14: New NewGen (part 2)

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14.2 Matty's Story

Cambridge: 10 May 2128

By the evening Long felt his strength start to return. Jenny had disconnected the drip and he'd been fortified by several more small meals.

He and Matty talked again, mainly about what had happened to each of them since Matty's departure from London.

"I heard Holls get taken while I was still on the outside of the Wall," Matty started, mouth turned downward, after hearing Long's story. "I slunk back to the undergrowth for a few hours. Got back in again in the early hours of the next morning but I accidentally touched the electric rail coming over and fell down the Wall. Just sprained a wrist. Wasn't too bad but, after I got on a train to bring me back to Mayfair, I realised AI was on to me. It wouldn't let me off to change to the Piccadilly and headed south right under the river."

"I thought the tunnels had all been blocked due to the flooding problem," Long said. None of London's NewGen had ever been south of the river; AI had removed all of the bridges when they were children. High barriers now prevented direct access to the river from the northern bank.

"Hah! We all know that what AI tells us is often far from the truth."

"Devious heap of junk," Long agreed.

"Well anyway, the train came up to the surface again and slowed down at a platform. AI had lined the station with robots but I forced open a door on the other side of the carriage and ran off. I hid for several days around there until I discovered there were several gaps in the barrier on the south bank of the river. There were a few places where Ghosts were being kept, but none of them were near the river. I made a crude raft out of an old wooden door and some large plastic tubs, and one night just pushed it upstream and under the Wall."

"Under?"

"Actually, the Wall there is just a small bridge that carries the camera rail over the river – it's about thirty or forty feet above the river so it wasn't hard to get out."

"And you've been here ever since?"

"No, I spent a couple of weeks just wandering about the countryside living on anything that looked the remotest like food. Mostly I was starving and, with winter starting to set in, I knew I needed to find somewhere quick. I ended up in Cambridge by hitching a ride on a rather slow and dumb food truck – had to live on nothing but greens for several days – ugh! Getting over the Cambridge Wall was surprisingly easy – there's no outward facing cameras and the outside of the Wall is almost built for climbing, full of jutting out bricks and stuff. Mind you, the inside's the exact opposite, I think AI must have polished it completely smooth. There's no way you could drill holes in it here and keep AI from spotting them. Can't understand why the London Wall never had the same treatment. Anyway, I soon located the NewGen and, after they got over the shock of seeing a totally new face, they shared their food with me until we figured out how to get me permanently onto the system."

Matty showed Long the back of his left hand and he spotted a small scar located next to a tiny bump under the skin. Long looked at his own left hand, comparing the even tinier bump that revealed the location of his personal ID device.

"You changed your ID?"

"A girl called Rachel died falling out of a window a few weeks after I arrived. There was a party after someone found a whole cache of some ancient bottles of drink in a cellar. Wine, it was called, but no one realised what sort of effect it would have on people when they drank it."

"Wine? What is it?"

"Something else AI's been hiding from us. We've found more since but we've only drunk it in small quantities. It makes you feel really weird – like you're not really in control of yourself. Nice in a way but, that first time, a few of us were really ill afterwards. Anyway, poor Rachel fell out of a window near her house – we think she got lost trying to get back home after the party. Kenny – you'll meet him later – was the first to find her several hours later and saw the ID device hanging out of her skin – he reckoned she'd ripped her hand open on some broken glass as she fell. He snatched the ID up before AI could recover the body. We weren't sure whether or not it would still work but I tried it a few times just taped to my right hand and, in spite of the fact that I apparently look nothing like Rachel, AI thinks I'm her and gives me food."

"What about Rachel's body? Did AI find it?"

"Yes, but maybe it couldn't figure out who she was without her ID. Anyway, it never complained."

"I don't think that adds up."

"What do you mean?"

"DNA. AI must have checked that. Remember it taught us all about that when we were about twelve or so. I asked it why we needed the ID implants if it could read our DNA."

"Your memory is better than mine for that sort of stuff."

"Maybe. But I certainly remember that it replied to my question saying that using DNA took it longer while the ID devices were instantaneous. It also said that each implant was locked to the wearer's DNA."

"More lies."

Long sighed. "Add it to the list."


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