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When I was done with cleaning up and all dressed again, I had George help me figure out how to use a map while I was visiting the Core. As it turns out, when you visit different businesses or districts you are visiting actual places around the rings of the Core. Each shop created its own plot of land and they all merged in VR to create an immense digital cityscape. The neat thing about having a map in VR was that I could have a paperless little screen hovering a little off to the side at my waist level to refer to. It even panned and rotated when I moved to keep track of my current location. It was the coolest thing ever. I ended up showing Tutor what our maps were like back home when she came to watch George instructing me.

“Oh my goodness, it just keeps unfolding?” She said as she looked over an interstate map. I was expecting to get a laugh out of watching her try to fold it all back up but that didn’t turn out as I had hoped. She unfolded it all the way, looked it over, and commented on how well it was designed before perfectly folding it back into a neat little package.

“Huh.” was all I could say as I mentally dumped all the things that I had considered testing her on for grins in the future. Something told me that a Rubrics cube wouldn’t even make her blink.

“Tutor… do AI have the ability to use Simulation Access?” I asked her when I remembered her reading books in the past.

“No. Many believe that it would be wasteful. Why do you ask?” she asked as I noticed George’s head snap up to focus on our conversation the moment I asked about it.

“Would you both like it? I think it is wasteful to not use it. I noticed you reading a book the other day and just thought that you might want to be able to use it as well.” I replied. It was a strange thought, I had started to think of them as real living and growing beings, maybe not humans, but someone always interested in growing and learning. It just seemed like a waste to not give them the tools to have enjoyment and to improve themselves through experiences.

“Could we?” She asked as George came to stand next to her. I got the feeling that I was giving two kids bikes for the first time in their lives. It was rather cute to see their expressions when I willed them full rights to use the Simulation Access.

“Thank you very much, Kevin!” They both said and seemed for once to be experiencing the feeling of being stunned. What I read in their data was that they were both compiling truly massive lists of things that they wanted to try and explore when they next had time.

I read one entry and smiled a little to myself. Tutor wanted to feel what sand felt like between her toes and to walk down the beach at sunset.

Curious, I also glanced at one from George and I came away with his intention to restore an old rusty sports car in his free time. I began to wonder just how much their AI was being molded by me and who they were modeled after. Such a curious thought. What were other people’s AI interested in and like?

“Well, don’t have too much fun,” I said as I created my travel disk and stepped on, willing my destination to be at the edge of the cities shopping districts.

I was blown away by what I saw when I arrived.

Imagine a city, a thriving city that surrounded a brightly blazing star. Even as I stood there, staring with my mouth hanging open, I just couldn’t fully picture what I was seeing at first. Their world was a globe like earth, just inverted so that the surface surrounding a star at the center. Here there was no darkness, no night, and it was always bright. I knew I probably shouldn’t be able to see as far as I could, but since everything was lit perfectly by the light of the sun I could see the buildings, trees, and rivers on the far surface of the sphere.

“Wow…” was all my brain could make my mouth utter as I let my eyes wander around the alien architecture, the strange-looking plants, and how the streets and paths seemed to flow to an artist's paintbrush. Citizens could walk here, fly, or just be where they willed themselves to arrive. At first, I didn’t recognize some Citizens for what they were. I thought there was just something blowing in the wind until I realized that it was a young female Citizen playing. I couldn’t hear her as she fluttered from building to building, using the sides as stepping stones, keeping her gravity always sideways so she could jump from structure to structure. Honestly, she kind of looked like a plastic bag with little hands that formed whenever she needed something to grip with. I could read her background information as she bounced from building to building, sparkling motes of happiness with each successful leap. She quickly flung herself out of view as she pulsed with delight.

I looked around, feeling with my new hidden sight instead of my eyes, and found that there was a lot of activity in certain spots around the inner globe. An invisible Citizen went past me so fast that I almost didn’t have time to read anything from his passing. He was taking a line shot to a destination and was busy studying data… - I lost him in the distance.

“I want… I want to see everything!” I nearly yelled aloud before I looked around quickly to see if anyone was watching me. It was so hard not to jump up towards the sun and to shout out my excitement but I also had a small worry about something.

“What is this little worry?” I mused as I started walking along a path that seemed to be a road. “Oh yeah, Mr. Regeth, Elaya’s dad.”

I briefly thought about him and all of his threats. I had dealt with bullies before, sure they weren’t Head’s of Security for structures that surrounded stars but that didn’t make any difference how I saw them. They were like wasps to me, they had stingers and weren’t afraid to use them for any slight. You could just enter their territory by mistake that it would piss them off.

Wasps served no purpose to me, they were not like bees which I loved. Bees were serious workers and didn’t mess with other creatures unless they had to. They were just always focused on their job, dedicated to their queen. Wasps on the other hand were evil little things. They would sting creatures and then bury them in their mud cocoon so that their children could hatch and eat their way out, eating the creature sedated inside.

Mr. Regeth’s threats were real to me, it was just hard to focus on them when every new thing that I could see was incredible. I just had to hope that Silver could stay ahead of him. That also meant that I had to do my part to stay as noticeable as possible.

I wandered for a while, keeping my eye on the map and continually following the arrow to one of the first places that I wanted to check out. It took me about an hour of walking before I decided to see how far I had yet to go. I made a little display pop up with the percentage of the distance I had yet to travel, thinking that I should almost be there.

0.00005% progress.

Holy cow! At this rate, I would get there in… I brought up a calculator to do the math for me… 20,000 hours.

So basically walking would take 833 days for me to arrive at the bookstore I wanted to visit.

Just over two years of walking.

All of my earth-related transportation options were tossed out of my mind one after another before leaving me with three options. Flight would work if I wanted to have an amazing view the whole way there. I could also will myself to just arrive at the entrance to the shop if I knew what it looked like. I could probably figure that out if I thought about it long enough. The last option was to will a cab to come pick me up and to drop me off at my destination like that one Citizen I had spied when I first arrived was doing. Everything was an option.

If you knew me at all then you would know that I would always pick the first option. And yes, I bent my knees and jumped as hard as I could into the air like Superman.

I think several Citizens thought I was just another crazy child from how loudly I shouted my excitement at the top of my lungs. From above everything was even more amazing to see. The architecture of some buildings quickly revealed that they were not always built from a gravity downwards point of view, some reached well into the sky like flowers. One building looked like it was a wave crashing against a rock, just sparkling and jutting upwards into the sky.

Have you ever felt so happy that you actually felt like you were glowing? As if light could at any moment shine out from your chest? I felt that way and more as I sped through the expanse of sky, tiny tears of joy streaming out of the corners of my eyes before I wiped them away and flew even faster. I didn’t realize that I was shining like a star or a missile as I sped towards a little dot on my horizon, the ever distant bookstore.

A few citizens noticed, not very many considered what I was doing to be too interesting except for one little girl that looked like a plastic bag that was just learning to traverse buildings. She watched in wonder as I sped through the sky.

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About the author

Ken Raven

  • Texas

Bio: I write stories that I would like to read. They may not be for everyone, which is perfectly okay. There yet are other books out there that you might enjoy. For those that stick around and do enjoy what I write I just wanted to say thank you!

Random thought for the day:

Looking up how to write is not writing.
Watching videos on writing is not writing.
Making plans to write is not writing.

Just write.
Get the story out of your brain.
There will be plenty of time to add more details, intrigue, and dialog later.
Or to get another story out of your brain... yeah, that would be fun ;)


(Also would like to give a shoutout profile:
Photo by Sergio Ibannez on Unsplash)

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