Read Beta Planet: Rise Online

Authors: Dayton Grey

Tags: #Fiction

Beta Planet: Rise (5 page)

They continued walking along the street as the haunting glow of one ORB faded behind them and another one appeared ahead of them. The rubble of former buildings lay on both sides of them, as they continued down the street. Even though all the buildings were destroyed, either partially or completely, Geon noticed the rubble and building remainders began to be larger and taller as they made their way into the city. After some time, they finally saw a few other people, walking about with their heads down in quick and hurried paces. Everyone seemed to be in a rush to be somewhere.

Allea noticed Geon looking at them and said, “It’s not recommended for people to spend too much time outdoors. It’s safer inside, really.” Geon nodded in understanding. Suddenly, a small vehicle drove through the intersection ahead of them, with a high-pitched hum. It reminded Geon of a car but was much smaller and rounder. There were no visible wheels however, and the top was domed like an egg, and clear on the front half.

“What is
that
?”

“That’s a PMV, G. A personal mobility vehicle. You won’t see many of those as it takes a lot of credits to own one.”

“I’m saving up for one!” Kumuki exclaimed with excitement, looking at the vehicle in admiration.

“Are you now?” Sabien replied with a snort. “I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it when you finally can afford it… when you’re around a hundred years old!”

Kumuki shook his head and began punching buttons on his LifeCuff, checking his credits to see how much he currently had.

“The PMV works with a low gravity propulsion system… like a hovercraft,” said Allea. Since so much of the city is now covered in water, it needs to be able to move easily on both land and water. But enough about that. Here is how
we
travel.” She smiled at Geon as they turned right at the corner and a large structure came into view in the sky above them.

“That’s how we get from one sector to the next, G,” Allea said pointing upward. “It’s called the Glidewing, but most people call it the L-RUD.”

Geon looked up at the structure, which looked like a platform in the sky. People scurried about on it and in the streets below it. He noticed some sort of escalator system winding up to the main landing area, and next to it was the Glidewing. It looked similar to the subway cars that he remembered, with separated sections, except that it was hanging suspended in the air from a very thick cable. The cable passed through a long catch on the top of each car and it appeared that there were also two smaller cables attached to the main cable, which divided in different directions and led to the top of two long, thick poles in the ground some distance away.

“How does it work?”

Allea replied, gesturing ahead of them. “See the bastions, Geon? The tall poles in the ground? The whole system is really dependent on those. They are spread out as far as they can be, and they are fully adjustable in height. The mini cable goes from the bastion to the main cable… one on each side. The L-RUD runs on the thick, main cable.”

“So why are they adjustable?”

“Well,” she said, “Look around us. This world is constantly shifting, evolving,
moving.
One day there is a building here, and the next it’s destroyed. Another day you have nothing here, and after heavy flooding, or a quake, or tornado, the next day, you have a massive pile of rubble here. So the bastions rise up and lower as needed, and can loosen or tighten the two side cables as needed as well. Plus the cars are connected but separated in between to allow for flexibility in between. It’s essential for allowing it to snake
in between, around, over, and under fallen structures and other objects around the area.
Basically, it can go left, right, up, and down!”

Amazing
, Geon thought to himself. All this destruction around him, and humans still seemed to be persevering on… innovating… trying to live.

“Soooo… L-RUD? What’s with the name?” he asked.

“Like I told you, G,” Allea responded with a smile. “Left… ri—”

“Hang on, Allea. Let him see for himself,” Sabien interrupted with a smile. “Come on.”

They rode the winding altinator up to the platform and walked under a suspended E-Pillar.
It simultaneously greeted all of them, in a mangled mix of boops, beeps, and a garbled electronic voice.

“Greetings, Sabien Jabari! Greetings, Allea Shay! Greetings, Kumuki Quinn! Thankthankthankyouyouyouhavehavehaveaaanicenicenicedaydayday!” it echoed.

“Just walk through and keep your sleeve down,” Allea whispered to Geon. “Without a cuff it won’t detect you, but if you get caught without a cuff, you’ll be in some serious trouble. You get a bit of a grace period since you just woke up, but we don’t need any reason to alarm the CARE guards.”

