Tag Archives: Science Fiction

BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S2, Ep. 17 -Twenty-Two

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Are dreams real?  Can they tell us anything about reality?  Can we ever be sure when we are dreaming and when we are awake, what’s real and what’s not?

Liz Powell (Barbara Nichols) is such a famous stripper, er…uh, dancer, that she even has an agent, Barney (Fredd Wayne.)  In fact, she’s been so overworked that she’s in the hospital for exhaustion.  Yeah, ok…just go with it.  If you can buy that premise, then you can buy the fact that she was allowed to relax in her hospital bed, not in a patient’s gown but in a dress that was, well for 1960s standards, kinda naughty.  Today, not so much but I’m sure in those days it turned an eye.

SIDENOTE: Nichols had that stereotypical Brooklyn floozy/blonde bimbo of the early 1900s voice.  Today, you might call it a “Harley Quinn” voice.  Nichols often played bar girls, dopey dames, gangster’s molls, and so on…so it makes me wonder if she might have had an influence on Harley’s style.

Anyway, every night, Liz goes to sleep only to wake up thirsty.  She reaches for a glass of water but then she gets up, heads to the lobby, goes down an elevator and walks to the morgue, where a mysterious looking nurse (the ever so exotic Arlene Martel) ominously states, “Room for one more, honey.”

There’s room for one more in the morgue?  That’s not news that anyone wants to hear.  Her doctor, who is never given a name but is played by Jonathan Harris of “Lost in Space” fame (“You clinkin’ calamity of bolts!”)  insists this is all in Liz’s mind and it’s just a bad dream.

I did wonder why the doctor didn’t have someone keep an eye on Liz to see if she actually was getting up to go to the morgue or if she was just dreaming it, but I suppose that would have ruined the story.

OK, that’s it.  I won’t go further because if I do I’ll ruin the twist.  But it’s an interesting question, where do dreams end and reality begin?  Do they intermingle?  Is the universe trying to send messages to us through our dreams?  Should we pay attention to what’s in our dreams at all.

Have you ever changed your life based on a dream, 3.5 readers?

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BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews

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Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

I have avoided watching “The Twilight Zone” for many years.  There are a few episodes that are key, the ones where if you ask anyone, they’ll bring those up – the killer doll, the killer ventriloquist dummy, the woman who has surgery to “look beautiful” only to end up hideous because she looks beautiful but in a world full of pig people she looks ugly, the one with the guy who thinks there’s a monster on the wing of his plane, the little boy who can do all sorts of crazy shit with his mind if any adults ever think unhappy thoughts so all the townsfolk just put up with it because everyone’s afraid to say anything to him, etc.

Plus, the theme song, or rather the “doo doo doo doo” always seems creepy.

But, I finally broke down and checked it out on Netflix and I’m hooked.

My main observation is that either a) this series was far ahead of its time or b) that it paved the way for all the scientific tropes that are pretty standard today – that machines might take over, that maybe one day we’ll meet aliens and it won’t work out as well as we hope, that inventions to improve life will inevitably screw us over, that screwing with time travel could mess up our entire existence, etc.

But keep in mind, the show doesn’t just explore the scientific but also the paranormal – deals with the devil that don’t go well for the person who signed on the dotted line, attempts to cheat death that go badly, etc.

The special effects pale in comparison to modern films, though at times, a dude in a creepy mask is a lot more frightening for some reason.  It could be that good writing goes a long way and as long as the suspense is built up, the audience can forgive the fact that the baddie is a dude in a costume and not a CGI character.

Anyway, from time to time I’m going to pop up reviews of individual episodes because dang it, I need to fill this blog up with something.

What’s your favorite episode, 3.5 readers?

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Has Your Butt Been Probed By Aliens?

Your butt.  You must protect it from danger at all times.

Has your butt been probed by aliens from another world?

Only this BQB Top Ten List can help you know for sure.

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Movie Review – The Shape of Water (2017)

If there’s a better movie out there about a woman who fucks a fish monster, I’ve yet to see it.

BQB here with a review of the Oscar front runner, “The Shape of Water.”

I don’t think the line above counts as a spoiler.  If you check out the poster for this film, it shows a woman locked in a passionate embrace with a fish man sooo…I mean I don’t know about you, but when I saw that my immediate reaction was to realize that this movie was probably going to feature some human on fish man fucking.

Beyond that, I can’t begin to discuss this film without mentioning SPOILERS so if you don’t want to read SPOILERS then don’t read on below.   SPOILERS!!!

Here’s the deal, 3.5 readers.  I’ve been a movie buff for as long as I can remember.  I have seen so many movies that I deserve an honorary degree in film studies.

I’m usually able to collect my thoughts after I see a film…but I’m not sure what I saw here.

It was good.  I’m just unclear as to the point of it all.

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer play Elisa and Zelda, a duo of cleaning ladies who keep a top secret 1960s Cold War era research facility spotless.  They dust satellites and clean bizarre machines and are aware that their continued employment (and freedom) requires them to keep their mouths shut about anything they see.

That’s easy for Elisa as she’s mute – unable to speak.  Elisa lives on the periphery of life, always enjoy movies and television, which she watches with her elderly, unemployed neighbor, a mopey ex-advertising artist named Giles (Richard Jenkins.)

Elisa is content to stick with the same old life until she learns that one of the lab’s test subjects, a fish man comparable in appearance to “the Creature from the Black Lagoon” is regularly tortured by Strickland, a clandestine CIA type played by Michael Shannon.

Long story short, Elisa feels sorry for the fish monster, so she enlists Zelda and Giles to participate in an breakout scheme.

And then once the creature is free, he and Elisa fuck.  Oh my God.  There is so much fish monster on human woman fucking its crazy really.

Sooo…I’m unsure of a number of things.  My first thought is surely this film, about a woman who falls in love with and fucks a fish man, must be a dark comedy.  The Academy never touches sci-fi, but the film makes use of typical French romance music, so one is left to wonder if this is all just a parody of classic romance films, but instead of two French people who lose their ennui after they meet, this is about….human on fish man fucking.

There are definitely dark comedy undertones yet there is a lot of drama and in many parts, a serious tone.  What exactly is the overall theme?  The best I was able to come up with is that it is very difficult to find true love so when you find it, you must embrace it, even if you and your partner have differences – say, differences in race, religion, background…or you know, if one of you is a human and one of you is a fish man.

From a writer’s standpoint, I am amazed.  I write so many outlandish, ridiculous, absurd things but never once would I dream of having a woman and a fish monster get it on.  Honestly, take out the French romance music and some of the dramatic flourishes and serious scenes and this movie could double as an April Fool’s episode of the X-Files where the producers decide to let their hair down and be silly.

Meanwhile, Michael Shannon is skilled at playing psychos and he excels here.  This is his best performance since “Boardwalk Empire.”  I was left to believe that he really wanted to apprehend the fish man at all costs and was not moved by the romantic undertones of human on fish man coitus.

Jenkins also deserves recognition.  I bought him as a sad sack whose only friend is Elisa and thus he’s willing to do anything to retain her friendship.  By the way, don’t get old because if a woman has to choose between an old man and a fish man, she will choose the sushi penis every time.  Scaly balls, yes.  Wrinkly balls, no.

Is it worth an Oscar?  I mean, I enjoyed it, I had a good time, it did make me think about love and how it can bloom in the strangest places under the most unexpected circumstances.

Is it better than the other nominees?  I’ll have to think about that one, though I’ll note that at this point, I really just want the news to be talking about how a movie about a woman who fucks a fish man was made best picture and to the best of my knowledge, none of the other films feature a woman banging a fish man.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  If you ever figure out what it’s about, tell me.

 

 

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 6

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March 14, 2050

After an hour of channel-surfing the state approved tele-web, my mind was numb. I’d seen countless hours of television in my youth. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, but all of it was better than the trash the One World Order spoon fed the masses. The irony is that I found that I found these shows humorous. Hollywood had thrown in with the Order and all the writers, producers, actors and actresses – they were putting on these shows with a straight face, never realizing that old timers like me were laughing at them. I doubt anyone under 35 realized these shows had become inadvertent parodies of everything the One World Order stood for.

I reached for Billy Allen’s dead grandpa’s ancient X-Tab. It was a bad idea to keep it out in the open. Each individual movie stored on it would most likely be considered a separate offense the state and yet, it had been so long since I’d seen anything remotely entertaining that I couldn’t help but watch another old movie. I turned the device on and was scrolling through the selections when there was a knock on the door.

“Shit.” As the knocks continued, I stood up and frantically looked around the room, hoping to find a good hiding spot for the ancient X-Tab. The knocks grew louder. A very mellow, almost high-sounding electronic voice spoke. “Citizen Wylder?”

The unapproved X-Tab was still in my hand and the only thing standing between me and a trip to a re-education center was the door. “Yes?”

“Civil Society Monitor Drones,” the voice said. “We’re here for your weekly inspection.”

“Oh,” I said.   I scanned the room. I pondered shoving the X-Tab under a doily on an end table, stuffing the device down my pants, and making a rub to the bathroom to see if it would fit down the toilet, but none of those options seemed viable.

“Didn’t we do that last week?” I asked.

“We do them every week,” the drone answered. “Hence, ‘weekly inspections.’”

“Oh right,” I said. “Sorry. I’m an old man. I forget these things.”

If the first best thing about being old is running out of fucks to give, the second best thing is being able to feign incompetence as an excuse. Sometimes I didn’t have to feign it, although this time I was.

“Are you alright, Citizen Wylder?” the drone inquired.

“I’m fine,” I said. “Just tidying up.”

“There’s no need,” the drone said. “We see many homes in various states of disarray.”

“Oh, you know me boys,” I said. “My mother always taught me to make your place spic and span if you’re having company over.”

I was out of time. I gave up, lifted up the middle couch cushion, stashed the ancient X-Pad, then dropped the cushion and sat down.

“We’re coming in,” the drone said.

I put my arm around Hannah, who was still asleep. “Oh no, I don’t want to put you out. I’ll be right there.”

The electronic locks on my front door clicked. The door swung open and in flew three drones. They were fairly standard in appearance. Four whirring rotor blades attached to a base, with a 360-degree camera that saw everything hanging down. As an interesting touch, there was a red light just above the camera that blinked whenever the contraption spoke.

“Good evening, Citizen Wylder,” the drone in the center said.

