Time To Repair

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Chapter 5

Northampton England, Wednesday August 6th 2262

09:52:02 hours

The group’s excitement wasn’t far from boiling point as they zigzagged down the concrete ramp from the flat grass area to the M1 below.

This was Simon’s first time also; he managed to keep his own excitement in check and refrained from pushing the children out of the way to get there first.

They reached the bottom of the ramp and continued along the side of the main carriageway to the first vehicle.

“Can I have everyone’s attention please?” Simon requested loudly. Several of the children were in a world of their own and had strayed from the rest of the group.

“Thank you,” he said as they reassembled quickly.

“As you can see there are far too many vehicles here for us to be able to look at each one in detail, so we will start with this first motor car here, then jump on this moving walkway and stop periodically to look at some of the others.”

He pointed at the black perforated rubber walkway which presently wasn’t moving. It was raised about a step off the floor and was set in a metal track. There were two tubular metal handrails with black rubber grips that faced the carriageway at two different heights. The walkway stretched as far as they could see to the right.

“This will save us a lot of time and energy; we would all be exhausted if we had to walk along this stretch of the motorway; especially in this heat. It has been installed here on what is called the hard shoulder. When vehicles used to stop working, or collided with each other on the main carriageway, they would be moved away from the moving vehicles and onto the hard shoulder to wait for recovery.”

Simon turned from the walkway and went over to the first vehicle.

“This first vehicle is a car called a Ford Anglia 100 E,” he announced, reading the details from his dat-com strap. He tapped the fingers of his right hand affectionately on its pastel green front wing.

The children spread themselves out around the vehicle either examining its outside or its inside by peering through its small windows.

Simon continued. “This car was built in the 1950’s in England. This particular model is first in this amazing collection of vehicles because it was built in the same year as the M1. It has a three-speed gear-box and could reach a top speed of 70.2 miles per hour. It could go from 0-60 miles an hour in about twenty nine seconds, by today’s standard that’s an incredibly long time. You could port to Australia and back in that time. But, back then, that was good for the average car.”

He looked round the group. “Now, two of you can sit in it if you want to; does anyone fancy it?” Every child shot their hand up enthusiastically and looked longingly at Simon, desperately hoping to be picked. “Looks like everyone wants a go,” he said, not in the least surprised. “Well you can’t all get in; and if we take it in turns in every vehicle we look at then we will run out of time for anything else this lesson. The next vehicle different children can try out. For this one though I’m picking Gillian and… Harry.” Gillian and Harry were ecstatic, the others were a little disappointed.

“The rest of you need to stand back so they can get in. Gillian and Harry take off your rucksacks; you can’t get in with those on.”

The two slipped off their rucksacks and dropped them to the ground. Simon opened both doors and they got inside.

“Ooh, it smells funny,” said Gillian wrinkling up her nose as she settled into the passenger seat.

“Well it is three hundred and three years old; it’s going to smell a bit musty,” remarked Simon, bending down into the car and taking in a deep breath of the air via his nostrils.

“Phew!” he exclaimed standing up quickly, I see what you mean!” The children laughed.

“Can I ride it up the road?” Asked Harry.

“It’s driving. You would have phrased it driving, not riding, and no, none of the vehicles we look at today will be driven by any of us,” Simon informed the children. “Apart from needing special permission from the government to use a fossil fuel vehicle now, these are all too valuable to just let any Tom, Gillian or Harry drive.” Several of the children giggled at his quip.

“This car when it was new would have cost around £500 in old money; converted to today’s currency that would be roughly 1250 V-credits. £500 back then was a lot of money.”

“What are these for?” asked Harry, taking his hands off the steering wheel and pointing to the three instruments clustered around the steering column.

“Those,” answered Simon peering back into the car, “are the speedometer, fuel gauge and the ammeter. They let you know how fast you are travelling in miles per hour, how much petrol you have, and the ammeter shows you the state of the electrical energy running through the car. Now if you wanted to listen to music or have heat in the winter you would be very unlucky with this car. A radio and heater were not fitted as standard but were known as extras that could be paid for on top of the £500 purchase price.” Simon stepped away from the car so that the other children could take a look inside.

