Chapter 2 of Cargo
As I merge into the F1 motorway, the world around me transforms into a blur of speed and exhilaration. The rush of vehicles whizzing by, their electric motors silent on the smooth asphalt beneath the wheels, invites the truck to unleash its full potential, gliding effortlessly along the six lanes. The vibrant urban scenery flashes by in a kaleidoscope of colours, as I become one with the pulsating rhythm of the motorway, embracing the thrill of the open road and the promise of the journey that lies ahead.
Without any playlist streaming, the silence prompts my thoughts to scratch at my latent paranoia.
“Avacado,” I say, “Give me something to listen to.”
“What topic would you like to listen to?”
“Would you like to listen to some music?”
“I said anything. Pick something random.”
“Randon, or based on your listening preferences?”
“For fuck’s sake, Avacado. Put something on.”
The sound system activates and an unfamiliar tune fills the cabin, followed by a gravelly male voice. “Welcome back, travellers! Today, we’re diving into a thought-provoking topic that’s been generating a lot of buzz lately. Mandating cybernetics on humans. Joining me today are two esteemed guests who have different perspectives on this issue. Please welcome Dr. Cassandra Greene, an expert in cybernetic technology, and Samuel Ramirez, a prominent advocate for individual autonomy. Welcome to the show, both of you!”
“Seriously?” I ask. “Of all the random shit.”
”Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here,” says a female with a deep almost contralto voice.
“Likewise, glad to be part of this discussion,” adds another more penetrating male voice.
“Would you like me to stream something else random?” asks Avacado.
“Random my ass. Just leave it on.”
“Great! Let’s jump right in. Dr. Greene, as a proponent of cybernetics technology, and the push to implement this on humans, could you share your reasoning behind the government’s controversial proposal?”
“Certainly,” answers Greene, the glee in her voice irritating. “The world is advancing at an unprecedented pace, and cybernetics hold immense potential to enhance human capabilities. By mandating cybernetics, we ensure equitable access to these advancements and create a level playing field. This would bridge the gap between those who can afford enhancements and those who cannot, promoting fairness and societal progress.”
“Enough,” I say. “Turn this fucking shit off.”
“Would you like me to stream something else?”
“No. Turn it off.”
The cabin goes quiet, only the rush of air and the low rumble of the wheels remain as the truck cuts through the atmosphere and asphalt outside.
An hour into the trip, a rhythmic sound of something unusual captures my attention, emanating from the back of my truck. It is a peculiar combination of rustling and faint tapping, growing louder with each passing minute.
Is it the crates shifting? I wonder.
This goes on for another ten minutes. Concerned and slightly intrigued, I decide to pull over at the next safe spot. I approach a section of unsurfaced land used by the adjacent property owner as a driveway. I pull in and bring the truck to a halt, intrigued by the mysterious sound that had caught my attention. With a mix of curiosity and a hint of trepidation, I step out of the driver’s seat, my boots crunching on the ground as I make my way towards the back of the truck. I listen, but there is no more noise.
What could be the source of that sound?
My anticipation runs thick, as I fear the crates have come undone. This would be a disaster as shifting the heavy crates back and securing them again would be an impossible task for me to do alone. My heart races in sync with my quickening footsteps.
As I approached the back area, I reach for the latch and swing open the heavy doors, revealing the disarray I expect awaits me inside.
Everything seems normal. The wooden containers are fastened tight. There is no noise. I stand there waiting a further two minutes. I climb inside and lean against the timber and listen carefully. Pushing against the timber, I shake the containers, attempting to ascertain whether objects inside have come loose. To my chagrin, I hear no evidence coming from any of the stacked crates from the Serpent Island Foundation.
I jump back onto the asphalt and lock up the back doors.
Once back on the motorway, my attention remains on alert, but the noise fails to manifest. Eventually, my mind grows bored of conjuring up conspiracies that explain the noise in the back of the truck and seeks more enjoyable distractions.
On cue, the audio system turns back on, catching that annoying Samuel Ramirez mid-sentence. “… understand the intention behind promoting equality, but mandating cybernetics infringes upon personal choice and bodily autonomy. We should prioritize individual freedom and the right to decide what happens to our bodies. The government or any entity shouldn’t have the power to dictate how we augment ourselves.”
