[I won’t tell you to read this book or go to hell, I’ll tell you to read this book and THEN go to hell]
Prelude 1 – Entrance to the Inferno…
“I am the punishment of God… If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”
– Genghis Khan
New York, New Year’s Eve, 2024…
The white van turned the corner into Times Square and merged into late-morning traffic.
A man lolled back in the driver’s seat—no hands on the steering wheel.
He had touched the wheel of the self-driving vehicle exactly once since crossing the GWB—just a gentle touch, as if to remind the machine of his mastery, and then he’d pulled the hand away.
He studied New York through two layers of glass – the tinted dash, and the glasses on his nose. Rows of billboards, marquees, and coloured lights, all of them calculated to skirt just beneath the edge of the city’s light pollution limits.
A glaze of neon covered the city. Cheap. Thrilling. Saccharine for eyes.
During the day, Times Square had the dead gleam of fake jewellery. At night, it shone like a star too modest to rise into the sky. Even inside the car, he heard the buzz of thousands of voices. Tourists came from everywhere to ring in the new year.
Everyone wanted something from New York – memories, culture, experiences.
The driver didn’t come to New York to take. He considered himself more of a giver.
He pulled in to a metered parking spot and was about to get out when he heard and felt a banging fist on the side of his van.
He turned his head. A NYPD cop.
The big black cop shouted something, and spun his forefinger in a circle. The universal “roll down your window” gesture.
He obeyed. “Can I help, officer?”
“Yeah, buddy, you can. I saw you enter the street without using your turn signal.”
“This is a self-driving car. The computer should have thrown the signal for me.”
“It didn’t. I was watching. Step out of the vehicle for a moment.”
The driver got out. He had a small remote control on a keychain that allowed him to control the van without being inside it.
“Activate your left turn signal.”
The driver tried. The light remained dead. “Hmm. Bulb’s gone. I wonder how long it’s been like that.”
The cop scowled. “Are you the owner of this vehicle?”
“Can I see some paperwork?”
The driver produced his license and registration. The cop unclipped a RFID scanner from his belt and ran it over a microchip on the license paper. He looked over the cop’s shoulder at the LED readout as it checked the NYPD database for tickets, demerits, and other offenses.
There weren’t any.
The cop nodded and handed back the paperwork. “That’s fine. You’re free to go.”
“Will I get a ticket?”
“Naw, I couldn’t do that to a man on New Year’s Eve. Just get that light fixed, okay? There’s a mechanic on East Thirty-Fifth that’s open over the holidays. Best to get these things sorted out, right?”
“Sure, I will. And thanks.” The driver smiled.
“Say, where are you from? I can’t place your accent.”
“I’m from Portland. I’m actually not here to celebrate. My daughter’s coming from back from a vacation in Cancun, and she asked if I could pick her up.”
“Cancun? Aw, that’s such a kid place to go. I’ve got some time off coming up, and I hope to spend it in the Adirondacks wearing orange. You much of a huntin’ man?”
“Can’t say I am.”
“Well, it kicks the shit out of police work. Have a good day, man.”
“You too. And all the best with your hunting trip. It’ll be a good one, I’m sure.”
He reached into his pocket and pressed a button.
The uranium bomb in the van went off.
[Transmission of Vanadium Dark endeth, for now.]