Wednesday, February 22, 2012

His one chance


"Determine where the secondary controls are on your model of vehicle. It should be beneath the speed indicator"

John Donny looked at the instructions again. It had been hard for him to get these. He glanced up at his car controls, something he hadn't done much.... Ahhh, found the speed indicator. It's showing "124.3mph/230km"... Huh. he thought idly... we still measure miles on these things? He looked at the dashboard again, frowning. There’s the air conditioning stuff, and the music settings, privacy, viewscreen projector, the chair heat and massage, the netpad...

Wow. lots of things up here... He'd been so used to using his command voice, he'd forgotten you could do this all by touch...  He had to have touch for this, though. the paper made it clear you couldn't do it the easy way.


"Secondary Controls... secondary controls..." He muttered under his breath. It's been years since he even really looked at the panel. His car heard him muttering, and to be helpful enlarged and circled the button he sought on the dashboard screen. John’s eyes widened, and his mouth shut tight.. I've got to be more careful, he thought to himself, trying not to even sub-vocalize. He knew this was it, his one chance.


He rubbed his head and looked up and out the window. Traffic was going as fast as always. An unbroken grid of cars packed so tightly together you could stand on one and step to another... if they weren't all moving.

The car next to John had a a couple inside in a passionate embrace. The girl saw him watching them, gave him a look of annoyance, and toggled the privacy setting. All the windows turned instantly opaque. John gave a little guilty start, then chuckled to himself... I don't give a damn about your fun time, woman.... the slight ironic grin bled from his face though, as he remembered what he was doing. You're probably the one, he thought.

He looked down at the paper again... He'd managed to talk his buddy from work into letting him use his profile. John didn't have access to a couple of systems Paul did, so Paul used a gizmo to give him proxy access. Paul did that all the time, tweaking things. He hated how much power was in a profile, and let people use his all the time. Most importantly he had  the override blocked on the car... Someone with higher clearance than him would have to get involved now... The computers would have to get a human permission. That was key. Without that, this would be over two seconds after he started. He felt a little bad about betraying Paul, but everyone knew people shouldn't be doing this sort of thing. It kinda served him right.

With the proxy, he not only accessed Paul's work systems he needed, he also did a search and ordered a physical copy to be delivered to Paul's desk. He'd heard these instructions existed a few weeks ago, and had been waiting for the chance to do this. He had taken the paper from the printing machine... well not actually dead tree paper, but made from a thin layer of plastic, the words embossed on it and textured to make them more readable.  The readout was printed directly from Paul's machine.

He knew his own profile would have reported him. His psychological indicators, the recent breakup with his girlfriend... the promotion rejection... If he had printed this from his own desk, or even used his own profile on Paul's desk, it would have raised a flag. They'd just up his mandatory meds on the damn pill pump again, and when they noticed it wasn't working, they'd send someone to check up on him.

Everybody had a profile. It started out as a way to keep track of friends, back when the the net was young. But then it grew, everybody's information merged and formed a  guide that told everyone who you were. Can't get a job without it matching your profile, or a date, or buy a house, or a car. Your profile is your password, your access. Everything comes from your profile, and everything goes through it.

His profile had words like "Poor impulse Control" "Manic-Depressive" "Attention Deficiency" "Low Empathy" "Creative" on it. All fixed and regulated by the pump.

He couldn't go back on the pump... He hated that more than anything else. Sure it got rid of his lows. But it got rid of his highs too... That damn pump, the size of a thumbnail, just under his armpit. Regulating his hormones. It used his own blood to make them, modifying his blood stream directly. It took instructions from his profile, and people told him it was a marvel.

He didn't want his damned hormones regulated. He needed to be able to dance all night, to howl at the moon. God he loved the "manic" side. On that fucking pump, everything mellowed out and stabilized. He could work, but he couldn't FEEL. He could do without the lows... but he had to have those highs.

Pay the price. He didn't want to be "fixed".

He looked up again.

The other cars, the one on his front bumper and his right already had the privacy settings on. The guys inside were probably taking a nap.... or the car might be empty, returning home after dropping off a passenger. No, an empty car would not do.

The one on his back bumper had five kids in it... the kids had folded the seats into the floor, and were in a circle playing some board game. Their mother had probably bundled them into the car and told it to go to Grandmother's house. None of the kids looked old enough for their command voices to work on a car's nav system.

He had disabled his pump just a few days ago.He had felt the lump, then used a pair of needle-nose pliers to squeeze the hell out of it. he had to print the pliers out, hadn't had a pair in so long. Model 45661 from a company named "Sears". He was rather pleased with how well they worked, he had looked on the net to find what the best tool was for squeezing, and the form factor looked perfect. He felt so damned in control when he used them.

He still had the bruises. A big purple splotch where he’d squeezed the pointy output end shut. He was actually pretty proud of the bruises, Breaking a pillpump without letting his profile know he’d done it was hard.

