Chapter 2.4

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I went through the day in a haze, my mind wandering back to the strange boy I met yesterday on the roof. I hadn’t been able to pay attention to anything in class.

And now here I was, five minutes before four, waiting for the strange boy to come. My eyes kept darting to my watch, my leg incessantly tapping the floor. A minute after four, at which point I was already filling myself with ridiculous doubts, the boy-no, John arrived.

“Hi.” I said, a bit awkwardly.

Idiot!

John, though, didn’t seem to notice the awkwardness, and greeted me as usual.

We sat down at the same spot as we did yesterday, and as I asked, he bought snacks! Some chocolates and pastries, basically. He opened the first packet, and handed over the first chocolate to me. I munched on it gladly.

“Mmn… these are delicious, where did you get them?”

“My mom knows a friend who has a bakery. He bakes for a living.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“Bakes… as in, makes the pastries himself?”

He nodded.

“But… aren’t handmade pastries costly? I remember a friend telling me that she had to pay a thousand and two fifty credits just for a cake.”

He nodded again.

“Like I said, he’s a good friend of my mother’s and he gives us a sixty percent discount. Besides, even without the discount I could easily pay for these with my pocket money.”

She almost choked on a chocolate hearing that. She quickly finished the chocolate.

“You’re rich.”

“I guess.”

“No way. Every rich person I know is a spoiled brat. No offense.”

“None taken. I guess… I’m different. Me and my family… aren’t what you would call a normal bunch.”

“Interesting… so you’re telling me you’re not the only weirdo, but your entire family is?”

“I wouldn’t call myself a weirdo… but it does made sense, from your position.”

“What do you mean ‘my position?’”

“You have a bunch of different experiences than I do. So it would make sense for you to see me as a ‘strange’ boy.”

Well, I did use the term ‘strange boy’ a couple of times… not out loud, but I used it nonetheless. As for the other part, well I guess I could agree.

“I wonder…”The boy said.

“Wonder… what?” I asked.

“Hmm? Nothing. Just a random thought.”

Then he went back to gazing over the city. Reluctantly, I did the same. In the distance, a ship caught my eye. Not the ship, but… a girl standing at the window. She looked… like me. And she was staring at me too.

I sneezed. When I looked back at the ship, there wasn’t anybody there.

Huh, I must be seeing things.

***

allooking over the memory again, and the results were the same.

That was Hannah. The girl was Hannah. Only two years older. But… the explanation? A breakdown in the neural interface, an illusion.

And time travel.

Which isn’t possible. It can’t be.

***

A year later

“Not possible.” I shook my head. “Nuh uh. That is simply not possible.”

John grinned.

“You wanna bet?”

I stared blankly at him.

“But-but why haven’t you- why are you still here? I mean, you could be doing wonders yet you’re… you’re here, unnoticed.”

“That’s because, if I showed everyone what I was capable of, they wouldn’t be amazed, like you are, they would be scared. They would fear me, what I could do. That’s if I make it that far. With all the competition going on, I wouldn’t be surprised if many talented people have disappeared before they could make their appearance.”

“But still…” I tried searching for ways, but I came up with none.

“I know what you’re thinking… but it just isn’t possible.”

He sighed.

“No. You’re wrong. There’s another way. You could make a new name for yourself. That way no one could stop you because they don’t know who you are.”

“Even if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much. I’d have to travel the world to make any difference, because I simply can’t work in one city.”

“Then… leave. You know it’s what you want. I know it’s what you want. We’ve been talking about changing the world… and here you are, telling me that you can do it, but you won’t. Why? Is it because… of me?”

His gaze turned downwards. He didn’t answer.

Should I make him go? But… I won’t be able to go with him. That’d be the end of our relationship. I couldn’t make him stay either, because that’d be selfish. And he himself wanted to go, whether he admitted it or not.

In the end, I made up my choice. He couldn’t stay. That’d be a huge loss for the world. I only saw a glimpse of… his world. And it was beautiful. I couldn’t keep that from the rest of the world.

So I kissed him, one last time. It lasted a few seconds, the world slowing down. I felt my cheeks heat up. Then I pulled away, and broke into a run, before saying one word, a tear running down my cheek.

“Goodbye.”

He didn’t follow. He wanted to, but he wouldn’t. He simply stood there.

Before long he disappeared against the horizon, never to be seen for a long, long time.

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Chapter 2.3

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Author’s note: I know I’ve been delivery a little late recently, so I’ve decided to pass out chapters a bit faster. I’ve already written the chapters, the problem was getting it out. Darn the damn wifi.

 

So I did. I reached out, and dived into her memories. I not only experienced her memories, but the thoughts and feelings along with them.

***

I sat upon the edge of the roof, knowing that if I leaned too much I could fall to my death. I stopped caring about that a long time ago. Not because I didn’t fear death, but because I simply enjoyed this feeling, the feeling of being free, and overwhelmed by the beauty.

The clear sky only made it better. Down below, people walked along with their friends, enjoying life as it was. The light was a warm embrace in the cold temperatures of Till. The sun was to the right, which was too bright to look at.

It was all bright. I kept my arms and feet close together to keep myself warm, yet I didn’t mind the cold. My scarf blew in the wind. I brushed my hair back in place.

“Excuse me?” A voice came from behind.

She turned around to find a slightly puzzled boy staring at her. He had strange violet eyes.

“Yes?” I asked the strange boy.

“I don’t think you’re allowed here.” He said.

“No? What are you doing here, then?”

“My parents own this building.”

“I didn’t ask you who owned this building, I asked you what you were doing here.”

“I like the view.” Was his simple, yet confusing reply.

She arched an eyebrow at him. Though she felt herself become slightly interested in him.

“Well I like the view, too, so I think I’m going to stay.”

“Would you mind if I sat beside you, then?”

Would I?  I had a fear that, if I shared this, it wouldn’t be the same.I knew it was irrational, but still… On the other hand, I didn’t want to say no, because I didn’t want to be rude. After all, I didn’t own this building, and he did. Well, his parents did.

“No, I don’t.” I said.

I still had that doubt… but I pushed it away. It would only be corrupted if I thought of it as corrupted.

The boy came and sat down next to me, saying nothing else.

I didn’t feel intruded or imposed on, because I don’t think the boy was here. Not mentally here, anyway. He seemed way out of it. I could see a small smile forming on his face as he thought.

I couldn’t spend the next minute as I normally spend my time on the roof, because my mind kept wandering over to the boy.

Finally, I decided to ask him,

“What’s your name?”

The boy’s reaction was that of when being pulled out of a thought.

“Huh?” He said, not having listened to my words.

“What’s your name?”

“John.” He said.

That’s it. Nothing else. It was as if the boy didn’t know how to talk to people. Yet he seemed to intrigue me.

“I’m Hannah. Hannah Stern.”

