Milo didn't think the replacement belt on the #3 air handler for E Section was going to hold for much longer, but the nearest dead machine to take a replacement from was 16 stories up and over in H Section.

He'd take a trip if he had to, but for now, he was going to splice a section into the broken belt, wrap the fix in duct tape, and hope for the best.

Milo liked duct tape.

It was useful for fixing things, and there was a warehouse full of it over on B-6.

When he had first found the warehouse, he had moved several thousand rolls up into one of his storage areas.

As he used it more and more, he discouraged other looters by welding the warehouse doors shut.Repairs done, he gathered up his precious tools and retreated around a corner before turning the air handler back on.

Not all machinery liked being put back to work and sometimes showed that displeasure by shaking themselves apart or exploding.


Milo was taking no chances with this one.

He picked up a metal rod in his tail and used the six-foot-long mechanical limb to poke at buttons and switches until the machine shuddered to life.

There was a noticeable whine from the belt, but overall, both he and the machine seemed happy with the result.

He could adjust the workload on the other two air handlers in this section and be done with the job.

They'd been working harder with this one down which was a sure way to have them go down as well.No one thought about the air when things worked.

But people got worried when it wasn't circulating in the corridors and residences.


First, it smelled stale, and people worried.

Calls went to the maintenance department.

They were mostly ignored because hardly anyone cared about fixing things in the habitats.

The government paid a quarterly fee to the firms responsible for maintaining the mechanical and electrical systems.

It was more profitable to ignore complaints and hold off on repairs.

But once people started dying in their sleep, and the residents moved out to the streets or clogged the common areas in other parts of the hab, suddenly it was an 'emergency,' and someone from maintenance showed up.The clumsy techs would move into Milo's world, tearing up ductwork to find the problem and breaking two things for everything they fixed.

He hated them.

He had to hide his work carefully, shut down any projects, and retreat to his safe room until they left.

It was better for everyone if Milo fixed things.

The residents got air to breathe, the techs could avoid work, and Milo was left alone in his world of broken machinery, unused corridors, and metal tunnels.

Which suited Milo just fine.

He rarely had to be around people and never liked it.Work done on the air handler, Milo got on his wheel-board and rolled down the medium-sized tunnel.

These were about 36" square.

Easy for Milo to zoom along as his hands pushed off the walls, and he rolled along on the silent, frictionless wheels attached to a two-foot square piece of plastic.

He'd found the wheels holding up a diagnostic unit for hover-cars in a factory down in the basement of G section.

Milo had gone there to 'borrow' some wrenches and calipers when he saw them.

It had only taken an hour to lift the machine with a winch, take off the wheels and drop things back down.

They were nice wheels, and the diagnostic machine would just have to stay where it was.He was almost to the Big Drop.

He held the board in both hands and coiled his tail at the base of his spine.

His tail was a six-foot long by 2" section of flexible Waldo.

It was attached to a 12" girdle that circled his waist and plugged into his lowest socket at the base of his spine.

Nature hadn't given Milo the best limbs, but he was slowly making new ones.

He hit the Big Drop, shooting into open space.

The habitat had 25 Big Drops.

One roughly in the center of each section.

Each was a vertical access corridor nearly twenty feet on a side for moving big machinery up to the higher levels.

As Milo started to drop, his tail uncoiled and reached for the metal hook hanging on a winch cable.

Cable and tail together turned into a large pendulum that swung Milo across the second half of the drop, and he shot feet first into another medium tunnel.

He took a smaller tunnel heading off at a 90-degree angle a hundred feet along the medium corridor.

A couple of turns later, he hit the small drop.

He grabbed the winch line and hooked his prosthetic leg's toe claws into the chain's links.

His tail hit the winch controls, and he rose 12 and a half levels to the upper pipe-works.The habitats were mountainous buildings designed to hold over a half million people.

They had been built in the last century to provide housing and jobs for the lower classes.

They were now slowly rotting from within.

Every city had them, and none of them were in great shape.

In theory, they provided housing, food distribution, and jobs to people who would otherwise been homeless.

In reality, there had never been enough jobs, and only the businesses needing dirt-cheap space and dirt-cheap labor had located their factories in them.

Keeping the habitats livable and finding the money to repair them was a constant fight among the people who controlled the laws and money.Milo didn't care.

The system was broken, and society at large didn't seem to worry too much about the people living in them.

Not being part of society, Milo was fairly apathetic about how things worked.

He wasn’t listed in any database, and no one knew he was alive.

He fixed things so that people would ignore this part of the habitat and leave him the hell alone.

If anyone ever wondered why the E section seemed to have fewer problems and needed fewer repair teams sent to it, they didn't think too hard about it.The pipe-works were a separate level unto themselves, sandwiched between levels 45 and 46 and only half as tall.

Fluid pipes, food delivery, waste pipes, and electric and data cables ran through the level, snaking over and under each other as needed.

Pumps moved things higher, and baffles kept things moving down from going too fast or rerouting waste to larger pipes.

Milo loved this level and made his home here.

He had easy access to everything he needed.

His home was in a massive, unused storage tank.

He'd found it when he was mapping out the systems.

It should probably be hooked up to the water systems as additional storage.

But its placement had proved to be a problem, and whoever was doing the work found it easier to ignore it.

Milo had cut an access hatch from a small tunnel into the side of the tank.

Small tunnels were only 24" on a side; the chance of someone crawling through one and finding his door was next to zero.Inside was a different part of Milo's world.

The tank was 30 feet by 40 feet and 10 feet high.

The 90,000-gallon tank gave Milo plenty of room for his workshop and computers.

His home would be the pride of many a mad scientist.

Two dozen screens were scattered about the walls, cables running to multiple computers of various capabilities.

From here, he monitored all the machinery in Section E and could access what was left of the security system.

If anything moved in the access tunnels and hallways, he knew.

If a machine broke or was running hot, he knew.

This was the heart of section E, and totally hidden from the 30,000 people living and working here.And Milo was the mechanic that kept things running.

Milo stood less than four feet tall.

His left leg was missing from above his knee and had been that way since birth.

He'd augmented it with a series of better and better prosthetics as he found schematics on the data network and had time to make the parts.

The current model was fitted to his upper thigh and controlled from a cable that shared access to his lower port with his tail.

He also had two ports on the back of his neck and another a foot lower along his spine.

Not his work; they'd been installed in the first month of his existence.

He had trouble with the idea that other people didn't have them and wondered how they managed.

Other than a mechanical leg and tail and cables that ran from his equipment to his data ports, Milo looked like a thin 12-year-old boy with brown hair and eyes.

And maybe he always would look that way.

He'd quit growing at the age of 12 and was now somewhere around 24.An alarm went off.

Milo spun from the workbench and pushed his wheeled chair to his desk.

His fingers went to his keyboard, and his tail plugged into a data socket.

Instantly he was tied into cameras and sensors all over Section E and a few other parts of the habitat.

He looked at what had triggered the alert.There was a large factory area in Section D that he monitored.

It was one of the better factories in the habitat, with good water, sewage, and a steady power supply.

It went unused for the reasons that no one knew about it.

It was listed on the map directory of the habitat as being ‘Automated Waste Processing.’ Into this area, two dozen people were moving crates of machinery and medical supplies.

Milo shut down everything else he was doing and put all of his attention to observation and gathering data.This was the room Milo had lived in for several years as a child slave, infiltrating computer systems and shifting money.

The area had been empty and abandoned for years, but now someone was using it.

And one of the faces he saw looked familiar.