It was a fancy name for university employees who ferried research and field data between institutions. Mae had been transferring these packets of data via highway for the Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Sciences at MIT to help pay her graduate tuition. The department payed for gas and an hourly rate, and the drive wasn’t so bad as long as you had enough coffee and music- the Aerostar only had a cassette deck so she had a shoebox of cassettes riding shotgun for the trip. She took 81 south instead of 95 because it cut around D.C. through the western tip of Maryland into Virginia. They’d discovered early on that they had to keep a wide distance from D.C. ever since the administration implemented the Scan Toll centers at the edges of the metropolitan area. Since most of the major communications to all of the household computer terminals was coming from D.C., no unauthorized data was permitted in or out. If you passed through one of these tolls with any of the government issued SSD’s or HDD’s in your car you’d trip the scanner and could expect to be pulled over and searched within a mile after you got through. If they found anything they didn’t like they simply plugged into the drive, wiped the data and let you go.

Mae stopped in Harrisburg PA to refuel and grab lunch with a friend from high school. Eric had a fresh set of cassettes waiting for her as always. They’d been exchanging music this way since she started the data transfer position, she’d get through a few albums on the ride down that she bought at her local record shop and give them to Eric in exchange for a few new cassettes. There was a recent spike in enthusiasm for ‘analog’ music and visual arts that seemed to be growing more and more popular. She got back on the road to dive into the next set of music before arrival .