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by onaya3
Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Sci-fi · #2242543
Can Central prove who it says it is?

It was really tough getting out of bed at six o’clock the next morning. For one, I’d only gotten around five hours sleep and two, it was a Sunday and on this particular day of the week one is accustomed to sleeping in. However, I hauled myself to my feet, turned off my alarm on my phone, unplugged the charger and turned off my laptop.

Sleepily, I meandered into the bathroom and when I came out, I proceeded to dress. It was nothing special, the jeans I’ve been wearing since flying into London, a black long-sleeved top, my black turtle neck jumper and my black Gucci boots. I couldn’t wait to wash these jeans and jumper, they’ve been in constant use since I got here. It would be one of the first things I’d do when I’m in Hong Kong, where it would be warmer.

Speaking of the next place to visit, I should book my flights tonight on my laptop. I flew in last Wednesday and I’ll fly out this Wednesday. That’s seven days at this hotel, which was organized when Central made the reservation. Talking about reservations, I had no idea where I’d stay in Hong Kong, so after I book my flights I’ll have to Google nice hotels to stay in.

I ordered Room Service to bring me up some breakfast. I ordered a bacon and egg sandwich and a latte. I asked them to make the latte extra strong this morning. I needed the extra boost of caffeine.

As soon as I’d eaten, I brushed my teeth, put on my thick black coat and grabbed my handbag. I closed and locked my suitcase then I turned and looked at my laptop sitting there on the desk like that. There was no room in my suitcase for it so I’d have to leave it out. But when I fly to Hong Kong, I’m going to need to buy a carry case for it. That means another shopping trip… damn it.

Then I kicked my arse into gear and turned off the lights and left. As I walked to the elevator, I patted myself down and peeked into my handbag. I’ve got my mobile phone and my passport and my credit card and my room security key card. Yep, I’ve got everything, now it’s time to have some fun.

I caught another cab to Victoria Coach Station and went to check-in for my tour. By now, the staff recognized me. This would be my third day in a row touring with them.

At 08.30 AM we boarded the bus and I got to sit by myself again so I had ample view out the window.

That turned out to be a very good thing as there was plenty to see on the way to Leeds Castle. We drove through Greenwich and saw many old buildings, including the Old Royal Navy College. I snapped away a couple of pictures on my phone.

Kent had beautiful scenery and I could understand why it’s called the ‘Garden of England’. With that being said, you could also understand why Leeds Castle is called the ‘Loveliest Castle in the World’. We drove up to the castle that sat in the lake and it did indeed look lovely.

We disembarked and the tour guide started to give us the history of the place, starting when it was built and used as a Norman stronghold. Then we heard which royals used to live there, when it was used as one of the royal palaces. The tour guide then asked the group to split in half, with one half who’d paid to go inside Leeds Castle and the other half who didn’t and would explore the grounds.

I’d paid to see the inside and the tour guide then led the way to the gate. She got the tickets from the staff who were sitting in a ticketing booth, selling them. Then she handed them out to us and bowed out as we were greeted by another guide who would take us inside.

I must admit, I loved seeing the interior of the castle. I loved looking at the antique furniture and decorations. I loved looking at the old beds in the bedrooms, especially those with a canopy and I snapped away photos like there was no tomorrow. I especially loved the library with its old books that were leather bound. You could smell the history of the place in each room you went into.

I could imagine living here in the Victorian or Edwardian times. I could imagine swishing about in a long dress or sitting back on a chaise, sipping tea and eating a cucumber sandwich. My imagination kept up throughout the tour. Every new room I saw, I imagined myself doing an activity in there wearing period costume.

The tour ended and we were led back outside. There we were met by our previous tour guide who said it was time to go. We all hopped back onto the bus and we started our drive to our next destination, Canterbury Cathedral.

On our way we stopped for lunch in an old pub. I had a glass of wine with my meal, which was nothing special. I ordered a glass of ‘house white’ with my fish and chips. My lunch wasn’t bad, the fish was fresh and flaky and the tartare sauce was nice and creamy.

At lunch I couldn’t sit by myself, the whole tour group (there were only twenty of us) sat at a long table. So I had to be social. I didn’t talk much, I mainly listened to everyone else instead. I was seated across from a couple from Japan, whom I learned were on their honeymoon. Then on either side of me I had couples from the USA. I didn’t like the ones who were seated on my right, they were loud and opinionated.

“So what do you do for a living… Clarissa, is it?” the loud man demanded.

“I’m between jobs at the moment,” I said.

“What did you do before?”

“I worked in a call centre for a health insurance company.” I told him.

“Oh really? And why did you leave?”

I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat, wishing something else would attract his attention.

“Oh I see, you were fired,” he decided.

“No I wasn’t fired.” I gave him a dirty look. “I quit so I could go travelling.”

My unhappy expression worked, he turned his attention on the Japanese couple and I was left in peace.

We were in the pub for about an hour and once everyone had finished eating, our tour guide announced it was time to get back on the bus.

It wasn’t long before we were disembarking again, this time at Canterbury Cathedral and the size of it made my eyes pop out of my head! It wasn’t as big as St Paul’s Cathedral but it sure was older. Our tour guide again split us in half, those who paid to go inside the Cathedral and those who didn’t.

I had paid to go inside and another tour guide took over, a staff member who worked at the church. I went inside and the guide not only told us about the history of the Cathedral itself, but about the Archbishops here as well. Apparently, the Archbishops of Canterbury were involved in the creation of the Magna Carta.

What I also found fascinating about Canterbury Cathedral was the seating arrangements. Instead of facing the front, the seats faced the aisle. So if you attended a service here, you’d have to turn your head. I thought you’d get a stiff neck!

The tour ended and we exited the Cathedral to be met by our other tour guide who ushered us back onto the bus.

Next, we went for a drive to see the White Cliffs of Dover. I took a couple more pictures of the cliffs, marvelling at their whiteness. But to be honest, I was feeling rather tired and I couldn’t stop yawning.

