<This is a start I've made on making a blovel (blog novel). Please let me know what you think.>
Scavenging is an art form. It is the interpretation of the world around an individual, and how it can serve oneself. Sandra Redman has yet to find an object that she couldnâ€™t find some use for. Paper clips? Use them as make shift hangers and twist them up to hold things together. Plus, they make great soldering material. Banana peels? Sheâ€™s got friends who can make cloth out of the peels. Other friends, theyâ€™ll take the peels and stew them up to make backyard biofuel. And any biomass makes great fertilizer or biofuel. Sand? Great building material, and its also the poormanâ€™s alternative to salt used to create traction during the winter months.
Scavenging is different from recycling. Recycling is the reuse of materials to benefit others; scavenging is reusing materials for your own personal benefit. Thereâ€™s a big distinction between the two. Recycling is a luxury good that only wealthy countries can afford. Scavenging is what poor countries do to survive.
Sandra was in the business of surviving. Actually, if you listen to the folks across the river in DC, she was in the business of stealing. But Sandra compromised between surviving and stealing and chose to call herself a scavenger. Stealing denotes taking from other people what they own. Stealing is defined as being outside the System, of being a drain and a detriment on others. A scavenger though is part of the System. A scavenger culls through the debris left by others and finds a use for it. Without scavengers, the System would be clogged up by its own refuse. And not only do Scavengers clean up after those above them, but theyâ€™re an essential part of the food-chain. Someone has to be on the bottom, to be eaten up by those above. Granted, those above are in turn preyed upon by those higher than them, but someone has to form the base. Maybe thatâ€™s why those above call Sandraâ€™s debris clearing â€˜stealingâ€™, because otherwise she and hers would be the only innocent party.
Tonight finds Sandra hanging 30 feet off the floor of an abandoned electronics store, carving away at its carcass. Her weapon of choice tonight is a box cutter, which sheâ€™s using to cut out sections of insulation. She didnâ€™t feel any recriminations about what she was doing; this store had been abandoned for a good while now; long enough for the lettering imprint on the exteriors paint to have faded away so as to make the chain name unrecognizable. And Sandra wasnâ€™t the first scavenger to come along, just one of the last in the final moments of this storeâ€™s life-cycle.
The insulation Sandra is after tonight is usually a prize acquired early, but because of this storeâ€™s construction, the majority of the good stuff is high up out of reach. Sandra was applying some wall climbing classes she had taken several years ago for fun, but was now finding them handy for pilfering the desired insulation.
Sandra grunted as she plunged the box cutter into the midst of the furry insulation. With great care, she pushed down on the box cutter as she tried to cut as straight a line as possible. A jagged cut would mean she would take a hit on the resell value of the insulation. Buyers didnâ€™t want to purchase insulation that didnâ€™t fit well together in their own homes. Once she had cut out her swaths of insulation, she would then need to go back and pry out the staples. The staples she saved in a little pouch on her vest; with a little heat and careful manipulation, they could be made serviceable again.
Sandra would pause in her work every once in a while and keep silent. This was so she could listen for the soft whirling sound that indicated flutters that could be nearby.
â€˜Fluttersâ€™ were an overworked police forceâ€™s answer to insufficient manning. The basic flutter models were essentially balloons with a rigid aluminum structure with attached propellers and rudders. The police, with funding from real estate companies, would outfit the flutters with a GPS and an infrared camera. At night, the flutters would be deployed to patrol their routes. If a flutter detected a large enough heat signature in a restricted locale, the police would be notified. This allowed the police to monitor a large area using only a couple operators.
If captured, punishment was rarely a jail sentence. If you were employed, which Sandra was, the preferred punishment was â€˜garnishmentâ€™. Theyâ€™d take your salary, and tack on a percentage penalty. For what Sandra was doing, it was probably a five-percenter over 4 years. Granted, Sandra supplemented her income from â€˜non-approvedâ€™ sources, such as her current insulation reclaiming endeavor. But she was barely scraping by as it was. Granted, she at least had a roof over her head and a reasonably steady supply of food. She and her children werenâ€™t so bad off that they were forced to resort to a tent city.
