The only way one could properly describe the world of Gaiatech was with one word: Rules. A whole planet of rules, the ruled, and those who ruled. There were also many who rued, but lacking an "l", they didn't count. It was a planet of high technology, high ambitions, high handedness and high nosed attitudes. Coincidentally, few of the people of Gaiatech actually said "hi", but probably because they, too, lacked critical consonants.
It was also a planet of contrasts. The wealthy and the poor, the brilliant and the dim, the high and the low, in more ways than mere status. And like anyplace with contrasts, there were the haves and the have nots. The haves had all the good things. The have nots didn't. The haves had next to everything. The have nots had next to nothing. The other contrast between the haves and the have nots was that there were an awful lot of have nots and very, very, very few haves.
And yet the common people generally weren't necessarily falling dead in the streets. At least not so people would notice. Or rather not that people were allowed to notice. They got through their lives with a minimum of fuss, partially because the rules forbade fuss and partially because the powers that be didn't allow anyone to walk around breathing and fussing for long. Discontent was rife, but like the most prevalent bad smell that's the inevitable consequence of any well attended, enclosed and poorly ventilated beer and sauerkraut festival, it was mostly a matter of sniffing it out and listening carefully over the hubbub of conversation for those who might let out a squeak of it just a touch louder than they had intended in order to find it. Everyone knew it was there. Anyone could have been a source of it. No one spoke about it where there were other ears.
Surprisingly, it was harder to track down than it sounds.
The discontent was mostly aimed toward the "powers that be". Spoken of in hushed voices, in well sound-proofed rooms, the 'PTB' were the ruling elite. They made the rules. They enforced the rules. But as with the common people (and somewhat breaking the notion of contrasts) life among the PTB was also precarious to life and limb, albeit in a much more pleasant way. Each of the ruling elite families wanted what the other ruling elite families had in a philosophy that was best summed up with the saying, "He who dies with the most stuff wins." It was a delicate game they played. Part politics, part extortion, part treachery, it was a way of life few mastered and even fewer survived for terribly long.
Naturally, none of the rules the PTB made ever applied to THEM. After all, it's pretty much impossible to die with the most stuff if you stick to follow rules all the time like the common people had to.
The common people were, exclusively, have nots. Some of them may have once been haves – those who managed to get away before someone came along and erased their existence – but for the most part, they had nothing left of their former lives other than their memories, which, being something they tended to keep to themselves, distinguished them among their new peer group not at all. They lived with the minimum services, the minimum of luxuries, the minimum of pretty much everything else.
In short, Gaiatech was a pressure cooker whose PTB relief valve was so focused on acquiring stuff, it wasn't giving the resentment and discontent that was constantly building anyplace to be released. That it was a world of wondrous technology only hid the mounting menace. The one thing that the PTB of Gaiatech seemed to have forgotten in their race for more stuff was the very simple and very real adage which applied to everyone regardless of their status: Some rules are meant to be broken.
On Gaiatech, life only gets interesting when someone breaks the rules. And things were about to get very interesting indeed.
Book 2 of the Sunderland Saga. Available at: Amazon
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