“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way, it will go with you wherever you journey.” – Tad Williams
Unaware of how much time passes, I am brought back to reality by the sound of a door closing. Glancing around the lobby, I notice a woman neatly dressed in the U.N. colors. Her golden hair is tightly braided on top of her head and she smiles as I look at her.
“Miss Avery Cecelia Post?,” she asks.
“Yes?” I nod.
I nod again, standing up, “July 12, 2042.”
“Please, follow me.” The woman turns swiftly and though her shoes are navy blue flats, her posture suggests she is used to arching her feet in heels.
“Where are we going?” I follow as she leads out the door into the interview room, “Back to the lobby?”
“Do you wish to return to the ground lobby?,” she asks in a lilting voice.
“I should probably let my dad know I’m okay.” I mumble, still dazed from the disposition analysis.
“We have already informed him that you went for analysis and I believe he said that he would return if you maintained citizenship with A-Utili.”
My heart sinks and for the first time in the day, I felt myself care, “What?”
“Don’t feel that you have to rush this decision, I took three days myself when I was your age.” She smiles over her shoulder, keeping a brisk pace as she leads into a hall. Did we pass a couple doors? I lost track.
“He left?” I follow without acknowledging her compassionate words, “Just like that?”
The woman didn’t say anything, pressing a silver button and the wall slid aside to expose an elevator. Walking inside the column, I frown at her.
“Are you still with the same nation?” I ask.
“Huh?,” as she presses a numerical code into the box, then her thumbprint into the scanner, she seems confused by the question.
“When you were my age, are you still a citizen of the nation you chose then?”
“Oh,” she looks away, watching as the elevator started to move. On the other side, a few levels of metal walls preluded scenery of the island’s coast. The sun was nearly set and the periwinkle sky was dotted with little, fluffy clouds. Deep blue-black waves crashed in the distance. “No, but it’s complicated.”
“What nation are you a part of now?” I ask.
“I’m not allowed to answer that question in any form.” She responded bluntly, crossing her arms and sighing as she looked away from the view.
“Why not?” I can’t help, but continue.
“It is against Code and Contract, Commitment to Excellence, AI Protocol 3269A-3,” she smiles.
The elevator doors open.
A long, narrow hallway greets us. It shines with a silver-grey, industrial metals – easily produced in the robotic mines of various nations – and upon it are glittering digital portraits of prominent U.N. members. I frown at them as we begin the trek down this corridor.
“You will stay here until your decision is reached,” she spoke calmly, as if no conversation in the elevator had happened, “If at any time you want to leave, you are free to do so. You may not leave the building unless you’ve chosen your citizenship. If you do, you will be choosing to default your citizenship to your Guardian’s Nation.”
The thought of my father stings my sore heart and I groan, “What if I want a different guardian?”
Without hesitation, the woman smiled, “Then you may complete the proper submissions for such a transaction to occur, so that the database can be kept accurate.”
I nod slowly, “I’m hungry.” I mention, though I could do without eating.
“You may eat after you have chosen your nation.” She opens a door, gesturing me inside, but not following.
I carefully step inside and look around the dimly lit room, “Uhm, do you have any – reading – or?”
The woman points past me to a desk that lights up as she does so.
“Right, thanks.” I nod, walking to the desk and sitting down in another uncomfortable metal chair.
“Please, call if you need anything else.” The door shut, leaving me and the desk in darkness.
The plastic surface of the reading screen was sticky.
I grimace as I move to try and open a browser on the overused screen. I’m not the first person here, I probably wouldn’t be the last. Glancing at the document folder, I navigate to open it. Documents upon documents, journals of people before me. I move to open it. A buzzing pierces my ears briefly and nothing happens. I try again. The same. I create a new document and try to open them that way. The error occurs again.
The browser finally opens in a circular shape.
I begin to read through the nations’ information, provided by all sorts. Looking at the telecommunicator in the lower left circle, I consider calling dad.
