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We take the elevator up to the top of the city, the street level. Through the ceiling of the elevator’s glass box, we see the bottom of the city streets rush down towards us at an incredible speed. It is a view we have come to enjoy, the upside-down skyscrapers, the enormous needle-like gas mines that pierce the planet’s gaseous hull, and the millions of little lights that light up the city’s ever-night, each going about its own business.

At times, we see a mine light up--miles and miles below us--as it gathers the electrical discharges in the gas giant’s volatile atmosphere and harvests it to power the city. When that happens, lightning flashes below and illuminates the world’s rock core and we truly feel how upside-down we are as our stomachs pull frightfully at our bodies.

It is one of the most frighteningly beautiful places we have ever been stationed.

The elevator stops at Core-West Street, a long corridor that extends into the financial heart of the city--where the mining corporations have their offices, flanked by the giant towers of the service providers that leech on the mining industry. Core-West Street is a sight of itself, but what sight depends on the beholder; in an attempt to attract tourists, Core-West Street been psionically enhanced to let it tap into the minds of consenting passers-by, so that they can make the corridor appear any way they like, within the limits of the city’s Psionic Control Act, of course.

We are simple in that respect: we like to make the corridor transparent. It takes an iron mind to do so--to move suspended in nothingness with naught but a twirling mass of raging storms below and an upside-down city above. But we have witnessed first-hand many a horror in the Spine: other, more sinister phobias, have replaced the common fear of falling that may cripple any being that would dare to invoke the same psionic illusion.

Besides, we enjoy the sensation in our stomachs as we slide through nothing to nothing.

When Core-West Street opens up into Liberation Square, the illusion is shattered and makes place for the busy cityscape of any place that offers homes to a dozen different species of Sentients. We see humans in life-support suits; Corals of all shapes and sizes that trudge along ponderously, decorated with shells and chitin; crystalline Priests that radiate with an inner light; and Hunters with folded wings that step through the city in their two-legged and two-stilted gait, while glaring at the mantis-like Spinners, who curse the city’s strict sidearm policy enforcement under their breaths.

And then there are the Bound, the all-of-us, conquerors of the Spine, masters of the galaxy. The all-of-us enforce, all-of-us direct, and all-of-us make to prosper. It is the inherent superiority that comes with being two entities of a single mind that makes the all-of-us masters over the other races.

At least, that is what the all-of-us like to believe. . .


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