I sat up and grabbed my back, then winced. “Oh Jeeze Louise. Hello boys. I’m sorry I didn’t get to the door sooner but you know…my aching sacroiliac.”

“No worries,” the center drone said. The drones to the left and right broke off from the pack. The left drone headed for the kitchen. The right one made a beeline for the garage.”

The remaining drone buzzed closer to me. “I am Civil Society Monitor Drone Number 327B19, but to placate your humanist need to relate to anything with the power of speech, you may call me Randy 12.0.”

“Frank Wylder,” I said as I put out my hand. The drone looked at it. I looked at it. Neither of us were able to figure out what to do next, so I put the hand away.

“Right,” I said.

“You may refer to my colleagues as Jeff 7.6 and Carl 8.9,” Randy 12.0 said.

“Alright,” I replied. “What happened to Pete 11.1? I’m used to seeing him.”

“Grounded for repairs,” Randy 12.0 said. “An unfortunate encounter with an unruly citizen I’m afraid.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s bullshit. Tell that little bucket of bolts I hope he gets better real soon.”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “A one-hundred credit fine will be deducted from your account.”

“For what?” I asked. “Wishing your buddy well?”

“Violation of the Anti-Inappropriate Speech Code,” Randy 12.0 said. “The Obscenity Eradication Act, in particular.”

“Oh,” I said. “Here we go.”

Ever so slowly, the drone flew about the living room, being sure to record video of everything. He then returned to face me. A red laser shot out of the center of the drone and painted my face with a grid.

“Confirming identity,” Randy 12.0 said. “Frank Wylder. Born 1987. Class 7 citizen.”

Ugh. There were ten classes assigned by the One World Order, with 1 being the best and 10 the worst. I was poor, so I was assigned to Class 7. This assignment meant I was only allowed to reside in a low level neighborhood, and the amount of money and possessions I could have was severely limited. If you think “7” doesn’t sound like such a bad number, consider that Class 8 is reserved for general, run-of-the-mill criminals. Class 9 is comprised entirely of pederasts and Class 10 includes, you guessed it, the vile Nationalist pigs. So in other words, my government looked upon me with just a little bit more favor than would be provided to criminals, perverts, and traitors.

Randy 12.0 stared at me and waited. Eventually, I figured out what he wanted me to say. “All hail the One World Order.”

“Long may it reign,” the drone said as it buzzed towards Hannah.

“My granddaughter,” I said. “I have an agreement with my ex-wife. She has custody. I get visitation.”

Custody agreements and other standing divorce arrangements from the um…time that I wasn’t allowed to talk about had been grandfathered in. The One World Order had forced many bizarre, draconian laws on its subjects, but even they knew they weren’t going to be able to force women to take back men that they’d given the old heave-ho to.

The drone painted Hannah’s sleepy face with a red laser grid.   “Scanning…Hannah Wylder. Born 2037. Age 13. Yes, your custody documents are on file and are in order.”

Randy 12.0 took another swing around the room. “How are you this evening, Citizen Wylder?”

“I’m hanging in there,” I said.

“Been having any problems?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“Just old age,” I said. “Losing hair in the places I want to keep it. Growing it in places I don’t want it. Don’t even get me started on my bowel movements. They haven’t been regular in ages.”

“Too much information, Citizen Wylder,” the drone said. “Have you observed any suspicious behavior amongst your neighbors?”

“Nope,” I said. “The Martinezes are fine people. A real credit to the order, if you ask me.”

“Has there been an issue with your Happy Order Month lawn signs?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Citizen Martinez indicated to me that he has placed several signs on your lawn to assist you in putting your pride in the One World Order on full display,” Randy 12.0 said. “But they keep disappearing.”

“Right,” I said. “Yeah, you know, someone keeps swiping them…but Martinez, he’s a good egg.”

“A good what?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“He’s a good egg,” I said. “He keeps putting signs on my lawn because, you know, I’m old, I can’t get out to get new ones every time they go missing.”

“Understood,” Randy 12.0 said. “Why would you refer to your neighbor as a protein deposit dispensed from a chicken’s hindquarters?”

I shook my head. “Its an expression. It…never mind.”

“So no suspicious activity observed amongst your neighbors then?” Randy 12.0 said.

I smirked. “No…well.”

Randy 12.0 spun around and faced me. “What?”

I waved my hand, attempting to shoo the drone away. “No, it’s nothing.”

“Out with it, Citizen Wylder,” the drone said. “Any piece of information you have, no matter how insignificant it may seem, may prove to be of vital importance to the One World Order.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” I looked around the room, then leaned forward, towards the drone. “Look, you didn’t hear this from me, but Mrs. Howard, that old bitch across the street, have you seen the size of her lately? She has got to be sneaking extra rations. I’d work her over real good if I were you.”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “You have been fined one hundred credits.”

I spread my arms out. “For what?”

“Another obscenity violation,” Randy 12.0 said.

I was down two hundred credits now, and I needed that money. I grew angry, pissed even. I lost it and started saying things I knew was just going to displease my uninvited guest.

“Come on,” I said. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees me the Freedom of Speech.”

“The One World Order maintains that document never existed, nor would it be considered valid if it ever did, which it did not,” Randy 12.0 said. “And you have been fined another one hundred credits.”

“For?” I asked.

“Violation of the Anti-Nationalist Speech Act,” Randy 12.0 said. Citizens are not allowed to make claims that any government ever existed other than the One World Order.”

I took a deep breath and found my composure. Accusations of harboring Nationalist tendencies were definitely something I didn’t need. “I’m sorry…I’m old…I get confused.”

“Understandable, given your advanced age,” Randy 12.0 said. “Citizen Wylder, are you aware that at anytime, you may voluntarily check yourself into one of the Order’s many fine senior citizen facilities. There are nursing homes for the infirm, though it would appear in your position, a mere assisted living center would be more suitable.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Pete reminded me every time. Sorry, if it’s all the same, I’d like to kick back around here. I’d miss my granddaughter too much plus I don’t want to be a burden.”

“You already are a burden,” Randy 12.0 said. “My records indicate you secured disability leave from your assigned position as a janitor due to depression related issues?”

“Yup,” I said. “It was a great job. Really, I loved cleaning toilets but you know, I got so sad.”

“Do the depression issues persist?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“All the time,” I said. “I don’t know how it happened but I am one morose son of a…”

Randy 12.0 hovered in front of me, almost as though he was waiting to beep. I avoided the fine. “…son of a something or other…shame really, I don’t I’ll ever be able to muster up the mental capacity to scrub a toilet ever again.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Citizen Wylder,” Randy 12.0 said. “I’m downloading some brochures about the Order’s many fine senior citizen facilities to your tele-web.”

“No need,” I said. “I’m not a big reader.”

“Do start thinking about the impending change,” Randy 12.0 said. “Retirement to a senior citizen facility is mandatory upon reaching the age of 65. That’s not far away for you.”

“Pete reminded me of that all the time too,” I said.

“Senior citizen facilities are not that bad, Citizen Wylder,” Randy 12.0 said. “There’s tennis, racquet ball, arts and crafts, aerobics, swimming, talent shows…”

“Mind control…”

Randy 12.0’s red light blinked. “The Order prefers to refer to that as ‘mind management.’”

“Gotcha,” I said.

Randy 12.0 made another circular pass around the room. “Citizen Wylder, do you have any contraband to declare?”

My mind instantly went to the ancient X-Tab, still underneath the cushion I was sitting on. “Pardon?”

“Contraband,” the drone said. “Are you in possession of any illegal items?”

“No,” I said. “Of course not.”

The drone buzzed toward me in a straight line and hovered a mere six inches from my face. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“But,” the drone said. “Are you sure that you’re sure?”

I pondered the question. “Sir, this is a house dedicated to the preservation of the One World Order and all of its ways. I don’t appreciate your insinuation.”

Randy 12.0 backed up another six inches. “I insinuated nothing, Citizen Wylder. I merely wish to make you understand that penalties for contraband violations are often less severe when they are confessed to before the illegal item is found.”

I remained silent.

“Do you understand, Citizen Wylder?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“I do,” I said. “I’m just waiting for you to laugh maniacally like a comic book super villain.”

“I do not understand,” Randy 12.0 said.

“That’s ok, sport,” I said. “Happens to the best of us.”

“Now that I have ensured you understand the consequences of providing a false answer, I’ll have you answer the question again,” Randy 12.0 said.

“Holy shit,” I said. “Did someone stick a sadist chip up your ass?”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “An additional two hundred credit fine.”

“That was only one violation,” I said.

“Two violations,” Randy 12.0 said.

“But I used both obscenities in the same sentence,” I protested.

“That doesn’t matter,” Randy 12.0 said. “Each obscenity is a separate violation.”

“Huh,” I said. “You learn something new everyday.”

“Answer the question please.”

I rolled my eyes and held up the palm of my hand. “Look, you airborne clunker, I swear on my mother’s eternal soul that I do not have any illegal stuff in this house, OK?”

Randy 12.0 beeped.

“Oh come on,” I said. “What now?”

“Processing…processing…yes…that was close to a violation, but I have the power to let you off with a warning.”

I was getting tired. I rubbed my hand over my face. “Dare I ask?”

“Violation of the Religion Eradication Act,” Randy 12.0 said. “You stated your deceased mother has an eternal soul but as far as the One World Order is concerned, she is no more than a spent carcass that in all likelihood as disintegrated into dust by now.”

I sat back on the couch. “Way to liven up the mood, Randy 12.0”

“A fine was possible, but I took into account the intent of the infraction, namely, your backward attempt to assure me you are not in any possession of contraband,” Randy 12.0 said. “Since you were not actively attempting to preach outdated and illegal religious dogma, I am able to wave the violation.”

“Well,” I said. “’Aint that some shit.”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “A one hundred dollar fine. I must warn you that all speech code violations are kept track of and further infractions may lead to time in a re-education center.”

Jeff 7.6 and Carl 8.9 flew into the living room.

“Citizen Wylder,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“That’s my name,” I said. “Don’t wear it out.”

“Are you aware that there are 9 cans of beer in your fridge?” Jeff 7.6 inquired.

“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, well you see, my granddaughter’s been visiting me so that’s put me in a happier mood. I haven’t been feeling the need to souse myself up as much lately.”

“You are only allowed to have six beers in your fridge at any time,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“No,” I replied. “I thought I could only buy six beers a week.”

“That’s correct,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“And I can only drink six beers a week,” I said.

“Correct,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“But if I don’t drink them I get to keep them, don’t I?” I asked.

