The big cat had been chasing Pren for heart-rending minutes when she managed to skid into a cave she’d never seen before. She shimmied through a hole that was barely big enough for her and scooted up into a little ledge area. The cat might wait for hours for her, so she made herself comfortably before she pulled out the flint and steel and lit her torch.
The walls of the cave glittered and shone the way that sometimes a small piece of rock would. The whole area was smooth, rounded, like she had scooted up from the cave into something even less natural than her tree-house.
On the far side of the room was a lever. Pren looked at the lever. At least, it was a stick poking out of the wall at an angle. Her mother had shown her how to use things like that to set traps for animals, when she had been small. When her mother had been around. It might dump her into a net or drop something on her, although both the floor and ceiling looked sturdy enough in the torchlight. It might drop something on the cat.
The cat was trying to get up the hole she had slipped through. One clawed paw batted upwards, bigger than Pren’s foot.
She scooted backwards and pulled the lever. Even a trap was better than being eaten by a cat.
She fell backwards as the wall opened up, into a brightly and smooth room full of strangers and shining lights.
Author’s Note: This chapter is as the title says, literally. That is, they have sex. There is no conversation and no plot in this chapter, so if you’re not interested in the sex, you can safely skip this week. 🐻
For a moment, Deline thought that Carrone was simply stuck on a never ending circle. Then she realized that he was smiling.
She smiled back at him. “Well.” She raised her eyebrows. “I’d say ‘wouldn’t you like to know,” but I think we already established that you have an interest and an opportunity. But if we’re talking about the furniture… you could go upstairs and take a look yourself. It’s not quite as modern as the one back in the Capitol, but it’s an Imperial Bed.”
When you listened to the old-timers talk, the problems were mostly space.
When you actually listened to them, the problem was space in specific areas, or space that someone wanted, or something like that.
But there was a “crowding issue”. There were issues with too many people in NYC. There were issues with lots and lots of people in places on the other side of the globe. There were problems with obsolete technology. As far as Rhini could tell, there had been a whole bunch of problems like that, or things people had thought were problems, and some really rich people had thought those problems were going to take over the world. Continue reading →
“Ambassador, between us, let’s not mince words. There’s never an only for a while when it comes to government. Something exists, and then it continues on. So let’s talk about what we get out of it and what we have to put in.”
“We had to agree to a single arcology to get every other nation putting in to agree to one. Which is important, because some of those other nations really need the population space. It quadruples the amount of room that a lot of their population will have to live in. So we’re going to put one – well, we had four buildings in construction already in Virginia, so we’re working with an architectural team to turn those into one big building that can house at least five thousand people. And every other nation on the committee is doing the same. They’ll be monitored and maintained by the Starlight Hospitality corporation; they’re the ones we have doing a lot of the work on the national parks like the Grand Canyon right now.”
“How are you going to get people to move into a giant skyscraper?”
“For one, it’s not, it’s more like an enclosed town that just happens to be several dozen stories tall. There’s – there will be, and soon – plenty of accessibility, solutions for power outages, and then, on the other end, nice spaces, good views, plenty of natural plant and animal life, and good shopping and entertainment. It’ll be like a really nice city, just with no cars and no attached traffic and such. For another thing, we’re going to bribe the first three thousand people. Free rent-”
“You’ll end up with homeless people.”
“Then they won’t be homeless anymore, will they?” The Ambassador smiled benignly.
“And who is paying for all of this?”
“The Starlight Hospitality corporation is paying for seventy-five percent out the door. We’re selling rental space for restaurants, stores, and the like to cover the rest, and the rent for anyone over 3000 will cover any unexpected expenses. Digital commuting allows people to talk to anyone they want without leaving the warmth and safety of their arcology.”
“And what does the Starlight Hospitality Corp get out of this? Other than the exclusive contract to run these things which, I imagine, will turn them a pretty penny.”
“Well, that.” The Ambassador cleared his throat. “And there is all of that test market research on an effectively captive audience. And data on people’s traffic patterns and such. I hear they plan to build another fifty of these things in the upcoming twenty years. Ours are just their, mmm, their test market.”
“So… they build these things, a treaty forces us to fill them up, and then they get all the money?”
For the first time, the Ambassador looked nervous.
“…Yes. Yes, that is the situation.”
“And we’re stuck with it.”
“Yes. Yes we are.”
“Then I’m sure—”
Something about the voice made the Ambassador nervous.
“-you’ll be glad to take one of the first apartments there.
“For free, of course, since you’ll be one of the first 3000.”
“That’s too generous, really, I can’t—”
“Not at all. I’m sure your wife and kids will love it. And you’ll be very comfortable there, right? You won’t notice being data mined at all! Now come on, I won’t hear no as an answer. It’s a very nice place, I’m told, yes? And we do want to set a good example, after all.”
Deline found that she was staring at Carrone; rather, she realized that she was staring at him when he shifted uncomfortably.
“So,” she spoke carefully. “You want a life, a life that isn’t being a bounty hunter any more. You want someone to go home to at night, or someones, a marriage or a joining. You want people you can look at as partners, as equals; you don’t mind being the junior in a marriage, though, as long as you have a place. But you were planning on settling down and then you went after the wrong rabbit. Am I close?”
“That’s – that’s it, yeah.” He huffed and lay down on the floor, staring through the glass at the fire. “That’s it. So you see why you – you being the wife of the Emperor, that means that you’re in line for the throne when he dies, doesn’t it?”
“Don’t – you probably shouldn’t make it sound like it’s an imminent thing,” she protested. Continue reading →
“Class, can you tell me what this is representing?”
The VR diorama showed two women in early Space era outfits, the one in a tidy romper with a skirt-wrap of a style that was classic enough that it kept cycling around every generation or so, the other in a sloppy scientist’s jumpsuit. The classily-dressed woman had her back turned on a distraught scientist who was shaking a stapler.
“Oh! That’s the Stapler Revolution!” One of the know-it-all students bounced a little. “That’s when — when they changed all the laws about staplers? No, that’s not right. It’s…”Continue reading →
Amalie had been studying science since she was old enough to scroll through a book reader. She had spent ten years studying astronomy before moving on to geology and then, in a move that surprised everyone, concentrated on botany for her secondary work.
Her younger brother had focused on astrology and astrogation the entire time, and could tell you from a two-second look at any star chart where they were and which way they were headed. He wanted to be part of the Navigation Team. He wanted to be part of the Rulers who got to go up onto the Bridge.
Amalie just wanted to know everything. She wanted, as she explained to her perplexed parents, to eat something more interesting, too, and to make something with a better protein balance that didn’t taste like the same old thing. And if high-end botany was going to get that, that’s what she was going to study. Continue reading →
By the time they reached the cabin, Deline was thinking that maybe she should have let Carrone carry her after all – except he was not in any better shape than she was.
She stopped him when they could see the stone roof of the building and walked widdershins twice around the place until she could find the wards and their key, and then used her personal token as Claw to unlock those wards – in this case by taking her necklace and, with a quiet incantation in a language that had been, if her sources were correct, already old when the bear made this land, sticking the necklace into the hollow of an ancient tree.
“Now we can go in.” She gestured him forward.
“What would have happened if you hadn’t done that little dance?”
“The house might have eaten us in our sleep – or possibly, nothing at all might have happened. This way, it will keep other people a decent distance away.”
“Your magery is a strange, strange thing.” He shuddered. “I don’t know how it isn’t sorcery.”Continue reading →