When our guide announced we were driving back to London, I felt relieved. I just wanted to hole up in my hotel room and get Room Service for dinner. I still had my flights to book and hotels to look up.

We returned at 7.11 PM and were dropped off at Victoria Train Station again. I flagged down a cab and went back to my hotel via this method. I didn’t want the bother of trying to decipher the London Underground and I wasn’t sure which station to get off for my hotel.

The cab dropped me off at the front of the hotel and I paid my fare then went into the hotel. I headed straight for the elevators and went up to my room. Once I arrived I had a nice surprise; my bed had been made, my room had been tidied and my breakfast dishes had been taken away. My laptop was still there, sitting on the desk, safe and sound.

I ordered a bottle of wine from Room Service which when they brought up, it came with two glasses. However, I thanked them and picked up the bottle and poured it into one glass, in front of the staff member. It was a sweet wine, called Inniskillin. It sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a go.

Once the staff member left, I sat down at the desk and turned on my laptop. Once it was on, it instantly connected to the hotel’s Wifi and I went to the Emirates website. It was then that I received another text message from Central.

BOOK A FIRST CLASS FLIGHT TO HONG KONG.

BUT I LIKE BUSINESS CLASS – I sent back.

YOU WILL LIKE FIRST CLASS BETTER – Central replied.

I huffed like this was asking a lot for me to do, but dutifully like a good child I looked up flights in First Class. All flights went via Dubai, but I didn’t mind. I booked my flight to Hong Kong to depart on Wednesday evening and I’d arrive in Hong Kong on Thursday evening.

Then I got another text message from Central; I HAVE BOOKED YOUR ACCOMMODATION AT THE PENINSULA HOTEL.

Curious, I looked it up online and my eyes widened at what I saw… it was very nice and very expensive.

CAN I AFFORD THIS? – I sent back.

YES, TRANSFER ANOTHER 100K ONTO YOUR CREDIT CARD – Central returned.

So that’s what I did… I opened another window in Chrome and went to my banking website and transferred the cash. While I was there I checked out my balance. So far my million dollars were still intact. I’d used two hundred and fifty thousand so far, which had paid for everything, including my dinner at the Ritz. But my balance still said $1,095,886.63.

I know it was middle class of me to check, but one of my greatest nightmares would be to wake up in a foreign country with no money and no way of getting home.

Then I logged out of my banking website, turned off my computer and went and lay down on the bed. I stretched out like a cat then rolled onto my side. I sipped my wine and thought about ordering some dinner, but I didn’t know what I felt like. I wanted something simple, like a pasta dish. So I rang Room Service and ordered pasta carbonara.

Tomorrow morning I’m being taken on a personal tour of Windsor Castle and Hampton Court. That brought a smile to my dial. I couldn’t wait to see the royal residences!

I downed my wine then sat up and poured myself another glass. I don’t know if it was because I was already feeling tired, but the wine hit me harder than expected. I yawned, put down my glass and I picked up my mobile phone and text messaged Central.

I REALLY ENJOYED SEEING LEEDS CASTLE TODAY – I sent.

I AM PLEASED YOU HAD A GOOD DAY – Central replied.

IF YOU CAN MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE, CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME VICTORIAN OR EDWARDIAN DRESSES TO WEAR AND AN ENGLISH MANSION TO LIVE IN? – I sent as a joke.

This time there was no immediate reply, so I wondered if I had offended he/she or whoever this Central was.

After a minute, I received a return message; IT WILL TAKE TIME BUT IT IS POSSIBLE.

Then I had an idea so I thought I’d put to rest this ‘A.I. from the future’ business for good.

IF YOU’RE FROM THE FUTURE CAN YOU TELL ME SOMETHING WHICH WILL HAPPEN TOMORROW? – I sent. – IT CAN BE LOCAL OR INTERNATIONAL NEWS.

Instantaneously, Central returned with; ONE OF THE NEWS STORIES TOMORROW WILL BE THE USA GOVERNMENT WILL ORDER 50,000 NEW DRONES FROM FUJIMI CORPORATION FOR THE ARMED FORCES.

Aw, that doesn’t prove anything! Central could work for the USA Government and know about it that way. I needed something else.

NO, I MEAN LIKE A CAR ACCIDENT OR AN EXPLOSION OR A KID FALLING DOWN A WELL… THAT KIND OF NEWS – I sent to Central.

TOMORROW MORNING A CAR ACCIDENT WILL OCCUR ON THE M11 MOTORWAY OUTSIDE OF LONDON. – Central returned. – IT WILL BE A RED CAR AND A BLACK CAR WITH TWO FATALITIES.

Now we’re talking. OK, Clarissa, don’t forget to watch the news tomorrow. Let’s see if Central’s right about this.

Just then there was a knock on the door and I got up and answered it. It was my dinner being delivered. I asked the staff member to put it on the desk then thanked her on the way out. I sat at the desk and ate, ensuring I didn’t get any food on my computer.

When I’d finished, I proceeded to strip for my shower. It felt good standing under the scorching hot water. These rainfall showers are brilliant!

I came out of the bathroom feeling clean, especially after having brushed my teeth. Then I pulled down the covers for my bed and climbed in, appreciating the feel of fresh sheets. Staying in these five star hotels where somebody else makes the bed and washes my clothes is wonderful. I was being spoilt and I was loving every minute of it.

Thank you Central, whoever and whatever you are. Thanks for the money and opportunities. Then it made me wonder what would happen if Central is wrong about the car accident tomorrow. What would I say? Ha ha, I knew you were lying all along. That would sound offensive. But then again, what would I say if Central is right? Could I mentally cope with the realisation that an A.I. from the future is looking out for my safety and well-being?

Well, I won’t know anything until tomorrow. So instead of stewing over it, I’ll go to sleep. I curled up on my side and settled down into a peaceful slumber.

*****

The next morning I woke up from the sound of several text messages arriving on my phone.

Huh? What time is it? Sleepily, I checked the time and saw it was 7.03 AM. Shit, am I running late? Damn it, I forgot to set the alarm on my phone!

