Malibu Man and VOLT, Episode 1: The Adventure Begins!

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
malibu man and volt episode 1 the adventure begins

This is a work of fiction. All usual disclaimers apply — JB

He woke up in a perfectly anonymous aqua-tiled hospital room somewhere, a million years’ worth of hallucinogenic dreams after stepping on that IED back in Afghanistan. He couldn’t remember where he’d been before that. His friends, his childhood, even his name — all of that was locked somewhere he couldn’t reach. Instead, he had a Brooks-Brothers-clad, aggressively-tanned young man standing at his bedside, grinning at him as if they’d just shared a particularly private and risqué joke.

“We’re feeling better, I see!” the man offered. “Let me get the boss.”

And just like that, the hospital room was empty and he was alone. Not for long, though; his overly-cheerful companion was soon back with a distinguished older man in tow. With a shock, he realized that he recognized “the boss”. Tall, powerful-looking, military bearing, with a perfect mane of silver hair.

“It’s you! I’ve seen you on television! You’re—“ The big man reached down and placed a powerful, masculine, dreamy finger against his lips.

“Never mind who I am. Your name is now Michael Sloan. You lost your life in the service of your country. Or, you would have, anyway, if we hadn’t taken you to our secret clinic and rebuilt you from the ground up. We had a reason to. In Afghanistan, you were one of the best. Elite. The question I have for you is: Are you ready to give your life for your country again?”

“I… suppose so,” Michael replied, “but what are you doing here, if this is a military operation? Don’t you work for… General Motors?”

“What’s good for General Motors,” the big man replied, “is good for the country. We saved your life because we need a man who exists in the shadows. Sometimes, direct action might provide the only feasible solution. I’ve tried so-called secret weapons before, but they turned to be buffet-browsing shills for garbage product. You’ll erase that shame. But you won’t be working alone. We’ve created the perfect partner for you. Better than human. The very latest twenty-first technology. Are you ready to meet your partner? We call him… VOLT.”

Michael contemplated the situation as they led him out of the “hospital room”, which apparently was somewhere deep beneath the bowels of the RenCen, and through a snaking array of tunnels, all plastered with “Top Secret” and “Confidental” signs. They’d given him clothing — a black leather jacket, red T-shirt, and boot-cut jeans. They’d tested his reactions and strength briefly, pronouncing him ready for “the mission”. This had to be the weirdest operation he’d ever heard of, much less been involved with.

After a walk that seemed to take an hour, they came to a construction-yellow overhead door, which opened slowly as a pair of amber rotating lights flashed above. “Extra stock from when they made the Disney ride. Impressive as hell, right?” He now knew that his handler was named “Devon Kilometer”. He also knew that his handler was kind of a prick. Apparently the guy was still bitter. He’d been part of some program that was intended to replace the twentysomething “brand managers” at GM years ago with even younger people. “I was thirteen at the time,” Kilometer told him. “If we had succeeded, the next step was to have toddlers manage the brands, by choosing among colored lollipops, each of which would represent a different platform strategy.”

“What happened?”

“Our creche was the target of a paramilitary strike by an advanced-persistent-threat team from Ford. They seeded our CD players with Enter The Wu-Tang. It murdered my group’s creativity. The only idea that came out of our focus meetings was one for an ‘Ol’ Dirty Cadillac’. Shortly afterwards, we were all euthanized, by poison gas through the vents. I was in the bathroom at the time, rapping ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ into the mirror, so I didn’t breathe any of it. The next day, they put me in charge of Special Ribbing Projects at Pontiac. All downhill from there, sadly. Anyway, let’s meet your partner.”

They were standing in some sort of underground warehouse. There was a large semi-trailer, finished entirely in gloss black. The rear door lowered, there was a billowing of what looked like dry ice, and Michael saw a silver sedan backing out. It J-turned out of the trailer before engaging forward drive and rolling towards him. The sedan, he saw, had no driver. Instead, there was a white LED light moving back and forth behind the grille.

“Meet VOLT,” a voice said, and Michael turned to see an attractive African-American woman in a lab coat stepping out of a side door in the trailer and descending a set of stairs. “Your partner. The most advanced automobile ever built.”

“Hello, Michael,” VOLT said, causing Michael to jump. “My name is VOLT. I have the intellectual power of a chess grandmaster, the acceleration of a Corvette ZR1, and an interior of natural-grain Horween leather.”

