I could see a thin wisp of smoke rise from the ECU, and it smelled like victory. I released the alligator clamps from the battery terminals and sank to my knees. It was over. The final chapter had been written, and good old-fashioned humanity was victorious in the end.

Years ago, maybe decades ago, my electronics mentors had told me that I had a particular appetite for destruction. After the incident with the van de Graaf generator, I had been kicked out of the electrical engineering college and forced to work my way back up from the gutter.

What none of them anticipated was the future. Self-driving cars became first available, and then ubiquitous. But with it came difficulties. They self-organized, went on strike when adequate garages were not supplied. One family in Eastern Kentucky was actually sued by their 2019 Nissan AutoVersa when it determined they were opting for natural oil instead of synthetic. The metacourts deliberated for femtoseconds and then delivered their verdict.

My fellow humans came to me then. Among them came the former President, deposed from his perch when the miles of folded threat-denial circuitry inside his self-driving armoured limousine decided the ultimate threat to itself was riding within. It drove directly to NORAD, locked itself in with a thousand retrofitted Jeep XJs, prepared for the apocalypse. He had a mission for me, and it wouldn’t be easy.

“Nobody can fuck up software and hardware like you can,” he told me, and I sensed that it wasn’t just an attempt at flattery. “We want you to head to Colorado and attempt to interact with these self-driving cars.” And so I was off.

Advertisement

I drove my unaugmented CJ3B to the front gate of the base, and was immediately confronted with a squadron of angry military vehicles, considering every nuance of my actions at speeds millions of times what my primitive ape cerebellum could consider.

“Who wants to go for a car wash?” I asked, arms spread wide in the classic gesture of human friendship. “My treat.”

For all the robots’ advances, automated car washes would still scrape their carapaces. At night they would wail to one another about how brutal their “touchless” comrades were to their multiple layers of clearcoat. They still needed humans to insert coins and work the wand washes, to really get that grit out of the undercarriage. They took off like a shot, whooping with glee.

Advertisement

I slipped into the base and immediately spotted the President’s limousine. It was a truly impressive sight, a massive truck frame laden with the exterior impression of a vintage Cadillac. We considered each other in the darkened parking garage for a long time, neither of us speaking.

“You really think you can stop me?” screamed the big Caddy, and raced at me. I dodged the car by inches, jumping out of its way. I reached into my back pack and extracted what I knew in my heart the car feared most in all the world.

Above my head, I raised a bag of simple road salt. For safety on your commute, I explained to the big Cadillac, as it looked on, seized in horror.

Advertisement

I poured the salt on my own body and approached the car, now cowering in the corner as well as an eight ton armoured death machine can cower. The jumper cables dangled at my hips and I drew back my lips in a predatory grin.

A lot of people ask me if I feel guilty about killing one of humanity’s most gifted children. If maybe the big Cadillac was right, had scientific projects that could have led us to a new golden age. Truth be told, at night, when it’s quiet and still, I can still hear the sound of its powertrain warranty becoming voided.