It’s about some passengers travelling between London and Tokyo, when during the night they travel into the future; 30 years. So how would their reaction be? How would they find the future? Which new technologies will they find?
It was a long and boring night, my back ached like hell, my feet were asleep, my head was dizzy, I looked at my watch, it was 4.30 AM. “Almost dawn” I said to myself, I needed a good cup of coffee. As I wasn’t comfortable at all, I decided to go myself instead of calling the stewart. I’ve pushed my blanket to the side, I didn’t even bother to put my shoes on. Most of the passengers were asleep. At the front, one of the hostess saw me approaching, she smiled at me standing up.
“Good morning Sir, how can I help?”.
“I need a cup of coffee please”.
“Just a second, sir. Breakfast is in half an hour”.
“Good, I’m starving anyway”.
“I loved to chat while I was waiting for something.
“So, are we nearly there?”.
“Yeah I think so. Probably two hours at the most”.
“Good. Have you been there before?”.
“Twice. And you?”.
“No, never. I’m staying two weeks and than going back home. I hope I’ll like it”.
“You’ll love it, I promise. The food is marvelous, the nature is splendid, the cities are gorgeous, you’ll see. Here is your coffee, sugar?”.
“Oh yes please, one would be enough. It has been a pleasure talking to you”.
“Thank you sir, me too”.
A few minutes later I was going back to my 14C seat with my hot cup. A few sun rays were enlightening the sky, I knew that in a few minutes the sunrise would burst through the open windows, I had just a few minutes to clean myself up before any toilet would get smelly. So I drank my cup in a few sips and hurried to the closest wc. I washed my face with some cold water, brushed my hair and took a good look at myself. I looked like someone who hasn’t slept for a long time, deep wrinkles around the eyes, a small beard was forming, my hairs were upside down, my cloths were untidy. Well that’s about how we look after 9 hours of airplane. I went back to my seat, I opened my backpack looking for something to occupy my mind a bit. Except for my personal belongings, I’ve found my hotel reservation and the map of Japan. A good shower and a fluffy bed, how wonderful! I was so tired. With that thought I must have dozed off, because I woke up at the sound of the Captain speaking:
“Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re approaching Haneda Airport, we’ll be there in about an hour. It’s 5.30 local time, the temperature outside is 27 degrees and the sky is clear”.
The stewarts were already serving breakfast. I ordered another cup of coffee and planned to eat a real breakfast at McDonald’s. For now, I was happy. From my seat which was by the window I could see the land far below me. The sun was shining, promising a very good day ahead.
Half an hour later, I felt the plane slowing down, I looked outside, we weren’t so high anymore, I could discern the mountains and the rivers. From time to time I saw something small flying below and turning in different directions, but I couldn’t make it out what it was. Some time later the Captain spoke again.
“We’re landing in 15 minutes, I will ask you to go back to your seats and fasten your seatbelts please”.
Now I could see the tall skyscrapers, I was amazed at how big this city was, it was even bigger than I’ve ever imagined. So beautiful! I knew that Japan was a very sophisticated country where new technologies were available for anyone, but I was still amazed at what I saw. As we were flying above the skyscrapers, I could see that most of them had a landing area on top and a few private jets were stationary. But the thing is, those jets had the weirdest shape I’ve ever seen; they looked like giant birds. I’ve never seen a private jet like that before, except in science fiction movies. Then we flew over an expressway, lots of cars but no jam.
I was looking eagerly at this different society, how many opportunities they had that most of the world didn’t. Then I was pulled away from my thoughts when I heard a little girl a few seats away from me, yelling.
“Look mom! A drone”.
We were approaching the landing strip, we couldn’t have been higher than 200 feet, I looked through the opposite window, and I saw something that I wasn’t expecting to see. I saw a drone following the airplane. What would a drone be doing in an airport? Wasn’t it dangerous? Maybe things were different here in Japan. When we landed I was still looking by my window at a few airplanes that were somehow different from ANA Flight #008 in which I was. They were thinner, longer and a few didn’t have engine under their wings. It seemed that the Japanese people were far more advanced in technology than we were.
“Please remain seated until further notice” announced the captain.
As soon as the plane stopped, the passengers began gathering their belongings. I had a feeling that something was going on, but I couldn’t figure out what. Some of the passengers looked confused, while others were speaking among themselves.
“Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to the Haneda Airport of Tokyo. Thank you for traveling with ANA Flight #008, we hope to see you again soon”.