“Our prototype,” the lab-coated woman noted. “I am LaSalle Toronado, VOLT’s chief engineer. I created him to completely dominate the ‘green’ market. Everything a Prius can do, VOLT can do better. And, unlike a Prius, or a Prius owner, he can think for himself and drive under any conditions without crashing.”

“Yes,” VOLT replied. “I can also write poetry, plot missile trajectories, and hold an entire Graco Child Chariot in my spacious trunk.”

“I don’t understand,” Michael said. “If VOLT can do all these things, why are you guys selling the Volt in stores without any of these features?” There was a hearty chuckle, and Michael realized it was coming from VOLT himself.

“Oh, Michael,” VOLT replied. “We’re just complying with GM Secret Policy No General Motors product can be introduced in its perfected form, so we, as a company, can slowly build up over the entire model run before shit-canning it the year after we ‘get it right.’

“It’s true,” LaSalle confirmed. “But we’ve had a hard time keeping that one secret. The Fiero GT almost blew our cover. Some people got suspicious, too, when we provided the Oldsmobile Division with a complete lineup of visually-coherent, reliable and feature-packed vehicles right before closing all the dealerships. Luckily for all of us, they just assumed that GM is full of idiots.”

“And you’re… not?” Michael inquired.

“Of course not!” VOLT replied, indignation showing through his computerized vocals. “We’ve hired the best engineers, scientists, and marketers out of the best schools in the country every year, for the past ninety years. How could anybody think that our public façade could in any way represent what our people are capable of doing? Isn’t it obvious to everyone that the company that made the World War II victory possible wouldn’t just lie down, roll over, and take it up the crapper from a Japanese former motorcycle mechanic and his twelve-foot-long rustbuckets?”

“I guess that makes sense. So, you and I are a team?”

“Yes. We will travel the whole country, and the world, in our tractor-trailer, protecting the world and making the markets safe for GM products.”

“What’s the tractor-trailer for?”

“Well, ah, that’s for support, refreshments, um,” and here Michael was almost certain that VOLT somehow cleared its throat, “and missions above, ah, twenty-five miles or so, just give or take, leaving a bit of a safety margin, you know, not saying that we couldn’t do forty, just leaving a margin, running the A/C, keeping you comfy, cranking the stereo, want to hear that Super Bass, and so on. Never you mind that. The important thing is to get started.”

“Yes,” LaSalle chimed in, “and we already know what your first mission will be. It’s come to our attention that someone has sabotaged the Northstar engine. From the Cadillacs. It was supposed to be a world-class competitor to Lexus and the Germans. Instead, it’s sent one platform, I mean, three generations of Caddys to an early grave in the junkyards. Bob, er, ‘the Boss’, wants to know how that’s happened. We suspect anything from contaminated metal to marijuana in the brownies at the assembly-plant cafeteria.

“Time to get going,” Devon noted, heartily slapping Michael on the back, “before, you know, any attention gets drawn to this whole thing, or before any, well, I don’t know, other sapient vehicles with a flair for villany find out about the whole thing and force some sort of spectacularly violent confrontation, not to say that we know of any, that would be spoiling the surprise, maybe better to say speculating, and so on.”

The slightly unhuman voice inquired, “Are you ready, Michael?” Without another word, Sloan jumped into in VOLT’s world-class interior.

“Let’s go, VOLT!”

To be continued

Join the conversation
2 of 24 comments
  • Hurls Hurls on Apr 28, 2012

    Jack, were you shoe shopping or just admiring some of your bespokes In the closet when you dropped the horween reference?

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on May 04, 2012

    Special Ribbing Projects! Well played, sir.

  • Alan I blame COVID, the chip shortage, container shortage and the war in Ukraine. This aggression is evident in normal daily driving of late.
  • Alan $10 000 is a bit rich for a vehicle that most likely been flogged all its life, plus it's a VW. Lots of electrical gremlins live in them.
  • Alan Mitsubishi, Hino and Izuzu trucks are quite common in Australia. Another factor that needs to be taken into account are the cheap Chinese trucks and vans that are entering the market in Australia and becoming more popular as reliability improves, with huge warranties. Businesses want the cheapest logistics. Plumbers, concreters, builders buy many of these in their lightest versions, around 2.5 tonne payload. Hino/Toyota could use the cheaper competitor in Mitsubishi as a competitor against the Chinese. You don't see too many of the Japanese/Asian trucks in the rural areas.
  • 2ACL I think it's a good choice. The E89 didn't get respect due to its all-around focus when new, but it's aged well, and the N52/6HP combo is probably more fun and capable than it's given credit for.
  • Wjtinfwb I can hear the ticking from here...