A footnote, because there's no smooth way to mention this in-story; the box around the Heart of Infinity is full of sand. It's been in there harmlessly swapping the positions of individual sand grains around ever since the Corps sealed it in there.
✧ Why the invitation? Have you switched sides?
❖ *sigh* Something like that. Nothing has gone my way here. This is not the vehicle I wanted to use to return to Elseways, but the Empire let me use this back door.
⎈ Yeah, the one they stole from me years ago and sent here to spy on us. But now we're here to fix it.
🧬 They're not good at thinking outside their walls and their rules, but we have ways of sensing what they never cared about and never could.
⎈ We're going to complete my old project.
Still not 100% sure about the next few pages of the story (I know how it ends, just not how to get there), so in the meantime here's another Elseways citizen.
Marcia Waltz (part of the Waltz family of multi-headed canids) is a comedian and singer at the Diamond Heart Club in Polywood. She often appears on stage with Marco, but her solo stand-up act is one of the most popular shows they put on. She's a common guest on TV shows as well, where her quick wit and talent for improvisation shine.
A design I was playing with over the weekend for the official city ID card. Every citizen gets one. The gray rectangle stands in for a photo, the white band beneath it for a signature, and I'll explain later what the little white squares are later. The shield-M thing shows that she has Moderator privileges (it would've been a Corps logo, but she's officially parting ways with them after this storyline).
I'll be continuing the story later, but I thought I'd do this sketch of BJ's species (both uncle and nephew) with a kind of generic uninvolved third party. I've been thinking of them as ringtails, but they're not quite. They're their own thing that's partway between a lot of mammals in a kind of feline/procyonid/mustelid hybrid way. If you look up "sand cats", they've got that same coloration, but they're not cats.
Maybe I could just call them "ringoids".
The bands around his ankles and wrists have numbers and distinctive patterns, both for his own sake and anyone else's; it's a lot easier for someone to say "could you move hand number eleven, it's near my plate" than to come up with an unambiguous way to refer to "third left hand in the second row" or whichever.
Twelve heads, twenty-four arms, twelve legs, twelve tails. Not exactly a full times-twelve across the board, but close enough, and you can imagine what a mess his insides must be. And this whole mass has a single mind controlling all of it, getting an order of magnitude more sensory information than normal, which took a lifetime to adjust to. But it's a sensation he wouldn't change for anything. Learning to handle the overload has been well worth it for a body that capable.
Question for the artists of fedi: is there a good way to compose a small, circular user icon showing all three of my heads, ideally without cropping off ears?
I don't think there's a good way to crop my current one to do it, but I would like to be wrong about that. Failing that, is it possible with a purpose-made piece?
✧ This is our party assembled, then. Glad you made it safely.
🧬 It looks different than last time. The mouth is open, the antennas are retracted, even the eyes look closed…
⎈ Leave it to the Empire to give us a spot-the-differences puzzle.
🧬 …wasn't expecting that.
✧ Do you think it's some kind of trap?
⎈ When the Empire lies to someone they make it clear they could be. What about this Fresnel guy?
✧ I see no reason he would lie to us either…
🧬 …Well. Here we are. Take us in.
⊶ Supplemental note:
Elseways has no significant hydrocarbon resources. There is no oil here, and we have no ability to manufacture petroleum-based plastic. Bio-plastics are just as good and can just go back into the big bioreactors beneath the city (the same ones Vivid crawled out of). All of our vehicles are electric. This seems sustainable long-term, although I do wonder if, as the city grows, the upkeep costs of the bioreactors will get worse at a faster rate.
…We don't have the level of skills or talent that a planet of billions would. Luckily cross-world bandwidth is cheap, so we can keep bringing in books, movies, video games, and whatever else we want from places with more population than ours. I'm glad for the Polywood studios, but they're small-time compared to the kinds of globe-spanning industries I've seen in other worlds.
* Water. There's an ocean nearby and the desalinization plant in Aqua Town will keep running as long as it's powered. No issue there.
As far as I can tell, that's it. All essentials to keeping a city running, but of course it's not a complete list of everything anyone could want. We still ship in metal; there are no mines here, and recycling only covers a fraction of demand. We're also mostly reliant on other worlds for entertainment. A city of half a million sounds like a lot, but… (3/4)
* Clean energy, thanks to the same weird heat pit the Oracle Machine sits in. It's not the cause of the heat, but it's powered by it too.
* Land. We can keep reclaiming this empty planet just about forever.
* Organic materials. Neena's bioreactors are phenomenal for this, even if things come out homogeneous. Food isn't a problem, as long as you don't mind a lack of variety. But the city has enough farmers and foodies that there's both a demand and a supply for hand-grown stuff. (2/?)
🧬 No trouble finding that one, I guess.
⎈ No, and then there's Vidrio… oh, hi there! Can I help you with something?
📚 This blob has been following me for weeks and it insisted I head right to Corps HQ after work today.
🧬 Vivid! I'd been wondering what happened to you! I'm glad you're safe.
⎈ Thanks for going to the trouble, uh…
📚 Call me Seni. I used to be a student at FITZ but then I got a letter saying to report to the library for shelving duty.
🧬 Don't worry, Seni. We've got a plan.
❖ …I don't understand this one bit. I spent decades wandering, searching out examples of the perfect utopian city I longed to build. Inspiration. I thought I knew what I needed to do. What to measure, what to control, what to optimize. And yet… These tools the Empire gave me are showing results contradictory what I've seen of the population itself. The city is more productive and peaceful than ever. But why is it that when I turn the cameras on the people themselves, they're clearly miserable?
📚 Oh hey — nice wings. I didn't think you could stretch taut like that.
📚 Shelving books. It's my job.
📚 Because I got a letter telling me I should be working here in the library instead of going to school to learn to write well. That's in my spare time, I guess.
📚 Because they're charging rent now, so I had to.
📚 Because it's supposed to make the city productive.
📚 You got me there. I thought we were fine before. Now I'm too tired to write anything after work.
This server's admin. Manages the interface between the real world and all the strangeness that goes on inside. Also posts about his own life sometimes.
The official server of the City of Elseways.