Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 19

In which Jones longs for a room of his own

Jones picked his way through overflowing trashcans and makeshift nests constructed from duffel bags, winter coats, and travel pillows from the gift shop. Since the Next Economy, most of the staff at the airport had stopped working. This included janitorial. Only a few essential staff remained. Flight attendants and pilots continued to work long enough to get back to their own home base. Some passengers had gotten stuck on layover. They fretted about the location of their checked baggage. Other khaki-clad inhabitants of the terminal clearly wished they had ended their subscription to Virtual Vegas a week earlier. Jones passed a hammock strung between two trash cans. A collective groan escaped the crowd. The Wifi had gone out again.

Jones went over the same tired facts in his mind: Agent Moss probably didn’t have the authority to put him in jail if he quit the case, but he couldn’t be sure. The airport was full. The car networks were down. The cell network was down. His phone, somehow, still worked but Agent Moss wasn’t answering.

Jones went to the windows and found himself a seat on the floor. He listening to the listless murmur of conversation around him. 

“After I get home, I’m leaving California.”

“Where are you going to go? Amazon?”

“I want to get a job in Montana.”

“Good luck, I heard they only take people with master’s degrees.”

On the television, a Bloomberg news anchor interviewed a representative of the Department of the Treasury. The bureaucrat looked flushed and feverish.

“Can you tell us about the cooperation between the Treasury Department and the World Bank during the rollout of the Next Economy?”

The Treasury woman started to cough, her ribcage heaving. She recovered and croaked out an answer. "We have no idea what will happen next but we believe the situation will become worse and worse. It is crucial that people do not lose faith in the authorities. We are not trying to create enemies of the government - our employees are law-abiding citizens and we want people to trust us. We want people to think that they are in control of their own life."

Jones gazed out over the tarmac. He could see mountain ridges in the distance, hemming them into the basin of the desert valley. There was rail in Virtual Vegas, but no passenger trains. The only way through the mountains was to drive over them, fly over them, or walk over them. At the moment, all three options seemed impossible. He rested his forehead against the window. Dead palm trees bordered the tarmac. After years of neglect, the heat wave had done them in. 

Two planes rolled down the runway, colliding nose to nose as they jockeyed for the same gate. They shuddered and ground to a halt. The noise was like a tin can ripped apart in a garbage disposal. Jones saw people on the ground running towards the hulking, broken masses. Passengers crowded around him at the windows.

A man in a beige work jacket and khaki shorts shoved in next to Jones and clicked his tongue. “Did air traffic control even show up today?” he asked. “The pilots are winging it.”

“Would you work for nothing?” another woman asked.

“Only if they paid me!” someone chuckled.

A wave of lethargy and nausea swept over Jones. He pushed his way out of the scrum of rubberneckers and went to find something to read.