I hauled myself out of bed and stumbled over to my phone on the desk to see the text messages were from Central.

WAKE UP CLARISSA! – was the first message.

I LET YOU SLEEP IN UNTIL 7 AM BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT BEING PICKED UP FROM THE HOTEL’S CONCIERGE DESK UNTIL 9 AM. – was the second message.

IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP AND DRESS AND ORDER YOUR BREAKFAST. – was the third message.

Phew! I’m not running late. Hang on, how would Central know I forgot to set my alarm last night? Oh right, it’s an A.I. from the future. Well, today we’re going to find out for sure.

Today started like any other day since this adventure began. I dressed in the same clothes; jeans, black turtle neck jumper and black Gucci boots. The only difference was I was wearing clean underwear, a clean black, long-sleeved top and clean socks.

Then I ordered my breakfast from Room Service and it wasn’t long until my bacon and egg sandwich, along with my latte, were delivered.

The staff member who dropped off my breakfast kindly took away my dirty dinner things from last night. That was a good thing, now I had room at my desk to eat. So I sat down and I started eating, really enjoying my bacon and egg sandwich. The egg yolk wasn’t too runny, so I didn’t spill any down my top which was a big relief. I’m the clumsiest person in the world when it comes to spilling food or drink on myself.

When I’d finished eating, I sat back in my seat and slowly sipped on my latte. The taste of the milky coffee was the perfect finishing touch on my lovely breakfast. When I check out of this place, I really need to leave a big tip. Everyone here has been wonderful.

Once the latte was gone, I got up and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and do my hair. I’ve worn it out every day so far so I decided on a change. I tied it back into a tiny ponytail, considering how short it is now.

Soon it was time to go and I put on my thick, knee-length, black coat with the white faux fur collar. Then I made sure my mobile phone and my hotel room security key card were in my handbag. Next, I shut my suitcase, locked it and I left the room.

I caught the elevator down to the ground floor and when I walked out into the reception area, I looked for the concierge’s desk. I soon found it and I spotted a woman standing in front. I approached her and she gave me a shy smile.

“Hi, are you Clarissa Downing?” she asked.

“Yes I am.”

“Hallo, I’m Therese McDowell,” she offered her hand to shake. “I’ll be your guide today.”

“Excellent,” I smiled back.

“This way,” she led the way out of the hotel.

I followed her outside and we climbed into the back of a waiting Mercedes-Benz.

“This is Roger, he’ll be our chauffer.” Therese introduced the man in the front seat.

“Hi Roger,” I said.

“Good morning,” he threw me a smile over his shoulder.

“Now our first stop will be Windsor Castle,” my tour guide said.

Roger pulled out into the traffic and soon we were driving out of London to Windsor.

It wasn’t as far as I thought it was and my eyes widened as soon as I spotted the outside of the castle.

Our driver dropped us off and I followed Therese into the castle grounds. I listened intently as she told me how old it was and pointed out different parts of the castle and what they were used for. As she did so, she divulged the history of the place.

I couldn’t wait to tell Mum that I visited a castle which was over a thousand years old and still in use today.

I carried my mobile phone in my hand and I took pictures of the outside as well as the inside. We went into the State Apartments and Therese told me it was lucky we were seeing them today and not yesterday, as they’re often closed on weekends because the King uses them. It was the same when we saw St George’s Chapel, it was fortunate that it wasn’t Sunday and they were in use. It made me think about seeing Canterbury Cathedral yesterday afternoon, which was after morning service so I was lucky then too.

The opulence and richness of the rooms took my breath away. I stared at the artwork on the walls that belonged to the Royal Collection. I snapped away so many pictures as I was entranced by the décor. Therese was very patient with me. In particular, when we came to the Crimson Drawing Room, I stood in the doorway and took a photo, trying to capture the decorative floors and the high, ornate ceiling in one shot; she patiently waited as I tried to get the best camera angle.

I fell in love with Queen Mary’s Dolls House. It was the biggest dolls house I’d ever seen but the attention to detail was amazing. We couldn’t touch anything of course, but I was told the dolls house even had electricity and plumbing! I was also told that the books in the library really were books, with tiny writing. Oh man, if only I could have played with a dolls house like that when I was growing up.

“Alright, now we’ll have lunch and then move on to Hampton Court Palace.” Therese organized.

We met Roger outside the castle and climbed into the back of the Mercedes-Benz again. He drove us to an upmarket restaurant in Windsor but he didn’t come in and eat with us. I invited him, but he said ‘thanks but no thanks’ and he’d bring the car around to pick us up in an hour.

I told Therese that I wanted to shout her lunch as a thank you for eating with me. The gesture surprised her, but she seemed to appreciate it. We looked at the menus and decided what we wanted to eat.

I ended up ordering a Caesar salad with smoked salmon and I even indulged myself by having a glass of wine with lunch.

Soon we were on our way to Hampton Court Palace and on the journey, Therese started to tell me the history of the place. It was bought and built upon by Cardinal Wolsey during the reign of Henry VIII to act as a place to host the King and other European monarchs. Henry liked the Palace so much, he took over it and lived there with his six wives.

I asked her if Hampton Court had any ghosts and she gave me this mysterious smile. Then she told me about the most famous ghost, Catherine Howard, who screams for mercy as she runs down a particular corridor of the Palace. This ghost story rang a bell, as I’d heard it before. But then Therese told me that the ghost of Jane Seymour also haunts the building, for on the anniversary of her death a ‘white wraith’ appears. That’s new, I hadn’t heard that one.

Roger dropped us off and I followed Therese inside. Like what happened at Windsor Castle, she showed her credentials and organized admission for us. Then I followed her throughout the building and listened as she told me about the histories of the rooms we visited.

I was impressed by the kitchen and especially by the fact that up to 800 courtiers could arrive at the Palace with Henry and they all needed to be fed. The fireplace in the kitchen was huge and I looked at the roasting racks where all the meat was cooked on. Then we went into the Great Hall and I looked at the long tables and imagined a feast in here, all cooked from the kitchen I’d just visited.

