6 - The Empire

“Holy mackerel, that fellow hit me with a fish!”

“Has anyone seen my children? I meant to auction them off today, but now they seem to have run away... ”

These are the snatches of conversations one would hear if they were to fly quickly from the Observer’s current position, back to the node, follow the C-rail through the scrublands, over a touch of jungle and beach, and into the coastal city of Sodden, specifically the Market and Soliciting district.

“Really Officer, one man’s smack on the head is another’s memory therapy. Surely, you know alternative medicine is all the rage here in Sodden”

“You hear about the thief who meant to rob the jewelry emporium, and ended up in a bakery? I guess he got just desserts…”

“The casino? It’s that way. Or that way. Or any way really. Walk for a hundred meters and you’ll bump your fat nose on one surely.”

“I woke up face down in the pool. The desk attendee had given me a snorkel, thankfully. That’s the last time I drink at the swim-up.”

“I’ve just come from the chicken races. Never knew chickens got so big, or people so small”

“Uh, Monk Pium Septus, is that you? Where are your robes of the ardent acolyte? Where did you get those casino chips and, uh, that neck tattoo? Hey, come back here!”

Gossip and intrigue floated lustfully among the storied spires, and slightly sinking plazas of the ancient city. Thought to be thoroughly the unholiest place in Greater Jard, with coincidentally the most places of worship, each aiming to drive the average back up. Some are noted here, randomly cho sen from the looping videolet, foldable for convenience, _The Pilgrim’s Guide to Sodden_ (Flip over for _The_ _Sinner’s Selections_ )

The Sacred Condemnation of Elation seeks to eliminate living for today, as enlightenment will come tomorrow.

The Enlightened Brotherhood of Y’umm finds insight and wisdom through trance induced by vigorous, unparalleled feasting.

The Preeminent Protectorate of the Codices of Zadd are a mysterious sect, self appointed curators of the artifacts and codices of Zadd, whatever those are.

The Church of the Transcendent Silence are followers of the Prophet Sh’sh, who teaches us that true spiritual enlightenment is found only in the true absence of sound.

The Atonement of the Idle Hands suggest that all time should be spent working in the service of God, and everlasting paradise will be yours.

The Holy Chastisement of Sodden seeks to list and denounce the moral abbreviations of the City. The church is based on a core set of tenants, unchanged in thousands of years, and surely completely unfit with which to judge the present

The Humble Chapter of Splendid Virtue is a misleading name, as this congregation seeks to find enlightenment through the consuming of the forbidden flesh, for now entirely from natural deaths. Many unfortunate misunderstandings have occurred for pilgrims without this key bit of knowledge.

The Righteous Steeple of Heavenly Direction feel strongly that the answer lies among the stars, surely, though what one should look for, well that is up for debate. And as for which questions the answers are for; this is something theologians have been savagely debating for centuries.

The Divine Practicers of Excellent Bookkeeping are a small sect of zealots who find solace and elation in excruciating and minute detail. It will do pilgrims well to remember, if they offer to audit you for free, they are talking about more than just your finances.

The Congregation of Moral Navigation seeks to conform Sodden to a set of moral tenants by infiltrating elected offices and other positions of power. Generally, they have problems with sticking to the moral tenants as soon as members get a taste of power.

The Techno-Cult Synthtica is more or less another dance club, the pious seek to find enlightenment through feverish melodies and pounding baselines, writhing to the sound of scientific progress. Bonus points to those who are willing to tax their mental capacities with wild and experimental ChemAR creations.

Not that the native Soddenites minded all the parties, the religious bells and the hubbub. The locals did quite well. There were enough vices and spices (and offering plates) in Sodden to keep the rest of Greater Jard heavy in head and light in wallet for a very long time.

Best to leave that city alone for now.

If you were to keep traveling and leave the city immediately, a remarkable feat few attempted and fewer accomplished, you would find again the C-rail system, the bloodline of Greater Jard. You’d travel up the coastline, though robbed of any view due to serious jungle coverage , and then emerge to the gorgeous foot-hilled and beachous region known as Monkey’s Back with its serene fishing, hospitality and wind-farming villages, Breezedale, Coddance, Sunny Disposition , Pillow Frith and Devil’s Bile. The Monkey’s Back region is a popular tourist destination . For the precious few with expendable income and time, villas and vistas could be available. Small grid docks and C-rail stops served the numerous working class visitors, most of whom could stay no longer than a brief respite.

