Steven made a conscious effort to awaken several minutes before his alarm sounded every morning, creeping out of bed as quietly as he could to peer out the window at the street a few stories below. The immaculately cleaned road had never suffered an automobile on its surface, as most of the traffic in Commonwealth Prime was airborne, clogging the skies above the incredible city in a perpetual jam of personal vehicles, public transportation, and security patrols. Ground level was reserved for pedestrians, with narrow walkways punctuated by neatly trimmed gardens and every imaginable shape of abstract sculpture. Thick nationalist banners hung from so high up on each towering skyscraper that the morning haze would obstruct their origins, making it appear that they hung from the clouds themselves, unfurling to broadcast their message of loyalty and pride. Steven wasn't interested in any of that, not the cleanliness and beauty of the metropolis, or the eerie complacency and ruthless efficiency of each passersby. All he cared to see was the single hovering garbage collection drone that would visit the intersection just below his window every morning, a few minutes before his assigned duties began.
Crouching next to the window, the seventeen-year-old gently touched its interior surface, which caused the opaque shade to slowly give way to a transparent view of the street below. There were very few people out that early in the morning, mainly those assigned to an exercise route or maintenance androids. Always wary that someone might look up to his level and see him watching, Steven wondered if anyone would know or care that he was up before his assigned time. On one hand, most citizens of the Commonwealth were entirely self-absorbed, caring only for their prescribed duties, but on the other hand, the draconian guidelines that kept the city functioning required the immediate reporting of anything out of order. Not about to take any chances for his singular guilty pleasure, Steven exposed only enough of his face so that he could clearly see the street corner.
Right on cue, as though it needed him to be watching in order to occur, the hovering trash collection vehicle rumbled into view a few stories above, coming around the corner between buildings suspended on four massive fans that labored to keep it afloat. It was one of the older model vehicles still active in the city, not really vital to transportation or defense, and therefore low on a perpetually growing list of assets to be updated or replaced. The cranky old barge got the job done, and as long as that's what the paperwork supporting it said back at a main office somewhere in the city, the entranced official that shuffled those papers around would remain content. One would have to look very closely anywhere else in Commonwealth Prime to see rust streaks, loose panels, and rattling motors, but Steven delighted in watching something continue to function with all of those afflictions on a daily basis. He pressed his nose to the glass so as not to miss a second of the performance.
The truck wobbled over the street about five meters high, then turned slowly as it neared the intersection, overcompensating for a clanking rotor and finally reaching an angle that would allow it to land without crushing any of the identical trees. Settling onto the concrete as gently as it could, Steven could feel the dull thumping of the landing gear through the window, which brought a smile to his face for a reason he couldn't quite explain. The joggers and laboring robots moving about in the pre-dawn light simply altered their paths to go around the vehicle as though it had always been there, or perhaps as though they had already determined where they needed to go just in case anything happened to land right there. When its weight had settled, the engines powered down and, for a brief moment, serenity returned to the intersection.
Leaning forward onto the balls of his feet, Steven pushed up the sleeves of his grey sleep suit, eagerly anticipating what he knew would happen next: The side door of the blocky craft opened slowly on creaking hinges, allowing a crude humanoid robot to step out awkwardly. It was a much older model than the ones a citizen could see every day staffing a food station or supply depot, made from opaque and weathered components instead of the slightly translucent and illuminated materials used in the androids that were designed to be more appealing to the eye. Its joints weren't at all concealed like the newer models, but its face was an emotionless mask of rigid plates and eerily glowing yellow eyes that in no way responded to prompts from nearby humans or other automatons.
No sooner had its feet hit the ground than the robot moved quickly around the garbage truck towards the intersection's single disposal bin, which hadn't once been completely filled in all of the years that Steven had lived in the youth crèche on the third floor there. Perhaps it was the close proximity to one of the industrial sectors of the city or more the result of the lack of any real garbage to fill the receptacle, but it always surprised him that such a superfluous task had been religiously completed every single day for as long as anyone he knew could remember. However, that wasn't why Steven watched every day. It wasn't the execution, the process, or the result of garbage collection that fascinated him. It was a specific moment during the ordeal, right when the robot approached the refuse bin to pick it up, when it had to make a short ascent over the curb, which stood at a height of no more than ten or fifteen centimeters.
The robot neared the curb and raised a foot to step up over it, but caught itself by the toe and stumbled. It prevented itself from falling by reaching out and grabbing the side of the hover truck, looking down to reevaluate what it needed to do to circumvent the obstacle. Panning slowly to either side of the step, it locked onto a shallow ramp that provided easier access for rolling conveyances just a few meters to the right. Turning and moving in that direction, the robot went about twenty seconds out of its way to use the ramp instead of simply raising its foot a few centimeters higher to overcome the curb. Steven smiled so widely from his window that he honestly thought someone might catch the glare off of his teeth and report him for being out of bed before his designated hour. It was worth it every morning, though, for it always happened the exact same way. The obsolete garbage truck and the idiot robot always made him feel better somehow, gave him the strength and patience to face each day in the monotonous and unchanging city of Commonwealth Prime.