Hand over hand.
Peg, pipe, crevice – they shimmied and climbed and grabbed at every possible handhold, working their way across the endless terraces and promenades of Tierdra’s Whitestone districts. The sun actually shone, here – plants of wild variety sprouting from rooftop gardens, tended by glittering automata and underpaid, tired gardeners. Rooftop pools, glittering glass faces – they even stopped to adjust their hair in a window, once.
Running was their job. Ever since they’d been hired by a syndicate in the underlevels a year ago, they’d been a data courier – sometimes legitimate, sometimes… not.
Their routes changed regularly, and as they vaulted over yet another railing they plummeted just a bit further than they would’ve liked – despite looking down, they still missed a step.
They landed, hard – dazed, head spinning. The rabbit had tripped and knocked the wind out of themself, but as they gazed skyward… they noticed for the first time how pretty the sky was.
Beneath the towering spires and glittering edifices of the city, the sky was a luxury – only the well-off saw the clouds, the birds, the remnants of New Lisbon’s past. The Old City lay beneath, covered up, buried by six hundred years of constant regrowth and construction.
Up here, though…
The sky was a beautiful mix of blues, reds, and pinks – the first tinges of Capella’s setting staining the white clouds shades they couldn’t describe. White, fluffy seabirds flitted about in the evening sky, intersparsed with the occasional aircar or transport ferrying someone elsewhere in the city.
High, high above, starships made orbit – lit by the setting sun, glittering against the sky like shooting stars.
Cai had spent much of their life up to now looking down – at their work, at the data they was supposed to scurry across the rooftops with, at the world beneath their feet. For the first time, their gaze was drawn upwards – at the worlds beyond their sky, and the stars.
Cai blinked, gaze drawn back from their thoughts to the here and now. A raven was leaning over him, concern written across their face. “You okay? That was some fall.”
“O-Oh! Uh. Yeah,” They replied sheepishly, pushing themself up and dusting themself off as much as they really could. The ghost of a headache panged at the back of their mind, but…
“Well, good!” The raven replied, crossing his arms. “Mind telling me what the hell you’re doing on the campus of Tyne Industries?”
“…Just dropping in?” Cai replied hastily, already looking around for a way out of this – but, luckily, the bird chuckled.
“Just get the hell outta here, okay? I don’t want to have to call security.”
The rabbit flashed a quick, cheeky salute, before hurrying off.
By now, the sun was setting properly – vanishing beneath the waters of the distant sea to the east, staining the world a myriad of dark reds and purples. Their destination, as it were, sat in one of the highest spires of the district – the offices of one Ingrid Walhafen. Openly, she was the marketing director of one of the Capellan League’s largest corporations, Concord Astroengineering.
To Cai, she provided one of the most stable sources of courier jobs in the city – and tonight was no different.
Pulling themself up over the edge of the office’s landing pad, the bunny trotted the short distance to the office’s executive entrance and entered their personal code – stepping back as the door slid open a moment later. The interior of Walhafen’s offices were pristine, something that they always felt they clashed with, scuffed and dirty from their scrabbling across rooftops and up chutes.
Still, as they made their way through the offices, her office was less imposing. A simple real wooden door, metal knob standing out starkly with the digital locks many of the doors in this building held. They supposed it fit her character – real wood was beyond expensive these days, and a knob? It creaked slightly when turned, allowing the occupants to know someone was coming.
And know, she did.
Cai blinked. The marten behind the desk steepled her fingers, but gestured to the seat in front of her with a slight nod. “I trust the data I asked for made it safely?”
Cai nodded, keying the small datacarrier on their hip and holding out the crystal it ejected.
The marten gently took it from them, inserting it into her terminal and beginning to look over the contents.
As she perused their ill-gotten gains, the rabbit’s gaze began to wander around her office. Potted plants, paintings… and a picture.
The picture wasn’t particularly special – a family outing, perhaps. Walhafen, and another person leaning against a railing.
It was where it was taken that astounded them.
Beyond the window they stood in front of lay the beautiful rings of some exotic, far-off world – icy rocks and glittering stone in gravity’s eternal ballet, the gold and tan hues of the planet’s atmosphere making the image almost surreal.
“All seems to be in order. I’ll have the usual amount sent…”
She seemed to have noticed their preoccupation, business facade cracking slightly as she followed their gaze to the image.
“I see you’ve noticed my newest addition.”
“I… er, I have, ma’am.”
“It’s from a recent trip to Sol,” She replied, smiling for what possibly might be the first time he could remember. “Concord sent me as a product ambassador, and I took my sister along. This was at Galileo, around Saturn.”
Cai didn’t know where any of these places were – or what they even were, but they nodded along.
“They tout themselves as the finest dining in the Sol system! Pah. I’ve had nicer food at street vendors here in Tierdra,” She chuckled, noting for the first time the confusion scribbled across the hare’s face.
“…You don’t know much about the Confederacy at large, I take it.”
Cai shook their head. “No, ma’am. Just the dirt beneath my feet and the stars.”
A wistful expression crossed her face.
“I’ve been all over, it seems. Would you like me to show you?”
Cai… nodded, slowly.
“Well!” She clapped her hands together, the desk’s holographic displays flickering to life – with maps, and stars.
“As a girl, I hailed from the world of Olesia…”