|Image by the_street_urchin_by_kyamonhara-d8h46c1.jpg|
A street urchin that could be Kosi Lionhair with her happy face on. The elevator buggies are pure steampunk of course. Kosi
We were out through the back door. Hen hustled me past glass sliding doors on the right. “The transport pick-up yard for our level,” she said. “Do you recall it from the map?”
“Where hover cabs pick up and drop off people, and deliver stuff.” I had eyes only for the door at the end of the corridor. Steel grey.
Hen stamped on the sensa-mat. “This is how to get the old door to take notice.”
Finally it slid into the wall to the left. We stepped through, over a sill. Hen let the door slide shut behind us. At the end of a covered area, a curtain of … “Is that rain?” I asked.
“It sure is!” Hen said with a smile in her voice.
I shot out, as far as the safety rails. I was outside! In the rain! Getting wet! Little drops sat lightly on my face and arms. They soaked into my Fetcher clothes. They fell into my eyes sometimes and into my mouth – I opened wide – and tasting only of water.
The water came falling in long staves from a light misty place full of half-visible struts and girders high between my building and the one opposite. I breathed in their fresh coolth. The rain hissed where it splatted against the wall.
Far below was a darkness. The staves became silvery drops streaking down into that dark. Another, deeper breath. The rain-wet air swept away my indoor life.
Finally I had time to look at the building opposite.
Hen stood beside me, enjoying my amazement. “That’s where our utilities are. Our shops, medi-labs and schools. People call it Parra-Seven-Central.” She stopped. Waited.
I gabbled that lesson. “Parra being the name of our particular city. Seven the number of our urb, and Central referring to it being in the centre as well as being central to the urb.” Staring. There was lots to look at.
A couple of elevator buggies crawled down tracks fastened to the opposite wall. “The rails hold the buggies?” I didn’t give Hen time to explain. “Ten openings make ten floors?”
“Twenty floors. Every second one with an opening. Inside is a spiralling concourse where people can walk up or down to every level ...”
“I want to see it.”
“Call down a buggy,” Hen said. Your address is W-8-20. West Tower. Level 8. Residential Unit 20. What’s your address?”
I made a song of it. “W for West Tower, 8 for Level 8, 20 for Residential Unit Number 20. W for West Tower, 8 for Level 8, 20 for Residential Unit Number 20. W for West Tower, 8 for Level 8, 20 for Residential Unit Number 20.”
Hen laughed, hand on my arm. “On your way back, if anyone asks where you’re going, or why you’re going there, say that your mother, Bardelote Henry, works here. That you’re meeting her.”
Stunned, I said stupidly, “That’s you?”
“My name. Yes.”
“But I called you Hen because of me being your chick!”
She hugged me. “You’re my chick whether I’m Hen or Bardelote.”
After we sniffled up our emotions, Hen said, “Key in your destination.”
“True, your father didn’t say Level 6 where. All right, let’s say 6-W. That’s Level 6 West, the side of Central that faces West Tower. Slot your cell into the top of the keypad.”
“See it taking your credits?” Hen said.
4 credits gone. 6 remaining. I took my cell back. “Okay. What now?”
“Now you wait for a buggy,” Hen said. “Go for it, Kosi-girl!”
She hugged me. I didn’t watch her go. I bent over the guard rail to watch a rattling humming noise approach from below. A metal roof approximately the size of Hen’s bedroom ceiling rose up in front of me. The rest of the buggy, a faded green metal cage, stopped in front of me. Its metal gate hooked the gate in the railing and concertinaed open. “One from W-8-20 to 6-W,” said a machine voice.
I stepped into the cage. Rickety wood-look-alike floor, bare of paint. Ribbed ceiling. Barred window-holes all around. No glass. From the door it would be two steps to every corner, I knew from the bedroom. The corners nearest the building’s walls, on their outside, had half-open metal fists grabbing the metal rails attached to the front of the building. Top and bottom.
Which was how the buggies were able to slide up and down without falling off, I thought. I swallowed down fright. They’d lasted all these years … not going to fall now. Didn’t answer how they were powered, though. The cage door closed, dragging the gate shut with it. Clatter-clash.
Thud. I jumped. The ribs in the ceiling lowered and released a leg each ending in a brass foot. Had to shift my foot out of a recessed brass footprint set in the floor.
The buggy said, “Be still among the guide rails or be restrained.”
How? Why? Maybe it didn’t mean me personally. But what if it did? I held onto one of the polished guide rails. Mussed up my hair to feel bigger and braver.