“What now?” asked Maite, as she finished her coffee and placed the empty cup on the table.
“Well,” said de Lancre, “I thought I might show you some of the most amazing parts of the city, the parts that the average person never gets to see. The real heart.”
“That does sound fascinating.” Maite stood up. “Do you mind if I freshen up before we go?”
“Of course not,” replied de Lancre. With a wave of his hand, a few spherical drones flew in to clean up the table. “Take your time, we are in no hurry.”
Maite murmured a thanks as she made her way back to her room. Once inside, she nearly collapsed against the wall.
“What am I going to do?” she thought to herself. “Kepa probably thinks I’m dead. But, instead, I’m stuck here with a madman.”
She went to the bathroom. The large pod loomed in the corner. She shook her head, disappointed there was no sink for her to splash some water on her face. Remembering how she felt after using the pod earlier, she stripped down and entered the pod. A few minutes later, she stepped out, feeling rejuvenated. She wasn’t quite sure what the pod did, but she felt like she had just had the best combination of a massage, spa treatment, and shower all rolled into one.
She decided to go with something more understated and practical to wear, picking out tight leggings and a long-sleeved shirt that fell past her buttocks. It almost reminded her of the workout outfits people wore in the eighties, though without so much color. She looked into the mirror (at least they still had mirrors!), sighed, and made her way back to the patio.
De Lancre was standing at the railing, looking over the city. He turned as he heard her footsteps. “If I may say so, you look stunning.”
Maite blushed but said nothing as she approached the railing. Trying to ignore de Lancre, she focused on the view. Buildings reached as far as she could see. There seemed to be no boundary to the city. There was no rural countryside. A pang went through her as she realized that there would be no more baserriak, no more farm houses. However, she did see that the buildings were intertwined with trees and plants. She could hear the call of birds as they flew between the buildings as if they were in a forest canopy. The city itself was as green as any forest she had seen. It was as if the city had pulled surrounding nature into itself.
“The way the city melds with nature…” she began.
“Amazing, isn’t it?”
“How do you plan all of this?”
“I – we – don’t plan anything, to be honest,” said de Lancre as he turned, leaning on the railing, to look at Maite. “There is a a central AI that controls all of this, directing the swarms of nanobots to do the actual work.”
“Who controls the AI?” asked Maite.
De Lancre shrugged. “No one? To be honest, I don’t really know. It was already in place when I got here. I’ve just helped guide it a bit, that’s all.”
Maite shook her head in disbelief. “You let computers control everything. That’s our worst nightmare where and when I’m from. Is it… alive?”
“I don’t know. Maybe? I don’t know enough to be able to answer that. Remember, I am from a time where we didn’t even have running water. While I’ve lived literally hundreds of lives since then, most of them are in bubbles where I haven’t had a chance to learn these things myself.”
Maite turned back to the view of the city and watched as another building disappeared in front of her eyes. The awe she felt before was replaced, at least in part, by a sense of dread.
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