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Authors: Matthew A Robinson

Ntshona

BOOK: Ntshona
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Published in December 2013 by Matthew A Robinson

 

Copyright 2013 Matthew A Robinson

www.facebook.com/MatthewARobinsonUK

Cover art copyright 2013 NAIMEIIEMIAN

https://www.facebook.com/illustrator.NAIMEIIEMIAN

 

 

The right of Matthew A Robinson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

The right of NAIMEIIEMIAN to be identified as the artist of this work’s cover illustration has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, stored in a retrieval system, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, businesses or organisations is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Part I

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

 

Part II

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

About the Author

Part I

Chapter 1

“Seeing as there’s nothing to do today, do you wanna go shopping?”

“I’d rather just chill by the pool all day, it’s not often we all get time off together”.

“Well, for me, I don’t mind, as long as we get something to eat wherever we go”.

“Yeah, same goes for me”.

“Me too, I’m pretty hungry right now too”.

“Okay, it seems like I’ve lost that vote”.

“Ha! You know voting gets you nowhere in this country!”

“Yeah, well it depends who you are. It obviously worked for you guys”.

“But this is a different situation, thankfully we didn’t just vote in the next dictator!”

“No, the polls for that haven’t opened yet, we’ve still got a couple of weeks left”.

“Okay, whatever. Let’s just go”.

 

Among just a few other people, five adults in their early twenties waited for an NGT train at an indistinct transport station on the one hundred and sixty-third floor of the residential skyscraper they were in. One by one they signed into the transport system in the lobby using the only check-in panel in the minor station.

“Hello, and welcome. Please select your mode of transport,” sounded the console while displaying the options for conveyance.

“NGT train,” responded one of the three males of the group of five.

“Acknowledged. Please select your destination,” the console requested while displaying a map of the extended region and fare prices on its screen, to which the response was “Yet to decide”.

“Acknowledged. Please be aware that your fare is undefinable until you reach your destination. Please select form of payment”. There were two options visualised on the console’s display; “
Retina scan
” and “
Palm screen
”.

“Retina scan,” was the response, to which the console followed with “Acknowledged. Please step forwards and look directly at the sensor bar”.

The young man shifted towards the sensor bar, and a blue beam promptly sped across his eyes.

The console concluded the check-in procedure by stating “Retina scan complete. Payment method acknowledged. Please enjoy your ride Mr. Berger”.

The procedure was imitated for the second and third of the group. The fourth person, however, when she stepped up to the check-in console was greeted wit
h
“您好,歡迎光臨。請選擇您比較喜歡的運輸方式

.

The expression she wore made it clear she was annoyed, “Argh, bloody racist machine! What the hell makes it think I can’t speak English?!” she ranted.

The group thought it was rather amusing, as Eve was usually a calm person, until it came to matters of this sort.

“Well, it’s an easy mistake to make, you do look Chinese after all!” pointed out Alta, to which Eve retorted, “But I was born here, English is my native language! Besides, why did it instantly think of speaking in Mandarin?” She remained irritated.

Marcus repeated what Alta had said, “Because you look Chinese,” followed quickly by Eve’s well rehearsed “My family are Taiwanese!”

“And?” Andres added to the conversation in his typical cheeky manner.

“And?!” She replied, “It could’ve spoken to me in Taiwanese, couldn’t it?”

Alta, loving the bantering that was taking place, continued by asking “But can’t you speak Mandarin too?”

The angry look on the irate girl’s face dropped into a frown. “Yes,” she replied, instantly followed by a chorus of “There you go then!” with accompanying laughter.

Lon, smiling widely, calmly gave solace to Eve, “Don’t worry, it spoke to me in Norwegian once”.

With this her frown lifted into a small grin and she responded, “Well, you do look a bit like a Viking, hey”.

This was followed by more laughter, and Lon checked in to the NGT system.

What was unusual was that, unlike the rest of the group, Marcus noticed Lon chose the ‘
Palm screen
’ form of payment, for which the console scanned his outstretched hand.

“Please enjoy your ride Mr. Dres”.

The group left the lobby and proceeded to the NGT departure platform to wait for their ride.

After the train arrived, the group of friends systematically boarded it. One row of seating was arranged adjacent to each wall in every car using the NGT system, therefore the five young adults easily found seats next to each other. It was a regular working day in the city, as a result the NGT carriage was almost empty.

“This feels strange,” stated Eve, “there are usually many more people on the NGT”.

Marcus replied, “That’s because everyone else is unlucky enough to be at work today”.

“Or
maybe
,” added Andres “everyone in the transport station ‘disappeared’!”

Alta quickly responded in a worried manner, “You mustn’t say such things! That shit frightens me every day!”

Andres grinned happily, his goal of frightening Alta was achieved.

“Seriously though,” began Marcus, “what the hell’s all that about? How can so many people go missing at once in such busy places?”

Four of the group of five looked back and forth at each other, expecting japes about how it could be ghosts or aliens, or maybe even other dimensions. Despite it being a current and high-profile news topic, the group, out of fear of judgement - or worse - had not debated it prior, perhaps only having mentioned it in passing.

Eve was the first to speak, “Maybe it has something to do with
…” she paused before lowering her voice so that prying ‘ears’ couldn’t track what she was about to say, “maybe it has something to do with the government”.

Nods of agreement were offered from each of them. This answer was more terrifying than ghosts or parallel universes.

Lon broke his gaze from the carriage window and the distant expanse of skytowers and elevated highways. “Whatever the reason, it’s a shame that we have so many things to worry about in such an otherwise wonderful place”.

There was a consensus among them, and millions of others, that the city’s grandeur was undeniable.

