The Price of Flight

Author : Beck Dacus

My eyechip surprised me while I was eating breakfast by telling me about the traffic on Bernadette. There was a parade blocking the street, and I needed to use Bernadette to get to the grocery store.

“Oh.” My wife looked up from her eggs. She’d just gotten the same notification.

“Yeah. No using the car.”

“So… you’ll go tomorrow?”

“Store’s closed on Sundays. You know that.”

“Monday?”

I gave her a look.

“Please no,” she said. “Don’t take the hover.”

“We’re out of milk.”

“And butter,” my son said. “And chips.”

“All right,” she sighed. “But no chips.”

“My thoughts exactly,” I said, picking up the keys and walking out the back door. To my right was a car-sized metal pad, the hover parked on top. I hopped in and started the engine, feeling the hoverbeam emitters lift me up. I started the vehicle toward the grocery store, coming over the top of my house to see my disapproving neighbors shaking their heads and urging their kids inside.

Whatever. They’re all paranoid.

Making my way to the store, the whole city had the same attitude as my neighborhood. Rarely-used anti-aircraft turrets unfolded, but they didn’t aim at me. They wouldn’t do that unless I got within 300 feet of their premises. Too many 9/11 repeats had occurred at the hands of malicious drivers, or drunk ones, when hovers first came out, so one building every half-mile armed itself. Well, they needn’t worry about me.

When I arrived, I could see employees below freaking out. The instant they saw me, they ran inside. I knew they were telling their superiors, and I was ready when I got the call on my dashboard.

“Hello? Is this the hover driver?”

“Yep. You wanna take control of my car?”

“Yes. You understand, we can’t trust just anyone to, um… to land on our store.”

“I understand. It’s not my first time.” Though it had been a while.

“Okay. Well, a very important man is coming in on a helicopter later, so we can’t let you use the main pad. Sorry.”

“It’s all right. Just take me to the secondary one.”

I pressed the button on my dashboard, giving consent to let the store take control of my hover. They drifted me a few hundred feet to the backmost part of the store’s roof, where they started talking to me again. “Unfortunately, close-up, the hoverbeams on your car damage the store, so the secondary pad has an inflatable platform. Which we’re going to drop you on.”

“Wait, what?”

Too late. I lifted out of my seat, fell for probably half a second, though it felt like thirty minutes, then slammed back into my chair.

“Ohmygod ohmygod! Ugh!” I was kind-of pissed for them surprising me like that, but my anger had cooled off once I stepped out of the hover and onto their giant balloon. I decided to get this shopping trip over with and go home.

Midway through my shopping trip, my hover sent me a notification. It was being stolen.

“What!?” Without another word, I ran out and climbed back up to the roof. Instead of my car, I found a couple of uniformed employees, one with a radio in his hand. The other one came to me and said, “Sir, your car was stolen by a thief fleeing the store. You can understand his choice of vehicle. Anyway, he was too dangerous in your hover, so we had no choice. We radioed one of the nearby buildings to shoot your car down.”

Oh, God dammit.

4 Comments

  1. Hypersapien

    They couldn’t go to a different store on their side of the parade? Or call for delivery?

  2. Jae

    A nice concept that didn’t quite take for me.

  3. SimonJM

    AA every 2500′ with a 300′ exclusion zone on each? Sounds like a licence to become a, briefly blazing, target 😉 Nice to see with the advance in technology no commensurate advance in vehicle security!

    • BeckD

      Thanks. I figured that 300 feet is about the distance you would have to effectively stop a flying vehicle before its momentum crashed it into your building anyway, but if the thing has glider wings, you’d have to shoot them off right then, too. A half-mile is just the arbitrary range for the turrets.

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