Sunday Stories: The Controller, Part 2

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

This Sunday Story is a sequel to The Controller.

“You’re a dead man, Marquez.”

“Ha, we’ll see about that.”

I had been pursuing Marquez for almost half an hour, but he was a slippery little bastard. Each time I had him in my sights, he slithered away at the last moment, and every time my attempt was unsuccessful it put me a little further behind him. But the last time, that time I was patient.

“Now or never,” I muttered to myself, and I fully committed myself to my move. There was no chance that he hadn’t seen me. I was completely exposed, and if I didn’t get him this time, it was over.

“Three, two, one…one half…one quarter…brake!”

My 488 GTB squealed loudly in protest as I stomped hard on the brakes and ducked to Marquez’s inside on the tight right-hander. It was a risky move for both of us, since any sort of contact at these speeds would mean bent sheet metal, and neither Southern Europa nor Britannia were in the business of making cars any longer. Marquez wisely decided that discretion was the better part of valor, but not before extending a gloved middle finger to me from the cockpit of his McLaren 650S as I slid by him.

“Nice move, maricon.” Spanish had been a dead language for at least a decade, but I knew by his tone of voice that it was a playful insult of some type. I quickly blinked twice to bring up my SkullLink accelerometer, and saw that I had submitted the big red horse to over 1.2 Gs of braking in order to make the pass. Not bad. “Full throttle to the finish!” I shouted back to him over our internal comms.

Despite his best attempts, Marquez was unable to reclaim the lead as we passed the Start/Finish line under full throttle, our People’s Army Elite Guard soldier waving the old, tattered checkered flag. Yes, I know, it was a terrible waste of resources and funds to have the Elites acting as our corner workers, but the Controllers need to have some sort of relief, don’t we? And who else is going to do it? The general public, the ones we banned from driving cars? Ha. I don’t think so.

We returned to pit lane, all of us in the supercar of our choice — my 488, Marquez’s McLaren, Hobbs’ old Aventador, Romanoff’s 918, Suzuki’s NSX, Liu’s ZR1, and Williams’ GT, all saved from the KrushGroove when we confiscated them from the AAs — and I hopped out of my car to the salutes of the Elite Guard and the Bronx cheers of the other Controllers.

“Yes, yes, thank you, everybody. I’ll be signing autographs in the clubhouse later,” I laughed as I removed my helmet. Clubhouse. Yeah, sure. We were lucky to even have saved this track, considering that most of the other race courses around the territory had long since been converted into reeducation facilities. But this facility, in the former State of Kentucky, had never actually been finished, so not many people even remembered that it was there when the revolution occurred.

There was no clubhouse, no concession stand. For a garage, there was nothing but an unfinished concrete building that resembled a bunker. But there was a track, and that’s all we needed to have our little fun days every now and then, and since Kentucky was part of my territory, I managed to squirrel away enough funding from other projects to keep the track’s surface from falling into complete disrepair.

Of course, the Global-C greatly disapproved. She never came out, no matter how much we begged her to. She dismissed it as a “wasteful frivolity that does nothing to advance our people.” Whatever. I suspect that she didn’t want to appear weak in front of us regional Controllers by losing to us. Hell, none of us were any good at racing. We didn’t have any coaching, we didn’t even have much seat time. In fact, we were dangerously close to running out of cars to race with, since we kept breaking suspension parts and bending up panels with our off-track excursions into the grass. That was the good part about racing on an unfinished track — no walls!

In hindsight, however, we could have used a few more walls around us. I was shocked when it happened — out of nowhere, there was an explosion, loud enough to deafen me and strong enough to knock me to the ground. Within seconds, two members of the Elite Guard had picked me up and were carrying me away from the scene through the dust and the smoke. I looked back toward the scene of the blast to see Marquez and Liu lying on the ground, bloody and lifeless.

As we ran toward the garages, my two bodyguards and I, I heard the sounds. The sounds that I knew meant I wouldn’t survive this day. I heard the the engines. No, not the roar of our supercars, but the misfires and rattles of the Drivers. They were here. They had come for us in our weakest position, in the place where we had all sneaked away from the public eye. Unlike any other time that I left the Ministry, we hadn’t brought any tanks or RPGs or anything that could protect us other than our foot soldiers.

We were completely fucked.

I blinked twice to bring up my internal comms system. “Upper American Controller here, ID code 0868. I need immediate air and ground support to my position. We are under attack, repeat, we are under attack. Drivers have found us.” Even though I knew my requests were futile — the closest base was Fort Knox, which was 15 minutes away by jet — I tried to remain calm and stately, as I knew that these comms would undoubtedly be discovered and played back for the people by the Drivers. I wanted to die with as much dignity as possible.

Now I understood why the Global-C had never come, why she had asked us to stop this foolishness. We were completely vulnerable here, and nearly all of the regional Controllers were in one place. By attacking us in this place, the Drivers had ensured that they’d be able to knock out nearly all of the world’s leaders in one afternoon.

“Stop,” I said to my guards, who were ushering me along as quickly as they could. “Stop.” I shook them off, and ran back in the direction of the explosion. They screamed at me to come back, but I knew that two bodyguards had no chance against the army of Drivers that was coming for us. But there was one way I might be able to escape them.

