“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.”
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.