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Prolog

It was beautiful day at the farm. Which meant: No rain, no storm, no chemical instability. It was hard to keep track of the many variables that when set to a wrong value could easily destroy every single plant on the fields. Not everybody was able to buy a seperated field bowl with pre-designed humus that has exactly the right properties to grow whatever plant you planned to seed there. Jack's family was not really poor, they had their own farm outside the city and they produced great natural vegetables and fruits. They even had some animals, cows and a pig, which really only a few farmers could afford. Very few actually since there only were a few farmers in the first place.
No, they were not poor, but the dedication which Jack's family put into their farm had cost them a lot during those last years when the pollution came nearer and nearer. By now they had managed it pretty well but it had been a near thing.
However, natural grown food was a rare good and you could buy a whole house from what you could earn with only the fruits from two or three apple trees. But where should you place that house? Land was rare and who owned some - especially when the place was not polluted - would never ever sell it.
Jack had not lived here for all his life actually. They moved away from the city when he was six or seven years old. Somehow he missed the city. Everybody here loved the life apart from the speed, the dirt, the density and the mixture of cultures that took place in the cities, now that they grew further and further. If you had owned land that was destroyed or polluted you could sell this land to one of the big companies and they would offer you a job and a new life in own of there growing cities. Of course the land could not be used by them but what was acutally of interest to the companies was the air above the land. Well, most of the time the air was polluted as well but if you kept going up and up and up you would somehow find a point where it would be fine to stay.
This is where they decided to build the new cities. Up in the air, where it was still clean.

"Jack, come on in. Dinner is ready!"

He looked at all of them while they were eating. One at a time he inspected their faces for special marks that he could remember. If somebody laughed he quickly looked at that person to get the happy impression on their faces that he could remember. He was actually not really paying attention to what was spoken. They always talked during dinner which was in fact a ritual he would probably miss very much. He suddenly had realised that he was about to leave them. Somehow he had managed to suppress this thought until now and so it struck him like lightning when he came to think that he would actually be gone in just a few hours and that he would probably not see anyone sitting around this table for a very long time. So he continued to remember all their faces and quietly sat there while it seemed that everybody else acted like usual.

"Jack? What are you looking at?"

"Oh, it's nothing Mom. Just remembered something I have to do before I leave."

Of course that was a lie and she knew it but everybody else looked satisfied by the answer. Actually he should be satisfied as well since his wildest dreams were about to become true. He would be moving to the city that he had always loved more than his home. He would be able to finally meet other people and not only all those nice but terribly familiar faces he got to know over the last 13 (??) years. Ever since they left the city to move to this farm Dad had bought he wanted to go back where the life flew through the streets like a thick strong river. Here he had only found a very small stream barely enough to keep him alive. So why was he actually trying to remember those faces? He had seen them for so long, it was unlikely that he would ever forget what they looked like. No, he never ever would.

"Brother, when are you going to have your first courses?"
--FILL-IN-NAME-- his oldest sister. She was about to finish high school but she didn't really know what to do afterwards. Jack knew that she somehow looked up to him and chances were she would follow his example once he told her what it was like to study in the city. Dad of course would like to see her stay with them and work on the farm. Maybe he even thought that she would marry one of the neighbour sons and that he could get some land or join forces with another farmer. That was a very old habit and very outdated though but his father obviously liked all those ancient habits since that was the initial idea when buying this farm for them. He wanted to get them out of the speed that dominated this world and into a kind of static vacuum where everything stayed the same for at least some time and where changes could be controlled and adjusted in some way. He couldn't keep with the pace and he was always insisting that things always took their time to be done right. He was still reading old fashioned books that were really hard to get nowadays since all informations ever collected were accessible around the clock through the networks. They did have a terminal but it was almost 10 years old and was not used very often. And certainly not by Dad. He would rather go and get the information from the old library instead of just searching the www. Jack used it very often. It had all the information one could ever need. Sometimes when Dad saw him sitting in front of the screen he said:
"Jack, whatever you read on this screen: You should go and get a book that approves the information."

"But Dad, what else should a book tell me, it's all in here! They're so old, their informations are probably outdated by now."

Dad shook his head. "Son, nothing inside this box is for real. You make it real by believing it but inside the computer it's just a bunch of zeros and ones. No more. Real information is only to be found through real people. Add that is why we need books. Do you understand?"

Jack could have continued the discussion and sometimes he kept insisting and did just that. But in the end he understood that he would never be able to change his mind. It was futile to keep trying and so he decided to agree whenever they came across that subject. But he just like his father would never really agree to that.

"Jack?"

....

"Jack, don't you listen?"

"..Oh... I'm sorry, Mum. What did you say?"

"Your Sister asked you, when you're first day at college will be."

