“Fries incoming,” Ivory says.
I’m driving as we pull back onto the road by the old dorms, so I open my mouth and she sticks three fries in. “Thanks!” I say while chewing.
Just two blocks from campus we come out in Ruston’s old downtown, which looks like it should still have cars running on gas. It’s just that sort of place, all very early-to-mid twentieth century. The main street splits into two one-ways in what used to be the heart of the town, both lined with two-story buildings that have no spaces between them.
Cars, though, are all electric or something else now. I can never keep up with the newest experimental lines; that’s more Ivory’s thing. Mine is a small gray electric that’s so old Aunt Karan had to buy an adapter to keep being able to buy power for it at public stations. The adapter sits in the glove box, and I have to pull it out and stick it in the port on the side of the car every time I pull into a station to charge it. I even have to actually drive it myself, because the Autodrive is fried.
“Why did your aunt send you to school in this thing?” Ivory asked when she saw it. “I thought you told me she just got a newer one.”
“She did,” I told her. “She wanted me to bring that one, but I like this one. It’s...I don’t know.” After raising me for six years, Aunt Karan deserves to drive a better car. Having me to take care of is probably half the reason she hasn’t gotten one until now anyway.
And this one has memories.
We’re taking my car out to the house, because Ivory’s never been there and she wants to see it. I really wanted to go grocery shopping after I met her this morning so I’m stocked up before classes start, but we compromised at Ivory buying lunch.
The house is only four or five miles from school, but once you get outside of town north of the interstate it becomes the middle of nowhere pretty quickly. There’s not as much nowhere as there used to be, but where we’re going is one of the few areas left nearby where you can still feel isolated if that’s what you want. As we get close the pine trees lining the road behind barbed-wire fences have branches extended over the road, making parts of the drive like navigating a tunnel.
“I’ll go shopping with you before you drop me off, when you take me back to school. How’s that?” Ivory says. She’s scraping the onions off her burger and into the takeout bag with a french fry, and I’m popping the pickles she handed me into my mouth. Neither of us likes pickles or onions on our burgers, but I’ll at least eat the pickles by themselves.
“We should call Matthew and make it a shindig,” I say.
I look at her curiously, but before I can say anything she pushes several more fries in my face. I’m working on chewing them when Ivory answers her comm.
“Hold on,” she says. Her implant is only audible to her, and I can’t see the interface that opens in front of her, either. She sets her food down to tap at a button that’s invisible to me.
This is why I don’t want an implant. I’m still with Matthew on that one; it seems a little scary to me. He ultimately lost that battle, apparently. Ivory didn’t have one when they left for college, or at Christmas, but she had it when I was visiting for orientation.
“Hello…?” she says. “Yes. Yes, I’m Ivory James. What—?”
She stops, and her mouth hangs open. Her fingers close around the food bag in her lap and the harsh crinkling sounds cut into the sudden silence.
“What is it?” I ask immediately.
She doesn’t answer, and I’m driving. I search for a place to pull over because the look on her face has made my stomach drop. We’re coming out of the trees and there’s a field on one side now. I find a spot where there’s a gate in the fence and there’s gravel by the road that leads up to it.
“Thank you,” Ivory’s saying.
I stop as quickly as I can, but by the time I have I think she’s already hung up. Or they hung up, whoever it was. The way she’s still killing the poor paper bag doesn’t make me feel any better.
“What is it?” I ask again.
“I um…” Ivory is not often at a loss for words.
“I have a call.”
She doesn’t have to elaborate for me to know what she means. At the Temporal Communications Call Center back in town, she has a call waiting for her from another time.