Though the sky was the dark of night, interrupted only by the steady smiles of distant stars and the blue-green arc of the Ring, the clouds far below glowed with orange light. They looked remarkedly like hot coals ready to be fanned into glorious flames. Tareq sipped his cortado. He was fortunate, and he took a moment to appreciate it.
His penthouse sat on the rim of Bagong Manila, which, like all of Monumenta’s twelve cities, floated 45 kilometers above the surface where the air was breathable and warm and slightly sweet. The location meant he could look down from his balcony to see the tops of the clouds, just for the pleasure of it. The lightning was constant, and the rumble of thunder was gentle and distant; it was like living on the back of a dreaming, snoring firefly. Hanging from Bagong Manila’s underside were a collection of 3,000 meter conductive rods which gathered the electric energy from the clouds and used it to power the city. Tareq was in charge of maintaining the rods, and it had made him wealthy. And yet, something was missing.
He sipped his cortado again. And closed his eyes.
He waited, very still, and tried to listen for as many sounds as he could identify. He heard the thunder, of course, constant like the crashing of waves. He heard the wind in the distant spires of the city. His own relaxed breathing. The air purifiers softly purring in his empty penthouse. And then, like a tinkling wind chime, the giggles of small children. Must be his neighbors, an adjacent balcony, just around the curve of the city’s rim. Tareq open his eyes again.
Could that be what was missing? He’d never thought himself a family man, but maybe it was time to consider the future more distantly. He’d dedicated himself fully to his work for nearly a century, and quite happily, following a well organized plan. But perhaps now, before he’d quite reached his midlife, what he desired was a little chaos. Again, the giggling tickled his ears, and he allowed his own soft laughter to join the chorus.