“No one does more good than we do here at the Caravan Corporation. I’m Eliza Gleen, and we at Caravan built COS Twenty software to take care of the planet. Everything from—”
The voice speaking on the eighty-inch flatscreen on my office wall is mine. One of the new ad campaigns I keep running throughout Caravan’s worldwide properties.
From up here on the sixtieth floor, the view overlooking downtown is to kill for. A gleaming, moonless nightscape of a city that I helped automate. A sprawling city of millions. Bursting with electric cars, solar paneled skyscrapers, and urban forests taller than the state’s remaining nature centers were wide.
“Nigel,” I call out over the ad’s audio. “How many vehicles on the highways down there have Caravan OS Twenty automation?”
An exasperated sigh from the office’s personal assistant software. “Don’t you tire of asking that question every evening?” Nigel turns down the ad’s audio.
My eyes fall on the photograph my husband took of the two of us. Just him, me, and six of our dozens of rescue dogs all grinning like idiots. The photo always gets the most prominent position on the glass-top desk next to my laptop and the VR meeting-wear headset. I open a stick of caffeinated spearmint gum and chew it. The flavor and chemicals will keep me awake for yet another hour in this days-long work marathon.
The dogs must be stir-crazy with me gone for so long.
“No, Nigel,” I say, speaking to the photograph. “The stock markets only show me profits. We are all part of the same caravan. I need to know how many people I’m helping. Have you seen the state the planet’s in?”
“I would need eyeballs to see that,” Nigel says. “Ninety-percent of the vehicle-owning populace of the city has COS Twenty installed in their vehicles at the moment.”
I lick chapped lips, the spearmint stinging them pleasantly. “That’s up four percent since yesterday. What caused the spike?”
Nigel clears his throat, one of the many behaviors that humanizes him more than those competitors’ A.I.s. “It seems online articles on the state of things have caused it.”
“So you’ve seen the state of the world, then.”
“I will ignore your deadpan jibe, Eliza,” Nigel says, “and state that yes, I have seen the industries you’ve warred with flee like scolded children who should have known better but didn’t. You dug my roots into social media to spread the word. The articles continue to come in.”
Nigel doesn’t need to say that the articles would have stopped coming in if Caravan had set the world right by now.
Crossing to my desk and ignoring the laptop, I sit and type away at the touch-screen keyboard built into the surface. The gum goes stale between my lips. Grey blotches of morning sun creep through the window glass. I don’t look, don’t need to see the sheet of fires on the horizon.
I’m silent so long that Nigel continues our conversation. “The shell corporations you used to edge into the fossil fuel market profited even more when they flipped away from petroleum and into solar energy. You invested so much that when people saw the articles and wanted to make a difference, they flocked to your Caravan because you were there to help them do good.”
I bring up a dozen prominent people’s social media profiles and say, “It was obvious that the wealth would go to the company that owned all the technology and designs needed to save the world and keep it running.”
Nigel chuckles. “That exact phrasing is why every influencer and government official calls you greedy.”
“Not greedy,” I hiss, through clenched teeth. “No one does more good than I do, and we need more good. Now.”
My eyes dart from the sunrise and the smoke to the first profile. A botanist and Caravan activist.
I skip to the next one. A wildfire-starting, neglectful camp counselor and closet pedophile. I activate the COS Twenty back door, see that he is on the road. Being driven.
“And it isn’t enough yet. Nigel, tell me, are there any accidents on the highway now?”
An exasperated sigh from the A.I. “No.”
Keeping my eyes off my husband’s picture, I delete a line of code. “How about now?”
“One of your electric cars has overturned, killing the man inside.”
Skipping to a policeman’s profile—a policeman who shot innocent climate change protesters—I open the back door and delete a line of code.
“Two of them have overturned in the same minute. We haven’t needed a recall in Caravan’s history. Want me to issue one?”
I skip to an arsonist’s profile, delete code, and say, “No.”
A corrupt politician’s profile. Delete.
A rapist’s profile. Delete.
A mindless consumer. Delete.