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Armistice was a city with no day.

The sun shone upon it, yes. The earth it rested upon spun, bringing it endlessly into the glare of the sun, and back out of it. Still, in Armistice, there was no day, no matter how much light fell on it.

Armistice's commoners huddle underground, taking the easiest and most economical means of sheltering from the 50 Celsius summers that baked the surface, the blistering legacy of mankind's dalliance with carbon fuels. Millions dwell in dilapidated subterranean megafactories, churning out the necessaries of society in exchange for only barely enough to survive.

Little enough camaraderie can be found among the undergrounders. Old grudges consume most of the excess wealth available, and turf wars continually degrade quality of life factors, the birth rate, and the machinery enfolding every element of their lives. Several "grounders' revolutions" had come and gone since in the centuries since the Armistice was made, but not one of them could break the grip of the ivory-fisted tower-dwellers.

The surface of Armistice is dominated by a grid of gargantuan skyscrapers, their outer surfaces glimmering with heat-reflective panels. Dust clouds and sand dunes blow through the abandoned streets below, burying entrances to lower floors and making ground transit all but impossible. Rising sea levels have sent waves flowing through the streets nearest the coastal edge of the city, but all the ships in the harbor lie abandoned and rusting.

Armistice is governed - or, to be more precise, owned and idly observed - by a ruling class consisting of captains of industry and their families and lackeys. The grounders call them "chromes," as nearly all of them are mechanically augmented to some degree. The chromes modify themselves for style, longevity, the elevation of their human abilities, or simply to separate themselves even further from the lowly whose blood greases their machines.

The present crop of chrome chief executives is a decadent and slothful assemblage, who, drunk on their own on unlimited power, primarily expend it on displays of orgiastic consumption and bloodthirsty avarice, setting cybernetic warriors and beasts against each other in combat to the death, or orchestrating grand recreations of history's greatest atrocities.

Truly, night has fallen in Armistice.

Glancing over her shoulder, Rebecca ducked into the grungy alleyway.

The Ratwind was far from a congenial venue for a business meeting. Drugged out gangsters, thieving prostitutes, and shadier characters could be found on every street and in half the buildings. Still, if you were the type of person that the thugs wouldn't look at as an easy target, Ratwind had no end of opportunities.

Rebecca strode quickly through the quarried stone passage, ignoring the light levels that decreased as she left the main street behind. It was never a good idea to look timid, wherever you were in Armistice.

A voice emerged from behind her, next to a waste compactor. "Didn't expect such a nice girl to come to a place like this all alone."

Rebecca spun around, and scowled. "Mace."

Mace Emerev was a pickup man for the local chapter of the Polymers gang. His job with them involved running errands, driving escape vehicles, shaking down civilians, and a fair amount of urban guerrilla combat. Years earlier, he'd gotten his face blasted off in a neighborly dispute with one of the Polymers' rivals, but instead of conventional skin grafts and reconstructive surgery, he'd opted for a ceramic faceplate with slits for his eyes, nose, and mouth (all "borrowed" from generous donors). His thinking was that he'd appear wealthy enough to afford advanced cybernetic replacements, though in reality his head remained about as gadget loaded as a flower vase. Still, it lent Mace a sinister air uncommon in street thugs, and the nickname Poker Face, for his perfect expressionlessness.

Behind his back, however, everyone called him Fuckface.

"Hey, baby Beck. You reconsider my offer?"

Rebecca gave him a baleful stare for a moment, then assented. "No.

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