safer than he feels

From the novel Monopole [formerly Theodorus in Excelsis]

Felix enters the coordinates, engages the automated clutch, and sits silently as the vehicle operates itself through the somewhat desolate streets of Old Town. A green glow hangs between the fading sky and the silhouette horizon. The cragged skyline of the city rises and falls. For the first time in as long as he can remember, Teddy doesn’t quell his thoughts. They flow like molecules of hydrogen and oxygen over the edge of a waterfall. They are too many and varied for him to comprehend any single concept or conclusion. Teddy feels as alone as he ever has, but for the first time in as long as he can remember, he feels alive.

The vehicle merges onto the expressway. As it does, a sense of doom overcomes Teddy, who witnesses thirty-six lanes of traffic for the first time. The NPV brings itself up to speed and falls in with the crowded ranks of vehicles in motion. Each one follows a few mere feet behind the vehicle in front of it, at speeds Teddy can barely stand to experience. From the back seat of the NPV, Teddy lifts his legs up to his chest and bites his knees. Felix glances slightly back at him, but doesn’t remark.

To Teddy’s surprise, all the NPVs on the expressway remain in remarkable motion, slowing and accelerating in perfect unison, each vehicle remaining equidistant apart as they cross one another, like the staging of some chaotic ballet. Teddy’s anxiety lessens as he comes to the realization that he is safer than he feels.

Some time into the drive, they come to an enormous roundabout. Teddy gawks out the dark, chalky window at the endless mass of vehicles occupying the freeway junction. Dozens of expressways flow to and from the miles-wide impasse, which moves like a landscape of molten iron.

#speculative #traffic #nuclearvehicles #sciencefiction #scifi #monopole #autonomousdriving

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