Alpha: For most of the 22nd and 23rd centuries, there were two distinct communications networks: the legitimate, stable, and carefully maintained one which was accessable only to those with the proper codes (or, at some points, the proper genetic modifications); and the ad hoc network of pirate boosters and carrier boxes that was used by the rest of society. The shadow network had no security save the sheer volume of information being moved around and its maddeningly vague structure; for example, messages passed through it keyed not off access numbers or codes, as in the legitimate networks, but off a set of searchable phrases -- a person or organization's 'alphabet'.
These days the alpha networks, as they came to be called, are quite legitimate themselves, though they tend to be used more for informal or social communications. In Kieselburg -- particularly Lowtown -- they are used for almost all communications; the large networks are poorly maintained and, ironically, it is the diffuse and essentially inefficient alpha networks that are seen as the more reliable.
Avie: Contra-gravity generators, commonly called 'avies' after the main research site of Aviemore, Scotland. They were invented in the early 22nd century as part of the continuing attempt to save Britain from the encroaching oceans. Within fifty years they were everywhere, revolutionizing transport, space travel, city design, historical preservation (the first public use of avies was to skylift Stonehenge), and, of course, crime.
B.A.R.: The Belter's Allstar Racing League, vaguely similar to NASCAR, except they race spaceships through the asteroid belt over a period of a week and the track is, well, not nearly so predictable. (The fan base, on the other hand, is quite similar.) Races are generally named after the first person to die trying a particular course.
Bande loup: Wolfpack. One of the less dangerous slang terms for street gangs, since the gang members generally like being called wolves.
Blackout crew: Kieselburg's energy situation is complicated. Most of the power supply in the Americas is currently generated in the Great Plains Desert, particularly the southern end of it, and the massive 'tallboy' solar collectors that dot it -- and most of the tallboy rigs are under the control of various Leagua states. An exception is the Sunlander collectives along New Ozark's southwestern border. A great deal of the country's income comes from piping energy up to northern cities who would rather not pay the price for orbital microwave power but would also rather not be supporting the Leagua.
In winter, however, when demand in the north is up and supply from the tallboys is down due to shorter days, the power companies have a tendency to short the locals in preference to the higher-paying northern cities, frequently leading to brownouts or rolling blackouts in the poorer areas of Kieselburg. Thus the blackout crews, smuggling outfits that are essentially filling up giant batteries that they can later offer up for sale during the cold winter. This is not in the least legal, but since the tallboy collectives have at best a strained relationship with the government they tend to look the other way.
Blue Monday: Also known as Timewarp. A euphoria-inducing downer, best known for causing a user's time perception to slow during the euphoric rush, making it seem both longer and more intense. Long-time users, aside from displaying permanently overdilated pupils, tend to also suffer short-term memory loss, focus issues, and loss of time sense, gradually worsening until they reach an essentially vegetative state or overdose.
Cangrejo rojo: Red crab. A desparaging term used by Sunlanders for human-normals, in reference to the inexplicable human tendency to keel over and die on any nice warm day.
Celefeeds: News channels devoted entirely to the fanatical badgering of various celebrities.
Cold Mothers: A non-governmental organization, loosely associated with the santos cult of Mother Teresa, which provides free or cheap medical services in many poor or backwater areas; as the name suggests, they're known more for competence than for their bedside manner.
Corruption: The terminally underfunded state of the New Ozark government has long since driven most to seek their own, non-traditional sources of cash: the politicians from big business, and the bureaucrats from small. Most rely less on open bribery than a byzantine regulatory system designed to extract the maximum amount of fines.
Ironically, it has been Tom Thorn's business that has put a crimp in this tidy arrangement, as the always-territorial tete d'rues found themselves with the power to bribe and bully petty officialdom. Of course, business owners must still pay off the tetes -- but given the choice between dealing with semi-literate street bullies and dealing with the government, most shopkeepers don't even argue the price.
DORA: Driver Owned Racing Association. As the name suggests, a backlash against sponsored, high-dollar racing; the association allows only driver-owned cars, usually built by the driver, caps spending, and specifies 'catalog' (eg, not custom-ordered) parts, supposedly placing the emphasis on skill.'Reality' courses (eg, street races) are favored. Kieselburg is thus one of the few places DORA isn't frowned on: street racing is technically illegal in New Ozark, as in most of the world, but as long as the Association keeps their cars in Lowtown, there is no significant enforcement.
Despite its frequent and loud claims to being a pure form of racing, DORA races produce some very significant revenues, most of it from media coverage and gambling. The actual drivers see only a little of this money, however, and it's not a sport known for participant longevity.
