Things are supposed to be cooling off by September. No such luck for The Boy. Actually, in real life, things are fairly cool. We changed the brake pads on (my) Civic yesterday.
Monday, September 1, 2036
Dueling headlines this morning… and The Boy was right in the middle of it. I think I’ve managed to piece everything together, from what he told me and from what was on the news sites.
The chautauqua charter is to bring art to the community — and the opt-outs are definitely a community. They have accepted The Boy, partly because he was close to joining them a few times and partly because he smokes too — they understand each other. He’ll take his acoustic guitar with him, play them some music, smoke with them, maybe play a few more tunes. The chautauqua approves of this, because he seems to have better luck reaching them than do their plays and on-stage concerts. He brings it to them, after all.
Yesterday afternoon, he was playing them a few tunes out behind a power distribution station when they heard gravel crunching. “Those guys can just melt into the brush, I’ve never figured it out,” he said. “They’re with you one minute, the next they’re just gone.” He put down the guitar and ducked down as best as he could, which turned out to be enough to stay hidden. He could see them, though: a Heehaw, electric-quiet, entering the station. Four men in coveralls dragged a large metal box off the back of the Heehaw and lugged it into the guts of the station. A fifth man, slim and dressed in denim, directed them and selected a spot for the box.
“Careful!” Slim hissed at the others. “Make sure you get it lined up.”
“What’s the big deal?” one of the carriers griped. “You said nobody was gonna find this anyway.”
“Yeah,” said another. “Easy enough to give the orders when you ain’t doing the work.”
“You’re getting paid for your work — the better lined up it is, the less likely anyone is to think it doesn’t belong. Besides, I do my part tonight. Now let me set the timer.” He knelt, lifted a hatch, and fiddled inside for a few seconds before closing the hatch. “And that’s that.” He stood and took a folded envelope from a back pocket, then counted out money to each of the big guys. “You won’t have any trouble getting back to Smithfield tonight?”
“Nah,” one of them said. “It’s only 20 kims, and I got a gallon of diesel if the cell goes out.”
“Good. I’d advise staying home tonight and keeping an eye on things. You shouldn’t have any trouble, but sometimes these things get away from you.”
“Yeah.” Slim climbed into the Heehaw’s shotgun seat; one of the big guys took the wheel and the other three raised the sides before climbing into the bed. They spun away, and The Boy waited for them to whirr up the road before climbing out and taking a look at what they’d left behind.
“It was like those boxes you see on street corners—”
“Pedestals,” I suggested.
“Yeah. Just like that. Brown, rounded corners, the only difference was this one had handles for the guys to donkey it in there.” He lifted the lid, and saw 4:37:53… 52… 51. He carefully closed the lid, tiptoed away, and grabbed his guitar. By then, some of the opt-outs had come back.
“What’s going on there?”
“I don’t know,” The Boy said, “but it sure as hell looks like they just left a bomb in the power station. If it is, you don’t want to be here around…” he pulled out his gadget, checked the time, and did some figuring: “20 after 9 tonight. You guys are camped a ways back from this thing, right?”
“Yeah,” one said. “Hey, wasn’t Gib in demolitions during the Oil War? Maybe he could defuse the thing.”
“Or he could set it off early,” another said. “I don’t think Gib would try it… and if he did, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near.”
“You guys move your stuff,” The Boy said. “I’ll call the sheriff and let the cops blow themselves up. I won’t bring you up so you don’t get involved.”
The opt-outs were amenable to that idea, and got right on it. The Boy shouldered his guitar and headed back to the camp, already punching up 911. Now you have to remember, The Boy has been highly suspicious of cops since he was a teenager — and the incident that sent him to Colorado did nothing to improve his attitude — so he obviously thought this was bad enough that he needed to interact with them. Not that he has much to worry about these days: his teen vice of choice (weed) is still technically illegal, but nobody ever enforces it. His appearance is pretty normal for a traveler, too. But old habits and attitudes are the hardest to shake.
The cops arrived in a two-seater Zap, modified for police use, and The Boy led them to the box. Seeing the timer was enough to convince them, and they called for a bomb squad (which comes out of Richmond in an emergency vehicle, burning fuel by the bucketful). They gave The Boy a lift to the camp, and consulted with the camp director about the situation — the power station served both the camp and Suffolk.
“Yeah,” The Boy told them, “the skinny guy said ‘my part is tonight.’ They’ve already planted a bomb that’ll knock out the power to the camp and town. So what else is he gonna do?”
“Good question,” the camp director said. “With these people spreading rumors and discord, perhaps he’ll incite a riot.”
“Here?” the cop said.
“Here or in town.”
“If he tries startin’ anything in town, we’ll be on him like grease on bacon.”
The Boy snorted.
“We’ll leave a couple of guys out here too, just in case he tries startin’ it here,” the cop continued. “You think you guys can handle things?”
“We might,” The Boy said. “I got an idea.”