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Authors: JD Lovil

Tags: #murder, #magic, #sorcery, #monsters, #parallel worlds, #tyr, #many worlds theory, #quantum jumping, #heimdall

Jigsaw World (10 page)

BOOK: Jigsaw World
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8 The Eternal City

After driving for another eight hours, Tom
decided that it was time to find a nice place to pull over for a
while. By this time, they should have been well past Dallas, but
there had been no hint of that Metropolis. They should have been
out of Texas, for that matter, but there was plenty of signage on
the Interstate that confirmed that they were still in
Texas.

He saw an off ramp that offered gas and food,
of the sort that truckers tend to frequent. He steered the rig onto
the off ramp, and toward the promise of an hour or so of
relaxation. As he exited the ramp, and gained the road proper, he
past a large sign that proudly proclaimed ‘Welcome to Arkadia, City
of the Future’.

The road led around a curve, and once the RV
completed the curve, the city of Arkadia was revealed. It looked to
be big enough for a population of some one hundred thousand or so,
and indeed, they passed a population sign that declared the current
population to be 97,293 souls. The city itself appeared to be made
all of gleaming metal and glass, with tastefully placed greenery
growing everywhere. There was a beautiful park on the way into the
city, with a classic stone bridge over a small lake that was in the
center of the park.

The others pushed themselves to the front just
behind the driver’s seat to look at the city. Everyone felt a
certain small excitement to see such an exquisite place, and to
have a chance to take their shoes off and hang their feet in the
water, or to see the latest in city living. This trip had already
gone a week or so longer than it should have, and everyone was
getting a little road weary, except possibly for Markus.

The RV completed its trip across the bridge.
On the other side, Tom pulled the vehicle into a parking spot next
to the lake shore. It was time to figure out the logistics of this
visit.


I have not seen any other human
beings in this town.” Tom remarked. “That may mean nothing, or
there could be an unknown danger here. I suggest that we plan our
visit here to minimize any danger from unknown causes.”


Okay. What do we want to
accomplish here?” Markus asked. “Is this going to be business or
pleasure?”


A bit of both, I think.” Tom
answered. “I would like to get new tires all around on the RV, gas
her up, and spend an hour or so relaxing right here.”


Well, we are here already, so I
suggest that we do the relaxing thing now, before we stir up
whatever hornet’s nest there might be in the city.” George
suggested.


We might as well.” Tom reflected.
“Everybody, take an hour, but keep your eyes open.”

Everyone climbed out of the vehicle, and
Bailey started darting about barking and wagging his tail. In the
next two minutes, everyone had managed to divest themselves of
their shoes, and had their bare feet cooling in the water at the
shore. Bailey had splashed into the lake, swam about for a couple
of minutes, then dashed out and shook himself violently next to the
group.

At the end of the hour, everyone re-socked and
re-shoed their cold feet. Charla took the old towel from behind the
driver’s seat and toweled Bailey off roughly, to Bailey’s
enjoyment. Everyone climbed back aboard the RV, and prepared to
proceed into the city.

A little beyond the park, they approached an
electronic sign that advertised that the Visitor Welcome Center was
a mile ahead. It sounded like a good place to start. About three
minutes later, they finished off the mile, and discovered two
interesting things.

The first building they came to was a
mechanic’s shop which advertised itself on the sign in front of the
building as ‘Arkadia Automated Repair Shop’, and specified that
most repairs were $99 plus the cost of parts. This sounded like a
swinging deal, so Tom wheeled the RV into the feeding area into the
repair bay.

Just beyond the repair shop was another
building which announced itself by the signage to be the welcome
center. After a brief discussion, the group decided that they would
begin the process of getting the new tires put on, and then would
proceed to find out what the welcome center had to
offer.

They went into the front of the shop, and
approached the desk. On the desk was a button with the instructions
“Push Me”. Tom pushed the button, and a monitor on the desk lit up,
and a face that seemed to be an artificial construction
appeared.


Please specify your desired
mechanical repair.” The face said. “All repairs are $99 plus the
cost of parts, and include a full system diagnostic, and repair of
any faulty systems that do not require replacement
parts.”


Just replace all tires on our RV
with new ones.” Tom said. “Any idea how long this will all
take?”


Replacement and diagnostic will
take approximately 35 minutes.” The Avatar stated. “Would you like
to have the plugs and oil changed while you are here?”


Sure, that would be good. How
much will that cost?”


The total will be $385 plus the
$99 fee.” The Avatar replied. “If you will place your keys in the
tube, we can get started.” A pneumonic tube whisked open next to
the monitor, and Tom dropped the keys inside. They shot away out of
sight, and they heard a noise in the shop bay.

They went out to the front of the bay, and saw
that a group of metallic arms had sprouted from the bay walls, and
was busy pulling the vehicle into the bay. It was promptly placed
on the rack, and the rack raised itself a couple of feet off the
floor. Arms immediately went to work on the lugs, and under the
hood. As entertaining as this activity was, Tom decided that they
had better get started with their visit to the Welcome Center while
the repairs were underway.


Charla, how about you and Sidney
stay here and guard the RV, make sure the automation doesn’t do
anything bad with our vehicle, and keep Bailey with you.” Tom
suggested. “The rest of us can go to the center and see what we can
learn. OK?”

Charla and Sidney agreed, and Sidney settled
down in the outdoor waiting area with his 30 caliber and his katana
to wait for the repairs to finish. Charla and Bailey started one of
their incessant games of fetch. The rest of them began to move out
toward the center.

They had about a 200 foot walk to the Welcome
Center, but on the way, they ran across a cleaning robot busy
cleaning the edge of the road. It had cutting blades which
activated whenever it was over the grass, and a vacuuming feature
that was continuous. It resembled nothing so much as a cross
between one of those little, random walk house cleaning robots, and
a lawn mower. The similarity struck George at the same time as it
dawned on Tom.