Geon nodded and walked casually through, trying not to make eye contact with the large, scowling, uniformed guard. He noticed the logo on the guard’s chest.
Something about it looks familiar.

Their LifeCuffs beeped and showed two credits removed from each of them as doors of the Glidewing slid open and they hopped on. Once on board, Geon focused his attention on the walls and windows inside, where abstract three-dimensional images continually changed in color and shape and soft sounds twinkled in sync with them. He noticed there were no seats on the car. Just vertical flat boards evenly spread around it, each designated for one person. The bottom of each board was curved slightly upward to provide some support to sit against. As the other people each took a spot against a board, the four of them moved to a section near the back of the car. Sabien stood next to Geon, across from Allea and Kumuki. Geon leaned back against the padded board. On the sides of each board near their shoulders was a padded semi-circle loop, coming out of the padded back. Geon watched as Kumuki and Allea put their arms through the loops, then crossing their arms in front of them. Sabien looked at Geon and smiled, not following their lead. Geon decided to do as Sabien did, leaving his arms free at his sides.

“Glidewing departing sector eight,” a voice from the car said. The doors closed with a ding and with a sudden jerk, the entire train of cars took off. The force of the thrust pushed Geon back into the padding. As the train accelerated even further, he smiled with excitement. He had not felt a rush like this… maybe
ever.
All of a sudden, the entire car made a drastic and sudden lurch upward, and then immediately downward again, hurtling his body upward and back down. Geon laughed with giddiness.

“Enjoying this are you?” Sabien inquired.

Geon nodded and smiled.

“Well, maybe not for long,” Sabien remarked with a smirk, still casually leaning back.

Suddenly the car turned so violently to the left that it threw Geon from his spot and into an elderly lady on the opposite side of the car. As he tried to apologize for bumping into her, the car violently turned in the opposite direction, almost
backward
from the direction they were just traveling in, throwing Geon again in the opposite direction. Immediately the car snaked again the other way, hurling Geon once again into other passengers on the car. Sabien and Kumuki laughed in delight as Allea shook her head in dismay and looked down at her LifeCuff.

“L-RUD!” Kumuki shrieked, over the noise of the car and the sounds of Geon colliding into the walls. “LEFT. RIGHT. UP. DOWN! L-RUD!”

Geons stomach because to churn as he tried his best to grab a hold of a loose arm loop while keeping his breakfast down. The car shot upward again, at nearly a vertical angle. This time it climbed higher and higher, and just when Geon thought it would stop, it just kept going. It reminded Geon of the small roller coaster he remembered riding when he was young, except that the Glidewing didn’t climb up slowly. It seemed to maintain its breakneck speed the entire time. Geon finally managed to get back to his board and shoved his arms through the loopholes. Sabien snickered and smiled at him and casually held on to one of the loops with his wrist.

“Fun, huh?”

“Ugh. Yeah. So much fun.”

“G, take a look there,” Allea said, pointing through the glass at what appeared to be a public park. “That’s WEAF park. It’s one of the few parks in the city with trees and meditation areas.”

“They’re not real trees,” Sabien smirked. “But they’re the closest thing that we’ve got.”

Geon watched the imitation trees as they gently moved in the wind, their green leaves fluttering softly on each branch. They
did
look quite lifelike. The park also had bright green grass and perfectly rounded small rolling hills, with some other stone structures and a small pond in the middle.

Allea seemed deep in thought as she said, still staring out of the window, “It’s a place we like to meet sometimes. To talk, to work, to think.”

“I like the fish!” Kumuki exclaimed. Geon looked up at him, startled.

“Real fish?” Geon questioned.

“No, they’re synths! They’re pretty!”

Geon nodded, disheartened that even real fish weren’t around any longer. One place he remembered loving as a child was the local city zoo. There was something so fascinating and mysterious about animals to him. He used to wonder about them… their thoughts… their emotions. He wondered if they were like humans, in that they could make choices in life, or were they like robots, knowing not what they did and following some predetermined path without any question. His family would let him explore, spending plenty of time with each animal. He used to sit and just stare at each one while other children ran around, taking only moments looking at each animal. Geon would carefully watch them and try to connect with them.

