Riding through the streets of Alamo City made him realize how confined he’d been for the last year, first on Basura Barcaza, and then in that small raspa stand. The bike was a nice bonus to the way in which his luck was turning. It was even starting to bend to the form of his body, and Matteo felt soon it would feel like another appendage. He whistled. “Mist, you around?” The AI clicked on.
::Como estas, Cochino?
“I’m alright. And it’s Matteo. Haven’t you heard everyone calling me by my real name, yet?”
::Estas muy sucio. How can I help you, hoy, Cochinito?
“Ok, help me decide what I should do to celebrate not being in jail, I guess, and also not getting killed by my kidnappers. God, last time I was out… was I can’t even remember.”
::Well, what do you normally do for fun, hijo? Times have changed since I was put together.
“What’s going on at White Rabbit? Or better, I could go to Lo-Tones for cumbia. Jorge said he might pop in later, and who knows maybe Kaylee, too. So, keep their tastes in mind.” He pivoted the bike to avoid a bag of Whataburger littered on the ground.
::Ay Cochino, no estoy seguro acerca de este plan tuyo. My prediction algorithm can predict your level of happiness based on your choices, and this is not recommended.
“Well, are there tickets for whatever show is at Rabbit? It won’t sell out, not on a Thursday. Plus everyone’s started school already.”
::Tickets aren’t the problem, tonight. It’s what my calculations say about your average long-term happiness, based on the two options you suggested.
“Doesn’t matter. Look, it’s been a long, weird week for me. I doubt any kind of break won’t lift my mood. And, like I said before, Jorge said he’d stop playing cards to come revel amongst the humans. That’s got to have entertainment potential.”
::Well it’s to do with your recent internet browsing history.
“What… do you mean?” Matteo hallucinated the reds and blues of Ranger lights behind him.
::You’re lonely. Most of the porn you’ve been looking at resembles…
“How did you get access to — chingado, nevermind.” His feet broke into a sweat. “Are you sure? Of course you’re sure. You’re a well-trained AI. Well, so what? It’s only natural. I see her every day, and there’s that whole Stockholm syndrome thing. It’s a real thing,” he said, surprised at the calm in his own voice.
::You’re longing for Kaylee, not some quick concert fling. Still, personal opinion, you should’ve taken that school girl to her room and banged her.
“They’re not all flings, you know. I even bet Jackie is going to be there, from high school. Maybe I stalked her Myspace earlier today. Did you see her name there on the list? What’re her chances of going if she already RSVP’d publicly?”
::61% chance of showing up with 20.6% standard error for this venue. Yes, Jackie is an attractive woman. But she’s not right for you. Probabilistically, you’ll hook up with her and spiral into a clinical depression when the desires you project onto her aren’t realized as you think they would with Kaylee. My predictions are predictive given the amount of information about you that I have available to me, 72% of the time, give or take a percent.
He swerved to avoid a twenty-something year old carrying an antique chair across the road. “Ok. Quemado. There’s more than one hot girl there tonight, though, right?”
::Well, yes. There are two other girls that fit your physicality preference. But they’re not Matholic. If you share any intimacy with either of them, your happiness will dip tomorrow. And based on your diet and brain chemistry, this might last a long time. Overall, assuming your current lifespan trajectory, you’ll accumulate a negative average of overall contentment. Look, Rabbit’s just not a good option. You’re at about 68% level of happiness right now.
“Well, what about Lo-Tones? That’s cheap and I’ve never had a bad time there.”
::No, no, no. That would be worse. I can scan what’s getting ordered at the bar right now. Lots of Milagros and a highly unique pattern, in order and timing, of Lone Star and Chamoy shots. Strong indication that a certain girl you know is there… and that she’s with someone you are better off not seeing her with.
“Wha-? Look everybody gets rejected, okay? It’s not a big deal what happened between us.” His eyes darted to several vague places on the dashboard, as though the electronic voice was located in the bike and they could see each other.
