Nanuen

Nanuen. The jewel of Saskatoon. The pride of the planet earth. The Ringed City. It has many names, and each is but a tepid allusion to the true splendor and majesty one may find within.

When a person sees Nanuen for the first time, you will be either dazzled or horrified. Either way you will be awestruck. It is difficult to recognize life and living in Nanuen as part of the human experience—a the elemental concepts of life in modern society are nowhere to be found. This does not only include things like law, debt, or morality; but also much more ancient and immutable aspects of nature. Among the Nanuens, wealth and science have eroded such things as aging, permanence of form, and even death itself.

The district exists as a series of 9 wheels, each consisting of 3 concentric rings spanned by 9 spokes. They are each arrayed around the Saskatoon Space Needle, though they are not connected to it: the innermost rings house the powerful electromagnets which bind them in place. The wheels are each a kilometer wide and ten meters thick, and they float about 100 meters above one another, so that the surface of each is exposed to the open air. Said surfaces are, in themselves, further marvels of engineering. Every building twinkles with solar panels, and the rings all bristle with wind turbines. If every other building in the city crumbled to dust, Nanuen would remain pristine and palatial.

All this, though, is in truth very mundane. The wonders of Nanuen extend far beyond efficiency: and in truth it must be seen to be believed. The streets are lined with a plethora of magnificent orchids and trees, such as cannot be seen in the city below: they are each of them made entirely of a semi-organic ferrofluid compound, which grows and twists itself into marvelous floral shapes every hour on the hour. The buildings, too, often undergo such alterations: at the whims of their owner their walls may contort or lean inwards, acquiring windows or balconies or corridors as they see fit—what may be an open chamber one day may be a labyrinthine web of rooms the next. The weather inside of every home is unique unto itself, for the finest endoclimatization devices can flawlessly replicate the most placid or tempestuous of earthly phenomena: deserts, rainforests, howling wind or terrible cold may be summoned to one’s home with a simple whim.

You might, of course, ask why any person would do such a thing. This is because the most marvelous thing in Nanuen is the people themselves. Most of them, being exceedingly wealthy, have long since surpassed mortality: should they grow old or become injured, they can afford to replace their bodies with any machine of which they might conceive. The plainest Nanuen is still surpassingly beautiful, with bronze-radiant skin and pearlescent teeth; and those inclined to more aesthetic experience may even do away with the human form entirely. Popular bodies include golden discs wreathed in ferrofluid flames; or radiant jewel-studded cubes, held aloft by 6 golden wings. Practicality poses no obstacle for these people; for every inch of their homes and workplaces is wired, and prepared to act alone with just a thought from their owner.

The Construction of Nanuen

In 2090, Saskatoon was already a bustling metropolis and the Chinese Ring was well under construction. Macroarchitecture was steadily coming into vogue, and the demand for luxury land was steadily rising. A number of Earth’s wealthy elites desired a new high-profile living space, and so commissioned Croesus Construction Co to build them one. The public record shows that the construction was jointly commissioned by a collection of corporate interests; but those who acknowledge its existence often maintain that Nanuen’s construction was monolithically commissioned by the Morbux Cartel.

The space for Nanuen was officially zoned in 2091, while the blueprints were drafted by 2092. Preliminary efforts began that same year. While Croesus Construction did handle the actual building, the architect’s identity was never made public “for fear that, having created paradise on Earth, I shall be made a victim by those who would have preferred it stay in Heaven.” Theories as to their identity abound and are too numerous to list here.

Nanuen’s unconventional levitating structure immediately imposed unique material challenges on the construction team: no conventional metal was simultaneously light and dense enough to form a magnetically-suspended structural base. Soon, Nanuen’s engineers settled on an equally unusual material: Darwin’s spider silk created via AIM, which was then coated in a polymer resin to remove stickiness and add rigidity. While it took over a decade for to manufacture all the silk required, eventually Croesus Co successfully created 9 skeletal frisbee-like discs, over which a thinner sheet of silk were pulled taut to create floors. In total, a single kilometer-wide wheel had an estimated load-bearing capacity of 10 million tons, despite weighing less than 5 tons itself.

The silk-and-resin skeletons were then prepped for magnetic suspension. The innermost ring—being only 80 meters wide—of each wheel was fitted with electromagnetic apparatuses which held them suspended around the Saskatoon Space Needle (which is itself a magsling cannon) while using minimal power. The raw strength of the magnetic fields is such that coins or bullets passing through the space will be suspended there and must be removed by means of a very long stick.

