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The wound in the country didn't look like much.  From a distance, as Chit approached along the pocked surface of old Interstate 90, a string of scripple stretched out perpendicular to the roadway.  It extended north and south, cutting Massachusetts in twain just east of Springfield, excising the capital of the state from the remainder in coldlume shapes of sensor poles and warning towers.

For perhaps fifty klicks before the border was visible it had been making its presence felt in the sudden disruption of flitter traffic overhead.  True night had fallen as Chit gentled the UNIMOG over the border from New York Upland, causing the steady flow of flitters above the navigation aid of the highway to brighten slowly into a string-of-pearls of running lights and pale blue flames from turbine wash as the night darkened far enough.  As he drew closer to the break, though, some few of those jewels were visible rising from the surface ahead of him, slower and lower than the rest as they lifted from the security checkpoints enforced by that border.  Traffic into the New Coast was uninterrupted; NewMass, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and New York Coastal all insisted that they were in fact still members of the United States of America and hence required no security or traffic checks at their borders for vehicles arriving from other states.

The other way was not so easily traversed.  Federal territory was guarded by rotating units of the National Guard and the IntSec paramilitaries, intent on enforcing and emphasizing the disunity of the States.  Picking at the scab to ensure it didn't heal.

He hadn't heard from Mikare, despite leaving several messages for him at various traditional spots in the 'Verse and elsewhere.   That didn't necessarily mean much; Mik was a bastard about getting back to people at the best of times, which these certainly weren't.  Still.  Chit threaded the MOG through a series of bare patches of roadbed, listening to the retuned engine thrum as it burned its way through its tank of flittermix. Cases thumped and rattled on the bed behind him, mostly cushioned by various bags of clothing, camping gear and other soft goods, but heavy and solid enough to grumble at the surface of the highway nonetheless.

As he crested the last slight rise, the border control point was almost anticlimactic.  In fact, as far as his journey was concerned, it was almost a non-event; since he wasn't traversing a national border (at least as far as the New Coast States were concerned) he merely had to thread the MOG through a dogleg of access-control traps designed to ensure that no ground traffic doubled back into Western Mass on the wrong side of the highway.  Once through, the roadway got appreciably worse, but the various Massachusetts Guard units encamped on either side of the Interstate paid him and other eastbound traffic no mind.  Chit smiled somewhat sourly at the almost pointed political statement, and returned his attention to the roadway.

It wasn't until near old Sturbridge that the first signs of Scardown showed up.  Bare patches of hillside where nothing grew, some still smudged with soot from carbonchem fires, caught his eye. Strange, whorl-like areas cut out of grass and woods alike with dirty white or grey encrustation along the ground, legacy of nanoassembly gone rogue, were still visible once in a while, sometimes with warning fencing around them.  The constant flitter traffic had begun to thicken, and he had begun to see more and more ground vehicles as well, finally acknowledging that he was in honest-to-goodness traffic somewhere perhaps seventy-five klicks west of Boston, according to a roadsign.  The sign, Chit noted, was new, and corresponded to a sudden improvement in the roadbed quality and concomitant upswing in traffic density.  Chit had a suspicion that the damaged roadway west of this point was more to discourage Federal military planning than an actual reflection of budgetary woes.

In Framingham, he swung off the Interstate - now labelled the Mass Pike, just as history dictated - and began to search.  He found what he was looking for some three klicks off the roadway - an old and disused strip mall, retail space obviously on its third or fourth incarnation  At the end, a sign read PRIVATE STORAGE.  He turned the MOG into the parking area in front of the small office door, killed the engine, and climbed down.

The silence was almost palpable after so many hours.  Uncomfortably, he looked around the lot; a few vehicles passed on and above the two-lane roadway he'd come through on, and a few others were parked in the lot in front of the storage area.  Across the road, what appeared to be a convenience store squatted in its parking lot, trying vainly to hide its resolute squareness by being planted at a forty-five degree angle to the road.  It wasn't working.  He sighed and pulled off his Stetson, running his hand through his short black hair before scaling the hat back into the MOG's cab and turning to walk into the office.

Twenty minutes later Chit was waiting on the crumbling concrete of a commuter rail station, rucksack on his back and a hard-sided case by his side.  The case was covered in faded stickers extolling various faded country and rock bands, and had seen hard use; it looked like it had just fallen wearily off a roadie's truck.  He was alone on the platform in the dim light of the old sodium floods spread along the track; the storage unit counter worker had assured him there were at least two commuter trains still due to pass through despite the late hour, but Chit wasn't entirely sure he trusted those assurances, looking at the empty station.  Across the rails, a few souls were waiting for the outbound trains, though, so perhaps.

He sat, wearily, on a metal bench, leaning forward to balance the rucksack.  Past the few light towers across the tracks, he could see an open space beyond a parking area in which a few flitters and far fewer ground vehicles waited.  There was what looked like an empty lot, but beyond that was the white shine of high grade scripplepaint from dedicated plates and movement before them which looked like people and vehicles moving about.  He couldn't see well from the station, but it looked military.

Above the lights were several hulking shapes blotting out the urban cloudshine.  Chit grimaced as he recognized the Interdiction Towers, identifying the pods of missiles and the shorter noses of beam weapons as they silently watched the skyline.  Most were pointed north and east, in the direction of faraway Europe, staking claim as only the Northeast could on the shortest Great Circle routes for cargo shipment from Europe and (via Europe's hubs) from the Middle East and Africa.  What didn't move by ship would move, most of it, by airship, as it had for years; able to cross the Atlantic in two days or so slung underneath gigantic modular flightframes.  Cargo would also move in the other direction, as manufacturing revitalized by the nanostack and the lowered expectations of Downtime poured out goods.

But not anymore.  Now it would stop at the New Coast, under the pointed threat of towers like this, to travel inland from the Atlantic on rail and flitter links and vice versa, giving the breakaway States a countervailing threat to hold off the massed Federal military forces.  Push too hard, and the trade would stop. The Towers would bring it down, and until the Federals could take and control the New Coast, the trade routes would suffer - their fragile sinews vulnerable to easily-hidden, easily-portable weapons cached, moved and fired where once the Minutemen had lugged Brown Bess flintlocks.

While the trade moved back and forth, a delicate tithing of levies extracted by the New States to compensate for lost Federal monies, the negotiations over the Reunification (ever-popular dream) went on.

Chit lit a cigar, flicking his paper match at the pitted NO SMOKING icon burned into the platform surface with etching acid.  He sucked back, contemplated the darkness and light-spackled world of the East Coast he'd never seen, while wondering if Tourette had passed his message on to Mikare yet; wondered if that fucker knew where he was.  Exhaling, he watched the smoke dissipate into the chilly air and listened to the Doppler-bent bass glissando of the oncoming magrail.

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