“We have some of the tallest buildings on earth, pioneering super-technology, amazing world-class entertainment, gastronomy from each and every region of the planet, as well as breathtaking cityscape views, and, especially when this high up, our view of the South Atlantic is utterly amazing,” he gestured towards the window on the opposite side of the NGT carriage from where the clear, serene, deep blue surface of the ocean was on display, “yet we have so many things to be afraid of!”

The unfortunateness of the matter was that it was not a new issue; in this country fear and oppression had existed in some form for centuries.

“Besides,” continued Lon, “I reckon the disappearances are because of the
Science Centre
”.

The group began to laugh, except for Eve who interjected.

“Hey!”

The group laughed harder.

Andres placed his hand on her shoulder and spoke in a falsely empathetic tone, “Don’t stress, it probably doesn’t mean their interns are involved”.

Eve interjected again with, but louder this time, “Hey!” to which the collective laughter became even harder. “
Anyway
,” changing the subject, she said in a slightly calmer manner, “we still haven’t decided on where we’re going”.

A moment’s deliberation passed before Marcus remembered somewhere he had wanted to see.

“Oh! How about that new Mediterranean place?”

Alta sat forwards in her seat excitedly, “Oh yeah, you mean that new shopping centre? I’d
love
to go there!”

Andres quickly twisted his left hand upwards, straightened out his fingers, and made a gesture on his wrist to reveal a screen that covered the area of his palm, and hurriedly said, “If I’m right, then we should get off at the next stop”.

He gestured again on his wrist so that a keyboard appeared on the palm screen. He input the phrase “
Mediterranean shopping mall
” and selected the available option “
Near my current location
”.

The search results were instantaneous. A notification window appeared on his palm screen saying “
You appear to be using the NGT system. You will arrive at
Il Centro Commerciale
in
-”

“Yep, they’ve added a new station on this line, it’s actually a part of the shopping centre,” stated Andres, happily surprised, “we’ll be there
… now”.

The NGT came to a halt at a station etched into the side of one of the city’s most ominous edifices, built at the municipality’s coastal extremity.

Behind them as they looked onwards into the shopping centre’s entryway with anticipation and intrigue, the ocean was still clearly visible far below. They hurriedly alighted from the vehicle before it speedily departed.

Standing behind the check-out barrier at the wide entrance to a faux open air shopping street which could have easily been lifted out of Italy or Southern Spain, the five were somewhat in awe. They murmured among themselves about how it was unlike the ultra-modern, wholly uniform, technologically but not visually beautiful stylism they were accustomed to in their country.

To the immediate left of the entrance was a terrace of high-end, light orange boutique stores predominantly selling the latest European fashion items, each building with arched doorways and wooden shutters attached to every window.

To the right was a canal of murky blue artificially coloured water, complete with gondolas and palm trees lining each bank, which had an intersection that separated the shopping centre into four visible sections. One large bridge at the centre joined each area.

From the shopping centre entrance it was only possible to clearly see across the canal to the right, where there was another terrace of buildings, but with restaurants and ice cream parlours instead of clothing outlets.

Above them, covering the shopping centre and disguising the ceiling, was a digital display which perfectly mimicked the sky above the city. The weather fit the scene beautifully.

“This is why I want to leave this country,” sighed Alta, “there are places on Earth that are really like this, not like here where it’s all artificial”. She wishfully regarded their surroundings, imagining she was in Europe. For Alta, and to different extents her four companions, leaving the country was considered an escape; the ability to live a freer life in a nation with real democracy.

Marcus dampened the sudden adventurous spirit by claiming “Places like this don’t exist anymore, sorry to disappoint you”.

Alta was not pleased. “Yes they do!” she defiantly responded in a raised voice, “There’s a place called Venus in Switzerland that’s exactly like this, it’s common knowledge!”

Marcus took the opportunity to use his ‘as a matter of fact’ tone, “
No
, Venus is a planet dumbass, you’re thinking of Vienna, and it was in Germany”.

Not wanting to fan the flames by telling them they were both wrong, the remaining three checked out of the NGT system and entered the shopping centre, “Thank you for using the Ntshona NGT system. Goodbye”.

The two girls made a beeline for the boutiques on the left. The other three, not uninterested, followed at a moderate pace, taking in the features of their environment.

“I wonder if there’s any accommodation here. I’d love to stay in a place like this,” notioned Marcus, “it seems pretty convenient, and calm… I haven’t even spotted any security guards yet, which is a nice change”.

“Yeah,” Lon answered, “I think we all would like to live somewhere like here, but I doubt any of us are ‘high’ enough to be allowed,” he was referring to their social statuses. “Except for you, of course”.

“Think of the money too!” added Andres, “If I had enough money to live in a place like this, I’d live abroad instead!”

“Good point,” the other two replied.

“But hey,” Marcus went on, “if Eve continues working at the Science Centre for a few years, won’t her status go up?”

The three looked at each other silently in a moment of thought.

“Oh yeah,” Lon suddenly realised that “she’s been working there for like, over a year or something now. I think if she makes a decent impression, she’ll get a promotion to work on some higher-end projects”.

Marcus wonderingly inquired “How long will that take?”

Andres responded with one of his usual light hearted, yet deeply serious jests, “Well, I don’t care how long it will be, I’m staying friends with her for as long as it takes! Maybe we’ll all go up in the world if we do that!”

There was light laughter from the three men, but like many jokes and dreams that were had in that country, the ugly reality was put forth to pacify the notion.

Lon sighed, “That’s not how it works though”.

Nobody argued, they knew this, and had known it since they could think rationally enough as young teens. Despite them living in a somewhat wonderland of technology, dreams were massively abundant, but rarely realised. Or at least, not for those far from the peak of society.

BOOK: Ntshona
2.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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