Robert, an old and dying man—older than he realizes—and his intelligent car are driving into Death Valley. He is reminiscing about his wasted life. There is not much else to do except listen to music and view films as the dreary days merge into each other. He orders the car to find a signal from any satellite still in orbit, but there is nothing. Robert figured that, after the global war, everyone in the whole world was dead, leaving Earth an unbearably hot wasteland. They stop at a deserted town and Robert orders the car to make him a meal. With their supplies low, the car would send out a fetch robot to gather more. Sitting at the table, the same table where he'd sat three weeks ago, Robert wondered why it now looked so old and rotten.

Robert wakes, remembering that he just had a meal at an abandoned restaurant. His car told him that he lost consciousness and it must run a diagnostic on the fetch robot, but the robot does not want to be connected to the car. Robert asks the car what was wrong with the fetch robot, behaving like it had a will of its own. The car says it is performing a diagnostic and will fix it. Robert wants to return to LA, but the car advises against it. Robert is puzzled how the fetch robot has developed its own personality, thinking that it was merely an extension of the car. Reminiscing about his past, Robert wonders why they never met anyone else during their journey, and why everything appeared older every time he returned to the same place. The answer is as startling as it is devastating.

With Polaris, Timothy Brown has produced a delightful short novella with an interesting story twist. The work is mostly dialogue, some of it very engaging, with little narrative. This is difficult to do and still manage to convey what is happening, but Timothy Brown has done this nicely. I found the fetch robot’s responses somewhat too human, but understandable. This in no way detracts from what is a curious and engaging work.