Tar Zones are vast areas of inert, glutinous tar that are found all over the globe. They are the residue of Bloom outbreaks that were killed off by the extreme cold of Fimbulwinter (1991–92). Outbreaks of Bloom still occur occasionally and, if they are detected early enough, they can be dealt with by dedicated fire teams who incinerate the infected area using Napetroleum, leaving behind only patches of black, viscous Tar.
Tar Circles or Zones can be metres or tens of kilometres across and sometimes hundreds of metres deep, making them treacherous to navigate. In effect, this means that many parts of the country are cut off and unreachable except by air. Ruined Manchester, for example, is surrounded by a Tar Zone five to ten miles wide, and access to the enormous resources abandoned in the ruins is a task left to those few who have viable air transport.
Microliters or Salvager–Scavengers
Microliters are teams of adventurous, extreme-sport types, mostly in their late teens or early twenties, who make a living salvaging from inaccessible sites surrounded by patches of Tar Bloom. They fly a variety of ultra-lightweight solo craft into the isolated areas and use an ingenious arrangement of inflatable balloon rigs to air lift the much sought-after commodities. The rigs drift out of the Zones on prevailing winds and are picked up when they reach Tar-free territory. Microlites are a low-tech but highly effective method of operating in a world where fuel and other essential resources are extremely limited and carefully rationed.
Special sites such as Ruined Manchester are perfect for this type of operation. Isolated by a five-mile-wide barrier of impassable Tar-Bloom, many areas within the abandoned city are still intact, and much of value remains to be gleaned from the now-derelict industrial and commercial centres. In the early post-Event years, most essential salvaging work was carried out by government helicopter squads and Ranger Salvagers, but this system changed. Newly emergent teams of freelance Microliters were granted government licences to scavenge whatever they could, so long as official commissions were properly contracted, and all vital resources were put back into circulation. This created a vibrant and lucrative barter system and thus benefited traders and the population at large.