""An interesting take on the future in a well-crafted tale that integrates what education, technology, business, and everyday living might be like a few centuries from now. Throw in space travel and interactions with beings from other planets and it is a science fiction page-turner. Some might scoff at some of the ideas for the future but some scoffed at Jules Verne and Arthur Clarke, yet some of their 'crazy ideas' have become reality.""
- Ed Massey, Retired Project Manager for Voyager & NASA Manager for Ulysses
|Publisher:||Austin Macauley Publishers LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.47(d)|
About the Author
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The Trip to Earth
As time moved forward, things began to fall into a normal pattern, at The Feather. Just as Lyca predicted, Hazel did land into trouble now and then, and she took Richie and Dmitri along into it.
Once, her AI program crashed the school's main AI when she and Dmitri were working on a project. Hazel told her dad, as he volunteered to fix it, the reason why it broke was because the school's AI was so outdated, that it could not handle the sophisticated code that she and Dmitri were building. During another incident, Richie was told off by the teacher, when he took Hazel's advice and almost crashed an IGV during his flying lessons at school. Hazel said that her tips on flying, actually saved Richie from crashing at the last minute, and she tried to explain to her dad that the IGV that Richie flew was faulty, as it should have had proper anti-crash and anti-collision mechanisms enabled. Zee convinced the school and IGV manufacturers to replace the faulty IGV eventually, although the manufacturers could not understand how such a difficult maneuver was even possible for a kid. In spite of all these glitches from time to time, Zee couldn't help but think, and Lyca also agreed, that the kids were splendidly growing up and something good inevitably came out every time.
Our story resumes one day, on a quiet Saturday morning, when Hazel wakes up. She sat on her bed, looking at the blue expanse of the sky, through her large bedroom window, looking pensive. She had been waiting for this day for nearly two weeks, ever since her mom and dad said that she was ready. And now that it had finally come, she was excited and perhaps, even a bit nervous.
Without wasting any time, she quickly got ready and as she left her room, she paused in front of the wall, and said, "Show Mirror." The wall turned into a mirror, displaying a tall 12year-old girl's reflection looking back at her. The mirror was also her fashion advisor because it began flashing various texts around her image, in red that showed her style for the day: attire – pants and white jumper, hairstyle – long and wavy, hair color – dark with pink tint. It additionally showed styling tips in green text that Hazel could opt for if she wanted to. Today, it displayed: hair color – midnight blue, hair length – pixie, attire – green jumpsuit. Not only did she decide to ignore all of these, but also put up with the horrible pink tint in her hair.
Soon, she dashed excitedly into her brother's room. Richie was sitting on his bed, apparently just awake and grimaced when his sister said, "Oi, get ready sleepyhead. We haven't got all day! Mom and Dad have already left."
Just then, the doorbell said, in a high-pitched voice, "Dmitri is at the door, miss."
"Well, open the door then!" she shouted, irritated.
"Don't show your frustration on me, miss. With all that's on your plate, I'm sure you will have plenty of time enjoying the family get-together this weekend," the doorbell replied.
Growing up, Hazel had developed the habit of showing her frustration on the doorbell.
Every year, news agencies conducted surveys that capture the personalities of doorbells, and according to few sources, there is even a rogue doorbell that tells the visitors to get lost, in order to avoid the painstaking job of opening the door, whether it actually feels the pain or not, that remains to be tested. There is also a pompous doorbell that doesn't comply unless you say, "Her Majesty, the Doorbell."
The Feather's doorbell, thankfully, has a very pleasant personality, and displays a special fondness for Hazel. It tries to say kind things to her to make her happy and uplift her mood. Hazel never understood why it did that, but according to her dad, it was Hazel's straightforwardness towards the doorbell that helped its artificial intelligence create specific neural network patterns, giving it this personality. Hazel secretly suspects that her dad has something to do with it too, because growing up, she has seen him tinkering with the doorbell program ever so often.
Doorbells are a form of artificial intelligence gadgets, attached to the main door of a house. Their basic list of functions includes, looking out for visitors outside the door, recognizing people, letting the owners know who is at the door and opening the door for them. Tinker Inc., AI Doorbell Corp are some of the best renowned brands available in the market today. Doorbells could even be tailored for a custom build, with features such as scanning the perimeter of the house for intruders, initiating locking down and so on and so forth. Several years ago, owners began to program the doorbells for fun, giving them initial personalities and once the program was online, the AI in the doorbell would take over and write its own neural patterns on top of the initial code. Doorbells, with personalities, have become a trend these days. The owners even choose a 3D holographic icon for the doorbell. At The Feather, it is a simple smiley yellow ball icon, and sometimes, when Hazel is irritated, she turns the image off, she doesn't want it looming over her head when she is in a bad mood.
The doorbell appeared outside the door and greeted Dmitri, "Good morning, Dmitri! How was your walk this morning from the school dormitory?" Before Dmitri could answer, it continued, "You're set for a nice weekend, eh? Oh, by the way ... yes, yes, I should tell him ..." It muttered now, more to itself, paused and said, "I must warn you" in a hushed voice, while sprouting two holographic hands covering its mouth, "Your best friend is in a nasty mood."
