The door opened to a grated catwalk, revealing another section of the Junction just as large as the makeshift skate park but a storey or so sunken. The catwalk ran down the middle of the room, ending — much like the rails Daniel had seen when they first arrived — abruptly, with scaffolding holding the pathway-to-nothing in place. To the detectives’ left, a spindly staircase was bolted to the wall. Sundown held the railing as she made her way down.
The staircase disappeared into grey mud. The walls of this section seemed raw, as though their flesh had been torn off; in truth, this room felt more like a sub-basement that had never been meant to see the light of day. The air was moist and damp with tendrils of black moss reaching out across sections of the coarse bricks. The corners were bathed in shadow, in stark contrast to the pool of sunlight that streamed into the middle of the room from a gaping wound in the roof overhead. This is where they found the Everseer.
Daniel sat in the slider quietly, feeling physically and mentally exhausted. He fiddled with the bubble, readjusting it to the cuff of his shirt. Sundown hadn’t said anything since returning to the slider. How had she known that he had magic?
“I take it you’re going to strap me in once we get to the Junction?” he said after a moment.
“Why, are you forfeiting?”
“You mean I passed your second test?”
Daniel went over the events of the ride thus far. The Grid question, then – what? Was it really a test to see if he had magic, or was there something else? What else could his partner have gleaned from pitching him out of the slider? What a question, he thought.
“We’re almost there, so you do want to keep playing or not?”
“Are you going to throw me out of the vehicle again?”
“Come on,” the man wailed. “I don’t know a thing about Jerrica, or anything.”
“Really?” Sundown commented. She began a slow tour of the one-room apartment. Daniel made a point of standing back as his new partner played her little game. She stopped in front of a beat up side table with a gaudy lamp sat atop it and started playing with the purple beads that hung from the shade. “Because Finley told me you were running crystal for Jerrica.”
“Fin? Come on, Sunny. That’s bad data. You know how much that one lies.” The man’s voice sounded calm enough but the sweat on his brow betrayed him.
“Exactly why I’m here, Diggs. Got to verify …” Sundown put a boot on the side table …
“I can’t believe you don’t trust me –”
… and kicked it over. The lamp shattered, and shards of rose quartz spilled out onto the dirty carpet.
Diggs, for his part, just stared silently at the pile of pink gems.
Curious, Daniel knelt down and picked one up. They buzzed softly in his hands. “Tuning crystals,” he said. “They’re pure.”
The sidewalk felt strange under Daniel’s feet. Maybe it wasn’t so much the concrete of the sidewalk but the knowledge that below the sidewalk was, quite literally, merely ground. The skin of the world. Solid was, perhaps, a better word than strange. The sidewalk felt thoroughly solid underfoot. It was an unnerving sensation for a man who had spent the entirety of his life in the himmelburg, the city in the sky.
Just one of many to come, Daniel decided.
So far, everything his brothers had warned him about the bodenburg seemed to be true. It was incredibly hot, smelly and occasionally sticky. Just like any long-unwashed body.
The badge that hung from his neck beeped, indicating that it had found his target – his partner. Well, his soon-to-be-partner. They hadn’t actually met yet.
“Tell me,” he said to the device.