Motel Esperada

Chapter 3 of Cargo

As the late afternoon sun casts a golden glow over the landscape, I find myself nearing the end of the F1 motorway, Raven Mountain beckoning in the distance. However, a nagging sense of unease tugs at my thoughts. The encounter with those unknown individuals earlier still lingers in my mind, their aggression on the road leaving an unsettling impression. I can’t shake the feeling that if I continue on this path, they will inevitably catch up to me, thrusting me back into the harrowing process of evasion and confrontation. With a heavy sigh, I contemplate the decision before me, weighing the allure of reaching my destination against the potential risks that lie ahead.

I decide to take a detour into the local settlements that occupy the desert. Every turn-off leads to remote villages, each interlinked with back roads. Such a route will add hours to my journey, cutting into my profit margin. 


“What’s the next junction?”

Avacvado replies, “In two kilometres, you will arrive at the Esperada exit.”

“How much time will that cost me?”

“That will add forty-eight minutes to our journey. The estimated time of arrival is a quarter past seven. You will miss your bonus.”

The F1 is notorious for cargo theft, a common ground for brazen bands of thieves who hijack trucks for the freight they carry. “Any crime reports in the vicinity, truck heists in particular?”

It takes Avacado a second to respond. “There have been nine incidents in the last four weeks.”


“All but two have occurred along the F1 Motorway, five at different rest stops, and two were conducted on the open road.”

“The others?”

“Those robberies occurred in the Diamond Valley and Cerise settlements located ten kilometres back.”

“When is our next recharge?”

“We have two hours left before we required a lay-by.”

The choice is clear. I will need to relinquish the bonus in the interest of safety and make a stopover at some local motel. The Esperada exit arrives and I swerve into it, slowing down to meet the local speed limit. 

“Pick me a motel, taking the most convoluted route possible.”

“Motels and rest stops are common attack vectors for cargo pirates,” suggests the truck’s AI, calculating the risk on my behalf. Its master objective is to help bring in profits, protect against anything that threatens profits, and to assist in keeping my insurance premium low.

“Those guys back there were stalking us, probably had another team ahead, preparing an ambush. They rely on routine practices, and most likely hacked into Enkron’s dispatch system and pull the data from our schedule. If we deviate, behave erratically, it’ll throw them off.”

Casting long shadows across the vast arid landscape, the sun begins its descent as we arrive at the outskirts of Esperada. The air hangs heavy with a sense of quiet isolation, broken only by the occasional motorist in their petrol-guzzling automobile. The narrow streets meander between humble homes with dilapidated portable housing scattered amidst the settlement’s rugged suburbs, revealing a community steeped in resilience and resourcefulness. The warm hues of the sunset bathe the rustic homesteads, crafted from weathered timber and sun-bleached tin roofing. 

“Motel Esperada, coming up,” announces Avacado as darkness ultimately descends. 

Upon arriving at the motel, I park the Cyberstar at the end of the lot, under an aged Jacaranda tree that has finished blooming, the ground around it covered in dry lilac flowers. The truck is still visible from the highway, but the jacaranda casts a shadow over it, blocking the light from the nearest lamppost.

“Sleep tight,” I tell the autoMIND, knowing full well that slumber is an alien concept to these things. “Let me know if anyone approaches the truck. Security of full spectrum.” 

I step out of my truck and approach the reception area, the flickering neon sign casting an eerie glow. A distorted doorbell buzzes as I pushed the heavy entrance steel framed door, revealing a dimly lit lobby. The scent of aged carpet and stale air lingered in the air. Behind the front desk is a tired-looking clerk, their tired eyes matching the worn-out atmosphere. I exchanged pleasantries and handed over my identification and credit card, the clerk manually going through the check-in process, without any fuss and raising an eyebrow. 

If I tried this in the city, it would be either impossible due to the relentless automation that requires cybernetic implants, or the metropolitanite behind the counter would have a mental breakdown at the sight of physical evidence of identity or payment medium. 


The clerk hands me an actual key with a faded room number, directing me to the worn-out staircase that led to my temporary abode. As I climbed the stairs, I couldn’t help but feel a mix of anticipation and uncertainty about my decision to spend the night here. The highway pirates could still feasibly spot my truck, this area is still part of their domain. Any of the locals who see my truck could betray my location.  

I arrive at the room, and after a long day of drama, I seek the shower to relieve my exhaustion. I strip and get under the hot stream of water, pondering what to get for dinner. Considering my lack of appetite I decide to skip it and go to bed. I plan on an early morning start, preferably before dawn, so my hunger can wait for that. 

“Avacado,” I call out as I step out of the shower and hit the bed with only a towel. “Any news?”

“I have nothing to report on our status,” replies the autoMIND via my personal touchy pad.

“Can you access the room’s AV?”

“This motel has no intelligent networking support. All functions are manual.”

Old school, I muse, considering the option of living out here. 

I get up and grab the remote off the bedside table, using it to turn on the television. The volume is loud, so I press the button to drag it down to a more tolerable and discrete level.

“Are you ready to unlock the limitless potential of the future?” a narrator states over the images of a sleek, futuristic room with a backdrop of technological enhancements and a display of cybernetic implants “Introducing CyberLife, the pioneers of cybernetic implants that will revolutionize the way you live.”

I am too tired to start channel surfing, I just want background noise to help me sleep, the politics and social stigma of implants reduced to a minor issue amongst my current concerns.

The images cut to a montage of individuals engaged in various activities, their lives enhanced by cybernetic implants. The narrator continues, “Imagine a world where your capabilities are amplified beyond imagination. With CyberLife, you can enhance your vision, upgrade your strength, and connect your mind to a world of endless possibilities.”

