The City is actually a pocket universe with 'tangents' to various other spots in the space-time continuum. However the space-time continuum these days is not a safe place to be a Human anymore. Humans hide like rats in the cracks and folds of a universe where they are hunted by races that are even more ancient, powerful, and advanced. The city happens to be in one such particularly large crack. To the people living in this relative pocket of safety, their generations-long war for survival is a distant anxiety, like some war halfway around the globe is to us. Conversely, somewhere else in the universe are people who were soldiers or starship crews for generations, and to them The City is a fond neverland for which they fight, but whose existance they sometimes doubt. That's what I think it would be like to be part of a species that has grown enough to really start experiencing a tiny glimpse of the universe's vastness. On top, or at least near the center of things, is one of the main characters. They use different titles than we do, but it wouldn't be too inaccurate to call him the Mayor of the Humans. He's got a rough job, to say the least. If I/we ever finish writing this, it might just be some kind of parable about the use of power when one's decisions may affect unimaginable numbers of people. By the way, humanity has changed and diversified, and the term Earth Clan
is used synonymously with it. In the year umpteen million, a dolphin, a human-made AI, a heavily augmented human, a nanite-fog, an assimilated alien immigrant, and some completely de novo
life form whose not-quite DNA genetic code was written from scratch... all these beings are scions to the common heritage of Ancient Earth, all members of the Earth Clan, and all potential allies against the truly alien
creatures lurking somewhere out there, just out of sight.
If I recall correctly, it was just me, ordinary unaugmented human, living in a town of a few hundred thousand people, looking at what I was about to write, getting dizzy, passing out, and being too intimidated to go back to writing it.
was a time of contradictions. The human race had an intimate
understanding of life down to the very atoms making them up, and yet
it had only hazy, fragmented recollections of what happened before
they founded The City, and why they had to come here in the first
place. There were more than 10 billion people and several hundred
million sentiences belonging to the "Earth Clan" squeezed
into the unimaginably intricate and vast labyrinths of the city, and
yet humans and all life that was born of earth, were in more danger
than the doomsday prophets of the Golden Age ever could have
imagined. There were humans who were powerful, who had machines that
could twist and shape the very fabric of space-time to do their
biding-- and there were thousands of nameless humans obeying their
orders, living day by day, keeping the complicated machinery of The
City going or fighting and dying in nameless multitudes out in the
cold, black depths of space where starts are so numerous that they
don't even rate names anymore. Except for ones that have something
remarkable about them, like Trellis
picture window opened right onto one of The City's lacunae--
relatively empty spots in the otherwise densely packed hive of
corridors, elevators, roads, offices, vat-factories, homes, and the
bio-electronic guts through which the life of The City pulsed. Lining
the lacuna were spires, unfinished scaffolding, and random lumps of
architecture that never expected to find itself so exposed. The very
farthest of them were ensconced in clouds. Massive hologram
projectors would sometimes superimpose artificital landscapes on this
space, especially during the many City Holidays. Today, however, they
were still, and far "below" on one of the thousands of City
Squares scattered throughout the lacuna, there was an irregular
shape. Something swarming. That was how a crowd looked from this far
away. It was a sizeable crowd, but not nearly enough to fill the
square which was at least twice the dimensions of a place in Old New
York called Central Park. Was it a demonstration, or some kind of
civic event? There were little flashes of light around the edges of
the square. The crowd was using some sort of incendiary weapons.
smiled at the irony. Did they know that for once, precisely the
person who was probably at fault for whatever was upsetting them was
looking straight at them. He should search the newsfeeds to see if
there was anything he could do about it. There were probably ten to a
hundred major riots happening somewhere in the city at any given
time, but he was sure he'd find what this one was about. Presently, a
white mist covered the square. ParaGas Type II. Harmless (usually)
and cleverly conceived. Unlike the original ParaGas, which reversibly
paralyzed parts of the peripheral nervous system, type II went
straight for the brain's motivational centers. The crowd would just
be sitting there, feeling too lazy to move, until the Peace Officers
arrived to collect them. Some people believed that small amounts of
ParaGas II were being continuously leaked into the air supply to
encourage docility. Hauser found such wild, unsubstantiated
speculation irritating. It had to be speculation, because he attended
to the security aspects of that project personally, therefore it was
likely that someone out there came up with that scenario
independently. Well, what did they want him to do? It's not as if The
City's room for growth was unlimited. In fact, they were quickly
approaching the point where the opening of any new districts would
necessitate closing old ones. On the other hand, this happened sooner
or later even now, as the Others discovered the tangent to any given
star system the humans might open. The upshot was, someday The City
would hold far more than 10 billion. Twenty billion. A hundred
billion. A trillion? All crowded in this vast but finite metropolis.
These riots were easy to control, they cause barely a ripple in the
day to day bustle of business as usual. But what would happen as the
population got more concentrated? Eventually even minor discontent
would be able to snowball into mass psychosis that even the Peace
Central would be powerelss to control... and for PC to lose control
would be the beginning of the end.
simply never had time to evolve for life on such a scale. It took
millions of highly trained social engineers, arsenals of non-lethal
weaponry, and terracycles of computing power to keep the lid on. To
see that everyone was fed, housed, reasonably busy, and not engaged
in mindless urban warfare. That was part of the reason for the scale
of Terra Irridenta's recruitment efforts. Population control--
especially of the young, restless, and potentially violent
population. "They might as well die fighting the Others rather
than die fighting each other." as one Irridenta official put it.
back memories, doesn't it though?" asked Rita in Daenten.