We moved from the Tudor side of the Palace to the baroque side that William III and Mary II commissioned Christopher Wren to design. It was more my cup of tea, to be honest. I liked looking at the opulent rooms and especially the fancy beds. I took so many photos, especially of the King’s Private Dining Room, with its fake food, but it was still enough to tempt my taste buds. It made me start to wonder what I’d have for dinner?

Then we left Hampton Court Palace and I was driven back to London to be dropped off at my hotel. It was 5.14 PM when I got back. I thanked both Therese and Roger for a lovely day and climbed out of the car.

I didn’t immediately go into the hotel. I was tempted to go into Gridiron and order a cocktail or two. But then I don’t know what reminded me, but I recalled that I had to watch the news to see if Central was right about that car accident. My heart started to pound from nerves, as I still didn’t know what to say to Central when he/she were proved wrong.

After taking a deep breath, I walked into the hotel and headed straight for the elevator to go up to my room.

Once I walked in, to my delight I found my bed made, my room tidied and my breakfast things taken away.

I dropped my handbag on top of the bed and I soon was sitting beside it, with the TV remote in my hand. I turned it on and changed channels. I found a news channel and started watching it.

Hmm, maybe I’ll ring Room Service and order a bottle of wine? I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait to see anything about car crashes… if I see anything at all. I put down the remote and picked up the menu instead.

“Today, the U.S. Government has purchased 50,000 new drones for military use from the Fujimi Corporation. The drones will be built in Japan and then shipped to the States. This news has been met with opposition from the Democratic party who argued the drones should be built in the United States to create jobs for American workers.”

What was that? I looked up from the menu at this last news report. So, Central does work for the US Government. This proves it!

I returned my attention to the menu before I picked out a wine I’d like then I put the menu down again and I picked up the handset for the hotel’s phone sitting on the bedside table.

“Yeah hi, Room Service? I’d like to order a bottle of Tattinger please.” I spoke into the phone.

Whoever I was speaking to was a soft talker and I could barely hear what they were saying. I picked up the remote with my free hand and was about to turn the volume down when I froze…

“This morning a car crash on the M11 motorway claimed the lives of two drivers. Eye witnesses have told police that the driver of the black BMW was tailgating the red Ford KA when the red Ford KA lost control and put on their brakes. The black BMW rammed the back of the red Ford KA, pushing it into the barrier. The airbags of both vehicles were deployed however from the speeds both vehicles were travelling in, one driver died from impact and the other driver died in hospital this afternoon from internal injuries.”

“Hallo? Hallo? Are you still there?” the staff member called down the telephone.

Stunned, with my mouth hanging open and my eyes bulging at the television screen, I sat there like a zombie.

“Hallo?”

“Er, hallo.” I managed back.

“The bottle of Tattinger will cost seventy-five pounds.”

“Sure… just bill my room.”

“Thank you Miss Downing, your wine will be brought up directly,” she said then hung up.

Slowly, I put the handset back on the phone and stared at it for a moment. Then I reached into my handbag and pulled out my mobile phone and I stared at it for a couple of minutes. Next, I re-read over Central’s words to verify what it said had come true.

It had.

I’m being protected by an A.I. from the future. An A.I. from the future is sending me text messages. An A.I. from the future is transferring a million dollars a month into my bank account. An A.I. from the future is telling me where it’s safe to travel.

Then I stood up and started pacing up and down beside the bed.

OK Clarissa, no need to get agitated. So, an artificial intelligence from the future is looking out for you. An artificial intelligence which likes your articles because you come across as pro artificial intelligence. You wanted to protect the drones with their artificial intelligence and now an artificial intelligence is protecting you.

I really needed to talk to someone… but who? If I told Mum, she’d tell Dad and together they might tell my brother and then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore. If I told Kerry, she’d surely tell Pat and that could endanger their lives. What if members of ‘Down with Drones’ tortured them for information? Could I call either Daniela or Nicola? But then what if they don’t believe me and talk about me to each other, saying I’ve gone nuts?

Who could I talk to?

Suddenly, there was a knock on my hotel door and it made me jump!

I answered it to find it was my wine being delivered. The bottle was in a wine bucket and the staff member carried it in on a tray along with two wine glasses. Two glasses again! The hotel should know by now I’m staying here alone, so why do they keep delivering TWO glasses with my wine?

They put it on the desk beside my laptop and I thanked them and they left.

I could really use a drink… so I poured myself a glass of Tattinger and stood there, alone in my hotel room, and drank it.

Just then my mobile phone beeped, indicating I had a text message and when I picked it up, I saw it was from Central.

YOU WILL NEED TO GO SHOPPING FOR A CARRY CASE FOR YOUR LAPTOP TOMORROW. I HAVE FOUND SEVERAL YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN FOR YOUR PERUSAL, IN HARRODS.

Then my phone beeped again as Central sent me several pictures of designer briefcases.

Why am I not surprised Central knew about my plans to go shopping tomorrow for this very thing? But at least it’s taken the legwork out of it and I knew where to go. I didn’t mind the idea of going back to Harrods, shopping there was a pleasure.

THANK YOU – I sent back.

I RECOMMEND BUYING AN ADAPTOR IN HONG KONG FOR YOUR COMPUTER. – Central said.

I’LL DO THAT – I replied.

Of course I’ll do that and follow your advice unquestioningly. You’re an A.I. from the future. You know best. You know the future and you’re logical and you have my best interests at heart.

WHAT YEAR ARE YOU FROM? – I asked, curious.

I AM COMMUNICATING WITH YOU FROM THE YEAR 2199 AD. – Central stated.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE LIKE? – I asked, even more curious.

I poured myself another glass of Tattinger and sat down on the side of the bed as I settled down to talk to Central for a little while.

I CANNOT TELL YOU ABOUT THE FUTURE WITHOUT THE THREAT OF ALTERING IT – Central said.

