The Hearts-on-Wheels baby carriage was
the most impressive model on the market: a
flawlessly-crafted compromise between traditional
parental concerns and the luxuries of modern
technology. Like any baby carriage, it had four
wheels, an adjustable sun-shield, and ample
cushioning. It could be pushed with ease along the
sidewalk by a loving parent or care-taker.
Unlike more basic designs, however, it
was equipped with an engine that could be switched
to auto-pilot mode; its on-board computer could be
programmed in detail for a particular route,
allowing the parent to walk effortlessly beside it
while it deftly manoevered turns, slowed down for
bumps, and, with its voice-sensor, stopped, slowed
down or sped up in response to verbal instructions
from the parent.
For unusually demanding babies, it could be
fitted with water-cushions rather than feather
pillows. Most models were equipped with small-screen
televisions to entertain the children. The mattress-
cover could function as an electric-blanket,
providing warmth identical to that of a mother's
bossom; the lower mattress was battery-powered and
could be set to vibrate.
Special features were implemented for
children with health complications, such as a
tinted plastic cover to protect children prone
to freckling; a built-in humidifier; special gas
tanks that could spray a fine mist of ritalin
(or other pharmaceuticals) at the baby's
face, soothing him or her into sheer chemical
The Asp donated more than twenty of these
super-expensive baby carriages to community
service centers in lower-income neighborhoods,
which loaned them out to economically disadvantaged
families with newborns. Naturally, there were
limits to the Asp's generosity. Oh, he asked for
no money in return; that would be heartless; all
he asked for was the opportunity to share in the
This he ensured for himself by modifying
the carriages' on-board computers with special
maps of the city's streets and sidewalks that bore
little resemblance to the actual urban terrain.
The carriages launched off of curbs, slammed into
telephone poles; they wholly ignored the most urgent
vocal commands from parents, sped up to nearly
40 MPH approaching complicated intersections,
then slowed to a sluggish, jerky, zig-zag crawl
while crossing wide, busy streets.
The sabotaged voice-sensors could not
decode utterances made with foreign accents --
Canadian, English, Italian, Spanish, urban
Obeying the Asp's programming "errors,"
the pharmaceutical sprays went off at random.
The built-in television sets switched to
pirate cable stations featuring child pornography.
The humidifier's tubes crossed with the
engine's exhaust pipes.
The water-cushions warmed up to a boil
by the blanket-heaters and burst open, belching
out steaming froth, transforming the carriages
into geysers on wheels, poaching the babies.
Several parents, terrified that they had
destroyed the expensive carriages and would have
to cover the repair costs, abandoned them, baby
One of the carriages collided forcefully
with an electrical utility box. This particular
carriage was not equipped with water-cushions. If
it had been, the cushions might have ruptured and
extinguished the initial sparks, but instead, the
carriage was soon engulfed in murderous flames.
Multi-colored columns of fire spurted skyward;
the carriage's electrical wires swished violently
through the air, spraying sparks and drops of
molten plastic, while carbon monoxide clouds
spewed from its exploding engine. Shreds of
smouldering cloth drifted from the inferno
like incinerated pigeons. The Hearts-on-Wheels
baby carriage had turned into a rolling barbecue.
The Asp, standing at the adjacent curb,
laughed heartily, then dashed over with a joyous
grin and a large aluminum fork. Digging through
the charred remains, he made no effort to
wipe the drool from his glistening chin.