Auto King’s Man

I was shaking as I entered the Auto King’s lair, knowing things couldn’t go well for me. I hated being the messenger, especially when I had to deliver bad news. 

The Auto King was lifted high in the air, currently being worked on by a team of professional mechanics. It seemed like they were giving him a full suspension service. The slick black car looked down at me and frowned. 

“What is it, Nathaniel?” he asked.

I tried to slow my breathing and stop the trembling but had no luck. My voice shook as I spoke. “My lord, I’m afraid to inform you that Operation Sneaky Fighters has failed. Somebody found out about it and single-handedly destroyed the base. Rufus was found there. He is dead, my lord.”

The Auto King was contemplative for a moment. “Is our plan to take control of all Ringwood automotive services still intact?”

“It is,” I said. “Do you want to go forward? It’s a dangerous plan without the sneaky fighters there to help manage it.”

The plan involved taking control of all the auto shops so that every sentient car would be exposed to our campaign for autocracy. With all the sentient cars thinking about it, either consciously or subconsciously, they’d be more likely to join our resistance and our fight against the Church of the Tinted Flock. 

“Do it,” said the Auto King. “I don’t want there to be any vehicle inspections within Ringwood or its surrounding suburbs without our influence. It is crucial that this part of the plan works, with or without the sneaky fighters there to help. Do not fail me again, Nathaniel.”

I bowed low and retreated out of the room, my hands still shaking. When the Auto King got mad, he kind of reminded me of Dark Invader, the villain from the Space Battles movies. But at his core, the Auto King was a good guy. He had to be, right? Because I definitely wasn’t one of the bad guys or serving one of them. Autocracy was what the world needed, not democracy with humans. We were the good guys. Right?

Great Auto Conspiracy

I was going to get to the bottom of this conspiracy, even if it was the end of me. I didn’t care if I lived to tell people the truth. I just wanted to know what was actually going on. What did space flight engineers have to do with car repair? Why had I been mysteriously sent a note saying to find a mechanic in space? 

My latest lead brought me to a mechanic workshop in Brighton, where everything seemed perfectly normal. I entered the reception with a shortsword on my hip and an automatic crossbow in each hand. The receptionist almost leapt out of her seat, so shocked to see me. After a moment she recomposed herself.

“Is this a Brighton auto electrical shop that offers services in space?” I asked.

The woman wiped her brow and seemed relieved. “You’re here for the tryouts, then? Want to be one of the Auto King’s space crew? You were supposed to bring your own lab equipment, but I suppose what you have there will do for now. Head on in.”

So the Auto King was behind this, huh? He was building an army of science bandits for some nefarious purpose. That explained why this whole operation was in Tasmania, and why they needed car workshops involved. If the Auto King needed tyre replacement around Brighton, he could come straight here. And if they needed transportation through the Bass Strunnel for their crew of lab staff, it only made sense to enlist some workshops.

The receptionist pointed me through the back door, and I headed there without thinking it through further. I’d already come this far. No turning back now. Somehow, I had to destroy the Auto King’s army. And it seemed I was doing so from the inside.

I hoped it wouldn’t take too long. My wife was going to have dinner ready in twenty minutes, so I had to dismantle this operation quickly and head home. This definitely wasn’t how I expected my day to pan out, I’ll admit.

Cyber Mechanics Go

Now that we’ve officially made it to the fabled realm known as ‘the future’, I have one question. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with hoverboards – from time to time, I do wonder what’s holding those up, but I wouldn’t bother putting forward questions about it. No, what I want to know is this: in the present day and age, are auto service centres an essential service? Or are they a luxury?

Now, before you answer, consider that there are people who don’t hold the same opinion as you. How do I know this? I’ve spoken to people on both sides of the fence, and many of them feel quite strongly about it. At first, it seemed self-evident to me that this type of service is indeed essential, and I was quite vocal about that, only to be argued down by a cyclist friend who insisted that anything to do with motor vehicles is a luxury. That then seemed like the obvious position.

But then an indignant neighbour, who’s an ambulance driver, countered that point with the smart-sounding quip that ‘necessity is determined moment by moment’. Now I don’t know what to believe. Maybe it is all relative. For example, in Toorak, car service is less necessary than it is in Alice Springs. At the end of the day, it probably still counts as a luxury even in the desert, but I guess that’s arguable depending on what you need to get done.

Why am I so hung up on this, you ask? Well, it all started after I had a lengthy chat with a particularly gruff mechanic near Glen Iris a couple of months back. He seemed to be deep into some conspiracy theories about global pandemics, and was adamant that business as we know it would irrevocably change sometime this year. As a result, he was pretty grim about his job prospects, which is how I got talking to him in the first place – as a barber, this is the sort of stuff people bring up with you.

Anyway, this guy has another appointment coming up this week, and I feel I need know where I stand on this issue by then.