My daddy was a solar farmer. Every other month he’d disappear spaceside to those far-off panels, leaving me with Granny in Ortsonne, our floating city. When I was younger — old enough to understand he was gone, but not old enough to realize he was coming back — I’d pine for him. Now that I’m older, I realized him leaving was a gift. Granny let me have free run of the streets as she worked her back room deals and so it was from a young age that I came to know Ortsonne. It raised me, in its own cruel way, as only a city of sweat-streaked workers can.

Ortsonne, as the name implies, is one of the original German settlements. It was created years back when the solar farms got started, its shiny black base pulled through space to Venus from Luna. The rest, the official parts at least, followed closely behind it. German thought process can be seen throughout the city, though as a child I didn’t know that. I only knew that the first building on our street matched the third on the right side and the seventh on the left. That there were only five-door colors in all of Ortsonne and each belongs to a specific building design. Once I was tall enough to reach the roof ladder on our building, I climbed up and realized the roofs followed this pattern as well. Only five roof structures for the thousands of buildings.The idea was to confuse outsiders. Those that come to Ortsonne for its hidden pleasures. To make sure that someone looking for The Confederacies favor couldn’t sell us out. It works, but only because they don’t know Ortsonne’s secrets.

As a child, running through the legs of lust-blinded men, black market dealers disguised as anything but, and merchant captains, I knew the differences. See, Granny’s building may look the same as Justina’s, but Granny’s never had the issue of the bright, chiffon clad girls Justina employees loitering at the door and picking at the paint while they wait for customers. There’s a long scratch of bare wood down the left-side of the door ours will never have. The open market near our house may look like the one on the other side of the square, but there’s a merchant in ours that keeps two-eyed crows under his table.

I thought I knew Ortsonne inside and out as a child. As a teenager stumbling into young adulthood I found out I knew nothing. Daddy died that year, his heart gave out under the heat of the solar rays, or so they say. I guess that’s all that was stopping Granny. Two days later I was learning that back rooms littered the buildings of Ortsonne and I had already started building connections as the gangly child who had delivered messages and place items in pockets to fuel secret wars. It was during this time while wandering the lantern lit streets of Ortsonne on the arm of some young man foolish enough to court me, that I realized Ortsonne was mine. Its secrets were mine. The streets were mine. And in time I truly made it mine, putting anyone who objected into the path of The Confederacy.

I slosh the bottle and bring it up to my lips. The streets are aflame with light. The Confederacy is taxing the solar farms as they put up beacons on every street they’ve searched. It’s the only way they’ve come up with to tell the buildings apart. They aren’t thinking about the men who work the solar farms. How they’re sweating in their suits. They don’t know that the light on my building is the only one on the street that shines a little dimmer. It’s all they’d have to look for to find me. The radio beeps at me, turned low so that the sound won’t carry.

“Charlie, you should see these guys. They don’t even realize we’re moving the lights. Pretty sure we could do it right in front of them and they wouldn’t know.”

I smile at Bernie’s comment.

Ortsonne raised me. And now, I’ll raise it.

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