Chapter 1: Generation One

Axel and Roland sat in the small tug known as 7B99.
“Did you forget anything Rolo? Because, we’re not coming back for it.” Axel said.
“No, I’m ready to go. Everything I need is in this backpack.”
“OK.” Axel switched on the thrusters and set them very low so he could maneuver out of the spaceport. “Strap in for now, OK?”
“Sure.” Roland said and buckled himself into the second pilot’s seat in the small tug.
“When I yell fire, you fire the lasers, OK?”
“This thing has lasers?”
“No.” Axel said.
“Oh.” Roland said and realized Axel was teasing him.
“Just hang on. We’ll be there in two days.”

Axel flew the small tug through a mostly empty part of the belt. After fifteen hours Roland fell asleep. After twenty hours Axel parked his tug on the side of a large, undeveloped asteroid and locked the ship in with burrowing anchors. Then he quickly fell asleep.

Roland woke first and ate some of the food he’d brought along in his backpack. Axel was still asleep so Roland again read his letter from Edwardo Colon, the man who was the general manager of one of the public service maintenance stations in Rose World.
Mr. Roland Oliver, please accept my invitation to join my staff at Public Service Maintenance Station 27 in Disc 4. I have reserved 4pm on July Seventeenth, 2169. Please let me know if you are unable to make this time, otherwise I look forward to meeting you in person.
Edwardo Colon

That’s in four days. We have one more day in space that leaves three days once I’m on Rose World. “That seems like more than enough time.” Roland thought to himself.

Roland didn’t like staring out into space. It was impossibly huge and it made him feel small. He had plenty to work on. He worked on a project he’d started before he ever had the idea of leaving the Green Davis plant. He didn’t know how to do it, but he wanted to make a an artificial mind.

Axel woke a few hours later and grabbed ate food. Then he released the ship from its anchors and flew back onto course to Rose World.
“Have you been there before?” Roland asked.
“Sure I have. My dad and I used to fly there sometimes. Well, twice.” Axel said.
“What’s it like?”
“It’s really big and mostly like a ball about 120 kilometers in diameter. But, it has a ring of thrustplants around the outside spinning it. There’s a spaceport on each side at the axis. It just turns around. There’s no spingravity there.”
“So, where are the people?”
“They’re inside. In the discs.”
“They live on discs?”
“No, in them. See, rose world is this giant rock, and before they set it spinning they cut discs out of the inside. Five of them. Each disc has a floor that is ten kilometers wide and almost 190 kilometers long. Each disc is 60 kilometers in diameter.”
“And it has spingravity inside?” Roland asked.
“Yes, about 1/3G. A little less than Green Davis’ spingravity rings.” Axel answered.
“I like sleeping in weightlessness.”
“You’ll get used to it.”
“How long until we’re there?” Roland asked.
“Another twenty one hours.”
Roland nodded. “Do you know any rock hunters?”
“Sure I do. I’ve met a bunch. My dad would bring them home and the first thing they all wanted was a shower. Then they would eat and eat and eat.”
“What are they like? Are they rude?” Roland asked.
“They swear a lot, but they are actually really honest and solid. It’s their culture.”
“What do they do?”
“They fly ships. They deliver things and people. They’re pilots for hire, and they’re the only ones who can guide a ship through the most dangerous areas like the Holcomb Clump.”
“They live on their ships?” Roland asked.
“Most do. My dad did. He’d just come home for vacation, I think.” Axel said darkly.
“Why are they called rock hunters?”
“I think because originally they were prospectors looking for asteroids with special minerals or metals, comets, abandoned equipment – there was lots of valuable stuff floating around out here fifty years after the space industrial revolution moved out into the belt. These guys were probably delivery pilots and they started collecting things.”
“But, now? What do they do now?” Roland asked.
“Now they train rocks.” Axel said.
“Train them?”
“Yea, my dad taught me that in the Belt the worst kind of pollution is motion pollution.” Axel said. “And that it was the sworn duty of anyone who called themselves a rock hunter to reduce motion pollution.”
“Sounds really responsible. But, what is motion pollution?”
“It’s part of the reason it is hard enough to fly in the Belt around places like Rose World that many people don’t. They’d rather live inside.”
“I still don’t get it.”
“Motion pollution is just rocks flying in anything other than space normal motion. In other words, no movement relative to anything else in the same orbit.”
“OK, I get it. Everything orbits at the same speed, except for motion pollution.”
“So, how bad is it? You haven’t needed to change course more than a few times so far.” Roland said.
“I will as we get closer to Rose World. It’s a relatively dangerous area until you get within about an hour of the spaceport. The Rock Hunters patrol the area that close and it is as safe as it gets.”
“They patrol? Why?”
“The find rocks that aren’t in a standard orbit and they bump them into a standard orbit plus or minus about five percent.”
“You mean, they run into them with their ships?!” Roland asked.
“They have super-reinforced deflector fields. They are basically friction free. So, they can impart precise redirection.”
“You mean… they are fixing the flight path of… each rock?” Roland asked, surprised.
“Yea. But they focus on the one’s near people first.”
“It would take forever.” Roland said.
“In some places it would, like the Holcomb Clump. But, they don’t give up. This is their purpose in life. Their calling.”
“I thought they helped people through the Holcomb Clump.”
“That’s one of the services they provide in our belt society. They pretty much get what they ask for, just about anywhere they go. My mom used to call them dirty heroes.”
“Aside from your dad I never met one.” Roland said. “Are you going to be a Rock Hunter?” He asked.
“Maybe… But, I like gravity and women. So, I’m thinking of just doing deliveries in and around rose World.”
“Yep! You can fly from the spaceport through an airlock in zero G and through the center of the core. Once in the core you can open your hatches because its fresh air outside. The discs have airlocks to keep the environments separate, but ships make their way through those airlocks all day and all night. Then they fly down and match speeds with the floor to land. Landing side is accelerating away from the ground until you touch down.”
“So, do you have a place to stay in Rose World when you get there?” Roland asked.
“I’ll just stay in the tug until I figure out where to go.”
“How… how will I get down to the floor? Isn’t that, like, 30 kilometers?”
“You can take a train from the spaceport to the elevators. They go all the way from the
core to the floor.” Axel said. “Can you fly a skimmer?”
“No.” Roland said.
“I know you can drive a scooter. I told you that you should have taken one from Green Davis.” Axel reminded him.
“It’s against the rules.” Roland said dismissively.
“Well, there’s public transit.” Axel said.
“I’d really love to ride a scooter there. I’ve been dreaming of it.” Roland said.
“Well, they have them there. Did you bring any currency?” Axel asked.
“Currency? No! Of course not! Currency is immoral.” Roland said.
“No its not. It’s just one abstraction away from requests and fulfillments.” Axel said.
“Well, I don’t have any.”
“It’s ok. Lots of people on Rose World don’t have any currency and they could care less.” Axel said. “You don’t need it for anything important.”
“Except for scooters?”
“Oh, you can have one without currency, but you’ll have to wait your turn, until the people who asked before you get theirs. Ultimately someone has to make yours. Until that happens, you won’t get one unless you convince someone else to give theirs up and wait again.”
“I could print one myself assemble it.” Roland said.
“That would take time, tools and time on about a dozen different public printers. You could do it, but it would take a week.”
“Well, what could I do?”
“Let’s see if scooters are available without a wait.”
They found a depot near disc one’s elevators and called them using the console and a voice link. “Hey, what are the chances of picking up a scooter today?” Axel asked.
“Well, what’s your request number? Is today your day?” The voice on the other end said.
“Oh, well, I don’t have one. I just need a scooter today.”
“Well, sorry, son. There’s a list of people waiting for them.”
“OK, thanks.” Axel said.
“You could barter something.” Suggested Axel.
“Such as?”
“How about that console of yours? It’s special, right? You might be able to trade that for a scooter.”
“I’m going to need my console.”
“You can get another one at your new job.” Axel said.
“How would I trade it for a scooter?” Roland asked.
“Like this.” Said Axel and he used the console to access a barter network. Within minutes he’d found someone who lived near the elevators in disc one who would happily trade a scooter for Roland’s console. They agreed to meet at a restaurant in the elevator complex.

