California — The White Line Nightmare (GiTO)

California is the garden paradise of the Fed — balmy clime, full employment, and plenty of food. To those living in the cramped and rotting jungles of New York, it seems like Eden. Of course, all those benefits come with some serious drawbacks.

Like New York, California is less than free. The state is run by by a small group of powerful and wealthy families (politicians, business leaders, entertainers), and their hangers-on. The entire legal and economic system of the state is rigged to protect their economic interests and physical security.

Their businesses get all the government contracts (and the implicit protection of the regulatory regime), their woes are quickly addressed by fawning bureaucrats, and their wishes are law (through a rubber-stamp legislature). Elections are pro-forma, their outcome known ahead of time, and the families’ chosen candidate always wins. So although the state bills itself as a democracy, in practice it’s a banana republic.

The current state of California is much smaller than its predecessor. It runs from San Francisco, the current capitol, to Sacramento. It also controls most of the Central Valley, from Redding to Modesto, but other than those two corridors, the rest of the state is Outlaw, Emerged, or run by the Narco-gangs.

The northern 2/3rds of the Central Valley are a land of great bounty, and employ most of the workers in the state. California produces a surfeit of food, more than enough to feed its towns; it sells the remainder as luxuries to the rest of the Fed, Texas, and free convoys (for distribution across the continent). People willing to do backbreaking seasonal labor for rock-bottom wages are always welcome in the valley.

San Francisco is a dangerous urban landscape, much like New York. Like New York, a large portion of it is Outlaw — beyond the control of the government.

South of the capitol are a half-dozen smaller cities, the epicenter of the continent’s technomagical revolution. Cracking was developed here, as were augments, shrouds, and nearly every other significant technomagical breakthrough. It is a mecca for technomages, technoshamans, crackers, augments, and (of course) Guns.

The most famous city in, isn’t actually in California. Instead, it’s sandwiched between Outlaw settlements, wild Emerged lands, and the Mexicali Narco-kingdoms. Bakersfield, the fortress city of oil, is a colony built deep inside enemy territory.

Southern California is controlled by Narco-gangs, refugees from the brutal anti-crime crackdown of the current Mexican dictatorship. Southern California is also the location of nearly all oil in the state.

The Dakotas have long been experts at establishing, protecting, and expanding resource colonies (their source for iron and coal, for example). Oil is the life’s blood of California, used in agricultural production and for military purposes. When California decided to begin their own domestic oil production, they turned to Dakota chartered companies. A company town, run by the Dakotas, Bakersfield exploits the oil fields of the Monterrey formation, producing (at first) thousands of barrels of oil per day, with a projected goal of tens of thousands by 2042.

Bakersfield is a walled city, very much along the European model. Within the walls are oil extraction facilities, refineries, domiciles, company shops, bars, strip clubs, and every other need a growing city has. Being a Dakota town, this includes a great many automobiles and even three Huey’s.

Convoys run constantly between Bakersfield and Modesto, carrying refined gasoline of many grades. Well-armed convoys, because the Narco-kingdoms covet it all.

Welcome to the California Highway Wars. A protracted and ongoing series of low-intensity conflicts between the Narco-kingdoms and Bakersfield Irregulars, the wars are fought with fleets of fast interceptors, armored gas tankers, and bruisers (built on Land Rover chassis and bristling with armor and machineguns).

Armed with their own oil wells, and their own industrial capacity, the narco-kingdoms launch raids constantly. All along the length of Highway 99 (the Black Vein, California’s jugular), the convoys and the bandits play a cat-and-mouse game, killing and being killed, for control of the latest convoy of gas.

(The road is littered with wrecks, bodies, and shell casings. Outlaw towns make a fortune clearing the patch close to their settlement, and helping maintain the highway. They sell what they take for salvage, of course, usually to the Irregulars or their narco-bandit opponents. Many also mill replacement parts for convoy vehicles, and sell them at a ridiculous profit. If it weren’t for terror-raids and Emerged monstrosities, life would be pretty good.)

The sheer value of gas makes this possible. At one time, every single gallon of gas burnt in California had to be trucked in from Dakota or Texas, across thousands of miles of Emerged terrain or the Outlaw. Bakersfield to Modesto is a four hour drive, and even with the losses due to bandit activity, it’s more than worth it. The value of gas to both sides means the Wars are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

California is caught between the Oregon Anomaly and the Narco-kingdoms. Even so, it is wealthy and growing. Guns can find plenty of work here, in the Outlaw (especially the bandit-plagued Outlaw coastal tract from San Jose to Santa Barbara), the cities, the Emerged lands, and, of course, Bakersfield.

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