INT. A BUNKER SOMEWHERE DEEP UNDERNEATH MAINLAND EUROPE, THE ELDERS' QUARTERS
We see a starkly lit room at the heart of a bunker deep in the ground beneath what was once a tiny nation in the centre of Europe. A global cataclysm drove what remained of the human race underground some time in the third decade of the 21st century. An old-looking, slumped figure sits in a comfortable chair, staring into space, the ELDER. He is 148 years old.
A door slides open on the right of the stage and a young man dressed in a smart grey uniform, the ARCHIVIST, enters. The ELDER looks up, lifts a hand in acknowledgement
(AS A SALUTATION)
Hail to the protector!
Hail to the protector.
The ELDER waves his hand, as if to speed up the proceedings.
Elder, thank you for seeing me. We know how precious your time is.
You're most welcome, kid. The life-extending drugs they gave me after the cataclysm mean I've had more time than most.
Even so, sir, it’s a great honour. There are so few left who remember the Before Times.
So sir, it’s my understanding you were an athlete pre-Cat?
(WITH A PAINED, WEARY LOOK)
And you want me to tell you what’s true and what’s not?
That’s right. To begin with, our records show you were something called a “cyclist”. What, exactly, was that?
Well, you know the WattRigs in the health suite on level eight?
The ARCHIVIST nods.
Those things are based on the design of something called a bicycle. They originally had wheels, two of them, and the pedalling mechanism allowed you to move quickly over the earth. We competed on them in countries all around the world. The races were called ‘Tours’. They had them everywhere; France, Britain, even Saudi Arabia.
You rode these ‘bicycles' on the moon?
No, son, Britain used to be a place on earth, before they decided they were better off on their own and blasted themselves onto the moon.
(ALMOST TO HIMSELF)
I wonder how those guys are doing up there.
Not well. Not well at all, sir. From the scattered radio transmissions we've received, they basically degenerated into a feudalistic society with occasional outbreaks of cannibalism.
I wish I could say I was surprised.
Moving on, sir. What can you tell us about Trump? Or possibly it was called Trumpland? Our records show one of these ’Tours’ there, but I crosschecked it with the database of pre-Cat Cartographical Data and couldn’t find any mention of a country called Trump.
I don’t think there was ever a Trumpland, kid. If there was, it was a shithole.
Thank you, Elder. My next query pertains to finances. We have ample record of the means that the great Soccerball Edifices made revenue. Ticket sales, endorsements and the like.
In the archive we even have an actual jersey from a team called the Aston Villas – we believe they were among the greatest teams of the PreCat era.
So, my question is how exactly were you able to make a living riding one of these bicycles? Did these ’Tours' happen inside a stadium? Did the owners charge admission – as with the other popular sports of the era, soccerball, badmintennis and curling?
At this, the ELDER lets out a wry chuckle.
No son, nobody charged admission. If you tried to charge people to watch cycling, nobody would show up. Besides, we used to race on the roads – out in the world. It would have been impossible. The truth is, companies just gave the teams money. Occasionally a country with a terrible human rights record would get involved. If we won, it made them happy.
(UNDER HIS BREATH)
By The Protector, the Before Times economy was yet more anarchic than we ever suspected.
(AS IF REMINDING HIMSELF FROM NOTES)
Here we are. At the start of the Third Decade, there were several references in the media of the day to a forbidden manoeuvre, the ’super tuck’. It must have been awesomely powerful for the governors of the sport to ban it?
Actually, it didn’t really do anything.
So why was it banned?
I think, son, it was just easier to ban that than to try and do anything useful.
Finally, sir, I’m sorry to ask – this one is really crazy. It says that in a race in Old Iberia, one rider crashed into another, forcing him to be taken to hospital. The rider who caused the crash was then hit a few moments later by the Medical Evac transport containing the athlete he had crashed into. That’s so barbarous it can't possibly be true?
Oh yeah, kid, that one definitely happened.
Did you.. did you participate in this race?
I sure did son, in fact, I was the one in the goddamn ambulance.
Elder lifts his head and turns to the audience, smiling, he reveals a familiar face. Although it is grey now rather than dark brown, his hair is still impeccably coiffured, his teeth still white. It is BOB JUNGELS.
Illustration by Adam Doughty