Turing Eleven: “One for the Road.”
“Thank God for Colossus! Kids! In the car. Now!
“But Dad, is this for real?”
“Yes, Katie. We have to get in the car now! We need to get away from the shore as fast as possible.”
But Roger looked petulant and literally dragged his feet.
“Roger! Now! This is not a joke! The tidal wave will crush us!”
Roger didn’t like that image but still seemed embedded in psychological molasses.
“Dad, okay, but I just need to grab…”
“Roger. No time.”
Finally, in the car, both kids in tow, Frank finally felt as though things were, if not under control, at least in control as they could be. He felt weird, freakish, distorted. Thank goodness the car would be self-driving. He had so much rushing through his mind, he wasn’t sure he trusted himself to drive. He had paid extra to have his car equipped with the testing and sensing methodology that would prevent him (or anyone else) from taking even partial control when he was intoxicated or overly stressed. That was back in ’42 when auto-lockout features had still been optional. Now, virtually every car on the road had one. Auto-lockout was only one of many important safety features. Who knew how many of those features might come into play today as he and the kids tried to make their way safely into the mountains.
The car jetted backwards out of the driveway and swiveled to their lane, accelerating quickly enough for the g-forces to be very noticeable to the occupants. In an instant, the car stopped at the end of the lane. When a space opened in the line of cars on the main road, the car swiftly and efficiently folded into the stream.
Roger piped up. “Dad, everybody’s out here.”
“Well, sure. Everyone got the alert. We really need to be about fifty miles into the mountains when the asteroid hits.”
Katie sounded alarmed. “Dad. Look up there! The I-5 isn’t moving.”
Frank looked at the freeway overpass, now only a quarter mile away. “Crap. We’ll have to take the back roads.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he saw that no more than a hundred yards beyond the freeway entrance, the surface road was also at a standstill.” Frank’s mind was racing. They were only a few hundred feet from “Hell on Wheels Cycle Store. Of course, they would charge an arm and a leg, but maybe it would be worth it.”
Frank looked down the road. No progress. “Mercedes: Divert back to Hell on Wheels.”
“No can do, Frank. U-turns here are illegal and potentially dangerous.”
“This is an emergency!”
“I know that Frank. We need to get you to the mountains as quickly as possible. That is another reason I cannot turn around.”
“But the car cannot make it. The roads are all clogged. I need to buy a motorcycle. It’s the only way.”
“You seem very stressed, Frank. Let me take care of everything for you.”
“Oh, for Simon’s sake! Just open the door. I’ll run there and see whether I can get a bike.”
“I can’t let you do that, Frank. It’s too dangerous. We’re on a road with a 65 mph speed limit.”
“But the traffic is not actually moving! Let me out!!”
“True that the traffic is not currently going fast, but it could.”
“Dad, are we trapped in here? What is going on?”
“Relax, Roger, I’ll figure this out. Hell. Hand me the emergency hammer.”
“Dad. You are funny. They haven’t had those things for years. They aren’t legal. If we fall in the water, the auto-car can open its windows and let us out. You don’t need to break them.”
“Okay, but we need to score some motorcycles and quickly.”
Now, the auto-car spoke up. “Frank, there are thousands of people right around here who could use a motorcycle and there were only a few motorcycles. They are already gone. Hell is closed. There is no point going out and fighting each other for motorcycles that are not there anyway.”
“The traffic is not moving! At all! Let us out!”
“Frank, be reasonable. You cannot run to the mountains in 37.8 minutes. You’re safest here in the car. Everyone is.”
“Dad, can we get out or not?” Katie tried bravely not to let her voice quaver.
“Yes. I just have to figure out exactly how. Because if we stay in the car, we will …we need to find a way out.”
“Dad, I don’t think anyone can get out of their car. And no-one is moving. All the cars are stuck. I haven’t seen a single car move since we stopped.”
The auto-car sensed that further explanation would be appreciated. “The roads have all reached capacity. The capacity was not designed to accommodate everyone trying to leave at the same time in the same direction. The top priority is to get to the highway so we can get to the mountains before the tidal wave reaches us. We cannot let anyone out because we are on a high speed road.”
Frank was a clever man and well-educated as well. But his arguments were no match for the logic of the auto-car. In his last five minutes though, Frank did have a kind of epiphany. He realized that he did not want to spend his last five minutes alive on earth arguing with a computer. Instead, he turned to comfort his children wordlessly. They were holding hands and relatively at peace when the tidal wave smashed them to bits.