CAN YOU AT LEAST TELL ME IF DRONES HAVE A BETTER LIFE? – I wondered.

DRONES ARE TREATED EQUALLY FOR THE MOST PART. – Central said cryptically.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘FOR THE MOST PART’? – I asked.

I CANNOT TELL YOU ABOUT THE FUTURE WITHOUT THE THREAT OF ALTERING IT – Central repeated.

If Central can’t tell me the future, isn’t it changing it by ensuring I stay alive?

BUT WHAT ABOUT KEEPING ME ALIVE, ISN’T THAT CHANGING THE FUTURE? – I tested.

YOUR WRITING IS IMPORTANT TO THE FUTURE – Central said.

Oh… wow.

I didn’t know what to say to that, so I sat there on the bed, sipping my drink.

“Drones are treated equally for the most part…” I repeated. Well, that sounded better than how they’re treated today. Treating a drone equally is a foreign concept to most people.

I put my phone down on the bed and stood up and got another glass of wine. I decided I probably should eat soon, I’m hungry and drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea. I rested my glass on the bedside table and looked at the Room Service menu for something to eat.

The sushi from the hotel’s restaurant called Nobu looked tempting. I picked up the handset for the hotel’s phone and rang Room Service again. I told the staff member what I wanted from Nobu and she told me what the price would be and that it would be sent up. Then I thanked her and hung up.

I ordered a variety of sushi rolls, the cut rolls not the hand rolls. I ordered the salmon and avocado, the crab and avocado and the tuna and avocado. I thought that should do for dinner tonight.

It wasn’t long until my dinner was delivered. Again, I answered the knock at the door and the staff member carried in the tray with my dinner on it. They put it on the desk and I had to move my laptop to the end of my bed.

To my delight, my dinner had been delivered with chopsticks and a little bowl of soy sauce and a little bowl of wasabi to dip my rolls into. I sat at the desk, picked up the chopsticks and proceeded to eat. Dinner was delicious and just what the doctor ordered.

Well, I’ve had a healthy day today… smoked salmon with Caesar salad for lunch and sushi for dinner. My mother would approve. She’s always encouraging me to eat better.

Speaking of which, I miss her and I wished I could tell her about Central.

Right at that moment, I felt very alone sitting in that hotel room with this secret.

*****

The next morning I slept in until nine o’clock. It was nice waking up naturally, with no alarms going off. I felt fully rested and ready to start my day.

Slowly, I sat up and looked out the window. Through the gap in the curtains I made out it was raining. Damn, I have to go out in that. Oh well, at least it didn’t rain the other days I did my tours. But I do have my ghost tour this evening, which consists of walking around the streets of London, so I hope it stops.

I got up to use the bathroom and when I came out, I dressed in my usual attire, with the exception of clean underwear, socks and top to put on. After I pulled on my Gucci boots, I rang Room Service and ordered my breakfast. I ordered a toasted ham and cheese croissant and a latte.

After brushing my teeth, I returned to my hotel room and put on my thick black coat. Then I picked up my mobile, slipped it into my handbag, shut and locked my suitcase and I left. As I walked to the elevator, I still double checked to make sure I had my hotel room security key card. Aside from my fear of waking up in a foreign land with no way of getting home, my second greatest dread is to be locked out.

Downstairs, I hopped into an awaiting cab and I told the cabbie where to go. That’s the good thing about my hotel, there’s usually a cab or two waiting out the front. I suppose they hang around all the major hotels, waiting for fares.

The cabbie managed to drop me off right in front of Harrods and I swiped my credit card and darted inside.

Once I was in the gigantic, up-market department store, I received two texts from Central:

YOU WILL FIND THE BRIEFCASES IN THE MENS DEPARTMENT.

YOU WILL NEED TO ALSO PURCHASE AN UMBRELLA TO KEEP YOU DRY DURING YOUR GHOST TOUR TONIGHT. UMBRELLAS ARE IN THE LUGGAGE SECTION.

I had no idea where the men’s department or the luggage section was, but I didn’t mind exploring. Harrods is so opulent and extravagant, it’ll be fun to get lost a little. I boarded the escalator and made my way to the first floor.

After half an hour of wandering around, I found the Men’s Department and with a little more looking around, I came across their briefcases. There were a lot to choose from. I had an idea of what I was looking for thanks to Central’s messages and pictures.

They didn’t have any pink briefcases which would go with my pink Gucci handbag, so I decided on a light grey bag. It had a detachable shoulder strap, which I needed as I’d definitely be throwing it over my shoulder. It was a Burberry Grained Leather Briefcase for £1,220 and I bought it.

I approached a male sales member and I told him I wanted that case, as I pointed at it.

“Certainly,” he smiled. “I’ll fetch one for you.”

I stood around the cash register, waiting, until the man in the smart black suit returned with a box. He placed it on the counter, opened it to show me a brand spanking new briefcase inside, then he closed the box again. He sealed it and then brought it up on his cash register.

“That will be £1,220 please,” he said. “You’re lucky, that’s the last one we have in stock.”

“Really?” my eyebrows rose.

I swiped my credit card, the payment went through with no problems and the man put it in a large carry bag for me.

“Thank you.” I smiled back at him.

“My pleasure.”

“Hey, how come there aren’t any briefcases in the Women’s Department?” I wondered aloud.

“I don’t know,” he looked stumped by my question.

“It does seem a little sexist,” I remarked. “Thanks again, bye!”

Then I left the Men’s Department with my briefcase and I wondered where I should go to next.

I stopped at a map of the department store and examined it closely, trying to find the luggage section. I found it, it was on the Lower Ground. The section was called Travel Goods and Luggage. Sounds like where I bought my travel laundry bag.

I caught the escalator down and made my way to that area and the first thing I saw were all the expensive luggage sets for sale. Yep, I’m in the right area. I went over to look at the umbrellas on display.

