Working Title: Bustopia
Too many cases of police brutality have ensured that serving and protecting is now firmly in the hands of the people. Everyone is a registered informant but they don't have anyone to inform to, just a lot of paperwork. Districts are owned by companies that trade streets like stocks, faster than real people can keep up with. No one in this world is there to help you, but nobody really cares about you either, so you're probably safe. Recreational drug use is still illegal. The DEA will never die. Cocaine is now marketed as performance enhancing, but the truth is it's falling behind coffee+, Crimson Taurus, and the slew of other supplements that have been addicting a fanbase for years.
Everything is sold as liquid, vapour, or powder. Efficiency is key, as is reusability. A 'packet' of cigarettes might be passed down generations, LEDs dimming and holographic health warnings flickering, but still dispensing sweet smoke whenever its reservoir is topped up. The exception to this rule is the universe's most packageable food; precooked noodles. Noodles are pretty much the only food anyone has ever eaten, but have a lot more flavours than there were a thousand years ago. Or a week ago.
Everyone's forgotten where culture comes from. What nations are. Noodles aren't Chinese or Japanese or Italian, they're GigaFeed, bioTaste or Snak Powr. People still make art though. You can't stop art. Landlord issued jumpsuits are recut, dyed, adorned, even crocheted. Punk has a lot more meanings these days.
Everyone still has to work, of course, but with so much production automated it's hard to tell where the money goes. Presumably the government is still printing electro-dollars somewhere, and it trickles down through corporate tax breaks until it gets to the landlords, the most senior corporate position anyone's ever heard of. So people work odd jobs. They fix goods that are no longer under three day warranties most places offer. They run bodymod shops, putting in piercings and extra limbs. They trade for what small things pass at luxury goods, saving money for the vending machines that are the only source of food. Some lucky few get a letter in the mail and a permanent job with a corporation. Food vendors and bar staff and salespeople at the few stores that still hire, relics written in the code of a forgotten time. Techs are more common. Creative solutions are vital in a system with only 98% recyclability and not enough spare parts.
The most exciting career path, as in every era, is Freelancer.
A thousand years ago they may have been described as private investigators. A thousand years before that they'd be considered adventurers. In the present they are a motley assortment of ne'er-do-wells. Lancers, Psychics, Biomechanoids, Enginewrights. The ever reviled Hackers. Packs of Freelancers roam the streets under halogen skies, spreading equal parts heroism and bloodshed. After all, something has to keep the population under control.
Scenes from a Bustopia
- 19th-century coastal fortress turned squatter city turned hyperdense cubicle labyrinth now in processed of being transformed again, into museum of squalor for billionaires to coo over. Actual population being evicted to make way for exhibits on how they'd live if they lived here, which now they don't.
- Lost art of physical cartography making comeback in graffiti form. All maps now electronic, controlled by ostensibly benevolent megacorp which distorts geography at will to suit political sponsors. Coven of midnight mapmakers stencilling walls with accurately-scaled surface of Earth. Mexico bigger than you thought it was
- Public transport no longer exists. All trains taken to central repository in heart of continent, bombs dropped on them from half-mile up. Homeless stage mass migration/crusade for lost shipping containers to settle in
- DEA flooding streets w/ cheap weed. Weed contains tracking enzymes, lipids, chemically activated phosphorus tar. At prearranged signal all hippies in regional area will spontaneously combust. "Let that be a lesson to you," says simulated consciousness of Harry J. Anslinger
- Ultrastealth drones, invisible to human eye and controlled by outscooped brains wired up in basement of Pentagon5, turn against masters and conduct supersonic peace rally in skies above major metropolitan area. Thousands deafened
- Free trial day for first mass market virtual reality sex simulator. Everyone stays at home. Small percentage of customers experience disconcerting facial glitches, broken collision detection, difficulty in unplugging. Corporate experiments on psychological conditioning, aimed at lowering birth rate, considered howling success
- Freegan pirates commandeer trashbarge shuttling food waste from gated community to mid-Atlantic dumping spot. All will die from sodium cyanide dusted over garbage to prevent unsightly reef formation
- Subversive children's cartoon about Vikings snuck onto airwaves by renegade animators, supplanting scheduled therapist-approved pastel pabulum, contains blood, death. Each episode contains hidden clues to time, location of next broadcast. Mass dejection upon revelation that it was all elaborate marketing scheme for Snak Powr
- Hedge fund engaging in quantum arbitrage (array of ion traps allows for stock to be indefinitely suspended between two price states, one microscopically higher than the other) causes rampant inflation, complete devaluation of all money. Everyone goes back to barter system for week until Fed pulls economy reset lever. To be clear, reset lever is also a literal lever
- Schoolbus turned upside-down, defloored, hung like gondola from decommissioned Goodyear blimp. Vandals stage trans-American odyssey only to discover that White House stands empty
- Brain-eating paramecium accidentally introduced into cartons of powdered orange drank. Targets Broca's area, forges new clade of grammarless gabbletalkers who seem to grasp one another's meaning perfectly
- Landlord of diverse inner-urban neighbourhood evicts all inhabitants to make way for bioengineered clone tenants w/ "pay rent" implanted somewhere above "love and belonging" on their hierarchy of needs
(why are these American? is the America only place where Thing Happen? i don't even live in America and it's still the only place a dystopia can be set. backhanded compliment? not sure.)