Checking the playlist on the dashscreen, I read the title of this podcast, The Enigmatic Traveler. The host of the show says, “Dr. Greene, how do you respond to Mr. Ramirez’s concerns about personal freedom?
My attention is abruptly broken as a yellow saloon veers past me, narrowly avoiding a collision with an oncoming vehicle. The screeching of tires and the blaring of horns pierce the air, sending a jolt of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Time seems to slow down for a fleeting moment as I witness the near catastrophe unfolding before my eyes.
“Holy shit” I yell as I take a deep breath, my grip on the steering wheel tightening, grateful that disaster was averted, and resume my journey, now with a heightened awareness of the potential idiots on this highway.
“I understand the importance of individual autonomy, but we have to consider the bigger picture. Historically, society has imposed regulations to ensure public safety and well-being. Mandating cybernetics could be seen as a similar measure. We already have certain mandates like vaccinations to protect public health. Cybernetics, when properly regulated, can offer significant benefits for society as a whole, improving productivity and even health outcomes.”
My thoughts drift back to the road, probing the single-lane highway to spot if any other maniac wants to attempt a high-risk overtake. I notice that a vehicle behind me, a black TriMotors Orbiter, has been behind me for the past hour.
Maybe, I being paranoid again.
Ramirez insists, “While I agree that public safety is crucial, comparing cybernetics to vaccines oversimplifies the issue. Vaccines prevent the spread of diseases and have extensive scientific consensus supporting their effectiveness. Mandating cybernetics is a much more complex matter that involves personal identity, potential risks, and long-term societal implications. We should focus on education and availability rather than coercion.”
“Mr. Ramirez,” says the host. “You mentioned risks. Could you elaborate on the potential downsides of mandating cybernetics?”
I slow down to an unbearable speed, but the Orbiter remains in place, adjusting its momentum. The two men inside the car don’t seem like they are agitated at all. When I accelerate, they accelerate. When I slow down, they slow down. This annoys the commuters in another vehicle behind us, and they attempt to overtake us, making a daring dash to speed ahead of my truck before any oncoming traffic arrives.
“Absolutely,” states Ramirez. “Cybernetic enhancements, like any technology, can have unintended consequences. There are concerns about the security and privacy of personal data, the potential for hacking or malicious use, and even the psychological impact on individuals who may feel pressured to conform to societal expectations. Without proper safeguards and robust ethical considerations, mandating cybernetics could lead to a host of unforeseen problems.”
My heart races as I try to shake them off my tail, pushing down hard on my acceleration. The Cyberstar gains momentum, its velocity a testament to the power of its batteries, but the Orbiter persists up my tail.
“I acknowledge that risks exist, but we shouldn’t let fear impede progress. Technological advancements always carry some level of uncertainty, but through careful regulation, extensive research, and ongoing dialogue, we can mitigate these risks. It’s crucial to prioritize ethical frameworks and ensure that the benefits of cybernetics outweigh any potential drawbacks.”
As a consequence of panic, I hit the pedal and swerve onto the oncoming road, overtaking the vehicle that has innocently ended up in front of me. I know something is wrong when the Orbiter starts driving recklessly and pulling the same stunt.
“We’ve covered some compelling arguments from both perspectives. As we wrap up, I’d like each of you to share your final thoughts on this controversial topic. Dr. Greene, let’s start with you.”
The black utility approaches close enough for me to see the menacing faces of two men.
“Thank you. In a world where technological advancements are shaping our future, it’s essential to embrace change responsibly. By mandating cybernetics, we can foster equality, enhance human capabilities, and advance society for the greater good. With thoughtful regulation and a focus on ethical considerations, we…”
I manually turn off the audio system.
Pushing the acceleration to its limits, the Quasar Cyberstar L hits one-twenty kilometres an hour. I overtake the next vehicle, almost forcing them off the road. Just as the Orbiter is about to do the same, an endless convoy of oncoming vehicles arrive, and whizz by. The Obiter gets stuck behind a law-abiding driver behind me, while I push further ahead.
Soon, I lose them in my rearview mirror.