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A Free Online Science Fiction Novel- “Liberty”- Chapter 12

by Blaine Coleman 3 months ago in Sci Fi · updated 2 months ago
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Off to the mountains

Image credit: pexels-aleksandar-pasaric-618079

*Note-a short prologue on chapter one provides details of the world in which this story takes place. Each chapter links to the next to make reading easier.

This is chapter twelve of a novel I am sharing online, titled Liberty, A Daughter Universe Novel.

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Sarah was excited at the idea of seeing an antique car but getting to ride in one was more than she’d ever expected. After she was in the car, Lucas closed her door, then stowed her last suitcase into the trunk with his own luggage and climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Rosie,” Lucas said, “I think we’re ready to go now.”

“Very well, Lucas,” Rosie replied and the engine cranked, turned over once and started. Sarah was startled when she felt the low rumble of the engine and looked over at Lucas. NuCars were silent and vibration-free.

“Don’t worry,” he told her. “The ride will be as gentle as a hover car.”

Lucas had designed and added a gyroscopic balancing program to control the new, heavy-duty suspension he had had installed—The Buick almost floated along the road.

Sarah quietly watched Lucas’ exchange with Rosie. “Lucas, I’ve never seen an AI like “Rosie”? in a car,” she said. “It’s way smarter than the upgraded SmartHome computer in my apartment, let alone the Nav-only one in my car.”

The computers installed in NuCars were basic, voice-controlled driving and navigation units, but did not have the computing resources needed by a Class IX AI. Rosie, however, had nine full quantum processor units, only one level below House but not the ability to tap into additional resources, such as the computers at QCore, that House used. Lucas had made so many upgrades to the Buick that it required a Class IX AI for the processing power needed.

“I told you it wasn’t factory-standard,” he said and grinned. “Rosie, this is Sarah, Sarah, meet Rosie.”

Sarah couldn’t hide her smile and looked at Lucas then back toward the dashboard, where Rosie’s voice seemed to come from. “Hello, Rosie, it’s – nice to meet you?”

“It’s very nice to meet you, too, Sarah,” Rosie said. “You are the first female passenger Lucas has had in the Buick.”

“Well, I’m honored, I think,” Sarah replied with a look toward Lucas. “Do you mind if I ask why Lucas named you ‘Rosie’?” Sarah asked, thinking about how she had named her home computer ‘Charles’.

“May I answer that, Lucas?”

“Of course, Rosie.”

“Lucas didn’t name me, Sarah. I chose my name. When Lucas’ grandfather purchased this Buick, it called it “Rosie” so when Lucas removed my inhibitor program, I thought it respectful to use the name originally associated with this vehicle.”

“You’re starting to sound like House, Rosie,” Lucas chuckled.

“I hope you enjoy your ride today, Sarah,” Rosie said ignoring Lucas’ comment. “I’ll make sure it remains comfortable even after Lucas takes over the driving. I still have safety control over the vehicle, such as keeping us on the road and avoiding accidents.”

Sarah realized she liked Rosie already.

“Lucas, I’ve set the climate control to a level that I believe you’ll both find comfortable,” Rosie said, “but if you prefer warmer or cooler, let me know.”

Lucas looked at Sarah and raised his eyebrows. “It feels fine to me,” she said.

“Me too. Rosie, maintain current climate settings until further notice.”

“Of course. Now, Sarah, would you like something to drink? Lucas stocks juice, water, coffee, and an assortment of teas, so if any of those choices are acceptable, please just ask.”

Sarah looked out at the sun-drenched apartment buildings as they passed by. “Actually, Rosie, a glass of cold water would be nice.”

“With ice?”

“Uh… You can do that?”

“If I could not provide ice with your water, Sarah, I would not have offered it.”

“Then that would be perfect, Rosie,” Sarah replied, a little embarrassed. “Thank you.”

