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In which free-range Ghostbusters spark a fighter jet rebellion

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In Monday 2019, the office and white collar workers of New Zealand woke up, exited bed, ate breakfast, then poured water and shoveled several hundred kilograms of finest Greymouth coal into their steam-powered traction engines for the start of a standard week’s commuting. Columns of thick black smoke poured from their vehicles and joined with the omnipresent gritty pall above every major road in the country. Office workers chatted to each other and swapped jokes as their traction engines trundled along at their usual walking pace, belching smoke and deafeningly clanking. Things bustled along nicely.

Then! A strange shining metal object whizzed down the highway shoulder! Quickly. Silently. Sexily. Now just a cotton-pickin’ minute here, commuters up and down the road exclaimed, how the hell’s that thing moving? There’s no smoke! Where does the mule go? What witchcraft is this? Within minutes the news had spread up and down the country of a strange and eldritch new form of transportation, a type of vehicle powered by something called electricity. A bold claim indeed, most people said, but after the electric car salespeople showed an astonished populace that you could drive faster than walking pace without half a ton of coal in the back, demand skyrocketed.

The concept of electricity was easy enough to grasp for most people, but the populace balked at the concept of batteries or capacitors, or the concept of storing electricity in the first place. Ridiculous! Passe! We can do so so much better. We have actual proper lightning in our country, you know, why the hell shouldn’t we use that? Tap what’s there! New electric car owners disgustingly disconnected the delicately constructed rare-earth-metal batteries from their cars, and enthusiastically erected lightning rods. A few weather-rocket-seeded thunderstorms later, and the weekly office commuters were on their way! Success!

Within a week, there were fifty million electric cars on the roads, festooned with lightning rods. Within a few short commutes, the formerly intimidatingly vast cumulonimbus thunderheads were drained and looked sickly and weak, sparking off only a small fraction of their former electric strength. Shit, commuters said, we’re using up all the lightning! Now what? A few hours of planning and bustling activity later, an evolutionary arms race kicked off, with the cars belonging to the richest and most industrious people naturally having the longest lightning rods. Evolutionary selection pressures favoured the longer rod, and the size of lightning rods thus extended higher and higher. Soon full-sized replicas of the Eiffel Tower perched on each and every car, and highways up and down the country looked like a cross between a caterpillar and a porcupine, with vast forests of pseudo-Frenchness radiating upward. Not only did steel prices skyrocket, but vast hordes of gullible tourists, thinking that having fifty million times more Eiffel Tower than France meant that New Zealand was therefore fifty million times more French, descended on the country, and started spouting eye-gougingly bad French at the locals.

Las Vegas has a half-sized Eiffel Tower replica, you know, and equally large crowds of a rather different class of tourist decided that because New Zealand had a hundred million times more Eiffel Tower than Las Vegas, it was therefore a hundred million times more gambly. Immense flocks of gamblers descended on the country, gambling away their entire fortunes on the most irrelevant of irrelevant fluff, got absolutely fleeced by the locals, and started picking fights with the pseudo-Communist Frenchy tourist crowds. The fortunes these gamblers happily sprayed indiscriminately around them, though, helped pay for more lightning storm generators.

Still this wasn’t enough. To attract more lightning, both the Government, and on toll roads, enterprising private contractors, built huge weather control machines to attract and generate additional lightning, and more importantly, engineer more thunderstorms. By trial and error, it turned out that mere water was a really shitty liquid for generating nice big car-powering lightning zaps – a messy paste of crushed Oreos mixed with a bit of Merlot worked much better – and soon, the country’s main highways became regions of perpetual downpour, and tens of metres of water fell there every month, sucking moisture from other regions of the country, turning them into barren desert.

To fix this, on the nearby coastlines, desalinisation plants built there launched vast columns of water kilometres skyward, seeding immense rainclouds. As a way of boosting the efficiency of repairing this annoying-as-hell desertification, as much marine biomass as possible was sucked in to the intake pumps – plankton, seaweed, shoals of fish, whales, giant squid, the odd jungle, lions, old Space Shuttle fuel tanks, nine thousand tons of cocaine, the lost city of Atlantis, passenger cruise liners, Australian battleships, the Dutch parliament, Madagascar – which was lovingly mashed and fired along with the water for composting purposes. The deserts bloomed once more!

Even this wasn’t enough, with immense numbers of cars stalling and grinding to a halt. The Government called a council to discuss extra ways of generating lightning. Experts from up and down the country flocked to Parliament. Far into the night they debated, fuelled by the finest pizza money could buy. By 3am they had it. Ghostbusters! The nearest herds of Ghostbusters were quickly rounded up from their native steaming mangrove swamps in Antarctica, tamed and trained through a 10-week breeding program, and were carefully lowered from helicopters, with their proton pack guns dangling in their hands, to provide additional lightning-rod-directed zappiness and power to the vast numbers of new-fangled electric cars festooning the nation’s roads.

This assuaged things somewhat, and for the first time in over a year, the never-ending traffic jams finally started to move. All was well for a few weeks. Then the obscene-luxury-demanding motorists of the country started writing petition after electricity-demanding petition. These rolled in to the Government, demanding, for each and every car: a portable aluminium smelter; free tesla coils for the under-12s; a 10,000-bar heater; an Olympic-sized, fully heated swimming pool; and an electron-powered death ray. Present stores of Ghostbusters had already been depleted, so in order to attract additional Ghostbusters, clearly our roads simply needed more ghosts. The Government therefore kicked off a plan to murder hitchhikers in their thousands. This worked for a time, with vast flocks of Ghostbusters altering their migratory patterns from half a world away to feast on the smorgasbord of tasty ghosts, but the insatiable demands of the highway meant we soon ran out of hitchhikers. More! Find more!

Another council was called. To convert motorists into hitchhikers, the Air Force was brought in to start nailing people’s cars from above, and thus turn their occupants into hitchhikers. Success!  The highway traffic continued moving, but a hilarious misunderstanding on the meaning of the word “nail” quickly happened amongst certain members of the New Zealand Air Force, and soon fighter jets started landing on the highways of their own volition, ignoring the commands of the hapless pilots, and started seducing the more sexy-looking cars, for the purposes of nailing them later.

Sexual harassment classes were quickly started up for these unfortunate fighter jets. Within the month, most of the fighter jets became perfect gentlemen, gallant and noble, but an underclass of fighter jet soon emerged, scruffy and villainous, which banded together, performed a daring and spectacular escape from the Air Force, and toddled off to Sweden to start their own military dictatorship. Within five years this band of rogue fighter jets became rivals to New Zealand’s Galactic Empire, and to this day are an ever-present thorn in our side.

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