The rest of the flight passed quickly for both young men. They were completely absorbed in what they loved to do most. Axel found a few safe zones where he could work on the tug in between the areas that required active piloting. Roland worked on his project, sometimes typing sometimes talking to his computer. Occasionally he’d laugh or swear. All of this was normal for Roland as far as Axel was concerned. They’d grown up together and Axel knew Roland better than his own parents.

Axel knew the flight was nearly over by how tired he felt. Every limb was dull and tired. Finally a light flashed on his console and he flipped on his transmitter and set the hailing frequency. Then he said into his mic, “Rose World Perimiter Control this is Tug Seventeen Baker Niner Niner requesting docking protocol.”
“Roger, One Seven Baker Nine Nine, landing request granted in Spaceport A, Section seven, Slip Tango One Seven. Please hold speed to 5KPH inside the spaceport.” A voice returned.
“Seventeen Baker Niner Niner acknowledged.” Axel said.

Axel docked and then he pulled open his zero-G sleeping sack, climbed inside half-conscious and fell asleep almost the moment he stopped moving.

When he awoke Roland was already awake and working on his console. They ate and Roland packed his backback and got ready to leave.

An hour later Roland and Axel floated in the weightless space inside the spaceport. There were groups of people trying to stay together with their luggage in nets or tied. It was a utilitarian space with emergency equipment at intervals and small service cubicles with public consoles or zero-G bathrooms.
“Will you come down to the floor with me?” Roland asked.
“Sure. We can catch the train over there.” They pulled themselves along to the loading area for the train and waited. A few other people showed up and within about fifteen minutes there were ten people waiting for the train. Finally it came and they pulled themselves in and strapped themselves into chairs.
“That feels good.” Roland said as the train accelerated way from the station directly into the floor toward the center of Rose World. But, the acceleration didn’t last more than a few minutes and then the train had reached its top safe speed and coasted most of the rest of the way. They were, in fact, travelling inside a small circular tunnel cut next to the central core. The train ran on the rails arrange on the floor and walls of the tunnel.

They emerged from the train into the full core behind the airlock to disc one. Roland looked up and his heart lept into his throat. His lunch threatened to follow. The ceiling was the opposite side of the core, about 5 kilometers away. The core rotated, but so slowly that spingravity in the core was miniscule. It wasn’t even sufficient to enable one to walk. So, it felt to Roland for a moment that he might fall away from the floor and be lost in the space between. His panic subsided only when they were finally in the elevator and he’d managed to strap himself in.
“You feeling better, Rolo?” Axel asked him.
“Yea. A lot. It’s just so… huge in there.” Roland explain, trying to breathe normally.
“It’s uh… it’s
a lot bigger inside the discs.”
“That wasn’t a disc?”
“No. That was just a slice of the core. But, this elevator will take us down to the floor of disc one.”
“And then what?” Roland asked.
“Then we’ll make the trade for that scooter, or at least onto the right transit skimmer.” Axel said.

The elevator ride started by accelerating and then it reached its maximum safe speed, and the sense of acceleration all but disappeared. But, it didn’t disappear completely. The sense of spingravity slowly increased. It was in fact coming at an angle from the side, but the elevator car was ingeniously designed to always keep the floor of the passenger cabin perpendicular to all acceleration. So it rolled around inside the elevator tunnel of the spinning rose world and the passengers inside were oblivious to its motion, because it just felt like they got heaver and heavier. The spingravity increased slowly over the fifteen minute ride peaked around 1/2 G when the elevator decelerated toward the end of the ride.
The doors opened inside a transit plaza and there were skimmers of all sorts and purposes hovering nearby. People were walking everywhere. There were some major services like food dispenseries, restaurants and some specialized printer shops.

