"Tell you what, old chap... let's go for drive, if I can fit into that dinky little Kit car they gave you.", said Karl in what I was sure he meant to be an avuncular manner. It had 'KAR 006' as a personalised number plate, just like the one Patrick M...
"Tell you what, old chap... let's go for drive, if I can fit into that dinky little Kit car they gave you.", said Karl in what I was sure he meant to be an avuncular manner. It had 'KAR 006' as a personalised number plate, just like the one Patrick McGoohan drives in the opening titles of The Prisoner. It was Goodwood green rather than canary yellow and, small as it was, it did have a passenger seat.
"What's the point," I demurred, "you know there isn't anywhere to drive, I can't even get it into fourth gear on that winding Welsh country road out of The Village. All it does is go through a few tight 'S' bends before you hit the downhill stretch to the Observatory, and that isn't long enough to get up any speed. I don't even bother to drive any more. It's so frustrating..."
"It might be different, this time," said the Professor, cheerfully, "Please? I really want to see what it's like, and you never know..." Why not? I thought. I had nothing better to do and didn't want to stay in The Village anyway.
We walked up to my apartment above the corner of the Village square and I took Dr Young round to my back yard; no geraniums in terracotta pots here... just KAR and an almost matching green 'Duckhams' 5 litre oil can, an olive drab ex-Army four gallon jerry can half full of premium unleaded petrol and an old 'Red-X' petrol additive dispenser; which rather ruined the point of having unleaded fuel, but there you are. KAR ran more smoothly on it so I still used it. What was I thinking? If this was a sim I couldn't be polluting anything. We squeezed ourselves into the slow slung, hand built sports car and I eased it out of the yard and into the narrow, well kept back streets of The Village, took a left, then a right and started driving uphill.
It was after we'd rounded the second bend after leaving The Village that I saw the new sign; well, old looking but not-there-before sign, pointing off to my left. It read 'Edwards AFB 24km'. There being nowhere else to go except back to where we'd started I turned left. After barely a mile we encountered a slip road leading onto something called S.R. 14.
"Ah, the good old Antelope Valley Freeway, let's take that...", Karl suggested.
"An American freeway? Are you crazy? This is a right hand drive car! I've never driven it in America. I didn't even know we were IN America!"
"My, dear fellow, there's no need to shout. Look! They're ALL driving on the left. You'll fit right in... there's a gap now!"
Of course they were all driving on 'my' side of the road. That was how I'd learned to drive. If 'They' could simulate the R.S. 14 for an arbitrary length, then they could mirror reverse it and make it go anywhere they liked, and make me, Karl and KAR go with it; although it still felt as if I were really driving this ridiculously nippy and low slung, hand built, custom made sports model which could do 140 mph easily, had that been legal. But what was 'legal' here? Suppose I did try to exceed the ton? I floored the loud pedal and pulled smartly out into the overtaking lane. KAR cruised down it like a bob sleigh on the Cresta Run, so close to the ground that 120 mph felt more like 200.
"Steady on young man! We'll be pulled over if you keep this up." I looked in my rear view mirror. A black and white Crown Victoria was trying to catch up to us. I let KAR slow to a sedate 70 mph and pulled into the lane to my left. The patrol car swept on, content to ignore me now that I was behaving myself. "This will give us time to talk on the way."
"Where are we going?" I asked. "I'm driving you there and I don't even know..." I was seeing signs for an EXIT ramp to Palmdale but Karl wasn't giving me any directions.
"We're going back to Groom Lake, Martin; but this time, instead of just waking you up there straight from The Village, we're driving there. It's more natural that way. They went to the trouble of simming the entire route. It cost nearly as much in resources as the whole Village but I told them it would be worth it."
"But that must have taken them ages... they can't have done it in the time since I got back from... that first time."
"Sixth time, but who's counting, eh?". Professor Young laughed indulgently, "Oh, they just paused you while they did it, only took a few days. Most of it's scenery and moving vehicular traffic... Oh, look, there's a turnoff to Lancaster. Pity we can't go there." I thought so too. I'd have liked to see where Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet grew up...
"WHAT?" , I shouted indignantly over the sound of KAR's engine and slipstream. I'd only just recalled and processed what Karl had said before mentioning Captain Beefheart. I was beginning to feel more like Arthur Dent than Patrick McGoohan's resourceful and resilient 'Number Six'. "PAUSED ME????".
"Of course! Why should we keep you running? Waste of our time and yours, young fellow.. wouldn't you say?"
"When was this? I didn't notice anything..."
"Of course you didn't.... you were programmed not to!"
"Yeah, I know," I said with mock weariness, "All I have to do is say 'WHAT????' ' I don't believe this shit...' and 'Where's the tea?' and no one will notice the difference..." Dr Young laughed in appreciation of my sparkling wit and willingness to get into the spirit of his little joke. Were all of the real People going to come out with an endless series of 'in' jokes?
We took a left off R.S. 14 at Rosamond Boulevard and drove through a wasteland of strip malls, small businesses, and suburbs full of hacienda style bungalos standing in their own plots before reaching the open gates of Edwards Air Force Base. I tried to get used to the fact that if I were running on a machine.... then pausing the program would be imperceptible to me.
We soon left the main approach road and I was driving on an unfenced stretch of two lane black top that cut like a dark line through some familiar looking dry ochre desert country to another fence with a pair of five barred metal gates in it and a fading orange sheet metal sign.
Unauthorized personal proceeding
beyond this point will be met
with lethal force.
"You bastards!" I screamed, "You're doing this on purpose!"
"Trank," said Karl softly, "Drop in the Marixa for me, will you? There's a good fellow!"
He stretched out his arms with the left hand held slightly in advance of the right and then, as if from nowhere, a double barreled twelve bore shotgun fell out of thin air into his hands.