By Wayne Clayton
In part one we closed by journeying into space, leaving behind the neat and tidy cities of the Concord and hinted at the manmade islands in the black void. This is of course traditionally the domain of the Freeborn, a society in which the very term ‘city planning’ might be rarely uttered. Maybe long ago when their City Ships were first constructed there may have been a uniform blueprint, but as the eons have passed those ships have been radically transformed and so it is very likely no two city ships will look alike.
However, they are likely to have shared some similar modes of development. When approaching one of these islands of humanity the first sight one would encounter would be a mass of starships of all shapes and sizes ‘moored’ in its shadow. The majority of these would be trading ships belonging to all the tribes and factions of Pan Human society. One could imagine a wall, or ring of space wharves and docking bays linked to the city. Beyond that the warehouses where none organics would be placed in compactors, or the shipping containers themselves would be in fact intelligent compactor drones of various sizes, filling the racking like racing pigeons set for release: each container being able to handle its own parcel tracking and paperwork!
For organic produce there would be Tribble-free silos and quarantine cages for more lively goods. Given the Freeborn’s trading nature, custom houses and trading markets would line the docks. Taxes and ‘inducements’ would be paid; goods legal and illegal would be bought and sold.
Further into the city one would enter the entertainment zones. Filled with everything a spacefarer might require to ‘relax’ after a long and maybe lonely space voyage through the Gates of Antares. Catering for all Antarean cultures and tastes which would wash up upon their shores. Hotels, doss-houses and private lodgings for the weary crews who need their shore leave. Indeed some races might wish special conditions in order to survive and so the city would have to provide special districts to cater for their needs. Amongst the vast city-ships, Green spaces and gardens would be plentiful, the more exotic selling tickets so you could take a starlight stroll through the agro park pods with your true love.
These cities would never sleep, set adrift in space there is no day, only night. Those running the city would keep time, controlling the hours of light and dark via a control panel, but each individual quarter or even living space might set their own hours.
There might be also a question of what is up and down: how these cities create gravity will shape their whole structure. The Antarean gravitic drive used for travel through normal space automatically creates a gravity field (or none) that can be balanced in a variety of ways. Whilst most ‘ships’ have a single gravity alignment perpendicular to the ‘base’ of the ship, others have gravity set so that it is always perpendicular to the exterior hull. Still others might have no gravity at all. Therefore in theory such cities might be extended in more than one direction if needs be with the base gravity set accordingly.
At the core of the city would be the original structure and over time this would be built upon, layer on layer. Other ships ending their useful service might well be used as building blocks, repurposed for living quarters. More and more added, of all shapes and colours, from a thousand different worlds.
This poses the question of how one could move around such a city? There could never exist the well ordered communal transports systems of a Concord city. In older Freeborn city ships finding your way from one side to another might well be an impossible task. Therefore there might well be a roaring trade in personal transport and transmats are core to the city-ships existence.
Space taxis and ferries would deliver passengers to airlocks and private jetties on the fringes, or might journey down ‘canals’ into the heart of the city. Whilst corporate transmats would be the favoured transport system, we might find that, but instead of – or in addition to, banks of transmat terminals, market forces might create more ‘private’ establishments. Here, street barkers might woo the customers into their transmat parlours with promises of comfortable waiting rooms and up to date transmat directories – all for a price, of course. However, one might be well advised to pay only after you reach your destination, less you find yourself transported to places best avoided.
You might be thinking now that such cities would be lawless and dangerous places, but we must not forget these are Freeborn cities. In such confined spaces, passions may run high but the Freeborn houses bring law and order to the chaos. It is true that the vast majority of cities and city-ships throughout Freeborn space would be governed by a single House, the most powerful families such as the Oszon or even the Delhren controlling multiple star systems. For such houses, all those aboard have pledged their allegiance and loyalty to that family alone and would obey their laws (most of the time)
But the smaller vardos, those on the fringes of power, might band together to operate a city ship, for the purpose for trade and protection against hostile forces, or from more powerful houses. In these shared cities each vardos would have their own representatives and hold court over certain sectors of that city, or act as a guilds for individual trades and services. Most likely each city will have a council made up of the vards who would appoint a ‘Duke’ to manage the day to day running of the city and mediate between each house when trouble arose.
These shared cities would not be dull: the ‘streets’ and ‘courtyards’ would seldom be monochromatic. Each vardos would make sure visitors to the city were in no doubt which house controlled the sector where they walked: their house colours would be hung everywhere and would adorn the cloaks of the house members too, so you’d know to whom you should be paying respects or bribes.
But not all action would take place in the city. Each vard and doma have their own ‘country’ retreats to escape the noise of the city. These are hidden places, far away from the prying eyes of rival houses, where they would control all that happens. These could be seen as courts, manor houses, or pirate coves. These private retreat would reflect the good taste of their owner, their noble breeding and, of course, their wealth to any who visited them. Here, the less salubrious aspects of the family business will be well hidden away elsewhere.
Finally we must consider how such a city might be defended. Most ships would be expected to have shielding and armour, although the great size and irregular shape of a city ship might prove an issue, unless all the sections of the jigsaw puzzle had been successfully integrated. Weapon towers might be seen, but might not always be used for that purpose until alarms sound. Each city will have a fleet of ships of its own, or in cases of house shared cities they may call upon the Freeborn Houses to combine their smaller fleets forces to defend the city if attacked. But one would suspect very few would be capable, or foolish enough to attack a city ship, although they might be more successful in winning control of such ships through shrewd politics rather than brute strength, physical conflict possibly resulting in the total destruction of a city rather than its capture.
By Wayne Clayton