When I landed on the ground it took me a moment to realize I was still on earth. I wondered if I’d accidentally awoken a thousand years in the future, if perhaps I’d been thrust unwillingly into an H. G. Wells novel. The shock unnerved me.
I stood on an immense expanse of white, solid earth, like the concrete my house was made off, but smooth and brilliant and electric and painted with yellow and red and black shapes that moved beneath me. Buildings, manufactured in rows and glowing as they ascended, towered above me, and I was dizzy trying to find where they stopped. The clear sky I was accustomed to was obscured by a horde of imposing machines suspended between the earth and the stars. But the thing that made my brain stumble over itself was the endless, swarming movement. People—thousands upon thousands of people—whirred by in taxis, shot past in cars, soared up in elevators. Hundreds of brightly colored images danced on every surface. The activity, the noise, the smells sent me into a frenzy of confusion and I stared, unwilling or unable to take it in, for several seconds. I wondered what Hope would say. I wondered if she had seen it.
I felt a light touch on my arm. I startled and realized I’d been staring up.
“Atmosphere filters,” the woman said, nodding toward the massive ships that simmered far above us with constant droning. “And food drones, and medic bots. You’ll get used to it”—she glanced down at a white pane of glass in her hand, covered in words and pictures that changed when she touched them—“Zavier? That’s you, right? Zavier Aiden Scot?” I let my head drop and rise. “And this is…Evangelina Brie Scot?”
“We call her Lina.”
“Well, I believe everyone’s name was given to them for a reason, and I choose to use them properly.” She smiled and stuffed the glass into a small pink and grey briefcase hanging from her shoulders.
“Welcome to the United North American Alliance,” she declared, her hand sweeping the world around us with a wide, accepting gesture. “You must be hungry.” It was an odd transition, and it startled me for a moment, but it was practical above all things, and I felt the weight of my mute sister’s head on my shoulder, and the void in my gut, and nodded.
“Yes, ma’am,” I sighed, and trudged to follow her across the meticulous landing pad. The ground beneath me was hard and unforgiving, like the floor in our house, but everywhere, and it never seemed to stop being everywhere, and I had to roll my feet with each step. I was distracted with the concentration it took just to walk and stumbled into the street as we came to the sidewalk’s abrupt end. The woman seized my shirt, yanking me back just as a speeding vehicle careened to avoid hitting me then resumed its place seamlessly in the hurrying throng.
The street was dozens of meters wide and I staggered back from the dizzying blur of traffic. I lifted my chin for a moment, closed my eyes, and inhaled the crisp air to steady my nerves. I didn’t mean to squeeze Lina’s shoulders. She stirred and squinted into the light.
“Where are we?” She looked at me with dead eyes set in her pale face.
“The city,” I said.
Like we come every weekend.
“Oh.”She gazed around casually.“Where are Mom and dad? Are they meeting us here?”
Is this what my life is now? All I could manage to do was shake my head while kissing hers and hope she didn’t ask again. She seemed satisfied somehow, as if part of her knew the answer to her question and was telling the other part to shut up and stop asking.
The woman held her right thumb against her left wrist for a moment. There was a muffled beep, and when she removed it, a small light glowed green from under her skin. A slightly tinny, yet surprisingly pleasant, voice spoke from the glow.
“How may I help you?”
“Taxi,” the woman said, speaking to her wrist.
“Where would you like to go?” her wrist asked.
“Courthouse number eight.”
“Thirteen seconds,” said her wrist, cheerily. “Thank you.”
It was only moments before a hiss snapped me back to the street. Stopping to rest in front of us was a long, hovering vehicle, painted bright yellow and quivering to keep still in a world filled with movement. The entire roof was flashing white and there were ten large, solid black windows in a perfect row along the side. On the far right side a door hissed open and I climbed in. I was surprised at how easily it supported my weight. Inside there were twenty seats, ten on each side, facing each other. From inside the taxi we could see through the windows which were now perfectly clear.