By 2104, all 9 wheels had been assembled and suspended. Further construction began immediately, with a different team working on each wheel. Each team jointly employed members of Croesus Construction, Woods Aeronautics, and Greater Canadian Electric to make sure each wheel would afford its occupants the absolute height of luxury. Capitalizing on advances already made elsewhere, the teams were able to successfully erect semiambulatory houses. Despite the extra utility and material this required, the wheels did not even reach 20% of their weight capacity. Its occupants began moving in immediately, and all 9 wheels were completely settled by 2107.

Since then, renovations to Nanuen have been infrequent but not unheard of. The most notable of these came in 2126, when the dissolution of the Dalton Windley Corporation left the 8th wheel completely unoccupied. The two halves of the ring were then leased to the Alliance for a Borderless Canada and the Canadian Nationalist Party. When nature ran its course 3 years later, the 8th wheel was rebuilt as a barracks for Saskatoonian thespians whose patrons feared the city might pose them some danger.

A brief spell of intrigue came to Nanuen in 2184, when the declassified blueprints revealed that each ring was assigned a codename corresponding to one of the 9 planets, excepting Earth—which was instead replaced with “The Firmament” and “The Rose”. Thus, it was generally believed that the naming scheme of the rings was a reference to Dante’s Paradiso, instead of local space. Understandably, many Christian churches around the world took this to be a Babel-esque sacrilege. Even more curiously, the blueprints were in Korean, and handwritten instead of machine-printed.

Since then, conspiracy theorists (like us) have historically taken tremendous joy in speculating at some grander meaning behind this naming scheme. More grounded theories include the that the architect was actually Ji-Hoon Pak, the Korean pro wrestler who famously left entertainment to become a monk; while the most outlandish say that Nanuen is a radio antenna by which one may communicate directly with God.

The 9 Rings of Nanuen

Each of Nanuen’s 9 wheels is unique in its precise function and architecture, though they all share similar foundation and utility structures. As mentioned before, each one was assigned a codename corresponding to 1 of the 9 layers of paradiso; and curiously enough, the occupants of each loosely correspond to those same designations. As to whether this was accidental, deliberate, or just the artist having a laugh, you are welcome to speculate. We have included here, for your convenience, a brief overview of the occupants of each of the 9 wheels. This will likely only be of use when discussing local politics, when planning a day trip, or when learning who precisely has decided to have you killed.

1. Dal—The Moon

Dal is the bottommost disc of Nanuen, but is no less remarkable than any others. That being said, it has existed under a stage of near-siege since its inception: incensed terrestrials have to be regularly escorted back to the ground by armed security. Most of these are customers expressing their frustration: Dal hosts the home offices of several members of the UCAS telecom industry.

2. Suseong—Mercury

Suseong is perhaps the least pleasant of the wheels, on a strictly aesthetic basis: most of its surface area is given over to cramped greenhouses, or peculiar domes, or belching miniature smokestacks. That is because Suseong is wholly devoted to bio-material engineering: limbs, bodies, androids, and more are developed here by engineers in the employ of DivSys, CorpTechs, Archon, and Olympus. Most of these, being too poor and coffee-addled to afford a residence on the ring, live in a worker barracks on an adjacent hovercraft. The only place tourists are allowed to visit is the Hall of Truth, where the engineers publicly seek peer review and occasionally shoot each other.

3. Geumseong—Venus

To the eternal amusement of those who own Geumseong’s businesses (and the considerable frustration of those who work there) this is the most-often visited disc in Nanuen. It admits nearly 600 visitors a day, almost all of whom are on business. It merely happens that their business is pleasure. Geumseong employs roughly 800 people from the surface in some of the most salacious establishments ever constructed.

4. Hwaseong—Mars

Hwaseong sees many more visitors than Venus at a single time, but sees them much more rarely. They usually come to partake in trade shows or sporting events: Hwaseong houses central offices for Snort and Whinny, Thunderbolt Munitions, WorldWide Wrestling, and the Fighting Universal Championships. WWW fans often stake the place out, hoping to bear witness to one of Lance McMadden’s legendary bouts of homicidal fury.

5. Mokseong—Jupiter

This wheel has significantly more bloodshed than most of the district: its residents regularly engage in duels with swords, pistols, and their own bare hands. Sometimes instead of duels, they engage in pitched battles between as many as 20 people. This is, on the whole, unsurprising: Mokseong was funded by 11 different law firms.

