Chapter 2- Another day in the World of War
An old mechanical clock was ticking with its hour hand past twelve. Ryan was staring at the clock. It was his daily routine as he could not sleep easily.
He liked to hear the metronome sound. Unlike the era where watches and clocks were accessories of the past, he cherished the antique clock which was his grandfather’s. He loved to hear stories from his grandfather. Now that he longer lived, the clock reminded of him. He used to say that the ticking sound represented the price of each second. It reminds us to live a worthy life.
But that night, the lull of the clock could not put him to sleep. He had to join the army in a week. He would be lying if he said he was not worried. He could die. He was only sixteen. How could he be prepared for such a big decision? He wished he was not born in this era where there was only blood.
Ryan got up from the bed. As he failed to sleep, he got out of the house to the parking lot. He got in his car and revved the engine.
Soon, the car engine started and started floating. It floated out of the parking lot and into the sky. The apartment they lived in was a tall building with more than a hundred floors. Their apartment was on the eighty-seventh floor with a shared parking lot in the balconies. The cars could fly, so they did not have to use the elevators or roads. There were no elevators as people hardly used them. Traditional roads disappeared behind grasses and weeds. People only used air lanes, which were mandatory routes for flying in the air. Flying elsewhere then the set path was punishable by law.
Ryan soon entered the air lane and directed the AI installed in the vehicle to auto-drive. As the car whizzed past various other transportations, he kept thinking about his life. He wanted to run away, but that would endanger his family.
He stopped near a night cafe’. He spent the rest of the night sipping coffee.
Three days passed similarly.
The fourth day was a festival. It was a special day called Independence Day, but nobody remembered what it was. They celebrated the festival every year with ardour. Ryan’s family also planned to spend the day out.
They dressed up in traditional clothing, like gowns, suits and other pieces of clothing from the 21st century.
They went to the community assembly where they were celebrating the festival. The place was decorated with confetti and balloons, making it look colourful. There were performances, various food stalls and other fun activities. It was decorated traditionally without using the super technology to add special effects. The audience found it jaw-dropping. They had never seen anything so simple, and yet so beautiful. Most of the celebrations and social gatherings happened virtually, and people did not have to step out of their homes.
The celebratory function was totally out of the era, except for the bots who handled most of the works like catering. Ryan and his family also enjoyed themselves in the party, leaving behind their worries for a few hours. Everything was novel for the children. They had only read about such things and never seen them. There were arcade machines, shooting ranges, other such things that had become redundant in their era.
After some hours, they got on their flying machine to leave. Regina was manually driving the car. She took the air lane that did not lead to their home.
“Mom, you took the wrong path. You left the lane back.”
“No. I chose the right path.”
“We’re leaving this hell. Your father was right. We should have never come to this place.”
The twins sitting in the backseat were looking at each other with a baffled expression.
“We can not. You guys will get hurt from this.”
“Kid. You are sixteen. I am your mother, and I know what I am doing. We are leaving. That’s final. No discussions. Period.”
The children could not refute back. They too wanted to leave, but the stakes were very high. Other places were not as safe as their city. That city could host festivals even when people were dying outside every second. They wanted freedom, but at what cost.
They soon reached the borders of the city, surrounded by a crystal dome from all the sides. It deflected every kind of attack, securing the city. It was the best technology of the barrier they had. As they attempted to leave the city perimeters, police cars got on their tail. They cannot fly outside the city without permission, and the family was defecting, rules and regulation could go to hell.
Regina stepped on the gas pedals, and the car went crazy fast. She had made adjustments to it, making it faster than even a military vehicle. The police cars got left behind. There were multiple warnings, but Regina was not stopping at any cost. For the past three days, she had been devising a plan for their escape. She wanted to have at least one happy memory of the place, so they went to the festival.
They whizzed past the barrier. The barrier did not stop the car from going outside, despite restrictions. She had hacked into the barrier system and gave them free access to pass through.
As they crossed the barrier, the military bots got on their tail and started firing on their vehicle.
A bluish barrier started forming around the car. She was a famed engineer, the best in the country, making a barrier was a child’s play to her. It was not the only adjustment she made to the car. She had installed missiles on the vehicle which the AI bot started operating as soon as it detected an attack.
The children were horrified. They felt that they were watching a high definition action movie. They had only thought of their mother as a homebody who only fixated with their education. She was now an avatar of Athena, the war god. She was manoeuvering the car and firing instructions to the AI to shoot the military bots, not to obliterate them.
They had traversed god knows how much distance when the grand canyons of Northern America were visible. They had only seen pictures of the canyon and never seen it from such proximity.
Regina lowered the car and prepared to get out. The military was still pursuing them relentlessly; they got left to the dust, but they were assigned to fill the task. They will not stop in midway.
Regina soon took the kids out of the car and stored it into a cube-shaped device. The car reduced into the pocket size and got inside the small cube. It was the storage device that had limited storage space.
She gave the cube to Oliver, who put it inside his backpack. They had to go on foot as they were entering the canyons. The car was too big to enter it.
They had just got down when a small bullet whizzed around Regina’s shoulder. The bots were catching up.
“Hurry. Walk faster.”
She dragged the twins and went ahead. The children looked frightened. They had no idea where their mother was leading them. Was it the planned place or not, they had no clue. They could only follow her instructions.
As they entered, deeper and deeper, they came across a portal in the walls of the canyon. It was very narrow and could hardly fit a person. It was a window rather than a gate. It was a gate to traverse the other side, the parallel Earth, where magic was the norm except science. The same parallel world with whom they engaged in war.
They were going to enter the enemy territories.
“Mom, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
Ryan finally broke his silence as he, too, found the plan to be absurd. Defecting their country was preposterous to begin with, but entering the enemy territories was even more madcap.
“No, this is our only way to freedom. Now, hurry up, it will close very soon.”
Saying it, she tossed Caroline in the portal. She picked up Oliver next when a bullet got into her heart. Her back was dripping with blood.
The kids had not noticed. Ryan was too focused on the portal.
She pushed Ryan and Oliver together but did not get into the portal herself. The portal closed in front of her, and she fell to the ground. The bots surrounded her and carried her away.