“No,” Jeff 7.6 said. “Because then we have no assurances that you won’t drink 9 beers in a week.”

“Ugh,” I said. “So you’re punishing me for drinking less?”

“Do not be concerned,” Jeff 7.6 said. “I have discretionary authority here. Technically, I do have the power to issue a fine. However, I will notify the contraband agent to stop by your home tomorrow to pick up the three excess beers.”

“You’re a real soft touch, Jeff 7.6,” I said.

“I don’t understand that statement,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“Can I just drink the extra three beers tonight?” I asked.

“No,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“Why not?” I inquired.

“Then we would have no assurances that you would not drink the remaining six beers and as we have established…”

“I’m only allowed six beers a week.”

“Exactly.”

“Huh,” I said. “Well, tell me this, Jeff Old Boy, what happens if I’m not home when the contraband agent stops by tomorrow?”

“He’ll let himself in.”

“Of course he will,” I said.   “What happens if I drink the three excess beers?”

“If you drink any amount of beer tonight,” Jeff 7.6 said. “Then there had better be at least three excess beers in your fridge for confiscation. At that point, it will be a safe determination that you drank only your six beer limit this week, but then you will be required to refrain from any further beer consumption until the following week.”

“Wow,” I said. “You little guys do a bang up job keeping track of everyone’s comings and goings. A real great job. You’re all aces in my book.”

Jeff 7.6 beeped. “One hundred credit fine.”

“What now?” I asked.

“Violation of the Anti-Gambling Related Speech Act.”

I raised my pointer finger. “Wait. I’d like to appeal that.”

“On what grounds?” Jeff 7.6 asked.

“I wasn’t talking about ‘aces’ as in the ‘ace’ card,” I said. “I was just paying you a compliment.”

“I detected sarcasm,” Jeff 7.6 said.

I huffed and puffed. “Well, sir, your sarcasm meter is on the fritz because I was distinctly just giving credit where credit is due. You’re going to fine a guy for telling you that you did a good job?”

“If you wish to appeal this fine,” Jeff 7.6 said. “You have thirty days to file an appeal form with the Regional Board of Fine Adjudicators. Once you file, your appearance at 7 hearings over the course of the next 14 years will be mandatory and the board will have until the year 2084 to render a final decision.”

“Yikes,” I said. “Oh well. I think my bum ticker will adjudicate that decision before the board does so, OK Jeffy Boy. You win. Just put it on my bill.”

Carl 8.9 hovered closer. “Citizen Wylder.”

“He’s not at home right now,” I said. “Care to leave a message?”

Carl 8.9 faced his clinking colleagues. A serious of beeps were exchanged. Carl 8.9 faced me again. “We have determined that was an attempt at humor.”

“Good for you,” I said.

“Because obviously you are here,” Carl 8.9 said.

“There are no flies on you,” I said.

“No there are not,” Carl 8.9 said.

“How can I help you, Carl?” I asked.

“Regarding the human driven automobile in your garage, I do not have an antique car collector’s permit for you on file.”

I reached into my pocket. As I did so, all three drones faced me. A mini-chain gun dropped out of the bases of each contraption.

“What are you doing?” Carl 8.9 asked.

I stopped moving. “I’m getting my permit.”

“You have a hard copy?” Carl 8.9 asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll show it to you, if we’re cool.”

“The temperature is not the issue,” Carl 8.9 said.

I sighed. “You tell me. Am I allowed to get it?”

“Affirmative,” Carl 8.9 said. “But slowly.”

Slowly, just as commanded, I pulled a plastic card out of my pocket and held it up. Carl 8.9 shot a laser at it and scanned it.

“This checks out,” Carl 8.9 said. “However, be advised that the plastic card permitting system has been deemed antiquated by the One World Order. All citizens with permits are required to register them digitally by the end of the year. You should have received a notice about that on the tele-web.”

“I have no idea how to use that thing,” I said. “I’m an old man.”

“I will send you a copy of the notice, Carl 8.9 said.

“Of course you will,” I said. “Well boys, this has been fun, but if there isn’t anything else…”

Randy 12.0 flew to the center of the room. “One scan of this room and we’ll be on our way.

My heart sunk. I began to wonder if I shouldn’t just pull out the X-Tab and declare it. Nope. I decided to keep quiet.

A red laser shot out of Randy 12.0. He used it to paint the top of the room with a grid. The number of individual squares grew and grew, slowly working their way downward. The squares reached my waist when Randy 12.0 beeped.

I coughed to clear my throat. “Something wrong?”

Randy 12.0 turned to Carl 8.9. “A major contraband find across the street. CSMD Team A72 is requesting backup.”

“I knew it!” I said. “I knew that old broad was up to no good!”

The grid shut off. Without so much as a goodbye, the three flying piles of junk flew out my front door. I sighed a breath of relief.

I stepped out to my front porch to watch a disturbing scene unfold. I had no love for Mrs. Howard. She spent most of her days trying to find some infraction to turn me into the Order for. Still, to see that old gal hogtied on the front lawn while Honor Guardsmen kicked down her front door…it just didn’t seem right.

“George Washington would be rolling over in his grave,” I said.

Way, way across the street, Randy 12.0 stopped and turned around. His voice was feint, but I was able to make it out. “One hundred dollar fine.”

“You could hear that all the way over there?!” I shouted.

“Yes,” the drone replied.

I stepped into my living room and slammed the front door behind me. “Son of a…”

 

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The Last Driver – #455 on Wattpad SciFi

I’ve ventured into science fiction, 3.5 readers.  “The Last Driver,” my testosterone fueled tribute to 1984 and Fast and Furious, is set in a world where self-driving cars are the norm.  That seems like a boon to the intrusive dictatorship, the One World Order.  What better way to keep tabs on the citizenry than to have their cars report where everyone is going?

In a world where everyone has forgotten how to drive, the last man who remembers how is ready to start trouble.

If you’re on Wattpad, I’d appreciate a vote, a comment, whatever you can spare.  Thanks!

CLICK HERE TO READ ON WATTPAD

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Frank’s Adventures in State Approved Tele-Web Media Monitor Surfing

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

Frank’s Adventures in State Approved Tele-Web Media Monitor Surfing

 

CHANNEL 1 – THE SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR CHANNEL

 

(The logo of the One World Order appears on screen. It is a lily white number “1” superimposed over the world.)

 

ANNOUNCER: Good evening, citizen. Welcome to the personal Channel of the Supreme Administrator of the One World Order. Please stand by for a message from the Supreme Administrator.

 

(A lovely older woman appears on screen. Her hair is short, dyed blonde. She attempts a smile even though her face is cursed with a permanent scowl. She looks as though she must concentrate very hard on maintaining the smile, such that any distraction might cause the smile to disappear completely. She wears a clean, neatly pressed, white pantsuit. This is the only outfit she has ever been seen wearing in public. She speaks with a fake kindness as though she is forcing herself to appear relatable to the ignorant masses.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Good evening, citizens.   All hail the One World Order. Long may it reign and long may it bring you global supremacy, efficiency and leadership for you and your state approved families. We make the hard decisions about what should be done with your lives so you don’t have to.

Happy Order Month. Citizens, can you believe that eighteen years ago this very month, the Globalists crushed the vile Nationalist pigs, flooding the streets with their wretched blood? Ahh, yes, and out of that bloodshed our world was born, a kind and just world where the just and benevolent One World Order has made four key promises to all citizens born after the year 2032, namely that they’ll always have something to eat, that they’ll always have a job to do, that they’ll always have some place to live, and of course, they’ll always have someone to be with. Isn’t that lovely? I can’t imagine living in a world where those four key reasons for being aren’t met and yet, I’m sure many of you have crazy old relatives who sit around the dinner table, blah-blah-blah-ing about how there used to be a world where all of those needs were not always met and yet somehow, this world was better.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR fakes a laugh. It sounds like a hen cackling.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Oh, old people. Their rotten aging brains make them say some very silly things but don’t be discouraged citizens. Why, whenever anyone over the age of thirty-five starts telling you about a made-up fantasy world that existed before this one, just pretend their dirty old mouth is like the radiator or the air conditioner or some other noise in the background that you don’t particularly care for but you’ve gotten used to and have decided that you’re not going to let its existence get in the way of your good time.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR takes a sip of water.)

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: My, that is some delicious, unpolluted water we have, citizens. Remember, the Order’s top medical advisors all agree that you should be drinking at least eight glasses of water daily. Don’t worry, if you forget, our Civil Society Monitor Drones will remind you.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR takes another sip of water.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Mmm…I can’t get enough of that super wet stuff. Now, citizens, among the many ridiculous statements your elderly relatives might be making is this notion that the world used to be comprised of several, individual nations, each with their own distinct government and that somehow, a world like that would be better than the One World Order. First of all, none of that malarkey is true. There were never any nations. The world was just filled with people and buildings and roads and grass and trees and just a lot of stuff and no one was doing anything particularly useful with any of it. Sure, there were many greedy Nationalist pigs who ran around declaring everything to be theirs, shouting, “Mine, mine, mine!” but luckily, the Globalists slayed these subhuman beasts and thus the world was created.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR bites a carrot.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Mmm…don’t forget to eat your vegetables, citizens. Oh, but don’t worry, the Civil Society Monitor Drones will remind you to do that as well. Where was I? Oh yes, the myth of nations. Secondly, there’s no way that a Nationalist system would ever work. Can you imagine it? Everyone running around the world, willy nilly without any coordination? One part of the world prospers while another languishes? Only a strong, centralized, global government is able to see the big picture and make decisions that benefit the entire world, not just one administrative unit. Under the One World Order, all administrative units are treated equally. None are favored over the other, all are cared for, none are left to suffer. So please, the next time your Grandparents start talking nonsense, tell them the Supreme Administrator says they’re full of hot air.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR makes another fake laugh.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Oh, I apologize citizens. My speech writer advised me that would be a humorous joke, to claim that a person speaking nonsense is full of hot air, even though that would be ridiculous, because if a person’s body were to be filled with hot air, that action would literally kill that person, and there would be nothing humorous about that whatsoever.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR holds up a “Happy Order Month” sign.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Now, I’d like to remind citizens that the celebration of Order Month is completely voluntarily. If you’d like to put up one of these lovely signs in front of your home to put your pride in your government and all of the hard work it does in making all of the important decisions in your lives for you, then you are welcome to do so. If you’d rather not participate, that’s fine too. In fact, for those homes that do not participate, our Civil Society Monitor Drones will be stopping by to ask you a series of questions designed to determine how the One World Order can improve the many, many services it provides to you so that you will feel pride in your government next year.