Dmitri smiled and quickly said, "Thank you for the heads up! And hello, Hazel."
The doorbell turned around very quickly, and also turned into tomato-red, looking very sheepish at the sight of Hazel. It did not realize that while it was holding up Dmitri at the door making conversation, Hazel was behind it, already holding the door open. Hazel scowled at it but smiled at Dmitri.
Dmitri, too, had grown over the past years. He still had the same long chocolate brown hair, which he tied in a low pony to keep it out of the way. He couldn't really do anything much less cut it, even if he wanted to because his hair like his skin had the sense of touch.
"Good morning, Dmitri!" Richie, who was now in the living room and gulping down his morning breakfast, greeted him. "We match!"
He grinned at Dmitri as both boys sported brown sweatshirts. Richie was a foot shorter than Dmitri, he had a short hairstyle, and chose to go with olive color for his hair, today. Like his sister, he too didn't prefer the pink tint that he had inherited from his dad.
"Ready?" asked Dmitri.
"Yes, just these left," Richie replied, now stuffing fishing rods in his fit-anything bag. The bag compressed the rods with a swoosh-like sound and the rods were inside the 9" bag, in a second.
"Where's your stuff?" inquired Hazel while picking up her fit-anything bag, and noticing, rather late, that Dmitri did not bring his bag.
"In transit should reach the Cedar in ... 0.5 minutes," he said while looking at a 3D holo-map which his personal AI was projecting in front of him, showing a tiny red bag moving along the map, almost at its destination. "I attached the new mail carrier, version 5, that I bought yesterday to my bag and sent it away as a first test ride. It took the mailway 45."
Mail carriers are gadgets that you can attach to things and have them delivered to a destination.
"No way! I need to upgrade mine then," Hazel replied while making a mental note to herself to get hers upgraded. Her mail carrier gadget was one version behind and does not have the privilege to take the mail routes that are designated as the fastest package lanes on the planet.
They got into the garage downstairs, stowing their bags in Hazel's midnight blue IGV. She turned 12 a few months ago, making her eligible to get her flying license.
After every one was seated inside, Hazel said, "Cedar." She turned to the others and said, "Let's do this!" as a holographic map showed the route in front of them, over the dashboard.
She glided her IGV onto Sunny Side Airstreet and made her way to Wheeler Vertical and went downwards to Elevation 8. She looked at Dmitri and Richie, who were very quiet and watching her nervously.
"Oh, come on! This is not the first-time you guys sat while I flew," she reminded them, as her IGV approached the entrance to purple lanes that had a holo-sign "Skyway 8987 Vertical (down)." This skyway is a vertical skyway for traffic to and from Blue City to planet Earth.
Only after making sure her sister had settled into a lane, did Richie start to talk, "True, but this will be your first out of town flight, alone on a skyway without Mom or Dad."
Even though Hazel got her license, she had been flying to school, and keeping within Blue City itself. She had been waiting for this day, when her parents would think she would be ready to fly on her own, anywhere in the Solar System. Not that she couldn't, she was an excellent pilot and tried moves which even her dad or mom could not attempt, and neither was there any danger as all the IGVs and airlanes have anti-collision and anti-crash mechanism fields enabled. But Zee wanted to make sure that she got the best training, to get a feel of making the right decisions at the nick of time, so in the past few months they had been flying to various sky cities, to Earth, and all around the globe for her training.
Hazel's IGV was now flying over the scenic portion of the skyway, from where they could see Blue City's tall buildings from every elevation, approaching and passing by them from one side of the skyway. They also saw spectacular views of the Earth's terrain and the blue ocean far below. A thrill ran through her, as she passed this stretch of the skyway and all her nervousness vanished in an instant.
Very soon, the IGV exited the skyway and slid a foot above land, along a street marked by its blue lights. They passed one or two houses scattered here and there along the way. At the end of that street, Hazel made a sharp right turn, over a dirt lane and after traveling a few miles over this dirt road, which became narrower and narrower, she stopped the IGV in front of a big house called Cedar.
"Hello, grandchildren! Hey, Dmitri!" Pong, their grandpa, greeted them in the front yard as they stepped out of the IGV. Pong was seated near what looked like dying embers from a campfire. Next to him, was a freshly dug pit.
Every few months, Hazel's family, relatives and close friends meet. Their choice varied, one time it could be Earth or Blue City, another time it could be Mars or somewhere in the Solar System. Lyca has been arranging these get-togethers for many years. According to her, it is very important to stay together and build a sense of community, especially when people are so spread out in Space. Today, they chose to meet at Cedar, an old Tuscany style house, passed onto Lyca's parents from previous generations. Lyca's father, Pong, is a historian, and everything around him, even the house, is a reminiscence of the past.
"What are you up to Grandpa?" said Richie with an air of caution, looking at the embers. He knew Grandpa's experiments at times don't turn out to be quite right.
"Relax, Richie! Today, we shall have a feast in the old style." He said dramatically, "I am attempting pit cooking, an ancient art of cooking. I've put the burning coal and hot stones in this pit and will add the vegetables wrapped in this cloth. You'll see."
