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      Erick had read about the vast amount of technology that could be found in parts of the world like the city-state of Midcal, but he hadn't expected to find so much technology in Africa, which prided itself on preserving its cultures. There were consoles and vids everywhere he looked. The ceiling was pulsating with scrolling texts and blinking images advertising everything from bottled water to clothes to hallucinogens to VR's (virtual realities) to buying the perfect spouse.

      Erick's senses were quickly overwhelmed and he had to look away from the ceiling. He now listened to the sounds around him. It sounded like the low roar of the ocean that he once experienced in virtual reality. As he concentrated on individual sounds, he noticed that it was made of the low din of conversations and the buzz of the surrounding technology. Erick was jarred from his reverie when a man bumped into him.

      The man mumbled "He is returning," as he stumbled off. Erick regained his balance and turned to look at the man. Erick could see little of his face or head because the man was hunched over. He was wearing a faded black coat with the collar raised, which further obscured his head. Erick could see that he wore a pair of khaki pants that were much too big and frayed. He had no socks and wore sandals. Erick only saw that he was light-skinned rom the sight of the man's bare ankles and heels. Just as Erick was turning away, the man looked back at Erick. His features were ordinary except he had a tattoo of a sword on both cheeks.

      Erick now became interested in the people filling the immence indoor plaza that he and Samuel had entered. He was surprised to see that less than half were dressed in native garb. The rest wore a variety of styles. He recognized modern punk and classical prep which both had been moderately popular at the Institution. There were many other styles that he did not recognize. The most bizarre was a tattooed, suit-wearing Asian whose head looked like a metal pincushion.

      Most everyone was walking around in all manner of VR headgear, from old, bulky, beat-up gear to sleek and shiny cutting edge VR headgear. Some of those wearing VR were talking to unseen companions, both real and computer-generated. It seemed that between the blaring billboards, vids and VR, few here wanted to be alone with their own thoughts. Even those not jacked in seemed to be drifting aimlessly. Erick also observed little to his surprise no children or adolescents.

Absolut Paradigm

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