“Next stop, sector seven,” the voice from above said. Seconds later, the Glidewing slowed to a sudden stop and the doors slid open. People rushed in and out. The doors slid back closed and the voice said again, “Glidewing departing sector seven.”

Geon looked around cautiously at the other people in the car. No one spoke, smiled, or laughed. Everyone kept their heads down and seemed preoccupied with either their LifeCuffs or their thoughts. It wasn’t that people seemed sad, Geon thought. It seemed more like people just seemed…
vacant
, without emotion altogether. He felt bad for them, for himself, for everyone. It seemed only a moment ago when he was a child and the world was so different… so
free
. It had problems when he was young, but nothing like what he was seeing now.

It really makes you appreciate what we once had. A moment ago for me was actually six years for these people
.
It was so long ago
.

He looked down at his shoes and then at others and realized no one had any laces. Everyone was wearing grey, black, or white clothes and the same pair of grey sneakers, with a folding closure flap on top. He reached down and pulled at the flap, and it came undone with a soft click. The top of the shoe and the bottom of the flap each had tiny little plastic barbs that locked together when contacted with each other.

“It’s Burrstik,” Sabien said, noticing Geon opening and closing his shoe flap. “Laces are too inefficient. Government issued, of course.”

Geon stood upright and leaned his head back, staring out of the window and at the remnants of the city. The demolished remainders of buildings were scattered about, and Geon could see prefab structures littered around between the rubble. Some were in total isolation, and every so often there would be an opening where five to ten prefabs could be seen huddled together, usually on a flatter and higher level of ground. Occasionally he would see a prefab that looked demolished as well, either knocked off its stilts, or caved in completely. The trees and grass were all gone, and the ground around was spotted with patches of moist, muddy earth, and puddles and ponds of water.

This looks as similar to the Earth I remembered as the surface of the moon
.
It’s truly become a different planet
.

As the Glidewing lurched around and took a slow, bending, diagonal turn, the car shifted forty-five degrees to the side and came around the corner of what looked to be a very large, old warehouse. As the old, abandoned, brick building passed him by, windows and doors standing only as dark openings, Geon noticed a person scurrying out of sight just through one of the openings.

“Hey!” he whispered loudly, pointing at the building. “I think I just saw—”

Allea interrupted by grabbing Geon’s arm. “Look, G! It’s the ocean!” The Glidewing finally completed its long angled turn and a giant blanket of dark blue lay in front of them. Geon stared down in shock as enormous waves crashed up against the remainder of buildings that now formed the edge of the city. The waves were huge, foamy, and fast, and kept hitting the man-made structures with an imposing and pounding force.

“This is about the closest you can get to the sea, Geon,” Allea said. “You can see how large the waves are. Plus the currents and undertow are deadly. We’re strictly prohibited by CARE from going anywhere near the open water. Enjoy the view from here, brother.”

“Unbelievable,” Geon muttered as he stared back down at the waves.

The Glidewing slowly bore in the opposite direction and the water was soon out of sight. A few stops later and they were finally at sector four. They hopped off the car and down the altinator to the street below. Geon looked around and saw that there were quite a few more buildings, or
remnants
of buildings, per se, than in the other sectors. He looked up and saw that some of the buildings, though obviously demolished and abandoned, were so tall that he couldn’t even see the top of them as they pierced through the surface of the permamist above. One large building was split horizontally in half and the top half was leaning up against another close building. It looked as if it could come crashing down any second. The ground below was much wetter here than in their own sector, and Geon followed the others’ lead as they weaved in and out of the street to keep their shoes dry. He noticed that the other people in this sector seemed to be in worse shape than in sector eight. Many people had torn and tattered clothing, and he noticed a few people with cuts, bruises, and bandages. On the side of the street there were two men, motionless, laying against the side of the building.

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