Gerald ducked between what was left of two pilars that once stood 30 feet tall, but now only reached just above his head. He wended his way through the maze of rubble that rapidly descended into the warren of caverns that served as the staging grounds for the rebellion.
Cai was waiting for him at the entrance to the caverns. When Gerald saw her his heart skipped a beat, a feeling he had only believed existed as a literary device, until he first saw her. Now every time he caught sight of her springy black hair wrapped in twists that stuck up from her head like spikes, or her smooth ebony skin that seemed to shine from the inside out, he felt it. That little hiccup in his chest.
Cai was the most beatutiful woman he had ever known, but to her he was just a kid from Upside who was in over his head.
“You're late,” she said, as he huffed his way down the last few meters of tunnel. He had to turn sideways, his shoulders were too broad too fit through the steadily narrowing passage. Even sideways his belly scraped the wall of broken brick and concrete on that last meter. Cai never had any such trouble. She was skinny, half-starved even. Her life was hard, but the hardness was a sacrifice she willingly made. It made her even more beautiful.
“Sorry,” Gerald said. “I'm sorry.”
“Stop apologizing,” Cai snapped.
“Sorry. I mean... sorry.” The words fell out of his mouth. He could never stop them. He was always apologizing for something. He knew the others only tolerated him because of his mother. He knew that once he outlived his usefulness, they would toss him aside, and leave him to face the charges of treason alone. But it was worth it to be near Cai.
“Let's go.” She motioned back towards the tunnel that led into the rebel outpost. It was dark, and Cai led the way with the beam from her flashlight. Gerald could make it through the maze all right, but he would be hopelessly lost in the caverns below the city without a guide.
He had met her in a club downtown, in one of those places people with reputations to protect never stepped foot in. Unless those people were bored college kids with rich and powerful parents who could buy their way out of trouble, if trouble ever knocked. Gerald had gone there with his roommate and some of his roommate's friends. He had few friends of his own. There he was standing in a dark corner, trying to look like he wasn't the son of the most powerful woman on the Council, and that he didn't have anything worth stealing, when up slinks a woman with the darkest skin and whitest teeth he had ever seen. She asked him why he was there, and teased him about being the straightest looking Downsider she had ever seen. He knew even then she was looking for a way in. She knew who he was, but those flashing black eyes, and glowing white teeth had him. Within a week of meeting Cai he was ready to tear down his mother's empire.