A sci-fi novel in progress
by Colin Campbell
6. Rim View Hotel
The root ball of the fallen tree blocked their way. They pushed around it through the surrounding overgrown brush. The tree was still alive after being knocked over by a storm–as Tobe and Uncle Joe climbed through the branches to get to the door they became streaked with juice from blooming juniper berries. “Smells like gin,” Uncle Joe said.
They reached the door and Uncle Joe didn’t have to use his crowbar at the front door. It was bulged open below the doorknob by the impact of the tree, wide enough for a person. “We can get through there on hands and knees,” Uncle Joe said.
Before Tobe could start, a mountain lion appeared in the doorway and yowled in Tobe’s face. Tobe fell back and the lion alternated its stare between Tobe and Uncle Joe. It stood defiantly at the doorway, snarling and showing teeth. The air stirred with a pungent musky feline smell.
Tobe pulled out his revolver but Uncle Joe waved a hand at him, no. Uncle Joe stood up taller and the lion retreated into the doorway, tail lashing, but still with her eyes fixed on the humans.
Uncle Joe said, “Did you see her teats? Cat nipples are larger and more prominent like that when they’re nursing–the fur is matted around them. She must have some cubs in there. Tell you what, let’s see if we can find the service entrance.”
They edged away from the door, probing through the branches and bushes along the wall and lost sight of the cat. They reached a corner and pushed around it through the overgrowth into the hotel’s outdoor patio restaurant overlooking the canyon: a half-acre of debris-strewn deck with a dozen glass-topped tables and wind-blown chairs scattered at random amid the broken tree branches and dust and dead leaves. Tobe went to the railing and looked down a mile. He moved his headband view over the edge of the railing a hundred feet away and saw twenty tiers of balcony-view windows down in the side of the cliff, just as Uncle Joe’s photo had shown.
“Look at this,” Uncle Joe said. He knelt down and brushed his hand against the floor until the dust was cleared away and they could see straight down into the Canyon. The floor was clear glass. “The scary over-the-edge patio didn’t attract as many people as they expected. People stopped caring about the real world.”
Uncle Joe put his crowbar on a table and dragged a couple chairs together and sat down. “Sit down, Tobe. Starting today, you’re going to learn about the real world.”
“I already know everything about the world,” Tobe said.
Uncle Joe had given “the talk” to generation after generation of Tribe kids but it was never easy. “You think you do. You can see anything on Earth right now, yes, but the world was a lot different in the Before Time.”
“What do you mean, the before time?”
“Oh, that’s right, that’s one of the things our filters kept away from your ears. We prefer not to dwell on the way humans despoiled the Earth before the Singularity.
“There’s no value to the way humans used to live when they were dependent on technology for everything. Hundreds of millions of people were killed because of it. The historic record is ghastly, and that’s why we’ve kept it from you. There’s no more war, no more disease.
“It’s cruel to inflict knowledge of this vast carnage on children. But now you’re 5,000, and the robots will no longer honor our restrictions on you.
“The Tribe’s censors are lifted and the true history of the Earth and the human race is open for your inspection. “You now have full access to all of human history. All the info in the universe is in your headband, Tobe. But there’s not much of it that you need to know.
“Your personal DNA modifications have been supervised by Granny and the robots since you were born; now, you are permitted to suggest modifications of your own, which may or may not be approved.
“For now, you can see any event ever recorded, and to see the robots’ reconstruction of every event that ever happened on Earth. The people of the ancient world spent most of their time killing each other in order to steal their stuff. Today there’s more stuff than anybody could ever use.
“When you’re 6,000, after Rumspringa, you’ll get full adult access.”
“Rumspringa? That’s what Bhetan was talking about?”
“Yes. But that’s still in the future for you.
For Tobe, the universe consisted of the Earth and its plants and animals, the Tribe, and the robots in the heavens above. “How could I not have known about this?” he said.
“It’s not your fault,” Uncle Joe said, “it’s your nanobots. The Tribe filters made it impossible for you to learn about stuff like that–but now the nanobots will no longer block your earbones from hearing words like Rumspringa.”
Like every member of the Tribe, Tobe’s body was permeated with nanobots that reported their position every trillionth of a second while they monitored Tobe’s bloodstream to maintain perfect bodily health. There were no ugly people among Tobe’s tribe. They were all perfect healthy specimens of humanity. Their average eyesight was 20/15. The microbial robots roamed the bloodstream to augment the immune system and to tweak each human body into the apex of physical condition. “That’s why you’ve never been sick,” Joe said.
“What do you mean, “sick?”” said Tobe.
“After Rumspringa, you’ll have full freedom to leave the Tribe if you wish.”
“Why would I want to leave the Tribe?”
“This is stuff your mother should have prepared you for,” said Uncle Joe.
“You all hate me because of my mother,” Tobe said.
Joe checked his heads-up display for a moment. “Oh, that’s right, you’re the one whose mother ran away. She saw fit to run off and abandon you, nobody ever did that before in Tribe history. Sorry, I forgot you were the one who’s been shuffling from wagon to wagon unattended all these years. But you’re in the first stage of adulthood now and you can choose your own path from now on.”
“How do I access the old things?” Tobe said.
“You’ll have to figure that out for yourself,” Uncle Joe said. “We don’t want you to know about the old things and so we aren’t going to help you.
“Let’s get into the hotel.”