Sunday, July 10, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 7, 2398

Mateo is startled awake. He’s nervous at first, because he assumes the person who’s shaking him by the shoulders in the pitch black is a friendly, but he doesn’t know that for sure. “Who is that?” he asks.
“Shh. It’s Heath,” he says in a whisper.
Leona turns over in her sleep.
Mateo drops down into a whisper too. “What is happening?”
“I wanna show you something.”
“Can it wait until morning?”
“It is morning. Come on.” He gets his hands further along Mateo’s shoulder blades, and pulls him out of the bed.
“Can I put on pants first?”
“Probably should.”
Mateo hastily pulls on some clothes, and follows Heath out of the room. He slips his shoes on too, and they leave the condo. They walk down the hallway, down the elevator, and down the hill. He rubs the sand out of his eyes as they continue walking for another couple of kilometers. He complains a little, but feels he needs to respect his host’s decisions, as bizarre as they seem right now. Finally they make it to a parking garage. There’s something different about it, but Mateo can’t place his finger on it, because he’s still so sleepy. As they walk through it, though, he realizes that the ceilings are very high. Some garages can’t even accommodate a heavy duty pickup truck, but this could handle semi-truck trailers. He yawns. “What are we doing here?”
“I got the notification that my present arrived, and just couldn’t wait.”
“Present for me?” Mateo asks.
Heath stops at a...plane? He extends his arms to present it. “Present for us.”
“Is that an airplane?”
“It’s a flying carboat.”
Heath runs his hand along the curve of what looks like a turned up wing. “It can float in the sea, drive on the roads, and fly through the sky.”
“What, couldn’t spring for the one that’s also a spaceship?” Mateo jokes.
“No,” he answers genuinely. He continues to admire the vehicle.
“Where are the wings?” Mateo questions.
“It’s a lifting body, it doesn’t need wings.” He points to the vertical wing thing. “Or that’s what those things are. I don’t know. All I know is it works, and it cost me a fortune.”
“Do we need all of this? Could we not just take regular commercial jets where we need to go, and then rent cars?”
“Well, sure, if you wanna be basic.”
“Far be it.”
“Isn’t it beautiful? Come on, let’s check out the inside.”
It has to be really narrow, so it can fit in the standard road lane—and those weird wings do stick out a little—but it’s pretty long, and sufficiently tall. That’s why it needs this high ceiling parking garage, but it should be able to fit under any bridge just fine. The controls are in the cockpit, where you would expect, for a pilot and co-pilot. Behind it are four little cubbies; two on each side, separated by seats. By the door is a little kitchenette, then a lav, a toilet, and steps up to a loft. It feels like too much. It feels like too much. It all feels too extravagant.
“These cubby seats recline into flat beds, while these two are just for sitting .” He pulls down one of the three jumpseats along the wall by the door. “You could technically fit eleven people, though these three of them wouldn’t have anywhere to sleep.” He continues the tour, pointing around as necessary. Cargo is stored behind the shower, to leave space underneath for mechanical. Retractable floats allow water takeoff and landing. Of course, the wheels retract as well. Back there is a powerful boat motor, but you could opt out of that in favor of just using the jet engines. Distributed propulsion, obviously more fuel efficient. Solar panels mostly provide power for internal systems and land travel operation, but they can support flight in a pinch. Well, they can support an emergency landing.”
“This is...” Mateo doesn’t want to repeat himself. Heath knows it’s a lot. He knows what he bought. “When did you have time to buy this? Was it on your wishlist before we got here?”
He laughs, “no. I ordered it as soon as we first started talking about the mission five days ago.”
“Quick delivery time,” Mateo notes.
“Was it?” It must be pretty typical in this reality.
“I really appreciate everything you’ve done, including this, but not excluding everything else. You’ve been a great help to us, and I thank you for helping Marie when she had no one.”
“You speak as if you’re about to leave alone.”
“I know this thing is yours, and I’m not saying you should give it to me—I would find another way—but I assume it runs itself, because no one has mentioned you having a pilot’s license. I’m just reminding you that I’m fine doing this by myself. You don’t have to spend time away from your wife. I know you two are going through something profound.”
“Yeah, we’ve been talking about that,” Heath says, nodding his head. “You need to add another destination to your list, which we’ll be going to first. Marie needs a real abortion.”
“Where is it?”

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