Far-El flew over the Bottle City with a pensive grip on the hovercar’s oddly flat edge, regretting the decision to eschew safety concessions so as to be faithful to the car’s original comic book designs. Curt Swan’s drawings from the mid-20th Superman comics had been so evocative that the City’s concept artists had been enchanted, so they had not added any kind of roll cage to grab onto when your pilot happened to be a daredevil. Far-el remembered a discussion he’d had with Bon-Ak about that very thing. The young hacker from somewhere in the Pacific Rim had argued that a fall from the highest point in the Bottle City would have only caused a logout into the wider GlobalNet, with the concomitant mild migraine, and so wasn’t strictly necessary. It still made Far-El’s virtual stomach turn over every time his pilot, Son-Do, took a tilting vector downwards for a landing.

Though Far-El knew that the Bottle City wasn’t a physical place on Earth, he still insisted on treating his time there as if it were. After all, he and the other 278 regular City inhabitants had all decided to make this virtual GlobalNet game space their home, eschewing physical lives as much as humanly possible. He estimated spending perhaps as little as five hours a week outside of his GlobalNet crèche, hating every moment of it. He no longer felt remotely comfortable in his own skin, with real air passing over his body and filling his lungs. The moments of gender confusion that settled in as he re-emerged into his physically female body shook him every time. He knew what the meatheads out there thought of his choice, calling the whole lot of them "escapees," with the implication that they were somehow escaping their "real" lives. When asked, he would refer to those like him as "transcendents" instead, for transcending their physical limitations rather than be anchored by them. Far-El only felt himself when adorned in the digital clothing of the male leader of the Bottle City’s Council of Five.

It was official Council business that had brought him to the courtyard of Councilor Lara-Van. Even from above, he could tell it was bad. Three piles of vaguely-humanoid shaped dust lay on the yellow sidewalks that crisscrossed the gardens of alien crystal plants glittering brightly in the artificial red sun. Another pile of dust stood twenty meters away. The dust reminded him of the silhouettes imprinted on the ruined buildings in photographs he’d seen of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The hover car had barely settled on the ground when Far-El jumped over the side to plant his feet on firm ground, not even waiting for Son-Do to open the car’s door for him. Lara-Van stood with a pensive look on her face, staring down at the dust pile that must have been one of her guards.

"Those are bodies, aren’t they?"

Lara-Van nodded grimly, her blond hair waving with that somewhat surreal pseudo-gravity that the City’s graphic designers had yet to be able to get quite right. Perhaps it was the lack of actual dust in the air that imparted everything with an unnatural crispness. The frown on Lara’s face would have unsettled Far-El even had he not seen the dust piles. "The one here," she indicated the single pile at her feet, "was my guard, Bosk-El."