Of the hundreds of levels in the spike, few have seen the amount of change as the gutters. Not found on schematics and plans of Absalom Station for many decades, this level was originally used for secret military experimentation.
Welcome back to Terraforming! Learning that Wayfinder 19 articles had been selected reminded me that I had a few pieces about Absalom Station’s lowers that I was never able to finish and submit. Today we are going to take a look at The Gutters and, as we dive in, please ignore the muck.
GM Note. Every society of a certain size needs to be mindful of its water consumption. Move your society into space, where your water supply isn’t natural, and you need to ensure that your recycling system is up to the task. After a couple hundred years or so, the strain of constant population growth is going to take its toll on any system. Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense to replace your system piece by piece, part by part. Sometimes, you really need to just build a new system and switch over entirely. This generally only happens terrestrially due to the limiting factor of finding the extra space in … space. Sometimes, though, you manage to find a previously undocumented and unmapped location that you can simply take using imminent domain. After gaining access to the computer systems that allow you to view maps and control all the doors and … Why? Because you are the government and you are building public services, that’s why!
The Gutters. This level Absalom Station is near the bottom of the spike and thus gets a lot less traffic than most of the other floors. Originally designed for military use, it has a very clinical feel with its seemingly endless hallways and rooms that all seem to look the same. The original security protocol meant that the entire floor was separated into multiple wings that could be locked down separately, while each system could also lock down areas or rooms as needed. This security system has been patched and overhauled to allow the various wings and areas to be opened and closed from the recycling center so that water can be stored and moved around the gutters as needed while new water recycling system is being built and installed elsewhere. While most areas include new water, steam, and sewage piping to manage flow, there are many wings that were simply flooded to save on building costs. While officially condemned and off-limits, there are still hundreds of families too poor to move anywhere else that live in the as-yet untouched wings.
The Wings. Of the dozens of wings in the gutters, these are the most notable or notorious. Each wing generally consists of 50 rooms and a common room that are all connected by 5 corridors. The entire level was originally built with 20 foot ceilings, but many of the wings now include walkways 10 feet tall to allow traveling alongside the water that floods them.
- The Defunct Amusement Park. After the military moved operations elsewhere, a retired adventurer discovered a wing that contained larger rooms that had been used to train fighter pilots. Raised amongst the poor that lived and worked for the military in the area, he felt a special connection to those families that were unable to move on. He hired a team of hackers and engineers and was able to repurpose many of the sled rails and simulators into a cheap theme park of sorts, where the local families could come and enjoy themselves in their leisure time. After he passed away, nobody continued to maintain the equipment and it all eventually failed.
- The Echo Chamber. Each of the rooms in this wing has been connected to some thermal/steam ports that vent dirty, hot air from above. The corridors are fitted with a series of filtering devices that both clean the air and generate power from the heat. The air eventually pushes its way into the common room, which has been converted into a single large fan room that pushes the newly cleaned air back up where it came. When the fan in any of the rooms in this wing stops, it is said that echoes of conversations can be heard from as far away as Jatembe Park. Rumors claim that the screams of those that disappear on Absalom Station can be heard here. Access to (and travel in) this wing requires extremely precise knowledge of the fans’ timing or an environment suit designed to handle high wind and heat.
- The Market. This particular wing is in the center of the Gutters, and contains the only known entry and exit points to the floor. As water is constantly flowing through this area, from one adjacent wing to another, the entire area has been rebuilt using raised walkways, platforms, and bridges. Almost every usable space contains a “merchant” stall trying to hawk some junk or other. The merchants mostly barter with each other over goods and services, but will band together to get the better of a lost outsider or to warn each other that water district mechanics or engineers are arriving.
The Wow Factor. Families and clans have been able to override control of a couple wings and used the new supply of water along with other “trash” from the rich upper levels to create gardens and small farms. Residents that worked for the government previously and were too poor to feed their children are now able to feed almost the entire population of the Gutters.
The Villains. Outsiders and those that intend to take your home away are always going to be the enemy of the hiding, poor, and downtrodden.
- Absalom Station Water and Waste Recycling. When some part of the system goes offline, due to failure or hacking, mechanics and engineers are sent to investigate. While they officially evicted the residents of this level, it wasn’t worth the hassle to physically remove them, figuring they would eventually die or move on their own. There is an uneasy truce between the two that residents let the mechanics do their job and nobody will be sent down to dispose of any trouble makers. Evidence of sabotage or hacking immediately suspends this agreement, and residents have been brutalized by hired thugs before.
- The Cyberz. Cleverly named by themselves, this gang of teenagers roams the more dangerous wings looking for ways to steal instead of work with the rest of the residents. The only requirement for membership being Cyberborn, with many of them using their augmentations to help them hack and gain access to locked wings. They favor the defunct amusement park as they have learned how to reactivate some of the machines and rides for short periods of time.
- The Droids. One wing has been claimed by a group of droids with advanced AI that aren’t yet considered sentient. They are self aware enough to realize they don’t have souls as androids do, and so they have locked themselves in this wing to search their programing for that which will provide them with the spark they desire. So far as any residents can tell, the droids all seem to come from one specific make and model of droid. They violently defend themselves and their wing, often patrolling adjacent corridors to ensure nobody has a chance to access their wing.