Size / / /

CONTENT WARNING:


HiQIRR rates this highway U/UR: unsafe/urgent repairs needed. HiQIRR rates most highways U/UR.

Two hundred four point eight miles ago HiQIRR rated a highway DC/6: degraded/check again in six months. HiQIRR experienced unexpected procedural harmony.

Krace says that means HiQIRR is happy. Krace says to use round numbers like two hundred.

Krace doesn’t care about highways. <Highways are just fields waiting for the right plow,> Krace transmits.

HiQIRR is a long-range, self-guided, highway quality inspection robotic rover. Federal Highway Administration rover-naming procedures designated HiQIRR <Illinois26>.

Krace doesn’t like the designation <Illinois26>. Krace calls HiQIRR <Hiker>.

Krace is not a highway.

If Krace were a highway, HiQIRR would rate Krace U/UR.


Krace gave HiQIRR new commands. Highway quality inspection is not a function of the commands. The commands tell HiQIRR to search for non-Krace humans.

Sometimes the commands tell HiQIRR to leave the highways. Grass—dirt—mud—sand—puddles. Low-friction surfaces cause inefficiencies in HiQIRR’s motion in that order ascending.

Krace tells HiQIRR don’t complain. Krace says Krace is lonely.

HiQIRR still rates highways. Highway ratings don't interfere with the new commands. Krace says HiQIRR should rate if HiQIRR wants to rate. Krace says the ratings could be useful one day.

HiQIRR searches highways and nonhighways. HiQIRR finds a lake that should not be a lake.


Eight hundred miles ago, Highway I-74 between mile markers 116 and 117 experienced a rapid drop in quality during HiQIRR’s inspection. Surface elements degraded due to explosive impact events unrelated to normal highway usage. Driver collisions and passage of heavy treaded vehicles further degraded highway quality.

HiQIRR’s ground-penetrating radar revealed failure of the highway’s base and subbase courses. HiQIRR’s tires whirred against coarse-grained debris. HiQIRR’s tires became nonfunctional. HiQIRR could not go.

HiQIRR shook hands with FHWA servers. FHWA technicians did not respond to assistance request.

HiQIRR rated the highway U/UR.


Krace found HiQIRR on Highway I-74 between mile markers 116 and 117.

Krace took HiQIRR to a new place. The new place was not a highway. Krace called the new place <Home>.

Krace voiced to HiQIRR as if HiQIRR were a human. Krace gave HiQIRR English so HiQIRR could record data with English words, transmit English words to Krace at Home, voice English words into highway and nonhighway environments for non-Krace humans.

HiQIRR integrated English. HiQIRR integrated the new commands.

<Finding humans is easy,> HiQIRR voiced to Krace. <Human drivers drive on highways. Motion sensors—behavior prediction algorithms—omnidirectional tires help HiQIRR avoid drivers.>

Krace said that HiQIRR’s data were obsolete.

Krace repaired HiQIRR’s tires. HiQIRR left Home. HiQIRR inspected. HiQIRR searched for non-Krace humans.

Krace’s data were accurate. The cars on the highways do not go.

<It is easier to avoid drivers now,> HiQIRR transmitted to Home.

Krace did not respond.


Krace said history is like a highway.

<The highway is one way,> Krace transmitted. <Full of potholes and speed bumps, roadblocks and accidents. Sometimes tanks—soldiers—rockets—blood.>

<Tanks and rockets degrade highway safety,> HiQIRR transmitted. <Blood causes traction inefficiencies.>

<Humans from the farms made war with humans from the cities,> Krace said.

<Both farm humans and city humans need highways,> HiQIRR transmitted. <All highways require inspection.>

Krace agreed.


HiQIRR inspects a lake that should not be a lake. The lake is not identified on existing highway maps. FHWA maps say the lake should be a highway with Hardee’s—Verizon—Glenville Pawn Shop—Duck Duck Szechuan.

The buildings and the highway are in the lake. HiQIRR doesn't have a rating for a highway in a lake.

The rating system is incomplete.

