After only a couple of hours on the road with Rex, I was already regretting picking him up. Thankfully the roar of the trike’s engine made a convenient excuse for not hearing his attempts at conversation, and I focused on watching the scrub at the sides of the cracked concrete motorway for potential ambushes.
To be fair, Rex wasn’t the â€œhands-onâ€ type â€” but then they’re actually easier to deal with, because your course of action is clear. Rex was pretty free with his eyes, though, and seemed to think that I’d offered him a lift to the Fayre for more than my stated reason of wanting an extra pair of hands. At first I’d figured it was vanity â€” he wasn’t bad looking for a rural freelance.
It soon became clear that vanity had less to do with it than stupidity; Rex was plainly not very bright. Still, both looks and brains is too much to expect of anyone – as countless end-of-night Romeos have tried to tell me in the past.
At least Rex had some good tools. It wasn’t so important to be leet at the Fayre as it was to look like you had the capability of being leet.
The trike’s GPS was on the blink again and all the old road-signs had been scavved years ago, so it was almost a shock to crest a hill and see the Fayre sprawled along a few miles of beachfront in the distance. Behind me, Rex grunted something and gesticulated at the turn-off we’d just passed. I decided to ignore him. There’s always a quieter route in, and when the Fayre’s involved it’s the course of wisdom to stay out of the way of nubes and their predators.
A few miles on was smaller turn-off that led through a picked-clean ghost town, street after street of eyeless buildings that must once have catered to people coming here to spend time by the beach, back when tourism was still an industry and not an anachronism.
The Fayre was not a tourist attraction.
As we neared the beach, I could see the reports were true; the sea was festooned with bobbing cargo of all sizes as well as Fayregoers working hard to land the stuff safely. Cloud consensus seemed to be that it was the contents of the Republic’s last big diesel freighter, sunk mid-Atlantic by hell-knows-what on its way to hell-knows-where. The facts were probably out there if you wanted them, but most people here weren’t as interested in the facts as they were the lure of free salvage rights.
In no time at all, the roar and buzz of the Fayre was audible over the trike’s engine, and we pulled into a field that had been commandeered by an entrepreneurial crew and labeled with a crudely-lettered sign that read â€œvalay parkinâ€. The tires of vehicles were turning the spring-moist soil into a morass, but I’d built the trike for that sort of work and she rolled neatly to the far corner of the field that the boss-eyed kid in the booth by the gate had pointed at.
Rex watched me extract the ECU from the trike and stuff it in one of my webbing pouches.
â€œNow what?â€ he asked, his arms hanging loose at his sides, eyes betraying an awe and nervousness he was otherwise hiding well.
â€œNow we go make it clear to the parking gang that any damage to the trike will be taken out on their bodies when we return. Then we head over to the Fayre office, and get us a trading permit.â€
â€œA permit? But we’re not planning to trade what we salvage at the Fayre, I thought you said. Why do we need a permit?â€
I laughed; I couldn’t help it. â€œLook, man, let me handle all the paperwork. You just keep your mouth shut, act like you’ve been to the Fayre before and know it all, and you’ll get your thirty percent cut. Are we good?â€
He shrugged resignedly, and began trudging slowly through the mud toward the parking tollbooth. I reached under the chassis activated the countermeasures on the trike before heading after him.