View From The Curb

Posted on 08 Nov 2021 @ 12:41pm by Game Master Andrew

Episode: From our Past
Location: Butte Metroplex, Montana
Timeline: Date 2054-11-27 at 1850

The sun had set hours ago, but the western sky still glowed.

Of course, Reggie knew that had nothing to do with light refracting off of Earths atmosphere, the smell in the air told him that. The acrid chemical’s intermingled with the heavy sooty odour of burning plastics. What lit up the sky on the western edge of Butte was the reclamation centre, part of the new Works Projects Initiative that provided work and credit for the cities bloated refugee population. Spend a day taking apart old pre-Cliff techs like cars, appliances and the like, and receive a shiny credit tab for food and lodging in hostels.

Or, if you didn’t want to work, there was the FEMA camp. Acres of tents, years old by now, supplemented by ramshackle lean too’s and huts. When the Climate Cliff hit the coasts, people came inland. Lots of people, and not in any organised fashion. Reggie’s father had been a trooper in the Montana National Guard during the exodus, and commented often and loudly about how stupid the coast dwellers had been.

‘Carrying their blu-ray players and big screen TV’s instead of tents, food and clothing. What the hell did they think they were going to do with that shit when the summer droughts came and the winter’s iced them out?’

Reggie clawed his mind back to the present, and stepped up to the cashier's station. The line behind him, bundled up in thermal shawls and chem vests, grumbled about the winter chill. Maybe this year the snow and ice wouldn’t last until July? He waved his wrist patch over the sensor plate, and a happy smiling figure on the screen informed him his order was processing.

It didn’t help that someone had scrawled in marker over the screen with ‘That's All Folks!’ Above and below the little animation.

“Your order has been processed! Enjoy!” The saccharine voice of the machine spoke, and the collection hopper opened to reveal the gleaming wax paper packages bundled together with plastic ties. Reggie quickly turned the package over and around, making the usual checks to ensure the machine hadn’t sparked a chip and given him the wrong order.

Soya-meat patties, leaning more towards soya than meat. Though what meat was best not thought of.
Anchorage Rice, made in the USA. Genetically modified to kill off anything else it was planted with to maintain its monopoly.
Alfalfa: not even the Climate Cliff could kill alfalfa.
Toiletries, medical vouchers, a couple of bars of chocolate loaded with vitamins. And powdered coffee and creamer, though what was which was something of a nightly debate.
All in all, groceries with enough calories in them to keep him and his father going for another week.

Taking his bundled goods, he stepped away from the back into the stream of pedestrian’s milling around the stores parking lot. His dad was always telling him about how, back in his day, you could just walk in and pick up whatever you wanted off the shelf if you had the money for it. Inflation, scarcity, and a lack of preparedness had seen the end to that time of plenty it seemed.

A Butte Police Department drone hummed overhead, its impellers creating a not unpleasant warm downdraft as it patrolled the crowd. No doubt the size of the assembled mass was triggering some riot prevention protocols in its processor, the machine equivalent of anxiety. Privacy laws might have done away with facial recognition, but the machines behavioural subroutines would zone in on people attempting to hide from it, or acting in a fashion counter to public order.

Reggie let out a breath of chilled, frost touched air, and as was his habit turned to the east. In the past, as a kid, he’d relied on his terminal to tell him what the time was, to buzz and alert. But now, in his late teens, he knew it as well as the beat of his own heart.

The fifth day of the week, 1900 hours. Against the black sky, bleached out by the city lights, you couldn’t see the cotton threadlike strand that bisected the sky. But at 1900 on the fifth day of the week, if you looked to the east…

It rose into the sky, a bright star ascending slowly. People used to watch it every time it rose, but now he was maybe one of ten people in the parking lot watching the Climber begin its five-day voyage up to the Freedom Tether Station in geosynchronous orbit. It was a signpost for him, a clear indicator that there was a way out of the gutter and stink of Butte. If you were smart enough, and lucky enough, you could snag a lift up the beanstalk.

Reggie kept watching.

One day. Some how.