They turned a corner and found themselves staring down the Southern Spoke as it gently curved up, through the distant Rise, and into the base of the three mile high Spire. Even this far away its base was so wide that it devoured what little sky existed behind the small looking skyscrapers splashing up against its footing.
Taria’s day had been a busy, and tedious, day at the Third Circle Ward. This far out in the Tangle she had seen it all over the five years assigned there, everything from the disturbing fruits of a serial killer’s labor, to the inhumane treatment of Integrators hunting their prey.
The purple haze diminished and a seething, mottled gray expanse filled our viewports. Nullspace, the void between realities, a shortcut that allowed humanity to bypass its shell of existence and travel the Sphere of the Triocracy in greatly reduced time.
Saito shuffled through the red storm toward the airlock … hesitated … then stopped. Fine Martian sand hissed against his faceplate, the white noise interrupted by the occasional tick! impact of larger pebbles.
Martos propped himself up and leaned against the wall watching his fellow citizens glare at him as they passed. Looks of fear, disgust, sympathy, and yes, even apathy hung upon their brows. But not a single soul made any effort to help him in any way, even the sympathetic ones.
The Spire would have to understand that it was all a mistake and we never intended to go so far against the edicts of the Spire. Why had Taria not told me? When did this happen? How long? Did she conspire against me? No! My mind was awash with thoughts of confusion, panic and betrayal.
My previous assertion was right. I was trapped. The Integrator is a tool of the Techspire to communicate with transgressors without the need to soil their precious shoes on the filthy streets of the Tangle.
Panic and chaos now struck the crowd and the stampede towards the arch began in earnest. Men trampling women. Women trampling children. Screams of terror and disbelief echoed through the market.
They lived in the Tangle, in the Eighth Circle, near the Barrier Wall … and they kept to themselves.
“We’re going to lose her anyway,” I said, surveying Rose and the opposing player in their ballet of violence. She appeared out geared and outmatched, but Rose was usually more cunning than her opponents.
Equally disturbing was that there might be forty-one other balls hidden somewhere in the Solar System … perhaps more. It was not a comforting epiphany.
He grasped at the thin chain around his neck and pulled the miniature data shard from beneath his coat. A bright blue status light blinked back at him from a chip of what looked like irregular obsidian. The genesis of his revenge was intact. The reminder was no longer needed, eight years was enough.