Miraculously, whatever IED they exploded had left my Ferrari completely undamaged, save for a little bit of melted fiberglass from the heat. I could feel the bullets from the guards flying by my ears as I whipped open the door of the 488 and fired it up.

“Go!” I said to nobody in particular as I slammed my foot to the floor. I assumed they’d have the entrance to the track blocked, but I didn’t need to escape them for long — I only needed to buy adequate time for air support to arrive from Fort Knox, or for some of the local police forces to show.

And, sure enough, there they were, their old cars painted with skulls and crossbones, the old pirate logo that the Drivers had adopted as their own. I recognized the models immediately — foxbody Mustangs and Panthers, Honda CRXes and EF Civic Sis, F-150s and Silverados — and knew that as long as I stayed calm, I could evade them for long enough.

They had no guns, no explosives beyond the homemade pipe bombs. No, their weapons were going to be their cars. They were going to ram us into submission. As if to confirm my suspicions, two lifted Silverados began slamming themselves into the supercars of the other controllers, crushing Romanoff in the process.

My God (not that I believe in God, you understand), there were dozens of them. This had to have been a strategic assault, months in the planning. As I flew down pit lane, at least a dozen cars were following me, and there were more coming the opposite way, blocking the exit. I knew it was ridiculously stupid, I knew that a racetrack was called a circuit for a reason, but I had nowhere else to go. I had to head out onto the track.

Thus began the greatest lap of my life.

I rocketed out onto the main straightaway, the horde coming out directly behind me. I laughed as I noticed their stupidity. Did they really think they’d be able to keep up with me? I put a huge gap on them as I came down into the first turn. But then I laughed no longer.

It was clear that this wasn’t the first time on this track for the Drivers. I should have realized — they came here to drive, too. And they were good. Thanks to the long straightaways, I was able to maintain a gap, but they got closer in every turn, whipping their cars sideways at the limit of their power and traction. Even as they chased me, I marveled at their ability in comparison to my own. No, they wouldn’t catch me. But it wasn’t because I was skilled — I simply had more power.

As we came through the esses in the valley, I realized that surely they would have a legion of fellow Drivers waiting for me at the finish line. There was nowhere I’d be able to escape. How would it end? Would I ram myself into their wall of cars, killing myself in a violent collision of SMC and carbon fiber? Would they have some sort of IED ready for me?

And there they were. A line of rusted, dilapidated cars, blocking the pit lane exit and the Start/Finish. My guards had already been executed, their headless bodies on the track in front of me. Fuck it, I thought. Let’s end this the right way. Full throttle to the finish line.

But I never got there. My windscreen filled with explosions, as the Drivers and their cars burst into flames in front of me. I screeched to a halt, the 488 spinning off the course into the grass. The air support had come. Napalm flooded the track, the Drivers skin melting off of them right before my very eyes. I sat and watched, too horrified to move.

Controller! Controller! We have to get you out of here!” Uniformed men beat on the window of my car, but I couldn’t get any part of myself to respond. They smashed the glass and pulled me out, my body feeling completely limp and lifeless as they ushered me into a helicopter and slid the door closed behind us.

I couldn’t peel my face away from the window as we flew to safety. What had once been a respite for me was now a war zone, with hundreds of dead bodies littering the track. The Global-C was already on the monitor, conducting a news conference in response to the Drivers’ offensive.

“This attack was a spontaneous response to a vid made by our enemies. There was no coordination or organization to the attack. This facility was not a ‘racetrack,’ as some outlets are incorrectly reporting. It was a military base for testing the capabilities of our tanks and HMMMVs.” The spin was already on. Nearly every other regional Controller was dead. Marquez. Liu. Romanoff. Hobbs. Suzuki. We’d find out later that Williams was a collaborator, a mole who was sympathetic to the Drivers, but he’d been killed in the fighting, too.

They’d almost gotten us, but I survived. And when you kill my friends, my colleagues, my fellow drivers, then you had better hide. I’m going to hunt down each and every last one of you. I’ll personally see you burn like your friends did, your eyeballs leaking out of their sockets. You once had my sympathy, but now you’ll receive my vengeance.

I am the Controller. Fear me.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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5 of 13 comments
  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Dec 18, 2016

    Was enjoying myself until suddenly this became about shoving a point of view on Benghazi down my throat.

  • Dirty Dingus McGee Dirty Dingus McGee on Dec 18, 2016

    Dear Controller, While you have won this battle, it was only the opening salvo in our fight. We, not you, know where and when the next battle will be. We learned quite a bit in this skirmish, we doubt however that you did. Rest assured that next battle will not be over nearly as quick as this one was. As was stated by one of the Elders, long before any of us cast a shadow on this land; "It's better to die on your feet, than live on your knees". The Drivers

  • FreedMike They're highly important to me, particularly for navigation.
  • Bill Wade No Android Auto, no car. How else would I listen to Radio Paradise. ;)
  • KOKing "One of the most interesting parts of this situation is that Stellantis, and by extension, the Chrysler Group, is increasingly considered a foreign company instead of a traditional American automaker."Does that mean Simca and Hillman are coming back?
  • Redapple2 34 yr in Michigan salt?
  • Mike-NB2 Zero. Not interested at all. I often don't have my phone with me, and if I do, I completely ignore it. Unless it were to catch fire, of course. But I'm old, so that has to be taken into account too.