While everyone in this era wore streamlined clothing with state of art technology, Pong wore out-of-fashion clothes, and at one point, even thought of living without the aid of an AI but changed his mind after a stern look from his wife, Jasmin. "You'll turn into a wild man!" she told him.
Even, as Hazel and Richie found Grandpa totally weird, they loved him very much, and the stories he told them of the past eras.
Hazel said, looking irritated, "Grandpa, can't we just use the ScAIg for our food? This method of yours will take a lot of time!"
"Now, now, be patient Haze. This ScAIg, Self-cooking AI gadget! I don't deny its benefit of converting energy to delicious recipes. What's more, it would even place the food on the plates." By the time he finished talking about ScAIg, everyone was silent. What? Their grandpa talking about ScAIg as if it were some precious ancient tool of his? They suspected he would say 'however'. And he did.
Grandpa continued, "However, you need to develop your cooking skills, who knows when and where they might come in handy."
Hazel thought for a while and not having a clue asked, "Grandpa, where might that be?"
No body heard what Grandpa said next because they heard Nike and Nuke, two of their cousins, who came out greeting them.
"Hello, HazeDmitRich!" said Nike greeting them all at once.
"Hola!" greeted Nuke.
"Hey, Nuke and Nike. You should see my new game," said Richie. Immediately they busied themselves in the ball game that Richie programmed.
Dmitri stayed, and lent a helping hand to grandpa Pong. Dmitri liked to learn stuff, be it primitive methods or the latest advances in science that planet Earth has to offer. Ever since he came to Earth, Dmitri has been learning ways to try and pass as a human.
Zee explained to him years ago that it was not mandatory, as there are several extra-terrestrial races thriving in the Solar System, but Dmitri told him that he liked to try being a human since it was dear to his heart.
Hazel left the group as her dad came out to congratulate her on her first maiden flight to Earth. "I'm proud of you, sweetheart!" he told a beaming Hazel.
Lyca saw Hazel when she momentarily stepped into the backyard. "Congrats, dear!" she told her happily from the porch, where she was tending to a rose bush.
"Thanks. Mom, did you see Grandma?"
"Your Grandma couldn't come," she replied. And knowing that Hazel would be disappointed, she quickly said, "She is going to talk to us during dinnertime from Mars. She especially asked me to tell you that she has some new technology to share with you."
That cheered her up because Hazel and her grandma shared a common interest; to know the latest advancements in technology. Grandma Jasmin led research teams on Mars and other planets that pioneered in latest innovations in science and technology. Every time she talked to Hazel, she made it a point to explain every new gadget to her.
"Why don't you go and meet Granddad Will and Gran Keli? They are here," said Lyca.
Granddad and Gran Keli were Zee's parents. Gran Keli was 15/16th human and 1/16th Tarian from her mother's side.
Tarians were another species, who have been living on Earth since a millennium ago. They arrived on Earth when a portal opened in the year 3500 AD, near the moon. A dozen Tarian space saucers, being chased by Ba'acs in a giant spaceship, appeared. People of the Earth, at first, did not want to get involved in someone else's fight, but it turned out that Ba'acs engaged humans too. In the end, with the combined efforts of humans and Tarians, they were defeated. Tarians did their best to open the portal again but they could not get to their home world, no matter how much they tried. The humans extended an invitation to them, to stay on Earth as long as they liked, and since then, they had made Earth their home. Over the past millennium, Tarians had exceled in agriculture and genetics. Their specialized contributions in agriculture came to be known as Tariculture. Tarians became an integral part of the human society, so much that they were the only other race in the Solar System to be referred to as earthlings, apart from humans.
A Tarian could be easily identified from his or her stark pink hair, exceptional eye sight, and almond-shaped eyes. Tarian genes became temperamental when mixed with Human genes. It is not possible to predict when and how a certain Tarian trait shows up in a family tree. That's why Zee and Hazel only inherited Tarian pink that shows up as a tint in their hair, whereas Richie inherited not only the pink tint but also the signature almond-shaped Tarian eyes, a feature dormant for a few generations in their family.
As the Saturday morning passed, the rest of the folks began arriving, and by lunch time, Cedar was full of uncles, aunts, friends, and kids. To no one's surprise, Pong's cooking was taking longer than expected, so Lyca and her brother, Bridge, got some food ready just in time using ScAIg. Lunch was informal as everyone was catching up with one another, grabbing a bite or two.
After lunch, Hazel, Dmitri, and Richie went to the library where grandpa kept his old books. They were his family heirloom antiques. Today, the kids did not go to the library to look at the books, but they were there as it was the quietest part of the house. They wanted to plan for their trip tomorrow.
"I think we should take this route, it's rocky. See this area?" said Hazel, showing a projection of the map of some of the peaks near Cedar, using her AI embedded in her bracelet. It was the same bracelet that she found in the cave when she was five.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Galactic Adventures of Hazel Gurecoa"
Copyright © 2013 Starlight.
Excerpted by permission of Austin Macauley Publishers.
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