The ship is a massive beast of iron rivets and flanges and tentacles. Its surface is bumpy and ugly. It’s got a ripply blue-green tint to it, one that Tau recognizes as vaguely oceanic. He can see it from the elevator, with a comforting depth of transparent plastic and a nice safe distance between himself and the hangar.The lift stops and the door dissolves. Next to him, the lieutenant gestures. “This way, son,” he directs, with a comforting smile. Tau looks up at the lieutenant, sees his eyes, knows that there’s a gulf between his bland comforting words and the boy’s own fears. He swallows and nods. He takes a step forward.

AST-3000-231 is the 231st mission using Atlantis Space Transfer (AST) technology, specifically a Living Leviathan, in the year 3000. It is scheduled to launch on June 4, 3000 at 4:45 a.m. The mission is also referred to as Vareid-6261 by Vareid Orbital aerospace control. The mission objectives are to transfer military personnel and equipment to Vareid Orbital Habitats #5, #6, and #7 and to return with planetbound personnel. Mission parameters were amended at the request of Vareid aerospace control to fire non-nuclear rockets at a mass of orbital debris and to track the re-entry of this debris.

The songs of the starship resonate in Ululuto’s ears as he swings. His long, black-furred arms reach out instinctively for the next strand of the massive vessel’s outer support lattice. He flings himself through zero gravity with assurance born out of a lifetime in space.

I used to think the Cabal was a story they told. I found out the truth once I joined it.

The Captain’s wife likes everybody. She’s the sweetest thing any of us have ever met, and that’s probably why nobody says anything even though we all know the truth.

The Chaotician comes to my shop every day. And every day he says the same thing. You think someone who embraced the Wyld would at least vary his routine a little bit, but no, over and over, it’s “want your fortune read?”

In the final analysis, war between the Atlantean factions was not only inevitable but necessary. What surprised everyone was the shocking savagery and brutality that played out in the conflict, whose survivors are still coping with it today.Atlantis casts a very long shadow over the Homeworld. For seven hundred years, even during the Burning Century, the multi-ethnic, multi-national Antarctic settlers survived and even prospered. They conquered the “tyranny of oxygen” and built homes under the water. They engineered themselves and the animals they brought with them. Nobody will deny that without them, the Shepherds and other returner groups would have faced a steep uphill fight in making the world livable again.

Farmer Fang has always been a good man. He says his prayers and obeys the edicts of the gods. Today he stands atop a cylindrical dry-coral tower, and looks out over the Siberian fields. If he were not wearing his AR rig, he would see lines upon lines of solar panels sitting atop the flat squares of the organic pipeline.

Instead, he sees the symbolic representations of what he is overseeing. Fields upon fields of wheat, waving in the gentle Siberian winds. The sun is warm on his face; no AR rig has yet been able to match that simple sensation.Fang stretches out his hand, making beckoning gestures. The spirits of the wheat fields come forth to his tower, and they report to him. 99.5% successful conversion, first quadrant. 92.7% successful conversion, second quadrant - operations were suspended on the 441st through 452nd gateways by the biosensors, who detected what might have been an animal inside the processors. Fang nods, gesturing again. One of his robots lopes off into the distance, to act as his hands. The ubiquitous sensors of the recycling mechanism will be his eyes. But if there is a creature out there, it will need more than just someone to behold its pain.

Fang is a good man. He smiles to himself. He likes this work.

Tau is a city kid. He lives on the 15th level, one of the lowest and darkest levels of Hubris. Since the collapse a year ago, when an unexploded bomb finally detonated and brought down a quarter mile of ceiling, Tau has had a harder time living. He ran with a small gang, but most of them left after the collapse. The food dispensaries are unreliable, and Tau is sometimes roughed up by packs of the city’s dogs who tell him to feed them.Before the fighting stopped, a group of soldiers had used construction foam to set up a temporary barricade on the 15th level. Tau calls it home. Right next door, there’s a hole in the wall of the supplies building that the construction clouds haven’t fixed. Tau learned the incantation to keep them from closing it off, so he’s able to bypass the building security and get directly at the nanofactory inside.

Tau, and all the other kids on 15, know Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe can be found all over the city. He’s friendly and wise, and he has gray hair, and he’s always smiling. His voice sounds hollow, but Sky tells Tau that it’s because he’s a holocloud. You can’t touch him, she explains, because he’s not there.He’s a series of aerostats that hover in the air and paint themselves different colors at high speed. He doesn’t have a solid body at all, it’s just tiny floating zeppelins the size of a speck of dust. That’s why you can put your hand right through him and he’ll just shimmer and ripple and go back to normal. He can speak, because the aerostats have tiny speakers and they all make a noise at once.

Tau knows better, because he’s read old stories. He knows Uncle Joe is a ghost.

Uncle Joe can quote from the public codex. He always knows where food can be found. He comes out to stop Tau from crossing the street when there’s traffic, even though there isn’t any. Tau knows the traffic control system is a computer. He isn’t sure what it’s telling Uncle Joe, but he’s pretty sure it’s being mean to the nice old ghost.

At night, when Uncle Joe is making his rounds, Tau sometimes comes and finds him. He asks him to come over and tell stories. Uncle Joe loves to tell stories, and Tau loves to listen to them.