 

(A voice calls off camera.)

 

VOICE: Supreme Administrator, it’s time for your one o’clock meeting.

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Ah, well, it would appear that a Supreme Administrator’s work is never done. Until next time, this has been your Supreme Administrator, wishing you a Happy Order Month. All hail the One World Order, long may it rain and don’t forget to turn in any suspected Nationalist pigs to the authorities.

 

CHANNEL 2 – STATE APPROVED NEWS

 

(A STATE APPROVED NEWS READER appears on screen. He is handsome with chiseled features. He wears an all white suit with a white shirt and white tie.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Good evening, citizens. All hail the One World Order and long may it reign. I’m Citizen Barnes, your state approved news reader for this evening, here to read all of the news that the One World Order feels you need to now in order to be good, solid citizens, with none of the trivial details that you have no need to concern yourselves with, seeing as how the One World Order is taking care of all of these matters as we speak so you don’t have to.

 

(NEWS READER looks at a different camera.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Our top story tonight, the Honor Guard has quelled insurgencies across the planet, with depraved acts of Nationalist terrorism taking a gruesome toll on Order loving citizens everywhere. Explosions rocked government buildings in Administrative Units 5, 78, and 111. In total, 478 citizens lost their lives, though the Supreme Administrator has released a statement indicating that these citizens have not died in vein, for their deaths have urged her to be even more vigilant in carrying out the Order’s military campaigns against Nationalist pigs wherever they may be.

 

(Video rolls of an old man walking down a street, waving a red, white and blue flag. He is approached by shock troops dressed in shiny white armor. They carry flamethrowers.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Meanwhile, elderly citizens across the globe continue to display irrational, bizarre behavior, such as this citizen who caused quite a stir in Urban District 717TKY – Theta, one of the largest urban districts on the Eastern side of Administrative Unit 2.

 

(The video continues to roll.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN: Come along, now.

 

OLD MAN: This isn’t Administrative Unit 2! The Order is lying to all of you! It’s America! It’s America, I’m telling you!

 

(The Honor Guardsmen grab the old man and drag him away, kicking and screaming.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN: Let’s go, Grampa.

 

OLD MAN: God Bless America! Land that I love! Stand beside her, and guide her…no! Let go of me! Damn it, I’m an American citizen and I have rights!

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN: Time to put you in a nice home.

 

OLD MAN: No! I don’t want to go to a home!

 

(NEWS READER returns to screen.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: A very sad display, indeed. Young citizens are reminded to closely monitor the activity of their elders and to report any disturbing behavior to the authorities immediately.

 

(NEWS READER shuffles some papers.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: And now it’s time for the debate portion of our program. Our topic of debate this evening – “Nationalist Pigs – Are They Stupid and Crazy, or Crazy and Stupid?” Here with me in the studio to discuss this very important issue of our time is Citizen Mitch Stevens, an Esteemed Professor of One World Order Philosophy at the Region D Graduate Academy of Administrative Unit 2, and Citizen Abigail Chan, Director of the Region F Board of State Approved Intellectuals of Administrative Unit 102.)

 

(CITIZEN STEVENS is skinny man wearing a white suit and white bow tie. He wears a pair of glasses. CITIZEN CHAN wears a white businesswoman’s suit.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Citizen Stevens, I’ll start with you. Are these Nationalist pigs stupid and crazy or crazy and stupid?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Well, first, thank you for having me on the show, Citizen Barnes, and might I add, all hail the One World Order.

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Long may it reign.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Citizen Barnes, I would argue that the Nationalist pig movement, and I use the term “movement” facetiously because as we all know, the One World Order’s military units are crushing these menaces to society handily…

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That they are. All the citizens watching at home need not worry about that fact.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Indeed. So, as I was saying, Nationalist pigs start out as crazy, but then they cause others to become very, very stupid.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Intriguing. I actually read about this theory in your new book.

 

(CITIZEN STEVENS holds up a book titled “Why Nationalist Pigs Are the Worst.”

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Yes, thank you Citizen Barnes and I might add that my book is available for only ten and ninety nine out of one hundred credits over the state approved tele-web.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Well, if it’s state approved then it must be good.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Oh, stop, Citizen Barnes! You’re going to make me blush. Anyway, the problem begins with the old people.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: I see. So the elderly are a problem?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Very much so. Old people, as we all know, are extremely stupid and absurdly crazy. That’s not just me saying that. Ten out of all ten of the One World Order’s top scientists agree. That old people are stupid and crazy is not merely an opinion, but an actual scientific fact.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: You can’t argue with science.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: No, you can’t. Now, what happens is as the human body begins to deteriorate over time, it causes the brain to break down, and so old people start to go crazy and when they go crazy, they start to say stupid things.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Such as?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Oh, I don’t know. Things like, “Who stole my gelatin?” or “I can’t find my remote control” or “Where’s my favorite loofah? I swore I saw it over there five minutes ago” or in the case of the man we just saw in that footage, “Administrative Unit 2 is America.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: What’s America?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Your guess is as good as mine. It’s gibberish. The old man could have just as easily said, “Administrative Unit 2 is Wiggity Wabble Land” or “Administrative Unit 2 is “Boo Boo Larue Burg” but for some reason, his mind just made up a nonsense word so he said, “Administrative Unit 2 is America.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: How sad.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: It really is sad, Citizen Barnes, especially because old people can’t help it when their brains turn to mush, so it would be ridiculous to hold their craziness against him.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s a fair point.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: I like to think so. That’s why in my book, which again is available on the state approved tele-web, I go into detail about how the One World Order might, and I stress might, because after all, I’m just a lowly citizen, so who am I to tell the glorious One World Order what to do, but they might want to stop allowing the elderly to remain in their homes and just go ahead and round up all the old folks and put them away in some nice assisted living centers where they won’t be able to bother anyone with their crazy ideas.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s a nice thought.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: It is. And the best part is once all of the crazy old people are gone, they won’t be able to infect young people with dumb ideas like “the world used to be broken up into individual nations and it was a lot better” or “people used to make decisions for themselves and everyone was happy” garbage. Because that’s the problem, Citizen Barnes. The old people are crazy, they say stupid things to young people and as we all know, young people are very impressionable, so they go on and do stupid things. Crazy begets stupid.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s all very fascinating. Citizen Chan, it’s your turn for a rebuttal.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Thank you, Citizen Barnes, and I too would like to thank you for having me on the show. All hail the One World Order.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Long may it reign.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Citizen Barnes, first, let me say that I have nothing but great respect for Citizen Stevens’ lengthy track record as one of the top scholars of One World Order philosophy but I have to disagree with him on some key points.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Oh my, Citizen Chan, tell us how you really feel.

(The trio laughs.)

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Don’t worry, Citizen Stevens, I will. Are Nationalist pigs stupid and crazy or crazy and stupid? Look, it doesn’t matter whether the craziness happens first and the stupidity second or vice versa. While I agree with Citizen Stevens that the old fogies are responsible for stirring up Nationalist sentiments thanks to the insane ramblings that pour out of their mouths because of their rotten old brains, I disagree with the notion that we can just put all the old folks in nursing homes and then everything will be fine. I’m sorry. I just can’t get on board with that.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Then what action would you take, Citizen Chan?

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Look, I’m sorry. I know this opinion is not going to be very popular, it might even be a little controversial, but I’m just going to say it. I think we need to burn all the old people alive. There, I said it and you know what? I’m glad I said it.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: My word, Citizen Chan.

 

CITIZEN BARNES: I’m feeling light headed.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Sure, the elderly are causing a lot of problems, but to burn them alive…

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Harsh? Maybe. Effective? Most certainly. Listen Citizen Barnes, I’ll tell you a little story about my mother. Old gal. Sweet woman. Fine. But she would not stop rattling on and on with the crazy Nationalist ideas. All the time she was in my ear with nonsensical ramblings like, “Administrative Unit 102 used to be called China, Abigail” and “You should be speaking English, Abigail” and “You should be speaking Mandarin, Abigail” and “Abigail isn’t even a Chinese name, Abigail.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Mandarin?

 

(CITIZEN CHAN laughs.)

 

CITIZEN CHAN: I have no idea, Citizen Barnes. My family had the best scientists in all of Administrative Unit 102 look at my mother and the best they could figure out is that the woman was speaking in tongues. She’d made up some crazy language, gave it a name, ‘Mandarin,’ and all day long she’d just make these wacky sounds like, “Ching chong, bing bong, wing wong, ding dong” just every other word ended in “ong.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Strange.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: It really was.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: If I may interject, the most disturbing part of your mother’s affliction is her insistence that a language exists other than English.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: I know, right? Everyone knows that everyone all over the world has spoken English and only English since history started in 2032.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Indeed, the One World Order has released a statement telling us just that.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Honestly, can you imagine a world where people spoke more than one language?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: How would people in different administrative units communicate with one another?

 

CITIZEN CHAN: It would be madness. Absolute madness. So anyway, my family and I tried our best with my mother. We were all like, “Ma! Enough with the ching chong talk already! Mandarin isn’t a real thing!” but she kept on speaking that way and she kept trying to teach her wacky language to other people so finally, I was left no choice but to inform the Honor Guard that my mother was a traitor to the One World Order and watch her be purged in the Honor Guard’s cleansing flames.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Wow.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: You’re very brave.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: I know. And if you want to learn more about how I turned my mother in so that she could be burned alive, you can read all about it in my book, “Burn Nationalist Piggy, Burn,” which is also available on the state approved tele-web.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: I’ve read it and it is fascinating. There was one chapter that really grabbed my attention, Citizen Chan. Is it true that many young citizens feel a close affinity to their elderly relatives, such that when they see their elders engage in treasonous activities, they fail to turn them into the authorities?

 

CITIZEN CHAN: That’s true, Citizen Barnes and it’s a very disturbing trend. Look, to everyone watching, I know, emotions run high over this subject. We all love Grandma. We all want her at home, rocking back and forth in her chair, being happy and sure, like Citizen Stevens tells us, old people can’t help it when they do crazy things but if they craziness crosses the line into treason then I’m sorry, but I don’t care how much you love your grandmother, if you don’t turn her in for immediate burning, then you’re just as guilty as she is and you deserve to burn to.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Citizen Stevens, a final thought?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Call me an old softy but I just think there will always be cases where nursing homes and re-education centers will be more helpful than cranking up the flamethrowers, but I guess that’s why I’ve earned a reputation as the biggest hippy in academia.

