The Nanogatherers
A sci-fi novel in progress
by Colin Campbell

7. Inside Rim View Hotel    

Tobe had never seen a hotel before. He’d never heard the word before. He’d never been in a building. The Tribe never paid any attention to the ancient buildings they passed in their wagons, they never went into the dead old empty cities.

     The sliding-glass door from the restaurant into the hotel was not able to slide. Uncle Joe took off his forage bag and handed it to Tobe. “Hold this.”

     He swung the crowbar at the glass door and it bounced off and didn’t leave a scratch. He inserted the claw end between the door and the frame next to the lock and pulled, and Tobe heard the lock crack. A space opened wide enough for Tobe’s fingers.

     “Pull while I do it again,” Uncle Joe said. He re-inserted the crowbar at an angle with more leverage and pulled again.  It took a lot of effort but Uncle Joe was very strong–just like all of the Tribe. The nanobots in his bloodstream monitored his musculature and maintained its chemical structure to be the same as if he worked out in the gym every day. This time the door slid aside.

     “I’ve never been inside a building before,” Tobe said, peeking in.

     “I’ve been in lots of buildings,” Uncle Joe said. “Once in a while somebody from the Tribe has to go into a city to get something we can’t make by ourselves, or, more likely, to locate sources of hard-to-find elements for the 3D printers. You can’t find titanium lying around in a field, for instance, so we don’t use it very much. But when you need it, you need to get it.”

     Tobe wasn’t accustomed to talking to adults. In the Tribe, mothers knew how to talk around the bots’ filters and let the kids learn some of the realities of life, but Tobe never had that advantage. It was the inverse of the conspiracy to keep kids thinking Santa Claus was real. Compared to the bots, Santa was a chintzy piker.

     “Is that what we’re looking for? Titanium?”

     “Nope. Let’s go inside.”

     They stepped through into what turned out to be the hotel’s grand bar-room: a bubble of glass overlooking the Grand Canyon. The carpet and furniture were layered in dust and mold and animal droppings. It was totally quiet, all sound dampened by the layers of dust and debris.

     “Well, what are we doing here?”

     “Looking for booze,” Uncle Joe said. Uncle Joe ignored the view of the canyon and led Tobe to the long bar against the rear interior wall and behind the bar to the shelves of liquors. “See if anything’s left in these bottles.”

     Tobe picked up bottle after bottle but they were all empty, long since evaporated away.

     “This was just their daily stock, the rest of it must stored somewhere.”

     “What’s so important about this booze? I thought we were here for the copper.”

     “Well, there might be a lot of booze. You know, every time we pass through this way on the old I-40 freeway, every three or four thousand days, I try to persuade Granny to come up to the Grand Canyon to harvest the copper. She says it’s too much work.”

     A door behind the bar was locked but it opened easily with Uncle Joe’s crowbar.  The interior hallway was dark.

     Uncle Joe reached into a pocket of his black leather vest and pulled out two flashlights and handed one to Tobe. They entered the hallway amid flurries of dust raining down after the violence of smashing open the door.

     “This time, I was thinking about the copper again and I examined all the buildings in the area around Grandview Point for miles and miles, just fizzing through the infonet and idly looking at stuff and I found this hotel that had been out of business for a real long time.

     “I found a discrepancy. Rim View Hotel stocked its bar copiously for their grand opening but the grand opening never happened.

     “The hotel never actually had any guests. The grand opening did not draw a crowd. It was scheduled and publicized but it happened on a day that the cracks in reality accelerated into the Singularity.

     “I found the bankruptcy records and IRS filings for the hotel, and although all the details were available. Everything from the past was available. But I couldn’t find any evidence that the hotel’s wine cellar had ever been sold off. I showed Granny a list of the booze the hotel stocked up on, and she agreed to come up here for the copper this time.”

     There was another door across the hallway. Uncle Joe crowbarred it open and they entered into another hail of dust fogging their view in their flashlight beams: a large room with metal shelves on each side with a narrow walkway between them thirty feet to the back wall.

     One side was stacked to the ceiling with cases, the other side was racks of bottles of wine.

     “Holy cow,” Uncle Joe said. He took a bottle of wine in each hand. “Grab a case, let’s carry it out into the light.” 

     Tobe picked up a case but when he took a step the bottles fell through the rotted bottom of the cardboard case and one of the bottles broke when it hit the floor and some kind of booze flooded out.  

     “Dammit, be careful. These cardboard cases are fragile. Just bring one of those bottles, not the broken one”

     Back in the bar Uncle Joe took the bottle from Tobe: 750ml of Balvenie Port Wood 21-year-old single malt scotch. “Holy shit,” he said. He opened the bottle and took a big drink.

     “Mmm, wow. Go back in there and make a video capture, shine your flashlight on each and every case so the lettering shows, all the way to the back. Don’t bother about the wine bottles.” He took another big drink and settled back into a chair that was still very comfortable even if it was fifty thousand days old.

     Tobe did so. Johnnie Walker, Absolut, Hennessy, Glenlivet, Jack Daniels, Remy Martin, Gray Goose, Bacardi, Jose Cuervo. He transmitted the video to Uncle Joe, and as he came back to the hotel lounge, Uncle Joe was calling one of the men from another wagon, Geen.  

     “Geen, hey, it’s here! You better get up outta bed, we’ve got a treasure trove here just like I was saying! Look at this!”

     A holo of Geen popped into Tobe’s view as Joe held up the Balvenie bottle toward Geen. “See what I told you? It’s all here, look at Tobe’s video!”

     Geen saw Tobe staring at him. “What’s with the kid?” Geen said.

     “It’s Tobe, he turned 5,000 today, I’ve invited him to be able to see you.”

     Tobe said, I know Geen, I lived in his wagon for a while, remember, Geen?”

     Geen looked baffled, then scanned his headband display and said, “Oh, yes, Tobe. You’ve grown up quite a bit. Welcome to the real world.”

     “Tell everybody else, Geen, I’ve got to get back to my wagon, we’re about a half hour walk away. See ya.

     “Tobe, we’ve got to get back. Go back into the room and take one bottle from four different cases and put them in our forage bags. Doesn’t matter which ones you pick, four different bottles.”

     He looked at Tobe. “A lot of them are going to arrive by tonight. This is going to be fun,” he said.

NEXT: 8. Hike back to the wagons