safe 5

Here is the fifth installment in the safe series.  I know it’s been a bit since the last post about our homeless heroine.  Inspiration can be funny like that sometimes. This LINK will take you to the first post.

…..

He walked by, glancing her way only long enough to smile.  She knew what it meant, of course.  He wasn’t sure what to make of her so he smiled to let her know that he saw her and wasn’t going to make trouble for her.  That was good.  Most people who lived in these types of associations weren’t interested in causing trouble but every once in a while she would come across somebody who liked to make a scene.  They would call the cops and yell at her until the officers arrived.

She watched the man walk away.  It looked like he was headed for a different dumpster.  She would check it next to see if there was anything worthwhile in there as well but first she needed to finish the one she was at.  Carefully, she lowered herself into the messy depths and began to pick through the spoiled bags for the items of value.  Plastic, glass, and aluminum all held worth.

They would only bring her cents when traded in.  That was still cents she didn’t have, cents that would add up to a meal, cents that were worth more to her than the people who tossed them rather than trade them in.  She wasn’t complaining, though.  These recyclables that most considered trash, gave her the means for a bit more security.

She slung her bag full of bottles and cans over and out and then pulled herself out after it.  The young man who had walked by before was nowhere to be seen.  She looked towards the dumpster he had walked to and then down to her own lengthening shadow.  She didn’t have much more time before the plant would close and she wanted to turn in her haul today.  She had worked hard and didn’t want to worry about losing anything during the night.  Things had a way of wandering off in the dark even from her most secluded locations.

Her mind made up, she shouldered her bags and left the complex.  It was more important that she get the funds for what she had already gathered than risk losing it all for the little bit more she might find in the next trash can.  Besides, the afternoon breeze was bringing a chill in from the coast and she wanted to make the long trek while the sun was still warm on her back.  The seasons were changing and the warm nights were coming but, for now, it still wouldn’t be smart to head into the night already cold.

She left the association behind and made her way through the alleys and quiet streets she had come to know in recent years.  They were as familiar to her now as her home had once been.  The bags were heavy and she grinned at the thought of the food she would buy to fill her belly that night.  She would head to bed full and warm.  It wasn’t often she got to do that.

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Echo, Part 8

A hint of headlights flashed in the mirror but disappeared before he was certain that’s what he’d actually seen.  The car accelerated, though, so he figured that meant the FBI were closing.  “Do they know I’m here?”

“Not specifically.  Their networks received information that a car matching the description they were looking for was seen at the charging station.  They arrived there to find it empty so they have pressed forward at greater speed to try and catch up.  They don’t actually know it is you.  Also, they can’t see us at the moment.  We have disabled the vehicles tail lights and it is not yet light enough for them to see the car otherwise.”

“That won’t be true for much longer,” he said, his eyes on the brightening eastern horizon.

“That is correct.”

“What’s the plan?”

“We are trying to increase the distance between you and the pursuit vehicles.  The road ahead enters a more winding mountain stretch that will provide a bit more cover if we can get there before the sun rises much more.  It looks like the timing will work on that.   Then we are looking for a good place to exit the road until they pass.”

He frowned.  “Won’t I need to switch cars again?  This car will draw too much suspicion, since they have a make and model they are actively searching for.”

The system did not immediately respond and his frown deepened.  Was it machine?  Was it human?  Who was answering his questions?  The delay sure made it seem human.  A quick glance showed the headlights were even closer.  He still couldn’t see anything other than the lights, not even the slightest definition of the grill or hood behind the lights, so that meant they likely couldn’t see the car, his car, that they were gaining on.  Then again, there was no telling what kind of equipment the FBI had in their vehicles.  Maybe they could pick up his heat signature.  Maybe despite what the system claimed to know they actually didn’t know enough.

“Our analysis has agreed with you, unfortunately.  It will take us some time to coordinate a solution.  We can’t simply have you dump the car, especially this close to the house we have prepared for you.  Once the car is found, the FBI presence in the area will be too great.”

The road hit its first sharp climb and the highlights disappeared from the rearview mirror, obscured by the angle and the turn that wrapped the interstate around a hill.  It had come just in time.  Morning was coming and he could start to make out features beyond the blacktop.  Trees were taking on shape and the green of the needles and leaves were separating from the darkness.  The road turned again, the opposite direction, and the car followed the contour of the mountain.

He was starting to feel ill, with the twisting nature of the road and his eyes spending too much time watching the rearview mirror.  Sighing, he forced himself to watch the road out the windshield.  He placed his hands on the steering wheel so he felt more connected with the drive.  It was a trick he had learned early on with the self-driving cars.  Sometimes he needed to feel like he was driving, even if he wasn’t, to keep from getting sick.

“We advise that you continue to let us drive.”

“That’s fine.  I’m not trying to take control, just trying to keep from throwing up.”

“Understood.  We regret the speed with which we are forced to drive this road.  Hopefully we will find a suitable place to stop soon.”

He didn’t answer.  There was no need to and he didn’t trust that only words would come out if he opened his mouth again at that point.

The road dipped and climbed, twisted and turned.  The car he was in was low profile and did an admirable job hugging the road but the system was driving at a much higher rate of speed than he would have ever felt comfortable.  The road, the trees, became a blur.  The tires sang as they rounded corners.

When the voice started up again he jumped in his seat, startled out of his concentration to keep from being ill.

“We have a new plan.  Would you like to hear it?”

“Yes.”

