‘The Driver’ – by Rob Edgar

 

The training Turnbull had received had been disappointingly brief and unnecessarily thorough. The vast automated ship had been designed to look after itself.

His adventure has started just three weeks ago. Turnbull suspected he was being followed for some time but doubted his senses.  The excessive and oppressive heat dulled them.  It was in the frozen food aisle of his local store that his suspicions were confirmed.  The recruiter sidled up to him, leaning forward to join him in the cooling depths of the chest freezer.

His description of Turnbull as the perfect candidate had flattered; his intelligence and education lauded. He was therefore shocked when he was further described as an under achiever and perpetual loner.  It was only from his current vantage point that he fully realised why the recruiter had made these comments with such enthusiasm.

The ship was making good progress. Turnbull stared through the star formations ahead, admiring his reflection in the visi-screen.  Given his recent actions he would be welcomed as a hero.  He exited the command room and took the express elevator to the cryogenic deck.

It started with breaking news. Reports that a habitable planet had been found were relegated to the back pages, dwarfed by reports about the sudden and unprecedented rise in temperature.  When investigative journalists discovered not only that Planet X had been discovered but had advanced AI machines building cities the world responded with surprise.  When information leaked that global temperatures were rising exponentially surprise gave way to astonishment.  This was quickly followed by rioting.  The only hope of survival was to get off world and the only way to do this was to be extremely wealthy.  Or very useful.

Turnbull had watched the world tear itself apart from the safety of the launch site. His mission was thus forced to start rather more abruptly than he had hoped.  Picturing himself as a latter day Noah he had initiated the automatic launch and collect sequence.  Manoeuvring the ship in to position above his passengers he lowered the ramps for them to hurry aboard and straight in to stasis.  They would simply walk out at their destination ready to colonise their new world.

Despite careful planning circumstances meant that the mission had been rushed. The rioters had discovered the location of the rich and powerful, all eagerly awaiting their evacuation.  Under the weight of the anger and frustration of the masses even their sophisticated security wouldn’t last long.

Turnbull arrived at the stasis deck to check on his passengers, the viewing windows softly misted. He chuckled to himself as he recalled the look on the faces of the rioters below as he had appeared overhead.  Acting against mission protocol he had casually flicked off the auto-pilot, winked at his reflection and swung the vast ship dramatically into position.  This final flourish would confirm forever his status as a hero.  A man not only of intelligence but also of style and perhaps, yes, even panache.  He peered through the foggy window of the stasis deck with pride.

He returned to the flight deck and settled in to his own stasis pod, readying himself for the long journey. As the mist filled the chamber he casually wondered who on Earth would want to arrive at their new home wearing such shabby and frankly dirty clothes.  This though and the peculiar image of the fury on the faces of his passengers barely registered.  Instead he pictured the glorious reception he would receive.  A welcome he richly deserved.

 

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Robert Edgar is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Religion and Philosophy where he teaches predominantly in Creative Writing. He has also contributed to English Literature, American Studies, Media, Theatre and Film and Television Production. Robert supervises PhD students and is currently supervising in the areas of comedy, film archiving, documentary and practice-led work in screenwriting.

 

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