::Si, lo siento. I can’t tell you anything more or it’ll whittle your current happiness state even more, below the 50 percents.
“Can you tell me something encouraging, instead? I mean, you have access to the Mist in real-time, right? There must be a good match for me somewhere? That isn’t the girl who is holding me hostage. I am pretty healthy, and funny, and smart… I mean, I am a criminal, though. Ooh, do a search for women who love bad boys.”
Matteo flexed his biceps, subconsciously, a little bit. The first towers of downtown offered their relief from the brutal Sun.
::Well I do know who your soulmate, if you want to call her that, who she is and where she is. Lives in New New Braunfels and she is grabbing a cup of tea at the moment. You’d like the cafe, too. Student at…
“So, alright, why don’t you put me in contact with her?”
Matteo idled the engine and crab-walked the bike through a short corner of a one-way street filled with chicken-on-a-stick and booze vendors. This was the only way to get past the clogged artery between Commerce and Houston.
::Here’s the thing… it’s not a good idea. She doesn’t like to meet strangers. Her aversion to new people would kill your chances.
“Hmm, no online dating? Sounds like a luddite, my type.” Matteo blinked for an extended period to lubricate his eyes and then a pothole reminded him he was driving. “Ok, and if she’s as good as you say she is, if we’d both reach 99% or 100% happiness together, I can figure something out. I’ll just meet some of her friends. They can introduce us and I won’t have to ask you for advice every decision of every day. I’ll be happy. You’ll be fully charged.”
::Hate to break it to you, but her friends are very, very likely to hate you. It’s just how their preferences are working out, whichever parameters I try using for my statistics. And since they won’t be impressed by you, it’s highly unlikely they’d ever introduce you. It’s a waste of your energy. Lo siento.
He stopped at a red light and leaned on one foot, behind a truck that had tires as tall as his shoulders. The exhaust breathed black-gold clouds into his face. “Fine, alright. Well, it’s probably, technically my only night off for who knows how long. I don’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon arguing with you. What do you want me to do? Go back to my prisoner cage?”
The AI had distracted him from the pressing fact that he’d left the gentrified safety of Broadway, passed through downtown, and was now on Roosevelt Ave.
::Sorry, I don’t think that’s a good idea.
“Come on. I think I’m just going to get some fideo from somewhere and eat it on the couch.” And he wondered if Kaylee might flirt with him again. “At least my new prison has television and raspas.”
::You’re right on the cusp of falling into a dark, sad emotional pit, here, Matteo. 46% of Alamo City residents who stay at home and give up on having fun end up in really bad relationships or develop health problems o hay peores problemas, tambien. That percentage es mucho mayor for those with your genetic profile.
“Well, que quieres que haga!?”
The light turned green.
Matteo was silent for a moment. Then he turned up the radio. A sermon poured out through the speakers.
::You’re just making yourself more upset, Cochino. I’m sorry. That’s why I didn’t bring up plans for tonight, on my own.
“You’re sure about this, then? Aren’t you supposed to be my dad? Like look out for me and stuff?”
::No. I am preferences of your dad mapped onto the average personality traits of others in his demographic categories. Trust me when I say manning up now and dying is really is the best outcome. You’ll have led a life with the highest possible fraction of happy moments.
“Alright, alright,” his lungs deflated cool air, “I’ll do it… What’s the quickest and least painful way, you know, to put an end to… myself?”
::Ok, I can tell you that. But are you sure you want to know the easiest way for you, or the way that is least likely to cause your friends and family emotional scarring?
“Oh, this has to be a fucking joke!”
The bike bounced and jerked forward, then made a low screeching noise. “Fucking thing fucking eighteen percent chance it’s wrong, fuck. Seventy two percent accurate meh meh fucker fuck percent the fuck. I have the rest of the day off!”
The cycle and his heart stuttered like worn wind-up toys, and then the engine stalled. Roosevelt Ave, a wide, hot street frequented by prostitutes and drunken, shored scavengers had just hooked its next meal.