Prose

An Uncertain Future- Chapter 4


by: CJ Fogarty

Duke

“This how you remember New York City, correct, approximately in the year 2012?”, Miri inquires.

I nod my head while Miri, in turn, nods at Sage, who presses a button that changes the slide to New York from the same perspective except what were once called skyscrapers now grow into flat levels of ground upon which are set entirely new levels of buildings, the chromium shine of the city dimming as I look from the old bottom to the Fourth Level.

With the transition comes a voice of explanation from “Miri”, the computer, “With the advent of advancements in metallurgy, an extremely versatile, resistant, and durable alloy of bronze, steel, and other unknown products was developed by scientist and industrialist, Ezio Cortanza. Coined Cortasteel or less officially, neo-bronze, the material possess a wide range of uses in construction and manufacturing as well as in recent creative movements to claim the metal as an artistic medium.”

“So that’s who Ezio Cortanza is”, I declare, realizing whom that third person was Sage was talking about.

Sage looks at me and nods. Miri nods back at the monitor and Sage presses another button, changing the slide to a thin, middle-aged Italian looking gentleman with long black hair and a thick handlebar mustache above his lips, his arms folded over a green, striped suit, piercing dark eyes. His gaze is turned toward a construction crew erecting massive beams of goldish, brown Cortasteel onto buildings reinforced with the same material.

At this, the computer continues, “Apart from making Cortanza Incorporated both rich and influential, the material’s light weight and cheap production allowed for a revolutionizing of construction and urban planing.”

“Basically, by the year 2020”, the real Miri interjects, “the population of the world had increased by two billion, and nations like the U.S. had, in particular, trouble finding decent housing for just the legal immigrants. So, the Department of Housing and Urban Development made several government contracts with Cortanza Incorporated to supply neo-bronze to contraction companies and manufacturing projects around the country”.

This is good. A little history lesson always puts me at ease. It makes me feel like I’m being told a story, and not forced to get it all right away.

“And, those projects involved stacking up cities layer by layer”, say I, “that explains the huge level of these cities, but, there’s no way four levels can be held up just by a metal, I don’t care how strong it is. And what about al these other technologies? Those strange house lights or holographic communicators or flying cars?”

“Flying cars and mutlilevel cities are covered”, Sage replies,”We picked them because we figured they were the most noticeable features of this day and age. Among them anyway.”

The slide thus shifts to a heavyset, older black man with a big smile, thin glasses, and an arm around his counterpart, a thinner, young Asian girl with a smile just as big. Behind them is a digital board with several mathematical calculations in neon green surrounding illustrations of the cars I’ve seen apparently flying nowadays.

At this, computer “Miri” continues, “Depicted are professor of quantum physics, Lafayette Singleton with his young assistant and former student, Dr. Stephanie Yeun. Heading a development team at the new college of quantum sciences at Albert Einstein University in Albany, NY.”

The slide then switches to a testing area in which a car floats above four guard rails to the jovial excitement of doctors Singleton and Yeun, along with the other young students and a group of older men in suits, all of them caught in jubilation.

The computer goes on, “Teaming with developers from Ford and General Motors and using applied sciences, mathematics, and quantum theory, the team was able to create a gyroscopic device that totally defies gravity, suspending molecules and objects in air, and is capable of sustained flight. This was reconditioned for use in automobiles, with a transmission capable of reaching a maximum height of fifty feet. So to was this antigravity technology used in the aid of multilevel city construction.”

“In essence”, Sage replies, “yes, you’re correct, Mr. Bishop, err, Duke, that the mass of an entire city level is simply too great for the level of neo-bronze available. So cities are held up by neo-bronze supports aided by antigravity technology. It’s twenty-four gyropulsors on each level, I think?”

At this he turns to Miri.

“Yes, that’s right Sage”, Miri replies evenly, “and on these levels are built both actual surface roads, as you know them, and skyways, reserved for aerocars.

I can only stand and be amazed. Flying cars, the things you’d only see in movies, coming to life right here!

There’s just one, dying question of course

“Aerocars. Damn, that’s something I never thought I’d see. But, what the hell do you mean by “skyways”. And, surely something like that can’t run on gasoline”, I remark, pointing to the screen.

Miri, the real one, nods her head again and the slide changes to a promotional for Ford Motors two, luxurious-looking black sedans, one speeding along a mountain road like I’d remember from my time, except for the same car flying over the sparkling water off the cliff. I notice also that in place of tires are four joints cutout to reveal four, blue circles inside.

