Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 60

In which Jones and Louie discuss their commitments

As Jones and Louie drove down Highway One, away from the Society compound, Jones settled back in the passenger seat and looked out over the glimmering Pacific ocean.

“Louie,” he said, “Can I ask you a serious question? How does it feel to serve your neighbors just one nutritionally complete meal?”

“To be honest,” said Louie. “It feels wonderful. There’s a little white light of love and goodwill that forms in your gut and then spreads everywhere, down to your toes first, but then up to your eyes. By the time you finish loading up everyone’s plate your ears are buzzing and you just want to weep. But it’s never possible to stop at just one.”

“There’s something misleading about Bugs’s question then,” said Jones.

“It’s a bit seductive,” acknowledged Louie, “I don’t think anyone really expects the quest to serve their neighbors a perfect meal to take over their life. I don’t regret it though.” 

“Not at all?” asked Jones.

Louie gripped the steering wheel harder. His cheeks began to shine.

“You saw what we’ve created,” he told Jones. “You’ve seen the world we plan to build. You tell me if I have anything to regret.” He hesitated, then went on.

“You should stay with us. You can help Natasha with the Potatobase. I’m sure she’d be glad to have another engineer on hand.”

“It’s been many years since I did work of that nature,” said Jones. “Besides, I was in the middle of a case. I need to see it through.”

“Do you? The Federal government, Mad Crab - just let them sort themselves out. Why do you need to be in the middle of that? The world is changing. The Society is going to provide a way forward.”

Jones raised his hands in silent acknowledgment and settled back into his seat. He had to admit, he felt remarkably well-nourished. “Being an Acolyte is just not for me,” he said quietly. 

They drove in silence for a moment, then Jones continued.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Next Economy, or the Federal government, or whether we’re going to have electricity in a few weeks, or what Mad Crab plans to do with that quantum supercomputer. I know I need to solve this case. I need to find that machine. There’s a lot of people living out there in the desert who will be subject to their tyranny if Mad Crab takes control of the Mojave. I have to do whatever I can to help them.”

“Why you?” asked Louie.

“I don’t know that either,” Jones replied sadly. “I’m under-qualified, and I’ve uncovered so few clues. But I seem to be the only one who’s even trying.”

“You’re not afraid?” asked Louie. 

“Of course I am.” said Jones. “This case needs a hero. I’m just me.”

Louie surprised Jones with his reply. “You’re Information Jones, Database Detective. You don’t need to be anything else.”

The two completed the rest of the drive in silence, watching the sun sink into the sea.