[Previously in The Fourth Dimension: Season-1 Part-10: Dr. Galaxy, Sherry and Tara were determined to go into the future and save Dr. Nebula and the world.]
“What’s the plan?” Sherry finally spoke, breaking the chilling silence.
“Ah yes, yes, the plan. First I need you to learn some basics,” Dr. Galaxy laid out a chart sheet. All sorts of codes and diagrams were drawn on it. The sheet was filled rim-to-rim, corner-to-corner.
“Whoa! What’s this?”
“Relax, Tara. These are just a few controls of the Time Car. And you need to memorise them.”
“But what’s the need, Mom? You’re there with us.”
“Yeah. But just in case… you know, if there’s an emergency…”
“What sort of emergency?” Tara almost shrieked.
“Ah, never mind. Sherry, do me a favour. You learn these codes and please just stay with Tara. You’ll do that for me, won’t you?”
“Of course, Dr. Galaxy!”
“Good. I expected that. You learn these right now. And Tara, I have another task for you. Come with me.”
Dr. Galaxy led Tara into another room. This one was full of ‘guns and bullets’. They didn’t look real though. Anyone could think they were toy guns because they were so colourful and perhaps made of plastic. The bullets were shaped like darts- pointless darts.
“Mom, are we gonna fool the robots with toy guns? I didn’t expect this from a scientist!”
“Oh, no Tara! These bullets are actually fitted with microchips. Once a bullet comes in contact with a robot’s body, it would hack the robot’s system! It would be paralyzed!”
“Now that’s cool!” Tara exclaimed examining a gun. “So this is how we fight the robots, eh?”
“Fight? No dear, don’t even think about it!” Galaxy exclaimed with widened eyes. “This is for your self defence. By chance if we get caught in such a situation that we have no exit left, only in that case will we use these guns. Otherwise, keep them hidden. We’ve got only a couple of these. Use them wisely.”
“Oh, okay.” Tara frowned. She really imagined herself fighting the robots with the guns like in some cool sci-fi movie.
“But there’s a catch. These bullets will only work if you fire them at a particular point on the robot’s forehead. So it would be better if you practise. Take these, Tara. These are some fake bullets. Practice your target with these.”
She excitedly took a handful of them and loaded in one of the guns. On the opposite wall, there was a target drawn in red ink. She took aim and fired.
“Whoa! Great job, Tara! You hit exactly at the right point! Keep practicing. I’ll just check on Sherry by then.”
Tara kept practicing for almost what seemed like hours. Finally, Dr. Galaxy declared that they were ready for the real plan. The three of them gathered in the central room and loaded themselves with food. Then Dr. Galaxy brought a large box and placed it on the table.
“Now listen up. Our aim is straightforward – go to the future, send Dr. Nebula back here before anything goes wrong and return. Now that might seem simple, but many things could go wrong. That is exactly why I made you learn the codes and fire the gun. Now you two must always stay together. Mind my words – never leave each other alone. I am there for you, sure, but if you don’t find me nearby, just save yourselves. Do not worry about me. Is that clear?”
“But Mom, how can we leave you-”
“Is that clear?” Dr. Galaxy repeated with emphasis.
“Um… but… okay… yeah, fine.” Tara said uneasily.
“Great. Now we’ll have to finish things up fast. The more time we take, the more you will age. And I don’t want my girls to be attending high school at the age of 20, okay?” Then seeing Tara and Sherry’s grim faces, she added, “Hey, at least give me a smile. My joke wasn’t that bad, was it?”
“That was ridiculous, Mom.”
After a few hours, they met again in the lab with their bags and food.
“Okay girls, sit down. I hope you remember all I’ve told you today. Other than that, there’s a safety kit and emergency tools under your seat. Although I hope we wouldn’t need them. All ready to go?”
The Car started shaking again and they felt themselves floating. With a sinking feeling in their guts, they were transported to the future.
When Tara opened her eyes, she was amazed by the sight in front of her. It was a really advanced time. She could only see shiny skyscrapers and robotic cars on the road. The whole world seemed to carry a metallic glimmer.
Dr. Galaxy hid the Time Car amidst the rare trees and returned back. “Here Tara, the gun. Fully loaded. Hide it carefully. And I can see your father in the cafe there. C’mon.”
They walked along neatest footpath Tara had ever seen and entered into the cafe. All along, Tara and Sherry kept whispering, exclaiming and pointing to things around them. The place seemed even stranger than Egypt!
“Shh… Keep your voices low!” Dr. Galaxy said after a few minutes. “Don’t behave like you are here for the first time. Act like you were born in this world.”
A staircase suddenly popped up out of nowhere at the entrance of the cafe. As they climbed up, the stairs started jingling a melody! At the other end of the staircase, an ATM machine sort of thing greeted them, “Good morning! Welcome to cafe Sun-Mania! Whom do we have the pleasure of serving today?”
A keyboard popped up and Dr. Galaxy entered their names. “Okay, Mrs. Galaxy, Miss Tara and Miss Sherry, enjoy your day!” The machine sank into the ground and a platform rose in its place. The three of them stepped on the platform and it started floating! It carried them to a table at one corner of the cafe and sank back into the ground.
More surprises awaited them inside there.
There were no human employees in the cafe! All robots and machines! It was a luxurious place. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Then a shiny white robot, the first one they saw that day, came to their table. “Hello ladies! What would you like to have?”
“Um, what do you have?”
“At this time, we have 12 varieties of coffee, 52 types of sandwiches, 8 different desserts, and 15 varied flavours of soft drinks available with us. What would you like to have?”
“Sandwiches!” Tara exclaimed. She felt really hungry surrounded by the aroma of food in the cafe.
“Yeah, that would be good. What flavours do you have in veg sandwiches?” Dr. Galaxy asked.
“Cheese Treat Sandwich, Mayo ‘n’ Tomato Sandwich, Green Leafy Sandwich, Veg Party Sandwich, Cream ‘n’ Raspberry Sandwich, Orange Fluff – ”
“Stop, stop, stop! Bring three of your best selling sandwiches, okay?”
“Okay madam. So I’ll be bringing Cheese Treat, Orange Fluff, and Noodle Mania. I’ll be back in no time.”
After the robot went away, Tara whispered, “Mom, this is so good! Such a high quality service! And these robots are so sweet! And people are really enjoying themselves! What were you saying about evil robots and slave humans? I think you must have been mistaken. I would in fact love to live here!”
“Oh no, Tara. You are seeing things on a small scale. It’s actually the robots controlling us. Let me show you the reality.” She called one of the robot waiters, “Excuse me! Can I get a NewsTab, please?”
“What’s a NewsTab?” Sherry asked.
“Like we have newspapers, they have NewsTabs. No newspapers exist now. People here read the news on NewsTabs.”
“So it’s actually like asking for a magazine or newspaper in a hotel in our time, right?”
The robot handed over a NewsTab and Dr. Galaxy began scrolling down. Then checking that there was no one around her, she showed the girls a news article.
“Prime Minister ‘Kaspa’ enacts new measure…” Tara read out, “…all people to be issued identity cards… to be used for entering public buildings… trespassers to be severely punished. Whoa! Seems a strict one, isn’t it?”
“Tara, you’re seeing the wrong thing.” Sherry whispered. “See there, below the article, Kaspa’s photo.”
Tara stared at the photo in horror.
“Kaspa is a robot?!”
[Whoa! A robot? A robot ruling the people? What are they going to do now? And where’s Dr. Nebula now? We’ll know really soon. Catch the next part on Monday! And till then, check out my Spooks poem collection if you haven’t yet…]