CH. 57 «The Caspian Company»

AIPTEK

05-03-2310

It’s a symbol that’s become very familiar to me now: The swirling braid of doom; a dark star spiraling solemnly; a rotten sinkhole sprawling ever outwards. Since I moved here I’ve recognized it at every turn. Even before that, when I first visited Mars, I remember noticing it everywhere along the coast.

“That’s the mark of the Caspian Company,” explained Leucosia with slight respect, maybe a little awe. She only dwelled on it a moment before pulling out her COG and engaging the display.

“Oh, are we near Caspan?” When I said the name she looked up at me from the glowing holoscreen with her mouth open like I’d asked a noob question. It took her a nano to remember I’d just moved to Amazonia.

“It’s Caspian, baby, Ca-spi-an. Get it right, they would laugh at you around here,” she reflected a moment. “Of course, around here they’ll laugh at you for everything, so don’t pay them any mind,” she advised, returning her gaze to the screen. She meant to say she would have been laughing if she weren’t dating me.

There was a quiet, slumbersome haze of orange hanging humid on the morning. Seemed as if the June Gloom had come early this year. I walked by the same spot I must have passed when I first visited over three and a half years ago; the day I came to Style Isle for the very first time. It was slightly more impressive to me back then, as were most Martian outdoor malls. Spare all that open air, it reminded me of the one that was closest to my home then, The Galleria just outside of DT. Mostly just because of the verbose architecture and lavish displays of wealth, though it did have similar stores and clientele–they were the only two malls I’d ever been in that had a Neimark Bergman. Like most things I’d learned of Mars, its beauty was exclusive to the exterior.

Though there was a fully functioning automated escalator in front of me, I instead ascended a staircase to the side in attempts to retrace old steps. It was what I can only describe as an eerily vacant Tuesday morning on the west side of the isle.

Her voice continued, echoing over the sound of my footsteps, “The Caspian Company owns everything around here.” I had only gained a vague sense of the word everything. Perhaps just this mall and maybe some of the communities right around it, I‘d seen the logo emblazoned on at least one or two of the complexes along the way. If I’d have been paying more attention then, I’d have observed it duplicated on every directory, advisory and road sign along the way.

Today it’s unavoidable for me to notice the appearance of that insignia. Everywhere I look it gets pressed into the pavement and masonry upon completion of another construction effort. Or stamped into all the serial metal and polymer pieces prefabricated off site in mass production to cut overall costs. I couldn’t yet have possibly fathomed any of this then.

“What do they do?” I was intrigued, and thought Why does one company get to own a mall? What makes them think they’re so gorking special? Until then it never occurred to me that, even back on Earth, a shopping mall was usually owned by one company. But that company usually doesn’t own every other mall and real estate in the vicinity, which I would soon learn was the case here.

“I’m not quite sure…I know they own a bunch of land and like, build housing units and stuff…I don’t know what they do at all, actually,” she confessed, now looking completely puzzled by it herself, her tiny eyebrows knotted in confusion over two unnaturally blue sapphires. She desperately plunged them into the enveloping blue of her smartcomm’s display and avoided answering more.

I paused a moment at a small platform with a strange slab of a bench and a memorial dedicated to someone long dead. I’m still not sure to whom, cause I’ve never read it, only used it to snuff out my cigis. From the peculiar little green lawn on the floating platform one could catch a wide glimpse of the ruby Amazonis Ocean through all the palm trees, parking lot light standards, and the two flagpoles: one that flew the colors of Mars, the other the spangled-banner of Earth. It’s been a long time since I got dumped on Mars, almost three years. Since the end of that fragged relationship I’d done a bit of research into The Caspian Company.

It started in 2164 when Gams Caspian Sr. and his associates purchased two large colonies of Martian land: Colone Sant Jung, a long strip against the west coast, and Colone Santiago, the adjacent hill country that proved useless for agriculture and livestock. They were buying up property after the trickling off of the Martian Gold Rush, collecting assets that would become known as the Caspian Colony. In 2194, against his father’s wishes, Gams Caspian II incorporated the land holdings into The Caspian Company, which proceeded to continue buying up surrounding land and dig a firm foot hold into Martian soil.

I took my fill of the view of the serene marine scene and turned about, pulling out my texti to check my position already out of habit. I’d only loaded the app on my texti after starting my most recent job and it had become my most frequently used tool ever since.

Still, the GPS I was using was basic, it just created a 3D rendering based on satellite imagery and triangulation, crunched it into a static image and sent it in a form small enough for my second-rate comm to handle. This particular app was neat though ‘cause it gave me access to reviews, suggestions and way points left by other users. A green arrow noted my exact location and even respected my orientation by creating the map facing east, as I was standing with the north to my left side.

