I tell myself it’s just the bad Russian-English kicking in, and not to worry about it. But, the next morning I find myself staring at the lists of account numbers- what are these really? It’s like an itch in my brain that I can’t seem to scratch.
There is something familiar about these numbers, I noticed it the first time I started using them, but could never figure out what it was. I mean, it’s not like a string of numbers means anything, but there was something about them I couldn’t quite place.
I’d always pushed it away, but now…
The software doesn’t allow copy/paste, so I copied down a random number from the list into my phone’s search App and let it run. I get a couple thousand results- all kinds of numbers from social security to random pieces of code. This could be anything. So I decide on a different tack- I copy down a couple numbers and search for them as blocks with quotes around them so that they’ll be used as-is.
Still too many.
Then I have a bit of inspiration.
I only search for the first four digits of each of the numbers. Most identification numbers are broken into blocks with each group representing a different piece of information. These blocks tend to be in threes and fours, so that’s where I’ll look.
I get it on the first try, and I stare at the window.
Now I know why these numbers seemed somewhat familiar.
They’re partial VIN numbers- Vehicle Identification Numbers, just missing the first two number blocks.
My head swirls. These aren’t apartments, they’re vehicles.
Then it all clicks.
These are cars or trucks, and I’m topping off their fuel and maintenance accounts. That’s why the system lost contact with that unit, it got into an accident or something.
It’s somebody’s fleet of trucks or taxis or something.
But why did Eddy lie to me? If it was just a vehicle fleet- why the secrecy?
I call up the portal to the True Blue Insurance system and stick in the number and password of someone I know is still working there. We used to log in for each other all the time to cover for people who were late or snuck out- I know how to access the accounts of half the office. Management knew, but never cared much.
Works for me.
In a flash, I was into the system and accessing the state’s vehicle record database. Pretty soon, I’m looking at the vehicle records for each of these cars. And they are cars, not trucks- every one of them is different make or model, the only thing they all have in common is that they’re all driverless. That last part explains why they need to have their accounts tracked and topped up- there’s nobody behind the wheel.
But the truth is, now I’m even more confused.
I’d started to think this was a Cloud Car taxi service of some kind, but when I look at the ages and types of vehicles it doesn’t add up. There are crap cars and there are luxury cars worth more than my apartment building next to each other on the list- no taxi service has this kind of variety.
So I pick one, a Chevy Sonar, and call up it’s GPS location tracker- Interstate 90, three miles outside of Missoula, Montana. It’s two years old, licensed to a David Miller of 432 Main Street of Wichita, Kansas. Which is definitely not Montana, or Michigan, so why am I taking care of Mr. Miller’s car?
Then I see the odometer reading and I need to do a triple take.
What the hell? How does a 2 year old car have that much mileage on it? Is that even possible? Could that be a mistake?
I pick another- this one’s in Washington State, 1 year old, 347,573 miles on it.
Another- Florida, 3 years, 1,456,231 miles.
New York, 1 year, 298,742 miles.
California, 763,221 miles.
Louisiana, 89,000 miles.
These cars are all over the place- on highways and freeways scattered across the country, they’re all less than 4 years old, and they all have ridiculous amounts on their odometers. I’ve never seen numbers like this outside of taxis or transport trucks, and even those were lower than some of these cars. It was like they were being run on the highway 24-7.
But why? What were these cars transporting?
My mind immediately leaps to drugs.
It’s gotta be drugs.
I’m managing a fleet of drug delivery cars.
I stare at the screen. Now what do I do? This is actually a pretty good job, and those are hard to come by these days. But drugs? If I’m an accessory, how many years? Is what I’m doing illegal? Of course it is, somehow. But I didn’t know… Maybe I could plead the fifth? Maybe if they get found out, it’ll be okay? Nobody knows I’m the one paying the bills, right?
Oh wait, my IP address will be logged somewhere.
I shut down my system and go take a walk.
A couple hours later with a full stomach and having thought it over, I decide I don’t know enough. Yeah, it could be drugs, but it could also be some other black or grey market merchandise like untaxed cigarettes or booze. Maybe they’re running a courier service. I just don’t know enough.
A smart man would call Eddy and quit, maybe tell him that I have a better job, thank him and get the hell out of town.
I’m still trying to salvage things, like the idiot I am.
So I decided to watch the GPS beacon of one of the cars and see where it went.
I figure maybe it’ll give me some clue what they’re up to.
One’s coming into Michigan, so I call it “Todd” and start watching it.
Three hours later, Todd is in Indiana. Never stopped, never left the highway.
Okay, so it’s traveling between states, not uncommon. I pick another one I call “Betsey” and follow it into my state.
Same deal. Betsey comes in on I75, loops up the peninsula and then comes back down on her merry way to Illinois. She stops once for some automated gas, I see the money charged to my accounts, but that’s it, and then she’s on her way. No other stops.
I pick another car. And another.
None of the cars coming into the state stop, and if they do, it’s only for gas, and those are all different gas stations in different places. Those could be drop-off points. Somebody could be swapping the goods when they stop for gas, but…
I go back to Todd.
He’s in Ohio now. I start following his progress.
He continues to lazily buzz along the interstates, stopping only for gas as he makes his way around the country. Betsey is the same, she never seems to go anywhere, just drives. They’re not even taking any kind of direct routes to anywhere, they’re just driving, and it’s almost random where they go.
The more I think about it, the more puzzled I become. What are these cars doing? It’s like someone just told them to drive, and to keep on driving, and not to stop.
Who would do that? And why?
Watching Todd and Betsey becomes my new hobby, and I keep a window open with their progress in the background as I work. Watching them and looking for patterns as the days pass by. After a few weeks, the frustration builds up, I’m obsessed with them and trying to figure out what they’re doing, but I can’t seem to find any patterns.
Finally, I decided to take action.
Using the True Blue Insurance system, I designate a car coming into the state as “in need of a recall”. It’s a selective alert going out to just that car, and it will force the car to come into a dealership for maintenance. Since I chose a Toyota car, and there’s only one maintenance bay in the area, I know exactly where the car is going to go.
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