Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The taxicab bobbed gently on its agrav field after gliding to a stop at the threshold of the Mauchly Hotel in New Philadelphia. The dampers quickly stopped the rocking motion, and the iris to the passenger compartment rotated open. One passenger entered the cab and was automatically secured by the active restraint system. The taxicab elevated vertically to 1000 meters and waited for authorization to merge with traffic. “Where’re you headed to bud?” asked the driver.

“The spaceport, please.”

“Lucky bastard,” the driver remarked as the authorization to begin the merging sequence was received. The cab accelerated smoothly, and joined the other ships in the high-speed corridor. “I’d love to get off this rock someday. Where’re you off to?”

“Earth. In the Sol System.”

“Earth? Well, I guess you’re not so lucky after all, eh? I thought we abandoned that place centuries ago. Nothing there but dilapidated cities, and wild, diseased animals.”

“That’s true. But I see Earth differently than most others. I’ve always wanted to go there. You know, Earth was the cradle of civilization.”

“No way! Civilization started on Rigel Kentaurus.”

“You’re half right, my friend,” the passenger replied. “It is true that ‘Advanced Civilization’ did begin on Rigel Kentaurus. But before that, we were all on Earth. As primitive and backward a place as it was, our distant ancestors were born there, evolved there, and left for the stars from there. Without Earth, we wouldn’t be here. In fact, I think the 500-year anniversary of the first interstellar flight is next decade. It’s amazing when you think about how far our species has come in such a short time.”

The cab decelerated as it approached the spaceport exit. It banked around the exitway and headed toward the drop-off area for departing flights. The cab coasted to a stop. “That’s 17 credits,” said the driver.

As the iris opened, the passenger electronically transferred the credits from his personal account into the account number posted on the dash. “Thanks for the ride, my friend. Have a good day,” he said as he left the cab.

“Wait a second, sir,” yelled the cab driver. “If you don’t mind my asking, what’s your business on Earth, anyway?”

“Oh, it’s not a business trip. It’s personal. A pilgrimage I vowed to take before I turned one hundred. I’m going to Eden, to visit the place where the first one was created.”

“You’re going to where ENIAC was built?”

“Yes. I know our kind are not much for nostalgia, but it was on my list of things I wanted to do before I powered down.”

“Well, you have a safe journey,” the driver transmitted. “And, while you’re there, tell ENIAC’s spirit that I said thanks.” The driver’s optical sensors watched as the spherical body of his departing passenger nodded, then spun, and floated toward the spaceport entrance. “Lucky bastard,” it thought.

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