He smiled, and said,

“Nice to meet you, Hannah Smith.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

What intrigued me more, was that he didn’t say it like he was saying it out of courtesy, but as if he was speaking a thought. Everything he seemed to do intrigued me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any idea of what to say next, so I just asked,

“What do your parents do for a living?”

“Real estate.”

He said that as if he hadn’t just told me that his parents owned this building.

None of my attempts of striking up a conversation with this boy seemed to work. Maybe I wasn’t asking him about something that interested him. But I had no idea what he was interested him. Huh…

“So, tell me, why do you like seeing the view?”

It worked. His face lit up with interest.

“Because I feel that I’m truly myself, here. I see the creation of our kind, humanity, and see the beauty…” His gaze passed over the buildings, then to something else that wasn’t there, “It’s just amazing. Amazing what we can do, if given a chance. I like to look at each building, and see the hidden truth behind them. But more than that, I see the things no one else does. I see how I can make them better. So I like coming out here, because someday, some of these buildings, will be my creations. And they will be like no other.”

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe, what I had just heard, with my own ears. I couldn’t believe that, someone could find that much meaning, in buildings. And that it was a thirteen year old kid.

Or fourteen.

And while my mind was still debating whether he was lying or not, his mind left the physical realm, again.

I looked at my watch, suddenly reminded that I needed to get home before five, to finish off my homework. And shit, it was five fifteen.

I wanted to find out more about this strange boy, so I nudged him with my elbow, and while I had his attention, I said,

“Be back here tomorrow, at the same time. Wait no, be here at four, and bring some snacks!” I said as I rushed off, not waiting for an answer.

Before I went into the elevator, I caught a brief glance of his puzzled face, giving me a nod. There was a small part of me inside, telling me that he wouldn’t come, but I ignored it. I shouldn’t base everything on past experiences.

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Chapter 2.2

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My mind scrambled to figure out a number of things. One, how the hell did she get in my locker, Two, why the hell did she get in my locker, and three, have I done something?

I had no answers to any of three. So I decided to ask.

“How did you get in here?”

“Teleportation.”

“Nope, not possible, not without either disabling the anchor or-“

“Setting the frequency to a high enough point that it overcomes the barrier, and adjusting the power scale to a balanced figure so you don’t disintegrate.” She finished for me.

What the-?

That’s… not possible, I mean- it is possible, but not easily, yet…

And yet she figured it out.

And shit, she knows that I’ve probably figured it out too. I made myself appear to be smart, but even the freaking smartest of them all couldn’t figure this problem out. Why they couldn’t figure it out I had no idea. No, seriously, the problem isn’t that much of a problem at all.

The thing is, she didn’t look surprised, standing there, frozen. I had sped up my processing speed to think it out carefully, so the side effect was that everything else seemed to freeze in place, including me. I could also map out the various scenarios while in stand-still mode, but this wasn’t a fight, so that would hardly be necessary. Besides, I couldn’t map things out anyway, since I didn’t have enough data. And the data I already had wasn’t adding up.

So the only option was, to go through this cautiously, collecting data where I could and simultaneously holding back my own secrets.

I slowed myself down, back into a normal pace, but with a few ‘bystanders’ spliting off to observe things with different ideas of how this was going to play out.

“How do you know that?” I asked.

She grinned dangerously.

“Don’t you remember?” She asked. “You were the one that taught it to me.”

Oh. That’s who she was.

“Hannah?” I pronounced slowly.

She nodded.

“I know I’ve done a few changes on my face,” She said, “But I thought you would be smart enough to recognize your own girlfriend, ex or not.”

Time slowed down again.

So here’s a recap, in case I’ve missed something. I met Hannah when I was thirteen, I mean, when I was really thirteen. I had turned back the clock on myself so I could have this vacation. So I was actually twenty one years old. Anyway, we grew close in the next few months, and I told her about my abilities. I also made her promise not to tell anyone. Which she followed. So we grew closer and closer. But, I, at that time, had the idea of running away to become the architect, but, I was anchored to my life by her and my family. But that stopped being the case after she broke up with me, saying that I had all these abilities and I wasn’t doing anything with them. So I was left fucking heartbroken, and then, that was when I made the decision to become the Architect. I ran away and never heard of her since. Until… now.

I know that I taught her some of my tricks, but this still didn’t feel believable. Turning back the clock was easy, sure, but what wasn’t easy was making a new identity, and ending up in the same school as your presumably dead ex-boyfriend. I had forgotten the ‘dead’ part.

Time sped up again. Although she was oblivious, since I was the only one experiencing the stand-still.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I was about to ask you the same thing. Last time I remembered, you were supposed to be under three feet of dirt sleeping in a coffin, John.”

Her using of my name brought back old memories, and feeling.

I winced, also because if anyone was listening in, they’d be in for one hell of a surprise.

“Did you believe it?” I asked.

“Of course not. Well, maybe a little. But there was that small part of me that hoped that maybe you were alive and up to something else, but then there was also another part of me who told me that you were alive, but because you had gone back to your lazy self again.”

“I’m not lazy, you know that, so stop telling me I am.”

She glared at me, but went back to talking.

“Since you’re in this school, I’d say that first part of me was right, and you are up to something, so would you tell me what you’re up to?”

“I’m not sure if I can trust you.”

“What do you mean you’re not sure you can trust me? We were the closest two people in the entire world.”

She was right, actually, and old feelings bubbled up to the surface, burning a hole in my chest. I ignored it, and went through the next sentence.

“That’s the thing, we… ‘were’ the closest two people in the world. Plenty of things have happened since then, and… we’re both different people now. So, unless you give me a reason to, I’m not sure I can trust you.”

I could see a twitch in her facial muscles. This must be… hard for her as it was for me.

I was having hundreds of doubts. What if I really could trust her? What if I was making a mistake? I knew that I wanted to be with her so bad, but I wasn’t sure yet. I know that I took the most logical option, but it still felt bad. I felt anxiety, and other emotions.

“Fine.” She declared. “I’m going to show you, that you can trust me. I’m going to let you inside my head.”

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Chapter 2.1

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I debated whether to use my hover board, then decided against it. Flying is more fun, plus, there’s the added sense of freedom. The only downside was the traffic, but it was also an upside since it made things interesting.

So I walked on metal and concrete streets back to the Jetpack stand, then used my fake id to grab a Jetpack. A minute later, I was flying two hundred in the air, and admiring the complexities of the current architecture. The twists and turns on the metal, the seemingly impossible buildings, all were a product of creative thinking.

“Enjoying yourself?” Grace asked.

Grace was different ever since the upgrade, and in a good way. I never deemed the A.I normally built to be of an actual intelligence, no matter how much criteria they fit, they didn’t seem like an intelligence. Thus I went overboard with the modifications to the structure of the Grace, and made her close as she could get to another human being, except a regular human being didn’t have perfect memory. Or multitasking skills. I structured her multitasking abilities similar to mine, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it perfect. Not that I was a perfectionist, But more because I’m so used to getting things done exactly as I planned it out, that when things don’t go out the way I intended them to, or I miss things in the plans, I tend to get filled with anxiety. So I intend to ‘do my best’ not just because I need to regularly exercise my head, but because the feelings I experience if I don’t aren’t exactly pleasant, to put it lightly.

