Part 4

Disembarking the bus proved a greater relief than Lieder had expected. The ride had been too stable; there was no turbulence, his fellow passengers' conversations had entirely drowned the sound of air rushing past its hull, and the changes in velocity when it turned or pitched with the incline to the thirteenth floor of this superstructure were all barely detectable.
      It was what transportation had strived to be since the wheel was invented. Still, that made it too unnaturally comfortable for comfort.
      The double-decked vehicle lifted off the ground and hummed quietly away as soon as Lieder was clear. He ambled away from the road, casually inspecting his impromptu destination. The room resembled a typical commercial parking garage of his time, with the only major difference being the differing compositions of the walkway and the trails of road that lead into each stall.
      This particular lot seemed limited to the perimeter of this room, though the signs hanging overhead suggested a connection to identical lots directly above and below it. Still, the majority of this floor of the building must have been zoned for anything but the parking of vehicles.
      He wandered towards the exit, wondering if all of these massive buildings could be occupied to even half capacity.
      A directory of this level's specific tenants was built into the wall next to the door. Upon closer inspection, Lieder found that there was a user interface for zooming and scrolling; the floor was too big to fit on the screen with appropriate labeling.
      Lieder didn't need to tinker with the display in order to determine his destination. A restaurant was just a few rooms down the hall.
      With no apparent console for opening the door, Lieder took a tentative step towards it. The barrier reacted to the motion by retreating into its ceiling compartment, granting him access to the hall beyond.
      "Please join us in welcoming His Grace, Lord Lieder." The recording of a young adult female's voice emanated from within.
      Lieder gritted his teeth in a concealed scowl as he passed the threshold. It wouldn't be surprising that a system was in place to detect human presence and open the door for them, but to know their identity? Even that might be fine enough, but to announce the arrival to everyone inside, complete with title…
      Was 'Lord' a rank actually seeing common usage in this age? Was 'Lord' really his rank?
      The interior was very similar to that of a two-story shopping mall. In his contemplation, Lieder had failed to notice two young women standing near the door of a nearby shop. They were frozen in bent posture, heads bowed in his direction.
      "Please, um, carry on," Lieder requested, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head with his right hand. He hoped he wouldn't have to keep doing this.
      Immediately they straightened back up, smiling excitedly. In polite silence, they proceeded into the store.
      Once again, his thoughts returned to the enigma of his revival. If the reason had been frivolous, would he have been granted this lordship status? If it hadn't been frivolous, why had Percius thought it acceptable to abandon him?
      He was stuck in this cycle of questions, and normally he felt he could ignore such a conundrum and carry on with life until he stumbled upon the factor he had been missing. Normally, though, he had responsibilities, obligations, hobbies, or even simple possessions to occupy himself with.
      Lieder arrived at his destination and glanced up at the marquee above its door. The Cool-N'-Airy
      Diner was emblazoned across the top half in a cursive font. The bottom half continually scrolled through their menu.
      Lieder stared into the opaquely-tinted window blankly, contemplating his options. Seeing this establishment had not helped him reach a conclusion. The hospital had also been inconclusive, since whoever revived him was probably responsible for any bill. The bus had been driverless, and Lieder had watched several people get on and off without any heed to paying a fare, so that experience had also not provided any indication.
      This would be the first time he'd attempt a monetary transaction in this world. He had every right to be naïve about how currency was handled, but he still dreaded the embarrassment of having to walk into a random establishment and ask the employees about how money was supposed to work.
      Should he offer to trade something? Ask if he could work for them in exchange for the food?  Maybe it was best to just request directions to the nearest equivalent of a bank?
      As Lieder stared into the tinted glass of the restaurant windows, he began to notice that the unfamiliar face staring back at him didn't belong to a stranger; distracted by his economic plight, he failed to recognize that he was looking into his own eyes.
      He knew he was young again, but he hadn't realized that his body was still this early in its development. The surplus of hair on his scalp and the absence of any in his ears had been immediately apparent, but to think he'd be a teenager again…
      Again, unanswerable questions surfaced: had they grown an unconscious body for a decade and a half in order to facilitate his revival, or had they somehow accelerated the clone's growth to this stage of development? If the latter, why was this stage selected?
      He forced his curiosity aside, resolving to find the answers when he had the time and resources. For now, at least this body looked like a person who might genuinely need answers for the questions he'd be asking.
      Walking through the doorway, he was immediately greeted by the same voice that had announced his arrival from the parking lot.
      "Please join us in welcoming His Grace, Lord Lieder."
      Lieder groaned. There had to be a way to opt out of these introductions.
      A light shining near his feet caught his attention. Turning his gaze to the floor, he discovered a message displayed beneath the translucent tile in front of him.
      Please follow me to Preferred Seating!
       Lieder paused for a moment, confused. Was it going to draw him a map or something?
      Reminding himself that the impractical had time to become practical since his digitization, Lieder obliged the request by taking a step forward. The display blinked off as his foot made contact, with a clone immediately lighting up under the next tile.
      Savvy to the concept, Lieder followed the light around the corner and on through the dim restaurant. He wondered how he could ask about proper payment if the entire service was this automated.
      The light led him up a flight of stairs and onto a large terrace. Stepping inside its bounds, the scenery instantly changed; the dark, blank décor of the restaurant replaced with the canopy of a lush rainforest.
      Glancing back at his feet, his guiding tile remained illuminated among the fallen foliage of the muddy jungle floor.
      Any vacant table is yours to claim. Thank you for your visit!
      The illusory patio was sparsely occupied, so Lieder slid into the booth nearest the entrance. The bench and table were disguised as dead, mossy logs, but the fact that they still felt like their plastic and cushioned surfaces sufficiently offset any apprehension Lieder may have had for eating or lounging on such objects.
      As the seat cushion conformed to his weight, a rectangle of light broke through the illusion of mossy bark on the faux tree-table. The window displayed an interactive menu of the restaurants dishes. Though the lack of any obvious pricing confused Lieder, he was relieved to find a 'Summon Servant' button towards the bottom of the screen.  
      Lieder tapped this portion of the screen and leaned back with a sigh of relief. He had been dreading the idea that he might be committing to a bill without any sort of grasp on its circumstances.
      It wasn't long before he heard the approach of rapid, purposeful footsteps. Lieder turned to look at the terrace entrance, mindful of the possibility that the server might not know which specific table had called them, but the uniformed man that climbed the disguised stairs was already focusing his gaze on Lieder.
      He wore a one-piece uniform, and like the hospital staff's, it was absent of any obvious seams, zippers, or buttons. Unlike the nurses', the garment tightly adhered to his body shape, causing the legs and arms to seem longer.

The End

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