A little after noon, Patience led Mike to the dining car. Tables on either side of the aisle were arrayed with linen tablecloths, shining silverware, and fine crystal glasses. As soon as they sat down, a waiter approached them and filled their water glasses.
“Welcome to the dining car,” he said in a rich and resonant baritone. “Today we are serving your choice petit filet mignon; a Cajun blackened chicken salad, or fresh water prawn linguini.”
Mike looked up. The waiter had an unusual combination of features, as if his ancestry was from Africa, South American, and Central China, but Mike recognized that his mahogany skin was artificial.
“Are you a Daffodil?”
“I am a robot and I am your waiter,” came the reply. “That is all that I am permitted to discuss about myself.”
“All right. I’ll have the chicken salad.”
“Very good, sir.”
It was very good too. It came with some kind of soda bread that Mike had never had before. He was going to ask Patience what it was called, but he began watching the scenery and forgot. Just after he finished eating, they passed the Sin City Special on its way back from the first of its twice-daily runs from Anaheim to Vegas. And they were just getting up from the table as the train slowly slid into the Harry Reid Station in downtown Las Vegas.
From the window of their suite, Mike could see people feeding their cash cards into the video slots and poker machines. He’d done enough gambling though over the previous summer, so he didn’t feel the urge to debark and do so now.
“What should we do?” he asked Patience.
“Why don’t you take your texTee to the lounge and finish reading Moby Dick? That way you’ll already have your seat for tea after the train starts off again.”
Mike passed through the dining cars, of which he now saw there were two, and made his way further up to two more cars which were outfitted as a lounge and club car, both with wood paneling, plush couches and chairs and small tables. Several people were playing backgammon in the club car, while two women were watching vueTee in the lounge. Mike sat down just beyond the backgammon players and opened to Moby Dick. He was down to the last few pages.
He had just started reading when a familiar baritone voice asked. “May I serve you a drink Sir?”
“Were you my waiter at lunch?” Mike asked looking up.
“A diet Pepsi, please.”
“Right away, sir.”
The train left the station at 2:42 and not quite twenty minutes later, the waiter, who had in the meantime supplied Mike with not one but several soft drinks, delivered two tiny sandwiches, some fruit, and an assortment of cheeses. Mike ate them and read until he finished the book. Back in the room he found Patience completely undressed and waiting for him. She was able to provide more than adequate afternoon entertainment.
Diners on the Spirit of America had their choice of two supper times. Since Mike had eaten the food at tea, he chose the later of the two, which meant that they were in the dining room while the train was taking on passengers in Salt Lake City. From where he sat, he could look across the dining car and out the far window at several very large, very ornate buildings that made up part of the Mormon’s Temple Square. Patience was able to identify the Assembly Hall, Tabernacle, Temple, and Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
When Mike mentioned going back to the lounge to watch vueTee, Patience showed him the large screen hidden behind a painting in their suite. He took a long hot shower and then they watched Juvenilia while lying in bed. Mike was asleep by midnight, and noticed neither their crossover into Mountain Time, nor their night-time stop in Denver.
The next day, Patience brought Mike breakfast in bed, and he fell asleep again almost immediately after eating, the smooth humming of the mag-lev lulling him into a REM state. Although he was awake when they arrived in Kansas City, he didn’t get up to take his shower until the train was already moving again. He cast a quick eye out the window for Robert A. Heinlein Station on his way to the bathroom. He knew Heinlein. In fact, he had Starship Troopers queued up as his next book in his texTee. The rest of the day was just as lazy as the morning had been, with Mike kicking up his feet, reading Superman Comics and alternately downing diet Pepsis and hot cocoa. He spared a moment for the Chicago skyline late in the afternoon, but by the time the train hit Detroit, he and Patience had already returned from their second supper of the trip and Mike was watching Starship Troopers on vueTee, having decided to not wait until he finished the book. They had just finished the movie as the train arrived in Cleveland and Mike was asleep before it started again at 1:45 AM.
“What time is it?” Mike asked as felt his robot girlfriend shaking his shoulder.
“It’s six o’clock.”