Sandra grunted to herself when she didnâ€™t hear anything on the wind. She was almost done for the night; she had about as much as she could carry tonight. A couple more jabs netted her some insulation panels that came free fairly easily once she had pried out the staples. She was a bit worried that the insulation panels werenâ€™t fluffy enough. If they had been exposed to humidity, the fiber would clump together and form thick mats.
Sandra, having gotten what she needed, rappelled down from the ceiling, retrieving her rope rig as she descended. Climbing by oneself is highly risky, so she tried to offset it by taking extra precautions. Finally, she made it down to the ground, and replaced her climbing gear in their nylon bags. Gathering the insulation panels, she carefully tied them down on the Kiddie Flyer wagon she had hooked up to her bicycle. Originally intended to allow children to ride along with their bicycling parents, it now doubled as a convenient way to haul goods around. Sandra would have preferred to have used a car, but that would entail shelling out on gas and hacking out the Vehicular Automated Trafficking Chip. Gas was prohibitively expensive without the right permits. While Sandra had friends who could probably hack out the chip, she didnâ€™t trust them enough for them not to try to lean in on the action.
After covering the panels with a tarp to conceal them, she hopped on her bicycle. Sandra carefully pedaled to the broken wall windows, following the clear path she had swept when she had entered earlier this evening. No point in puncturing the tires again she thought to herself. She looked around quickly, making sure she was alone, then wheeled her bicycle out onto the street, leaving the pilfered corpse of the electronic store behind her.
There was a particular order to the deconstruction of this commercial behemoth, akin to those found in the natural world. Upon the storeâ€™s closing, there is still hope held by the owners; be they an individual, a corporation, or even more frequently lately, the government. Always advertised as a prime commercial plot, the store is tidily taken care of. Air conditioners are running to preserve homeostasis, and the lights still work to provide the appearance of life. There may even be a working security system, with a promised prompt response by the local law enforcement. But the store still remains a patient on life-support, and the breathing machines can only fool scavengers for so long.
The death-blow usually comes from the copper miners. The larger the building, the more access points there are. Sandra knew miners who will dig through the ceiling, bypassing the security system. Some of the more violent miners will use a brute force method, breaking in and grabbing all they can before the alarm brings the law. The fancier crews have an expert in electronics (usually a former electrician or engineer) who can bypass the alarms. The store owners are reluctant to replace the fixtures or repair any of the damage once the initial illusion of safety has been violated. With the copper piping and wiring gone, the storeâ€™s homeostasis rapidly deteriorates. Humidity and heat build up, which brings in the fungus. Probably the biggest result is that the lights go out in the store. A darkened store is the signal to the other scavengers that feeding has begun.
The feeding process doesnâ€™t occur all at once. After all, large numbers of people are hard to conceal, and the more people there are the greater the likelihood of someoneâ€™s lips flapping, or a flutter spotting them and alerting the police. So over the course of a year or so, small entrepreneurs such as Sandra come by in the dark of night. The higher value items usually get scooped up early by the clever, and the easy to acquire items get grabbed by the desperate. Wood, drywall, electronic appliances and wiring are all coveted.
And insulation, which was Sandraâ€™s prize tonight. As she pedaled down the vacant streets, she pondered to herself what she was going to do with the insulation panels. The best ones she would probably keep for herself; the apartment building she managed wasnâ€™t in the best of shape, and leaked like a sieve. She was a bit concerned that the building wouldnâ€™t pass the upcoming building inspection, not that she had been managing the building long enough to be responsible for its state of disrepair or had the funds to make the necessary repairs.
She had managed to scrounge enough extra panels that she could probably sell a few on the gray market. Or, she could try holding on to them for a while to see if they appreciated in value. The current government building boom had started to trickle away, and the way things had been going there would be another round of finger-pointing. While there was plenty of pork around the District, there was also a lot of people setup to take the blame, rightly or wrongly. And now was the time when it was best to keep oneâ€™s head down low, and hope the scythe didnâ€™t go low enough to catch you.