Think You’ll Love Living In A Flying Utopia? Guess Again, Schmuck!
Congratulations! You’ve made it. After years of grifting, grafting and flawlessly executed, unscrupulous cyberpunk shenanigans, you’re indescribably wealthy and can slip the surly bonds of earth to join us on board our fortress in the sky.
Don’t worry about the plebs. They’ve all been left on the pollution laden, ruined planet below. You’re with us now. Come and enjoy your new life of hedonist indulgence.
Sky cities are a fairly common trope in cyberpunk literature, movies and (depending on budget) TV series. They’re an inaccessible stronghold where the amoral elite can pursue lives of pleasure unburdened by the humdrum everyday nonsense which ordinary people need to deal with.
They’re also a symbol of moral decay and the inhumanity of man towards his fellow man, an example of the callousness of wealth, and invariably, an obstacle the cyberpunk protagonist needs to penetrate and subvert in order to advance the plot.
Much of the action in Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon takes place on a flying brothel with the excellent and puntastic title “Head in The Clouds.” Battle Angel Alita has the elite living the high life in the floating city of Zalem, staging murder fights while raining their garbage onto the poor and unfortunate ground dwellers below. In the cyberpunk literary genre, it’s impossible to swing a cat without accidentally slamming it into a passing urban centre cruising at 30,000 feet.
But what’s life going to be like on board? Join us on the poop deck and we’ll show you around.
Your Health Will Suck
Living a mile or so up in the sky has to be good for your health, right? There’s the clean, bracing, rarefied air, free of the pollution and smog pumping out from the megacities below. There are no filthy plague-carrying poor people to pass their diseases on to you. Essentially, our flying utopia is an enclosed ecosystem and no illness can affect you up here. You’ll live a long and happy virus-free life, before dying of extreme old age at the age of 200. Or that’s what we like to say in the sales brochure at least.
In reality, it’s a bit like the cruise ships of the 20th and 21st centuries. Or the plague ships of the 18th and 19th. There’s no real way of preventing sick people coming aboard, especially if they own property up here. Well yes, we could try and persuade our residents to self-quarantine if they’ve been somewhere particularly risky or if they know they’ve been exposed to a pathogen, but do you remember how well that worked back in the early 2020s? It’s a non-starter.
We operate a closed air system on board because the actual air is too thin for humans to breathe, unless you’ve spent your earthbound life living in the high Andes. Did you live in the high Andes? No, I didn’t think so.
So yeah. We’re all breathing the same air, which means that if one person gets sick everyone gets sick.
That smell, sir? It’s just a new variant of Norovirus which arrived last month. It’s currently working its way through G deck, and I’m sure it will be with you in the next 12 to 48 hours.
On the other hand, it could be yet another Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak. They’re endemic to environments with enclosed potable water systems. But on the plus side, they ensure a healthy turnover of luxury apartment leases as our residents pass on. You’ll get used to it soon enough. The bathroom is just through that door.
You’ll Be Bored Out of Your Skull
Of course, you’ll want to take advantage of all the amenities your new city offers.
We have sixteen cinemas, four bowling alleys, an ice rink, a multipurpose sports field and several swimming pools. Well yes, of course that’s it. There limited space on board and it’s not like a regular earthbound city. You can’t simply build a new mall or bowling alley on the outskirts of town. You’d fall off the edge. Good joke, sir!
No. All facilities were laid down in the architectural drawings by our community’s designers, and can’t be changed without a major refit in drydock. That’s generally something we try to avoid as it’s a logistical nightmare and takes decades to complete.
You’re not a fan of sports or movies? Not a problem. No floating city would be complete without regularly scheduled gladiatorial matches between genetically enhanced elite warriors brought up from the surface specifically for your pleasure. And if sir feels the need to relax afterwards, of course we have an escort service which can cater to any orientation. Or dare I even say deviancy?
Our network connectivity is second to none sir. Although there is a little latency with the satellite relays, and weather conditions do have an effect on bandwidth.
Perhaps if sir wanted to simply jack in and jack off, he should have stayed on the ground.
No, there aren’t any opportunities for long walks on the beach. However, might I recommend a stroll on the promenade deck? You’ll need to wrap up warm though, it’s -20 degrees outside.
