Off planet is so much nicer , thought Syrene as she walked the narrow street that was barely illuminated. Off planet means no vermin, no stink. But off planet isn’t better. It has cameras that work, not the fake boxes. No one cares what happens on planet, and that is how I like it.
A hundred solar cycles ago, the city was alive. It welcomed visitors and commerce. It welcomed vacationers and traders. Everything was bright and clean. Even in the working class district, it was at least not filthy and infested. Wanting to keep the bad people away from the beautiful city, they decided to build a big spaceport to orbit the planet.
When the planet’s spaceport became fully operational fifty solar cycles ago, the cost of stopping before landing on the planet changed everything. For the cost to land on the planet then break atmosphere again, a tourist could see all of the planet’s moons and visit the colonies there then shop the arcade and watch the planet from high above. No need for travel vaccinations for a planetary visit. No need to have a visa and enter through customs and be held for any number of questionable reasons. The convenience of not landing on the planet ended the tourism trade completely over the next ten solar cycles.
All goods were quarantined on the station before shippers exchanged them between the planet and the station, and holographic tour of the planet was as good as the real thing–according to the moon colony and space station tourism board. Once crime skyrocketed in the dying city, only the people unable to break atmosphere and the people desperate to enter it visited.
Syrene had a name in mind. A special delivery hidden in her cybernetic enhancement. Losing limbs had been a tragedy. She was abandoned, discarded. Then she was reborn. Working as a courier, given cybernetic limbs which carried secret cargo and a sense of purpose. Her normal cargo, legal summons and other documents which required a witness. She traveled all over.
The city was dim, sad, filthy. Nothing like the pictures from a hundred or even fifty cycles ago. Long before my time, though Syrene as she trotted up an alley in the steamy rain. Without any alcoves, this was a perfect location on a rainy day or night. Of course, the city was shrouded nearly all of the time, and the thick, dark clouds from belching smoke from sweat shop manufacturers and badly maintained generators created the precise, toxic environment where people who wanted to get lost could get lost.
Under the flickering B, she rang the bell and waited. Then she knocked. He must not be planetside, thought Syrene. I’ll ask around. Come back tomorrow.
She looked up at the camera then squinted at it. Syrene laughed. A fake security camera, probably put in to jack up the price of the property. Whatever was behind that door under the flickering B was going to be a great place to work from.
Carrying the legal summons she had for a small-time importer to show up on the spaceport and give testimony against a competitor who had crossed an interstellar corporation. She walked beneath the B and traveled onto a broader street, where the destitute and needy huddled in long-abandoned doorways out of the relentless rain.