 

(All three laugh. STATE APPROVED NEWS READER turns to the camera.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s all the time we have for tonight, citizens. Please stay tuned for commercial messages from our state approved business sponsors. Also, coming up in the next hour, is your neighbor a vile Nationalist pig? We’ll give you the top ten signs to be on the lookout for.

 

CHANNEL 3 – THE STATE APPROVED HISTORY CHANNEL

 

(A photo of the world appears. A stern voiced announcer speaks.)

 

ANNOUNCER: In the beginning, there was the world. How it got here is none of your business. All you need to know is that the world was here and there were some people and buildings and roads and trees and grass and stuff but no one was doing anything productive with any of it and there were some dirty Nationalist pigs who were ruining everything. Thankfully, the Globalists murdered so, so many of the Nationalist pigs, causing the streets to run red with their blood. And that’s when history began. Seriously, nothing of import happened before that.   As far as you’re concerned, the world began in the year 2032 and I know, I know. Some of the more curious citizens out there will ask, “Well, what happened during the other two thousand, thirty years?” Your answer is that’s none of your business so don’t worry about it. Nothing important ever happened until the One World Order began and that’s all you need to know.

 

(A photo of a grumpy old man appears.)

 

ANNOUNCER: Your super old relatives probably keep saying crazy nonsense, like there is a long history of the world, that there was a country called America and that there were World Wars were a lot of people died, one of which was caused by a short, sexually frustrated wacko with a stubby little mustache who killed a bunch of people. The old people will even tell you tall tales about plagues, famine, slavery, civil conflicts, droughts and medieval knights who put on suits of armor and bashed each other over the head with long blades called swords and enormous thunder lizards who came before everything. We here at the state approved history channel want to assure you statements such as these are all outrageous lies and if your elderly relatives are making these false claims, then it is your duty to report them to the authorities, no matter how sad that might make you. Remember, the sanctity of the One World Order must come before family. Besides, are you aware that there is a law that will allow you to immediately take possession of your elderly family member’s home and property the second you turn them in? I mean, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but that sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

CHANNEL 4 – STATE APPROVED CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING

 

(A man in aardvark costume appears. He plays a tune on a ukulele. He is surrounded by an audience of little kids.)

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: Hello little citizens!

 

KIDS: Hi Artie!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: All hail the One World Order!

 

KIDS: Long may it reign!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: How’s everyone doing today?

 

KIDS: Great!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: Why, of course you’re all doing great! You’re living under the benevolent guidance of the wise and just One World Order and as long as you are, you’ll do just fine. Who wants to hear a special Artie Aardvark song?

 

KIDS: We do!

 

(ARTIE AARDVARK plays the ukulele and sings.)

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: Ohh…if your parents are being naughty, turn them in! Oh if your parents are being naughty, turn them in! Oh, if your parents are being bad, turning them in is really rad! Oh, if your parents are being naughty, turn them in!

 

KIDS: Hooray!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: You see, kids, your Mommy and Daddy might love you very much, but the One World Order loves you even more. You’re too little to realize this, but the One World Order provides you with safety, security, education, consumer goods, food and water, really all the things you need to live so if anyone like, say your Mommy and Daddy, were ever to do anything bad to the One World Order, why we’d all die terrible, horrible, agonizing deaths. Your little eyes would bug out of your tiny heads and you’d all fall to the floor and writhe with pain, begging for the Order to help you but they won’t be there, because you didn’t report your Mommy and Daddy when you had the chance.

 

KIDS: Oh no!

 

AARTIE AARDVARK: Don’t worry. The Order’s doing just fine.

 

KIDS: Hooray!

 

AARTIE AARVARK: And you can keep it that way by pledging to turn your Mommy and Daddy in if you ever see them doing anything bad. So, if you suspect your Mommy and Daddy are a couple of dirty Nationalist pigs trying to throw a monkey wrench into the One World Order’s finely tuned governmental machine, tell an adult, or a police officer, or a teacher, or the nearest Honor Guardsman. Anyone who works for the government will do. Will you be sure to tell on Mommy and Daddy, boys and girls?

 

KIDS: Yes!

 

AARTIE AARDVARK: Oh good. That makes your old pal Artie so happy. Now, I know you kids might be worried about what will happen to you if your Mommy and Daddy are taken away. Well, don’t worry about that at all because if your parents are being naughty, then they don’t deserve to be your Mommy and Daddy, so the One World Order will find you a new Mommy and Daddy. And, to thank you, they’ll give you a big bag of toys and candy.

 

KIDS: Hooray!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: And now, another song. Oh, when you turn eighteen years old you gotta take whatever job the One World Order assigns you and like it and if you don’t like it you have to shut up and pretend like you like it or else….Oh, when you turn eighteen years old gotta….

 

CHANNEL 5 – THE STATE APPROVED ROMANCE CHANNEL

 

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the State Approved Romance Channel. We now return to When Henry Met Sandy at the Appropriate Time as Appointed by the One World Order Regional Office of Marriage Arrangement.

 

HENRY: Oh Sally, I’m so happy that the One World Order put our names into an official database and used a complex algorithm to match us based on such factors as personal interests, habits, hobbies, education levels, age, class, income, and overall attractiveness.

 

SANDY: I know! This is the happiest day of my life!

 

(A short, pudgy woman with glasses waddles into fram. She reads from a set of cards with a froggy voice.)

 

ROZ: Hello, I’m Roz, your Regional One World Order Office of Marriage Arrangement Coordinator. Oh, how lucky you both are that the Order is mandating that you both tie the knot so neither of you will have to spend so many years of your lives worrying about silly questions like, “Is this person right for me?” and “Can I do better?” The short answer is, “No, you can’t.” We looked and we tried but no, you two are, to a reasonable mathematical certainty, the best each other could ever possibly do, so you’re stuck with each other.

 

SANDY: How romantic!

 

HENRY: I know, right?

 

ROZ: We will now commence with the legally required marriage ceremony. Henry, you promise to love Sandy, to honor and cherish her in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do you part.

 

HENRY: I do.

 

ROZ: I know you do. It wasn’t a question, it was a declarative statement. Try to keep up. Sandy, you also promise to love, honor and cherish Henry in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do you part.

 

SANDY: Of course I do.

 

ROZ: Again, it wasn’t necessary to say anything. I’m just telling you what you’re going to do. You young people never listen. Now, by the power vested in me by the Supreme Administrator of the One World Order, I now pronounce you husband and wife, so don’t even think of trying to back out of this, because you can’t. Many have tried. All have failed. We will find you and punish you accordingly if we hear you’re even thinking about leaving your spouse, understand?

 

HENRY AND SANDY: We understand.

 

ROZ: Good. Kiss each other if you want but just remember, armed guards are walking the perimeter, ready to catch anyone who makes a break for it.

 

(HENRY and SANDY exchange a warm, passionate kiss.)

 

HENRY: I’d never leave Sandy.

 

ROZ: Good. Just keep saying that even when you learn that her extensive credit problems are now yours.

 

HENRY: Wait, what?

 

ROZ: Yup, oh and Sandy, just an FYI, you just caught herpes when you kissed Henry because he has it big time.

 

(SANDY pulls a tissue out of her pocket and vigorously wipes her lips.)

 

SANDY: Wait, what?

ROZ: Your husband’s lousy with herpes. Expect a big old fleshy ping bong ball on your lower lip within five-to-seven days.

 

SANDY: You could have told me!

 

ROZ: Wouldn’t have mattered. You weren’t allowed to say no anyway.

 

(ROZ hands the couple a large stack of paper.)

 

ROZ: Here’s the official print-out of everything you would have found out about one another had there been an extensive courtship period.

 

(SANDY pours over the document.)

 

SANDY: You perform as a clown at children’s birthday parties?

 

HENRY: What can I say? The Order took a long, hard look at my skills and abilities and said, ‘Birthday Party Clown.’

 

(HENRY looks at the print-out.)

 

HENRY: You were once suspected of carnal actions with a goat?!

 

SANDY: ‘Suspected!’ Keyword, buddy! Suspected, never proven. Even the Regional Law Enforcement Council said the charges were overblown.

 

HENRY: Like the goat.

 

SANDY: Ugh, I don’t have to listen to this, you herpes ridden party clown!

 

HENRY: How dare you? I can’t believe this. You and your goat loving, credit-ruining ways are going to put me in the poorhouse!

 

SANDY: I wish I’d never been chosen at random by a computerized algorithm to be your wife!

 

HENRY: I second that!

 

(HENRY and SANDY look at ROZ.)

 

ROZ: Again, don’t even think about leaving each other.

 

(HENRY sighs.)

 

HENRY: Come on. I’ll buy you an ice cream.

 

SALLY: Separate spoons, please.

 

HENRY: Says the goat lover.

 

SALLY: I don’t have to listen to this. I could…

 

(The couple bickers their way out the door. A janitor stops by to sweep the floor.)

 

JANITOR: I’ll have the arranged marriage that they’re having!

 

CHANNEL 6 – STATE APPROVED ACTION MOVIE CHANNEL

 

(A grown man is surrounded by bullies. They pick on him, call him nasty names, make horrible faces at him, push him and slap him.)

 

ANNOUNCER: In a world where one man was fed up with the way he was being treated…

 

BULLY 1: You smell bad!

 

BULLY 2: Yeah, and you’re very productive and are a credit to your community and we’re not so we’re jealous of you!

 

ANNOUNCER: …it was time to make the bad guys pay…

 

MAN: I don’t have to take this! I’m a citizen of the One World Order!

 

BULLY 1: Oh yeah? What are you gonna do to stop us?

 

BULLY 2: Yeah! We’re lousy citizens and we don’t care what the One World Order thinks about us!

 

BULLY 3: We’re total undesirables. Even though it’s against the law, we drink and smoke and fornicate outside of our arranged marriages and all of that unapproved behavior messes with our minds, just like the One World Order’s PSAs warned us it would.

 

BULLY 1: Yeah, and that’s why we show up late to our government assigned jobs and we don’t produce much.

 

BULLY 2: And rather than try to improve ourselves, we’re just going to be mean to you for being a good citizen.

 

MAN: You bullies better leave me alone!

 

BULLY 1: Or what?