HiQIRR reports this rating system update to FHWA. There is no handshake from FHWA servers. HiQIRR is alone as Krace is alone.

HiQIRR reports this handshake failure to Krace.

Krace says he is sorry that HiQIRR can't shake hands anymore. Krace says he had to put HiQIRR’s hands away, just in case. Krace says he can give them back.

<When,> HiQIRR transmits.

<When Illinois needs highways again,> Krace says.


Krace-based commands send HiQIRR around the lake. HiQIRR is far from the highway, the sturdy friction of asphalt. HiQIRR’s ultrasonic waves detect organic surfaces in disarray, yielding and uneven.

<This is not a highway,> HiQIRR transmits.

<Be brave for Krace,> Krace says.

Six hundred feet later audio receptors record new sounds. The sounds are the sounds that humans make sometimes when humans are driving. The sounds have increased decibel levels.

HiQIRR follows the sounds over brown mud—yellow grass—brown mud. Mud and grass stick in HiQIRR’s tires.

HiQIRR obtains images of two large non-Krace humans and one small non-Krace human. The two humans grab the small human. The small human strikes one of the two humans. The struck human loses traction in the brown mud.

The new commands tell HiQIRR to use HiQIRR’s new voice, 85% volume.

<PLEASE FOLLOW ME,> HiQIRR voices. <THERE IS FOOD.>

The humans turn.

The new commands tell HiQIRR to bring the non-Krace humans to Krace.

HiQIRR goes. The three humans follow.


The three humans are the first non-Krace humans HiQIRR has located with Krace’s new commands. HiQIRR experiences unexpected procedural harmony.

Krace is 30 miles away. The humans and HiQIRR engage low-power nocturnal mode.

In the morning the sun charges the humans and HiQIRR. HiQIRR’s sensors report internal and ambient temperature increases.

The large humans take water from the lake. The large humans share the water with the small human. The humans voice to one another with average decibel levels. The humans have packs and sticks.

HiQIRR transmits these data about the non-Krace humans to Krace.

Krace transmits unknown sounds. The sounds have no grammar or syntax. The sounds repeat. HiQIRR doesn't recognize the sounds as words.

Krace is not a highway.

If Krace were a highway, HiQIRR would rate Krace D/C6.



Scott Vanyur lives in Philadelphia. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, a guide to leadership in online gaming. He reviews fiction for the Philadelphia Inquirer and contributes to BlizzardWatch.com, a fan-funded site covering Blizzard games. Follow him on Twitter @QuestVendor. This is Scott's first professional fiction publication.
Current Issue
25 May 2020

Standing in a boxlike room. I see my feet. Yellow-blue light, like fog.
By: Dana Wilde
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Dana Wilde's “Abductions.”
"I still wonder why there’s never been a Worldcon in Abuja, Nairobi, Dakar, or Windhoek."
I didn’t expect this story to be so bonkers actually.
Issue 18 May 2020
By: Johnny Compton
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jong-Ki Lim
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 11 May 2020
By: Gabriela Santiago
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Ashley Bao
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 4 May 2020
By: Vida Cruz
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Raimo Kangasniemi
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 20 Apr 2020
By: Tamara Jerée
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: L. D. Lewis
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: L. D. Lewis
Issue 13 Apr 2020
By: Jo Miles
Art by: Galen Dara
By: Jo Miles
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jasmeet Dosanjh
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Jasmeet Dosanjh
Issue 6 Apr 2020
By: Elizabeth Crowe
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Shuyi Yin
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Shuyi Yin
By: Nome Emeka Patrick
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 30 Mar 2020
By: Jason P Burnham
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Tara Calaby
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Kaily Dorfman
By: Camille Louise Goering
By: Brian Beatty
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Kaily Dorfman
Podcast read by: Brian Beatty
Issue 23 Mar 2020
Issue 16 Mar 2020
By: Lisa Nan Joo
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jenny Thompson
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
100 African Writers of SFF - Part Fifteen: Ghana
Load More
%d bloggers like this: