Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

There are people in the depths of this city that have literally never seen the sun. They live in artificially lit shanty-arcologies and depend on shipment piracy for survival. Whatever they can’t grow hydroponically, they barter from the city above, Topside.

These people don’t live in the sewers. They live in the city that used to be. They live among the roots of the golden-age hivetrees. They live in a pre-nan world where people did the building for other people. It’s a political statement.

They work with their hands down there. They don’t depend on magical microbes or tiny eyelash centipedes to build and shape. Their bodies are ‘pure’. They are strong and infection resistant.

You have to see the city as a gradient. The area down there would be Black.

I’m wearing an airmask and leaning over the edge of a balcony in Lower White.

It’s cold up here. To my left and right, between the other spires and plinths, is the curvature of the Earth. It’s always night above me. My apartment is in the upper reaches of the atmosphere but lower than the levels above me stretching away to Upper White. In the vacuum of space, their apartments twirl.

I hold patents on Earth that have started to be exported to the rest of the Universe. That is the reason for my wealth. I’m the richest human.

Which, I am finding out, means nothing. The levels above me are entirely populated by alien races. Alien Races with universe-wide generational patents. I am a curiousity to them; the richest local.

My own kind can barely relate to me. My wealth has made me a pariah and I trust no one. The aliens up here laugh at my lack of abilities. I can’t change shape, I have no retractable claws or prehensile tail, and I have only the bare minimum number of feet and hands needed to walk to manipulate the world around me.

I always thought that evolution was a paring down to essentials. To them, it’s the opposite. The more complex a race is, the further up the ladder it is and the more respect it gets.

Earth is a lawless watering hole. We’ve been sold architectural miracles and replicators. We’ve been sold the means to produce an end to most sickness lengthen our lives. The unbroken bristling metropolis that extends over every inch of the planet has eradicated the need for countries. Earth is a planet and a city now, covered in a blanket of apartments. There are no more visible oceans but they still pulse beneath the cities, protected and lit by massive sun tracks.

We had more immigration last year from the rest of the universe than we had births on the planet.

This is an age of wonder for most of humanity. An age of great change.

I am standing, close to space, the floors below me lost in cloud, thinking about the pale people living in the basement of Earth.

And envying them.

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