by Jonny Capps
500 years after nuclear holocaust, the remaining people attempt to revive Earth's beauty.
| The doors to the lobby slid apart with a nearly inaudible hiss. Dr. Derrin Flattory walked through them, and looked around the location. It was not the first meeting room that he had been to, and there was very little variation about it to make it stand out, esthetically: there was the typical long table, with a large holographic platform in the center, surrounded by seven servo-chairs. The Coffee Maid™ floated around the room, depositing fresh brew in empty mugs, with the same mechanical whirr which was so common place now that the only time it was noticed was when it was absent. There was a skylight above the table, which still contained a few droplets of moisture from the night's rain, and a view of the clearing sky. |
What made this meeting room distinct was the company that was in the room already. Derrin raised his eyebrows in surprise. Several of the occupants were individuals that he immediately recognized, others he knew based on their work, and one or two were strangers. Of the people that he knew, however, he noticed that each of them shared a common property with himself. Each of them were at the top of their individual fields. He analyzed the situation, trying to formulate a way to enter the conclave. It seemed as though most of the members had already pared off into conversational partners.
“Hello, Dr. Flattery,” a soft voice over his shoulder greeted him. Derrin smiled as the familiar scent of honeysuckle and lemon wafted over his shoulder. He turned to see the greeter standing behind him: a petite, young, lady with delicate features and short, almost tomboyish, black hair.
“Claire Roux,” he chuckled, extending a hand to his infrequent collaborator. “How was traffic?”
Dr. Roux snickered politely at the dated joke. “They couldn't take the sky from me,” she replied with the standard nomenclature.
Neither he nor Claire were anywhere near old enough to remember bad traffic, really, aside from what they had heard in history lectures and seen in period cinema art films. It had been a dark chapter in humanity's history, apparently. Those who drove cars, which was almost everyone, would often be forced to sit for hours without moving more than a few feet in their commute to work each day. This lead to a mental disorder that modern psychologists referred to as vehicular primordia. Victims of this disease would experience a regression to their most basic human emotions. They would become agitated toward other drivers, often swearing, making lewd gestures, and (in the most extreme cases) becoming violent. Things began to change in the year 2050, when Toyota (then, simply a car company) introduced the first fully-automated car, driven completely by GPS, with sensors to read the traffic lights (rudimentary devices, designed to tell the driver when to stop and when to go), along with the proximity of other vehicles. Within twenty years, all human-driven vehicles were recalled and replaced by automated versions.
The “how was traffic?” joke came shortly after that. Since there was no longer a need to complain about traffic, neither was there a purpose in asking about the commute.
“So,” Derrin asked, scanning the room for faces that he recognized “do you have any idea what we've been called here for?”
Claire appeared to be scanning the room as well. “I have no idea,” she admitted. “I see a few Nobel laureates here, like Mikhail Ruscov and Tenzin St. Crow. You remember them, right? Ruscov was the political scientist who wrote the paper on the effects of consumerism on diplomacy, which was credited as instrumental in the reestablishment of Russia's czarist republic.”
Derrin nodded. “I read it twice,” he said. “He had some incredible things to say. A lot of his sources were redundant, but his original thoughts showed a lot of insight into the human mind. Dr. St. Crow was involved with the cloning of clean cells, right?”
“It was deeper than that, but essentially, yes,” Claire replied. “Her research was one of the biggest factors in the replacement of cancer cells, and she's probably the reason that life expectancy is now close to 120 years.”
Derrin cringed a bit. “I'm feeling a little outmatched, all of a sudden,” he admitted.
Claire had to stand on her toes and jump a bit, in order to swat the back of his head. “You're a world-renowned survivalist!” she chided him. “Ruscov and St. Crow may have the fancy achievements, but neither of them could have excavated the ruins of San Francisco Proper. Plus, did they not make a movie about your journey through the Inca tombs?”
Derrin chuckled. “I made a movie about the machines that I built for the trip,” he corrected her. “It would have been a boring educational film for mechanical engineering students, if some director hadn't seen it and decided to revise it, making me into the next action film star.”
Claire opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted when the holographic table sprang to life. “We're pleased to see that the seven of you could be here,” a nondescript human head with an androgynous voice said in an unemotional voice, filling the room with its specific brand of neutrality. “If you could all take a seat around the table, we'll discuss the purpose for this meeting.”
Derrin looked at Claire, who shrugged, and began to approach the table as instructed. Derrin stepped behind an empty seat, and it spun away from the table, waiting for him to occupy it. He did so, and the seat returned to it's place, facing the table. The homogenized head did very little to comfort him. Also, he had read enough classic literature to know what happens when a singular entity refers to themselves with plurality, Derrin stared at the talking head, as it spun on it's axis, looking at all the occupants. 20th century song lyrics began to dance through his head: “We're on the road to nowhere; come on inside.”
Talking Heads… cute.
Association or foreboding?