Echo, Part 5

The car pulled into a dark parking lot somewhere near the edge of town.  He’d driven passed the parking lot before but couldn’t place exactly where it was.  Not that it mattered, the car had made so many turns he couldn’t have gotten back to where he had just been anyway.  He sat up in his seat a little bit and considered asking the mobile unit where they were but the car parked next to another vehicle and the mobile unit started talking before he could ask his question.

“Please take a few minutes to go through your car and remove any identifying things from it.  Please be thorough and remove anything with even the slightest tie to you.  Even a sweatshirt in a gym bag in the truck that you paid cash for ten years ago could get traced back to you, either from DNA left on it, or through an extensive search through purchase histories and video archives.  The FBI are very thorough so you need to be as well.

“Once you have cleared your belongings from the vehicle you can take them to the car you are parked next to.  The trunk is unlatched and the keys are inside.  Stow your gear and then link your handheld device to the car’s system and you will receive further information on what to do then.  Is that all clear?”

“Yes,” he responded but he didn’t immediately move.

“Is there something wrong?”

He wasn’t sure how to answer.  His whole world had just come crashing down around him, of course something was wrong.  Lots of things were wrong.  In the moment, though, he was loath to get out of the car.  It had been a safe space for him for these couple hours and abandoning it felt odd.  He understood why he needed to divest himself of it but that didn’t help him want to.  After a moment he replied, “I just need a minute to say goodbye to one more piece of my formal life.”

The voice picked up a hint of exasperation when it responded, “While we understand the loss you are experiencing today, we would like to remind you that very soon the FBI will be swarming all over this parking lot and this car.  We have gone to great lengths to keep you from them but all of that will be for nothing if you do not move with haste.  As you know, cameras are everywhere.  Despite our best efforts, your car will have been seen at some point on the drive over here and it is only a matter of time before the FBI spots it.”

“Fine.”  He pushed open the door to the car, popped the trunk and quickly pulled out everything that didn’t come stock with the car.  He wasn’t sure why that mattered.  The car was registered to him and once they found it and ran the plates they would know he had been there.  Removing things he wouldn’t need going forward anyway seemed like a waste of time, especially if he needed to be hurrying.  He complied anyway, though.  He was too afraid of not understanding the full scope of what was going on and getting captured because he didn’t follow the instructions to the letter.  Based on what they had told him previously, there could be a lot riding on his staying free.

Then again, there could be nothing, he thought as he located the keys while shoving his stuff inside.  He slammed the trunk closed and pulled open the driver’s door, settled into the seat and slammed the door shut.  He felt funny for reacting that way but he was angry and had every right to be so.  He started the car and then took a minute to link his handheld.

The green linked light flashed on the dash and the voice returned, “Are you sure you took everything that could be linked to you?”

“Yes.”

“Good.  Do you want to drive or should we take control of the car?”

“Since I don’t know where I’m going…”

“We understand you are angry but there is no need for you to take it out on us.  We are trying to help you, remember.  It is the FBI you should be mad at.  It is the government that allowed them, has encouraged them, to overstep their directives and abuse their power.”

He tried to see the logic in what they were saying and calm down but now that he was mad, he found it difficult to do so.  It was likely when he had been in such a state before that the chip had recorded a thought that eventually put him on the FBI’s radar in the first place.  He was usually a relaxed person but he definitely had a temper.  After a couple deep breaths, he didn’t apologize but said, “Go ahead and take control.”  He tried to say it without a snarl but mostly failed.

As the car backed out of its parking space, he secured himself into his seat and frowned at his car while it was swallowed by the darkness of the night.  He knew he would never see it again and he knew that being angry about that was juvenile at best.  It was just a thing.  Things could be replaced.  If he was taken into custody by the FBI that would likely be a loss of all his things and a loss of freedom, which would be irreplaceable.

After a minute he mumbled, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” came the short reply.

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