San Paro is a thriving city located somewhere on the west coast of the United States. For more then 25 years the city has been retilted by crime, it was because of this that Mayor Jane Derren instituted the City Security Act. This act has managed to keep the carnage to two specific areas of the city; however, at the rate it is going, there will be many more areas taken over by this menace.
A letter from the mayor
My fellow San Paroans,
I share your anger. This is not the city of our fore-fathers. When San Paro was established, it was an Earthly paradise. Now it's a city at war. We are under siege from evil and corrupt Criminal forces that want to steal our city. I say it's time we showed them they aren't getting it!
Many of you will remember my father, Mayor John Derren. He was a great and honorable man. You elected him, on a Social Progressive ticket, to fix our city’s problems.
We all share the memory of that terrible day when Luke Waskawi gunned my father down in cold blood on the steps of City Hall.
We all know that Luke did not serve his full sentence. He never fully atoned for the terrible crime he committed. Sadly, he chose to devote his life to crime and injustice rather than using his extraordinary intelligence and talents to help this city. He robbed us all of the clean up this city hoped for. My office even now has intelligence that suggests he continues to rob us of a bright future by luring young people into a life of crime.
What he cannot steal from us is my father's vision. I have his papers: all of his collected knowledge about this city, its people, and how to clean it up is written in those pages. We can stop the Criminals, San Paro! We can take back our city and make it once more a legendary place that draws tourists from all over the world.
You deserve someone who will lead you towards a brighter, safer future. I am mayor because you chose me. The Derren name means something in San Paro, and I mean to live up to that.
I've already started making necessary changes, like replacing SPPD Commissioner Thirly with Commissioner Carter. I'm asking you to show him the same trust and support you've so generously shown me.
But the problems we face are too big for me to fix alone. I can appoint the best, brightest, and most dedicated people to key positions but we still need your help.
The City Security Act allows organizations of enthusiastic and well-intentioned San Paroans to join in the effort to reclaim the city. Working with the San Paro Police Department they help us ensure adequate coverage of specific areas with no cost to the tax-payer. The Praetorians and Prentiss Tigers are already making a difference on the incidence of crime in their areas. It's time, San Paro! Let's take our city back!
Jane Derren, Mayor.
San Paro Biography
When the first humans left their prints in the wet, white sands of Nantego Beach, they thought they had found a paradise. At the meeting of two rivers. where the Makoda subsumed itself into the shimmering span of the Nantego in its final rush to mother sea, they abandoned their journey and sank their roots in the land. A settlement quickly established itself, propelled on by an abundance of natural resources. The rich soils of the river basin supported a variety of crops.
The warm winds blew across from the gulf, and from the crystal waters the fishermen reaped the treasures to feed a growing population of craftsmen and traders. And all the while the town spread its tendrils further inland. reaching out for the wider world, eager for contact. As centuries passed, the deep river channels were perfect for the ships that sailed in from all points of the compass, bringing silks and spices, pottery, cloth, wine and rare metals. San Paro became a maritime hub, a launch point for explorers, a thriving international port.
Of course, that was then.
Sirens cut through the night. The turbo whine of tuners careering headlong through the neon alleys. Uptown, the air is alive with the pepper-rattle of small arms. The sky is clear but there are no stars, only a jaundice haze bleeding into black space. The broiling boulevards, the leviathan Scrapers; a lattice of electric light stretching in every direction, obliterating heaven.
Sunrise comes, and the banks of smog roll over from Cortland Point, retched from the hundreds of chimneys which form a thorned carapace across the western edge of the tributary. On a still, hot day, the glass and concrete spires of Havalynd disappear into the grey mire; a debased Olympus, built with the blood of men and inhabited by corporate gods.
The Nantego is a great brown slug, squirming uncomfortably between the quay walls and the rotting banks. Its stench rolls over the docks and the coastal districts, permeating everything. Nothing has lived in there for thirty years.
