Kepa stood in the small plaza shielding his gaze from the overhead sun as he looked up at the tall building towering over him. Like many of the buildings in the city, it curved in ways that were both unnatural and natural, mimicking less the rigid buildings of his own time and reminding him more of a forest of trees, albeit one that grew vertically. Greenery sprouted from every conceivable crevice and angle. New balconies and canopies grew almost spontaneously as others dissolved into nothingness as he watched.
“The nanobots do that?” he asked.
Next to him, Latxe nodded. She had been the only one willing to come out with him. Olatz didn’t dare appear out in the open and Kepa hadn’t really made friends with anyone else at the baserri. They all viewed him as some ignorant hick and barely tolerated him. For reasons he didn’t fully understand, Latxe more than tolerated his presence, she seemed to actually enjoy talking with him. He wondered what if. What if he were stuck in this bubble for the rest of his life? What if Maite didn’t make it? Would he and Latxe…?
He shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Ez,” he said to himself. “Maite is going to be ok and we are going to get that zatia.” He turned to Latxe.
“And you can control the nanobots?”
“Somewhat,” replied Latxe. “Like you saw with the door, we can hijack them in a short radius, but we can’t control too large of a swarm nor can we control them for too long. They have too many security protocols for us to control them for very long. If the rest of the swarm detects odd behavior, they alert the central AI and then destroy the bad nanobots.”
“Central AI?” asked Kepa, his face betraying his ignorance. “What’s that?”
Latxe laughed. “I really don’t know where Olatz found you,” she said. “You really know nothing about the way the world works.”
“Like you said, I’ve been stuck in the United States…” began Kepa.
“You don’t have to repeat that bullshit with me,” interrupted Latxe. “I made that up to cover for you. I know you didn’t spend any time out there. But I can’t figure out where you did come from. You are just so different from anyone I’ve ever met before.”
“I hope that’s a good thing,” said Kepa.
“Oh, I like my men exotic,” said Latxe with a smile.
Kepa blushed. It was too easy to like Latxe.
“Anyways,” he said, changing the subject, “what about the central AI? What does it do?”
Latxe sighed, realizing Kepa was avoiding her obvious flirting. “All of this…” she swept her hand across the horizon “…is too complex for any human to even comprehend, much less understand. So, it is all controlled by the central AI. The Garuna, we call it. The Brain. The Garuna is constantly monitoring the city, determining where new structures are needed, which structures are obsolete, and directing the nanobots where they are needed. The nanobots are like a massive swarm of invisible ants that are always on the move. But, they don’t have a brain. That’s where the Garuna comes in.”
“The nanobots are literally everywhere?” asked Kepa with a shudder.
“Bai. Notice there is no garbage on the ground? The nanobots take care of that. They even remove any dead animals, essentially dissolving them into raw materials that they can use to build.”
“The buildings are made of dead animals?” asked Kepa in disgust.
Latxe laughed. “I guess. I neve quite thought about it like that. But, not just animal matter, but everything. They mine the region around us, again at the direction of the Garuna so that the ground remains stable. They get raw material from everywhere, including our waste.”
“Doesn’t that take a huge amount of energy?” asked Kepa. “Where do you get all of the energy from?”
“Well, the nanobots themselves are powered off of solar energy. They are nearly perfect solar absorbers. But the AI takes a huge amount of energy, that’s true. A fusion reactor powers it.”
“Fusion?” asked Kepa incredulously. “Really? I thought that would never work. I thought it was just an excuse for scientists to chase money.”
Latxe gave him a puzzled look. “Fusion energy was mastered over one hundred years ago. Everyone knows that.”
Kepa didn’t say anything and instead turned his gaze back to the tower.
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