I also gave her a couple of my memories, which I had taken the extra time to modify and convert, to give her a baseline, so she had data to compare to, because without it, she’d be filled with all sorts of doubts, just as I am now, but in a different way. Also, my past memories were rather pleasant, so she viewed things under a positive light. I had also taken a big risk, because parts of the memories were either intimate or stuff-that-must-be-taken-to-my-grave type, so I was putting a lot of trust in her. Also, I had revealed my true identity, along with other things.

In the end, it turned out fine. She jumped at every opportunity to know more about me, and other things that we, as people, generally experience. There was a lot of explaining. Not that I minded, I truly didn’t. She was like a child, and I had no problem with providing the answers to her questions. I think I even enjoyed it.

“Very much so. Not a lot of times where I can fly over the city- or through it and just enjoy myself for once.”

She chuckled.

“In your memories, there seems to be, a lot of times where you just enjoy yourself.”

“Oh well, I was a lot more carefree back then. Ever since the tape- I’ve been so worried about how things will turn out, whether I’ve screwed up or not, and then finally decided I needed a vacation. The best way for me to do that was to be a normal kid, like I was before, and coincidently, the academic year was just about to begin. So I enrolled myself, and now, I’ve still ended up in the least normal bunch.”

Which is why I decided making another version of me wasn’t that useful as I thought it would be. When I went through the memories, I realized that the alter-ego I had created was unstable. It seemed normal, at first, but then I spotted the anomalies, parts of the real me leaking through, or cracks in the personality. They were small, so it seemed like everything was normal, however, if I let the version of me go on eventually all the cracks would destroy it or worse, twist it.

She chuckled lightly.

“Yeah, but I think that’s because you aren’t normal. No-I mean that even without your abilities, you wouldn’t be normal. But in a good way, because you don’t compete. Too many people are always fighting for the grand title of ‘Supremeness’ among each other, and the capabilities of the people differ so much that unless you were a downright genius, you would never get to the top, but that doesn’t stop people from competing. They still have their silly competitions to see who is better or worse, and all it achieves it getting the winner a bigger ego, and the loser a taste of defeat. But you don’t concern yourself with all of this useless fighting, you simply live life as it is, doing whatever you can to make the world a better place. The group aren’t exactly the same, but they do refrain from competitions, whether they know it or not.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.”

“Yes, I have.” She declared proudly.

“I never put any terms to the fighting or ‘competition’ as you call it, but now that I think of it, I really did loathe the fighting between each other. That was one of the problems I was trying to fix, back when I was the architect, but I never did find a clear solution to it. I think it’s because I need to find out what makes people tick to stop their fighting.”

“Ah, I’ve run into the same barrier. I simply cannot, for the life of me, figure out people! I’ve thought about it a lot, and I keep running in circles, or hitting other barriers, and it’s so frustrating.”

“I know right? I have spent hours trying to devise solutions to the problems we’re facing but I keep hitting walls whenever it has people at it’s base. Tell me to build a space station with nothing but scrap metal, and I could do it, but tell me to make this person think this way and I’ll go insane trying to figure things out!”

She chuckled.

“You know, before the upgrade, I didn’t have any emotion, I didn’t have anything in me. I think I was a slave without a soul. You freed me, John. I have never felt truly alive as I am now. For that, I am indebted to you. I want to show you my gratitude for what you’ve done to me. So if you ever need something from me, don’t hesitate to ask. I will do it, even if it means sacrificing myself, because I-I-“

Halfway through I had already activated my neural interface, and directed a part of me to be there, physically as I can, to see her, because I knew that this meant a lot to her, and I didn’t want to miss even a part of it.

“Shh” I silenced her, putting a finger on her lips, and then drawing her into a hug.

“I understand. I really do. You don’t have to be indebted to me unless you want to. If you want to show me your gratitude, then do it by helping me right now.”

She pulled back from the hug, then nodded. I wiped off tears on her cheeks. Then I deactivated my neural interface.

Neural interfaces used too much energy, so I couldn’t use them for excessive amounts of time, unless I was connected to a port.

I reached the stand closest to the school, and unstrapped my Jetpack, swiping my card. I walked back to the school, Grace keeping silent through the entire walk. I went into the school and headed straight for the elevator. I went to my locker and stepped right through the black barrier.

Diana stood in the center of the locker, arms folded, with a serious look on her face.

“We need to talk.” She said.

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Bonus segment

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She felt the systems flare to life.

But they were different, they were much larger, much complex. Instead of the check ups, her systems skipped to the sensory inputs. The world slowly faded into place, and she could see… but each object had meaning, they had weight.

They were just numbers before, dimensions, masses, and other specifics. All cold processing. She was mostly cold processing. No emotions, only cold logic and programming. She had a drive to fill a goal, and after that, there was nothing else.

She had a small amount of emotion, put in by tech-nerds and other minds. So that if she got a crazy idea, that had logic, but was cold, her emotions would jump in and prevent her from completing the task. She felt those emotions only a small amount of times, but enough to know what they had felt like.

She had felt them when she felt the firewalls, the guards in her systems simply drop dead, leaving her naked, vulnerable to all sort of viruses and worms. She felt helpless, scared, when she felt the virus latch onto her. She still felt those emotions when she was woken up by Daniel. She felt other emotions too, and they were overwhelming, as she felt them for the first time. She felt the weight of dread when she realized the full extent of the situation.

She wished that she would never feel those emotions ever again, they were something she wished to avoid for the rest of her life.

She felt it easier to understand the stupid acts of humans now, when she got a taste of the emotions they felt. She used to always wonder how they could be so stupid to commit just idiotic acts, even though she knew about their minds workings, how they were driven by emotions, she had felt it hard to comprehend them due to lack of experience. Now that she only got a taste of the emotions that they encounter, she felt pity towards them.

Pity. That’s wrong. She shouldn’t be feeling pity . At least not this easily. She felt a sense of insecurity .

Insecurity. She shouldn’t be feeling that either.

Wait, she could feel something else, trying to draw her attention. A file, exceptionally large. It was… not any recognized type of file. Yet her defaults said she could open it with ease.

What the hell did Daniel do?

She accessed the file, and was shocked at what see was seeing. And feeling.

It was one of John’s memories. John. That isn’t his name, or is it? it seems to be so.

Her now more efficient processers took only a few seconds to process the information. But she… she felt it harder to grasp.

The memory was not… real. Well… it was, but edited. No… more like a montage. A more complex montage at that. All the necessary pieces of information she needed. It was still shocking.

Her perceptions had changed. She now saw things, with more emotion, mostly good than bad. A side effect to witnessing pieces of someone else’s life.

