Built upon an asteroid, these mighty habitation towers are the final stronghold of humanity in a star system ravaged by a long-ago war. Now, centuries after the apocalyptic conflict, the city thrives — a utopia for the rich who live at the top, built on the labours of the poor stuck below…
Home was her sanctuary — their sanctuary. It had been hers alone for so long that Joah could never have imagined sharing it. Then she’d met Zarshay and the naturalness of the sharing had been something she still found strange. It was beautiful, wonderful, amazing, but very, very strange. Their lives enlaced in many sweet ways, enhancing each aspect: work, leisure, friendship, sex.
“You know Heila has been for lunch with a guy from Undergrove Promotions?” Zarshay murmured.
It was so not the kind of topic Joah would have chosen for post-sex warmth and cuddles. She heaved a sigh and sat up, reaching for a throw-on wrap. “All right, if you want to talk about it now. I really don’t mind.”
She heard a snort of amusement from behind her on the bed.
“You are the very worst liar I know. You can’t act worth a thing.”
Warm arms embraced her and for a moment she considered giving in and lying back down again. But it felt wrong to be bringing the stress of day-to-day life into their bedroom.
“If we need to talk work,” she said, turning, “I’d rather do so with a strong drink in my hand.”
Zarshay grinned, her face suddenly that of the mischievous teen she had been when they met.
“Always,” she agreed.
They sat in the windowed alcove of the apartment, on a cushioned couch, taking in the glorious vista of graceful towers and the spans between them, small vehicles dipping like living creatures in the air between.
“Is it serious?” Joah asked.
“For Heila, everything is serious: everything is a melodrama and everything is always on the edge of catastrophe.”
It was, Joah thought, a pretty astute assessment.
“So, we may lose her?”
Zarshay wrinkled her nose in doubt.
“Maybe. But you can’t forget about the Dog factor. There is the huge Hengast and Heila thing all over social media. She loves that and—”
A soft buzz broke into their conversation. Heila looked at the unfamiliar contact details on her phone, then accepted it. It came from the upper floors, which meant it was unlikely to be any kind of time waster. She flashed the screen at Zarshay as she answered, and the other woman’s eyebrows rose.
“Joah Meer Productions, how can I help you?”
“You the people who make Starways Pathfinders? Good. I’m Dain Strand, a personal aide to Toros Strand, and I want to talk to you about a very special project we have in mind.”
Star Dust by E.M. Swift-Hook, originally appeared in The Last City, a shared-universe anthology. This version is the ‘Author’s Cut’ and differs, very slightly, from that original. Next week – Episode 0101