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The face of a young woman appeared in the top left corner of the screen. She had strawberry blond hair and eyes as blue as a summer sky. It was Lorie.
Editor’s note: We’ve been sharing our ideas in recent posts on how we think the future might look and how the different areas within Amadeus can contribute to shape the future of travel. Today we’d like to transport you into the near future to see what travel might be like in just a few years through a short story we commissioned. Next, read part 2and part 3!
Dylan scanned through his emails.
“Rejection, rejection, declined, rejection,” he muttered.
“You sound disheartened,” she said.
Dylan leaned back in his chair.
“Six months since my last job, I’m a bit more than disheartened.”
Lorie threw him a sympathetic look. “Come on boy genius, sooner or later someone will recognise your talent? Would you like me to scan the Cloud for new opportunities?”
“We’ve done that twice today already,” Dylan replied, sweeping back his black curls.
Then I’ll broaden my parameters,” Lorie said and vanished.
Chewing on an old pen, Dylan looked around at the clutter of his apartment. That was the funny thing about unemployment; he was too busy looking for work to clear up the pizza boxes and unwashed socks. Well, and too busy battling 3D zombies on his games console. But he needed something to cheer him up. With a bleep Lorie’s pretty features re-appeared.
“Hey Dylan, I’ve got something.” “A job?”
Lorie shook her head. “There’s an industry conference at the weekend. The big six are meeting.”
Dylan’s mouth dropped.
“The software giants? But how’s that a job opportunity?” “I was thinking about the VPA?”
The acronym stood for ‘virtual personal assistant,’ an artificial intelligence created from algorithms and sub-routines, and shaped to the user’s unique personality. More than a humble programme, the VPA could problem-solve, innovate and create. In short, it could think. For years the concept had been nothing more than speculation. A fantastic idea but not in our lifetimes, or so said the professors and super-geeks.
Dylan had proved them all wrong. He’d written a code for a working VPA. The trouble was nobody believed him. As if some twenty-something non-entity could succeed where the industry eggheads had failed. He’d been laughed out of so many offices he’d lost count. Lorie, of course, was the first edition of his VPA programme. And so far, after a year of testing, she remained glitch free. If only someone influential would listen!
“I don’t get it, Lorie,” Dylan said.
Lorie beamed a radiant smile, and Dylan remembered the long hard week he’d spent working on those lip movements.
“The heads from the six most influential computer companies will be in one room. Why not make them a pitch?”
Lorie’s sub-code for original thought was certainly working well. But hijack a business meeting? Dylan’s stomach quivered.
“Maybe, so where are the great and good getting together?” “Ko Chokdee,” Lorie said. “Go where now?” “No, Ko Chokdee, an island near to Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s an exclusive getaway, off the beaten track. The name means ‘good fortune’ in Thai.” Dylan took a deep gulp. “How on Earth would I get there?”
Lorie closed her eyes, deep in thought. Her multi-gigabyte intelligence was trawling through the Internet.
OK, direct flights to Samui’s international airport kick off at 3000 e-dollars.”
“Lorie, you know how much I’ve got in the bank. Coming up with impossible answers isn’t helping.”
Lorie laughed. The sound always reminded Dylan of birdsong.
“I’ve cross-referenced your budget with all travel options. There is an affordable route, if we fly to a cheaper destination and then some overland travel.”
Dylan frowned. “Are you sure? What about visas? Insurance?”
“Trust me Dylan. I can take care of all that in nanoseconds. Let me do the boring stuff and you focus on the pitch of a lifetime. What do you say?”
Dylan scratched his chin. No work, no girlfriend, and no social life, what did he have to lose? He banged the desk with his fist.
“Lorie, you’re a genius.” “No, Dylan, that’s you. I’ve downloaded a list of travel essentials to your tablet. You get packing while I book the coach to the airport.
The doors of the arrivals terminal swished open and Dylan walked out into a wall of hot sticky air.
“Try that taxi and ask for Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin,” Lorie piped up from the tablet in Dylan’s pack. “Malaysia!” Dylan squeaked. “Malaysia,” he said again in a less shrill voice. “Not even Thailand, we’re in the wrong country completely.” “Trust me Dylan. I’ve traded costs against hours. This is the only route that gets you there in time without breaking the bank. If...” “If?” “If nothing goes wrong.”
Dylan rolled his eyes, slung his pack over his shoulder and trudged into the blinding tropical sunlight. Sat in the cab into Kuala Lumpur, Dylan chewed frantically on his nails. Outside, he could see an endless world of oriental housing and bougainvillaea. Every signpost was in a strange language. The people, the stores, the buses, everything was different. It was as if he’d landed on another planet. He felt very alone. When they reached the train station, a castle of gleaming white minarets, a young woman wrapped in a hijab waited for them. The sash around her waist indicated she worked for the booking office.
“Mr Howard? Your tickets.” “I thought it quicker than queuing,” Lorie explained.
Lorie guided Dylan through the crowds of travellers and noodle soup sellers to the right platform. Soon the train was speeding through rubber plantations, with hundreds of trees lined up in orderly rows. The seats were all fitted with screens in their backs. Dylan leaned forward and touched the one in front of him, bringing up the menu.
What shall I order for dinner?” he asked.
“Hmm,” Lorie said. “Let’s get some advice.”
She closed her eyes and surfed the Cloud, asking questions in all the relevant chat rooms and social media.
“Ok,” she said, opening her eyes. “Josh and Mandy from Sydney, backpacking their way to Singapore, say ‘try the nasi lemak, the sweet and spice is to-die-for.’”
As it turned out, the meal was indeed exquisite and the local beer better. Dylan brought up the latest action movie on the touch screen and dozed off. He awoke at sunrise to a view of palm trees and glistening rice fields. A food seller was working through the compartment selling stubby bananas.
“Thailand!” Lorie exclaimed. “Soon we’ll get off at Chumpon, the gateway to Ko Chokdee.”
A violent jolt shook the train. The wheels groaned like tortured beasts, as slowly the vehicle ground to a halt. Two agonising hours passed while the passengers in the sealed bubble of the aircon waited for news. None came, but eventually the train flickered into life. The onboard computers and electrics switched themselves back on and the engine began to whir again.
“A malfunction in the circuits. It just needed rebooting,” Lorie said.
Dylan flashed her a reproachful stare.
“You look worried,” she remarked. “That would be because I am,” he replied.
She smiled her pearl-white smile. “You sleep off that jetlag. I have an idea".