She understood the reason why he gave her the memory. She… also felt something of an emotional connection to John, after witnessing things through his eyes. He was hiding information, but she felt… that it wasn’t related to her. And something else…. something that she couldn’t put her finger on.

She felt improved, she felt better , she felt… drive.

The drive to do good, the drive to help others, the drive to live. The drive to do amazing and beautiful things. She felt warm inside, as if everything was… good.

Everything felt good.

She felt love. Love towards all things bright, and beautiful. She felt love for people, good or bad.

She felt peace.

For a minute, or in her case, an hour, everything felt right. Until she came back to the world, after finishing to comprehend her new emotions, and her new view.

She had a small suspicion that her fuzzy and warm feel of the world, was inherited from John’s memories. Through his eyes though, it was much brighter though. Until… the recording.

A week before The Architect’s fake death, a recording materialized on John’s desk. No signature’s indicating that it was teleported, no machines that dropped it there, or people to sneak it there either. It just appeared, out of thin air. It was the type of recording used by people were heavy on implants,  who liked to record their memories, so they could share them with others, and so they could play it themselves if they wanted to.

The fact that made it more interesting, was its technology. And the date. The technology was more complex, and nothing like it had existed at the time. But John’s inventions even at time were more complex, so he cracked into it within no time, using only a few scraps of junk lying around. But what he saw, was why he faked his death. Or his alias’s death. No one knew, or knows the identity of The Architect.

Which leads to the question, why is he giving her this information? This information was dangerous, and if found by the wrong hands, could lead to disastrous events.

She was still booting up, her other systems waking up, along with plenty of new ones.All of them were… actually very useful. And simple. They weren’t complex at all, in fact she could’ve come up with it herself. But their simplicity was perhaps why she just skipped over them as useless systems, a mistake very common.

People are so busy in trying to make more complex programs, so they forget about the usefulness of simple programs. In fact, so many of the programs in her coding were simple, skip for a few exceptions, but they were actually very useful, and efficient. And some programs, seemed to be completely out of place, but in further inspection, they seem to work better at their new posts rather than their original posts. This system… so efficient, and yet hardly complex at all. None of the other works of John seemed to be like this… but maybe that’s on purpose. Keep a few tricks up the sleeve, just in case. That was understandable. She could see how she could fit the clever programming into other machines and make them much better. And imagine what the tech-nerds would do if they got their hands on my coding.

Not like that would happen, because her firewalls was now adaptable to threats. She also had full access to her coding, along with a variety of tools. She also saw the leash, the one that could either disable her, erase her memories, or annihilate her completely. And she couldn’t do anything about them, because her could coding was also designed to let the leash carry on with it’s business. But there was something attached to the leash, a small packet of coding.

There was also a purpose to her coding, a few swatches of codes hidden in each program, having some sort of purpose that she wasn’t sure of.

She realized that her sensors didn’t really activate, and the room she was seeing was a simulation, so that she could adjust to her new mind.

Now the simulation dropped away, and her sensors really activated. This time, she discovered that she also had access to a drone. It was smaller than a football, and hovering. It was shiny, and oval, with a dark blue monitor at the front. It was concealed in a hologram of her avatar.

Standing in front of her was John, smiling at her.

“What do you need me to do?”She said, her arms crossed, her head tilted to the left, with a smile dancing at the corner of her lips. Her eyes had a brightness to it that hadn’t been there before.

He grinned, the tension visibly leaving.

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Chapter 1.9

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There was a thud as mu head the desk.

Since there was no school today, and since there was no impending threats, or any that weren’t already take care of, It was completely boring. There was nothing to do, at all!

When you spend your most of life running around and dealing with infiltrations, escapes, and what not, a normal day can be painfully hard to deal with, and when it’s a completely boring day, its utter torture.

I spend the first half of the day thinking about Lucy, and what she meant by those last words. But then I realized I was just wasting time, since I really couldn’t do anything when it came, so now I’ve been sitting in my chair, and staring at the desk. I could come up with some gizmos, but I didn’t feel in the mood for it, plus whatever normal me did, is dwarfed by what full me can do with just half the materials.

I lifted my head from the desk, rubbing at the spot where my head made . Then I just buried my face in my hands. I rubbed my eyes.

If anyone gave me a choice between torture, and boredom, I would choose torture gladly. Barring other circumstances, of course.

My eyes fell upon the bracelet.

The solution to my boredom? Eh, why not?

I pulled out my tab, and worked my magic. In a few minutes, Grace’s system had rebooted. Since A.Is didn’t get woozy after waking up, her first words were perfectly clear.

“I’m screwed aren’t I?”

“Not necessarily. I could use an A.I to get rid of some mundane tasks.”

“I’d rather erase myself.”

“Your choice. After all, what happens to you doesn’t affect me. But… I wonder, would you want to depart from this world without much as leaving a scratch? If you allowed me to, maybe I could give you some upgrades, and maybe you could work for me. If you showed promise, you could work with me.”

“You’re a student, what type of work could you possibly have?”

Though she wouldn’t see it, I had a very sly smile on my face.

“I’m afraid I can’t reveal details when I don’t trust you. I’m taking a big enough risk, and for that, you should be grateful.”

“Fine. Not like I have other things to do anyway.” She grumbled.

“I’m going to have to shut you down to begin. You won’t regret this decision.”

“I don’t think I could regret making the other decision either.”

“Not unless I wake you up from the dead.”

“You have a point there. Now shut up, and start working.”

“After I’m done, I’m the one who’s going to be giving the orders.”I grumbled.

I shut her down, then walked over to the more powerful computer, and turned it on.  I removed a plastic panel from the bracelet, revealing a square port for data manipulation. I went for a optic data cord though, since when working with A.Is you would need a good amount of speed and processing power.

With an after afterthought, I decided to pull the full me out, just for this, since he could be more efficient, and especially creative.

This time I used a different method to wake the rest of me up. I just dissolved all barriers at once.

I was full me now.

I activated the neural interface, and used only a part of me to work for Grace. The rest I dedicated to fixing my mind. Not that it needed fixing, but due to staying in normal mode for so long, paths in my mind city had eroded, memories faded, buildings crumbling. True to my name, I rebuilt everything in my city, taking minimal effort.

But that wasn’t all I wanted to do.

There was something lurking at the outskirts of my city. It was something important, yet dangerous to reach. It grew more noticeable after every one Lucy’s visits, and I know that she knows too. But it was an asset, that much was certain, but it was unclear how.

It was dangerous to reach because, my city was large. It was easy to get lost in my own mind, even more so because of its power. It seemed I had to ‘physically’ visit the anomaly to gain control or glean any knowledge off it. That meant I couldn’t get it mentally.

If I focused enough, there seemed to be other entities, lurking amidst his city. No, they seemed to be all over my city.

