Teddy Hubble's Account of Estanzione
In the town’s central spire was its seat of governance, and from there hallways spread out in a myriad directions, horizontally and vertically. An amazing tactic of construction had been employed to fit the hills and valleys in a way that made the town seem to move across not only space, but also time, for the buildings were also a patchwork of historic and the most contemporary constructions, and all out of the most fantastic of materials, the reasons for which can be described momentarily. Indeed, the arrangement of the place was quite amazing to witness, if somewhat difficult to recall in its entirety with only the aid of memory and language.
As I said, the central spire was the seat of governance, and it was also the only location to use accessible vertical storage in the entire city. During my researches, I was fortunate enough to have some access to the viewing decks near the top of this central building. If not for the viewing decks, placed neatly about the various zones of the city, it would be easy to assume that this labyrinthian palace-metropolis were indeed a disorganized and impossible mess. From the upper levels, though, I witnessed a great deal of construction and commotion, and also gained a much stronger sense of this people’s principles of organization. Organization, indeed, was this people’s strongest principle. It superceded notions of commodity and ownership, and arguably that of personal comfort, for so much was shared among these people that to one not already accustomed to the close living necessitated aboard an interdimensional vessel, it would be entirely unbelievable.
Rather than keep individual allotments of every type of useful item and necessity of living, or even to centralize storage of all objects of a similar type and provide equitable portions and access, the hallways which interconnected the buildings of the city functioned not only as safe passage during inclement weather, but also as the town’s markets, galleries, libraries, tool shops, and museums. Various kinds of storage racks, shelving, nooks, and crannies were used to house items of nearly every type. A most-singular system of identification tagging allowed for nearly every item in the city to be catalogued upon import or creation, after which it was simply placed on a shelf, similarly tagged with a unique identifier, and the locations stored in a high-speed data network which could be accessed from anywhere in the city. There was hardly a fear of theft, for the sheer abundance of materials made stealing an object more obnoxious to thieves than to those who obeyed the law, the latter of which were frequently going out of their way to return an item when a courier was not available. The couriers I must also wait to discuss in order to better address why thieving quickly became an inoperable activity.
The remaining buildings of height were all used for gathering and small-scale production on their lower levels. These were of mostly either two or three stories. Each gathering space varied as to its equipment on the lower levels, and that equipment was informed in turn by the materials on view in the hallways which accessed the gathering spaces. Like the materials in the hallways, no one claimed ownership of the gathering spaces. Each was furnished variably with couches, desks, data terminals, communal kitchen equipment, or materials for processes which were more difficult to keep mobile, such as bicycle repair, welding shops, medical care, and textile and paper-making operations.
In the rooms above these workshops were apartments that could be rented or assigned to individuals or teams for varying lengths of time, mostly based on season, skill level, available apprenticeships, existing networks of family and labor, and political friendships. The general trend among those who lived in the city was to take residency in those spaces nearest the tools and supplies that related to the task at hand. Over time, certain boroughs of the city became well-known for housing individuals of strength and skill in particular areas, such as cuisine or painting or material production, and contributing to this was both a desire for efficiency in labor and a laziness in wanting to restore items from recently completed tasks to locations far out of way from their next place of residency and labor. Nevertheless, mischief, ennui, general retooling, and generational shifts led to a great dynamic between historic areas of craftsmanship and regions of shifting development. Because the impracticality of thieving—simply attributable to the fact that places to store anything like a possession was virtually unknown—could not outweigh the tendency to create interruption and trouble, the only act of stealing was simply to intentionally misplace items or create strange piles and sculptures of otherwise useful materials. Thus thieves became artists in their own right, and there was always a certain joy which came with discovering such a sculpture of stolen goods, except from perhaps the most orthodox of the society.
In order to maintain a proper record and even distribution of items in the city and a certain kind of orderliness and hygiene in the workspaces, the greatest number of civic jobs was to be had as a kind of courier, librarian, and steward of the hallways, though the total number of these positions was still fractional as compared to the total of other labors carried out in the city. The period of employment for this position was typically four to ten years, based solely on personal choice and merit. Couriers frequently ranged in age from their early twenties to thirties, though some librarians of minor legend had managed to keep their positions until late in life, when they would finally retire to the central tower to write out a longer dissertation or create a final major performance.