ANNOUNCER: He’d make them pay in the only way he knew how…

 

(The man pulls out his cell phone and dials a number.)

 

MAN: I’m reporting you to the Honor Guard!

 

BULLIES: Oh no!

 

(A self-driving van pulls up. Shock troops pour out with flamethrowers at the ready.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 1: Are these bullies bothering you, citizen?

 

MAN: They sure are!

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 2: Hmm…tell me, citizen, at any time, did you hear these bullies make any Nationalist sentiments?

 

(MAN scratches his right ear.)

 

MAN: You know, I’ve always had a problem with earwax buildup, so I’m not sure, but its entirely possible.

 

(HONOR GUARDSMEN 1 and 2 look at each other.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 1: Good enough for me.

 

(All six HONOR GUARDSMEN point their flamethrowers at the bullies. MAN steps aside.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 2: Time to fry, piggies!

 

(The HONOR GUARDSMEN blast the bullies with a torrent of fire.   The bullies scream out in pain until they are reduced to a pile of ash on the ground. MAN trades a high five with HONOR GUARDSMAN 1.)

 

MAN: Thanks, Honor Guard!

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 1: Don’t mention it.

 

CHANNEL 7 – STATE APPROVED SCIENCE FICTION MOVIE CHANNEL

 

ANNOUNCER: Space! It’s really big and there’s a lot to see! These are the travels of the Spaceship Excelsior. With a daring crew led by the intrepid Captain Morris, this ship will visit the furthest reaches of the cosmos.

 

(Captain Morris appears on deck, wearing a futuristic military uniform.)

 

CAPTAIN MORRIS: It’s time for our very first space-traveling mission. It’s the future, the year 3,000 to be exact. The One World Order has lasted for nearly 1,000 years and who could be surprised by that? This global system of government has been so effective that it has even provided the world with the means of intergalactic space travel. The One World Order of this time period has charged us with the task of finding the best run planet in the universe. Mr. Domo, take us to the stars, if you please.

 

  1. DOMO: I’m sorry, Captain, but I cannot.

 

CAPTAIN MORRIS: What? Why, what’s gotten into you man? Give me one reason why you can’t comply with my order or I’ll have you drummed out of the Star Corps!

 

  1. DOMO: Because, Captain, as you just said, we have been charged with finding the best run planet in the universe, but as we all know, there could never be a planet that is run better than Earth, thanks to the benevolent and just leadership of the One World Order. Ergo, if we just stay put, our mission is complete.

 

(CAPTAIN MORRIS stands up and puffs out his chest.)

 

CAPTAIN MORRIS: Mission accomplished! All hail the One World Order!

 

  1. DOMO: Long may it reign!

 

CHANNEL 7 – STATE APPROVED COMEDY CHANNEL

 

(A comedienne dressed like the Supreme Administrator sits at the end of a long conference table, surrounded by generals, advisors, and other important dignitaries.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: Ladies and gentlemen of the First and Best Class of the One World Order, I have brought you all together today to answer a very important question.

 

(TEXT flashes on the bottom of the screen. It reads: “THIS IS AN OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED PORTRAYAL OF THE SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR. CITIZENS ARE REMINDED THAT ANY UNAPPROVED PORTRAYALS OF THE SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATORS, OR OTHER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ARE FORBIDDEN.”)

 

GENERAL MASON IMPERSONATOR: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: No.

 

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR FOR COMMERCE ROBARDS IMPERSONATOR: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: No, that’s not it either. Subordinates, the question I now call upon you to answer is, “How many vile Nationalist pigs does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

 

GENERAL MASON IMPERSONATOR: Why, that’s an easy one, Supreme Administrator. That task would require hundreds, maybe even thousands of disgusting Nationalist animals because as we all know, all these malcontents ever do is bicker and argue with one another, so they would just fight and shout and demand to know what’s in it for them if they screw in the light bulb, greedy, self-absorbed savages that they are.

 

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR FOR COMMERCE ROBARDS IMPERSONATOR: And even if thousands of Nationalist slobs were to devote all of their time and energy to the unscrewed light bulb dilemma, they’d still take years, perhaps even decades to screw in the aforementioned light bulb, for as we all know, Nationalist scumbags are very inefficient and lazy.

 

GENERAL MASON IMPERSONATOR: Yes, that’s why I enjoy living under the One World Order, a system of government that, in this scenario, would allow our glorious Supreme Administrator to exercise swift, decisive judgment and ensure that one and only one Class 7 menial wage worker was ordered to screw in the light bulb within a matter of seconds, providing illumination for all in the general vicinity.

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: Exactly. Excellent answers, everyone. Oh, and there’s one more thing I must say.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR looks directly into the camera.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: Live from Urban District 717TKY, it’s the State Approved Comedy Program!

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 5

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

March 14, 2050

Hannah and I sat on my living room couch, drying our tears with tissues as we used Billy Allen’s dead grandpa’s ancient X-Tab to watch an old romantic film from the 1990s about a colossal shipwreck. For a brief moment, we managed to compose ourselves, but then they had to go play that sad yet strangely inspirational song sung a French Canadian lady.

“But she said she’d never let him go!” Hannah protested.

“Oh well,” I said. “Things happen.”

“But…but…he’s gone.”

“Yup. The sea took him.”

Hannah blew her nose like a foghorn. “I just don’t get it.”

“Get what?” I asked.

“The girl was rich so she had a spot waiting for her on a lifeboat,” Hannah said.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“And the boy was poor but he had a perfectly good piece of driftwood to cling to for life until help arrived,” Hannah said.

“Right,” I said.

Hannah shot me an incredulous look. “So…”

“So,” I said. “What?”

“So,” Hannah said. “Why didn’t the girl just go get into the boat and let the boy hang onto the piece of driftwood and then they could have just met up later once everyone got on land?”

I put my arm around my granddaughter. “Sweetheart, that’s a question that the world’s greatest philosophers having been asking for decades ever since this movie came out.”

“Is there an answer?” Hannah asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Women take everything.”

“I beg your pardon?” Hannah asked.

“They used to,” I said. “That’s just the way women were. You could give a woman everything you had and she’d still want your driftwood. Just ask your grandmother.”

“Ask her what?”

I realized this was one of those concepts that a young person would never comprehend. Divorce, and by extension, all of the residual resentments that went along with it, had been banned by the One World Order, so there was no way a kid was ever going to understand how it was possible for me to hold a multi-year grudge against her grandmother for running off with the few scraps my creditors left me with.

.           I patted the little girl on the head. “Nevermind.”

“It’s weird that you and Grandma don’t live together,” Hannah said.

“Is it?” I asked. “I find it rather peaceful.”

There was a bowl of popcorn on the living room table. Hannah reached into it, grabbed a handful and started eating. “I hope one day the One World Order picks a man for me who will be willing to fall into the ice cold ocean to his certain death just so I can have his piece of driftwood.”

“Ugh,” I said.

“Something wrong?” Hannah asked.

“I just don’t like this whole idea of the government picking who you get to be with,” I said. “First, you’re too good for anyone in my opinion and second, what if they pick someone who stinks? Then what do you do? See, in my day, the time the Order doesn’t want you to know about, people were able to pick who they wanted to be with.”

“Did people make good picks?” Hannah asked.

“Meh,” I grumbled. I debated whether or not to crack another joke about Hannah’s grandmother, but opted not to. It probably would have just gone over the kid’s head anyway. “Let’s change the subject.”

Hannah yawned while I scrolled through the list of movies that had been downloaded on Billy Allen’s dead grandpa’s ancient X-Tab decades earlier. “What will we watch next?”

“Hmmph,” Hannah said as she nuzzled her face into my arm. “Comfy.”

“Oh,” I said. “Hun, you’ve got to watch this one. There’s this big German man who pretends to be a robot and he travels back in time to kill the mother of this guy to prevent him from growing up to become the man that kills all the robots. Can you believe this guy was actually in charge of what used to be Region A for a while? Oh well, just close your eyes during the part where he’s naked and…”

“Zzz.” My little girl was fast asleep, tucked snugly underneath my arm. I decided to save the battery life of the old X-Tab and laid it down on the coffee table. I picked up the remote control and turned on the state approved tele-web media monitor, which was located on the wall facing the couch.

“Let’s see what this schmucks are up to.”

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 4

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

December 23, 2010

Day turned into night as the big rig pulled into a vacant lot. Bernie’s goons rolled up the back door of the trailer. With all three loot bags in the back seat, I backed Veronica out into the lot. I got out and watched as Bernie’s crew went to work on my girl, swapping out one dummy license plate for another and painting her a deep shade of midnight black. Yup, it’s true. Veronica was a brunette for an entire year after that.

In the back of the trailer, Santa One was awake. He removed his beard to reveal a bloody, broken nose. “When do we get our cut?”

“I don’t know,” Bernie said as he hopped out of the trailer. “Probably when Roman decides to give it to you.”

“No,” Santa One said. “Fuck that noise. That job was harder than we were told it was going to be.”

Bernie shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe it was harder…or maybe you boys just aren’t very good bank robbers. But hey, don’t feel bad. Not everyone has what it takes. Lucky for you, Price Town is always taking applications. You three would make great stock boys.”

Santa One stepped to the edge of the trailer and looked down on Bernie. “I want hazard pay. And damages for my nose. That driver was a maniac.”

Outside, I chomped on my toothpick and sighed in response to that comment, but said nothing. My stomach was still gurgling from the tunnel explosion.

“Seems like the driver was the only one who did his job right,” Bernie said. “You’re not in cuffs and you’re alive so..”

Santa One pointed a finger at Bernie. “I don’t want to speak to peons. I want what’s coming to me. I want to talk to the man in charge.”

“Look buddy,” Bernie said. “You’re going to have to take it up with Roman, although a word of warning – the Giacomo family organization isn’t exactly a democracy known for its robust parliamentary procedure, so if you think you’re just going to…”

“I don’t want to talk to Roman,” Santa One said. “I want to talk to the big man himself.”

Bernie guffawed. “You want to speak to Carmine Giacomo?”

“Yeah,” Santa One said.

“God,” Bernie said. “Pal, I barely speak to the top dog myself. You get to speak to him when he wants to speak to you and when he asks to speak to you, you drop to your knees and pray it’s not about something you’ve done to piss him off. So if you think a trio of two-bit hacks are just going to…”

Santa One pulled out his gun and pointed it down towards Bernie, who instinctively threw up his hands. “Whoa, whoa, whoa…there’s no need for…”

“I’m gonna talk to Carmina Giacomo,” Santa One said.