The computer goes on with, “By the year 2030, the first of these “aerocars”, were marketed in several nations by several manufacturers around the world. However, the initial price of these models was quite high, given the various methods required to power these vehicles.”

The screen then shifted to reveal a general schematic for what were called “aerocars”, as the computer continues, “the aerocar uses a combination of  rechargeable electrical power and solar energy. Although the means to harness these sources of fuel have become steadily more affordable, to this day, the market for land-based vehicles is still marginally higher than aerocars. With their advent came an expansion in infrastructure.”

“Basically, skyways are beam of energy that connect to each other along relays, forming a basic path”, Miri states.

“Yeah”, Sage continues, “ And then the federal government allotted funds for the creation of an interstate skyway system in 2045. The skyway is built utilizing the same, antigravity technology. Today, just about half of surface roads in the continental U.S. have their own skyways.

After that, the screen goes black, Sage pressing a button to make it return to its desktop neon blue.

At that, I respond first with, “Well, okay. That certainly answers a lot”, then, turning to Miri, “but you still don’t believe me, huh?”

“Well, Michael,” she replies, sounding out my real name for the first time.

She moves from her place leaned next to the computer and goes to the center of the room in front of me, her arms still folded.

“Like I said, these were John’s orders. There is the chance that John knew something that I don’t, but that’s a slim possibility.”

“Well, I mean, the Order’s grandmaster is often privy to information not given to even higher ranks.”, I reply, matter-of-factly.

“True”, Miri replies evenly, “so as the grandmaster, I’d like to know exactly how you think you can honestly claim to be over thousands of years old. You and Rich”.

I heard her words, but for some reason their weight takes some time to hit me. When it does, I answer, “What!? You’re the grandmaster!? But you’re so young, and-huh-alright, it explains you’re firm temper and the stress too. But for Christ’s sake ya can’t be any older than a college girl.”

Not taking her eyes off me, Miri shrugs, then, “Yeah, I’m twenty-three years old. I’m young, but for as long as I’d studied under John, as close as we were, I guess there was no one else he felt he could trust”, then, with her right finger raised at me, “But that doesn’t mean for a minute that you can play dumb, or fuck around, or defy my place-“

“She’s right man”, Sage suddenly interjects. Miri sends a glare at Sage, causing him to let out a whelp and swivel around back to his computer.

She’s intimidating, practical, yet not loud or accusative, like you’re always doing something wrong or something. I’ll admit, I’ve been sizing up this kid since I first stepped in her car. I got then that she was still a kid, but looking at her now, I see that she very much knows her place. As for mine, I’m not sure either of us know. But, perhaps I should stick around in order to find it.

Coming back to those stormy eyes, I give a nod of respect, a smile, and then, “Fair enough, boss. So, what’re your orders?”

Her smile, I think, only needs to say, “That’s better, Michael”, but, by the twinkle in her eye, I think it also says, “Good job, Miri”.

“Kyle, do you have any leads on the location of R.S?”, Miri continues,” Or did you just screw around like I asked you not to?”

Sage turns to the monitor and says, “I’ve pinpointed several locations worldwide where, based on research, personal history, and factors of behavior, R.S. might be located. This is how we found you, Duke. A complex profile entered into the computer and then a trial-and-error program cross references several locations around the globe, taking into account those places which exist within areas of highest to lowest probability.”

I stare up at the large map. I figure it’s time to focus on moving forward and ask questions later.

“Given the familiar places in Scotland, Australia, Hong Kong, the Falklands, Bermuda, the UK, South Africa, you’ve found most of the secret hideouts Rich goes to in order to lay low. These we like to keep pretty secret, in case we need somewhere to hide. Few, if any, in the Order are supposed to know about these places.”

This almost makes the hacker look like he’s actually done something illegal, but I reassure him with, “You’ve done your homework man, this is a very accurate list. I’d be thinking to check these places out but I might suggest that we check London first.”

At this, Miri disagrees, “That wouldn’t make any sense. Wouldn’t R.S. choose a more isolated place. The probability for him being in Bermuda is 62%, whereas London is only 34%.”

“And, normally, I’d agree with you”, I respond, “Rich wouldn’t have been able to go very far around the world without any real money and, as you probably saw in his profile, he takes a liking to any area remaining of the British Empire, particularly tropical regions. But, just hear me out. Right before he left, all he told me is that he needed ‘to be alone for a while and think over a pint or two.’ “

“Well then, maybe he’s still in the U.S., at a pub in the city, perhaps.” Sage offers.

