The detective story is still coming slowly. Instead, we continue Anna's story, which began here and continued here...


Newer York, 523 After Starfall, Day 273 (5 Sivan)

The lift doors opened onto a large hexagonal space. This was something Anna had already learned about Newer York--hexagonal shapes were everywhere in the structures. Corridors were hexagonal prisms, rather than tubes. Rooms were often hexes or half-hexes. Even the lift she was in right now was a hexagonal prism, not a cube.

So, this was no exception--a hexagonal atrium. The lift she exited was one of three smaller hexes in one vertex, with a stairwell in the actual vertex position, and another lift to the left of it, beginning a row of rooms. She could see all around the room, the projecting shapes of hexagons laid vertex to vertex with their back walls along the outer planes of the room. From her reading, she knew the triangular spaces between them, hidden from view, were for infrastructure--pipes and wires and ductwork. One of those was hers. She was eager to achieve it, but also rapt in contemplation of the space around her.

She could see that there were six additional floors of hexagons, stacked on top of this one, with balconies overlooking the atrium floor she had stepped out onto. Now, she understood Jasper's comment about the main social space being here, on her floor. Several paces inward from the door, stairs and ramps led down a small way into a large parlor or lounge area. Comfortable armchairs and couches were arranged in various clusters for small conversation groups. Elsewhere, some tables and simpler chairs were set up--she could make out a clear jigsaw puzzle half-finished on one of them, and at another, a card game was active. There were not a lot of people about right now, but there were plenty of signs that, while well maintained, this was also a regularly used space. It would be noisy, when it was full...and full of faces she feared she would never learn to recognize as anything other than alien.

But that was for later. For now, she was grateful for the relatively small crowd, She realized Jasper had come out with her, apparently determined to escort her to her room. She considered telling him it wasn't really necessary, but decided against it.

"What do you think?" he asked.

"It's...for some reason, I was expecting everything up here to be...cramped. Smaller. Crowded. This is spacious." Indeed, having expected to experience claustrophobia, she was feeling almost agoraphobic instead! Although it was difficult for her to say whether that was really the case, or whether she was just generally wound up.

"I know what you mean. I'm told there are parts of the station that are more packed in, especially the older parts of the Manhattan Ring. But Ellis is mostly like this, and I've been over to Brooklyn and Bronx rings and they're also both pretty open, both out on the street and inside the buildings. The old-time Newer Yorkers tend to be just as comfortable in tighter spaces, I'm told."

She nodded. She had a dozen questions but no real voice for any of them, right now. Truth was, she was torn between being utterly peopled out and exhausted from her interview, and the need to not be rude to this first real acquaintance. She decided to try honesty. It was really all she had right now. "Jasper...I don't want to seem rude. I really am glad to have met you, but--"

"--but you're dead on your feet and if I had any manners myself I'd have let you go at the lift doors. Sorry. I'm still making friends here, myself. I left behind a lot of people to come here...but that's a story for another time. Go find your room. Get yourself settled. I'll see you later!"

With that, Jasper went toward the stairwell and headed up, she assumed to his own room. She worried for a moment that she had still managed to offend him, but she just could not read his face or even his voice, yet. Both were too strange to her. She could only take him at his word.

So, she walked along the perimeter, following the numbers to her own--207. She tapped her terminal on the doorplate, and it opened for her with a click. She pushed the door open and stepped inside. Closing the door behind her, she leaned against it and took a moment to droop. She was close to...something. A collapse, an outburst, a sobbing fit...she wasn't sure which. She thought honestly a collapse, if it led to real sleep, might be the best option, and hoped she'd get to choose.

Once she'd had a few breathes, she surveyed her new domain.

The room was a not, itself, a hexagon, although it was contained by one. There was a wall that ran from the rear-left vertex to the front-left vertex (relative to where she stood at the door facing inward), with a sliding panel, behind which was the sanitary unit. The toilet was slid back part way into one wall, and the touch of an obvious switch slid it out to a usable position, and then back again. A sink folded down above it--a more manual process, but smoothly oiled and easily achieved. A shower fixture was hung on the other wall, and the drain was in the floor. There was no other partitioning of the space, but it was all tiled for drainage and easy cleaning. It was small, efficient, and effective. A bag with toiletries hung on a hook, and towels and other essentials were on a small set of shelves. A shower sounded good, but not as good as a snack and sleep were sounding. On the other hand, now that she'd seen the toilet, she realized she had other business to accomplish, and did so, relieved to find that there was nothing especially alien about either the toilet or the sink.

Returning to the main room, a bed was lofted against the far wall, the loft about a third the depth of the room, with a simple ladder leading up. Idly, she wondered what accommodations they had for people who for some reason couldn't climb, and resolved to look it up later. After she'd made use of that loft. But she was determined to learn her space before she surrendered to sleep.

Underneath the loft was a desk and a comfortable looking desk chair--nothing special, but not severe, either. The desk held a tablet, propped up, with a physical keyboard. She wondered how many Newer Yorkers actually used these instead of data glasses or contacts or implants. Would she, eventually, become so acclimated to this place as to accept implants? She shuddered at the thought, but then, just a few weeks ago, the very idea of being here had barely been a glimmer. Who knew?

A cabinet stood next to the desk, one half drawers, the other half a tall door. There was clothing--coveralls, mainly--hanging on the tall side, and underwear and the like in the drawers. They were not full, but there was several days worth. The seemed roughly her size, and she wondered how that had come about. Perhaps the assignment had been made as soon as she'd arrived and registered for the immigration queue? Certainly, the biometric scanners there would have had no problem at all sizing her up. Another question for later.

On the rear-right wall, right behind the ladder down from the loft, where they would be in easy reach from the desk, which was also the only table in the room, were two hatches with fairly clear iconography--one for refuse, the door colored red; one for laundry, colored blue. Her rescuers, who had told her most of what she really knew about life here, had said that as long as she remembered to actually send her clothes through the laundry chute daily, she'd always have something to wear, even if it was fairly plain. Eventually, she knew, she'd earn the necessary credit to buy to her own tastes.

Had she been less tired, she would have been eager for that--variation of dress styles had been a key way she and her template-sisters distinguished themselves. She didn't know that she would try to replicate her style from home, but distinguishing herself from a crowd...that was fairly crucial to her, and something she intended to undertake as soon as she was able.

She had so many questions...but she was so tired. She compromised. She climbed the ladder to the loft, and shucked her pants, but stopped there--this was not yet home enough for her to feel comfortable unclad, or wearing the pyjamas she'd seen in the drawers. The room was slightly cool, so she slid under the covers onto the futon mattress. She set her hand-terminal down, closed her eyes, and began to ask it a question.

She was sound asleep before she finished her sentence. Wisely, the terminal made no effort to wake her.


I've been trying to avoid infodump or purely descriptive stories/chapters, but sometimes, really, they're useful...