The Earth is a corpse; a decaying wasteland of unchecked exploitation and greed. The wars that were once fought over the planet’s dwindling resources have rendered it barren and toxic. Dense clouds now shroud the surface like a hot blanket. Where their dark shadows do not fall, solar radiation scorches the terrain. Animals have been rendered obsolete, succumbing to the devastation and radiation. Most of humanity has since fled their terrestrial existence in the hopes of building a new future from above. What few pockets of civilization remain below the sky must scavenge their own bones to survive.
Beyond the atmosphere though, things aren’t much better. Corporations are in competition with each other for control of the solar system’s vast resources…and the people that need them. Asteroids are the new gold mines, and Mars has become a frontier to be carved up and sold to the highest bidder. And while space-borne habitats now dot the sky, they do not represent the optimistic future we once imagined.
The seeming unstoppable march of technological progress faltered in the face of corporate greed and social chaos. As a result, the technology of the current age isn't as advanced as some earlier generations would have believed. While innovations in computing, robotics, energy, bio-engineering, and space travel contrast greatly with those of the 21st century, the rate of development in some ways is just now catching back up. For over 100 years, the focus was simply on recovery and stabilization of the economy. Even still, corporations are slow to adopt change...embracing it where it can be economically beneficial, and rejecting it when could disrupt their business models. The UBC's Allied Regulatory Committee keeps the markets stable by acting as the great resistor through which change can be metered and controlled.
In the second half of the 21st century, after massive hunger catastrophes in the more drought-stricken parts of the world, humankind started development of synthetic foods based on soy and algae. Through the following century it came apparent that the growing need for food couldn’t be covered with soy. The ongoing destruction and loss of fertile land soon made the research of alternatives to the traditional protein sources a major goal for the researchers of the food industry.
Massive efforts where taken and led to the current state where almost all available food is based on proteins, which are produced by genetic engineered algae and yeast. At the present day, humankind is able to cover full demand on food with large farms floating in the skies. These farms are run by a few corporations which control the whole distribution of food.
Smaller corporations have shared the marked for the processing of the raw proteins. They enrich them with vital supplements, artificial flavors, dyestuffs and bring it to a form humankind associates food with.
InSilico is a corporate-owned city, approximately 4 million in population, that floats thousands of meters above the Equatorial Pacific on an ionized pillow of clouds. Far removed from the corrosive effects of pollution, and shielded from radiation and the elements, it was a refuge for humanity that grew to become a nation unto itself. Together with other such cities, InSilico is the foundation on which Earth civilization rebuilt itself.
Constructed 160 years ago, InSilico has the distinction of being the oldest airborne city in existence. The original arcology was designed by Gemini Cybernetics to house their labor force, and serve as their industrial base of operations. With deteriorating conditions on the ground, Gemini saw an opportunity to preserve their business by literally bringing the market up to them. The city expanded rapidly as immigration permits were sold by the thousands. Other corporations soon followed Gemini’s lead, constructing cities of their own to cash in on the exodus. Even the UBC took their cut by offering relocation loans and indentured contracts to those desperate to flee. As terrestrial governments fell to war and bankruptcy, infrastructure collapsed, and billions began to slowly perish below. Anyone that had the means to evacuate the surface did so, upending their lives to start anew. Today, nearly 2/3rds of the extant population lives in these for-profit cities; with InSilico alone being home to several million.
InSilico, like most cities, is entirely controlled by its parent corporation. It is both sovereign territory and profit center. Their regulations serve as the basis for a legal system to which employees and citizens alike are subject. There is no voting, no elections. Instead, they use public relations through propaganda to keep the people aligned to their agendas. After all, what is good for the company must be good for the city.
The only authority to which the corporations yield is the market…which means the Universal Banking Corporation. As the backers of the universal credit system, the UBC alone holds sway over the rules that corporations themselves must abide. Rarely though do they deem it necessary to interfere in civil affairs, preferring instead to let the corporations govern their own populaces.