“No, I wouldn’t think so”, I answer, “if he wanted to be alone, and have a good pint in particular, to him that means not staying in New York, or even this country. He never felt real cozy here in the States. Look, Miri, I know it doesn’t look right, but he’d wanna go home, home to England, London in particular, there’s this bar he used to go to and I’d find him there pretty often. Believe me, if anything, you’d find him at a bar more times then you’d find me. Alcohol’s not my vice. And you’d find him at a bar in London at nearly any given chance”

Miri looks at the screen for a while, her eyes, I think, switching back and forth between the Caribbean and the British Isles. I don’t know what has to go on inside this girl’s head in order to take on all this responsibility, figure through all this bullshit. I look at Sage and I find his eyes are on her, not taking them off even for a moment. Either waiting for orders from the grandmaster, or for some matter of attention from a childhood friend. Childhood sweetheart maybe. I take one good look at these kids, the months they put into finding me, a drunken, despairing shell of what I’ve been. All my long years of fighting, keeping through an ever-changing, ever-insane world and trying to tell people to find the right path on which to move forward.

I’m tired. I’ve ben tired for a couple hundred years, and so has Rich, because as soon as we solve one problem, humanity fucking finds another and another. Smallpox is cured, chemical weapons are invented. Connect a world with globalized trade, create job inequality. Give one race rights and suddenly everyone feels as though they have none. Invent weapons to end wars, end up causing thousands more. Change the way you think to ensure a brighter future, end up spending that future questioning you choice.

Rich and I had always hoped humanity would reach a level of societal connection and advancement in order to steer each other onto the right path, without having people to guard it for them. I figure fifty years rolls by and when cars start flying and cities start building fourth levels, the world now longer needs its Guardians. Maybe, in the end, this is the time in which we can finally pass into legend after all these years, but for how long have I been thinking that? I reach into my pocket and grip the watch, clutching tight the girl who, over one hundred years ago, reminded me why I’m here, why we’re here. And also, to remind me that, deep down, I’m still human, we’re still human, and can be understood and cared for as such.

I wish Ana were still here more than anything, just to hear what she’d tell me as I’d hold her close on those dark days when two world wars and millions murdered could really get to a guy. But, she’s still here, I guess, I have to believe that. But, what’s in front of me now are two kids who had to sacrifice their young lives, which so many kids waste by working too hard, because of what they stand for, what this Order stands for. And that’s when I realize, goddammit, that Rich and I stand for the same things. We founded the Order of Guardians of Godseye after all.

“I’m just giving you my best guess, Miri. A guess I’m pretty sure of, too. But, like I said, it’s your call, grandmaster.

“We’ll go to London”, Miri says at last, “it’s out of the way, but I think, somehow, that you and Rich are the type of people to think outside of deductive reasoning or rationality, frankly. Am I right?”

I give her nod.

She continues with, “Let’s go then.”

We go to leave when Miri suddenly turns back to Sage with, “Kyle”.

Sage turns around, a funny sorta smile on his face. Miri then walks up close to the kid, puts a hand on his shoulder, in the one act of tenderness I’ve seen from her.

“Good work, Kyle. Notify the Order that I have located D.B. and are en route to locating R.S. Okay?”

“Oh, uh, yeah sure. No problem Miri”, Sage replies, his hand going to meet hers, but she turns around and walks away up the stairs.

“Come on Duke. We don’t have all day”, I hear Miri call from upstairs.

I turn to Sage with,“Take care, Sage. It’s-“

“It’s been an honor meeting you, Duke!”, he suddenly replies

“And you my friend. Hey, loosen up a little. I’m flattered and all, but we’ll be working together, you and I, and Rich when he gets here of course.”

With returning comfort, Sage replies, “Oh yeah. Of course, my bad Duke, I’m a big nerd sometimes.”

I smile and part his arm. As I go to leave, I hear from behind, “Live long and prosper’. ”

I respond chuckling up the stairs, “Yeah, and ‘may the Force be with you’ ”.

It’s that kind of stupid stuff that keeps me going sometimes. Even when I don’t want to.

I get back outside to find Miri leaning on the car, the cherry red of the sleek, two seat Nissan bright in contrast to Miri’s all black, save for her fair face and hair.

“I should’ve warned you not to encourage, Kyle. He’ll suck you into one of his dork moments. Even above all the science fiction in the world, he’s obsessed with you and Rich most of all. The living legends.”

I can only chuckle lightly to that response. We get into the Nissan and drive off, pulling up to Victory Avenue and find it afflicted by a traffic jam. Regardless, I lean back, trying to relax by putting my arms behind my head, and glance back at Miri, sighing in disgust and leaning over the wheel.

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