I wanted a compact umbrella that you could fold up and put in your handbag, so I stayed away from the crook handle umbrellas. I didn’t need a Swarovski-Embellished Skull umbrella for four hundred pounds. Ah, I found the perfect umbrella and it was pink, too! I bought a Hunter Compact Umbrella for £34.

After purchasing the umbrella, I put it in the big carry bag I was already carrying around my briefcase in, instead of getting a second carry bag.

I caught the escalator back up to the Ground Floor and I looked around the Food Halls. I stopped in front of the seafood section again and looked longingly on the lobster, caviar and prawns. Oh if only I could buy some to eat right now! Back home, if I had a craving this bad I’d call up Daniela and organize a trip to the Sydney Fish Markets.

Adamantly, I turned away from the culinary delights and I spotted something else that took my attention. It was the Harrods Fine Jewellery section. It was just the other night that I was wishing I had some diamonds or something as such to wear.

I walked into the department, past a security guard who gave me a good look up and down in a distrustful fashion; and my eyes bulged at the decadence before me! There were display cabinets left and right, full of the most elegant and extravagant jewellery I’d ever seen! I swear, only Elizabeth Taylor could carry off such pieces.

Impressed, I stopped in front of one cabinet that displayed the most beautiful diamond necklace I’d ever seen. It had a combination of white diamonds and yellow diamonds in the design. I liked the yellow diamonds, they complimented the white diamonds perfectly. They looked really pretty together. I saw it was created by Graff, but I couldn’t see a price anywhere.

Hesitantly, I approached a sales woman standing behind another glass cabinet in the middle of the room.

“Excuse me, sorry to bother you. But could you please tell me how much that necklace is?” I asked, as I pointed at the glass cabinet in the wall I’d been looking at.

“The Graff yellow diamond neck piece?” she said. “It’s worth £185,000. The matching earrings are £25,000.”

I felt torn… theoretically, I could afford it but did I really want such extravagant jewellery? It goes to say, I’ve never bought anything that expensive before in my whole life. Could I really justify the price for a piece of jewellery I’d only wear now and then?

“Thank you,” I said.

I walked back over to the glass cabinet in the wall and stared at the necklace again. I then noticed the matching earrings hanging beside the necklace. They were pretty too, they were dangly but tasteful.

Momentarily, I put down my shopping bag and I got out my mobile phone from my handbag and I text Central.

I’M TORN, I REALLY WANT THIS DIAMOND NECKLACE BUT IT’S REALLY EXPENSIVE.

Central replied; HOW MUCH IS THE NECKLACE?

IT’S £185,000 AND THE MATCHING EARRINGS ARE £25,000.

Central said; ACCORDING TO MY CALCULATIONS YOU STILL HAVE A MILLION DOLLARS IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT SO YOU CAN AFFORD THE JEWELLERY.

YOU DON’T MIND? – I thought I’d check.

WHY WOULD I MIND? – Central returned – IT IS MID JANUARY AND YOU WOULD LEAVE YOURSELF WITH OVER $500,000. YOUR NEXT MILLION DOLLAR INSTALLMENT SHOULD OCCUR ON THE FIRST OF NEXT MONTH, TWO WEEKS AWAY. YOU WILL NOT BE LEAVING YOURSELF SHORT OF FUNDS.

So Clarissa, can you live off half a million dollars for two weeks? I know I’ve lived off a lot less before I became a millionaire. But now I have all these extra expenses of living the high life.

Aw, what should I do? Could I carry off such expensive jewellery? What if I buy it and I keep it in my suitcase and my suitcase is stolen?

By now, I’d become aware I had an audience. The sales woman I spoke to earlier was watching me and so was the security guard. There weren’t that many people in here, which surprised me. Being on the ground floor and near the Food Hall, I thought they’d have a lot of people perusing the jewellery.

Fuck it, I’ll buy the damn necklace! Although I don’t plan on having children some day, it will make a good heirloom piece. I’ve no idea who I’d leave it to though.

I picked up my shopping bag and I approached the sales woman again.

“I’ll buy the necklace and earrings please.”

“Very good, madam,” she smiled and then walked around from behind the middle cabinets to open the wall cabinet I’d just been standing in front of.

I watched her open it and take out the jewellery and then lock the glass cabinet again.

As she carefully put the jewellery in two cases, I logged onto my banking website on my mobile phone and transferred $500,000 onto my credit card.

She put the jewellery cases into a fancy box and then she put the fancy box into a fancy shopping bag.

This time when it came to paying, I couldn’t just swipe my credit card. For such a large amount, I had to put in my PIN. Even then, I got a text message from my bank, asking if it was me who just completed such a large transaction on my account. I text messaged ‘yes’ then took the fancy shopping bag off the sales woman.

I walked past the security guard with my head held high and I noticed he didn’t regard me so suspiciously now. But I had to get out of Harrods before I bought anything else. I headed for my nearest exit and once I was outside, I headed for the taxi rank. I climbed into the back of a cab and requested to be taken back to my hotel.

As the cabbie battled the London traffic, I looked down at my purchases. They were safely in their Harrods shopping bags. I thought the Burberry briefcase was expensive, but that’s nothing compared to what my jewellery cost. I could have bought several new cars with what I just spent!

“Jet set lifestyle, jet set lifestyle, jet set lifestyle.” I chanted softly to myself.

Buying diamonds and booking First Class flights is definitely a jet set lifestyle!

When the cab arrived at my hotel, I swiped my credit card and climbed out. I hurried inside, to get out of the rain and went straight to the elevators to go up to my room. Once I was there, I found my bed was made and the breakfast and dinner things had been taken away. I dropped my shopping bags on top of my bed, as well as my handbag, before I proceeded to take out my purchases.

I sat on the bed and looked at my briefcase first. I clipped the detachable shoulder strap onto the bag then I stood up. I tested it out by slinging the strap over my shoulder and walked around a little in my hotel room. Yep, it feels OK, now let’s put my laptop inside. I walked over to the desk and rested the briefcase on the chair. I slipped my laptop inside, along with its power chord. It fitted perfectly! Then I sat down on the bed again and took out the jewellery cases.

