Towering buildings surrounded the open air bazaar, creating a deep light well with only a small square of grey at its top. Light refracted off the fine mist and create a shifting, multi-colored fog that hung over the crowd. It was actually beautiful in its own right.
Hunched over him was a figure shrouded in tattered rags pawing over his body. Mottled grey hands, striped with bulging black veins, furiously unzipped his jacket and hungrily plunged into pockets. Then it noticed the strange thing lashed to his wrist and began pulling up the jacket sleeve.
Inevitably they spiraled inward and gently upward toward the Rise. The buildings grew taller and even more impossibly dense. The streets below the rail disappeared from sight to be replaced by clean and brightly lit elevated walkways that connected buildings like coarse spider webs.
The low, sweltering Mediterranean sun felt all too real. Perhaps I should have picked another setting for this introduction, or another season. But there’s nothing more beautiful than the low summer sun reflecting off the blue sea as locals and vacationers stroll the Venetian waterfronts.
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.
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 toward 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.