There Will Always Be A Permanent Underclass Which Hates You
Oh no sir, there’s absolutely no need to worry about safety. Your new home runs of the newest state-of-the-art-yet-to-be-invented engines, which keep it virtually motionless under your feet. It is absolutely not going to crash to the ground any time soon. Haha.
The engines are tended night and day by mechanics who live and work belowdecks in the engine rooms themselves.
No, of course you won’t see them. They’re not allowed up into the spaces you will want to spend your time. No, you won’t see the waiting staff when they’re off duty either. Or the cleaners.
Because they can’t afford a luxury apartment like yours, naturally. Workers outnumber residents by at least two to one. There simply wouldn’t be space without building on the tennis courts.
Resentment? I’m quite sure I don’t know what you mean. They have a bunk to sleep in, they’re fed and at the end of their contracts, they’re transported back to the wasteland at cost to avoid cutting into their meager paychecks.
No sir, we haven’t had any mutinies, rebellions or uprisings for at least the last six months. And they’re quite happy without unions.
Dude, you know The Food will Suck
The food? You’re asking about the food? Sir, we’re on a 200,000 tonne flying citadel circling the planet by means completely incomprehensible to the cave dwellers of the early 21st century, and you’re asking about the food.
Naturally, you’re concerned about what you’ll be eating on a day to day basis, which is why I can assure you with full confidence that you will simply adore the food in all 271 of our restaurants.
All of the ingredients are fresh, and grown here on board in our vertical farms.
Oh no, sir, we couldn’t have animals on board. They take up far too much space, and there’s a danger of diseases mutating and evolving to infect humans. We already have quite a menagerie of infections I can assure you.
No, it’s not just vegetables. We have a variety of meat substitutes too.
Fungus, soya, tofu. You’ll never tell the difference.
You Will Hate Your Neighbors
Of course, you’ll be wanting to get to know your neighbors. Across the boulevard in the unit with the tastefully cast bronze animatronic alligators, there’s Mr. Pruitt. He’s the reclusive CEO of the Pruitt multinational conglomerate which controls all gene manipulation and life extension technologies. Next door to him, in the crystal is Madam Yoland who owns a monopoly on all of the migrant sex workers trading in the African Union.
You won’t see much of her. And situated immediately towards the stern is Senor Estaban, trillionaire and former President of the Western European Block. You might encounter him about and about with his bodyguards every once in a while.
No sir, I wouldn’t invite yourself over to introduce yourself. These are all very nervous people. You need to consider the amount of wealth it takes to secure a property aboard our good ship, and the kind of things one might need to do in order to acquire that wealth. It seldom makes one very popular. Senor Estaban in particular is wanted by Interpol and the security agencies of seven different sovereign nations. He’s a little skittish around strangers.
That noise? Ah, that would be the temporary headquarters of a zirconium startup . They’re what used to be known as ‘tech bros’ and they rent rather than own their property outright. We have talked to them about the noise, but they simply will not stop partying. By all means, feel free to have a word if you think it will do any good.
“Rich assholes” is probably not the phrase I would use to describe your new neighbors, sir. Although, I take your point.
How did sir afford his new home?
You’re Only One Cyberpunk Revolutionary away from Crashing to The Ground
You’ll need to excuse for a moment, sir, my internal alarm system tells me I need to make my way to the armory, and you should probably take the opportunity for some rest and recuperation in the excursion pod located in the cupboard of the master bedroom.
No, it’s nothing to worry about. We seem to have intruder in the navigation suite and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Not to worry, the auto-defence turrets will be able to subdue her without too much difficulty.
From what I can tell from the security footage, she seems to be wearing an armored trenchcoat, and she’s carrying a Katana style sword, which she is deploying with some skill and abandon on the chief nav officer, the assistant nav officer, and the dinner lady.
Oh dear sir, she’s using the captain’s hand to override security, and angling the city towards the Great Pacific Garbage patch.
No, I don’t know what she wants, she isn’t speaking much.
What do you mean, “That sounds like her? Do you know this person?”
She’s your disgruntled former partner who has dedicated her existence to hunting down the people who ripped her off?
That’s you isn’t it sir.
Might I suggest you make your way to the evacuation pod immediately. I’ll join you.
All of a sudden I realize how much of a consumer I am because the entire time I’m reading that, I’m like, “That! I want that!” Of course I realize I will never get that, since I will always be a ground-dwelling pleb.