The Spaghetti

As you move towards the edge of the Saskatoon city limits, the rumble of distant trains grows louder and louder. Soon it becomes a cacophony of diesel engines and screeching metal as all 12 of Saskatoon’s train lines converge on a single tremendous junction. The tracks parallel and cross the streets in so many places that some roads are simply never used for how often the traffic stops. Past the hills of Lilliput and after the last block of Croesus Quarter, the skyscrapers of the city dither away: first into crumbling tenements, and then into ragged bungalows, and then into shacks made of plunder and mud, and then at last into fields of scraggly weeds.

Every morning the streets are stuffed with Lilliputians on their way out of the city; and all throughout the day the sky is painted black with the smog from Factory Row. At night the people bundle themselves together and keep their heads low to the ground, for that is when the chaos reigns: the police leave at 9 PM and do not come back until morning. For 8 horrible hours the city is painted orange with fire; and you can measure the time by the gunshots just as easily as you can by the clock. Then at the crack of dawn before the commuters arrive, those who have survived the previous night will count their dead, re-board their windows, and begin again. They soon run out of tears to cry. This is the Spaghetti.

Officially designated the Saskatoon Outlying Low-Protection Zone, people seldom refer to the Spaghetti by its proper title. To those who only visit, a cutesy name helps to disguise its true nature; but for those who live there, it is a grim reminder of how little the rest of the world cares for them—not that they need any such thing. The city has knowingly turned a blind eye towards the Spaghetti for the past century: the tenements at the very edge of the district were built in 2247, and they were the last municipal building projects in the area.

More important than this, though, is the “low protection” mentioned in its name: in 2298, the Saskatoon Municipal Council voted to save money by no longer purchasing nighttime defense contracts for the city’s outlying areas. While this saved about 200 million hands a day, it caused the nighttime crime rate to rocket to a monumental 16%—the highest in the developed world. The average resident of the Spaghetti is unable to afford private contracts, which means that from 7 AM to 7 PM there is virtually no police presence in the Saskatoon outlying areas. Historically, political analysts have been divided on whether or not this side effect was unintentional: critics of the Levitt administration often maintain that this was a calculated gambit designed to kill as many of Saskatoon’s poor residents as possible, though there has never been any credible motive or evidence mounted to support this theory.

Life in the Spaghetti is life as one of society’s forgotten members. The people there have fallen through the cracks with no real hope of climbing back out again. It’s a constant scrabble just to survive. The people either grow their own food, steal from the city dump, or starve. Many of them have banded together in tenuous alliances of convenience, building makeshift fortresses which can be seen throughout the district: walls of rusted tin and chicken wire encircling bungalows, or the boarded-up remains of what was once a proper home. During the day a few lucky people will travel to work. The daring among them will perhaps travel into the city and try their hand at crime. Most of them, however, will just repair their homes and gather their strength for the coming storm.

Come nightfall they will wait with bated breath and perked ears, weapons at the ready. The fortunate among them have stolen or homemade guns, but most are left with improvised clubs and knives. Their food is piled in the center of their homes, and those among them who have made use of generators will douse their lights: their best defense is to blend into the miles of disused slum and pray they go unnoticed. For 12 whole hours they will wait, scarcely daring to move. Any sound may foretell coming doom: most commonly it is someone like them, come to loot what they will or settle a score for some past abuse…But with disturbing regularity it will be the worst sort of pervert, come from the city to rape, rob, and kill for the simple thrill of it.

An estimated 90 persons are killed in the Spaghetti every night while several hundred are injured. Despite this incredible murder rate, the population level has largely remained consistent for the past few decades: many people arrive in the Spaghetti every day. Most of these are unemployed Lilliputians who finally ran out of rent money. Others are emigrants from cob country who have come to the city in the hopes of clawing their way up from the very bottom. Nobody lasts long.

History of the Spaghetti

The Spaghetti can trace its current position to a long line of mistakes, each of which was more catastrophic than the last. To begin with: before I-day, the Spaghetti was a series of unincorporated hamlets outside the city limits. The southernmost of these was the small hamlet of Beaver Creek, while the easternmost was the unremarkable village of Clavet. It was 329 square kilometers of manors, brushlands, and fuck-all else. After I-day it was suddenly 329 kilometers of undeveloped country next to the most important place on the planet, and so the trouble began.

In 2042, Franklin Malorn accurately predicted an influx of manufacturers in Saskatoon; and so in 2044 the Malorn Shipping Co purchased a swath of land from a local farmer and established a train depot 8 kilometers southeast of the city. This depot—which would eventually become the SE Central Junction—serviced 3 different rail lines which ran around the city to the then-undeveloped Industrial West. Over time, these would grow to accommodate over 120 different branches servicing 91 different factories. 130 different engineers, switchers, and handymen were assigned to the maintenance of the Malorn Shipping Depot—necessitating the construction of a worker barracks, which eventually grew into the borough of Irish Point.

