Give Way

“Okay, let’s go over how the traffic priority controls work. You can up-priority by paying a small fee, with a promise to pay more if your higher priority becomes relevant. The fee goes to us, the later charges to every vehicle that’s inconvenienced by yours. Or you can down-priority, which is free, but nets you a small payment every time the road-grid can pick you to ‘lose’ rather than another vehicle.

“But people don’t understand how the vehicle priority algorithm works underneath.

“It doesn’t affect vehicle speed, or routing, or any such. We can’t run vehicles efficiently at multiple speeds over the same roads, after all. No, what the traffic priority setting does is affect the way the road-grid handles resource-contention decisions where two vehicles require the same resource – odoblock, say – simultaneously, and resolving this deadlock require that one vehicle be selected to ‘lose’, which we define as a set of parameters including increased travel time, increased travel cost, vector changes outside the passenger comfort envelope, user preference deviations, and so forth. In those cases, the lowest priority ‘loses’, and where multiple vehicles share the same priority, a random function decides the loser.

“That’s a simplification, but it’s close enough to true. It’s most visible with emergency response vehicles, which naturally have a hard-coded top priority, but if you carefully study the patterns of traffic around some other vehicles over time, you can see the algorithm at work. Sleeper cars and fragile cargoes, for example, have their comfort envelopes weighted higher so other vehicles ‘lose’ to them when a maneuver is required. Bulk freight without deadlines is usually deprioritized for the potential savings, so statistically speaking, robotrucks ‘lose’ more than regular traffic.

“So why do people think that these don’t do anything?

“Well, how often do you think the road-grid system needs to make resource-contention decisions?”

– Eimil Murianos, odocorp engineer, IBC live interview

An Unlikely Recruit

“Prospect 33/1, getaway driver… getaway driver?”


“I understand why we’re reviewing these… work histories, but why are we interested in a getaway driver?”

The senior ironmonger steepled his fingers and leaned back in his chair; the other rolled his eyes.

“Consider, my dear Sulcis, just what is involved in practicing the gentle art of getaway driving in this modern age. First, one must be a good enough hardware engineer to bypass the many and various safety systems on your flitter designed to prevent it from maneuvering in any of the ways which one might wish to maneuver during your getaway. Likewise, you must also be a good enough software engineer to write your own drive-manager for said flitter, which not only avoids the software safeties, but emulates them – and the rest of the optimal safe style – well enough to fool everyone into thinking that all’s well when you aren’t being pursued.

“And you must achieve all of this while bypassing the road-grid – which otherwise would simply order your flitter to lock its doors and deliver you to the constabulary – by either stealthing or spoofing. In the former case, you need to have written a drive-manager that can somehow deal with the unfortunate consequences of the road-grid perceiving you as an invisible hole – or rather, a motile obstruction to be cleared away by emergency response – and in the latter case, to pretend to be multiple vehicles without tripping a trouble-flag, and should you fail at that, handling the attempts to take remote control of your vehicle via the road-grid interface, or to switch to stealthing and disable the grid interface in mid-flight without tripping any of those safety systems. Either of these options is very likely to involve an uncomfortable amount of updating code on the fly without crashing. Literally, and literally.

“Possibly while dodging flak, foam, and EMPs.”

Sulcis frowned. “So they have to be good, but you could say the same about –”

“For values of good equal to gods-kissed technical geniuses whom we want working for us only slightly more than MinTrans and the odocorps want them interrogated, patched, and probably shot, yes.”


Did You Get The Number Of That…?

“Disabling of road-grid transponders and/or the use of electronic countermeasures, sensory maskers, stealth coatings, chameleon paint, ambioptic invisibility, cloaking devices, or other detection-inhibition technologies on any flitter, ground-car, or other vehicle, in motion or stationary, on a public highway or skyway or other public-usage transportation volume is strictly prohibited as recklessly negligent operation.”

– Ministry of Transportation Ordinance #112-98


The nodes of the public notification channel had snapped back to full operation within milliseconds of the pinch going off, and geotags bloomed in carmine distress across the wreckage below.  She noted approvingly the grounded flitters upstream of the wrecks, their drivers already moving in with unpacked emergency kits, foamsteel spray to cap venting slush and LiME to break through stubborn wreckage.

”Put us down there,” she directed. ”Yeah, by the crush.” A StellEx freight wagon – it must have been near the center of the flux – had spun out and crashed, swatting a half-dozen flitters out of the sky on its way down. The ambulances accompanying them were falling behind, collecting the merely wounded from the trailing wreckage.

Leaping from the rescue flitter at a low hover, she landed at the run, waving her credentials – Cerí Oriane-ith-Meliane, revivifier – at the constabular sequester-claim, and shifted overlays to stack-pings and danger-warnings only. The first stack was nearby, a corpse hanging through the windscreen of a flitter’s front half, impaled on the shattered diamondoid. She reached for the neck, pulled it down, and slipped her pithing knife smoothly through dead flesh and photon-cable alike. With a twist, the gleaming walnut of the vector stack popped free.

She dropped it into the embag at her waist, then looked about for the next ping-tag. There, inside that wreck. A spray of LiME and a few heartbeats’ pause embrittled the thin metal of the hull, and a kick shattered it like glass.

Shit. It’s a live one. The man inside the shattered flitter was still breathing, though barely, eyes glazed with agony. She made the call in moments – near-full-body burns, unsalvageable – and pressed a hissing euthspray to his neck. And then, again, it was the pithing knife’s turn.

And on to the third…