Another vignette which started out as a ten minute prompt.

Out of Gas

The pool car hesitated again, and this time Keyop knew he hadn't imagined it. Damn. Damn. He'd finally persuaded Anderson to trust him with a basic civilian task and it was all going wrong. He didn't have time to stop and deal with mechanical issues, probably didn't have the tools in any case. It had already taken far longer than planned to drive out to the launch site and collect the document folder, mostly because the secretary had refused to believe that his ID wasn't fake. It was fake, of course. But not the age on it. It wasn't his fault he looked twelve.

He glanced at the GPS. Five miles to ISO. Surely he could nurse it that far.

The engine fluttered twice, almost stalling the second time.

Four and a half miles. He would nurse it that far. He wasn't an expert driver, but he was an engineer. The principles were the same for any failing engine. Put as little stress on it as possible, keep it going, minimal acceleration, don't waste any momentum.

Three miles, another three jolting hiccups. And the last minor uphill before he could coast all the way to the gates of ISO.

The engine died a hundred yards up the slope, fifty yards from the top, and there was no way he could roll far enough to get onto the downslope.

Keyop swore in Russian, English and Spectran, took a couple of deep calming breaths, and tried to restart the engine. Nothing except the whine of the starter motor. Not even a cough. Time to start diagnosing. Basic things first, eliminate issues with the controls before worrying about the engine. The battery site of the electrics were fine or the starter motor wouldn't be turning over. The fuel... oh no, how had he missed that?

This time he didn't even swear. Swearing was for anger and this was raw private humiliation. For a moment he seriously considered walking back down the hill to the last gas station - it had only been a couple of miles. But he was carrying a packet of highly secret documents, he'd been trusted to do something with a very strict set of rules attached, and if he broke them he'd be back to being treated as a kid for the next forever. He had to call the pool car people and get them to send someone out to rescue him.

Or he could call someone else.

"G-2?" he said over the bracelet.


"I... I need a favour."

"Now? What?"

"I'm three miles north on the coast road in a pool car. I'm out of gas."

There was a moment of silence, and then a splutter of laughter. "You idiot. On my way."

Keyop folded his arms on the wheel and let his heart return to a sensible rate, watching the last light fade from the sky. Jason wouldn't tell Anderson, he was pretty sure. He was also pretty sure that he was never, ever going to live this down.