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“I want to run away.”
The statement was swept away between the crumbling concrete blocks of their massive fortress city.
“What?”
Juna didn’t bother to look up, kept looking at her card, sliding her thumb across its self-lit screen to read another page. Of what, Rik didn’t know. He leaned further out of the signal tower’s balcony . Smelt the wind. Hot air, from the suncell roofs. The whirring noise of churning windscrews heard over the whistling wind.

“Drafting’s soon. I’m going to run away with a trade convoy. Dress up like a waster and hide in their carts, maybe bribe a merchant.”
He heard her scoff despite the wind.
“Bribe with what? You’ve got nothing they want. They sit in the walled marketplace while they load up on portables and potables, then rip us privates off for souvenirs and go on their way. “

“I’ve got beatboxing skills. Some caravans bring travelling performers.”
Rik frowned at her laugh.
“I’ve got some Kredits. Bartered from some merchants some time ago.”
“Kredits? How many?”
He turned away from her stare.

“Twelve. And some coppers. They’re worth their metal, you know.” “Pff.” Juna got back to reading. Somewhere below, a lorry called out a warning that it was backing up.

“Anything’s got to be better than this. I won’t be drafted for the good jobs. You know that. Who wants to be a farmer scraping dirt in the hanging gardens? The militia earn more…”
“Come on,” Juna barks at him.
“Soldiers are paid well, but are all assholes. You don’t want to be more of an asshole, do you?”

“I’m too daft to be an engineer. I can’t weld shit and I don’t want to die in a construction accident.”
Juna laughed at him.
“Nobody can weld shit. The useless people like you are sent to the archives. Lots of sorting that the AI can’t be bothered to do, you know.”
He groaned. She got up, pointing at him with her Card.
“And you don’t know anything about the world outside.
Everything you know is in your Card. When you leave across that hill, your Card is dead.”
“No.”
“Yes. No energy  fields, no wireless signal. Dead Card.”
Her look didn’t give him any more confidence.
“You really should pay attention in Engineering class. Though you might be a little late for that, with drafting coming up.”