Rain flowed down the windscreen like tears of grief from the Gods. On this cold, wet, winter's afternoon, the wind howled around the corners of the mind, blowing away thoughts of warmth and safety.
This, thought Sheryl, as she sat in the warm, steamed-up cadillac sipping her hot chocolate, was not helping. It was bad enough she would have to produce warmth and calm in the middle of an accident, whilst at the same time taking in pain and hurt, without having to do it all during a southerly.
Already dressed in boots and jeans with a thick woollen jersey, and wearing her woollen ski-hat and fingerless gloves, she had only to put on her ankle-length leather coat to be fully protected against the elements.
Sheryl absolutely hated these assignments. She was never entirely sure why she did them. True, like others in the network she had an innate sense of wanting to help - to ease the pain and suffering of others. But to do so in the carnage of a road accident was not pleasant. Even being able to dob-in the driver of the hit-and-run was little comfort when the pain caused to the victim and her family would be so immense.
The cellphone rang. It was a phone given to her by the Network, and there could only be one reason for it to ring. Sheryl picked it up and pressed the Send button.
The caller hung up. Sheryl plugged in her seatbelt, started the car, and eased off the grass verge onto the road. She bought herself up to speed - just touching the limit - and followed the road to the intersection of the accident.
Soon she could see the four-wheel-drive vehicle ahead. She slowed to match its speed. The laser measure mounted on the dash of the caddy told her she was the correct distance from the 4WD. She wished she could hit the accelerator and run the 4WD down. But she had been told in the strictest terms not to interfere. Something the precogs had seen convinced the Network chiefs to let this happen. It had to take place, though no-one could explain why.
The driver of the 4WD would pay. A small touch of guilt placed in his mind by an executor would see to that. It would not lead to the driver's death, but that almost insignificant guilt would grow until it consumed the driver's entire being.
With a start, Sheryl realised they were almost there. As instructed, she backed off, increasing the distance between her and the 4WD. As the lead vehicle made its final, fatalistic, approach to the intersection, Sheryl took her foot off the accelerator. The cadillac, now coasting, would stop in just the right point.
As she watched, the 4WD ran a Stop sign - and ran into the side of a station wagon. The impact was such that both vehicles skewed around, the 4WD pushing the wagon into a powerpole in one corner of the intersection. By the time Sheryl's cadillac has stopped itself at the Stop sign, the two cars had stopped moving. Sheryl watched intently out her windscreen - the next part was important.
The bearded male driver of the 4WD was staring in horror at the wagon.