The cities were all the same. Oh, they each claimed superiority: cleaner streets, more opportunities, focus on virtues, but it was all crap. Randall had been drifting long enough to see the claims were varnish and lies. It didn’t matter what rules they set or how many enforcers were on the streets, people found a way to let the dark corners take hold.
Arkadi, at least, didn’t try to pretend otherwise. It knew what people wanted, and let the ctiy breathe. It tried to keep things to busking during the day, but let the club street sell everything else all night. You could usually claim a curb for business or rest in the right parts of the city, and if you didn’t know what those were, the patrols showed you with a fist or a foot instead of a gun.
Randall liked to pretend that was why he kept cycling back to this place like a planet with an irregular orbit. But repetition wasn’t his style, not even for a place with this much chaos beneath the orderly layers.
Still, there was always a chance that Shel would get it this time. That he’d see how the structure worked with the flux, and understand even a little how Randall managed to skim through their world.
Shel would have to want to see, though. For now, and maybe forever, it was just easier not to look.