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A cool wind rustled the leaves of the timeless oak that stood in the middle of the field. For over one hundred years, the cycle of

the seasons had influenced the growth and development of her branches, which reached upward and outward in all directions, strong, dependable, annexing space in an everlasting quest, the purpose of which remains unknown, and irrelevant. At its base, the trunk, large

enough around that three people linking arms could only just circumnavigate its surface, thrust itself in the soil as if it were a spear, thrown from the heavens down toward the earth and ejecting small portions of the land around it. The roots that spread unseen,

yet wide and vast in their influence – holding the soil together, tying small rocks into chains, which held the oak in place, converging at the center below the trunk of the oak, keeping the magnificent statue prisoner in this unnamed, unknown field. The natives had called her the Ataya, and culled her branches to build their homes. They dug small stones from earth that surrounded

the Ataya, and scraped the bark from her branches to make rope to lash the stones for their weaponry. Generations later, as settlers

from another world conquered the land and its inhabitants, they too had harvested the limbs of the massive oak tree, which always returned, larger, longer, and stronger than before. When the drought

years had passed, and all the neighboring vegetation had died of

thirst, she stood, strong and green; her roots extended far deeper than those of the others, and drew water from the deepest of tables. She continued to expand her size and control. A brush fire started by a small child many decades ago, had once scarred the landscape as it spread out of control, destroying every living thing it encountered, as it moved across the valley, unchallenged, until the flames had nothing left to feed on. As life

slowly return to the valley and the field in which she stood, the old oak tree was a testament to strength, proudly boasting an ever increasing number of rings, as the flames of the wildfire could not penetrate her rough exterior, and the soft underbelly inside remained intact. This place was an oasis of freedom, one of the few undiscovered, untread upon, wild spaces left. Urban sprawl had extended several

hundred miles away, and over the past twenty years, gradually edged closer to the last remaining vestige of nature. In place of the

unplanned, and unmanaged wilderness where the strong had earned their position, the people had created artificial landscapes, with trees, bushes, and even animal life carefully chosen to fit the design and purpose. Some were food farms, others tree farms; some scenic The oak tree, standing proudly and

gardens, others commercial zoos.

in solitude in the center of a large field in a valley connecting two large hills, gently swayed in the autumn breeze, its branches slowly going left, then right, rocking like a cutter's masts at sea, while the leaves fluttered like a thousand small flags flown by a force in

desperation.

This was only a tree after all, but for those who This old oak tree was

understood, this was the last of its kind. freedom and heritage. ---

On the 53rd floor of a large tower composed completely of steel framing encased by a glistening glass shell, two business men, walking briskly down a hallway were talking as they entered an office. The first was Frank Johnson, an operations executive in the

automobile industry with large, bulky glasses, which artificially increased the size of his dark brown eyes to the observer. He was a

bookish type, in his late forties, with thinning hair, yet full of energy and enthusiasm for his work. Beside him was Charley Woodrow,

a vice president of sales for the city's leading construction company. Charley was shorter and stockier than Frank, with blond He was younger, a talkative man who made his The

hair and blue eyes.

living on interpersonal communications, and an expert salesman. two were acquaintances, not currently involved in any business relations. They had met at an exclusive exercise club and hit it

off, periodically meeting after working hours for drinks, and to discuss their respective industries. Presently, they were in a

heated discussion of a new roadway being proposed by Woodrow's employer, Orson Construction Works. As they entered Woodrow's office, he closed the door and they sat, sipping cocktails, across from each other on burgundy leather chairs, with a large, rectangular coffee table between them.

“I am just stating, that I think it is unnecessary to expand the 97 corridor that far into the suburbs.” Frank said. “People live out there for a reason – to be away from the city. nice, long scenic ride into town.” “That is absolutely not true,” Charley replied. “People demand efficiency and speed. This new highway will reduce commute times by They enjoy having a

at least fifteen minutes for those people in the Stanleyville area.” Stanleyville was a small but growing suburb ten miles to the northeast of the city of Blacksburg, where the affluent had been increasingly transplanting themselves to escape the rising crime and decreasing property values in what had traditionally been a more exclusive part of the downtown area. The city council was in a cycle

of increasing taxes to offset the lost income, which in turn had been contributing to the suburban sprawl. Orson Construction had grown

rapidly by bridging the gap and contracting with the city to build and improve the roadways that tied Stanleyville to Blacksburg. Frank Johnson continued to argue his case against the new highway. Growing up surrounded by the auto industry, he was the son Cars were his life. He was a driving purist,

of a factory worker.

who enjoyed nothing more in his spare time than to drive a deserted country road, winding through the hills with the radio off, the windows down, and nothing but himself and the wind rumbling through the window, carrying with it a low growl of 8 supercharged cylinders groaning as they were put through the paces. To Frank, the highways

were a necessary evil, but he truly despised the cyclic traffic they

induced.