After a few minutes he said. “It’s time to move on to the next vehicle.”

Harry and Gillian got out the car and Simon closed both the doors.

“Follow me children.”

He ambled over to the stationary walkway; the children gathered round him like coat-tails.

“I would like you all to step up onto the black bed and space yourselves out in a line… no need to bunch together like grapes Saadah and Ryszard; there is plenty of room.”

The children spread themselves out, Simon stepped on and stood in the middle of the line.

“Feet away from the front track please,” he said. “There are two hand-rails in front of you; hold on to whichever one is most comfortable,” he added, grabbing hold of the higher one. He checked up and down the line to make sure everyone was holding on.

“Activate walkway,” he commanded. His voice was recognised and picked up by the in-built sensors. The walkway made a whooshing sound as their feet were sucked firmly onto the perforated black bed. Several of the children looked surprised.

“Nothing to worry about,” Simon reassured them. “Your shoes are being sucked onto the bed. This is so that you don’t fall over when we start moving. You won’t be able to move your feet but this is for your own safety.”

The walkway slowly started moving to the right. “Hold tight children!”

It gradually picked up speed; as did the group’s enthusiasm.

“Cool!” shouted Mary excitedly.

The vehicles they were facing started to pass by at the rate of one every few seconds; the different colours, shapes and styles were mesmerising.

The group spent an enjoyable hour perusing random and very different vehicles; from a rusty looking Metro to a Route Master double-decker bus. They had crossed the ten lanes to the opposite hard shoulder and were slowly heading back towards the service station. Simon checked the time on his strap again. They had been on this side for around forty minutes.

“We have time for one last vehicle before we go to the service station.” He walked over to a flame red sports car with no visible roof. The only window glass it had was the high solar glass windscreen.

The car was massive. It could comfortably seat five across the long orange back leather seat, and three in the front. The dashboard was a cream colour; it had very few features or details.

“Children, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of my favourites…The Renault Rifiano,” Simon announced proudly.

“This car was hugely popular when it was launched in 2121. It was the first car you could legally use on the road that was totally voice controlled and drove itself. There had been others before this one; but all had failed the rigorous testing by the government and never made it onto the road.” Simon strolled round to the controller’s side of the car.

“Road accidents and fatalities had dropped steadily over the previous thirty years as cars became less reliant on our ancestors to control them. This one was the first in a long line of ’Auto Drive’ vehicles that virtually wiped out accidents by driving themselves. As you can see there are no floor pedals or steering wheel.”

“It’s beautiful,” said Saadah.

“It is!” agreed Simon, climbing into the controller’s seat. “You can all take it in turns to have a seat in this one,” he added.

Seven of the children got in, Mary and Rina got into the front and sat next to Simon.

“The Rifiano was powered on a mixture of solar power and fossil fuel; sadly the solar cell that we know today was still in its early stages of development, and was unable to harness enough power to totally run a vehicle at that time.”

“Co się stało, kiedy padal deszcz?” asked Ryszard.

“What happened when it rained?” Came the translation.

“A very good question Ryszard,” Simon praised. “This car had an early form of a weather displacement barrier; or shield as it was called for this car. At the first sign of damp in the atmosphere the invisible displacement shield would cover the car in seconds. It could also be activated at anytime if you were cold perhaps, by a simple voice command from the designated controller.”

“Cool,” said Ryszard in English, mimicking Mary. They all laughed, including Mary.

“You could be sat here warm and dry in the car and put your hand through the barrier and feel the rain if you wanted,” Simon informed them. “Mary and Rina you can get out now and let Harry and Hakiro take a seat in the front, whoever is sat behind me please get out and let Douglas take your place.” The children swiftly swapped over.

Simon continued. “A much improved weather displacement barrier now protects all the vehicles here on the M1; I bet you didn’t even notice it as we walked in and out of it.” There was a stunned wave of ‘wow, oohs and ahhs’ from the children.