Couriers were most commonly bicyclers, skateboarders, and distance runners, but also following their terms they served frequently as acrobats and circus performers, owing to the great deal of mobility required by their temporary professions. Despite the narrowness and pitch of many hallways roofs, it was not uncommon for a courier in a hurry to deliver a piece to its needed location by scurrying to the top of a hallway, asking a passerby to toss a bicycle upward, and then pedal miles across the town in mere moments.
Couriers lived in a makeshift style during their employment, though no rules required such behavior. They had a kind of micro-village of bicycle-driven carts and larger tents which they would pitch in the courtyard spaces created by the series of hallways and gathering spaces. Since they were charged with the nightly task of cleaning and filing all specialty equipment, including musical instruments, their camps were nightly a center of dance and revelry. They sometimes would be joined by the thieves, which is probably the cause of the frequent rumoring that many of the couriers were themselves the thieves. In actuality, there was little distinction to be drawn between the groups except that one set made items easier to find according to a set standard of cataloguing methods, and the other party chose to negate that system entirely. To those in-between, who could neither catalogue items nor bring themselves to intentionally misplace them, only their rather forgiving search tools and data engines empowered them to accomplish anything at all. For them, the hand of Zeus was always at play.
Since labor was not the only dedicated task of the society, but education in the sciences and humanities as well, scholarly programs were an important part of daily life. Because so much leisure time was available for free construction or accomplishment of nearly any project, though, it was often difficult to find someone capable of instruction who was willing to separate from the task at hand. Outside of apprenticeships, which could only accomplish so much in the realms of historical knowledge and philosophical thought. For these tasks, it was frequent for Estanzione to solicit researchers from other states and worlds. A researcher could come at any age, but it was frequently preferred that the children of outsiders, not yet acclimated to some other standard of living, be groomed to a position of research. If a natural aptitude and inclination could not be found in such a child, it was left to its own devices as much as any other child whose descent was native to the city. Otherwise, early education and play were slowly shaped to bring a natural researcher to fruition.
The first schooling of researchers was to serve in the courier service, so that they might become familiar with the real pulse of the city, seeing all of its parts working in their loose but undeniable conjunctions. Those researchers who had not served terms as couriers, as well as for those who scholars who came to visit and study the city at an older age, it was required that they live far from the central spire where most research was conducted, so that they might learn more about the city by traveling further through its halls then most, thereby encountering the greatest number of people engaged in the various labors carried out in the city. This positioning earned the common nickname of the Ambitious, since they so frequently were seen walking about at the beginning, middle, and end of their days.
Owing to the frequency with which couriers were also able to handle a great number and variety of objects, they usually became moderately skilled with an inspiring number of tools and materials. There were even seasonal festivals centered around competitions related to couriers combined ability to travel quickly and knowledge of many materials’ uses and locations. Some of these games were based on using the most disparate tools conjoined by location and others were principled on gathering the greatest amount of materials from the most disparate and difficult to reach sections of the town. The games required an efficiency of mind and body that could not be paralleled in many lands, and of those places where such mental and physical attributes had been cultivated in a select group, a tendency toward warring had blown a good many of those stellar individuals to the heavens.
The prize competition in this city, however, was indeed great, for the winners from each years’ smaller competitions would come together for a battle royale once every three years, and sometimes up to seventy participants would sprawl across the city over the course of a month, gathering up tools and resources and constructing masterworks to be judged by a panel of affluent losers from those who had participated in the great competition of years’ past, yet lost. Though it would seem counterintuitive to have those who had not won a great competition judge the winner amongst a newer generation, it was a generally-held belief among the citizens that, having been relatively great themselves, and having encountered such greatness in the performance and products of those who had won out against them, no better judge could possibly be obtained in the city. This is so, for the winner of every great competition was granted the opportunity to board a polychron ark and venture to new worlds, whatever fate might hold for them.
It was by way of one of these competitions that I became the first foreigner to participate and also, therefore, the first foreigner to win and actually leave Estanzione.