The Future We Left Behind

The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster Read Free Book Online

Book: The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mike A. Lancaster
holographic presentation that was inferior to the ones we were doing for show-and-tell to the class in pre-prep.’ Perry faked a yawn. ‘Look, we’re nearly sixteen years old, have we really got nothing better to be doing of an evening?’
    ‘Are we not our fathers’ sons?’ I replied, then added: ‘They didn’t have the holographic giraffe again, did they?’
    ‘And the duck-billed platypus,’ Perry said scornfully. ‘But they’d re-skinned them both in company colours, with a logo and everything.’
    ‘Making nature better, one animal at a time,’
I said. ‘I’m
sooo
sad I missed that.’
    ‘I just bet you are,’ Perry replied. ‘Told your father about the course change yet?’
    ‘Of course,’ I said, waited a couple of beats and finished it with: ‘Not.’
    Perry’s cravat switched from orange to grey.
    ‘Leave it long enough and you’ll have graduated by the time he finds out,’ he smirked.
    ‘That’s kind of what I’m hoping,’ I said.
    Perry suddenly looked around in a decidedly shifty way, and lowered his voice into a conspiratorial whisper. ‘So what’s this I’ve been hearing about you and a mystery girlfriend?’
    I swallowed and it must have been loud enough for Perry to hear.
    ‘I beg your pardon?’ I said, in my best version of a ‘deny everything’ voice.
    Perry just grinned.
    ‘You can’t hide your filthy little secrets from me,’ he said. ‘There were confirmed reports, from many sources, of a secret tryst between my main man Peter and an as-yet-unidentified female. I just want to hear your side of it so I can keep spreading the rumours.’
    I shook my head. My cheeks felt hot. I’d kind of thoughtthat lunch with Alpha wouldn’t have been important enough for anyone to even notice, let alone remark upon.
    ‘Nothing to tell,’ I muttered. ‘I did buy a girl a fruit soy, but the last time I checked that wasn’t really an important occurrence.’
    Perry tutted.
    ‘What?’ I asked.
    ‘OK,’ Perry said. ‘Since when is fraternising with girls anything other than an important occurrence?’
    ‘Well …’
    ‘The answer, my friend, is:
never
.’ Perry raised his eyes to the ceiling, then back down.
    ‘It was a soy,’ I said feebly. ‘Sometimes a soy is just a soy.’
    ‘Matter. Of. Opinion,’ Perry shot back, making three sentences out of one. ‘Now quit dodging the question and spill the goods.’
    But I really didn’t want to
spill
.
    I wanted Perry to shut up.
    He knows as well as I do that I’m not supposed to befriend girls, not yet. I am practically
forbidden
from having any female friends, let alone a
girlfriend
.
    Romantic love is something that is scheduled in when I hit twenty-one.
    It’s standard practice that when I make that age, a list of suitable candidates will be drawn up for me, and I will have a month to decide which three are going to make it on to my shortlist.
    Negotiations will begin, final criteria will be set, and a month after that I’ll be announcing my engagement.
    If my father found out about me sharing a fruit soy with a
girl
, then it would be even worse than him finding out about me swapping to a ‘soft’ course like English Literature.
    The latter could be viewed as an error of judgement, a slip, a moment of madness.
    The former would be viewed as something else entirely.
    Disobedience.
    I guess that was why I was so worried to hear that I was already the subject of college gossip. In a world where all information flows around the Link, nothing is private and no one can tell where it will end up.
    My mother used to quote someone called Horace when she came across Link gossip. She’d say:
a word once let outof its cage cannot be whistled back again
, and I had never really thought about what it meant.
    Now I knew.
    People talked and stories spread. It made me feel angry.
    I was saved from these dark thoughts, however, by the bell. Or, rather, by the start of the Keynote address.
    My father walked out into the speaking

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