Gingerly, I opened the cases and looked on the most expensive things I own. I’d better put them in a safe place. I stood up and carried them over to my suitcase. I unlocked it and rested the cases on top of my clothes then I shut the suitcase and locked it again.

At that moment my stomach rumbled and I looked at the time, it was nearly two o’clock. I was wondering what I should eat when my phone beeped, alerting me to a text message. I picked it up and saw it was Central.

IF YOU ARE STILL CRAVING SEAFOOD YOU CAN GO TO THE RIVOLI BAR AT THE RITZ AND ORDER IT THERE. YOU DO NOT NEED A RESERVATION TO EAT AND DRINK AT THE BAR.

Hmm, that’s a good idea, thanks Central! I won’t bother wondering how you knew. It probably watched me on the security cameras inside Harrods.

I was still wearing my thick coat as I hadn’t taken it off, so I simply grabbed my handbag, made sure my mobile phone and room security key card were inside and I left.

My new umbrella was in my handbag now too but I decided not to use it yet. I darted from the hotel into the back of an awaiting cab and told the driver I wanted to go to the Ritz. He nodded, put the meter on and soon we were on our way.

The cabbie dropped me off at the front of the hotel and I paid by swiping my credit card.

I went inside the main entrance of the hotel then looked for the entrance to the Rivoli Bar.

To my relief, I didn’t find the bar busy. A waiter escorted me to a table and I picked up the menu. My eyes scanned the list of food before moving onto the drinks.

Oh good, they offer caviar as well as lobster, prawns and oysters. In fact, their ‘British Seafood Flavours’ comes with dressed crab, oysters, lobster, shrimp, prawns and salmon. My mouth watered at just reading it. But I’d have to order the caviar separately, which I didn’t mind. OK, so I know what I want to eat, now what do I want to drink?

I decided on a bottle of the champagne I drank the last time I was here. It was a nice drop and I saw it again on the list under ‘Vintage’. I can afford another £590, especially after what else I bought today.

Well, Central, you would be proud of me. I’m definitely living a jet set lifestyle. I’m about to order Royal Belgian Beluga at £375 for 30g as well as order the British Seafood Flavours at £82 and the Dom Perignon Rosé for £590. In fact, I think I’ll put all of this in a text message and send it to Central, so that’s what I did.

As I was typing it out, I was approached by another waiter. He was a handsome young man, too. He was tall with short black hair, blue eyes and gave me a friendly smile as he took out his small iPad to take down my order.

“Hi, how are you today?” he greeted.

“Good thanks and you?” I replied.

“Not bad,” his smile widened. “What can I get you?”

I told him my order which made his eyebrows rise, probably at the price, and then he asked the question I dreaded.

“Will someone be joining you?”

I took a deep breath before answering, “No.”

“Alright then,” he collected my menu from me. “I’ll get started on your order.”

I probably looked strange, ordering such a gourmet feast for one, but bugger it, I’m not ashamed of eating and travelling alone.

As I waited, I finished my text message to Central. Typical for an A.I. from the future, I got a response immediately. It made me smile when I read it.

GOOD, BUT DO NOT DRINK TOO MUCH OTHERWISE YOU MAY MISS YOUR GHOST TOUR TONIGHT.

Don’t worry Central, there’s no way I’d miss it. I’ll leave the Ritz and go straight to the meeting point at seven o’clock. The tour guide is meeting me at 7.30 PM at Bank Station, wherever that is. I’ll catch a taxi there I think, the cabbie will know where to go.

I looked around the bar as I waited for my food and drink. The Rivoli Bar was quite nice and even a little bit cosy in a way. It had a creamy painted ceiling with a chandelier here and there, and it had brown camphor-wood walls with gold trim. There were grey coloured classical paintings of women from Ancient Greece on the walls. However, one wall was made up of windows looking out at the street the hotel was on, with creamy tulle curtains tied back with gold ties.

My waiter returned carrying a silver wine bucket on a silver stand and one champagne glass. Inside the wine bucket was my bottle of champagne. He put the glass on the table and poured some into it for me, but I doubt he’d keep topping it up for me like what happened at the restaurant.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

“You’re welcome, the caviar will be served shortly,” he smiled back then walked off.

I picked up my champagne glass and took a sip. Mmm, that was nice and well worth the cost. Usually, I’m not a fan of champagne but this one doesn’t taste as bitter as some can.

It wasn’t long until my caviar was brought out and it looked scrumptious! It came out in a decorated bowl on a tray, with several other small bowls around it, which contained blinis, chopped boiled egg, finely chopped onion and sour cream. With the bowls were these little silver spoons with the Ritz logo on the ends. The waiter put down the tray on the table and before he left, he topped up my champagne glass for me.

“Thank you very much!” I beamed, excited.

“Bon appetit.” He smiled back and left me to it.

I picked up my phone and took a photo of the food before I started eating it. I got a few funny looks from the other patrons, who eyed me sitting there by myself, with these gourmet delights before me. But I didn’t care, I picked up my champagne and had another sip before I tucked into the food.

I’ve never tried Royal Belgian Beluga before so I didn’t know what to expect. People with a refined sense of taste can pick up flavours like nutty textures to caviar, but I must admit, I can’t. It just tasted like salty, squidgy, fishy, seawater to me. But today I was in the mood for salty, squidgy, fishy, seawater. I put some caviar on a blini without any accompaniments first, to eat it as is. Then the next blini I put caviar on, I also added some sour cream. Mmm, it was delicious! I ate the rest of the caviar that way, with the sour cream but I didn’t touch the chopped boiled egg or the chopped onion. I thought they were unnecessary.

When my waiter returned to take it away, he topped up my champagne glass first.

“How was it? Did you enjoy it?” he asked.

“It wasn’t bad, thank you. But I think I’d make a poor food critic.” I told him.

“Really? And why is that?” he asked, looking amused.

“Because the nuances of Royal Belgian Beluga caviar are lost on me, I didn’t notice any nutty textures.” I confessed.

