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Aiben stood at the bottom of a giant well walled with rusty iron grid-work. Countless levels of habitation, caked in filth, had been stacked ever higher with each new decade. The honeycombed girders of overgrown city sprang up all around him, constructed weeds that hedged up his view on all sides for hundreds of feet. Between the slats and gangways that thatched together the ground, the depths stretched down into subterranean infinity and left to his imagination what his enhanced senses couldn’t perceive.

Industrial emissions, cotton balls of cloudy soot, rode breezes stewed up by pressure and temperature differentials of the urban canyons. The oils of morning sunlight had already spilled over the tops of the enormous buildings like a muddy waterfall. Random flashes echoed off the reflective windows that tiled the buildings and lit up the metallic carapaces of spidery mechanoids, robotic creatures that climbed along the edifices and polished off the dirt and grime. Aiben’s eyes followed them, waiting.

A dirty gust of wind hammered thick poly-fiber pants against his legs. He pulled the collarless charcoal button-up shirt, and the sleeveless black leather vest, so popular on human worlds, tighter around his broad shoulders. His black hair, short in some places, long in others, tinted with a hint of bronze, looked ragged as it thrashed back and forth in the filtered gray light of the industrial world. He rubbed at a week’s worth of beard sprouting on his jaw. Despite what was going on inside him, his outward appearance gave the impression he was just a normal citizen of any Seven Guilds world.

“Are you going to stand there all morning and just stare at those buildings? I don’t pay you to daydream, you know.”

The smooth baritone of the man’s voice intertwined with the perfect rhythm of tools striking metal. The constant cadence would have been enough to stir up movement in most beings, but to Aiben, the tempo simply framed his thoughts as they raced to keep time.

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