The Drive

The car was an older one. It wasn’t rusted or broken-down, no, but there were dings and scratches, and some of the paint had been worn away by acid rain. Despite this the driver — Clara, the app said her name was — had a four-point-nine-star rating and had apparently been driving for five years. Good; who wanted a three-star driver, or a newbie? Even with the best of drivers, the trip was bound to be bumpy at best. No need to make the odds worse.

Mike groaned behind his rebreather when he saw that Clara was wearing one too. The car didn’t even have its own oxygen?

He got in the back seat, wiping the grime from his shoes on the floor mat. Clara gestured to the dashboard, where her version of the rideshare app was visible on-screen. It showed Mike’s name and picture, plus his pickup spot and destination. Clara made an inquisitive gesture, unable to speak around the rebreather over her mouth.

Mike nodded, unable to respond verbally for the same reason. And this was why rideshare cars needed their own oxygen.

It wasn’t like it was a bad car. The seats were fairly clean, no rips or tears. There were charging ports and cables provided for phones, which Mike had to admit he didn’t see in many cars these days — electricity was expensive, after all. But still, Clara couldn’t be bothered to provide oxygen. Or to clean her floor mats, apparently; they were covered in dust and dirt tracked in from outside.

The trip was a short one, and uneventful. Smooth, in fact; most drivers seemed to make a game of hitting every pothole along the way, but this one seemed to know better. Clearly she didn’t want to risk a bent tire. Mike hadn’t driven since, well, since before, so he didn’t know for sure, but he couldn’t imagine that car parts came cheap these days.

The car made its final turn, and the huge clear dome of Maple Creek Heights came into view. Mike breathed a sigh of relief; almost home.

Clara pulled up to the dome entrance and rolled down her window so she could press the buzzer and be let in. Mike cleared his throat, shaking his head when she looked at him.

Oxygen was for residents only. He’d be risking his spot on the HOA board if he let an unapproved visitor in.

He got out of the car and went up to the airlock door by himself. He glanced back at Clara to wave good-bye, but she was already driving off.

As he headed into the airlock, Mike’s phone buzzed. He unlocked it to find a notification from the app.

How was your trip?

She hadn’t even had oxygen. He still couldn’t believe it. He pulled his rebreather off, breathed in the fresh air of Maple Creek Heights, and gave her two stars.