If ever he could afford to buy a proper house in Central, Grim reflected, this would be the kind of place he would most want to live. It was not one of the elite suburbs. Those incredible places where you had a neat patchwork of huge mansions set in massive gardens and anything that was not automated was dealt with by discreet servants all with the same universal smile and self-effacing manner. He had been in such places on occasion in the course of his investigations. They always made him feel like a mangy stray walking in on the life of pampered lapdogs. It was not the kind of lifestyle he could ever imagine himself having or even wanting to have.
But this was a bit more real.
More his scale of aspirational.
The houses were all large, but not so big you needed more than normal amounts of automation to live comfortably in them. The gates were low enough to see over and he liked that on the other side of the narrow roadway was what looked like a public park. The road was designed to be just wide enough for PTVs or delivery drones to land. These were more like real homes and less status-symbol fortresses.
Like everywhere else in Central, transport was discreet, automated and instantly available on request. But he landed the PTV at the end of the roadway so he could walk up. He wanted to do some thinking and get a feel for the locality.
Much as he admired it, this was a very different environment from any he had ever lived in. He could only wonder what it must be like to feel belonging in this sort of place. The sense of security and even entitlement that it must bestow. But maybe that was ungenerous. There were some people here who took a very active role in trying to right some of the wrongs in broader society. People like the mother of the person he was here to visit. But the majority, he suspected, took all this tranquillity, security and beauty for granted and never questioned it.
The metropolis was called Sungold and this suburb was Fairweather. It did indeed seem to have the advantage of a wonderful, sunny, climate. He suspected the weather was controlled, with the necessary rain only being permitted to fall in the sleeping hours so as not to disturb the perfect lives of the local inhabitants.
It was just a bit different from the place he called home. That was a two room, eightieth-floor apartment that he shared with Mabs, in one of the recently built sprawling townships on a ‘new’ Central world. New because it was not one of the first settled Central planets, but one close enough to be drawn in a few generations later and made to serve as a kind of holding bay and access gate for those unable to afford a more traditional Central lifestyle. The kind of traditional Central lifestyle these beautiful houses in Fairweather, Sungold typified.
Grim stopped by the house he had come to find. It looked little different to any of the others. Each might have its own unique addition and styling to distinguish it very slightly from the neighbours, but they were all enough of a type for their uniformity to be visible even through the remodelling and the repainting of the facades. Lovely as they were, they were all still mass produced by construction gantries, to the same key design from identical materials. It was just a few whistles and bells and a bit of cosmetic tinkering that made one any different from another.
This particular one was styled in simple, classic stone with rimmed pillars by the door and supporting the small porch. There was even a privately owned PTV parked up under the protection of a pillared canopy beside the house. A mark of wealth and status in a place where the norm was to link for an auto-ride.
He tried the gate and wasn’t surprised when it didn’t open. It was low enough that he could have vaulted over it easily, but that would have been a bit intrusive so, instead, he used the link-point on the gate post.
“Can I help you?” A polite, cultured, Central accent replied almost at once. Grim smiled to show he was pretty harmless. She could see him even if he could not see her.
“Sorry to disturb you, I was wanting to speak with Var Sweetling, if she is available.”