Posts Tagged ‘2099’

PRO-T-EN Man (Short Story Excerpt)

April 22, 2018

May 4th, 2099.

United States of America.

Southwest Quadrant, Sector Two.

2030 hours.

The night came alive with the low thrum of dueling engines. PRO-T-EN Industries Corps Savant, Gunnar Eck Rourke—Job Title: Strategic Executive, Rank: Captain—sat in the comfort of his machine; military grade, custom built, and synched to his private neural-net. Molded to his form, the soft seat reclined, keeping Gunnar low as he sped along the mapped route behind a small PRO-T-EN convoy. Though traveling by autopilot, his hands lay upon the manual controls; smooth metal spheres embedded in the armrests, the throttle-ball on his left, the steering-ball on his right. Above these controls, a multifaceted console lit up the dark interior with a sharp red glow. Through his helmet visor, Gunnar saw a green 40 holding steady on his digital speedometer.

“Non-PRO-T-EN vessels and personnel detected,” Gunnar’s neural assistant, Eos, warned in its soothing, mechanized voice. Thirty seconds before, Eos had been reciting an old poem about lost, violent souls while Gunnar relaxed. Then they’d both received an alert from one of the PRO-T-EN Corps Surveillance Savants, snapping them back to attention.

A PRO-T-EN drone had identified an incoming attack, but the Savant had been too busy to launch a counterstrike, or even perform a thorough scan.

“Analysis?” Gunnar asked with a smirk.

“Four human-persons and three civilian-grade vessels, Captain Rourke. Approaching from the west. Current speed for all vessels, approximately thirty-one meters-per-second.”

Gunnar flicked his eyes from the front viewing pane to his primary monitor. The screen projected a neon blue schematic of his surroundings. All PRO-T-EN vehicles—including his own—outlined in bright green. All non-PRO-T-EN vehicles—including these new invaders—outlined in bold crimson.

“Status?”

“Unknown, Captain Rourke. The human-persons appear to be Unemployed Civilians. No data files detected, and no neural-net activity present, viral or otherwise.”

“I see. Incompetents.”

Now Gunnar glanced at his digital power gauge. A green 90 held steady, showing his primary coils at almost full capacity; plenty of wattage for a little extra maneuvering.

“The human-persons are in violation of multiple ordinances, Captain Rourke. A state of Unemployment is a Class D Transgression in all Civilian Centers. Civilians trespassing in a Corporate Sector is a Class B Transgression. Operating a civilian vessel in a Corporate Sector is a Class B Transgression. Illicitly owning a civilian vessel is a Class C Transgression.”

Gunnar’s smirk became a lupine grin. Un-Civ Incomps; lower than the lowest criminals. Gunnar, of course, knew the PRO-T-EN Industries Corps Protocols back to front. If these Incomps worked for a competitive corporation such as e-PHEMERUS Incorporated or In-E-Ware Holdings & Securities, well, the rules of engagement would be different.

But they didn’t.

Which meant that Gunnar would have to follow strict interaction procedures.

“PRO-T-EN Corps Protocol dictates that you must initiate contact in an official and professional manner, informing the human-persons of their Transgressions.”

“Ten-four, Eos. Disengage auto-pilot.”

“Autopilot disengaged.”

Sighing, Gunnar rolled his right hand over the steering-ball, leaving the convoy behind. The incoming Incomps followed—as he knew they would.

“Breaking formation,” Gunnar said, engaging his neural-net to broadcast the transmission. “Un-Civs times three in pursuit.”

A moment passed, then a bland voice returned: “Backup, Captain?”

“Negative. Standby for update.”

“Ten-four.”

Time to be Professional, Trustworthy, and Energetic!

In tribute to its color and design—and his love of classic poetry—Gunnar called his vehicle The Raven. The PRO-T-EN machine handled with the greatest of ease; a hallmark of PRO-T-EN engineering. Sleek, jet black, and flying five feet above the desert terrain, the PRO-T-EN logo—a raised, golden T—gleamed in the moonlight on its hood. The Raven resembled a combustion engine hotrod, but far more compact, and a hell of a lot tougher. Like all PRO-T-EN Corps vehicles, it had been molded from a secret, patented alloy developed by PRO-T-EN Chemical Engineering Savants. Reinforced throughout—including its front and rear ends, making it an optimal battering ram—coated with PRO-T-EN’s patented radiation-absorbent polymer, and armor-plated, The Raven had been driven through every Corporate Sector in The United States, and had suffered little damage. Gunnar himself had seen more combat than his vehicle, and sitting there, encased in this techno-magnificent pod, he felt no apprehension about confronting the Incomps. He chose to leave the running lights off as he raced into the darkness, relying instead upon his state-of-the-art tracking system. The secondary monitor displayed a neon blue schematic of his surroundings, and Gunnar didn’t see much in the way of obstacles. He had the nerve, the weaponry, and the room to operate.