Simon went on. “The entire length of the carriageway is covered all the time to keep these precious pieces of our history clean, dry and to stop them fading in the sunlight. Of a night, and in the months when the temperature drops below 12 degrees, the road’s outdated in-built anti-ice technology has been restored back to full working order; with a tweak or two of modern technology. This stops the vehicles experiencing drastic changes in temperature,” Simon hesitated… “Surely that’s worth a ‘cool’ Mary?” The children laughed.

“Mega cooooooool!” obliged Mary.

Simon continued. “Let’s get back onto this beautiful car. It has a top speed of 368 mph, this sounds a lot but you could never reach that sort of speed on the M1. The car’s engine is fitted with a chip which meant its speed was controlled by a satellite and you could never exceed the 100mph speed limit. Being the first car of its kind it wasn’t cheap. Brand new this beauty would have cost you around £400,000, around a million V-credits.”

“That’s not much,” said Gillian from the back seat looking puzzled.

“You’re right,” agreed Simon. “By today’s standards that isn’t an awful lot; back in 2121 though it was considered very expensive. A teleporter now costs about a million V-credits; the Rifiano one hundred and forty one years ago cost the same.”

“Oh, I see now,” said Gillian. “That was a lot all those years ago.”

“I think it’s time we stopped for a drink and a snack at the service station,” Simon proclaimd.

A cheer erupted from the group.

They left the Rifiano behind and headed toward the services. The sun beat down on them as they walked down the ramp that took them off the carriageway.

“This, boys and girls, is the car park,” Simon informed them as they crossed it. It was totally deserted; all it needed was some tumbleweed, he thought.

The area was littered with weeds that had forced their way through the crumbling tarmac surface.

“You would drive your vehicle down the ramp we have just come down and park here,” Simon pointed to the left. “That is the filling station, those tall boxy things you see in rows there are called fuel dispensers or pumps; they contained a selection of fuels to suit the different vehicles.” They had paused momentarily to take in the sights of the filling station. There was a tall plastic sign that towered above the station. It displayed the prices of the various fuels. Petrol was selling for 712.9 pence per litre when the services had closed its doors for the last time.

They stepped up the curb to the large block-paved pedestrian area and toward the single-storey, flat roofed building. It was constructed from a skirt of yellow bricks around the base with glass above. There were old-fashioned posters of food and drinks that could be found in the Café displayed on some of the windows. The group reached the tall glass entrance doors that slid open as they got close. On a sign above them was written Welcome to Tesco Services. The word Tesco was written in red with a broken blue line below it.

Simon stopped just in front of the open doors. “The observant ones of you may have noticed something familiar about the name up there,” he pointed to the sign. None of the children showed any visible response to his observation and just stared at him blankly, he carried on. “The name Tesco is now part of another large company that is still in business today. Just over 100 years ago Tesco and J Sainsbury merged to become the giant they are today, Tesburys!” There was a ripple of realisation among the children.

“Oh, come on you lot,” Simon said with a heavy sigh. “Let’s go snack!” He slipped through the open doorway, the children quickly followed.

They found themselves in a large echoic foyer with several different areas off it. The floor had white tiles throughout that reflected the sunlight, making the whole place feel light and airy.

In front of them were three long steps the width of the foyer that led up to the Café. To the left of them were toilets and a glass fronted shop. To the right was an old amusement arcade, none of which were working.

“If anyone needs the toilet while we are here, now is the time to go,” Simon announced to the group. “You will notice that they are split into two; male and female. This was normal practice at that time.”

All of the children scuttled off to try out the toilets. Simon smiled as he sat down on the edge of the middle step. He took eleven plastic-coated bank notes from his back trouser pocket. He sat patiently listening to the children’s fun and laughter emanate from the toilets.

After a few minutes the children returned one by one.

Simon stood up and gestured towards the café. “We try to run the café pretty much as it would have been run 125 years ago. A lot of things that were for sale then have been reproduced in similar packaging to sell today. We also have two members of staff dressed in uniforms from that period to serve you.”