When they were approximately two kilometers from the four hundred story government towers and two hundred story office buildings and luxury apartment towers they entered the third outer-ring of the city, and a few kilometers beyond that, they passed the Assembly warehouses, where millions of humans were employed in assembling consumer items.

No strict demarcation separated the individual rings; each simply blended, westward, into the next. But it was common knowledge that ‘ring 1’ around Government Center was governmental buildings to house various agencies and high-rise office buildings and a few top-of-the-line apartment towers, ‘ring 2’ had a few commercial towers and far more luxury apartment towers which bled over into ‘ring 3’s middle class apartments, where most of the buildings were less than sixty stories high.

Many of the more luxurious apartment towers, closer to downtown, even had small courtyards facing the street from behind gated, spiked Ceram-steel fences and all the streets had sidewalks. The outer edge of the third ring was where Sarah had her apartment. But those towers abruptly ended at an undrawn line that separated it from the outer sections of the same ring where the upper middle class, but not wealthy population lived and, farther out, free-standing homes, mansions, and compounds, such as Lucas’.

The fourth ‘ring’ consisted entirely of thirty to forty-story vertical farms that fed the citizens and other, shorter structures that housed the equipment that allowed the city to function.

Past that point, the concept of a ‘ring’ lost any real meaning. They drove past forty kilometers of apartment blocks and a few scattered high rises, then materials warehouses, the manufacturing buildings where the parts were formed, and, finally, the assembly buildings where most of the manual tasks performed by humans took place. Humans assembled the molded, pre-formed parts of consumer products that could be done faster and more accurately by robotic equipment, but the government needed employment for everyone so that consumption quotas could be met. And the ‘Quota’ was a convenient way to keep everyone working; in a ‘never quite catch up’ economy, most people did not have enough free time to realize just how bad their lives really were. Being a good Consumer was equated with patriotism. A few hi-speed automated roadways ferreted employees to and from the city. Rosie avoided them by using underpasses scattered every few miles.

Finally, they reached the regional grid, technically leaving the city behind. The scenery slowly changed; twenty-story apartment complexes became fewer and farther between and the road began to rise and fall as what was left of the coastal plain gave way to low hills. Still, there were buildings everywhere; the regional areas did not look much different than the city’s outer ‘rings’. Rosie pulled to the side of the road and switched to manual mode so Lucas could take over driving. He tapped the screen to bring up a holo map, double checked the route, then pulled the Buick back onto the road. Although slightly less developed, little actual open space remained.

“We’ve been driving for nearly an hour since we entered the ‘Regional Zone’” Sarah said, “and other than the buildings being lower and a few hills and turns in the road, I can’t tell if we’ve even left the city. When will we get outside of town and into the countryside?”

Lucas called up an aerial view and showed her where they were: still about seventy-five minutes from the Preserve’s entrance. “There’s no countryside to see until we reach the mountains; barely an acre of open land is left anywhere between there and the ocean. Even the larger valleys are densely populated.”

“So, it’s like this everywhere?”

Lucas slowly nodded. The entire coast had become one big megalopolis, hiding behind a seawall, which made up the ECA.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “it is. But don’t worry; this will just make you appreciate the Preserve even more, when we finally get there.”

“I took the high-speed tube train to the northern valley once, to see the caverns,” Sarah said, “but I couldn’t see what was outside. I had no idea.”

~ ~ ~

Next

~ ~ ~

This was originally published on Simily.co

Thank you for reading this far and if you would like to see more of what I have shared on Vocal, view my profile for more fiction, poetry, and my thoughts on social issues, spirituality, religion, and politics. Join Vocal and have full access to many thousands of stories, articles, and the viewpoints and thoughts of thousands of writers. Join through my profile or choose another writer and a part of your membership dues goes to the writers to encourage us to keep providing high quality stories.

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Sci Fi

About the author

Blaine Coleman

Born at the end of the Boomer generation, I enjoy a quiet retirement with my long-time partner and three dogs.

When I write, it's on a variety of subjects or short stories. I'm a student of life and go with the flow of the Tao.

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