Fiction: The Blockers

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
fiction the blockers

I guess I became a blocker after my brother killed himself in his Challenger, back in the summer of 2041. No, I don’t mean he crashed. I know that’s why people hate us, because they say we kill people when we take action, and I guess that’s happened once or twice.

What I mean is this. My brother. My older brother. He joined the Army when I was still in grade school. He bought an old Challenger with his bonus pay. Drove it all around that fall, putting his whole check into gasoline and old retread tires, and then they sent him to Israel for the Suppression. Well, he killed those Jewish terrorists for three years I guess, and right when that was winding up, you know, we had the terrorists in Taiwan and we had to help China get rid of them before we had a fourth nine-eleven or something. For a long time he was just a face in my specs, bugging me about school, asking about news at home because our Internet was still “free” compared to the military one. Five years he spent in Taiwan, and he got sick, you know, like a lot of them did, with the bugs and the nightmares and the skin, but finally the good Chinese kinda won that thing and he came home.

He came home on a modbus. Late at night. Didn’t even come in and wake us up. He had gasoline. Don’t know where he got it. He took the Challenger out. And the cops stopped him outside the city limits. Told him he couldn’t drive himself. That he wasn’t in Taiwan, goin’ crazy with a MRAP and all. Told him about Modules and said they wouldn’t take him to jail because he was a hero and he’d served the country, and all that.

But they told him they would have to recycle the Challenger, so would he mind waiting in the back seat of the copmod until the crusher came, and he said, well Officer, I have to retrieve my personal effects, and they said yes, and he got in that old black Challenger, took a pistol out of the glove compartment, and shot himself in the head. I never saw him come home. Never met him for real, not as an adult, you know? I didn’t know what to do. I ran to my friend’s house, and he got me a beer, and he said, Brian, your brother didn’t kill himself, the system killed your brother, and you should do something back, and I know people.

Every blocker has a story, and that’s mine.

They say we are terrorists and you know the penalty for being a terrorist or associating with terrorists is immediate deportation to North Dakota, to the terror farms, the needles in your brain, and all that. We don’t care. And they know who we are, know our faces, know the minute any of us step onto the grid for a meal or a toothbrush. But they haven’t caught us all yet. There are times I’m not sure they are trying all that hard. Like having us out there gives them a new enemy. Like we are part of the plan, even as we try to mess that plan up.

My friends call me Airbag because I came up with that trick. You’ve seen it in your specs but here’s how we do it. First we sew the silhouette. The first ones were just big blobs but when R7.2 downloaded three months ago the mods all learned to drive right through ’em. Now the silhouette has to be more specific, and that takes sewing. Yes, I know how to sew.

We pack the sewn-up silhouette into a foam box and hook up three or four old airbags to it, right out of the old junkyards. The dash bag is best but so many of them are gone, we are pulling from seats now. You attach a standard microcontroller to them at the terminals, add the RF module. Remember the foam box has to pack to six inches height, no more, because that’s a mod’s ground clearance and they consider it road junk. Drag the bag out at night. Wait for rush hour. The mods ignore the box and drive over it. Just when traffic gets hot and the mods decrease following space to one meter…

BAM! Trigger that bitch and it blows up, looking just like a mod come to a dead stop in the middle of the freeway. R6.8 stopped the so-called “turtle turn” where the short-wheelbase mods would exceed their polar moment and roll, but they still go left and right, hitting each other, braking to a stop, pinballing all over the place. One time we counted over a hundred and fifty mods damaged. And of course they all gotta come to a stop until the sats can fly over and make sure there’s nothing really wrong. Traffic backs up. Everybody drops down to sixty klicks for dangerous conditions, even after the freeway is clear. You know the drill.

Yeah, sometimes people do get killed. But mostly it’s like this. You’re Mr. Chuanxue Pang or whatever, on your way to work, having your tea, reading the news, maybe asleep, enjoying the satisfaction that comes with owning this country lock, stock and fucking barrel, knowing that people like my brother died, and got sick, and killed themselves, and all of a sudden WHAM you are crashing into other cars and your tea is in your lap and your nose is broken and your day is RUINED, right? And the collaborators, and the bankers, and all the people who serve the people who own us, all broken and battered.

For the rest of your life — every single commute — you wonder if it could happen again. It isn’t in your conscious mind. But you can’t enjoy that tea. And you don’t sleep well when the mod is in motion. You buy a bigger mod so you’ll stand a better chance, and your neighbors start to talk about you. No, it ain’t like losing the only person in your family who ever really cared about you, but it’s something, you know?

We set off six airbags last week, all around the city. Got more ready to go. And the other tricks… the caltrops, the wet Peltier rollout pads that use solar energy to create black ice on the bad turns, and Hayden’s little autoturret gadgets that sit behind road signs and burn out the imaging cameras with a ten-watt laser. That’s in addition to the cowboy stuff the kids do, like putting on an insulating suit, jumping the electric fence, and running around on the road until a copmod zaps ’em. And I know there’s at least one Taiwan vet south of the city who has just started shooting at the truckmods. Probably thinks since they don’t have any humans in ’em that its okay. But he’s messing with the commerce, you know? Worse than messing with people. Don’t expect that guy to live long.

We were all in a meetspace last night and one of the Chicago guys out there says he swears he saw a mod that was probably upgraded to R7.5. Said it drove through an airbag and the other mods around it didn’t even take evasive action. Of course he doesn’t have footage. Says they lost the webcam when the bags blew. Amateur work for sure. But if he’s right, then we’ll need something else. This was my idea. Take some effort but like they taught us in school,

“to rank the effort above the prize may be called love.” Check this out. We cut and weld out a silhouette. Sheet steel. Wrap it in fabric. Hang it under a bridge. Release it on command. It hits the ground looking just like a fake silhouette. Death and craziness result. Get a few of them ready and deploy all at once. Cause panic. They will have to roll back the upgrade until they figure a way to make old hardware see the difference between bags and steel.

Some of the guys laugh at me. They say I’m a true believer. Say that’s the same as being a terrorist. They say that if my brother was still alive he’d be coming after me. I tell him that society sent my brother one place, then another, then finally to his death. I’m just following him to that same destination, and I’ll see as many of them as I can when I get there. Every blocker has a story, and that’s mine.

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2 of 52 comments
  • Commando Commando on May 25, 2011

    Love good car fiction as much as the next guy but that piece was pure garbage. Just because it made it into TTAC is not enough credentials to make it a good literary read. Again, it was a horribly written POS. Bad call Neidermeyer. If you're trying to broaden the automotive landscape covered by TTAC, this attempt failed miserably. Don't give up your day job. Oh, wait. This is your...... Oh, well. Better luck next time.

  • -Nate -Nate on Mar 25, 2020

    Hm ; Some how I was never notified of this article . It's interesting and IMO shows Jacks shops as a writer, good writing never appeals to everyone..... -Nate

  • FreedMike Next up should DEFINITELY be the Cadillac Eldorado. On the subject of Caddies, I saw a Lyriq in person for the first time a couple of days ago, and I'm changing my tune on its' styling. In person, it works quite well, and the interior is very nicely executed.
  • Probert Sorry to disappoint: any list. of articles with a 1 second google search. It's a tough world out there - but you can do it!!!!!!
  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars
  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.