29 - The Boxhome

Archie et Au made a gentle egress from the gates beyond the garden, attempting to avoid attention, now officially reluctant and confused heroes. The next step was clear, but it was also clearly a pain in the behind. A long arduous journey was ahead and Archie needed provisions. They’d both heard of the Great Expanse, but before today had been content to leave it at that. A constant layer of dust in your drawers was a problem Au Ditt had been content to leave to other people.

They trouped to Archie's boxhome, a short distance down a sandy boulevard sided by griddocks of docked boxhomes, mostly for the Carina Molecular workers. Archie's boxhome was the Modulif II model by Aboda Smolhoem. A simple Bachelor’s model, it housed the bare minimum necessary for existence. A bed, a re-heater / safe combo (his valuables would forever smell of soup) a tiny refrigerator, and a wardrobe. He had added a shower cabinet to one of the modular slots on the outside, and a storage pod to another. The modular slots opened when used, so he could thankfully (for his neighbours) access the shower from the inside.

He’d sprung for custom color and flooring too. He’d chosen a light speckled purple for the outside, reminding him of the sunset. The dusty yellow pods he’d added to the modular slots didn’t exactly match, but he thought it made the boxhome look fast. Not that he would ever be driving it - The Modulif II’s internal mind did all of the driving, calculating the C-rail traffic much more efficiently, communicating it’s intention directional with the other Boxhomes in real-time.

A standard boxhome griddock had between a hundred and a thousand boxhomes at once. Archie's brightly coloured Aboda Smolhoem stuck out amongst the blandly coloured, double sized family boxhomes more common in this particular griddock, the Carina Molecular worker’s habitat.

This particular boxhome colony was located above an old walled athletic complex and track. The inhabitants of the griddock chipped in to run it. Archie had not once made use of the amenities. The first level of the grid was taken up by small shops and restaurants, and there were access elevators built into the sides. Each boxhome had foldable panels, that when docked, expanded outwards to create a passageway with neighbouring boxhomes.

Each column of boxhomes, 2 wide, operated as a chain, rotated through so vacancies could be filled by incoming box homes via the access C-rails at the bottom. They would then rotate back, so that the ground floor level stayed the same.

This could be inconvenient for people shopping or eating in restaurants, finding their second course or changing room session suddenly taking place much higher in the air. Of course, It only took a few minutes. There would be two levels of columns, the top levels unavailable to less extravagant models of boxhome. Archie, of course, was on the bottom. They walked through a convenience shop to get to the access elevator platforms at the back.

They went one level up, and two over, and walked on the lowered lip to Archie's door.

Archie's boxhome was a slightly sweaty haven for empty beer cans. Au, though well practiced at hiding emotions, barely suppressed a nose wrinkle.

Archie began to pack the Essentials.

“Er, beer, ooh, and Acropolis chips”. He frowned, not having been on many long journeys before. “Five pairs of underwear should do it right? Is it a faux-pas turn them inside-outward?”

Au Dit made a mental note to stay away from Archie's pack. “You might want to pack something more substantial, she ventured.”

Archie nodded knowingly. “I have a bottle of whiskey for the occasion.”

“Not substance-ial” Began Au, but the pun was lost on Archie, so she gave up. “I think I will like to buy my own provisions”

“Suit yourself.” He quickly loaded some chemAR with the directions to a rough approximation of what they had assumed was the Observer’s node, and one that would have a glimmering way-find line back to old Jardinian. Au Dit shuddered at the thought of shoving the underground UI psychedelic in her neck.

“Can’t use the AR contacts in the dust,” Archie tapped his head conspiratorially. Au could give him that, but was still quite content to avoid the programmable hallucinations.

From Archie's elevated boxhome, they could see the lonely cable-car disappearing into the mists. It wasn’t a bad view really. Carina Molecular had been a solid gig, if only for the proximity of the allocated griddock colonies to the hustle and bustle of the grand kilo. The nightlife was fantastic, though an unfortunate rarity on his wages.

Had they been able to see to the top of the falls, they would have spied the great translucent construction, that they had seen from the inside, rising from the foundations of old stone ruins on the islands above the Old Jardinian falls. The structure had a second set of walls, darker and opaque rising in cadence hallway up the sides. These walls spiralled gently from the polygonal obtrusion to create a valley between, down which an alovian could walk. Massive flat platforms connected to the other islands, barely above the smooth water.

This was generally unknown, for two reasons. The first, the great mists of the falls were augmented and guided by the Acropolis company to water their crops. Conveniently for the Alovians, who admittedly didn’t think about it much, this made an oft impenetrable visual barrier.

Secondly, because any initiative involving investigation into matters within Alovian purview seemed to end up tied up with red tape, (or, lesserly, the initiators tied up with regular tape by opportunist liaisons, see Gus Edgewise) or received no funding or interest from the university who directed much of Old Jardinain research. The rapid evolution of Jardian language nearly a thousand years back would have made research nigh impossible anyway - it made records previous hard to access, if they even existed at all. Also, tourist guides were gently dissuaded from mentioning the complex, or the cable-car that fed it - so tourists, most without a smidgen of extra room on their itineraries, rarely spared a second glance.

A sort of bridge between the branches of causality for this phenomenon of localized incuriosity was the general apathy towards civilian flight, subtly but keenly encouraged by the administrators of the mists, Acropolis.

Not that regular Jards cared about a wall of fog, a distant set of ruins and additions, old symbols in a dead language and a strange cable-car, the constant state of flux brought on by the contract nomadship was enough to kill curiosity in most adults, stretched to the limits as they were.

Some of them had been lucky enough to lock up consecutive contracts in the same area. They’d looked up through the steam, admired the crashing waters below, and thought how nice, and nothing beyond that.

Au Dit, meanwhile was gazing up at the great mists, and wondering how she could have been so blindly uncurious.

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