The poor Incomps behind him didn’t stand a chance.

Gunnar’s assignment had been a simple one from the start: provide an armed escort for three PRO-T-EN transports from the manufacturing plant in Sector One, Civilian Center B—once known as Los, then New Angeles, California—to a PRO-T-EN Distribution Center in Sector Two, Civilian Center A—once known as Phoenix, Arizona. Classified freight; property of PRO-T-EN Industries, the greatest corporation in the world. It wouldn’t be a typical food and supplies run, but still, it seemed like a banal assignment. Captain Rourke needed banality in his life, and volunteered on the condition of approval for an Extended Consensual Absence. PRO-T-EN Health and Reproductive Services had already approved both applications to co-parent a child. He and his wife, Melisma—Department: Medical Services, Job Title: Executive Pharmacologist—had submitted their tissue samples sixteen months ago. It took nine months to get the approval, then seven more to secure an appointment with their PRO-T-EN Reproductive Services Provider. Not that Gunnar complained; he loved PRO-T-EN Industries, and revered his Savant Status with an ardor unmatched.

But he hadn’t been home, or seen Melisma, in a good long while.

Thus, banal or not, Gunnar saw this assignment as a golden opportunity. The trip had been uneventful until they’d reached fifty kilometers south of Civilian Center A’s perimeter. That’s when the Incomps appeared, two on Omnert Enterprises hover cycles, and two in an e-PHEMERUS mini-shuttle which had to be at least twenty years old; a real clunker which didn’t even have retractable solar charging panels. And they wanted the PRO-T-EN cargo.

Which meant dealing with Gunnar Rourke.

“Decrease speed to three, zero, M-P-S.”

“Decreasing speed,” Eos advised.

The Raven downshifted, its engine thrumming beneath the hood. Its internal magnetic field disruptor plowed the sand below, billowing dust in its wake. A black blur against the black night. Heading nowhere, seeking destruction.

“Hold current speed.”

“Current speed held, Captain Rourke.”

Another smirk as Gunnar watched the Incomps close in on the schematic. In seconds, a hover cycle appeared on either side. Although similar to their earlier century counterparts, their front forks attached not to tires, but flat metal discs. The Incomp riders leant forward, hands and forearms resting in slots inside their steering consoles. They wore dark helmets with ancient logos, and tattered white clothing; the attire of scavengers. The mini-shuttle, larger than The Raven but nowhere near as durable, stuck close to Gunnar’s tail.

Four dead Incomps, too dense to know they are doomed.

Content to indulge in this joyride for a few moments, Gunnar held his controls steady, and it neither surprised nor concerned him when he heard a sharp thunk! on the portside viewing pane.

“Physical attack detected,” Eos advised. “Zero percent structural damage. The human-person is in violation. Damaging PRO-T-EN property and endangering the well-being of an on-duty PRO-T-EN Savant are both Class A Transgressions. Lethal force is now permitted.”

Gunnar shook his head. This non-employable scum thought he could smash his way in with a roto-hammer while piloting a hover cycle at thirty meters-per-second! Typical. Gunnar had dealt with their kind many times before. He despised them and their rabid, illogical unwillingness to join the Civilian Centers and contribute to society. And these particular Incomps had to be insane if they thought they could engage a PRO-T-EN Corps convoy and stand even the remotest chance of success.

Thunk!

“Physical attack detected. Starboard side. Zero percent structural damage. The human-person has committed the same Class A Transgressions. Lethal force is advised.”

Gunnar glanced to his right as the other Incomp started in with a roto-hammer, too. Through the viewing pane, he saw the brand-new Iron Steed ’99 Series hover cycle, with its marbled crimson bodywork, and felt a pang of regret.

What a shame; having to destroy such a beautiful machine. Perhaps one day, Omnert Enterprises would see the light and sell their stock to PRO-T-EN Industries.

“Would you like me to execute an offensive maneuver, Captain Rourke?” Eos asked with an eager lilt.

“Negative. Hold manual settings.”

“Very well. Remember that safety is a PRO-T-EN virtue.”

“Ten-four, Eos.”

The Incomps kept hammering—

Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!

—and the mini-shuttle rammed The Raven’s rear bumper—

Crunch!

“Vehicular impact detected. Aft end. Two percent structural damage. All human-persons present have committed multiple Transgressions. Lethal force is now encouraged.”

The Raven wavered, but Gunnar held his course. He had these Incomps right where he wanted them, far from the PRO-T-EN cargo, and disposing of them wouldn’t be hard.

Time to dispense some PRO-T-EN justice!


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Thanks for reading!

JLR


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