He sort of dozed as the car continued to carry him on. He knew he should be paying attention to where they were, in case he needed to find his way back and just because it was generally a good idea to know where one was, but it was too easy to get distracted with the system in full control. So, he watched the world passing by and his mind drifted until his eyes closed and slumber came in and out in waves, never fully falling asleep and yet not fully awake.
The road began to climb into the higher elevations and the car effortlessly followed the twists and turns. One of the perks of the machinery being in full control was they knew the exact speeds and spots with which to take to ensure the smoothest ride. No human could match it. Perhaps with more familiarity they could come close but certainly not on a first attempt.
The car turned off the road and climbed a narrow driveway. The house became visible for a second before the car slid into the garage. The door had been opened for his arrival and shut once the car was safely tucked inside. A small amount of light filtered through a window on one wall but, otherwise, the garage was dark.
“We’ve found a car for you and it is already on its way. Unfortunately, as suspected, it won’t be here for several hours and so we fear that you will find the wait uncomfortable. We are very sorry for this inconvenience.”
After a moment of thought, deciding whether or not to ask, he posed the question, “Do you have any suggestions on how I should deal with my discomfort?”
“We do not have full schematics on the garage but perhaps you could find something to use? Then take it with you when your new car arrives and properly dispose of it at the home that is being prepared for you.”
There seemed to be a hint of humor behind the voice and he once again wondered who was behind the system, who was actually helping him. Was it a person who worked behind the scenes or was the system itself?
“I can get out of the car then?”
“Yes. Please do not venture out of the garage though. We need you to be where you can hear us should then plans need to be changed swiftly. Plus, while we have overridden the controls on the garage, we have not taken over the whole home and do not wish you to trip any of the security measures we can see in place.”
“Okay. I’ll get out, stretch my legs and see if I can find an empty paint can or something.”
He stepped out of the car and into the semi-darkness, pausing to let his legs get used to his weight again and to allow his eyes time to adjust. He considered asking if they could turn on the headlights to give him a bit more to explore by but opted against it. Given the position of the car, the headlights would probably make it harder for him to see the sides of the garage because the contrast would be higher.
He took a few tentative steps and then made a circle once around the car. Nothing obvious jumped out at him. He hadn’t done a thorough job of looking, though. On that first lap he was mostly trying to get the blood flowing in his legs normally again. He slowed down for the second lap and then slowed further for the third.
On the fourth lap he actually took the time to move things around on the shelves that lined the wall opposite the window. He was surprised by the lack of cans. He figured most houses in the mountains required a lot of maintenance and would have some paint cans or some hardwood finishers or stains or something of the like readily available. There didn’t appear to be anything of the sort, though.
He was just about to take a fifth lap, mostly as an excuse to not get back into the car yet because he doubted he had missed anything, when the voice called out to him.
“Please get back in the car.”
He moved quickly and as soon as he was in, the engine came back to full power, and the voice continued. “We have discovered two problems. This location isn’t going to work. Please fasten your seatbelt as we will be moving very fast now.”
He strapped in and asked, “What are the problems?”
“The federal agents are headed here and are only a few minutes away.”
The system answered his next question before he could get the words out.
“They’ve been tracking the chip in your head. We disconnected you from your home unit but every time you’ve passed another registered unit, the chip has sent off a ping, like a radio beacon. That’s how they keep finding you.”
“How do we shut off that feature?”
“We’re working on that. In the meantime, please hang on. We fear this will not be a smooth ride.”
Rather than the steering wheel, he gripped the handle over the door. The garage door went up and, as soon as there was enough clearance, the car reversed at full speed.