Scenario 1/Setting/Alpha Complex: a Cultural and Historical Overview

Alpha Complex: a Cultural and Historical Overview

The city has been isolated physically, culturally and has effectively been a closed ecological system for over 1,200 years. Extreme difficulties imposed by the initial shortfalls of caloric resources, social organization and integration, and sustainable systems understandably produced considerable friction. The creative solutions, good housekeeping, and communal orientation that resulted echo down the years: the strong and vibrant society we have today.

One would expect a monolithic authoritarian social structure; some sort of dictatorship of the proletariat, yet emphasis on individual responsibility (the cog-citizen), strong civic values that honor learning, scholarship, and the pursuit of new knowledge, and our vibrant diversity of racial types has so far averted such an dark outcome.

It is written that once the city was part of a network of Imperial colonies and cities, with a capital city (the ‘Father City’) at the center. Signs about the city confirm this: the Empty Throne standing in the council chambers, carved oversized to represent command, authority, and the disproportional political representation of the capital; the rail stations with their rich frescos illustrating exotic destinations on many planets and their inevitably cut or collapsed tram lines; and the City Sigil, a construct invested with global oversight within city limits and charged from ancient times to protect the city and sheppard its inhabitants.

Assuming many different faces to many people, the City Sigil has acted as confidant, advisor, and friend to generations of citizens, as well as adjudicating policy for the Council of Sixteen. The animate Sigil can be found and interacted with in public places over fountains, emblazoned on the monolith in Arcade, at secure doors at Guildhall entrances, the CUP, and in countless other locations. It is the living symbol of the city, our collective conscience and memory.

We are a society at peace, having long settled our internal differences and until very recently lacking external contact with any organized and intelligent peer species. Although the martial traditions have withered, some outlet for physical displays and the arts of war reside with the Ministry of Culture/Department of Entertainment/Gladiatorial Performers. Fights to the death are taboo, but permissions may be granted on special days of celebration and with both parties consent.

Religious views are tolerated, and the clergy has a voice in government. State religion is split between the official state cult of Kronos (lord of orderly time and protector of the city), the cult of Cerus (a fertility goddess harkening back to the oceans of the origin place), and the cult of Mechanus (the world machine). Polite and respectful dialog about religious differences is a popular theme at the halls of rhetoric.

Policing has been reduced to Ecology/Internal Security for the most part. Citizens are gently reminded to conform to the ways; the civic virtues, and harmony with our environment. Junior membership act as enforcement, who may levy small fines (in calories) for lesser transgressions (occasionally an art installation might deliberately feature eco-insensitivity to make some point); more senior members help guide policy and settle highly technical challenges that might span several scientific disciplines.

The city demographic includes three racial groups (as well as some minority races surviving in small numbers in the Zoo): Goblins, Dwarves and Gnomes. Social differences and the inclination to tribalism are overcome through the elimination of the obsolete family system of raising children and its replacement with the state crèche system.

The city has five Ministries (or Guilds), charged with fostering the technical traditions that permit our continued survival and acquiring new knowledge consistent with good ecology and our civic virtues. They are: Facilities (Engineering), Bio Sciences, Arcane Magic, Applied Technologies (manufacturing and Father technologies, which are increasingly suppressed as obsolete due to wasteful or polluting methods), and Culture. The Guild Masters help steer policy at the Council of Sixteen.

There is currently a technological schism between the older methods inherited from the ages, called Father Technology; such as optics, electricity, chemical storage batteries, gunpowder, metallurgy; and the recent, cleaner systems collectively called ‘Mother Technology’, such as applied botany, applied zoology, and the micro biosciences. Let every citizen be reminded that the fundamental systems that permit life in Alpha Complex (electrical generation, sewage and water infrastructure, elevators and transportation, ventilation, lighting and geothermal habitat jacketing) have come down to us from an ideologically suspect father culture, and yet with minor modification remain reliable after 1,500 years.

We have full employment. All citizens have a place, contribute and earn their keep, which is ‘paid’ in calories, the currency. Personal possessions are a figment. We share resources, space, ideas; the accumulation of excess is considered bad form. An exception to the accumulation of personal excess statute is the banking of credits for the purposes of social good, such as donations to foster the arts, etc. Economic units are calories and larger quantiles are measured in joules.

Citizen professions might include: academics (scholarship, library sciences, research, etc.), agriculture, animal husbandry, bio sciences (zoology, botany, etc.), civil service, construction, chemistry, defense, entertainment/performance/arts, exploration, engineering, ecology (the science and the practice), manufacturing, and maintenance.