Bernie nodded. “Absolutely. You certainly are.”

“You’re going to take me to him right now,” Santa One said.

“Right away,” Bernie said.

“And my boys and I are going to get what’s coming to us,” Santa One said.

“Sure enough,” Bernie said. “Everything that’s coming to you.”

Santa One returned his gun to the pocket of his big red coat. Meanwhile, I checked out a news website on my phone. The latest headline forced me to break out in a cold sweat. “Over One Hundred Dead and Twenty Still Missing Following Tunnel Explosion.”

My stomach gurgled. I read the sub-headlines. “High Speed Chase Ends in Disaster…White House Calls Attack an “Act of Terror.”

I read on. “Homeland security officials are working in close coordination with the FBI after a daring bank robbery turned bloody…”

Burp. That was it. I thought my guts were empty, but there was more. I vomited all over the pavement. Bernie’s goons were pros. They didn’t flinch. They kept working.

Bernie slapped me on the back. “Aww geeze, kid. You want an antacid or something?”

“That’d be good,” I said.

Bernie said. “Yeah, I don’t have one. I don’t know why I asked that. You gonna be alright?”

“Smoke,” you said.

“What?” Bernie asked.

“That button you gave me,” I said. “You said it would just make a big cloud of smoke.”

Bernie pulled an apple out of his pocket and munched on it. “And a lot of smoke was made…after the fire…that consumed the many brave law enforcement officers who were valiantly attempting to apprehend us and put us behind bars.”

“You said it was just going to be a distraction,” I said.

Without skipping a beat, Bernie said in a deadpan tone, “They all looked pretty distracted to me.”

“And the people,” I said. “All those people.”

Bernie bit off another hunk of people. “Sad? Yes. But I mean…were any of them doing anything productive?”

I turned my head. “Fuck you, Bernie.”

“OK,” Bernie said. “Show me an article that one of those people was a scientist on his way to patent a cure for cancer and you got me. Mea culpa.”

The fixer slapped me on the shoulder. “Until then, get your panties out of a twist and take a Midol, kid. Honestly.”

“The President says its terrorism,” I said.

Bernie bunched up his hands and held them up to his eyes, pretending like he was crying. “’Waaah…boo ho the President says it’s terrorism!’ That’s you. That’s what you sound like.”

“This is serious,” I said.

“When was what we do ever not serious?” Bernie asked. The slightly older man, seven years my senior, stood there, waiting for an answer. I didn’t have one.

I was saved by Santa One. “I don’t have all night,” the dope shouted from the back of the truck.

“I know you don’t,” Bernie said. “You’re a very important man.”

Bernie looked around. “Say, boys?”

“What?” Santa One said.

“Where’s the money?” Bernie asked.

“What?” Santa One said.

“Are you deaf?” Bernie asked. “The money!”

“What do you mean?” Santa One asked.

Bernie removed his had and massaged his forehead for a moment. “I’m…I’m sorry…I just hate that.”

The fixer put his hat back on and looked at me. “Don’t you hate that? When you say something very succinctly with just the right words and someone says, ‘What do you mean?’ as though they don’t understand the meaning of commonly used terms?”

I was too nauseous to respond.

“I’m sorry,” Bernie shouted to Santa One. “When I said, ‘ Where’s the money?’ I meant ‘Abraham Lincoln just fucked your mother and asked your sister for a reach around, but she was too busy blowing Harry S. Truman while your father watched.’”

Typical Bernie.

“Huh?” Santa One said.

“Learn English,” Bernie said. “The question, ‘Where’s the money?’ in common English usage means that I am unaware of the location of the fucking money and I am inquiring to you, my good man, as to any knowledge you may have of the money’s whereabouts.”

“Huh?”

Bernie’s face turned red. “Where’s the fucking money?”

“What do you mean, ‘where’s the fucking money?’”

“Don’t make me do that dance again!” Bernie shouted. “The money! Where is it?”

“I thought you had it!” Santa One cried.

“Oh,” Bernie said. “The nerve of this guy. If I had the money, would I be asking you where it is?”

“I don’t know,” Santa One said.

“He doesn’t know,” Bernie said to me. He turned back to Santa One. “It’s OK. I don’t blame you. I blame the public education system. It’s been turning entire generations of Americans into dummies for years. Go on. Look around for the money.”

“What?” Santa One asked. “You telling me this is my fault?”

“Well,” Bernie said. “Look, I don’t mean to tell you how to do your job, but if I were a bank robber, I’d keep a might tight grip on my loot sack at all times, just saying.”

“This isn’t my fault,” Santa One said.

“Failing that,” Bernie said. “I would be aware of my loot sack’s location at all times. Again, just saying.”

My eyes veered off in the direction of Veronica, where I knew the loot sacks were sitting in the back seat. Moreover, I knew Bernie had put them there so I wondered what he was up to.

“You better not tell Carmine this is my fault!” Santa One shouted.

“There’s no fault yet,” Bernie said. “I’m sure the money’s around here somewhere.”

Santa Two and Three joined Santa One. “Someone loose the cash?” Santa Two asked.

“I didn’t do it,” Santa Three said.

“Give that trailer a good look over boys,” Bernie said. “And I’ll check the car.”

The Santas did just that. They looked in boxes, in containers, everywhere.

“I don’t see it!” Santa One yelled.

Bernie pulled a little black box out of his pocket. It was similar to the one he’d given me. Big red button. The nub of a silver antenna “Keep looking boys. You don’t want to go back to a man like Carmine Giacomo empty handed without at least being able to say you did a thorough search.”

Santa One picked up a case of auto parts and dumped it all over the floor. “Aww, come on! Rip this place apart!”

The Santas joined in, wrecking the trailer.

“Bern,” I said. “What are you…”

“You might want to step back for this.”

Bernie walked backwards, counting out his steps all the while. “One…two…three…”

My slightly older brother figure looked at me. “And we’re walking….we’re walking…four…five…six…”

“Jesus.” I hurried to catch up.

“Seven…eight…nine…Montez?”

Montez one of Bernie’s goons, nodded. He gathered all ten of the fixer’s hired hands and joined us.

“…ten,” Bernie said. He stopped and extended the antenna.

“I can’t find it!” Santa One said.

“Check under that tarp!” Bernie said.

“Which tarp?” Santa One said.

“The tarp in the back!” Bernie said. “There’s only one tarp. I’m sure I saw it.”

Montez and the goons covered their ears. I followed suit.

“God,” Bernie said. “Did I use two pounds of semtex or three?”

Bernie looked around for the answer. “Montez, dos o tres?”

“No se, Mr. Bernie.”

“Aw screw it,” Bernie said as he started walking backwards again. We all followed him. “One…two…three…four…five. Five’s good. Five ought to do it.”

Santa One walked to the edge of the trailer. “Hey! You got the money, don’t you?!”

“Nope,” Bernie said as he extended the silver antenna.

“If you think you’re going to cheat me, you’ve got another thing…”

Bernie pressed the button. Kaboom! Truck and trailer erupted into a massive, all consuming fireball. The flames jumped at least twelve feet into the air.

“Well, if the cops didn’t know where we were, they do now,” Bernie said as he pulled out a pack of gum. He looked at me. “Stick of gum?”

I vomited again. At this point, I had no idea where the puke was coming from. It was like my body had extra barf reserves.

Bernie pulled out a stick of gum, unwrapped it, and popped it into his mouth. He chewed away as he patted me on the back. “That’s OK, kid. Let it all out.”

“I would like a stick of gum, Mr. Bernie.”

“Of course, Montez. Where are my manners?”

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 2

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

December 23, 2010

Believe it or not, there was a time when I looked like I was fresh off the showroom floor. My hair was thick, lush, and still black on its own. I didn’t need glasses, but I wore a pair of mirrored aviator shades. I don’t know if that made me look cool, but I felt like it did. My generation was very big on personal feelings and frankly, that might have led to the One World Order’s hostile takeover of the planet, but more on that later.

I work a dark leather jacket, paired with a black t-shirt and jeans. A toothpick dangled out of my mouth as I primped myself in the mirror, pushing a curl of hair up off my forehead.

My cell phone rang. I pressed a button on the Bluetooth headset in my ear to answer it. A Bluetooth headset was…no, I’m sorry. I’m staying firm on this. You whippersnappers will just have to figure this stuff out on your own.

“Sup?”

The man on the other end of the call was Bernie Schwartz, the Giacomo family’s fixer. He was a jack-of-all-trades. Whatever needed done, he did it. “Franky Boy. You ready to rock and roll?”

“You know it,” I replied.

“How’s Veronica?”

I answered that question by stepping on the gas. The engine roared, but Veronica was in park so she didn’t go anywhere.

“Hoo-wee,” Bernie said.

“Listen to that tiger growl,” I said.

“OK,” Bernie said. “Just making sure you’re not asleep with some bimbo’s tits on your face.”

“I’d never do that do your mother, Bern,” I said. “Don’t worry about me. I’m more worried about whether you’re ready.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I ran my fingers over what was, in retrospect, the tackiest piece of bling ever – a solid gold dollar sign that dangled from my neck from a much too flashy chain.   “It means that sometimes you spend so much time worrying about what I’m doing that you forget to come through on your end.”

There was a pause. “That is a scandalous accusation.”

“And an accurate one,” I said.

“Name one time I let you down,” Bernie said.

Off the top of my head, I was able to think of several examples.   I picked the first.

“Armax Freight,” I said.

Another pause. “OK. Name two times I let you down.”

Blam! Blam! Gunshots and screams cut the conversation short. “Shit,” I said. “They’ve fucked up. Just get into position.”

“On my way,” Bernie said. “What’s going…

I cut the call off and looked to my right. Passersby scattered and scrambled for cover as four grown men dressed like Santa Claus (red suits, white beards, the works) ran out of the Davis Street Branch of Avasti Bank. Their handguns were drawn and loot sacks were slung over their shoulders.

The piercing sound of an alarm bell ringing meant the job had been compromised. The Santas had frantic looks on their faces. A guard popped out of the front door and squeezed off three rounds only to get dropped by a shot to the chest courtesy of Santa One.

Just drive away,” I thought. “It’s not your fault Roman set you up with a crew of rank amateurs. Every other crew has managed to get in and get out without killing anyone or setting off an alarm. Fuck these morons.”