Hauser didn't hear her come in.
does it matter? We were wrong." answere Hauser, pointedly
sticking to Common. Years ago, they were both in the Feinn Daentein,
a separatist movement in on of the 1,523,321 areas that considered
themselves to be "Down Town". Public transport between
there and other "Downtowns" was substandard for a few
generations, so the area managed to diverge culturally and
linguistically before the traffic computers notices something amiss.
died, people were drafted, some corridors were trashed. In the end,
Peace Central gave the Daenteiner Cameuneite Baerd, as the regional
government was called, some measure of autonomy. By this time, the
old transport tubes had been renovated, and the Daentaen was flooded
with tourists and entrepreneurs, while young and ambitious
Daentaeners such as Hauser and Rita could now safely travel to a PC
academy and prepare for careers in civil service and elswhere.
Daentein autonomy lasted about a decade, by the end of which it was
just a legalistic curiousity, an anachronism left over from a
neighborhood that had long since been reabsorbed into The City
without very few traces. It had been five years since Hauser even
travelled there, though once he had sworn to visit every year, on the
anniversary of the Great Uprising. The church where the rebel leaders
met had been replaced by spanking new hospital complex. The scorched
corridors had been renovated. The revolutionary graffitti has been
scoured off by cleaning nanites. There were a few plaques,
commemorating various battles, speaches, and meetings... but the
landscape had changed so much Hauser wasn't even sure they were
correctly placed. They probably were, though. Humanity took what
little history it had very seriously now. He could probably have
stopped at any wall-socket on what used to be called Beinhen Streigt
and called up surveillance footage from any officially or
unofficially covered area in that time and place, catalogued down to
the millisecond, with historically interesting vigniettes
highlighted. On the other hand, he could also do that from any other
street, or from the comfort of his own armchair. He chose not to.
we? At least we had something to believe in then."
false. Something that was easier to believe and understand than
reality, though, I'll grant you that."
sighed. "Reality sucks. Reality is we're a fungus inhabiting the
cracks in the space-time continuum. Grow too much outward-- another,
meaner fungus eats you alive. Grow too much inward-- choke on your
own spores. Who wants a reality like that."
could be more. We could create new Cities, if we could get rid of the
Others... or at least hide from them long enough. The problem is
really figuring out a way for our slow, ancient, brains to catch up
with what our nimble little hands can do nowadays."
you ever thought that maybe it's we who are in the way of this? Maybe
this rioting, the Warlord Phenomenon, the whole thing... maybe these
are necessary growing pains before we can ascend to the next step?
After all, evolution seems to have proceeded through the death of
many, sometimes most, individuals back on Earth."
what do you think we'd evolve into, given the chance?"
knows? Virtual beings, living entirely in the computer network?
Fearesome, vicious predators of deep space that are every bit a match
for the Others? Gods, inhabiting a valhalla of pocket universes? Who
knows. At least we would not be stagnating."
stagnating. Maybe you are. But it's a big old town, and there's more
going on than meets the eye. If you're feeling stagnant in The City,
you just haven't explored the options available."
we cannot be part of this rotting, stagnating empire! If being a
lackey to Terra Irridenta is what it meens to be human now, perhaps
it is time to stop being human. May the Plague take me before I ever
answer to the TI or the PC again!"
small, cramped room thundered with applause, amidst a sea of leather
jackets and canvas caps. Of course, it was just the transport and
communication systems that were on the fritz in the Daentein area.
Climate control used to work perfectly, and no one needed leather
jackets. It was the brilliant idea of Fein Daentein to sabotage the
local climate control nexus and blame it on Peace Central. Propoganda
against the enemy, plus a shared, non life-threatening hardship to
give their people a sense of solidarity. This also unexpectedly led
to the adoption of a militaristic, de-facto uniform among the ranks
of the Fein Daenteinen. Instead of the only slightly out of date
body-paint and gauzy veils that they used to wear, the Daenteiners
were now adopting the starkly anachronistic garb that had more in
common with the insulated battle gear of pilots than with modern
civilian clothing. The fact that it was (or looked like it was) made
from the skin of slain animals was an extra jab at the "all life
is sacred" ideology of The City as a whole.
Hauser continued. "It's not enough that they hire some social
engineer to be the 'Daentein Liason' or give us the privilege
of teaching our children our own language in our schools"
neither Hauser, nor most of the people gathered in the room had
children yet. "No, what we want is real power. Give us
administrative access to the programs that run our communications
grid... our transportation, our energy... our climate control..."
more applause. "Let us decide when when and where to link in new
districts, whethere to open tangents into new star systems. I see
before us a future of Daenteiner-colonized worlds. While the TI and
the Plague are busy fighting it out, we can be building a new life.
On our terms."
Inbetween City, 2 UNFINISHED STORIES