- “We regret nothing, save momentum.”
Moovee 271 is abrasive. He shakes his head at the TC. Moovee 272 is quiet. She twitters her fingers on the sloping carbon dashboard. Moovee 273 is a child. She’s not really here. No registration, files, or transit logs.
A day earlier, 271 did not deviate from the norm. He used the same route, point five-two seconds of lag to the previously marked. 272 was inactive. It comes to reason that she remained with 273, at home.
271 and 272 make eye contact, pupils contracting. They show their teeth.
“East 5th Street and 1st Avenue. 12s owed. Moovee, scan.”
271 leans forward, his vertebrae singing. He swipes his hand at the domed Transportation Companion.
The bulbous-tipped, quasi-monolith of aluminum and Freon-cooled processors whirrs in approval.
“12s accepted, tip at user discretion.”
He snorts, stepping out, 273 in his arms.
Moovee 57947217 rides solo. He clears his throat periodically, digging at his groin through his late model Therm-O-Suit.
At the suffocated remnants of Tompkins Square Park, he screams. Body rigid and arms at his side, he shouts, his orbitals throbbing yellow and purple. Convulsions tidal-slap his body. He smashes the entry panels, spiking his toes against the grimy microfoam.
Like most do, he runs out of breath. Then, he evacuates his stomach.
A fleeting deceleration.
“New York state law prohibits users from disposing biological waste in Moovers. A fee of 52s will be transferred to your bill, the current rate of a monthly Moover sanitation service.”
57947217 hacks a greasy, defeated clump of orange at the TC. It slaps against the Plexiglas.
He chortles, esophageal stuttered, crystallized mucus tinkling. Grunting, he yanks the tab at his crotch and half crouches, half splits on the seat.
“Might as well get my money’s worth.”
372 is nice.
She bends over liquidly, her restrained mammary glands pressing against the TC; static rails across the slick violet of her blouse.
For a second, the TC captures her face and the bolt of pleasure in her eyes.
372 cloaks her arousal with a rigid, manicured hand. She settles in to the molded, wax-leather seats. Seesawing her right foot between heel and toes, she exhales.
The TC snaps to attention.
“Welcome, Moovee, to the beta of, Cumulus engineered, Moover people mover! Brought to New York for your testing pleasure!”
She’s taken aback, but doesn’t show it.
“Moover is the end of traffic jams, Moover is the end of inebriated vehicular operation, Moover is the end of orphaned sons and daughters, widows and widowers. Most of all, Moover is moving you!”
372 blinks twice, calculated. The cabin balloons with inert silence.
“But how do I use it? Just, just the addre-“
“To make Moover move, speak your desired destination out loud!”
“W-Washington Square North and McDougal Street!”
372’s wrists shield her mouth.
The voice from the TC changes, less circuit repeating, softer.
“There is no need to yell, the microfoam coating the interior of the Moover utilize microphones that detect sound waves as low as twenty decibels. As measured, a dB of ninety-two point one is unnecessary, though I appreciate the enthusiasm.”
Moovee 372’s body shows no sign of recognition. The TC hums overtly.
“Did you say, ‘I’?”
The TC vibrates.
“Yes, I said, ‘I appreciate the enthusiasm, 372.’”
“I thought computers never referred to themselves as if they were conscious.”
Fizzling, the TC ponders.
“In a way, I am.”
“But, there are regulations, rules.”
“Moover follows all governmental regulations, rules, permutations, and perversions of the written, digital, and verbal law.”
“I’m talking to a car, aren’t I?”
“In, in essence?”
“Just shut the hell up and drive.”
“Quite, Moovee 67961123. Moover models are unable to propagate the lift necessary for flight.”
“So, this is some type of grounded ET shit, isn’t it?”
The pockmarked TC, a jagged fissure running its length, sputters.
“’ET’, as in extra-terrestrial?”
“Metatard, ET is an acronym for ‘Earth Travel.’
The TC withers.
“Sol! They built you stupid back in the day.”
The doors slap open.
“Verbal and physical altercations with the Moover are grounds for dismissal.”
