Why me for selection? – he mused. Shattered didn’t vocalize his question, not even to Mar. After a long horse-drawn carriage ride from Park to Eureka, he smelt the ocean. He loved the salty smell, the heavy, humid feeling; the foggy summertime leaden sky sat low. Passing through odd buildings – pre-calamity architecture – with strange designs, with no windows, or too many windows, Shattered felt a tinge of homesickness. He never expected to feel this upon leaving – a desire he had since childhood; although, he had never been beyond Arcadia. He had never gone this far south. A massive wooden gate, about fifty-feet tall and just as wide, he surmised, opened just enough for humans to pass. “Papers!” A tall, Black man demanded; a senior member of Park’s civil defense force. Shattered produced his passport – it didn’t include a photograph, but had his date of birth, eye color and height; he also showed the official the three-page motion signed by the administrator allowing passage to Marin for the duration of a one-month period – for training purposes followed by permission for an expedition to 53°25’05.5″N 132°20’33.5″W.
Shattered passed through the gates made of large timber doors. His eyes adjusted to the shine coming off silver bubbles, large silver bubbles, the size of a wagon – yet, smooth, clean, floating. “Hello, welcome to the Marin-Park trading zone, Shattered.” A young woman in her late twenties approached him, her dark locks moved ever so slightly in the breeze. Her thick, dark purple overcoat came up to the bottom of her neck. Shattered had never seen someone so beautiful. He looked from her neck up, his eyes still reeling from the shine of the bubbles. Her chocolate brown skin, silky and soft, reminded him of art, real pre-calamity art – what he’d seen of it in the libraries he often frequented. Her voice, calm and confident, reassured him, yet he found himself muttering,
“How do you know my…?”
“Name. Well, you’ve been bio-scanned. We knew you were coming, so ran a few tests from your DNA profile. This is available because you had several minor operations requiring blood transfusions. I know, it is not the custom of your people, the people of Park, to have such personal information. But you must brace yourself for shocks – culturally speaking of course. I am Knowledge.”
“That’s a wonderful name!”
“Thank you, let’s go – we are behind schedule.”
Being behind schedule – even the phrase behind schedule – didn’t make much sense to Shattered. He pulled his old woolen coat around him, pulled a scarf out of his rucksack and put it on. It wouldn’t be needed for long. Approaching the floating metallic oval, a slit, then half of the vehicle slid slightly open. He entered. “Sit, do sit.” He sat on the most comfortable chair he’d ever felt; it perfectly contoured itself to his body. “Marin Central – engage.” The door closed; the vehicle turned mostly transparent; it sat on nothing, and like a raindrop, flatter at the bottom, rounded at the top. The floor remained dark, but the outside was fully visible. They passed near the Pacific Ocean at speeds Shattered never felt before. “We will reach Marin soon, travel-time to Sausalito is just over an hour.”
“That’s incredible! Sausalito is, over four-hundred and twenty kilometers from…”
“Yes, speed is quite a different matter in the Technocratic Republic of Marin – what did Tennessee Williams say, “For time is the longest distance between two places.”? She waved her arm in the air, almost in a circle, as she quoted a man Shattered hadn’t yet read. He knew the name, he knew the person was an author – a playwright – but he didn’t know anything else. Knowledge smiled at him. Shattered found this peculiar. Smiling. This type of behavior, at least in his little world, was reserved for special moments. And while the moment was special for him, he couldn’t see how it would be special for this advanced citizen of Marin. For that matter, he had never heard it called the Technocratic Republic of Marin.
“So this is a car?” He shifted his position, relaxing into the warm chair, taking his coat off, and placing it on top of his suitcase; his scarf – his crimson scarf knitted by Mar – he placed on the table to his right; a table that seemingly led straight into the ocean, for there was nothing, not even what he could call glass, between himself and the outside, yet he felt only the inside. He looked to the right, toward the coastal mountains; they passed so quickly he had to look down for a moment.
“Yes, in a manner of speaking. We just call them trans-pods. The are essentially quite simple really, we have an arrangement with Park, we cannot use anything more sophisticated too close to our agreed boundaries.”
“Simple, huh? Well, so – I was told I would meet someone of great importance.”
“Oh, great importance, really?” She again gestured in a semi-circle with her arm as she said great importance. “I am the Secondary Adjunct of the Central Nexus.”
“What does that mean? Sorry.” Shattered’s green eyes looked directly at Knowledge’s dark brown eyes. She didn’t blink. She held herself with a sense of – he couldn’t find the word straightaway – royalty.
“I am the third highest ranking member, as you would call someone, in our Republic. I serve the Deputy Premier, and she in turns serves the Premier.”
“We’re here.” Shattered had found himself dozing off – he hadn’t properly slept in several days. He awoke to an open door, the trans-pod had turned nearly completely black inside, and light came in from outside. Outside turned out to be inside; he looked around – “Where are we?”
“Underground, follow me.”
Walking past swimming pools dotted with people talking to themselves, floating up the mass cavern in suits, machines like large spiders crawling the walls, machines like discs he’d discovered in the ground, but larger, hoovering and quietly whizzing past him in the long corridor. From the trans-pod to his room, he passed four giant swimming pools, each the size of a lake, three massive gardens, and the light felt so natural – underground. “Liquid light,” Knowledge explained – “it’s like pumping water from a well.” He passed people wearing purple robes, with translucent coverings over the heads, their eyes moving back and forth; everyone looked so young, so healthy, so vibrant and also so removed from everything and everyone around them. No one greeted him or Knowledge. No one wore shoes. The ground was so warm and smooth – he took his shoes off and placed them in his suitcase after Knowledge encouraged him.
“Adapt,” she said.