AEON Holdings, LLC took control of InSilico, having acquired it from Gemini Cybernetics in 2486. This continued until 2488 when AGIS became the de facto controlling corporation. The city is operated as an independent subsidiary, administered by a director appointed by the AGIS Consortium.
Corporations are profit-seeking by their very nature. The means may vary, such as taxes and enforced brand loyalty, but staying profitable is their primary motivation. Beyond the revenue that can be extorted out of citizens, corporations have very little concern for the happenings of their day-to-day lives. So long as the executives keep getting richer, they are content to let things be for the most part. This laissez faire attitude has created an odd equity for the populace. Sure, there is a chasm of inequality between social classes, but there is also a great deal of freedom. Corporations just don’t care about race, religion, sexuality, identity, or personal morality. If it doesn’t impact profit margins, people are general free to be as they are. In essence, corporations are equal opportunity exploiters.
Employees of the city-corporation are a favored class among its residents. While employees may vary from janitor to executive, they all fall under the corporate umbrella of privilege. Employees suffer the least taxation, particularly those in higher positions, and are protected by the full backing of the corporation. Given the status of employees in society, jobs with the corporation are highly sought after and competitive.
Citizens are the primary source of capital for the cities, and InSilico is no exception. They are taxed heavily by the corporation, pay union dues, and acquire registration permits. In exchange, they are extended the legal privilege to live and work in the city, and consume its resources. Citizens share in some of the rights afforded to corporate employees.
Civilians are non-permanent residents of InSilico. While they may not call the city home, they are still paying back into the system through the purchase of permits. As such, they too are valued assets that receive the same rights and protections as Citizens.
If someone isn’t registered, they aren’t being taxed. If they aren’t being taxed, then they aren’t paying back into the system that supports them…which makes them illegal in the eyes of the corporation. Individuals that don’t possess current registrations have no legal rights or protections anywhere in the city. They are a non-class that is publicly shunned by even the most sympathetic of peoples. When caught, non-registereds are often forced into indentured labor contracts until their debt has been repaid.
To ensure that all profit generated within the city is duly taxed and regulated; AEON instituted, and AGIS maintain, the system of Trade Unions. Legally, in order to receive a work permit, all non-corporate residents seeking employment in the city are required to join the union governing their vocation. Those that choose to operate outside of Union control risk possible arrest, audit and severe fines. List of Unions
Law & Order
Everyone in InSilico is subject to the laws and regulations imposed by the Corporation. However, not everyone in the city is protected by them either. The saying "you get what you pay for" is just as applicable to the law as it is for consumer goods. Employees, Citizens and Civilians "enjoy" the benefits of corporate-backed civil security. From a business perspective, this makes sense. InSilico profits off its residents, and so it invests in keeping them safe. On the other hand, non-registered residents can not boast that same consideration in the eyes of the law. Corporate Security is more inclined to arrest them simply for existing rather then extending non-registereds a helping hand.
While the Corporate Government provides for the basic security needs of InSilico's residents, they are still corporately owned and operated...and thus not comprehensive. Businesses and residents that want to bolster their security posture often contract services from private security providers at their own expense.
Like most things in InSilico, the legal systems is controlled by the Corporation and is governed by credits. There are no juries issuing verdicts, no judges weighing the legalities. Instead, a resident is presumed guilty if charged of a crime, and an AI determines the appropriate punishment. If a resident wishes to contest the outcome, they are then permitted to retain a lawyer. Assuming, of course, that they can afford to reopen the investigation and pay for a corporate arbitrator to review the case. Given the expense and the meager means of most residents, the prospect of a favorable verdict simply isn't worth the expense.
Crime & Punishment
From an economic perspective, maintaining a permanent prison system isn't cost effective. Instead, most punishments come in the form of formulaic fines and permit restrictions. If residents can't afford the legal penalties, they are coerced into taking out high-interest loans in order to repay them. Even worse, they may be forced into signing onto indentured labor contracts...which in turn are sold by the corporation to the highest bidder. For more severe infractions, residents may face deportation...or a one way ticket to the Earth's surface.