Another ten minutes, maybe eleven, and the city would send the signal that called its parts back. He’d built a bike around a chunk torn from the city’s walls. The piece, shaped like an oversized potato with wires, nodes, and lights sat at the core of the bike. Two hours of travel was the farthest he’d ever gotten. Then the signal went out and the core was called home. Nothing could stop its return. The city would remake itself, no matter what. He’d tried burying the core, just to see what would happen. Ten feet of dirt and rock couldn’t stop the chuck of city from rising from the ground and being pulled back.
He held a leash attached to the bike. Being stranded once was the only lesson he needed. An hour on the bike was more than a day on foot. During that long walk back he had plenty of time to think about how to avoid being stranded again. What he’d come up with was the leash. A simple tether of cable wrapped with braided cloth. Anytime he got off the bike he held the leash, or attached it to his belt.
He felt a vibration. A slight buzz in his hand. The telltale tremor of the city’s signal. In ten seconds any part of the city not within its borders would return. It’d been an alright day, not great, but not bad. He’d found a few things worth bringing back. Some food items, some bits and bobs, a smooth piece of light blue glass. He planned to drill a small hole in that, hang it with the others in his window were it would dance with the light. He’d sit and watch the play of colors on the wall.
As bothersome as it was to always be called back, there were benefits. There was no concern about running out of fuel and being stranded. Getting lost was impossible. He could go anywhere, go as far as he wanted, and know the core would always return. As long as he stayed with the bike he had a way home.
On the ride back he wondered, not for the first time, who built the city. How long had it been standing? How long would a city that could mend itself remain?