Martialla and I scoped out Paradise for a while. Partially because we wanted to see if they would send anyone out to accost us and then we could open up a dialog without having to go down there. But mostly because we just really didn’t want to go down there while simultaneously we knew that we probably should if we were serious about forging a coalition to attack the Invincible. They never did send anyone out, there’s so many people coming and going they probably didn’t notice our loitering. Something else interesting did happen, we observed the arrival of a small convoy of three bus-trucks. Is three enough for a convoy? What’s the minimum number for a convoy? I want to say four but I just said three was a convoy so that would make me look the fool.
The Paradisers chased off all supplicants hanging around the outside who had been denied entry (and killed some of the slower ones just for laughs) and then waved in the three vehicles. One of them offloaded footstuffs and other sundries like that while another was hooked up to hoses and drained off what I think was crude oil. The third offloaded a thick grey slime that neither of us had any idea what it might be. During this transfer process we saw that the Paradisers did have vehicles stored (hidden?) in some of the buildings, a ton of bikes – like real bikes from our time not the usual scrapcycles we’ve seen – a few SUV type things with mounted machineguns, and a real-life airplane. Martialla said it was a Helio Rattler. Like she knows anything about planes.
Once the goods were handed over, we watched as the bus people stood meekly in a line while a couple of the Paradisers randomly grabbed a couple of them out of line and beat them savagely for no apparent reason other than shits and giggles. The rest of the Paradisers laughed at this piece of comedic sociopathic violence but something about it seemed perfunctory, like it had happened enough times before that they were no longer truly amused by it, but they laughed anyway because it was the established pattern. You don’t want to be the one not laughing. It’s like watching Friends, it’s not really funny anymore but if you don’t participate what do you have to talk to people about? I was supposed to do a guest spot on that show but Jennifer Aniston said she didn’t want anyone prettier than her onscreen.
After the beatings were doled out, the bus truckers got back in their vehicles stoically and drove out of Paradise. Without exchanging a word, Martialla and I mounted up and followed them. I couldn’t figure out if they didn’t notice us following them or if they didn’t care or if there just wasn’t anything that they could do about it. When they stopped for the night and we approached them, the answer was revealed. They assumed that we were Paradisians following to subject them to additional harassment. We explained to them that we weren’t from Paradise but they didn’t seem to care, their attitude was more that whoever we were it wasn’t going to result in anything good so it didn’t matter in the end. Resigned is the word, I think.
As you know by now all future people are either monstrously hairy or suffer from alopecia, and the bus truckers are the hairless kind. They have thick ridges above their eyes that makes it look like they have eyebrows but it isn’t hair, it’s skin. As is also required for future people they’re short, I don’t think any of them topped five feet, but they look strong. They’re thick across the shoulders and through the chest and arms, making them look like ungainly inverted pyramid people. They didn’t wear much in the way of clothing unless you count dust and grit which they had plenty of. If you must know, their genitals were unimpressive. If you must know.
In addition to not showing much emotion, they didn’t say much. They parked their bus-trucks in a protective triangle and then sat in a ragged circle to munch on whatever gross food they had stored in their loincloths and stare at each other. I didn’t see anyone drink a drop of anything. At first no matter how much I talked they would barely respond to me, and I talked plenty, I tell you that. Once Martialla passed around some of our precious sugar booze they started to loosen up a little bit. That they drunk up like . . . like . . . well like something.
Once they were sufficiently plied with liquor, they told us that their community was an old quarry or mine. Are quarries and mines different things? A quarry is just a mine for rocks right? But isn’t all mining for rocks? Iron ore is a rock, right? What’s the difference between a rock and metal? And ore? You wouldn’t say a gold necklace is made of rocks? Anyway, they live in caves in some kind of hole in the ground and deep inside those caves is oil. The Paradisers like oil so they came there a few years ago and killed a bunch of people and said “bring us the oil and we’ll kill you less”. And I guess the little bodybuilder people thought this was the best deal they could work out under the circumstances.
I thought this was another weird future thing but Martialla said there’s oil all over (under actually) in California. When I told her that didn’t sound right to me she talked about the La Brea Tar Pits, claiming that tar pits happen when fault lines cause petroleum to seep up to the surface and then the lighter parts of the crunk evaporate and leave the tar behind. First of all, even if that’s true, why does she know that? That’s a crazy thing to know. Secondly, I never heard about any oil wells in California. Thirdly, oil evaporates? So there’s like oil in the air? So we’re breathing in oil all the time? What the fuck is that about? Fourthly, you can just find oil sitting in a cave? Fifthly, the bodybuilder people call oil blood of the earth. They must be fans of Big Trouble in Little China. Is that movie racist? I still can’t decide.
Did you know they used asphalt to build the walls of Babylon? Martialla did. I would have guessed that was invented in like the nineteen fifties.
I asked the muscle triangle people if they had tried to fight back against the Paradisians and they drunkenly shouted that they fought their hardest but there was nothing they could do because Paradise has all the guns and all the machines and all they have is their bulging bodybuilder muscles and some rock hammers. I asked them what difference that made when the Paradisians were letting them into the compound by the busload. Guns and armored cars and planes are surely useful out in the open, but when you’re right next to someone it seems like a hammer whack to the noggin would suffice just fine. I suggested that the next time they were supposed to make a delivery, just pack their truck-busses with their strongest angriest fighters and then bash everyone.
They hadn’t considered this Trojan Horse move (which I shall name the Ela Maneuver here in the future, suck it Virgil!). I can’t understand these future people. In some ways they seem very crafty – they are capable of refining fuel for instance, and in creating a new kind of engine for machines that run on garbage juice. But on the other hand they see extremely dull sometimes, they just sit around and let bad shit happen. Maybe what they lack is motivation. Maybe they’ve just become so inured to a shitty world of shit that they need an ambitious and motivated and sexy outsider with legit acting chops, a soulful singing voice, and a powerful vocal range like myself to shake things up.