- "It's just a big tube and they pour things through it. Tourists, hustlers, anything. And there's fine mesh money screens working every minute, make sure the money stays here when the people fall back down the well."
- —Molly Millions
An orbital station. Most of it owned by the Tessier-Ashpool family. It has the shape of a blunt white cigar that narrows at the ends. Its exterior is flanged and studded with radiators, grids, domes, and on its "tip" is the Villa Straylight, the base of the T-A.
Holographic advertisements of the station are suspended against the walls of the Trans-BAMA stations, with the pulsing text "FREESIDE - WHY WAIT?" in contorted capitals mimicking printed kana. Into the lower left corner is the sigil of T-A the size of a small coin.
Something between an orbital Las Vegas, Geneva and hanging gardens of Babylon, the station operates like a border town or a free port. Visitors to the stations pass customs which consist mainly of proving credit. It provides banks, brothels, casinos, hotels (such as the Intercontinental), strata-title property, big shops, spas and resorts; even lakes. At the narrower ends there is a "mountain effect"; ground seems to get higher, more rocky, with lower gravity. At one end there is a sports center with mountains, launching gear for the hang gliders, a velodrome ring and miniature microlights; to the other end is Straylight.
The interior of the station has an artificial sky, and concealing the curvature of the interior. The 2mm armature of a Lado-Acheson system runs the length of the spindle pumping sunlight and generating a rotating library of sky effects around it such as a blue sky recorded from Cannes and a brilliant white slash in place of a sun.
Drone Microlights with rainbow/gossamer polymer silkscreened wings are seen in the sky, soaring up the curve, even behind the band of the Lado-Acheson system. They look like pilotless biplanes with butterflies' colors. Controlled by a central computer, they serve as a security system. Robots striped diagonally with yellow and black do gardening at the parks, among the benches and antique streetlights.
Elevators lead down to the hull and a miniature induction train leads at 80 km/h to the end of the spindle; as the diameter narrows, gravity decreases; the axis is weightless, and there are sporting docks at the end of the spindle.
The center of the station has a network of avenues: Desiderata Street runs its length, terminating at either end in the supports of the Lado-Acheson light pumps. Rue Jules Verne is a circumferential avenue, looping the spindle's midpoint and crosses Desiderata at the middle.
The intersection form a kind of gulch, the residences forming balconied terraces of lunar concrete rising gradually to grassy tablelands, on which was another casino complex. Nearby is an artificial mesa. The intersection houses bars such as the Hi-Lo, the Paradise, le Monde, Cricketeer, Shozoku Smith's, Emergency. There is a vast, brilliantly lit newsstand displaying glossy Japanese magazines with the newest SimStim stars on the covers.
Directly overhead, along the nighted axis, the hologram sky glittered with fanciful constellations suggesting playing cards, the faces of dice, a top hat, a martini glass.
Near midnight the lights in the sky go out, often followed by a ragged echoing cheer from Jules Verne. An ancient bell out of Europe chimes midnight.