Languidly, you drift awake from uneasy dreams. As the ethereal fog of sleep clears from your brain and you force your eyes open, the gray light filtering through the lucite reminds you just how far from home you really are...
The idealists of the late 20th Century predicted a future of peace and global prosperity, lined with gold and silver dreams. The fanatics and cultists, one of holy judgement and armageddon, framed in fire and brimstone nightmares. In the alternate reality of Cybersphere, Doomsday has come and gone, and the future it leaves behind is mass-produced and prefab. It is made of lucite.
Urban survivors struggle to stay afloat on the sea of unrelenting chaos that is life in the 21st Century. The economy is harsh, unforgiving, and wildly mismatched, where food and a drink at a local bar can cost more than an automatic weapon. The only widely available homes are 1.5-meter wide cubes, the only universally accepted currency is violence, and the only routinely hiring employers are gangs and hustlers.
A bizzare mix of punkers, zoners, cromags, and others crowd the street from sidewalk to sidewalk. Holo-signs and neon bathe the crowd in a flickering light; faces move by you like meat under fast-food heatlamps. Groups accrete and dissolve as biz ripples through the masses; gunshots ring out, and screams go unheeded. Puffs of backlit smoke orbit neon suns under the vacant nighttime sky.
Modular cubicles and "coffins" provide corporate and government subsidized housing for the masses. A typical coffin is 1.5 meters on a side and lined with smoked plastic (Lucite), temper-foam mattresses, and equipped for rudimentary privacy. The most basic units are free to low-income citizens, but higher quality "cube hotels" provide larger, better equipped, and more secure facilities.
Apartments are less anonymous and can be difficult to obtain, but are roomier than low-rent cubes. Quality varies widely, ranging from dilapidated combat-zone projects and public public housing tenements to the soaring arcologies of corporate luxury.
Cash has been abolished in a desparate attempt by urban authorities to quell street crime, muggings, and murders. Its replacement is a secure, personalized credstick, which functions as credit card, debit card, ATM card, and financial PDA all rolled into one.
Basic food is available to nearly every citizen: low-grade soy products, reconstituted algae, and krill derivatives reshaped into edible bars or wafers. "Real" food is truly rare, and old-fashioned luxuries like burgers, pasta, pastries, and alcoholic drinks sell for cutthroat prices in only a handful of urban eateries. Because of continuing crop shortfalls and acid rain indexes, what sells as "real" on a menu is often just cleverly molded and processed soypaste.
Halfhearted attempts to stimulate commerce zones in the war-torn ganglands of New Carthage have given birth to dozens of rentable stores, cyberdeck stores, and implant clinics.
Unemployment runs rampant among the urban refugees and teeming inhabitants of New Carthage. Most of the population works endless shifts as unskilled labor under the revolving-door policies of omnipresent corporations. Many spiral into the dark embrace of the city's massive underworld crime syndicates, and manage unstable existances as couriers and small-time assassins.
The only stable sources of authority in Cybersphere's future are multinational corporations and ruthless crime syndicates. Everything else is one or both of these powers in disguise. Law extends only within view of a security guard or patrol officer, and even in the high-security areas of New Carthage's Corporate Zone, dark alleys can be deadly. Guilty and innocents alike have equal reason to fear corporate police who often abuse paramilitary authority on errands of their own.