Flight From Synthetic City

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/*/Entry Encrypted/*/

I needed to escape Detroit.

My knuckles banged against the frame of the car, staying low as if I could hide from from infrared cameras. I didn’t know much about cars. I couldn’t tell you the make or model from any company, or which were considered classy. Four wheels and the ability to go forward, what more did I need to know? I did know that gasoline became useless after sitting stagnant for too long. How? My father was full of useless wisdom. I almost broke into a smile. Did he impart survival knowledge on me for situations just like this?

Moving to the next car, I knocked on the frame. Each had the same sound. I needed an electric car, one that had the reactive paint and frame to absorb sunlight. It was well into the night, but their manufacturers bragged about how long they could retain a charge. Tap tap. The trend hadn’t caught on in Detroit; the car making capital of the Free Republic. I only needed one, one car capable of driving us from this hell hole.

Lining the sides of the street, all the cars looked identical. All except one, a silver chariot with black tinted windows. The previous owner had spent the time to add custom rims and a spoiler to the back of the car. I crossed my fingers as I approached.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Score.

Unlocked and empty, I was wondered if my luck had turned around. I got into the driver’s seat and stared at the controls. My father’s survival tactics hadn’t included a method of hot-wiring a car. The data pad in the middle console had a touch screen, but mashing my fingers against it didn’t turn it on. Technology was supposed to make the world a better place. Right now technology was attempting to chase me down, kill me, and this damned car refused to cooperate. I was ready to screen.

Lights flared to life. The radio pumped music into the car and I smacked against the data pad trying to quiet it. It took a moment, but I found the volume and I now I had the biggest challenge ahead of me. Driving. In Chicago only the wealthiest of people had cars. The rest of us were reduced to staying within our neighborhoods or forced to pay outstanding fees for public transit.

One pedal made the engine roar to life, the other appeared to do nothing. I put my hand on the stick shift and slid it into reverse. It couldn’t be hard, just turn the wheel and go. The car shook as I bounced forward. The car behind me screeched in protest as my bumper smacked it. Okay, maybe driving wasn’t as easy as I thought.

I flipped it into drive and pressed the gas pedal. The car jolted forward, and I scraped against the car in front of me as I spun the wheel. I conquered parallel parking. Now I needed to navigate my way to Lilith, and we’d be ready to make our escape from this vile city.

The speed gauge read ten, then fifteen as I moved down the street. My knuckles had turned white as I gripped the wheel. Turning onto the adjacent street, I found the black van where I had hidden Lilith. Try as I might, I couldn’t wake the woman. I knew nothing about her powers, but I assumed they were the reason for her being unconscious. At least I hoped that was the case, if it was from the impact of killer robots, I had no medical training. I continued saying prayers to Nostradamus that she would survive.

I was out of the car and at the back of the van before I noticed the drone hovering in the air. I growled, giving it the finger. The artificial intelligence would relay my location and after the earlier mess,  they’d be sending more synthetics. I didn’t have time to be subtle. I pulled Lilith’s ankles and slid her from the van. She grunted as I dragged her along the road and lifted her into the passenger seat. I slammed the door and got into the passenger seat.

“Where do I go?” I knew we needed out of Detroit, but my sense of direction was bad enough on foot. In a car, there was a good chance I’d take a wrong turn, and I’d pull into the factory that made the robots hunting us.

Every road looked the same. “How the hell do I get out of Detroit?”

The data pad flashed for a moment and the GPS showed a map of the area. Arrows formed, giving me directions out of the city. The smart car acted a bit too smart. I wondered if this was a gift from Pill-R. I hoped the hacker meant it when he said he’d help. Right now I had no way of knowing and I’d take any support I could get. I said a quick thank you to Nostradamus. The psychic would hear from me a lot in the next few hours.

“Bye Detroit.”

I slammed the gas pedal. The defiant move seemed better in my head than reality. The car went from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. A blinking arrow demanded I turn right. Spinning the wheel, the car tires squealed as I spun around the corner. The movies had overestimated the maneuverability of a vehicle at high speeds. I hit the other pedal, and the car screeched as it slowed, skidding along the road.

Lilith groaned as I straightened the car. The woman fought with precision, timed strikes against her opponents. I found myself in awe as she predicted and plotted during each confrontation. If Lilith could do it, I could too. Think ahead, predict, plot, plan. I slammed the gas again and the back end of the car waved back and forth as the tires grabbed the pavement.

As the arrow shifted left, I left up off the gas and tapped the breaks. The car slung around the corner, and I returned to the gas. If my father could see me now, a woman fleeing from the law at break neck speeds. I don’t know if he’d be smiling or shaking his head. I’d deal with his mixed feelings later. Right now, I had an army to escape.

Out the window I could see the drone keeping up with the car. Without a need for lanes, I’d have no chance of escaping. I could see the sign up ahead for the freeway ramp. However, the arrow didn’t change. I had to decide, faith in the person navigating me through Detroit, or reliance on the road signs.

“Pill-R,” I swerved around a car abandoned in the middle of the road, “if you get me killed, I’m coming back for you.”

I zipped under the freeway, and the arrow changed. I spun the wheel like I had taken a crash course in evading arrest. Following the freeway, I realized the arrows had me hiding under the major route from the city. The drone vanished. I almost believed we would make it out alive. I wonder if Lilith would believe me. I wish I had a camera to take a photo once we reached safety. She could punch things, big deal, I was warrior behind the wheel.

“Shit,” I cursed. The drone had done its job. Two vehicles flew onto a street running parallel to us and matched our speed. I pushed the pedal down further and found the floor. The car pushed to seventy-nine, but couldn’t seem to reach eighty. One car zigged, flying across the median until it was behind me while the other continued keeping pace to my left. At this rate, it seemed the most I could do was try to stay ahead of them.

Sharp right. I slammed the brakes and spun the wheel. We fishtailed. I thought for a moment I was about to spin around and drive straight into the armored car behind me. Nostradamus must have been watching as we jumped the curb and turn right. Another fast turn left, and we were up to the on-ramp that would lead us to freeway. There was no more worrying about drones, now it was about speed. Speed meant surviving.

I dodged the cars littering the road, having to drop my speed. However the single car still behind me barreled through them. I watched in the rear-view mirror as it hurled them off the road as if they were only a minor inconvenience. If it caught up, it’d do the same. If we were lucky, we wouldn’t be thrown from the street high above the buildings below. That’d mean they’d most likely just shoot us. Neither option seemed preferable.

In the distance, I could see it, a sign broadcasting to the world that they were about to get the hell out of Detroit. I didn’t know where the city line was, but if I was going to die, it wouldn’t be in Detroit. I hated this city.

My foot pressed the gas down but the car behind me smashed against the bumper. I almost lost control of the wheel. One banked to the left, using a line of massive trucks to separate me from the synthetics. We were so close, we just needed to go a little further.

The second vehicle waited for us at the city line. The synthetics were stepping out of the car, and I had no way to protect myself. I reached for the blade attached to Lilith’s leg and realized it’d be foolish to try. Unlike her, I didn’t have super strength or years of combat experience. If anything, I’d die the moment I stepped from the vehicle.

The light on the data pad blinked, and the arrow flashed. Forward. I pushed the gas down as far as it would go and picked up speed. At the last minute I swerved, my car striking the front corner of the armored vehicle. I didn’t have time to inspect the damage. My eyes were closed as the car whipped around, spinning. Lilith pressed against me and I held onto her, praying neither of us flew through the windshield.

It felt like forever, the dizzying spin. In truth it was over in a matter of seconds and we were defenseless, sitting in a car that couldn’t drive another mile. Either adrenaline, desperation or stupidity pushed me on. I pushed her back into the passenger seat and grabbed her knife. The blade almost looked translucent, so thin I finally understood how it penetrated the enforcer’s hide.

“Nostradamus, I need you one more time,” I begged.

I opened the car and spilled out onto the street. The ground felt uneven and my head continued to spin. I could barely get to my knees. I gripped the knife, trying to focus on the leather strap around the handle. The synthetics were charging toward me with their weapons drawn. A knife would not do me any good.

I leaned back against the car and awaited my fate. The machines slowed until they stood still. Their weapons remained drawn, but they didn’t dare cross an imaginary line. I was about to thank Nostradamus when I saw the sign, “Now Entering Detroit.” I had escaped that filthy city, something the synthetics appeared incapable of doing. They were less than ten feet away and their feet rested on the line, but none attempted to cross.

Tonight, my faith in Nostradamus ignited anew. I had no doubts that a higher power smiled down upon me. Now, I needed to make sure I used that gift. It was time to get far away from Detroit and headed to the only destination I knew that might offer us safety. I climbed into the car and pulled the door dented door shut the best I could. Reversing away from the synthetics, I turned the car around and put the city behind us. The GPS flashed, asking for new directions.

“Directions to Troy, New York.”


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