I walk up to the clerk and where I expect to see a cash register is a handheld scanner. The sour looking man scans the items and then holds the scanner up about five inches from my temple. The man throws the items into a small mesh bag made of twine.
"Gracias, Senor." Yal-hune says and smiles. For the first time the man actually smiles.
We leave the store and emerge in the street again. I look at the skyline for the famous California smog and I see it still. It's hard to tell if it actually looks worse than before or better.
"Why is it still so smoggy if cars were made illegal over 20 years ago?"
"Well, much of the pollution comes over the Pacific Ocean from China. They now are the world's superpower and produce the goods for almost every nation. Yes, I know - not much different from 2009. This pollution is added to by local pollution. The poverty of California is beyond belief and government housing doesn't hold all of the 590 million Americans. Over 50 million are homeless and live on the streets. They light fires for warmth and this is nasty pollution. Like 20 million barbecues being lit every night, the smoke is particularly thick with pollution particulates."
I find it almost laughable - if it were not so sad, I might actually laugh. The 'evil' automobile is dead and buried for 20 years and the skies are dirtier than ever.
"Why don't they make the fires illegal?"
"They do. But at night time the homeless use flame concealing gadgets that make it hard for law enforcement to keep up with. And many of the homeless neighborhoods are not policed because they are very dangerous. All sorts of crime exists here. All the old ones - prostitution, drugs, murder, rape and more - are still present with some new ones added to them. Like during prohibition days, booze is made clandestinely, now alongside cigarettes. Fires the homeless use to survive are not the top priority of law enforcement."
I look closer and it sinks in just how old this area is and just how decrepit is the infrastructure. The State of California certainly is not the 'Golden State' anymore. I recognize new unclean smells I had not noticed when I first arrived.
"That's the sewer system - still dating to when it was built in the 1940s. It's never been rebuilt. There has been no money for infrastructure maintenance for many decades now. The sewers are clogged in many areas and while they try to keep them flowing, they are waging a losing battle. California's population is just too large, and the sewers were built for a population only 1/20th of this size."
"So what is the state of the world here? You mention China is top dog, what about Russia?"
"Russia is very poor, like the United States. They suffered when the planets magnetic north pole headed to Siberia, bringing them the coldest weather they have ever had since it arrived. Their sea straights and ports have been frozen solid for ten years now and they can't ship their oil. What's worse is that demand for oil is only big in China and Russian oil is bypassed in favor of big abiotic reserves tapped in China around 2023. The Middle East is a shacktown of poverty and oil can no longer be counted on to carry a nations economy."
"Has there been any wars? Any nuclear detonations?"
"Wars, yes, many. Israel was destroyed by a nuclear attack and irradiated in 2021. Israel, in response, from their nuclear submarines, nuked the capitals of three nations - Egypt, Iran and Syria. These regions have many birth defects and the peoples live too close to the old irradiated cities. The economies of these regions have never recovered and pumping oil in irradiated fields was tasked to robots."
"I'm curious...whatever happened to SDAI?"
"SDAI was shut down and closed completely after the end of Obama's one term. The black funding finally stopped. Not just for SDAI, but on all sorts of covert projects that had been receiving funding for decades. Obama succeeded in fully bankrupting America. After unemployment reached 25 percent in 2012, the Federal Reserve Bank and the dollar were worthless. Other nations refused dollar payments and the Euro became the standard international currency of choice."
"Who replaced Obama?"
"An Independent won."
"No, But I don't want to tell you more as it might interfere with my purposes in showing you this time period."
It's all overwhelming. Just how quickly a superpower could collapse into a sea of poverty and mental feebleness. I see the group we had seen earlier and a few more have gathered to join them.
"They plan to beat you up and have other plans for me. We may want to leave here now."
"Where to? Do we really have those government housing?"
"No. We don't. But there is a group of patrol bicycles a few blocks ahead. Care to exercise your legs?"
The gang sees us turn and they start to approach. She breaks into a run just as I do. She doesn't want to have to use her abilities. I hear the gang shout and break into a run as well.
"This area is unsafe."
We keep running and finally see a group of bicyclists, dressed in a uniform that is black with a red and black cap.
Yal-hune calls out to the officers in perfect Spanish. She explains that we are being chased. The men laugh. I wonder if we have gone from the frying pan into the fire. Two officers suddenly grab Yal-hune. Another two grab me.
"Trust me...you don't want to be doing that...you won't like her when shes angry."
"Shut up Blanco! Who said you can speak?"
I start thinking I could take out at least 5 of these guys before one of them got me with a weapon. Yal-hune is in my mind, "No don't even think that way."
"You reminded me how we could just teleport away...can you teleport us away?"
"I'm evaluating the options. Each has consequences for these men. I try to choose the one that has the least chance of causing them evolutionary harm."
"Evaluate quickly. I think they all like you."
The men chasing us now have joined the police officers and it's clear they know each other and are fast friends.
Suddenly, the groping men and the men who pursued us are all simultaneously hurled back about a dozen feet and all land on their posteriors. Yal-hune grabs me and before I know what's happening were flying.
What's weird is I feel no resistance. No air is tussling my hair, no wind is distorting my face, despite the fact we must be traveling hundreds of miles an hour - possibly thousands - and all from a complete standstill in less than a second. We are heading East, I think.
"That's the envelope of energy I surround us with - it acts as a force field and allows in only as much atmosphere as I want to pass through it."
"What will those men think?"
"We disappeared so quickly while they were on their posteriors looking up that not a single one of them did see us actually leave. They will think we are hiding nearby and will start a fruitless search for us."
"Where are we going?"
"I want to show you something else..."
(End Part 22)