By 2063, territory in Industrial West had reached a premium. While the ink concentration outside the city limits was noticeably lower than within it—0.82 compared to an even 1—it was still high enough to be competitive for the construction of SSAIM apparatuses. A number of smaller factories and SSAIM plants were built in the territory over the next few years. Their proximity to the railroad meant that they could often afford to construct their own branches directly from factory to main line. These rail branches were often less than 3 kilometers long and usually only serviced hand carts. Over time they spiraled into increasingly obscure branches: lines would run from factory to factory, factory to SSAIM, SSAIM to depot, and every possible permutation thereof. These would often cross each other or one of Irish Point’s streets. This was the first incarnation of the Spaghetti as we know it today.

In 2066, the UCAS Government commissioned the construction of the Saskatoon International multiport. After its completion in 2069, the multiport dramatically changed the face of the surrounding countryside: between air, space, and rail, some 7 million commuters moved between Saskatoon and the surrounding cities on a daily basis; and all of them passed through SasInt. Over the next few decades the sprawl would multiply as the local governments commissioned 9 more railroads—all of which passed through SasInt and Irish point at least once. Unsurprisingly, the small town became borderline unlivable and numerous residents emigrated, leaving it little more than a husk of itself. At the same time, it became something of a beacon for those outside: people living in Cob Country saw the rail country as a way that they could begin making inroads to city life without already being wealthy.

From 2070 to 2080, the original inhabitants of Irish Point almost entirely moved away, but the influx of hopeful immigrants was enough to vastly eclipse their number. In 2090, an estimated 2.5 million people were living less than 10 km outside the Saskatoon city limits—and the Spaghetti as we know it today had really begun to take shape. A number of hopeful investors, sensing that this boom was just the first impression of things to come, began financing projects in the area. This boom period lead to the construction of Industrial East; but more importantly motivated the construction of several thousand low-cost houses and apartments around the countryside.

This is where the first big mistakes took place. Very few of the new arrivals found what they were looking for: nearly all of them lacked the resources to self-start a business, and the Saskatoon economy was simply not ready for such an influx. Most of the people who moved into the rail country found that they had traded one life of poverty for another; and with poverty came crime. Numerous meatballs lacking legal employment turned towards prostitution and drug trading, often relying on the patronage of wealthy inner-city residents to sustain themselves. Pickpocketing flourished on the trains and in busy terminals, and armed robbery became prevalent not long after the underworld properly established itself. According to crime reports from 2120, a whole 16% of crimes in the genmu took place within 6 km of SasInt, with another 22% taking place in the rest of the Spaghetti. Unsurprisingly, most people began to look at it as a losing investment.

While things were always pretty bad, the Spaghetti was kept semi-stable by the Southwark Security co; and for the better part of 2 centuries it observed the cycle of boom and bust typical for low-income areas. The service industry—something which was largely mechanized in the city—made purchase in the Spaghetti in the form of sundry toiletry shops and backyard restaurants. Though generally low quality, these were cheap enough to cater to other Spaghetti residents; and their touch-and-go relationship with FDA compliance meant they could be exotic enough to attract city residents. For the majority of its life, it offered a standard of living comparable to Lilliput.

All of this changed in 2298, when then-Mayor Herbert Busybody made the decision to stop funding police patrols through the Spaghetti after dark. The immediate effect was that in the space of about 2 months, the Spaghetti went from “underdeveloped but livable” to “basically a giant trash fire”. Without police to ensure order, crime was not only possible, but viable—and violence became a part of everyday life. Those who could moved away almost immediately—and those who could not found their livelihoods withering under a new criminal-centric paradigm. The decision has been controversial since its institution, with numerous civil rights groups speaking out against the slaughter which occurs there nightly; and the blowback was significant enough to effectively destroy Busybody’s political career.

Since Mayor Ariel Levitt’s election in 2302 he has publicly and furiously attempted to reverse the decision a total of 18 times, but in each instance failed to acquire the necessary support from the city council. The Spaghetti remains a topic of significant contention among local politicians.

USING THE SPAGHETTI

AS A PLACE WHICH THE PLAYERS MUST ESCAPE

The spaghetti is a dark and dangerous place. Stories set there are, in most cases, much more grim than other toonpunk tales. If the players live there, they are on hard times: if they fled there from somewhere else, then they have fallen on hard times; and if they were born there, they have known constant struggle since their earliest days. This is a great place to begin a campaign if you want your players to start from the bottom and work their way up: they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by embarking on criminal careers.