Hey, look! That is what those
little cleaning robots look like when they are all grown up!”
George exclaimed. The robot, which was probably about four hundred
pounds of machine, detoured around them as it went by. From the
back of the robot, about where the poop would come from if it was
an animal, a small opening appeared, and a fine meshed net started
exuding out. When it had exited far enough to reveal itself as a
sort of bag, a stream of grass clippings, trash and debris that the
robot had picked up shot into the bag. When the bag was full, the
opening did something, and the opening to the bag was tied off. The
bag fell to the ground, and the robot continued on.

As the machine moved on, a much larger, five
legged spider shaped machine with some sort of cargo bin on its
back walked over to the bag, and a gripper arm came down from the
midsection of the spider and picked up the bag, depositing it in
the cargo bin on its back. It then moved on to pick up several
other such bags that were visible in the area.

Tom reflected to himself that at least the
custodial machines didn’t seem to have it in for humans. Maybe for
once, they could enter and leave the town without something
endangering their lives. That would be a nice change.

Seconds after their encounter with the
cleaning robots, they reached and entered the Welcome Center door.
Inside, it was all gleaming metal and stone-like counter top. They
looked around the comfortably dim room they found
inside.

A figure suddenly appeared in the corner of
the room. It was a nice, clean cut black man who looked as though
he were about 35 years old. The man was on the other side of a
table from the visitors, and he surprised them all by walking
through the table. As he did, his figure briefly flickered. He
smiled as he advanced.


Hello, visitors. I am Arkadia.”
Said the man. “I am here to answer any questions about the city you
might have.”

Tom turned to Markus and George. “I think that
our host is a hologram.” The others nodded in bemused agreement.
Tom then turned to the host, and said, “Where are all of the people
who are supposed to live in this town?”


They have all terminated.”
Arkadia said. “Many of them broke some of the rules, and the rest
of them terminated after resisting the composting of the rule
breakers.” As the hologram stated this, a flicker of the image
transformed the continuous smile into a stern frown for a fraction
of a second.


How long has this city existed,
and who or what is it that I am actually talking to right now?” Tom
asked.


The city is 18.7 years old.”
Arkadia said. “I am an Avatar of the City Brain, which is a
distributed neural net running on a network of quantum computers.
The nodes on the network are composed of uploaded human engrams.”
The hologram paused self-importantly.

Tom grabbed George’s arm in one hand, and
Markus’s arm in the other, and started to pull them toward the
door. “Thank you, Arkadia. You have answered all of my present
questions. I will get back to you if I think of any
more.”

The three of them walked out of the door.
“Let’s get out of this town! The City Brain is insane, and it
killed all of these people.” Tom said urgently. “A place like this
would accumulate more residents if the town didn’t have an ongoing
policy of terminating new residents. I don’t know how long it will
take the city to decide to try to kill us, but it is almost certain
that it will if we stay long enough.”

The other two agreed with the reasoning, and
they began to rush down the street to the repair shop. The RV met
them half way. Screeching to a halt in front of them, the door
opened, and Sidney yelled, “Get aboard. We gotta go. The shop tried
to grab us after it got done working on the RV. I managed to
disable one of its arms just as it was about to drag Charla into
the bay.”

The three climbed aboard, and Tom said, “You
don’t have to convince us. The City Brain is crazy. Turn this thing
around, and punch it!”

Sidney nodded, and twisted the wheel hard to
the left as he accelerated. The back end of the vehicle fishtailed
briefly, and then they were breaking all sorts of speeding rules on
the way out of town. In the near distance, Tom could see some sort
of grasping robot with flashing police lights moving to intercept
them, and several of the large spider robots were moving across the
park to cut them off.

As the RV approached the bridge, Sidney
accelerated even more. There was one of the spider robots that had
almost reached the other end of the bridge. As the bridge was the
only way out of the city from this side, they would have to get by
that spider if they expected to get away.

They made it across the bridge, and the spider
raised one of its spike legs, sending it down on the roof of the RV
about two-thirds of the way towards the back of the vehicle. There
was a scraping sound as the tip of the legs penetrated the roof of
the vehicle. Just as the leg penetrated the roof, Sidney punched
the accelerator hard, and the RV surged ahead.

The leg of the spider was tangled in the roof,
and as the leg was carried along by the RV, the spider
over-balanced, and fell over backward onto the exit of the bridge.
The foot of the leg then slipped out of the roof of the vehicle,
and the RV was clear!


Keep going!” Tom hissed. “We are
ahead of all of the robots, but we don’t know how far they will
chase us. If they will get onto the Interstate, and if any of them
are faster than the RV, they will catch us!”

In less than a minute, they had returned to
the ramp onto the interstate. Tom felt a slight sense of relief as
they gained the on-ramp, and he waited tensely to see if any of the
opposition would chase them on the Interstate. It was with a
sincere relief that he saw the ‘police robots’ stop and turn around
as they got to the ramp.


Well, that wasn’t any fun!” Tom
said. “At least tell me that you managed to get away from the shop
without paying!”

Sidney shook his head. “No, dammit! I had just
finished feeding $584 into the machine when it started acting
weird.”


Oh, well. That was Wal-Mart
money, anyway.” Tom said. “Lucky that it jumped out of those cash
registers and into the RV, huh?”


Yeah, Lucky!” Sidney said. “And I
felt guilty just taking the groceries without paying!”


Oh, well! Another fine adventure
completed. What do you say, let’s wander down the road, and see if
we can find an all new way to get ourselves killed?”

BOOK: Jigsaw World
10.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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