The fluorescent lights in the cell ceiling hummed into life and once again the routine began. As he heaved himself up from the hard slab that pretended to be a bed, he stared at the seamless white walls. ”Today”, he thought to himself, ”maybe today will be different.” He let out a sigh and tried to shake himself into some semblance of being awake. Soon enough, like every other day since he’d been imprisoned here, they’d force a tray of barely edible food through the slot next to the door and give him almost enough time to eat it before the guards would turn up to drag him away. Every day was the same, and everything was deliberately disorientating, the smallest event choreographed to place him on the back foot. The sad thing was, it had been working. Wherever this was, how long he had been here, even why he was being held had long ago faded away and become meaningless. All he had left was the blind hatred for his captors, and even that was beginning to wear thin. He was tired, tired of the routine, tired of what life had become, everything.Continue reading →
“Sorry you got mixed up in all this, Limey” Paul Quine piped up, with a tangible insincerity in his voice, fidgeting with his ill-fitting fake designer suit, “You and the Sniper. Didn’t mean to get anyone killed. You guys could have just let me go and we’d be done with it”
“You think this’ll just end here, Quine?” From his chair the Englishman glared daggers up at the smug, fake-tanned visage of the datashark, trying to free his hands from the rope binding him to the chair again, “I won’t be the last to come after you, you can count on that, you turncoat little shit. Don’t think you can ever rest easy, Weißmann’s gonna want your head on his desk one way or another”
“Yeah, well, if you’re the best of the best looks like I’ve got a fighting chance, don’t you think?” Quine grinned an overconfident grin, pacing impatiently between his Texan bodyguard and the Englishman, “Killed with one of your own guns, pretty powerful message if you ask me.”
“This is all very fascinating to watch, gentlemen, but I’ve got a contract to fulfil,” The Texan raised one of the Englishmans pistols and flipped the safety off, “Say goodbye to our friend mister Quine”
“See ya next lifetime, Limey!” The datashark gave a sarcasting wave at the hitman tied to the chair, chuckling at his apparent good fortune. As the Texan walked across the room towards him, the Englishman closed his eyes, ready to accept his fate. He heard the pistol’s hammer click back…
…A single shot rang out.
So there I was, dear hypothetical reader, browsing the wares in a local branch of Popular Music Chain, and I ventured into the basement to look at the DVDs. No, not those kinds of DVDs, mind out of the gutter, please. Anyway, it seems a recent change to the layout of the store has seen a new section added off to one side, hidden at the side of the counter behind the blu-rays. This section is exclusively for Science Fiction films, ostensibly at least. This sort of thing is incredibly common, walk into any branch of Popular Bookshop Chain (and indeed many independents) and you’ll see something similar, Science Fiction and it’s stable mate Fantasy are often deliberately separated from everyday Fiction based on entirely arbitrary distinctions. There has always been this bizarre attitude that scifi, and often only specific kinds at that, is somehow “less worthy” of being considered alongside other works of fiction, that it is somehow a lesser work of creative endeavour. This, folks, is the Science Fiction Ghetto.
Ever notice how the future never quite ends up how we thought it would? No matter how lofty our predictions, or how optimistic we think, things always fall short and we end up stuck in a boring era totally bereft of jetpacks and flying cars. Not that that stops us from trying to dream up such improbable futures, oh no. Every generation has their fair share of fiction taking wildly different ideas on how the future will turn out with varying degrees of seriousness, and the whole thing fascinates me deeply, often not because of what they get right but what they get wrong.
Occupying a tiny chunk of its coastline, Atlantia’s Manhattan Sector is perhaps a textbook example of what is meant by “faded glory.” Way back, before the mega-cities and rise of the mega-corps, when the United States was more than a historical memory, this tiny island was one of, if not the, richest conurbations on the planet. The organisations based within its confines dominated the world, financially and politically. But its influence weakened as time progressed, the end of the Cold War opened up new markets that grew quickly to challenge its dominance, and the growing political turmoil across the globe splintered its influence. As the twenty-first century dragged on and urbanisation began to swallow up the American coastlines, there were those in power who still recognised some fleeting notion of status. The first statutes creating modern day Atlantia bestowed Manhattan sector-status alongside it’s much larger neighbours, assuming that the sheen of financial strength would never fade.
