Stoney was
jolted from his reverie by the blare of the shift klaxon sounding the end of
the employment day. Relieved, he carefully replaced his work satchel in
maintenance closet #224 and began activating the dust shields over the
designers’ drawing boards. Finished with his rounds, he extinguished the lights
and joined his co-workers as they continued to crowd the central hub.

Aware of the
great weight that always seemed to lift following an interminable day of dull
routine, Stoney emerged onto the promenade and mingled with the thousands of
other workers from other wings, including Planning, Administration, and Maintenance.
Passing the myriad shops, compu-newsstands, and cafeterias, he ignored the
slow-moving escalators and headed to the bank of high-speed lifts that afforded
transportation to the residential levels above.

Joining a
group of other citizens, Stoney entered the lift designated for Level VII and
was immediately whisked upward past the levels dedicated to public recreation
and administration to the residential level. A few seconds later, he stepped
out into the central hub for Level VII, where the atmosphere was much more
subdued. With fewer citizens moving about, and walls covered in sound-deadening
materials, the level created an air of peace and tranquility more suitable to
rest and retreat from the busy working day.

As a maintenance worker, Stoney never
failed to notice the lack of attention paid to areas of the city other than the
design wing on which Sunshine’s livelihood depended. Annoyed without quite
understanding why, he looked with disapproval at the shabby nature of Level
VII, where there was little to attract a citizen’s attention: certainly not the
drab and rundown central hub where many of the automated devices intended for
banking and food dispensing had broken down, floors were dull and dirty, and
plants withered and died for lack of watering. It was unfortunate, but
understandable. If so much of a citizen’s income was taken in taxes, why should
he exert more effort than required to do his job? Stoney made his way to
residential unit #491, where a swipe of his palm over a hidden sensor caused
the door panel to move aside.

afternoon, son,” called his father, Aris Vander, from another part of the

afternoon, Father,” replied Stoney, stepping into the foyer and shrugging out
of his vest-smock. “Is Mother home yet?”

“No, but she
communicated by earphone to say she would be home in time for dinner,” said
Aris, appearing from the general direction of the kitchen. “How does old-style
baked potatoes sound for dinner? The food processors at Cirrus Tower have
perfected them such that I can’t see how anyone can improve on the taste.”

said Stoney. Old-style baked potatoes were his favorite. “What is the

“Your sister
has some good news for us,” said Aris. “She plans to tell us all about it over

suspected what the news would be, and was not at all sure why he was not as
happy for his sister as he should have been.

himself into an old plush chair in the living room, Stoney sighed heavily
before undoing the shirt stud at his throat. He snapped his fingers to activate
the wall viewer and settled back to receive the news of the day. But when his
father finally called him to the table, he realized he had not heard a word of
the report.

“Good afternoon, dear,” said his mother, Vivy Vander-Hool, in
a voice filled with laughter. She also must have guessed his sister’s news.
“How is work treating you?”

“No change,” said Stoney, as he took his accustomed place at
the table. “Design Wing is working on a new component of the Mark IX food preparation
unit. I am told it will completely supersede all previous models.”

“What is wrong with the current model?” Aris wanted to know.
“It has 508 different settings, holds food preparation data in its memory for
10,000 items, and malfunctions hardly at all.”

“Nevertheless, I am told that the maintenance department will
begin replacing the old units in the residence levels in a few months,” said
Stoney. “It would not do to market a new model while the town itself does not
use it in its own residences.”

“Well, I just hope my new living unit in Clearsky will have
all the latest conveniences,” declared his sister Immomia.

Stoney looked at her, as did his parents, and asked, “What is
this about Clearsky? Have you been assigned a living unit already?”

Immomia smiled broadly, delighted in her not-so-secret news.

“Mother, Father,” Immomia began. “I have the pleasure of
informing you that I will soon be wed to a Clearsky male and have already been
assigned living unit #112 . . . on the east side!”

Immediately, Vivy burst into tears and threw her arms around
her daughter, who was a few years older than Stoney. Aris beamed with pride and
anticipation of the expected grandchildren.

“Will your partner be a citizen of color?” asked Stoney

“Unfortunately, no,” said Immomia, momentarily crestfallen.

Clearsky was the town below Sunshine and the home of many of
Stoney’s first cousins. The administration made sure that second cousins
married citizens from the next town down or up, until the family eventually lost
touch with succeeding generations along the tower’s height. It was only
unfortunate that Immomia was a brunette. If she had been a blonde, she
definitely would have been requested by a person of color, which would have
lifted her in turn to an improved living status. As a couple of European
descent, Immomia and her prospective husband would undoubtedly be assigned a
unit that did not command the best view, probably located near a noisy central
duct or high-speed lift.

“Congratulations, sister,” mustered Stoney. “Do you know who
the lucky male is?”

“No, but I am told he is my own age and praised by his
supervisors as one of the town’s most savvy marketers,” Immomia replied. “As a
result, he has earned early promotion. In fact, I think one or two of his ideas
have contributed greatly to the upcoming advertising campaign for the Mark IX.”

“Is that so?” said Stoney, not without a twinge of jealousy.
“And have you previewed living unit #112?”

“Oh, yes!” said Immomia. “As soon as administration informed
me that my husband had been chosen, I asked if a living unit had been arranged
. . . you know that sometimes there is a delay between the announcement of
matings and the assignment of a unit. But I was lucky. One was immediately
available, and even more fortunate, it was located on the east side. So not
only will we be away from the lifts, we will also have as many as two

“You are so lucky, Immomia,” said Vivy. “Aris and I had to
wait almost twenty-three years before we were able to move into this unit with
its three bedrooms and outside view.”

“Has a date been fixed for the wedding?” Aris wanted to know,
as he tucked a napkin into his shirt.

“Next month, and Administration has arranged for it to take
place in the rooftop chapel gardens.”

“How thrilling!” said Vivy, already making plans in her head.

“Well, it seems that Immomia’s news will definitely eclipse
my own,” said Aris, with a twinkle in his eye.

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