CHAPTER TWENTY ONE – Basic Essentials

It wasn’t long before Quo was coming down the stairs to the station. At first I didn’t notice him, distracted by my meal. But then he was on top of me, saying my name sharply. “James!”

I opened my eyes with a start. “I see you have been enjoying yourselves!”

Caroline had finished her meal and pushed the table away. She also seemed dazed when Quo had arrived. Quo waved, clicked his fingers and pointed to the tables, plates and cutlery to some invisible force. It wasn’t long until I realised he was looking at a drone in the corner which activated. It came over and dematerialised the tables with everything on them. 

“Let’s not make the place untidy!” he said in a stern tone as I nodded in agreement. He looked confused by my gesture, but then got out his pad and began looking at it in a concentrated fashion. He saw me looking as I wondered what he was doing.

Pulling the pad closer towards himself, he said, “You’re probably wondering why we would use pads when we have access to augmented reality merely by thinking about it?”

Caroline came in with her answer, “it’s so we can show others what we are doing. It takes longer using the BCI!”

He pointed at Caroline. “That is the Galactic Union reason. But what is the Tuhingan?”

Caroline paused for a moment, stumped at the question as if she had been told something untrue. Quo continued.

“The reason is the same reason I wear my glasses. We like to keep hold of our roots and there is something about the tactile touch with a pad that you just can’t get with augmented reality.”

“Okay.” I said as I realised I had never even thought about this before and was wondering why he was deciding to explain this.

“That means sometimes, what I do on my pad is private! I do not want you to see!”

I realised at that moment that he saw me and Caroline as nothing more than children. He offended me when he was speaking down to me in such a way. I felt even more offended, considering I wasn’t even trying to look at what was on his pad. What was he doing? He was supposed to be telling us what had happened in the immigration office. I got irritated.

“Could you just tell us what happened in the immigration office!?”

“Oh, well, here. I am sending you your documents.”

Writing came up in front of my eyes. ‘Documents sent from Quo Lure, accept?’ I accepted and could read the documents. It was a contract stating what The Liberty State will give me. They will give me a lot in return for what I could summarise as my continued support. Even though this was a contract, they wrote everything like it was a choice. ‘We would be grateful for your contribution if you were to sign up for a volunteer job within The Liberty.’ Everything sounded more like they were asking for a favour rather than an actual contract stating terms and conditions.

But the key part, the part that states what I would get, was definite. I could see of no reason why I shouldn’t sign. I said to Quo that I would like to sign it and he told me I just needed to visualise it. That my BCI will take a snapshot of my brain patterns and imprint them into the contract. I gave him a copy back, and he told me he just needs to send this off for approval. Once that was done, he would send an update to me and then I can go to my new address.

I have to admit. I felt dizzy from tiredness at that moment, but very excited to think I would soon have my own place to not only sleep but live.

“Right, I will go back to the immigration office to ensure that they file this and quicken the process for you. Looks like this straightforward case is almost over and I will leave you. Have a safe journey James, I would not want to be you right now!”

“Bye,” I said as he turned around and walked away. Caroline was talking towards him with his back faced towards her. “Thanks for everything you have done.” We heard a sigh as a response to Caroline and he continued walking.

“I guess we have to wait?” I asked as I sat down on the bench once again.

“I have another idea!” said Caroline. “Follow me!” she led me back into the EMC room and the machine started materialising a large vehicle. It looked like a motor home. I stared at it, astonished. Caroline opened the side door and went in. She then turned back when she noticed me not following and asked through the door, “are you coming?” I began following her into the truck. 

As I entered, it surprised me to see a double bed, a sink and some oven device. There was a door in the middle I assumed held the toilet. Everything looked as though they made it out of plastic, including the seats to drive. 

“I know how tired you must be, and this is a good place to rest. Although wait before you sleep! I need to know where we are going as soon as Quo has finished getting you registered. Only you will receive that message!”

“Okay!” I said as I came to sit in the front seat next to the driver’s seat.

“Aren’t you wanting to rest in bed?” Caroline asked.

“If I do that, I will fall asleep. Besides, I want to see how this works.” 

Caroline came down and sat next to me. A harness came out of her seat and wrapped around her body so quickly. It pressed hard against her skin and I took a deep breath since it was pressing in all the right places. I turned to look out of the windscreen with Caroline next to me, telling me I should put my seatbelt on. 

I looked around, and as usual I saw no controls to put the belt on me. The harness suddenly came out, without me doing anything, and pressed against my skin as it settled. I looked at Caroline in a panic. “It’s okay, I released it.” She said as she touched my arm affectionately. Then removed her hand and turned around. The steering wheel folded away into the dashboard. I looked at the folding action with confusion. “Some people like something they can touch to operate machinery. I prefer to do what I know.” Caroline said in confidence.

The truck moved gently forwards off of the platform it was sitting on. Then slowly it went up the ramp that lead to the road above. We turned right and slowly drove towards the immigration office. I could see the collection of aliens outside looking at us. We passed and then parked at the side of the road. 

