ONE

 

Jack Stein craned forward in his seat, leaning over the front panel to try to get a better view of the approaching city through the forward viewscreens, though the flyer’s nose partially blocked the view.  He’d heard about the city, but the tales were nothing compared to the sight now becoming clearer in front of the small craft.  The small ship was on auto now, banking as it descended, avoiding other air traffic on its way into Balance City’s port.  Balance City.  He could see now how it had gotten its name.  A thick rock spire pushed up from the canyon floor, spreading toward the top into a broad flat surface.  Deep cracks and scorings climbed irregularly over the spire’s surface, disappearing into the darkened shadow of the overhang.  Atop the plateau sat the city proper, a construction of metal and shining glass.  Since the city’s beginnings, natural urban growth had spread buildings in an ordered grid across the plateau’s surface and further.  The area had not been enough, so the residents had simply continued, building out from the city’s lip to the opposite sides of the canyon.  It looked exactly like the urban spread was simply balancing atop the single spire that sat beneath it.

He’d been slightly nervous when boarding the flyer on the orbital platform that served as the changeover point on his journey, but not as nervous as he was now.  These damned things were supposed to have pilots, weren’t they?  Not that Jack had ever been a particularly good air passenger of any form.   

            The flyer banked again, and headed lower.  Jack swallowed and frowned, wondering what was happening.  It looked as though they were flying too low, moving down beneath the city elevation and he swallowed again, stretching forward again for a better view.  Perhaps it was just the approach path.  Any moment, he expected the flyer to swoop up again, but then he saw why and he released his breath.  Beneath the outgrown platforms at either edge of the plateau, construction had continued down as well as sideways.  Buildings clung precariously to the spire’s sides, struts and braces holding them in place, all uniformly colored in green or yellow, varying shades, but giving a subtle patchwork feel.

            “Huh,” he said to himself.  Balance City’s port was there, not above, but below.  A wide flat area sat suspended beneath the platform, and his flyer was close enough now that he could start to pick out individual crafts arrayed in ordered rows along its length.  The order echoed the order of the city above.  What the hell did Billie want to come here for anyway?  It just didn’t look like the sort of place in which she’d really be comfortable.  Billie wasn’t particularly one for the ordered life, especially not with her origins amongst the dirt and squalor of the Old end of the Locality.  She’d lived most of her life without rules, without constraints.  For that matter, Balance City didn’t look like the sort of place Jack Stein would be at home in either.  His comfort level was shaped by dirt and squalor too.