~ > Freewheeling

Future tense

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Too early for Morlocks, and I don't think the Omega Point is around the corner.

So what does 2099 look like? you ask. Bike-wise, standard format is still two wheels despite the wheel tax introduced in 2076 (a few more unicycles, nothing to get excited about). Most are made of compressed soylent green, rides about the same as carbon fibre.

The usual gripes are still being griped. Sorry I can't report any progress on the SMIDSY front either, though nobody is actually blind anymore thanks to medical advances and lots of DNA swiped from frogs. We also cured cancer. Unfortunately something else bad took its place. Don't want to be a downer, so we'll skip that, but frogs are also involved.

The Tour de France has been won by the same guy the past twelve times. The president of France, as it happens. He keeps beating all the other presidents, prime ministers and monarchs. Did I mention that it's now only open to heads of state? I forget the reason for that. Whoever comes in last has to speak Pig Latin for a year. The future is very weird.

An actual helmet war was fought in 2050. It was a draw.

More when I get time and stop hopping.

Ah, the helmet war. Where to begin? It started with a kiss.

President Bonaparte of France is on a goodwill tour of Louisiana trying to assure its citizens that nothing much will change after his country's recent reacquisition of their territory, the sale having been approved by the US Congress to pay some bills which had been piling up. An avid cyclist, the president is doored by a BMW and hits his helmetless head. The driver attempts CPR, using a bit too much tongue. When Bonaparte regains consciousness he is only able to speak in unsuccessful palindromes.

Humiliated on the world stage, France relinquishes all noncontiguous claims, leaving Louisianians free to draw up their own constitution and laws. Grateful for their independence and mindful of its origins, they choose to make helmets illegal by overwhelming plurality.

Meanwhile the USA, never a stickler for contiguousness, has attempted to fill the hole left in its fabric by finally admitting England as a state (Wales and Scotland aren't invited), mad King George having agreed to join the club because the flags were the same colour anyway.

Cultures clash when the Brits, unconstrained by laws requiring protective headgear, meet as fellow citizens the Yanks, whose pesky 'land of the free' baggage has long since been left behind at the carousel of highfalutin ideals. It doesn't matter that few Americans actually ride bikes these days except on Strava. A little paranoid that history appears to be rhyming, they become spooked. Louisiana effectively says "Boo!" by ewe: its legislature has voted to put an ironic ruminant on their flag to emphasise its freewheeling ways and, it is feared by its wary neighbour, incite revolution.

Though England is miles away, Louisiana clearly isn't. What if it turns into another Cuba? Totally alien ways, too close for comfort? Castro, who's still hanging in there,* seems to be laughing at them. Nobody likes being laughed at. Wars have been fought over less. (Recall the Wales 'police action' in 2039 which started over a bit too much sniggering about sheep. And nobody cares for a repeat of the ultimately pointless Haggis Troubles.)

The helmet war is more or less declared at the bitter end of the spring bank holiday weekend, America's Memorial Day, when cyclists traditionally club together for protection and mating displays. As the US is already fighting several dozen other wars at the time, this one is not a top priority. It isn't even always clear who's fighting whom. Casualty lists don't make the nightly news. Battles occasionally surface on YouTube, at times with odd choices of musical overlay. Presently it is decided that the opposing sides really are too entrenched, and a truce is called.

At the signing of the peace treaty President Bonaparte remarks "Able was I, ere I kissed Helga." It's a bittersweet moment.

* Which I guess this dates this, huh?


Hi, I'm Skylock, the lock of the future, and I'm awesome! (Perhaps you've met my cousin Johnny Cab – people say we sound alike.)

As predicted, my feature set is a killer. In addition to built-in Wi-Fi, keyless unlocking with proximity detection, an accelerometer which notifies medical personnel if you crash, and eco-friendly solar power, I take a proactive approach to evildoers messing with your precious.

I can't divulge trade secrets. Let's just say that a popular crime drama gave my inventors the idea, which fortunately wasn't copyrighted.

My powers don't stop there. In the event of SMIDSY, I can trigger a dystopian future.

Hopefully it won't come to that.

One thing I don't do is open bottles; it stopped being cool after the revelation a couple of years ago that putting openers on all those things was just another NSA scheme.

I also pack and ship myself from the Amazon warehouse... speaking of dystopias.

Skylock didn't prove up to the task, so even as this is being posted, a judge/jury/executioner has been sent to apprehend a bike thief.

They ride the bubble express back to the future to be dealt with in an environmentally friendly way. Their ultimate fate is up to the Terminator, who doesn't always live up to his or her name, depending on mood. Some thieves are merely put to work winding atomic clocks, which is tedious in the extreme. Others are set loose in a wild game park and allowed to see if they can start a new life with the meerkats, which are the chief wildlife left in the future and which have evolved into a cross between meerkats, penguins and housecats with a very bad temper thanks to an experiment which went awry in 2156.

The most popular sentence for known repeat offenders is to be turned into tasty and versatile soylent green: a particularly fitting end.


The riderless bike craze, which unless you've been living under a rock (there's no shame in it; many do since the Paleo craze went ever more Paleo) kicked off shortly after driverless cars became the norm in the mid 21st century, claims another victim: The president of France. After coming in last in the 2100 Tour de France in a surprising upset which not only wounded French pride but sent her peoples collectively on a tailspin of self-loathing and doubt quite out of character, Nicolas Sarkozy (a mere coincidence; many children are named this in the future) holes up in the Élysée Palace. Still wishing to maintain some sense of onbowed dignity befitting his former station in public esteem, however, he sends his riderless bike out to prowl the arrondissements, accompanied by the riderless bikes of his security escort.

It blows a red in the Place de la Bastille and knocks a man, Nicolas Sarkozy, off his feet. Sarkozy the pedestrian is unharmed but incensed, and along with his companion shakes his fist at the bike, which turns around and promptly runs him down again. At this point a small crowd has gathered who reconise the bike and start throwing rocks at it while the escort bikes scatter in alarm. The crowd eventually brings it down and cheer their symbolic victory over the man who brought them all so low. This insult is enough to pull Sarkozy the president out of his self-made prison in pursuit of the "foul foule" as he calls them. He storms the Bastille.

Carla Bruni (the same; she had her head set aside in 2030 with instructions to have it reattached to a volunteer in the early 22nd century. There were no volunteers, so the head is carried around in its own stylish valise) berates Sarkozy the president for letting his bike attack Sarkozy her lover. This altercation attracts the crowd, primed for further action. They naturally take the side of Bruni and Sarkozy, backing Sarkozy into a corner. At this point the escort bikes come back on the scene, having considered the possible judgment of history. They begin a rearguard action brutal enough to incite a full-blown riot. At the centre of the storm, Sarkozy the president, finally realising his peril and attempting to throw oil on the waters, instead further churns them by shouting "eWay areay allay enchmanFray!" This is of course Pig Latin as per the terms which require Tour de France losers to speak it for a year. His year isn't up and Sarkozy considers himself to be an honourable man.

As no red blooded Frenchman will tolerate a mangling of his mother tongue, this seals Sarkozy's fate, even as Bruni and Sarkozy flee the malee in search of a better life. Sarkozy goes down, his final words, "anceFray, armwayéeway, tayêetay day’armwayéeway, osJayéinephay." Historians still debate their meaning; linguists, their translation.


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