We lost Lucy Miner glacier riding on Tutanhkamen and I nearly died myself. She went into a crevasse, outside line-of-sight for emergency upload. I was lucky. Even as the air rushed out of my suit I could feel my consciousness pulled free.
They cloned a new body and accelerated its growth. Over a year in the womb, and I came out looking like a ten-year-old. Which was fine by me. I had no desire to go glacier riding again. Every time I remembered the heat inside my suit being flushed out through the tear I never wanted to be the least bit cold again. My celebrity status as a thrillseeker, such as it was, would survive a long sabbatical.
There aren’t too many hedonistic pleasures that a young body can handle for very long — or be interested in, for that matter. Immature brains are sponges, however, and I spent a lot of time pursuing new studies and soaking up knowledge. That, and soccer and bash-ball with real children “my age.”
Kids that age like to hang around the docks watching the crowds come and go from the freighters and needleships, or watch the ships themselves from the observation deck. With a mere wall’s thickness holding back the vacuum of space, a constant chill permeated the docks, and I stayed away. Instead, I’d go for long walks through the town and the souks. Some of the buildings dated from the construction of the habitat five centuries earlier, and architecture always held a fascination for me. The Agora held special interest, with the long and colonnaded arcades harmoniously accommodating the stalls and shops.
I was hanging around the Agora and, amid the hustle and bustle of the artisans setting up booths to display the artistic creations they’d sweated over during the past year since the previous Visitation Festival, I saw a girl about my own apparant age coming barefoot down the wide, stone O’Neil Staircase. Feringji pale, she wore a sheer garment of burgundy muslin wrapped around her torso and reaching to below her knees, but slit up the side to the top of her hip. Glittering rings adorned all her fingers. Oddly elegant for a child, and totally out of place for hanging about the marketplace. Quite a contrast with my own knee breechs, sandals and sleeveless tunic.
Curious, I followed this apparition as she wandered about the Agora. She took special interest in the wares of the artisans, and I decided that she must be an Aristo who’d snuck away from her escort. Not that any fool would dare to touch an Aristo in the heart of the ever-watchful and ubiquitous angelnet. So she was free to get a sneak preview of the paintings, jewelry, pottery, and such that the Lords and Ladies prized so.
At one point she turned around and spotted me. She stared for a moment, then walked straight up to me. “Cristobol Ng?”
I was startled that she knew my name. I nodded, speechless.
“My condolences on the loss of your friend, Lucy Miner.”
“Um… thanks. How do you know who I am?”
“Sorry. I should have introduced myself. I am Lemmikki Kauppinen.”
After a while I realized that my mouth was hanging open in utter surprise. I shut it with an effort, and swallowed hard. “Your Excellency,” I said and bowed.
“No need to be formal. I am incognito until the Visitation Festival.”
“It is kind of you to take notice of a mere modosophont.”
“I note every sparrow that falls. Come, walk with me.”
Which is how I came to be walking through the Agora in company with the Avatar of the Post-Singularity Intelligence that watched over the city-state of Yun Cheng, senior-most of the Lords and Ladies who ruled the polity of Zhao Tiao He Gong Yue (Attaining Harmonious Convention), and all its myriads of habitats and population of billions, in the star system of Huang De.