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The Real World of Avatars 2.0

The world in which Avatars takes place is halfway between our own and the dystopian cyberpunk future imagined by William Gibson. To illustrate the changes that swept across the world, we'll use the fictitious city of North Bend, New Jersey.

North Bend of the Present

Phoenix Rising by Tigaer

The Towers

Arcadia believed he was building the future - an arcology, a giant indoor city that would provide housing, food, and work for everyone within, and a standard of living comparable to the richest of the 21st century. His vision faltered when disaster and scandal beset his company, and he was forced to scale down what he had to those who could pay and abandon the rest.

The Towers are massive buildings that loom over the city. Each one is a hub of commerce and residence, with offices, shopping and theaters and restaurants, and clean, luxurious apartments within walking distance of all three. They are served by airpads at the top where Skybuses and taxis wait to ferry people between the towers and the suburbs, or even to the lights of New York City itself. Real food is plentiful, and served by smiling humans who are secretly grateful they're not "down there". Utility robots are ubiquitous, carrying out thousands of little tasks, then vanishing into the hidden robot tunnels.

The Districts

Where Arcadia failed, other investors stepped in. They salvaged still-good buildings and construction materials and built walls to keep out the hordes of scavengers and derelicts, and instituted regular security patrols to man the walls. Rent is a lot cheaper than the Towers, but every time someone looks up from the suburbs to the darkly gleaming Towers, they can't help but be reminded that so is their pay.

Apartment buildings have landing pads to serve those who work in the Towers but can't afford the rent. The streets can be walked during the daytime, but a curfew sounds at 9 PM and then skimmers start to patrol - if you're on the street, you'd better have your citizen's ID so you'll just get a warning and a flyover to your home rather than thrown out of the walls.

Districts are generally numbered after the Tower they adjoin, so Magnolia Seven is the 7th suburb next to the Magnolia Tower.

Life inside an apartment building is comfortable. You have real vegetables from the hydroponics in the Works - not just enhanced proteins like the proles, though no one points out the fast food restaurants everywhere that serve up soy substitutes, they're just so convenient. Once a month you can splurge, go out on a date, have a steak and feel like you're living in the Towers. There's chatter everywhere, talk about who's winning in real sports and who's starring in the latest holocast sensation. You don't play VR games, you're too busy having a real life.

Or at least that's what you say in public. In the privacy of your own home, who's going to know when you boot up Avatars or that hot new game, the Gloaming? And in VR, you can have the kind of success you imagine that people in the Tower do - people looking up to you, doing what you tell them to, bringing you the finest food and wine. It's a heady sensation, one that lasts until your head hits the pillow.

And if your dreams sometimes seem to have this odd pixelation-- well, it's hardly worth mentioning tomorrow at work. You don't play VR games. Officially.

The Old City

The Old City is the part of the original North Bend that survived the Ecoclysm. Failing infrastructure, no regular public air transportation, lacksadaisical support from the few utilities companies that are willing to make it out this far, and the encroachments of scavengers and gangs from the Dregs all contribute to making this part of North Bend shrink a little bit every year. If you live in the Old City, you'd better be armed and have your own car to get to the walled-in bus stations - the streets just aren't safe.

Home to the lower middle class - people just above the poverty line. Many people here are employed in the Works as supervisors, guards and maintenance crew, a step up from the line workers and the scavengers.

The Works

Taking up a big corner of North Bend is a big heap of metal that was originally going to be the manufacturing and hydroponics sector that provided all of the arcology's needs. After the near-meltdown disasters, Arcadia abandoned the concept of his own industrial sector as too much trouble - but with all that machinery around, some of the smarter scroungers were able to get enough of them running to start small scale operations, and that led to what is now called the Works.

There's a big field, the Dump. Garbage operations dump the trash there, and scavengers swarm through to pick out anything that can be salvaged or has high value when recycled properly. Junkers swear at them as they work mechanical shovels, scooping up huge loads of what's left, wheeling them around and dumping the rest into the Sludge Pits, where they get melted down and fed into reclaiming pits that break down everything into different kinds of goo, all of them gray. Some gets turned into fertilizer for the high-density soybean farms. Others go to the Factories, and get made into cheap and shoddy consumer goods.

