camera. Then they kept asking us if we really lived there, and if you were treating us well, and it would all be confidential. It was like they wanted to hear we were being mistreated.”
“Something’s going on here,” Serena said. “I’m gonna have to get EDID involved, I think.” EDID was Rene’s old Army unit; they intercepted and decoded enemy data streams during the Final Oil War. Rene never felt like he could go into detail about what he did back then with us, but maybe his wife the former MP was a different story. Maybe Rene still has some connections that outperform a basic search-by-email engine.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said to Sean. “They’ll probably dub in whatever words they want, but they’ll pixellate your faces so nobody knows it’s you.”
“I’m sorry we got you involved in this.”
“Don’t be. There probably are some guest families who are being mistreated — I’ve heard about a few myself — but I doubt they’re a even a large minority. I figure these guys are looking for some sensational story they can sell.”
“Either that, or they could be a government outfit,” Daughter Dearest suggested. “You know, checking on things.”
“You think so?” Serena cocked an eyebrow at her.
“Not really. But I guess it’s possible.”
Guillermo and Maria came out. “They are gone?” Maria asked. “Good. Those were not good people. I feel it.” She patted her corazón.
I made some phone calls, and managed to warn two people I knew that had refugees living comfortably with them. The others already had their visit, and were a bit riled about the intrusion, and we talked a little. But thanks to Serena, we had more information than anyone else. She’d also jotted down the tag number, although I suspected that it would lead to another blind alley. It’s technically illegal to register a vehicle with an address that wasn’t a physical residence or office, but that’s primarily aimed at people dodging high ad valorem taxes. The tag had a Fulton county sticker, which has the highest county tax rate in the state, so no government would bother investigating. Still, Serena pulled some cop strings she still has and asked them to run the tag when they got a chance.
The search turned up nothing useful. We were just giving up for the day when Rene came home, with the kids in tow. “This must be something,” he said. “You guys blew off the last hour of school.”
“We’ll make it up,” Serena said. “Did you get ahead with the biochem lessons?”
“Nah, I just declared study hall and let them get their homework done. They’ll catch up.”
Something’s catching up to us here, too. I guess it’s been too peaceful too long at FAR Manor. Serena filled him in, and Rene was up late last night (when we get more bandwidth and some interactivity) poking around. He plays his EDID cards really close to the vest, though, and I suspect he won’t show his hand until he has a winner.