Just as we stopped, I received a message congratulating me on becoming a refugee on The Liberty. In the message, there was a lot of information on how I can work on becoming a citizen. The list also contained the volunteer programs, the contract I had, and a complete load of other things. Caroline was only interested in one particular document. The plot of land that had been assigned to me. She wanted a copy of the mail so she could get us there quickly. We exchanged contact details, and I sent her the copy.

“Are you ready?” she asked me

“Don’t we have to wait for Quo?”

“No, I think he had other plans. But you can contact him?”

I did just that. It was the first time I had sent a message, and it was a little tricky to start with. But with Caroline’s help, I soon wrote it. I sent it and received a message back almost immediately.

‘All well here, you go on. Don’t forget to contact me if you need me! No need to reply to this message!’

“He is always so blunt and to the point!” I said after reading.

“I like him.” Caroline said. I just looked at her, confused. “Still wanting to sleep?” she asked me.

“No!” I said as I realised I was too excited to even consider sleep.

“Okay!” she said, and then we moved away. The truck sped up, however I never felt the acceleration. It felt very smooth and all I could see Caroline doing was moving her eyes over the road as if she was concentrating. But her arms were just resting on her lap and her right leg was resting on top of her left. It was a strange sight, but not the strangest since I had been there. We were soon driving quickly. There weren’t any road signs, there weren’t any lines on the road. This black tarmac laid out in front of us and kept stretching out for miles. 

It was a comfortable drive, and I fell asleep in the seat. It didn’t feel like long before Caroline was disturbing me. 

“James, wake up!” she said

I opened my eyes and tried to focus through my blurry vision. “Are we here?” I asked as we came up to the town.

“Nearly. I just thought you would want to see your neighbours.”

As I focused, I saw many houses of unfamiliar shapes, different layouts, made of alien materials. It was amazing. I saw some aliens tending to their gardens, shops, schools, everything a small town would need. I had never seen such variety in my life and Caroline was slowing down so I could have a good look round.

“Are these the same aliens that came from the cargo ship with me?” I asked.

“Yeah, with their companions!” Caroline responded.

“Wow!” I said in amazement. The community looked like an upper end, ‘best kept village’ kind of community. Everything looked and felt great. I had in my mind that the refugees would have been struggling to settle. But here they were, thriving. “You would never have thought they could settle here so well!” I said, still flabbergasted. 

“Well, there were quite a few problems with them to begin with. I heard a lot got disintegrated and are being materialised now with the help of the Companions. However, they are staying up on the bridge section. The Tuhingans consider them too violent for the centrifuge….” Caroline had a slight pause in her speech and then continued. “I’m lucky I have you. But there are also the drones going around, disintegrating any mess left by the refugees. They gave up graffitiing after they realised the drones instantly cleaned it up. When they realised they had access to as many canvases and art materials as they want, they went crazy for them. The Tuhingans and Galactic Union consider the artists important, so we pushed them to create the art.”

“Hmm,” I said in response. I knew there was a lot I needed to find out about the community. A lot I didn’t know. However, I didn’t feel it was necessary to talk about this at that moment since I wanted to find out things on my own and felt exhausted. At that moment, we passed a pod station and realised that we wouldn’t need a vehicle to get around.

“I’m glad we drove instead of taking the pod. It’s great that we got to see this place like this.”

“I’m glad that you’re happy.” Caroline replied to me.

At that moment, I realised how happy I was to be with Caroline and going on this journey. It surprised me that just a few hours ago, I felt there was a real possibility that we would be homeless. We turned a corner from the main street and soon were at my small plot of land, which was mine. It was beautiful, right next to the lake. The end piece of land on a long street, it was quiet where we were, away from everything else going on further down the road.

Our new neighbours were reptilian creatures who were sunbathing in the garden as we arrived. Their house was full of water and what appeared to be heat lamps everywhere. I didn’t get to see much of it, as there were so many bushes and trees in the way. Around the perimeter stood a large hedge. These creatures didn’t want to be seen.

The two neighbours opposite were either away or inside their houses. We couldn’t see them at all. One looked similar to a middle eastern design with a flat roof. It looked like a small skyscraper that was shrunk down to two floors. Their garden was wild with flowers and green grass. Only the path to get to the doors remained bare.

The other neighbour’s house looked like a large transparent dome acting as a greenhouse. Inside were a lot of tropical plants and the transparent material was steamed up, so we couldn’t see inside so well. I was thinking how humid it must have been in there. The entrance to their dome met neatly against the pedestrian path and the small patches of cut grass around the dome were just that. 

The land they gave me was full of grass, wild flowers, random bushes and trees. It looked like it would be a lot of work to clear the area before we could build anything. I was thankful for the truck we had. 

“Looks like the captain had a say with which plot of land we would get!” Caroline mentioned as she pulled onto the overgrown grass and parked the truck. “We couldn’t have had a better place!” 

“It is beautiful around here, especially around the lake!” I replied as I looked around and saw a path circling around the lake. I could see aliens walking that path, running, talking, having picnics, swimming. It looked amazing.

