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You and Reggie arrive at the Tesla R&D facility a few minutes early, driving Zero's Model-T golf cart. Henry greets you with a smile and lets Felicity know you're there. She comes out, shakes your hand, and leads you through to a conference room. An attractive man, who looks to be in his forties or early fifties, stands to greet you. He's wearing slacks and a black cashmere sweater. "You must be Trevian and Reggie. Glad to have this chance to meet you. Eve was a friend. I'm Elon Musk."
I look at Elon, then over at Reggie, my mouth slightly agape. Then I glance at Felicity, too, for good measure, I guess. "It's... it's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Musk. I didn't know you and Eve were friends. That's so awesome." I step back so Reggie can shake his hand, or hug him, or whatever.
"Please, have a seat." Once everyone sits, he continues. "This trip has been scheduled for some time, but when Felicity checked in yesterday and mentioned the two of you, I asked her to add this meeting to my agenda. Have you enjoyed learning a little about the PRD? It's quite an experiment."
Reggie still seems speechless.
I nod, "It's thrilling, and a little scary. Life on the bleeding edge. But I've seen things here I probably won't see for another dozen years outside the PRD, if ever. I can see why you and Eve stepped in to revive this place, evolve it."
He has an easy smile. "I'll tell you, Trevian, sometimes this place scares me, and I've been to space." He chuckles a little at his own joke. "Tell me, what drew you to Twilight Solstice in the first place? I've never had the time to play much, but I do have a character. It's quite beautiful, and I know Eve was proud, but it never really grabbed me."
"You've played...?" She snaps out of it. "Really, it's story. There are so many layers and levels, it's almost fractal. There's so much to learn."
Hooray, she speaks! I add, "It's got a barrier to entry, that's for sure. But that's a feature, not a bug. Once you invest time into your character and guild, into the mechanics and your place in the world, you're in. It's completely immersive. Completely. The story is just enough to grab you, but open enough for you to shape it, make it your own. It's the closest thing to an alternate reality that I've ever experienced." I realize I'm talking with my hands, which means I'm overly excited.
"I got into TSol because I wanted a place to reinvent myself. I had a taste of Eve's genius with her previous games, and the guild started forming up with some of my friends from a few different games, and it seemed like the perfect thing." I chuckle, "It wasn't perfect, but it's damn near close. I mean, I've got lots of good reasons to come back to the real world." I glance over at Reggie.
"That makes sense to me. I've been so fortunate with the challenges and rewards of this world, I rarely find myself fantasizing about any other, but I understand that need for story and reinvention. So..." It seems like he's getting to the reason for the meeting. "Felicity said the two of you enjoyed your test drives yesterday, and she was right that you're both really appealing young people. My media people were actually talking about Eve's quest the other day. They seem to think that the attention's about to ramp up significantly. One of them even said 'asymptotic,' but that seems like an exaggeration. Regardless, how would you like to drive a Tesla?"
Okay, now I'm speechless. I hope Reggie steps in.
"Mr. Musk, that's amazing! But we should check in with Melzer-Togawa. We have a sponsorship from Black Marlin Gaming, and they'd have to okay it."
"Of course. I'm sorry to rush you, but do you mind making the call now? I have about a half-hour to spare, and I'd love to use it picking out a car with you guys." His smile is enthusiastic. He clearly loves this company and its products. "Felicity and I will give you some privacy. Just push the intercom button and let Henry know when you're done." The two walk out of the conference room.
Reggie quirks a smile at you and pulls out her fancy phone, puts it on speaker, and dials Tonya.
"What's up? Anything fun happening in Detroit?"
Reggie laughs and looks over to see if you've recovered yet.
I blurt out, "Elon Fucking Musk wants us to drive a Tesla! He is giving it to us, or letting us use it for a while or... I don't even know!"
"Holy shit! Okay... Melzer-Togawa doesn't compete directly with Tesla. Actually, some of the battery components come from an M-T subsidiary. Here's what I'll say. No reason not to say 'Yes,' but no signing anything, okay? Have his lawyers call me if there's anything like that, and I'll let them negotiate with our people. That's really cool, guys!"
"Thanks, Tonya. I think Trev almost passed out when Mr. Musk asked."
"Hey, guys, remember to keep some sort of journal or notes, right? Part of the deal. Anything else for me right now?"
I've got nothing. I'm eager to go "pick one out", so I don't waste any of our time, "I love you, Tonya! Platonic, of course!" Unless Reggie has something, I'll hang up, head outside to find Elon Musk, the guy giving us a Tesla.
Reggie follows you as you nearly jog to find Elon and Felicity. They're in her office, chatting.
"That was quick. I'm guessing that we're a go, then? Have a seat and let's build you a car. What model are we starting with?"
I look over at Reggie first, "Reggie, I know you dug the Ghost luxury sedan. It's a really sweet ride." See the depth of my love for you? I'm giving up my V. Plus, I really shouldn't get that on the street. Seriously.
Reggie glances over at you, a little surprised, then back to Elon Musk. "Can I ask a question? If you were going to pick for us, what would you pick? Just for information's sake. You're the expert, and you know what would benefit Tesla the most."
He tilts his head thoughtfully. "Well, we'll stick to models in production. That Model V you drove yesterday isn't anywhere near road-legal, Trev. I'd have to say, for our benefit it would be the T7. The current top-of-line sports model. It's the flashiest, pulls the most attention. And it's super fun to drive. The other logical choice would be the current-model Ghost. You two are young, though... I'd really love to see you in the T7."
