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"It's funny. People outside of the Sprawls think, 'Gosh, how could people live in such a horrible place?' But you know what? Not seeing the sun or trees is a pretty good trade off for being able to do anything you want, and having the ability to work up the system not found anywhere else in the world. So really, we’re looking outside the Sprawls and saying, 'Those poor, poor people outside.' Ha."

- Stanislao Mancini, Principate of the Mercury Sprawl

Who lives in a Sprawl? Edit

To many outsiders, the Sprawls are a horrible, crowded, and dangerous place to live. And indeed, they are. But such downsides are seen as opportunities to the avaricious, desperate, or the anarchic. So despite the menace of the Sprawls, most Sprawl dwellers have no desire to live elsewhere, and more than a few people outside have dreams of running away to a Sprawl.

To these people, the Sprawls are a bastion of freedom, both political and economic. The Syndicate truly does not care where you come from, as long as they profit from your work. If your tribe marked you “untouchable”, if a government has branded you as an Enemy of the People for speaking against them, or if you’re desperately poor with no hope of money, the Sprawls welcome you, and protects you. Even well-to-do people might emigrate; the rise of socialism (both democratic and autocratic) in the 20th century has alienated many people who consider themselves hard working and not needing government caretakers. The Syndicate stands as one of the last places capitalism thrives, and those who believe capitalism is the act of the lowly bettering themselves find no better place.

Not everyone is so philosophical. Many criminals, from petty thugs to sophisticated white-collar embezzlers come to the Sprawls, as their craft is better suited in a place where the police are entirely mercenary. Though in truth the Sprawls have laws against most crimes of man, the Legionnaires are overwhelmed with fighting gangs and often turn a blind eye towards petty crimes, especially if no one is hurt. The technology and luxuries of the Sprawl attract other types of people, who are tired of saving for colour television while drinking beer, and instead want to “chat” with their friends on the AURA network while drinking milk laced with Smilex.

Regardless of where they come from, joining a Sprawl is a simple affair. One only has to emigrate and become an Italian citizen, which is made easier when one is sponsored by the Syndicate. If you’re poor, one of the Syndicate’s many banks can give you a loan, but a rich person will be hit with successively larger “taxes” to prevent a corporate raider from coming in and taking over a Sprawl. Often, a immigrant will already have a contract with a company in a Sprawl, which gives them a job and perhaps a home immediately in return for a guaranteed term of employment.

Kids in the Syndicate Edit

All children, even the poorest of the poor, are entitled to an education. This is not for their benefit; the Syndicate wants workers to not be complete morons when they work. Many children, however, don’t get the opportunity, as their parents make them work from the start. If a child’s parents aren’t so desperate, at about age five a child will spend six years learning how to read, do simple math problems, and operate a computer.

This is an especially important step early in a Sprawl’s existence. The Syndicate wishes to erase the slightest trace of culture of its home country, and while difficult with an adult, children are more pliable. Italian and Latin are taught until fluency, and encouraged to be spoken at home; speaking anything other than these languages and English (considered the “gutter speak” of the Sprawl) at school is punishable by detention or worse.

After primary school the child is ready for a life of long hours and hard work, unless their parents are rich enough to send them to one of the many private schools in the housing arcologies of the Sprawl. There, a teenager can learn a variety of subjects, from AURA designing to corporate leadership, to advanced combat theory. The richest and most influential can send their child to the University Urbe Eternum, in the Rome MegaSprawl. One of the world’s all around best universities, it rivals Cambridge and Harvard and any child taught there is all but assured a place high in the Syndicate hierarchy. The Syndicate is keen to make sure this university is world class, because a child born in the Sprawls has almost no chance of enlisting in any outside school.

Stolas and Spandex Edit

Like the rest of the world, there is no dyed in the wool set clothing that every single person wears. But still, like the rest of the world, there are trends. One of the most popular trends is to dress like what is thought to be the norm of 15 years in the future. After all, the future is the Syndicate’s, and it's best to look like you belong. Men enjoy pastel colored suit jackets, while women wear spandex leotards or short skirts, with padded shoulders for reasons beyond outsiders. Popular accessories include wrist watches (often with miniature computers) for men, leg warmers for women, and for both sexes thick, oversize sunglasses (often worn at night).

It is still 1969, though, and outside fashions have trickled in. For many of the counter culture types, the drug culture is a lure many can not resist, and though many end up as destitute on the streets, they still make their impact on Sprawl life. As it is on the outside, these people and their admirers wear bell bottom jeans, tie-dyed shirts, and headbands. Another look is the retro, which for the Syndicate, is millennia old. Though no one really wants to dress in a toga, some clothes are made to resemble ancient Roman clothing. This can be as minor as a bulla worn around the neck, or as major as a full tunic. Retro clothing is often part of an occupation. Most famously, secretaries of executives, almost always women, wear replicas of stolas, though the often DayGlo colors ruin any authenticity.

Sprawlers Just Wanna Have Fun Edit

It has been said that one can deduce the most on a people when they're having fun. With that in mind, consider what the Syndicate does for fun. Much has been made of the ability to buy drugs on any mom-and-pop store on the street levels of an arcology, but that is not the only vice legal in the Sprawls. Prostitution is entirely legal, and even regulated by the Syndicate. Prostitutes are easily identifiable and brothels openly advertised. Many laws exist; prostitutes have to be willing, of the right age, and more or less healthy. This is seen as a similar system as the Smilex theory, that a vice is best "clean" and open. It is rumoured that all these laws are null in the Yoshiwara Sprawl.