Taking my backpack with me, I went in line waiting for the door to open. I knew that no one was waiting for me, so I could be out of the airport in less than 10 minutes. As soon as the door was open, I squeezed my way through to the front.
“What the hell?” said a man just in front of me.
“Wow, are getting in that thing?” asked the woman who was traveling with him.
I was curious to see what might be so surprising. I couldn’t help myself to be as stunned as they were. The drone that was flying by the plane, was now building out of thin air a corridor so that we might be guided to the Arrivals. How can that be possible?
So I followed the corridor as the other passengers did. I touched it, it was real and hard. If there were rain, we wouldn’t have been wet at all. I knew about the 3D printers, but they weren’t supposed to build corridors! The terminal was at about 400 yards, and I was in a hurry. So I went strait through to be the first arriving at the customs. As soon as I crossed the airport doors, a blow of fresh air hit my face, I followed the corridor which led me into a wide hall, where the customs were waiting.
“Good morning Sir, Passport please”.
“Good morning Mam” I replied smiling.
She typed something at the computer, then looked at me and back to the passport.
“Sir, this passport isn’t valid anymore. Do you have another one?” she asked staring at me
“This passport expired twelve years ago. Do you have a new one?”.
“A new one? No that’s the newest one I have, I’ve made it two years ago”.
“No sir, it says here 2025 and we don’t use this kind of passport anymore”.
At the same time the other passengers were being served at different desks, I had a head ache and the voices around me were bumping into my head. I heard someone else complaining as well.
“But Sir I told you, my passport was issued last year, how can my passport have expired eleven years ago, it’s not possible.
“Sir, sir, may I see your boarding pass please” the woman was trying to get my attention on her again.
“Hmm, yes of course” I looked through my pockets, focusing on what was going on on other desks. We were all in the same mess. As soon as I gave her my boarding pass, she left her desk and went to speak with someone else a few desks to my right. She was showing him my ticket and my passport, and he was doing the same to her. Then he stood up and said something to the other officers and left to another room. One of the man stepped on a chair and called our attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I will ask all of you to hand your passports and your boarding passes to us please”.
Some were more obedient than others, they’ve made their way through, to do as they were asked. After a few minutes of total confusion, the officers left to the same room their chief went, leaving us totally stunned. I looked at the person next to me, it was the mother and the child I saw before.
“Did they tell you that your passport was expired as well?” I asked her.
“Yes they have! I’m really disappointed at the Japanese customs. What’s wrong with them?”.
“I don’t know, but I’m sure something is going on”.
An hour passed, now and then someone came by to check on us. I wanted to scream, to cross over and leave my passport behind; but I thought that it was insane so I preferred to sit on the floor as there were no chair.
Some time later, we were summoned to the next room. It was a big office. A few desks here and there, strange screens which looked like holograms, a few plants along the walls, among other unusual things. There were plenty of people waiting for us, probably police officers.
“Good morning everyone, we welcome you to Japan” said one of them taking a step toward us. “I’m Inspector Yusaro Juko. I was informed that all of you had an issue with your journey. You left Gatwick Airport at 9PM the 19th of June 2017, but something happened during your flight. Because you arrived here the 20th of June 2037.
I can’t describe the silence that fell in the office at that moment. And then voices came from everywhere at the same time.
“How is that possible?”.
“Oh come on! Is this a joke?”.
“Look I have an important appointment, I don’t have time for this now, just give me back my passport”.
“We still have a long journey ahead of us and you bring us here to tell us this?”.
The Inspector who spoke, probably expected this reaction. When he spoke it was with the greater calm I’ve ever seen.
“We don’t believe it either, but we have proof that you somehow traveled through time last night”.
Another minute of silence.
“Are you able to send us back?” I asked before anyone else had the chance.
“Unfortunately not. No one can. Space and Time is out of our reach as it was in your time”.
“So what do we do now?” A woman asked.
“First of all you’ll go through a medical check-up. Then we’ll offer you a place to stay, together. We can’t let you go on your own for your own safety; at least for now. You’ll have to stay low profile, otherwise you’ll have the world-wide press following you for the rest of your lives”.
“Will there be anything to eat?” this was my first priority.
“Yes Sir. There will be food. Alright, I would like you to meet Mr. Yousaki”.
A little bold man took a few steps toward Inspector Juko.
“Just follow him, he will take you to your medical examination and then to where you’ll be staying. Until further notice I wish you a very pleasant day”.
With that he bowed a little and began to speak in Japanese to the other men who were in the room.
“What about our passports?” interrupted another man.
“You’ll get them soon enough” replied the Mr. Juko facing the passenger.