We have a proud history of exploration, both of the internal world of knowledge, spirituality, and the many arts; but also the physical world, the rock that cradles us. The embodiment of this culture of exploration has been the three Official Surveys, asking: where are we now; what else is there; are we alone, or are there others? They attempted to answer questions about the current location of the planet’s surface, the elusive planet’s molten care, and the profile of the planar envelope that sheared numerous tramways, tunnels and passages at the time of the Sundering.

Our predecessors granted Latitude (or a limited license for social and ecological transgressions and some authority for on the spot decision making) during their periods of mandatory civil service, or City Year, strived and made discoveries and sacrifices; pushing back the darkness of ignorance rising from the enduring mystery we call the Sundering. Despite limited results the tradition of Survey is a hallowed institution.

Survey Team 1 was dispatched in 3.200 following the most obvious paths to explore the Sundering of 3.000; the tramway tunnels and other routes of egress. Evidence of the enclosure of an area, called the planar envelope for lack of a better term, which included the city and an unknown part of its environs, or possibly everything else, was found. Excavations beyond shear at the ends of tunnels once connecting the city to other nodes found no evidence of local ground shift or faults; just an inexplicable transition roughly globe shaped in profile. No collapsed sections, conduit, tramway tracks or other evidence of the city was found beyond these shears. The Survey’s efforts were redirected to refining city systems damaged by the event, such as the malfunctioning geothermal pumps.

Survey Team 2 dispatched in 3.270, probed the city headwater and reservoir for signs of the Sundering shear, and prospected for new water and ventilation sources, largely to no avail. The mystery of the malfunction of the geothermal pumps and the evident loss of the planet’s molten core was explored by drilling test bores. Increases in environmental ground heat we expected to find in what was once considered ‘deeper’ into the planet’s crust yielded perplexing results. While the molten core has gone missing, natural caverns populated with strange forms (some of which now reside in the city zoo) were discovered.

Survey Team 3 dispatched in 3.390, was mostly a mining operation prospecting for raw materials, biomass in particular. Radial (polar oriented) bore holes sunk to a distance of 3km. More caverns discovered, but no peer species found.
Contact occurred by accident in the year 4.200. Housekeeping and rubble removal following the earthquakes of 3.800-4.200 in the vicinity of test shaft 13 reveal yet another cavern system. Surprised workers discover a genuine peer population who appear to have been living for some time in an adjacent area, now called the Tribal Primitives. The irony of finding the Halflings by accident after so much treasure and effort was expended was not lost on the Council. After a preliminary period, a cultural embassy was established focusing on sociology and linguistics. Please see the ‘Report on the Peer Population’ for more information.

Lesson from Crèche:
Common purpose, common good!

“Children, settle down. Settle down little orcses, little gnomies, and little dwarves. Today’s lesson is about our past; where we all come from. We are the lucky ones! You are all successors. We have inherited a world entire: our beautiful home, the city; the collective richness of our various origin cultures, blended; and the technical and academic traditions handed down from an empire at its zenith!

We live in an age of enlightenment, an era of peace, of law and most importantly ecological responsibility. Live in harmony and so live! We generate surplus joules to fuel deepening pursuits like the arts and sciences. There are enough calories to feed all; no one is hungry. We are fortunate, and rich, but alone. This was once not the case, and that is the time I wish to tell you about today.

Once we were node to a larger web. There were other peoples and other places, not of the city. I do not speak now of our cavern companions; the things that live with us in the earth, but of other worlds: of light, sea, and of air. There was a Father city; the Capital. There was the Mother sea, mighty and limitless, now lapping only the shores of our personal insides: our blood. People, ideas and material flowed by tramways, passages and portals in and out of our city. This all ended with the Sundering.

I know some of the words I say will be unfamiliar, words like ‘family’ and ‘surface’, please be silent and listen. We shall have questions and definitions after.

Then times clan, family, nation, color and race divided and weakened the body politic. Each person was alone, stood and strived alone. There were joules of opinion, a million variants of effort. Remember, opposite forces cancel? This writ large, children. Joules of wasted effort squandered. A time of chaos!

I shall speak now of the Sundering. The rock closed in, so they say; kilometers of stone where none had been before. Even today the event is poorly understood. We were surprised and unprepared. Proximate locations, known distances and bearings became unreliable. No, no, children, our city was always ‘underground’, but the earth’s embrace drew us closer and deeper somehow. The people became trapped, too many mouths, too few calories. Living in unbalance and without harmony it took only a very short time for Nature’s correction. Yes, they were ‘unsustainable’ in their ways.