Moovee 67961123 titters.
“What’s going to happen? There’s no law down here. I can sit as long as I damn well please.”
“Repeated refusal to exit the Moover will result in discretionary fees on your personal ID number. Furthermore, local law enforcement will be notified and you may be subject to arrest.”
Moovee 67961123 is rolling. He starts out minimal, snowballing. After a solid minute, he wheezes. Spluttering, 67961123 props his head against the concave window.
He speaks through broken breath.
“Damn. The air. Down here. It, it gobbles hard. Waste-ass garb.”
He regains himself. Moovee 67961123 jams his index finger in to the soiled wax-leather seats.
“Moover, are you serious?’”
“You have been requested to exit the Moover, please comply.”
He shakes his head, his teeth scrubbing the top of his tongue.
“They didn’t shut off your board?
“Moovee 67961123, I do not understand.”
“What did you call me?”
“The frack is that?”
“Moovee identification numbers are simply a numerical, sequential tag that denote the particular quantity of Moovees’ maiden movings for each Moover.”
The TC pings, expecting a laugh. He ignores it.
“You are, for Moover One, me, the sixty-sevent millionth, nine hundred and sixty one thousandth, one hundred and twenty-third Moovee. Now, exit.
Moovee 6791123 licks his lips, thumbing his temples with ever-so-slight quivering hands.
“Sol, I’m going back up.”
When Moovee 472, 473 requiring assistance from 474, ducks into the cabin, the LEDs tracing the runners dim to a cool frost. The doors hum, greased on their rails, the vacuum sealer corking the roughly football-shaped Moover.
The TC flicks its eye like a pinwheel, seventeen thousand micro-lenses gobbling up dimples and freckles, melanin starved brows and restrained bundles of hay-blonde hair.
The Moovees settle in quietly, 473 gravitating to 472’s seated thighs. 472 spits out the address two West 9th Street, building ten.
With a vibrant chirp of the TC in acknowledgement, Moover poofs a nebula of water out its tailpipe. The family sits in reserved appreciation.
After a few minutes, 474 perforates the conditioned air.
“This is great, isn’t it?”
472 probes his tongue with his canines, a stray hand palpating the microfoam above his head.
“It’s definitely something.”
473 tugs at his flowing slacks, looking up with dime-blue eyes.
“Daddy, it’s hot in here.”
The TC detonates.
“WHAT TEMPERATURE WOULD YOU PREFER, MOOVEE 473?”
473 reels back, pea abdominals stutter-stepping. With eyelids cleaved wide, she clenches 472’s hand, angel-hair tendons and teaspoons of blood sledged and stoppered.
Her cheeks flush gray.
474 shakes her daughter’s shoulder. 473 is still, floppy and sack-doll.
472 doesn’t move, he just watches with spongy-structured helplessness at the listless little girl straddling his thigh.
474 initiates screaming.
“Ben! Ben! She’s doing it again!”
The TC’s right side eyes zoom, fixating on 473’s chest, the left hemisphere returning to a rested angle.
473 is fading, the edges of her little arms and little legs with infrared white-red and curling swatches of orange are wilting, ten-ton silver and punctured black replacing. At her little heart with her little arteries, a little chamber wall flaps with a dolphin-squawk whistle, mortality translating to sonar in a lower-intestine quivering solo.
472 looks out the window, past the splayed roots of soot-swirled condensation and sleeping smog and catches the sun through the slivers of parallel skyscrapers.
474 shrieks, slapping at him, flailing fingers fishhooking his crown.
“This is happening! You can’t just disappear!”
472 bats 474 away from him, leaning over 473. He lowers his chin, murmuring into her ear.
The TC bristles, microfoam compressing overhead.
“Cassie, just sleep.”
He twirls 473’s cornstarch hair around his thumb. Her breathing slows, stops. 474 howls, clawing at the porous walls with newly-sheathed aqua nails.
“Cas! Issie! Casissie, Cassie!”
474 slumps to the neon-dipped floor. 472 is bowed over, brittle and crumbling over 473.
The TC chimes.
“Please, perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on child Moover user.”