Simon held up one of the bank notes. “This children is a £50 note. In 2137 if you wanted to buy something, a popular way was to use this plastic-coated paper money and a variety of metal coins; there was no scanning of thumbs then for payment!” He handed each child a £50 note.

“On the front of the note, or the face as it was known, you will see the reigning monarch of the time, Queen Mary III… Phew! Wasn’t she a beauty?” The children giggled.

“On the back you will see pictured that much loved author from the early 21st century, J K Rowling.” The group studied the note with fascination.

“We will now see how good your maths is,” Simon declared. “Your note should be enough to buy yourself a snack or two and a drink in the café. There will be a price list at the counter that I suggest you study carefully; making a mental note of the different prices of the things that you want. This is all the money you are going to be given so you need to work out if you have enough of it… before you come to pay the person on the cash register.”

They ambled up the three steps and entered the deserted café. To the left of them was the main dining area. There were numerous white grained wooden tables spread randomly throughout. Each table had four rather uncomfortable bulky wooden chairs tucked under it with thin dark green cushions that nearly matched the carpeted floor. The carpet looked every day of its age, dubious looking stains here and there added to its character. There were white rectangular ceramic planters randomly placed which held various artificial fern and long leaf plants. The surrounding windows went from floor to ceiling. The view was of the desolate car park they had just walked across.

Simon led the children to the long stainless steel counter; it was just low enough for the children to use comfortably. Behind the counter two young women stood in what looked like blue and red striped boiler suits. What hair they had must have been tied up inside the navy blue straw boaters they wore, a red ribbon circling the crown of each. They looked quite happy, despite the ridiculous looking garb they had been made to wear. He smiled at them both. They each had white plastic name tags with Tesco and their names printed on them - Sally and Vanessa.

“I’m Simon Kingsley and this is SRK 6-1, I believe you are expecting us?”

“Good morning all,” chirped up Vanessa. “How can I help you today?” She was playing her part very well.

“We’ve come in for a midmorning snack and a drink,” answered Simon. “The children each have £50.00 to spend and not a penny more. I’ve told them to select carefully up to that value.

I will start us off and place my order.”

Simon looked up and down the various foods on display behind the counter before glancing up at the digital price list - a large black screen suspended from the ceiling. It displayed the price of everything in an electric blue italic font.

“Okay... I will take a large pot of tea and a… and a… Raspberry Jam Kit-Kat please.”

“How do you have your tea Sir?” asked Vanessa.

Of course, Simon thought, he would have to specify how he had it in here. “Milk, no sugar please.”

“Coming right up!” Vanessa turned to the old-fashioned drinks machine behind her and busied herself with his order.

“There, that was easy, wasn’t it?” asked Simon. “My order comes to £36.75, so well under £50. Now form an orderly queue and you can each take your turn.”

Vanessa appeared at the counter and slid over a green wooden tray with his order on it. “If you would like to take your tray to Sally at the cash register, she will sort you out.”

Simon smiled, if only he thought. “Thank you Vanessa.”

He turned to the children with his tray. “I’m going to pay for mine now and then take a seat. If anyone needs any help I will come over.”

Simon took his tray over to the rather cumbersome looking cash register, placing it down on the side ledge of the booth that surrounded it.

“Will that be all my love?” Sally asked with a strong Welsh accent.

“Err, yes thank you.” Simon replied, slightly surprised and amused at her ‘in-keeping’ banter.

Sally picked up a hand-held device and hovered it over the pot of tea. It bleeped once and the word tea appeared on the display of the register. How quaint, Simon thought. She did the same with the Kit-Kat.

“That will be £36.75 please,” Sally confirmed, reading the display. Simon handed her the £50.00 note. He noticed how smooth her lily-white hands looked as she took the money and placed it on the counter to hover the device over it. A drawer from under the register sprang open with a long bleep. She placed the money inside and pulled out his change.

“That’s £13.25 pence change,” she declared. She placed a £10 note, three £1 notes and a 25 pence coin in his open hand. “Enjoy your tea!”

“Thank you Sally, I will.” He crossed to the table closest to the counter so that he could watch the children and sat down. They seemed to be getting on okay he thought, as he stirred his tea in its stainless steel pot.