As a new resident of Stanleyville himself, he sought out

longer, yet more enjoyable, roads to travel on the daily commute to the downtown area, where the headquarters of several large corporations were all clustered within a few city blocks, giving one walking the street a sensation of being indoors, as the towering structures surrounding them on all sides blotted out the sun with the exception of an hour or two each day, around lunchtime. “I understand the motivation behind the project,” Frank continued, “but I worry about the problems of the city - the crime, the poverty – dammit, I moved out there to get away from all that. Putting a lifeline like 97 right through the heart of Stanleyville, you are just inviting a migration of these people.” “Our research tells us that the net increase in business along the 97 corridor will offset any migratory effects of crime and drug trafficking.” Charley was getting frustrated. “I really don't see what the issue is here. Cities grow, people move outward toward the

suburbs, and they've gotta have roads to drive on to get to work. What is so complicated about that?” “Charley, when I was a kid, my father used to take us on Sunday drives on the roads through Chester, just to look at the beautiful hillsides and show off the new Ford. mall! Now, Chester is a shopping We

There are no hillsides, it is nothing but cheap housing.

cannot take away the one thing that sells more premium sports cars in my lineup than anything – the love of driving. This roadway will I can't lose these

kill the pleasure of commuting from Stanleyville.

customers to a traffic jam.” “Pleasure of commuting? century. Frank, we live in the twenty first People drive to get from point A The just need a

Quit being so emotional.

to point B.

They don't need your 500 horsepower V8.

vehicle to move their fat asses around quickly and cheaply.” Frank looked down and sighed. “Well, it is quick.” He smirked, He gave it

as Charley chuckled and took a sip from his rocks glass. a swirl and set it down again gently on a coaster.

He was among the last, he thought to himself, the last of the driving enthusiasts. Frank drove a new Ford GT, a beautiful, He had been

powerful sports car, provided by the company of course.

giving it a 'test run' for the past year and a half, in theory testing the vehicle, and noting areas for improvement. But everyone

at the office knew it was just 'his' car, and there was an ongoing joke about 'how the new GT was shaping up'. “I'm going forward with the proposal to widen 97 to eight lanes and extend it the thirty miles necessary to reach through and beyond Stanleyvilles city limits in anticipation of further growth.” Charley declared. evening. “I'm meeting with the city people tomorrow The joy of driving is just a You have to accept it.”

Frank, you are a dinosaur.

slogan you put on ads to sell cars.

“Well, I suppose that's that then.” Frank couldn't help but feel like the world was becoming over managed and rule driven. His long country drives had for the past

ten years offered him a sense of release and refuge, the freedom his

soul desired.

But this concept was foreign to Charley Woodrow, who

existed solely for his family, and the growth of the construction business. Perhaps he was right, Frank thought as he stood in the elevator, watching the numbers slowly tick down from 53 to 'G'. dinosaur. A forty-seven year old dinosaur. I'm a

He chuckled to himself

as the door opened, releasing him into the lobby of the Orson Construction Works corporate headquarters. In the center of the

space, a cast iron statue of the company's founder, Paul Orson, stood with a small plaque explaining the founding and initial growth under Orson. Now, thirty years later, the company was publicly owned and

traded, with Orson's only son the sole connection to the original family business. Paul Orson had suffered a stroke and passed away 15

years after founding the business, and his son had used his connections to the city council to foster contracts for roadwork, vastly increasing the size and influence of the company. Frank had an interesting relationship to the construction industry, as a powerful executive at a leading automobile manufacturer. The auto business generally doesn't have much

involvement with the constructors of roadways, but for Frank Johnson, it was an interest of his – the design and construction of the pathways on which his products were driven. He was very passionate

about the driving experience being an enjoyable process, with roads that twisted, turned, went up and down and were generally interesting to drive. But more often than not, the plans he saw were drawn up

primarily using computer modeling of traffic flow, and resembled waffle irons of one way streets. thought. Such a lost opportunity, he

Main arteries flat, wide, and safe efficiently distributed

the flow of traffic, with a brutal logic, the way one would expect in a human-machine managed system. Gone were the seldom driven

pathways, paved over ancient cattle trails, that piqued the curiosity of the driver, calling him to take a different route, just to see where it would lead.