14: New NewGen (part 3)

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14.3 College Ducks

Cambridge: 13 May 2128

A few days later Long was beginning to feel like his old self and he explored Cambridge with Jenny as his guide.

On their way towards the western side of the city he stopped, having noticed a tall building north of their path that rose far above the others.

"Used to be part of a college," Jenny said. "AI keeps it locked," she added with a grin.

Long shot her a quizzical look.

She grinned. "Not that secure. Most of us have been up there at least once. There's a gallery right at the top that gives a fantastic view over the entire city and beyond. One day we'll get out there for real. Remind me to take you sometime."

"Definitely!" Long grinned. He was enjoying her company. There was something bright and tantalising about her. He wondered if it was just because, for the first time since he was a young child, he had met someone new, someone who made the girls of London's NewGen feel stale. He felt guilty about thinking such things but the feeling wouldn't go away.

They passed under an archway in an area of elegant architecture. Jenny said these had also once been colleges. Beyond them access to the river was obstructed by a tall mesh barrier, topped by spiky wire. The river thronged with ducks, some accompanied by their newly hatched young. On the other side of the river stood the Wall. Jenny produced some left-over food from the bag she was carrying and threw chunks through the mesh. The ducks greeted its arrival with a cacophony of noise.

"I come down here quite a lot so they've got to know me."

"I hadn't realised they could even be fed," he said in amazement.

A few ducks flew over the mesh to get a better chance. Jenny rewarded them for their efforts.

"There's a few places where we've weakened the wire. We think we can get out if there's no barrier where the Wall passes over the river, which it does both north and south of here. But maybe we won't have to if we can get at that machine thing of yours."

Long was worried – since his story of the alternate London had become widespread, the machine had been looked upon as a route to escape AI's rule. Despite his emphasis on the danger, they had latched onto the inescapable fact that there were probably free humans on the world 'one', where the builders of the machine lived. He couldn't deny that answers to their many questions might be forthcoming if they could go there. He reminded them that the machine could hold only about five people at the most, and there was no guarantee they could survive on that world.

Of course, the main problem was that they no longer had possession of the machine.

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