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2005 03 30
Mnemonic City-Fragment 1
imageFirst, Adrian got on the subway, opting to go deadhead for a faster load-time. He stepped into the sparkling cryochamber at the Downsview station, conjured a HUD against his field of vision, and granted permission to be frozen. The next thing he knew, he was thawing out on the Union station platform, pressed belly-to-butt with a couple thousand other commuters who'd opted for the same treatment. In India, where this kind of convenience-freezing was even more prevalent, Mohan had observed that the reason their generation was small for their age was that they spent so much of it in cold-sleep, conserving space in transit. Adrian might've been 18, but he figured that he'd spent at least one cumulative year frozen.

Adrian shuffled through the crowd and up the stairs to the steady-temp surface, peeling off the routing sticker that the cryo had stuck to his shoulder. His tummy was still rumbling, so he popped the sticker in his mouth and chewed until it had dissolved, savoring the steaky flavor and the burst of calories. The guy who'd figured out edible routing tags had Whuffie to spare: Adrian's mom knew someone who knew someone who knew him, and she said that he had an entire subaquatic palace to rattle around in.

A clamor of swallowing noises filled his ears, as the crowd subvocalized, carrying on conversations with distant friends. Adrian basked in the warm, simulated sunlight emanating from the dome overhead. He was going outside of the dome in a matter of minutes, and he had a sneaking suspicion that he was going to be plenty cold soon enough. He patted his little rucksack and made sure he had his cowl with him.

He inched his way through the crowd down Bay Street to the ferrydocks, absently paging through his public directory, looking at the stuff he'd accumulated in the night. It would all have to go, of course, but he wanted a chance to run some of it before then. Most of it was crap, of course. The average backup of the average citizen of the Bitchun Society was hardly interesting enough to warrant flash-baking, but there were gems, oh yes.
His private spot hung tantalizingly before him, just outside of the dome. The press of bodies parted and he lengthened his step to the docks, boarded the ferry with a nod to the operator in his booth, and hustled into one of the few seats on the prow, pulling on his cowl as the ferry pushed away and headed off toward the airlock at Toronto Island.

It was even colder than the last time. The telltale on his cowl showed -48 degrees C with the wind-chill. His nose and toes went instantly numb, and he tucked them under the cowl's warmth.

His private place was just a short slosh from the westernmost beach at Hanlon's Point on Toronto Island, a forgotten smartbuoy, bristling with self-repairing electronics, like a fractal porcupine. It had been a couple weeks since his last foray there, and in the interim, the buoy had grown more instrumentation, closing over the narrow entryway into its console-pod. Cursing under his breath, Adrian wrapped his cowl around his hands and broke off the antennae, tossing them into the choppy Lake Ontario froth. Then he climbed inside and held his breath.

Breakers crashing on Hanlon's Point. Distant hum of the airlock. A plane buzzing overhead. Silence, of a sort. A half-eaten sandwich mouldered near his right ham. Disgustedly, he pitched it out, silently cursing the maintenance crews that periodically made their way out to his buoy and tried to puzzle out the inexplicable damage he'd wrought on it.

But the silence, ah. His mother never understood the need for silence. She was comforted by the farting, breathing, shuffling swarm of humanity that bracketed her at all times. She'd spent a couple decades jaunting, tin-plated and iron-lunged in the vast emptiness of space, and she'd had her fill of quiet and then some. Adrian, though, with 18 (or 17) years of the teeming hordes of the post-want Bitchun Society, couldn't get enough of it.
[email this story] Posted by Cory Doctorow on 03/30 at 08:03 AM

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