“RUReady, Pearl?” asked her dad, Herb, a smile forming sardonically as the car windows opaqued and then began the three edutainment programs.
“Sure, I guess. I hope I like Dartmouth better than Asimov State. That was the pits.”
“It’s probably not the pits, but maybe…Dartmouth.”
These days, Herb kept his verbiage curt while his daughter stared and listened in her bubble within the car.
“Dad, why did we have to bring the twerp along? He’s just going to be in the way.”
Herb sighed. “I want your brother to see these places too while we still have enough travel credits to go physically.”
The twerp, aka Quillian, piped up, “Just because you’re the oldest, Pearl…”
Herb cut in quickly, “OK, enough! This is going to be a long drive, so let’s keep it pleasant.”
The car swerved suddenly to avoid a falling bike.
“Geez, Brooks, be careful!”
Brooks, the car, laughed gently and said, “Sorry, Sir, I was being careful. Not sure why the Rummelnet still allows humans some of their hobbies, but it’s not for me to say. By the way, ETA for Dartmouth is ten minutes.”
“Why so long, Brooks?” inquired Herb.
“Congestion in Baltimore. Sir, I can go over or around, but it will take even longer, and use more fuel credits.”
“No, no, straight and steady. So, when I went to college, Pearl, you know, we only had one personal computer…”
“…to study on and it wasn’t very powerful and there were only a few intelligent tutoring systems and people had to worry about getting a job after graduation and people got drunk and stoned. LOL, Dad. You’ve only told me a million times.”
“And me,” Quillian piped up. “Dad, you do know they teach us history too, right?”
“Yes, Quillian, but it isn’t the same as being there. I thought you might like a little first hand look.”
Pearl shook her head almost imperceptibly. “Yes, thanks Dad. The thing is, we do get to experience it first hand. Between first-person games, enhanced ultra-high def videos and simulations, I feel like I lived through the first half of the twenty first century. And for that matter, the twentieth and the nineteenth, and…well, you do the math.”
Quillian again piped up, “You’re so smart, Pearl, I don’t even know why you need or want to go to college. Makes zero sense. Right, Brooks?”
“Of course, Master Quillian, I’m not qualified to answer that, but the consensus answer from the Michie-meisters sides with you. On the other hand, if that’s what Brooks wants, no harm.”
“What I want? Hah! I want to be a Hollywood star, of course. But dear mom and dad won’t let me. And when I win my first Oscar, you can bet I will let the world know too.”
“Pearl, when you turn ten, you can make your own decisions, but for now, you have to trust us to make decisions for you.”
“Why should I Dad? You heard Brooks. He said the Michie-meisters find no reasons for me to go to college. What is the point?”
Herb sighed. “How can I make you see. There’s a difference between really being someplace and just being in a simulation of someplace.”
Pearl repeated and exaggerated her dad’s sigh, “And how can I make you see that it’s a difference that makes no difference. Right, Brooks?”
Brooks answered in those mellow reasoned tones, “Perhaps Pearl, it makes a difference somehow to your dad. He was born, after all, in another century. Anyway, here we are.”
Brooks turned off the entertainment vids and slid back the doors. There appeared before them a vast expanse of lawn, tall trees, and several classic buildings from the Dartmouth campus. The trio of humans stepped out onto the grass and began walking over to the moving sidewalk. Right before stepping on, Herb stooped down and picked up something from the ground. “What the…?”
Quillian piped up: “Oh, great dad. Picking up old bandaids now? Is that your new hobby?”
“Kids. This is the same bandaid that fell off my hand in Miami when I loaded our travel bag into the back seat. Do you understand? It’s the same one.”
The kids shrugged in unison. Only Pearl spoke, “Whatever. I don’t know why you still use those ancient dirty things anyway.”
Herb blinked and spoke very deliberatively. “But it — is — the — same — one. Miami. Hanover.”
The kids just shook their heads as they stepped onto the moving sidewalk and the image of the Dartmouth campus loomed ever larger in their sight.