Interlude #7

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"Another world, another lesson, is that right?" said Holt, keeping pace with Cal as they negotiated their way down a busy walkway, which was elevated above the ground. It was a gleaming metal and glass construction, and wide, allowing plenty of space for everyone. Below was a lush forest, some of the trees tall enough to poke above the walkway. Holt grabbed at a protruding branch.

At regular intervals there were lifts of a sort - hovering platforms which descended and ascended without any obvious form of propulsion, delivering people silently to the the forest floor and back up to the walkway. The locals seemed very comfortable with this, barely even breaking stride as they moved on and off.

"You're writing your own lessons," Cal said, "I'm just showing you the literature.

"You're not going to change my mind, you know."

"On us?"

"On anything," said Holt, laughing. "I'm a man of firm convictions."

Cal had taken a form that was visually unremarkable: no glowing blue eyes, no protruding rib cages, no fur. The people here mostly looked close to Earth-human, with a few twists. Although there was nothing like Locque's diverse population, the humans here nevertheless were slightly askew - a little taller, or thinner than they should be; or perhaps it was that their eyes were large, or their foreheads?

Over the treetops, several miles away in the distance, could be seen the spires of a gleaming city, shining silver in the midday sun as it stretched out over an expanse of water. Holt couldn't tell if it was a lake or the edge of an ocean. Specks flew around the buildings, the air filled with flying vehicles. The architecture was bold, both in design and construction.

Holt squinted against the glare. "What is that city? I don't recognise it. And a city like that, I'd remember."

"There's nothing quite like it on your world," Cal said. "Or mine, for that matter. Come."

Cal led them onto one of the descending platforms, which instantly lowered to below the walkway, without giving any sensation of movement. A series of train carriages were slung beneath the walkway.

"We're catching the train?" Holt looked unsure.

"They're really quite good here," Cal said, stepping aboard.

Holt followed, and they took seats near a window. "We don't need to get tickets?"

Cal shook his head. "They don't do any of that stuff anymore."

"What stuff? Train tickets?"

"Money. Payment."

Holt snorted. "Sounds awful."

The train pulled away and accelerated rapidly without causing its occupants any discomfort. There was a pulse of air outside as it breached supersonic speeds, still without impacting on its passengers or surroundings.

In only a couple of minutes they had pulled in to a station in the centre of the city. Stepping out, they gazed up at the spires, which up close were covered with exuberant colours that lit the streets with soft rainbow shades.

There were no vehicles in the streets, only people. They all looked to have purpose but there was little evidence of hurrying. In the city there was more overt variation in people's appearance. It was evident that there was major body modification going on, although Holt couldn't quite identify its nature.

"They're augmented, right? What is it, mechanical? Nano?"

Cal shrugged. "Some of that. I think they've tried it all. They're doing something different now, but I forgot its name. There's also genotyping, although it's quite highly regulated."

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