As he sat in the open freight lift of his building in his motorized wheelchair and waited for Felix to bring the van around, Manuel de la Vega reflected that it hadn’t been too long ago his ride would have been considerably different. But the motorcycle was no longer a safe option. Not that it had ever been particularly safe the way he rode—at night, lights off, at high speeds—but at least he had mostly compensated for the risks with technology. But while technology had few limits, his body certainly did. No more motorcycle for him. No more Gato Loco.
So what does that leave? No longer the underground racer. No longer the vigilante. No longer the cop. Who is Manuel de la Vega now?
He furrowed his brow, unable to find a good answer.
His new black van pulled into the alley, coming to a stop with the side lift door right in front of him. Felix Joseph popped the door from inside and with a whir, the short ramp descended. The young driver and hero-in-training tilted his chin at Manuel. “What do you want me to do when you’re at your meeting?”
“Up to you, I suppose. But it’s a confidential meeting so you can’t come in with me. The lobby is nice. I’m sure the receptionist can hook you up with a coffee or soda.”
He shrugged but looked non-committal. He backed out of the way to let Manuel roll into where the passenger seat used to be so he could be strapped in. “Maybe. I don’t like Parkside. I sit in the van, they think I’m a getaway driver. I walk around or go in a shop, they assume I’m going to steal something and follow me around. Or worse, I get the conversation.”
Manuel cocked an eyebrow at him. In his experience, there were many conversations that could be prompted by being of a brown complexion and wearing inexpensive clothes in one of Cobalt’s ritzier neighborhoods. “Which conversation would that be?”
“The where are you from conversation. I didn’t stand out so much back west, but out here no one is used to seeing a native that isn’t a sports mascot. Or, and I got this earlier, the super-nice, cloying, oh we just love Native Americans crap, like you’re a French Bulldog. A French Bulldog who they assume lived in a teepee as recently as last week.”
Manuel nodded sadly. He’d had more than a few of those encounters where he felt like he was someone’s token Mexican. Or worse, lately, their token cripple from which to draw inspiration. Because he was so brave.
There was nothing brave about it. He’d used his body like a loaner, then pushed it further with untested tech. It was either accept the limitations of the chair and try to figure out some kind of life with it, or give up. And he’d seen giving up. It wasn’t something he was comfortable with. Even when it looked attractive in the moment.
“So, you’re hanging out in the lobby, then?”
Felix hopped behind the wheel and started up the van. “I’ll probably just chill in the back of the van where no one can see me and watch music videos on my phone. Then I’ll be there if anyone decides to jack this sweet ride.”