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As night falls on that first day I wake from artificial slumber, my customs protocol complete, and prepare to go out into the world. The locals have prepared a reception for newly arrived travelers and after bathing and dressing in the formal silks recommended by the local data net, I enter the reception hall with the expectation of an interesting evening. I can see immediately that I will not be disappointed.

The hall is a sea of light and color. Cloudy aerogels drift above the milling crowd, changing shape and color and occasionally raining mild stimulants and short duration contact hallucinogens. Filigliders swirl in complex flocks among the clouds, forming artful and ever-changing patterns before swooping down in twittering clusters to move and hover among the guests, their colors and markings indicating flavor and texture and their twittering songs and pheromonal exudations inviting all around to pluck them out of the air and consume them.

Mobile trays pick their way delicately through the crowd, each supporting an array of drinks and edibles for any who wish to partake.

Beyond the pleasures of food and drink, the chamber is filled with entertainments. Following an impulse tag injected into my sensorium I scan local music channels playing a variety of tunes in a multitude of styles, all carefully designed so that whatever I choose, it will fit comfortably into the overall tone of the evening. I settle on ancient classical, strings and woodwinds, and so accompanied begin to move through the room, taking in the other amusements available. There is certainly no shortage of them.

Here an air-breathing octopoid juggles knives, pans, and whirling foodstuffs in a blur that every few second’s passes through searing fire and every few minutes ejects a glittering plate of sizzling delectables that are almost secondary to the artistry creating them. There a master scentweaver mixes the contents of vials, jars, and decanters to produce wondrous smells that are wafted among the admiring onlookers on a tightly controlled breeze. Surrounded by a dozen reclining lounges, a Nocturne is plying eir trade, inducing short but deep periods of sleep in eir audience and filling them with vivid dreams of the surreal and the beautiful. Judging by the applause coming from that part of the room, e is doing a very good job.

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