The American Megalopolis

The Megalopolis is the heavily urbanized area along the northern east coast of North America. It has been heavily urbanized for millennia and is, at this point in time, a political unit. It is a center of trade and fashion, and a testbed for new technologies. It is famous for being a mixture of refined and rough.

The regional government is a parliament of mayors and town representatives, who elect a High Mayor for the Megalopolis. It is a weak government, chiefly engaged in balancing and transmitting pressures from the world government, the Acrotects, and the city patronage system.

Major geographical features:

Interstellar Institutional Centers:

The Law, Such As It Is

The Megalopolis is famous for being "lawless." Strictly speaking, this is not true, but certainly there is not much law. Law enforcement is chronically and deliberately under-funded, with the result that the police and courts concentrate on punishing crimes of violence, with little time or energy left over for prevention. Nor do they bother about crimes of property; they don't have the resources.

"Mego" justice is notoriously free with memory audits, of witnesses as well as of suspects. It is not a pleasant process. There are not enough telepaths or patharchic truth-seers to do the audit gently, so you are given drugs and electrical stimulation that leave you passive, confused, and unable to lie; you are interrogated and then turned out on the street or, if you are lucky, taken home by a friend or relative to recover.

A Mego specialty is declaring open season on a murderer convicted in absentia on sufficient evidence, or in lieu of extradition. Private parties can then offer bounties. Of course, kill the wrong person and it is now open season on you.

Fraud and theft are handled privately but vigorously. These retaliators have routine channels for proving justified violence to the Mego Cops.

Enclaves such as those of ETs and neo-humans often have private courts and cops for handling non-violent crime. Punishments, though, are limited to fines and expulsions; no violence, endenture, imprisonment, sensory deprivation, or psyching.

The psychic scene is a free-for-all: voluntarily take off your psilencer and anything goes vis á vis telepathy and clairvoyance. Violance by TK is treated like any other violence.

There are no privacy laws, but then again there are no laws against insuring privacy either. You and your rivals and the cops are free to duke it out with measures and counter-measures.

Wardship is the only family law. There is no official recognition of marriage or even households. There is certainly no official recognition of bloodsibs. All of these flourish unofficially, however.

There are no vice laws – no laws against things such a drugs, gambling, prostitution, zeening, splicing, stimming, or poffing. The Mego eunuch is a regional stereotype.

The Patronage System

There is a steep income gradient. Some of the wealthiest Earthlings live in the Megalopolis. Because of the weak government services and protection, those who are not super-rich ally themselves with those who are, and a strong patronage system has grown up. Patrons protect their clients, who in return give loyalty and service. Not protecting your clients is a sign of weakness, unless it's clear the client earned your extreem disfavor.

Yes, it's feudal. It's not always good—it can be very awkward to change from one patron to another—but because the Mego cops do, in fact, punish violence, it is not as oppressive as more historical feudalisms.

The three main alternatives to the patronage system are:

Actual slavery is illegal, but there is a sizeable underclass of cheap labor, a lot of them conditioned with "work habits" that make obedience an easy option. Their numbers include the indentured, androids, service clones, and hu-ed AIs. This sort of labor policy prompts a lot of investigation by the Institutes of Justice and Souls, and the rumor mill is always chruning out stories of their agents' conflicts with the patrons' strawbosses.


The Acrotects have major offices in the Megalopolis, for several reasons:

Someone needs to prop up this free-for-all zone, and the Acrotects are the ones to do it.

The Acrotects presure the top-level patrons into supporting infrastructure and environment, using regional governments as their instruments. The wiser patrons cooperate freely. The others get threatened or their resources simply get hijacked. Thus streets, lighting, datanet, and other public infrastructure are kept mended by what looks like a remarkable system of philanthropy by the major patrons.

The Acrotects are also at least rumored to lend yagers, strigs, wendigos, and other, stranger help to the regional governments, to keep violence between gangs and factions from getting out of hand.

Most famously, the Acrotects have mandated that the Megalopolis should be ecologically neutral, not a net consumer of water, oxygen, biomass, or habitat. Therefore, the Megalopolis features a great deal of domestic energy production, food production, manufacturing, and recycling, "philanthropically" paid for by the major patrons.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010