6. Toseong–Saturn

Toseong is (according to our own estimates) the only wheel that makes more money than Dal. This is, to put it simply, the pharmaceutical capitol of the UCAS: it features offices and executive housing for Boer, Helix, Lewis, Flamel, and Parasol pharmaceuticals. Not manufacturing, of course—those stay on the surface, with the other poors.

7. Meonseong—The Distant Stars

This ‘distant star’ wheel was originally commissioned by the Dalton Windley entertainment corporation; but when Croesus Catsby purchased and dissolved their enterprise in 2126 it was instead rented to 2 different groups, who promptly ruined it. It now serves as a barracks for Gonoe practitioners—as well as the occasional more conventional artist.

8. Chang-Gong—The Firmament

The penultimate wheel of Nanuen is perhaps its most beautiful. Here, some of the finest goods in local space are assembled in factories that are almost as marvelous as the finished product. This ring features myriad monuments to structure as art: the elaborate sail-like façade of the Gleeson construction home office, the awe-inspiring elegance of the Factoria Florale, or the utilitarian masterpiece that is the hospital-in-a-box.

9. Jangmiseong—The Rose

At last we reach Nanuen’s crown jewel. Owned wholly by Rose Broadcasting, Jangmiseong is Earth’s finest media facility. Here, artists from all around the world make movies, music, and news—some of which is even worth consuming. The signal reaches the very edge of the rimworlds, and broadcasts over 220 channels across 12 different networks. To most toonpunks, this place is the axis of evil.

The Nanuens Themselves

The portrait of life in Nanuen must begin and revolve chiefly around the people themselves: their peculiar mode of living is entirely mindmade, and not derived from location or circumstance. Fewer than 300 people live in Nannuen, and each one commands a significant influence over some major aspect of society today. They are, exclusively, the finest and most influential bankers, executives, scientists, and artists. In our own independent study, WHEE calculated that the residents of Nanuen directly influence 26 billion people every day, and some 21 trillion hands’ worth of trade. Never before has so much raw power been concentrated in so small a place, and in so limited a population.

While their lifestyle is not unique—many of NAnuen’s amenities may be found elsewhere in local space—it was trendsetting. Residence on the 9 wheels is considered the very finest of status symbols: a way by which the incalculably rich and powerful may lord their marginally greater fortune over their peers. The open secret is that living in Nanuen signifies not only that you are wealthy and important, but that you are moreso than others in your social strata. This is a stigma to which the crème de la crème gladly submit: it is not uncommon for bidding wars to arise over Nanuen residences; and these are customarily conducted with such bitterness that it calls to mind two estranged lovers fighting for the favor of their only child. It is very common for these bidding wars to escalate to insults, threats, and—with pedestrian regularity—murder.

Of course, none of this is ever any cause for alarm. The Nanuen code of law, as drafted in 2106, is entirely apart from the one observed in terrestrial Canada. The authority of the Saskatoon police department is not recognized except in those situations which directly affect terrestrial city residents. Among the Nanuens, the ancient custom of honor dueling is alive and well—disputes are regularly allowed to escalate to the condition of violence, and it is generally considered good fun by those involved and those who watch. Indeed, bloodsport of all varieties is popular in Nanuen, and on the third ring it is even broadcast on pay-per-view.

All of this is only possible because of the Nanuen’s strange relationship with the flesh. As mentioned in the introduction to this section, most of the Nanuens have transcended traditional mortality: on the whole there is no particular taboo associated with the destruction of life, since to them life is more a function of engineering than biology. Their bodies are not assigned to them, but rather crafted by artisanal augmenticians—they are things, which may be replaced or repaired at any time. Their minds, too, are similarly replaceable: the mind of every Nanuen is digitized and stored remotely in dozens of places at once, so even if a Nanuen is destroyed down to the very last atom another version of them will persist unmolested. It is not even uncommon for a Nanuen to maintain multiple versions of themselves in close proximity to one another, in case they are particularly fond of their own company.