They found the restaurant where they had arranged to meet the scooter owner, a Generation One guy named Shan. Axel sent a message to Shan by console and then they ordered some food. The sat at a table on the sidewalk, by the road. By the time they had finished their meal a young man about the same age as Axel hailed them.
“Shan? This is Roland. He’s got the console. Roland, this is Shan. He’s got the scooter.” Axel said.
Roland showed him the console and Roland inspected the scooter. It was decent and had a small shelf for his backpack behind its rear fender.
“This is a really nice console. You sure you want to trade it for the scooter? You can get a scooter if you just wait about six weeks, you know.” Shan said.
“I need a scooter today.” Roland said.
“So, then you’re without a console?” Shan asked.
“Well. Yea, until I get to my new job.” Roland admitted.
“Do you have a dot?” Shan asked, pointing to his own wrist, where he wore a watch-like device.
“No.” Roland said.
“Well, you can have my old console, if you want. It has a crack in the screen, but it works fine otherwise.” Shan offered.
“That’s very kind. Thank you.” Said Roland.
“It’s OK. Looks like you could really use it.” Shan said and removed it from his own pack. “Let me just take my stuff off it.” He physically removed a block from the back of the device. “My huffcube!” Shan said.
“Why do they call them huffcubes? The’re not cubes!” Axel said and laughed. Neither of the other two did. It’s cubic memory.” Roland explained.
“Looks flat to me.” Axel said.
“It’s a three part address to retrieve a memory cell, not just two. It’s well, the way memory has worked for fifty years. It’s a huffcube no matter what shape it appears to your eyes.”
Roland did the same and removed his huffcube from his device.
“So, everything that’s yours is on that thing?” Axel asked.
“Everything I’d want on my console, yes. A lot of it is stored in beltweb servers too.”
They handed each other their consoles and Roland plugged his huffcube into Shan’s console. It flickered on and Roland could see that one quarter of the screen was separated from the rest by a long curved crack.
He spoke to his console: desktop designer redefine desktop. Identify cracks, localize status display to region defined by crack and upper right corner. Use remaining space as one trapezoidal search block and one rectangular results display. Compile?”
The screen changed and suddenly the crack was not only not in the way, it was almost an aesthetic improvement.
“That’s a cool trick.” Said Shan. “If I’d have known that I’d have gotten some use from it.”
“I wrote that software. It wasn’t a trick.”
“I’m impressed! But, I’ve got to go. So, have fun with the scooter!”
“Scooter problem solved. And, you still have a console. So, getting a map is trivial. You should be all set.” Axel said.
“Thanks for finding Shan.” Roland said.
“That was easy. It’s the next part that’s going to be hard.” Axel said.
“Really, what’s that?”
“Let’s go outside.” Axel said.
“Outside?” Roland asked.
“Out of this building, out into the disc.” Axel explained.
“Can’t we stay… inside?” Roland asked.
“Well, the tunnels between the discs are inside, but each disc floor is ten kilometers across. You’ll have to cross that in the open.” Said Axel.
“OK. Let’s go outside.” Roland said.
“OK. Let’s go. I just want to fill up my water bottle first.” Axel said. They both filled their water bottles and then left the restaurant. They walked the scooter out of the complex. It was day outside and the light was much brighter through the windows and glass doors than Roland expected.

They stepped outside and Roland had to shut his eyes because it was so bright. He was finally able to open them by degrees but the scene before him made no sense to him. He could see a wall ten kilometers away that met the floor and went up seemingly forever. The ground at his feet swept up slowly and disappeared on either side up and almost out of site directly over his head.

The size of the place was overwhelming. He felt like he was standing outside Axel’s tug, surrounded by the universe. He felt crushed by the immensity of the openness, as if the emptiness was a weight on his chest.

He looked at Axel. Then he kneeled down and threw up.
“Yea, I kinda knew this would be a hard part. You’re gonna be OK buddy. Here’s some water.”
Roland heaved and then crawled over to a tree and held onto it as if it were an island in a raging sea.
“Good choice. Just hang onto that and listen to me for a minute.” Axel said.
Roland said nothing but he nodded slightly and Axel saw it.
“You’re going to get through this. I’ve seen you do amazing things with computers and you learned how. You’ll learn this too. I know you will.”
Roland nodded again.
“Lets walk. Can you walk?” Axel asked.
“I think so.” Roland said and pulled himself up using the tree. He stood there a bit wobbly and a bit embarrassed. “Let’s go.” Roland said.
Roland took a step and he immediately felt better. He took a few more steps and then a few more. Then he just started walking. Axel walked the scooter. They walked on a main road. It led directly across the floor of the disc and ultimately to a tunnel that led to disc two.

Every step that Roland took seemed he seemed to lose some of the weight of anxiety he felt. It was as though his soul had a leak and the fear was running out.
“I want to try the scooter.” Roland said.
Axel held it with one hand and motioned for Roland to sit down with the other.
Roland switched it on and took a cautious ride around in a circle. He laughed. “It’s great!” He yelled to Axel and then rode back to him.
“It’s great!” Roland repeated. “These roads are perfect for scooters.”
Axel smiled.
Roland smiled. “I owe you one.”
“You already paid twice.” Axel said. “Besides, this isn’t goodbye. We just live in different parts of Rose World. No matter where you end up, I’ll be by before too long.”

Roland made his way across the floor of the first disc. “
I have plenty of time.” He thought to himself. “I have two whole days to cover three and a half disc widths and three tunnels and about 90 kilometers on the floor of disc four. That’s a hundred and fifty-five kilometers.

He made it all the way to disc three before he was too exhausted to continue. He hadn’t expected to be so tired. He found a place to stay in a hosted house. But, he couldn’t sleep. The constant gravity pressed on his chest and the morning found him almost as tired as when he laid down the night before.

The next day he would ride and stop because he felt like he would fall. Several times he did fall and the scooter had several new scratches and dents. Sometimes he would walk it.

By the time he rode through the tunnel into the fourth disc he was so exhausted he found another room and managed to sleep for the rest of the day. He awoke at night and decided to wait until it was light to get started. When the daylights rose to simulate the dawn, Roland was packing his backpack and securing it to the scooter. He stopped for breakfast in a local restaurant and by eight am he was on his scooter riding the main road along the center of the floor, almost to the other side.

He braved it and looked up. “
I’ll be up there before 4pm today.” He said to himself and felt proud for mostly controlling the vertigo he felt. He got onto his scooter and rode off.

He rode the scooter along a narrow, empty road running up the middle of the fourth disc of Rose World. Disk four was the new frontier – the least developed part of of Rose World, unless you include disc five, which was still being terra-formed and had no air. Roland didn’t want to be late for his 4:00 interview on the other side, about 90 kilometers away. So he zipped through the town of Platinum following directions his console announced as he went.

Platinum was the only big town in disc four. Most of its residents were building some part of disc four or were cutting disc five. Not as many people wanted to work on the new discs these days because the first three still had vast expanses of unused land. So, progress was slow. But the people in disc four were dedicated to finishing the job of completing Rose World.

Now just outside of town, he pulled over to look at his broken-screened console. It showed him a map: he still had a long ride. His scooter didn’t go much faster than 20Km/hour. He felt his face. He hadn’t shaved since a month before he left Green Davis, hoping he’d look older by the time he got here. He needed a trim badly.

His mind wandered as he followed the road. Every few kilometers he found a small town or compound or a facility with composting toilets, food dispensers, public printers and public consoles. He’d stop briefly sometimes for some food and water, but he pressed on.

