Valentin only realizes someone is behind him when a thick glove starts waving in his periphery. He pulls off his earmuffs and swivels away from his workbench. "Chief!" he says, leaping awkwardly to his feet.

"May I?" Chief Horologist Komarova picks up the the little automaton, turning it over in her hands. "Yes, good technique. Perhaps, though... do you have a sheet of paper?"

He flips over an old diezoprint and shoves it across the workbench; Komarova pulls a graphite stub from her oilstained coveralls. As she sketches changes to his algorithm, Valentin's elation at the elegance her changes bring out turns to dismay. With deadline already looming, he'll have to start from scratch. His face falls.

"Don't worry," she says. "We'll make a clocker of you, yet."

The Feed

The Feed giveth, and the Feed taketh away. What was once a swollen harvest, spoiling in the sun, has receded. Not a scrap, as far as his eye can see.

The Feed had a purpose, once. Now its name is an incongruity - The Feed is a shadow, sharing nothing. The Feed withholds. It hides under floorboards and behind the dead branches of the remaining trees. He feels its bulbous, faceted eyes on him all the time. He can't sleep any more. He searches now, constantly.

Clutched in his fist, his blackened javelin. He'll teach it a lesson, one way or another.

The Savage Club

It's generally not a required part of a stage manager's job to check that none of the actors are drunk before the curtain goes up, which is why it comes as a complete shock to Philip when Heidi's policewoman stumbles onto the stage at the top of the second act, shirt half buttoned. It's not immediately apparent that something is wrong, but within minutes they've skipped two pages and she's giggling at every awkward pause. The other actors, to their credit, manage to roll with it - Philip can only sit and watch the trainwreck unfold, listening out for the next mangled cue line.

Heidi's fled by the time the house lights come up. Over drinks that evening, the shell-shocked cast's reactions range from barely-suppressed rage to a resigned disappointment. Philip sits outside to keep the SM company; she chain smokes while they put off calling the director, trade war stories, and lament the fact that you have to experience it in order to have it to tell.

The Buddha Justice Fan Club

GAUTAMA: All things that come to be have an end.

GAUTAMA: Devadatta--

Antimony rewinds, restarts,

GAUTAMA: ...have an end.

Pauses. His mouse dances along the timeframe, rubberbanding the moment of eye contact. A few more clicks and the clip exports to .gif. He opens an incognito window to upload it to a tumblr none of the others know about.

"Or people standing behind you, Tim," says Melody, standing behind him.

"Oh christ," says Antimony. "Please don't tell the others. Especially Simon. I just can't stop making them."

Melody, blog full of guilty fanfiction, pretends to consider.


When the Dire Foundry was a warship, she had a broadside fierce enough to rattle anything in the Pirate Fleet. Christened only by allocated number, she gained the nickname with her reputation for the names she forged, the skies she blackened, for the molten fire that rained from her crucible heart. That's all behind her now. But while her power may have been tamed and yoked to the spirit of free enterprise, Valentin can still feel the history behind each gear, each spring. At the end of every shift, he puts aside his tools proud to be keeping this lumbering titan in the air. The Foundry, famously, never rests, and Valentin is lulled to sleep every night by her escapement's endless hum as she drifts across the sky.


The cloud offered freedom from the encumbrance of discrete storage - generous government subsidies for a burgeoning tech industry supported the ruse. Evan clusters with the others under an awning to stay out of the snow, while inside, a group of enterprising youngsters are discreetly storing his hard drives in an unmarked white van.

He performs the ritual of checking his empty pack. Someone from inside produces papers and tobacco, and a cute girl with a sleeve of angelic tattoos obliges him with a hand-roll. Evan tucks it behind his ear, handwritten ip address invisible on the inside of the paper.

Sister Isobel

Hipsters corner Sister Isobel at what would have been neutral ground, a week ago. The one with Buddy Holly glasses has a baseball bat; the one with the trucker cap a butterfly knife. The room suddenly and conspicuously empty, the barmaid busies herself polishing the other end of the bar. "I thought you guys were nuns," says Buddy Holly Glasses, pointing to her drink.