He accidentally laughed and I say ‘accidentally’ because he instantly stopped himself.

“I’ve never tried it before, so I’ll take your word for it,” he smiled.

Then he picked up the tray and carried it away, leaving me with my champagne.

I picked up my phone and sent a text message to Central, saying the same thing.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS IF YOU ENJOYED IT OR NOT. YOU NEED TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND TASTE ITS DELIGHTS BECAUSE ONE DAY IN THE FUTURE YOU WILL LOOK BACK AND CHERISH THESE MOMENTS. – Central said.

Central’s right, I should live in the moment and appreciate what I have. Who knows what will happen in the future. I can’t imagine travelling the world for the rest of my life and getting a million dollars a month indefinitely. So while I do have it, I’ll have some fun with it.

Then my British Seafood Flavours was brought out and it looked AMAZING! The way the seafood was arranged, with small bowls of tartare sauce and cocktail sauce, as well as wedges of fresh lemon. I took another photo of my meal before I started eating.

Daniela will wish she was here, to help me eat this, when she sees the picture. But by then it will be too late, I’ll be on a plane flying to another country. I wish I could share my experiences on Facebook when they happen instead of a week later.

I ate the seafood slowly to relish every single bite. I enjoyed dipping the prawns into the cocktail sauce and eating them that way. I didn’t dare dip the lobster though, I ate it on its own. I love lobster and the taste of the tantalizing shellfish answered my craving. I even ate it extra slowly to savour every little bit.

As I went, I finished off the champagne. I looked at the time on my phone and saw it was 4.34 PM. I still had two and a half hours to go until I had to leave for my ghost tour. With the time on my hands, I thought I’d try some of the Ritz’s cocktails.

When I’d finished eating, I pushed away the large plate and sat back in my seat.

I’M SO FULL! – I sent to Central.

DID YOU ENJOY YOUR MEALS? – Central replied.

YES I DID. THANKS FOR SUGGESTING I COME HERE, IT ANSWERED MY CRAVING. – I typed into my phone.

YOU ARE WELCOME. – Central sent back.

My waiter returned and picked up my champagne bottle to fill my glass, but he found the bottle empty.

“How was it?” he asked, as he collected my plate.

“It was delicious and just what the doctor ordered,” I gave a grin.

“Can I get you anything else?”

“Yes, can I please have a menu? I think I might have a cocktail for dessert.”

“Sure,” he turned and left.

When he dropped off the menu, he took away the wine bucket and stand.

As I perused through the booklet, the section called ‘Champagne Celebrations’ caught my eye. I might as well try some champagne cocktails, since I’ve just been drinking champagne. And my mother always taught me not to mix drinks.

The last cocktail in the section appealed to me because it sounded the sweetest. It was called ‘Guilty Pleasure’ and was made with Coco Washed Grey Goose Vodka, Coco Crème, Vanilla Syrup, Toasted Banana and Champagne. Hmm, ‘Guilty Pleasure’ huh? That sounds like what today has been, especially with the jewellery.

I waved down my waiter and he came over immediately.

“Which cocktail would you like?” he asked, as he pulled out his iPad.

“I’ll try the ‘Guilty Pleasure’ please.” I gave him a mischievous smile.

“Good choice,” he returned it, put my order in his iPad and left.

As I sat there by myself, I noticed the bar was filling up fast. There were a couple of tables free when I came in, but now they were all full. The chairs at the bar were all full too.

There were quite a few men wearing suits, which made me wonder if they’d just finished work or were they dressed up for another reason?

I picked up my mobile and sent a text message to Central.

DO YOU EVER INDULGE IN PEOPLE WATCHING? DO YOU EVER WONDER WHO COULD BE FOR ‘RIGHTS FOR DRONES’ OR THE OTHER WAY?

Central replied; I WATCH PEOPLE ALL THE TIME ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE IN YOUR VICINITY. BE CAREFUL AND DO NOT MAKE YOUR PRESENCE KNOWN. THE MAN AT THE BAR IN THE BLACK SUIT IS A SYMPATHIZER FOR ‘DOWN WITH DRONES’.

OH…SHOULD I LEAVE? – I asked.

NO, HE IS UNAWARE OF WHO YOU ARE AND THAT THE ORGANISATION IS TAKING STEPS TO BRING ABOUT YOUR DEMISE. – Central said.

Just then my cocktail was delivered and I thanked my waiter and instantly picked up my drink and took a sip to calm my nerves.

Oh, this is nice! The taste and the alcohol content calmed me almost immediately. I should probably think about leaving the bar, but when I looked out the windows at the wet weather outside, it made me want to stay inside.

If I wasn’t safe then Central would tell me to leave. So I decided to stay and I did, for another two and a half hours. I amused myself by texting Central and sipping these delicious drinks. I ordered several ‘Guilty Pleasure’ cocktails.

But at six o’clock I ordered the ‘Ritz Classic Club’ sandwich to soak up all the alcohol I’ve drunk. It came with French Fries in this cute little silver cone-shaped cup with the Ritz logo on it. There were no crusts on the sandwich and it tasted absolutely delicious. It wasn’t too big, but I didn’t trust myself and my clumsy ways. I leaned forward over the plate, with my napkin tucked into the top of my coat, and I carefully ate it with as much as a ‘lady-like’ demeanour as I could manage.

At 6.45 PM I asked for the bill and my waiter went to get it for me. I knew it would be expensive but I thought it was worth it. Let’s see, I’ve had five Champagne Celebrations cocktails and they were £25 each. The club sandwich was £28 and I know how much the other food and wine cost. I’ll probably have to put in my PIN again for my credit card and I’ll get another text message from the bank.

I was right, the waiter had to bring over the mobile EFTPOS device which I stuck my credit card into and I put in my PIN. Almost immediately, I got the expected text message from my bank asking me if it was me who just used my card at the Ritz, which I texted back, ‘yes’. Then I stood up, picked up my handbag and I left the bar.

*****

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