11: Back To Reality (part 5)

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11.5 Electric Riders

A cell: 29 April 2128 / 22-23 August 2122

In Rick's head he was replaying a well-remembered experience. Why this particular scene popped into his head while he lay still strapped to AI's interrogation plate was unknown to him. He was vaguely aware that this was a dream, although it felt like the real event that had occurred six years previously.

He and Jasmine picked their way through the cycle workshop. Their old push bikes were now too small to be ridden and they were hunting out new vehicles. Bikes had become a craze amongst the NewGen long before they had reached the age of ten and, into their early teens, a few had continued to use them.

"These are mostly wrecks," Jasmine sighed, as she inspected each one in turn.

"Yeah, total junk," Rick agreed, though his eyes were lingering more upon his companion than the unsalvageable heaps of rust. He was trying to understand the strange feelings she induced in him. She had recently started wearing makeup and, although the application of the mascara was oddly inconsistent at best, the way it enhanced her features was playing havoc with his hormones. He forced his eyes from her curves and continued searching the contents of the building. A door, sealed against the elements better than most, took a while to open but, once it had relented, revealed a treasure trove. Sunlight, creeping through stained, dusty but still sealed windows high up in a wall, glistened on the vehicles arrayed before them.

"Wow!" he said, as his gaze took in the discovery.

"Are they electric?" Jasmine gasped. She stood close next to him, with one arm linked through his, something that, a few months ago, wouldn't have affected him in the slightest, But now, her scent and proximity were becoming almost too much for him to bear. He stole a glance at her and flinched in shock as, for a moment, he imagined her head covered in blood. A blink, and it was gone, and she looked normal again.

"What?" she said. "I thought you said something. Ooh, you've gone pale. Are you all right?"

"Sorry," he said. "I thought I, um... It must have been the weird light in here. Eyes playing tricks on me. Probably nothing to worry about."

Jasmine frowned at him and extracted her arm, and bent over the nearest trike, brushing the thin layer of dust off the seat with a hand.

"Yes, look," she said. "Electric. And definitely much better than our old ones."

"Yeah, I think you're right," Rick said, running his hands over another of the vehicles. "Real chunky tyres as well."

The wheels on the trike, sturdy and wide, had obviously been built for cross-terrain travel. Amazingly, most of the tyres retained some of their original air, which had prevented the disintegration of the rubber.

"These could be solar panels built into the upper bodywork," she said.

"Hey, why don't we get a few out into proper sunlight and see if they charge up."

She squeaked in delight at the idea.


A day later, having failed to bring any of the bikes to life, Rick and Jasmine, accompanied by Long and Jade, returned to the workshop. Long, ever the technical wizard, pored over the electrics and discovered they required a key to connect the battery to the motor. Three hours searching failed to locate a suitable key of any kind, so Long used tools from the workshop to bypass the mechanism. Four of the bikes were found to run, tyres were fully inflated using foot pumps and they headed off to Hyde Park where the vehicles were put through their paces.

Other NewGen, eager to join in, sought out similar vehicles and a new craze took hold.

Once plain riding had been fully mastered, Phil suggested making the whole game more challenging by building ramps out of old wooden planks and scaffolding. Soon, a part of what used to be St James's Park alongside The Mall became a progressively higher and quite dangerous assault course. Most of London's NewGen became involved in one way or another and it became the start of irregular championships.

After a few bones needed resetting, AI warned of the dangers of such vehicles. However, the teenage NewGen, whose growing arrogance and confidence seemed to perplex their electronic mentor, did their best to ignore such warnings. If anything, they tried to make the challenges even harder and more dangerous.


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