Some twenty years ago, as New York was reeling under the impact of thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting of the Second Civil War, some bright individual presented a brilliant plan to officials of the city government. The idea went something like this: since the city couldn't afford to provide police protection for all of New York, they shouldn't. Those districts that could afford law enforcement would get it, everyone else would have to fend for themselves. In addition, certain districts were to be abandoned, since at the time they were a haven for refugees, street gangs and low-income non-skilled laborers. The government of the city of New York, rapidly running out of options and fearing for the safety of Manhattan, agreed.
What followed was one of the more darker periods of American history, even if one considers that a bloody and violent civil war was being waged. Police and fire departments were shut down and the officers transferred into Manhattan, to form the first line of defense against rioters, looters and the large gangs that were rapidly taking over the streets. The declaration of martial law helped, and the police, backed by the National Guard, and armed with orders to shoot any and all looters on sight, began the purging of central Manhattan. At the same time, Brooklyn and Queens were left to get by as best as they could. Thus, the New York Zero Law Enforcement Zone was born.
To further insure the safety of Manhattan and the rest of New York, the bridges that linked Manhattan to Long Island were first barricaded, and then simply cut using demolitions charges. This served three purposes; first, it kept the mobs of homeless refugees out of Manhattan; second, it made it very hard for looters and gangs to raid the rest of New York; and third, it was far easier to guard a single bridge as opposed to six.
After the Second Civil War ground to a close, New York, now known as "Neo" York, breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully, life would begin to return to normal. The unification with what was left of Canada meant renewed prosperity, which would mean fiscal gain for everyone. Well... at least in theory.
The financial forecasts for reclaiming the Neo York "Zero Zone" were staggering. There was the cost of opening the subway tunnels, new bridges to consider, power and sewer lines to connect, not to mention trying to rebuild the thousands of burned out buildings that littered the Zone. And then there were the people. All of them were technically citizens, although most were probably criminals. Still, finding and relocating several thousand people, even if it was to behind bars, was no easy task. In the end, it was decided to leave well enough alone. If someone really wanted to clear the Zone, it would get done, probably by allowing a multi-national corporation to buy up the land at a bargain rate in order to build some new industrial complex.
Currently however, the Zero Zone is far more useful as is, then as a reclaimed industrial/residential center. With no laws and no police, the multi-nationals are free to come and go as they wished, treating the entire Zone as one vast experimental proving ground.
* * * * *
The cargo hauler sitting in the dark at the far end of the Williamsburg Bridge was a typical example of its kind. It was long and low, and built to handle heavy loads. It rested on four axles, two in front and two in back, and looked durable enough to take an autocannon round. It would come as no surprise to anyone to learn that the hauler's frame was also used for certain urban combat vehicles.
With a rumbling of its engine, the hauler moved out onto the bridge, passing the armored pillboxes that flanked the Neo York entrance. The two masses of reinforced concrete fairly bristled with ordinance and surveillance equipment, most of which was pointed down the bridge to its far side. That side of the bridge marked the entrance to the Neo York Zero Zone.
The Zone side of the bridge was a different matter entirely. The checkpoint narrowed the bridge down to one lane in each direction, and the ramps that descended into the Zone proper were a maze of Jersey walls and razorwire. A heavy wire-mesh gate blocked access either way, and the barrels of an assortment of weapons, including rapid-fire autocannons and emplaced mini-guns, poked out of slots in the flanking turrets. If that wasn't deterrent enough, the NYPD always had several K-12 Assault mecha handy, not to mention a full squad of SWAT troops.
With a hiss of airbrakes, the hauler rolled to a stop, its engine muttering. The officer on duty gave the vehicle a long look. As it was heading into the Zone, it really wasn't any of their concern, although it never hurt to give anyone passing by a little more than a casual once over. On the other hand, the thin black portfolio being held out the window certainly contained sufficient incentive to ignore the hauler's passage.
Rolling through the gate, the heavy truck carefully negotiated its way down the access ramp. There was no road repair this side of the bridge, and the way was marked by extensive cratering from all sorts of small arms fire. Most of it was ignorable, especially for a vehicle as big as the hauler; the rest was maneuvered around.
Both ramps leading to the bridge looked this way. Occasional attacks by go-gangs resulted in a lot of ammunition being expended, as the NYPD felt it was far better to be safe than sorry. So far, the tactic worked, as no gang had ever managed to cross the bridge to Neo York proper. Such attacks did leave the roads riddled with gunfire however, as well as bodies and wrecked bikes. Invariably, the corpses vanished in the night, while the bikes would be hauled off over the next few days, depending on how shot up they were. Most NYPD officers figured the bodies were taken into Darkside for "recycling."
After some careful negotiation, the hauler finally exited the access ramp and rolled out onto a broad empty street. Swerving to miss a gaping pothole, the truck clipped a the wreck of a burned-out car, sending the vehicle's once bright-pink body spinning. A few moments later, it turned down a side street and vanished deeper into the Zone.
Several hours later, the hauler came to a stop in a part of the Zone colorfully described as "The Wastes." With the engine ticking as it cooled, the hauler's rear doors opened, the liftgate dropping into place. A low grinding noise marked the appearence of a long white coffin-shaped structure. The liftgate lowered to the ground with a hiss, and the "coffin" slid free. A man stepped out of the shadowed cargo bay and hopped down next to the just-deposited container. Tapping at an exposed keypad, he then pressed a large button on the side of coffin, switching a few red lights to green. Standing, he then quickly re-entered to the truck, which started up with a roar and rolled away in a cloud of dust.
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