Science fiction is often about looking at the future. For some folks, being in such a story means keeping one eye looking over their shoulder, still haunted by their past.
This story came about from another great session with the good folks at Write It Up! Burbank.
Dreams of Monaco, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 793
The sun was setting on the countryside, bathing a lonely farm in an orange-golden light. Sitting near the door of a rusty old barn, Jim Tennyson took in the birdcage hanging from its exterior peg. A tiny yellow canary twittered and hopped on its perch. Jim followed the flutter of its wings toward the herd of cows mulling inside their pen, and beyond them, his gardener Emilio waving goodbye from behind the hedges around his house.
As soon as the small brown man was out of sight, Jim sprang into action.
He flung open the barn door, revealing his life’s greatest achievement. A souped-up Formula One racecar sat in the middle, painted a bright shade of teal with white stripes running down the sides. But the color scheme of the car wasn’t too unusual.
The voice of the car, however, was.
“I thought he’d never leave,” said a faint electronic voice from somewhere around the dashboard.
“He did seem to take a little longer sweeping up.” Jim sauntered over. He patted the car on its chassis and grinned. “So. Who’s ready for a late-night spin?”
“I’m always ready,” said Herbert the sentient car. “I’ve been ready for the last 12 hours, 47 minutes, and 6.5 seconds—”
“Okay, okay!” Jim hopped into the driver’s seat. “Sheesh. Remind me to design a less offended AI next time.”
“You didn’t design me,” Herbert began to say.
“That’s right,” another voice added. “You stole it.”
Jim lifted his head and peered at the newcomer who now stood in the open door of the barn. At several newcomers, in fact. All of whom were flashing badges and aiming handguns at him. Meanwhile, the canary in the outdoor cage tweeted and fluttered in a panic, which his ears were finally registering.
This was hardly a time for good old Midwestern hospitality, he thought.
“Hands up, Tennyson,” said one agent in a familiar voice.
Jim squinted at the shadow who’d spoken. “Emilio? Is that you?”
“Close. It’s Special Agent Emilio Suarez. And you, James Tennyson, are under arrest for theft of government property.”
“Uh, liberation, if you please? You can’t steal a sentient creature.”
“Actually,” Herbert the car interrupted, “you can. It’s called abduction.”
“Gee. Thanks, Herb.”
“I am here to help.”
“Both of you, shut up.” Emilio waved his gun toward Jim. His face was an unreadable shadow, silhouetted by the intense orange sunset. “Now, out of the car, please.”
Jim stayed where he was. He couldn’t quite believe what was happening. And after he’d been so careful, too.
But maybe the time for caution was over.
As he stood, his left foot surreptitiously kicked the brake pedal, followed by the accelerator. The line of federal agents drew back. Jim then made a show of falling into his seat, throwing his arms up in confusion.
“Whoa, hey!” he shouted. “Herb, are you doing?”
“I am not doing anything,” Herb answered. “You are—”
“Yeah, okay. Just play along, will ya?” Before either Herbert or the agents could react, Jim thumbed the ignition button. At once, the racecar’s engine roared out of its slumber. Headlights switched on, blinding the agents. The automatic seat belt snapped into place across Jim’s waist while they staggered back.
Then Jim floored the accelerator. Herbert the car shot out of the barn at an impressive speed, scattering armed agents in all directions. Its speed left a shockwave that nearly dropped the canary in its cage from its perch. Magnificent clouds of dust bordered the dirt road behind Herbert, like massive pillars rising toward the sky. It was only thanks to a last minute crank of the wheel that Jim avoided slamming straight into the cow pen and unleashing a terrified herd onto the FBI.
As Jim fumbled for his helmet and put it on, he glanced at the odometer. What he saw set his heart fluttering.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Look at that! You beat your old record!”
“But now we’re fugitives,” Herbert buzzed.
“Fugitives who are gonna change the world!”
The racecar blazed ahead onto the open road, leaving behind the farm until it was only a mere speck on the horizon. As the sun’s light vanished and the skies turned an inky blue overhead, Herbert was oddly silent for most of the drive.
It wasn’t until the first light of the moon appeared that Jim heard the AI say, “James?”
“What you told me before. About Monaco? Will I get to drive in the Grand Prix?”
Jim stared ahead at the empty country road. His hands gripped the wheel a little tighter.
“I told you I’d get us there,” he answered. “I don’t know how yet, but I will.”
The car let out a happy beep and raced on into the night.
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