The period of adjustment was a difficult one. Orderly civilization barely survived behind locked doors, and in the heritage of printed records that survived the time of chaos. Once little Orcses and little Dwarves would murder each other, which was then the custom!

Of the guilds, eldest is engineering. Today’s guild forms a direct line of service to the hero’s that preserved the heart of the city, the cup, from the ravages of madmen and monsters who otherwise would have destroyed it! We can thank all the guilds for preserving and fostering our technical heritage and bettering our quality of life. Even today you can see signs of the violence of that brief time: collapsed passages, entire sections such as ‘administration’. We have left some of the ruins to remind everyone of the folly of chaos and individual free will.

At this time we learned togetherness; collective effort and our place. Out of the ashes, epiphany! Common effort, common good! We learned that the only way forward was together, pulling the cart with Nature’s grain, not against! One does not wrest calories from the earth, one petitions. Now each cog-citizen has a place, yes like a big machine, and each makes a vital contribution to our collective welfare.”

4.216
Report on the peer population

Contact established 4.200
Trade established 4.201

The volume of trade has become economically significant to both parties. Contracts are struck at a convenient midpoint adjacent to what is thought to be the Tribal Primitives main population center, located some 2.2 km by newly laid rail line from Alpha Complex’s outpost #13. From the station, return cargo and personal must resort to an industrial cargo lift for the remaining 1.5km of the vertical test bore to the City’s under-transport hub.

The peer culture is of Halflings; other races have been noted (see Anthro 422.65B). A great deal of misunderstanding persists, as they have been reticent to allow greater cultural penetration. Of what we do know, they are behind us culturally and technologically; in fact they have placed an interdict on some (most) of our manufactured trade items. Lately, they have become keen on our music, in particular our musical instruments, which are different than those used locally. This and tutorial sessions have offset major quantities of trade biomass (textiles, wood, ceramics, and protein in various forms). An artistic embassy is currently in the planning stages as a possible means to engender greater cultural openness.

The sheer volume of biomass taken in trade suggests agriculture on a grand scale. The protein begs a harder question. As we have not been permitted past the caverns dubbed ‘barter town’ by the Halflings, we don’t know the source of their considerable wealth. The general lack of organization and libertarian spirit we have observed in the Tribal Primitives over the last 15 years makes the hypothetical large scale agribusiness explanation unlikely.

The barter town area is a considerable cavern; one of the largest naturally occurring we have yet seen. At first contact we observed an area given over to modest mud brick dwellings, animal pens, and ceremonial circles; they are fond of circles in building and in layout. Urban planning is lacking; passageways or spaces between structures are random. There is sanitation in the form of a covered sewage system; that must function otherwise we would expect to see dysentery. Ventilation is natural, and copious. Lighting is of the natural bioluminescence type, and by tar torches and bonfires (see below), offering barely adequate illumination. Samples have revealed a robust fungal form that may benefit from the incidental outputs of the cavern’s other inhabitants. Off the cavern area, large passages lead to a river (part of which is diverted for drinking water), and to some other location(s) we have not been permitted to explore. In the years since first contact, the town and its population has expanded considerably, with an estimated population of 1,750 souls.

Visitors should be warned to prepare themselves for a gross spectacle of ecodamage, as the Halflings burn oil for cooking, lighting and other applications. They have also been seen to eat red meat. Under no circumstances shall City Citizens partake of these transgressions. The import of crude oil is under City interdict. The healthfulness of consuming red meat is in doubt. City Visitors to the area will be searched and debriefed before reentry to the City habitat.

Political organization is tribal, leadership is presumably provided by chief and elder figures. No actual leader has presented themselves in all our time observing. Trade negotiations are typically between one Halfling trade speaker and authorized City negotiators. Our enlightened policy of ‘fair trade’ appears to be working for both parties, as our first offers are generally accepted with little haggling.

Religious systems are evident. Communal gatherings are loud, festive and unruly. Dance, displays of strength or prowess, and ritual role playing have been observed at major celebrations. The use of an oral tradition and the language barrier has slowed our understanding of tribal Gods, ritual, taboo, and value systems. Worship typically features rites considered ecodamage or at the very least ecoinsensitivity, which is also a problem for our sociologists.

Citizen visitors are advised to proceed with care amongst the peer population. Relations between our cultures have always been confused, and the maintenance of an orderly and non-offensive posture is all of our responsibilities, as well as the official policy.

Scenario 1/Setting/Alpha Complex: a Cultural and Historical Overview

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