Alex had been out of the city for nearly eight hours. But that was OK, because he could still touch the Cloud. Plus the housebot had soaked up a good charge from the sunlight and was showing no signs of tiring. Unlike Alex, who was feeling a bit worn out from being on his feet so long.
They’d warned him about that. Well, they’d warned him about a lot of things, but walking long distances was one that had come up a lot, and not just for reasons of tiredness.
â€œHow will you know when to stop?â€, his sister had asked.
â€œWhen I’m too tired, I guess,â€ he’d replied.
â€œNo, really?â€ Milly had rolled her eyes. â€œWhat I mean is how will you know when you get to where you’re going?â€
Alex had to confess he didn’t have much of an answer for that one, besides intuition – and no one reacted well to that. So he switched stories and said he’d ask the Cloud to stop him when he got somewhere interesting. That was much better; everyone could relate to going somewhere interesting. It was the idea of there being anything interesting out in the hinterlands that caused them to tell Alex he had funny ideas.
That wasn’t news to Alex either. He sat down, looking at a large irregular expanse of water.
<data required?> asked the Cloud, through the housebot’s audio channels.
Alex waved it away. He could work out for himself what the water was for and how it had formed, if he thought about it hard enough. Probably.
That was the problem, everyone told him; thinking for himself. Well, thinking for yourself wasn’t the problem, they’d quickly amend. But too much of it was pointless, and led to people doing funny things.
Like deciding to travel the hinterlands.
The hinterlands thing had really bothered a lot of people. It was kind of traditional to travel in your mid-teens, but most bods just mag-lev’d to another conurbation, another continent. No one went to the hinterlands, he’d been told.
â€œWhy not?â€, he’d asked.
His friends would mention the serious uninterestingness involved. Like, how many good clubs are there listed in the Cloud as being located in the hinterlands? Not one!
Middle-agers would mutter about dangers and terrors and pollutions; the oldest would say nothing and look away as if they were embarrassed just to being asked about it.
His mother had just shrugged, and told him to take the old housebot.
The sun was now painting the water with flecks pink and orange as it sank behind the trees to his right. He’d never seen that happen in the city fountains. He grabbed a still with his visor and spooled it to his lifelog in the Cloud. He wondered what sort of search it might turn up in.
It was starting to get dark. It was high summer, so it probably wouldn’t get too cold at night, but Alex wondered if maybe he should make some sort of shelter, and considered asking the Cloud for advice.
The sun sank further, and Alex saw it colour a thin strip of water that he hadn’t noticed before, weaving bright through the trees and joining up to the pool. Thoughts of shelter pushed aside, he stood up and wandered in that direction, smiling at the faint whine of the old bot’s motors as it followed him.
He decided he’d trace the water back to where it came from.