Roland was on his way to his first job ever, outside of Green Davis.

This was an interview for a job
he wanted. This was his first interview for a job he wanted. Now he was on his way to public service station number 27. The letter in his pack from Edwardo Colon was enough to get him out into the largest open space he’d ever seen in his entire life.

Station 27 was at the fifteenth “town” on the main road. Since it was in disc four it was often referred to as simply 4.27. It was almost directly opposite of Platinum on the other side of the disc. He was going to one of the least developed parts of Rose World and he had no idea what to expect. He only knew he would be free to spend his free time however like liked, and the thought of it was exhilarating. His mind wandered as he rode and he thought about what he would do with all his free time.

The rush of the wind over his face and through his helmet was thrilling. He took the turns a little more aggressively. Then the road ended and he had to walk this scooter over an unfinished stone area for hundreds of meters. Then the road continued. A few kilometers later it ended and while there was a rough cut road to follow, it wasn’t smooth and he had to take it slower.

By noon his 4pm appointment seemed incredibly soon, given how far he still had to go. He had enough time to get there, he figured. But he sped up a little more and he fought the uneven roadway. He was starting to get the hang of how the scooter moved through the turns and he leaned into them as he went. It allowed him to go a little faster.

All the plants here were small. There were no trees as tall as an adult, but there were grasses and bamboo in some areas that stuck out noticeably like the hair in old men’s ears. There were lots of smaller plants and good soil. Disk 4 had a lot of irrigation, rivers and streams and the air was humid and smelled strange to Roland. He was used to dry, cooler air. He felt a bit like a giant riding through the tiny forest around him.

He was 2 kilometers away from his destination, at a town called “Hill Seven”, if you can call a battery exchange shack with a bathroom and a food dispenser a town. It had no residents. He stopped to relieve himself and wonder who in their right mind would pick a name like “Hill Seven” for checkpoint thirteen. It bothered him.

He sped off to his make his interview appointment.

The “town” at the next 6K point was non-existent. A portable composting toilet was the only visible structure. However, there were several distinct collections of materials. Really, it was more of a kit than a town. An open invitation to anyone to get started making it into a home. Nobody had taken up the offer yet and vines had grown over some of the materials.

He could finally noticed the outline of the 4.27 maintenance building and it caught his eye. It was bigger than he thought but it looked deserted. Suddenly he missed a turn and flipped his scooter off the road. He and it landed in a bush. It had knocked the wind out of him. When he recovered and could breathe he yelled to nobody in particular, “Owwwww! That hurt!” He pulled himself up. His right hand hurt. He had some bruises and he’d scratched his face and arms. His thin beard had grass stuck in it. He pulled up his scooter and got back on. But, it was dead. He rolled it the last two kilometers and showed up at just after 4:30pm, bleeding slightly and very, very tired.

He leaned his broken scooter against a light post and walked up to the building. It was locked.

“I can’t believe it.” He said out loud.
Just then the door opened and a man said, “Pizza delivery?” The man laughed, but then he saw Roland was hurt and he dropped the humor.
“Uhhh, No. I’m here for an interview?”
“I’m Edwardo Colon, operations manager here at the 4.27. You must be Roland?”
“Yes, look I’m sorry I’m late. I had an accident...”
“Yea, I see that. Do you need some help? Maybe some suture spray or bandages?”
“I’m fine.” Said Roland. He lied. He felt miserable and tired and hurt, but he could not imagine not going through with the interview after a the trip here from Green Davis. “I’m ready now, sir.” He said as bravely as he could manage.

Edwardo nodded and led him into a room, switched on a light and sat down. It was obvious this room had almost never been used. Edwardo looked Roland up and down and then handed him a portable console.

Roland looked around. From what he had seen this place was completely empty. He looked back at Edwardo. “You want me to fill this out?”

“Yes please. You know, so we know what you can do.” Said Edwardo trying to smile. “
I cannot afford to bring in another Roger…” He thought.

The form looked long and seemed pointless and largely redundant. Roland had already filled out a lot of this information when he applied a month ago. But, filling it out again was easy and right now that seemed to be the first thing standing between him and his first job, besides being an hour late, bloody, and having grass sticking out of his juvenile beard.

“OK.” Roland said and took the console.

1. Age: ________
Should I lie?” He wondered. “If I put down 22 or less he’ll know I’m in Generation One. He’ll know I was one of those lucky kids to be born after Earth died. If I lie and he finds out, he might kick me out. Can I pass for 22?” He looked at Edwardo trying to size him up.
1. Age: 19
2. Skills: __________________________________________________________________
What kind of answer is he looking for…” he wondered to himself. It was confusing because it would take pages for him to list his skills, but there was one line. So, he wondered what to enter. He entered “Computers. Webworks. Thrustplants.”
3. What do you want to do at Maintenance Station 4.27? ________________________________
I’d like to try to create an artificial mind in the vast, unused computing resources that are just sitting here idle, but I’ll bet that isn’t what you’d want me to write here...” He thought, so he wrote “Computer and Web maintenance and programming. Fixing things. Printer repair and maintenance.”
He entered all the details into the console during a silent 30 minutes and then he handed the console back to Edwardo, interrupting his daydream.

“You’re nineteen years old? And you can program?”
“Sure I can. It’s easy.”
“How did you learn it?”
“On my own. It’s all out there on the Scienceweb – anyone can learn it.”
“Did your parents teach you?”
“No, my parents made thrustplants. They taught me all about ‘em, too.”
“We don’t do thrustplant work out here. We do web, power and resources. That means you need to know about power system and plumbing too. Ever do plumbing?”
“Not… really. But, I’ve routed the coolant lines in about a hundred thrustplants.”
“Oh, its probably similar except its full of filthy water, and worse.”
“I have to clean pipes?”
“We draw straws for unpopular jobs, but yes, sometimes you’ll have to deal with shit.”
“Why don’t people deal with it themselves?” Roland asked. He hadn’t realized this job would require plumbing.
“They do sometimes, but for the public areas nearby we end up being the maintenance crew. Look, I need to know: if you draw the straw and you going to do the job?”
Roland stood up. He pulled some grass from his beard and then held out his arms to show the scratches. In his open hand held the grass. “Yes. I do what I say I’ll do. You can count on it.”
“You wrote that you fix things. What kind of things?” Edwardo asked.
“Probably almost anything you’ve got here.”
“Really? We’ll, that’d be a welcome surprise. “Welcome aboard! That is, if you still want the position, I mean.”
“I do have a couple questions.”
“In my free time… can I use the data center here?”
“Sure, why not?”
“And, how many other maintenance engineers are there?”
“We’re still building our team.”
“I’m still building my team.”
“How many positions are you trying to fill?”
“Um… well, see that is kind of difficult to answer at the moment.”
“Would I be your
only engineer?”
“No! No, of course not. We have others.”
“OK, I’m in.”
They shook hands and Edwardo showed Roland his quarters. He cleaned up and changed into his only spare clean clothes. He noticed that his room also had a supply of maintenance uniforms. He made sure there was one in his size, but he didn’t put it on. “
This is cool.” He thought to himself. “This is my uniform.”