He picked up the pot and slowly poured the tea into the white ceramic cup, dribbling it over the tabletop and into the saucer. He couldn’t believe that with all the advances in technology over the years, a descendant of these dribbling pots was still in use today! Couldn’t someone come up with a metal pot that didn’t spew tea all over the show, he thought as he tried to mop it up with an inadequate green serviette.

The children had all managed perfectly with the outdated concept of using actual physical money. Simon was pleased. He was also proud of them; despite only having met them a couple of hours ago.

He cast his eyes over the different tables they were seated at. They were all getting on great, chatting and laughing together as they finished their snacks. Gillian seemed to have forgotten her mishap at the start of the lesson. He glanced at the digital clock on the wall by the door; he had thirteen minutes to get them to the port floor for their scheduled port time.

Simon stood up. “Children, you have another five minutes to finish off and then we have to leave; you have another lesson to go to.”

Five minutes later the children were taking their trays back to the hatch next to the counter. The trays glided away silently on the conveyor belt.

The children all said their goodbyes to Sally and Vanessa, who now stood in front of the counter, as they exited to the foyer. Simon was last to leave. “Lovely to meet you both,” he said.

“You too… my love,” beamed Sally.

“See you again,” said Vanessa, cringing at her colleague.

Simon joined the children in the foyer. “There is a traversoll at the back of the filling station,” Simon declared loudly, having checked his dat-com strap. “Let’s go!”

“You really are a flirt Sally Besom!” Vanessa said to her colleague as they stood at one of the windows. They watched Simon and SRK 6-1 disappear behind the back of the filling station.

“You must admit, he’s flipping dazzling though Vanessa.”

“He’s not too bad, I suppose,” agreed Vanessa. “I didn’t really notice,” she added.

“You liar!” accused Sally. “I saw you eyeing up that tidy backside of his.”

Vanessa turned beetroot red. “Come on Sally, let’s get this place ready for the next group, then we can have a snack ourselves.” She turned and headed back to the counter; not denying Sally’s claim.

Sally laughed and followed Vanessa who had started clearing the debris from the trays.

Simon led the children down aisle B on the port floor. He stopped near the lower end of teleporters.

“Now, a few things quickly before you go. This afternoon I will be forwarding some work for your home study day. The home study work will relate to what we have learnt this morning.” He shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“You have today’s lesson on your straps to help you with this; upload it when you get home… I expect the completed work sent back in before our lesson next Wednesday.” The children nodded.

“You are off now for your Geography lesson with Mr Andrew Greatrix. He will be meeting you in Sofia, Bulgaria. You will be having your lunch with him also. Any questions?” Simon asked. The children shook their heads or said no.

Simon unlocked their straps for 100% usage again. “Okay, I think we are all set for you to depart. Starting from teleporter number forty-eight and working upwards, can you all go and stand by one please; I will then come along and authorise your ports.”

The ten children each selected a teleporter. Simon worked his way along the line. With each he opened the door with his thumb; placed next to the child’s on the external panel, recited the location number of the museum teleporter and the destination number of the other end. He then made sure the child got in okay and the door closed behind them before moving on to the next one. The last teleporter had Gillian next to it.

“Time to go Gillian,” Simon informed her. “Put your thumb on the pad please.”

Gillian stretched up and put her thumb next to his; it looked tiny in comparison. Simon gave the commands and the door opened. Gillian jumped up the step and stood inside facing him.

“Goodbye Gillian.”

“Goodbye!” she replied and waved at him frantically. Simon smiled. The door started to slowly close.

“Mr Kingsley!” Gillian cried.

“What’s the matter?” Simon asked alarmed. He stepped forward to abort the port.

“Thank you,” she said sweetly with a kind smile.

He smiled back, touched by her words. The door closed fully. Twenty seconds later all ten teleports started simultaneously, a few seconds more and the children were gone.

He thought of those two simple words from Gillian as he walked back across the port floor. It was moments like that which made his work more than just a job.

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