Following the C-rail again, away from the coast, you’d begin to see the experimental farms of Rimm. Rimm, of course, was dominated by the ancient company Ac ropolis, the farming corporation where bright minds and tanned labourers, sometimes one and the same, toiled together in the race for patented edibles. The same fields had been worked for a thousand and some years, ruins of ancient infrastructure visible amongst the rows of produce. There were promising fields filled with cabbages, but also dusty graveyards of failed banana experiments. In recent years, the pursuit of the banana had become akin to alchemy of gold, some dismissed it folly, while still others searched fruitlessly for a solution. In the middle of the numerous fields, a massive box-home grid provided contract labourers (on the bottom) and agricultural prodigies (on the top) a place to rest between days. It was a place of dirty hands and furrowed fields AND brows, a place you’d just as soon move on from.

Our next stop, Old Jardinian, is the crown jewel of the six cities, or seven major metropolitan areas of Greater Jard. **** Greater Jard **** itself is less of an autonomous nation, and more of a loose collection of trade agreements, extradition treaties, and shared infrastructure, namely the C-rail. Old Jardinian is half surrounded by the fields of Rimm, and the other by lake Halcyon and the shimmering falls that feed it. In Old Jardinian, there are a ncient domes, columns and spires, twice as impressive as Sodden (thrice if you talk to any Jardinian) . These architectural bastions of a golden age past are juxtaposed with boxhome grid-docks, the inescapable C-rail system , and uncountable modern extensions . The city hums with excitement and return of great progress. As we zoom over the city, we will notice the narrow streets and timeless ornate buildings giving way to a grand pedestrian thoroughfare bracketed by statues to the modern heroes of industry.

The massive statues, spaced evenly down the boulevard featured each a prominent member of the industrialist caste. The statues were scaled up by a factor of about twenty-five, each with a robust base. The plaques at the bottom of each proclaimed the gift of invention that their remarkably smaller, though substantially more active likeness had bestowed upon the Old Jardinian.

There were only 20 statues on the boul’; old heroes were quickly forgotten in the face of scientific and technological progress. If anything, the people loved exciting new products. The old statues were removed, and replaced at a rate that reflected more or less, the social standing in the industrialist caste. One didn’t want to live to see one’s own statue fall, signaling a descent into regretful obscurity.

An example of one of these grand golden visions - with description as might be available in an augmented guide for those tourists with means AND style -

​​H. Levent - Visionary industrialist behind the levitating C-rail initiative that spanned the seven cities and, dare we gush, ushered in the modern era of delightful productivity.

Now we must leave the statues alone for a while. We pass the ornate columns and gardens of the University of Spuria, and then we look towards the great lake at the Northern end of the city and the waterfalls that feed it. The residents of this Great and storied city refer to this direction as fall-ward, as the view is dominated by these gargantuan falls and the mist they produce.

Tourists throng the quay facing lake Halcyon and the falls. They pose for memory recordings and buy souvenir shirts. Children trail teachers in columns, hitched together like grapes with their classmates, as they navigate the foremost field trip destination in the area. Near this quay facing the great lake, a single cable travels over the lake, up the falls, and connects with a platform behind the waterfall. Above the waterfall, there is an ancient temple complex. It perches on some islands that inhabit the basin above the falls.

There is a transparent dome-like structure built upon and out of the foundations of the ancient temple. On the hour, an ancient cable-car travels up the length of cable, over and through the mists and the falls, from Old Jardinian to a platform that connects, through the waterfall, with the temple complex . Most days, mists obscure the end of the cable, the temple ruins, and the domed structure itself from viewers on the quay in Old Jardinian. Most of the Old Jardinian denizens aren’t looking anyway.

There is also a Jard called Archie Sandalwood. He is a boxhome dweller, like many Jards. He has lived close to the Old Jardinian end of the cable, a hundred meters or so away from the cable termin ad in fact, off and on for the better part of ten years. Not once has he seen anyone patronize the antique cable-car. In fact, before today, the last passenger to traverse the length of cable had undertaken the journey more than a thousand years previous.

Generally, the temple complex and transparent dome are not spoken about.

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