It was night by the time Roland found his way to the mess hall. It was a huge, mostly empty room, half of which had been converted into an impromptu soccer pitch. There were two tables at one side near the food dispensers. There were eight chairs and at the moment four of them had people sitting in them. The room would probably fit five hundred people all eating at the same time. In the soccer area were a few balls and on one side was a goal made from spare plumbing parts. Several of the hanging light fixtures on that side were broken.

Roland walked toward the table and as he approached, Edwardo called out, “Hey, Roland! Come over and meet our crew!”

“Hi, I’m Roland.” He said sitting down. The others looked at him. They all looked just a little older than he, but they were also refugees from Generation One, he figured. However, none of them were bleeding.

“I’m Roger.” Said the big guy at the end. He looked like he could kick a soccer ball through the wall. He held out his hand. When they shook Roland’s hand hurt. Roland winced, which confused Roger because he was consciously trying not to crush Roland’s hand. Roland’s body had half of the mass of Rogers, and Roger was almost a head taller..

“I’m Tracy.” Said another person at the table. Roland was not sure of Tracy’s gender. Tracy felt Roland’s confusion. Tracy was physically beautiful, whether one thought of hir as male or female. Hir face had high cheekbones and s/he was fit.

Roland looked at the only other person at the table. She was reading from a portable console, apparently not even noticing that he was being introduced to the team.
“This is Joan. Joan, would you like to say ‘Hi’ to our new crew member?” Edwardo asked politely.
She looked up at Edward. “No thanks.” She didn’t look over to even see what Roland looked like.
“This is Joan.” Said Tracy. “She hates it here.”
“Then why don’t you leave?” Roland asked before he could stop himself.
“Gee, I never thought of that! I must be staying here because I’m a total shit-for-brains, you know? Thanks for the idea.” She said with lazy sarcasm, without even looking at him. When she finally looked up, she saw he was scratched and his glasses were bent. “I see it’s not the first good idea you’ve had today.” She added.
The rest rolled their eyes.
Roland felt shamed, exhausted and hurt, but he stood there. Joan finally looked up at him again.

He looked back at Joan, who seemed to be waiting for him to melt down. “
I won’t give you the satisfaction. You can wait there all night. All I have to do is smile.” He thought to himself, and smiled. Then he walked over to the food dispensers. He selected grainmeat vegetable soup with bread. He sat down and began eating.

Joan looked up at him once and he smiled at her, pleasantly. She just stared at him for a moment. Roland had no idea what she was thinking. Maybe she was just seeing him for the first time.

Roland’s smiling seemed to frustrate Joan and she made a face and suddenly stared down into her console and resumed ignoring him and everyone else. “
Fine. Even the mice won’t play. Boring! Gah! Three more months and I am out of here in a blink…” She said to herself in her most certain inside voice. “He’s cute.” She said in an inside voice so quiet she could barely hear it.

“Why here, Roland?” Asked Tracy, trying to brush aside Joan’s blatant disrespect.
“Its my first role. I just volunteered for Public Service Station maintenance duty.”
“And you? Why are you here?” He looked at Roger and Tracy.
Roger shrugged. “Same here.”
“Me too, but I like the work.” Tracy said and smiled. “And, aside from these guys I like the people here a lot.” She was obviously kidding if you knew her well enough.

Otherwise, she was only possibly kidding. Roland wasn’t quite sure. “How many other people work here?” He asked.

“None.” Said Roger, with a vaguely annoyed pout, but playing along with hir.

Roland didn’t quite know what to think. He looked over at Joan. He decided not to ask why she was there. He looked at Roger and Tracy. They shook their heads to say they didn’t know or wouldn’t tell or it was a bad idea to ask. Roland decided not to ask.

“What have you guys been working on lately?” Roland asked, changing subjects and continuing his meal.

“Mostly web and power.” Said Edwardo. “We install food dispensers and printers sometimes too. We haven’t had a lot of jobs recently… there’s not a lot of new development and only a few random folk coming by once in a while. But, we have neighbors who come by to use our facility and we keep all our services ready and working for them.”

“We’re in a
planning phase.” Said Edwardo, emphasizing the word planning far beyond any reasonable proportion.

“You’re in a
dreaming phase.” Said Joan, mocking his emphasis, but just loud enough to be heard.
“We’ve been building web nodes mostly.” Said Tracy. “
The web gets there first!” s/he said in a voice that mimicked the recruiting videos that the Public Service Department published on Rose World’s web.
“What’s that like?” Roland asked.
“It isn’t hard work, but we do it about a kilometer up. On the walls...”
“How do you get up there? Thruster packs?” Roland asked. This sounded like a lot of fun to him.
“Yep. You’ll find out all about that tomorrow.” Said Edwardo. “We’ve got a
repair job.” His voice betrayed how unusual this was.
“Who’s going?” Asked Roger.
“Everyone: Tracy and Roger will do the work and Joan will train Roland.”
“Great!” Said Roger. He was happy to know what he’d be doing tomorrow.
“Great!” Said Tracy, who was happy to have something useful to do tomorrow.
“Greaaaaaat!” Said Joan, with obvious sarcasm.
“Um, great?” Said Roland, phrased as question, hoping the humor would not reveal his misgivings about being “trained” by Joan.
“Great!” Said Edwardo, who was relieved to have even the barest appearance of consensus.

Roland was exhausted. His bruises and his hand hurt more now than before. He excused himself and found his way back to his room and went to bed. But he couldn’t fall asleep. He felt as if he had a weight on his chest and it was hard to relax. The spingravity caused him pain as his body pulled against his scrapes.

He’d had trouble sleeping since he’d come to Rose world. “
Spingravity is useful, like water.” Said his explaining, inward voice. “But who wants to be wet all the time?” He wondered how long it would take him to get used to sleeping here. After a long time he drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep, but it only lasted a few hours and he woke up.

