Book four, Chapter six, 2017, spring break

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Midsummer'sday, 2040, sunbathing


Urufu leaned over on his side. "So, what are your plans?"

Plans? I wouldn't call them plans. "Dunno, man," Yukio said. "We don't know what it's like in the downstream world. Going to school I guess."

"If Nakagawa listened at all, yeah, you're going to school al-right. Different schools for a year. If Himekaizen is still there in that world they should group you together there for high school."

Yukio grimaced. Splitting up from Kyoko for a year wasn't his idea of fun. He stared out over the waves with one hand shading his eyes. "We've prepared for that," he admitted.

Urufu's laughter had him look to his side again. Behind Kyoko Urufu sat up and grinned. "You agreed on a few hangouts and aliases?"

"Uhum."

For a moment Urufu looked thoughtful. "Well, you're transiting for a reason. Your real plans, Kyoko?"

She smiled. "I'm having kids." Then she sat upright. "Not at once! Yukio, I didn't mean it that way."

"It's OK. I know. We already talked about this." Yukio smiled and looked out over the sea. A quarter of a century in a childless relationship, the last fifteen of them as a married couple, and Kyoko had almost never complained. He knew more than anyone else what a hole she carried in her soul.

"Ten years or so. Then if he still wants..."

"I do," Yukio interrupted. "I'll look like fourteen, but I'm your husband since long enough for you to know." Kyoko's words had hurt a little, but he knew how much she longed, and he also knew her fears of restarting their lives. "Urufu, what do you do when you're scared?" he asked to change the topic.

"When I'm scared. There's always my bike, I guess," he said and smiled.

You and your damned bike. You scared the hell out of us!



Chaptersix, 2017, spring break



Gearing up had cost him almost nothing. Almost two years' worth of shopping had him equipped with most of what he needed. Sure, he had to compensate for growing a bit, but from what he recalled from being a teenager the first time he'd only add a couple of centimetres more.

Ulf checked his bags one last time, and then he did the same with his climbing sack, the one he preferred for long biking hikes. Nothing forgotten, and with a deep sigh he straddled his bike and started west.

Fuck, they'll wonder what happened, but I really need a break now.

Back in their shared data repository lay everything needed for the sessions his customers had already ordered. He'd only accepted facilitation, because he wasn't going to break his friends' belief in themselves. The work wouldn't earn the company all that much money, but it would give the four of them all the pocket money they could possibly need.

When he waited by a red light, a few pedestrians and the driver in the car at his side gave him strange looks. Probably gave his clothes strange looks. Japan might be number one in the world when it came to manufacturing super light weight gear, but very few people wore them. For some reason they seemed to prefer hideously expensive European and American gear of lower quality.

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