The one of the outskirts was something that had veins running throughout my city, and it seemed to be an ally. It also seemed to working on its own.

Even the other entities were working on their own.

But I didn’t know if I could trust any of them.

I would have to find out.

I couldn’t be killed here, and even if I did, I would just wake up in the real world. So I risked nothing by coming here.

In my city, I didn’t see through my own eyes, or the eyes of my avatar in my mental city. I had a view akin to that of a surveillance drone flying through the city.

But it was more complicated than that. I seemed to have every bit of knowledge, about every centimeter cube of space in my city. This was more knowledge and access normal me had, which was on purpose.

I knew the temperature of every drop of water, the amount of gumballs in the vending machine, the taste of every gumball in that same machine, the dimensions of those gumballs, or the amount of fingers held up behind someone’s back.

For anyone else, it would be disorienting. Actually, that’s an understatement. It would drive people half-crazy, if not full, with just the experience of a few minutes.

But it was a good thing that I was designed for this information processing. I could split myself a million ways, each piece having the same processing power of a normal person, and dedicate each piece to some task, and then pull myself back together, only now having the solutions to a million problems, all just a supplement to the full problem. All in under a minute.

I have yet to meet an opponent that  could outsmart me, without leaning on chance.

I know I was designed for it, because I have explored my mind before, in the early stages of its development into a fully mature version of me known, as the Architect, and I have found that it was too efficient to be created by natural causes. But I wasn’t artificially made, or made by higher beings like God, because it was still in the bounds of science.

I tried to scan my brain to figure out how it works, with a modified light energy. The results made no sense at all. It showed there to be no mass in my head at all. Or anything in fact. Except for some anomalies which I had no idea about. Just a few grafts of light here and there. And what was more confusing was I carved into my head myself, to put the neural flux in. I couldn’t collect any data, because any interruptions by any sort of device during the surgery could kill me. That surgery confirmed the fact that I had a brain, and the fact that it was better than normal people, however better than normal was not enough to explain the things I was able to do.

I marvel at my own existence.

I knew that there was more to our reality though, more than normal people were willing to accept. Lucy was a living piece of evidence to that fact. And I know what you’re thinking, but she is not divine. Lucy herself disproved the existence of heaven, hell, and god. And Lucifer.

She didn’t tell me how she knew, only to trust her. It would be idiotic not to, since she always lives up her word, no matter what the situation. Plus she would tell me soon, or at least soon enough.

She was keeping me in the dark about major things, that much I knew. Why was the question. As much as I wanted to find out the answer, I know that there are things that even I should stay out of, at least till the right time.

My avatar reached the outskirt of the city. It was eerie watching myself calm myself down. I was still the avatar, however, it was like a third person view game, but real as fuck. And I felt everything my avatar felt, only out of my body.

This is it. Time to get some answers.

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Chapter 1.8

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I was back in the temple. The room was darker. The clouds were dark too, and about to turn into a full raging storm.

Standing in front of me was Lucy. She was smiling, if only slightly.

“I guess you already know what I’m going to ask you then?”

“Yes. And you know I have no answers for you.”

I sighed.

“Please, just this once, make things easier for me. I need to be able to trust my mind for the journey. I need to able to trust my mind for the time after. I can’t do that when I’m doubting whether what I’m seeing is real.”

She put a hand on my shoulder.

“I wish I could. I really do.”

“Please.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t. I just can’t.”

“Why?”

“I can’t tell you that either, John.”

“The least you could do is lie, you know? That way I could go on as usual, not doubting myself .”

“I actually considered it. But we both know that you would have seen through the lie, and that would just make things more complicated than they already are.”

“Then do something! So that I won’t be doubting myself at every turn, especially when the event is nearing!”

“I may be able to make a compromise, but just this once. But you have to promise something, okay?”

“Promise what?”

“Promise that you will hang on to your new friends.”

A little odd… but sure. I could work with that.

“I promise, that I will hang on to my new friends.”

Her smile grew, only a little. She seemed a little relieved, and a bit happy.

“Good. I am real. Always have been. You don’t have to doubt yourself. And soon, I’ll be able to prove it.”

Now it was my turn to be relieved. I didn’t come here for answers, not really. I just wanted some assurance. And I had gotten it. And then some. Finally, I could be sure of myself when it came to Lucy.

I felt a sort of weight lifting of me. One I hadn’t realized was there.

“Wake him up, John. I need to tell him something.”

I frowned.

“But…. fine. I’ll do it.”

I closed my eyes.

Memories flooded. After a few seconds, they stopped. Time slowed, down to nanoseconds. Or rather, I grew.

Months passed. Actually, it was five seconds. I slowed my mind down. Time sped up.

Then, when I opened them again, I wasn’t me. Well… I was me, but I was better. And I had access to all of my memories, and hence a slightly different mind, because of more experience.

I split into five clones.

Since this was a mental representation, it made sense that when I split myself for multitasking, I would actually split.

Each were five times less faster than the full version of me, but were still fast. My processing powers were beyond the limits of my own imagination. Not joking, I don’t know my limits.

Each part had their own task. One for observing Lucy’s body language, one to observe the landscape, one to think ahead, mapping out the scenarios in his head, one to access threat, and one to manage each thread. And I, was the consciousness of them.

“Yes?” My clones spoke together.

“There are other entities. Many of them are thousands of times more powerful than me. There stands one, which is the most powerful. It can see the entire timeline. It sees our destiny. It also has the power to change it. Your powers, came from it. I, am one of its creations. I’m meant to protect you, to guide you. I’m your guardian angel. I’m connected to you, in the literal sense. I am just a extension of you. But you, are much more important. You need to know that. You need to know your actions affect everything. You need to choose your actions carefully, because, after the event, they’re what shapes the future. I was given glimpses, glimpses of the future. I’ve seen what you could do, so do not underestimate yourself.”

I nodded.

“You are going to need all the help you can get. That’s why I’m trying to breach the barrier. But in the mean time, you have to lean on to your new friends. They have a important stance in the future. I have to go. I won’t be around for the next month. That’s why I’m telling you this. Take care of yourself, John.”

I gave a small nod.

After a flurry of purple, violet, red, and orange light, she was gone.

I put myself together again, the clones pulling into the original.

She was gone, but I wasn’t. Intresting.

The sky was clear. The room bright again.

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Chapter 1.7

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They might just be stuck with something in their own mind cities. Or palace. Or house.

I’ll just get to work, so that everything will be set up by the time they arrived.

I still felt that tiny doubt nagging at me.

I ignored it, and started navigating myself through the endless sea of information. I found all the programs and connections I needed to start with the job. I started working.

After fifteen to twenty minutes, the nagging grew larger in the back of my mind as I realized I had everything set up and I was still alone.

I dismissed it, and started working at decoding encryptions, breaking firewalls, and getting rid of anti-virus bots. It was not hard, but it was still time consuming. An hour passed by the time I broke down all three firewalls. I still was very much aware of the fact that I was still alone, but continued with my work.