He he gave up trying to sleep and got dressed. He looked at the clock in his room and saw it was just past 5am.

He walked through the main building making mental notes about where useful rooms and resources could be found. It was a surprisingly large facility with multiple underground floors.

He found the data center. He didn’t have access yet, but he could see the rows of compute cores with power and cooling and data lines feeding them. He tried to do a rough calculation of the capacity of the data center, but he got lost in the zeroes. “
More than enough.” He thought to himself.

He found their stock rooms: electronics, plumbing and computer parts and components. He found the machine shop, but most of the tools weren’t even unboxed. He found the printer rooms and found printers for many different media, including metals, plastics and a high-precision atomic assembler that could reform some kinds of matter. They were fast machines – completing a typical print job in a minute or two. They had large supplies of printer media.

After a couple of hours of exploring he logged into his cracked console and found a message waiting for him. It was from Edwardo who told him to arrive at the
excursion cart at 9am.

He stopped by the mess hall for some food. After eating he found his way to where the excursion carts were stored. He arrived just before 9am. Edwardo and Tracy were there. Roger showed up a few minutes later. Joan was not there.

Edwardo thumbed his
wrist dot, a wrist-warn minimalist console. “Joan? Hey, it’s time to go.” He said, and waited. “Joan!” He said repeated.

“I’ll meet them at the base.” It was Joan’s sleepy voice coming through Edwardo’s dot. She was bending the rules and obviously feeling comfortable about it. But in the code Edwardo had learned from their interaction, she was promising to come and work if she was allowed to arrive by her own means. “OK. See you there.” He said.

The excursion cart had wheels as well as ducted fans. It could roll, float or fly. The wheels allowed it to track well on roads. The skimmer also had a retractable skirt so it could operate as a hovercraft. It could cross any kind of terrain. It could also fly, if the driver had the skills. Flying added a third dimension and also the stability of the craft was up to the skill of the pilot.

The Excursion cart was about fifteen meters long and three wide and it could carry four people and about 2000 lbs of equipment. Roger often drove the excursion cart, but only Tracy could fly it.

They travelled quickly along the road. Roger seemed to know the way and the road very well and the cart barely brushed the small trees and shrubs on either side. As they travelled the ever-present wall between discs 4 and 5 loomed closer and they could make out more and more detail.

The wall of each disc was 30 kilometers from the floor to the core. Even when there were no clouds you could not make out any detail “on the ceiling” sixty kilometers meters away. The floor of each disc was ten kilometers wide for a total floor area of about 1885 square kilometers per disc.

Thrustplants attached at intervals around the outside of Rose World accelerated it slowly over decades to produce spingravity inside. It had reached about 1/3G now, 21 years after disk one had been filled with air.

Roland could see many different kinds of details in the rough-hewn stone wall now. Plants, small caves and fissures and the occasional bird. About a kilometer up from the ground was a platform that looked to be forty or fifty meters across. There were no cables or pipes running to it or from it, but he could see some antenna spheres and some large box-shaped devices on it.

They reached the base of the wall. Joan was not there. Roger set the excursion craft down and then got up to put on his flight pack. Tracy did the same. Roland watched what they did and put on a flight pack as well, but he wasn’t sure where the controls were.

Tracy leaned over and pointed to the control pod hanging from the umbilical cable. “This control moves you up and down. This one side-to-side or forward and back, depending on which way you move it. Roll this to rotate left or right. Roll this other one
just a little bit to tilt forward or backward. Don’t ever point yourself toward the floor! The pack will maintain your relative position. You just use these controls to change your position. Got it?”

“I think so.” Said Roland. These controls looked familiar to him. “
These look like crane controls to me.” He said to himself. “I loved working those cranes. That, I will miss.”

“We’re not going to fly the cart up there. We’re gonna free fly there with these.” Tracy said holding up her control pod. “You ready? OK, push that one.” She pointed again to a green button.

Roland pushed it and immediately he was lifted into the air. He heard a rush of air one either side. He fingered each of the others controls slightly to feel what it did. That confirmed that it was just like the cranes he’d operated before. For cranes he’d imagine he himself was right where the grappling hook or hand was. Now he didn’t have to imagine. He was the part that moved when he moved the controls. For Roland, fly in this place was the easiest thing he ever tried. He moved in a subtle curved path up toward the platforms. The others flew straight there but he maneuvered around just to get the hang of it. It was much more than just fun. His mind kind of shut down for a while and he just flew and loved it.

They arrived at the platform and Joan was sitting there dangling her legs over the edge, through slots in the railing.
“What took you so long, slowpokes?” She asked.

They landed on the platform and switched off their flightpacks. Roland started to take his off.

“What are you doing?” Asked Joan. “Leave that on.” She said.

“Oh. Ok.”

Tracy and Roger started walking toward the wall and the equipment secured there.

Joan stood up and walked around Roland until his back was to the railing and she faced him. “What do you think would happen if I pushed you over the edge?” She asked, with a dangerous smile.

“I’d turn my flightpack on and fly right back here.” Roland replied, with a smile.

“If it failed, what would happen to you?”

“Ummm…” he looked down toward the floor of the disk… it was a
long way.
“Do you know what gravity is, Roland?”
“Of course I do.”
“Have you ever felt it? I mean, real gravity.”
“Well, no.”
“And, do you know what’s holding your feet to this platform if it’s not real gravity?”
“Spingravity, obviously.” Roland said.
“It’s called centripetal force.” Joan said.
“Yea, I learned about that in gradeschool.”
“So, what happens if I push you off this platform?” Joan asked.
“I’d keep moving in a straight line and Rose world would spin around me.”
“Where would you land?”
“I’d coast down and land… over there.” He pointed to a spot several kilometers away.
“Not bad. It’s more like over there, but that’s about right. You wouldn’t die.” She looked him up and down. “
Cute and smart.” A tiny voice inside said. Then she said to Roland: “Come on, let’s get you trained up.” She pushed him over the edge. Then she jumped off after him. They switched on their flight packs and within moments they were hovering about 50 meters below the platform.

For a moment Roland was terrified by his instinctive fear of falling. But he somehow let the fear go and and used his flight pack to stabilize his position. He felt relieved and suddenly happy to be out in the open space. It was a strange feeling, as though she had pushed him through a wall of fear and he’d come out the other side.

Roland maneuvered over to Joan and then changed position to face her.

