Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Dawn is like a neon tube: a strip of too-bright light. Above it are the clouds that hang across the city all the time, below are the outer walls. From this far inside, the watch towers and turrets look like the bits that soldiers hid behind in castles.
Castle? If so, City Central is the big fort in the middle where the royalty live. Around it are the homes of the rich people. Beyond that are the services that make sure the rich or royal never have to do dirty jobs. Around that are the places where the people who do the dirty jobs live.
Beyond that? It’s a big place, filled with hydroponic farms, scrapyards, shanty towns, and us.
I shake my head and pick up where I left off.
“Not that we’re any different. Don’t have clothes for different times of day, don’t have much choice in the shops, don’t get to eat out often. Apart from that, if you scrub me and stick me in a fancy suit, you wouldn’t know the difference. That’s until you try to have a conversation. It’s not like we have much common ground.”
There’s a giggle from my right.
“Torin, stop worrying.”
I look down at the vision sprawled in the filth next to me.
“That dress cost more than my old man could make in five years.”
She smiles and rolls onto her tummy.
“Not really. Only vanity and greed make it expensive.”
A flitcar drops to hover a metre or so off the roof edge.
“Rebecca de Vure Marigny! Come here!”
She sits up and winks at me, then turns her head and shouts at the noisy machine.
“Roberto, I will not. Mother said I was free to go where I wanted for Centenary Night. Here is it.”
“Leave that tarted-up rough! He’ll just roll you and run!”
She looks at me, eyes wild, but there’s something there that’s ours.
Turning back, she points at me.
“He made it all the way to the Botanical Gardens Free Fair with nothing but a good suit and an attitude. Could you find your way downstairs without a valet? Are you even alone in there?”
“That’s beside the point! Charles Harringdon was asking after you!”
“He wears bedsheets and smells like damp dog.”
“He’s a good catch!”
“Then you have him!”
Her dismissive wave stops midway.
“You fancy my rooftop Romeo too, don’t you?”
“Of course not.”
I lean toward her: “He’s an impressive flyer, but not my thing otherwise.”
A wet kiss lands on the tip of my nose.
“I’d missed that.”
She stands up and points at the flitcar with both hands.
“Barbara de Vure Marigny, you can’t have this man. Have Roberto instead!”
The privacy screen drops and I see a younger version of Rebecca grinning at us from the control seat. Behind her is a darkly handsome young man. His menacing glare is marred by the intense blush that’s spreading across his cheeks.
Rebecca makes an intricate hand gesture toward Roberto, who recoils like he’s been punched. The girl, who I presume is Barbara, is laughing as she replies.
“Dirty cow, enjoy your mucky morning. I’m going to take this fool away and help him with the obvious problem he’s had ever since he saw you lying on that roof.”
The flitcar dives out of view. Rebecca turns to face me.
“Speaking of ‘problems’… Hope you fancy helping me with mine as much as I fancy helping you with yours.”
I chuckle.
“Didn’t come up here to roll in the dirt on my own.”