“How many energy credits were you given?” Caroline asked. I looked back, confused. “We need energy credits to build a house. They must have given you an account with some in?”

I ended up searching the message I got from Quo. “Ahh, here we are! A bank account!” I went through the link and found I was being shown a number and the words ‘No activity’ written below that number.

“How much have you got?” 

“This number says I have one million. I have never had that much money in any currency before!”

“You’re in a different world now, James!” Caroline said to me.

I agreed. 

“Do you know the type of house you want?” she asked me.

“You know, I have always dreamt of having a specific style house. I want it to be as close to Earth style as I can get it, though.”

“Hmm, I’m not sure if we could get it exact. We lost a lot of that information on the cargo ship.”

The memories of the cargo ship came flooding back to me. It wasn’t so long ago, but it felt like another life. I felt sad again about losing Periclum. 

“You know, one of Periclums last acts was to download the information that was embedded in the computers in my habitat.”

Caroline looked at me. “I remember you saying. That was just before the building collapsed, right?” 

“That’s right!” I replied.

“Hmm, this is a sensitive time. If we materialise Periclum to get that information, they will notice it.”

My excitement had turned into stress in a blink of an eye. A reminder of my position slapping me in the face. My stomach was churning. I took a deep breath. “Perhaps we should wait. Maybe get some sleep for the night and talk about it tomorrow.” I said.

“I suppose there’s no rush. But aren’t you excited to see the beginning of the process?” I could see there was this childlike glee in Caroline. Like she couldn’t wait to make the house and desperate to start. I just looked down at my crutches and focused on myself. I needed rest and knew it. Maybe not even for just a night. Everything just felt a little too dreamlike for me and I wanted reality to feel like reality.

“We have everything we need right here and I think I need sleep more than anything!” 

“Well, I’m not feeling so tired. If you go to bed, I think I will go explore around the lake!” she said, as if she wanted to do anything but sleep.

“Sure!” I said, and I could see a gleeful smile go across Caroline’s face. She released the harness and got up out of the chair. I turned my chair around to face her as she went for the door. 

She looked back hesitantly for a moment and looked at me. “Oh… James.”

“Yeah?” I asked

She looked like she was thinking about what she wanted to say. “Have a pleasant sleep!” she said, smiling back, then left.

After she shut the door behind her, I looked down at my harness, wondering how I could take it off. It took me around five minutes of concentrating before I could release it. Then it came off quicker than I could blink an eye. However, just when I was about to get up, it put itself on again. I had another frustrating minute of it going on and off, each time I got up slightly, then it just pulled me back into the seat, until I understood how to operate it. I figured my stress level was putting my mind in a state of alert. Causing the harness to think I could be in danger, holding me in place just in case.

Once I calmed myself down after meditating a bit. The harness was a little more forgiving and let me go. I looked down and grabbed my walking stick, but felt weak on my feet. I headed straight for what I thought was the bathroom. Opening the door, I saw a pile of what looked like to be towels but made of a finer material. Then another pile of what looked to be facecloths of the same material on a shelf behind a glass door. There was a shower, a toilet that had a hole in the floor with places on either side to put your feet and a sink which you could stand over. 

I placed my crutches to the side, lean’t against the wall and got myself ready for the shower. I grabbed myself a facecloth and went under the shower, using the wall for support. Once under the shower, I didn’t see any controls for it, however, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine the water flowing at the temperature I wanted. The shower responded well to my request and I could soon wash myself. I realised I needed shampoo and shower gel. There weren’t any bottles, however the water became soapy when I wanted it to be. 

Once out of the shower and dried off, I wanted new clothes and went to what looked to be a wardrobe. Opening it, I found the cupboard was full of empty shelves. Looking around at the rest of the truck, I couldn’t see anything else that resembled a wardrobe. There was a window overlooking my new yard. It caused me to feel that it wasn’t so private for me in there. Most people outside didn’t look as if they noticed me, so I relaxed a bit. I was too tired to care, anyway. Being naked, I didn’t know what to do, so attempted to stare at this cupboard and get it to materialise some clothes. It failed. I sulked back to the bathroom, picked up my old pants and put them on.

I wanted to brush my teeth but couldn’t find any way of doing so, but was too tired to care about anything. I went to the toilet, crouching to do my business for the first time in my life. It was hard to crouch, but I managed it. Once the business was over, I was trying to find the toilet paper. Instead, there was this warm tingling sensation around my posterior and the sound of wind. Realising that it was an EMC machine, I figured I was clean. I struggled to get back up, grabbed my crutches, and headed for the door.

When I walked away, everything in the toilet disintegrated, I didn’t care enough to look. Only walked myself to bed while it did its thing. As I approached the bed, the windows darkened and blacked out without me even thinking about it. I got under the sheets and they felt amazing against my skin. I felt so comfortable. Just like the meal from earlier tasting like the best meal of my life, this bed felt like the most luxurious. I was so tired, as soon as I closed my eyes, I fell into a deep sleep.

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