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Driving Exam
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Cinda pulled on her denims and a shirtlet and practically flew down the stairs. Her granfer watched her balance precariously on a kitchen chair while trying to simultaneously pull on her sandalos and eat a bowl of Wheatums.

"Slow down, slow down," Granfer begged. "There's no fire, and we've got twenty mintervals before we need to be there."

"Don't wanna be late!" said Cinda around bites of her fastbreak.

"You won't, I'll drive you there with time to spare." Granfer's eyes sparkled. "And I expect you can drive on the way back!"

Cinda somehow managed to squeal with her mouth still full. Today was her Fth birthday. She could get her learner's permex down at the Driveburo. She would be able to drive with an adult in the passenger saddle, and in a year when she turned 10, she could drive all by herself!

Despite Granfer's admonitions, Cinda bolted her food and practically pushed the old man out the door and onto the drivewalk. Chuckling at Cinda's excitement, Granfer kicked the Corvaire's ankle. It had been reaching its arms to the sky, as usual, but now it reached down a massive arm and gave him a hand up into the driver's saddle.

The Corvaire was small and aged, barely as tall as the house, and its purpur color was definitely the stuff of another generation. But, it still ran well; its legs and arms were well muscled, and its marble hide was unmarked. Granfer took excellent care of his rides, and most weekends he could be found outside giving the Corvaire a bath and a polish.

As Cinda hauled herself up into the passenger sling on the right shoulder, Granfer on the left side put the flat of his palm against the back of the Corvaire's neck. He thought his directions, and the ride pulled down the walk and into the street.

Cinda admired her granfer's driving skill. The Corvaire moved easily with the traffic, jogging behind sporty Flashdogs and merging with huge, muscular Titanotheres. Granfer waved at somebody in a luxurious Divalicious, its prominent breasts swaying as it sashayed down the street in the other direction.

At the Driveburo, Granfer got down and spoke with the Driving Examinator. Cinda tried to quell her nervousness and drummed her toes against the Corvaire's smooth, muscular back. With its driver absent, the ride stretched its arms to the sky once more and turned its impassive stone face up.

"Stop that," giggled Cinda quietly, stroking the Corvaire's shoulder. She immediately felt foolish, talking to a ride like that, and zipped up.

"Hello!" called the Examinator. "Are you ready to begin your exam?"

"Yes, of course!" said Cinda, climbing over into the driver's saddle. The Examinator hauled himself into the passenger side and looked at his clipperboard.

"You are Cinda A'Milloy, and you are F years old?" he inquired. Cinda nodded, and the Examinator smiled.

"Then let's begin," he instructed. "Please place your hand upon the ride's neck."

Cinda wiped the sweat from her palm and gingerly touched the Corvaire's nape. There was a tingle and a rush of noise, and suddenly there was a voice in her mind.

TO THE STARS! the voice proclaimed, a slow, booming drawl of a voice. Cinda didn't know what to make of it, and she jerked her hand back.

"It said 'to the stars'!" Cinda exclaimed. The Examinator nodded impatiently.

"Yes, yes; they all do that. Ignore it. As a driver, your job is not to listen to your ride. You give it instructions, and it goes where you want it to go. Let's try again."

More nervous than ever, Cinda laid her hand against the Corvaire's neck once more. TO THE STARS! the voice said once more, and Cinda could feel the pleading in it, the Corvaire's deep yearning as it reached up to embrace the tiny glimmers of brightness in the emerald sky. Cinda asserted herself.

(We will not go to the stars,) she said in her own mind. (We will walk forward.)

FORWARD? TO THE STARS? questioned the voice.

"Careful," warned the Examinator. "Do not interact! Use your will! Tell it what it must do!"

(We will walk forward now,) Cinda ordered mentally, (and we will not think further of...)

THE STARS! OUR HOME! bellowed the Corvaire in excitement, and it leapt forward. Enormous hands clenching, it reached up for the pinpricks that the two suns could not quite erase from the heavens. Cinda's throat dropped into her stomach as she felt the ride squat and tense its thigh muscles for a tremendous leap skyward....

(STILL.) The Examinator's hand now lay upon the Corvaire's nape. Instantly the ride quieted, straightened, calmed itself. Profoundly embarrassed, Cinda pushed her tresslets out of her face and squared herself in her seat.

"Did I fail?" she asked timidly.

The Examinator smiled. "Of course not, missum," he told Cinda. "Just a momentary loss of control; happens to everybody. We just need to try again. Gather yourself, and let's get back at it."

Cinda took a deep breath, then touched the Corvaire's neck once again. THE STARS, it moaned forlornly.

(Enough,) commanded Cinda. (Forward.)

The Corvaire took a few tentative steps forward, then stopped.

"Excellent!" beamed the Examinator. "We'll have you your permex very soon, dearo." He made a check mark on his clipperboard.

Cinda peered over the Corvaire's shoulder. "It's crying," she whispered. Great oily tears were rolling down the ride's face.

"Yes, that'll happen from time to time," said the Examinator, not looking up from his notes. "Now, shall we see about going in reverse?"

***************************************************

Granfer was very proud of Cinda when she drove the Corvaire back home, but he was surprised at how subdued she was. She didn't even have the Corvaire shout at her friends when they passed by going the other direction in a raggy-top sedan chair. She drove the ride expertly, stopped it neatly in the drivewalk, and they both went inside to have midmeal.

Later it rained. Cinda went back out to check on the Corvaire. Water was streaming down its marble body. It was pointing at the sky again, and with the rain falling directly onto its upturned face, Cinda couldn't tell if it was still crying. She climbed up to its shoulders and was quickly soaked to the skin. She touched the Corvaire's neck.

STARS, it sobbed. TO THE STARS.

(Tell me about them) Cinda implored. No commands, just asking.

THE STARS. OUR HOME. The Corvaire was as simple as a child.

(Someday, the stars) Cinda replied hopefully.

STARS, the Corvaire came back, a trifle more calmly. OUR STARS.

They shared the rain together.