The Works is pretty much a company town. If you work there, you make just enough to get by, and you turn a blind eye to the scavengers that slip a bit of change to the guards so they can try to "strike it rich" off of the gleanings. And at night, you line up for the buses - not Skybuses but old fashioned, unbelievably gas-burning relics - that take you back to the cheap tenements and soup kitchens just outside the walls of the Districts.

But distraction is cheap. You get a discount on all the goods they make here - so pick up that dented VR helmet and jack right into another world.

The Dregs

Outside the fortified suburbs and the Old City are the Dregs, wreckage of the Arcadia Arcology that couldn't be salvaged or sold. Toppled sections of floor serve as primitive windbreaks and roofs, filled in with torn-down billboards. The homes and buildings that weren't demolished are the best intact structures, but they are generally occupied by armed gangsters. Don't cross them - your only chance of getting justice is to appeal to the New Jersey Police Department, a tragically shortstaffed and poorly budgeted agency. No one will pay corporate police to step outside the walls and bust some heads here.

There used to be a lot more people here, "back in the days" - after the Ecoclysm, when refugees poured into North Bend to get shelter. They're mostly gone now, and the pickings are better for those that remain - scavengers and gangsters.

If you're a scavenger, charity soup kitchens serve up a filling (if thin) gruel in the morning and then if you're lucky, there'll be bosses from the Works or the farms calling for workers. If you're not, you get to go diving into the wreckage, or pass a few folded-up New Dollars to a guard to let you into the Dump so you can try to find some actually salvageable goodies. Then you bring these back to the Beach, a shantytown where washed up types will fix what can be fixed and buy them off you. Hopefully you've made enough to buy a cheap mealpak and a beer. Pull the heat tab, eat up, then find someplace to sleep out of the cold rain that's begun to fall - you don't want to be out in that stuff, it'll burn you.

If you're a gangster, you worry a lot more about who really rules the Dregs. Maybe this is a day you go and stake out some of your territory, chasing out interlopers and making sure those scavengers picking over your junk know who's boss. Maybe this is a day to push. Some days you're helping out with the sleaze operations like gambling and electro-drugs, other days picking your teeth off the ground and looking for something to make the pain stop. The idea of quitting and going to the Works never enters your head. That's /going legit/. You're /better/ than that.


Other Locations

Avatars Amusement Park - actually the second park constructed under that name but still in the Greater Los Angeles area. The first one was virtually destroyed by an attack from the terrorist group Fracture. Resembles the city of Tasavalta, surrounded by areas named after important Shards in the Avatars game world.

Palmdale Weapons Testing Grounds - a military base built in the area where the first Avatars amusement park had been. The area has been fenced off and access prohibited for the safety of residents. To all appearance, it's a stretch of barren ground ringed with military buildings and hangars.

Space Colonization

The first space station collapsed and fell out of orbit during the Ecoclysm, digging a huge rift in the earth and causing great damage. A new one was built in the heydays of the 2040s, partially abandoned during the 2050s, and is now being refurbished and expanded to support the asteroid mining operations.

Asteroid miners are minor folk heroes these days - a lot of people agree that it would be interesting to go into space, and that it's brave of these people to undertake the difficult work of going out there to tag and bag asteroids... But actually going there seems like a lot more effort than it'd be personally worth to them to do - so there's a mystique about the ones who go through the intense physical regimen and training needed to carry out the missions.

There's a small colony on the Noon for research purposes, but it doesn't appear likely that it will be expanded much more than that - there aren't many resources on the Moon worth exploiting.

Terraforming projects is under way on both Mars and Venus, operating in very different ways. The Mars Project is under way from the Greater Asian megabloc, a political cooperative dominated by the Republic of China, and has commissioned a number of expeditions to land ice asteroids on Mars which should produce a breathable atmosphere in a few generations. The Venus Project is being undertaken by Children of Earth, a religion preaching that mankind's destiny is among the stars. They have a small research colony on Venus which is seeding the atmosphere with self-reproducing biotechnology to slowly, but surely, transform the ecology into a human-habitable one. Currently the Venus Project has over a thousand lawsuits filed against it to cease and desist its efforts.
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