“Let’s fly down to that ledge there and land.” She said and motioned only with her eyes and then she sped off toward the ledge. Roland followed her and they both landed there and switched off their packs a moment later.

“Where did you learn to fly?” She asked.
“I’ve never flown before today.” He said.
“I don’t believe it.”
“It’s true. But, these controls are just like crane controls and I’ve used those since I was a kid.”
are a kid.”
“No I’m not!”
“What are you, nineteen? You’re Generation One in any case.”
“So what?”
“Nothing. It’s OK. I am too.”
They sat there for a while and they were both silent. The view of the floor was amazing. It wrapped up both sides and up over their heads the two sides of the floor met on the other side of the disc.
“Why did you push me off the platform?” He asked.
“It was the final test. You passed. You already know what I was going to teach you. So, now we can pretend we’re off practicing.”
“That’s all you were supposed to teach me?”
“Yea, what else?”
“Well, what about what they’re doing? Shouldn’t we go help them?”
“They don’t need our help. Why not just enjoy the view? It’s nice up here. Sometimes I come here just to think.”
“Why are you here? You obviously don’t like the work.”
“I’m in jail.”
“You’re in jail?”
He hoped she’d explain but he wasn’t sure what she meant. He wanted to ask her, but he just sat there and looked out over the floor of the disk. For some reason she wasn’t being sarcastic and he liked her this way.
“Where are you from?” He asked after a while.
“I grew up in Albertville. It’s in disc two. My parents were both teachers at the University there.”
“What was it like to grow up there?”
“Booooooooring! My God, you can’t imagine how bored I was.”
“No, I can’t.” Roland said.
“My parents are teachers. They were the King and Queen of boredom.” She twirled her hand in an ancient gesture of greeting to a nobleman. Joan said.
“You’re Generation One too?” Roland asked.
Again it was silent.
“Where are you from, Roland?”
“The Green Davis thrustplant factory.” He said.
“Why did you leave?”
“Everyone had my life planned out for me. I just didn’t fit with their plans, I guess.”
“Yea. So, I applied for this job and then when I was granted an interview I just left the factory and came here. That was a few days ago.” He said.
“That’s… courageous. All right, I’ll tell you why I’m here.” She said.
“Almost a year ago I got in trouble. I took my crashed my dad’s skimmer… I drank too much and screwed up.”
“I’ll bet your dad was furious.”
“Yea. They took away my skimmer license for a year and gave me a choice between a cell and a role doing something useful.”
“What were you doing before?”
“I was in school, but I had to get out.”
“I don’t think you’d understand.”
“Really? Try me.” Roland said.
“Never mind.” She replied.
“It’s a sad story?”
“It’s a boring story. Tell me a better one?” She asked.
“Ok. I’m going to try to build a new artificial mind in the data center. That hardware is just idling. That’s why I’m here. I actually picked this station because it has the least used data center. I used the the transparency view and learned that there was a really small staff, so maybe I could go unnoticed here for a long time and work on my project.”
“You serious?” She asked.
“Yes. That’s my dream: to create an artificial mind. It is what I’ve always wanted to do since I first met an artificial mind.”
“Is that what you studied in school?”
“No, nothing like that. My school taught engineering – whatever you needed to build thrustplants. I learned all about it from beginning to end. Everyone there wanted me to join the company. But, thrustplants are… boring.” He said with a smile.
This time his smile was welcome and comforting, unlike the previous evening when it seemed to disarm her. “What make you think you can make one? A mind?” She asked.
“I don’t know why, but I think I can. At least, I want to try and find out what happens.”
“What if something bad happens?”
“Bad?” He asked.
“You can’t be certain what your creation will do. Who knows what damage such a thing could cause?”
Roland was silent. This had never occurred to him before. In his zeal to learn everything he could about programming it always seemed safe to create whatever he wanted. “Well, uhh… hmmmm…”
“You sound like my dad when he’s thinking.” She said.
Great, I remind her of her dad.” His critical voice threw into his mind. “Why is she being so nice to me?” Said another voice inside him. “Don’t be boring.” Said another voice.
They sat there a while longer in silence.
His dot’s speaker rang with Tracy’s voice. We’re done here for now. Meet us at the excursion cart. OK?”
“Are you coming?” He asked.
“No.” She said.
Suddenly he didn’t know whether to leave or go. She just sat there looking out over the simplistic landscape, kicking her feet back and forth while sitting on the edge of a cliff 900 meters above the ground. “Will this flight pack get me back to 4.27?” He asked Joan quietly.
She nodded “Yes.”
He tapped his wrist to reply, “I’ll meet you guys back there. I’m not done practicing.”
“Is Joan with you?” Tracy asked.
Joan shook her head “No.”
“No, she left. I’m OK, I’m just practicing my flying.”
“OK, see you back there. Call if you need help.” S/he offered.
From their shadowed perch they could see Tracy and Roger descend toward the ground. They watched as the two skimmed away on the excursion cart.

“Can I tell you a story? It isn’t a happy one, but it’s true.”
“Did you operate a crane while drunk and crash it into a pile of thrustplants?” She regretted asking immediately, but she couldn’t unsay it.

“No, I was going to tell you about my friend Axel. Axel’s Generation One too. He’s a rock hunter. Well, he
wants to be a rock hunter. Actually I think he’s probably in disc 5 cutting rocks, if I had to guess. Axel and I are friends. His mom worked at Green Davis so we grew up together. But, his dad was a real rock hunter.”

“Really? What was he like? I’ve never met one. Did he smell bad?”

“Only right when he got home. He was a real character, but he wasn’t around much. He was off hunting rocks, I suppose. He was only home a few times a year, it seemed. Once he was away for over a year and it really got to Axel. Axel’s the nicest guy – he wants to be the best pilot anywhere. But, a month ago we found out that Axel’s dad died in an accident. And, it didn’t have to happen. He was performing a dangerous maneuver. But, that was how he flew. He was known for it. The man actually had a maneuver named after him because he invented it! All the rock hunters knew Gonzo Rodrigues. That’s how he was called. Gonzo was a great pilot, but Gonzales wasn’t a great dad.”

“That’s so sad!” She said.
“That was the tipping point. Once Gonzo was never coming home, Axel just… changed. It’s like he was waiting for something to get him un-stuck. He told me he wanted to leave Green Davis the day he found out Gonzo died, but he waited almost a month until I was ready to go too.”

