De Lancre’s suite was at the top of the tower and it took Kepa and Latxe a long time make their way up. The nanobots were efficient at making stairs and openings for them where none had existed before, but the two would-be rescuers were extra cautious after their encounter with the security guard and make sure to check every opening and hallway for others.
“For such a large building, it is remarkably empty,” noted Kepa as they climbed what felt like the hundredth set of stairs.
Latxe nodded. “I sometimes wonder if these big towers exist only to give those in power a high perch from which to scan their realm.”
“Like the kings and queens of old, eh?”
Latxe nodded again. “Precisely. For all of our technological advances, we still can’t root out the desire for power. Or how power corrupts.”
Latxe sighed. “How is it during your time? What is life like back then?”
Kepa chuckled. “Not too much different, at least in terms of people wanting power. We of course don’t have all of the marvels you do, and we are in a bit of an existential crisis, with climate change and the impact on our environment.”
He paused a moment as he poked his head out from the opening at the top of the stairs. He scanned left and then right. The hallway, like so many before, was dark. He climbed the rest of the way out and reached out a hand to Latxe. She smiled as she took it and pulled herself up.
“But, it is good to know that some of those problems have been solved,” he continued.
“I remember reading about the climate problem in school,” said Latxe. “For someone today, it is inconceivable that we let things get so bad that it threatened the very existence of the planet.”
Kepa shrugged. “As a species, we can be pretty short-sighted.”
Latxe laughed, and the melodic tone of her laughter made Kepa smile. And then blush. He turned away, pretending to examine the darkness down the hall. He felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t fret so much,” said Latxe. “I like you, and maybe in another world you and I could, you know, be together. But I know that, in this one, your heart belongs to Maite.”
“In another world,” Kepa mused. He hadn’t told Latxe about the zatiak and the bubble. He couldn’t bear to think about how he might be extinguishing her life, her history, when they pop the bubble. He kept telling himself that this bubble wasn’t real, it wasn’t the real time line, and that she had another life that maybe was better than this one. Maybe.
Latxe smiled, thinking Kepa was considering that what if scenario. She looked at her tablet.
“We are very near Salazar’s floor,” she said. “Only one or two more to go before we reach them.”
Suddenly, the lights burst to life, nearly blinding them in their intensity.
“Oh,” said a voice at the end of the hall. “Don’t worry, you’ve already found me.”
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