"It's a Virgin Mary," says Sister Isobel, looking offended.

"Bloody Shame, more like," laughs Trucker Cap. The hipsters high five - retort victory!

The barmaid stoops to reach beneath the counter, key swinging out from under her shirt.


Sinclair spins his story like it's your classic "black hat makes good" tale, but that's only vaguely true. There are many reasons to come in from the cold - his was one of necessity. Managing the Flood instead of swimming in it has its benefits, though. Fewer attacks on his sanity, for one. He's already at his desk when his phone starts vomiting alarms, but Sinclair can only sit and watch the monitors as someone reaches in and forcibly unbundles the local loop. Under the city, hundreds of kilometers of legacy copper scream in unison. Sinclair, at the system's heart, tastes blood.



The Follicle

Nobody expects to be punched in the face by a man's beard, which is why the thug goes down so easy. The guy's built like a brick shithouse, so Samson doesn't bother to try and move him. Alleys in this neighbourhood, he won't be around long anyway. The door's locked, but not for long. He gingerly plucks a single hair from his chin - it looks like a length of wire, and when he coaxes it into the lock it comes alive, wriggling and twisting to fit the pins. The door pops open. Samson checks his .45, and heads down the stairs.


Evan tries to navigate around the rapidly greying slush, doing his best not to drag the wheels of the hard case he's lugging behind him through the worst of it. Evan and his brother used to run a computer store, before the cloud. They still make some business from terminals, but that's not where the real money is any more.

A bright eyed woman on a poster proclaims 'Nothing To Hide, No Need To Worry'. He grimaces. Beneath the band stickers and high-impact plastic lie several petabytes worth of hard drives nestled in pink anti-static foam, heading for market.

The Savage Club

Front Of House does the post-show sweep of the seating blocks (two wine glasses, three beer bottles, sixteen crumpled tickets) and then it's just Philip, at the desk, programming the designer's last changes before opening night. He'd do it tomorrow, but having a real job means doing all the grunt work in the evenings. Theatre policy is no drinking in the booth, so Philip makes a point of stepping out into the back row to take a gulp of cider between cues. There aren't actually that many of them (the designer isn't that much of a douchebag) but since House is out, the air conditioning is off, and the rising heat from the lights gets him buzzed pretty quickly.

He stumbles through the rest of the teardown: tucking the desk into its dust cover, making sure the fire exits are bolted, whispering goodnight to the dimmer packs. In the gloom of the lighting room, the disused lights hang from hooks in rows like bats, black barndoor wings tucked in towards their bodies.

As he wanders through backstage toward the foyer, Philip gives a little rap on the door marked "off limits". It's not really on the list, but techs are a superstitious lot: A friend made him go out of his way to do it during a pack-out once, which probably saved his life when a light fell from the grid onto where he'd been a moment ago. he's knocked on it after every show since.

This is the first time it swings open.

The Sisters of St Rupertsberg

The Sisters of St Rupertsberg can be recognised during the opening band, if one looks carefully, by the key on a ribbon around each of their necks. They listen politely in groups of twos and threes, incognito among the hipsters, then sidle backstage to tune up. Turnout's low for the venue, but there's not much when you're splitting the door takings eight ways anyway. The Sisters don't care. They're spreading the gospel of good music, one bloody heathen at a time.

"This one's 'I'm So Fucking Goddamn Lonely'," says Sister Kate, leaning into the microphone. "One, two, one two three four!"


Theresa's refrigerator has a door, and stuck to that door is a magnet, and wedged between the door and the magnet is a letter from her landlord explaining what, exactly, the door code has been changed to, as of this morning. She'd barely been here long enough to memorize the last one. She buzzes the apartment ineffectually for ten minutes, all the while entertaining increasingly tenuous strategies for climbing up to the first floor balconies and jimmying the bathroom window.

She messages her housemate: "do you know the new door code (sad face)".

An immediate reply: "they changed it?"

Theresa sighs.