I look over to Reggie, she doesn't seem bothered by a few steps down from the demonic V. "T7 base sounds good to us." She can totally pick the color as long as it isn't flamingo pink, which I highly doubt it will be.
You spend some time, make some choices, and wind up looking at an on-screen picture of a fully-loaded, pearlescent midnight blue T7. It's currently in Atlanta, but will be waiting for you at the Raleigh dealership when you get back to the Triangle. Musk himself makes the calls to make that happen.
"There'll be some paperwork to sign at the dealership, basically a dollar lease, no obligations to the company. I'm just taking a chance, since you're here and I am. And not a big one, really." He stands. "I'm sorry, but Felicity and I have to meet with a few of the engineers. Batteries. Always batteries." He shakes your hands again.
"It really was a pleasure to meet you. Keep in touch."
"Thanks, Mr. Musk." I say with a grin as he leaves. I normally try to keep the PDA to a minimum, but I can't help but throw an arm around Reggie and squeeze her, giving a peck on the cheek. "Can you believe it? This is unreal."
You're alone in the office. Reggie gives you a tight hug and an almost desperate kiss.
"This is great, Trev, but I feel a little dizzy, don't you? Who the fuck's life are we living, now? Do you even recognize it?"
I smile through the kiss and hug her right back. "I know. I almost told Elon that I don't have to log in to live some other life anymore. Our own pad, a salary to play games, media appearances, a free fucking car... it's like 'where does the game end?'" I shrug, "I'm just some dumbass college wannabe working a dead end job and toking it up. How did I score this lottery prize?" I mean her, mostly.
Reggie's quiet for a moment. Then, "It's the shoe, Trev. The other shoe. When does it drop?"
Your phone rings. It's Tandy.
Hunh, Tandy calling? I show the display to Reggie then answer it, "Yo, Tandy, what's up?"
"It's bad, Trev. Jake. His car got t-boned on the way back from work at the coffee shop. Drunk driver. He's at Memorial in Chapel Hill."
I close my eyes, squeeze them shut. It takes a second to get my breath back. But I have to be strong for Tandy. In as calm a voice as I can muster, "We're in the PRD. We'll leave right away. You need anything?" If she doesn't, then I'm telling Reggie as we leave Tesla, then taking the Model T back to Eve's, well, the art commune. I'm packing right away and leaving as soon as I can manage after some goodbyes.
At least, that's what's running through my head a million miles an hour. It's the other shoe. Reggie called it.
Tandy doesn't need anything. PRD to Chapel Hill is just over 10 hours. As soon as you tell Reggie what's happened, she snaps into gear.
"I'll take the packing. You take goodbyes, except Erica. We should do that together. Ask Zero if we can take some water and snacks, okay? Let's get back now. You okay to drive the Model T?"
Not trying to sound freaked out, I keep myself from yelling, "Fuck yes, I'm ok." I just manage a nod, then I'm heading out to the golf cart which is too damn slow.
By the time you've said your goodbyes to everyone but Erica, receiving words of concern and comfort and welcome, Reggie's got your bags packed, and Zero's got a knitted bag full of snacks, water, and iced coffee waiting by the door with them. Reggie takes your hand and leads you to Erica's studio, quickly. Erica looks up, instantly aware that something's amiss.
"What's wrong, guys?"
"I just found out my best friend was in a pretty bad car accident back home in the Tri." I say it fast and try to keep the words flowing. "His little sister is pretty messed up about it, too. I have to go. I mean, we have to go." I step up to her and hug her, leaving room for Reggie to slip in, pulling her if she doesn't automatically.
"Erica, there's always a place in our bed for you, too." I say it with conviction. I know on the outside it appears like we just screwed like rabbits, but there were long talks, there's a connection. I really like Erica. I consider her a friend, now.
"Oh, God! I won't ask if there's anything I can do, but... please check in, in case there is? I'm pretty resourceful. I... want you to know, this wasn't, what we had, what we did, it wasn't just giggles and orgasms. I really like you guys, and I want... want the best for you." She's got tears in her eyes as she embraces the two of you. "I'm so sorry about your friend, Trev. Please let me know?"
"Thanks, Erica." I say it into her ear, my voice heavy. I'm so worried about Jake. So pissed off at the unknown drunk driver. I pull back, loo at her, Reggie, too. "Erica, you're really special, and thanks for everything. I-I hate to leave like this. But I have to go." I lean in and kiss her, but it's brief. Warm and affectionate, but over in moments. Then I break away and let Reggie say whatever she has to say, in private. It's her way, and the two of them had several private talks. I don't mind it. But I'm going down to Reggie's car now, with Jack Aubrey in his cage and our bags. I hug Zero on my way out and take the knitted bag, then I carefully put everything away in the car, start it up, wait for Reggie.
So, ten hours from your best friend, who's lying in a hospital bed, broken by a drunk driver. Who, it turns out, walked away with bruises and contusions, but mostly unscathed. Tandy tells you she's in custody, charged only with a DUI at the moment.
Still, ten hours. Who drives the most? And what do the two of you talk about?
I drive the most. I'm too wired and frustrated to sit. I don't know what we talk about most of the time, my mind's on one track. Reggie's doing the talking, I'm just zoned out. I know later, I'll feel bad about shutting her out.