The gunfire has subsided now. The gangs are sleeping. Only the occasional crackle and burst as the cops try to pick up the stragglers. Already, blankeyed medics sift through the bodies. Soon the citizens will emerge, their broken sleep painted in tiny fracture lines around their eyes. They crawl in gridlock along the arterial roads, tired or scared or empty.
Welcome to San Paro.
Note: It seems the creators of this text couldn't decide whether San Paro was founded by pirates or merchants and left both in.
"A parcel of many different-coloured and different-tongued rogues and thieves" is how one far-flung 18th century traveller from more civilised climes once described the city that still stands at the point where the Nantego and Makoda rivers meet and flow into the sea.
San Paro's early history is muddled especially when it's dependant on who is writing the history books but it's generally agreed that the (trading post/pirate base) that the city would grow from was founded by (intrepid merchant traders/opportunistic sea marauders) who had travelled across the Pacific to find the safe anchorage of Nantego Bay and the attendant rich pickings of the various trade routes that intersected there. Many nationalities helped build the city. The Chinese, Koreans, English, Dutch and Spanish all established trading posts in the bay. In the centuries that followed, various wars and trading alliances between these peoples saw these trading posts begin to merge together, forming the beginnings of the city. Some were swallowed up entirely, as one trading group disposed of a weaker rival.
It was the Europeans who emerged the final victors - their superior firepower and all-conquering spirit of manifest destiny enough to establish them as the city's dominant power players for the next several hundred years. The Koreans hung on where others fell away, and have always managed to deftly negotiate a continuing seat for themselves at the top table, as the city changed hands various times between various new colonial masters.
Colonial overlords came and went, each leaving behind something of itself in the San Paro gene pool, but the Spanish lasted long enough to at least leave behind the name of San Paro, and the British (and later, after them, the Americans) were around long enough to ensure that English remains the official linga franca of this most polyglot of cities. Korean and Spanish are also widely spoken throughout the city, although a traditionally Anglo-dominated city bureaucracy has always blocked any serious attempt to put ether of them on the same equal official footing as English.
The Koreans, happy to go along with any superficial accommodations as long as they continue to control a significant portion of the city‘s wealth, don't press the point. The Latinos, now mostly forming part of the city's burgeoning underclass, aren't in a position to do much of anything about it.
As a free port and major Pacific trade hub, San Paro is used to the flotsam and jetsam of shifts in the global financial and employment markets washing up on its shores. Some have prospered. Others have not. Welcome to the unofficial San Paro City Lottery. Race has never been a major issue in San Paro, where so many cultures have always come together to trade. Here, it's wealth and celebrity that define your status, not the colour of your skin or the language your grandparents spoke.
Havalynd is all about business and serious money, and serious money, in San Paro, means Anglos and Asians. They‘ve stamped their skyscrapers down on top of the remnants of the early trading port that used to exist there, redrawing the maps in the same way that they‘ve tried to rewrite the history books to prove they‘ve always been there. Gresty, a public housing enclave carved out by well-intentioned but doomed-to-failure zoning policies of the Social Progressive Party in the 1970s and 80s, hangs on by its fingernails, its mixed community of poor Africans, Anglos, Asians and Latinos banding together to give the collective finger to their social superiors.
Midtown is a 100% melting pot, the hotspot where all sections of San Paro meet and mix, with everyone grabbing a piece of whatever they can get. Everyone‘s got a foothold; no-one has full purchase. The Asians - Chinese, Japanese and lower-class Korean - have a stranglehold on the Denkiba area and its electronics retail trade. The Projects around Green Street, a dumping ground for the problems social services couldn't deal with or shift out to the city's outer fringes, are predominantly African and Latino, and are an everdependable recruitment pool for gangs like Red Rain. The middle class San Parians who can't afford the jump to safer parts of the city cluster together in the areas around John Holland University and the SPPD's Keep headquarters, seeking reassuring shelter in the shadow of these crumbling civic edifices.
