To explain how the covered market came to be, we first need to explain lake Saskatoon.
During Bloody March, much of the land around the Saskatoon GenMu was deformed: numerous titanic bodies, ongoing melees, and cluster barrages by the RCA all helped to make the land virtually unrecognizable. One of the most notable terraformations was the formation of Lake Saskatoon, which came about as the result of a drawn-out brawl between an army of giant naked men from a horror manga and an army of giant naked women from an…other manga. The conflict raged for over two months, until a combination of flooding and artillery fire finally destroyed all the local instances of the combatants’ homepages. By the end of the fighting, most of the Western half of Saskatoon had been destroyed; and the river bed itself had been widened and twisted so badly it was commonly described as “a bit like a wizard sleeve”.
The resulting lake (2.25 km wide, 30 meters deep at its deepest point, 2 meters deep at its shallowest) proved to be a considerable pain for reconstruction architects at the time, and for citizens many years thereafter.
During the early reconstruction days, the UCAS-based think tank Applied Robotics in Nonhuman Animals used it as a chance to field test their new Ocean Sweeper project. The Ocean Sweepers were a school of rainbow trout which were cybernetically augmented with an “exterior stomach”—a small structure roughly two inches wide, which hosted a colony of waste-consuming nanobots. It tunneled into the creature and hijacked its stomach and brain, causing it to seek out and devour industrial waste (including plastic, polystyrene, and other commonly-discarded inorganic materials). Additionally, it hijacked the reproductive faculties of male fish so that their children would be born with a “dormant” version of the same augmentation, which would grow to full functional maturity alongside the fish. This was intended to continue for three generations; and then the augmentation would sterilize the male specimens. The fish would die off, allowing conventional specimens to take their place. This did not go as planned.
An error in the augments’ programming meant that this never happened. Instead of being sterilized, they continued to wildly propagate over the years—on one hand they devoured most of the waste in the lake in a matter of months; but on the other hand they quickly accelerated to vermin status. The ocean sweeper school in lake Saskatoon is today estimated to be roughly 200,000 strong, and are regularly fished for by the city’s poorer residents. While they taste like old socks and poop, their mechanical stomachs metabolize their food so well that they are reasonably safe to eat—reasonably enough that you will consider it while broke. They also earned their home the nickname “trash lake”—because in the years since it has become economical for citizens, companies, and even disposal companies to just dump their trash into the water and let the fish devour it. It’s gross.
It’s not half as gross, however, as what happened next. After the proliferation of the waste-eating fish, someone saw an opportunity. Richards Pharmaceutical Corporation—now defunct, and commonly believed to have been a Morbux-backed heatsink company—purchased 1.15 square kilometers in the center of the lake from the municipal government. They thereafter funded the construction of Richards Tower—now colloquially known as the Big Dick. Standing 10 stories tall, Richards Tower was completed in 2056 and operated for 11 years. It was an offshore research and development platform investigating the medical uses of ink. The important part of was not that it conducted research, but that it conducted research away from witnesses—and in the middle of a sea of waste-eating fish which could very easily dispose of evidence.
Today, it is whispered that the true purpose of this facility was a staging ground for illegal human experimentation in high-ink conditions—research which would have been prohibitively difficult to perform outside of Saskatoon, and impossible to conceal if performed within the more populated areas. Obviously, any and all hard evidence related to this was destroyed long ago; but correlated witness accounts at the time often report armed guards being posted around the tower’s base, with a number of forlorn and skinny-looking people often being sighted milling around in the tower’s ground-floor garden and gazing wistfully at the city. Soon after the these reports became public, the Richards company hastily erected a privacy fence around the base of the tower.
Far more concerning—and more alarming in its implication—were the 4 corpses which washed up on shore during the tower’s operation. In 2058, 2061, 2066, and 2068, the Saskatoon police department documented four similar cases: emaciated individuals, each bearing signs of long-term restraint, were found dead on the shore of lake Saskatoon. None had been in the water for more than 6 hours, and on autopsy each was found to have died from water inhalation. However, each was also found to have suffered from massive internal hemorrhaging, after having had their aorta cleanly severed. Most peculiarly of all, none of them showed signs of a fatal injury—their skins were all unbroken. At the time, the police department suspected the bodies to be the work of a serial torture-killer; but when the killings abruptly stopped in 2068, the case went cold and today remains unsolved.
When Richards Pharmaceutical declared bankruptcy that same year, Richards Tower and the Richards land were auctioned off. The lot was promptly purchased by the Keystone banking company, which then leased it out in three parts to Kingston Aeronautics, Langston Construction Company, and Woods Luxury Manufacturing company. While this is technically above-board, any punk worth their salt will note that all four of those companies share board members with the North American Morbux cartel—meaning that the entire property was effectively a Morbux-owned corporate playground where any investigation could be mired in multiple corporations’ worth of red tape. In 2071, the UCAS ratified Richards Towers’ status as an extra-governmental enclave, effectively removing it from Canadian jurisdiction. Despite no longer being beholden to the UCAS law, the property holders have been steadily increasing security around it ever since.
While Richards Tower has been steadily expanded on for the past 2 centuries—now standing at 83 stories tall—the most notable change to came shortly after its independence, when Keystone declared a most peculiar open-border policy: it planned to erect low-income housing on the water around the tower, and to let the first 300 people who volunteered to live there do so without paying rent. This offer was accepted by very few at first, for by then Richards Tower had acquired something of an ominous reputation. However, when months went by with no word of workers vanishing, or turning up dead, more and more people came to accept the offer. Soon the entire complement of 300 had been filled, with many bringing spouses or children. It was soon generally accepted that Keystone’s housing project was a ham-fisted attempt at removing the negative stigma surrounding the tower—and it was one which undeniably succeeded.
Today the shantytown around Richards Tower is highly expansive, having grown well past those initial few housing blocks. While Keystone banking lists the place as hosting roughly 800 factory standard floating houses, there are many more than that. The entire property is secured only by whichever corporate security firm the property-holders have hired on at the moment—which means that the sum total of law and order on the floating ghetto was “Do not damage company property”. When news of its relaxed borders and lackluster policing reached the criminal underworld’s ear, there was practically a run on the place from all sorts of shady characters. By 2110, the whole mile-and-a-half reservation had been occupied—not only by bank-owned housing, but by squatters who had rigged up small boats or barges to the rest of the structure.
Circa 2120, it acquired the nickname “the covered market”—for many of the squatters saw fit to drape sheets and tarps over the narrow walkways between dwellings, for to lock in the fleeting heat; and indeed, many services of a distinctly unsavory manner may be negotiated there. Today, these improvised dwellings tower over the water, as high as 15 stories in some places; and an estimated 2000 people live within the Richards Tower property. No attempt has been made by Keystone to remove these squatters. While their official stance is that they do not want to drive away people who have nowhere else to go, the more conspiratorially-minded among us believe that this was all part of a calculated gambit on their part: for now, any rabble-rousers who might seek to raid the facility must go through a meat wall some 2000 strong. More than that, though, disappearances are common within the covered market—and no one can say for certain whether the missing persons are falling victim to their fellow squatters, or to the sleeping corporate beast that anchors their community together…