Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 46

In which Jones catches up with Bugs

He called Amelia. She didn’t pick up. He didn’t bother to leave a message, because he knew she didn’t check them.

It felt like a long shot, but Jones decided to call Bugs. Bugs had a lot going on with his nutrition cult, but Jones hoped he’d still pick up the phone for his old friend. Bugs answered on the first ring.

“Wow, it is so great to hear from you,” said Bugs. 

“Oh,” said Jones, startled. “Sure. How are you?”

“I’m in prison,” said Bugs.

“I beg your pardon?” 

“I’ve been in the brig,” repeated Bugs. “The coop, the pen, the nannycam. Well, actually, they shut it down about half an hour ago, because the place isn’t making a profit anymore. The CEO is a person, although I never would have guessed. Excluded from the Next Economy. I said, ‘Welcome to the club, buddy!’ but he ignored me because it was just a televised address in the cafeteria. About ten minutes ago they opened the doors and the few guards that were here went home. I guess it’s happening all over the state.” 

“That sounds dangerous,” said Jones. “Hardened criminals. Let loose to roam the streets.”

“We’re all milling around in the parking lot. There’s no bus. Virtually everyone here was in for some kind of Enemy of the Economy charge. Barter, charity, trading clothes, underground potlucks. One guy got ten years for a class he taught where he trained people to fix their own microwaves. I’m not enthusiastic about the Next Economy, but let me tell you - the old system had its problems too. They wouldn’t give me potatoes here. Said they didn’t have any. They wouldn’t give me milk either, although they had it. That was spite. This prison was a den of spite.”

“What did they get you for?” asked Jones.

“Planting potatoes.” Bugs groaned.

“That's a crime?” 

“On Federal land, yes. I had my crop in Tahoe. The way things are lately, the Society needed a bigger reserve. The land over by the compound wasn’t producing the way we needed. Went up to Tahoe to do a bit of harvesting, wrong day, wrong time, got picked up in a drug bust. Apparently I planted my crops a little too close to 50,000 marijuana plants. It was my own carelessness. You can’t imagine the pressure I’m under, Jones.

"These days, so many of my neighbors need to eat just one nutritionally complete meal. I don’t even think it makes sense to classify this as a drought. That implies we’ll be returning to a period of rainfall. You can’t even bribe your way to water rights anymore. At least we don’t have to worry about blight. All that land in Tahoe was sitting there, totally uncultivated. I thought, root vegetables, what’s the problem? No one can even see them.” 

“Were you in a Federal prison?” Jones asked. He was starting to see a way out of his predicament.

“You betcha. I bet the Feds regret privatization now. As if the UN censure wasn’t enough. I’ve made so many great friends here. In some ways it was kind of like a Burning Man thing, except with very, very abusive living conditions. It’s a good thing they shut it down. We were getting organized.”

Bugs caught his breath. “Can you call Amelia for me? I’ve been trying to get ahold of her but she won't pick up. I need her connections.”

Jones sighed. “She’s been ignoring my calls, but I’ll try to get ahold of her. Can you do me a favor? “

“If you can get me out of this parking lot and into a hot shower, anything.”

“If I can find you a ride, will you meet up with me in the Mojave desert? There's some quantum mechanics I'm having trouble with out here.”

“Don't trust a quantum mechanic,” grumbled Bugs. “They're never where they say they'll be, or when.”