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Tales from the City: A Morning Stroll in Zukunft Skypark

This week we bring you another Lore update. Today, staff writer Eric 'Beamrider' Pawtowski gives us a tale from a part of the city we haven't covered much.

A Morning Stroll in Zukunft Skypark

The marker above the elevator dinged as the car reached the top level and the door opened. Two women emerged, one short, dark-haired, early thirties, in business casual, the other about ten years younger, taller, with light hair and dressed much more informally. Tightening their coats against the early spring chill, they crossed the small lobby, stepped through the outside doors, and crossed the rooftop garden. The taller one broke into a jog and hurried across the footbridge at the edge of the roof.

"Amelia, you were right! This is fantastic!"

"Welcome to the Zukunft Skypark."

As her grinning companion joined her, the taller woman looked up and down the length of the structure. Approximately fifty feet wide, it ran the full length of the street, high in the air between the surrounding office buildings, continuing around corners several blocks in either direction. A footpath of a dark plastic material meandered along the center, with raised beds of vegetation to either side. In areas where the path widened to accommodate benches and tables, the greenery consisted of well-groomed arrangements of shrubs and small plants, although only the earliest of the spring flowers had started to bloom. In other areas the vegetation was more wild, with taller shrubs, vines, and even full-sized trees, with the leaves just coming in.

"How did this even get here?", Joanne asked.

"That's quite a story. Back when the Northeastern Research District was first designed, this was supposed to be the main highway for the people who lived and worked here. The surface streets were planned to be only for deliveries and such."

Joanne looked around at the buildings. Many were of the "Modern" style that would have seemed futuristic when they were designed in the 1960's. Most were the same height as the Skypark, with rooftop gardens and connecting footbridges similar to the one the pair had arrived on. Scattered among them were newer, taller buildings, only the newest of which had any connection to the Skypark.

Amelia continued. "That lobby we just came through was intended to be the main entrance."

Joanne furrowed her brow as she looked back where they had come from. "Where were people supposed to park? Or did they think we were all going to have self-driving cars by, what, 1970?"

"Up here. The gardens were originally parking lots, and that bridge we walked over was the driveway.”

“Seriously?”, Joanne said with an incredulous tone.

“Congratulations. You just hit on the plan's biggest flaw-- nobody really wanted roads like this. It was never popular, essentially abandoned. You can see how a lot of the later buildings ignore it completely. After Hurricane Atlas, this place was remade into a park. TIAS had a lot of pull in that, as did EdenTech. It's become much more popular since."

"I'll say. Err, how can there be trees up here? The dirt can't be that deep."

Amelia shook her head slightly. "It's a common misconception that roots are a reflection of the crown, particularly in woody plants with apical dominance. Lateral roots don't have nearly as much gravitropism--"

"English, please!"

"Tree roots don't run as deep as you'd think."

The pair started walking slowly down the path, with Joanne darting from one side to another, taking the place in.

"This puts anything back home in Philly to shame, and it’s way better than the High Line! What's this path made of?"

Amelia tapped the plastic with the heel of her boot. "The walkway is the long-term durability test for one of EdenTech's more clever creations. Walkable photovoltaics: they're solar panels. You'd be surprised how much power they put out. See that mushroom-shaped thing over there, with the seats around it?"

"The table?"

"Not just a table; the surface gathers light and channels it through the center, all the way through the deck. Acts as a skylight so the surface streets below aren't quite so dreary.” Amelia looked farther in the direction they were walking. “Quantum Fred's is a few blocks down on this level; a bit early for lunch, but how about we get some muon espressos?"

Still acting like a large child, Joanne darted through the foliage to the edge of the park and peered down. A tinge of fear crept into Amelia’s voice.

"You really should stay on the path, not so close to the--"

"I just want to check on where we left the scooters."

Grasping the inside lip of the waist-high perimeter wall, she leaned over the edge, far enough that her feet came off the ground, with her body becoming nearly horizontal as her long hair streamed in the breeze.

"Joanne! You'll fall!"

"Lighten up, Amelia."

Joanne dropped back to her feet and made her way back to the path.

"I can fly, you know,” she admonished Amelia. “So can you. How can you be nervous about heights?"

"Well, you have been able to fly almost as long as you've been able to ride a bike”, Amelia said defensively. “Not to mention lifting cars over your head before you could drive. I've only had powers a few months. Figured out flying a few weeks ago. Still getting used to it."

Joanne’s voice sounded annoyed. "Well, you're not my mother, so-- hey, cool, are those little helicopters?"

"Probably a Santiago-Yuri bigwig and some guards, no doubt going someplace so they can show off how much money they-"

Amelia trailed off as she looked in the direction her eager companion was pointing in, and saw several small but ornate flying machines, with brightly-colored fuselages covered in polished brass and wood, with clockwork-like mechanisms protruding at odd angles from the rotor apparatus.

"Those are Aether Pirates!”, she gasped. “Looks like they're raiding Tyrosine Labs!"

"Pirates? That fly?"

"They use steam-driven clockwork jetpacks and little skiffs like those; they operate off of aerodromes; big carrier airships. Those look like they’re from the Dread Reaver."

"Sky pirates? With airships!?!"

Joanne darted into a clump of trees, throwing off her coat and sweater to reveal tights beneath, hurriedly donning accessories as she pulled them out of her handbag. Amelia approached and spoke with a cautious tone.

"There’s a lot of them, and it's just the two of us--"

Joanne did not look up as she pulled on her boots. "SKY PIRATES!! WITH AIRSHIPS!!"

Amelia sighed and shook her head.

Joanne hid her bag in the brush and stepped out, now clad in red and blue tights, with tall boots, flared gloves, and a billowing cape.

"Coming? I could really use your magical boosts." she called to her conventionally attired companion.

Amelia shook her head again, then raised her arms and spun in place, in a move that resembled dance. The air around her wavered and filled with a torrent of leaves and pine needles, momentarily obscuring her from view. They scattered as she stopped, now costumed in a soft leather outfit themed after Native American garb, covered with patterns of leaves, stems, and flowers. She had a layered, long-sleeved jacket, knee-length skirt, leggings, and moccasins. Her face looked younger, about the same age as Joanne.

Joanne, in her simpler, brighter costume, was hovering slightly over the path, staring in the direction of the autogyros, slowly punching one fist into the other hand.

"Time to teach these pirates how to fight like a girl!", she growled.

"Try not to get hurt this time.", Amelia protested as she made an intricate hand gesture and lifted off with a gust of wind, scattering more leaves in all directions, although some seemed to follow in her wake.
Joanne flicked her head, throwing her hair over one shoulder. "We'll be fine! And with a little luck we'll pick up some help along the way! Let's go!"

********************

Thank you, Eric

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