Before I talk about Rantello, I suppose I owe you all a bit more explanation about my travels - I didn't mention travelling before, and now suddenly I'm writing a journal of my trip. Well, I up and left pretty much without notice. I was picking up a friend at the airport, when another traveller grabbed by backpack, presumably by accident. Irksomely enough, my backpack had some ket components (for an invention I'm putting together - more on that later) that are expensive and irreplacable - the company that made them went out of business two years ago. So, I'm trying to track down this busy traveller to get my stuff back. I am guessing at his itinerary based on the contents of his backpack, logical deduction, and his travel plans. The man with my backpack doesn't look like me, but if I gave a description of him, the description would match me just as well. But you'd never mistake us for the other.
So off I am, trying to track this guy down.
Rantello is a thoroughly modern city. It was built from scratch to be a perfect, modern city. There's no roads in Rantello - all transport, both personal and commercial, is by clean, efficient, convenient tram. There's wireless towers in the city planning from the start - the whole city has perfect reception from all locations. Broadband cable is laid down with electricity and water lines - everyone has it in their homes. The solar paneling is sleek and beautiful.
The problem with Rantello, though, is The Conspiracy. My travel guide explains it best:
"When someone in Rantello talks about The Conspiracy, they aren't talking abot a particular group. The Conspiracy is a way of life. Everyone in Rantello knows about the Conspiracy, and everyone in Rantello is a part of it. Anyone you'll meet will be a part of at least one secret society, with clear goals, enemies and allies - most are double or triple agents. The population was moved from other cities, and the initial government was so corrupt, that the idea of The Conspiracy gelled into place soon after its founding. The basis for this is in the paranoid history of the whole nation: the war-torn forties, and the bitter secrecy and betrayal of the Cold War. The Conspiracy exists because people believe in it."
My luggage handler screamed at me bitterly for being a part of a rival faction of the Conspiracy, and every time I showed my innocence, it only made him more suspicious. The bright, friendly billboards, all on huge flatscreen panels, are marked on the corners with secret messages - obscure quotes, or numbers, or just jumbles of characters, intended for audiences in the know. At the hotel, I was exposed to no less than three secret handshakes, and was forced, eventually, to pretend to be part of some internal police, and bitterly deny any membership in it, just to get my room service.
Rantello is paranoid, loud and neurotic. Brash and blaring electronica can be heard from anywhere. People's facial expressions are jarring, and they're all watching you. Murder is virtually unknown in Rantello, but assaults are common. Everyone carries a concealed weapon, and knows whom to call if there's trouble. Social occasions are tense and filled with innuendo. The whole place has the characteristic of the worst parts of an amphetamine ride.
But, for all that it is annoying and destructive, the people of Rantello need the Conspiracy. Maybe in the same way that the people I'm used to need to wage office politics, or to subvert "friends" in their "social circle." Some people need a channel to bully others. Some people need to feel important. Some people just thrive in a situation with competition. Some people use it as an excuse to make sense of the world, just as they might describe fate; it's far more comforting to have hidden enemies than it is simply to live in a whirling void of random accidents. Some people find a life without the Conspiracy boring, and jump in for the excitement. Some people feel put upon, and need something to push back against, or to blame helplessly. Some people just join the Conspiracy to fit in. There is something in the character of Rantello which needs a Conspiracy enough to create it.