The Waterfront was the original point of entry to San Paro for much of its immigrant population. A lot of them prospered and moved on. Some didn't, and still form the pockets of impoverished resentment in Netherport and around the Yard Stretch. Now the descendants of other more prosperous immigrants are returning to the area, re-colonising it to gaze down from their luxury converted warehouse apartments at the wharfs and jetties where their great grandparents first stepped ashore. The wealthy and quietly conservative enclave of Prentiss continues to glower suspiciously down at this unwelcome social mobility. Fame and money open most doors in San Paro, but the membership rolls of Prentiss's country clubs and golf ranges remain barred to many outsiders.
San Paro Old Money makes its home in the Concession. They‘re mostly Asians and Europeans, but the only real passports you need to gain access to this secluded and privileged world are wealth and discretion. The basis of many of the San Paro Old Money family fortunes were built on the profits from piracy, slavery and various kinds of smuggling and trading in illicit contraband, so they don't complain much now that San Paro New Money i.e. organised crime has moved into the neighbourhood, as long as the new arrivals keep the noise down and conduct their business well away from home.
You can see the quiet boulevards and walled mansions of the Concession from across Central Park, from the condos and townhouse rooftops of well-todo Virginia Gardens, where San Paro's not quite wealthy enough and not quite powerful enough reside. Corporate CEOs and majority shareholders live in the Concession. Their lawyers, tax accountants and divisional vice-presidents live in Virginia Gardens, where, at the rounds of the endless dinner and cocktail parties, there are the same endless conversations about the Gardens being so much more happening than the Concession anyway. Fashionably liberal, the Gardens has the highest concentration of San Paro Standard readers in the city. Newcomers from other areas are always welcome, just as long as they're the right kind of newcomers.
Further uptown, there's Montebank, still geographically if not socially - considered part of 'original' old San Paro. Population shifts decades earlier -the decanting of whole communities from Havalynd as skyscraper construction began marching across the district, the decline of the Waterfront as a working port, an attempted regeneration of Midtown - saw this once prosperous area fill up with the city's poor and jobless. Squeezed between the wealthier (and heavily protected) areas downtown of it, and the outlying areas now filling up with cheap immigrant labour, Montebank became a trap for the people living there. Montebank has the lowest school attendance rates and highest gangs per-square kilometre figures in the city.
In its boom years, San Paro's factories in Red Hill and its power stations in Cortland Point needed workers, and plenty of them. Cheap immigrant labour from Africa, from Asia, from Latin America and Eastern Europe (the latter including Luke Waskawi's own father) - flooded into the city to meet its manpower demands. The boom years ended. The city's manufacturing base went into terminal decline. A lot of the factories and power stations are gone. The people who worked in them are still there, forming a large and disaffected part of the population of these areas. In Red Hill, Russian - not Korean or Spanish - is now the second most commonly spoken language, after English. In Cortland Point, graffiti appears in half a dozen or more different Asian languages everything from Cantonese to Sanskrit.
The Yard is the newest area of San Paro, a vast urban sprawl built to house the immigrant overspill and those traditional San Parians forced out of their traditional neighbourhoods by a combination of urban decay, rising crime, gentrification-led spiralling rents and population decanting to make way for urban reconstruction. The ideal was to create a new Outer San Paro. The reality was far different. Left more or less unpoliced by a shrinking SPPD, the Yard became a patchwork collection of warring communities, as each ethnic group or immigrant population clustered together for self-protection, while at the same time usually preying on their neighbours. San Paro's polyglot culture disastrously breaks down in the Yard, where all the city's constituent groups - with the obvious absence of the wealthy are crammed together and at each other's throats.
As Mikko Wong once wrote in the San Paro Standard: "Ever wonder what San Paro's going to look like in the future? You don't need a time machine -just ride a bus out to the Sprawl and see for yourself. Then get the hell out of there as fast as you can, and start worrying what's going to happen when that future's happening right outside your front door.
