2 Darwin, 7886 A.T.
The rain hammered on the transparent roof of the autocab as we made our way to the Nung-wu Festival of Cuisine; even with weeks of medication and exercise we are still finding the high surface gravity of Penglai difficult. A short walk into the crystalline Pudong District dome to the Festival and we had worked up an appetite.
And this was a good thing, as there were so many fabulous food sensations to try.
The Sea Monster (Yu xiangh) of Linyi Island is replicated throughout the galaxy, but I have never tasted it prepared so well; new to us was the Red-cooked Dragon (Yulon `ongshao) and a fantastic variety of sea-kelp fruit.
For more cosmopolitan palates thousands of edible filigliders were released; they had a spicy dry flavour, but were difficult to catch. There were also strangely shaped mnemonic vegetables containing false memories and other psychoactive experiences, but we avoided them for the moment.
The heavy-set Penglaiese were celebrating loudly all around, and we learned that an avatar of the Ascended Master Michael Qian Ganymede was expected to materialise later in the evening. Talking to one of the locals, I determined that the Ascended Master was scheduled to bless the Festival and to bid farewell to a party of long range colonists, soon to set off for the Carina Rush Volume.
These adventurers were the loudest of all, and noticing that we were travelers ourselves, they gathered us into their circle and demanded stories of the outer worlds from us.
Nothing pleases seasoned tourists like us better than an audience; but they were so intensely fascinated by our tales that I suspected that they were using Grok or some other focusing drug.
However the cheerful, broad-shouldered matriarch of the colonist group revealed that the mnemonic food we had been avoiding was mostly tailored to intensify in the consumer the awareness of interstellar space, and the outward urge.
It sounded intriguing, so we finally tried it; by the time the Ascended Ganymede avatar appeared, our minds were more full of stars and coordinates, polities and prospects for terraforming than we had ever thought possible.
Ever since that night in Nung-wu we both have been restless, and consumed with the desire to set off for the periphery. How long we can resist, and where we will find the funds, is all that occupies our minds these days; whether we like it or not.
By Steve Bowers (2008)
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