After noticing Leo, I took a quick look around the room. It was a small room with a large oval table made of what looked like wood. Additionally a large oversized chair and nine stools were packed in. The room was bare and dimly light. “Is this real wood?” “It is.” Mr Spice answered and I realized I was speaking aloud. “It is over a century old.” I was puzzled. I had never seen real wood before. Matt sat on the stool next to me and did not seem as surprised. Mr Spice was ready to get me up to speed but I was not ready. He started to speak but all I heard was blah, blah, blah. “The birth of Kelly was the sign that it was time for us to take back our rightful place in the cosmos.” “Rightful place?” I then noticed I was not the only person lost. The eight other blank faces made me even more concerned. It seems only Mr Spice knows what is happening. He continued, “Humanity moved to this planet five hundred years ago from a planet five light-years away.” We all just listened as he spoke of the early days and how all people planned for was the return trip. The room became dark and he started some kind of projection on the wall. In big bold letters it read, “TRIP HOME”. The narrator had a deep melodic voice, unlike the mechanical sounds in the announcements I was used to in the city.
As the display ended I was surprised that I had never heard any of this before. “Let me get this right, fifty near-light ships left Earth and colonized this planet? Why is it the first I am hearing of this?” My question was politely ignored as Mr Spice started to pass around keys to our accommodations. I was uneasy with the obvious lack of an answer, but I ignored it for the moment. The conference room door swung open and Mr Spice instructed us to follow our guide to our accommodations.
Matt was taking too long to get back to us. “Matt!” No answer. I told the others to remain by the Trans while I find him. I pulled and charged my sidearm. As I squeezed by the Trans it came into view. A yellowish light in the distance. I’d never seen that before but recognized it from the old VR movies. It was the ID light of a mark 3 synth. The light was pointed directly at me, there was nowhere to hide. I froze. My head was spinning, I couldn’t think or stand or talk. I just collapsed, but didn’t make it to the ground. Matt caught me. “Matt, what is going on?” “That’s Leo with the light.” “As in Light Enabled Ordinance?” “Yes.” “What!” “All your questions will be answered later. We need to get out of here.” “What about the others.” “They will be fine.” “I called Detrans and they will be here in a few minutes. Lets go.” “I’m trusting you on this Matt.”
He helped me up and we walked toward the yellow-light and hopped into a shaft off the main tubeway. We crawled for about 60 meters and suddenly it was as bright as if we were above ground. Matt climbed down the ladder and I followed. I was surprised at how large Leo was and that he fit into the shaft. As my eyes adjusted I noticed the dimensions. It was huge. Matt seemed as surprised as I was and I was relieved.
Suddenly the room began to fill and my pulse began to rise with the increase in numbers. “Welcome Matt, it’s a pleasure to finally meet. Kelly, welcome. My name is Spice and I have waited 100 years for this day. Welcome to Latte.” As he said 100 years, there was a tightness in my chest. I knew what this was and my day just went to earth. I just then noticed that my sidearm was gone and that Matt didn’t have one either. 100 years ago I was born and at 38 my DNA time capsule was activated. I was in the lab, the room went dark and I woke up in the med lounge. They told me that I had to be sedated and that I had been there for the last 2 hours just moaning. I meet Matt 2 weeks after my 38th year and we have been friends since. He helped me with my nightmares and I finally was able to remember what happened during my blackout.
Matt’s coding skills were vital in helping me re-assemble my memories. He assembled the code that unlocked the DNA time capsule. It was some clever code. It allowed me to use my eyes to project my thoughts. We played the message at my place and he made a ultra-high definition VR copy. It all started to come back in a rush. I could see the message. Dad was saying,”Kelly we love you and wish for you the best in life and hope to be there for your big day.” I felt as if I couldn’t control myself. I reached for Matt and he held my hand. “Matt what is going on.” “You’ll figure it out. You always do.” Matt spoke for me again. “Mr Spice, could we take this private and bring Kelly up to date?” “Lets do that.” I held onto Matt tightly and followed him closely.”
