Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Chapter 16.1

Alec Watson was grinning from ear to ear as he pressed the accelerator a little harder in his gun-metal grey Ford Focus. He was finally free from Sir Henry Ponsenby-Brown and all the stupid politics that went with shepherding him around. The M4 was surprising light on traffic for mid morning and that was another contributing factor to his buoyant mood as it gave him the space to put his foot down.
  Sir Henry probably thought that he had selected the Ford Focus just to annoy him. Sir Henry did not approve of American cars. Or Japanese cars. Or any cars that were not “British”. The fact that Aston Martin was owned by Ford for most of the last two decades - and Sir Henry’s other favourite “British” brands were now German - apparently did not matter.
  In reality, the fact that he had managed to irritate the hell out of the old tosspot was just delicious icing on an already tasty cake. Whilst all that he had said about keeping a low profile was true, that was also only part of the story. Alec had chosen the Ford Focus for what was on the inside just as much as its everyman exterior, for this was no ordinary Ford Focus.
  As his speed crept up to one hundred miles an hour, a small warning chime reminded him of this fact. He was approaching a static speed camera. He smiled and pressed the pedal slightly harder.
  At the front of the car, the number plate rotated and revealed a small LCD screen. This would normally be programmed to show an appropriate license number, depending on whether Watson needed to have a visual alibi or was looking to misdirect. Today, however, he was feeling a bit cheeky and so it simply displayed a smiley face.
  The smile was mirrored by Watson himself as red brake lights flashed ahead, signalling the compliance of his fellow motorists. Fortunately, they had left the fast lane clear, so there was no need for Watson to follow suit. As the camera itself came into view, Watson noticed the windscreen darken slightly as the second countermeasure kicked in. A pair of sensors behind the headlights tracked the precise elevation and distance to the speed camera and the car’s windscreen projected a false image, obscuring Watson and replacing him with another driver. The quality of the image would not fool anyone reviewing footage of a high resolution camera but usually worked well enough for the average speed camera monitor - especially when travelling at speed. And Watson was travelling at speed.
  Before leaving London, Watson had toyed with the idea of programming Sir Henry’s details into the camera countermeasure but decided that there was too much danger of getting him in trouble if it was ever picked up by facial recognition. Instead, any camera operator following up a grey Ford Focus travelling at 107 miles per hour would see the grinning face of the Dalai Lama behind the wheel instead. Although there was still the chance this might spark a diplomatic incident, the Dalai Lama was currently four and a half thousand miles away in India so the chance was remote. Besides, everyone knew that the Dalai Lama drove a Suzuki Alto when he was in the UK.
  The camera passed, Watson’s windscreen flickered clear again. He decided to leave the number plates until he was over the Severn Bridge, though, in case any conscientious citizens reported him. As it was, he had to ease down to 85 miles per hour as a few other cars took advantage of passing the speed camera themselves and pulled out into the fast lane. Watson was not bothered, though. There was a four-lane section of the motorway coming up and unless the traffic suddenly got heavier, he should be able to open up the Focus again. He might even try out the nitrous oxide.
  He smiled again at the thought. The final reason he had opted for the Focus was that he simply enjoyed driving it. Although the handling and performance had been improved beyond a standard model, he knew that the Aston Martin was the better car. Nonetheless, the Aston just did not feel like the kind of car Alec Watson should be driving - it had Charles Wainbridge written all over it and an excessive payload of surface-to-air missiles to prove it. Watson, on the other hand, had a soft spot for the Focus after too many hours playing Colin McRae Rally on the PlayStation in his formative years. A large part of him was looking forward to recreating those Rally GB moments, driving around the back roads of Wales at dangerous speeds.
  The happy memories were interrupted as another warning chime sounded. This time, a mobile speed trap had been detected ahead. A yellow box appeared on his windscreen HUD, centred on a bridge in the distance. It promptly shifted to the top right of the windscreen out of Watson’s direct vision and zoomed in to show a parked Traffic police car with two coppers manning a radar gun.
  Ahead of him, the traffic was slowing once again to a tight 70 miles per hour and pulling in to middle lane anonymity. Watson considered doing the same but he was enjoying himself too much. It was fun to try out the gadgets when the situation was not one of life and death, just in case there were any issues. Being caught speeding would be a minor inconvenience, at worst. As the road ahead cleared, Watson accelerated once more.
  Watson’s speeding Focus quickly became the focus for the policeman on the bridge and the yellow box turned red as the radar gun was pointed straight at him. Within milliseconds, the car’s own emitter was jamming the signal with interfering frequencies and transmitting a new frequency that should doppler-shift back to the original transmitted by the radar gun itself.
  On the bridge, the policeman holding the gun frowned as it registered 3 miles per hour. Under the bridge, Alec Watson was grinning like a schoolboy. At this rate, he would be back in Swansea in time for lunch.

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