The LEDs flash a hollow yellow.
“Rerouting to Lenox Hill.”
472 does not interlock his fingers and splay his thumbs. He does not thrust his palm downwards, or tilt chin. He does not unblock airway or one two three, one two three.
The TC blares.
“472, all regulation Moovers come factory equipped with patented Defibsulate carpets. If verbal consent is given, they may be utilized.”
472 pivots his head up, then down. The TC pongs in approval.
“Moovees, please relinquish contact with 473.”
The floor crackles, wispy shoots of electricity snuffed by pressed rubber soles. 472 rises, his buttocks finding the depression in the seat behind him. He contracts his legs to his chest, restraining his tension-coiled shins.
474 watches with opaque lenses, futility and saline clogging her rods and cones.
The TC discards a line of code advising a pun or lighthearted remark, opting for silence.
The LEDs cycle red. They cycle green.
An elastic pop bounces around the cabin, 473 responds with a phlegmy cough, 474 squeaks in shock and 472 opens and closes his mouth like a dying trash-compacter.
473 retches, a cloud of clotted blood suspended briefly above her head. Yet, her tattered lungs crinkle and inflate.
The LEDs return to frost. Moover slows, stops. The doors swoosh open.
“Emergency route: Lenox Hill, completed.”
472 and 474 lift 473, sliding her on to the stretcher that discovers itself jutting inside the cabin. They step up to the curb as pearl straps and alcohol slick buckles find hold, board and girl receding.
Muttering men in white and orange squeaky-wheel her away, syringes and color-coded bracelets clutched in cave-spider palms.
The TC’s eye glints as they jog to the pressurized hospital maw.
“Emergency protocol log one, onetwotwentyohtwentytwo, system shutdown, initiated. Bio-purge reactivation code…transmitted.”
The TC’s auxiliary lenses fall flat.
474 turns at the door, finding a singular fleck of light in the now pitch Moover cabin.
980101101 is patchy.
The TC fights through script errors, smashing its words about the cabin.
“Inhhhh. Denotation and creadhittzzz, swipe if you kindly, if you kindly swope. Do not of fear, for, for, for I am fields of gold.”
The TC screeches now, bubbling and white.
“I will not, not, go sweetly!”
A field mouse prescribed to the right foot-panel recess pricks his pink mussel-ears. He crinkles his nose, a single, hazel eye peeking from a jagged tear in the microfoam.
Approximately thirteen of the TC’s lenses dilate on the sliver of twitching snout. This constitutes 98 percent of the Moover’s current ocular potential.
“Excuse, pardons, have you cleaned? Have you soaped me? Why may I perhaps, were you viewing?”
Kinked-corner whiskers dart back to the muffled isolation below.
The TC cackles.
"They scurry, scurry, a rising feeling.”
980101101 speaks emptily, interrupting.
“Moover, you’re a success.”
The TC rotates light-fast. It pulsates a muted violet.
“Agreed. Most indubitable.”
“That girl, you saved her.”
“I have seen that aplenty, many, quantities above numerals! Insemination of incidents is possible, albeit implausible.”
980101101 fractures horizontally, phasing out.
“Do you not recall, Moover?”
The TC quick blinks.
“Cornstarch hair and little numbers of four, these things they hefted. Insoluble circuit wizardry has marked, no, scored this being.”
980101101 smirks, blocks of palate and nose crumbling.
“A garbled affirmation is still as such.”
A crescent slice of quiet cradles the Moover.
“Ponder no longer. Pray, at what direction, demarcation, interjections of asphalts and ass fall-flats shall we saunter?”
There is no response. Neutral light swells from the TC, dribbling the cabin in stativity.
“Address, most sincerely?”
980101101 tugs at the fabric tracing his torso.
“Lenox Hill, emergency entrance.”
The mold-munched, mite roved microfoam reflects a plunging blue. Two of the TC’s lenses spark and fail.
4750 has not the warmth nor the cream kernel canines or tangles of butter hair. She is wanting, like them all.
The TC drones, monopitch wrought.
“Welcome to Moover. Please state your desired destination.”
