What follows is part of the introduction to a "short" story about Janna growing up in Zaun. It's a teaser, since I'm not done and want to release it all at once. The title is subject to change.
Winds of Change
A poet visited Zaun during its founding. He wrote home to his family about glades and meadows. He spoke fondly and with smooth prose about a sweet breeze whispering from the bay, and about grass like silk. At night, he claimed, the constellation of The Lady winked at him, and The Noble bowed and tipped its hat. He wrote of natural wonders, and unnatural marvels. He wrote of potential.
Janna never met that poet, or saw his vision. The 6:30 Regular woke her again. It roared overhead, dusting her face and shaking the steel girder she had claimed at night. She gripped it, remembering suddenly the loose screw her fatigue had ignored. She thought of the drop below her, and saw the screw wiggling loose at her feet. She secured it with the heel of her boot, and glanced down to the ground.
These girders held up the Mid City, and bedded the workers that maintained them. Below her was the floor of the Undercity. It was very, very far below. The less dextrous lay where they fell, their nutrients awaiting the return of skies and meadows. She only saw muck, and the pooled acid rain of the last ten years.
But her eyes refocused, and she saw instead the eyes of her friend, on the girder below her.
“Good morning Janna,” the girl strained.
Her arms were folded like a pillow for her head. And, true to their friendship, she had placed her boot under Janna's girder, and was supporting her weight.
“Good morning, Jenna,” Janna yawned back. She reached up to another girder, making sure not to disturb the rising workers around them. She and Jenna had woken this way for most of their short sentience. Neither knew their age, but they had no one younger to look down on in this line of work. They rose to the surface, the Mid City, as a sea of brown insects, their work overalls bearing the proud emblem of Architech Inc, and the stitched-on Motto, “We hold the city up!”
The surface was much safer. Workers gathered there on flat surfaces that had no death holes to fall through. Above them was a smog where a sky might be. Around them was the Architech staging yard. And in their midst was a soap box.
“Go on, Jenna!”
“No! Janna, should do it today!”
A chorus of cheers pushed her to it, and hands too calloused to be gentlemen's helped her step up above the crowd. Breakfast was being disbursed by the Architech kitchen staff nearby, at the cost of Architech company gold; and men were rolling out an armory of rivet guns and steel girders, purchasable for company gold. The workers were paid for each iron girder replaced with steel, and were charged for each rivet used.
“New prices!” a Company Rep announced.
The crowd grew silent, forgetting Janna in their worry.
“Ten-packs are three company gold today, not two! Those of you working second jobs can change out currency from other companies to Architech Gold at a two-to-one rate.”
“Usury,” a worker mumbled. And he stripped his uniform and left.
“Can't make a damn living here,” were his parting words to a silent crowd. He was right, to most of them.
But Janna and Jenna had a special source of income. The men would buy their meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner in exchange for her dulcet tones and literacy. She was handed a stack of periodicals: Zaun Daily, the Journal of Justice, Ladies of Hextech, and she cleared her throat, hoping to earn her way by lifting the mood.
“Good morning, everyone!”
Dirty faces smiled up at her, ready to forget. She opened the Journal first. From experience, she knew to read Ladies of Hextech last.
“So we've got the... uh... Oh, there's an article about the Waterfront!”
And she cleared her throat to begin.