Pan Urban City Planning: 2 – The Nomads

In the first part of this series, Wayne Clayton asked the question ‘What does each faction’s buildings look like?’ and began to answer it for the IMTel nations. Here, he continues with the Freeborn and Boromites. Whilst not canon, they do form a really good framework for thinking about such modelling.

The Freeborn City-Ships

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 aeons 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 non 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.

The Boromite Guilds and Mining Towns

Whilst the Freeborn have little use for the term ‘City Planning’, the Boromites might go a step further and have little use for actual cities as we might understand them. They may well build them for other societies in Antarian space, but with a culture who busy themselves moving from job to job, ‘home’ is very much a loose term: ‘workers towns’ might be closer to the mark. These would vary in size, depending on the scale of the job at hand. Plus, they would be a rotation of inhabitants as some parts of the job finished and new skills were required later. So the footprint of such a worker’s camp might be in constant flux over the period of the build.

Maybe the best way to view the ‘city’ would be to follow the course of the job at hand. The first to arrive would be the ‘planners’ and ‘ground breakers.’ These would be brought in by passenger, merchant or cargo ships, most likely operated by the Freeborn, either contracted by those who commissioned the work, or paid for by the Boromite Guilds themselves.

One might expect the first ‘units’ to appear would be a ‘site office’ complex. By ‘units’ we would foresee multi-purpose buildings acting both as site offices and homes for their workers. With compactor technology, transforming the functions and furnishings of a room would be made easy, plus the Boromite units would be designed to be easily broken down and reassembled, not unlike a travelling fair, or circus.

With the ‘site office’ established at its heart, then comes the ground breakers and work gangs to form form the core of the living sections. These maybe made up one or several Boromite Guilds, depending on the size of the job. Each Guild would be allotted their own section, made up of one or more units and these, in turn, would be integrated into the larger camp via temporary roads, pressure sealed walkways, or even underground tunnels, depending on the environment in which they are working.

This first wave may well be made up entirely of male workers, especially if the job is seen as taking only a short period of time. Whole family units would only join them if the timescale is longer.

Once the workers and families are on site, provision has to be made to feed them. Again this might be a task fulfilled by one or more guilds or most likely subcontracted to the Freeborn. One might see Haulers converted into  Boromite Burger Vans, bars and hardware stores would appear overnight. With bars, comes trouble. A site manager would have to organize the guilds to manage their gangs closely with their own gang masters to keep order in the camp city. Such a peace contingent is most likely staffed by the Boromites themselves, few others in Antarean space able to cope with their physical size and strength.

For the most part the guilds would rarely interact outside of the work place, but along with the bars there may well be other distractions which might cause tensions. With Boromites come their animals, if the environment allows. Kennels and stables might well be erected throughout the camp, either close to the guild habitats, or on the fringes of the site. We know the Boromites take great pride in their pets and will want to show them off. So temporary race tracks, or even lavamite pits might be built to provide entertainment and maybe even the odd wager might be placed on the winner of such events.

But of course work will always come first in the Boromite mind. Transport routes to and from the ‘coal face’ would be swiftly laid. If the work consisted of mining then lift shafts would appear. The Boromite worker may well prefer a more traditional lift to a transmat in places where the local geology might interfere with the transmat technology, fearful they might end up encased in solid rock if a roof collapsed. In such environments, underground haulers would travel down subterranean tunnels to the rock face. In ideal conditions, however, industrial transmats would speed the removal of ore to the surface for processing and from there to the orbiting ore ships.

These tunnels may well be exploited if the work takes place on an asteroid or moon and would be an integral part of the town, with little surface evidence of what might be underground. This would be particularly useful if the work been carried out is more clandestine in nature. Where the Boromites are working in an asteroid field, there might be connecting structures between objects, perhaps even bridges or sealed walkways.

All Boromite townships would have landing pads and communication towers, possibly part of the site office, to handle supply shuttles, and major transmat sites near compactor warehouses are common.

Once the work is completed then the guilds would either move on to the next job, or return to a ‘winter home’ which would be kept by a skeleton crew while the guild were away. This is a base of operations from where the Guild Mother rules. These would be smaller than the camp towns and well hidden. Instead of bars, the Boromite settlement would have the Guild Mother’s own living quarters at its heart. This might well include a grand hall for social functions, business meetings or use as a war room should the need arise. But even this home could be broken down and abandoned should the worse happen: anything that couldn’t be carried with them would be left behind.

Some of the guilds who could boast lines stretching back to Borom itself may be lucky enough to have possession of ancient guild ships, effectively home ships, though on a much smaller scale than the Freeborn and orbital facilities of the great Isorian and Concord IMTel.

As for defence, all Boromites know their tools double as weapons, and so too do their transports, ships and even their homes, which may well be one and the same thing. Perhaps the greatest threat to a camp city is if two rival guilds arrive at the same time expecting to do the same job. Or worse, if when payday comes one gets paid more than another.

If so expect a riot.

By Wayne Clayton

Continued in Part 3 – The War Societies


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