Pirate Sun
of houses and other buildings that clung to the inner surface of the narrow strip of wood. The people had built them high here because there was no horizontal space for growth. As a result Songly’s main street was shadowed at the bottom of a slot walled with buildings.
    Overshadowing this main avenue other partial streets hung suspended in the rigging of the spokes. These lay at different heights and none of them were fully circular, but traced arcs of different lengths. The high streets held farmer’s markets, micro-g rookeries and gardens, and bike warehouses. Ladders, stairways, and cage elevators connected them to one another, to the main street and up to the wheel’s axle.
    The travelers’ hostels were located on one such high street, which hung in the quarter-g zone dizzyingly far above the main hoop.
    Chaison and Antaea found a cage elevator, and in short order they were inching their way down to Songly’s main street. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected from Falcon Formation, something more regimented and sinister, he supposed, and there were some hints of that. People wore a sort of uniform, a gray affair of shirt, jacket, and slacks that had different kinds of lapels on it signifying different societal roles. On the other hand, most people seemed to have customized their garb, adding spots of color or bright scarves in apparent defiance of their attire’s drabness.
    Physically, the town looked like any other. The air around it was crowded with the usual free-floating buildings, cargo nets full of supplies, gigantic balls of water and waste, and boats. The boats were the only surprise: Falcon’s dark reputation hadn’t prepared Chaison for the bright colors of their flower-shaped vessels, typically just a big basket with anywhere from two to five big petal-shaped wings made of wicker stretched with cloth. People standing in the basket could tilt the petals or swing them up and down. They were typically flown by several people with their backs braced against the bottom of the basket, each using his or her feet to work the spar of a petal. Glimpsed from the elevator they looked like animate flowers, opening and closing, slowly pulsating their way across the sky.
    The elevator touched down in crushing gravity and Chaison staggered onto Main Street. Darius Martor slouched out of a nearby doorway, looking about as guilty and self-conscious as it was possible for a boy to get. People were ignoring him, luckily; many of those striding to and fro here were day laborers or students as he was pretending to be, and many would be visitors. After breakfast they would leave the wheel in a swarm, dispersing to farms, foundries, fish farms, and all the other sundry industries that were easier to conduct in freefall than under gravity. Some left by simply jumping over the rail into weightless air; Songly was only rotating at sixty miles per hour or so, so the workers could unfold their wings into the rushing air stream and dart away with ease. Some kids were doing the same—not to leave the town, but simply stepping outside it to let it spin past before snatching a bungee rope to reel themselves back in half a mile or more away. The air around the town was full of swooping, diving forms.
    Soon Songly’s heaviest street would be deserted. It would be easier to find Richard then, but it would also be easier for the secret police to run them down.
    Luckily gravity-challenged visitors were common here; canes were plentiful for those unused to gravity. Despite his sense of urgency, Chaison trudged slowly into the main street. Antaea’s heels sank into the wood with every step, and made a slight pop when she raised her feet. Darius hesitated, shifting from foot to foot about forty feet away, until Chaison grimaced and gestured him over.
    Chaison looked left and right, then headed right. “You think he went this way?” asked Antaea.
    “He’ll be driven to head downward,” said Chaison with a shrug. Down wasn’t a

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