Instead, I call the AI back.
“May I see my results from the analysis?”
“Avery Cecelia Post?”
“July 12, 2042.”
“Have you chosen?”
“I will soon. I’ll just choose whatever my disposition says I should be. Ten years isn’t such a long time to be stuck under one nation’s society.” I watch as the results appear on the screen in front of me.
The glaring bold of the nation’s name and symbol blasted me. Really? The Transcendi Nation was not the place I thought I’d be going, staring at the flower of life symbol with it’s thinly traced heart around it.
When she opened the door, it took a few swallows before telling the AI where my citizenship would be.
I could have gone elsewhere, there were other nations on the list.
I figured this out while landing the hovercraft down onto the platform stretch of my new home.
Transcendi Nation spanned the entire North American continent and I was in a very cold area – though most of the Earth was cold considering the mini-Ice Age that was occurring – so I shivered as I walked up to the office building. It was a simple cubicle, placed directly in the center of the capital town where I’d landed. In the middle of the night, there were only a few lights in some nearby homes. The houses here were odd, flat and horizontal – not wide and looming like the buildings I’m accustomed to.
Pressing the button, an automated video began to play on the screen.
“Welcome to Earth! We are so glad you have come to join us on this journey, together. Our heart sings and our soul dances to be reunited with you.” A buxom woman gestures fluidly across the screen, tossing a ‘Welcome!’ in flowery font towards me, “How may I help you, sister?”
I frown as the woman blinks blankly at me, “I’m new.” I finally say.
“Welcome to Earth! We are so glad you have co-”
“Yeah, right,” I quickly interrupt, “I was given this address… do you know where I’m supposed to go?”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I… uhm… home.”
“What is your name?”
“Avery Cecelia Post.”
“July 12, 2042.”
“There are many homes to choose from, you are in Central Transcendi and all directions, we have many things to offer, there is also much work to be done if you wish to contribute – but if not, you may find a home from any of these-” A map of blinking red and yellow pinpricks appeared on the screen, “-destinations, simply click on it, input the address code into your hovercraft and be there as soon as you can get there.”
If it was this cold in the central area, how cold was the North? Moving my attention to the South portion of the land, I try to focus as I shiver.
“Hey!” A shout interrupts my search and I look through the dimly lit night to see a surprisingly familiar figure. The redheaded boy from the lobby is running towards me with a beaming smile on his face, “You’re the girl from the Citizenship Bureau, right?”
I nod, tucking an escaped strand of hair back into the bun that had loosened on the top of my head, “And you’re that boy.”
He laughs, looking at the screen, “Are those the homes? Great.”
“That means you’re new too, huh?” I mumble, “And we have the same birthday.”
“Yeah, and yup,” he nods, pointing to a cluster of dots next to a lake, “We should go there.”
“We?” I blink.
“Did you want to go somewhere else?,” he smiles at me. He’s extraordinarily plain – no modifications of any kind, anywhere.
“Where are you from?” I ask bluntly, tapping the dots for the address code.
“R-Utili Nation, you?,” he copies the code on his bracer.
“A-Utili…” I glance at him, then look away. I hope he doesn’t mistake us having Bordering Guardian Nations to be a reason for friendship.
“I can’t wait to talk more,” my hopes are dashed as he begins to lead towards the hovercrafts, “I’m Mason, by the way.”
“I’m Avery.” I pause, realizing that the Citizenship Bureau had kept all of my identification materials – except for my fingerprints – and would I be getting them back? Or new ones?, “They send us new IDs, right?”
“Huh?” Mason glances up as he opens the door of his craft, “Oh, yeah, but they have to know your address first for the coding.”
“Right,” I wonder why I didn’t already know that.
“Meet you there!” Mason waves cheerfully as he disappears into the hovercraft.
I sit in mine until I watch his take off, then sigh as I input the code and the craft goes on autopilot to the destination.
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