Door codes: Most doors -- even in Lowtown -- rely on fingerprint locks. However, most locks also allow the user to assign verbal or number codes to various friends with various access levels, a problem if one isn't careful about who one hands them out to, how much one limits access, or wiping access later. Even when one is careful, there are problems, especially in Lowtown. The biggest is the 'cop hole', a mandantory back door code that lets authorities -- or anyone clever enough to forge credentials -- in: cheap locks are ridiculously easy to fool. Better locks can be purchased, but in Lowtown it's difficult to purchase them from anyone but the local gangsters, who will likely have added a backdoor of their own. Someone skilled enough can also hack the door software and remove the cop hole entirely, as well as additional back doors; however, given that this will be equally annoying to thieves, gangsters, and cops, such a person would do well to also purchase a reinforced door.
Dragonkiller: Lou Dragonkiller, cadre of the area where the Sunset Grill is located. She's not known for her subtlety. For more information on cadres, see Tom Thorn's Business.
Fancy: One of the unforseen consequences of the legislation banning French was how attractive this would make the language to a certain class of teenager. After a brief spate of speaking actual French (and being thrown out of school), the bored and mildly rebellious invented Fancy, a slang language that involved replacing actual French words with loosely rhyming English terms -- usually limiting themselves to nouns and adjectives, as here. That this is utterly incomprehensible to sane speakers of French and English alike is considered a feature, not a bug.
Flashpaint: a military-grade explosive triggered by an energy beam. In other words, it goes off when someone shoots close to it. The good news is that needleguns, which most of the gangsters are carrying, are not energy weapons; the bad news is the explosive can also be triggered by a strong enough concussive strike, such as from a needle flatchette. Flashpaint is also highly toxic, and there was a scandal involving the military, Sunlanders, and improper handling techniques some years ago.
Fraternity: The Fraternity of Mankind, which holds that 'pure' (unmodified, genetically, biologically, or cybernetically) humans are superior to any others.
French: French has been common in the poorer areas of upper North America since the Quebecois Expatriations of the 2110s, with most residents mixing French and English on a haphazard basis. Attitudes towards 'bastard's French' tend to vary depending on the local attitudes towards the lower classes. In Kieselburg, an ordinance was passed forbidding French in government buildings and educational establishments. In the way of such ordinance, it has had no noticeable effect on the speaking of French, but it has allowed the city to collect a tidy sum in fines.
Gateboat: Any weftgate ship, mercenary or trader, that routinely moves outside the three systems with human settlements: a risky and not always profitable venture, but with a great deal of appeal and romance for some.
Gevinni Isle: Originally a horticultural preserve, now a member city-state of the sky domain Pacifica West. See Isles.
Green Curfew: A law implemented to quell the race riots five years ago and never actually repealed. It requires all Sunlanders to be off the streets by 7 pm, and is rigorously enforced everywhere but the Greenwharves. The Sunlanders retaliated via an informal, militia-enforced curfew that keeps normals off of Greenwharves streets after the same hour.
IAF Uniforms: The IAF forbids the wearing of uniforms within the Imperial compound unless one is actually on duty -- relatively standard for armed forces. But, in an unusual quirk, it also requires that anyone outside the compound be in uniform whether they're on duty or not.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that it clearly marks the wearer as IAF, meaning they are unlikely to be subject to muggings or involved in streetfights. It does make them a target for anti-Imperial sentiment, but since their uniforms are also a form of high-tech armor capable of repelling everything from a knife to a laser -- not to mention rigged to set off a call for reinforcements at any blow -- they are much more likely to survive such an attack.
The second reason is that the whole point to an Imperial garrison is for said garrison to be seen, and having the off-duties skulking about doing a poor impersonation of locals rather defeats that point. If a few younger officers get offed as a result of being too visible at the wrong time, well, that's what the term 'acceptable losses' was made for.
Imperial marks: arks, while they are treated as currency in certain places, exist more as a measurement against which the exchange for other currencies can be set. Since the mark does not, precisely, exist, it's quite stable, and a great many Imperial bureacrats spend a great deal of time and obscure equations figuring out the precise amount of real money one could get for a mark.
Isles: Floating cities held up by contragravity. Isles can generally be divided into three categories: oldtowns that have been vertically relocated (including the first and most famous, London); so-called 'cobbleship' cities which grew from a few welded-together ships into sprawling, intricate, and frequently unstable monstrosities; and flatboats, built from the start to be floating islands and generally quite tidy.