“In the morning?”
“Yes, Mike. I thought you would want to watch out the window as we arrived in Washington D.C. It is our nation’s capitol and you can see many of the great monuments without having to get out of bed.”
“We already passed Pittsburgh?”
“Yes. We were only there for an hour, from three to four.”
“You know I was thinking that over the summer we could make this trip again, only spend a few days in each of the cities. See the sights. That kind of thing.
“That sounds like a great idea, Mike.” Patience smiled.
The truth was that Mike really wanted to get out and see Washington right now, but there was no way to see everything he wanted to see in a day, let alone the hour and a half that the train would be in the station. He would have liked to spend a month in the Smithsonian alone. Maybe he would now that he was rich. Well not rich, but well off. Well he had a little extra cash.
He looked out the window and watched as the train pulled out of the station at 7:41. Then he climbed into the shower. Later, Mike walked back past the lounge to the observation car and looked out at the scenery in between pages of Starship Troopers. He wished that he had discovered the glass-domed seating when they were passing through the Rocky Mountains, but at least he would have something else to look forward to on the way back.
When he came down from the observation area, he saw a small sign indicating that the remainder of the car was occupied by “the Boutique”. He stepped inside, expecting to find a clothing shop, but instead found that it was a tiny jewelry store. The robot clerk looked as though she could have been the sister of the waiter… or waiters. She seemed only too happy to help Mike select some overpriced piece of gold or silver. And he did select one. He was suddenly cognizant of the fact that he had not until now purchased Patience a wedding ring, but right there in the case was one that seemed perfect for her. It was yellow gold on the inside and platinum on the outside with three streaks of yellow gold partially wrapping around it, following three small diamonds that seemed to be orbiting like comets. It was beautiful, and had a kind of robotish quality.
“Fourteen karat, two-tone,” said the clerk. “Total diamond weight is point zero nine karats.”
“How much is it?”
“Two thousand forty five dollars.”
“I’ll take it.”
There was only one more stop, at Philadelphia, before the last leg of the trip that would take them into Boston. They had lunch and high tea on the train, and then packed up their things and were ready to debark promptly when the train pulled into Robert Gould Shaw Station at 4:47PM. By the time they had arrived by taxi at their hotel, checked in, and made their way to their room, it was almost eight. Mike was exhausted.
Early the next morning, he got up, showered, shaved, and dressed in twill jacket and matching pleated pants with a tan shirt and mustard colored tie. Patience put on a little straight, sleeveless white dress that reached to her mid-thigh. It was accessorized only with a sky blue belt and a little blue flower pinned along the edge of its scoop neck. On the top of her head she wore a little white spray of flowers.
The plan had been to get up and walk the short distance to the new municipal building, but during the night Boston had experienced its first snowfall in four years. Though the streets were clear, several inches of accumulation covered the sidewalks, so they took a cab. The city was a white fluffy wonderland.
Mike expected to see quite a line of people and robots at the license bureau. He imagined himself standing between a little nerdy guy with an Amazon robot and the little old lady with orange hair and Andre. As it turned out, Patience was the only robot there that morning. Of the three other couples waiting, all were human beings. They had to wait about fifteen minutes for the office to open, and then the four couples were issued their licenses in the order of their arrival. Two of the couples then left, apparently having their weddings elsewhere, while Mike, Patience, and the other couple waited for the Justice of the Peace.
The other couple was a man and woman, a bit younger than Mike, if appearance didn’t lie. The man was pretty nondescript, though the woman was quite attractive. They were in and out of the Justice’s office in ten minutes. Then it was Mike’s and Patience’s turn. They stood before a young woman who looked far too young to be a judge or anything of the sort and a young man who worked as her clerk.
“You may place the ring on her finger,” said the Justice. Patience smiled as Mike retrieved the ring he had purchased on the train from his pocket. “Do you take this um… person as your lawfully wedded partner, to have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward, forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” said Mike.
The Justice turned to Patience.
“Do you take this person… this man as your lawfully wedded partner, to have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward, forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live?”
Patience smiled. “I will be anything and everything he wants me to be.”