Node One—Manay City, 2082—Isle of Manden—Natia’s Home
THIRTY DAYS. Thirty damn days of rainfall.
Natia Greenheart along with all of New Manden haven’t glimpsed the
blue skies in a while. She passes the time by working her thirty-year-old mind and body. The sweat of ambition dampens the white cotton sleeveless shirt she wears. She’s on the verge of a breakthrough. The smell of victory seeps through the air, mixed with scents of sweat and decorative spearmint plants in bloom. Their genes altered by her to produce a powerful odor.
She pushes the button to end the kickboxing tutorial. She’s conquered her augmented reality workout for the four hundredth day. The AR teacher vanishes to Natia’s thrill as she draws a deep breath. Her tight black pants trap toned thighs that flutter from exhaustion.
She snatches her towel from the bench and glances up at the thin-film television display. It is opaque, but that hasn’t stopped her from staring at it for hours since she’s been awake. Her eyes follow the storm that’s lashing the island like a bird trails prey. The Isle of Manden floats off the east coast of Old America. It is the grandest of over five thousand floating islands of cities and towns called Jenas. Each Jena is a node entwined in a network of noble citizens that form the state of New Manden. Her home.
Natia smiles. The men and women of New Manden have endured extreme weather and nevertheless find time to offer solidarity. Natia hasn’t forgotten The Sola Incident five years ago when a heatwave caused huge
fires on the Isle of Sola and uprooted several thousand families. Every Jena in Node Four turned their attention towards aiding them in their time of need. Natia even made sure Endonis Technologies provided quick tissue restructuring for every burn victim.
Her parents prepared her well, and they helped establish a culture that is the envy of the world. On a planet full of takers, a nation of givers stands out like a flame in a bleak night. Mandenites demand nothing less, the granddaughter of two of the revolutionary architects comes with high expectations. Natia walks to the Target Room, her favorite spot in the gym. She reaches out to take the plasma pistol that rests on the ledge waiting for her.
“It scares Adan to get beat yet again in target practice.” Natia’s shoulders shake as she giggles. She glances over and spots Adan’s medium- sized MX-65 plasma rifle collecting dust. When he first bought it, he devoted weeks to keeping it clean. Now she can’t recall the last time he touched it. “Where is he? Not that I need him to aid me in working out anymore, anyhow.”
Gone are the days when Natia was narrow. Like a butterfly, she burst free of her cocoon years ago. Now she is a sight to behold. Her mom always explained to her the power of sharpening her mind and body. She’d make her read advanced science books for adolescents while drinking green smoothies and listening to sweet melodies. Mom was a huge believer in mind-body cohesion. There isn’t an inch of Natia’s body not shaped by many seasons of physical activity.
She walks over to one of only two sections set aside for target practice. She presses the button on the wall, and the sequence starts. Targets pop up to comical sounds of clown noises. Adan requested the engineer build the Target Room to make her smile. The goofy noises pierce through the hush calm of Natia’s mind, evoking thrill.
She chuckles as each target drops with deadly precision. “Not bad for a geneticist.” Natia utters to herself.
Taking a deep breath, she places her weapon on the ledge in front of her. Why would she be up so early before sunrise? The colossal problem Natia faces vexes her to no end. Sleep is a privilege with so much on her mind. Today will be the continuation or end of a project she’s worked on for years. So many want to see her fail. Fail hard and die if her enemies get their way.
She needs peace of mind to prepare for tomorrow.
She exits the Target Room and scans the gym for her Orunmila. A wearable device used by everyone in New Manden. It wraps around the wearer’s forearm and is used to communicate, access the Aje blockchain and the AugNet. The uses are near limitless. Orunmila’s are Natia’s favorite and she has no shame in packing her closet with their many variations.
As she looks towards the door, she notices it lying on the chair. She goes to grab it. With a firm grip, she unlocks its straps. As she places it on, she peers out of the window. The worse of the storm has passed. She smiles, knowing they’ll see the Sun shine bright again.
Opening the door, Natia walks out; the scent of rainwater fills her nostrils. The August breeze cools her dampened six-foot frame as she places her hands on her balcony. It overlooks a large green yard dotted with glossy red pin oak trees.
Natia altered the genes of the trees and mixed their DNA with that of bio-luminescent algae. In a world ravaged by a harsher climate, glowing trees offer light at next to no cost in energy. Natia marvels at the tranquil field of glowing red oaks that climb sixty feet into the air.
Through the dark, she looks at the black and gold flag of New Manden blowing in the air on the lit rooftops of the neighboring homes.
Every time she sees the flag of the nation she calls home, the precious lives of the Mandenite people comes to mind. The cooks, the cleaners, the engineers, the soldiers-every worker who owns a piece of New Manden simply by being a citizen. She isn’t a political leader, but the people that follow her on LyfeZone seek her opinions on current events.
