Aba, United African Federation
Professor Nwude sat, entranced and stared at the city as it sprawled out several kilometres away, unblinking. The glass buildings jutting out from the ground and racing into the clouds, the autonomous airborne vehicles hovering in the evening sky, carrying passengers in and out of the city. Nwude was in love with this beauty, he could not get enough of it and so every evening, he would come up to his study – from where he got the best view. He would sit by the glass walls and get lost in the view. He would travel through time, through decades, he would see the city before the buildings began running to the skies, before cars drove themselves, before robots and artificial intelligence walked among humans. He would close his eyes, ‘those were dark days‘ he would tell himself. He would then open his eyes again, the image of skyscrapers and self flying vehicles would flood his eyes and he would smile, satisfied that he had been instrumental in bringing light to the world.
As much as he loved to admire from afar, Nwude would never step into the city. The streets were filled with self driven cars wheezing very fast through the maze of glass buildings, successfully avoiding other cars and humans pushing their way through the streets. Giant billboards screaming out products and instructions, trying as much as possible to drown out others in noise meanwhile showcasing videos that appealed to the basest of human needs. The blinding lights, that seemed to come from nowhere but always filled the city, hiding the heavens, extinguishing the night and blanketing the stars. It was chaos in there, Nwude did not like chaos.
“Professor, it is time, 6pm”, Uloma’s voice filled the room. Uloma, the intelligence that ran his house, had always been the only companion that Nwude had. She had been so, right from her beta test, many decades ago, she had been so during his marriage to Nkemdilim, she remained so after the marriage ended. He had built her to be so.
Nwude stood and walked slowly to his desk. He sat and focused his attention on the table.
“On”, he said, the table blinked on
“Good evening Professor”, the table beeped.
“Make the 6 o’clock call,” Nwude said and reclined the chair. A few seconds later, a hologram popped up and filled the study. Three men sitting on one side of a long conference table, looking very real like they were there in the study with Nwude, the conference table seeming like it was an extension of Nwude’s table.
“Good evening, Professor Nwude,” one of the men said, “it is an honour to be in your presence after such a long time. We were surprised when you set up this meeting, it has been a while”.
“Is that you, Nana?” Nwude asked
“Yes sir,” Nana answered “I am sitting with Bamishe and Ngeda,” he pointed to the men sitting with him as he mentioned their names “we understand that in your condition, you cannot come down to the institute, that is why we agreed to the call, so if you don’t mind Sir, show us what you have for us, it is already a few minutes past 6”
Nwude was not listening, he was disappointed. The institute that he had helped found and contributed so much to had sent three children to attend to him, children he had taught.
“Where’s Aishat?” He asked “I have something very important to showcase, I need someone important”.
The three men exchanged glances before proceeding to communicate within themselves in whispers. After some few seconds, Nana spoke up again, “I can assure you Sir, we are important.”
Nwude looked at them intently for a few seconds, then tapped a button on his table. A much smaller hologram came up, it looked like a model of a pipe like structure.
“Gentlemen, what you are looking at is the culmination of my life’s work, I call it ‘the tunnel’,” Nwude announced without dramatic effect but waited for them to let the news sink in before continuing “it is a 10 kilometre tunnel to be built underground with a mechanical super catapult which I am still designing at one end. The catapult will be able to project a specially built and adapted vehicle to speed as fast as the speed of light,” now he paused for the dramatic effect “at the speed of light, a time loop is created and humans can finally be able to control time. Time travel will be possible!” The deflection in his voice mirrored the excitement on his face.
The silence that followed Nwude’s presentation reminded him of the days when as a child he went into the bush around his hometown to fetch firewood, when he was alone in the bush and he heard nothing else but his own nervous breath, the chirping of birds and the screeching of crickets. Nana and the others were at first sat like stone statues, unmoving, then they huddled together again and began whispering. Nwude was irritated. Nana turned and said to him.
“With all due respect Sir, the speed of light cannot be achieved, at least not on earth. You yourself taught us this in our first degrees and even if it was achievable, is not certain that a time loop will be created and also, we do not think a catapult can gather enough energy to project anything at such speed or even close to it. If you do not mind Sir, we would ask that you go back and finish your research and that you take into consideration the relativity of speed.”
“This is why I wanted to speak to someone with more experience,” Nwude sounded furious.
“Calm down, Sir” the one Nana had introduced as Bamishe said “what Nana is saying is that the speed of light…”
“Do not tell me to clam down,” Nwude cut him off “I had at least 10 inventions to my name before you were born. Where is Aishat?”
“Aishat is dead”, Nana said
“She has been dead for 13 years, you read the eulogy at her funeral”
“What are you saying?” Nwude asked, he felt like a rude joke was being played on him.
“Uloma”, Nana called
“Why are you calling him director?” Nwude asked
“Has the professor taken his medications today?” Nana asked
“The professor has ignored taking his medications for the last three days”
“What are you people talking about? Aishat cannot be dead, I was with her yesterday, you cannot be director, you’re a mere child. Where’s Nkemdilim? Where’s my wife!?” Nwude began agitatedly and as his agitation increased, an alarm went off in the study.
“Clam down professor,” the men were saying “calm down”.
“Where’s my wife, Nkemdilim!”
A wheeled android built to look like a red cross nurse rode into the study. It rode through the hologram to the place the professor sat. Her mechanical hands opened the cabinet that was her chest and produced an already medicine filled syringe and before the professor could push the robot away, she swiftly held his hands with one hand and administered the injection with another in his neck. The professor fell asleep on the table immediately and the cyborg nurse rode off. The alarm stopped sounding.
“Have you called Emenike?” Nana asked
“The professor specifically instructed me not to call any of his children” Uloma replied.
Nana sighed and said “I will call him myself, the man is 85 he needs at least one human around him.” The hologram went off and the professor was alone again in his study, fast asleep. Night had fallen but the city stood not so far away, its flashing lights seeming to beckon.
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