TerribleMinds Challenge: SomethingPunk

I gotta say, I’ve been digging reading at Terribleminds, @chuckwendig’s blog. There’s a lot of ideas, on a lot of topics. And the weekly (at the moment, at least) writing challenge is fun, to say the least. Even if you’re not going to write, I highly recommend heading over there and reading some of the high-quality work that comes out of people in the challenges (for once, you can read the comments on the intertubeS! Infact, you SHOULD read the comments).

This week (due the 9th of August) is “SomethingPunk”. A 1000 words worth of a “punk” story that’s not been done before. So, no cyber-, no steam-, etc. Come up with your own *-punk.

And I had an idea, so I jumped in. But, lets try not to laugh too hard, shall we? It’s been a long, long time since I wrote any fiction, and I wasn’t awesome at it to start with. Out of practice like this? Yeah, not pretty.


CarPunks.

Hotrodding was so declassé.

In a world of electric appliances with wheels, ferrying people too and from, driven by a computer, a world without a steering wheel in sight, the carpunks arrived.

Even the old guys, the few who remembered the last years of car culture in the early 2000’s, never had a connection to their vehicles like the carpunks did. They worked on them, they customized them, they drove them, right up until the end, and even past it, when the sentence for driving a large displacement, non-hybrid car started creeping into territory that you’d more realistically equate with murder, or at least a savage beating.

They never had this. They never joined the car.

Jimmy hoisted both doors to the garage, front and rear. The hood was still up, a ninety year-old Chevy big block visible: four barrel Edelbrock 900cfm carb, polished butterflies visible. It’d been a work of years, but it was almost ready to be fired up for the first time. He connected the throttle cable, checked the distributor cap, the wires, everything that was visible.

He sat down in the driver’s seat, and briefly rested his palms on the wheel. This was the true evolution of driving.

Reaching under the dash, Jimmy drew out a thick cable, his own design, then a second. he plugged one into each of the ports, one on each arm, just above the elbow where they wouldn’t interfere with his hands on the steering wheel.

He cracked his jaw, and popped his shoulders and neck, stretching. Flexing his tricep, once, twice, the starter whined once, twice, and the engine caught. As the idle dropped, Jimmy’s pulse came back down too. He breathed out hard: the throttle cable moved; the butterflies on the carburetor’s secondary twisted, and eight liters of displacement roared and dropped, stinking of gasoline, and backfiring loudly.

The number seven cylinder was missing slightly, not quite enough spark. It’d need regapping before he went out. He knew this without leaving the drivers seat, without looking, just by feeling the car respond to the minor input: the distributor was fine, plenty going out, and the wire was fine too. The sparkplug was the issue. No big deal. Before he made the first run tonight, that’d be fixed.

The custom parts for a built 1974 Dodge Monaco were not easy to come by, especially one that’d ended up with a Chevrolet engine and transmission swapped in, and a ford rear-end. It’d started life with a not-insignificant 360 cubic inch engine, it ran good on regular gas. But it wasn’t enough, and so, the Chevy went in when Jimmy’d found it two years later.

But for all the difficulty sourcing and building the car, the interface had been so much more difficult. Biomechanical interfaces had been outlawed in the 2030’s. There was information out there on them, but it was hard to find, and technically illegal to possess, never mind implement. But it was being done anyway.

And biomechanical interface had become the method of choice for the carpunks: it was nearly impossible to trace. Bioelectrical interfaces had been attempted, but whenever someone plugged into a computer, there was feedback, and a trace was left in the ECU. Invariably, that trace was found, and the user prosecuted.

Which was how the carpunks ended up reviving the old hotrod techniques. Hybrids and electrics, for all their potential in terms of zero RPM torque, had to have a computer to run it all. An old car, almost anything on the US Domestic market pre-1990, didn’t have a computer, no fuel-injection, and only enough electrical system to provide lights, spark, and radio. There was nothing to trace, because it was dumb technology. And then someone discovered that you could, with effort, physically control a vehicle, not with pedals, but with a direct connection between muscles and moving parts. And if you couldn’t trace the workings of the vehicle, you couldn’t trace a human/mechanical interface either. Not unless someone saw the ports under your triceps, and reported you. The only thing that stayed was the steering wheel: steering was still a two-handed job, especially in a race.

Plugs re-gapped, sun setting, back door closed, he sat down, plugged, in and fired up once again. Closing his eyes, he could feel the engine. He breathed with it, lungs drawing in at the same time and pace as the engine, exhaling with the exhaust stroke. Everything working well. Only one more cable, and this was a first: as far as he knew, no one had attempted this before. Wrapping the cable twice around his calf, and tearing open the pocket on his cargo pants, he pushed the plug into the socket on his leg. Flexed his thigh, and the brake-lights came on: his calf under the wrapping of cable, and clutch engaged, shifted into first.

A sweat broke on his brow, now the hard part. A lighter movement to thigh and calf, and the clutch slipped and he gave it some gas. The big Monaco inched forward, brake-lights flickering. Clutch again, into reverse, another light touch, and the car returned to the darkness of the garage.

It worked. It fucking worked!

But it was going to take a lot of effort and practice to coordinate those movements. Maybe another cable, split the clutch, shifter, gas, and brake over both legs, both thighs and calves. It’d mean another socket to hide as well. But it could work.

He killed the ignition and breathed, unaccompanied by the now-silent engine. Missed it already. But that first real drive was coming soon, one way or another.

——-

Yeah. that was kinda fun. I’ve got (obviously, because car-guy) a lot more details about that car in my head. For one, it’s a wagon. It’s paying direct homage to the Bluesmobile

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