Perhaps the ultimate example of Nanuen culture—and certainly its most striking—is Theater Gonoe. A substratum of performance art styling itself in the vein of certain twentieth-century exhibitionists, theater gonoe explores the ideas of sapience post-mortality. It emerged in the early 2100s, just after the advent of commercial neurotrans tech; and rooted itself in the idea that, since previously harmful physical stimuli could no longer greatly shorten or diminish a person’s life, they could be deliberately cultivated as an artistic statement—much like tragedy or horror before it. This initial slew of acts included trendsetters such as _Curated Stenches of Decay_, _Hot Liquid Poured on Face_, and—of course—_I Crush Your Hand With a Hammer_.

Over the next 20 years, this movement—though initially controversial—would evolve into the form we recognize today. Soon there arose a taste for pieces which were too lengthy or damaging for the Nanuen professional on the go. Consequently, Theater Gonoe developed into a form of Vaudevillian walk-in theater, where patrons may enter into a performance area and observe as much of the act as they please. Notable long-form Gonoe acts include Four Horses, Four Ropes, Four Days, One Man; and Amelia Rosenbaum’s oft-imitated Disassembly of Man, Still Living, By Razor Blades, Over 37 Hours, Featuring The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

In popular culture, there exists a certain stereotype of the Nanuen ilk as being generally dismissive of inkish persons. This is understandably founded, since the Nanuens rely on a level of body modification which inkmen cannot survive; but this is not to imply that the Nanuens and their culture are wholly unfriendly towards them. Figureheads of the district—namely Doctor Marcus Travers, head of research at Divinity Systems—have repeatedly denounced the idea of Nanuen as a ‘meats-only’ club, often to pronouncedly cynical reactions. One popular sticking point in the narrative of Nanuen as an ink-exclusionary district is the conspicuous absence of Croesus Catsby—who, despite having built the place and being able to easily afford residence there, does not. “Why would the richest creature refuse the world’s most luxuriant housing”, ask Nanuen’s critics, “unless he is not wanted?” Catsby has never spoken on this matter.

Ever since 2050, the Nanuen public relations council—a loose affiliation of residents who have not yet murdered each other—has maintained the “Reach for the Skies” tourism campaign, where they host outdoor events in Nanuen’s public promenades and invite those less fortunate. Detractors are quick to point out that “those less fortunate” in the Nanuen context translates to “people who only make a few million hands a day, instead of a few billion”. These outreach programs are customarily dismissed as a vulgar display of wealth, and it is generally held that anyone who accepts taxi to Nanuen’s public events is naught but a hopeful bootlick.

Nanuens who maintain conventionally ambulatory forms do, however, regularly descend to the surface level for business and recreation. The elder Nanuens—those who are by this point 150 and older—may often be glimpsed in the central business district, passing between engagements in their funeral-like hovercade processions. Their children may likewise be seen up and down lakeshore drive or Overside’s glass district, flaunting the newest designer bodies and racking up truly extraordinary bar tabs. A number of derogatory terms exist for Nanuens who visit groundside businesses: goldies, nanny boys, and others. Of course, people are seldom stupid enough to say this to their faces.

Dealing with the Nanuens

This, at last, brings us to the important question: how does Nanuen affect you.

If you are lucky, it will not.

WHEE are fully aware that, as a toonpunk, you probably dislike Nanuens on principle. You dislike their blatant centralization of power, you dislike their wholesale exploitation of the working class, you dislike their garish architecture and their dreadful theater. You probably want to rob them blind, and perhaps murder them afterwards for good measure. Don’t do this.

The only people who can afford to live in Nanuen are the kind of people who are so powerful that, if they shot you to death in front of a crowd of people, every single witness would testify in court that they saw you kill yourself. Do not approach Nanuen, do not vandalize Nanuen, do not try to rob Nanuen, do not even think about it if you can help it. They are off-limits for toonpunking.

There is one, and only one, situation where professionally involving yourself with Nanuen does not result in your untimely demise: if you are exceedingly skilled—the kind of person whose name is only known by a select few, and always spoken of in the most furtive whispers—then you may at some point be contacted by a Nanuen who will ask you to perform a service for them. Usually, this will be something horrifyingly dangerous and immoral.

If a Nanuen decides you are qualified to do their dirty work for them, then you should be aware that working with people at that level is akin to signing a contract with the devil. They will pay you the kind of money you can retire off of…but once they’ve got you, you’re never, ever getting off that leash. Once you start working for Nanuens you can expect blackmail, calls from unknown numbers at 3 AM, men in black suits visiting your kids at school…and other, less pleasant things.

Fear the Nanuens—even the fairest of them cut throats to make their fortune.