Worlds of Argument – TLWM 6C

Jane exhaled, letting her breath vibrate her lips. “Yes, a lot’s happened since I came in with my crazy story.” Jane was suddenly uncomfortable, recognizing the implication of what she had just said. After a week of insisting that the problem wasn’t with her, it was the world that had changed . . . She shifted suddenly in her seat, turned fully to Gary. “I’m sorry, but I gotta ask something. Don’t want to sound ungrateful or anything, but I have to know — ” her gaze bore into Gary’s face — “why are you doing this?”

Gary’s mouth opened, but his response was stifled by Arjie’s gruff laugh. “Because for all the nonsense you’ve been spouting all week, you’re the same as you ever were — smart, hard-working, and yeah, annoying. Only thing that’s different is this, what, Unirail garbage you keep talking about?”

Jane suddenly felt energized. “Unirail’s not garbage. It’s been around like, ten years. At least in the world I remember.”

“Gimme a break!” Arjie leaned back in his chair, his face filled with mirth, like he was watching a screwball comedy. “You expect me to believe the city would tear up all the streets, lay down this elaborate electrical grid, so that everyone could use public transit all the time?” He looked at Jane, who stared back with an expression that let him know that yes, she expected him to believe that. “And you don’t have computers, or mobile phones?”

“Only the government.”

“Oh, so they exist in your world, but people like me and you can’t use them!” He leaned towards Jane, the merryment on his face giving way to a stern challenge. “So tell me — what’s the reason for that?”

Jane shrugged. “Nobody knows how to make money off them.”

Arjie smile was full of condescending bemusement. “Well it’s a good thing you made it over to our world, because it seems like the world you came from is pretty messed up.”

“And why is that?” Jane leaned forward in her chair, like a boxer taunting an opponent during the pre-fight weigh-in. “Because we’re not carrying around phones and computers, and don’t have cars?” She glanced quickly at Gary, who had evidently abandoned his attempt to prevent the argument from gaining momentum. His wide body standing just outside the two chairs, Gary now seemed interested in how the argument would proceed.

“Absolutely.” Arjie waved a hand in dismissal of Jane’s challenge. “Technology makes modern life possible. It lets you do what you want, when you want it. And it makes things we haven’t even thought of yet possible. Your world — sounds like the Flintstones.”

Jane turned in her chair, picked up her smartphone from the desk, held it up towards Arjie. “All right, so you’ve got all this stuff. And I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty neat. But let me ask you something, George Jetson — how old’s your car?”

Arjie shrugged. “Six, seven years. About to hit a hundred thousand.” His eyes suddenly focused sharply on Jane’s. “The me, from your world — what car do I have?”

Jane smiled. “You don’t have one, because you don’t need one.”

“Oh.” Arjie’s face contorted into an oh I’m sorry I forgot look. “Unirail.”

“Not just Unirail.” Jane rose in her chair, adrenalin surging in her body. “Buses, trains — even air travel, all of it’s different where I came from. And not just different — better, safer, and by the way, a hell of a lot cheaper. Went through my bills last night, saw what I owe for car insurance. Then I went through my credit card statement, saw how much I spent last month on fuel — Jesus, how the hell do you people have enough money to afford food? And when I looked at that, I asked Wings how much airfare was to fly to New York, and when she told me I almost fell out of my chair!”

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