The Difficulty in Crossing the City
   
Difficulty
Image from Bernd Helfert
The main problem was his casual attitude to his internal database.

An active space gymnast, Daave EightEight didn't take much care in the management of his implantfiles, and let them run themselves. Perhaps a rejig every tenday or so, but he had disabled the reminder function (invalidating the warranty) and so it was often longer than that. Why should he bother? They had never failed before. Besides, that file manager he'd downloaded from Argelander was cheap and reliable.

There was always the first time.

Between the major vacfall marathon events he rented rooms in Alphaville Tuileries burb, only 50 kilometres from an edgeport of the Urban Cloudscapes city world, from which there was a shuttle service up to the ring's central spaceport. Twenty minutes in vac sub-train under the ring floor and he would be with his Byrdis teammates in their accommodation near the edgeport, and ten minutes the other way he would be in a citynode, an area of exceptionally high density development, named Lutetia - where every civilised comfort possible was available at reasonable rates.

Many uncivilised comforts were there too, but cost a bit more...

This rotation he was up early and on his way to the edgeport, stopping at a new cafe-house he had been noticing on his internal pop-up-ads. Ten minutes walk through unfamiliar citylevels allowed him to clear his head after a vivid night's lucid dreaming- the culture on Urban Cloudscapes encouraged a sleep period, taken at arbitrary times during the ring's rotation. The directions he had downloaded at a whim took him straight to the cafe, which had a huge virch window showing the cityring from the top of the building he was in.

For thousands of kilometres in all directions (except towards the edgeport) stretched the Urban Cloudscapes Habitat, high towers, city blocks, rooftop parks, lake reservoirs with tiny boats, dust starting to rise up everywhere and, thirty kilometres away, columns of cumulus forming to wash the streets. Marching into the curve of the ring were smaller and smaller clouds fading to haze at a hundred kilometres. Set in an irregular pattern were larger citynodes, and he could see distant Lutetia shining pink-gold in the morning light.

Also staring at the image of the city were a pair of cyberdwarfs and a horse provolve, who was drinking from a crystal bucket and talking to some invisible business colleague. Suddenly the provolve crapped onto the straw behind it, and the straw immediately rolled itself up and crawled into a tiny door in the wall, followed by fresh straw drifting out on a tiny breeze. The horse provolve was hardly aware of his action, flicking his tail occasionally and talking on.

Krek! Daave thought. This place is advertised as a smart coffeespot, and it's got crapping horses.

Coming as he did from Byrdis in the Kaa Yvanti system, Daave was not really all that accustomed to provolves, except for the neochimp teams which sometimes competed against his team in the beanstalk races. Neochimps also had some alarming habits, and indeed many species of intelligent animals seemed to cultivate uncouth behaviour in order to distinguish themselves from the uptight human races.

In the final analysis all the mess made by the provolves would be cleared up by recycler bots, so it didn't really matter. Daave had seen much worse behaviour by human types since leaving Byrdis... and even the lofty hyperintelligent posthumans liked to shock sometimes ("freaking out the baselines" they called it). Let's face it, no matter what you do, you are likely to offend someone, even if you aren't trying to.

Daave drank his real roofgrown coffee and started to leave, paid his bill with a single thought, then decided to download the walking route to the sub-train station. The file refused to load into his badly maintained, Byrdis-designed implant computer, and he had to convert it and compress it as it was far too large to display on his internal mind-screen.

*Warning, some minor details may be obscured by this compression,* said the terminal.

Steaming Krek! thought Daave.

The local terminal heard his thought via the wirefree link.

*No Steaming Krek available at this establishment. Try-* =klick=

He switched his implants off. All of them, all at once, sending a spike into the core, which was still struggling with the file conversion. When they rebooted, they seemed fine; but that was not the case. The cheap filemanager from Argelander was no longer compatible with his exoself operating system, and many files were lost.

So it was that Daave Eighteight corrupted his citymap file and accidentally got on the wrong vactrain - The Underfloor Express - which took him to Westharm citynode (two thousand kilometres from his destination). To make it worse, he only realised his mistake after leaving the station and wondering why all the edgeport buildings had been redesigned.

To top it all, his personal ident file was now malfunctioning, denying him access to his personal credit function. He effectively had no credit, no money.

It took him six tendays to get home again, mostly on foot. On the way he learnt a lot about being a mere human, lost in a technological paradise that was mostly uninterested in him.

Steve Bowers

More Information on the locations mentioned in this story

Metropolis (the Urban Cloudscapes city World)


Byrdis