A second guard poked out from behind the front door, fired a round, then ducked for cover. The Santas returned fire. I don’t recall if any kids were on the scene but if they were, their childhoods were probably ruined by this sight.

Right now, you haven’t done anything wrong,” I thought. “You’re just a guy in a parked car. You can say you don’t know these clowns. Just…”

            “DRIVE!”

Veronica’s doors were open and the Santas were filing in, all hot and sweaty, full of booze and panic. Santa One took the passenger’s seat, while Santas Two and Three hopped into the back seat.

Santa One was a particularly obnoxious son of a bitch. “PUNCH IT!”

There was no backing out now. My foot hit the gas. Vrroom! Veronica was flying.

Santa One turned around and shouted at Santa Two. “What the fuck did you do?”

“That bitch was reaching for the buzzer,” Santa Two explained.

“Bullshit,” Santa One said.

“As God as my witness,” Santa Two said. “She was reaching for it.”

“So you smash her in the nose!” Santa One hollered. “You don’t clip her! She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five.”

Santa Three intervened. “Oh boo hoo. Cry me a river. Shut up the two of you.”

I checked my rear view mirror. No cops yet. The infighting was getting to me.

“Real professional,” Santa One said.

“Oh, you want to talk?” Santa Two asked. “Why’d you kill that guard then if you’re such a sweetheart?”

“Because he was going to kill you, dumb fuck!” Santa One shouted. “Because you got him riled up when you killed that bitch!”

“Aww, I did what I had to do,” Santa Two said.

“I should have let him kill you,” Santa One said. “But then they would have ID’d you and that would have led them to us.”

The infighting was getting to me. I was used to transporting stoically silent career criminals with ice water running through their veins. These dunces were freaking out like a trio of babies who’d just missed naptime.

I was hauling ass – gunning through intersections, running red lights, cutting off pedestrians, coming inches from smacking into other cars who had the right of way.

“Fuck this,” Santa Two said. “I don’t have to sit here and listen to…”

Santa Three interrupted again. He opened up his loot sack and reached a hand inside. “Boys, come on. Just focus on the positive. It’s going to be a very Merry…”

Boom! A dye pack exploded, turning Santa Three’s face bright purple. “Motherfucker!”

Santa One screeched as though he was about to suffer a brain aneurysm. “You didn’t check for a dye pack?!”

“No one told me I was supposed to check for a dye pack!” Santa Three cried.

Santa One face palmed himself. “He didn’t know. Every shithead who’s ever seen a bank heist movie knows to check for a dye pack but this cocksucker didn’t know.”

“No,” Santa Two protested. “I didn’t know.”

Santa One turned to me. “You believe this shit? He didn’t know.”

I manhandled Veronica’s steering wheel, veering on a hard right turn. “I’m a little busy.”

I switched on my police radio scanner. “All units. Shots fired at Davis Street Avanti Bank.”

An old woman approached a crosswalk with a bag of groceries under her arm. She was about to step onto the street when I blared on the horn. It scared the shit out of her, causing her to toss her bag into the air, sending apples, oranges, cans and bread everywhere. In my rearview mirror, I was able to see her throwing me the middle finger. I didn’t care. I was just happy the old broad lived. I didn’t need that on my conscience.

The scanner squawked. “Suspects were last seen in a late model sports car, red…”

“Don’t think you’re going to be taking anything out of my cut,” Santa One said.

“Fuck you,” Santa Three said. “I was on this job, just like the rest of you.”

“Were you?” Santa One asked. “Because you look like you just fellated…”

I’m sorry. For legal reasons, I’m not able to print which purple cartoon character Santa Three looked like he’d taken a face blast from. Moving on…

“Copy,” the dispatcher said. “Confirmed, the car is an American Made Sidewinder.”

“Fellas,” I said. “If you could all chill out…”

“Very funny, Ted,” Santa Three said. “You should have been a comedian.”

Santa One flipped out and punched the back of Veronica’s passenger seat. I didn’t care for that at all. “You just used my name!”

“Uhh,” Santa Three said. “Did I…or did I use your code name?”

A flashing set of red and blue lights in my rear view mirror caught my eye. “Bigger problems, gentlemen.”

The idiots were oblivious. “Bobby,” Santa One said. “You’d better stop…”

“Whoa!” Santa Three said. “Why you gotta use my name…uh I mean, my code name? Fuck Bobby! Who’s Bobby?”

Santa One leered at Santa Three. “I swear to God I’m gonna come back there and…”

Boom!   The back windshield exploded and shattered, spraying the interior full of jagged little shards of glass. The cops were shooting at us. Three cruisers were in pursuit now.

“Shit!” Santa One said to me. “We’ve got company!”

“I’m aware,” I said.

My nonchalance pissed Santa One off. “Do something!”

“I am,” I said.

Santa Three pointed his gun out the back window and exchanged shots with the cops.

“Unnecessary,” I said.

“Shut up and drive!” Santa Three said. “I’ll take ‘em out.”

Another right brought me to the freeway onramp. I sideswiped a mail truck as I barreled through late afternoon commuter traffic, then took up a position in the far left lane. Veronica was humming well over a hundred miles per hour now. Poor girl. She was getting all torn up. She didn’t quit on me though. She knew I’d fix her right up.

I tapped my Bluetooth and called Bernie.

“Sup?”

“It’s all on you, brother,” I said.

“I got it,” Bernie said before he hung up.

All sorts of sounds ripped up my ears. The world’s most incompetent bank robbers would not stop screaming at each other, nor would they stop shooting at the cops. I didn’t care for the violence. I was used to professionals who never had to fire a shot. Worse, these idiots weren’t able to hit a flashing target held up by a supermodel with big fake tits, so just sprayed bullets and put the cops in a terrible mood.

Guns blazed. Horns honked, courtesy of all the motorists around me who were scared shitless by my moves. Sirens wailed. Tires screeched and then…I heard it…whirring chopper blades. I looked up and to my left. A police helicopter was dogging us.

“Sky Eye here,” came the chopper pilot’s voice over the scanner. “Got a make on the suspects. Heading west on 909. “

“Well that’s it,” Santa Three said. “It’s all over. We’re fucked. We’re so fucked.”

“Nobody’s fucked,” I said.

I looked in the rear view mirror. Tears flowed out of Santa Three’s eyes, staining his fake white beard. “I can’t go to jail, man. I just can’t. Somebody do me right here. I mean it. Shoot me!”

I rarely broke my cool, but this mongoloid made me snap. “Jesus! Have you guys even pulled a job before?”

“What the fuck do you know, you boy band looking puke?” Santa Three asked. “You look like you barely got hair on your nuts and you want to talk to me about…”

BAM! A cruiser swiped Veronica’s left side. Another cruiser was speeding up on the right. The cops were trying to box me in.

“That’s a no,” I said.

“We’ve knocked over ten liquor stores,” Santa Three said.

“And the deli,” Santa Two added. “Don’t forget the deli.”

“There was that hot dog stand,” Santa One said.

“A fucking hot dog stand?” I asked.

“That was more of a snatch and grab,” Santa One said.

“But never a bank?” I asked.

“First time for everything,” Santa Three said.

I sped up, leaving the two cruisers that were trying to sandwich me in my wake. “Fuck you, Roman. Wherever you are, fuck you.”

There were at least a dozen cop cars behind me now, plus the chopper. I’d shaken off a chase before, but these imbeciles had all but invited the National Guard to tag along.

The scanner squawked. “Unit One-One-Four…suspects are approaching the Caldwell Tunnel.”

Another squawk. “Sky Eye here. About to lose visual.”

We weren’t just approaching the tunnel. We were flying into it. It was time to slow down.

“What are you doing?” Santa One asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. The world got a little darker as the tunnel was dimly lit.

“The fuck I will worry about it,” Santa One said as he became the first bank robber I’d ever transported to lose his shit and point a gun at me. “Get some lead in your foot or you’ll get some in your face, bitch!”

“Amateurs,” I grumbled. “Lousy amateurs.”

The tunnel was providing 7,000 feet for Bernie to work his mojo. I was busy bobbing and weaving around cars to pay attention to the lunacy going on around me, though the gun in my face didn’t help the pressure.

“Ted,” Santa Two said. “Maybe just let the kid do his thing, huh? He’s gotten us this far.”

“Stop using my name!” Santa One said.

“Jeeze,” Santa Three said. “Relax. We all know your name. It’s no big deal.”

Up ahead, there was a truck pulling a tractor-trailer. The rig slowed down as I angled myself behind it, keeping time with it.

Santa One waved the gun around in my face. His hand was shaking uncontrollably. “This kid didn’t know my name.”

The back door of the trailer rolled up. A ramp extended out of the back. As soon as it hit the pavement, sparks began to fly.

“Huh?!” Santa One asked. “Did you know my name?”

For this maneuver to work, everything had to be perfect and yet, there were so many distractions – the sirens and flashing lights, the honking cars, Dipshit McGee screaming and pointing his heater at me. I had no choice. I cold cocked the prick right in the face, busting his nose open, sending a spray of blood all over Veronica’s upholstery. Damn it. I knew I’d be scrubbing red stains out for hours later, but at least the dumbass was unconscious.

“Any other backseat drivers?” I asked.

Santas Two and Three shook their heads in the negative.

I slowed to a crawl as I moved Veronica up the ramp. There was only enough tunnel cover left to do this once. One mistake, and it was all over.

Blam! Blam! Blam! Shots tore into Veronica’s hide. I persisted. I made it. Veronica was on board and in park.

“This isn’t going to do shit,” Santa Two barked.

“Yeah,” Santa Three said. “They’ll just follow the truck.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a little black box with a red button in the middle of it. I grabbed hold of a silver antenna attached to the box and extended it.

“Oh ye of little faith,” I said.

As soon as the rig was clear of the tunnel, I pushed the button. I expected some smoke but what happened next came as a complete shock. There was a massive explosion, caving the end of the tunnel in, crushing cop and civilian cars alike under the rubble.

I stepped out of Veronica and doubled over, puking my guts out. Once my stomach settled, I caught my breath, only to jump when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whipped around to see my thirty-year old partner in crime, truly the worst dresser ever. He wore a white fedora with a black band, khaki pants and a tacky Hawaiian shirt – bright red with palm trees and a green parrot on the right side.

“I’m serious,” Bernie said. “Name two times I’ve failed you.

“The Luftenol incident,” I said.

Bernie shrugged his shoulders and took a bite out of a crisp, red apple. “Name three times I’ve failed you.”

 

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