Mr. Yousaki called us to follow him through the door that we came from and led the way.
I was very confused, but I believed everything that Mr. Juko said. The other passengers didn’t seem less confused, they didn’t speak with each other, they followed one another like children following their mother. Mr. Yousaki was supposed to drive us somewhere away from the airport. We’ve found a bus waiting for us outside the terminal. So we drove for almost an hour, I’ve seen many strange things along the way, among which drones were flying from building to building delivering packages.
Mr. Yousaki told us that all the delivery services were made like that. No more trucks or postman, then he told us that most of the cars were electrical or solar nowadays and that there were roads and highways limited for them. And to avoid road congestion there were flying taxis which were far more convenient than using cars or buses.
I’ve seen people coming out of shopping Malls with different shopping bags, some of them had moving picture on them. It seemed as if I was looking at a Harry Potter newspaper. Most people were wearing glasses, but the strange thing is that they could personalize their glasses instantly through their smartphone. Here is how I know it. We were stopped at some red lights and two teenagers were by my window, both were intensely absorbed by what they were seeing in one of the girl’s smartphone. The one wearing glasses was typing something and suddenly her glasses changed shape and became round and dark blue. She looked at her friend who shook her head and giggled. The girl continued typing and her glasses became big pink squares. Her friend began laughing out loud. Unfortunately the lights turned green as we continued driving. I loved the idea of having glasses changing at will, but as I wasn’t wearing any, I wasn’t too concerned about it.
Finally we arrived at our destination.
“This is a kind of hospital, were you’ll be staying, in the emergency section. You’ll be well accommodated there” said Mr. Yousaki.
The building didn’t look like a hospital, it looked more like a bank. There were no sick people, no nurses. So I asked Mr. Yousaki.
“Where are the sick people?”.
“In our time, the sick can diagnose his own sickness and collect his medicine which is made to order at the pharmacy”.
I was mesmerized by the new technologies. Mr. Yousaki led the way to a small room were he knocked at the door. I was feeling squashed among the other passengers. A woman opened dressed in white, they spoke together for a moment and then they looked at us.
“Good morning, would you please follow me” she told us stepping in her cabinet. Getting inside was a little difficult for 125 passengers, we had to get in 10 at a time. When my time came I stepped in looking around me. There wasn’t any traditional bed or desk, instead there was a big machine which looked like an X ray tunnel or a vanishing cabin, a few lamps and a hologram computer as well.
“I will ask you one by one to step into the tube for me please” the doctor said.
I instantly looked at the”tube” again.
“What is this tube going to do to us?” I asked.
“It’s going to check if you’re all right. If you have any disease, any fracture for instance”.
So one by one, we stepped into the tube. I was a little anxious. The doctor was by the computer, Mr. Yousaki by the door and I was being watched by 18 eyes, I was very ill at ease. I heard a sound and saw a light sweeping across my body. I felt no pain, just a little heat wherever the light was. It took about 15 seconds and I was out of the tube again. I was ok so the doctor called another person. Finally after half an hour the process was completed and we were free to go. Mr. Yousaki made a quick phone call and then he was ready to lead the way once more. The emergency section was below the hospital, Mr. Yousaki told us that there were two ways to get down there, the first was by elevator; which was going to be a new experience for me, and the second by stairs which were in another building. The elevator wasn’t a square metal door with one or two buttons at the entrance, here there weren’t any buttons, there was a screen at the entrance of an oval door. I saw Mr. Yousaki write something with his finger and the door opened.
“Only 25 people at a time please, there will be 6 trips unfortunately, so who is going first ?” he asked us, but it wasn’t a good plan as no one wanted to be left behind.
“Ok, ok. The youngest may go first, followed by the others”. And so this is how I’ve been left to go down with the third group. Arriving at the level -2 I found myself in a different place, it was a subterranean village. The ceiling was very high, probably 100 meters, a path crossed a garden where several trees and shrubs and streams would make us believe in a city park. I could see beyond the trees, the red roof bricks where the village was supposed to be. I followed the path behind the other passengers, swallowing all I could see.
“What is this place, mommy?” asked the little girl which was a few paces in front of me.
“I don’t know sweety, but we’ll fin out soon enough” replied her mom.
“This place was built many, many years ago as a bunker in case of war with North Korea, but as the two countries became allies, this bunker turn out to be the retreat center for anyone who can afford it, either Royal Families, presidents or even business men. Nothing lacks in here, this village has its own power station, its own water and it has a small field in the northern side” explained Mr. Yousaki “500 people can live here without any problem. You’re welcome to use it for the time being”.