"Yes... I'm not really sure, there's one week of introduction for freshmen I think...Oh, stop that!..."
His sisters had started to giggle. Sometimes they were just like little children. He hated to be interrupted like that when explaining something. It was like they didn't take him serious at all. Why had they asked them in the first place? He decided to make it short.

"...and I guess we'll start the week after."

(sister) "You have to tell me everything about it, do you? I'm so curious."

(father) "There's nothing special about it! He's just going to school. Like you do."

"Of course, just that the buildings are much bigger..." she mumbled while rolling her eyes over to the ceiling.

(father) "Don't talk to me like that!"

(mother) "Oh, FILL-IN-NAME, she's just teasing you, you know that. Can't you cheer up just for this evening. Your son is going to the big city and he's going to study. You should be happy for him my dear."

"I would be happier if he'd stay with us. There's nothing in this city he couldn't learn here. There's nothing for him to do there while there's plenty of work here." Then he rose from his chair and went to the kitchen.

"Don't mind him Jack, he doesn't really mean it." Jack knew that he did. He was tired to argue about it but he knew it. But soon that would no longer be of his concern. At least he hoped so.



After they finished dinner, Jack helped to put the dishes into the dishwasher. None of the recent models of course which cleaned without the use of any water or soap just by Ultrasonic Waves. No, they were still using the most ancient dishwasher wish threw liters of hot water onto the dishes and used chemicals to get rid of the dirt.

Jack knew that the kitchen in the house he was moving to was equipped with one of the ultrasonic models. And more technical stuff which his father would never touch in a hundred years. The kitchen was shared of course with probably 3 or 4 other students living in seperate rooms there. He imagined that it wouldn't be very different from living with his family once he got to know his housemates. He didn't know how wrong he would be about it.

Now he was standing outside on the veranda and he looked onto the stars. He wondered whether they would look different in the city. At least, he would be nearer to them since the place where he would live was hovering at about 800 m above the ground.

"Hey boy, what do you do outside here."

His father came from behind the house, carrying a bunch books.

"Nothing. Just looking."

He put the pile of books down on the table and then remained there looking at the sky. They had stood there so many times before. Suddenly Jack felt that he would probably miss that.

"My Boy, I have something to give you."

He took a book from the top of the pile.

"See, I know that place you're going to. I know it very well indeed. You know that we came from there and you know the reasons why we left..."

"..and came here. Yes, I know about it. But my decision is clear, I won't stay here. I want to go and you can't stop me."

Now they were looking in each others eyes. Like many times before. But this time seemed a bit different. Jack recognized something that had not been there before. Something that he never experienced during any of their former fights or discussions. He felt something entirely knew.

"Yes, I know." He felt, that he was right. He knew it. His father knew it. He was right for the first time and his father agreed.

"I know I can't hold you, I always knew although I hoped I could do something about it. Obviously I can't. You must go your own way. I have nothing left to teach you. Now you must learn from others. Learn from life. But this book here should remind you of the most important fact I have learned in my life."

He handed him the book. It was called "Hackers".

"What's that? I've never seen this before."

"It's a book about a group of people that has been known for over a hundred years to preserve the freedom of information. It actually describes how these group came to life near the end of the last millenium when it turned out that the most precious good among humans was the pure information. You know the networks probably better than I do. They were responsible for the roots of these world wide web of computer networks. They helped to grow them and they were the first to use them. I think you'll find this more than interesting. Remember my boy, information is only as trustworthy as it's source!"

He turned back to the pile.

"I hope you will find what you're looking for. I know you have all the brains and the will."

Jack stood there somehow puzzled but he felt, that his father was trying to say goodbye.

"Thank you dad..."

Jack's father turned his head to him and Jack could see suddenly see that there was a tiny tear in his left eye, nearly invisible. He had never seen that before. Then the two men embraced each other.

"I'm so proud of you."

These were the words Jack had been waiting to hear for so long. Now that he had finally heard them he knew that the time had come to leave. He had everything he needed. He had done anything that there was to do at this place. It was finally time to move on.



The next morning after breakfast after Jack's luggage was collected he said goodbye to his father, to his mother, his sisters and brothers. There were even some neighbours, his former teacher Mrs. Rutherford and many more. He embraced each and everyone and they all had some good wishes or advise for him along with tons of useful and semi-usefull gifts. The ceremony seemed to last for hours. Then he got aboard the hover car that would bring him to the station.

You could see the MagnoTrain from far away. It was not very long, probably about 30 meters with four floors on each of the wagons. It was already hovering above the ground so it would leave very soon. Jack was almost late but he had to catch this train since it was the only train up to the city for the next two days.
When he finally got into his seat Jack realised that he would probably not be coming back very soon. But the place he was now going to would probably need a lot of time to be dicovered. He felt that he was not actually leaving something behind. It was more like going after something that had already moved on. The adventure begun...


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