Shabra looks at Renyke. The Robodog jumps onto the car roof barking excitedly.
'What now Mr Renyke?
Out of the enclosure, there is a crossroads.
The left turn goes back onto the street where the bank was. It is dangerous, especially at night, because gangs of criminals take control of the streets in convoys of vehicles running drugs and weapons.
The *Urchs control the Zones with violence and the offer of protection. They are empowered by gangs of decommissioned drones under their control. Criminal humans at the helm have created an organised crime network. Anarchy prevails and there is no official system of state policing or philanthropic social care. Dog eat dog is the only expectation.
Despite this, there is an underclass of Urchs who are very happy. They have been able to carve out an existence in the *Zones where colour, dance and music are their pleasures. They smoke nibs and party all the time. They are mostly nomadic living in temporary movable homes. Many have pop-up tents that fold onto pouches or vehicles they have fashioned from old wreckages. The *lowers, a term used for this underclass of people, recycle everything and wear brightly coloured clothes made from the landfill sites beyond Zone 3.
There is a network of tunnels under all the zones from the now unused underground trains.
Some of the tunnels are better than others in terms of safety and usability. Some areas are used as habitats. The territory and ownership of tunnel zones is fiercely fought over and protected.
There is no downtime in the Zones. Many businesses run all night because when they close they are vulnerable to robbery, arson, or take over. Market traders sell their wares using shift workers and can pack their goods away quickly when there are battles between the gangs.
Flex is an Urch and was born in the zones.
Right is the savanna. It is safer from the gangs but there are other dangers, wild animals, noxious substances from old mines, and low flying craft from the official police trying to keep the greenbelt around the Midcast projects clear.
The ground was heavily polluted after the Russia/China wars. The habitat is overrun in places with scritters and mutated farm animals who were exposed to these dangerous substances making their heads and teeth massive. They are also extremely aggressive and will eat human flesh whenever they can.
There are caves where there is safety from the animals and there are connecting wet tunnels and lagoons but these have never been mapped correctly. Word of mouth is the only reference.
There are tribes of people from the savanna who have made their homes there but are rarely seen. They are deemed reasonably placid as they have never caused any trouble elsewhere. They are rumoured to be shy, excellent hunters, highly superstitious and have been thought to possess witchlike powers.
There is an urban myth that an old centre for strategic warfare lies beneath the savanna and that the tribes who live there, with access to hi-tech equipment, scramble satellite information allowing them to be hidden.
The road ahead leads directly back to the Midcast Projects from where Renyke originally came.
Beyond the projects are the government departments, airports, factories and centres of information. Further still are the palaces and homes of the very wealthy. The Midcasts are medium to high wage earners, professionals and academics.
The way that mainstream society is structured in the present is based on a capitalist idea of perfection: consistent innovation, counteracting labour fallout due to advancing technology by placating a keen and able workforce, and protecting the ownership of the means of production for as few empowered individuals or corporations as possible.
There is very little opportunity for upward social mobility. Hard work and study will create a good life for families but becoming wealthy or powerful requires access to the means of production. Governments and landowners are careful not to allow ordinary workers and lower professionals access to these avenues of power and control.
The biggest means of production is the internet and interactive media. Both are tightly controlled by a group of related conglomerates, most of whom made their fortune through the production of weapons and vaccines.
Downtime for workers is spent in the VR cafes where 'immersers' can get drunk, have sex, take a swim on holiday and even murder people during their coffee breaks.
RR, real reality, is frowned upon as anti-intellectual and subnormal.
But some Midcasters have abandoned their lives for RR and have gone to the outer zones to seek fulfilment. For these people, RR is their calling or obsession. Others, like Renyke, find that their continued presence in the Midcast Projects is dangerous or compromised.