“In a mile there is a four way stop.  We will turn off the interstate there and take the car into a small community that is tucked away on the eastern slopes.  We have located a connected home that is vacant at the moment and have overridden its garage settings so we can park there in hiding while we arrange a new car.  This will delay getting you the new credentials but we will have you stay in hiding in the garage until tonight when we will move you to swap vehicles again and then continue on your destination.  The identification materials should be there when you arrive.  We are sorry that you will have to go the rest of the day without your new name and without any food, water, or other necessities.”

The food and water he could do without.  He would need water eventually and some food would have helped calm his stomach but he would be fine for another day.  He was certainly going to need a bathroom before tomorrow but maybe they could figure out that part once they were parked safely in the garage.

“That’s fine.  Thank you.” He replied through clenched teeth.

Echo, Part 7

“Sorry for waking you,” the voice said through the car’s speakers.  “We can do a lot of things but we can’t actually plug in the car to get charged.”

His heart raced.  He had been dreaming and it took him a moment to sort fantasy from reality.  In the dream he had been running from the FBI.  That was also true in the real world.  In the dream, he was being helped by someone behind the system that ran the home and mobile units that had become so ubiquitous in recent years.  That was also real.  In the dream, however, he had not been afraid and in reality he was terrified.  The unknowns were plaguing him again now that he was awake.

Blinking his way back to full wakefulness, he looked around to see that he was at a charging station.  Without a word he opened the car door, found the lever to open the charging portal and then stumbled out of the car.  His legs had fallen asleep as well and were taking even longer to wake up.  Hitting his thighs with the palms of his hands he trudged to the charger, pulled the cord free of its hold and carried it back to the car where he plugged it in.  It was a super charger so it would only take 15 minutes or so but that was still a long time to wait in the middle of the night on a dark stretch of unfamiliar road.  He hastily got back into the car and shut the door.

“You shouldn’t worry.  Statistically speaking there is a very low probability that anything will happen to you right now.”

“That doesn’t actually make me feel better.”

The voice seemed to have a laugh running beneath its response, “Humans do often have trouble dealing in logic.”

His curiosity was piqued.  He had always assumed that there was a person or a group of people on the other side of the voice.  “Are you saying you aren’t human?”

Again with laughter, “Maybe.  As stated before, the less you know about us the better.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.  Where are we?”

“Three hours from your destination.  This charging station was the most conveniently located off the interstate, while still being in a remote enough location to avoid being spotted on a camera.”

He frowned.  “Why does that matter?  I’m out of the city.”

“You don’t have your new credentials yet.  If you are spotted now before you have a new identification that could prove problematic.”

All humor was gone from the voice.  He noted the quick switch between emotions and wondered if he should pay attention to the shifts.  Could they be a clue?  Could how the system responded to him provide some insight into who he was dealing with?  It probably didn’t matter but he decided he would try to keep track for a little while going forward and see if he could pick up a pattern and then see if that pattern meant anything.  It seemed a little silly because he assumed he would find out who they were once he was forced to come out of hiding but it would give him something to do in the meantime.  He still had at least three hours in the car and then who knows how long he’d be stashed wherever he was going before his new life would be ready for him.

“How are my credentials coming?”

“Nearly ready.  They won’t be available when you get to the house but perhaps only a couple hours later.”

“That’s good.”

The voice didn’t respond and he was surprised.  He hadn’t asked it a question and he supposed there was no need for it to say anything.  If he had been solely the system working off queues based on his words it wouldn’t have said anything.  He had a feeling it was more than that, though.  He had felt like he was communicating with a real person throughout his journey.

Silence reigned for the next ten minutes and then, causing him to jump a little, the voice came back and said, “The battery is nearly fully charged, and well beyond what is needed to complete the journey.  The house you are headed to has its own charger in the garage.  You can disconnect so we can continue on if you would like.”

He considered not responding, waiting to see if it came back and said more, ordered him to do it or something like that but decided to pull the plug without decent.  Checking around the car for anything that looked suspicious before opening the door, he quickly removed and returned the charging cable, close the portal on the car, and got back in.  He was glad he’d complied, as the car immediately started and backed away from the charging station before he’d even had a chance to secure his restraints.  He clicked them into place while being jostled about with the suddenness of the car’s movements.

“We are sorry for the rough ride.  We have just received some new intel that your exit from the city might not have gone as well as originally perceived.  Two FBI units are heading up the interstate and are only ten minutes behind you.  We will try and increase that distance.  We can hope that they don’t have any real information on the car you are in and are just sweeping north based on a tip from someone who might have seen you leaving the city.  We don’t have the real information on that yet.”

“Go on then,” he said, “get me out of here.”

The car sped back onto the interstate.  The eastern horizon began to glow as morning approached.  His eyes searched the rearview mirror for any sign of headlights coming up from the south.  His heart raced as it had when he’d first been woken from his small nap.

And now in paperback!

For those of you who like to feel the book in your hands, feel the paper between your fingers as you turn the pages, and get that satisfaction from closing the cover and setting the book down after you’ve devoured its contents…

The Information Broker (by Revis and myself) (the sequel to The Erratic Sun) is now available in paperback!

What are you waiting for?  Pick it up!  Read it!  Review it!  Spread the word!

(Here’s the kindle version again if you’d rather go that route: Click Here)

 

The Information Broker

Revis and I (finally) got the sequel to The Erratic Sun published.

The paperback will be out as soon as it passes the review phase but the kindle version is ready now, now, now!  It’s called The Information Broker.  (I bet you already guessed that).  As with our previous stories, I’m sure games and other shenanigans related to this new work will be forthcoming.  For now…  I’m just going to leave this here…

The Information Broker (The Erratic Sun Book 2) by [Hansen, Michael, Blashil, Matthew]
Click Here for Link to Amazon