Jacking: Also wetware. The mind-machine interface that the Gene Lords built into themselves, accessable by anyone with enough blue blood. Most treat it essentially as a toy, a speedy and convenient way of accessing feeds and opening the garage door. It is capable of far more, but as it is also a sophisticated, exclusive, and highly addictive means for turning your brain into tapioca, skilled jackers remain a small and neurotic elite. For more information, see The Genelords.
Kariami: The wealthier and better-established of the two legal extrasolar colonies; it's extraordinarily difficult to get citizenship there, and impossible for non-citizens to own land.
L'Milice: The city militia of St. Louis. It has degraded to the point that it's difficult to tell from street gangs, but still maintains a rough sense of justice and a protective attitude towards the civilian population. Tom Thorn recruited heavily from St. Louis during his rise to power; his 'business' has since taken to occasionally and unexpectedly acting like a frontier police force. This reportedly annoys the hell out of Thorn.
Lafayette Station: A public transit relic. It was built at the turn of the 22nd century, shortly after the founding of Lakehaven (see Kieselburg's history). At that time the deterioration of the old roadway systems was nearly complete, and the transit systems hastily thrown together to compensate were in varying states of decay. The United American Republic's high-speed train system was supposed to rise above all that; UAR officials promised a durable, lasting network, and various ingenious engineering feats were performed to make sure the tracks, the trains, and the stations would all stand the test of time as twentieth and twenty-first century institutions had not. To the UAR's credit, the trains did run quite well in their decade of operation before the discovery of contragravity rendered them obsolete.
It is also to the UAR's credit -- or at least, that of its engineers -- that many of the old train stations remain in reasonable repair over two centuries later, even if low-income districts and mob warehouses were not what they had in mind. Even the old trains remain sound enough to have been dragged out of the tunnels and converted to shops or houses in the areas surrounding the station. Some of the residents even remember the trains' original use, though they find it odd that one would attach something as superfluous as wheels to a perfectly good vehicle.
Leagua: The League of the Natural Order. The Leagua holds that some people are inherently genetically better suited to certain roles in life than others, and back their claims with scientific research studies that they willingly distribute to anyone who asks. From this research they developed a set of tests which they encourage companies and governments to use in determining the intelligence and fitness of their employees or citizens. That the tests consistent favor blueblooded descendants of the Gene Lords over normals and normals over the subraces is, the Leagua insists, clearly the natural order of things. That the Order's founders, sponsors, and researchers are universally blueblooded is also natural and in no way affects their findings.
Les bâtons: While there are police operating in Lowtown, they are underpowered, undermanned, and choose their battles carefully. Bâtons are basically community watch organizations, sometimes supported by troops from the local tête, which deal with local problems like junkie squats. They're generally willing to live and let live as long as the squat stays quiet and none of the inhabitants hurt anyone: on the other hand, once the bâton is roused, they're unlikely to stop at a warning or worry about damages. It's quite frequent that people are beaten to death in bâton raids. Most squats have thus developed a certain paranoia and even some basic self-policing to avoid the righteous fury of decent citizens.
Mai: An alien race with a great deal of power but a distinctly uneasy relationship with the other races. It isn't entirely accurate to say that they eat other sentients, since the alien protein almost always disagrees with them and they retch it up afterwards.
Mary Mercy: A death-saint, one of the more formidable ones. She is said to particularly watch over violent or unclean deaths. Perpetrators of such are punished with nightmares, bad luck, and, should the saint be left unappeased, a violent and shameful death of their own.
Masquerade: A holiday stretching from the 30th of October to the 1st of November. As you might guess from the name, costumes and masks are still traditional, but in other respects it more closely resembles the Latin American Day of the Dead than Halloween -- a time to remember and respect one's friendly dead, and to appease or scare off the unfriendly ones. The rise of l'affaires has seen the holiday turn from celebration into essentially a three-day pageant, the gangsters being generally both superstitious and possessed of a large number of potentially angry ghosts.
Metalhead: One of several uncomplimentary terms, by no means the worst, for a cyborg. Cyborg implants are cheaper and faster than growing new limbs, but implants are generally irreversible, extremely visible, and loaded down with any number of unpleasant potential side effects. This -- alongside some complicated cultural and class issues -- have kept cyborg implants from becoming socially acceptable, much less popular. See also Exotica.
Nightmasks: A vigilante group that patrol the Greenwharves. Originally they focused on keeping other Sunlanders safe from normal humans, but in recent years they have branched out to punishing those they see as a danger to the Sunlander way of life -- a remarkably broad category.
In their early days the Nightmask wore masks and concealing clothing to protect their identities, similar to the KKK. Over time that's become less common, as most people within the Greenwharves pretty well know who's in the Mask anyway, and interference from outsiders has become more and more rare.