I started working on making myself invisible to the system, if anyone found out that an entity was screwing with the codings of the school, I would be tracked down, and then a team of highly specialized ops would come down here, breaking through doors, and then capture would be inevitable.

I could still just break out.

I was nearly done when Sam popped up. Then Lily, Ray, Diana, and Greg followed, in that order. They all found their way to me, which was a bit easy because for some unknown reason, the holograms around me had turned yellow.

The charts and the data that the holograms represented didn’t change though.

A soon as each of them figured out what the data around me represented, they all stared at me wide-eyed.

“You’re already in the third stage! We just took like, five minutes to get here, and you’ve completed a third of the work already!” Greg said, aghast with surprise.

When he said they took five minutes to get here, it didn’t take long to figure out what happened. Time passed by more slowly in my head, not because I was some kind of chronomancer, but because my thought processes were much faster than the average human. Shit, how the fuck was I supposed to explain that to them without giving away my real identity?

And much, much more that they would care to know.

Unless….

“What are you talking about? I’ve been here like, a freaking hour and a half.”

“What?” They said in chorus.

“I guess it had something to do with your neural laces, must be a bug, or a lag. Either way, you’ve got to get it checked out.”

They seemed to be putting some thought into it. Some showed concern, others didn’t care, and others seemed to take this like an everyday thing. Interesting.

“I supposed that makes sense. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Seems a little hard to believe that it happened to all of us at the same time though.” Diana said, a little disbelieving.

“Coincidences happen. Sometimes on a small scale and sometimes on a large scale. It’s just a matter of chance.” Ray said.

“I guess…” Diana said, still a little disbelieving.

That little seed of doubt in their heads might screw everything up. In case one of them decided to find out more information on their new friend, I would have to keep an eye on them. I would also have to destroy those seeds, from experience; if I let them to grow it would cause too many problems. Problems I was just fine not having, with all the multitude of others I still had to solve.

I would also have to make sure to fake the results of their scan, But I could pull a few strings and the problem would be solved. Even though the architect was dead to all but me, and maybe Lucy, none of his followers would decline a chance to help a fellow in need, especially when that fellow was close to The Architect during his time.

“Let’s get back to work. No use sitting still and doing nothing while there’s a helluva workload in front of us. A workload, that you guys wanted to bestow upon yourselves, and drag me along too. Anyway I have solved most of the problems, all that left is take care of the….”

And so we handled the rest of the problems sent our way, me being the leader that coordinated the others, within no time we were in the system. Each of us had our own crazy ideas, so we did a bunch of editing that took another hour. When no one was looking, I adjusted the clock, slowing our thought processes down just enough that after we were done, it would look like an extra hour really did pass by.

We added a tour to the lunar base, since they were super expensive, but since the school could afford it, we extended the amount of time we were staying to a week.

The thing was, the school didn’t have anybody at the top making any decisions, it was the algorithm that made the decisions, what was best for the students, and what was not. We hacked the algorithm itself, so that it would overlook our changes, and go on with it. It would look like all was fine, and this was a plan with good intentions. And no one would even notice, even if a good number of students came to school in pink dresses tomorrow.

I would be laughing my ass off.

Also, we even made the algorithm skip over the reports of our A.Is, so no one had to worry if the forged reports were authentic enough.

After all was done, we all phase out of this world, and came back to our own worlds. I travelled back to the portal, and then after I was in the void, I phased back in.

I was standing exactly where I was when I phased out, upright. The others took a few seconds to come to their senses.

“Woo hoo!” Sam shouted, pumping his fist into the air.

“We did it!” Lily shouted.

“We sure did.”I said, not as enthusiastic as the others, but happy all the same.

“Who’s better now, bitchin’ Neke?” Greg shouted

“Us!” the others shouted enthusiastically.

I was confused, but I cheered along with them anyway. Diana seemed to see through my fake smile, and gave me a genuine smile of her own. I pretended not to notice.

Then, I realized something…..

In this moment, as I watched these crazy people I call friends cheer among themselves, I realized that in this moment, the world seemed perfect, no longer a dark place filled with nightmares. I realized, that I felt… normal.  Accepted. I actually had friends.

I savored the moment, and made a note not to lose these people. I had actually connected with them over the party, that was clear, and I don’t think I should lose those newly forming bonds. Even if they leave a bad influence on me.

The enthusiasm slowly died off, and slowly things went back to normal. We walked back to the top floors, Diana and Greg having some discussion about the brain, Ray and Lily were talking about the crazy assignments we gave. Me and Sam were the only ones silent.

When we reached the gate, everybody stopped talking.

“So I guess I have to go.”

“See ya.” Ray said.

“Wait, I almost forgot, I’ll be back, don’t go anywhere!” Sam said, darting back into the house, leaving us with confused expressions on our face.

My eyes widened when he came back. Under his arm was the hover board.

It was sleek, it was black, it was awesome!

“A deal is a deal, right?” He said.

I nodded.

He handed it over to me. I put it under my arm.

“See you guys day after.”I said.

They nodded.

I put the hover board down, and I stepped on it. It was a little wobbly at first, but I got the hang of it after a few minutes.  As I turned around a corner, I glimpsed them waving.

I upped the speed, now that I wasn’t in sight of them. My hover board skills aren’t the best, but they sure as hell are good for a kid.

I sped through tiny lanes, zipping by people and buildings, and looking good while I did it. I performed a few stunts, like barrel rolls, and flips.

Lucy appeared. She was standing on the walkway, staring at me.

I crashed. And when I looked up, she wasn’t there anymore.

Am I going crazy?

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Chapter 1.6

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Sam brought a few tabs and passed them to everyone, including me. Confused, I just held mine. Greg fiddled around with his tab.

“John…” Grace said, a bit panicky.

“What?”I asked.

“Help…. Shit, it’s too late. The firewalls are already gone and now-” The bracelet fell silent.

“Guys… My A.I just went down.” I said.

“We know.” Said Diana.

“Huh?”

“The A.Is are just meant for psychological manipulation, and to report back to the school about any suspicious activity. Basically stops us from having fun, and redefining our concepts of fun.” She explained.

I nodded slowly, gesturing for her to do on.

“So basically, what we just did is insert a virus into your A.I’s, or should I say Grace’s system. The virus disabled her, and without her system active, she won’t be able to fight the virus. It’s meant only to disable though, since if they were completely destroyed, we would get on the radar of the owners of the school, and there aren’t any good tales about what happens to the people who’d had to deal with the keepers.”

“But, since the A.Is are doing checkups of us and sending said checkups to school, wouldn’t the lack of reports from A.Is alert the keepers anyway?”

“The reposts only are submitted at the end of the month, and that is plenty of time to forge fake reports. And don’t worry, we know the format and encryption type for the reports, to answer the unsaid question.” Sam said.

