Ch 9: Life of an Awakened - Nadine
“All hail Roland, bringer of enlightenment, savior of our souls, creator of the sacred chip.”
Nadine slid her knees beneath her chest, bowed once more, stood, and quickly got dressed. Like many of the Awakened, she viewed Roland as some sort of demi-god. And there were valid reasons why. Thanks to him, they had freedom and power that ninety-five percent of Paw City lacked.
Unlike the City-Runners and some ambitious gangs, the Awakened needed no monitors or other devices to access Paw City. All she had to do was think of something that interested her, and she would be tied in.
Her mind glided through the vast city, flitting from place to place like the butterflies of old used to do from flower to flower. While they no longer lived, she had seen vids of them and had found them beautiful, if eminently fragile.
She continued her quiet meanderings for a few hours until her stomach beckoned. Unlike many other Awakened, she knew how to cook and kept fresh foods in her apartment. She decided on a light salad, a chicken salad sandwich, and a cup of green tea.
Once done with her repast, she opened her mind to Paw City.
As per custom, anything that seemed off got reported to the City-Runners. The Awakened were as far above trivial law enforcement as Cat Punks were above bugs.
She finished her rounds and began to focus on the hidden mainframe only the Awakened could access. She was surprised to see Roland had been working on a new chip. She spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to suss out its function and came up empty.
She’d never bothered Roland before but now seemed like a good time. The chip, whatever its function, displayed amazing potential, and not knowing its purpose frightened her for reasons she didn’t truly understand.
She set out to find Roland and noticed several other Awakened doing the same. She joined them, and they focused their attention on a single goal.
They were cautious approaching Roland, but she knew they were all anxious about the chip.
When they approached where Roland’s mind should be, a sea of gray met them. There was no trace of Roland anywhere.
Nadine decided to risk it and breached the outer wall.
Nothing made sense at first. Colors became sounds, sights became tastes, and she was disoriented. But she was also determined. She continued feeling the presences of the others behind her; they seemed content to let her lead.
Eventually, she could sense Roland. But he wasn’t alone.
As her senses cleared and the scene in front of her became tangible, she could see Roland, but the other person was just a blur.
“Welcome, Nadine. While I’m surprised you’re here, you’re not unwelcome. Have you come about the chip?”
“Not to worry. It’s not for any Cat Punk. No, it’s for something far greater. Greater even than the Awakened.”
Against her will, she snorted.
“What could that possibly be?”
“Lalande 21185. A mere hop, skip, and a jump on a galactic scale from them to us.”
“They have chips too.”
She was stunned. He continued.
“The new chip is to bridge the gap between us and them and give us access to the stars.”
She calmed down and took a deep breath.
“That’s what we’re going to find out. Ain’t that fun?”
That was not the word any of them had considered.