Build up your traffic

Pulling on the handlebars so the front wheel hopped the curb, he skidded to a halt, locked the bike to a street light and entered the Downtown Manhattan diner. This was nirvana, the streets of New York, Ed Gunderson’s destiny. His dream started in childhood, riding his bike as if he was the fastest paperboy in all of Austin Texas, zipping through gaps in backyard fences, slinging papers at mailboxes, visualizing a future as a cycle messenger. Now with a one-room apartment on Lower East Side he was ridin' high. Ed had really nailed the courier vocation, instinctively finding that optimum snake-like path through mile-long ranks of taxis on Madison Avenue; memorizing light sequences at every intersection in Midtown Manhattan; weaving through buses, dodging pedestrians and car doors, unobserved by traffic cops busy guzzling bagels.

And today he had a chance to make it big, a meeting with Mr Maserati, representative of Wheelies Alternative Street Transport Enterprises. Ed’s talent had been spotted. Mr Maserati had contacted him via an SMS with no reply path, offering an interview at this downtown diner; company details such as address and phone number apparently confidential. Rumor on the streets had it that Wheelie Enterprises handled the tech sector’s biggest clients. That’s where the money was nowadays.

As Ed walked into the diner the waitress turned and smiled. “Mr Maserati is waiting, table by the jukebox.”

“Thanks ma’am.” He walked across the diner towards the jukebox. Mr Maserati had the skin of a toasted whippet, deep brown, drawn tight over an incredibly lean and slender body. With a wave of his hand in the direction of the opposite chair Maserati invited him to sit down.

“I’ve been observing you, thinking perhaps you are the courier we are looking for. Do you want to build up your traffic Mr Gunderson? Because I can help. Tell me, how do you prepare?”

“You mean for a day on the bike? I look the bike over, chain, tires, spare tubes and so on. Then check the forecast; make sure I pack some waterproofs if it’s going to rain.”

“No. No. That’s the way an amateur prepares. Not what you do if you wish to ride in the Zone. Not what you do for Wheelies. How you prepare defines you as a courier, as a ciclista. You must learn how to prepare. Listen, many of my riders came from Europe, professionals from the racing circuit, they know how to prepare. Paulo is Italian, he’s old school, nothing but amphetamines and caffeine. But at six espressos an hour, I can use him late into the night. Arnold came to me from Munich; he packs more muscle than a rodeo bull, juiced up with daily corticoid steroid injections, perfect for heavier deliveries. Gerhard is from Amsterdam, devoted to the pot Belge, whatever he bought on the street yesterday goes in the next day’s Belgian stew: cocaine, uppers, downers, painkillers of any sort, ketamine, pentobarbital, he doesn’t discriminate. Gerhard I can send into the most crime-infested neighborhoods of South Bronx, yet no one, but no one, will approach him.”

“I don’t do drugs, Mr Maserati.”

“Fine, fine. No problem, I understand. You’re the clean living all-American boy. So I have a special job for you. No drugs involved. Listen, sometimes in the technology business data must be protected. To send data from A to B it’s normal to use a wire, that’s what modern computing is about, you could say. But what path does data take over the internet? You can't control it, so you encrypt your data. Yet what if those with the power to intercept also have the power to decipher? What if you don’t want those who can intercept and decipher to even know a data transfer occurred, what then? The only secure solution is an air gap. Data taken out at point A, carried undetected without wires, to be decoded at the remote terminus. Computer scientists talk of the era of big data and yet big data has always been with us, or more accurately in us. Do you know how much information is carried within human DNA? Seven hundred terabytes in a single gram, imagine that much information on hard drives, it would take a fleet of trucks to carry it. We shall tap into the power of genetic instructions, enormous data transfers taking place unseen in broad daylight on the streets of New York. First a quart of your blood will be extracted. At some later date you will be re-injected with your own blood. The data payload will be carried within recombinant DNA applied to unused sequences within your own chromosomes, data invisible even to the courier. You will transport the data to the end customer where a second quart of blood is extracted. Just a sample of the original quart is required. Even so petabytes of data can be transferred. You will be very handsomely paid and absolutely no drugs. Plus for you there is fortuitous bonus. The cargo you carry, that extra quart of your own blood, increases your aerobic threshold, actually facilitating the transportation - your cargo in effect has negative weight. You will become the fastest courier of all time.”

“Well, as I said, no drugs, but OK, Mr Maserati. I want to be fast. To be the best.” Shaking hands to seal the deal Ed knew this pact would make or break him, possibly both, and probably the postal service would never be the same again.