Author : Andrew Bale

At a touch of her finger, the words on the single sheet of paper scrolled and changed, revealing the final words of the story. Angeline sighed. It had been a good book, and she had increasingly identified with the plucky young woman who strangely was NOT the main character. There was one thing that she still did not understand, something that the characters seemed to interpret so differently than she did. There was no other option. She needed to ask her mother.

She released the paper, and tuned magnetic fields reached out from the walls of the room, gracefully directing it to its designated shelf. It was unnecessarily rustic and inefficient, but she and her father both liked paper, and wood, and leather, and his study was filled with such anachronistic materials, thankfully enhanced to a level of at least minimal functionality.

She briefly considered the door to the study, leading to the curving hundred stairs that her father felt provided character both to the tower and to climbers. But while he could make her climb up, he could not force her to climb down. She stepped to the nearest window and jumped into thin air.

After a scant few feet, the antigravity system built into her belt reduced her weight to near zero, so that she drifted down, leaflike and lazy. Halfway down, a complex buzzing filled the air, presaging the appearance of two gengineered decorative dragons, fighting or courting in a complex dance of batwings and flame. Unable to steer her descent, she could not avoid the oblivious (and stupid) reptiles as they careened around her, singeing her with their artificial flame. The cloth would stop claw, projectile, or beam, but fluid fire found a path inside.

She landed with a curse that less literate ten year olds would not have even recognized. Her shirt could be replaced, but her blistering forearm could not, and would invite unwanted scolding for venturing into the dragons’ domain. From a special sleeve in her pants she pulled a slender wooden rod the length of her forearm. Twisting the base, she waved it over the burn – the electronic core analyzed the wound and released a pink cloud of medical nanobots from the tip, guiding them as they anesthetized and repaired her skin as she watched.

Re-sheathing the wand, Angeline walked through the orchard that separated the tower from the main house. The trees extended their limbs toward her, offering a variety of fruit, vegetables, and nuts. The peach she selected was succulent and sweet, with no hint of the comprehensive nutrition and dental preventatives it had been modified to provide.

Entering the side door, she followed an echoing melody to the studio. Her mother had apparently been trying a new composition, and had decided to add an extra pair of arms for the attempt. All four hands danced across the organ’s keyboard, a complex but occasionally discordant work in progress that reached out to the walls, which responded by changing color, texture, even smell in synergy with the music. The room fell quiescent as the player realized she was not alone.

“Yes dear?”

“Mother, I was reading that book father told me about, but there was something that didn’t make sense. There was a word they used, but I couldn’t see why it was so special.”

“Well, what is it?”



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