“So who is down here now?” asked someone at the front.
“Mrs. Hora; a Nobel prize, Prince Saleh and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Heinz; and Lord Chelman. Ok, that building is the community center, you’ll be able to eat, play, make conferences…whatever You want. And there’s where you’ll be eating now”.
I was more eager to follow him since he pronounced the last sentence. I was ravenous and the sight of a small village under Tokyo lifted my spirits high; it was an interesting vacation after all. The little houses had the same shape, the same backyard and they were all encircling a large building at the center, and that’s where we were heading.
“There are a few video cameras patrolling here and there for safety reasons” says Mr. Yousaki when we came by a tiny drone flying over our heads.
“Do you mean it’s a flying CCTV?” asked a passenger.
“Yes, these cameras are all over the cities. They are able to detect fire, follow criminals, look for something or someone. It is a very useful machine”.
“What if we want to go out?” asked a lady.
“You can, just take the elevator or ask one of the team to help you”.
“For how long are we going to stay here?”.
“I don’t know, it’s not up to me. Just enjoy yourselves, explore. You might never know when you’ll be back to 2017”.
Actually Mr. Yousaki had a point. What if we were going back some day, leaving all this new technologies behind?
The main hall was a kind of refectory, hundreds of seats around five long tables, the lights were very bright, giving the sensation that we were in broad day light. A table was set, a man was waiting at the other end of the hall for our arrival. Seeing us he disappeared behind a door.
“Make yourselves comfortable, lunch is coming” said that Mr. Yousaki taking a seat.
“So, what do you think?” I asked the passengers.
“We’re in a kind of prison. Who knows if we’ll be ever able to get out of here” a man said.
“Oh come on! He said it was temporary. I think that he’s right we have to adjust our knowledge with what’s out there” said someone else.
“Me too, we have to enjoy our situation while we can” said a woman at the end of the table.
“What about you?” the lady with the child asked me.
“Well, I’m tied, all I really want is a soft bed and a good shower” I replied.
Many laughed by my statement, but I wasn’t joking. A few minutes later, the man I saw earlier came out of the door followed by the waiters and the food. There was fish, meat, vegetables and noodles. It was the best food I ate in months. I took all the pleasure I could enjoying the food. When we were done, Mr. Yousaki told us that we were going to see a documentary which might help us to know better what’s out there. We were brought to a wide room with a big screen and lots of chairs on the first floor. I sat in the middle to be sure that I had the best view, the lights went off and we stayed in a pitch black room. The documentary began.
A woman spoke in English with a clear soft voice:
“Some things were discovered for the best of Humanity such as the New Technologies. They improved our way of life as nothing has before. Lots of changes and expectations were achieved during this last decade. Turning Earth into a better planet. Instead of using oil and coal as was once, we use electric and solar power which alleviates the air pollution accumulated in the past century. No more power cut, every building has its own power central.
“Most of the cars are electrical or solar, very few are still petrol. But unfortunately not every country has the same potential.
“For example, Europe and Oceania have made all the efforts to become Eco friendly, while the United States improved a lot but it is still far behind due to its gas and oil production.
“Asia and Africa are progressing toward an Eco friendly environment as well. No more plastic is used in most of the African countries. New technologies have provided incredible booming in Tunisia, South Africa, Maroco and Ghana.
“China is not far behind Japan, its electrical and solar cars are becoming more and more used. Most of the Indian cities are technologically superior than most of the Asian mega poles.
“Earth has incredibly progressed this last decade. Unfortunately conflicts are still out there but the new development might change the future into a better one…”
The documentary was still playing, but the peace and safety I felt inside and the quiet female voice reaching into my soul made my mind drift away, the last thing I remember before falling asleep is my own thought.
“So I won’t regret anything from my early years. I don’t have anyone back there, I could easily live in a better place 20 years into the future…”
This is the second book of John Flanagan, in the serie of the Ranger Apprentice. This book follows book #1.
On a special mission for the rangers, Will and his friend Horace, an apprentice warrior, travel to the neighbouring country of Celtica and discover an unsettling truth. Villages, mines and border posts are deserted. The Celts have disappeared. But Lord Morgarath is behind it. Before long, they discover that the king’s army is in danger of being destroyed in a treacherous ambush. Only Will, Horace, and a mysterious girl named Evanlyn, stand between them.
It is still a thrilling story, which I recommend to read for anyone who enjoys The Lord of The Rings or King Arthur.