In San Paro, crime is both a job and a hobby. It exists in every strata of society. Sometimes it hides, but mostly it struts. For some it's about greed, or status, or the feral thrill of a life without laws, but for most it's just about survival.
For the young and independent, burglaries are the staple, the same tenth hand electronics swilling from living room to pawnshop and back again. Pickings are thin; not so far removed from working a regular night shift. There's muggings too. but it doesn't take long to work out that anyone with anything worth taking is commensurately well-armed. Liquor stores are like magnets, and as a result most pay protection to one gang or other.
Throw in the constant risk of treading on the wrong toes and then maybe getting your feet shot off, and most kids are scoping a gang apprenticeship before they hit ninth grade.
The system's as simple as it ever was. Make yourself useful and they let you stick around. Hang on long enough without having your tail shot off, you get colours. They give you a piece of the business to look after, a bit of turf maybe, and you're away. It's a beautiful demeritocracy, a flowering of the capitalist dream, no less pure than anything that happens in the corporate boardrooms.
In most areas, the city is a carve-up. From time to time, territories bleed and shift, but a balance maintains: there are some things which are understood. Red Rain got most of Midtown. Whispa runs that from the Y-House, back of Green Street. There are occasional would-be usurpers, kids high on cordite who don't want to pay tithes. Blind Flies were one, Deathskulls another. Without the skills, without the contacts, they get stepped on soon enough.
The Antoinettes run in Midtown too, and it's all smooth enough if they keep it east and arterial, club action only. They get their Kicks late-night shopping In Havalynd, browsing Border Street for the best threads in town; most shops accept ramraid. Through the daylight hours they lay up in Charlesworth and Brinkley, preening in their penthouse apartments, or tweaking old ladies in Central Park.
Then there are the speed tribes. Gangs like the Rollers and the Dead Hundreds. They groom their terrifying machines, fretting and tweaking, coaxing torque. Then at night, when the boulevards become hot torrents of neon and halogen blue, they hit the streets in quicksilver formations, Nu-mo exploding out of their speakers. The Police always know they're coming, always give chase. They can try; the new Fencer will out-accelerate a patrol car over 200 metres and leave it for dust on the straight.
Not all the gangs are self-serving. There are groups that have evolved out of a social necessity. Communities let down by the system, assailed by criminal elements, bled dry by taxes, unprotected by the law. They take the only route they can; they fight back. Down in the Yard they're not waiting for the cavalry. The Liberators on Joseph and Twenty, Peace Union buried deep in the Grub. They foray over Camber Tracks, pulling raids in Rain territory. They've got a soup kitchen running under the South Ring L, hot meals for the hungry, whoever they may be. In some areas of the Yard there are barter systems evolving, localized skill economies, an organic response to an environment in which, through its unrelenting absence, the concept of money is no more relevant than the concept of God.
The gangs are consumers in a chain, and someone’s supplying. Street soldiers pack basic heat. but the captains carry exotics. The tech doesn't come from nowhere. There are connections that nobody wants to talk about. Only two ways into that kind of federal government and corporate hive. Neither has any legitimate reason for business in the hoods. But it's people on the ground that vote, that administer the vote. so it's the people who must be controlled, indirectly through media bias, or directly through the city-wide terror campaigns wreaked by well-armed gang militias.
The Feds have had that action forever. Now the corporates got it nailed too; the gangs are determined and pitiless in their pursuit of little prizes, but they lack the ambition or the imagination to think beyond being top cock in their own backyards.
The corporations don't deal directly with the streets; they use agents. Only Luke Waskawi is able to negotiate with them as anything like an equal. He's got some serious weight behind him; the corporate respect that. His brand was value-added in the hoods and the pens ever since he blew away old man Derren. His unscheduled departure from the Block only cemented the legend. Now he's playing serious power games. The corporate think they've got a handle on him a crime lord with delusions of grandeur; talking revolution only to recruit street trash rubes to do his dirty work for him. They think they can control him, that, if he ever does take it over, it'll still be business as usual.
They have no idea of just how much they might have miscalculated here.