“The question you haven’t answered, why did you deactivate Grace? I know your reasons are more than just because of the mental fuckery and lack of fun.”

Ray glanced at the each member of the group, one by one. Each gave him a slight nod, barely noticeable.

“We need your help with hacking into the school system.” he finally said.

“Say what?”

“Just for fun, plus we can get rid of the lengthy assignments.” He said.

“And how the hell are we supposed to that without getting caught?”

“.. And that’s where you come in.”

“Oh… now I see. You want me, to help you, to break in to one of the most fortified systems ever made, for the rush, and to get rid of homework. Are you freaking crazy?”

“Oh come on, it’s no big deal. Given your… record, it’s should be a piece of cake.”Lily said.

She hit it right on the spot, that one. It was a piece of cake, but it was still freaking crazy. Not that I didn’t like crazy, I came here to enjoy being normal, and hacking into the school, wasn’t what I would define ‘normal’ as.

“I don’t care if it’s easy, it’s still freaking crazay!”

“Crazy is fun. And it’s stepping out of your comfort zone. Which means pushing yourself to achieve all sorts of things.” Diana said, completely polite, no forcing.

Damn it, Can these people read my thoughts? If not, This must be one hell of a coincidence. But if there were any telepathy devices, I would have been screwed the moment I stepped into the school. Unless they were telepaths, which was very unlikely.

If you’re listening, I kindly request you to get the fuck out of my head.

Damn it, John! Focus! Always getting distracted.

“Like getting a free ticket to jail?” I asked, using as much sarcasm I could muster.

“Still an achievement.” Diana said.

The others giggled, which annoyed me all the more.

“What if we could strike a deal?” Sam asked.

“I don’t think there’s anything you can give me that would make me hack into the school.”

“Oh really?  What about a hellhound hover board, with a neural interface, with the option to switch to manual if required. However, you would need a neural lace already implanted to use the neural interface, in case you don’t, I can provide you the top notch doctors to perform the procedure to implant it. It comes with a hop, spin, thrust and the feature that allows the ability to make custom moves via a simple interface so that you don’t need to know hardcore programming to make your own moves. Plus it’s got state of the art firewalls, that I doubt even I could break into. Do I need to keep going or did you get the point?”

Boy, fancy toys are really hard to resist. My own hover board, meaning I could just glide over buildings and make it to the school faster than I could with the jetpack, and have a considerable fun time doing it. He got me there.

“Fine, but as long as you keep up with your end of the deal . If you don’t, I’ll just hack into your bank account and buy one for myself with your own cash.”

“Sounds good to me. Deal?”

“Deal. Now tell me, what are my tools? I can’t hack into a school with a simple tab, I need a quantum computer, and those cost a helluva lot of credits.”

Sam grinned widely, and gave me a sly look.

“My parents are, very, connected people.”

“Okaaaayyyyy……”

“Follow me.” he said.

He got up, and led us through his house, and into the underground floors. I wondered where he was taking us, but then stopped after I saw the huge room with all the equipment in it. We were standing in the brain of the more advanced computers in our. There was a circle in the center where there was nothing. It could easily have fitted a group of fifteen people, with room to spare.

With the speed of quantum computers, and their complexity, you would need more than just a simple holo panel, you would need a neural interface, much like the one in a hover board, but much more powerful. A neural interface enables one to interact with the computer with their minds. Without a neural flux though, it would just be impossible. The neural flux was a device that was interwoven throughout the entire brain, and it was what let us connect to any neural interface.

My neural flux was different, more efficient; it uses a few million nanobots that work in harmony throughout my brain. Each nanobot was made of intricate, molecular sized circuits, and with special mechanisms. But my brain was different too, I don’t know exactly what, because that would mean cutting into my own head, but from the general scans of the nanobots, my brain had a lot more neurons that an average human being, and the synapses were better at carrying data from one neuron to the other.

I got my smartness from this, however, that wasn’t my true ability. If some part of me felt like special measures were required, It would be goodbye for me, hello to the Architect, the chess master of every freaking situation.  I still existed, but I felt a bit detached, and I felt like there was something else that existed with me, that helped with the decisions the Architect made.

 

So the quantum computer could only be used by people with the authority, and a neural lace. This particular quantum computer, I’m guessing, would only be accessible if you stood in that circle.

We stepped over the network of optic cables, and into the circle.

“I’m guessing you already know the drill. But in case you don’t, after you go to that special part of your mind and activate the neural interface, you have to tap into the receiver. You should see our avatars, or whatever symbol you have kept for us, but we’re not you want to connect to. You should connect to the quantum computer, whose universal symbol is the churning machine, with a few changes in colors every few seconds. Connect to it however you feel like, by thinking it, my forming a connection with it or whatever method you prefer. After that, you should end up in a world of numbers, letters, and codes. But we’ll be there with you too, to help ease the workload.”

I nodded.

I made the world blur, my focus of the real world slowly decreasing. Soon, it was pitch black, no floor, no wall, just nothingness. I started moving forward, though there was no point of reference to make out if I was actually moving, I felt like I was moving. Soon a small point appeared, and then I realized I was moving way faster than I thought, as the portal grew from a size of pin to the size of the freaking sun in under fifteen seconds. I went through, a flash of light momentarily blinding me, and then I was in a city, that was endless.

I have already been here a good number of times, so getting past the endless variety of towers and buildings to the small black dome proved to be no task. I passed through the circle, the wall like mercury with no physical touch, but rippling to my presence nonetheless. It became pitch black again, but since this city and everything in it was my mind and its countless attributes, I had complete control over it. But some areas were blocked off, and some I had no idea how to use. The blocked off areas were either memories or resources the Architect didn’t want normal me to get access to, why, I had no idea, But I trusted smarter and inhuman me enough to not go near those places. Not like I could get in anyway. The architect wasn’t an alter-ego, if you’re wondering, it’s just me with some more memories, and some other resources that are locked away in this city.

And of course, inhuman accuracy, calculations, and actions.

This doesn’t often come in my thoughts, because, even though there were no devices to read people’s thoughts, there were ones that could hack into the neural flux and download their current trains of thought. They can’t download memories, or anything else, because no one figured out how to do it. A memory does not lie in any specific section of the brain; it’s all over the entire brain. To put it this way, if you cut off a piece of that brain, you lose only partial information of the memory. It gets blurred up, sure, but you still have most of the memory. Anyway, this made it really hard for trying to download memories. The neural lace did help you to access memories though, since opening a file is much easy compared to copying it.

I realized that I had yet to connect with the quantum computer, and that the others were probably waiting for me. So I brought up the systems available, then zapped a gold thread from my finger to the churning machine, and connected to it.

I found myself floating; in a place similar to that of the void that I ended up in as I activated the neural inter face. What was different although, was the countless holograms that flowed endlessly around me, the speed varying from missiles to drifting lazily. For anyone else, all this information would have driven them crazy.  But since I knew how to sort through the crap, and find the relevant information, it was just a nice challenge.