“I was looking for some kind of work that would fit with my own plans. But, it took a long time. I didn’t want another factory job. It was hard to find 4.27: a place that had the data center I’d need, but wouldn’t keep me busy and exhausted the way a factory job does. When I finally found it he brought me here to Rose World.”
“You worked at the factory?”
“Almost every weekday since I was twelve. After school, mostly.”
“Your parents made you work?”
“No, I wanted to. I just wanted to fit in. It was hard being Generation One because there were so few of us at the factory. Everyone knew what I was doing. It was like having three hundred parents. I worked because it was what people wanted me to do, and it was easy. Green Davis isn’t that big a place. It was a lot more fun to grow up with everyone creating a heroic path for me, but as soon as I wanted to do something different… I felt so trapped.”
“You wanted to work? That’s so weird!”
“I don’t mind work. It was interesting for a long time because I was learning so much. By the time I was fifteen I had learned about each phase of making a thrustplant, from beginning to end, and there wasn’t anything new to learn. I got bored with it and started learning about computers. But, the data center at Green Davis was archaic and it was almost completely dedicated to manufacturing and operating the factory ship. We had to use our own consoles for anything more than messaging each other. It was pitiful.”
“How big is Green Davis?”
“The plant is pretty big, but the population is 537 people.” He said. “Well, 535 now that we’ve left.” He said thoughtfully.
“What did you do for the next… four years?” She asked, working it out in her head.
“I studied computers. I went to school, but that was a joke. It was built for factory kids and it taught the ins and outs of manufacturing thrustplants and the math, physics and chemistry behind it. I already knew that stuff so I just did my homework in class. I worked a shift, and then I had a few hours of free time. I learned all I could about computers.”

“Huh.” She intoned. “How old are you again?” She tried not to sound incredulous.
“I’m nineteen.”
“Have you talked to Axel recently? How is he?”
“He’s ok. He’s a delivery pilot.”
“I’m hungry. Are you? “ She asked.
He nodded ‘Yes’.
“Did you bring any food?” She asked.
“No. Would you like to go back?” He asked.
“No.” She said.
They sat there a while longer and she told him about her last few years. He realized quickly that she was brilliant. She had breezed through school with top grades, but then something happened and she left.
“I got so bored following the rules and being a good girl. It seemed to me that the rules for being a good girl were being made up on the fly, to suit whoever was lecturing me. If I did everything right I got polite approval. If I completely screwed up I at least got a few moments of honest emotion. I didn’t want to fail, but it was a lot more interesting when I colored outside the lines, you know?”
“Not really. I guess I’m always trying to follow the rules.” Roland said.
“I’ll bet that made you popular with everyone older around you?” He offered easy pickings for her amusement.
“Actually, it did.” She said seriously.
“What?” He asked.
“I’ll tell you, but you won’t believe it.”
“Believe what?”
“There is a weird effect that happens around me and it turns things sideways, so they don’t hurt me. It sounds weird, but this is what it looks like from in here.” She pointed to her head.
“What, a Joan Field?” Roland asked.
“Something like that... I know, it’s crazy, but people’s behavior changes around me and I don’t really know why or how.”
“Maybe you just push them and get away with it?” He asked.
“Sure. But, why do I get away with it?”
“Because you’re terminally cute?”
She looked at him but she wasn’t smiling. She started to look angry and then she softened slightly and just looked sad.
Roland watched the evolving expressions on her face and felt utter confusion at each one. He had imagined it was a good time to say something nice to her. He thought she would like it. Each and every painful expression on her face was a surprise and it took a while for him to finally ask, “Should I not have said that?”
“No, it’s alright.” She said sadly. “But, see, that’s a perfect example.”
“of what?”
“Last night I was completely shitty to you. I barely looked at you. I mocked you. You smiled at me. Today you’re sitting here telling me I’m cute and telling me about your dreams. You’re giving up eating just to sit here with me. Do you see?”
“See what?” He asked.
“You’ve fallen for me and it didn’t take more than a few hours.”
He opened his mouth to speak by no sound came out. He closed it.
She grabbed his arms. “Listen to me!” Her voice trembled from holding in her feelings. “
You may not fall in love with me! I am leaving in three months and I am never coming back here. Understand? I’m in jail. When I’m free, I’m gone. Got it? Do you see? Everyone wants me to be theirs! I don’t want to be anyone’s anything! I don’t want to be your girlfriend!”
Roland blinked. He could not deny that he had already begun to develop feelings for her. He would have protested her Joan field theory, but to do so would be to deny the truth of how he felt.
“I get it.”
“You get what?”
“That there is a Joan field around you and that I am not invulnerable to it. For the record, I didn’t ask you to be my girlfriend. I just said you were terminally cute.”
She fumed a moment and then calmed down. “Really?”
“Yes, I believe you. I think you’re right.”
“Everywhere I go, men
watch me. I know what they want. There’s no relief from it. Except, out here, there kinda is…I guess that has been one nice thing about this place. I’ve had some peace. Do you have any idea how many men I’ve had to say ‘No’ to when they ask for a date?”
“I’m sure I have no idea whatsoever.” Roland said honestly. He had asked two girls out in his entire life and both of them had turned him down.
“Haha…” she laughed. “You’re clever for a Generation One.”
“Do you know what it’s like to turn someone down? To crush their dream?”
“No, not really.”
“You’ve never turned someone down who asked for a date?”
“You go on dates with everyone who asks?”
“Apparently.” He smiled.
She laughed again. “This isn’t a date. I’m never dating anyone, ever.”
“That’s the saddest thing you’ve told me so far.” Roland said.
“It’s ugly.”
“What is?”
“What men do, when you turn them down... sometimes. The things they say… hurt.”
He looked at her and she seemed as unavailable as she was attractive to him. It had never really occurred to him before how far apart these two qualities could become.
“Lets go back, Roland. OK?”
“Yea, OK.”
They turned on their flight packs and maneuvered until they were on a fairly straight course toward 4.27.
He heard her voice saying over and over “
You may not fall in love with me.” Another voice in his head said, “She’s doing you a favor…” His body had already made up its mind and decided Joan was perfection. It was apparently just waiting to find out if his mind could come to the same conclusion.

When they arrived back at the 4.27 compound she disappeared into her dormitory wing. He had no idea which room was hers, not that he was planning to go find her. “
You may not fall in love with me.” The words rang in his mind as he picked up food at the mess hall.

After he ate he contacted Edwardo and asked for access to the data center. Edwardo gave him an access dot and said. “Have fun! Don’t do anything illegal, OK?”

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