“Nice bike you got there,” said one of the men. “Maybe you should give it to us.”

It was always the same old song and dance. Posturing first, then threats, and then violence. Nothing that would have even gotten you sentenced before the Fall. Anyone you meet that’s not part of a larger outfit doesn’t have the stones for much more.

“What would you do with a bike like this?” I said. “It’s very difficult to maintain, almost more than it’s worth, and I have to barter for spare parts everywhere I go. You ever try to find a replacement planetary gear cassette? Or trade for one? Let me give you something else that you’ll find more useful.”

The man pulled a gun out of his pocket and pointed it at me, in what I think he believed to be a threatening manner. “Naw, I think maybe you should give that bike to us,” he said. “It’s safer that way.”

“Well, you surely know best,” I said. Gamely, I dismounted, took off my saddlebags, and let the bike fall to the ground. I half expected the man to order me to leave them, but his eyes were fixated on my aluminum and steel conveyance. He snatched it up, greedily.

“Hey!” his friend said. “Give that to me.”

“Get bent,” sneered the other. “I got it, it’s mine.” Crucially, in pulling it up, he had let his gun’s barrel point at the ground.

His pal pulled a gat of his own and pumped out two shots. Prudently, he scooped his dying compatriot’s Glock up before I could help myself, though I stood with my hands up the whole time, even taking a step back.

“It’s mine now,” he said, partly to me, and partly to his friend as the latter gurgled his last.

“Hey, sure, fine, take it,” I said. “It’s not worth my life.”

With a self-satisfied nod, the highwayman mounted my bicycle and took off an at unsteady clip. I waited a few moments before following. Since the Fall, no one but me had managed to hold onto that thing for more than a day or two. And I suspected this would be no different.

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