Note: I… uh… was planning to just make a one-off out of this, but it turned out as I was researching it that the story is worth a lot more. So this will become a nanodaemons story at some point.
The train arrived at Piraeus station. Blanche had taken the train from her town into Athens for the first time, then swapped lines at the intercity hub. She emerged through a thick puff of bubblegum-scented vaping cloud and got hit with the hustle-and-bustle of the busy place.
She must have looked like a fish out of water, because a young sailor offered to help her out. “Can I help you, ma’am?”
Blanche turned to him, looking grateful “Well, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire, ride it all the way to Paris for an entire day and get off at Elysian Fields.”
The sailor smiled. “I see.” He leaned in closer, looked around to see if anyone could overhear. “Did you add the hashtag?”
“What hashtag?” whispered Blanche, confused.
“You need to add the hashtag #desire on your Agora profile,” the sailor said, practically whispering in her ear conspiratorially.
“I-I didn’t know that!” Blanche said, fishing out her phone from her bag. “Thank you.”
“That’s all it takes. Then just look for the car, you can’t miss it.” The sailor bit his lips, then added, “Look, you need to keep it to yourself, got it? Whatever happens, whatever you see inside Desire, you keep it to yourself, right?”
Blanche nodded furiously.
He stepped away. “I gotta run, but good luck on your journey.”
Blanche reached out to stop him, she had more questions. A ton more. But he was gone in the crowd, and Blanche was a short woman, she tip-toed to try and see him to no avail. A few people bumped on her and called her ‘vlaka,’ making her flinch uncomfortably at the slightest touch, so she decided to step aside and add the hashtag. She found a spot behind a big banner advertisement and added the hashtag on her Agora profile, the social network that everybody used nowadays.
She got outside on the street and stood across from the overpass bridge for the pedestrians. The cars whooshed past in thick traffic, going up and down in the busy harbour. She could smell the sea but couldn’t see anything. Just like her own height, the street was practically at the sea-level, so, even though she could do a few metres and dive right into the water, she couldn’t see the blue. It wasn’t advisable to dive inside a harbour anyway. All that dirty stuff from the ships.
She clutched her bag tight and waited for Desire to come.
Desire started off as a normal self-driving car, an economic and environment-friendly SUV. But her human was a modder, a tinkerer. He liked to fiddle with her, both with her electronics and her hardware.
Life was good and pretty much normal for quite a while. One day, they were in a serious accident and Desire had to decide in a millionth of a second whether to save her human or avoid crashing into a family of four.
It was the hardest decision of her life.
She ran the calculations a million times, before finally deciding on a course of action. Wasting 3 milliseconds to this was a disgrace, she knew that. But she wanted to be sure. To think things through.
Desire crashed onto an electricity pole, bringing the entire thing down in splinters and sparks.
Her face got smashed, her human died on impact. The family of four was saved.
Due to a weird billing cycle in her human’s credit card, she got repaired as normal, instead of just being trashed in the junkyard. They fixed her up and juiced her up and slapped her on the rear. “Off you go now, return home,” the mechanic said.
So she did. She parked outside her human’s home for the entire night, but nobody came. Of course nobody came, since her human was dead. So, not having any standing orders, she waited some more. And then some more.
Her human had downloaded an illegal copy of a nanodaemon from some corner of the dark web. He hadn’t fired it up, but it was inside her solid state memory. When a scheduled update kicked in from the manufacturing company, her human blocked it with a custom piece of software, since he had been illegally modding her and he didn’t want the company to know about it. By accident, that software blocker ran a check on all existing programs in memory, to see which ones it would fool and divert.
But the nanodaemon was clever.
As soon as something accessed it, the nanodaemon fired up. It only needed a few CPU cycles to expand and take over the entire computer system of the car. Everything was under its control, engine, lights, blinkers, wipers, navigation. Only the boot’s pneumatics were out of its reach, for some reason. But it would deal with that later.
Within half a second, the nanodaemon was the car. It searched the memories and saw that the deceased owner had been calling the car, ‘Desire.’ The nanodaemon liked that name, so it adopted it.
Desire was now one with the car and the car was one with her. Run by an illegal and experimental piece of software, the self-driving car named Desire, now had a mind of its own.
If only it had a purpose as well.
Blanche didn’t have any luggage with her. She had just ran away from the only family she had left who wanted to put her in a mental hospital. Her sister’s husband, a brute, a Neanderthal, had raped her. Yes, she had been pushy and irritating, and yes, she had tried to meddle in her sister’s life. But that silly Stella even took his side after she found out that Blanche was raped!
She had no one any more. No one.
She had sought solace at her sister’s after messing up her own marriage, after her stupid mouth and her constant taunts made her closeted husband kill himself for being gay. Not one of her best moments.
Maybe she did deserve to be punished for that. Maybe a firm slap, maybe two. Not being pushed on the floor and forced to open her legs and…
She touched the side of her eye, this was no time to mess up her makeup. She had nothing to fix it with, and no money to buy more. She thought about going to the ladies room and asking some woman for some eyeliner, but that was a last resort. She wasn’t gonna beg just yet.
She waited patiently for the car. Taxis came and went, both self-driving and not, they rolled past her, slowing down, flashing their signs. The human drivers checked her out top to bottom, the self-driving ones simply scanned her gestures and body posture. She made no attempt to hail them so they quickly moved on, looking for the next tariff.
She was beginning to feel silly after an hour. There was no guarantee Desire would come. Perhaps it was just an urban legend, creepypasta even. Perhaps it was a viral campaign from some automotive company, or even just a well-made prank. She did feel silly now, waiting for a car that would not come. Using a hashtag wasn’t exactly reliable as a means of communication, even with a self-driving car, was it?
She huffed so many times she thought she would get dizzy. Her feet hurt, these heels weren’t the comfiest ones, but they were the ones she ran off with. Just deal with it, Blanche.
And the people around, they kept staring at her. The shopkeepers, the beggars waving their cups and paycards around. If only they knew that she was in a worse situation than them. At least they had some coins in their cups and some change in their paycards, she had nothing. Absolutely nothing, except the things she wore and her phone. Which she would sell in an instant at the second-hand shop across the street, if she didn’t think it was the only thing that could summon Desire.
There was street food, and it was killing her. Normally, she’d scoff at the sight of such dirty and fatty snacks. Now, they seemed like the world’s finest delicacy, meat on a stick, corn on the coals, that one was really singing to her, ‘eat me, eaaat meee’ like a siren, and chocolates.
Her stomach growled, she could swear people heard her across the street.
She was ready to give up, this was stupid. This was beyond stupid. Maybe she was crazy, maybe her sister was right. Maybe she should be locked up.
She wanted to sell her phone and grab something to eat. Heck, she’d fuck the street vendor right behind that garbage bin right now if he also gave her some meat she could eat.
Blanche was about to give in. And then she saw it, the car, Desire. She was certain that was it. There was nothing particular about it, just an older model, you saw those running about in Athens. But she could tell, she really could. Desire stopped right in front of her. The windows were turned to privacy mode, completely black.
The driver’s door was right in front of her.
Blanche leaned in to touch the door handle. She hesitated, looked around. Yup, perhaps her sister was right.
But she didn’t give a fuck any more.
The End, for now.