Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

To our right, there are five rows of aircars just hanging there. In addition, there are six layers below and five above. All sleek, shining, and not moving.
“Look at it. Six by twelve, going nowhere.”
Tish’s right. We picked the wrong time to leave and are now stuck in M25-7-1. At least it’s an edge lane, so we’ve got a view over Croydon Hub toward the lights of the City Wall. It looks kind of tranquil: all the twinkling lights on buildings and shops and whatnot. Everywhere has light all the time, like being unlit is some form of failure.
“You’re sidescreening again.”
I bring my attention back within the Skaelan and smile at her, taking in the patterns playing across her bodystraps.
“Tone your content down: that’s nearly pornographic.”
She pouts and her straps turn black, ceasing dynamic displays and holographic panels.
Swallowing hard, I whistle: “Just the displays, not the privacy stuff, and did you mean to come out without underwear?”
“Stop pretending you don’t like it.” She looks down at herself and smiles: “S’pose it is a bit sparse. Hang on.”
She pulls a wad of lacy cloth from her purse and I look away. Putting complex underwear on in a car is inelegant and she’ll get embarrassed if I watch. The Skaelan moves a whole car length before she speaks again.
“Lingerie and privacy on.”
I turn back and she appears to be in a minidress with inset video screens and a high amethyst collar that curves into a tiara.
“What are you actually wearing, oh arbiter of modesty?”
“Leggings, utility belt, tabishoes.”
“Huh. I’ll let you off. Wish I could go topless.”
“I wish you could, too.”
The car moves forward half a length. At this rate, we should arrive fashionably late for tomorrow night.
“The way the salesman talked, I thought traffic just parted for the awesome Bentley Skaelan.” She grins. The salesman had just started to make my skin crawl when Tish said she’d probably like it if they did it in white. I’d stopped idly browsing the options at that point and told him to get us a white one and we’d have all the extras.
All the extras-
“Tish, I’m an idiot.”
She grins at me: “I know that. What’s the reason this time?”
“A fully loaded Skaelan. Like on ‘Kyrie P.I.’”
The Skaelan responds: “Active and linked. Specify destination.”
We settle back as our seats recline: “Tuckersen Lounge. Party of Trudi Hammond.”
“Target venue requests ID.”
There’s a momentary whirling mass of colour, then our holographic avatars are standing in the vestibule of the Tuckersen.
Trudi looks up as we appear: “Traffic that bad? Come and mingle until your physbods arrive, then you can get down to it.”
Tish’s voice sounds in my mind: “Should we tell her we got the pharmacy option in the Skaelan, so we could arrive drunk and high?”
I run a scan over the throng and identify no IDs of interest.
“Gods, no. Did you see the size of her pupils? She’ll demand we bring the Skaelan in to impress the mob.”
Her avatar nods: “Point.”
Trudi looks up: “You say something?”
V-Tish smiles: “Nope. Bandwidth hiccup.”
Trudi turns away and Tish’s voice comes through again.
“Why do we bother?”
“Keeping up appearances. Give this lot two hours and they’ll all be off their heads, so we can fade out and leave. I expect the Skaelan will still be nearer home, anyway. Everyone will simply assume we partied as hard as they did.”
“Good plan. Let’s do that.”