“Sofia Addison Giffard, you have until the count of five to get down here and eat your breakfast,” her mother, a stocky woman with short brown hair, yelled up the narrow stairway. Sofia had elected a long time ago to live in the attic room rather than on the third floor with her siblings. It gave her more privacy and more room to work on whatever project she had managed to sneak past her parents; it was also near an Elevrail and the front facing, huge window let her watch people ride it up and down between the different city levels. She’d rarely ridden it herself since her family was pretty well off and they mostly shopped at the nicer places on the ground or their own level, but it was interesting to see all the different people that got on it to go up and down. Her brother rode it, but she was rarely up in time to see him leave in the mornings. He was a pharmacist to some lower-ranking nobles and always gone before the sun rose and back after it had set. “Five!” Addie hurriedly pushed the pin into the giant, emerald-green beetle she’d found over by one of the stable towers where they kept the rabbits and chickens. She’d never seen one quite like it before, and hadn’t been able to resist secreting it home and adding it to her collection. Her mother hated bugs and her father thought it was frivolous, so to avoid lectures or confiscation she kept her collection private. “Four!” She pulled on her heavy, ivory-colored coat and sat down to lace up her tan boots over the black leggings that were all she’d had clean. Addie had meant to do more laundry before leaving, but she’d ended up packing all of her clean clothes and leaving the dirty ones behind. “Three!” The boots made a nice clicking noise on the stairs as she raced down, making an L-turn around her little brother, who had not gone to his apprenticeship under their older brother that day. “Two!” Addie flew down the landing and bounced into the dining room just in time for her mother to put a plate of breakfast on the table with one hand, cradling her tablet computer with the other. Frequently they’d been lectured about how lucky they were to have so much technology as opposed to the poor, who barely had electricity. “I’m here, I’m here,” she panted, plopping in the chair to inhale her breakfast. “Slow down,” her mother said automatically, checking her to-do list on the computer. She’d gotten the morning off to see Addie to the school acceptance ceremony, but that just meant she had more work in the latter part of the day. Truthfully, she had no doubt Addie had passed the written exam, but it was learning to work on a team she wasn’t sure if her daughter could do. “Sofia, we’ve got to be leaving the house in ten minutes. You’d have had more time to eat if you’d come down on time,” her mother reminded her. Addie mumbled a response around her scrambled eggs and went to go pick up her bag. Her mother waved goodbye to her and returned to the tablet, trying to get a little work done early. By the time the sun was peeking pinkly over the horizon, Isaac was peeling an apple with his pocket knife and feeding the scraps to the rabbits below. It was quiet this early in the morning, which is why he usually came by. The rabbits were his favorite; soft and gentle-eyed, but feisty when they had to be. He thought it was a shame they spent their whole lives in a pen, their only purpose for being as meals for those that could afford rabbit. They didn’t know any better, would never know any better, and probably thought, if they thought, that they had a pretty cushy deal in life. Isaac thought it was a waste of what could be a very spunky creature. He swung himself off the gate and left the pen area, heading over to one of the Elevrails and hopping on. The great platform rose and rose until he was about halfway up and let passengers off. He made his way among them to his home, squeezing into the tiny kitchen to find a plate of cold bread and porridge near the sickly fireplace. It was a special day; there was a tiny bowl of honey on the plate too. He ate in silence and then washed the empty plate and bowl, placing them neatly in the cabinet. There was little else to do before the acceptance ceremony. He combed his hair again, straightened his best black jacket, and set off towards the school. There was a large crowd at the front steps, all people around his age waiting to hear the names announced of those that would get to enter the Exo Training Academy and train to be Exo pilots who fought for fame, glory, and most important, fortune from wealthy noble patrons who lived on the ground behind shimmering while walls and black wrought iron. The ETA was peach stucco with terracotta tiled roofs and had great green lawns spilling out before it. That was where they waited, all 200 give or take. Only 50 would be admitted. The other 150 would go study harder and try again next year, or if they were too old, find another apprenticeship. Isaac looked around at the huddle of anxious, eager students standing on the dewy lawn. Fairly certain he was the poorest there, Isaac slunk back, accidentally bumping into the person behind him. "Sorry," he muttered, avoiding looking at them.