The Sprawls are a violent place, and even honest, hard working people are eventually driven to brawl. "Block Wars" break out periodically in every Sprawl with enough people. Often between housing arcologies, groups of people pick up gyrojets, cartridge guns, or even just lead pipes and fight senselessly with other people. Legionnaires do not interfere, since there's no point in risking their lives to save people who will kill themselves anyways. Indeed, survivors are often recruited with the Legionnaires, while ANN live coverage has proven quite entertaining and is often edited into a sports show, which competes for viewers with underground gladiatorial matches between battlesuits, either against other battlesuits or against arrested criminals.

Not all Syndicate entertainment is so ghastly. The AURA network is mostly used for Syndicate purposes, but normal people also use it. At the most basic level, the AURA can only be used to transmit text to another user, or in a message board, but this alone has proven revolutionary in how people interact. Instead of going out to see a movie at the theatre, friends will watch the movie independently and comment by text message. Crude games has also arisen using just text, from trivia challenges about World War III, to "role playing" games where one pretends to be something else, with the works of Tolkien being a popular setting. However, the most popular use of the AURA is the simple "chat" room, where one talks with people who may be in the same Sprawl or on the other side of the world. Whole subcultures have arisen from this simple concept, more so than telephoning in the Allied Nations. What the future holds for such a concept is unknown, but it is the Syndicate's nevertheless.

Live to Eat Edit

"There is such a thing as an edible, nay, delicious meat pie floater, its mushy peas of just the right consistency, its tomato sauce piquant in its cheekiness, its pie filling tending even towards named parts of the animal. There are platonic burgers made of beef instead of cow lips and hooves. There are fish 'n' chips where the batter is more than just a white goo lurking at the bottom of a batter casing and you can't use the chips to shave with. There are hot dog fillings that have more in common with meat than mere pinkness, whose lucky consumers don't apply mustard because that would spoil the taste. It's just that people can be trained to prefer the other sort, and seek it out. It's as if Machiavelli had written a cookery book.

Even so, there is no excuse for putting pineapple on pizza."

- Terry Pratchett

The various Syndicate agricultural subsidiaries, such as AgriCorp or the Beantil Corporation, operate their fields in the open land outside the Sprawls, employing scientific methods and agricultural machinery to grow and harvest various crops on a large scale. The crops grown on these farms are throughly inundated with artificial growth hormones, pesticides, and fertilisers as to make them unusually large and (somewhat) nutritious, if bland and possibly the cause of several diseases. Livestock are similarly treated (with the addition of hearty doses of antibiotics, of course), to the ire of various animal rights groups. While some experiments into vat-grown meat have made headway in replicating animal cells, keeping said cells alive and producing large portions of meat, let alone real-life textures or actual cuts, has been a different matter altogether, and even Sprawl dwellers do not provide much of a market for what are essentially cow tumours.

After being harvested, crops are sold to various companies that process them into cheap insta-meals, frozen bulk ingredients for fast-food joints, or packaged snacks, adding preservatives, food dyes, flavouring substances, and various other food additives, in the process removing or replacing most of whatever flavour or nutritional value they still might have contained, and distributed to various supermarkets and restaurants.

The average Sprawl dweller eats mostly fast food or takeout. Hamburgers, hot dogs, meat pies, sausages, pizza, curry, pazzas, noodles; whatever the common local cuisine is, there is a cheap, greasy version available. Supermarkets mainly sell insta-meals that can be reheated in a matter of minutes. Almost no one cooks with raw ingredients in their home in a Sprawl.

No Man Edit

As the Interweb connected people to each other, it came to be that some people became skilled in not only using it, but breaking it to their own purposes. Usually, this was nothing more than a scheme to get money or a puerile vandalism, but some aspired to something greater. A man who called himself Agostino used his talent to reveal some of the Syndicate's many underhanded actions, sometimes posting on message boards, while other times sending videos to non-Syndicate TV stations, wearing a mask of Brutus to avoid identification. Unfortunately, this didn't work; the last video sent showed that he was interrupted midway by a Satyr.

He sparked a very loosely organized movement, however, dedicated to bringing down the corruption of the Sprawls, or so they say. They call themselves "Nemo", for their anonymity is the key to their continued survival. No one knows anyone else' real name, nor their faces, as they've taken to wearing the Brutus mask like their inspiration. They operate by using the Interweb against the Syndicate, avoiding corporate AURA technicians and Tiberius to find or insert information that will somehow damage the Syndicate, though it usually hurts normal people even more. This definition is rather loose, as it ranges from revealing documents that show how a laboratory faked its information to favour a Syndicate product, to sending seizure-causing images to a Syndicate-run hospital for epileptics, to harassing a young daughter of a high-ranking Syndicate member to publish naked pictures of herself.

Unfortunately, Nemo's anonymity is also its greatest weakness. The network is used by the darkest fringes of society to protect themselves from prosecution, often with Nemo's widespread consent and approval. Worse still, many members' blind hatred of the Syndicate means they'll support anyone who works against them. When Salvatore Giordano killed a corporate executive, within minutes Nemo was already discussing how to keep him from being punished, an action which ended up with him walking free. These actions and others mean Nemo, far from its supposed image of scrappy underdogs, is usually little better in its methods or goals than the Syndicate. It's a common joke in the Sprawls that what Satyrs do to the streets, Nemo does for the Interweb.

Mediterranean Syndicate Security Forces

Paradox-Exclusive Faction.

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