She hauls up her Orunmila and calls up the LyfeZone dApp, a decentralized application.
“Three hundred messages over the past hour! Oh, my!” Natia speaks out loud. A cool breeze blows by her face.
Dozens of messages appear in three-dimensions in sequence of when she was tagged. “Natia, when will Project Maximus end?”
“Natia, what are your plans after Homo Maximus? Will you run for the Worker Council?”
One message stands out.
“Natia, my son is ill. He has had many organ transplants- free thanks to The Collective. The top Mandenite doctors do not understand what’s wrong and I fear I may lose him. Many Mandenites don’t just want Homo
Maximus to live forever, thousands of us need it because we don’t want to lose those who we love. Project Maximus has gone on for two years, way past schedule for completion. We’re counting on you. My son is counting on you.”
Natia inhales and fills her lungs with air. She closes her eyes and breathes in and out, calming her mind. That works most of the time, but this morning it doesn’t dispel the twitching fear within her. It could be worse, though. When she was younger, people always wanted to invade Natia’s private space. There was always a camera to stick in her face, especially when Khalil was around. That’s why she doesn’t have an open door policy like others in the nation. Khalil taught her how to keep secrets-but she isn’t as good at it as he is.
“Millions of supporters isn’t so bad. It will come in handy one day. I’m sure of it.” She says out loud.
The stomach-pleasing aroma of eggs, pancakes, and buttery croissants tickle her appetite. She whips around in the smell’s direction.
“I figured you’d want breakfast after crushing the machines again. I wanted to avoid any kicks to my dome by you. So I decided to cook for once.” Adan chuckles.
Why does he keep bringing that up? Natia is distracted by what he has brought her.
Adan Greenheart, her husband, stands with a plate of steaming food in front of her. He toys with her as he moves it around her nose. His braided hair smells of coconut oil and shea butter as he stands in front of her, shirtless and in shorts.
“You read my mind.” Natia grabs the plate out of his hand.
“Today’s your big day. Many workers choke once they’re at the Great Forum. You ready?”
“I hope so. Everyone gets a voice at least. The Great Forum humbles many people. Me? No.” A smile arches across her face.
Looking to the horizon, Natia tries to spot the eight towers of the Endonis Collective Industrial Complex through the darkness. The tallest buildings in New Manden command her respect. “I will not pass up the chance to speak to the seven Nodes. You’re in the Investigator’s Enterprise. You know the ECIC is the center of power across every major Jena isle in New Manden.”
She points into the dark drizzling breeze as red glowing leaves blow past her brown-skinned face. “That’s where I must go. To tell every voting member of The Collective that our Node, Node One, should keep majority control of the ECIC.”
“Manden City made me, Node One raised me, Manden City aye, aye!” Adan dances and gyrates to the popular Node One chant.
Natia laughs as she tries to keep the food in her mouth.
“Not only that, but Project Maximus. We’re so close.” Her mind races with righteous ambition.
“About that.” Adan’s tone dries. “You sure that’s the way? There’s a faction of Mandenites who believe the level of genetic engineering in the project is a bridge too far. I mean, changing plants and trees is one thing, but we’re talking about major changes to our code.”
“The Collective allows minor genetic alterations as it stands. Look around you Adan, the planet the Elders talk about from the 2020s before the war has changed. This storm has lasted so long, the entire Isle of Manden hasn’t been able to collect enough sunlight during the day. It’s clearing now, but this entire island is solar-powered. Recharging isn’t optional.” She takes a deep breath. “My point is, it may get so bad that we may one day have no choice.”
“I know. You tell me every day the time that we may need to evolve to survive. You think The Collective still believes enough to give you the votes you need?”
“Once I bring them the voices needing this technology? I hope so.”
Adan sighs and places his hand on her tight stomach. The touch sends sensations up Natia’s spine. “Maybe we could put that genetic tech to good use. We could use a super baby, or any baby around here. I do my research for the IE from here in this home. I’m on the AugNet every hour and could watch the baby while you work.”
“Yes, I know. Soon, Adan. Just let me finish Project Maximus. Trust me, I want to have a child. I can’t get distracted at the moment. Not while I’m so close.”
Adan frowns and nods. It was worth another try, at least.
“Besides, you should want me to finish the project first. I’ve had these dreams that I will fail. For days now, I thought they’d go away, but they’re persistent. That’s been motivation for me hitting the gym even harder.”
“Many people will come after you and your team if The Collective sides with you. I’ll have your back no matter what.”
“Oh, I know.” She grabs Adan around the shoulders and pulls him in close. They share a sweet kiss as the Sun at long last cracks through the dissipating storm clouds.
A fresh morning has come.