Style Isle had been oriented in the middle of Olympus County in this image, though it normally marked the north-west boundary of The Caspian Colony. It provided an amazing lookout over the great red ocean. What better location to be crafted into the crown of the Nuport Center: a business, shopping and entertainment district created as one of many shopping mall complexes to anchor the surrounding districts. In some grander scheme it was devised also as the unofficial downtown center of the entire colony property. Surrounding the ring-shaped complex were six uberblocks, each separately leased out after being designed and built by the same self-indulgent architect behind all of the so-called interplanetary style buildings of this islet. It is not—as I have stated before—an actual island.

This verdant knoll, rising over the rivers delta’s bay, had previously been considered by the ever-so-popular Empire of The Mouse for the construction of their infamous Martian theme park–rejected in favor of a larger inland location in Olympus, closer to the cultural capital of Novus Angelicas and the mag rails that fed the city in the early days of Amazonia. Everything on the map south of here and as far east as the quite recently incorporated City of Caspian now belonged to the company. 40 years ago, this entire area didn’t really exist.

Sorry, Style Isle is totally fragged. I’m far too intimate with this terrible place to still be enchanted by any of its extravagant charm; this is where I used to work along with Leucosia and her sister. I’ve had plenty of good and bad memories here just from the short while I’ve lived around these parts. I’d actually have to say that out of any other spot on Mars I have the most emotional history with this one. But I don’t really wanna to delve into any of it right this nano, especially any of the blips that seem to pop up at an enormous, flat water feature I step to the edge of.

As always, the koi seemed rather excited, confined within their shallow pond. Well, relatively excited anyway. These oversized Japethian carp always have a bit of a dopey expression on their face if you ask me, like they’d even be thrilled live in a bathtub if it came with a little sunlight and food. When you observe systems so resistant to change, you mark any slight deviation from the norm as extremely radical. The fat gold fish looked pretty excited. On days when Leucosia wasn’t working at the island, or any time our breaks didn’t ended up overlapping, I would come up to this fortune of a fish pond alone to smoke a cig, and eventually be thankful I didn’t have kids of my own to worry about falling in the water or ruining their brand-new clothes.

It’s one of The Isle’s more beautiful attractions, but still a site even I’d grown sick of. Funny that I should think to come here to spend my break while The Census has me stationed in the area. I mean, I might hate this whole place for what it stands for, and almost every single person that shops here, but I can still find within it something redeeming and beautiful from time to time. Like all the slag they crammed into the parkng lot that used to exist outside my store…the place I’d spent most of my break time wondering and thinking while seated in Caspian marked patio furniture…back when we had a patio… that’s hax.

Seems as though one of the ways the Caspian Company has learned to gain efficiency is to lay the foundation for future constructions by quartering off the space and cementing it over to use the lot for parking first. I’ve noticed it here, and on obsolete census mapcards that display an additional landing lot where a nearly finished housing unit now stands.

I’m sure if I wanted to look hard enough on a map, from a tall vantage or even just from the side of the road, I could spot one of these provisional tracts of land, swelling as the Caspian Company fattened it up like a foul for feasting, before its had the stuff beaten to its surface and the blood let from it like some sort of sacrificial lizard. And there’s so little time before I scheduled myself to resume work today, but so much that I still have to say about the one company that controls all of our lives around here. I’ll only find more things to rant about the more days I work for the Census in this district, and the more time I spend staring at the lasting product of their influence.

Before departing from the island, I bid adieu to my fishy friends. I felt as a one of their former brethren freed from the imprisonment which they will never escape. I gave them some pity for having to sit pretty and collect coins for the Caspian Company confined in this commercial monument erected in dedication to decadence. I knew if I could hear the koi speaking they’d be congratulating me on getting out. Or ask for foods.

“You know this is the weakest part of the mall, right?” Leucosia’s voice rippled on a wave of memory. “Only the tourists waste their time at these things,” she almost swallowed as she finished saying, realizing she’d insulted me. She finally put away the comm in her brand-new purse and tried to cover up by immediately acting playful. “C’mon, I wanna show you where I shop,” her blue eyes smiled and skipped away towards the Atrium Court.

I did the same thing I did back then, quickly fell back into the flowing crowd of synthetic humanoids and resumed trying my hardest to blend in like an Amazonian. This time, though, it was out of necessity for survival amongst this hazardous environment and not any desire to become any more like the creatures inhabiting Mars. Just help me slip by them unnoticed one more day.

CIRCULARCROP-itlom102-chapter-caspiancompany copy

PREV: CH. 56 «Scavengers of Space, Martian Day-Workers, and Me»

PREV: CH. 56 «Scavengers of Space, Martian Day-Workers, and Me»

NEXT: CH. 58 «University of Mars, Caspian»

NEXT: CH. 58 «University of Mars, Caspian»

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