Echo, Part 12

The car sped up.  He considered asking about the increase or simply commenting on it and then discarded the thought.  If the system wanted to say why it had suddenly decided to go even faster it would.  Asking would do nothing but highlight how little power he currently had.  He needed to focus what little control he did have on his bladder, which was becoming a battle he would soon lose.

His eyes glanced at the speedometer.  He didn’t even know the car could go that fast.

The vehicle slowed and turned right to exit the road.  He wasn’t sure he would have even noticed the intersection if the car hadn’t changed course.  There hadn’t been any signage ahead of time and the road itself was little more than a single lane of barely paved asphalt.  From what he could see, the road turned to parallel the highway for a little before then turning again to head into the hills.  Once the first turn had been navigated, the car sped up again.

The hills and mountains became a blur and rather than risk getting dizzy and starting to feel worse again, he closed his eyes and let his mind drift back to the life he had left behind.  It had been simple but it had been his own.  Perhaps if he had been busier it would have kept his mind from wandering into dangerous territory.  Perhaps but not certain.  He suspected that his darkest thoughts were just part of who he was.  That didn’t mean he would ever act on them, of course.  That was absurd.  And it was interesting to consider that the thoughts that had triggered the FBI’s interest in him had obviously been weighted more than the underlying thoughts of his life that should have provided proof that they would never go beyond thoughts, they would never become action.

He didn’t think he was all that different from everyone else.  Most people had dark thoughts.  Most people considered their station and how they could drastically change it one way or the other.  So, what about his own thoughts had caused all this fuss.  He wished he knew.  It didn’t matter in the short term.  Knowing wouldn’t keep the FBI from catching up to him.  It wouldn’t help him formulate a defense if he were to be caught.  He wanted to know so he could study it in his own mind and determine the merit of the threat.

The car decelerated and made a turn.  He opened his eyes as he had been expecting to stay on the frontage road until he headed back into the mountains.  Instead, they appeared to be turning onto an even narrower intersecting road.  He briefly wondered if the system had found him a bathroom and allowed himself to feel optimistic that he would soon find some relief.

“Something new has come up.”

“What?”

“The investigation has taken on a larger population than we were originally aware of.  While we had contingency plans in place for just such an occurrence, we didn’t appreciate the difficulty we would have in removing everyone.”

The voice sounded genuinely stressed.  It was a mixture of annoyance and fatigue that he recognized, having felt very similar through most of this ordeal.

“What are you saying?  Where are we going now?”

“We need to use this vehicle to pick someone up before the federal agents get to them.”

“Is that safe?”

“No.  It is the only option.  And, we believe you can appreciate that we don’t value any of our loyal customers more than the rest.  We saved you and now you will help save someone else.”

He opened his mouth to argue but found he couldn’t.  The system was right.  Why would they value his own freedom over anyone else.  He also wouldn’t mind the opportunity to talk with someone face to face.  Despite the ever-present system, he hadn’t had the opportunity to interact with anyone in a couple days now.  He had never been the most social being but he never specifically sought out solitude either.

“Who are they?”

“Someone like you.  She is being hunted because of something the federal agents saw in the data they hacked out of our system.  We don’t think it is right that the government has taken it upon themselves to become thought police.  So, we are going to try and ensure her continued freedom.”

“Okay.”

“It is going to be awkward, potentially, having you be part of the rescue efforts but as she is still connected to the network on her end, so we don’t tip the feds off that we know they are coming to get her, we will let her know that you will already be in the car.  That should save some time.  And time is going to be very important.  We should make it there in time to get her and then get away before the agents arrive but it is a margin of minutes and that can easily sway against us.”

Not knowing what else to say, he again said, “Okay.”

“Thank you for your understanding.”

“You’re welcome.”

The car sped up again and as much as he tried to let his mind wander to other topics, he found he was stuck on one word, “she.”  He didn’t really know what to make of that.  He would find out soon enough.

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