Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 27, 2020

Yesterday, Mateo called his parents and asked that they be in Las Vegas in one year’s time. He spent the rest of the day with his aunt, exploring the city with what little money they had. They got to know each other a little better. She didn’t know where his birth father was, but she suspected that he too was some kind of traveler, and that he was completely out of control of it. It made him feel better to know that the reason Mario wasn’t in his life might be a pretty damn good one. Mateo and Daria gave each other a hug just before midnight. “Oh, dry mouth,” she said. They were departing at the same time. Once he jumped back into the timestream, he walked to the agreed upon motel and knocked on the door. His father, Randall sighed. “Well, we got a vacation out of this.”
He could see his mother, Carol packing behind him. “But it’s time that we leave. If we don’t get back to Topeka in 24 hours, you could be stuck in the middle of nowhere.”
“I wouldn’t want you to have to go through this again. I’m so sorry, mom and dad.”
“Don’t be,” Randall said. “It’s given me an idea. We’ll test it out later.”
Despite the fact that the route was an hour longer, they drove through Arizona and New Mexico to get back to Kansas. They had always had a rule about Utah; in that it was off limits on principle. Ever since Colorado legalized marijuana, it was kept in the same category. They called these locations “loci non grata”. In only a few years, these policies would become impractical, as more and more states were following Colorado’s lead.
Almost exactly halfway into their trip, they were passing through Las Vegas, New Mexico when the car began to smoke. “No, no, no!” Randall cried. There was a loud tapping sound as the old vehicle slowly decelerated to a complete stop. He tried the key, but it wouldn’t turn over.
“Honey, it’s smoking. You can’t drive a smoking car, even if you get it started.”
“Well, I don’t know anything about cars!”
“I think it’s the radiator,” Mateo jumped in. “In movies, they pee on it.”
Randall turned around and gave him the stink eye. “That’s only when they don’t have water.”
“You are not going to spray water all over the engine, not having any clue what you’re doing. We’ll call a tow truck. I don’t even know why you don’t drive an electric car like everyone else.”
Randall ignored her. “Okay, Google...”
“Yes?” came a comforting voice from the aether.
“Would you please send us a tow truck?”
“It’s already on its way. I could also retask a nearby drone to assess the vehicle’s condition before the truck gets here,” the computer suggested.
“That would be great, thanks,” Randall answered.
“No problem, Randall the Man.”
“Randall the Man?” Mateo asked.
“She and I are really close,” his father explained.
Moments later, they could hear a soft buzzing sound, coming from the distance and growing closer. A small drone appeared from the trees and greeted them. Randall stepped out of the truck and lifted the hood. Mateo watched as the drone zipped back and forth, scanning the system and analyzing the data. It even checked the undercarriage. Once it was done, it hovered in front of Randall’s face. “I have begun orders for two parts that you will need to return your vehicle to working condition. I need your authorization for payment.”
Randall began to lift his hand to the drone but Carol stopped him. “Wait, how long is this going to take?”
“The parts will arrive by long-distance drone late tonight. Your car should be ready tomorrow afternoon,” the drone answered.
“Randall...” Carol started.
He placed his thumb on the drone which responded with, “payment accepted.”
“We need these parts, either way,” Randall told his wife. “We’ll rent a car and come back for the truck next week.”
“Would you like me to send the rental car to this location?” the drone asked.
“Make it the cheapest one you have.”
“The cheapest driverless car, please,” Carol corrected.
“Authorization required.”
Randall placed his thumb on the drone again.
“If you would like,” the drone began, “I could play music while you wait.”
“Classical. Please and thank you.”
While they were waiting for the rental car to arrive, Mateo called Leona to ask how things were going. She was liking her classes, but she was swamped. She was taking more than a full schedule of courses, and just could not skip today to see him. She said that she would be waiting for him at the house when he got back, though. He smiled. He had only known her for a few days, but he liked her quite a bit. She had matured so much since he had met her. His parents were about the same as they always had been, and he hadn’t kept in touch with most of his friends. Seeing the changes a young adult goes through over the years in such a short period of time was phenomenal and bizarre. It was like a four dimensional television series. But even that took longer to experience.
It was exciting to be riding in his first driverless car. The seats were faced towards each other, as there was no need to be at the wheel. Mateo was given the whole back seat where he was able to sleep. When he woke up later, he found his parents to be napping. That was just awesome. Why his father refused to move with the times and own one of these himself was something he didn’t understand. They would later tell him that the concept of owning one’s own car was going out of style anyway. Many people preferred to inform an app on their phone that they were in need of getting to a location, and a car would just come get them. If the prospect wasn’t rendered meaningless by his condition, Mateo wasn’t sure he would like that. The freedom of having his own possessions made too much sense to him.
Even with their delays, they got back to the safety of their home by midnight. Leona was cooking them a midnight snack of buttered noodles. His favorite. Mateo was brushing his teeth when he remembered what his father had said earlier. He went back downstairs. “You said you wanted to try something.”
He looked at his watch. “Oh, yeah. It’s almost time.”
“What is it?”
“Say goodbye to your mother and your...Leona.”
After that was done, it was nearly time. Randall timed it out, then held his son in a tight embrace. “I’m going to try to hold you down. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll get to go with you.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Mateo said.
“It worked with you and your aunt,” Leona said.
“It just doesn’t...” he tried to find the words. “It doesn’t feel the same. When I jumped to Vegas with her, it felt much different than my jumps. It was...more forceful, more jarring.”
“Well I’m going to try it,” Randall said. “If it doesn’t work, then fine. What’s the worse that could happen?”
A year later, Mateo learned the answer to that question. His father had succeeded in neither keeping him from jumping, nor jumping with him. He had, however, suffered a heart attack, and died.

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