Chapter 34: Generosity

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December 31, 2357

Grand Victory Hotel

Valor, America

Before she knew what was happening, Eila crossed the room in front of her and turned off the projection, just as Cai was mid-word. "Hey! I was watching that."

"I know," was Eila's sardonic reply. "You've only been watching it for the past three days. Enough already."

Ari narrowed her eyes, sticking her tongue out at her friend. "This is as close as I can get to him, for now."

"That's my point," she said gently. "You can't get near him. Between the added hotel security and his bodyguards, you're not going to get within fifteen feet. Which means you might as well put him out of your mind for three blasted hours and come shopping with me. Valor is fashion paradise!"

"So you go shopping and I'll finish watching the interview," Ari grumbled, trying to snatch the remote from her hand.

"Nope. You've watched the same interview so many times that you have it memorized. No more. We are getting out of this hotel. We are going sight-seeing and shopping and checking out restaurants and cafes and anything else I deem fitting. Why? Because this is really unhealthy and I'm not staying cooped up in here any longer when there's a whole new city outside of these walls."

"You've been here at least eight times. It's hardly new to you."

"But it is to you, Ari. And you want to waste this once-in-your-lifetime experience cooped up in a hotel room watching the same interview on repeat. Could you please stop obsessing for a few hours and return to the land of the living?"

Ari couldn't look at her. Mostly because she was right. Ever since Cai's jet landed at the airport, she was all attention. The interview she'd been watching continuously was actually the only one he gave since entering the city, and that was immediately after he got off the jet. In the cold December wind, he and Amaris Pacquita had stood in defiance of the weather and delivered a few of their plans and shared some of their excitement with the crowd. Truthfully, there was nothing to hold her there. And she really could repeat back almost all of it. So why is it she couldn't tear herself from the screen?

Because looking at a video of him worked just as well as a picture, and she could almost imagine a faint addition to the heartbeat in her chest.

"Fine," Ari sighed. "We'll do this your way. Just ... don't make me regret it."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Eila ran into the common room portion of the suite her parents had upgraded them to and retrieved her wallet. Ari followed slowly and was waiting at the door by the time her friend finished primping. A moment following, she bounded to the door and dragged Ari out into Valor. And she had to admit, it was like nothing she'd ever seen before.

Of the six American cities, Ari knew statistically that Valor was the largest. Built in the shadows of the last remaining monument of the old United States, Mount Rushmore, it had grown in size and number as survivors of WWIII flocked to its safe obscurity. Here is where the Americans rebuilt. With the aid of the United Nations, Valor rose from a war torn country and reached for the sky.

Even as Eila drove off into the sky above the city, Ari was amazed at how many flocked the streets below. Unlike in Genesis, the streets here were all cobblestoned or smooth pavement. The ground, as well as the sky, was accessible to the citizens here. More than that, it was just as desirable to be at ground level as it was to be sailing through the air. It was both incredible and strange, knowing as she did, that walking the lonely streets of Genesis was an option only for the poor.

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