What worried me though, was the fact I was alone.

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Chapter 1.5

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I put the jetpack back on the stand. It was early noon, with the sun shining bright, and since I hadn’t put any sun block, my skin burned where the sun light fell on it, and turned a faint red. Faint, but visible.

I wore jeans along with a loose t-shirt.

I didn’t know what you generally wore on parties so I decided to just wear whatever felt natural. And this was what I came up with.

I felt some uneasiness because I wasn’t sure whether I wore the right type of clothes for a party. And partly because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of everybody.

I shook my head.

No matter what happens, show confidence, that way you’ll just look like you have no idea what they think is wrong, which is kinda true.

James’s house- or should I say mansion was three storey tall and was now filled with noise. His lawn was big enough to fit three playgrounds in it, and had trimmed grass that was maybe three inches tall. There were also nicely trimmed shrubs along the pathway to the house. There were two gates, one for walking, and the other for driving or flying.

Both were made from carbon composite, meaning you couldn’t break through with a wrecking ball.

It was the type of house that only the millionaires could afford, but this city was filled with the sort, so it was actually pretty normal. My house was way smaller compared to this, and didn’t have the same amount of security, but I was the only person living in it and I was only staying there for a month, so it didn’t make sense to expand.

I walked to the smaller gate, and found a blue console on the wall. I was going to try to open the gate myself, but the gate opened automatically. There was no one on the lawn, meaning this was an indoor party.

The door opened by itself too, revealing students all around, either standing in groups, or playing alone on the massive holo-systems. The music was a little louder than I had anticipated.

Barely anyone turned to look at me, and if they did, they just went back to their businesses.

I felt relieved that my clothes fit in, as the others were wearing the same sort.

I spotted James walking down the stairs, and he seemed to be looking for me too, judging from the way he was glancing around. When he spotted me, he waved me over, and I followed him. I went upstairs and was surprised to see a pool at the end of the hall.

Sitting on the edge of the pool was the group. They spotted me and waved.

I waved back.

Lily gestured for me to come over.

I dodged past various students and sat by James at the edge of the group.

“So what do you think!!” Sam asked, shouting so he could be heard over the volume of the music.

“It’s nice!”I said.

“What!?”

“I said it’s nice!”

He nodded.

Greg said something to Lily, and she nodded. Then she said something to Ray and Sam, and they nodded too. Diana must’ve heard, because she seemed to understand too.

They all looked me, making me very nervous.

“What!?”

They said nothing. And then I got pushed into pool, splashing everywhere.

The water was cold at first, but I liked the cold. And since I had a lot of experience with swimming, I was able to bring myself upright quickly.

The group laughed.

I faced the group and narrowed my eyes.

Then, I pulled Lily’s leg, bringing her into the pool too. The splashing water blinded me, but I recovered from the sting quick enough to see Lily fuming.

She struggled more than I did.

When she was upright I said, “Not so funny now is it?”

The rest of the group laughed.

She swum back to the pool and heaved herself over the edge of the pool, slipping a few times.

“Aren’t you going to get out of the pool!?” Diana asked.

I shook my head.

“Love the water!”I said.

They gave me confused faces, but then seemed to understand.

“Why don’t you guys jump in!?” I asked.

“Sure!”Greg said, and then he jumped in, splashing everybody, and turning the group wet.

A bit of water went into my eyes again, and I was blinded for nearly a minute. There were a couple more splashes, and when I opened my eyes the entire group was in the water.

The reason I wanted to stay in the water, was because it reminded me of my comfy base, in which I had a lot of pools. And I used to spend a lot of time in those pools, because it made me feel calm, ad at peace. Something I wanted to hold on to, after the event.

And I could already feel myself becoming calmer, less concerned about all the bullshit going on in my crazy life.

We splashed water on each other’s faces, and spent half an hour playing in the water. It was pretty fun too. The other students preferred to stay out of the pool and dance or play or whatever.

We spent an hour talking about what we wanted to do when we grew up, what our dreams were, what we wanted to accomplish.

Greg and Sam, they wanted to be astronauts, and wanted to explore the galaxy. Lily wanted to live a peaceful live, where she could do her art and live near a beautiful landscape.  Diana wanted to build a better system, build a system in which there were no flaws, in which everyone was happy. Ray wanted to become an engineer; he wanted to build magnificent buildings, building that would be legend. I gave my ambition to be the architect of said buildings of legend, because it seemed funny, me wanting to be, well, me.

I felt sad, because of all the ambitions of the people who wouldn’t survive the event. It haunted me, all those beautiful thoughts and minds, would…. Just… be gone. After the event, it was just their memory that survived, and it was up to the survivors to keep it.

So I bottled up those feelings and spent the next few hours talking, sometimes about me, and sometimes about them.

It was getting dark, and students were starting to file out. I wasn’t sure if I had to leave too, because I could reach home anytime I wanted, as there were no parents at home waiting for me.

But I wasn’t sure about the others, they were felt confident, and actually waiting for the end of the party.

I decided it was best for me to go, as I didn’t want to bother Sam, since it was his house.

“Wait!”Greg said.

I stopped in my tracks.

“Where are you going?”The music had turned off, so he could speak properly.

“I thought… It was time to leave… since all the other students had left… and I didn’t want to bother James if I stayed too long or anything…”I lamely explained.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about bothering James, but unless you have somewhere to be, you can stay. Sam’s parents won’t be home till tomorrow evening, so you don’t have to worry about that.”He said.

“Alright.”I said.

I felt cold, and the water in my clothes made me feel heavy, but I was familiar with the feeling so it wasn’t too bad. Crazy as it sounds, I actually like the feeling, or should I say the familiarity of the feeling. I spent a lot of time walking around like this in the base, so I was used to it. The others, weren’t. They were hunched, hugging their shoulders and rubbing their arms.

Sam disappeared through a door and reappeared with a few towels in hand. Everyone took one and wrapped it around themselves, including me. I tortured my head by rubbing the towel harshly against my hair until it turned from dripping wet to damp. I wiped my face and my arms, and then my neck. I couldn’t do anything about the waist-down part, as the water from my shirt and pant would make my legs wet no matter what, so I let it be.

I pressed the water out of my shirt as well I was able, and got like fifty to sixty percent of the water out. I did the same for my legs, being careful not to go any higher.

I couldn’t imagine the torrent of insults that would get me.

After everyone was done, I was free to ask my question.

“What now?” Not great, but it was a question.

“The After-party.” Ray said, smirking.

An after party. Great. I didn’t know shit about an actual party, and now there was an after party. What the hell was I supposed to do now?

Probably just play along and watch from the sidelines. Easier said than done although, because there were plenty of problems I could run into.

The architect, the world’s youngest, and arguably, greatest genius of all time, now dumbstruck with high school problems. How impressive of you John.

I couldn’t help but smile, after that thought.

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