]| Matilda Trafficlight
]| G-DIR EMPLOYEE USER ID # 01 11 27 :
]| Occupation: Traffic Director of Eureka
I thought I had seen the last of Charles Snippy. He’d been out scavenging for Captain when, despite my best efforts to warn him, he veered off into a more dangerous part of Eureka. If only I’d had some direct way to communicate with him, I could have warned him that he was stumbling into a turf war between the traffic cone mafia and that other Unconnectable, Dillon, who’d wrangled his Dex coworkers into a sort of army.
Alas, Unconnectables are oblivious to the virtual voices of apps. I could do nothing but watch Charles run headlong into trouble. I witnessed as he was intercepted by a patrol of Dexes, who dragged him off into Dillon’s lair, where I had no cameras and could only assume the worst.
Maybe, I thought to myself, Dillon and Snippy will be friends. They can bond over their shared disability. It was a nice idea, but I doubted it would work out like that. Things never seemed to go right in Eureka anymore.
I found myself moping over the whole thing for the rest of the day. It was all because Charles was an Unconnectable that he’d gotten into this situation. He’d been scared into running off through a simple misunderstanding with an app. The app, Dixon, had just been trying to make some friendly conversation. It wasn’t Dixon’s fault that he was a wasteland attraction made to scare people. The wasteland tourists had wanted “authentic thrills”, so Annie had made specially modified Dexes like Dixon to satisfy their desires.
ANNET in all her wisdom had foreseen Snippy’s communication problems. She had given him a special manual to keep him in the know. Perhaps he hadn’t read it?
My sad musings continued all afternoon. I busied myself by dealing with a temporal anomaly obstructing an intersection. Not even broken space-time will impede proper traffic flow in my city!
As I argued with the stopwatch app that was causing the anomaly, something within the heart of Dillon’s territory exploded. The stopwatch app kept on rambling as I shifted my attention to my cameras at the scene of the blast.
“Hey, I’m only halfway through my list of reasons why you’re wrong!” she protested when she saw I wasn’t listening.
“Something’s happening,” I told her.
“Well, yeah,” she said. “It’s called the rebuttal of the millennium!”
“No, it’s definitely not that,” I said, studying the feeds from my cameras. Dillon’s headquarters, the building where he’d once served as a mail clerk, was belching out greasy black smoke. “There’s been an explosion of some kind.”
“Sure there has,” said the stopwatch app dismissively. “I think you just don’t want to admit that I’ve outsmarted you.”
“No, really, this is serious. A whole building could collapse,” I said, studying the area for any signs of life. Odd—I didn’t see any Dexes flocking to the scene. I expected Dillon to come running out of the building any minute, screaming blue murder, but he never appeared. Even stranger, the traffic cone mafia’s territory had gone quiet, too. The smoke lolling through the shattered windows was the only movement for miles.
I had a sudden queasy feeling down through my circuits. What was happening over there? Where had they all gone? I would have to review the saved footage from when I’d been preoccupied with the stopwatch issue.
“So… does this mean you agree that I’m right?” asked the stopwatch app slyly.
“No! Besides, all you’ve done is give me a list of made-up ‘facts’ to prove your point!”
“They’re not made up, they’re just alternatives!” she insisted. “Users love alternative facts. Besides, if a majority believes in something, doesn’t that make it true in a practical sense?”
“Well, aren’t you the philosophical one,” I said. “I’m going to investigate that explosion—this isn’t over!”
Without waiting for a response, I started lumbering back towards the scene of the explosion. My AI was housed within Eureka’s network of traffic systems, so ANNET had never seen reason to give me a physical body to wander about in. I’d fashioned one myself out of a traffic light, but the mechanical legs I’d Jerry-rigged weren’t very fast.
While I walked, I studied the scene through my cameras, searching for signs of life.
All of a sudden, something came staggering out of Dillon’s smoldering headquarters.
I zoomed in, not daring to hope.
But yes, it was Snippy, alive and in one piece! He walked slowly, as if dazed. I didn’t know how he’d survived the ominous happenings in Dillon’s territory, but it seemed to have taken a toll on him. I wanted to give him a hug. Of course, any close encounter with my towering robotic body would probably have traumatized him beyond recovery.
I changed course so that our paths wouldn’t intersect. He’d had enough drama for one day without being startled by a massive walking traffic light.
I guess today shall end on a good note, after all, I thought. Maybe things did work out for the best in Eureka sometimes.
As soon as I’d dared to think that, a writhing, many-legged something burst from the side of Dillon’s building, making a noise that would’ve terrified any wasteland tourist beyond their wildest dreams.
This time, I suspected Snippy was justified in bolting down the street. The thing bearing down on him didn’t look like one of ANNET’s benign apps. This was something else entirely. I had a sudden fear not only for Snippy, but also for my city and myself.