As we entered the room there was Leo. It/He/She was much smaller that I thought. Them I remembered the stories that LEO’s where the first synths made completely of morphic nanotubes making them able to reshape themselves as the situation needed. The technology was abandoned 80 years or so ago because of emerging sentience.
The bluish emergency light started to flicker and I could instantly tell this wasn’t going to be an ordinary day. As the smell got more intense Matt and I locked eyes and visually examined each other then proceeded to do the same to the other passengers. Only then did we notice that the front two rows were empty and fuming. Our Trans was one of the older models with five rows of four seats. Luckily we were in row four sitting next to the emergency exit. “Matt, do you think these exits have been used in the last 100 years.” “More importantly do they function.” “No time like the present to find out.” We hardly noticed that the others were watching and waiting for us to open the door. We quickly read the instructions and opened it.
The external Trans lights were pulsing. We could see up to 28.8 meters from the Trans in either direction. “Where is the Conductor?” Matt, as usual was detached. “Good question.” Then I remembered that the front two rows where empty and that, that is where the Conductor would have been sitting. “We are on our own for now people.”
Although of low rank, Matt and I were of the commander cast and it was assumed that we would know what to do to lead the group to safety. We didn’t. We both checked our side arms and instructed the others to sit just outside of the Trans while we examined the area. Matt went to check the tube emergency beacon, while I did the same for the one on the Trans. The clearance between the tube and the Trans was a close but adequate 30 centimeters. Matt cleared it easily and was out of sight quickly. I found my target and wrestled it from its cradle. “Dead! My line is dead. Any luck over there?” “I think we are good here. Making the call now.”
As the warm coffee touched my lips I recoiled from its luck-warmness and spilt it on my lab coat. There goes the wash budget. Before I finished the thought Cleaner was over sucking the black stuff off my coat. Good thing I have enough credit otherwise Enforcer would be here just as fast to take something of equal value from my flat. That would be a challenge since I lost so much last month that I maybe the only thing of value here. Bang! Bang! Bang! “Kelly! are you in there. We are late.” It sounded like a recording, but that was Matt rousing me from my early morning daydream. “Let’s go! We are going to be late.” As I stumble to my feet I trip over Jolly, my five-year old German Shepherd and remembered that she has not been feed. As she doesn’t eat much I grabbed a packet ripped it open and poured all in one go. “there sweetie, keep us safe.”
Thirty seconds in the sun shader. Fingerprint matched and loaded my sidearm. Beep! Beep! Beep! aGPS checks me out. As I materialized in the hallway, I check my timer and noticed I had posted my best time from knock to out, 99 seconds. “Cool miss thing, that must be good for some credits. Lets get to work.”
Our building was over 100 years old but still in good shape. Best of all the stairs where still open, functional and free. We ran down from the thirteenth floor and push the heavy blast door open and dropped into the empty alley. The distinct unevenness of the brick surface calms me. But as I look left I see the mass of humanity pouring through the street and despair overshadows me. “I’m going to need a drink.” Matt doesn’t respond and I understand why. I was twenty years sober.
As we crash into the heavy burden of bodies we make it to the Hub just in time for the last morning Trans. “Damn!” Matt catches my hand and pulls me up to prevent me getting trampled or worse vaporized by the Conductor. “Thanks, I wont be here everyday to rescue you Kelly.” “I’ll get it together someday.” We load the small integrated Trans that carries twenty. Immediately I pull out my wet bag and empty my stomach and soon felt a thump. It felt as if the Trans was making yet another unscheduled stop. “This is why we are going to be late.” As I open my eyes I notice the darkness and instantly smell the pungency of synthetic skin.
“Matt! are you ok? “Yeah.” “Wonder what happened.” “Hopefully we are not here for too long.”