Daniel did his best to remain as neutral as possible. “What do you propose?” He was disappointed to hear the annoyance in his words.
Sundown was still smiling. “Three questions. You get two out of three right by the time we get to the Junction and I’ll let you keep playing detective with me.”
Daniel chose to look straight ahead rather than allow Sundown’s continuing pleasure at his frustration further seep into his body. “And who’s going to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t correct? You?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “It seems a little stacked against me.”
She let out a snicker. “Welcome to the boden.”
He had studied conflict resolution, human psychology, workplace dynamics … none of which had prepared him for the resolute indifference currently being exercised by his partner. A frog is a frog. That was the last thing his sister, Maddie, had said to him before he had left for the boden. She spoke in dreamtongue now because the spark they had used to waken her had been tainted. It can’t be anything else, no matter how much it wants to be a salamander. Was Sundown the salamander? A creature of fire, it wasn’t entirely unfitting.
Daniel took a seat, exhaling, expelling as much negative energy as he could, and decided to try and wait out his new partner.
Two detectives walked by on their way into the captain’s office, sharing a smirk.
“Who’s this, Sunny? Mail order groom?”
“New intern,” Sundown muttered without bothering to open her eyes.
Daniel opened his mouth to say something but the two men had already left. He returned his attention to Sundown, finding his patience expended. “Are you going to tell me about what happened this morning?”
“Not right now.”
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.
Parker’s paws stung with each step. The cold, cold rain had made her pads raw. The earth was not soft anymore. The two-leggeds had turned it to hard rock that tore at her feet as she loped through the forest of metal and cement. A sharp stone caught her in between her toes, stumbling her, but she did not whimper. Her people were all but gone, and such sounds would only attract predators.
The rain seemed to be breaking against the cement in the same way the ocean once broke against the earth, trying to push it back maybe, or perhaps trying to destroy it one drop at a time. She did not know for sure. The rain beings and nimkee birds only brought storms now. She would not have been able to find her way if it wasn’t for her nose, the rain was so thick and violent. The acrid scent of the fire tugged at her nostrils.
The problem, of course, was that the fire hadn’t started yet.