CURRENT LOCALE

Geneva

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High School vs. College

Your Screen flickers off and on. The snow originates from various distances in the cosmos; some of it is an echo from your universe's Big Bang.

Just as you consider if you should give up until the weather clears, Seth's astral projection pops up in surreal focus, at least compared with the polygonal blur of the rest of the hologram.

Seth's in a new outfit now, a striped turtle neck and tan jeans. She's dressed for the cold, her shrug hardly noticeable beneath her bundled scarf.

As she says, "College looks just as old as high school looks new," she moves her recorder around to show you old oak trees surrounded by concrete pathways and red-brick, institutionally square buildings.

"Where my high school was all about technology, computations, and algorithms," she says, her voice drifting to dreamlike, "with lots of windows, hexagon-tiled hallways, and science integrated into every class," then her tone becomes stark, "my community college is brick-and-mortar, stained glass windows, and wooden floors. It's...rustic."

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Backwards Thinkers

Rustic trends on Earth. But in E'Ruin, it's seen as unpalatable, barbaric—a red flag of a backwards thinker.

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Cafeteria Cliques

"Two girls were talking in the quad yesterday," Seth tells you through her lopsided recorder, "and I was eating a bacon and lettuce sandwich with a cup of noodles and some toast and marmalade."

The recording blips out.

You may or may not feel inclined to tap the Screen.

Then the story is back, but the setting is different. White walls, white ceilings, and a cluster of white people, with two or three people of color, sit together in a cafeteria, eating silently. Unfortunately, E'Ruin still suffers from rampant discrimination, but superintelligences have made significant progress in correcting this.

Seth is sighing as she brings the recorder into focus. Most Geneva neighborhoods are mixed cultures—so the city can benefit from differences, as well as make up for individual flaws—yet cliques are still common in high school and undergrad college life. So cliques are how the cafeteria is organized.

Seth tries not to point the recorder at anyone, since no one ever wants technology intruding on their conversation.

"I just bought some AiPatches."

"Oh my God! They're the best. Aren't they the best?"

"I wanted to upgrade from Ollen to Watson..."

Radiata technology relies on personal assistant type "Watson," so hearing this makes me happy, until a young man with a frizzy half-beard replies, "Ugh."

"What?"

"Too expensive."

"Yeah, but if I'm going to medical school..."

"I just use Siren."

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Decryption

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