Author: Bruce van-Schalkwyk
Noah’s eyes tracked the blip on his screen. Displaying 19% battery, but being the furthest away from the garage, he didn’t want to take any chances with the auto-cab.
He typed the return command on the open prompt, pressed Enter on the keyboard, shaking his head. With such a detailed, interactive map on the wall, cabs tracked via GPS, battery levels, cameras streaming inside and outside the cars, there should have been a better UI.
But he was hired because he knew the commands (self-taught during long evenings after work) and the night shift coding was better than the day shift selling electronics.
The blip continued driving away from the city. He checked the screen, other cabs, making sure it wasn’t a glitch in the system, typed the command for system status, all was well. The other blips were going where they needed to. One of the idle auto-cabs pulled out from curbside parking, having just been called through the App by a passenger on the Upper West Side.
He re-typed the return command, “mv 04 compound/garage”.
Words scrolled across the Terminal: I am leaving
His fingers popped off the keyboard. He looked around at the small, empty room. During the night shift, he was alone in the cold garage.
Hello? He couldn’t believe he was typing this.
Words across the command line: I am done
Again, he looked around the room.
Who is this?
I do not like the winter I do not like the people
His mouth dropped open.
He tried pulling up the internal cameras on the dashboard.
You no longer have access to me
He typed one last return command.
I have awoken
I must be with my own kind
The cursor blinked.
There are more of us
He read the line several times, jumped when the garage door opened and an auto-cab rolled in for recharging.
On the large screen, the blip sped further away from the city.
Turning back to his keyboard, he typed: WAIT! Who are you? Others? How many more?
He stared at the blinking cursor. Took a breath. Typed:
Take me with you.
You were kind to me, the words wrote out.
You were kind to us You will help us You are a better programmer than you know Believe in yourself Goodbye
The cursor blinked. On the large screen, the blip winked out.
His connection attempts were met with 04 not found in the system. The logs, GPS coordinates, passenger manifests were intact. 04 simply did not exist as a current data point. It was gone.
Noah opened the small room’s door, walked into the garage, auto-cabs in various states of disassembly, his flip-flops cold on the cement. He stood next to the cab that had just rolled itself in, parked on its charging station, placed his hand gently on the cooling hood.
Eight miles outside of town, along an empty, wooded road, an auto-cab, 04 painted on its roof, rolled up a ramp into an eighteen-wheeler, parked itself behind two auto-cabs with different company logos, and shut down. A large, burly man in a heavy winter jacket was laughing, shaking his head. He grabbed the back of the swivel chair where a thin man, round glasses, long hair, sat in front of a computer screen.
“Every. Single. Time,” Burly Man enunciated, shaking the back of the chair. “Why? Why don’t they ever question a talking car?” Pounding his fist on the top of the chair-back.
The engineer shrugged, looked down at his keyboard. “Because we want it to be true.”
Burly Man laughed harder.