Built by the long-Sublimed Werpesh, used by the Gzilt. Nearly thirty thousand kilometres long, the structure formed a single vast bracelet round the equator of the world. A-shaped in cross-section, over a hundred kilometres across at the base, dozens at the top and just under two hundred klicks high – so tall that it protruded above almost all the atmosphere, providing Xown with a spaceport sufficiently prodigious to have served a thousand such worlds – the Girdlecity was a single colossal barricade, an everywhere-pierced wall, halving the planet.

Even building on this extraordinary scale, there were touches of elegance to its design; because Xown was a planet with little wobble and the Girdlecity straddled the equator, it effectively sat between the narrow tropic lines, only ever casting a shadow on lower parts of itself, never on the planet’s surface.

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