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Keep your ears to the streets

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I wake in a strange place.

People look at me as they pass by, most surprised to see someone sleeping on the street. Some children even ask their parents what the word for that is. It makes me glad to be here.

I stand up and stretch, set up a privacy screen. Nothing too high-tech - just a sonic shower and a clothing fabricator. The whole thing wraps onto me after I'm clean. Microbots scrub my teeth and pores.

Even when I'm clean and well-dressed I still stand out like a sore thumb. The people here are utterly different from me, often in multiple ways. I've kept my mesh from downloading all but the minimum cultural guidelines and local laws. Hell, I've even had it block part of my language center so I don't start learning their language too quickly. I want to have as much novel interaction with them as possible. It's the whole point of my visit.

A man stops and seems to offer me help. I hand him a card and he reads it, a little confused, then moves on. He's heard of us, but he doesn't really know us yet. We just got here.

I wander down the street with my pack on my back, poking my nose into conversations, asking strangers for directions, purposefully blundering around the infosphere. It takes up the majority of my day. I get a lot of strange looks. I spread my web as far as I can go, and then find an alley to sprawl out in. Friendly officers of the law ask if I need assistance; I hand them the card and they roll their eyes as they leave.

In my dreams I am a tendril of light pushing into a galaxy, tasting each of the stars and growing fractally. My edges splinter and expand like ice crystals growing through water. Behind me is a tiny thread of light that grows dimmer by the moment. The meaning is clear.

I send a transmission in the morning, encoding my experiences, and listen to the faint, encrypted echoes that come back. Everything I've seen is being analyzed by millions of minds every day, and each one (for now) sees it differently. The whole Assembly is in chaos and uproar. Many speak of the need to review the Pattern. Some have abandoned it already. Others say that Transcendental aid will be required. Still others pound their fists and say that the Pattern is pure and unsullied still, and that contact with the new civilizations will change nothing.

Being here myself, I'm not so sure. I need to stop listening for a day and reconnect.

At the station my diplomatic pass serves as a ticket to the embassy, and I ride the tubes for an hour, halfway across the planet. As I walk in the front door I can feel the infosphere - OUR infosphere - envelop me, and I feel at home again. It's like coming in from the cold and taking off your parka, like relaxing in your lover's arms after a hard day of work. The food from home is a nice touch, too.

With the familiar sounds of kissing and shouting and laughter in the background, I know we can make it work. It's just as if Issac Newton saw a black hole.

There's a larger Pattern out there waiting to be found.
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