I close my eyes, shaking away negative thoughts.

“Our state-of-the-art implants are precision-engineered, seamlessly integrating with your body and mind. Experience enhanced senses, increased cognitive abilities, and the power to overcome any challenge.”

I am tempted to turn this corporate propaganda off, but I can feel my consciousness drifting away.

“Whether you’re an athlete striving for greatness, a professional seeking an edge, or someone looking to experience life in a whole new way, CyberLife is here to empower you.”

My imagination takes over, bullying its way to the centre of my thoughts, showing me excelling in athleticism, and achieving feats previously thought impossible. Eventually, I doze off, too tired to turn off the television, the bedlight, or the useless air conditioner.

In and out of sleep I drift. My imagination conjures up wild dreams, about the two thugs hunting me down, playing deadly road games, the events reenacted over and over. Sometimes ending in violence, another ending with them being innocent commuters, just trying to overtake me. My guilt is intense as they may simply have been just random strangers in a rush to get somewhere, pissed at me for being a lumbering slow coach.

Just as I feel a deeper sleep come over me, I hear a commotion outside. Multiple vehicles pull up. Voices chatter. I’m not curious enough to get up and check. As my paranoia fades, I conclude it is a busload of travellers arriving. 

Blue lights flicker behind the curtain.

Startled by the commotion outside, my instincts kick in, and I swiftly rise to my feet. Curiosity drives me to the window, where I carefully part the curtains and peer outside. What unfolds before my eyes is a worrisome scene—a group of people, their figures silhouetted against the neon backdrop. They huddle together around a mysterious object on the ground. Intrigue fills the air as they lean in, their voices etched with curiosity, concern, or perhaps even awe. A flickering lamppost casts a greenish glow upon them, highlighting the intensity of the moment. My heart quickens with anticipation, yearning to uncover the secrets hidden within their gathering.


I get no response.

A sense of urgency grips me as I hastily dress myself, aware that something out of the ordinary is unfolding outside, and that it may involve my truck. Without wasting a moment, I step outside, the cool air embracing me as I emerge out of the shadows. The atmosphere crackles with anticipation, curiosity mingling with a touch of apprehension. As my eyes scan the surroundings, I am met with a scene that both intrigues and unsettles me. With each breath I take, I brace myself for what lies in front of the crown, hoping whatever it is doesn’t affect me or my cargo.

As I approached the crowd of police and motel patrons, I spot a large spillage of fluid on the ground. Talking to an officer, a woman is covered with a hotel blanket, crying. I study the puddle, the combination of police lights and the neon sign making the dark liquid’s colour difficult to ascertain.

By now police officers and paramedics start ordering the crowd away. The headlights from another police car entering the lot illuminate the true colour of the fluid. 

Bright red.

Blood red.

My head spins, as my paranoia claws its way back and my brain is unable to believe what I am seeing – it was like something out of a horror movie. The scene turns chaotic, with people shouting and crying all around me. It isn’t clear whether this is just an accident or a random act of violence, but someone had definitely died here; the amount of blood spilled is too egregious for someone to have survived this.

I hear more commotion further away.

Multiple beams of torchlight centre between two parked vehicles situated at the other end of the motel’s parking lot. As police rush over, my mind returns to my Cyberstar, sitting only a few metres away. I walk towards it, avoiding the congregation of police, getting a glimpse of more wet patches and a white Chromeo station wagon splattered with blood and viscera.

Parked in the shadows, my Cyberstar appears unmolested, just as I had left it, causing relief to overwhelm me.

“Avacado?” I say into my touchypad. 

I arrive and immediately inspect the back of the truck, and see nothing out of the ordinary, but in the darkness, it is hard to tell. Moving on to the front cabin, I open the door and activate the power sequence, waiting for all the lights to come online.

“Avacado?” I plead. “For fuck sake, answer me!”


I realise someone has tampered with the security framework, resetting all of Avacado’s systems. Before I can even panic, a shadow crosses my windscreen. My horror is enhanced when a policewoman approaches my door, her torch dazzling my eyes.

“Are you a patron of the motel,” she asks.

“Yes,” I answer, realising I’ve been snagged into the investigation.

“Are you planning on leaving the scene?”

“No,” I respond. “I’m just checking if my truck is okay.”

The cop points her torch down. “This is not a robbery,” she says with a glum voice. “I’m asking you to go back to your room and stay there until one of us comes by to take your statement.”

“No problem, officer.”

As the cop moves on to check the other vehicle, I power down the truck, jump out and lock it.  

This has nothing to do with me, I deduce as I head back to my room. I spot another police officer interviewing a couple at the doorstep, using a scanner to probe their implants. It’s not only a statement they’re after, but all the meta and geo data collected by the implants. The last thing I need is some cop discovering I possess no cybernetics. I would be automatically considered a suspect in whatever has gone down here, arrested, and taken in for questioning.

I step inside my room, turn off the lights, the television, and the air conditioner, and sit on the bed, motionless, waiting for a knock at the door. Contemplation swirls within me as I weigh my options. The idea of leaving with the truck will attract the ire of the local cops. 

If I stay put, I risk an awkward interrogation.  

Caution tugs at my instincts, reminding me of the inherent risks that lie in both ventures. With a sigh, I acknowledge that staying put seems the wiser less exhaustive choice. The relative shelter of the motel provides me and my truck a sense of security amidst the uncertainty. No road pirate would risk stealing the Cyberstar with this much police presence around. So I sit idle until morning, assessing the situation, and formulating an escape plan out of Esperada.