Slamming the heavy front door behind her, Michal Young fled from the concrete sanctuary of her compound towards her black, gravity drive GMC Entity. The light fabric of her purple dress fluttered in the gentle morning breeze off the Atlantic and reflected the deep orange of the rising sun. Clutching her black purse so hard she was shaking with rage, blood pounded in her temples. As she approached the vehicle, she curtly spoke the entry code and the gull-wing doors opened. She quickly swung herself into the spacious black leather limousine compartment as easily as her fifty-year-old body could manage. “Young Towers and fast,” she spoke to the on-board. The lightly falling mist complemented her mood perfectly.
“Certainly, Michal, fasten your seatbelt, low-level flight plan approved,” replied the feminine computerized voice.
Michal stared out through the thick Plexiglas windows surrounding the luxury vehicle thinking, ‘How could he have done that?’ She was fuming at his nerve. ‘The company was hers, she owned it, and he had no right to question it!’ The words repeated in her mind over and over again. During the next few minutes, her staring eventually changed to a catatonic trance. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Even the breathtaking sunrise didn’t seem in the picture at the moment. A minute later, though, she snapped into focus as she felt something was wrong, something was very wrong. The gravity drive car was no longer skimming quietly feet above the hidden guide track on the highway. Instead, her car was still horizontal but ascending in a sharp north-west arc, and damn fast at that. She yelled at the on-board computer to descend back to the road surface, but it merely droned back, “Flight plan approved.”
“I never approved this flight plan! Who approved this!?” The on-board remained silent. It had been compromised, she suspected, but knew this for certain when her repeated questions were met by frustrating silence. ‘Someone wants me dead’. She tried her own cell phone and then the on-board cell phone to appeal for any kind of help, but the signal had been scrambled and both were a waste of time.
The inside compartment was beginning to feel cool and a delicate frost pattern was forming on small patches of the glass as the vehicle climbed in altitude. Sensing the thinning outside air, the emergency oxygen supply automatically turned on. ‘Thank God that was mechanical and not computer-driven’. She was so high and so far from her destination that, from her position, Michal could barely make out the city lights through the clouds below. Any other time, they would have been a riveting attraction, but not right now. She knew the design of the gravity drives in her vehicle well and knew that shortly, at the current ascending velocity, she would be punching through the outer atmosphere and then into outer space to carry on indefinitely. She tried to access the GPS system, but it had been deactivated. This vehicle was designed for just such a contingency, over-designed in fact, but it didn’t work well when sabotaged. She knew that eventually her oxygen would run out.
With no way of communicating to the outside world, this vehicle would become just a high-tech casket. She could only imagine how the worldwide news media would react—questions, speculations, who to blame, was it suicide or what?
Michal forced herself to forget all that and think clearly. She had frequently been in outer space before and every time it felt like it was the first time, but this time the situation called for rational thought. Michal strapped herself into her seat, awaiting the approach of weightlessness, and hit the ‘Tint Shell’ button to shield her from the blinding glare of the approaching sunlight. ‘Thank God for Pent batteries’. Almost instantly the sky above her cleared and the jewelled stars came into view. Around the perimeter of the Earth she saw the familiar blue ring that denoted the thin layer of atmosphere.
Michal felt like a cornered animal, pumping adrenalin to feed her instinct to survive. She studied the car compartment, looking for something she may have missed, but only the blue and orange dash displays seemed friendly at the moment. Michal began to see the situation in a whole new way. If she died tonight, her vehicle would actually be a casket encasing her for the next stage in the afterlife. ‘Am I ready for that’? Her breathing quickened, her heart pounded and her nerves were shot. She felt she was beginning to hallucinate. Oxygen deprivation was kicking in. She had difficulty keeping her eyes open. Michal thought she imagined herself hurtling through a tunnel with a bright light at its end advancing rapidly towards her. “Am I dying?” she gasped. “Am I?”
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