I was born behind the wheel.
None of you kids know what that means, but I was a young squirt when I left home and I’m a toothless old sonofabitch now, and that’s why you’re here: to learn how and why a few hundred mean and ignorant knuckleheads, the hellcats and bastards of the human race, raised a middle finger to the broken and blasted land of our birth, turned our pox-ravaged faces to the most inhospitable place we could reach, and set off for what we rightly considered a better life. Because what we left behind, what our kind had made of our once-green home, had become something worse than any of you soft-bellied kids can imagine.
So let me imagine it for ya:
The week I was born there were seven billion people on Earth. That’s a lot, and it turned out to be what you call a “critical mass.” Disease and sectarian warfare and famine hadn’t done a good enough job in thinning out the herd, so I guess Death gave his fellow horsemen a swift, bony kick in the ass to motivate them to ramp up their efforts. That kick might have been too hard. The world’s diseases mutated beyond the capability of medicine to keep up, culminating in the Zombie Apocalypse of 2017, which wiped out a third of the world’s population. Climate Change resulted in the Long Drought of 2020, which resulted in starving another third and bringing about the Cannibal Holocaust. Finally, the sectarian strife escalated into Chelsea’s Little War, which leveled the cities of the world, turned most of the terrain into a rubble-strewn waterless wasteland that glowed with an emerald hue when the sun dipped over the indistinct horizon, and killed off nearly every mammal left. The blasted landscape stretched from sea to boiling sea, interrupted only by the giant mutated critters and the cannibal zombie raiders, along with the occasional crumbling edifice left over from once-proud cityscapes, now populated by armor-plated giant cockroaches, enormous and strangely intelligent scorpions, and the very occasional sane human, armed to the teeth and not inclined to share anything with anyone.
Most of what you know of Old Earth history comes from a fairly vast digitized library, largely corrupted by the EMPs of the Little War’s warheads, but which contained most of the cultural knowledge you’ve learned to date. There is one development that was too recent to be included in the database, besides the War. Two developments, actually, that at the time were heralded as triumphs of human ingenuity and reminders that, as a species, we were a technological force to be reckoned with. Experiments in telepathy had, at long last, yielded results, albeit not between two human telepaths, but rather between certain disease-resistant, radiation-resistant, and coincidentally foul-tasting humans, and machines of a certain level of complexity. Initially, this development was hailed as a breakthrough toward home-automation and consumer-level driving interfaces, as these people were able to control their vehicles as quickly and accurately as a ballerina controls her limbs. Inevitably, however, the breakthrough was weaponized with an eye toward faster and more-accurate aerial drone control and the like. Still, many people “became one” with their cars.
And that brings us to the other development. After centuries of reliance on fossil fuels, someone finally managed to make an internal combustion engine that ran strongly and efficiently on human waste. Further experimentation revealed that the best raw material to eventually yield fuel with the highest thermodynamic output was pepperoni pizza. This was going to revolutionize the world’s transportation problems, as battalions of bus drivers dropped their pants and climbed onto their buses’ thrones and chowed down on pizza, rocking out to their favorite tunes as they telepathically controlled the movements of their sixteen-ton steeds. Gasoline was still the fuel of choice for high horsepower output at high engine speeds, but SHITGO (as the human-waste fuel came to be known) generated low-speed torque far beyond what diesel ever accomplished.
The world was ours… but too late. A few short months after most vehicles were converted to hybrid SHITGO drivetrains, Chelsea lost her temper and the Earth burned. But out of the ashes rode what can only be called… The Drivers.
Practically another species by now, they hauled ass over the wastelands, amusing themselves by jousting with the giant scorpions and ransacking the truck stops of the great Interstates for the last few drops of gasoline. Psychically welded to their cars and seated semi-permanently on their Recaro racing-crappers, most Drivers never left their vehicles after being installed in them. The Little War’s EMPs rendered the electronics of most modern vehicles unusable, so the Drivers adapted their SHITGO systems to older vehicles from the pre-electronic era. Essentially, if it still used a carburetor and a points-and-condensor ignition, a Driver adopted it, armored it, armed it, and then became it.
My mom was a Driver that last year before we left. She was a black 1970 Mercury Cougar, with a 351 Windsor V8 gasoline engine with a Gen III SHITGO conversion. Running on the petrol she made 300 horsepower and could reach 157 miles per hour on level asphalt. On the ass-juice she could tow six tons at 20 mph, if there were enough pepperonis on the slice. Hell yeah, she was proud of it, too. My dad was a ’72 K5 Blazer that could pull a house up a 45-degree sand dune while he munched pizza slices topped with bullets, but Mom was the real badass in a world populated only by the badasses who could survive other badasses. For most of a decade she’d been outwitting, outdriving, and outliving the miscreants, monsters, and madmen that chewed up the chunks of L.A. that the zombies and the War had vomited out. At first she got by on foot, living by her wits and her iron will, but then she won her Cougar and found her calling and her name. Over the years, people came to know her name… and fear it. She made some friends along with the hundreds of enemies she’d met, and one day she sent out the Call. All her friends, all those favors, all those debts… every chip was cashed in. The word went out to the Drivers she felt she could trust, and even some of those she didn’t: come to Huntington’s Bitch. If you know what’s good for you, get your cracked ass out here. We need you… and you need us.
Come to the Bitch.
Sounds like a stupid low-budget movie, right? Barbarians who drive around all day and night, fueled by pizza and looking for trouble. How could such misfits ever live through the week, let alone work together to… to bring us to…
Well, thereby hangs a tale…