Life In New Egypt

L. Van Warren

As I was hanging up the phone today, it said I still had messages. But I had just checked my messages. So I pressed the switchhook again to flash the line. Now all of a sudden, it was clear. That was significant. That meant that a computer somewhere in the phone company was tracking my movements moment by moment waiting to inform me of new information, relenting like a bowing servant when there was none.

So if a computer tracks me moment by moment so what?

If it tracks me, it tracks you, if it tracks us, it tracks everyone...

So what of that?

Well the new civil war hadn't gotten into full swing quite yet, but the storm was brewing. You see the split was mostly east-west this time, with the South going the way of its own personal implosion. Must have been the warm muggy weather. The cauldron of causes; Conservative/liberal, rich/poor, drug/no drug, pro-life/pro-choice had been set into boiling by a most unpredictable fuse, the fuse of a credit crisis. Unfortunately, the racial thing repeated itself, only it wasn't split in two, it was split in four. Black/WASP/Jew/Asian Hong Kong's reverting to the mainland Chinese had the funny effect that lots of Asian rich people were suddenly displaced from there to here even though they had a decade of warning. They finished purchasing Old California outright, except for what is now UnAmerica Inc. where some major bloodletting that began over LAX had driven them northward. The Nissei index was crazy for 4 months. Northern California, Washington, and Oregon became fused into one giant coastal megalopolis of money, high technology and migrant slave labor melted into one long and thin territory. The Asians mostly ran that part except up in the far north where the tech-heads had gotten control of the money. The South had expressed its prejudice in combined race/drug/arms war, only this time it was imploding from within. The black gangs had a slight advantage since they had armed themselves hard and early. The white supremacists hate groups weren't far behind, with their roaming, "shoot groups", but the fight was fairer, if you can call it fair at all, than it had been 100 years before. If this all sounds like a confused mess, that's what it was, the fog of war was real there, things were starting to clarify as various groups aligned.

Early in the storm of political alliances and massive movements that precede regional conflict someone had gotten into the TRW credit files, that same somebody also had access to the VISA, Discover, Mastercard and American Express data as well. In actual fact it was the other way around. Since the mutual funds had returned to full automatic trading things had been stable for a season. A fair amount of consolidation had taken place, consolidation that had the surprising effect of causing all the North American credit card accounts to be accessible to what was, in effect, a giant recursive holding company. Now, don't get me wrong, there were a myriad and maze of intricate safeguards in place. Trouble is, those safeguards assumed that the old world order of separate credit companies was in place, and now with corporate consolation like a feeding frenzy, the old security system had frankly outgrown itself. The media didn't help, their full time coverage of the crisis had caused a run, not only on the banks but on every form of liquid commodity including food and household items.

Suddenly superstores, the Price-Clubs, Targets, Wal-Mart, and regular stores, groceries, drug stores and so on couldn't pay their distributors and in turn they couldn't pay their sources and so on. In UnAmerica Inc. there was widespread looting and shooting in a turbulent free-for-all. The symbol of this became the pickup truck with plywood sides, piled to the top with one strange item or another. Plywood became extremely valuable as it could be fashioned into car armor on short notice, and car armor was the definite rage since it protected from sniping gunfire, the leading cause of death.

Now the financial system, if you can call it that, was more of an octopus conglomerate than a system, more like a bundle of tentacles with eight heads and ten horns, one for each of the time zones from the left edge of the pacific rim to the North Atlantic, until that fateful January morning...

It was a small thing that caused things to tumble the way they did, the whole thing would not have worked if it wasn't for a little detail, and that detail was the fact that the state of Old New York (Now called EaST, forever immortalized in financial infamy that dwarfs Pearl Harbor or even Hiroshima in its impact or fallout) exchange opened two hours earlier. The social engineers/criminal terrorists or SECT - it depends on who you talk to - had decided that their raid on the national credit files would be most effective if they ran the plan from east to east. This even though they hatched the plan from the what used to be LA, that part of the Southern California Basin which is hemmed in by the San Gabriel Mountain Range.

The Islamic fundamentalists, who had tried unsuccessfully to topple the world trade center some years before had failed to recognize an important truth, that truth was that the financial matters of the former United States was a distributed computer entity, an entity that could not be hurt by one letter bomb or 55 gallon drum of C-4.

The SECT, mostly consisting of academic types who fought their war over the telephone, realized that world finance was far easier to topple from within. All this is just background though, the real curiosity is just what the hell happened on that bloody January day.

As it turns out, about that time a lot of folks around the country, and when I say folks, I mean suits, I mean small business people and I mean just about everybody, not only had 1 credit card, they had two or three or even four. Moreover, interest rates had fallen low for a while, everyone had spent to their limit, then there was an unexpected and precipitous rise, that's when the bottom fell out.

See, in and of itself, that would have just been another run of the mill financial crisis. The problem was that now people were paying electronically, not just with credit cards, but with point of sales gizmo's called Watchtrons. They were a combination of a wristwatch, a beeper, a computer chip, an ATM card, a credit card and it was all on a little watch. Usually it just displayed messages from the global messaging system or more mundanely, the time of day. There would have been cellular phone too, but, the radiation and wrist cancer scare had ended that. One would go into the store and just press a little button on the Watchtron that said pay. There were two buttons, one for accepting funds and one for getting rid of them. These were hooked into the wearer's bank account, only they didn't say pay to bearer on demand, or In God We Trust. It just said, pay to wearer on demand period, end of report.

So the West had three zones, New Egypt Centered IN what used to be Las Vegas Including Old Nevada, Old Colorado, Old New Mexico, and Old Arizona. The coastal zone, UnAmerica Inc. which was more of a city state in what used to be Southern California. A heavily defended FreeTradeZone extended in a narrow strip along I-70 which reached almost to what was Iowa, before the East checkpoints were fully staffed. Nobody seemed to care about the northern regions like Montana and the Dakota's. They were mostly inhabited by ranchers anyway.

Now the South wasn't in the fray, since it was considered more or less off limits. Some murders that had begun in the abortion mills had caused some strange and shifting alliances in the white supremacist hate groups and that in turn spilled over into the race thing. The whole south from the Mason-Dixon line to West Memphis had erupted in a Cerbian civil war, lacking only the skyscrapers to shoot from. There had been a huge exodus to the north, which came to be called EaST, an exodus that would have been bigger but for the fact that winter made some people sit tight for the opening moves.

On the WeST, ha one province, (that was what WEST called them) was going to be labeled, New Egypt, another (there were three) was going to be called UnAmerica. There were three controlling causes as well, and each province of the WEST was strong in one ideal and weaker in the two others but in some sort of loose strategic agreement.