The giant structure dwarfed everything in its vicinity. Five city blocks wide, the lower floors were an impenetrable wall of dark glass, steel, and concrete. The main entrance was identified by a marquee fifty feet long that read Genesis Tower in sparkling letters. Diamonds, maybe? They glittered even in the dull twilight. Masumi whizzed past the fancy facade, the patio cafes, the perfect plastic greenery and bushes as if this was 20th century Paris. Everyone in the truck was quiet. Central City had never felt like a ghost town to Gaia before but this empty giant felt eerie tonight.
Masumi took a hard left and the truck screeched to a halt in an alley opposite the Tower. Nobody moved until Jon cleared his throat and nodded, gathering his legs under him to stand up.
“I’ll go do some recon. Obi, come with me,” he said.
Obi jumped to his feet, always eager to please Jon. Gaia stretched her legs out. What she was feeling wasn’t hesitation as much as cold indifference. Not wanting to do something had been the steady rhythm of her life for over a year. Getting dressed or breaking into a high security building fell on the same scale of her objections. But she did it, anyway.
She glanced over at Alessandro sitting next to her. He seemed completely absorbed in his own thoughts. Long dark hair tucked behind his ear, solid jawline, short stubble. Alessandro radiated warmth. If she closed her eyes, she could feel the heat through her vintage army jacket, just from sitting next to him. She wished she could talk to him. She imagined a world where their friendship was a safe harbor. Where, no matter what she was feeling, he would understand and make her feel better. Sure, he was beautiful but more than that, he was warm. Gaia hadn’t felt warm in a long time.
She opened her eyes again and saw that Alessandro was smiling but it was fixed at Charlie in the front seat, not her. Jon had come around the side of the truck so Charlie bounced out and melted into his side as he lowered his arm around her.
“Hey baby,” he murmured before facing the rest of them. Masumi killed the engine.
“Obi and I will go look for a way in. Buildings this big have lots of service entrances. Once we get in we split up and look for rooms with servers, computers, anything with an intranet. Charlie is with me. Obi and Alessandro…” he trailed off, pausing to look at Gaia like he just remembered she was there. “Or Gaia, make a team or split up. The important thing is to get proof that the voice of God is a computer program. Got it?”
“What if we get caught? This place is probably crawling with security,” Alessandro looked worried. “Maybe we should come back later.”
“For what?” Obi challenged. “This is the reason we are here. This is the only reason. In my country so many people die. You steal chicken, you burn. You steal Fanta, you burn. I come all this way, at least this is good reason to die.”
“We are not going to die,” Jon said calmly. “There’s no crime, remember? No reason for heavy security.” He grinned mischievously, then quickly kissed Charlie’s temple before he and Obi jogged across the street.
Alessandro stood and gave Gaia a hand to pull herself up. She accepted then jumped down from the bed of the truck. Central City’s florescent lights gave everything a bluish tinge at street level. She looked up and couldn’t even see the top of Genesis Tower from here, but the lights there were warmer, twinkling, like stars.
“What do you think will happen, if we find proof that the voice is false?” Alessandro broke the silence.
“Democracy. Freedom!” Charlie almost shouted. “Human representation. I read that people used to be able to vote on almost everything that happened in society. And justice. You can’t negotiate with fire.”
Gaia started laughing.
“Freedom? Justice? Do you even remember what it used to be like back then? When I was little my mom used to work two jobs just to be able to buy food. I never saw her. Voting didn’t count for shit. Less than half the population even bothered, look it up.”
“Great, Gaia,” Charlie looked annoyed. “Why are you even here then, if you love the voice so much?”
“I don’t love the voice. The voice is fake.”
“Yeah, that’s the point.”
“The point is if the world is better, why does the voice exist at all? Who runs it?”
“Genesis, I guess.”
“If we find out, we will be part of history. We are like spies,” Alessandro said.
Starring in our very own private war, Gaia thought. Their argument came to a halt when they spotted Jon and Obi across the street, motioning for them to come over. Alessandro waved goodbye to Masumi still in the driver’s seat – their getaway driver – and followed Charlie. Gaia took one last breath and glanced quickly to the sky. Still no firebolt coming at her. In all the universe, she was still abandoned.
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