O'Donnelly Isle: Seat of the Imperial government: best known for its cosmopolitan attitudes and political infighting. See also Imperial Government.
OPG: 'Other, Presumed Guilty'. Imperial shorthand for cases where they know, or suspect, that the primary problem is not what the accused did but what they are. It's derived from the older term HPG ('Human, Presumed Guilty') coined by offworld mercenaries detailing the treatment they could typically expect from their alien employers.
Pearl: A two-part bomb consisting of a soft, putty-like explosive wrapped around a pebble-sized detonator. The two are both stable and harmless apart, but once the pebble has been rolled inside the putty and given enough time to dissolve the protective coating (about 90 seconds) the pearl explodes violently under even the slightest pressure.
Percades: A space station orbiting Kariami, in what we'd know as the Alpha Centauri system, one of the two legal extrasolar human settlements.
Pukesticks: Officially referred to as a Sonic Debalance Baton (SDB), these emit a short-range sonic pulse that interferes with the inner ear. They are classified as a 'warning weapon'. Unnofficially, they're called puke sticks, and their 'warning' boils down to 'unless you want to be grovelling on the ground losing your other two meals, don't do that again.' As warnings go, it's fairly effective.
Sequence Wars: A strategic immersive gameplay environment, relatively new, supposedly educational, and hideously expensive.
Sharp man: A knife fighter. More specifically, a good knife fighter. Used irregardless of gender.
Shine: A street term for jewelry, makeup, flashy clothing, or anything else where form outweighs function. As one might guess from the name, the expense of the item is far less important to most than its flashiness, its 'shine', but it also acts as a visible display of wealth for some.
Stroud: A Martian colony, run and populated almost exclusively by Sunlanders.
Sunlanders: A race created by the Gene Lords to tolerate the high heat and low water supplies that were killing off such annoying numbers of workers in the desert power plants. After their emancipation, they and the normal humans greeted each other with all the charity and tolerance that one might expect of humanity, and things have been going along swimmingly ever since. See Sunlanders.
Synth: A synthetic fabric, cheap but flimsy -- it won't last more than a day or two under the best conditions, and melts quickly in the face of adversity (like, say, a small shower of rain.) It's popular in space habitats, where its fickle nature is less troublesome, but groundside it's used mostly as clubwear by those who can't afford a different outfit every night.
Throwing a jack in: Also 'throwing a jack into the ladies.' It refers to two popular gambling games, blackjack and Fair Ladies, which use very different rules and a different deck. To put a jack into Fair Ladies, therefore, is to cause a particularly meaningless (and unprofitable) bit of confusion.
Tom Thorn's Business: The organized crime of Kieselburg, known as 'Tom Thorn's business' or l'affaire, is a peculiar mix of mob structure and pyramid scheme.
At the top is Tom Thorn himself; below him are his hand-picked lieutenants, his cadres, who are allowed to claim territory and run their affairs as they please provided they pay their percentage or 'beef' to Thorn in a timely and respectful fashion; below the cadres are the têtês d'rue, who are appointed by no one but themselves but must pay their cadre a 'beef' or be violently un-appointed; and below the têtês is anyone small enough to be leaned on without consequences.
L'affaires effectively rules Lowtown, holds considerable power in Porttown, and is making inroads on the more respectable areas of the city, to the considerable alarm of the more respectable citizens. However, so long as Tom Thorn obeys the unwritten rules of Kieselburg and keeps his thugs out of Uptown, it is unlikely that anything significant will be done to stop him.
See also Tom Thorn's Business.
Twinkies: Yes, they still have Twinkies in the future. God knows why.
Wailing Bridge: To 'hang someone from the Wailing Bridge' refers to a traditional form of punishment dating back to the mid-twenty-second century, wherein a miscreant is tied to some handy public work and left for possers-by to toss insults, bottles, handy expired produce, et cetera, at. Nowadays people rarely die, at least from the hanging alone, but its origins were on the cobbleship Isles, which essentially formed and broke up on the whim of the individual ships' owners. Whether or not someone was untied from the Wailing Bridge before it ceased being a bridge was left entirely to the whim of the mob. This is also the origin of the expression 'short quarter and a long drop.'
Warbrothers: A boyband. Substitute whatever modern-day boyband you prefer: the flash has changed, the substance (or lack thereof) not so much.
Xenosoterism: A set of religions which hold that the alien races were sent to save humanity, if only humanity would be quiet, respectful, and humble enough. They have never really caught on, thanks in part to the tendency of some races to kill and eat humble people.