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IntroductionEdit

A cool, salty breeze blew through the street; just cool enough that you don't catch a chill. Not yet anyway. The low sun, projecting long shadows across the road, was framed between the corners of two buildings; tomorrow it would be blocked by those buildings, and the day after it would finally begin to dip below the horizon and the world would be darkness for another week. The street itself - wide, cobbled, curved, flanked by wood and brick buildings on each side, never more than four stories high - was bustling with people going about their business. Somebody from the pre-Spindown years might think that, with the sun slowly setting, these people were going home from a long day at work; but this was the post-Spindown age, this was Imitheos, and it was only 7 a.m.

A flatbed truck carefully rumbled down the street as people slowly parted and flowed around it like water around a coughing, rumbling boat; most people walked down the middle of the street as there were few powered vehicles to care of, unless you count the bikes and horses. Anyway, most of the streetsides around here were crowded with the tables of open-air restaurantes, packed with people having their breakfasts outdoors while it was still warm enough to do so. However, one of the tables had just one person seated, reserved, reading the morning paper.

He wore a drab, brown overcoat with matching trousers. The knot of a tie could just be seen emerging from over the top button; a deep hat tipped over his face, protecting his eyes from the glare of the low sun. Most people seemed to switch to darker, duller clothing in Winterweek - it looks like this person has started early.

Welcome to Nuvancouver City.

Chapter 1Edit

Verne Grey glanced up from his newspaper as the flatbed truck rumbled past. A goat rested its head on the side of the flatbed and bleated, across the wooden paneling of the flatbed read 'SynTec Solutions', Grey nodded; another batch of genetic stock to be taken out to the Aegis. At least they weren't weapons, for once.

His pocket rang and he took out a small device, checked it, then folded up his newspaper, concentrated on the opposite shop front (the one with the boarded-up window)... and winked.

The world became ever-so-slightly brighter, and, with a blur like a sudden migrane, the street crowds disappeared; only a few people walked the street now, though he could still hear the hustle and bustle of Ring Road at 7 a.m. Not only that, but the boarded-up shop front had a window again. Grey saw a hooded figure stride along the street to the window, glance up and down the street... and throw a rock at it. Seeing this happen, Grey slowly walked up to the crime-in-progress (trying not to let the sound of the street at present distract him) as the criminal began to reach into the shop and and pick up anything that wasn't fixed down; for a moment it looked as if they were about to climb into the shop, but they suddenly glanced to their right, and ran.

Grey cursed and chased the figure, only to crash into an invisible bystander. The world returned to normal. A person lay sprawled across the cobbles next to a bicycle. Grey glared with surprise and annoyance, then remembered his manners.

"Oh, er... sorry!" he looked around at the people staring at him and began to jog, then run, away, turning back just for a second. "I'm really sorry!"

Grey winked again and the world changed back, just in time for him to see the figure disappear around the corner. Grey kept winking back and forth between the world of 7.08 a.m. and 6.26 a.m.; trying to keep his sights on the images of the past without bumping into the world of the present. He began to dodge through side-streets, trying to catch up. The figure stopped to take a breath for a few seconds, allowing him to get closer. As he ran through a maze of corrugated-metal walls sticking out of the ground in the parcela district, Grey whipped out his dictophone, hot on the criminal's heels.

"Male. One-sixty. No. One-seventy centimetres. Latin? Yes, Latin. Long black hair about... forty centimetres long. Age? Can't tell. Maybe twenties. Maybe forties."

Forties? Thought Grey. Who am I kidding? He sighed. "For one job which doesn't involve me chasing people... I'm getting too old for this kind of stuff." The runner suddenly stopped, and glanced left and right. Only now did Grey notice a second figure running toward the criminal, pointing and saying something. The criminal prised up a torn piece of corrigated metal and squeezed though. Grey sighed. "Here we go again!"

He inspected the cracked panel of corrigated metal, which was sticking out of the ground like one of a row of many rusty teeth surrounding the parcelas, before carefully bending it back and awkwardly squeesing through. At first he thought he'd lost the crook, but to his delight, as he winked back to the view of the past, he saw them hiding behind a shed. His delight was short lived. As Grey walked toward the shed, the figure pulled up onto the roof, and jumped onto the roof of a nearby building. Grey stamped his foot in fury. So close. Then he was taken over by a new wave of determination. He ran up along the length of the parcela, and jumped.

Meanwhile, Marco was pulling weeds from his small plot in the parcelas; the old man grabbed a lettuce plant with a stem growing out of the top, small white flowers sprouting from it, and tore the thing out of the ground. He looked at it with dismay, and thew it onto the compost heap in the corner of the parcela, before doing up the top button of his dirty blue shirt in response to a cool breeze.

"Damned long days! They all keep bolting in the hot weather!"

Just then he was distracted by a banging on the roofs of the sheds lining the sides of the parcelas. He stood up, rubbing his back as he did so, and held onto his yellow straw hat as he tipped his head against the breeze, looking up at the haphazardly tiled roofs of the sheds to see a person running across them with great difficulty.

"Hey, Verne! You think you could lend me some crisp-head seeds? My romaine's no good!"

The person, who didn't stop running, almost didn't notice him.

"Use a cold frame!"

"But they bolt in the hot weather, the col..."

"Cover it in foil! Trust me, it works!"

Grey tumbled off of the end of the sheds comically, with the smash of a tile and a slipped curse. Marco just shook his head and grinned to himself, before returning to his weeding.

  •   

Grey was in luck. The crook, content that they were no longer being followed (in the past, anyway), had finally stopped in a narrow, red-bricked alleyway, next to some permanent scaffolding. Grey hobbled up to the figure with a slight smile on his face, and they pulled their hood down. Grey grinned, a few wrinkles showing his age.

"Yes, yes, I know you!"

Grey began to jot notes and make sketches in his pad; this was just a formality to make it look like he'd actually done some sort of investigation; he knew exactly who it was and where to find them - Ciro Roberts was a petty criminal who just ended up in the wrong company, and out of his depth. Grey sighed as he tried to draw the young adult's face as they looked up and down the alleyway; he remembered when Ciro was a schoolboy in Nuvancouver East.

In the past, Ciro was just about to be approached by another figure, with a paperwhite face and shadowy eyes. Probably whoever put the boy up to doing the crime.

"Drawing ghosts?"

Grey spun around, startled, his vision returning to the present. In the entrance to the alleyway was a woman in a two-piece suit, Grey recognised her almost immediately as Penelope Chilcott, the Mayor's aide; he had seen her standing by the Mayor's side during speeches, but never heard her speak. He was surprised by her distinctive British accent - not something heard often outside of EuroFed.

Chilcott strode up to Grey and snatched the pad off of him before he could conceal it. Three police officers filed in behind her in full black-and-brown kit and uniform. He didn't know how long she had been watching him for, but she had meaning in her eyes.

"Huh. Crooks like you often gather in these places."

"Excuse me, what are y..."

"Arrest him."

The police approached him.

"Under arrest? Under what charges?"

Chilcott, leading the way to the street, made no reply. There was no point in struggling. Grey knew as much. That's how people got tazed.

"What charges?!"

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