The doors to his apartment slid open, silently and effortlessly, and Tom Miyaki crossed the threshold for the first time in nearly a week. The main lights had been turned off, and the corridor was lit only by the cold blue of the emergency lights, slowly oscillating in step with the tones of the warning alarm.
Tom took five steps across the narrow walking space in front of his door and then rested on the dull silver of the railing. The drop-off was about fifteen feet, to a small indoor park on the thirtieth floor of Tower One. As he listened to the soft babbling of an automated spring somewhere below, Tom recognized the stillness of the place where he was. There were no people moving about their tasks, no heels clicking on the hard metal floors, no voices echoing against the sharply constructed walls and ceilings. Just the babbling of the brook, the breathing of the emergency lights, and the humming of the alarm.
To his left, not more than thirty feet distant, was an elevator tube. It could take him anywhere in the tower. He turned right and headed for the staircase. It led directly to an observation lounge, three floors up.
Just as he placed his foot on the first step, the entire building shuddered. A low thrumming emanated from all directions, and Tom hurried up the stairs. He had been on the Odyssey when it used its drives before, but that was a real space ship. This is a city. Cities will never feel right flying away. Every surface Tom touched was vibrating ever so slightly, giving him strange numbing sensations in his hands and feet as he climbed swiftly up the stairs.
Reaching the top, he was a little disconcerted by the continued lack of human presence in the halls of Tranquility. The soft blue lights spilled over the walls and floors, but there were no people to be found. Tom walked warily to the doors of the observation lounge, and keyed the control. They slid open without noise, granting him access to yet another gaping silence.
The lights in the lounge were off, as custom dictated, save for a single pair of yellow-white backlights that illuminated the control surfaces for the doors. But even in the dimness, Tom could see that no one occupied the chairs placed throughout the room, that no one was leaning against the walls, that no one was standing in the empty spaces between furniture. Still he was alone.
Then he looked outside. Ten billion shining points of light stabbed out at him. Their cold brilliance caught against his eyes, and he welcomed that silent company.
"My God, it's full of stars."
Tom flinched at the words. He had been confident that he was alone, even a little disconcerted by it. Hearing the voice of someone who could sneak into his presence so effortlessly was frightening, but also welcome.
Catherine Dell stepped forward into his peripheral vision just as the tower came out of the shadow of the Moon. The observation lounge was flooded with yellow-white radiance and for a moment, Tom felt utterly disconnected from everything, awash in the rays of the Sun. The windows darkened, and he could see the entire room clearly again.
He looked out again, and felt in some way lost in the darkness and light. Earth could not be seen.
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