Even as this recognition was granted, the groups that had prospered from the good fortune were beginning to spread out and exploit the new city space, leaving streets upon streets of once-luxury office blocks abandoned. Then, as the century drew to a close, came the biggest blow to the sector: The Second Civil War. As a global superpower tore itself apart under the strain of three competing and fiercely independent mega-cities, any international entities with no vested interest fled to safer regions, taking with them Manhattan Sector’s political reach. Even though no fighting ever reached the sector’s shores, it left deep scars across it. After the fires of war died down, Manhattan failed to prosper under the newly independent Atlantia. With no real industry to speak of and very little large-scale commercial development left, the area began a steep decline it has never recovered from. Even it’s once-mighty landmarks either faded or were repurposed, with the Chrysler building being moved up-coast to Boston Sector in the 2150’s, and the Empire State building left as a slowly rotting shell. By the time the twenty-third century started, only a single corporate patron remained on the island in the shape of Santiago Sub-Orbital, but even that didn’t last. The great recession of the 2220s was not kind to the group, leading to bankruptcy and eventual merger with former rival, Lansing Global. This put the final nail in Manhattan’s corporate coffin, as the group eventually departed the area under the guise of “restructuring” and “consolidation,” leaving a broken sector in its wake.
Modern Manhattan bears little resemblance to the former jewel of the East Coast. The once famous skyline has since vanished in between the run-down hab-blocks that were built in previous centuries with no care given to their surroundings, and what little of Central Park that remains is barely more than disorganised scrubland. Some pre-Atlantian architecture still exists, often hidden under facades of modern street furniture and in rapidly progressing states of decay and disrepair. Much of the island still adheres to the grid layout set down centuries ago, however modern developments often take up more than a traditional block size, leading to streets coming to an abrupt halt at the side of buildings, or once straight throughways taking winding paths that were at one time entirely different roads altogether. As a consequence of its dwindling importance over the years, combined with its small and relatively isolated location, the sector’s infrastructure is severely lacking by most other’s standards. The only ways onto the island is via a set of mostly pre-millennial bridges and tunnels–not intended to handle mega-city levels of traffic–or the lone Speedrail station, no Intersector Highway link has ever been built, leading to the sector often gets overlooked by both organisations and individuals alike.
The inhabitants of Manhattan Sector can be roughly divided into three categories: the law-abiding, the criminal and the homeless. Those who live within the city’s law tend to be members of the lower-income bracket, mostly commuting from Manhattan to work in either the vast dockyards of West Long Island Sector or the few non-automated industrial complexes in New Jersey Sector. While technology has certainly improved their lives over previous centuries, the average twenty-third century Manhattanite is still at a distinct economic disadvantage compared to most city dwellers in the developed west.
Those that choose to flout society’s rules within the sector are a far more varied group. As with the vast majority of poorer sectors in Atlantia, street gangs flourish despite the ACPD’s best efforts to crack down on their activities. Organised crime has also crept into the sector thanks to the proximity to a major port and the relative isolation of the area. Both the Weismann Syndicate and Ueno Yakuza Clan claim parts of the island as territory and run several operations through it: varying between drugs and gun running to the more mundane protection and gambling rackets. Alongside the modern groups that have flooded the area, the local mafia, the Manhattan Families, still exists. Once major players in Atlantian (and North American) crime, their fortunes waned along with that of the sector, but they have still managed to cling on to existence by keeping to activities that don’t encroach on those of the other organisations. The current Don has dreams of reclaiming some of the Families’ former grandeur, however, although doing so may bring down ruin upon his struggling empire.
One far more worrying group to have set up in Manhattan recently is the North-Am Unionists. This group claims to be a political organisation seeking the reunification of the three mega-cities that once made up the United States and the territory between them, though after a recent bombing of a G11 trade summit in EuroState was blamed on them the group has been classed as terrorists by governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Their leaders went into hiding shortly after an ACPD crackdown in 2242 led to their Savannah Sector headquarters being seized-however several high ranking members have been spotted openly in public in Manhattan Sector. There are growing worries amongst the sector’s population-on both sides of the law-that there will be a confrontation between the Unionists and the government that might spill over into something far larger than the island has seen for over a century. What is certain is that Manhattan Sector’s status as an overlooked and unimportant area may not last for much longer.
Good afternoon, to start things off today I’m going to recount a tale, one that I hope some of you are at least partially familiar with. Nevertheless it is a vital scene-setter for what we will be covering in the coming weeks.
If you look at the dead centre of explored space you will find a small, yellow Category G star, and orbiting it at a distance of roughly 1 Astronomical Unit is a small blue marble. To modern observers this world may not seem like much, but that blue marble is the most significant world in all of humanity’s reach. It is the Home-world, it is Terra. Up until relatively recently it considered itself the centre of the known universe, both literally and metaphorically, and indeed for the majority of history it was the only thing in the known universe. For our first few hundred millennia humanity toiled in obscurity amongst the dirt of that world, fighting our own petty differences, though we were almost constantly looking to the stars.