Wednesday 11 May 2022

The Gutter

 The high street that runs the length of the residential quarter on the Meridian city satellite. Only the locals get to call it that.

Priced out of prefab QGC condos, the majority of the population live in a sprawl of shacks and shipping containers that grow up the slopes of the station’s artificial valley. Deep in their shadow, the city’s heart still beats.

What’s That Sound?

1. Sports fans gathered round a radio. You get all kinds of signals through the gate, if you have a machine that can handle them. Tune in from the other end of the galaxy.

2. Cassettes are a way of life for teenagers here. Expect to hear the same song copied and played until the tapes wear out, unless a spacer stops by with the next big hit.

3. The main way in which the Gutter’s myriad stall owners and street vendors compete is by being louder than the next person. Booming cries, tinny jingles, sizzling pans.

4. Excuse me, have you heard the good news? Pamphlets promise peace and prosperity. Flavour of the month is Godman Richard, a local healer nobody’s actually seen in years.

5. Screams from a back alley. Petty thugs, teen pranksters, community doctors, unlicensed casinos and sex workers all have their own ways of getting those noises out of a person.

Make Way!

1. The old street sweeper bot. Its AI is off, so it has no set schedule and doesn’t quite register people as obstacles. Can’t detect graffiti, either, but still does an ok job overall.

2. A bunch of kids playing a game. The one at the front has a big stick. Parents call them in from windows up above, past the laundry lines and lanterns.

3. Someone got a bike from Miracle Cycle and hasn’t figured out the brakes yet. Bicycles make a lot of sense on a station that’s one big circle. 100cr new, or plenty old and going spare.

4. Street performers. Nobody wants them, but nobody wants a Gutter without them. Lion dancers, musician troupes, folding tables for card tricks or the occasional honest game.

5. Some folk just aren’t used to the crowds. Spacers, stall owners, stray dogs, the high street’s always moving. Got to learn the flow or you’ll tread on someone’s toes.

Food and Drink

1. The Bent Spoon does the best bad coffee in town for 1cr a cup. Their herbal teas cost up to 5cr, but some are said to have medicinal properties.

2. Ragpickers flog whatever truckers bring through the gate. Even basics are expensive when imported, so get ready to haggle or you’ll be spending 10cr on a Goo-Chew bar.

3. Of all the busiest food stands, most agree that Mr Son’s Meat-Filled Buns are worth the queue. 2cr for a big mutton buuza. Mr Son’s smile, however, is priceless.

4. The food at The Golden Ass is surprisingly good for a strip club. Get a pitta platter, 10cr. TGA also donates old clothes, which explains some Gutter fashion idiosyncrasies.

5. Don’t get caught up in an argument over which unnamed kebab stall is the original. A lamb kofta box meal costs 4cr at either. They taste identical, but keep that to yourself.

Local Businesses

1. Giga Potato have all kinds of second-hand tech. The other stores get their neon signs and radios here. The owner Ellie also does tattoos and android repairs on the side.

2. Everyone knows that “Little” Jimmy Kozlov sells knock off weapons. Nobody says it to his face. 75% market price, break apart on a critical failure.

3. The fortune teller Madam Galkin is a charlatan, but her customers either don’t know or don’t seem to mind. 10cr for a reading and a weak cup of tea.

4. The Black Dog just opened and is already attracting unsavoury types. Just about the only place to get a drink around here, though.

5. Ratcatcher Keith retired when his dog Percy died. People say the old mutt must have trained the local strays to follow in his pawprints, though, because you rarely see a rat around.

Rumours and Gossip

1. That new pub, The Black Dog, used to be a club. It just suddenly closed down. The new dancer at the Golden Ass used to work there, I think.

2. Someone saw the men in black around that club that closed down. The Rabbit Hole, I think it was called. Anyway, the basement is all sealed off now for whatever reason.

3. You’ve seen them, right? The men in black. Always carrying those briefcases, but you never see them open. I bet they work for QGC. Some secret division. Keeping an eye on us.

4. How do QGC even know the gate is safe? I mean, think about it. Who really knows what that thing is? We could all be getting blasted with radiation, like, right now.

5. Aliens! It’s all aliens. They run the gate, they run QGC. Open your eyes, people!

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