He felt a little sorry about what he was planning on doing. But he needed it all to end in fire and news feeds. He wanted people to know he existed. No one had done this in so long, it would flash all over the net. His name would be legendary.

He didn't want it to be the kids though... He mentally picked the couple.

"From the secondary control screen, access the Physical dropdown"

Wow... he thought, dropdowns, how quaint. He thanked the bureaucracy for still allowing human controls. There. There's the menu "physical".

He had spent the last several days on the best high he had ever had... His manic state was epic. he walked the world like a god. Every man envied him, every woman wanted him. He could do anything. It was all easy. He knew he had only a day or two left before the high vanished, and the low set in. He'd be crying and rocking in a heap for a couple days, and then refuse to leave his bed and bathroom for a week. His profile would notice, and then he'd be back on the pump. Now or never. Pay the price.

"Select vehicular controls"

He held his breath when he punched the button, expecting it all to happen right then. The car stayed rock steady, but with  a click and a whirl something popped out of his dashboard very much like the gamepad he used on his entertainment wall at home. He exhaled slowly. Ok, so that’s how to do it. He looked at it. Pretty easy, he thought. push forward to go faster... pull backward to slow down or reverse...tilt to turn... nothing to it. The buttons were probably important... but he didn't need them.

He knew that people used these all the time, back in the day, they'd evolved from mechanical linkages that were, by some clever engineering directly attached to the engine and wheels. He remembered all of that had made the cars fantastically expensive, too. Not like today.

holding the cars manual controls he realized his seat wasn't right.. he used his command voice  "Seat up.... More... More... Stop. Seat tilt... Back... Back.... Stop."  He put the seat right in the middle, so he could see out of every window... It seemed like the right way to do it. There. he was ready.  He glanced at the paper again.

"From same menu, access manual override."

Manual override.... This was it. He'd only have a few seconds before a police monitor found a higher security profile than his own... but he had fairly high clearance from his job. This was it. His moment of glory.

He touched the menu.

His car lurched and shuddered, John needed to steady the control pad. It didn't take long to get in full control, It was easier than he thought. The controls were a dream. At that same moment, all the cars around him swerved away... quite a distance away, he was now the only vehicle in the center of a large empty bubble, all other vehicles at least five meters distant. The traffic was still bumper to bumper inches away from each other, but his car, the only one all the automatic systems considered unpredictable, was alone.

He hadn't expected that. He swerved as hard as he could to the left, his cars gyroscopic commands preventing him from flipping the car, but his reactions were no match against the other vehicles, they all swerved in unison, staying on all sides of him exactly the same five meter distance. He came nowhere near to hitting them.

The privacy window went down from the couple that were to his left, holding their clothing for modesty. They were watching his car in astonishment. He tried again, the couple realized what he was doing, and fear filled their faces. They then grinned when they saw that John couldn't get any closer. The girl gave him the finger.

In a wordless cry of frustration John twisted the control as hard as he could the other direction... His gyroscopic systems easily kept all four wheels on the ground but wrenched him hard against the inside of his door... but he couldn't hit anything. The car with the kids in it was still behind him. All five had their faces pressed against the glass. Ok. Fine. Them.

John pulled as much as he could on his control pad, and his car stopped as hard as it would let him. Automatic systems slowed the vehicle safely down to a complete stop in fractional seconds. They worked so well, there weren't even any marks on the road.

The vehicle with kids he tried to hit easily swerved around him, and all the children rushed to the back window to watch him as traffic carried them away, the cars were sorting themselves back to normality before he was fully out of sight. Every car for a couple miles calculated his distance and trajectory, making vector changes on the fly to safely move around him... they didn’t even slow down.

John was wordlessly screaming as he turned the vehicle around, going the wrong way on a ten lane highway, it was like an invisible wedge was in front of him, creating a wake that no matter how hard he tried he could get no closer. He accelerated to the highest speed his car could go...an impressive 260km/hr but nothing was working. Like a slow shark chasing a school of fast fish, nothing he did could get him close enough to catch one.

The cars that John was trying to hit were barely aware of his presence, as each vehicle communicated to the others about the obstacle in their path, and made micro-adjustments to their course so far in advance that John would never, COULD never, get close enough. He realized that the closest  this would ever come to making the news, would probably be that girls online diary.

He knew his time was almost up. somewhere a police monitor was flashing a warning siren, demanding a human with a high profile give it the okay to override John's override. He spotted a bridge. Accelerating as fast as he could he aimed directly for a support pylon. "That's not going to dodge!" he screamed as he sped towards it.

But then, his vehicle slowed.. "No! No no no no NO!" John was sobbing as his control pad was no longer responsive. his car turned itself around and headed for the off ramp.  He heard his doors lock. He’d been overridden.

John knew they would make him go on the pill pump again, and put it somewhere deeper and harder to reach. He wished he had thought to bring the pliers with him, He might figure out a way to kill himself before he reached the police station.

Damned car won’t let him.