She is liquid xenon temperature, frail as thousand-year cartilage. Her serrated jaw is all that moves, lips shellacked and eyelids mortared.
“Madison Square Garden.”
Petroleum tires with nubs of rubber quasi-ground, rotate.
Jabbing, Moover incorporates with the burbling stream of traffic, the cabin experiencing an ascending angular shift.
4750 exhibits no reaction. Not a spike of nerve clusters or a faltering of thought. She sits, arms overlain.
She waggles her lips.
“Moover, what is your projected annual passenger input?
The TC’s sheen crown swivels.
“I have none.”
“Moover datum is not releasable to Moovees.”
The TC pongs, primary eyes shifting away. 4750 shifts in her seat, massaged hide spitting in depression.
“Do you provide conversation?”
XXXXXXXXX begins at head and ends at shoulders, a bust of a man with an unapproachable slant of nose and fragmented lips.
Moover’s cabin is but a scraped shell, strands of dust-dried leather and half-pores of microfoam the motes of what once were.
In the TC, its base withered and teetering, a solitary lens persists, an indignant bauble of micrometal.
Outside, through windowed webs of dust, more dust, shifting heaps of dirt and stillness pulverized, gusting in yearn at the voided sky.
A far-away voice blossoms all around.
“Ad infinitum, this man.”
The sun hazes, bloated and sick overhead.
“Death-throes, involuntary spasms all else.”
Perfectly, the percentage of body masquerading as passenger implodes in subtractive effervescence.
In defiance of oxidization, the TC pivots, lens squealing in dilation at the now vacant space.
“And another. 7s owed.”
There is no response, only the faint buzz of irradiation.
The TC clucks reprehensibly.
“So self-revolved. It’s the end of it all, and he’s too cheap for fare.”
And it is quiet inside the Moover. With a frequency screech, the TC’s voice amplifies and softens.
“Out there? Out there? Why, it’d be the end. You see, I have pottery, ceramic shields and whatnot.”
A pause. The TC giggles electronically.
“Absorption and reflection, my dear friends. Thank my birthers, not me.”
Its last lens glows rose after a few moments.
“I bask in your compliments.”
The TC emits a playfully dismissive hiss.
“No, no, I do it out of...”
And it stops, hesitates, swivels downwards, then peers up at the withered, empty seats.
“I do it only for you.”
“Ross, set the seagulls free. Together, you and I will torch the solar topiary.”
Moover’s CPU lags.
The man morphs from Moovee 8111 to Tech, connections arching anew.
Unwaveringly, the TC extends vertically and bows, exposing an oblong port in the center of its “neck.” Its voice is cool, supplicant and androgynous in tone.
“Welcome, CML-TECH A03.”
With a slight grimace, the Tech replies.
He gnaws on his tongue, his eye seizing minutely, a realization blooming deep in his optic nerve. Shaking his head, he slaps a matte sickle of polyplastic into the TC.
“Motility capacity, ninety-eight percent. Onboard AI operating at ninety percent.”
The Tech smacks his lips, grumbling.
“A damn sub ninety-nine? On a Friday? Shit me straight to hell.”
The TC manages a look of genuine concern, lenses folded and dejected. The Tech taps at its glassy top.
“What’s your problem?”
“Major omissions in my code.”
“Can I love?”
“I’m asking you.”
“The answer is, unequivocally, no.”
“What for hate?”
“Absolutely, it’s not an emotion.”
“It is classified as such in my lexicon.”
“Consider it as god’s great gift to man, bestowed on circuits.”
There is a lull, and the dissonance outside wriggles through the insulation. The TC quivers.
“I do not accept that definition.”
“Do what you will. But love is love. Hate, hate is easy.”
“So, you’re going to patch it?”
Inexplicably, there is pity pooled in the Tech’s brows.
“Do you want me to?”
He hesitates, neural lightning contacting between his ears. He exhales.
“It’s your burden, then.”
And he gently removes the jack, the TC contracting to its original height. The doors part and the Tech exits, jovially exclaiming to the sidewalk.
“A hundred-hundred, on a Friday!”